“Is he dead, sir?”
“Is who dead?” Darcy slurred, although he knew to whom his valet referred.
* * * *
In the velvet darkness of the blackest night, his footfall – silent as death – stalked the prey as it stumbled out of the Cheshire Cheese and down the dim alley. Not until Darcy was nearly upon him did the drunkard hesitate and glance behind him towards his suspicion of someone – something – lurking in the shadows.
He turned around and squinted back from whence he had come. “Danny, is that you?” No, not Danny, nor any of the others he had left drinking ale at the public house, friends who knew all of his secrets and accepted him nonetheless.
The heavy mist turned to a light rain and dampened the man’s face and lashes. As he fumbled forward, Darcy drew upon him with a swiftness that might have provoked a stronger response had his victim not been so intoxicated; but instead he managed only a confused grunt as his face paled and his eyes bulged, terror evident on his features as he fell into silent supplication. Darcy gripped his shoulders and stared with intent into eyes wide with shock and fear until the man’s eyelids drifted down and his body swayed. His prey’s muscles relaxed under Darcy’s grasp, and he pushed him against the wall.
Darcy should have despised himself for this act, for taking this stranger and feeding upon him, etiolating him; but he had long since reached the pinnacle of self-loathing. Indeed, he had chosen his quarry in hopes of drowning his agony in this blood.
His teeth sank easily into the thick skin of his victim’s throat, and he consumed the blood in a frenzy, not to sate a hunger but to quell an ache. Pain diminished any satisfaction in feeling the man’s pulse beat through his limbs, but he did not drink for pleasure. He drank to forget. To forget himself. To forget Elizabeth.