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Full disclosure – I am a 20th century guy living in the 21st century! Yes, I understand how technology has improved our world by quite literally putting opportunity and knowledge at our fingertips, but no, I still haven’t completely embraced it. (Memories of my rotary dial phone loom large in my mind!) But I get points for trying and this Blog is evidence. Although I know the best Blogs are updated daily that is just way too much pressure for someone like me! So for starters I’m going to commit to posting a new Blog entry every other day. Sometimes it’ll be about my books, other times just something I’m thinking about, but it’ll always be a fun read.

Hold Back the Night – Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Amanda

Amanda felt confused.  Long before the first promising rays of morning snuck through the pale yellow curtains that hung in her bedroom window, Amanda had been sitting up in bed contemplating how she wondered why her life had gotten so wildly off track.

With the goose down comforter tucked close to her chin, Amanda recalled that for as far back as she could remember, she had always felt alone.  More accurately, she felt as if she were supposed to be with someone else—someone who had been taken away from her.  As much as she hated to admit it, the search for this missing part of herself left Amanda feeling alienated from her family and hopeless.  When she was young she hated feeling that hope had abandoned her, but as she grew older, the sense of hopelessness that defined her gave her the strength to deal with her family.

Her father and sister were bound to each other by their sociopathic view of the world, while her mother and brother shared a compassion and sensitivity that Amanda didn’t possess for she was a realist.  As the eldest child, she saw that love was not an ingredient in her parent’s marriage and that Edwina’s jealousy of her was based on nothing more than her younger sister’s insecurity and spiteful nature.

Amanda closed her eyes and remembered how the townspeople embraced her relationship with Joe.  The privileged, yet earthy, Love heiress, and the rugged, blue-collar widower’s son.  She still remembered how Inez Collins would point to a teen-aged Amanda and Joe as they held hands in a booth at the Collins Inn and whisper loudly to customers that they were the king and queen of Nightfall.  Amanda would always blush at such comments, but deep down she knew there was truth in them.  She and Joe weren’t better than anyone, but they shared something special.  She considered them soulmates.

But even soulmates could be ripped apart, which is just what happened to Amanda and Joe after their son was kidnapped.  Amanda immersed herself in the search to find Joey, while Joe found comfort in Edwina’s touch.  Angered by her husband’s betrayal and preoccupied with the loss of Joey, Amanda didn’t fight for Joe and quietly stepped aside as he walked Edwina down the aisle of Nightfall’s courthouse to be wed.  Amanda accepted the fact that Edwina had finally succeeded at something where she had failed.  It was rare, but it did happen.

Tired of dwelling on the past, Amanda opened her eyes, shook the clawing images of so many yesterdays from her memory, and threw the comforter off of her.  She went to the window and lifted it to let the cold morning breeze rush through her.  She knew she couldn’t change her past, as much as she longed to get back the years she spent without Joe, but she could change her future.  And starting today that was exactly what she was going to do.

 

 

Edwina

Edwina felt different.  Standing in front of the mirror in her flaming red bathroom, she examined her reflection with a curious gaze as if she were seeing herself for the first time.  She was wearing the same clothes she had on yesterday but couldn’t remember how they had gotten soiled and torn.  Worst of all, she couldn’t find her precious Manolo Blahnik black patent leather pumps.  Of her 63 pairs of shoes, those were her favorites.  And as she stared at herself she couldn’t decide if she was more upset that she couldn’t find her shoes or that she couldn’t find her husband.

When she had woken up, just as the sun was rising, which was a first for Edwina, she discovered she was lying on top of the bed covers and that she was alone.  Completely exhausted, she managed to walk through the entire house only to find a note from Jonatha saying that she was staying overnight at Nightwind and no sign of Joe anywhere.  She instinctively knew that he had left her and for some reason she didn’t want to hunt him down and kill him, both slowly and ritualistically, but rather, she wanted to thank him.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Edwina asked her reflection.

Physically, Edwina look ravaged.  Her hair was a mass of knots and was actually littered with a leaf and small twigs, her eyes were underlined by two black circles, and the left side of her neck was bruised.  The small scar on her neck was only about two inches in diameter, but it throbbed as if it were alive.  Edwina’s fingers traced the scar, but could not remember how it got there.  She tried to convince herself that it was a remnant of her car accident, but she knew that she survived that bizarre incident unscathed.  More than anything Edwina hated being uncertain.

Emotionally, however, Edwina felt vibrant.  She felt more optimistic than ever before, and despite her worn-weary appearance, downright youthful.  She was quite certain that she had lost her husband to her sister, but she wasn’t vengeful or bitter, she was relieved.  It was becoming taxing to feign love for a man whom she simply didn’t love and who simply didn’t love her just so she could prove to her family and the little people of Nightfall that the most respected man in town chose her over Amanda.  She brought her face close to the mirror and peered deep into her own eyes.  Somewhere in their depths must lay the reason for this revelation. And then it hit her.  The truth washed over her like a rough wave brutally slapping the side of a lone rock jutting out from the sea, no man had ever loved her and it was time Edwina accepted that fact.

She watched her face in the mirror lose all pretense and façade and grow very pale.  The tears began to fall, slowly at first, then with more speed.  Even when the weight of the tears grew unbearable, Edwina merely blinked her eyes and let the tears gallop down her cheeks.  She watched herself lose control and for the first time in her life she thought of someone else.  She wondered how many times Amanda had looked into a mirror to watch the pain and loneliness flee from the depths of her soul.  Compassion was odd and foreign to Edwina, and she wasn’t completely sure that she liked feeling this way.

When the tears had run their course, Edwina remained transfixed on her reflection in the mirror.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Edwina repeated quietly to herself.

No answer was to be found, but she knew one was lurking in the darkness.

 

Ondine

Ondine felt tired.  She lay in her bed, eyes wide open, and waited until the pain in her body subsided to became a dull throbbing sensation.  Squinting she looked around the room and was reminded how she detested shabby chic with all its chintz and distressed wood.  Sometimes, she realized, humans could have the most dreadful taste.

 

After several minutes of focused concentration, Ondine was able to get up and follow the scent of fresh-brewed hazelnut coffee that was emanating from Dashiell and Llewellyn’s adjoining suite.  She walked past the large round mirror that was part of the vanity table in her bedroom and let out a sigh when she saw her ghastly reflection.  She was almost out of time and if her plan was going to work she would need the help of the two men in the other room, a fact that did not comfort her for despite their protests to the contrary, she knew neither of them liked her very much.

“Good morning Llewellyn,” Ondine chirped as she entered Llewellyn and Dashiell’s room without knocking.

Llewellyn, sitting alone at the small table, drinking his first cup of coffee noticed Ondine’s tired appearance, but wisely chose not to remark on it.

“Good morning, Ondine,” Llewellyn said.

“There’s nothing like being awakened by the smell of fresh brewed coffee,” Ondine said mustering all of her energy.

“I brought up breakfast for Dashiell and I,” Llewellyn said pointedly.  “But you know how late Dash likes to sleep.

“Especially when you wear each other out in the dark of the night,” Ondine replied.  “These look wonderful.”

She filled her plate with fresh strawberries and blueberry muffins hoping that a healthy breakfast might replenish her.

“I’m glad you’re enjoying our breakfast,” Llewellyn said.

Without raising her eyes to meet Llewellyn, she replied: “When will you learn that my son and I share everything?”

“Except the same feelings for me,” he responded.

“Are you feeling neglected?” Ondine replied.  “You know you are one of my most favorite mortals.”

“Because I keep Dashiell preoccupied.”

“And you do it with such. . . gusto,” Ondine said.  “That is why I chose you to be his companion.  He’ll need a trustworthy friend when he crosses over.”

“I’m more than just a friend to him,” Llewellyn said in between bites of fresh cantaloupe.

Ondine placed her coffee gently on its china saucer and looked at Llewellyn for the first time.  “I know that.  But what I would like to know is what am I to you?”

Llewellyn glanced, not so subtly, at the door to the bedroom hoping that Dash would arise.  As much as he tried to match wits with Ondine, he was frightened of her, for he knew the sort of evil that she was capable of.

“I don’t understand what you mean,” Llewellyn lied.

“Llewellyn, don’t insult me,” Ondine said.  “I plucked you from obscurity to stand beside my son because of your intelligence.  I know you can’t read minds as I can, but surely, you know by looking at me that I am in trouble and that I need help.”

After a moment Llewellyn replied: “It is clear that your powers come and go quickly these days,” Llewellyn said.

“Yes they do,” Ondine said not making contact with Llewellyn’s eyes.  “And that’s why I need your help to put my plan into action.”

After many years in Ondine’s company, Llewellyn had learned to read between and beyond her spoken words.  Never before had she asked him to help her.  Yes, she wanted him to be her son’s companion, but that was because he could give Dashiell everything a mother could not.  This was different.  Ondine was asking Llewellyn to help her personally and if she was willing to ask a mere mortal for assistance, she was obviously in dire straits.

“I will help you,” Llewellyn said.

“Splendid,” Ondine replied.

“On one condition.”

Slowly Ondine raised her eyes to meet Llewellyn’s.  She did not like his tone nor his words, but at the moment, she was too weak to teach him how to respect a superior immortal being.

“And what condition would that be, Mr. Radcliffe?” Ondine replied.

Llewellyn took a deep breath and said: “I want to know everything about your past.  I want to know what your connection is to Jonatha Lassiter, why we are here in Nightfall, and, most important, why you so desperately need my help.”

“Is that an order?” Ondine said dripping with hatred.

“That . . . is, . . . well, yes, Ondine, that is an order,” Llewellyn said.  “If, of course, you seriously want my help.”

Ondine paused and let the anger she felt for this young man seep out of her pores and infect the air.  A long time passed before she felt calm enough to speak and level-headed enough to realize that the time had come for her to accept another person’s terms.  She saw Llewellyn’s brow crinkle and collect beads of sweat in the folds and she thought how wise he was to be scared.  Once Llewellyn had helped her regain her strength and full power, she would kill him and make him sorry for ever belittling her.  For now, she would invite him to take a journey with her.  A journey to hell and back.

“Take my hand Llewellyn,” Ondine said.  “It’s time you witnessed my truth.”

 

Nightwind

When she closed her eyes, Jonatha could still see the image of the Blessed Mother extending her loving arms to her.  Her softness and gentility still lingered in Jonatha’s soul and she felt protected.  She remembered everything the Blessed Mother said to her and was deep in thought so when Anthony approached her from behind she was startled.

“Uncle Anthony!” Jonatha gasped.  “I didn’t hear you.”

“I don’t think I have to ask who you were thinking of?” he replied.

Jonatha closed the doors to the drawing room so she and her uncle would not be overheard by the rest of her family, who undoubtedly would consider her spiritual experience a reason to commit the young girl to an institution for the very, very confused.

“Uncle Anthony,” Jonatha began.  “I’ve been going over this St. Agatha incident again and again and I’m perplexed.  I know this family is used to being the target of things that are better left unexplained, but this is a bit out of the ordinary even by our standards.”

“You’re right about that,” Anthony replied, smiling at his niece.  “But you’re a bit out of the ordinary yourself.”

“Winter always said I was the weird one,” Jonatha said.

“You’re not weird, I truly believe you’re blessed.”

“I don’t feel any different on the inside,” Jonatha replied.  “But on the outside I feel that I’m being protected.”

“By none other than the Blessed Mother,” Anthony said.

“But Uncle Anthony,” Jonatha said, “Why do I need to be protected?”

Jonatha had finally asked the question Anthony had been wondering ever since he heard about her levitation at St. Agatha’s.  Looking at the girl’s inquisitive, truth-hungry eyes he knew he had to be honest with her.

“I think you’re in trouble Jonatha,” Anthony said.  “For some reason you’re life is in danger and you need protection.”

“But from what?” Jonatha demanded.

“That I don’t know, but I imagine it has something to do with my visions,” Anthony said.  “The last time I had visions Joey was kidnapped.  Perhaps the same person is now after you.”

The young girl moved away from her uncle and her eyes searched the room for something harmless, something innocent.  Her eyes settled on a vase of freshly cut red roses, simple and elegant and to Jonatha, at this moment, the most beautiful flowers she had ever seen.

“You’re scaring me,” she said as she watched one drop of moisture roll down a rose petal.

“I’m sorry, but I believe our entire family is in danger.”

“I keep remembering something the Blessed Mother told me and now I think I understand what it means,” Jonatha replied.  “She said that I was not meant for this earth.”

Anthony moved closer to Jonatha, but she refused to turn her gaze away from the roses so he could only see the left side of her face.  But even with just a partial view, he could see the young girl age as she suddenly grew very serious and wise.

“I’m going to die, Uncle Anthony,” she said.  “Aren’t I?”

 

Llewellyn’s Journey – Part I

Hesitantly, Llewellyn took Ondine’s hand and immediately felt a surge of energy rush through his body.  He felt himself race higher and higher but when he looked down he saw himself sitting at the table holding Ondine’s hand and realized that only his spirit was making this journey.

The world below appeared smaller and smaller as Llewellyn and Ondine, looking ghostlike and transparent, rose higher and higher into space.  The temperature dropped as they rose above the clouds into a world of clear blue.  Llewellyn was amazed that it looked very much like a child’s drawing of what heaven might look like.  Reading his mind, Ondine commented telepathically: “It’s not heaven, but it’s close.”

Llewellyn heard Ondine in his mind and realized that he didn’t need to speak to communicate in this realm.  He began to feel less afraid and prayed that he would remember this experience when he was back in his physical body.  He felt weightless, but also felt a tension between him and the air as if something was pushing on him.

“They don’t want us here,” Ondine said.

“Who are they?” Llewellyn silently replied.

“The angels,” Ondine answered.  “They’re not all sunshine and light like humans make them out to be.”

What Llewellyn had thought were flickers of sunlight shining through the clouds were actually angels swooshing all around him.  He could hear them whisk by, but they were traveling so fast he couldn’t get a good look at one of them.  And while he sensed they didn’t mean him any harm, he had to agree with Ondine that they weren’t the pleasant, loveable creatures man imagined they were.

“Are they angry?” Llewellyn asked.

“Angels don’t get angry,” Ondine said, “but they aren’t pleased that I’ve returned.”

Llewellyn tried to conceal his shock, but wasn’t entirely successful.  He couldn’t believe that the woman who was holding his hand, the same woman who had committed vile acts against humanity was, at one point during her enormous lifespan, an angel.  Ondine chose to ignore Llewellyn’s surprise.

“Originally, I was an angel,” she said, “until I was cast out.  You see those rays of light piercing through the clouds?”

Llewellyn saw several pinpoints of orange light moving rapidly in and out of one small cloud.

“They’re called Soul Angels, which is what I am.  We were created by the almighty to bridge the gap between humans and all angelic creatures.  Although we were steps below the archangels, our order was much more important because without us there could be no communication, no transference between humans and God.  We were essential and beloved, and most of the angels were jealous of us.”

“I had no idea angels could be jealous,” Llewellyn said as he watched more flecks of orange light dance on that one cloud.

“Angels are capable of much more than pulling Cupid’s arrow,” Ondine said.  “Unlike the other levels of angels we were allowed to roam the physical world, and it was only a matter of time before some of us grew to covet the human life experience.  We wanted to eat, drink, make love.  So I asked God to let me enter their world completely for a brief time.”

Llewellyn waited for Ondine to continue, but she grew silent and looked at the other Soul Angels illuminate the cloud.  For a moment, Llewellyn watched her face betray her sarcastic veneer, as her eyes pined for what was once hers.  But as quickly as sorrow filled Ondine’s face, it left.

“He seemed surprised that I would want to give up all that He had given me, but I explained that I just wanted to know what it was like to be one of them in order to better serve them.  How stupid I was to think that anyone, even our creator, could understand something so simple.”

“What did he do?” said Llewellyn, fascinated.

“He cast me out of our paradise.  Your God is not kind, he is intolerable of unique thought.  He scolds his children when they disobey him and he banishes them to live in a strange, hostile land without any comfort.”

Llewellyn felt Ondine’s grip on his hands tighten and realized she was no longer talking to him, but to herself as she relieved the most painful experience of her life.  Because they were linked telepathically, Llewellyn also witnessed the event.  He saw Ondine in her true spirit form—a pulsating mass of orange light—become enveloped by a powerful and blinding white light that Llewellyn instinctively knew was God.  He then saw the white light abruptly disappear to be replaced by black.

“I wasn’t about to walk among humans without a companion.  I couldn’t be sent to earth alone, so when I was being pushed down, I reached out to the other Soul Angels who I thought were my friends, and I begged them to come with me, to share whatever awaited me on earth,” Ondine said frantically, then added in an even shakier voice.  “And they all turned away from me, every one of them.”

Llewellyn could see the Soul Angels, one by one turn their light from Ondine and fly away.  He could feel her desperation and fear grow as she descended further and further from her celestial perch and closer to the harsh surface of earth.

“Then just as I was about to be cast out of our land forever, when I had given up hope that someone would explore the human world with me, I felt a hand place itself in mine.  It was the strong, loving hand of my friend Raz,” Ondine said with a wistful smile.

“Who’s Raz?” Llewellyn asked.

“In human terms he would be described as my lover,” Ondine replied.

“Where is he now?”

“Right here in Nightfall,” Ondine said.  “He’s the man you know as Perry Love.”

 

Nightwind

Anthony was torn between cradling his niece in his arms to whisper some reassuring words in her ears and grabbing her and running from Nightwind forever, for he knew that this dwelling was a place where evil liked to visit.  Instead, he grabbed the girl by her trembling shoulders and turned her so they faced each other.

“We are all going to die Jonatha.  But if you die in a hundred years, or today, you have been graced by Her almighty hand.  You have nothing to fear for she is waiting to hold you and comfort you for all eternity.”

Jonatha closed her eyes and felt tears sting her flushed cheeks.  “Oh Blessed Mother please forgive me, but I’m not ready to die.”

“Look at me Jonatha,” Anthony commanded and waited to speak only when Jonatha opened her eyes and looked up at him.  “No one is ever ready to die, but if we have love in our hearts, we will be able to accept death whenever it comes.”

“Promise me Uncle Anthony that when death comes for me, you will hold me until I’m ready to let go.”

Anthony’s heart broke as he realized Jonatha was foretelling the future.  The young girl, who looked so vital and full of life, knew that she was going to be taken from him and the rest of the physical world, sooner rather than later.

“I promise,” he whispered, hoping with all his heart that he would never have to keep that promise.

As the two were about to console each other, Edwina threw open the drawing room door.

“Jonatha, I’ve been looking all over for you,” Edwina said.  “Have you seen your father?  I have something to tell him.”

 

An Announcement

Even before Amanda turned around, she knew Joe was in the room with her.  She fluttered with girlish delight as he wrapped his arms around her and paused to look deep in her eyes before he kissed her tenderly on her waiting lips.  She brushed her cheek against the roughness of his day-old beard and was amazed that she could blush just by thinking of all the different ways she yearned to please him.  Joe blushed too when he realized what thoughts lay behind her mischievous grin.  They were happy, and they were both determined to make sure their happiness was not short lived.

“We have an announcement to make,” Joe declared.

“I feel good about this Joe,” Amanda said.

“So do I,” replied Joe.  “But I feel better about this.”

Joe leaned into Amanda and once again kissed her, this time with more passion.  Amanda felt her legs weaken and she held onto Joe tighter for more support.  They looked like the end frame of an old fashioned romantic movie until, of course, Edwina entered the room.

“There you are, Joe,” Edwina said.  “I have an announcement to make.”

Startled, Joe and Amanda instinctively pushed each other away and Joe tried to wipe Amanda’s lipstick from his lips.

“If you keep rubbing like that Joe, you’ll smear it all over your face,” Edwina said.

“Is that your announcement?” Amanda asked.

“No,” Edwina replied.  “Joe, I want a divorce.”

“What?” said both Joe and Amanda at the same time.

“You don’t love me.  I don’t love you.  It’s time we stopped dancing around our marriage bed, because, let’s face it, that’s the only action our marriage bed has seen in quite some time.  We’re wasting our time, and obviously Amanda’s, so we should give each other our freedom.”

Amanda and Joe exchanged curious glances and waited for Edwina to throw an emotional tirade.  Or at least a shoe.  But no tirade, or shoe, was thrown.

“You two belong together,” Edwina finally said.  “I’m sorry it took us all so long to see that.”

Taking one last look at her husband and sister standing awkwardly side-by-side, Edwina turned to leave.

“Edwina, don’t go,” Joe said.

“Now Joe, please don’t get all emotional on me, you know I never approved of your sensitive side.”

“Edwina,” Joe interrupted, “Amanda and I have an announcement of our own to make.  We’ve asked the family to gather in the drawing room.”

Since she had never received an invitation to this impromptu family meeting, Edwina tried to hide her surprise.

“Oh a family meeting.  How very Peyton Place of you,” Edwina said with a laugh.  “Since I’ve been so demure and cooperative, can I have a hint?”

“Just meet us downstairs in a few minutes and we’ll explain everything,” Amanda said.

“That’s not the kind of hint I was hoping for,” Edwina replied, “but I know when I’m not wanted.”

As Edwina was about to leave the room, Amanda called out to her sister.

“Edwina.  Thank you.”

Amanda’s sister paused at the door and felt a familiar, malevolent feeling constrict her heart.

“I didn’t do it for you.”

Edwina closed the door behind her and she, along with Joe and Amanda, shook their heads in dismay to ponder if Edwina was being unselfish, or just unscrupulous.

 

Llewellyn’s Journey – Part II

The air surrounding Llewellyn suddenly got very thick and oppressive and the young man felt himself grow faint.  He looked into Ondine’s sorrowful eyes and could almost see the torrent of emotional pain flood from her heart into his body.  The sensation was overwhelming and although Llewellyn had no idea who Raz was or how we was linked to Perry Love, he knew that these men hurt Ondine terribly.

“How is Perry Love involved?” Llewellyn asked as he and Ondine floated in the air as if in suspended animation.

“Perry Love is the Soul Angel Raz.”

Llewellyn saw the darkness consume him and he realized he was near unconsciousness.  Accepting Ondine’s pain and acknowledging her past were becoming too much to bear and he feared he was not going to survive this escapade much longer.

“I want to go home,” Llewellyn declared.

“Oh no,” Ondine replied.  “You gave me an order to reveal my true self to you and that is exactly what I am going to do.  So stop whining and pull yourself together because I’m not finished telling my story.”

