The window scraping against the wood as it opened pulled me from my sleep. I peeked through half shut eyelids watching my sister stick her head out the window.
“Hurry come down, they’re having a special at Moonlight Red. I don’t want to miss it!” Her best friend from outside exclaimed.
“Ok, I’m coming but don’t be so loud.” she replied with a chuckle and rushed out the room.
I hurried to the window and saw them walking down the empty street. It wasn’t uncommon for her to go out in the middle of the night only to return sometime in the early morning. Where was she going?
I slid out my pallet careful not to wake my niece. Rushing I threw on my purple and pink wrap dress and my sandals.
Making sure to stay in the shadows I trailed them. My movements ceased when they ran down that street. The street that had been forbidden all my life.
“Never go down that street.” This was a frequent statement made by the adults in my village. My generation and the younger generations were free to go wherever we wanted EXCEPT that street.
But I was twenty-one now, I was no longer a child. Surely, I could go now, right? My sister who was ten years my senior could go, so why couldn’t I?
Building my courage and balling my fists I ran after them. My heart tightened as I reached the end of the street.
Numerous red paper lanterns filled the street, it made the entire area glow a soft red. Women doused in overbearing perfume paraded around in suggestive clothing as men chased them.
I pressed the back of my hand to my stinging nose and used my sleeve to wipe my teary eyes. I bumped into someone and stumbled back hitting the cobblestone pavement.
“Are you ok honey?” A woman with cleavage fully exposed leaned down to me. Her perfume caught my nose making me sneeze.
“I-I’m fine.” I scrambled to feet.
“Where’s your husband? Are you here alone?”
“Oh I don’t have one, I should be going now.” She tilted her head but I just bowed and rushed off. I continued sneezing as I passed by woman after woman. As I moved ahead the smell lightened up and I could get my bearings together.
There were taverns but these were different from the one my family ran. My eyes widened seeing naked people hugged one another. My eyes shifted to the different food stalls, there were even clothing stalls with fancy dresses that had jewels, gems, and glitter. Something an average girl like me didn’t see every day. Why did a place like this exist and so close to us?
My eyes searched for my sister but I lost track of her. Where could she have gone?
“Hey little girl, what are you doing here?” The voice invading my ears made me freeze as a shiver ran down my spine. My head turned in the direction the voice came from and my breath caught in my throat.
Wow! He was beautiful! I almost questioned if he was a man or not. Long strands of silver blew around from the gentle breeze.
His gold irises fixated on me like I was something new he had never seen before. Smoke blew from his full pink lips, the corners slightly turned up in a small smirk.
“Am I that mesmerizing?” His sultry voice made the heat in my face rise.
“Y-You are,” I admitted as I swallowed the lump in my throat. “I was wondering if you were even human.”
He cocked an eyebrow tilting his head. That was stupid of me to say but it was too late to take it back.
A hearty laugh came from him. He leaned his elbows on the railing of the balcony, some of his hair spilled over his shoulder.
“Do you wanna come up?”
“Am I allowed?” I blinked. “What do you do up there?”
“If you have money, you’ll find out.”
“I don’t have any money.”
“What a shame …” he let out a disheartened sigh. “playing with you would’ve been entertaining.” His eyes traveled up to the sky and a solemn expression formed on his face.
“Are you bored up there?”
He glanced down at me as his hand rested on his cheek. “I am, what are you going to do about it?”
“Well, I can’t do much since I have no money. Why don’t you come down here?”
“I can’t or else the dragon will bite my head off.”
What was he talking about? What dragon? I shook my head. “When I’m bored I count the stars or clouds and that helps the time go by.”
He looked up at the sky again. “The stars huh?” A chuckle escaped his lips. “Tell you what, come here tomorrow night and bring this with you.” Reaching inside of his loose long sleeve to his navy-blue robe he pulled out a gold coin and tossed it to me.
I caught it and looked at it, there were some letters engraved on the back and the front had a dragon’s head.
“Don’t keep me waiting kid, you better come back tomorrow.” He stood up turning his back to me.
“Hey wait!” He looked at me. “What’s your name? How do I ask for you?”
