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Elizabeth’s first thought, as she gazed in horror at the second vampire she had ever laid eyes on, was for Catherine - her cousin would likely marvel at the sight before her now. The young girl stood before them, her wild eyes fixed on Mr. Darcy. “William,” she said in a strangled voice.
Mr. Darcy flinched. “Georgie….”
“Help me,” the wretched creature moaned, her eyes wide and unblinking. Her small frame was frozen in a defensive stance, and there was a frenzied look about her that sent a chill down Elizabeth’s spine.
The tension in the room was almost unbearable, and Elizabeth was filled with a terrible sense of foreboding. Mr. Darcy was too stunned to betray any reaction beyond squeezing Elizabeth’s hand tighter. Mr. Collins began to back away from the diminutive but menacing creature, but Lady Catherine was undaunted. “What is the meaning of this? You will explain yourself at once!”
Lady Catherine seized Georgiana by the arm, and there was a flutter of movement as they tumbled to the ground; the formidable old woman began to shriek and writhe in pain as Georgiana sank her fangs into the dowager’s neck and drank.
Chaos erupted in the drawing room. Everyone around her was screaming, but Elizabeth remained uncannily calm. Mr. Darcy began to drift toward the girl, whom Elizabeth suspected must be his sister - Elizabeth was reluctant to release his hand, and the colonel moved that way to stay his cousin.
Miss de Bourgh had momentarily fainted, and, as her companion fled the room, Charlotte was obliged to cower over the poor girl. Mr. Darcy and the colonel called out Georgiana’s name, but to no avail, and Elizabeth was now obliged to restrain both of the gentlemen by positioning herself in front of them and taking them each by one hand.
Mr. Collins, in a perverse and unexpected surge of courage, attempted to rescue his noble patroness, though Elizabeth cried out for him to stay back. Without breaking away from her prey, the young vampire shoved Mr. Collins aside with such a force that he careened backward into the wall and collapsed onto the floor; the sound of bones breaking was unmistakable. Charlotte cried out in horror as her husband hit the ground. The young vampire’s head snapped up at once, and she was on her feet so quickly that she tore away a piece of her aunt’s flesh, spraying the room and its occupants with blood.
Mr. Darcy made a guttural sound of sheer agony, and he moved toward his sister. “Georgie…,” he gasped.
Elizabeth had not released his hand, though the colonel had drawn her closer, whispering for Elizabeth to avert her eyes. She did not, and a moment later the young vampire, her face and thin nightdress drenched in blood, took another impossibly fast step toward her brother, stopping in the center of the room. Georgiana hesitated, but Elizabeth did not - she released her grasp on the gentlemen and launched into action. In one swift motion she kicked over the piano stool and brought her foot down on one of the intricately carved wooden legs, busting off a jagged piece. This diverted Georgiana’s attention from Mr. Darcy, and Elizabeth braced herself against the pianoforte as the young vampire flew at her. She gripped the stake tightly, knowing she had one chance to drive it through the girl’s heart.
Elizabeth did not miss her mark - as Georgiana collided with her, pinning Elizabeth down on top of the pianoforte, Elizabeth held fast to the makeshift stake. It pierced all the way through Georgiana, coming out her back, and the girl’s face contorted with pain for a moment before going slack.
A heavy silence fell over the room, and Elizabeth was suddenly aware of her own labored breathing, the weight of the body on top of hers, and the blood that trickled out of Georgiana’s chest and onto Elizabeth. She peered up at Mr. Darcy; his look of dismay sent a shiver up her spine, but still she gazed imploringly at him. “Help me,” she sputtered.
Mr. Darcy was frozen with panic; it was the colonel who finally came toward her and lifted Georgiana gently off Elizabeth, though he was nearly as aghast as his cousin. “Good God, Miss Bennet! Is she…?”
“Dead? In a manner of speaking, though not by my hand,” Elizabeth said, as she clambered back into an upright position.
The colonel cradled Georgiana’s stiffened body in his arms, and Mr. Darcy slowly joined them, his hand trembling as he stroked the girl’s hair. Elizabeth felt a pang of guilt at what she had been obliged to do, particularly after the strangely charged moment of unspoken desire that had just passed between herself and Mr. Darcy.