Yanking Llewellyn’s arm, Ondine surged upward, high above the blue sky and clouds, and settled in a different plane, one that was much darker and colder.  Llewellyn looked around, but his vision couldn’t penetrate the darkness and he gripped Ondine’s hand even tighter.

“When Raz and I first began our life on earth we were frightened,” Ondine began.  “We were lost children wandering throughout a land we had previously only watched from afar.  We quickly discovered being an inhabitant was much more difficult than being an observer.  And it took us years to enjoy our new life.”

As Ondine spoke, Llewellyn could see the woman, looking exactly as she did today except with luxurious raven-colored hair that fell to her hips, walking with a blonde-haired man, who looked nothing like Perry Love.  The man was tall, muscular, and handsome and Llewellyn thought Ondine was rather lucky that this man grabbed her hand while she plummeted to the earth and not someone less extraordinary looking.

Reading his thoughts, Ondine responded: “Looks can be deceiving.”

Flying higher still, Llewellyn realized they must be traveling through some sort of time warp since each time they moved they seemed to be visiting a different moment in Ondine’s past.  He saw Ondine and Raz, hand in hand, dressed in medieval garb roaming the countryside of some anonymous country.  They looked like two young lovers frolicking in the midday sun, until Llewellyn looked closer.  He felt Ondine’s hand shake as he saw Raz strike Ondine in the face with his fist.  He saw her fall to the ground and

struggle to get up only to be struck down again, and again, and again, until she gave up all hope of ever standing.  When Raz saw that Ondine refused to stand, he began kicking her stomach, her head, wherever his heavily booted foot landed.

Blood began to trickle out of Ondine’s mouth and the vision became so clear to Llewellyn that he saw her eyes glaze over and he could hear her whispers.

“You will pay for this betrayal,” Ondine breathlessly said.

Raz knelt down beside Ondine and held her close so his mouth was next to her ear.

“You have betrayed me Soul Angel,” Raz seethed.  “This earth is killing me as you knew it would.”

Confused, Llewellyn searched Ondine’s eyes for an answer.

“Raz was much younger than I and I should have realized that his limited powers would leave him vulnerable to this world,” Ondine said.  “But I was so thankful that my precious Raz wanted to join me for all eternity that I pushed those thoughts from my mind and allowed him to take this dangerous journey with me.”

Turning back to the vision, Llewellyn saw Raz rise once more to stand over Ondine and draw a three-foot sword from his belt.  Gasping in horror, Llewellyn tried to close his eyes, but like a man possessed he could only stare at the spectacle.

Raz raised his sword high in the air and laughed maniacally as he readied himself to kill the woman who had led him astray.  His laughter was so loud that he didn’t hear the cougar a few yards behind him gather speed and soar through the air until its razor-sharp claws pierced through his shoulder blades.  Raz’s laughter was replaced by the roar of the cougar and the tearing of Raz’s flesh.

By the time the cougar finished devouring Raz, Ondine’s supernatural body had healed from its wounds.  She stood up without a trace of the bruises that had covered her only moments ago and watched as Raz’s spirit fled its body and rose to the heavens.

“He thought he had freed himself from our earthly prison, but he underestimated God’s lust for punishment,” Ondine said.  “We were allowed entry to the earth to live among the humans, but we would never live as them.”

“You retained your immortality,” Llewellyn said.

“We retained the potential for immortality,” Ondine replied.  “It was God’s idea of irony.”

Ondine psychically detected that Llewellyn was confused and she was forced to elaborate.

“Our immortality was compromised,” Ondine continued,” because He is spiteful.  He felt that since we wanted to claim human form so desperately we must feel that the body is more important than the soul.”

“So in order to live forever . . .” Llewellyn began.

“We must maintain our physical body,” Ondine finished, then added.  “All we have to do is replenish it on occasion with a new soul.”

Shocked into silence Llewellyn was lucky that he didn’t have to speak in order for Ondine to hear his question.

“And where do you find these new souls,” Llewellyn asked.

“We have our ways,” Ondine answered as the smallest indication of a smile formed on her lips.  “But if we lose our body like Raz did then our soul is doomed to live forever from one body to another with no memory of its past existence.”

“And today the body Raz lives in is Perry Love’s?” Llewellyn surmised.

“Finally your intelligence surpasses your emotions,” Ondine said.  “My Raz has become Perry Love, without a hint of the memory of our life together.”

“But you remember.”

“Oh I remember everything.  I remember what he did to me as Raz.  What he did to me as Perry Love, and what he did to me as every other being he was in between.  Each time he has been given a new body I have tracked him down.  That is why we are here in Nightfall.  And that is why I will destroy him yet again.”

Llewellyn noticed that the darkness had returned and the visions of another time had disappeared.  He also noticed sadness once again creep into Ondine’s face.

“And yet, after everything that he has done to you,” Llewellyn said, “you still love him.”

Abruptly, Ondine turned to look at Llewellyn and he knew (one second too late) that he had said the most inappropriate thing he had ever said in his entire life.  Although, Ondine was still transparent and gray, Llewellyn could see the blood boiling in her veins.  Just when he thought the woman would explode, she screamed violently, and let go of his hand.  As he careened back down to the earth, Ondine’s savage cries echoed in his ears.

 

Another Announcement

A hush fell over the drawing room when Amanda and Joe finally entered.  Amanda wanted to believe it was because she was holding her chin high and wearing a new found air of confidence, but she knew it was simply because she was holding Joe’s hand.  Both she and Joe looked straight ahead and avoided anyone’s stares until they sat on the red velvet loveseat at the far end of the room.

 

Directly facing her family Amanda was unable to focus on the emptiness between each family member and wound up staring directly into their faces.  She saw her mother, Madeline’s, astonishment, her father, Perry’s fury, Anthony’s curiosity, Winter’s amusement, Jonatha’s confusion, and Edwina’s apathy.  The thought that so many different expressions could be worn by one family struck Amanda as hysterical and almost made her forget the seriousness of her present situation.

“Can we please get on with this drama?” Perry roared.  “My plane is waiting to take me to the lab.”

“Can’t your lesbian lab technician handle anything on her own?” Edwina replied.

Perry’s retort could hardly be heard over the shouts of laughter, embarrassed and fully realized, that filled the room.  When the family finally settled down, Madeline expressed her own opinion.

“Astrid has become rather needy, for an employee.”

The redness that covered Perry’s face matched the loveseat Amanda and Joe sat on as once again the family’s laughter filled the room until Joe finally calmed them down.

“Please we really have something important to tell you.”

“Well get on with it,” Perry barked.

“Daddy, enough!” Amanda said louder than she had planned.  “You all know that I have received a different thank you letter this year from the person who kidnapped Joey.  What you don’t know is that I received another letter just the other day.”

“Oh no,” Winter gasped.

“No, it’s not bad news,” Joe said.

“How do you know it’s from the same person?” Perry interrupted.

“It’s the same handwriting and the same stationery,” Amanda replied.

“What did the letter say, Amanda?” Anthony asked quietly.

“It said that I would be reunited with my son in one week’s time,” Amanda softly told her family.  “Our son is coming home.”

“We’ll see him again on Friday night,” Joe said.  “The night of Madeline’s birthday party.”

“I can’t believe this,” Perry muttered.

“Well, I guess this makes miracle number two,” Winter quipped.

“What?” Amanda asked.

“Oh forget it, you wouldn’t understand anyway,” she replied as she embraced her mother.  “I really can’t wait to meet my brother.”

Tears flowed freely as the realization hit each of them that the little boy who was taken from them involuntarily fifteen years ago would be returned to their lives in one week’s time as a young man.  They all embraced each other and expressed their joy and happiness at this unexpected turn of events.  Even Jonatha forced herself to ignore her devastating proclamation and concentrate on the wonderful news.  Collectively the family wondered if they would even be able to recognize him, but before Amanda could proclaim that she would recognize her son regardless of how many years had gone by, she felt a breathtaking pain in her stomach.  Her screams bounced off the domed ceiling as she collapsed to the ground unaware of the panic that immediately ensued around her.

 

The End of Llewellyn’s Journey

Clouds, stars, Soul Angels, and other other-worldly beings moved out of Llewellyn’s path as he careened back down to the earth.  He shouted out in sheer terror to Ondine, but the scorned super creature was nowhere to be found.  His body shook uncontrollably as he sped closer and closer to the ground and in the last moments when he faced certain death he wondered if Dashiell would miss him.  It was perfectly clear to Llewellyn as he saw the world around him whisk by that he would find any paradise or heaven that awaited him miserable to endure without his beloved Dashiell at his side.

As Llewellyn was about to crash through the roof of the Collins Inn, he felt something wrap around his waist.  It was Ondine’s arm.

“You don’t think I’d let you die after all that do you?”

Ondine cradled Llewellyn like a lioness cradles her prey and glided through the roof.  She guided Llewellyn’s spirit back into his body as she reclaimed her own physical host and watched the young man struggle to breathe again.

“Now do you understand why I’ve come back to this godforsaken village?” she asked.

“Not entirely,” Llewellyn said between gasps.  “You still haven’t explained your connection to Jonatha.”

Unable to control her rage, Ondine flipped the breakfast table over, causing the strawberries and muffins to scatter across the room.

“I created Jonatha!” Ondine shrieked.  “That bitch was supposed to be my salvation!”

“You . . . you created Jonatha?” Llewellyn asked, horrified.

“Yes, but she was born without a soul, so she is useless to me!” Ondine replied.  “I have waited for another opportunity and hung onto this decaying body for far too long, but the wait is finally over.  This other child is different and she will be mine!”

“What?!  What other child?” Llewellyn stuttered.

“Amanda and Joe’s child!” Ondine cried.  “They may have conceived the bastard on their own, but I’ll steal its soul!  And you, young man, will help me!”

 

Mercy Hospital

Twice in the same week, the Love’s found themselves nervously pacing the waiting lounge of Mercy Hospital as Dr. Saxon attended to Amanda behind the closed door of

the emergency room.  The minutes ticked on relentlessly as Amanda’s family members tried desperately to maintain their composure.  When it looked as if Perry was about to attack the emergency room nurse, Dr. Saxon finally entered the room.

“Jeffrey!” Madeline cried.  “Is she alright?”

“Yes,” Dr. Saxon replied.  “There was some hemorrhaging, but she’s fine and so is the baby.”

“So she really is pregnant after all,” Edwina said.  “Fancy that.”

“Oh there was never any doubt about that,” the doctor replied.  “But we were wrong about the timing.  Amanda was right all along, she isn’t four months pregnant.”

“I knew it,” Joe said more to himself than anyone else.

“She’s in her seventh month.”

Hold Back the Night – Chapter 12

Chapter 12

October 11 – Fifteen Years Ago

The brightly lit Eiffel Tower stood out against the dark Paris sky like a jewel pendant fastened to a black silk jacket.  It was a dazzling accessory to an already dazzling city and Ondine and Vincent soaked up the ostentatious atmosphere until they were dizzy.  Although they were both immortal beings, Ondine didn’t have to adhere to a vampire’s blood-only diet and could indulge in mortal delicacies like escargot, frog’s legs, and her personal favorite, miniature hot dogs wrapped in croissants.

As Vincent watched Ondine finish her third flute of Dom Perignon, he realized he understood very little of this supernatural being in female flesh, except that she was the ideal person to help him seek his revenge.  Since meeting her for the first time three years ago while riding on the Orient Express, he had learned that beneath the exotic European veneer lay a vicious heart and an unscrupulous soul.  It was that combination that both titillated and terrified him.

During their first night of intense, and sometimes, painful, lovemaking, Ondine told Vincent that their meeting was not accidental.  She had been watching him since his birth and felt it was time for an introduction.  She spoke to him plainly that night but her words altered how he looked at his world, his future, and especially his past.  He vowed that night to wait for the perfect moment to inflict horror and pain on the one person who deserved to suffer as much as Vincent had suffered throughout his lifetime.  At the time Vincent thought it merely coincidental that Ondine also sought revenge against Perry Love.  Years later he would find out the link between him, Ondine, and Perry was not at all a coincidence.

With the glare and the noise of the Eiffel Tower as their backdrop, Ondine and Vincent sat at a small table in a small café aware that they made a beautiful pair.  The smoke from Ondine’s hand-rolled Turkish cigarette wafted over Vincent and reminded him of their train ride.  He could hear Ondine’s words from that first encounter as clear as if she were repeating them to him now.

“In three years time an event will occur that will afford you the opportunity to inflict pain onto Perry Love and his entire family.  I will come for you then and I will help you destroy that man.”

“And how shall I repay you?” Vincent had asked.

“You, my sweet, handsome, child of the darkness,” Ondine whispered, “will be indebted to me for your lifetime.”

“That could be forever.”

Ondine smiled at the vampire, then chortled: “Yes it could.”

Three years dragged on until this moment when the Parisian social scene swirled around them and Ondine continued to gorge herself with delicacy after delicacy.  She had a ravenous appetite and Vincent wondered just how many dinners she had consumed during her several centuries reign on this Earth.  Since their first meeting Ondine had offered bits and pieces of her past to Vincent, typically while resting next to him after making love.  She told him that she was not meant to be of this Earth, but had learned to

make the most of her circumstances, leading Vincent to form the impression that she was bitter about living among humans.  She also told him that although she looked like a human, she had nothing in common with what she referred to as ‘the inferior race’.  Yes, she possessed a soul, but she also possessed a physical body that had yet to finish out its first lifespan.  She was the envy of mortals and immortals alike.

And although Vincent knew there were secrets hidden within Ondine’s soul, he was savvy enough to know that those secrets would remain hidden until Ondine decided to relinquish them, or until some stronger power exposed them for all the world to see.  He prayed that if that ever happened, it would happen during the night.

“I can tell you’re growing anxious, Vincent,” Ondine said between drags of her cigarette.

“Three years of waiting will do that to you,” Vincent replied.

“Three years to a vampire is like three minutes to a human,” Ondine said.  “You obviously hate Mr. Love as much as I do.”

“Yes, I do.  And you know why,” Vincent said, and then asked, “Will you ever tell me why you have a vendetta against him?”

Ondine jabbed her cigarette into the ashtray until its flame was put out and Vincent could see darkness fill her eyes.  When she looked up at him, he was startled by the physical transformation.

“He treated me unkindly.”

In the distance firecrackers exploded and the sky erupted into a pastiche of purple, pink, and persimmon lights.  The colors seemed to bounce off of Ondine’s raven-black hair and the cacophony of sound and light seemed to please her, for she smiled broadly and laughed at the spectacle.

“It’s time!” she declared as she rose from the table.  “Let’s pay Perry Love and his family a visit.”

“Where are we going?” Vincent asked.

“To a little town called Nightfall,” Ondine replied.  “I think you’ll like it.”

 

Vincent, Adam, and Edwina

Drops of blood dripped excruciatingly slow from Adam’s fangs and fell onto Edwina’s face.  As if hypnotized, Vincent watched each drop gather, descend, then splatter on Edwina’s lips, which were beginning to turn an interesting shade of blue.  Most of her fingernails were broken from digging into the cold earth in an attempt to brace herself against Adam’s assault.  Her pink tweed Chanel mini-skirt was torn in three places and her black Manolo Blahnik pumps were scattered among the twigs and underbrush. Vincent took all this in as well as Adam, who was panting loudly, and wasn’t sure if he was more furious that Adam had disobeyed his order not to feed without him or because he obviously didn’t understand the severity of the situation.

Finally the enraged vampire spoke: “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

“Father she’s only a human,” Adam replied as he dipped his finger into the open wound on Edwina’s neck.

“She’s more than just a human!” Vincent screamed.  “She’s Perry Love’s daughter!”

“You’re confusing me Father,” Adam said quietly.  “You told me not to concern myself with humans and now you’re telling me that I should be worried because I’ve harmed one.”

Vincent slapped Adam’s hand away as he tried, yet again, to dip his quivering finger into Edwina’s neck for another taste of her still-warm blood.

“Who do you think is my business partner?” Vincent asked.  “Who do you think owns the laboratory and the scientists who are trying to discover a serum so you will never have to fear the sunlight?”

Shocked registered not only on Adam’s face, but his entire body as well.  He knew that his father was working steadfastly to find a way to strengthen his vampire blood; but he didn’t know the vainglorious serum could potentially change his chemistry so he could walk the earth for eternity as a human does and not run from the glorious rays of the sun.  Nor did he waste a moment wondering who Vincent was working with,  Adam just assumed Vincent was working alone, like he always did.

“Perry Love is your partner?” Adam commented more than asked.

“Yes!” Vincent replied.

“You consider that repulsive little man your equal?” Adam asked.

“No of course I don’t consider him my equal,” Vincent said, “and Perry Love knows he is not my equal.  And that is why he is looking for any excuse to withdraw from our partnership.”

Vincent pointed to Edwina’s unmoving body and continued: “I believe Perry will find this a perfect excuse!”

Both men stared at Edwina with growing dismay.  Adam finally understood why Vincent tolerated Perry and why he was now so distraught over the sight of a blood-soaked Edwina.  He felt his body grow discomfortingly hot as he realized he was the cause of his father’s suffering.

“Maybe he won’t link her death to us,” Adam said with wide-eyed innocence.

Vincent looked at his son with wide-eyed shock before speaking: “Adam, you have practically bitten off her neck.  She must have five drops of blood left in her body.  I don’t think Perry will have a difficult time tracing his daughter’s death back to us!”

“Do you think Perry will destroy the experimental serum once he finds out?” Adam asked.

“If we can’t fix this . . . this . . . situation, that’s exactly what he’ll do,” Vincent said.  “And we’ll never be able to produce another serum in enough time.”

The night wind roared between them and Adam felt his father succumb to defeat right before his eyes.  It was the first time Adam saw Vincent look so beaten and he knew he had to shake him from his depression.

“Then do something Father,” Adam said.  “Don’t let me down.”

If Vincent weren’t interrupted by the scent of fresh human blood wafting on the wind, he would have responded to his son’s arrogance with a father’s displeasure.  But the predicament he found himself in demanded immediate action and fate had once again brought him an escape.  In the distance, at Serenity Pond to be exact, was the answer to their problem.

 

Norway Calling

It wasn’t until the third ring that Perry stirred from his bed.  He reached for the phone and noticed Madeline was still asleep.  The tranquil expression on his wife’s face filled Perry with envy for he longed to know such peace.  Ironically, Madeline wasn’t at peace, she was just tired.

“Hello,” Perry said groggily into the phone.

“Perry!”

The shrieking voice on the other end of the phone was unmistakably that of Astrid.  He glanced at the clock and saw that it was only a few minutes after midnight, which meant it was about five a.m. in Oslo.  He wondered why emergencies always erupted at the most inconvenient hours.

“What’s wrong now Astrid?” Perry said in a patronizing tone.

“You didn’t tell me Vincent Savage is a vampire!” Astrid shouted back.

Fully awake now, Perry walked with the cordless phone onto the bedroom’s balcony.

“Astrid I need you to calm down,” Perry said.

“Don’t pretend I just discovered you’ve been cheating on your taxes, which I know for a fact you are!” Astrid replied, grabbing her hair in a clump and yanking it in frustration.  “Vincent paid me a visit tonight and he doesn’t have a reflection!”

“I know,” Perry replied.

“Well when the hell were you going to let me in on the secret!?”

“I didn’t think there was any need to tell you.”

Intensely frustrated by Perry’s apathetic attitude, Astrid slammed the phone on the steel desk in her laboratory several times imagining that the table was Perry’s head.

“I always knew you were a duplicitous and balding man, I had no idea you were suicidal as well.”

“I have known Vincent for a long time,” Perry said.  “He will not harm anyone.”

“Unless we can’t produce his precious serum in time,” Astrid yelled back.

“Well, yes . . .”

“I signed onto this team because you told me we were looking for a cure for rare blood diseases,” Astrid said.  “I thought we were going to help people.”

“You are Astrid, you’re helping more people than you can imagine.”

“I’m helping Vincent Savage walk in the sunlight!”

Perry slid open the sliding glass door and peered into his bedroom to make sure Madeline was still asleep.  Although he was whispering he felt that every word Astrid spoke was echoing through the halls of Nightwind.

“Can you imagine what will happen if Vincent’s vampire buddies get hold of this serum?” Astrid asked, peering out through the sliding glass doors overlooking the forest and suddenly feeling very vulnerable.  “I can’t believe I’m even using the phrase ‘vampire buddies’ in a sentence.”

“This serum will only be used for one person: Vincent’s son Adam,” Perry said.

“How stupid I was!” Astrid screeched.  “I thought Adam was the name of this experiment, like Adam, the first son, not Adam, the vampire!”

“Stop ranting and listen to me,” Perry commanded.  “Adam is the only one who will benefit from this serum.”

“Are you that foolish?” Astrid asked incredulously.  “They’re not going to stop with just one guinea pig.  If it works on Adam, every vampire on the planet will want it.”

“No, that’s not why Vincent and I began this research,” Perry whispered loudly.  “We just want Adam to have the best of both worlds.”

Perplexed, Astrid stared into the phone before asking: “What do you mean ‘you and Vincent’?  Why do you care if a vampire can walk in the sun?”

Perry let out a sigh before replying: “Adam Savage is my grandson.”

October 11 – Fifteen Years Ago

No matter how many times he made the mutation from vampire to eagle, Vincent was still overwhelmed by the sheer joy of flying.  His swift preternatural movements on land didn’t match the feeling he got as an eagle, soaring high above mountains and oceans, through wind and clouds.  Gliding through space now with Ondine, he felt the same sheer joy.  Through ancient magic that manipulated physics, Ondine was able to transform her physical energy into a different, weightless entity.  She soared miles above the Earth’s surface as a ball of orange light next to Vincent as a black eagle.  Together, they looked like a very elaborate Halloween display.

When they landed on the beach near Nightwind, Vincent’s talons sunk into the wet sand and allowed the cold, rushing waves to wash over them before transforming back into a vampire.  By the time he did, Ondine was standing next to him looking every inch a raven haired beauty.

“Welcome to Nightfall,” Ondine said.

“I know this land,” Vincent replied.

“You should,” Ondine said.  “It’s your birthplace.”

