As the long velvet curtains closed behind Lucien I considered my options. On the one hand, he did tell a good story, on the other hand...
In a heartbeat, ironic turn of phrase don't you think, I'm sprinting through the long hall, hoping I can find the exit. It's not going to be back up those stairs, so I plunge through the ground-floor door and skid to a halt in a tiled-floored lobby.
I have a quick look round – there's a door ahead of me and one to my left, but it's the big iron-bound oak door to my right that looks like my best best, I reckon. I dash past a rail of coats and muddy boots and throw my shoulder against the door. And bounce off. It's locked. Shit.
Oh, hang on, this door's got one of those posh locks on it that means it's locked from the outside, but has a latch on this side so you can always get out. I flick the latch, haul the door open – why do you always push a pull door when you're panicing – and dive through.
There's the brief sensation of gravel under my bare feet. Next thing I know, I'm going arse-over-tit, coming to rest upside down in a flowerbed. I'd expect to be winded, but I'm not. Odd, that. Lucien's leaning against the front wall rubbing the scuff mark off his shoe where he tripped me.
'I told you you'd never make it,' he says, helping me to my feet. 'You'd best come back inside, the sun will be up in an hour.'
The sun? What the hell does that have to do with anything, I wonder.
Lucien slings an arm around my shoulders and propels be back into the house. I mutter every curse I can think of, and he chuckles when I get to, “may his ears turn to arseholes and shit down his neck.” I glare at him out the corner of my eye.
'Aren't you going to lock that?' I tip my head towards the front door as Lucien kicks it shut behind us.
'No need. Once the sun rises, neither of us is going anywhere.'
So, the part about sunlight and vampires must be true, but why's he including me in that statement?
Reality dawns with a suddeness that makes my legs turn to jelly and my stomach turns over. Lucien catches me before I fall, but can't stop me chundering a mixture of whisky and bile all over his expensive-looking carpet.
I swear, if he says, 'Better out than in,' I'll swing for him.
'The Purge has begun. Good,' is what he says instead and I still want to take a swing at him, but I'm feeling decidedly wobbly so he half-carries me back to the armchair and sits down opposite.
My head's spinning and I'm not sure I'm taking this all in. I only dimly notice Lucien placing a bucket next to my chair before the rest of the whisky comes back up.
'How long?' I croak.
I nod, weakly.
'Twenty four hours, or thereabouts.'
Looking back on it, I'm quite surprised it doesn't take longer to remove every last, lingering shred of my humanity. You'd think it'd take longer.
'You will feel better once the Purge has run its course. You might even feel like eating something by tomorrow.'
Did he say eating someone? I'm having real trouble keeping up. Feels like my brain is being extracted through my eye sockets with a blunt teaspoon.
'Rest, don't try to talk. You will need all your strength later.'
Rest? No kidding! I'll put my plans for running the London marathon on hold for now then, shall I?
'Since you seem to be prepared to listen to the rest of my story, I shall continue.'
Prepared to? Prepared to?! And just what else did I have on my social calendar for this evening? As I feel as weak as a kitten and probably couldn't stand even if I wanted to, I decide it might be better not to mention this out loud.
Lucien's eyes narrow. Oh shit, he thought-heard me again.
'As I was saying,' he continues, 'it was dark when the woman came. I know this for there were no chinks of light through the rocks which entombed me and it was cold. From her speech I thought her a Saracen woman. The only part of me left exposed was my left forearm. I never saw her face, just felt a stabbing pain in my wrist and began to feel weak, so very weak. I thought she had opened my veins and left me to bleed to death when I heard her piling rocks over my arm.
I know not whether I slept or was unconscious but, as I later discovered, I lay beneath that pile of stones for two days and nights until my strength returned and I was finally able to claw my way out. I was still weak, as you are now, but I was alive. Or so I believed.'