Hunter, hunter

The Vortex Underground

One of the trendiest nightspots in London, the Vortex Underground has sleek, modern look to it. Lots of blue and magenta neon lighting, black and chrome decor, and a variety of levels surrounding the dance floor make it an ideal 'meat market' for a party night. Add to it the gimmick of the dance floor itself — a large milky-white square gridded off by black bands. Screens are installed under the dance floor, allowing for a play of light and images to appear beneath the dancers feet. In any other club, it would be seen as 'trying too hard'. But, somehow, the Vortex manages to pull it off.

The music in the place is loud. Loud enough to be heard down the block, in fact. And it always carries a heavy beat, to encourage dancing. There's a regular rotation of DJs, most of them well-known throughout the city. The wait staff dress all in black — the men in black silk shirts and dress trousers, the women in little black dresses.

The menu is sparse, but just as trendy as the rest of the place, with exotic names for even the most common of dishes. And the prices are higher than middling average, but lower than high end. Still, it's considered the place to be among its demographic… which tops out somewhere around age 25.


Characters

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Aidan Jacintha

Tonight, Aidan is 'clubbing.' It's one of his favorite pastimes because, despite the cliche of the notion, there is no better hunting and feeding grounds. Unless one wishes to sneak into the hospital wards, but that's never held appeal for Aidan. A limp, sickly body is an easy target, and a boring one. Aidan likes the challenge, he likes the game. There is nothing quite more intoxicating than moving among his prey and pretending to be one of them. Nothing like earning their trust and reeling them in, teasing them with his mockery of humanity until the moment he reveals his true self. That pinnacle moment when he can taste the blood and the fear and is reminded that being a vampire is such a beautiful gift.

Aidan prides himself on hunting carefully. He covers his tracks, and doesn't leave a mess to be cleaned up. It wouldn't do to possibly expose himself, and von Richter would frown upon it. Clumsy, messy vampires are stupid, dead vampires and Aidan hasn't managed to live to be as old as he is by being clumsy or messy.

The particular venue he's chosen for tonight is lively. It's filled wall to wall with human bodies, the beat of the blood in their veins thudding in time to the bass of the live band — supposedly a good one, but Aidan has heard better — on the stage. Writhing, pulsing bodies flow and twist across the dance floor, and the tantalizing cocktail of alcohol and lust and hormones fills his senses. Aidan moves through the crowd with the reckless abandon of those here tonight, stopping to smile at this one or grind against that one, ever patient as he looks for the perfect target.

~

The dance floor is crowded tonight — the joys of the weekend. Finding a mark shouldn't be that hard for the Vampire. There are lots of willing victims, most of them made easier by the pliability of their minds. But, not every mind is so easily open to a Vampire's.

Indeed, to a telepath, the one thing that marks a Vampire as 'obvious' isn't any of the cliches; it's the lack of any discernible signal. To a woman like Jacintha Westlake, dance floors (clubs in general, really) are something of an anathema. A bane, to be sure. So many minds teeming together, most of them seething with ill-disguised lust and desire. It's a bit like walking through pea soup… and just about as disgusting. Not to mention the increased opportunity for touch in such places. Again, to a telepath such as Ms Westlake, touch is somewhat taboo. She has no particular desire to discover just how close to the surface the Normals' emotions actually are, beneath the thin veneer of their trivial and banal thoughts.

Thus, she looks somewhat out of place in the body-heated room, in her long sleeves and gloves — a long skirt to match them her only concession to the environment, instead of the usual corporate pantsuit that is her wont. It's an outfit entirely unlike the skimpy pieces of cloth that pretend to cover most of the rest of the women here.

Her cool grey eyes scan the room purposely, concentration knit between her brows as she tries to sort one mind from another in a not-so-casual search of the premises.

~

Aidan doesn't have to search long to find exactly what he wants. She's a little wisp of a thing, sitting with a group of friends, but somehow apart from them. His mouth lifts in a smirk, and he's halfway to her table when something else catches his attention.

'Isn't that interesting,' Aidan thinks, watching the woman move across the room. She's overdressed for a night out, and maybe it's modesty, or maybe it's something that Aidan just can't fathom. Whatever it is, his curiosity has been piqued and the little wispy bit has dropped from his mind in the blinking of an eye.

Aidan doesn't use any special tricks to navigate around, but he manages to put himself in the woman's path, "You look like a lady who could use a drink." The smile is two parts charm, one part chivalry and his blue eyes dance in flirtatious invitation.

~

And here Cin thought she was sending out all the wrong signals. Concentration interrupted by a voice whose intention she didn't sense beforehand, she glances swiftly to the man that has just materialized beside her. Automatically, she examines him… meeting a deep dark void. Her brows rise slightly, not so obvious to the people dancing around them, but easy enough for a Vampire to perceive. That, and the subtle shift of her heartbeat with faintly increased stress. "Likely," she concedes cautiously. A faint smile plays at the corners of her lips. "Though, I should tell you, I'm here to meet someone."

And he's not it… though she's courteous enough not to add that part.