Vincent walked several steps behind Ondine on the beach and allowed her words to sift through his memory.  He had no pleasant memories of his childhood, he could not quietly reflect on his mother’s love when he was feeling melancholy nor could he remember the strength of his father’s hand when he was feeling lost and confused.  For as long as Vincent could remember he had only himself to rely on, and for the most part, he had served himself well.  For that reason it was oddly comforting to be able to acquiesce to Ondine’s decisions and let her lead the way.  Acting as the submissive partner was a new role for Vincent to play, but he found it enjoyable.

After they walked for about a mile Ondine pointed out a magnificent castle in the distance.  The structure was clearly out of place and not the sort of building Maine, or for that matter America, was noted for.  But it stood out regally with the beach and ocean behind it and dense forest in front.  Ondine paused and grabbed Vincent’s arm: “Take a good look Vincent.  This is Nightwind, it’s where you were born.”

 

Vincent, Adam, and Edwina

The calmness of Serenity Pond always soothed Noelle Parker’s anxieties. She didn’t believe the legend about Amelia and the mysterious and destructive raven-haired woman, but she did know that if she came to this spot with a troubled heart and prayed under the stars long enough, a part of her pain and confusion would be lifted.  She was here now because she was grieving for the loss of her fiancée, David Anderson.

Six months from now she was supposed to be exiting St. Agatha’s chapel on David’s arm as his wife.  After hearing about David’s violent and unexplained death, she couldn’t imagine living six months without him.  As fate would have it, she wouldn’t have to.

As Noelle knelt at the pond’s edge, she didn’t hear Vincent creep up behind her and since he didn’t cast a reflection onto the pond’s surface, she didn’t see him either.  She did, however, feel his breath on her neck and was about to run until she saw David’s smiling face staring back at her from the pond.

While she hesitated, Vincent’s long, slender hand clamped around Noelle’s mouth triggering the girls’ body to squirm and trounce wildly.  Vincent wrapped his other arm around her body, but loosened his grip slightly so as not to break her neck accidentally.  In order for his plan to work, he needed Noelle alive.

Through the woods he ran with his treasure, stumbling several times due to Noelle’s desperate attempts to escape as well as due to his own frazzled nerves.  Vincent hadn’t felt this nervous since he crossed over to the Golden Life when he was only 18 years old.  This was the most important hunt he had ever engaged in and it was made more complicated because he couldn’t call upon all his preternatural strength and agility.  As a result, Noelle, who had spent her childhood exploring this part of Nightfall, knew just when to turn left to miss falling into a trench or just when to duck to escape hitting a drooping branch.  Vincent was not that lucky.

As he approached a giant oak tree he misjudged the thickness of one of its gnarled branches.  Thinking he could easily break it, he extended his arm and maintained his incredible speed as he got closer.  But the oak was more formidable than it looked and the only crack that occurred was Vincent’s right arm.  Stunned, Vincent cried out in pain as his right arm dangled helplessly at his side.

Without looking back, Noelle could sense her attacker was in trouble and used it to her advantage.  She began to scream even louder for help and as the adrenaline pumped into her heart, her legs began to move quicker than before and her arms pumped with an even more determined fury.  All the time she saw David’s face smiling at her encouragingly.

But unfortunately Noelle’s foe was more than a violent man; it was a desperate vampire.  Vincent ignored the pain in his arm and focused on the matter at hand, he needed this woman to save his son’s life.  Like a bolt of lightning, Vincent charged through the forest, gliding over rocks, soaring through branches until he swooped over Noelle and grabbed her by the back of her hair.  Terrified, Noelle watched the ground whoosh past her feet as she soared a foot above the earth.  The pain in the back of her head was excruciating and she thought her hair was going to be ripped away from her scalp.  She tried to grab hold of a tree, but she was being whisked too quickly over the land until her foot got tangled in a vine and she hit the ground with an astounding thud.  When she rolled over, David’s smiling face was replaced with Vincent’s, which was contorted into a portrait of pure evil, a mask of gnarled and undulating flesh.  In that instant the girl knew her life had come to an abrupt end and with the inner knowledge that she could not fight this inhuman presence that hovered over her, she closed her eyes and prayed to God for mercy.

As God listened to Noelle’s plea, Vincent used his good arm to fling the girl over his shoulder until he reached Adam.  He dropped Noelle’s body next to Edwina’s and by this time the young woman only had the strength to mumble a prayer.  Adam looked at Noelle, then at his Father.

“Is this some sort of joke?” Adam asked.

“This, my son, is our salvation.”

 

Norway Calling

The truth engulfed Astrid like quicksand.  Suddenly she understood why this research was so important to Perry and why the project was carried out with discretion and its benefactor was kept mysterious and, until now, distant.  She had been duped into participating.  She had been paid extraordinarily well, but still, she had been duped.  And Astrid hated when men betrayed her regardless of the circumstances.

“You used me!” Astrid cried.

“I gave you a state-of-the-art facility and the chance of a lifetime,” Perry replied.

“To resurrect your vampire grandson to the land of the living!” Astrid shouted back, finally free from the shock of learning she was working to help the undead.

“He is my flesh and blood Astrid,” Perry said.  “Can’t you understand that?

“Just how dysfunctional is your family tree, Perry?” asked Astrid.

Perry knew that his family history was, at best, eccentric.  He also knew that if he divulged the secret role he played in creating that history he would alienate Astrid even further.

“It doesn’t matter how it happened, but Adam Savage is my grandson,” Perry said calmly.  “And I want him to experience life like all my descendants.”

“Well he can’t!” Astrid replied.  “And do you want to know why? Because he’s a vampire!”

“Stop shouting! Someone might hear you.”

Astrid looked around the spacious, but empty, lab, then looked out the window at the forest below.  “You’ve got me in the middle of nowhere, twelve stories above barren land.  No one’s going to overhear me!”

“Astrid I need you to pull yourself together and think rationally.”

“I am,” Astrid said.  “And the only rational thing for me to do is quit this project.”

Despite the chill in the late night air, Perry felt a warm sensation race up to his heart.  Astrid’s words frightened him beyond belief and he knew he had to find some way to change her mind.

“You can’t abandon me!”

“Watch me!” Astrid yelled back.  “And then watch me tell the media that vampires are on the loose.”

Perry gripped the railing of the balcony until his knuckles were as white as the foam that scurried along the beach’s shore.  All the precautions he took to conceal Vincent’s identity were just an exercise in futility because Vincent had been careless.  Perry’s mind wandered as he realized Vincent’s fury was merely bravado and that he was just as frightened of failure as Perry was.  Right now, however, he had to handle Astrid.

“I understand that you’re upset and confused,” Perry said, “but if you leave the project now Vincent will kill you.”

“Not if I kill him first.”

“What?”

“Before I give the legion of the undead the ability to walk among humans in the light of day,” Astrid said, “I will kill him.”

Without looking into a mirror, Perry knew that his face was now as white as his knuckles.  “You simply are no match for Vincent.”

“I disagree,” Astrid said.  “And if I have to Perry, I will kill your grandson too.”

The dial tone roared in Perry’s ears as he realized he had lost control of yet another woman in his life.

 

Vincent, Adam, Edwina, and Noelle

Vincent pushed Adam away and positioned himself between both women.  Edwina, who was clinging to life as bitterly as she lived it, didn’t move.  But Noelle was starting to awake so Vincent knew he had to work quickly.  He pushed back Noelle’s long hair and plunged his fangs into her neck.  Noelle cried out and her body spasmed involuntarily as Vincent fed.  When her cry became a moan Vincent retracted his fangs.

Adam watched with curiosity and noticed that Vincent had not swallowed Noelle’s sweet fluid, but was holding it in his mouth.  Then, Adam watched as Vincent bit into Edwina’s neck and let Noelle’s blood flow into her.  Faster and faster Vincent repeated this transference of blood until Noelle’s skin became translucent and her body ceased to move.  By this time Edwina’s complexion had returned almost completely to its natural color.  Vincent’s tongue brushed across her wounds until only a small scar was left on her neck.  It might be noticed by the high-maintenance woman, but he figured Edwina would opt for a scar on her neck over a massive wound surrounded by swollen and/or dangling flesh.

“Father, you are amazing,” Adam said.  “I can’t believe what you’ve done.”

“When will you learn that I meet any challenge imposed upon me,” Vincent replied.  “Even one from my own son.”

Adam felt a stab of emotional pain and tears well up in his eyes.  With one foolish act he had betrayed the man who would sacrifice his life for him.

“I’m sorry Father.”

“I will deal with you tomorrow,” Vincent said.  “The moon is beginning to hide and so must we.”

“What are you going to do with them?” Adam said pointing to Noelle and Edwina’s bodies.

“I’ll tuck Edwina in her bed and no human will be the wiser.”

“And that one?”

“That one will be at the mercy of the angels and the vultures,” Vincent said.  “Whichever ones come first to get her.”

“I am sorry Father.  I know I still have much to learn.”

“And I will teach you,” Vincent said as he whisked Edwina into his arms.  “But you must obey me.”

“I will,” Adam replied with a heart filled with sincerity.  “From this day forward I will.”

Adam watched Vincent race down the beach to bring Edwina home.  And as he ran home to his coffin he had no idea that the souls of Noelle and David cavorted happily with each other just a few feet above him.

 

October 11 – Fifteen Years Ago

Standing so close to his birthplace, all the horrible memories of his childhood rushed back into Vincent’s psyche with such force that he became lightheaded and clutched Ondine’s arm for support.  With his preternatural ability to see things clearer than humans he was able to transport his mind back to when he was only a newborn child.  He saw himself greeting the sunlight for the first time after spending nine months in his mother’s womb and he felt his father’s first embrace.  It would also be the last time his father would hold him as a baby.

He could see himself as a child squealing and squirming in his father’s arms.  And he could see Perry Love looking back at him, with disinterest, if not disdain.  Instinctively, Vincent, as a baby, tried to turn to face his mother in an attempt to receive some love and kindness, but Madeline had been sedated heavily by the hospital staff upon Perry’s request and couldn’t offer her son anything but a blank stare.  She merely lay there sleeping and had no idea that her husband was orchestrating a plan that would alter their lives forever.

The Vincent who stood before Nightwind tried to shake these images from his brain, but he couldn’t.  They were too strong and lay dormant for too many years for them to be brushed off to the section of his mind that was designed to forget atrocities.  Just as he was facing the place of his birth for the first time in his life, so too must he face his secrets.

Perry placed Vincent into the hands of a woman who was standing nearby.  She was dressed as a nurse, but even as an infant Vincent understood her uniform was a disguise.  He noticed with a baby’s innocent eyes the stark contrast between her white dress and her raven black hair.

Vincent was stunned by this revelation.  He always knew his father gave him away voluntarily without the consent of his mother, but he always thought Perry gave him to the people who raised him and who ultimately turned him into a vampire.  The same people who tortured him and abused him, both physically and emotionally, for the first fifteen years of his life.  But he was wrong.  Perry gave him to Ondine.

Ondine’s words made Vincent focus on the present: “After my beloved Perry left me to die,” Ondine began, “I thought the most eloquent revenge would be to take life from him.”

“But why did Perry agree to it?” Vincent said sounding much more like a confused human than a powerful vampire.

“Because I tricked him,” Ondine said.  “You probably haven’t noticed but my magic is not as powerful as it once was.  When you were born I was able to stand before Perry and have him think I was someone else.  I told him I saw him that Christmas Eve in 1956 when he dug a grave for that poor, unfortunate French woman.  I also told him I was a barren woman and that I wanted a child of my own.  Perry eagerly consented to give up his son.  Until this day Perry thinks I died in that car crash.  Someday I’ll show him how wrong he is.”

“So it was you who gave me to the people who raised me.”

“Yes,” Ondine replied, then shrugged.  “I misjudged their character, but they did make you a vampire so things didn’t turn out quite so bad.”

“Do you know the agony I went through as a child?” Vincent asked.

“Please, Vincent, you’re not impressing me by exposing your human side,” Ondine said.  “We’ve all had a rough go of it.  Someday I’ll tell you about my childhood and if you’re stilling channeling your humanity you will weep for me.  But now we have other matters at hand.”

In the distance Vincent could see people cavorting underneath a striped tent on the beach.  Balloons were dancing in the breeze and people, young and old alike, were swaying to the music.  Vincent and Ondine moved closer, but Ondine created a mist so that they couldn’t be seen with human eyes.

“This is your family Vincent,” Ondine said.  “There are your parents, Perry and Madeline.  Notice how much distance separates them.  And there is your sister Edwina with a martini glass fastened to her manicured hand, and your boring brother Anthony.  His hand is in his pants pocket clutching a rosary.  Let’s show them how well a rosary can protect them.”

“Who is that?” Vincent asked.

“Ah, I was wondering when you would notice her,” Ondine said.  “That is your sister Amanda.  Actually she is your twin sister.  Personally I don’t see a resemblance, but humans are always searching for connections, however tenuous and frail they may be.”

In Vincent’s memory as a baby he could hear another newborn’s cry while he was being led out of the room.  He had always tried to see who was making the cry, but he was never able to do so.  Now he knew that cry came from Amanda.

Suddenly the irony of the situation struck him and he let out a laugh.  He had come here with Ondine to kidnap Perry’s grandson to make Perry pay for giving him away as an infant.  He never suspected that he would be kidnapping his twin sister’s child.  For a moment his conviction faltered, but for only a moment.  He wanted to hurt Perry and he wanted a chance to give a child the type of life he had never known.  Hurting his twin would be the price he would have to pay.  But as he watched Amanda hold her son’s hand as they walked into the ocean, he vowed that some day he would reunite them.

He watched Ondine raise her hand to the moon and felt time stop.

“Would you really like to touch the moon, Joey?”  Vincent asked.

“Yes, sir.  Can you take me there?”  Joey replied.

Vincent knelt down and met Joey’s gaze wonder for wonder.  Then Vincent looked up and saw Perry standing before him.  Obviously Ondine had allowed Perry to escape her grasp and witness the event as it unfolded before him, all the better so he could watch Vincent’s revenge but be unable to prevent it.

“Will you let me say goodbye to my grandson before you take him away?” Perry asked.

“Why should I?” Vincent asked, too consumed with emotion to even stand.  “You never said goodbye to me when you gave me away.”

“I had no choice,” Perry said quietly.

“We all have choices Perry,” Vincent replied.  “You chose to be a coward and this is the price you have to pay.  From now on whenever you look into your family’s eyes and see their pain and confusion you will know that you caused it.  Every bad thing that’s happened to this family is because of you.”

Perry stared at the vampire who once was his son and remained silent for he knew he was hearing the truth.  Nothing could change what he understood was fact, not if he shouted with anger or if he cried tears of anguish, so he did what he always did, he turned away.

Just a foot away Amanda stood motionless and Vincent was overcome by their physical resemblance.  They both had the same golden hair and delicate features and although Vincent’s eyes were now crimson and not light blue like Amanda’s, they both were filled with sadness.  Sadness that they had experienced and sadness that they knew for certain would come.

“Sir,” Joey asked, interrupting Vincent’s thoughts.  “Can you really take me to the moon?”

“Yes.  Will you follow me?” Vincent replied

“Yes.”

“Forever?”

“Forever.”

Unseen to Perry and the other mortals on the beach, Ondine lowered her hand and time resumed its count.  Perry watched his family scramble as they began their search for Joey, who, along with Vincent were nowhere to be found.  With an emptiness where his soul used to be, Perry joined his family in their futile attempts to find the little boy who, only moments earlier, was celebrating his fourth birthday.

 

Hold Back the Night – Chapter 11

Chapter 11

St. Agatha’s

The Blessed Mother’s pure light continued to radiate from within Jonatha as she floated effortlessly several inches above the chapel’s stone floor.  The young girl felt a soothing warmth spread throughout her entire body.  She was no longer looking at the Blessed Mother’s loving blue eyes, but through them, into another time and place.  She knew that what her eyes were witnessing was sacred and alluring.  She wanted to go within those eyes and immerse herself in their kindness and compassion and as bewildered as she was, she knew she was looking into heaven.  Unfortunately, the rest of the group didn’t share her opinion.

Huddled in one corner was Winter, who alternated between crying and screaming, and knew Jonatha’s airborne trick was somehow connected to the raven-haired woman who was often in control of her.  It was a correct assumption and one that would become clearer to her sooner than she thought.  In the meantime, however, Winter assumed Jonatha was in danger and not in the grip of a powerful love.

In another corner, Llewellyn was trying to subdue Dashiell, but was failing.  The only time Llewellyn ever dominated Dashiell was when they were in bed and Dashiell was feeling submissive, so now that the half-man half-vampire was half-crazed from being on holy ground in the midst of a miracle, Llewellyn simply had to settle for watching his lover lose control.  Therefore, he wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

With one shake of his arm Dashiell broke free of Llewellyn’s ineffective grasp and ran towards the statue of the Blessed Mother.  With the preternatural strength Dashiell already possessed, he easily ripped the stone structure from its base and rose it above his head.  While high above Dashiell’s head, the Blessed Mother turned her loving gaze away from Jonatha and towards Dashiell and looked into his eyes.  Dashiell didn’t see heaven in her blue eyes, but only eternal emptiness.  A roar filled with a mixture of vengeance and exquisite pain bellowed from Dashiell’s still-intact soul as he threw the statue to the ground.  But before it reached the stone floor, Jonatha intervened.

Although she was no longer the subject of the Blessed Mother’s gaze, she was still levitating and wrapped with the white light.  As the statue was about to crash to the floor, she turned her head towards it and willed it to stop.  Obeying Jonatha’s psychic command, the statue rested at her feet and floated along with her.  For a few brief seconds the young girl and the virgin mother were floating on the same plane.  Jonatha lifted her head and looked toward the empty column, which was the Blessed Mother’s resting place, and the statue rose and moved toward the column until once again it graced its perch.  When it was securely in place, the Blessed Mother, now dry-eyed, smiled at Jonatha, then resumed her static pose.

Winter ran from the room and didn’t see Jonatha float back down to the ground and the light disappear from around her.  Nor did she see Dashiell fall to the floor, exhausted by fear, to be attended to by Llewellyn.  The cold air and the normal surroundings were both refreshing to Winter and she stood for a moment letting reality reclaim her.  At the corner of the street she saw her Uncle Anthony and immediately called out to him.

“Uncle Anthony!” Winter screamed.  “Come quick!  All hell’s broken loose inside the chapel!”

 

Nightwind

Several voices were speaking simultaneously inside Perry’s semi-conscious head.  The first voice belonged to his wife, Madeline, and was filled with polite concern.  The second voice was Ondine’s, and was questioning, but tinged with a hint of unmistakable amusement.  The third was also Ondine’s, but from 1956, and was hysterical and accusatory.  And the fourth was his own voice, astounded and dismay.

When he opened his eyes he saw Ondine and Madeline inches from his face.  Madeline sighed with relief and Ondine’s pursed lips formed a smirk.

“Perry” Madeline said.  “Can you hear me?

“Yes,” Perry mumbled.

“Can you try to stand up?” Madeline asked.

Once again Perry mumbled “yes” and the women grabbed him under either arm helping him to his feet and then a kitchen chair.  As he looked from his wife to his former mistress he wasn’t completely sure what decade he was in or if he was still alive for he had believed since that memorable Christmas Eve that Ondine was dead, and thanks to him, several feet below the earth.  After blinking his eyes several times and convinced that his heart was still beating, he realized he obviously didn’t make a very efficient ditchdigger.

“Ondine,” Perry said, then paused to choose his words very carefully.  “I never thought I’d see you again.”

“I’m sure you didn’t,” Ondine demurred.  “Nightfall and all its residents thought I’d simply vanished off the face of the earth.  Or below it.”

“We were just reminiscing Perry,” Madeline interrupted.  “I’ll explain it all later.”

“No!” Perry shouted.  “Tell me now.”

Perry’s command was all Madeline needed to hear to know that her husband had healed from his faint.  She would try to discover why he fainted after she escorted Ondine from her home.

“Oh Perry,” Ondine said.  “You’re just as feisty now as you were all those years ago.  Madeline, you are such a lucky woman to call such a passionate man your husband.”

“I wasn’t aware that you knew so much about my husband’s passion,” Madeline replied.

“Would someone please explain what is going on here?” Perry asked.

“I’m visiting an old friend Perry,” Ondine began.  “I think you know Vincent Savage.”

Ondine relished Perry’s audible gasp at the mention of the vampire’s name, then continued.

“We’re very close friends, paramours you might say, and when I discovered he had settled in this quaint village, I raced down memory lane on my private jet to return to the town I once called home.”

Perry didn’t hear a word Ondine said, he just stared at her moving red-lipsticked mouth.  How could she still be alive, Perry thought.  He reached back into his memory with fierce determination and pulled up roots of images of he and Ondine driving in a car, snow falling all around them, loud, angry voices, blood on Ondine’s forehead, swerving off the road.  He shut off this mental video tape just as he saw himself burying Ondine in the ground and looked at the same woman who was sitting in his kitchen chattering about how much she missed this town and all its people.

“Well I should let you rest Perry,” Ondine said.  “You really do look like you’ve seen a ghost.  Which I guess is what I must seem like.”

“Thank you for stopping by Ondine,” Madeline said.  “And we will see you next week.”

“Why?” Perry demanded.  “What’s next week?”

“Madeline’s 60th birthday party,” Ondine said.  “Your wife has been kind enough to extend an invitation to me.  And she bears no hard feelings against me for leaving Nightfall so abruptly all those years ago, so I hope you can find some forgiveness in your heart to offer me as well.”

Before Perry could respond the phone rang.  And before he could announce that he would answer it, Madeline greedily took this as a chance for her to leave the room.  She was uncomfortable being in Ondine and Perry’s presence and assumed it was simply because she disliked them both.  When Madeline left the room Ondine lunged toward Perry and kissed him hungrily.  Her red stained lips smeared themselves all over Perry’s petrified mouth.  When she was finished she pulled back and smiled.  And when she spoke again it was in a different voice, that of a spurned lover who thought of revenge as a deadly serious ambition.

“Are you happy to see me again?” she asked.

“I thought you were dead,” Perry said.  “That night . . . in the car . . . you weren’t breathing.”

“Thank you for taking on the duty of gravedigger,” Ondine said.  “It was very thoughtful, a bit premature, but thoughtful nonetheless.”

“I had no idea,” Perry said.

“Oh yes you did,” Ondine replied.  “You knew exactly what you were doing.  You were getting rid of the inconvenience, you were destroying the evidence, you were tidying up the dirty little corners of your life.  But you failed, Perry, like you’ve failed in most everything you have attempted to achieve in your life.”

