Nikki pushed a mismatched set of leather-wrapped, well, books, at me.
I quirked an eyebrow at her, but instead of looking at me, she was looking at the books. Her expression was unreadable, but she was clearly focused on the books. These were important, and something big.
I pulled the stack over, then picked up the top book. It wasn’t a book, exactly, so much as a folio. The pages had been stitched together, but it was all rough, done by hand. Books like this were popular with the younger crowd as journals, trying to copy a medieval style with modern materials.
I rubbed the leather between my fingers. It was oiled, and had the feeling of age though it had been well-preserved. I touched the pages, too, but didn’t open the book. The pages were rougher than today, thicker, too. I brought it up to my face and gave a sniff. It smelled old.
I looked at her again. She met my eyes, but something was still off. She sat upright in the chair, looking intently. Her hands were neatly folded in her lap, and she hadn’t said one word since coming in the door.
I undid the leather tie around the book I held and opened it to a random page near the beginning. The writing was rough, and clearly in another language. I fumbled over the words and recognized enough Old German to call it that. I used my thumb on the pages like a flipbook to see more writing. Two things stood out: there were date entries followed by blocks of prose, and the handwriting improved to a familiar, elegant script.
“Yours,” I said. “From the beginning?”
“Near enough,” she answered.
“What do you want me to do with these?”
She swallowed “Read them. Know me.”
It was a phenomenal gesture of trust on her part. Full access to not just a report on her life, not tidbits uncovered through historical research, but her story in her own words, secrets that she had committed to paper and existed nowhere else in the planet.
My response was immediate. “No, thank you.” I closed the journal and retied the leather around it.
Her eyes were on me again, a slight crease in her forehead from the eyes coming together, though the frown didn’t touch her mouth. I didn’t say anything.
“H-how?—I know your curious nature, Matthew. I would have thought you would jump at the chance. I am trying to be open with you.”
“I appreciate it. You’re worried, though. You think knowing about your will change our relationship. If you’ve been honest in this,” I held up the book, “you’ve killed a lot of people, and probably taken a lot of pleasure from that. You’re a vampire. I get it. I don’t need gory details. I know everything I need to know about you. I know who you are, today.”
She cocked her head to the side. “You continue to surprise me, Matthew. I had thought that you would appreciate satiating your curiosity and that you would come to understand my past. I did not expect—” she stopped, and took a breath. “How is it that you can so quickly deny your nature?”
I didn’t have an answer for that. I could have fired back with a joke, which was what immediately came to mind, but it wasn’t right in this moment. I looked back at the journals.
“These aren’t you. They’re part of you, but not all of you. You’re more than this. And I guess I’m more than just a curious detective. The most important part of us isn’t found in a book. It’s in living. Or in unliving in the case of a vampire,” I smirked.
She smiled, not at the joke, at me.