His gold orbs beamed as a playful smirk spread across his face. “Call me the man on the balcony. See ya tomorrow.” He blew smoke one last time from his lips and walked through the door dipping his head first. He shut the sliding door and I watched his silhouette disappear.
I stood there and stared at the gold coin. I tucked it in my bra and ran off. I needed money! I wanted to see the man on the balcony again!
I made it back before my sister and with a huff laid back on my pallet staring at the ceiling. My niece’s leg draped over me. I smiled brushing her hair from her face. When I shut my eyes, the mysterious man filled my vision.
God, he was beautiful-no gorgeous, even that wasn’t enough to describe what I had witnessed. Did men like him exist? All I could think about was how his silver strands gave a white shimmer and his eyes, the gold irises that bore into me.
I slapped my cheek, was this love at first sight? But, his elegant and sophisticated demeanor proved that he belonged in a class above mine.
Hearing movement from outside the door, I stuck the coin back in my bra and turned over as my sister stumbled in the room.
Argh, she reeked of alcohol, tobacco, and overpowering perfume. Where did she go? As soon as her head hit the pillow she was off to dreamland. I shut my eyes hoping the next night would hurry.
The day was never easy in my household.
“I don’t understand why you just won’t marry him!” Father ranted as I stood in front of the stove making breakfast. “He’s a good young man, well-educated and he owns a fishing company with his father. He’s perfect and you’re being stubborn!”
“Your father is right honey, you’re twenty-one now. Surely, you don’t want to be an old maid. I mean your sister was married by the time she was eighteen.”
“She’s here now because her husband was abusive who is also well-educated and owns a business.” I shrugged.
The chair hitting the wooden floor made me turn around and I was met with my Father’s palm. I stumbled back against the stove and cried out when my arm touched the burner.
“Are you alright?!” Mama ran over to me and turned the faucet on placing my arm underneath. I cringed from the impact of the cold water.
“You’re getting married by the end of the month and it’s going to be my choice.” He continued.
“Honey, let me tend to her wounds right now.”
I snatched my arm from her glaring at him. “If that makes you feel better then it’s whatever. I’ll be the slave to whoever you pick for me!” Whirling around, I stormed out the front door. Mama called out for me but I kept walking.
Stopping at the nearby river, I ran the cool water over my burn. This was ugly hopefully whoever Father picked out would be turned off by this. Tears filled my eyes, why did I have to marry someone I didn’t love?
It was a common thing for people in my village to marry just because they didn’t want to be lonely. Rarely did anyone marry someone they were compatible with. It was the first person who asked for their hand and they took it.
I didn’t want that, I wanted …love, unconditional love. I reached in my dress and pulled out the coin the man on the balcony gave me. I still didn’t have any money but I wanted to see him.
Maybe I could go now to see him, maybe if I saw him during the day I wouldn’t need money. I got up and rushed back into the town. Making sure no one was watching I ran down the street. My heart pounded against my chest when I didn’t see anything. The entire area was cleared out like it was a vacant space. No lanterns, no buildings, no food or clothing stalls.
Where did everything go? My chest tightened. Did they get up and leave? But that didn’t make sense, why would the buildings disappear as well? I stepped back when the sun rays shimmered over what I thought was a building. But nothing was there. I slowly put my hand out to see if there was something in front of me.
“What are you doing here?” I whirled around and saw one of the butchers.
“Oh, I was …I was just walking and I think I got lost.”
“I see, that’s unusual for you to get lost with your keen senses.” His eyes then went down to my arm and I hid it behind my back. “You must have a lot on your mind.”
“I do.” I admitted.
“You’ve been to this place haven’t you?” He suddenly asked. Keeping calm, I tilted my head.
“What place? This is just a vacant area.”
“Maybe it wasn’t you. There was talk of a maiden coming into the area.” He shrugged.
“I should be going.” I bowed and turned away.
“If you’re that curious,” I looked at him. “hurry up and get married.”
I tilted my head but just ran off, I felt his eyes on my back. When I got back home, Father was off fishing and Mama and my sister was running the tavern. I wrapped my arm to hide this ugly scar and went to help them.
I was serving a table when a group of rowdy men laughing with my sister caught my attention.
“You sure love Ruby District, don’t you? What time did you leave from there last night?”