“I don’t have to listen to this,” Perry said.

“Oh yes you do, and furthermore, you will,” said Ondine, as she leaned in even closer to Perry so he could smell the hatred that enveloped her.  “Your colleagues tolerate you, your children do nothing more than acknowledge that you share a biological connection, your wife is apathetic where you’re concerned, and I, your ex-lover, has ignored you all these years, patiently waiting for the right moment to strike back and make you pay for what you did to me.  I have returned to Nightfall for one reason, and one reason alone, Perry.  To destroy you.”

 

Joe Lassiter

To a voyeur the Lassiter house appeared empty.  The lights were off, the mail protruded from its box on the front porch, and there were no cars in the driveway, but even still, someone was home.  Joe was sitting in his living room too exhausted not only to move, but to block out the thoughts that were invading his mind ever since Madeline pronounced that evil had returned to Nightfall.  Madeline was not prone to hyperbole, if anything, she was a cynical woman who did not give in to emotional outbursts.  This time, however, her outpouring of emotion was justified.  Joe knew evil had returned to Nightfall, but he had no idea where to look for it or how to defeat it once it was found.

Visions of dead bodies flashed in front of him and when he shut his eyes tightly they appeared in even more detail.  Aimee and David’s ravaged bodies floated in front of him, blood trickling from their necks, their faces wearing masks of fear.  Shaking his head violently, Joe got up and paced the room trying to dislodge the images from his eyes.  His attempts were futile and in fact only made the images become clearer and more lifelike in their lifelessness.  Joe knew that they, and the other victims that would surely follow, would haunt him until he uncovered the source of the evil or until he became a victim himself.

His pacing grew more frenetic and soon he knocked over a picture.  He didn’t see where it fell, but he heard the glass smash on the hardwood floor.  He turned on a light and saw that it was a photograph of Edwina and him on their wedding day.  They both looked beautiful, but neither of them were smiling.  Joe calmly tried to remember a time when he and Edwina did share a smile, but he couldn’t and was forced to admit, there on his knees amid pieces of shared glass, that their marriage was truly a sham that needed to be put to rest.  He prayed that his daughter, Jonatha, would be able to understand that her parents loved her tremendously, but were just complicated and human and therefore possessed many personal faults and demons that led to the untethering of their marriage.

Filled with that odd mixture of sorrow and relief that comes when painful decisions are made, he gently placed the photograph on an endtable and started to go to his bedroom to begin packing his things.  It would be unfair to his wife and daughter if he remained under this roof one more night so the Collins Inn would have to make room for another lost soul.  As he turned to enter the bedroom he heard a knock at the front door and when he opened it he couldn’t deny or repress his joy.  It was Amanda.

 

Father and Son

The last ray of the sun fell below the horizon and with perfect timing both caskets in the Savage household opened simultaneously.  Vincent and Adam walked silently up from the inner depths of their temporary residence until they reached the main sitting hall.  Vincent noticed Adam was already restless now that he was a week away from his complete transformation to the Golden Life.  That meant his son would need even more support to survive the physical changes he would soon face.  That also meant that Vincent would have to push Perry even harder to finish their experiment.  The timing was crucial for if Perry and his scientific team produced the serum one second after Adam’s crossing over was complete, it would be useless to him.  Perry’s entire family would also be killed, but that was a byproduct Vincent would have to live with.  The most important factor was giving Adam the most magnificent eternity anyone could ever hope for.

“Father, I’m hungry,” Adam said.

“Then let us hunt,” Vincent replied.

“Why is my appetite getting stronger every day?” Adam asked.  “It’s almost uncontrollable.”

“You’re getting closer to the day of crossing over,” Vincent explained, “and so your voraciousness is to be expected.”

“Will I gain control once the transformation is complete?” Adam asked.

“Yes, but until then you must be careful not to make any mistakes.”

“What kind of mistakes?” Adam queried.

“Be sure not to rise too early before the darkness,” Vincent said.  “Do not hunt down a pack since you are still too young and not strong enough to defeat a group of frightened, and perhaps resourceful, humans.  And do not overindulge in your prey.  Even vampires need to watch out for overkill.”

Adam heard his father’s words, but didn’t take a moment to process their meaning, he was more involved in gazing out the window trying to spy a lone traveler.  His eyes widened when, far off in the distance, he saw an older man walking along the beach with his dog.

“Father I think I’ve found my first meal of the night,” Adam declared and raced out the door.

Vincent sighed with paternal resignation and joined his son to feed on another unsuspecting victim.

 

St. Agatha’s

Winter knew that she would not be able to find the words to describe what had just taken place so she simply grabbed her Uncle Anthony’s arm and dragged him into the chapel.  But when they arrived everything looked normal except for the three teenagers lying on the chapel floor, of course.

“What happened?” Winter asked.  “A minute ago the statue was moving, and Dashiell was freaking out, and Jonatha was, she was, well she was suspended in mid air for like ten minutes!”

Anthony’s eyes moved from the statue of the Blessed Mother to Jonatha to the two young men huddled together in one corner of the chapel and he couldn’t see anything different with the church.  But since he had already witnessed Jonatha perform one miracle he was convinced Winter had just witnessed another.

“Jonatha,” Anthony said as he approached his niece.  “Are you alright?”

“Oh Uncle Anthony,” the young girl beamed.  “I’m perfectly fine.”

Jonatha looked toward the Blessed Mother and Anthony followed her gaze.

“She spoke to me,” Jonatha said.  “Not with words, but with love.  I know it sounds weird and I don’t expect you to believe me.”

“I do believe you,” Anthony said.  “Did the statue’s eyes come to life?”

“Yes!” Jonatha shrieked.  “You’ve seen them too!”

“No,” Anthony replied.  “I haven’t been that blessed, but I’ve heard stories.”

“Uncle Anthony,” Jonatha continued.  “I felt her purity wash over me, it was wonderful.”

“Excuse me,” Winter said.  “But what did I miss?”

“Winter,” Jonatha said.  “You mustn’t be frightened.  I know I probably looked a little Supergirl-ish floating in the air.”

“A little?!” Winter shouted.

“Well okay a lot,” Jonatha said, laughing at her sister.  “But trust me it was . . . it was heavenly.”

As Winter stared at her cousin with inquisitive eyes a strange thing happened, a blackness seeped in and started to cover her vision.  Winter blinked once but the blackness remained and she thought that this was the onset of the raven-haired woman’s return.  But after several more blinks the blackness retreated and she could see clearly once again and the raven-haired woman’s presence was nowhere near.  At that moment all Winter wanted to do was get out of that church, be free of the roaming eyes of the Blessed Mother, and be on her couch flipping mindlessly from cable channel to cable channel.

“Whatever you say Supergirl?” Winter said.  “Can we just all leave now?”

But Jonatha was still adrift on a ride she had just taken with the Blessed Mother and wasn’t yet finished talking about it.

“And when the tears fell from her eyes,” Jonatha said.  “It was so beautiful.”

“She cried?” Anthony asked.

“Yes,” Jonatha replied, “when she looked over at Dashiell.”

Anthony looked over at the two men who were now standing and were as anxious to leave as Winter was.  Dashiell took this pause as the perfect opportunity to speak.

“I guess that means my welcome pass to heaven has been rescinded?”

 

Nightwind

Recoiling in fear from Ondine, whose face now looked like it was molded by an evil hand, Perry tried to push the chair he was sitting in back a few inches, but it slammed into the wall.  Although Perry was not the type of man to face up to his past or his misguided deeds, he couldn’t turn away from Ondine.

“It was an accident,” Perry whispered loudly.

“Nothing you have ever done in your entire life has been an accident,” Ondine replied.  “Remember that Vincent and I have made conversation as well as love.”

Tiny beads of sweat clustered on Perry’s forward and his right hand began to shake slightly forcing him to grab the arm of his chair for support.

“Look at you,” Ondine laughed.  “You really are the cowardly man everyone thinks you are.”

Suddenly Ondine’s face became very soft and when she spoke again it was with the voice of the emotionally wounded: “I don’t know how I was ever able to love you.”

“Please don’t harm my family,” Perry said quietly.

Once again Ondine abruptly shifted emotions and she was back to being a woman hell-bent on vindication.

“Well you should have thought of that when you were dragging me from your Cadillac and dug me a tiny grave and shoved me into the ground and covered me up with dirt and snow and left me to rot while you went home to have a hot tottie, and the next morning open up Christmas presents with your precious, Madeline,” Ondine said.  “Did she give you anything as special as I did, Perry?  Did she ever give you love?”

“I think you should leave my house now,” Perry said.  “You’ve said what you needed to say.”

Ondine stared at Perry with an expression of disdain and disappointment.  She gathered her mink and began to leave the room but turned to face Perry once more.

“Mark my words Perry Love, I will destroy your life like you tried to destroy mine.  And, unlike you, when I attempt anything, especially revenge,” Ondine declared, “I triumph.”

 

Amanda and Joe

The lovers embraced on the doorstep and Amanda wasted no time before sprinkling unexpected kisses on Joe’s cheeks, eyes, nose, and mouth.  Joe wasn’t sure why he was the recipient of such an arduous welcome, but he didn’t question it, he was too busy returning Amanda’s kisses.

“I’ve been looking all over town for you,” Amanda said in between kissing Joe’s ear and his chin.

“I’m sorry, my cellphone’s dead,” Joe said trying to suppress a giggle.

Amanda ended her kissing assault and gave Joe the note that was in her hand.  It was now crumbled and damp from being held by Amanda’s sweaty palms, but its message was still readable.  As she watched his expression change from confusion to gratefulness she was thankful that she was able to deliver the message in person, and when she saw the first tears drop from his eyes, she knew that he shared her happiness.

“I can’t believe . . . after all these years . . . our son . . . ” Joe stammered.

“Is coming home,” Amanda said, finishing his sentence, “to his parents.”

“Yes to both of us,” Joe said.

Joe felt a change in his spirit as he held Amanda in his arms and the letter in his trembling hand.  It was the same sensation he always felt when in Amanda’s presence.  For years he ignored it, but ever since they gave into their passion and made love he was more aware of it than ever before.  Their connection was undeniable.

He led her into the house and closed the door behind them.  The confusion he was feeling earlier had completely left him and he was overcome by a clarity that he wasn’t quite used to, but honored to behold.  He brought Amanda to the couch and they both sat down.

“Are you alright Joe?” Amanda asked.

“I’m perfect,” he replied.  “I’m here with the only woman I have ever loved, I’m about to reunited with the son who was taken from me, and you’re carrying my child.”

“Joe,” Amanda said softly.  “I told you there’s no way that I’m pregnant, not this far along.”

Joe just smiled at Amanda like a guy who had just witnessed beauty for the first time.

“Don’t fight it Amanda,” he said.  “We’re having another baby and the only thing that could make me happier is if you would become my wife.”

“What?!” Amanda said.

“Well that’s not exactly the response I was hoping for,” Joe said, laughing at Amanda’s shock.

“Joe, so much is going on . . .”

“So much is always going on,” he interrupted.  “I love you, I don’t love Edwina and I never have.  We both know that.  With this new baby on the way it’s made me realize that I will only be happy if you are my wife.”

Amanda was about to declare her opposition to what she felt was a crazy idea, but then she looked at Joe’s face.  She saw the innocent boy she met when she was only fifteen, alternately teasing her at school and carrying her books on the long walk home.  She looked deeper and saw the young man who gently knelt before her and promised to love and obey her for eternity.

She even saw the wounded face of the man who betrayed her with her sister.  And she saw the man who stood before her now, the man who’s child she could be carrying and she knew what her heart had known since that first day she laid eyes on Joe Lassiter, that he was the only man for her.

“Yes, Joe,” Amanda said, her voice clear and sure, “I will marry you.”

 

Father and Son

Basking in the glow of his father’s approval, Adam wiped the last drops of blood from his lips and fangs and looked at his latest victim with dispassionate eyes.  He felt nothing for the middle-aged man with the soft gut and pale skin, who lay dead at his feet, he only felt satisfied and alive.

“I think I should go back home and study,” Adam announced.  “I have mid-terms exams next week in history and theology and I would like to do well.”

“I’m glad you’re taking an interest in your studies,” Vincent said.  “The study of mortal past can be quite beneficial.”

Adam started to walk along the beach back to their home, but noticed Vincent wasn’t alongside him.

“Aren’t you coming with me?” Adam asked.

“No, I have business to attend to.”

“Then I will see you later Father.”

Adam continued along the beach and when Vincent called out to him he didn’t turn around, but merely digested his words with a son’s impatience.

 

“And don’t feed again without me.”

 

Amanda and Joe

Joe couldn’t remember the last time he had so much fun in his bed.  He and Amanda tossed, turned, and got tangled up in each other as they made love over and over again.  There was nothing subtle or quiet about their lovemaking, it was bold, loud, and passionate.  It was a confirmation of their love and their renewed commitment to each other.

In between exploring each other’s bodies, they made plans.  Plans to go to another doctor and find out the truth about the baby Amanda was carrying, plans to tell their entire family about the return of their first born, and plans for Joe to move back into Nightwind.  And of course a plan as to how they should deal with Edwina.

“So how do you think we should handle your sister?”

“Frankly, I don’t care,” Amanda said.  “She doesn’t think about anyone else’s feelings, so it’s about time someone disregarded hers.”

“I understand how you feel, but I don’t want to hurt her, if for nothing else than for Jonatha’s sake.”

“I don’t want to deliberately hurt her either, but I won’t let her interfere with my happiness any longer.”

“Them sounds like fightin’ words,” Joe said.

“Them are honest words,” Amanda replied.  “I love you and nothing from this day forward will separate me from you.  Not even the wrath of Edwina.”

Standing outside her bedroom door Edwina had heard every word.  And with her hand on the doorknob and one eyebrow raised, Edwina wondered how her sister would react if she entered the room so Amanda could experience her wrath firsthand.

 

Oslo, Norway

A black eagle soared high above Love Laboratories cutting through the frigid Norwegian air like a missile.  The isolated building was protected by man-made security fences and the natural denseness of the forest that surrounded it for miles.  It was built on this desolate land as per Perry Love’s orders for Perry thought it best to work in the shadows.

The eagle landed on a balcony on the top floor and looked through the glass door into the main laboratory where Astrid Hallström was working on the experimental serum.  Inch by inch the eagle grew until it was over six feet tall.  Its wings retracted and grew out again in the shape of a man’s arms and its talons became legs.  No trace of the eagle was left as Vincent Savage slid open the glass door and entered the lab.

His superior preternatural vision took in the entire room in a split second and he saw chemicals bubbling, dangerous viruses dancing in petri dishes, and a beautiful woman slumped over a microscope.  Without looking up, Astrid spoke.

“You must be Vincent Savage.”

“And you must be Astrid Hallström, ravishing lady scientist.”

Astrid looked up at Vincent and they were both struck with each other’s beauty.  Vincent enjoyed Astrid’s resemblance to Amanda and felt a touch of regret that he had yet to spend more time with the woman with whom he shared a child, but he knew their reunion was only a week away.  And Astrid was surprised that for once Perry had told the truth, Vincent was a remarkable creature and possessed an intriguing physical quality.

“What brings you to my lair, Mr. Savage?” Astrid asked.

“Time is beginning to run out for us Ms. Hallström,” Vincent replied.  “I need the serum within one week’s time.”

“We are working as quickly as humanly possible,” Astrid replied.

“Human restrictions don’t concern me,” Vincent said.  “Though I must say I am delighted to find you at work in the middle of such a cold, unforgiving night.  Alone.”

“Norway is filled with such nights, this is nothing exceptional,” Astrid said.  “And I sent the rest of the team home to rest.”

“How convenient.”

Astrid was more alarmed at how close Vincent had gotten to her than by his comment.  Faster than the second hand of the clock could progress a notch, he was right next to her.  Ever since she was a young girl she had heard inappropriate comments from men.  It was as if her lustrous blonde hair, high cheekbones, and toned body had given men license to verbally abuse her.  She considered it her greatest gift that she was a lesbian and could therefore deny every man who shouted derogatorily to her or slurred innuendo as he passed her way the chance to experience what they so obviously craved.

In response to Vincent’s unexpected movement, Astrid got up from her chair and moved to another part of the lab.  She began sorting through vials of blood that were being used to create their new serum.  There were about twenty test tubes filled with blood on a large mirrored-glass tray.

 

“I’m really quite busy Mr. Savage,” Astrid said trying to sound calm.  “And if you want us to reach our deadline you shouldn’t distract me from my work.”

“I understand and I haven’t come to steer you away from completing your work,” Vincent said.  “I only wanted to make sure you understood the importance of this project.  I am aware that Perry doesn’t possess the authority he thinks he does.”

The blood from the vials Astrid was working with was from healthy newborns and their rich, pungent aroma filled Vincent’s senses like a hallucinogen.  He couldn’t resist getting closer to Astrid to breathe in their scent completely.  But as he did Astrid’s spine stiffened and she became quite afraid, she knew she had to make Vincent leave.

“Mr. Love signs my checks,” Astrid said.  “That’s all the authority he needs for me.  Now Mr. Savage I really must ask you to leave.”

With all his strength Vincent ignored the lure of newborn blood and met Astrid’s curious glare, thus causing the frightened woman to concentrate on the vials of blood before her.  Leaning close to her ear he bid the woman farewell before he slipped out of the glass doors and back into the form of an eagle to fly back to Nightfall.

“I will leave you to your work Ms. Hallström, but remember that I will return.  And when I do I expect you to have completed your mission.  If not it will be the last one you ever undertake.”

But Astrid didn’t hear a word of Vincent’s threat, she was trying to keep herself from screaming.  When Vincent leaned in next to her, she noticed hers was the only reflection she could see in the mirrored lab tray.

 

 

St. Agatha’s

Standing under the watchful, but now unmovable, eyes of the Blessed Mother, Dashiell confessed that his agnostic beliefs obviously irked the woman he called the virgin martyr so deeply that she retaliated with tears aimed at inducing guilt.  After introducing her uncle to her London friends, Jonatha explained why the Blessed Mother was crying.

“Dashiell first of all the Blessed Mother was shedding tears of joy,” Jonatha began.  “And second even if they weren’t she wouldn’t be trying to make you feel guilty.  She loves you regardless of your beliefs.”

“Is she right Father?” Dashiell asked.

“When dealing with miracles you can never be too sure,” Anthony replied.

“Oh come now,” Dashiell protested.  “You said yourself that you heard stories.  Have you ever heard the one where the Blessed Mother cries at the non-believers?”

Anthony stared at the young man and the same feeling of danger he got when was around Vincent Savage began to engulf him.

“Yes, actually I have heard those tales and quite frankly they don’t have happy endings,” Anthony said.

“You see,” Dashiell said, then added dramatically.  “I am destined to an eternity in hell.”

“Or worse,” Llewellyn said.

“And what is that supposed to mean?” Dashiell said turning to face Llewellyn.

Before Llewellyn could say that he felt Dashiell’s chosen fate, an eternity of roaming the earth by himself, was much worse than battling the pits of hell, Winter spoke.

“People please, can we leave these hallowed grounds already?  It’s a miracle I didn’t die of a heart attack right at Jonatha’s levitating feet, which perhaps would have given the Blessed Mother here something to do other than wrap you in white light and cry over heathens, but I am hungry okay?”

“Really Winter you shouldn’t be disrespectful in the presence of the holy virgin,” Dashiell said.

“Oh come on!  The woman’s got a sense of humor,” Jonatha said.   “She enjoys when Winter makes her laugh.”

“Jonatha, I love you,” Winter said.  “But you are so, so incredibly weird.”

Each person left the chapel a bit differently than when they entered.  They all knew they had experienced something amazing, but they didn’t realize the Blessed Mother’s tears were only a foreshadowing of more devastating events to come.

 

Father and Son

Once again Vincent completed the transformation from eagle to vampire, this time on the balcony of the servant’s quarters.  He went to Adam’s study, but the room was empty.  His schoolbooks were in a pile, unopened, his laptop was not turned on, and the room looked as orderly as it had the day before. Like any father, Vincent did not like when his son lied to him.  Vincent walked through the rest of his home calling out Adam’s name but received no response.

As he walked into the kitchen Vincent heard a cry coming from the narrow strip of beach that leads from his home to Nightwind.  The cries became louder and then stopped abruptly.  Unsure of what to make of the situation, Vincent went outside and was stunned when he saw Adam feeding on another victim.  His face was nuzzled in someone’s neck and he was thrashing the body from side to side so it looked like a rag doll.

“Adam!” Vincent cried.  “I told you to wait for me!”

Startled, Adam raised his distorted face from his victim’s neck and some excess blood gushed from his lips.  He was feasting too fast and was sucking blood so quickly from the body that he couldn’t swallow it fast enough.

“I told you to wait for me,” Vincent said as he walked toward Adam. “Children simply don’t listen!”

But when Vincent got closer to Adam his tone quickly changed for he saw that Adam’s most recent victim was Edwina.

 

Amanda and Joe

A mile away, Amanda and Joe walked along the beach hand in hand.  Amanda wore one of Joe’s old sweaters and held it tightly around her and Joe couldn’t take his eyes off the woman who would finally rescue him from years of emotional solitude.  From now on they would face the world together.

They sat near the edge of the tide, Joe behind Amanda, his strong arms wrapped around her as the wind blew ocean salt in their faces.  She held them tightly and felt safe.  But she wasn’t safe at all.  Several yards away stood a woman who had destroyed Amanda’s past and was poised to ruin her future.  The wind blew through Ondine’s luxurious white hair, lifting it into the air to reveal roots that were so black they were the color of a raven.

Hold Back the Night – Chapter 10

Chapter 10

When Vampires Dream

In the bowels of the servant’s quarters, down a narrow set of wooden stairs, past the wine cellar, along a long, winding passageway, down a spiral stone staircase, lay the crypt that held Vincent and Adam’s coffins.  In past generations it was a room that housed criminals waiting for execution.  Now it housed creatures who performed executions.

The black onyx coffin, the larger of the two, was Vincent’s.  Its surface was smooth and unlined, like its inhabitant’s face, and its frame was strong and virtually indestructible like its inhabitant’s body.  Inside the coffin, Vincent was swathed in deep purple velvet and although he looked as harmless as a corpse in a few hours he would rise again to feed.  Now, however, he would dream.

