Jean~Claude in London:
London was gay and full of life. The aristocracy slept all day and spent the night attending the theater, the opera, an
endless round of parties and balls. It made an excellent life for a vampire. The English accepted him as exiled French nobility
and welcomed him into their homes. His eccentricities, his lack of interest in daytime activities were attributed simply to
being French. The British had a charming naivete about foreigners.
He had wanted to get as far away from France as
possible. As far away from Belle Morte, from Asher, from his memories, as he could. Someplace new, someplace different, someplace
where he had a chance to start over. He wanted to leave all the pain behind. London was not nearly distant or different enough
from France. But for now it was the best he could do.
London nights were damp; the air was choked with fog, smoke,
and the foul stench of burning coal. . Human misery was thick in the air, hunger, want, deprivation. He hunted in the teeming
slums where no one would miss his victims. No one would care or notice what happened to them. Sometimes he thought he was
doing them a favor by ending their miserable existence. Maybe he would have been better off truly dead.
was not the place he would have chosen for himself but it hadn’t been his choice. The Master of the City of London had
not welcomed him, but he had allowed him into the Kiss. It was better than being alone, hiding and living on the fringe.
was not alone but he was lonely. Even after all this time, even after Asher had denied him, banished him from his side, he
still ached for Asher, for his touch, for his love. “Mon chardonneret,” the words fell from his lips like
bloody tears, bitter and painful.
“Are you going? Will you take me? Please?” He waved the elegant invitation in the air. His voice was breathless,
eager, excited. Jean~Claude was always invited to the best parties, the most exciting events. He was very sought after. “Please?
I would be very grateful.” The last word was full of meaning, a tease.
“You want to go?” He raised
one dark brow in question. “Truly?” He was teasing now. “It will be very boring, mon ami.” Two could
play the game. Jean~Claude’s smile contradicted his words.
“Of course I want to go.” He dropped the
heavy envelope back onto the tray. He crossed the room to stand directly in front of Jean~Claude, close enough to run his
hands over the snowy shirt front. He moved his hands lightly over the smooth fabric, gently massaging the muscles underneath.
be there, it could never be boring.” Jean~Claude laughed and placed his hands over the pair massaging his chest. Byron’s
hands continued upwards, tracing nipples that hardened beneath his fingers. He pushed the length of his body closer, laying
his head on Jean~Claude’s chest, head tilted up so that grey eyes peered through sooty dark lashes.
I go?” He fluttered his eyelashes in a dead on imitation of a debutant that had pursued Jean~Claude ceaselessly. Jean~Claude’s
laughter was his reward.
“Please don’t do that, I find it unnerving. Of course you are much more tempting
than Elspeth.” Jean~Claude ran his finger across Byron’s lips. They were much more enticing than Elspeth’s
could ever be.
“Is that a yes? I’ll be very good." he crooned. " I could be your devoted servant.”
Byron smiled slyly. “Then I could sleep in your room.” Jean~Claude thought about how high eyebrows would be raised
if that scenario were played out.
“Non. I will introduce you as my ward. As such you are included in the invitation.”
He wrapped his arms around his ‘ward.’ “You are the son of my dearest friend who was killed in a tragic
accident. I am so very distressed that I can not discuss it.” His voice conveyed deep sadness and loss.
Being very distressed kept questions to a minimum. “So very sad, they have much sympathy for you.” The smile grew
more feral. “They are fascinated by your story. Especially after I let slip the information about the huge fortune you
are heir to. They cannot wait to console you.”
Jean~Claude held Byron close and felt his arms slip up and lock
around his neck to pull him down for a kiss. “So now I’m your ward, and you’ve set the lot of them on me
by telling them I’m rich. You are in my debt now.”
“As my ward no one will question my deep affection
for you.” He returned the kiss. “Or the time we spend together, after all you will be missing your father and
need, ah, consolation.”
Byron laughed, spoiling the solemn tone of his speech. “I don’t think this
is a display of paternal love. It seems quite improper.” He snuggled closer, locking his arms tighter around Jean~Claude.
“Besides, I like the idea of being your devoted servant. Command me.” He punctuated his words with kisses. “Anything.