“Oh god,” she laughed. “all I know is it was well in the morning. They had a special on drinks at Moonlight Red so we partied all night.”
“Moonlight Red? Your husband was there, right?”
She nodded. “Yeah, we had some drinks together. I’m thinking about going home soon. We managed to patch things up.”
“Hey,” I turned around and saw Mama standing there with her hands planted on her hips. “don’t be nosey that conversation isn’t for you. Now go in the back and get me some more rice wine for table three.”
“What’s Ruby District?” I whispered as she ushered me to the back.
“It’s not for maidens like you, now go.”
“Ok,” I sighed listening to her. As I stood there pouring the wine, images of that place filled my head. That had to be Ruby District but where did it go? Would I ever see the man on the balcony again?
I tucked my niece in my pallet and blew out the candle. I settled next to her stroking her hair until she drifted to sleep. My sister was asleep as soon as her head was on the pillow. I got up going to the window there were people still in the street. Having no other choice, I settled back in my pallet and played with the coin between my fingers as my eyes became heavy.
The window scraping against the wood as it opened pulled me from my sleep. I peeked through half shut eyelids watching my sister stick her head out the window.
“I’m coming.” She whispered and hurried out the room. I ran to the window and saw them running down the street. Staring at the coin, I gripped it once more and ran out my room.
“Where are you going?” Father stepped out the kitchen blocking my path.
“There’s been talk that you snuck down that street. You know better than to disobey the rules.”
“I’m not a child!”
“It has nothing to do with being a child! You’re still a maiden!”
“No buts, now go to your room!”
When I walked through my door, shortly there was a click. I tried opening it but it was locked.
“No,” I whispered. “I have to see him.” Tears built in my eyes. I looked at the window and slid it open. My niece popped her head up. “Go back to sleep honey, I’ll be back.”
She nodded and laid her head on the pillow. I climbed out the window. Whatever the consequence was I would deal with it in the morning. I lowered myself down the wooden beam attached to our house.
I ran down the street. “Come back!” Father shouted from my window. “If you go, you’ll never be married!”
“I don’t care!” With that, I ran towards that street. My heart pounded with each step and I stopped short when the butcher and the baker blocked the path to the street. I saw the red at the end of the street meaning it was there but why were they here?
“We can’t let you through.”
“Because there are rules that you need to follow. Only married couples can come down this street.”
I gasped hearing Father call my name and ran off but that was the only street that led to the Ruby District. I ran to the harbor and cried out.
“No, I want to see him.” I pulled out the coin gripping it. “I want to see him.” I needed to be with the man on the balcony. I clasped the coin in my hand shutting my eyes.
The coin pulsated in my hand and it felt like my body was being pulled into some sort of suction. I opened my eyes hearing chatter and laughing. My eyes stared at the red streets. I was here! But how did I get here? I looked at the coin that was glowing.
“I don’t see her anywhere, there’s no way she could’ve got in here, could she?” I saw the butcher, baker, Father, and Mama looking around.
Putting my head down, I rushed in through the crowd and my eyes landed on the sign that said Moonlight Red. This was the house! So, my sister was here last night?
Not knowing what to expect I rushed inside shutting the door softly. The soft fragrance of sage filled the air. I spotted my sister sitting in a booth kissing a man with forest green hair, they both were stripped down to their underwear. Her best friend was in the same booth kissing a man with sky blue hair.
What kind of place was this?
“Oh, what do we have here? A new customer? How can I help you, dear?” The soothing soft voice of a woman approached. Her lavender bone straight strands stopped in the middle of her back, her delicate features had a touch of makeup enhancing her femininity. The multicolored strapless gown decorated with glitter and gems spilled down to the floor as her hot pink boa snaked around her broad shoulders. Her gold choker hugged her slender neck and she was tall towering over me. Compared to her, I was plain and boring.
“Hello.” She waved her hand in front of me.
“I’m sorry, I just got mesmerized by how beautiful you are.”
Her cheeks grew red as she opened a matching hand-fan. She fanned herself off while giggling.
“You certainly have a keen eye for beauty dear. However, I’m afraid no matter how much you beg, I won’t be able to service you.”
“Service? What kind of service?”