The sun shone majestically in Vincent’s dreamworld, drenching the landscape in glorious sunlight.  The lush green countryside was in stark contrast to the blue cloudless sky and the few trees that could be seen rose high, their branches wide, and their blossoms exploding in vibrant yellows and pinks.

Vincent lazily strolled by this colorful panorama; his bare feet ecstatic to be touching the sun-kissed grass.  A few yards in front of him a young girl was swinging from a swing suspended from a tree.  Vincent saw her long black hair flowing in the breeze as she swung back and forth, her toes trying, unsuccessfully, to touch the highest blades of grass on each downward swing.  As he got closer he heard her giggling and squealing as she tried to swing higher and higher above the ground.  But when he walked in front of her he could see he had a false view of the girl for her face was nothing more than a rotting corpse with hollowed out holes for eyes, which were the playground for squirming maggots.  Her teeth were few and jagged and dripping with blood and the little flesh that clung to the bones underneath swayed in the wind along with her bouncing curls.

When the girl saw Vincent she smiled and ripped the white lace ribbon from her throat to reveal a neck ravaged by puncture wounds and stained with blood all the while continuing to swing back and forth.  Vincent winced at the sight causing the girl to laugh wildly and swing harder.  He turned from her and ran toward the horizon, but after a few strides, the sunlight was whisked away and replaced with the moon’s glow.  All around him dead branches were falling and the grass underneath his feet turned brown and each blade became dry and as sharp as a dagger.  The starless sky was pitch black and Vincent cold only see a few feet in front of him, but what he did see made him fall to his knees and sob.

It was the same girl from the swing, but she was no longer soaring to reach heaven, now she was watching an animal burrow to reach hell.  Her face was very close to the ground and her hands were frantically clawing at the dead, dried earth to help the creature.  But as Vincent got even closer he realized it wasn’t the earth that was being devoured, it was he.

He saw his lifeless body stretched out on the dirt and the hideous animal sucking the blood from his neck while the raven-haired girl watched the scene with a powerful lust not befitting a child.  Standing over his body he watched the girl watch him as the fiend continued to feast on him until it had quenched its hunger and he sat up.  He saw the thing was a vampire, its face grotesque, its fangs till dripping with his blood.  The raven-haired girl then brushed a droplet of blood that remained on the vampire’s lips with her finger and licked it with her curious tongue.  When she spoke it was with the voice of an adult.

“This is your blood which has been given up for me.”

The raven-haired girl then offered her bloodstained finger to Vincent.  “I hope you enjoy the taste,” she said.  “From now on it’s all you’ll ever know.”

Inside the coffin Vincent’s eyes fluttered and his hands shook.  Even vampires could have nightmares.

 

Adam

Adam’s coffin was actually Vincent’s original coffin, which he had used until Adam entered the final stage of crossing over to the Golden Life and could no longer appear in sunlight without bursting into flames and becoming ash.  The interior was white satin, a bit traditional by vampire standards, but exquisite nonetheless.  On the exterior of the coffin’s lid was a delicate carving of an ankh, which symbolized eternal life.  As a mortal child, Adam recalled tracing the ankh with a curious finger while his father rested underneath.  The magic of eternity lured him to the Golden Life, but now that he was on the threshold that magic had lost some of its allure.

In his dream he was running blindly through the jungle drenched in sweat, covered in dirt and bruises and completely naked.  Blood trickled down his legs and arms from cuts that were endured from stumbling over rocks and falling into thorny bushes in an attempt to escape the predator who pursued him.

In the darkness that engulfed him he heard screams and desperate pleas for help.  His feet pounded the earth until he reached a clearing that led to a cliff.  When he peered over the edge he saw water far, far below.  In the distance he heard his name called and turned to see Vincent’s distorted face, his fangs bared and his eyes glistening.  As Vincent moved closer to Adam intent on consuming the young man’s blood, Adam impulsively jumped off the cliff.  During his descent screams, his and those from unknown voices, echoed loudly in his head and continued after he broke through the water’s surface with a violent noise.

He felt the cool liquid rinse the dirt, sweat, and blood from his body.  He felt purified and soon the heartwrenching screams subsided to be replaced by a woman’s gentle, though, saddened voice.

“Joey,” she said, “Please come back to me.”

Adam remembered that was the name Winter called him.  He still didn’t know who Joey was, but he knew this woman was speaking to him.  Deep within his dream, he prayed that someday she would return to him.

 

St. Agatha’s

The mid-day sun shone brightly through the windows of St. Agatha’s café and directly into Dashiell’s eyes.  He squinted more than was necessary because in his quasi-preternatural state, the sun was beginning to affect him harshly.  Winter and Jonatha considered it simply another British affectation, but Llewellyn knew it meant Dashiell was getting closer to crossing over completely to the Golden Life.

Although he truly wanted to take another bite of his hamburger—for in a few days, food would be yet another memory of his stint as a mortal—Dashiell knew that Winter was waiting for an answer.  He had rehearsed this initial meeting several times in his head and thought he was prepared for any outcome, he hadn’t expected Winter to be so confrontational.

“What did you say, Winter?” Dashiell said.  His squinting eyes making his statement sound even more evasive than it already was.

“I’m sure you heard me the first time,” Winter said.  “What do you and Lew really want from us?

“I think I can speak for Llewellyn,” Dashiell said, “when I say that we are smitten with you both and would like to get to know you better.”

“We could have gotten chummy by emailing each other,” Winter said, wondering if the others noticed her blank stare and if they were accepting her mean-spiritedness as an offshoot of her blunt nature.

“Not only would that be impossible since I don’t own a computer,” Dashiell said, “But it’s also quite impersonal.”

“But the British do impersonal so well,” Winter replied.

“Winter!  Have you been taping PBS instead of MTV?” Jonatha asked in an attempt to soften Winter’s brusque comments.

For the next ten minutes, Winter heard Dashiell explain that he and Llewellyn had always wanted to see this part of the world and took it as fate that they met such friendly, and he just had to say it, beautiful, girls who lived where they dreamed of visiting.  While her ego was stroked, the raven-haired woman’s eyebrows were raised, and Winter’s mind was divided into equal parts flattery and cynicism.  She couldn’t believe her confusion was not apparent.

Jonatha, in contrast, was completely enthralled.  The more Jonatha heard Dashiell talk about how he and his friend only wanted to get to know them, the more she liked this young man.  He was different, bold and off-putting and he was a welcome change to the usual boys she met.  He made her think of Adam Savage, but where Adam was shy and reclusive, Dashiell was outgoing and invasive.  She surprised herself by discovering that she preferred the latter.

Her preference was not lost on Llewellyn who listened to the man he loved flirt with this dangerous girl.  Insecure by nature, Llewellyn felt threatened by Jonatha’s alluring simplicity.  He also feared that once Dashiell understood what powers Jonatha possessed, his role in Dashiell’s life would become less important.  That thought was as far from the truth than heaven is to hell, but it would take time for Llewellyn to believe that.

Unable to keep the raven-haired woman’s voice silent any longer, Winter heard herself say: “So Llewellyn, how long have you been in love with Dashiell?”

 

Nightwind

The white dove fluttered its wings and hovered directly in front of Amanda before it flew away and out of her line of vision.  She read the letter, which she had already committed to memory, once more before racing back inside Nightwind.

“Mom! Mom!” Amanda cried as she ran up the stairs to her mother’s bedroom.

Madeline stirred and quietly asked why Amanda was so excited.

“Read this,” was Amanda’s only response.

Madeline read the few words on the card and was not prepared for their impact.  She covered her mouth with her hand to stop her cry, but she couldn’t stop her tears from falling.  For the first time in years, Madeline decided to embrace her emotions instead of covering them up with an air of apathy.

“Oh Amanda, how will we last until next week?” Madeline said as she threw her arms around her daughter, never letting go of the letter.

“Do you realize next Friday is your 60th birthday party?” Amanda said.

“Will we really be so lucky to receive such a gift?” Madeline asked.

“I have to believe we will,” Amanda replied.

Suddenly Amanda pulled away from her mother and turned so she was looking out the window.  Madeline could tell by Amanda’s shaking shoulders that she was crying even harder and she looked away to allow her a private moment.

“What if he doesn’t like me?” Amanda asked quietly.

“The moment Joey looks into your eyes he’ll remember you and he won’t be able to resist your love.”

“But what if it’s been too long,” Amanda said.  “Maybe he thinks I abandoned him.”

“No child could believe his mother voluntarily abandoned him.”

“Mother I’m scared.  Maybe whoever took him has poisoned his mind against me.”

“Stop it!” Madeline snapped.  “Don’t turn this moment of joy into one of pain.”

“After so many years of dreaming, I’m not sure I’ll know what to do when I do see my son again.”

Amanda turned from her mother and held onto the window frame for support.  Her greatest fears had surfaced, that she would be reunited with Joey only for him to refuse to allow her back into his life.  Madeline grabbed Amanda by the shoulders and turned her so they were face to face.

“When you finally see your precious child again, you look him straight in the eye and you tell him you love him.  And if he doesn’t believe you, you tell him again.  And again.  And again!  Until he understands that you have prayed for his safe return every day since he was taken from you.”

No more words were necessary, so the women just held each other and cried.  When there were no more tears to shed, Madeline spoke: “Now I think it’s time you told Joe about his son.”

Amanda didn’t need any further encouragement.  Taking the note from her mother, she ran to her car.  Seconds after hearing Amanda’s car drive away, the doorbell rang.  The house free of servants, Madeline walked down the stairs to open the door.  The last person she expected to see was Ondine Chauvelin.

 

Father and Daughter

Edwina saw that her Father was becoming more apoplectic than usual and so she decided to diffuse this emotional time bomb before she had to deal with the delicate process of picking up the pieces.

“Daddy, it’s done, I’m working for Vincent,” Edwina explained, “so please untwist whatever’s gotten twisted inside your complicated little head and move on to situations you can control.”

Perry stared at his Daughter and realized he had two very simple choices.  He could either tell her that Vincent is a vampire and is committed to destroying this family if Perry and his lab team cannot adhere to his demands, or he could allow her to work alongside the fiend and suffer whatever consequences might come her way.  Perry took less than three seconds to choose.

“Fine, have it your way,” Perry said, visibly relieved.  “But don’t blame me when it all blows up in your face.”

“Always the pessimist, Daddy,” Edwina said.  “I’m going to love working by the Savage Man.  I mean he’s tall, dark, extremely handsome.  Did I mention he’s tall?”

“Enough!” Perry cried.  “If you want to play with fire, I don’t want to hear about it.”

“I really, really do not like the tone you are taking with me lately,” Edwina said, peevishly.  “I have been in a terrible car accident, my husband has all but remarried my sister, and now you’re trying to keep me from the one person who I find remotely titillating in this entire sleepy hollow.  It’s just not fair.”

“You want to know what’s not fair?” Perry said.  “I’m planning a gala 60th birthday party for your mother and I’m the last person she wants to celebrate with.”

Edwina scowled at the mention of her parent’s frigid marriage partially because she knew it was the truth, but mainly because it reminded her of her own marriage bed.

“Mother is too New England to want to celebrate with anyone.”

“Don’t be flip.  She may not enjoy my company, but she is the only woman I have ever loved.”

Unable to maintain the depth of the conversation any longer, Edwina gathered her jacket and bag and began to make her exit.

“Well once again Daddy, you’ve managed to make our conversation all about you,” Edwina said.  “And that bores me, so I’m leaving.”

Edwina closed the door and paused for a moment because she was consumed with an unfamiliar feeling.  It was guilt.

 

St. Agatha’s

“Winter! Now you’re being downright rude,” Jonatha cried.

“That really is an unfair accusation,” Dashiell said.

Only Llewellyn was amused by the comment and thought Winter was obviously more intuitive and forthright than he first assumed.  He wanted to answer her question with “the first time I caught his blue eyes watching me,” but remembering their covert mission, he concocted a lie.

“Dash is my closest mate and I love him like a brother,” Llewellyn began, “but not in the way you’re suggesting.  But don’t feel bad Winter, many others have mistaken my refined manner and clipped accent as homosexual traits.  I assure you, however, that while I may not be as manly as, say Rupert Everett, I am all man.”

“Rupert Everett is gay!” Winter said, sounding a lot more like herself.

“That was my manly attempt at a joke,” Llewellyn said.

“You should stick to being the silent, skinny type,” Jonatha said, completely expecting to hear laughter.  “Oh come on, that was a little funny!”

Following that comment both men laughed and were soon joined by Winter.  No one knew that Winter was laughing not because she thought Jonatha’s comment deserved such a response, but because she finally heard the voice in her head say, “You children are worthless to me.  It’s time for me to go.” Winter was free, she wasn’t sure for how long, but for the moment she was free.

“Let me make up for my bitchfest with a tour of the square,” Winter declared more than asked and left the café before anyone could decline her offer.

 

Nightwind

It was as if Madeline fell through a portal in time and landed in 1956.  Her expression was a combination of surprise and delight as she welcomed the woman she once considered a dear friend into her home.

“Ondine Chauvelin?” Madeline said in disbelief.

“In the flesh,” Ondine replied.  “And the mink, and the diamonds.”

“You’ve climbed a bit higher on the social ladder than most nurses ever do,” Madeline remarked.

“I left nursing and the care of all humankind behind me when I left Nightfall all those years ago,” Ondine replied.

“So what on earth are you doing back here,” Madeline asked as she ushered Ondine into the kitchen.  While waiting for a reply she began to make coffee and search the refrigerator and cupboards for any food suitable to serve to an unexpected guest finally settling on cheddar cheese, crackers, and grapes.

“I’m visiting a dear friend,” Ondine said, “Vincent Savage, who lives on your estate.”

“How appropriate,” Madeline said.  “You’re both so . . . different.”

“And you are as pleasant as ever,” Ondine said.  “I see that you did indeed became Mrs. Perry Love.  Though I guess there never was a reason for doubt.”

“Not on my part,” Madeline said.

“Or Perry’s I’m sure.  You were Snow King and Queen after all.”

“Oh my, you have some memory,” Madeline remarked.  “I haven’t thought about that in years.”

“Christmas Eve, nearly forty years ago.”

“The night you left town?” Madeline asked.

For the second time in very recent memory Ondine relived the accident and the incident that provoked her to leave Nightfall so abruptly.

“Family emergency back in France forced me to leave on Christmas day,” Ondine announced, popping a grape through lips dramatically overdrawn with dark red matte lipstick.

“I thought you were an orphan?” Madeline asked.

 

Father and Son

Vincent always rose earlier than his son and unless he had pressing business to take care of, he would wait for him in the back room with the large bay window that overlooked the ocean.  Today it took Adam longer than usual to greet him and Vincent wondered if his son found the night reluctant to embrace or just the confines of his coffin too  comfortable to leave.

“I thought you weren’t going to come to me,” Vincent said when Adam finally entered the room.

“I always join you, don’t I?” Adam replied.

“Yes you do.”

“Father?”

“Yes,” Vincent said.

“Can we hunt elsewhere tonight?”  Adam asked.

“Of course,” Vincent replied.  “The world is our hunting ground.  But why? Are you unhappy with Nightfall’s offerings?”

Adam watched the crashing waves intently and realized he had always been drawn to water.

“When will you tell me about my heritage?”

“Very soon you will know why we are here and who you are,” Vincent said.  “But I must remind you that regardless of what you learn, the Golden Life is your destiny.”

“I know.  You’ve told me many times before.”

Vincent noticed a slight edge in Adam’s voice and it was one of the few things, besides the sun’s cruelty that alarmed him.  Vincent had dreamed of returning Adam to his birthplace ever since he rescued the boy 15 years ago with the help of the raven-haired woman.  Without that demon’s assistance he would never have been able to claim what was rightfully his and exact revenge on the mortal who so effortlessly cast aside his own life years earlier.  Vincent shook those thoughts from his mind and convinced himself that Adam’s reunion with his family would be a memorable event for all involved.

“Where else would you prefer to hunt?” Vincent asked.

“Anywhere but here,” Adam replied.  “Practically speaking it’s for the best.  Too may deaths in a small town create suspicion.”

“Son, you must never concern yourself with mortal thoughts,” Vincent said.  “You are no longer one of them, you belong to a superior order.”

“Just because we’re superior, we shouldn’t disregard their feelings.”

“When you’re as close to God as we are,” Vincent said, “mortal feelings have no consequence.”

Vincent looked at his son with admiration.  Years ago when Vincent began his process of crossing over, he too was filled with doubt and questions about the mortals he was leaving behind.  He knew Adam’s questions would soon give way to an understanding of who he was and where he stood in life’s order.  He was now part of a privileged echelon that only a select few could join.  But enough of philosophical matters, he thought to himself, he was hungry.

“We can travel to Canada in minutes to hunt,” Vincent advised, “or if you prefer a warmer clime, Florida is within easy reach.”

Just then the doorbell rang and a familiar voice pierced through the door.

“Vincent,” Edwina cried.  “I’ve come to be swept off my feet again!”

Vincent bared his fangs as he grinned at Adam, “Or we could simply dine-in tonight.”

 

Nightwind

Although Ondine’s face remained calm and stoic, her mind was racing.  She was being careless and her inconsistencies were guaranteed to complicate matters.  Forcing herself to focus on Madeline and her obviously superior powers of recollection, Ondine managed to salvage some dignity.

“The orphanage I lived at in Lyon found my mother and organized a Christmas reunion,” Ondine lied.

“That’s remarkable,” Madeline replied warily.

“I know,” Ondine replied.  “I thought it best to leave Nightfall as quickly as I had arrived.”

During their conversation, Madeline marveled at how similar Ondine looked and yet how different.  Her hair was pure white, but as thick as always, her skin was unblemished, and she still possessed the same grace and ethereal quality that made her such an exotic creature to the people of Nightfall, one that they wanted to exhibit and protect at the same time.  But Madeline also noticed that on several occasions Ondine’s eyes glazed over and her voice trailed off in mid sentence as if her mind was too full or too empty.  At this point in their reunion Madeline couldn’t tell which.

Madeline watched Ondine take yet another piece of cheese and wondered how much longer she would stay.  This woman, whom Madeline hadn’t thought of in decades, was becoming increasingly odd, and her visit an inconvenience.  Madeline was finding it difficult to sound conversational and interested.

“So how do you know Vincent?” Madeline asked.

“We’re former lovers,” Ondine replied, nonchalantly.

“Well that’s very honest.”

“I forget I’m not in Europe and that Americans are so easily shocked.”

“Europeans shock just as easily,” Madeline retorted, “you’ve just learned to hide it better.”

Ondine told the tale of how she first met Vincent riding the Orient Express from Paris to Bucharest in the middle of a storm-ravaged night.  She had just walked out on a much younger Italian lover, or was he Greek?  Ondine couldn’t recall except that he was swarthy.  Vincent, she said, was traveling along claiming to be doing some academic research, but added that she could tell he was nursing a broken heart that she helped heal, at least for several hundred miles while on the train.

“There truly is nothing like making love to a handsome stranger while the Swiss Alps and lightning swoosh by your window,” Ondine said.

By this point in the conversation, Madeline was growing bored of Ondine’s grand memories and had no desire to learn more about the desires that burned, and perhaps still, burn within Ondine and Vincent’s hearts.  But Ondine was a guest and Madeline was a proper hostess so she would have to endure the Euro-babbling a while longer.

Ondine waxed on about how Vincent and she kept meeting each other in the most obscure locales, like Madagascar, Jakarta, Seattle.  They had a bohemian romance and it suited them both perfectly although Ondine said that she didn’t expect a long married matriarch like Madeline to understand such a passionate, carefree relationship.  It was at that moment that Madeline remembered why she didn’t mourn Ondine’s disappearance from Nightfall for very long.  While the Frenchwoman was eccentric, she was exhausting.

Just when Madeline was about to concoct a lie that involved her need to prepare for a Love Foundation meeting, she heard the front door and realized Perry was home.  It was the first time in a long while that Madeline smiled when her husband returned home, but she was thrilled that she would soon be relieved as sole member of Ondine’s audience.  So thrilled that she didn’t notice Ondine’s demeanor change.  Ondine had also heard the door and was hoping it would be her other ex-lover who resided in Nightfall.  When Perry entered the kitchen, both women said at the same time, “Perry, it’s so good to see you.”  In response, Perry fainted and fell face down on the kitchen floor.

Looking at her husband who was obviously shocked by Ondine’s presence, Madeline remarked: “I stand corrected.”

 

St. Agatha’s

Tightening his scarf around his neck as he entered the church, Dashiell tried to stiffen his body to conceal the shivers that coursed through his soon-to-be-bloodless veins.  He thought they were just signs that the crossover date to the Golden Life was getting nearer, or simply that the sun had dipped passed the horizon, but then he noticed the statue of the Blessed Mother.  Before he could move away from the structure, Jonatha took this opportunity to claim the tour guide reins from Winter and teach them about this section of St. Agatha’s church.

“According to legend, or rumor, whichever one you prefer, this statue of the Blessed Mother was built to honor the tragic death of three prominent citizens of Nightfall,” Jonatha explained.  “Amelia and James Lowell and their infant son.”

“Supposedly they were found dead in Serenity Pond,” Winter added, “all tangled up in each other.”

“How did they die?” asked Llewellyn.

“Tragically,” Winter replied.  “How else do legendary people die?”

Jonatha smiled at Winter’s remark, thankful that her half-sister was once again her irreverent self.

“Actually, they died under mysterious circumstances,” Jonatha said.  “No one really knows how.”

“But why the Blessed Mother?” Dashiell asked.

“Because she’s a symbol of hope,” Jonatha said.  “And when you’re faced with tragedy what else do you have?”

The teenagers pondered Jonatha’s remark, each aware that in their short lifetime they had been visited by tragedy many times and relied on hope to survive.

“Let me show you the altar, it’s the oldest one in New England.”

Reluctantly, Dashiell followed the others into the church.  When he stood near the small, stone altar his temperature dropped several degrees, even as his skin grew hot from the glow of the candle flames.  The only light from the room emanated from the bevy of candles.  Llewellyn saw Dash grow physically uncomfortable and understood that the holiness of this room, and not the heat, was the cause.  He had no idea that it would also be the cause of something unspeakable.