Let me please you.”
Jean~Claude pulled away and stared at the grey eyes clouded over with lust. “Anything?”
He laughed as Byron nodded with no hint of a smile. “Very well. Come along and I will tell you about your duties.”
He was reading poetry again; French poetry. Byron watched from the doorway and sighed. It was his fault. How could he have
known the poems would cause so much unhappiness, his and Jean-Claude’s? He felt the familiar warm flicker of jealousy.
He knew exactly where this would lead. He had certainly had plenty of opportunity to regret giving him the book. How could
he have known?
He tried to ignore the heat rising in his blood, not lust; no, hot flames of jealousy. Jealousy was
such a destructive emotion. And it was useless to be jealous of a ghost. Beautiful, golden Asher was the specter that haunted
them both. It was impossible to compete with a ghost; of course Asher wasn’t really a ghost, he wasn’t dead. The
fear that he would come to his senses, come to re-claim Jean-Claude fueled his nightmares. Jean-Claude didn’t really
belong to him; Jean-Claude’s heart belonged to Asher.
He took a deep breath and arranged his features into a
smile, pulled his emotions from the dark pit of his fears. “Good evening, my love. What are you reading?” He walked
into the room, smile firmly in place, pushed the flames down before they could erupt into anger, and tried to maintain control.
Jean-Claude would not tolerate an emotional outburst; besides, they’d been over it all before.
from the book you gave me, don’t you remember?” Jean-Claude answered. The blue eyes that he loved so were filled
with inky darkness, the smile was a dark illusion, it couldn’t disguise the misery in his eyes tonight.
I remember. One of the poems especially reminded me of you, of your eyes when I read it.” Byron hesitated, then continued.
“I know it reminds you of Asher. Your eyes are filled with grief. It was supposed to make you happy.” There, now
he’d ruined the evening irrevocably, and Asher’s name was out in the open, filling the air between them, separating
them. He was tired of pretending Asher didn’t exist, didn’t matter.
The indigo blue eyes grew cold, distant.
“I have tried for longer than you know to change my feelings. I cannot. We can sometimes control our actions but our
hearts? Not so easily.” Jean-Claude replied in an icy voice. His smile was bitter, his voice heavy with irony. “Do
you not find it so? Is your heart under your control? Does it listen to your commands?”
his words filled with sorrow. “Would you choose to be caught this way? To love someone who does not return your love,
who hates you?”
Byron swallowed the angry retort he wanted to make and answered, as truthfully as he could. “Yes,
no, I don’t know.” No, Byron thought, but at least you had Asher’s love once. I will never have yours,
but you don’t hate me. “Would you be free of Asher?” he asked softly.
For a moment he thought
he saw the glitter of tears, thought they might spill down the marble cheek. Watching the softness of the face he was caught
off guard by the vehemence of the reply. “Yes, yes, I wish I had never set eyes on him. I would be free of him, of his
hold on me.” No tears fell, but Jean-Claude’s eyes were very bright.
“I’m sorry, je suis desole.
Forgive me?” Byron knelt by Jean-Claude, leaned against his legs, wrapped his arms around them, and laid his head against
his thighs. Soft brown curls spilled down covering his face. “I was jealous, I’m sorry.” He felt a touch
against his head; a hand stroked his hair, fingers slid through it, caressing his silky curls. He sighed and savored the closeness.
“Non, I was indulging in self pity.” Jean-Claude sighed in turn, cupped his hand around Byron’s
jaw, rubbed his cheek with his fingers. “It is true I regret Asher’s loss, but it is wrong to burden you with
it. I felt sorry for myself, sorrow for Asher. He is trapped by his anger, by his refusal to let go of his pain. He lives
with the cruelty of Belle’s court and wallows in his hatred of me. He has nothing and no one.”
his thoughts away from Asher and back to his companion. The book had been a gift from Byron. Byron had meant it as an expression
of his love. A book of love poems in French; they were very beautiful and they filled him with sadness. “Would you like
me to read these to you?” He lifted the book, gesturing with it.