Her eyes focused on me again and she shut her hand-fan, moving closer to me. Instinctively, I stepped back when it sounded like she was sniffing the air around me. Her eyes then narrowed.
“Honey, you’re not married, are you? You’re still a maiden?”
“Um …well yeah …”
She sighed deeply. “I did hear rumors about a maiden sneaking in here yesterday which caused an uproar but I didn’t think you would be brazen enough to come back. The Ruby District has strict rules, no maidens allowed. You must be a married woman or man before entering one of the houses for services.”
“What difference does it make?” I shrugged.
Her hot pink painted lips parted before closing. She opened her hand-fan moving it closer to her face and leaned towards me.
“You certainly are an imprudent maiden huh? Don’t you know if you come here first and then try to marry, no man will want to marry you? Especially coming to this place of all the places. Only the daring comes to us, honey.”
“I was given this yesterday and told to come back.” I opened my hand. Her eyes narrowed at the coin and a sigh escaped her lips as she shut her hand-fan. This time her face boiled red. “He told me he was called the man on the balcony.”
“Dear God,” she shook her head and turned to a young male with plum colored hair. “honey, bring me the pain in the ass of the hour and tell him he lost a coin.”
“Yes sir.” He cried out when she slapped him in the back of the head with her hand-fan. “I-I-I mean ma’am. Yes Ma’am.” He ran off, I tilted my head.
Shortly, the sight of silver caught my eyes. My heart thumped in my chest as warmness wash through me when those beautiful gold irises landed on me. He was much taller than I had originally thought. In fact, the woman was almost his height.
“You idiot, you invited this maiden here? I know you knew she was a maiden. You have the best nose out of everyone in here.”
“I knew.” He shrugged.
“So why did you invite her?!”
“I wanted to play with her.” A smirk crept on his lips making my heart stop.
She whacked him with her hand-fan which didn’t faze him. “You can’t just decide for yourself that you want to play with a maiden! We’ve made a deal with the village that we give business only to married couples to avoid messy situations!”
“But she doesn’t want to get married.” He shrugged.
My eyes grew wide. “How did you know that?”
“I can hear your thoughts.” He shrugged again. “I know what you’re thinking.”
“Liar.” I challenged.
“You’re sitting here thinking right now how gorgeous I am.”
“That’s an obvious thought, anyone looking at you would think you’re gorgeous.”
“You think you’ve been talking to a woman this whole time and you even admired her beauty. Feeling plain and boring compared to her.”
My eyes went to the purple haired woman glaring at him. “What do you mean think? I have been talking to a woman.”
A laugh escaped his lips, she fanned herself with a bright smile and her chest poked out.
“That’s right honey! Anyway, she must leave. Rules are rules and she can’t be here even if she doesn’t want to marry.”
“Can’t I just stay for a little?” I ended up asking, my eyes drifted to the violet carpet. If I went home now …I was scared to think what Father would do to me.
“She’s going to stay here for a while.” I looked at him. “She obviously came here for a reason.” He gave me a gentle smile.
Her eyes narrowed into slits. “Ugh, if we get reported because of you, I’ll rip your heart out and eat it for dinner, I’ll make sure to marinate it in rosemary and basil as well.” She hissed, I could’ve sworn I saw a snake-like tongue but that wasn’t possible.
He laughed. “My heart is all yours if we get reported.” He winked and turned to me. “This way my lady.” As I followed him up the stairs my eyes met my sisters as her face paled. The floor up here was a golden oak wood and the walls were painted plum. Each room we passed the doors were shut, I stopped short when moaning and groaning filled the hallway.
“Are they hurt in there?”
“Possibly,” My eyebrows rose and he chuckled waving his hand to dismiss whatever bad thought I had. “but it’s not anything you need to be concerned with. All the clients leave happy and satisfied.”
I tilted my head and he laughed sliding a door opened at the end of the hall.
Gold paper lanterns hung from the ceiling, the carpet was midnight black and the wallpaper had shimmering gold with green flowers. In the middle of the room sat a small table and in the corner, was a pallet. The covers were a beautiful topaz, they looked like silk.
“Have a seat.” he told me, I sat down on the black pillow. He opened the balcony sliding door and lit a jasmine incense. The gentle breeze made the paper lanterns sway. He sat across from me.