As she did every time she came to the chapel, Jonatha was transfixed by the statue of the Blessed Mother, which was larger and more realistic than the one that graced the entranceway.  To Jonatha, it just represented overwhelming beauty.  Winter too was clearly affected being in the statue’s presence and stared at the icon more intently than she ever had before.  She silently prayed to it that she and her family would remain safe from the woman who invaded her mind.  But it was Dashiell who had the most severe reaction.

Unable to look away from the Blessed Mother, he gaped into her shimmering blue

eyes and began to shake.  Llewellyn tried to hold him still, but Dashiell violently pushed him away, making Llewellyn topple into some iron candelabras.  Sweat poured from Dashiell’s brow as tears flowed down the Blessed Mother’s porcelain face.  Then the statue’s tear-stained eyes released their grip on Dashiell and turned to meet Jonatha’s.  Unblinking, Jonatha maintained the gaze and felt a cool breeze stir through her soul

and a warm hand gently stroke her heart.  The others felt only fear as they saw Jonatha surrounded in a blazing white light levitate several inches above the ground.

 

Father, Son, and Edwina

Entering the room like a force of nature, Edwina concentrated on being a swirl of femininity and had no idea she was about to become a feast.

“Well first let’s take care of professional business,” Edwina announced as she sat on Vincent’s couch, not adjusting her skirt when it rose up her thigh, a few inches higher than what was considered respectable.  “My Father has asked me to offer my services to you as your personal assistant.”

“How generous of Perry,” Vincent remarked.

“And now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to concentrate on personal business,” Edwina said.  “After last night’s escapade I couldn’t resist coming back for more.”

“I’m glad you did,” Vincent replied.  “Do you know my son Adam?”

For the first time Edwina noticed Adam, who was lurking near the window on the far side of the room.  Instead of being startled or embarrassed, Edwina eyed the teenager from head to toe, her lips forming an unconscious snarl as she imagined Adam’s youthful, muscular, and hairless body naked and writhing on top, underneath, and alongside her.

“Well, Adam after my remarks you must think I’m that type of woman,” Edwina purred.  “I am.”

Edwina’s blood gave off a sweet scent like fragrant lilies that Adam was finding hard to resist especially so close to his feeding time.  Edwina was staring at the rising bulge in Adam’s tight fitting Helmut Lang jeans and didn’t catch his anxious glances to Vincent.

Vincent understood that Adam’s near uncontrollable hunger and inexperience would cause him to devour Edwina instead of simply feasting on her, so he decided to play the role of teacher.

“Son,” Vincent said, “this is how it’s done.”

Slowly, Vincent walked toward Edwina and put his massive hands on her shoulders.  Her mind raced with a collage of erotic images featuring her and the two men in the room, but then her eyes met Adam’s lustful glare and she thought she saw the skin of his brow change into something inhuman.  She closed her eyes, but before she could open them, her knees grew extremely weak and she felt herself swoon into Vincent’s arms.

Vincent bent his head to meet Edwina and pierced the flesh of her neck in the same place he did the night before, sucking her blood slowly in long, languorous intakes.  He released his fangs and laid Edwina on the rug and beckoned Adam to join them.  Before Adam plunged into Edwina, Vincent grabbed his shoulder and warned him.

“Gently,” Vincent said, “she is our special host and we will feed off her whenever we wish.”

“Won’t she remember?”

“She’ll remember the ecstasy and nothing more,” Vincent said.  “Be mindful to take only what will whet your appetite.  Later, we will make a full hunt on another, less fortunate prey.”

Before he fed, Adam asked: “But why use her?”

“Each day her body will replenish itself with fresh blood.  And each day we can feast on its purity.”

Adam bent down and looked at this mortal.  He hesitated a moment and then reared his fangs into her flesh, the new blood flowing into his eager mouth.  He was overcome with its flavor, so pure, so rare, and he struggled not to suck every drop of it from Edwina.  Vincent touched Adam’s shoulder indicating that his feast must come to an end and the younger Savage lifted his head to meet his father’s approving gaze.

“Thank you Father.”

Hold Back the Night – Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Midnight in Nightfall

It was pitch black in Edwina’s house when she finally walked through her front door.  Twenty minutes earlier she awakened to find herself lying on Vincent Savage’s couch.  She couldn’t remember if Vincent was in the room or if it was just his lingering spirit that made her spine take notice.  Trancelike, Edwina collected what was left of her senses and left the house.  How she wound up safely in her own home was just another memory she would never possess.

Although she was once again in the familiar surroundings of her home, she wandered from room to room as if she had never been there before.  She traced the fabric of the tangerine taffeta curtains that hung in her living room with curious fingers and then caressed the maple sofa table, admiring its smooth texture.  All the while Edwina breathed in the fragrance of the hydrangea that sprang forth from the etched crystal vase, which sat on the matching maple cocktail table in the center of the room.  Although her body was lifeless, her senses were revitalized and accepted and acknowledged every form of energy in the house.

Edwina explored the newness of her home until she could not stay awake a moment more.  Stumbling into her empty bed, it took mere seconds for her dreams to begin.  Her eyelids fluttered as the landscape of her dream became a dark red river in which Edwina was swimming.  Soon she stopped all movement and allowed the red water to carry her downstream until she reached land and Vincent Savage’s waiting arms.  Meekly, or as meek as Edwina could become even in dreamland, she glanced at the stranger’s face, then closed her eyes to accept his hungry kisses and let his large, powerful hands travel, roughly, down her red-stained body.  But when she opened her eyes in her dream she wasn’t staring at Vincent’s smooth face, but at Joe’s rugged features.

Startled, then hopeful, she began to search Joe’s eyes for a flicker of love or at least compassion and found only emptiness.  Her response, less startled, and more hopeless, was to become wildly angry.  She pulled him closer to her and kissed him aggressively, using her tongue to force his mouth open.  Simultaneously, she ground her pelvis into his crotch with desperate thrusts.  While Joe didn’t pull away, he didn’t participate.  Even in her dream state, Edwina realized that she would have to recall a happier time if she wanted this encounter to be fulfilling and willed her memory to travel back to the time she and Joe shared in Mykonos when they first made love and conceived Jonatha.  She remembered how his bare wet skin felt against her sun-soaked flesh.  She could hear the waves crashing furiously in her ear as if they wanted deliberately to hurt the beach.  And she felt Joe’s awkward and tentative touch turn more confident and dangerous as they both realized they were not just exploring a moment, but creating a relationship that would alter their lives forever.  She felt the surprise of Joe’s first kiss and how the shock of it spread throughout her body.  And then the memory stopped.

Again she tried to remember making love to Joe, but she could not get beyond the point of their first kiss no matter how hard she tried.  She reflected soberly that her present life with Joe was being taken from her and now her past life with him was being robbed as well.  It was more than a narcissistic, spoiled heiress could take.

“Get out!” Edwina cried to Joe in her dream.  “If you don’t want to be a part of my life Joe, then get the hell out!”

 

Edwina’s Husband

Three doors away in the Lassiter guest room, Joe tossed the down comforter off his body and rolled over once again in an attempt to rid his mind of the dreams that currently plagued him.  He was dreaming of Edwina.  Specifically, he was dreaming of the time he was in Mykonos searching for a con man who had escaped Nightfall after swindling several of the older female residents out of their life savings.  Joe’s superiors thought that sending him in pursuit of a criminal against the steamy backdrop of island beauty would help detangle Joe’s mind which had become too complex and preoccupied for a police officer’s good.  Joe accepted the assignment not because it would help him forget his son, but it would help him ignore the problems brewing between he and Amanda.

In his unconscious mind, Joe was now on the white sandy beaches of the Greek city, the day after her caught con man, Reggie Smythe, and only two days after arriving in the sun-kissed isle.  It was also the day Edwina arrived on its shores.

On the beach, Joe turned around and the sun’s glare made him squint so he could see that Edwina was standing in front of him in a white crocheted bikini that skillfully accented her olive complexion and auburn hair.  Backlit by an extraordinary sunset, Edwina looked inviting.  Joe remembered her awkward explanation about how useless she felt back home and how she knew Joe was only using this assignment as an excuse to run from the immense hurt he must be feeling over the loss of his son.  She said all the right things to him on that beach, all the things Amanda had failed to say to him.  He thought Edwina, unlike Amanda, understood that he too was in pain and needed comforting.  She also took her understanding a step further, and leant Joe a sympathetic hand.

They walked along the beach, close to each other, and spoke quietly about Joey’s disappearance and how ambivalent Joe was about his future because of it.  He wasn’t sure he could go on or even if he wanted to.  Yes he had a wife and daughter, but if he couldn’t protect his own son, what use was he for any other member of his family.  For the first time he admitted that he was a broken man.  Edwina had no verbal response, she just let her hand find his.

Joe rolled over again in his bed because even in a dream state he knew betrayal was only moments away.  He remembered that they had walked so far the flat beach had grown smaller and a few feet in the distance were dunes.  Unsure of which direction to take, Joe broke from Edwina’s grasp and ran into the ocean, hoping the cold water would revitalize him and reintroduce him to his morals.  Unfortunately, the shock of the water didn’t work, it only made him feel more alive and more aroused.

Edwina followed Joe into the water and swam to him.  They floated side by side holding hands until Joe abruptly let go of her and ran out of the ocean.  He ran in the direction of the dunes and like a rocket with a predetermined course, Edwina ran behind.  She found him leaning against the wall of a large sand dune, his head in his hands, and she heard the distinctive sound of crying.  Then, Joe felt Edwina’s touch and he let out a moan.  His moans of pain, however, quickly turned into sighs of desire as his lips pressed against Edwina’s sweet mouth for the first time.  They never mentioned Amanda, but her spirit was so thick around them it was suffocating.  They both fought to drive the image of Amanda from their minds and by the powerful stirring in Joe’s loins he knew he was

succeeding.

In his guest bed, Joe was sweating as he always did when he recalled his first liaison with Edwina, but this time was different: he was going to allow himself to remember the first time they made love.  It was almost as if Joe’s subconscious mind was punishing him with the memory of his first dalliance.  Clutching the bed sheets Joe tried to prepare himself for the agony he was about to endure, but it never came.  After Joe dreamt of kissing Edwina, his mind went blank and just the repetitiveness of the crashing waves continued.  On so many occasions, Joe had begged God to erase that event from his memory and it seems that God had finally listened.

 

Edwina’s Sister

Exhausted from her disturbing day, Amanda slept quietly in her cherry wood four poster bed.  It was the bed that belonged to her grandmother, Priscilla, and usually gave Amanda a peaceful sleep.  Tonight peace would not be offered.

She was breathing softly as she dreamt of being pregnant with her son, Joey.  Even as an unborn child, Joey brought Amanda incredible promise.  Conceiving a child together had been Amanda and Joe’s main desire and now that passion was being fulfilled.  As the months passed during her pregnancy, Amanda radiated joy at the prospect of strengthening her bond with Joe, a bond that she already considered indestructible.  Those were halcyon days filled with smiles and unexpected kisses and stolen glances.  Those were the days when Amanda fell in love with her husband all over again.

Her dream suddenly shifted from the days of her first pregnancy to the present days of her latest, and much more complicated, pregnancy.  Alone she envisioned herself walking near Serenity Pond, which had always been a source of peacefulness for her.  She submerged her bare feet beneath the pond’s calm, cool surface and hummed softly to the child she was carrying.  Tracing lazy circles on her swollen stomach with her fingers Amanda didn’t notice the darkness creep in until she saw a woman standing before her.

Amanda immediately sensed danger and instinctively felt the urge to protect her unborn.  She stood up to look the strange woman in the eye and, although she was frightened, she couldn’t help but acknowledge the woman’s incredible beauty and the fact that her raven-colored hair almost touched the earth.  Amanda looked into the woman’s black eyes and wanted to run, but was unable to.

Mesmerized, Amanda watched the raven-haired woman in her dream levitate a few inches above the ground and hold her right hand up to the sky.  The next images of action in her dream flew by so quickly, Amanda couldn’t see clearly what was happening.  She heard laughter, screams, and another sound that made Amanda, now drenched in sweat, sit up in her bed and question her sanity.  She heard the sound of a baby crying and then a whispered “Thank you.”

 

Nightwind – The Next Morning

Breakfast at Nightwind is not a formal affair.  However, judging by the tense silence that held Amanda, Perry, and Madeline captive no one would believe that they had ever been jocular, or even, casual with one another.  Perry kept his eyes focused on his plate with such conviction, Madeline was convinced his eggs benedict were about to prophecize.  She couldn’t wait for him to leave the room so she could be alone with Amanda and after a few more bites, Perry put down his knife and fork, rose from the table, nodded to his wife and daughter (who were not looking at him), and left the room.  It was the cue Madeline was waiting for.

“You don’t look well, Amanda,” Madeline said.  “How do you feel?”

“I’m fine, mom,” she replied.  “Just very tired.”

“You had a restless night?”

“How could I not?” Amanda asked.  “I’m going to see another doctor.”

“That’s wise,” Madeline said.  “If it will make you feel better.”

“You think I’m lying about this pregnancy, don’t you?” Amanda said.

“I think you would like this pregnancy to go away,” Madeline replied.

“You have to believe me,” Amanda implored.  “There is no way that I could be four months pregnant.”

“I know about you and Joe,” Madeline said quietly.

After a pause, Amanda said: “That was very recently.  Even if it did result in my becoming pregnant, I would only be a few weeks along, not four months.”

“So it’s true!” Winter cried.  “You have been sleeping with Daddy!”

Once again Winter slid into a room, and the conversation, effortlessly and wasn’t noticed by the adults until it was too late.

“No!” Amanda replied.  “Let me explain.”

“It’s a simple question,” Winter responded.  “Yes or no.”

Like most adults who find themselves without an alternative plan when confronted by their child’s difficult questions, Amanda chose to speak the truth.

“Yes.”

“You don’t want to stay in town because of me or that baby you’re carrying,” Winter said.  “You can’t stand to be away from Daddy!”

The tears flowing from Winter’s eyes blurred her vision so that she could barely see in front of her.  She ran blindly through the house not knowing where she wanted to go, but knowing that she didn’t feel safe in the place she called home any longer.  Amanda watched her daughter run from her, aware that once again her actions had caused Winter immense pain.  She remained frozen, unable to run after Winter, until she heard her mother’s harsh command:  “Go after her Amanda!”

“Why?” Amanda quietly replied.  “She doesn’t want me.”

“She’s your child.  Tell her you love her, that’s all she wants to hear.”

Her mother’s words jolted Amanda to action and she realized she couldn’t ignore Winter’s feelings any longer.  That is, if she wanted to maintain any type of healthy relationship with her daughter.  Amanda ran from the room and turned into the main entranceway just in time to see Winter smash a photograph of Amanda, Joe, and Joey against the glass etierge on the other side of the room.  Glass splattered and skidded all over the polished wood floors, a few pieces scurrying past Amanda’s feet.

Winter saw Amanda and screamed, “Leave me alone!” before running outside.  But before she hit the bottom step of Nightwind’s external stairway, Amanda cried out to her.

“Don’t run away from me!”

“Why?” Winter said turning to look up at her mother who stood on the top step.  “You act like I’m not even here anyway.”

“I’m sorry, Winter.  Please listen to me.”

“I’m tired of your lies, that’s all I ever hear from you.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Amanda replied descending a few steps.  “I’m always trying to protect you, but I only end up pushing you aside.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about the letter?” Winter asked.  “He’s my brother.”

“I didn’t want to raise everyone’s hopes.  And I knew I wouldn’t be able to deal with everyone’s pity if it didn’t come true.”

“You’re not the only one who’s suffered mom,” Winter said climbing a few steps closer to Amanda.

“You’re right.  But you have no idea what it’s like to have a child taken from you.  For 15 years I have lived with an emptiness that threatens to overwhelm me.  An emptiness that has prevented me from embracing you.  I’m sorry Winter.  I know I haven’t shown you the kind of love a child deserves to be shown.”

The morning wind ripped through the space between Winter and Amanda as the two stared into each other’s eyes.  They both understood their next words and actions would either further destroy or begin to sever their already tattered relationship and even though only ten steps separated them it felt like they had miles to go to reach each other.

“And do you have any idea what it’s like to know I can never satisfy you?” Winter tentatively began.  “I know that only Joey can do that.  Nothing I ever do can be good enough.”

“I never meant for it to turn out like this.   And I never meant to sleep with your father again.  We were lonely and we needed each other.”

“What about Aunt Edwina?”

“I’m sure my sister already knows about us.  But that’s our problem.  You should just think about being reunited with your brother.”

“It scares me to think that might happen.”

“It scares me too,” Amanda admitted.  “But it’s what I’ve dreamed about all these years.”

“Me too, but I’ve been too selfish to admit it.”

“You haven’t been selfish . . .”

“Yes I have.  I know I’ve done some hurtful things.”

“You haven’t done or said anything that I didn’t deserve.  I only hope you can forgive me.”

“I love you mom,” Winter said as she moved in to be on the same step as Amanda.  “No matter what I may ever say or do, I love you.”

Winter and Amanda hugged, awkwardly at first and then warmly.  Years of conflict and misunderstood emotions started to peel away from them them.  Amanda watched Winter go back into the house and sat down on the steps to contemplate her morning, which had gotten off to a complicated, but positive, start.  As Winter turned to look at her mother once more, she suddenly realized she was no longer in control of her body.  From somewhere within her mind she heard the raven-haired woman say, “That’s right Winter, get closer to your mother.  It will be so much easier for me to destroy her that way.”

 

Perry’s Office

From behind the large oak desk in his office, Perry shouted furiously into his phone, pausing only when Nadine, his assistant, Noelle’s assistant, entered the room to place a manila envelope on his desk.  Nadine’s presence made Perry pause, not because her size siz figure was shimmied into a size two dress, but because it reminded him of the reason for Noelle’s absence: the death of her fiancée, David Anderson.  Noelle, and Nightfall, recently heard of David’s death from an as of yet unknown reason, and she was in mourning.  Perry, alone, however, knew of the reason.  When Nadine closed the door behind her, Perry resumed shouting into the phone.

“Don’t you understand what’s at stake here?” Perry yelled.  “If you can’t meet Vincent’s deadline, I don’t have to tell you what he’ll do.”

On the other end of the line, Perry’s lead scientist, Astrid Hallström, remained as calm as she could as she listened to Perry’s tirade from her secluded, state-of-the-art laboratory in Oslo, Norway.  Her unwashed blonde hair fell into her bloodshot eyes and she was beginning to feel the effects of working thirty-six hours straight in an attempt to meet the mysterious Mr. Savage’s demands.  The lack of sleep was making the usually docile Norwegian, extremely irritable.

“Don’t you understand that Mr. Savage’s request is unreasonable?” Astrid replied.  “There s no way we can produce the serum on this new timetable.”

“We don’t have a choice!”

“Perry you might not have a choice, but I do,” Astrid said.  “Tell your Mr. Savage, or better yet, let me speak to him in person.  It’s about time I met our tyrannical client.”

“This is not a game Astrid! This is serious!”  Perry screamed.  “You don’t know what Vincent will do if we don’t come through for him.”

While Perry continued ranting and raging at Astrid he didn’t notice that someone had opened his door, just a crack, but enough to hear every angry word.

“He is an extremely powerful man,” Perry continued.  “More than you can ever imagine.”

“Perry, through the years I’ve put up with your arrogance, your veiled threats, and even your unwanted sexual advances,” Astrid said in a tired voice, “but I will not put up with your cryptic warnings.  I am going home, unplugging my phone, and going to bed.”

“Astrid, I need you!”

“Then hop on a flight,” she calmly replied.  “By the time you land in Oslo, I’ll be well-rested.”

The dial tone pierced through Perry’s ear with such ferocity it felt like a dagger struck through his heart.  He only had a moment to compose himself before his door swung wide open and he was confronted with another angry woman.

“So Daddy,” Edwina asked.  “Why does Vincent Savage have you quivering like a scared bunny?”

 

Collins Inn

For the fourth time Dashiell returned the phone to its cradle.  It was the fourth time he had tried to reach Winter Lassiter in the past hour and he had just crossed the line from feeling inconvenienced to feeling annoyed.

 

“Where the hell could she be?” Dashiell exclaimed.  “She’s on school break this week.”

“Perhaps she went on a shopping spree,” Llewellyn said, reclining in the green plaid club chair next to the window.  “Americans do love to buy things.”

“Stop auditioning for the role of the haughty European, Lew, you know how tiresome it can be.

“As can you’re impatience,” Llewellyn replied haughtily.

Instead of entering into a verbal duel with his lover, Dashiell dialed Winter’s phone number once more.  Surprisingly, he heard her voice on the other end instead of her recorded message.

“Winter!” Dashiell cried.  “It’s me Dashiell.  Llewellyn and I just got into town and we want to take you and Jonatha to lunch.”

“Well, that’s right to the point.” Winter replied, somewhat thrown by Dashiell’s request.

“Please say you can join us.”

“Well,” Winter said.  “I guess it’s the least we can do since you and Llewellyn did travel across the Atlantic just to see us, though I will have to yell at you for a solid ten minutes for not calling me first.”

“I’m sorry love,” Dashiell said in a whisper.  “I can talk to Jonatha easier, you get me all tongue-tied.”

“That’s probably a lie,” Winter said with more delight than she wanted to convey, “but I’ll buy it.”

“Smashing,” Dashiell replied.  “We’re staying at the Collins Inn.  Do you know where that is?”

“Please,” Winter replied sarcastically.  “You know the portraits in the dining room?”

“Yes.”

“They’re of my great-grandparents.  There’s not an inch of this little town that I don’t know.”

“Then how lucky are we to have you as our tour guide,” Dashiell said as Llewellyn rolled his eyes and smothered his face with a pillow in a mock suicide attempt.  “Now where shall we meet you?”

“I know Jonatha went to the library this morning,” Winter began, “I’ll call her on her cell phone and we’ll meet you at the Town Square near St. Agatha’s college.”

“I’m sure we can find it,” Dashiell said, then quickly added: “I think we’re all going to have a . . . a . . . smashing time getting to know one another.”

Before Winter could reply Dashiell hung up the phone.  Winter immediately went to her large walk-in closet in search of the perfect outfit and reflected with teenage melodrama that she wasn’t sure she could take any more surprises this morning. Back in their room at the Collins Inn, Llewellyn was staring at Dashiell incredulously.

“Do you realize you actually said the word ‘smashing’ twice?”

