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A Vial of Life(A Shade of Vampire,Book 21)(2) by Bella Forrest

Hans was a lonely man who wanted company. We spent hours sitting and talking. He was most curious to know about my background, though, slowly, he also began to share his own past. He said he was from England, although he had Swedish roots, and that he was a widower, having lost his love many years ago. He said he took pleasure in having a female companion, and that my presence lightened his dark castle. I didn’t know what type of work he did, if any. He was always cryptic about it, but whatever he did, he seemed to be a man with a lot on his mind. As for his coldness, I could only think that he had some kind of medical condition. Or maybe people from those parts of the world were just cold-blooded? I didn’t know.

I was surprised by how much I began to relish the time we spent together. He took on the task of teaching me English and proved to be a patient, conscientious teacher. We spent evenings together poring over books in the sitting room and he always sat with me at the dining table at mealtimes, even though he never ate in my presence. He just watched, as though me spooning food into my mouth was somehow fascinating. I chalked it up to a cultural difference. After all, I had no idea how people in England behaved. Perhaps it was considered rude for a host to eat at the same time as his guest.

After weeks of staying with him, I began to feel less like a guest and more like a part of his life. And I didn’t quite know when, or even how, but I found myself falling for him. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. After two years of living with Hans in his castle, I was in love with him. In all that time, he’d barely touched me even in a friendly manner, and by the time my seventeenth birthday came around, I found myself wishing that we could draw closer. Even as he sat next to me on the sofa, he always seemed so… distant. Unreachable.

I wanted more. Of him. Of us. I wanted to feel his cool hand rest on my thigh as we sat together in the library at night, reading and discussing literature. I wanted to know what his lips would feel like pressed against mine. I wanted to feel the strength of his arms wrapped around my waist. Hear the beat of his heart through his chest as I rested my head against him.

I had fallen deeply in love with Hans Manson, a man who was still very much an enigma to me.

One cold, wintry night—the night after my seventeenth birthday—as we sat in front of the fire, Hans reading to me from one of his favorite novels, I found myself gazing into his handsome face. I summoned the courage to finally unleash what I simply could not hold back any longer. I reached up and closed my hand around the top of the book. I pushed it downward. My heart pounded as his soulful brown eyes rose to mine. I still remembered to this day the slight frown that set in on his face, the way he said my name in question.

Even as my pulse raced, I leaned closer to him. Reaching up, I touched his face and before I could have second thoughts, I closed the distance between our lips and kissed him. Slowly, hesitant. He tensed and didn’t respond at first. Horror gripped me and I was about to pull away, afraid that I had overstepped the mark. But then his hands slid into my hair. When his lips responded to mine, kneading hungrily against them, I only fell deeper for him.

I clung to him as he reached around my body, stood up with me and set me on my feet. He continued tasting my lips while his hands ran down my back and explored the curve of my waist. I was sure that he would’ve ended that night with just a prolonged kiss. But I made it clear from my body language that I was ready to give him more. So much more.

And so, in two years, that was the first night I shared Hans’ bed. I was a virgin, and my parents had sheltered me. I had no idea what to expect, or even how it all worked. Despite the muscles I felt rippling beneath his skin, Hans was gentle and patient with me. Waking up in his arms the next morning, our bare forms still entwined, I didn’t remember ever feeling so happy in my life.

From the way he’d always kept his distance with me, I’d feared that perhaps all he ever wanted was a platonic relationship. I’d feared that perhaps, even despite the two years we’d spent together, he really didn’t feel any more affection for me than he would a friend. But that night, as he’d made slow, passionate love to me, it couldn’t have been clearer that he did. I still couldn’t be sure that his emotions were as strong for me as mine were for him, but I couldn’t doubt the devotion I’d seen in his eyes, the affection of his embrace.

I realized that all this time, he’d been holding himself back. Perhaps, being the consummate gentleman that he was, Hans had wanted me to make the first move all along. He’d known that I was at his mercy and he hadn’t wanted me to feel obliged to accept his advance.

That morning as he held me close to him, he asked me if I’d like to move permanently into his room. And so began our love affair. I shared his bed every night for the next two months. If I had fallen for him before, I was lost in him now. Being the unworldly teenage girl that I was, he became my life. I doted on him, and on the odd occasion when he left the castle, I watched the hours go by in misery.

It felt like every moment I spent with him, every affection he freely lavished upon me, was healing my broken heart. My heart felt full in a way I’d never thought it could again after the loss of my family.

I could never forget one evening, Hans asked me what he was to me. I felt shy, and wasn’t sure what to say at first. He was my world. My life. He owned everything that I had—the clothes on my back, the food that I ate. And I realized that I wouldn’t want it any other way. I wanted to be his. His forever. I barely saw anyone from the outside world. And I didn’t care. He’d become all that I needed, all that I wanted.