Byron smiled against Jean-Claude’s thigh,
carefully arranged his delicate features, and lifted his head to gaze into the sapphire eyes. He could pretend, sometimes
it almost felt real. “You are going to quote poetry before we go out?”
“If you would like it?.”
Jean-Claude made no move to open the book.
“No.” Byron carefully reached out and took the book from the
slender white fingers. He laid it carefully on the reading table. Tomorrow he was going to throw it on the fire. “No
more poetry tonight.” He caught up the graceful hand, admired the long delicate fingers, the smooth white skin, then
gently placed a kiss on the palm.
Jean-Claude smiled at the kiss. “Come, it is getting late, we should be on
our way.” He rose gracefully to his feet and pulled Bryon from the floor. He was eager to leave, to be out of the house,
and away from the ghost that haunted them.
The poem, the original French and then the English translation.
Ni sa pensee, en col vers moi par tant de lieues,
Ni le rayon qui court sur son front
Ni sa beaute de jeune dieu qui la premiere
Me tenta, ni ses yeux – ces deux caresses bleues;
son cou ni ses bras, I rien de ce qu’on touché,
Ni rien de ce qu’on voit de lui ne vaut sa bouche
meurt de plaisir et qui s’acharne a mordre,
Sa bouche de fraicheur, de delices, de flame,
Fleur de volupte,
de luxure et de desordre,
Qui vous vide le Coeur et vous boit jusqua’a l’ame……
his thought, on flight toward me over such a distance,
Nor the wrinkle that runs across his radiant forehead,
Greek-God beauty that was the first
To tempt me, nor his eyes – those two blue kisses;
Nor his neck, nor arms
nor anything you can touch,
Not anything of him you see is worth his mouth
Where one dies of pleasure and which tries
desperately to bite,
His fresh, delectable, flaming mouth,
Flower of voluptuousness, lust and disorder,
empties your heart and drinks you up to your very soul…+
“An excellent performance. I enjoy Mr. Wilde’s work, he is very amusing.” His words were polite; his
English flawless, and only slightly tinged by a delicious French accent. He didn’t regret accepting the invitation.
Oscar was indeed entertaining. No one skewered the English so adeptly, so adroitly, and that they enjoyed it was a most delightful
irony. He would have to send a note of congratulations to Mr. Wilde on this latest triumph. It was unfortunate that the principal
actress had such a high-pitched voice; and that laugh. He shuddered at the memory.
“I am so pleased that you
joined me. I have hardly seen you at all this season.” This lady’s voice was sweet, seductive, and made her words
intimate, suggestive. He knew she was chiding him for his absence from her bed. He had no intention of returning but no reason
to let her know. Spurned women could be vindictive and hopeful woman could be useful.
“I have been very busy.”
He inclined his head to indicate the young man at his side, his ward. The lady smiled at his companion.
the insincere smile with one of his own and batted his eyes. "Jean-Claude has done his best to distract me." The smile looked
much more sincere now. Really he was incapable of behaving. The house lights had come up but it was still dim. He placed his
hand on Byron's shoulder and squeezed until his eyes widened and the smile slipped from his lips.
"My ward is still
mourning his family. It was so kind of you to include him in your invitation." His fingers tightened a bit more.
thank you. You are very kind." Byron managed to force the words through clenched teeth. Jean-Claude relaxed his grip. They
sat in the box waiting for the crowds to thin out and the carriages to be brought around.
“ I’m sorry if
I have been remiss in my attentions. I understand your husband has been constantly at your side.” He smiled the pleasant
social smile and watched her reaction. She stiffened at mention of her spouse; her husband was a jealous man and highly suspicious.
could feel Byron twitch with contained laughter. Byron’s hand crept to his thigh. He took it in his own and held it
firmly. Byron could be very wicked.
“I would see you home if you would like. Byron and I would be happy to accompany
you.” He knew she would refuse, she had not been happy to see Byron. The feeling was mutual.
“No, I have
my own carriage, but I hope to see you, very soon.” Her voice was inviting, intimate. She had so carefully excluded
Byron from the invitation. Jean-Claude smiled but made no promises.
Later in the carriage he let his thoughts wander.
Byron leaned against him and seemed content.