Even so, adrenaline compelled her to proceed. She lifted the long silver chain from around her neck - it had been a gift from her Uncle Silas, though she had never expected to use it for its intended purpose. She approached Georgiana and bound the girl’s wrists tightly together with the silver chain - only once this was done did Elizabeth look up at Mr. Darcy. “She will rouse, I believe, as soon as we remove the stake - first we must make sure she is secure.”
His jaw set in a taut, grim expression, Mr. Darcy made no reply. Colonel Fitzwilliam caught Elizabeth’s gaze and gave a quick, tense nod of his head. “What must we do?”
“The silver should bind her sufficiently,” Elizabeth said, but her confidence wavered as her eyes drifted to the crumpled, inert form of Mr. Collins. Beside him lay Lady Catherine de Bourgh, her throat ripped open, dark blood pooling around her. Elizabeth willed herself to look away, and though she had addressed the colonel, she was focused on Mr. Darcy - she was filled with an overwhelming urge to comfort him.
Again Elizabeth laid a hand on his arm; this time it was her turn to convey a fervent sense of something that could not be expressed with words. He let out a shaky breath, his gaze landing on her as if she had pulled him back from the edge of some fearful abyss, and a moment later he covered her hand with his own. “She will rouse?”
Elizabeth nodded and wrapped her hand around the end of the stake that protruded from Georgiana’s chest. “Whenever you are ready, sir.”
Mr. Darcy looked over at Charlotte and Miss de Bourgh, who were still huddled together in the corner. “Mrs. Collins, I think you would be safer upstairs, if you would please take my cousin to her room.” He did not leave his sister’s side, nor did he take his eyes off of Elizabeth. He waited, holding fast to Georgiana, as the colonel helped Charlotte and Miss de Bourgh make a hasty retreat.
Once Colonel Fitzwilliam had closed and locked the drawing room doors behind them, he joined Mr. Darcy in holding onto Georgiana. “Do what you must, Miss Bennet.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut as she pulled the stake out of Georgiana’s chest and took several hurried steps backward. The vampire was instantly reanimated, and began to struggle violently against her brother and cousin as she let out a blood-curdling shriek.
Georgiana Darcy was on fire. Her veins boiled with rage, the throbbing in her chest consumed her, and the intoxicating smell of fear and blood permeated the room. Her body writhed, every sensation past her control as the stake was pulled from her chest. She came out of the pain as if emerging from a thick crimson cloud, and when she could see clearly again, she instantly hurled herself at her attacker.
She was restrained, and let out a desperate howl as she attempted to shake off the hands that held her and the silver that seared into her wrists. For a moment a red mist blurred her vision, and she ceased her struggle as a sense of confusion stilled her.
She locked her eyes on her brother at the sound of his voice. The dismay in his face distracted her, for a moment, from every feeling of her own, and her body went slack against him. There was someone else at her side - Richard. And beyond them, her attacker, a woman she did not recognize, whose face and gown were spattered in blood. Some of it was Georgiana’s; she could smell it. But this woman was the only person in the room who did not reek of horror.
Transfixed by the unknown woman, Georgiana licked the blood from her lips and let out a hungry groan. Still she was restrained, and she forced her attention back to her brother and her cousin. Their hearts were beating incredibly fast - she could hear them.
Her own heart was silent and still, as it had been for three months now. Her bound hands reflexively raised to her chest; her nightgown was torn, but the place where the stake had pierced her was already beginning to heal. She focused on this, and she could feel her body repairing itself. It was a sensation she had experienced before, and like so many other things about herself, she did not understand it. Again she snarled and made one last, feeble attempt to wrest herself free.
“Please… it burns me,” Georgiana groaned.
William’s breathing was ragged, his face still twisted in despair; he looked at Georgiana without seeming to recognize her. Richard bore the same expression of horror. “Georgiana, what have you done?”
She followed his gaze to the two bodies on the drawing room floor, her bloodied aunt and a man she did not even know. The force of Georgiana’s shame was overpowering, and she sank to her knees with a wail of lamentation that she could scarcely identify as her own voice. “God help me, I am a monster!”