 

Nightwind

Although there was a definite chill in the air, the noontime sun shone brightly on Madeline’s face as she looked out the kitchen window and gazed at the ocean.  She ran cool water over a colander that held recently cooked linguini and closed her eyes so the warmth of the sun could spread over her.  How relieved she would be when Aimee returned from her vacation to help out with the preparations for her 60th birthday party next Friday night.  Cooking didn’t come easy to Madeline.

“Did you make enough pasta for two, Mom?”

Amanda’s question made Madeline turn from the sun and towards her daughter who was looking much more relaxed than she had at breakfast.

“Yes,” Madeline replied.  “You’re going to join me?”

“Yes.  It almost smells as good as Aimee’s.”

“Well I doubt that,” Madeline said.  “Did you speak with Winter?”

Amanda relayed the conversation that played out between mother and daughter on Nightwind’s steps earlier that morning and Madeline was relieved that a few members of her family were learning to communicate.

“I’m glad to hear that,” Madeline said, wiping a few tears from her eyes.  “When I heard Winter leave so abruptly before I had lost hope that you two resolved your differences.”

“She was going to meet Jonatha and those boys they met in London at St. Agatha’s for lunch.”

“So the blokes really did wash up on our shores.”

Madeline was very amused by her granddaughter’s latest escapade and hoped it would help her have a more normal teenage experience.  Having so long ago bid farewell to her own innocence, Madeline enjoying living vicariously through those whose innocence was still intact.  But Madeline was about to learn that innocence was not in large supply in Nightfall.

 

St. Agatha’s

Before Dashiell and Llewellyn actually saw Jonatha they heard the clicking of her heels on the cobblestone street.  When they did see her they marveled at how young she looked, much younger than she did when they met in London’s Hyde Park.  Dashiell shook away a shiver when he thought that it wasn’t youth that emanated from within the depths of Jonatha’s soul, but rather purity.

“Jonatha Lassiter,” Llewellyn said noticing Dashiell’s preoccupied expression.  “How good it is to see you again.”

“Well, Llewellyn,” Jonatha said.  “You’ve already said more to me than you did the entire time I was in London.  I guess America suits you.”

Llewellyn looked into Dashiell’s eyes and realized Dash still needed another moment to find his voice so he continued his conversation.

“The States are known to be the best tonic for what ails a reserved Brit.”

“And I’m sure England has been known to make even the most gregarious American a bit more demure.”

“Then we can both learn from each other,” said Dashiell, much to Llewellyn’s relief.

Once Dashiell reclaimed his ability to speak it was difficult to get him to revert back to his impersonation of Marcel Marceau.  He rambled on and on about how charming the Collins Inn was and how proud Jonatha must be that her family’s portraits hung in its walls.  He only took a breath when Llewellyn kicked him in the shins, not at all subtlely when he said the word “smashing” yet again.

Jonatha listened to her new friend and accepted his excessive chatter as a sign of nervousness and found it to be quite pleasant.  However, she knew that Winter would have the completely opposite response and so she tried to break up Dash’s energetic monologue with questions.

“How do you find our weather, Dashiell?” Jonatha asked.

“Um, well, yes, I, familiar I must say,” Dashiell stammered.

“The crisp air has intercepted any feelings of homesickness we might have experienced,” Llewellyn said.

“And what about St. Agatha’s Church,” Jonatha said.  “Isn’t it beautiful?”

The young men looked to their left and saw a small, stone church that they barely noticed before.  Its structure reminded them of something they might see stranded in one of the old villages in the English countryside.  The large wooden cross that stood next to the church also reminded Dashiell of the creature he was longing to become.

“It seems as if it’s weathered many a storm,” Dashiell said.

“Oh yes,” Jonatha replied.  “Physical and spiritual.”

With what Llewellyn considered perfect timing, Winter showed up at that moment and the conversation veered away from the religious to the more practical.

“I am so hungry,” Winter announced.  “Let’s eat.”

 

Nightwind

Both Amanda and Madeline gasped when Joe Lassiter walked into the kitchen unexpectedly and with one quick glance at his dour expression they knew that this was not a friendly visit.

“What’s wrong?” Amanda asked nervously.

“I came as soon as I could,” Joe quietly replied.  “I wanted you to hear it from me first.”

“Joe, tell us what happened?” Madeline demanded.

“David Anderson’s body wasn’t the only one they found last night at Serenity Pond,” Joe said.  “He was laying next to Aimee.”

“Oh no!” Madeline cried.

“Joe, is she dead?” asked Amanda.

“Yes, I’m sorry.”

Silence echoed throughout the kitchen as the women digested this information and waited for the intellectual understanding to be overtaken by an emotional response.  Madeline picked up her plate from the table and looked like she was going to place it in the kitchen sink, but instead she smashed it to the ground.  Pieces of white and blue china scattered everywhere and Amanda and Joe jumped back as startled by the airborne flatware as they were by Madeline’s uncharacteristic reaction.

“This is happening again, I can feel it!” Madeline screamed.  “It’s just like before, but worse!”

“I think you’re right Madeline,” Joe replied.

“Tell me this, Joe,” Madeline said, trying to control her anger.  “Did she have wounds on her neck?”

“Yes,” Joe said.  “And so did David.”

“It’s been unleashed again.”

“Mother what are you talking about?” Amanda asked.

“Evil!” Madeline said.

 

St. Agatha’s

The four teenagers sat together at a too-small table in St. Agatha’s Café, which was nestled between St. Agatha’s rectory and St. Agatha’s Gift Shop on St. Agatha’s Street.  The street had the distinction of being the narrowest street in Nightfall, which, Llewellyn noted after a bite of his chicken salad sandwich, was not a simple feat.

“How delightful to be able to eat red meat again,” Dashiell said with a mouthful of medium-rare hamburger, “and not worry about getting holes in your brain.”

“I really don’t know why you English are so anti-American,” Winter said sipping a cranberry-blueberry-grape protein shake, “I mean, you can’t even control your cows.”

“Winter!” Jonatha chided.  “The English are not anti-American.”

“They are too,” Winter said in her defense.  “They’re jealous that we’re capitalist pigs and they’re Socialists.  If you ask me it’s all Maggie Thatcher’s fault.”

More accustomed to hearing Winter speak about the differences between Armani couture and their lower-priced Armani Xchange clothes line, Jonatha was bemused by Winter’s words.  Luckily, Llewellyn and Dashiell seemed to take Winter’s Brit-bashing good-naturedly and engaged in a debate about the United Kingdom’s most famous female prime minister.  Winter sprinkled so many foreign political names in her debate and expressed her thoughts so logically that, if she wasn’t watching her manners, Jonatha’s jaw would have definitely smashed into the table.  What Jonatha didn’t realize was that Winter wasn’t speaking her own words, but merely reciting those of the raven-haired woman, who was controlling Winter’s every move and thought.

“Okay enough about Ms. Thatcher and her inability to unite a nation that’s roughly the size of three American states,” Winter said.  “What do you two really want from us?”

 

Perry’s Office

“Don’t you ever knock?” Perry shouted, knowing that Edwina knew that he knew he was deliberately evading her question.

“Are you really going to make me ask you again?” Edwina replied exasperated.

“Not everything needs to be understood by that conniving little brain of yours.”

“Please Daddy, don’t insult me,” Edwina said, laughing at her father.  “I

caught you in the middle of a screaming match with your Norwegian lab rat about my new best friend, Vinny Savage.  I am your daughter, I am involved, and I am so close to running home to Mommy and telling her you’re up to no good.  Yet again.”

Watching her father turn the darkest shade of red she had ever seen on a human face, Edwina’s heart began to race as she realized this impromptu visit to her father’s office was going to result in her uncovering some major gossip.  Perry banged his fist on the intercom button and yelled at Nadine to hold all his calls and not allow anyone to come into his office unannounced.  Only the “yes” in Nadine’s reply of “yes, sir” was heard before Perry once again banged the intercom powerfully.

“I must say, Daddy, you are putting on quite an entertaining show today,” Edwina said.  “You should really have a video camera installed to capture these more dramatic moments.”

“Shut up Edwina!” Perry roared.

“I will when you tell me why Vincent Savage frightens you.”

“I’m not frightened.”

“You haven’t been this scared since Joey was kidnapped,” Edwina remarked.  “Your relationship with Vincent goes far beyond the professional and I want to know just how far.”

Realizing that Edwina was not going to drop the subject, Perry took a different tactic and softened his voice and demeanor.

“He’s an unscrupulous businessman,” Perry began, “and I’ve gotten in over my head with him financially.”

“With family money?” Edwina asked.

“Don’t worry,” Perry said with a sigh, “your trust fund is as healthy as ever.”

“Well that’s the best news I’ve heard all day.”

“Unfortunately, he wants to push up the deadline for our joint venture and Astrid informs me that we cannot adhere to an earlier completion date.”

“So why were you so furious with her?”

“I want Vincent out of my life for good,” Perry said, “and the quickest way to do that is to meet his demands.”

Melting into the black leather couch, Edwina scrutinized her father’s expression and came to a very quick, but accurate, conclusion.

“You’re lying,” Edwina stated.  “I don’t believe a word that you said except that you want to sever all ties with Mr. Savage.”

“It’s the truth I tell you!” Perry shouted.

He continued shouting at Edwina, the air, himself, and didn’t notice Edwina was ignoring him until she was speaking on the phone.

“Hello Payroll, this is Edwina Lassiter, the daughter of the man who employs you,” Edwina announced.  “Yes, it’s delightful to hear your voice as well.  I would like you to put me on the payroll immediately.  I will be taking a more active role in Love Industries.”

“What the hell are you doing?” Perry asked.

“I am going to be Mr. Vincent Savage’s personal assistant,” Edwina said and then hung up the phone.  “Daddy, if you’re not going to tell me what’s up Vincent’s designer sleeves, I’ll just have to find out myself.”

 

Nightwind

Alone, Joe Lassiter sat in a chair in Nightwind’s front room.  He knew Madeline would take Aimee’s death hard, the women were much more than employer and employee, they were friends, but he had not expected Madeline to link her death to those deaths 15 years earlier.  Madeline Wexler Love looked like a bored society matron, but obviously she was much wiser.

“She’s finally asleep,” Amanda said as she entered the room.

“Good,” Joe said.  “I should go then.”

“Please don’t.”

Shaking, Amanda held onto Joe’s arms and laid her head on his chest.  She breathed in his scent and allowed it to mingle with her own.  Naively, Amanda felt that if she could just hold on to Joe, the only emotional anchor she had ever known in her lifetime, then perhaps the bad things that were happening to her and her family would be held at bay.  Looking up into his blue eyes, Amanda asked: “Is it true Joe?”

Too weak to lie, Joe replied honestly: “Yes.  Aimee and David died just like all the others did years ago.”

“Around the time Joey was kidnapped?”

“Yes,” Joe answered.  “But these killings have nothing to do with our son.”

“I know,” Amanda said.  “Our son is alive.  How much longer are we going to have to wait to see him again!?”

“I don’t know.”

Amanda informed Joe that the entire family now knew about the letter and that a reunion was in the works.  Surprisingly, he thought it was for the best, so at least one of their lies would be out in the open.  When he said this, Joe involuntarily flinched and Amanda realized that he was having problems with her pregnancy.

“I have another doctor’s visit, Joe,” Amanda said.  “Come with me.”

“I can’t.  I have a lot of work to do.”

Joe kissed Amanda tenderly on her check and began to leave.  As Amanda watched Joe walk away she noticed his shoulders were slumped slightly and his whole body seemed deflated of all its energy.  And she knew that she was the cause for this.

“Wait!” Amanda cried.

She ran to him and stood between him and the doorway.  “You must believe me Joe, this child I’m carrying, if I’m truly pregnant, is yours.  I haven’t been with another man in all these years.  It’s only been you.  You’re the only man I’ve ever loved.”

With tears in his eyes, Joe knew he had to tell her the truth.

“And you’re the only woman I’ve ever loved all my life.”

“Oh Joe,” Amanda cried.  “Why couldn’t we make it right?  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

“It’s my fault, I betrayed you.  But I will make it up to you.  This child will have a father.  And that man will be me.”

As Amanda and Joe held each other tightly it was almost as if their broken hearts were beginning to mend.  They kissed softly, passion would have to wait until later that evening, right now they were quietly confirming their love for one another.  Amanda watched Joe walk down the steps, get into his car and drive away.  She held her stomach and for the first time in years she felt complete.

She turned to go back inside and she saw a white dove fly by and rest on her mailbox.  The dove was completely out of place, but looked as if it was exactly where it needed to be.  She heard it coo and she began to walk towards it.  Remarkably, when she reached the mailbox, the dove didn’t move, it just stared at Amanda.

Intrigued, she looked into the mailbox and found another envelope, like the ones she received on the anniversary of Joey’s disappearance.  With trembling fingers she opened the enveloped and saw another letter written in the all-too-familiar script.  The note read: “The time has come.  You will see your son in one week’s time.”

Hold Back the Night – Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Mercy Hospital

The words Amanda heard were very simple to comprehend.  She was four months pregnant.  It was a fact that should have made her happy, nervous, perhaps even outraged, but it merely left her numb.  After the doctor’s initial announcement, Amanda saw his mouth move, but heard no sound.  She also saw her family’s shocked expressions, but couldn’t look into their eyes because it took all the strength Amanda had to concentrate on processing this incomprehensible information.  There was absolutely no way that she could be four months pregnant, Amanda wanted to scream, but unfortunately she couldn’t tell her family, especially her sister Edwina, the reason for her certainty: the only man she had sex with was Joe and that was only a week ago.  When the numbness subsided, all Amanda could do was laugh.

“That’s absurd,” Amanda heard herself reply.  “That’s absolutely impossible.”

“Obviously not,” Edwina said, immediately putting an end to Amanda’s laughter.

“I’m sorry Amanda,” Dr. Saxon said.  “I ran the test twice to make sure the fetus wasn’t harmed by your . . . accident.  You are pregnant.”

“Jeffrey, are you quite certain it’s four months?” Madeline asked.

“It’s always hard to pinpoint the date, Madeline,” the doctor replied.  “But yes I would say Amanda’s in her second trimester.”

While her mother and her doctor conversed and Edwina tried not to convulse, Amanda felt as if the room was spinning and reached out to grab Joe’s hand for support.  A part of her subconscious realized this was an inappropriate action while in Edwina’s presence, but the other part of her psyche that was unconcerned about protocol was stronger.  Luckily, even though Madeline was speaking with Jeffrey, she was watching her daughter as if she was under a microscope and grabbed Amanda’s hand before it clutched Joe’s arm.

“Jeffrey can we take her home now?” Madeline asked.

“Yes,” he said.  “As far as I can see mother and child are doing fine.”

“I wish you would stop saying that,” Amanda said, suddenly frightened. “You’ve made a mistake.”

“Perhaps not,” Joe added quietly.

 

Nightwind

Although the steps to Nightwind were many and steep, Adam’s preternatural agility allowed him to glide over them in seconds while cradling Winter in his arms and pondering who Joey was.  In the entranceway of this magnificent home, Adam bristled when he thought of how weak and insignificant the quarters in which he and his father now lived looked in comparison though he wasn’t sure why.  He and Vincent lived well.  In fact, throughout his entire life he had never wanted for anything thanks to his father.  Yet from the moment his foot touched the steps of Nightwind he had the irrational feeling that all this should be his.  He tried not to dwell on that thought, but only deal with the matter at hand: getting Winter back into bed.

He saw red velvet chairs lining the hallway, embroidered damask curtains to his left, and a white marble staircase in front of him and while these material items were all foreign to him he couldn’t escape the feeling of familiarity that enveloped him.

 

He wasn’t halfway up the stairway when he heard the sound of a young boy’s laughter and stopped abruptly.  He turned every which way but saw no one and surmised that the sound was echoing in his own mind.  Unable to smell a human scent, he was sure that no one was home, but he didn’t want to be caught by the family when they returned, so he pushed the boy’s laughter from his mind and invaded Winter’s mind to find out where her bedroom was, but he couldn’t penetrate her unconsciousness.  He thought it very strange that he couldn’t penetrate her mentally, he thought the only people you couldn’t pierce were family members and those who gave you the gift of the Golden Life.  But he was sure there was some logical reason that his father would be able to explain.

He was forced to go room to room until he found what he presumed to be Winter’s bedroom, which naturally was on the top floor.  As he gently put Winter in her bed and drew her comforter around her, his eyes met those of a young boy in a photograph on Winter’s night table.  The boy couldn’t be more than four-years-old and his smile was so joyful it radiated his entire face with the innocence only a young child could know.  Adam wondered how long it was before this child was forced to understand horror.

With one last look at Winter, who seemed to be in the middle of a soothing dream, Adam began to leave but when he passed by the open window he was drawn to the moon’s glow.  It was a full moon and it was hanging majestically in the sky.  Adam thought it looked like a tunnel that he could fly right through on his way to heaven.  He was suddenly filled with such purity that it brought tears to his still-crimson eyes and he remembered, fleetingly, the gentle touch of a woman’s hand.  The memory was ripped away when he heard Winter’s piercing voice.

“Who are you?”

 

Mercy Hospital

Amanda stared into the hopeful eyes of her lover and wondered if she could possibly be carrying his child.  Just the thought of it made her heart pulsate with a feeling of overwhelming bliss.  But the feeling quickly vanished when she realized it simply couldn’t be true and that tomorrow Dr. Saxon would announce he did indeed make a

mistake.  But for this moment she allowed herself to wonder if she could ever again be as happy as she was when she was carrying his children.

Finally, Madeline put herself between Joe and Amanda’s stare and advised Joe to take his wife and daughter home.  Joe hated to abandon Amanda especially when it was obvious that she needed him, but his wife and daughter were close by and they needed him as well.  He glanced at Edwina whose face was a blank mask behind which lay an anger that would soon be unleashed, and at his daughter who was quite calm despite all the emotional adults around her and was helping Anthony stand.

“Anthony are you alright?” asked Madeline.

“Yes,” he said.  “Now I am.”

“Was it another blackout son?” Perry inquired.

“Yes,” Anthony said.  “There’s been another murder.”

“What else Uncle Anthony?” Jonatha asked.  “Something’s different, I could feel how frightened you were.”

“This time I was able to see the victim’s face,” Anthony said.

“Oh dear God,” Madeline cried.

“Who did you see?” Joe asked.

“It was a policeman,” Anthony said.  “David Anderson.”

“No!” Joe cried.

“I’m sorry, Joe,” Anthony said.  “He fought back, but it was no use.  It was almost as if this killer had superhuman strength.”

“Was it at Serenity Pond?” Joe asked.  “That’s where I left him.”

“Yes,” Anthony confirmed.

“I have to go,” he declared.

“I’ll go with you,” Anthony said.  “I’d like to perform the last rites.”

“Thank you,” Joe said.

“Anthony,” Madeline asked.  “Why did you look so peaceful this time?  You didn’t seem to be in any pain.”

“I wasn’t,” he replied.  “I was in Jonatha’s care.”

Upon hearing this Edwina shifted her focus from her husband to her Daughter.

“You’re just putting out fires left and right aren’t you honey?” Edwina asked Jonatha.

“I don’t deserve credit for whatever it is I’m doing,” she replied.  “I’m not responsible.”

“Jonatha please, you know I don’t have the capacity to dissect metaphysical mutterings,” Edwina said.  “I couldn’t master fractions for God’s sake.”

“Soon you’ll understand,” Jonatha responded cryptically.  “Soon you all will.”

The young girl’s statement created a silence among the family, a silence filled with curiosity, befuddlement, disdain, and fear.  A silence that Anthony felt he needed to respond to.

“Edwina,” he said.  “Don’t trivialize what you don’t understand.”

“I’ll do whatever I want,” Edwina began, the continued with mock indignation, “I was in a horrible car accident.  How quickly one incident overshadows another.”

“If you’d like I’ll switch places with you,” Amanda said unable to listen to her sister’s tirade any longer.

“Why not?” Edwina said.  “It sounds like you’re having more sex than me anyway.”

“Edwina!” Perry cried.  “We’re all very tired and I think it’s time we left.  Jonatha I’ll take you and your mother home.”

“I’d rather go with . . . my husband,” Edwina said.  “But obviously he’s needed elsewhere.”

“I’m sorry,” Joe said.

“That’s alright,” Edwina demurred.  “It’ll give me a chance to speak with Amanda in private.”

Joe was too shocked to respond to Edwina’s comment or contemplate its hidden meaning and he ran out of the emergency room without noticing Vincent waiting near the bushes.

“I trust everyone has recovered?” Vincent asked.

 

Unexpected Visitors

The airplane landed smoothly on the runway, but Dashiell’s stomach still felt uneasy.  He had originally planned to come to Nightfall, uncover Jonatha Lassiter’s secret, and use it to destroy his mother, Ondine.  It was a simple plan and one that he knew he could accomplish with Llewellyn’s help.  But when Ondine announced that she would be their travel companion, the plan suddenly became more complicated.

For as long as Dashiell could remember his mother tried to control his life.  And even though Dashiell grew to love the extravagant results of her machinations, he resented her interference.  Ondine handpicked Llewellyn to be her son’s companion and Dashiell had grown to love him and cherish their relationship.  It was also Ondine who introduced Dashiell to the Golden Life and all the magic and power it held, without her he would not be on his way to crossing over and becoming a vampire for all eternity.  Still, she was his mother and an extremely domineering one.  He wanted her out of his life for good, but until then he would have to listen to her every command.

“Boys grab my bags,” Ondine barked, as one of the flight crew helped her on with her mink coat.  “And be careful of my crocodile tote, it has my make-up, and you do want your mother to look beautiful don’t you?”

Not waiting for or expecting a response, Ondine made her exit from the plane leaving Dashiell and Llewellyn to share in the carrying of her bags.  As they left the plane they avoided looking into the eyes of the crew members, who regularly cast pitying glances at both men, who had to succumb to Ondine’s wishes without the benefit of a weekly paycheck.

“You realize this will be the worst trip we’ve ever taken,” Llewellyn said.

“If everything goes as I’ve planned,” Dashiell replied.  “It’ll be the worst trip my mother has ever taken as well.”

Perplexed, but beaming with pride, Llewellyn followed his lover off the plane.

