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Istanbul, twelve years ago
As soon as he saw her, he knew the time would come when he would make her his eternal companion.
She shone like a sparkling jewel amidst the crowd, with her slightly-slanted large black eyes and her silky reddish curls rippling down her small back. A mere child-woman, she stood in front of one of the many shops which swarmed this ancient place, gazing intently at an oil painting of angels displayed in the vitrine. Dramatic and somewhat disturbing, the painting depicted in painful detail an auburn-haired angel being cast out of Heaven.
He caught her scent. Somewhat dazed, he stared at her.
The same slanted black eyes, the same long reddish hair. Uncanny, the resemblance. She looked so much like...
For a bitter second he closed his eyes and commanded himself to forget. Then everything was fine again, and his eyes opened and the faintest shadow of a smile crossed his face.
Would he drink from her tonight? Would he allow himself that luxury? Three-hundred years ago he would have been unable to take the little drink. He would have been too fervent, too lost in rapture. But that was three centuries ago. Not that he indulged in the little drink too often, for he liked to take his victims completely, loving the gush of warm blood in his mouth, until he ceased to hear the haunting, drum-like beat of the heart.
No, he would not touch her. He would leave her intact.
He studied her in silence.
She seemed mesmerized by the painting of the fallen angel. The virulent clouds, the agonizing faces of the good angels surrounding the "fallen" one, the almost palpable sadness and rage--these seemed to strike adeep core within her. He could see through her artistic soul; unbeknown to herself, she had fallen in love with the beauty of the colors, the purity of the lines, and the tragic fatalism of it.
A sigh escaped her. She glanced distractedly at the passing tourists with an annoyed spark in her eye.
Turning to face the street, she waited for her mother and uncle, who were inside the shop. She pouted, restless and tired and bored.
He scanned her crystal thoughts. It was like breathing in the delicate scents of spring mountain air, so intoxicating. She loved the painting, but there's no way her mom would get it for her; it wasn't too large but looked way too expensive. She wanted to go back to their hotel, she wished she were back home, where she could roller-skate with her best friend. This place stank of old clothes and sweat, and she didn't want to see another stupid museum or mosque in her entire life. Why in the devil had they brought her here?
And then something happened. She seemed to have sensed his piercing gaze, and looked right to his direction. For an intense moment her black eyes locked themselves into his.
She seemed startled, her pale face solemn. She averted her gaze, slightly turning her face away, only to throw him a curious sideways glance a second later. A perfectly unconscious gesture, yet she couldn't have guessed in a million years the effect it had on him.
He would have consumed her right then and there, if it weren't for one of his self-imposed rules about staying away from children. Not that he was doing a great job at this moment. Here he was, wasn't he? Devouring her with his eyes as a wolf devours a lamb.
But even in his mortal lifetime, sticking to rules had never been one of his greatest qualities.
Her mother and her uncle, carrying bags of goods and souvenirs in their hands, stepped out of the shop. The little princess pointed to the painting and pleaded with her mom to get it for her. Her mother took one look at the painting and shook her head. "That's morbid!" she said, then went on to argue that she had already bought her many gifts and her unreasonable requests would make her bankrupt. Nevertheless, she went inside the shop to ask for the price. A moment later she came back, looking incredulous and muttering in disbelief, "Ridiculous! A thousand dollars for that thing. Sorry, mi amor, but I can't afford it."
It was late, almost ten, but the Grand Bazaar was bustling with locals and tourists, as it had always been on warm summer nights for the past few centuries. The glitter of gold and copper and brass, lavishly displayed behind dozens and dozens of shop windows, could dazzle anybody's eyes: Heavy spices, Ottoman sweets of grape and nut pastes with the promise of aphrodisiac qualities, sacks filled with Arab coffees and the best teas from the northeastern little city of Rize, almond oils and musks, hennas, hundreds of hand-made silk carpets with exorbitant price tags, their bright colors and details blinding. And the leather--endless leather shops, filled with the soft yet pungent scent of animal skins. A very loud, wildly exotic belly-dancing melody came out of one of the shops, and an oddly pleasing smell, that of cigarette smoke mixed with incense and raki--the local alcoholic drink made from anise--hovered in the air.
Her uncle took her by the hand, and they all started to walk toward the exit passage of the bazaar.
She suddenly glanced over her shoulder to look at him, her eyes wide with curiosity and wonder.
It caught him off guard.
He gave her a smile, and quickly had to close his mouth. Damn! He had gotten carried away, and in spite of himself, his canines had partially lengthened. He could feel their sharp and pointed little tips against his lower lip.
She frowned, startled and a bit uncertain, not sure whether what she had seen was illusion or reality. Then she turned her head forward and that was that, she was lost amidst the crowd.
He felt just a twinge of guilt. He had not meant to frighten her.
For an awful moment he craved to hold her, to pierce the tender curve of her throat. The image was too tortuous for him to tolerate.
He despised himself. She's too young, you old fiend.
In long easy strides he went out of the bazaar and into the open night air, and from a distance watched them get into a taxi and ask for the Istanbul Hilton.
Her uncle now seemed in good spirits, clapping his hands and saying he couldn't wait to get to the casino.
Suddenly overwhelmed by a keen urge to appease himself, he walked into one of the many ill-reputed, dark narrow streets near the bazaar and finished off a couple of shabby, despicable-looking mortals in two intense short draughts.
Then he walked back into the bazaar to purchase the painting.
Once out of the shop, he headed to the Istanbul Hilton...