The theater had been a pleasant diversion, especially when he had such
a beautiful companion; two lovely companions, he amended his thoughts. How fortunate that the lady’s husband was away.
He was surprised that she was willing to be seen in such a public venue with him, even though they were suitably chaperoned.
He had been careful but still gossip ran through London society like wildfire. And being able to take Byron had made it doubly
pleasant. Byron was pleased, he loved an opportunity to annoy Jean-Claude’s admirer’s and Byron’s presence
had negated much of the gossip; if they had only known.
He had a certain reputation among Society, at least among the
women, a very well deserved reputation. He smiled and then sighed. Being well known, being recognized would not serve him
well in the long run. There were already rumors about his youth.* He had disappeared for many years and reappeared masquerading
as a relative of the man he had been. But that sort of illusion would not work repeatedly.
He’d had a good life
in London. His thoughts drifted to his companions and his days in England. Not the humans, the vampires. He would be sorry
to be parted from them but he could not allow himself to become attached, to fall in love, again. Never again.
time to move on. Where, was the question? His latest paramour had presented an unexpected opportunity. He thought about the
conversation as they rode home in the hansom. Byron snuggled against him, head resting contentedly against Jean-Claude’s
chest, Jean-Claude’s arms around him. Byron’s hands caressed him in the darkness.
you must come back to America with me!” The young woman’s enthusiasm was exciting. She was enthusiastic about
many things, her zest for living life to the fullest was invigorating, refreshing. He would be sorry when she had returned
home. His eyes traveled down the outline of her curvaceous body covered only by the fine linen sheet.
sure I would find it enchanting, but I’m afraid I cannot leave England at this time.” Jean-Claude drew her closer,
exposing her to the waist as the sheet fell back. He kissed her shoulder, nibbled across her collarbone, then his lips traveled
up her slender white neck until he found the pulse point. “I find you enchanting.” He whispered against her skin.
“Intoxicating.” His hands stroked her breasts as he kissed and sucked the skin over the throbbing beat. She moaned
softly. He raised his head to stare into her eyes. He held her gaze and used his eyes to pull her under.” Delicious.”
Bespelling her with his eyes was not necessary to the seduction but he could not afford to have her remember him biting, drinking
her blood. She would only remember what came after. “Satisfying.”
As sharp white incisors sank into the
sweet flesh Jean-Claude thought about what it might mean to leave London. His mouth filled with warm, sweet blood and he could
only think about escape. Putting more distance between himself and the constant desire to return to France and see Asher.
Maybe America would be a better place from him. He licked the blood from her neck and moved his mouth to hers.
Byron’s voice brought him back to reality. “You are a million miles away, it is not very nice when I am doing
my best to distract you!” Byron was pouting.
Jean-Claude leaned down to catch the luscious mouth with his own
lips. “Yes, it was very rude, my deepest apologies.” He whispered in a husky voice, their lips touching. Byron
accepted his kiss and the apology, returned the kiss enthusiastically. For a little while thoughts of escape and Asher were
“What were you thinking about in the carriage? That American woman?” Byron was jealous; he sensed
Jean-Claude’s growing disenchantment with his life. Byron feared losing Jean-Claude; he knew he’d never really
“Non, I was lost in old memories.” Byron wasn’t any happier about old memories, he knew
about Asher. Jean-Claude smiled and lied, hoping to ease Byron’s fear, at least for a little while. He pulled Byron
close, folded his arms around him, gazed into the soft gray eyes.
“You have nothing to worry about, not from
the American, not from my memories. I am here, with you.” He could tell by the doubt in Byron’s eyes that he was
not completely convinced. He wouldn’t be able to put off telling him much longer. But for now he could drive the doubt
and fear away. He bent down and used his kisses to comfort and distract.
Leaving France had seemed the prudent course of action. He was free of Belle Morte and Asher. No, he could never be free
of Asher. He felt the pain of loss rush through him even now. But Asher had refused him, had cast him out. Asher hated him
because he had rescued him, because Juliana had died, because he’d failed them all. Leaving France had been the right
thing to do, now it was time to leave London.
