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There were many challenges to his vampyric nature, but Fitzwilliam Darcy faced the most difficult of them as he danced a quadrille with the lively Miss Elizabeth Bennet. His brain had firmly and logically decided on Caroline Bingley as the answer to the dilemma of his needs. Caroline held only two emotions of any potency—greed and lust. The greed was easily satisfied with baubles, the lust more easily sated still. For a man—and Darcy still considered himself one, despite all evidence to the contrary—with his gifts and afflictions, such a personality as Miss Bingley’s was ideal. No overwhelming grief or despair when he disappointed her, no unplumbed depths to worry and annoy and assault his peace of mind. The fact she already understood his nature and the secret of his existence was a bonus nearly carrying the day.
The rest of his person, however, had proven singularly uncooperative towards his brain’s choice of companion. Whereas Caroline never roused much beyond a slight appreciation for face and figure, every bit of his primitive attention riveted on the lovely picture Miss Elizabeth made as she twirled and dipped in time to the music. He might not even be in the room for all the attention she gave him, her happiness in the dance having naught to do with her partner. He could almost feel her joy—and only with his nascent ‘human’ senses. Her aura gave nothing away. The years since he had seen her had done nothing except redouble his interest. In fact, he had been able to dismiss her ten years before only because of her extreme youth, blaming her near-death and the subsequent protective feelings as an anomaly. He had thrust her from his mind. From his soul.
But now, with the clarity of hindsight, he could see that—all unknowing—she had become his standard for beauty, a measure by which he judged perfection. With disquiet, he now saw Caroline passed muster only because there was some similarity in colouring and hair. Devil take me.
He could almost feel the blood rushing in his veins, tingling in his gloved hand every time it met hers. As the exercise caused her heart to beat faster, an answering rhythm from his own matched it—territorial and primal—from a part of himself he had believed extinguished. He had known desire countless times; this was nothing like it, his instinct urging him to sweep her off her feet, to cart her away from this simple country dance with its simple country society and claim her as his own. Neither did his instinct much care what Miss Elizabeth might have to say about the matter, though his brain lodged several fervent reminders. Not since he first reached maturity—struggling to conquer the inherent, overwhelming hungers of a blood-born male vampyre—had he experienced such a detachment between mind and body, the beast and the man.
There was only one thing to be done: depart from this assembly—from this country—as quickly as possible. But when the dance was over, Miss Elizabeth safely restored to her sister’s company, he did not leave.
Instead, he watched her, seldom able to look away. Unfortunately, his notice caused an unwelcome effect; suddenly, a dozen eligible males eyed her with new attention. He could not resist aiming his will upon each one, learning what they felt for her. In some, he sensed mild interest and typical male appreciation. Some felt curiosity—directed, he supposed, at his reasons for pairing with her. The last one, though, a man every bit of sixty years, oozed a filthy comingling of lust and craving, his beady eyes straying where no gentleman’s ought. Darcy felt his own eyes going dark.