“How did I get in here? Two men from my village were blocking me from getting in. I then stated how bad I wanted to see you and I ended up here.”
He chuckled pouring me a cup of rice wine. “That coin is special, only me and the owner has that coin. That is why she knew I gave it to you the moment she saw it. It grants only one wish.”
“Oh yeah I tried coming here during the day to see you but I didn’t see the place. What happened to it?”
“It was still here.” he replied.
“No, it wasn’t. I just saw a vacant area.”
“That’s because a barrier is placed up during the day so no one disturbs our sleep.”
“A barrier? Like magic? Magic isn’t real, is it?”
He laughed. “After that’s all that happened you still don’t believe huh?”
“Kinda, thank you.” I took the cup and sipped from it.
His eyes went to my arm. “What happened to your arm?”
I moved my arm behind me. “Nothing really.”
“Didn’t I tell you, I can hear your thoughts?” I looked away. “I know your father had something to do with it. As soon as I asked, your thoughts went to him.”
“You really can read my mind?!”
“Pfft!” He laughed out. “I can hear your thoughts.”
“But that’s not humanly possible?! Humans can’t read minds or hear thoughts.”
“Who said I was human? You said so yourself that you didn’t think I was human.”
“But …if you’re not human …then what are you?”
“That’s a secret.” He winked. “Let me see your arm.” I held it up. I thought it would hurt from his touch but instead, jolting tingles ran up my arm. His hands were soft just like I imagined they would be.
My face heated when he looked at me with a smirk and I averted my eyes. He unwrapped my bandage and a frown form on his face as he stared at the burn mark.
“Why did you wrap it? You’re supposed to let burns breathe.”
“I wanted to hide what happened.”
“I’m curious, why don’t you get married? If you married then you could come here all the time and wouldn’t cause any trouble.”
“No one marries for love and now learning about this place. I understand now. They just married whoever they can so they can come here and romp the night away. That’s not marriage to me. There was an elderly couple that lived across from us, I believed they had unconditional love. They did everything together and when the elderly man died, the elderly woman grew sick. I asked her why she was sick suddenly and she told me when ‘your soulmate dies, part of you dies as well.’ A few months later she passed.” My eyes water as my throat tightened. “I want that type of love, is it wrong for me to want to be with my soulmate and not just settle?”
“The picture in your head is nice, you want two children huh? A boy and a girl?”
My cheeks became hot. “It’s embarrassing with you in my head.”
He chuckled. “I’m sorry, I normally don’t do it because the thoughts of others annoy me but you’re different. Your thoughts intrigue me and seeing your face turn red intrigues me more.”
Ugh, my face was going to explode any moment if he didn’t stop staring. His eyes then turned to my burn.
“I don’t like seeing this on you.”
“I’m sorry, let me wrap it.”
“No need.” He turned my forearm towards him and his lips touched the burn mark. An unexplainable warmth washed over me and pulled at my heart. A soft glowing light surrounded him and the soreness went away. When he removed his lips, I gasped touching my arm. It was gone! It was like it was never there.
“What are you?”
He moved closer to me, his lips stopped inches from mine. “I’m here to be whatever you want me to be. Let me take you away from your reality.”
“How would you do that?”
“Let me take your maidenhood.” He whispered in my ear. I shivered. I knew that would be treading in hot water and I wouldn’t get married to anyone after this but if letting him take my maidenhood meant experiencing something I wanted I was fine with this. “Tell me what you want?”
“You can hear my thoughts.”
“I know, but I want to hear your voice tell me.”
“I want you.” I whispered against his lips.
He scooped me up in his arms moving to the pallet as our lips connected. He was a bit aggressive but I didn’t hate it. He ran his hand through my hair as my hands rested on his shoulders. He gave tender kisses to my neck as his hand slid up my thigh.
An electrifying pleasure filled my body when his hand caressed my breast. I trembled underneath him, his kisses on my neck and chest were light and gentle as he untied the knot that held my dress together. He pulled me up and pushed my dress off my shoulders leaving me in just my panties. My hands gripped the silky covers as he hovered over me staring. I covered my breasts.
“D-Don’t look so intensely.” My quivering voice whispered. He held my face.
