Lillian closed the door firmly behind her and locked it. It was almost time. Father was the reason for the delay. He'd spent so long with her, questioning the servants, she was almost late.
Mother had left for her own room earlier and Father had just retired. She'd thought he'd never finish. She rushed to the window and drew back the drapes. In the moonlight she could see the wall of the orchard.
It was there they'd found the body of Ben Fitzroy. Ben, the gamekeeper's son, from the estate. His body broken, twisted. His throat torn. He'd been killed sometime in the night. "By some animal," Father had said.
Men had spent the day looking for animal tracks. She'd wondered at all the activity. Father had joined the men in the afternoon and then, in the evening, spent time interviewing the servants. He'd wanted to know why Ben was there at night. He'd questioned the maids, convinced there was some liaison between Ben and one of them. He'd wanted to know if anyone had seen Ben arriving at, or leaving, the house.
Lillian's Mother had seen her expression at the news of Ben's death, but said nothing. These matters were best left to Father.
The previous night Lillian had been in her room, at about this time, with the door locked. Her heart beat rapidly as she loosened the fastenings of her bodice, uncertain what else she should do.
She'd paced back and forth in front of the closed drapes before summoning the courage to draw them back. The moon shed a cold, wan light on the estate. Her hand trembled as she'd opened the window. The cold night air had caught at her throat and seemed to penetrate her loosened garments. She had shivered.
She'd seen movement out by the orchard wall. Surely it was Ben. It must be Ben. She'd opened the window wide and whispered, "Come Love, I'm here."
Lillian closed her eyes and remembered how she'd stepped back from the window, shaking slightly in anticipation.
Darkness had poured in through the window, climbed the walls, flowed across the floor and poured down from the ceiling. She'd watched it take form. Her breath had caught, snatched from her throat. She'd felt cold seep into her and then bright pain. Her body had surged with elation and then her limbs had lost their strength. She'd fallen into an abyss.
This morning she'd woken with little memory of anything else.
Lillian opened her eyes, returning to the present. Her hands moved swiftly, opening buttons, unfastening stays, undoing ties. Her garments fell away and she moved to the window. Pale moonlight heightened the paleness of her skin.
She threw the window wide, felt the cold air sweep over her, and stepped back to stand in the center of her room.
Darkness grew and slowly took form. Her hand reached up and undid the kerchief at her neck. It fell away and the red wound at her throat burned.
The darkness flowed over her, blotting out everything save for a blinding blood-red light at its heart. Again the pain. Again the elation and again the swoon as her lifeblood flowed from her throat to the Other.