The evil excesses of Belle’s Court; how hard it was to remember
when he had been dazzled by her beauty, seduced by her claims of love, sucked under by the fire that burned inside him, in
his very soul. His soul. Surely if he still had a soul, if he’d ever had one, it had been crushed, killed by Asher’s
The pain was always there but it was the dull ache of old loss now, not the sharp stabbing pain of new
wounds; different, not better. It had been so many years and his love for Asher was as deep and strong as when it was new.
He could close his eyes and remember his first glimpse of Asher. His golden beauty was like watching the sun in all its glory.
At their last meeting Asher had glowed with anger and hatred, not love. He lit up from inside with it. Once his love
and desire for Jean~Claude had made his eyes shimmer to molten blue fire. That final time his eyes were incandescent with
hatred, his voice had been low and rough with anger.
Nothing Jean~Claude could say or do had moved him; nothing could
soften Asher’s hatred, his rage. They had planned to spend eternity together celebrating their love and passion for
each other. Now they couldn’t be in the same country, on the same continent. The distance wasn’t enough yet, he
would put an ocean between them.
New Orleans sounded intriguing. London was too crowded with his kind.* Too many vampires
fleeing Europe. He had not been discrete, his face and accent made him stand out. There was no place for his power to grow;
no territories open, nothing to be had with out fighting. He had no desire for that, for fighting and killing. He wasn’t
strong enough, yet. In America there was room for a new Master, new ideas.
are leaving? I’ll go with you, take me with you.” Large grey eyes took on a darker coloring with emotion. His
voice was distraught.
“I thought you were happy, I thought I made you happy? Why would you leave?” The
voice was softer now, sad, hurt. Jean~Claude had known this would be hard, unpleasant. He felt cruel remembering his own devastation
at the hands of someone he had loved.
“You knew I didn’t plan to stay in London. I am only tolerated here.
It is time for me to move on, to find my own place.” He smiled and stroked the smooth, soft cheek. He caressed the full
lips with his fingers.
“Requiem will be your protector; he will take care of you.” Jean~Claude knew how
much it hurt Byron that he needed others.
“He can’t replace you. I love you. He doesn’t even like
men. I don't want to be given away like I was a thing.” Byron was angry, hurt. Jean~Claude didn’t blame him.
he doesn't like men, but he is my friend and he is your friend, as well. He will take care of you.” Jean~Claude repeated
it, hoping Byron would accept it. Requiem understood loss and pain, too. He wore his sorrow for Ligea wrapped around him like
the everpresent black cloak; a heavy dark presence settled on his shoulders.
“I have been honest with you. I
never pretended to love you.” He saw bitter knowledge fill the grey eyes with pain. “We are friends, nothing more.”
Tears tinged with blood, slid out of the sad eyes, and rolled unchecked down the pale skin. Jean~Claude reached up to brush
them away. He was sorry to cause so much distress to someone he cared about.
“Our master would not release you;
he would never allow you to go with me. I can’t protect you where I am going. You will be safe here.” Jean~Claude
wanted to reach out and hold him but he knew it would only make the betrayal more painful.
“Someday, if I can,
I will send for you.” It was all he could offer. He knew it wasn’t enough.
“You will send for me?
Like a dog, called to heel?” Byron was bitter, angry, sad. He had known this would come, as hard as he'd tried to pretend.
“I knew you didn’t love me, but sometimes, sometimes I hoped that you might.” He could only be angry
with himself. Jean~Claude had always been honest.
Reality was so often disappointing.
He found New Orleans depressingly European. The air was heavy and rank. It smelled of decadence and decay. Society was stilted
and insular, as much as any vampire court or European monarchy he had ever seen.
Becoming part of it was not the problem,
enduring it, that was the difficulty. It was boring. He had not meant to stay here. It was only a port of entry, a place to
+Translated by Lisa Neal
Treasury of French Love Poems
*Oscar Wilde wrote The Portrait of Dorian Grey in 1891. I’ve always felt he based it on acquaintance with a vampire/vampires.
Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897. He also wrote a collection of eerie Fairy Tales titled Under the Sunset, where people sleep
all day, and are alive only at night.