142 A Past Better Forgotten*
Rassa stalled for almost an hour after the designated time that Ebony had given him. He ran circles around the island, ducked in and out of shadows, anything to escape. But he ended up right back in front of the door to the small suite that had been given to Apple Star Trading. He'd hunted just so that when he walked through that door, if his anger got the best of him, which he knew was entirely possible, he'd be better able to contain the gluttony that rose within him every time it did.
With a sigh that carried the weight of a past he had thought he'd left behind him, Rassa raised his fist and knocked.
The man who answered the door was clearly not Falla, but he seemed to be expecting Rassa.
"Come in," he stated.
Rassa decided not to hesitate further. If this was going to be a business deal, it'd be pretty submissive of him to do so. That was all business had been in Rassa's experience, a series of shows of dominance to see who bowed under pressure first.
Falla was seated with a pile of documents before her, a pot of tea to the side. She looked up as Rassa entered the room, then stood, surprised. She clearly had not expected him to come. Rassa hadn't expected to come either, but Ebony was right, they needed this.
"Thank you, Layn," Falla said in a soft voice, "That will be all for tonight".
The man who'd opened the door was hesitant as he glanced at Rassa, but Falla simply nodded to him and he returned it with a respectful bow before he exited the room, leaving Falla and Rassa alone. For a moment, they simply stared at one another, trying to decipher the look in one another's eyes for a moment too long. Falla gasped, seeming to realise the atmosphere was getting rather awkward, and then she turned to the tea on the table.
"Would you like-" she stopped, glancing back at Rassa, "Right, never mind, take a seat, please".
Rassa could remember how she'd appeared the last time he saw her. When the carriage tugging his cage had pulled out of Cordon and he'd seen her through the bars. All he'd seen then was fear in her expression, fear and a sense of betrayal. It was all he'd been able to think about since he'd smelt her scent on skewer street upon arrival in Port Cresh.
But now, as he assessed her, as he scented her emotions...fear was not among them.
Relief, uncertainty, resolve...regret? It wasn't an emotion he'd smelt often. He'd first scented it surrounding himself in Jerrica, but it had been faint amongst the blood. Then with his father as he died. Regret was not looking to be a good emotion to have in Rassa's presence.
"I thought you were dead," Falla spoke into the silence, "We all did".
Rassa knew who she meant by all, and he turned away to look outside, a view of the moon visible out the window. After a moment, he spoke, the first time he'd spoken directly to her since all those years ago, "There were times I wished I was. But even in death I couldn't escape my fate".
"I..." Falla clearly had no idea what to say. Rassa didn't either. What do you say in a situation like theirs?
Rassa looked up at her words, eyes narrowing. He didn't know why the apology made him angry, but it did. With no one to hold him back or remind him that this was technically a business meeting, he didn't bother with niceties, he unleashed upon her with his words. They would hurt her more than his claws and fangs and shadows ever would.
"Sorry?" asked Rassa, "You're sorry?"
Falla nodded, "Truly, I-"
"Do you think I want an apology?" asked Rassa, "Do you think that's going to make up for the utter disgust and fear with which you viewed me when I was dragged away in a cage? A cage, which despite the fact that I never hurt anyone in the village, I ended up in because my diet was different? A cage and bars and chains which kept me as nothing more than an animal for over five years? Because that was all you and everyone else saw me as, an animal. I was no better than a predator, and I needed to be caged because of it. Do you think something as quick and meaningless as a word is going to make up for that?"
"Of course not, Rassa, I just-"
"I know you were a child, that you could do little to help me at the time, but somehow that thought does not quell my anger and disappointment," Rassa continued, "I honestly have no idea what will".
He stood, moving to the windows that stood beside them, the doors closed but leading onto a balcony covered in the chilly night air.
Falla sighed, then stood and rolled up her sleeve, "Then hurt me as I hurt you".
She offered her arm, and Rassa's eyes narrowed at her. In an instant he was inches from her, scaring her enough to make her fall back into her chair.
"Stupid girl, if you learn anything from me, learn that the last thing you want to offer a Vampire is your blood," Rassa said, "You are food. Entertaining food perhaps, dressed up and pampered, but food none the less. When you are offered an apple, do you just take a bite? It's a waste of an apple to just take a bite, you should at least finish it off".
Falla paled, "Then you kill-"
"Only when I need to," Rassa replied as he back away, "But I'm trying to impress upon you how foolish what you just did is. To me, taking only a bite is not just a waste, it's against my instincts. I have to fight to pull away and not drain my prey every time. It gets easier no doubt, but all it takes is a single lapse in judgement. A single thought that maybe it'd just be better to take the easy route, to give in. That's the line I walk, Falla. Daily. Don't be stupid enough to urge me to cross it".
Falla looked down, ashamed, "I see. I guess that was rather stupid. But I don't know enough about you, Rassa. That's what led me to make my mistake the first time. A mistake that I and the others have regretted ever since. But I'm not a child anymore, just as you said. Please, give me a chance to prove that".
"Then do yourself a favour, Falla," Rassa replied, "Don't treat me like the child you knew either. I was forced to grow up a long time ago, and I don't think it was quite the same upbringing as you".
"Very well then," Falla agreed as she indicated to the seat across from her, "My name is Falla Startree, founder and head of the Apple Star Trading Firm. I hear you have a product of particuar interest?"
Rassa stared at Falla for a moment, trying to gage her seriousness in this. Business was good. Business meant they had time to develop personal connection, and only if they desired it. He took a seat opposite her and then took her oustretched hand.
"Rassa Moonshadow, founder and head of the Moonshadow Trading Firm, I'm assuming that by this product you are referring to the Protection Charms? If you are willing to listen to and accept my terms, I can give you 50% of any profits we make for the first five years of business, at which point we would revist our agreement should our cooperation go well," Rassa spoke.
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"Very well, what terms do you offer?"