Tessa leaned back in the dining chair and sighed comfortably. The meal had been excellent and even though the slice of cherry pie in front of her was the best she had ever tasted, she forced herself to stop before she became too bloated. Christopher, on the other hand, was still plucking grapes off the vine cluster upon his plate and popping them between his lips. It wasn’t sexual by any means, but just watching the way he chewed each piece of fruit made her abdomen grow tighter with desire.
The evening had gone beautifully. Tessa let her guard down and they discussed all matters from political to cultural, spanning centuries back unto modern day. Christopher was a connoisseur of knowledge, just as she was. But he surpassed her by so much more. He told her things about history that she had never heard in documentaries or read in text books. And she knew quite a lot. Out of all subjects, she hungered for history the most.
He had just finished educating her on the political scandals of King Louis’ XVI inner court when she finally spoke. “If you know so much about history, why do you teach anthropology? You seem to know so much. Why specialize in that?”
Christopher rolled a green grape between his fingers, his gaze focused on her as it had been for most of the evening. “Because I know far too much about it to begin with. It might raise suspicion among the students of how I know so much.”
Tessa had considered this very same thing. “What would they possibly suspect of you? You just must have researched a lot or maybe had a parent that taught history. That’s what I would assume.”
“But you would assume wrongly. I didn’t amass this knowledge through a third party.”
Tessa tilted her head curiously. “You mean, you didn’t learn this from someone else.”
“Precisely.” A slow smile spread across his face and he ate the grape.
Tessa took a moment to reflect on that, but couldn’t stay silent in her pondering. “So, you didn’t learn in from a class. You did the research yourself, right? From a book or abroad?”
“I did no research.” For the first time all evening, Christopher was being cryptic. She didn’t like it. This whole dinner was founded on the idea that they would reveal themselves to one another in a private setting, free from discrimination or judgment.
Why he wanted it to begin with was beyond her understanding. He seemed like an open book until now. Funny, intelligent, suave, and dashingly handsome. Tessa thought she knew it all except his childhood which was too personal for a first date anyway.
“That doesn’t make any sense. If you didn’t learn it from someone and you didn’t learn it from a book, then…” Tessa wasn’t a paranoid, delusional person. She didn’t believe in ghosts and immortals. But the longer they locked eyes, the truth became evident in his gaze. And he smiled while her heart began to beat faster. “You’re crazy,” she whispered.
He shook his head slowly. “No, I’m not crazy.”
“There’s no way you could have been there in King Louis’ court to know all that stuff.”
“But I was.”
Tessa held up her hands and gave him a look. “You’re not old.”
“I’m actually very old.”
“How old?” she asked slowly.
Christopher’s eyes flitted around as if he were looking for the answer somewhere around the room. “I’d say close to three hundred and fifty, give or take a decade.”
Tessa thought this evening was going so well and then he had to drop this on her. He was everything she wanted in a man, minus the crazy part. “You’re not over three hundred years old,” she accused.
“I am. I was born in a village in Italy. My father was a cobbler and my mother a washer woman for a richer family. The village no longer exists today. It was destroyed during the first World War.”
Now she was getting angry. Tessa was no naïve. She knew how the world worked and she didn’t believe that a man could live that long and still look so young. It felt like Christopher was playing her.
She quickly stood up and the chair legs groaned against the woof floor as it slid back. “I’m out of here,” she said, feeling tears sting at the corner of her eyes.
But Christopher was suddenly in front of her, blocking her path. The flat bottoms of her boots skidded her to a stop and she almost ran into him. Tessa quickly backed up, seeing the determined glint in his gorgeous eyes.
“Please, don’t leave.”
“How did you do that?” she asked, bumping into the arm of her chair while she tried to retreat. Christopher didn’t advance, but stayed between her and the door.
“I can do a lot of things.” There was a grave truth in his voice that she didn’t like either, combined with the frown that made his face a little less attractive.
“I don’t believe you,” she declared as her fingers patted against the table top, searching for the butter knife that she had used earlier on her bread roll.
“I wish you would. I haven’t told this to anyone.”
That didn’t comfort her in the least. It just meant he had done a good job of hiding his crazy from the rest of the world. Her fingers found something cold like metal and she grabbed for it. Holding it out like a weapon, she realized it was her spoon, still coated in dried tomato soup around the edges. Christopher was not amused.
Tessa threw down the spoon and scrambled for the knife, taking her eyes off the professor for little more than a moment. As soon as she had the knife, his hand closed around her wrist and she felt his body pressed against hers.
She made to strike him with her free fist, but he took that captive too. Tessa squirmed against him, her full stomach protesting against so much movement.
“Tessa, please,” he begged, his hot, sweet breath blowing on her face. He wasn’t even fazed by her struggles and grunting. Her knees bashed against his, but it was like he felt no pain.
“Let me go,” she demanded.
“Please, just listen to me. I won’t hurt you.”
“You’re crazy!” she shouted. In one swift move, too fast for her to comprehend, he turned her around and trapped both of her hands behind her back. The knife dropped to the floor and his other hand clasped over her mouth to keep her from screaming out for help. How could it have come to this?
“Tessa, I’m not crazy. Let me prove it to you,” he whispered, his breath tickling her ear. If she weren’t terrified, it would have excited her.
She had a choice to make. She could continue fighting him or she could give him one chance to explain himself. Maybe there was a logical explanation to everything he was telling her. She had heard of groups of history enthusiasts who created personas for themselves that mirror the era which they were more passionate about. Maybe that was what he meant all along. Her heart wanted to believe him, but her logical mind wanted proof first.
Tessa stopped struggling and let her body go slack against him. Christopher slowly let go and guided her into her chair. Being careful to not make the same mistake again, she stared coldly at him and waited.
Christopher backed away and glanced at a short sword hanging on the wall. It was in too pristine of condition to be considered an artifact or heirloom. He approached it, rolling up one of his crisp white sleeves. He took the sword from the wall and without hesitance, he sliced into his arm. Deep red blood gushed over his torn flesh and dripped on the hardwood floor. Tessa wasn’t a medical student, but she knew a severed vein when she saw it.
She gasped and covered her mouth in shock. Was he trying to kill himself? He held up his free hand as a sign for her to wait and watch. Seconds ticked by and blood continued to pour out. But slowly, she began to see a difference. The slash in his skin began to close and the blood didn’t spill out as quickly.
After a full three minutes, the blood seemed cauterized. Christopher took a napkin from the table and dripped in in his water glass, then began to clean his arm. When he was done, there was no cut. Not even a scar.
He stepped closer to Tessa and let her examine his forearm. With shaking fingers, she touched where he had cut. It was true flesh, not a trick, and she could see the vein that had been sliced open pumping strong again. She became bold and rubbed her palm over his damp skin. It was like he had done nothing at all.
“How’s that possible? Are you immortal?” she asked, her voice little more than a whisper.
“Not immortal,” he replied, the deepness of his voice somehow comforting to her shaken nerves. “Not entirely. I do age, but slowly.”
Tessa looked into his eyes, finding a kind of sadness in them that she hadn’t seen before. Ages of knowledge and wisdom swirled in his green eyes and she began to wonder what else lay behind them. Was this the secret he was tired of hiding from the world? What made her so special that he would want to reveal it to her out of all the other billions of people out there?
“What are you?”