~

'Curiouser and curiouser,' Aidan thinks. The woman's reaction is unexpected, the slight flicker across her face and the change in rhythm and timing of her heartbeat. There aren't many who would react that way on the spot, and had he been anyone else, Aidan would have backed down and left it well enough alone. But he's never been one to ignore a challenge, and he's more than a little bit curious to see if his hunch is right and she really has pegged him. All the more amusing if she has.

The smile never slips from his face, if anything, he turns up the boyish edge to it, his voice maintaining its smooth charm. "Well, I certainly wouldn't want to impose, but, at least let me buy you drink while you're waiting."

~

"I'm not so much waiting," Jacintha says smoothly, straightening now and bringing her initial reactions under control, "as I am… searching." Perhaps not the wisest thing to confess to a hunter such as he must be. Mustn't he? Truth to tell, she's never actually met a Vampire, before. But she's heard stories — mostly from older psychics, those who have been with Mr. Alexanader since the beginning… those who've investigated the strangest of the visions the clairvoyants are sometimes known to have.

She finds herself at once wary and curious. A mind that doesn't scream out its innermost thoughts at her is a rare… treat, actually. If her elders hadn't spoken of the inevitable evil that accompanied such creatures, she'd be far more open about her curiosity. As it is, she betrays herself simply by not shutting him down as immediately and harshly as she might a human suitor. She loops an errant fall of hair behind an ear with a dark gloved hand, giving a polite smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes, and yet doesn't leave them cold and distant, either. Merely still wary… and curious.

"However, you are not the one I am seeking."

~

Aidan watches her, all the little motions and mannerisms. Decades, centuries of watching humans and he can read the little signals that humans would miss. It's a requirement, part of the job description, if you will. He watches the motion of her hand, the upward curve of her lips, listens to the words she says and the timbre in which she says them.

"Ouch!" Aidan mock-clutches his unbeating heart and makes a faint half-stagger. He's graceful enough to avoid bumping into anyone, and rights himself with the ease of an acrobat. The smile is genuine, because at this moment Aidan's curiosity has been intrigued, and he's truly having fun. He leans closer, not enough to spook her, because Aidan's nothing if not talented at walking the lines, his voice pitched just a bit lower, but still loud enough to be heard over the music. "Are you sure? Maybe you haven't been looking in the right places." The waggle of his eyebrows is suggestive, but not lewd, the grin playful.

~

Jacintha's smile turns a trifle wry, almost ironic, at his words. Just before he gets close enough to cause her to recoil — which, for her, isn't nearly as close as it would be to another person — he stops, keeping just enough distance. Though he avoids openly spooking her, Jacintha can't help but flicker her eyes over his face and then the rest of his form, noting body language as well. It's harder, she realizes with something of an inward start, to judge his motives when she can't read his thoughts. She hadn't truly realized how very much second — no — first nature it has become to her. Scan first; look second.

Still, he's uncanny in the way he reads her, which leads her to conclude: He's either a Vampire, or he's a far more powerful telepath than she. And that second possibility, actually, is more disconcerting to her than the idea he could be one of the mythical demons of the night wind. She's consider a top-tier telepath. If he isn't a vampire, he's just seriously raised the bar on psychic ability.

For a fleeting moment, she sends up a silent prayer to a deity she's never before actually believed in, hoping that he actually is demonic. Odd as that may be, at least it means her thoughts are as safe from him as his are from hers.

"Evidently, you're right," she says, letting the internal debate remain just that — internal and only betrayed by minute changes in heartbeat and almost imperceptible flickers in facial muscles. She lets the polite smile linger on her lips. "Since I certainly haven't found the one I'm expecting."

A beat.

"You are remarkably charming." It's not quite an afterthought. More, it's something she's not sure she should say. "Have you a name you'd care to share?"

~

The chinks in the armor begin to show and Aidan can't help mentally slapping himself on the back. In his mind, it's a hard fought battle, and he's far too proud to resort to compulsion unless there's no other recourse… or the situation requires it, which sometimes it does. This isn't that situation, and though he came with one goal in mind tonight, Aidan's finding this interaction to be enough of a distraction from his boredom and restless for the interim.

She's pegged him as a Vampire, Aidan's almost sure of it, but she's not running for the hills. As far as Aidan's concerned that means that she's either incredibly naive and/or daft — which Aidan doesn't figure her for — or she's the sort who's willing to flirt with danger. Or he really is just that charming.

Aidan figures her for a telepath or witch, and he hasn't narrowed it down yet, and he isn't over-analyzing it. As long as he's still standing and not fleeing for the shadows, then so far the night gets a tick in the win column.

"You say the sweetest things," Aidan beams at her, "And you are delightfully intriguing." He pauses then, and extends a hand. "The name is Aidan, but now I'm going to have to ask that you return the favor. I should warn you, I'll beg if I have to and that won't be pretty at all."

