Nikoli was so engrossed in his book that the sound of the chime on the door of the shop barely even registered with him. It wasn’t until the sweet scent of vanilla filled his nostrils that he even made the effort to look up. His breath caught in his throat and his undead heart began to race as he recognized the girl right before he had to catch her from falling. It was the girl from his dreams! His dream girl and Little Red were one and the same. Nikoli shook his head slightly in disbelief. He knew he had recognized her on some subconscious level, but he didn’t understand how it was possible that he hadn’t just known it was her right away. For a long moment they just stared at one another warily as he cradled her tightly against his chest. She was as light as a feather. Her heartbeat raced as she stared up at him.
He lowered her to a sitting position on a bay window just beside the bookstore’s door. Kneeling down in front of her, wearing a concerned look, he gently took her face in his hands, studying her for a few moments. Nikoli brushed Leila’s hair out of her eyes, breaking the silence with a contented sigh. A small smile turned up the corners of his mouth.
“You’re even more stunning in person than you are in my dreams.” He saw the confusion clouding her eyes as her dark brows furrowed together.
‘She probably thinks I am strange, but how do I dare explain?’ His thoughts were jumbled and his pulse was racing as he gazed into her eyes. Once again, he was captivated by the endless sea of green. She seemed to find her voice after a long pause.
“You dreamt of me too?” He was taken aback by her question.
“Too?...” he replied, his eyebrows raised in surprise.
Was it really possible? In one random night he had run into his dream girl and hadn’t even known it. He had spent about a year searching for the mysterious girl from his dreams and here she was, finally in his arms. A welcome gift wrapped up by fate had just fallen into his lap. The incredulity of the situation amazed him.
He was not blind to the utter impossibility of it all, but he was eternally grateful for this moment suspended in time. Unable to contain himself, he let out a joyful chuckle, his golden eyes dancing with mirth.
“Yes, my dear one, I have been looking for you for quite awhile. I had nearly given up, half-believing I had dreamed you up. Yet, here you are.” Nikoli pulled her closer for a hug, wanting to savor the moment.
Leila’s eyes were wide as she deftly ran her fingers through his hair. Her fingers played with the strands, sending a flurry of tingles down his spine. Their eyes were locked together, never for a moment losing contact. Without even trying, she hypnotized him. The only thoughts running through his head had to do with her. Nothing, excluding the thirst, had ever consumed him so completely. He just had to taste her! It was driving him crazy. Much to his surprise, he leaned in towards her mouth rather than her neck. She closed her eyes as their lips met, thrumming with an electrifying sort of energy.
White sparks exploded behind his lids as his body hummed with an intense pins and needles sensation that went way beyond just his extremities. It was so exquisite that it was almost unbearable. The energy seemed to flow from her to him, and back, in an endless loop. The longer they kissed, the tighter Nikoli felt he needed to hold onto her and the tighter he held her, the more fiercely she kissed him back. It was almost as if they were feeding off each other’s’ energy.
The strength of their kiss swept over him in waves of abundant joy, ending as quickly as it had begun. They parted slowly, neither one of them really wanting to stop, but needing to collect their thoughts. She opened her eyes, but kept them downcast. She snuck a peek at him through her lashes, and he was startled to see her looking at him so passionately. He drew his brows down, thinking hard about what was happening. She bit her lip and smiled, and he was a bit unsure of what to do with himself while she was staring at him. Her knees started to tremble as she tried to shift her weight from one foot to the other. He hadn’t realized they were standing still until that very moment. Her face flushed with excitement, her lips parted, her breathing heavy.
“I-I just can’t believe this. I feel like this is another one of my dreams, but it’s so real.” Her laughter tinkled in his ears as she stroked his face, a look of disbelief flashing across her delicate features.
“I can’t either. This is too unreal. I can’t believe that I didn’t recognize you at the club.”
“The lighting was pretty terrible….” Leila shrugged, tears pooling in her eyes as she touched his lips with the tips of her fingers.
“Yeah...yeah I suppose it was…” Nikoli found himself doing the same, stroking her hair, looking into her eyes, just to see if she was real this time.
Nikoli pulled her into a hug, savoring the feel of her in his arms. The electrical sensation he felt when they touched was still there, along with a burning sensation on his chest. Pulling back with a gasp, he looked down to see a hole burned into his shirt. His skin was branded with some sort of strange symbol. He looked up to see Leila looking at him wide-eyed, clutching some sort of amulet at her neck. Even through her hands he could see the ethereal glow.
“Ahh what is that? It burns!”
“Oh my god,” Leila blurted out, “I’m so sorry. I-I don’t even know why that happened.”
She struggled to remove the necklace, but her fingers kept slipping, her movements jerky and panicked.
“What kind of necklace is that?” Nikoli asked, puzzled.
He had never experienced anything like it. Ever the gentleman, though, he tried to help her with the clasp, once again pulling back as the chain caused a searing pain in his fingertips. The brand on his chest had started to fade, but it was a very slow process compared with how he normally healed.
“It’s a family heirloom, I guess. I had a package from my dead grandmother today, as strange as that sounds, and this necklace was inside. I can’t seem to get it off now!”
Nikoli could hear the panic rising in her voice. He grabbed her by the arms to try and calm her, blowing out a relieved sigh when touching her skin didn’t cause the burning sensation. The amulet was going to be the bane of his existence for awhile, that much he knew for certain, but he didn’t understand why and he couldn’t tell Leila about his being a vampire just yet. Although, all he seemed to want to do was spill his guts to her, he knew that this was not the right time. If he confessed to vampirism, he might lose her forever, just when they found one another, it could all be gone, just like that. The fortune teller watched the two of them in silence, puffing away on her tobacco pipe, her head cocked to the side, her gaze intent.
He kissed her forehead, careful to not touch the necklace in any way, “It’s ok, love. We’ll figure it out, alright?”
He brushed stray hairs from her face, cupping her between his palms. He smiled at her, in what he hoped to be a reassuring way. Grabbing her hand, he began to lead her out, just now noticing that the psychic was standing up watching them open-mouthed. She had put down her pipe and was keeping herself stable by leaning up against the table with her back, hands gripping the edges behind her. She licked her lips, readying herself to speak it seemed.
“Come closer, child. Let me see the amulet. I might be able to shed some light on this for you.” The old gypsy woman beckoned Leila forward with a hand gesture, a soft smile on her face, trying not to scare her off.
Leila stepped forward hesitantly, looking back at Nikoli, awash with confusion, before turning her attention once more to the old woman, who picked up the amulet to get a closer look.
“Oh, I see now.” The old woman muttered mostly to herself, a wide grin spreading across her face.
“What do you see ma’am?” Leila prodded gently, her voice but a small whisper.
“It’s an old piece of jewelry meant to protect you.” The old woman said as her gnarled fingers grasped the necklace.
“Protect me? From what?”
Nikoli couldn’t see her face, her back was turned to him, but he could hear the wonder in her voice. The fortune teller looked back at Nikoli, a knowing look in her aged eyes, which caused Nikoli to narrow his own gaze in return, waiting for her response as well. The old woman flitted her eyes back to Leila, taking a cleansing breath before speaking.
“It’s meant to protect you from...what is to come. Keep it close. Trust it’s power and it will never steer you wrong.”
“What is coming?”
The old woman’s knowing gaze found itself looking upon Nikoli once more, licking her lips before opening her mouth to speak in a fearful whisper, her eyes wide as she gripped both of Leila’s shoulders.
“Danger. They are coming.”