“I’m sorry, it’s just when something so beautiful is in front of me I just have to marvel at its beauty from every angle.” He licked my ear, my body shuddered feeling his warm tongue. “I can’t hold back any longer …I’m gonna enjoy every part of you.” He whispered in my ear. He kissed my cheek before nibbling my ear, I felt fangs. It surprised me because I liked the feeling on them. He left a trail of hot kisses all the way down to my belly button as I laid on my back. He grabbed my legs kissing, licking and nibbling each thigh.
My juices spilled from my body, I shifted from the uncomfortable throbbing between my legs.
He removed my panties planting kisses down my thigh until he reached my heat. His tongue dove inside of me. I moaned out trying to close my legs but he held them pulling me closer to his mouth. I couldn’t hold my voice back any longer and let out a loud moan as his tongue attacked me. He licked me until my legs quaked and my breathing increased. Tightness filled my lower abdomen as my inner muscles contracted. The sheet soaked underneath me. He kissed up until he reached my neck before kissing my lips. I gripped his shirt, I had to catch my breath but he wouldn’t let me.
He sat up opening his black robe and placed my palm flat on his chest, he guided my hand to feel every part of his torso, I suddenly wanted to do more. I sat up planting kisses on his stomach. I used my hands on my own to feel his upper body while his fingers played with my hair.
I built up my courage and gathered him in my mouth. He didn’t seem dissatisfied with my lack of experience. He closed his eyes and moaned with every move I made. My mouth stroked his erection as my tongue ran up and down his pulsating shaft. A moan escaped his lips. I sucked and licked on the head before sliding him deeper into my mouth. He grabbed my hair guiding me to a faster pace.
He laid me on my back as our lips met, a wave of heat burst through me as I rubbed his smooth skin.
“Can I have you now?”
“Yes, I’m all yours even if it’s just for one night.”
His eyes twinkled underneath the soft candle light. He kissed my forehead chuckling. “You say this even though you’re trembling right now.” He kissed my lips. “I’ll be gentle.” He pressed his warm chest to mine as he entered me. I gripped his arms tightly while shutting my eyes. This was a little too much. “I’m sorry.”
He kissed my forehead, my eyelids, my nose and lastly my lips. He gave me some time to get adjusted to him before moving. He went slow and steady, he pressed his forehead against mine. I flinched and bit my bottom lip as he pushed through my barrier. Tears spilled from my shut eyes.
He kissed each tear that rolled down my cheeks. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to cause you any pain.” I gripped his shoulders telling him I was fine.
He increased his speed a bit, soon the pain was replaced by pleasure. Jolting sensations burst through my body each time my inner walls contracted. A soft moan escaped his lips and his fangs bit into my neck. I groaned out as he released his hot seed inside of me. He pressed his forehead against mine.
“I’m a demon.” He whispered in my ear and my eyes widened.
There was a sudden burst of yelling from downstairs. I knew that voice from anywhere. We got dressed and rushed downstairs with some of the other clients and workers. Father was screaming at the woman as Mama and my sister were trying to hold him back. His eyes then landed on me and narrowed.
“You filthy whore! You dare come here before you’re married!” He rushed towards me and I backed up. “You’ve shamed me and this family for the last time!” His hand cocked back and I cringed waiting for the impact that never came.
When I opened my eyes, the beautiful woman was holding Father’s wrist. “Sir, we don’t condone violence against women here.”
He yanked his wrist back. “This is my daughter and I can do what I please with her!”
“You cannot.” A flash of silver stood in front of me. “I can’t allow you to cause any more harm to my mate.”
Our eyes went to him and he wrapped his arm around me. “I’ve fallen in love with you the moment I first saw you and after experiencing the love we shared. I know you’re my soulmate. Will you spend the rest of your life with me?”
I tightened my grip on him as my vision of him became blurred with tears. “You know my answer already.” I laughed.
“I know but I want them all to hear it.”
“Yes!” I threw my arms around him. Mama and my sister hugged me tightly. The beautiful woman chuckled.
“I hope we don’t go out of business now that our number one is getting married.” She chuckled.
I wasn’t sure how I ended up with a demon but that fateful night meeting the man on the balcony was the best night of my life.