~

"Grace," comes Jacintha's smooth reply. There is no trace of a lie in it. Which means she's either telling the truth or has told the lie so often it rings true. She doesn't offer her hand in return, however. Not even gloved. As it is, she appears slightly distracted for a moment, eyes tracking a delightful young blonde that sashays near the bar and eyes the pair curiously.

Clearly written across the girl's face, never mind her uppermost thoughts, is her puzzlement at seeing such a clearly charming man with such a clearly misplaced woman. No matter how attractive Jacintha can be when she lets her hair down — figuratively and literally — and no matter how stylish the rest of her ensemble may be, there's no getting around the fact that, somehow, she really does come across as almost Victorian… simply because of her reluctance to bare even a little skin. The girl's conclusion, clearly audible to Jacintha's enhanced awareness, is that the uptight brunette must either be blackmailing the poor guy or more of a tease than she looks. She's probably a dominatrix in disguise, or something, comes the unsurpressed thought.

Accustomed as she is to the cruelty of strangers in their thoughts, Jacintha hides her pique at the wonton assumption well. It does mean, however, that the girl has singled herself out as the telepath's sacrificial lamb, should it come to it.

"I should very much return to my hunt, I expect," she says, head tilting obliquely, her chin still leaving her throat subtly guarded. "As, perhaps, you may wish to, also? I am not such charming company as you, and there are others, I reckon, who would love your attention."

~

Aidan does not feel slighted or at all offended by the lack of reception to his extended hand. He has to admit he would have been more surprised if she had taken his hand. She's warmed up to him, but not nearly enough, which he does find slightly disconcerting. Aidan's been charming lasses since he was fifteen — from wenches to farm girls to the darling daughters of the landed lords — and he knows that there is always a way. Unfortunately, some pursuits take more time and effort than others, and again he has to weigh his wants and desires and his very actions carefully.

It would be easy enough to cut his losses and leave now. There are certainly a good number of warm, desperate bodies — even warm, smugly satisfied and arrogant bodies — that he could easily sweep off their feet and into his arms. In fact, before the night is over, Aidan is sure that he will do exactly that, but Grace is on his radar now and even if he does walk away, she will not be forgotten.

It's pride and arrogance that stop him from trying to work his way into her mind and cloud her thoughts, to sway her to his side with just a few looks and word. Pride and arrogance that he's been told will be his downfall, but for now those are the very same vices that keep the woman safe from Aidan trying to press his advantage with his preternatural talents.

All this crosses his mind as quickly as his hand drops back to his side. Aidan inclines his head, "I'm certain that I'm not going to find anyone nearly as engaging as you, Grace." There's a special emphasis on her name, a warm caress as he rolls it across his tongue and off his lips.

"However, I'm not so daft that I can't take a hint." Aidan bends at the neck and shoulders, flourishing with a roll of his hand, the echoing picture of a Renaissance gentleman. "If you should change your mind, I'll be over here, nursing my disappointment and broken heart."

~

As long as he takes the hint, the telepath is happy. Indeed, the idea that he might not — the sound of the name she gave him as it leaves his lips, the emphasis he gives it — causes a bit of an electric current to run down her spine. It's only visible in the faint stiffening of her spine and the slightest tension around her eyes. She can't decide if that current was a thrill of fear and danger or allure and danger. The danger part, however, is clear.

And, true. As he's already surmised, Jacintha actually isn't one to shy from danger. But, she prefers to be the one in control. She is under no illusion that she can control the Vampire, however. (She's definitely pegging him as a Vampire, now. He's too mannered.) She can't read his thoughts; therefore, she can't control him.

So, mustering as charming a smile as she might, even as she fixes every mental defence she has firmly in place, she lets her gaze slide smoothly from his face to his shoulder so as not to provide a temptation. "Your disappointment, perhaps," she concedes. "But, I suspect the rest are nothing but pretty words. Enjoy the rest of your evening… Aidan. I have… another gentleman to catch."

One that's going to wish to God she were a Vampire before she's done with him.

Giving a gracious nod of her head that almost echoes a modern half-curtsey or bow — except isn't — she steps away and begins moving through the crowd.

If the Vampire watches carefully, he'll no doubt see her quarry before she does, though she's the scent of his mind. Already, the mop-haired young fellow is heading hurriedly for the back exit of the club, glancing back just often enough to make himself unintentionally obvious before he slips away into the corridor.

~

Aidan does watch her departure with great interest. It's easy for him to single her out — and her prey — watching her move deftly through the crowd on the heels of a human she shouldn't be able to track without his scent. Or something else. A telepath then, Aidan figures, and his mouth quirks into a considering smile. That could be fun.

Aidan barely resists the urge to follow her, knowing it would be an easy enough feat to catch up with her or even cut into her path. It would be a little too easy. He knows where that exit comes out behind the building; it's important to know the ins and outs and every nuance of a good hunting ground and Aidan has this one well plotted in his memory.

Pursuing her, as entertaining as it might be, however, would ruin the moment. Aidan likes to play and he has an entirely different sort of pursuit in mind where that one is concerned. It will take a bit more work and perserverance, but patience is always its own reward.

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