 

The Long Road Home

For the first time in quite a while the Love’s limousine was filled to capacity.  Vincent sat awkwardly between Perry and Madeline in the seats behind Bartholomew and faced Amanda, Edwina, and Jonatha.  Madeline had tried to navigate her granddaughter into the seat between her daughters, but Jonatha had meandered, uncharacteristically, and was the last to enter.  Her tardiness, however, allowed her to have a window seat.  The young girl

had barely spoken a word since bringing Edwina to the hospital and Madeline wondered if she was hiding something.  Amanda stared at Vincent and silently remarked that he was not only very tall, but very odd looking.  She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but he looked slightly out of proportion.

For the moment, Madeline preoccupied herself with the emotional lives of her daughters.  A long time ago she had a made a choice to support Amanda and was therefore not constrained to the usual guilt a mother faces when siding with one child during times of conflict.  She firmly believed that Edwina seduced Joe when he was losing a battle against grief after his son’s kidnapping.  She also believed Edwina committed this seduction not out of love, but jealousy and spite.  It was an act for which she would never be able to forgive Edwina fully.

So consumed was Madeline with watching for the inevitable sparks that would fly between her daughters that she didn’t notice how uncomfortable Perry had grown since they had gotten into the limousine.  She would never guess that it was because he was sitting next to the man (who wasn’t really a man) who, was a threatening force.  It may have gone unnoticed to Madeline, but not Edwina, who had decided to ignore Amanda for the time being and shower Vincent with attention.

“So Vincent,” said Edwina.

“Yes Mrs. Lassiter,” Vincent replied

“First of all thank you for saving my sister from heaven knows what fate and for entering our lives so dramatically,” Edwina continued.  “I was beginning to think you would never show your face and hide in those dreary servants quarters forever.”

Vincent didn’t reply, but only stared at Edwina.  In the blackness that made up her eyes, Vincent saw a kindred spirit, a woman who moved forward without ever glancing back.  Edwina, he realized, was no Lot’s wife.

“Perry, in all the time I’ve known you, you never mentioned you had such a charming daughter,” Vincent remarked.

Everyone in the limousine, even Amanda and Jonatha who were trying desperately to escape any conversation, was intrigued by this comment.  None of them suspected Perry and Vincent of knowing each other before Vincent and his son came to live on Love property.  As if on cue, all four women bombarded Perry with questions at the same time.

“Daddy,” Edwina said, “I thought you just met Vincent?”

“Dad,” Amanda added, “Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Grandpa?” Jonatha asked, “Do you also know Adam?”

“Perry,” Madeline said, “Do you and Mr. Savage have a relationship that I’m not aware of?”

Vincent smiled an inhuman smile and slowly turned to Perry, whose face was as white as Eucharist, pausing before he spoke.

“Shall you explain it to them, Perry or shall I?”

 

Nightwind

When Adam turned to face Winter, the first thing she noticed were his crimson-colored eyes and she had the vague memory of seeing the same eyes once before, but she couldn’t recall when.  Looking at the rest of his tall, muscular body she slowly became frightened

by the reality that this intruder appeared to be much stronger than she was and could be violent.

“I said who are you?” Winter asked again less harshly than before.

“My name is Adam Savage.  I’m your neighbor.”

Winter knew the name, but having never seen the face, she wasn’t entirely convinced.

“What are you doing here?”

“I found you in the woods, asleep or unconscious, and I decided not to let you die so I brought you here.  And you’re welcome.”

“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“I don’t care if you believe me or not, that’s what happened.”

“If you knew who I was you wouldn’t be talking to me with that attitude.”

“I know exactly who you are.  You’re Winter Lassiter, Perry Love’s granddaughter and Jonatha’s step-sister or cousin depending on which side you look at it.  And let me tell you, she’s a lot nicer than you are.”

“Oh please!  Jonatha is so boring! You would think she’s cool.”

” Obviously you’re jealous of your own flesh and blood,” replied Adam, surprised by his desire to defend Jonatha’s name.

“Jealous?  Like not much.  I think you better get out of here right now before I scream for my mother.”

“Go right ahead, there’s nobody home.”

For the next ten minutes Winter and Adam continued to banter as if they’d known each other their entire lives.  Winter accused Adam of being a blind jerk for liking Jonatha, and Adam accused Winter of being a spoiled rich girl.  Adam was highly annoyed by this encounter, but also felt that it was natural and was amused by the spontaneity of their repartee.  Winter just wanted him to leave.

Adam turned to go, but once again his eyes glanced on the photograph of the young boy.

“Who’s that?” he asked.

“Oh I thought you knew everything about me.  That’s my brother, he was kidnapped when he was four and I haven’t seen him since,” Winter said. “And I don’t care if I ever do.”

“He probably can’t wait to see you again,” Adam said just before he left Winter’s room.

 

The Long Road Home

“We are waiting for some kind of explanation,” Edwina said and for once her sister, mother, and daughter all agreed with her.

“Mr. Savage and I are business associates,” Perry said trying desperately to ignore the small beads of sweat that began to form on his forehead.

“Vincent didn’t I hear that you’re a professor of ancient civilizations?” Amanda asked.

“That’s correct,” Vincent replied.

“Then how in the world could you be in business with my Father?” Amanda said.  “Love Industries is in the pharmaceutical business.”

“Perry may I continue?” Vincent asked.

The last thing in the world Perry Love wanted to do was give this creature free reign to converse with his family, but he was at a loss for words and, as usual, he overestimated his ability to control a situation so he agreed.

“Thank you,” Vincent said.  “I am an expert on ancient civilizations and that includes their scientific and medicinal cures.  Many of these cures, especially those of the early Egyptian times, are applicable to today’s diseases primarily the blood disorders that Love Industries is working so hard to combat.  Your father and I were introduced to each other by a colleague years ago and realized my expertise could help Perry uncover little known herbs and roots that could be used to forward modern medicine.”

“So you must be familiar with the laboratory in Stockholm?” Madeline asked.

“You must be referring to the one in Oslo?” Vincent countered.

Madeline smiled begrudgingly, then added: “Just testing you.”

“What a sad fate has befallen you Perry,” Vincent declared.  “The women in your life may be charming, but it seems they’re also quite suspicious.”

 

Unexpected Visitors

To Dashiell and Llewellyn the Collins Inn was charming and rustic and exactly what they thought of when they imagined a New England bed and breakfast.  Ondine shuddered when she remembered that at one time she too thought this Inn was romantic and delightful.  Then again at that time she was beingembraced by Perry’s young, enthusiastic arms.

“Do try to get some sleep boys, we’ll be paying a surprise visit on the Loves tomorrow and we don’t want to look worn out.”

With a mischievous smirk, Ondine walked up the wooden staircase, which creaked with her every step.

“Someone really should fix this stairway,” Ondine cried.  “Visitors should only be announced by a white-gloved butler!”

The young men entered their room and before the door closed behind them they were wrapped in each other’s arms.  They kissed quietly, but intently, and fell sideways onto the large king-sized bed.  Eucalyptus branches spilled from a vase on the nightstand and their scent, combined with the crisp, fresh air from the slightly opened window made Dash and Llewellyn drowsy.  But not drowsy enough to explore each other’s body thoroughly.  They never mentioned it, but they knew it would be quite some time before

they would be intimate again.

 

Father and Daughter

The first thing Edwina did when she entered Nightwind was pull Perry into the greeting room adjacent to the more frequently used front room, and away from the rest of her  family.   She closed the large French doors behind them so they could have some privacy.  It was one of the few moments in her life when she was more confused than angry and

she needed her father’s guidance to help her sort out her emotions.  Swimming around in her mind’s eye were the following images: Joe and Amanda making love, Vincent staring lustfully at Amanda, and Vincent and Perry conspiring together in her father’s office.  Edwina didn’t like being confused and she was going to put an end to it.

“What the hell is going on, Daddy?” Edwina seethed.

“Your sister,” Perry began.  “Obviously has a life kept secret from the rest of this family.”

“Like you don’t?” Edwina retorted.  “You don’t think any of us bought Vincent’s carefully worded, but lame, speech do you?”

“What he said was the truth?”  Perry stammered.

“Save your indignation for later,” Edwina said.  “Right now I want to know what you’re going to do to end this thing between Joe and Amanda.”

“Your sister and your husband have been getting sentimental lately,” Perry said.  “But I do not believe it’s been going on for four months.”

“I don’t either, I’m sure I would have suspected something earlier,” Edwina said.  “I mean let’s face it Amanda isn’t as clever as me.”

“Agreed,” Perry said.  “Well I guess this is the perfect time for Amanda to visit New York.”

Perry, like Madeline, had long ago chosen to align with one daughter over the other.  He chose to support Edwina, not because he thought she needed an ally or because he thought she deserved a chance at happiness, but because she was more vindictive and he didn’t want to do battle with her.

“Perfect,” Edwina declared.  “Send her off to oversee the Love Foundation and let me remind Joe that he already has a wife, a daughter, and a reputation that he could lose with one well-worded press release written on Love stationery.”

“I fear Joe will never lose Nightfall’s respect,” Perry said.

“If Joe decides he still needs to sow that last wild oat with my sister,” Edwina said.  “I guarantee that I will destroy him.  I will not lose the man I fought so hard to take.”

“I’ve always said that you’re the most honest of all my children,” Perry said.

“I’m also curious,” Edwina responded.  “What’s going on between Amanda and Vincent Savage?”

Just hearing the name of his enemy made Perry’s spine weaken.  He didn’t accept Vincent’s explanation that it was mere coincidence that he found Amanda laying on the beach, he knew that Vincent was somehow responsible for Amanda’s collapse.  But he couldn’t risk saying anything more to Edwina about his relationship with the vampire.  While Edwina had done some unscrupulous things in her life, not even she would be able to understand or forgive Perry for his past actions concerning Vincent.

“I sensed something between them,” Edwina said.  “Something primitive.”

“You’re not suggesting that they’ve been physical with each other?” Perry asked, undeniably shocked.

“Oh Daddy, please don’t blush,” Edwina retorted.  “Your two daughters have had sex with the same man, and if my suspicions are correct, your only son wouldn’t mind a go at him either.”

“Now you’re talking nonsense!” Perry chaffed.

“Vincent and Amanda have some sort of connection,” Edwina declared.  “I’m not sure what it is, but I will find out.  And obviously I’ll have to do it without your help.”

“But . . . but . . . ” Perry stammered.

“Don’t stutter Daddy it’s not becoming,” Edwina said.  “Now I think it’s time you ordered Amanda to fly to New York.”

Abruptly, Edwina opened the French doors to reveal Madeline and Amanda sitting on the settee and talking quietly in the hallway.  Madeline stopped speaking in mid-sentence when she saw Edwina and made no attempt to resume her conversation making it very clear that what she had to say was not for Edwina’s ears.

“Forgive me for interrupting,” Edwina cooed.  “But Daddy has an announcement.”

“Couldn’t it keep until tomorrow, Perry?” Madeline asked.  “We’re all very tired.”

“No, it’s pressing business,” Edwina responded, “as they say in business.  Good night all.  I’m going to pay Mr. Savage a visit and thank him for saving my sister.  And Amanda, have fun in New York.”

 

Serenity Pond

By the time Joe reached David’s corpse, the paramedics had already covered it and laid it on a stretcher.  Aimee’s decaying body was also covered and on a stretcher next to David’s.  Joe shook his head in dismay and felt incredibly tired.  Even in moments of great personal despair he could count on his professional life to offer security and stability, until now.  His mind jumped to a time over a decade ago when the same types of killings plagued Nightfall and he knew that he would soon have to go public with this very disturbing information.  However, he did command a great deal of respect so he could delay that from happening until he felt the town, and he, were ready.

He pulled the white cotton sheet from what he was told was David’s body and saw his colleague’s face.  David’s jaw was still strong, his nose still slightly bent to the left, but the color was completely drained from his face and Joe could even see the bluish veins through his skin.  He took a deep breath and turned David’s face to the left and saw the telltale puncture wounds in his neck.  How could he tell his fellow officers and

innocent townspeople that a vampire was in their midst?  Standing over the two dead bodies, he vowed that the only way he would share the news to anyone would be to also tell them that he wouldn’t rest until he found the vampire and killed him.

 

Nightwind

Amanda, Madeline, and Perry all looked at the front door that Edwina slammed shut behind her with the same shocked expression, but all for their own particular reasons.  Amanda intuitively knew that New York meant working with the Love Foundation, Madeline thought visiting a stranger at such a late hour was in poor taste, and Perry feared that Vincent would reveal his true identity to Edwina.  He was about to succumb to the urge to run after his daughter and force her to stay away from Vincent when he heard his wife shouting his name.

“Perry, Perry!” Madeline cried.  “What is Edwina talking about?”

“Before you even say another word Dad,” Amanda said.  “I have no intention of going to New York.”

Perry felt as restless and frustrated as a laboratory mouse lost within a maze, and unleashed his anger onto his eldest daughter.

“Yes you will!  You’re the head of the Love Foundation, there’s a crisis in New York, and that’s where you’re going to go.  Tonight!”

Amanda stared at Perry shaking her head in disbelief.  “Absolutely not! There is no way that I’m getting on a plane to deal with a business situation tonight, tomorrow, or next week.  Were you paying any attention at the hospital Daddy?”

“Of course I was,” Perry said.  “You’re pregnant, which doesn’t mean you can’t fly.”

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this!” Amanda cried.  “Are you that ignorant that you can’t see how devastating this is to me?  If you’d pay attention to me as well as you pay attention to Edwina, you would have heard me tell the doctor that it’s impossible that I’m four months pregnant.”

“Yes I heard what you said to the doctor,” Perry replied.  “And so did Edwina.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Madeline asked.

“Amanda would you care to explain?” Perry said.

The three adults were so focused on each other that they didn’t hear Winter walk onto the landing.  After her encounter with Adam she was unable to fall back to sleep and the adults in her family were too preoccupied to keep their voices down.  With one glance Winter understood that her mother and her grandparents were having an argument.  And by the shrill sound of Amanda’s voice, she could tell it was an important one.

“Is that what Edwina’s been filling your head with behind closed doors?” Amanda shouted.

“I have my own eyes and ears, I don’t need any help to see what’s been going on in my home,” Perry said.

“This is ludicrous,” Amanda said.  “I’m not having this discussion.”

“Fine, then just pack your bags and leave for New York tonight!” Perry said, grabbing Amanda’s arm.

“I told you I’m not going anywhere!”  Amanda screamed.  “I’m four months pregnant and I have no idea how I’m in this condition.  And I have a daughter upstairs who doesn’t even know yet.  How the hell can you ask me to leave town when I haven’t even had a chance to break the news to her?”

“I’ll explain everything to Winter,” Perry said.

“Like hell you will!”Amanda yelled.  “It’s time I started being more honest with my daughter.  So don’t expect me to leave just because you say so!”

“Don’t use me as an excuse Mother!” Winter cried from the balcony.

“Winter!” Amanda cried.

Standing in her nightgown, clutching the cold marble of the balcony, Winter was in the rare position of having her family’s complete attention so there was no chance she was going to let the moment pass.

“I can’t remember the last time you were honest with me, or with any of us!” Winter shouted down to her mother.

“Winter, let me explain,” Amanda begged.  “I just found out.”

“And did you just find out that you’re going to be reunited with Joey?” Winter said very pleased with herself.  “That’s right Mother, I know all about the last letter!”

 

An Expected Visitor

The secret tunnel from Nightwind to the old servant’s quarters took less than fifteen minutes to walk through, but by the time Edwina stood on Vincent’s front porch her cheeks were flushed and her heart was dancing.  She felt positively giddy.  Edwina never ignored her instinct and ever since she laid eyes on Vincent Savage, her instinct told her that he and her sister were involved.  How, she didn’t know, but she was about to find out.

Confidently, she knocked on the door and almost immediately, almost as if he were waiting, Vincent opened the door.  Tall and other-worldly he stood in front of her without the faintest look of surprise on his unlined face.  Edwina, for the first time in almost two decades, felt self-conscious as Vincent’s eyes traveled languidly from her face to her chest and lower.  Involuntarily she rubbed her thighs together feeling a welcomed heat grow from within her, but somewhere from deep within her scarred soul she felt she might have made a mistake coming to this stranger’s door.  The heat in her loins was stronger so she chose to stay right where she was.

“Edwina,” Vincent said with a smile.  “I knew I would see you again.”

He motioned for her to enter his home and she obeyed, allowing her breast to rub against his chest, which she was delighted to feel was hard as stone.  She quickly surveyed the room and realized he had chosen to leave all the old furniture exactly where it was and not clutter the room with mementos, which made her smile as she adored men without any personal baggage.  Tossing her wrap on the French Provincial couch, she turned to

Vincent and was struck by his unique beauty.

“Have you slept with my sister?” Edwina inquired.

 

Nightwind

Winter’s accusation drifted down from the balcony like a reluctant leaf falling from a tree in late autumn.  Madeline stared at Amanda with hopeful eyes, while Perry merely stared, but both longed for an explanation.  It took Amanda a moment to comprehend what Winter meant since all the confusion surrounding the current child she was carrying had overshadowed the turmoil surrounding her first born.

“Tell them Mother!” Winter shrieked.  “Tell them about the last thank-you letter, the one you’ve been hiding from everyone.”

“Amanda, please, what is going on?” Madeline asked softly.

“It’s true,” Amanda managed between swift intakes of breath.  “The last thank-you note I received was different.”

“But you told us it was just like all the others,” Perry questioned.

“We didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up,” Amanda said.

“We?” Madeline asked.

“Joe and I thought it best to keep it to ourselves until we had proof that we would see our son again.”

“Have you heard anything else from the kidnapper?” Perry asked.

“No, nothing,” Amanda said.  “Winter that’s why we didn’t say anything.  We knew it could be a hoax, that it might never come true.”

“But that’s all you can think about isn’t it?  Your other child!” Winter accused.  “And now you’re pregnant with another one!  Where the hell does that leave me?”

Amanda cried out for her daughter and ran up the marble staircase, but the moment she moved, Winter ran back to her room and locked herself in.  Madeline could hear Winter’s sobs mingled with Amanda’s pleas to let her enter Winter’s bedroom, but was powerless to stop the pathetic sounds.  Perry’s mind was so filled with his thoughts of Joey, Edwina, and Vincent that he couldn’t hear a sound from upstairs.  In fact, when Madeline spoke he was startled.

“I always said that Winter would have been luckier if she had been kidnapped too.”

 

An Expected Visitor

Humans never ceased to amaze Vincent.

“I said have you slept with my sister?” Edwina repeated.

“A girl with an original opening line,” Vincent said.  “I find that provocative.”

“A man with an evasive answer,” Edwina replied.  “I find that challenging.”

Feeling a bit more comfortable in the room and much more comfortable in her own skin, Edwina moved closer to Vincent as she continued to interrogate him.

“Now tell me Mr. Savage,” Edwina purred.  “Have you ravaged my sister?”

“Are you jealous?”

“Just curious.”

“Come closer,” Vincent said, enjoying the game Edwina had begun.

Edwina stood inches in front of Vincent and peered up to look into his eyes.  She felt weightless as Vincent’s hot breath caressed her face and his wicked grin made her close her eyes with anticipation.  Ever since she was a young girl she wanted what her sister had, thinking that if she could touch what Amanda touched maybe she could be as special.  She didn’t realize it, but now in the powerful spell of this extraordinary man she was going to get something before Amanda did.

Vincent willed Edwina’s eyes to open and they did.  They were filled with such an odd mixture of school girl innocence and street walker apathy that Vincent laughed in her face and broke the preternatural spell he had over her.  Edwina responded the same way she always responded when someone laughed in her face, her face coiled into a mask of fury and she lashed out physically.  However, Vincent was unlike anyone else who had ever laughed at Edwina so his reaction was unlike any Edwina had ever encountered.

Before Edwina’s red-polished nails could gouge Vincent’s cheek, he grabbed both her  arms and pinned them against her side so she couldn’t move.  Terror creeped up from that part of her soul that had tried to warn Edwina about this man and although she opened up her mouth to scream only silence emerged.  Vincent responded by allowing himself to transform in front of her.  His face contorted into an elongated shape, the skin becoming tougher, his eyes turned completely crimson and finally his teeth became sharp fangs that hung over his thin blood-red lips.  Edwina’s eyes widened in horror as Vincent pulled Edwina close to him, plunging his teeth into her neck with more force than he usually allowed himself.

Her blood had the robust flavor he cherished and he had to remind himself that he only wanted to sample her offering, not deplete her of her entire supply.  He had found his own personal fountain of blood and he wanted to taste her over and over again.  Edwina didn’t realize it but she had just become a reservoir for Vincent Savage, a vessel he could return to again and again to graze and guzzle before and after the hunt.  He would heal her wounds each time and she wouldn’t remember their encounters.  By coming to Vincent’s home willingly, Edwina had unwittingly agreed to play a very special role in his life.

Vincent held Edwina’s head in his large hands and licked a few wayward drops of blood that began to slide down the side of her thin, graceful neck.  Edwina roused without opening her eyes and mumbled, “Who are you?”

Vincent paused then bent closer to her ear and whispered: “I am your brother.”

Hold Back the Night – Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Mother and Daughter

A profound silence enveloped the underground passageway after Amanda collapsed.  Nearby, Winter stood transfixed at the sight of her mother motionless on the ground, but she was still under the control of an unseen force and although her mind was begging her body to move toward Amanda, it refused to obey.

Through Winter’s eyes the raven-haired woman watched the scene like an interested, but dispassionate, voyeur.  She saw sweat form on Amanda’s brow and trickle slowly into her eyes, but having never perspired, let alone broken out into a sweat, the raven-haired woman merely wondered what the sting felt like to Amanda.  She had no desire to feel Amanda’s pain, she was just curious.  And indeed she was comforted by the fact that she was the cause of such pain.

Amanda’s fingers began to move and tentatively scratch at the earth.  Winter held her breath and willed her mother to regain her strength and rise.  Acting as if she was responding to Winter’s thoughts, Amanda’s hands began to move with more confidence and she began to push herself up from the ground.  After several attempts that left her winded, she was kneeling and was conscious enough to know that if she didn’t get out of the tunnel quickly, she might not get out alive.

Standing on shaky legs, Amanda reached up to grab the stone torch holder for support and climbed the few stairs that led to the escape hatch.  She gulped the cold air, but her mouth was so dry that each time she swallowed it felt as if a razor blade was lodged in her throat.  Her right hand began to shake uncontrollably so she clutched the torch holder with both hands for more security and focused completely on pushing open the escape hatch until she felt herself reclaim control of her body.  Amanda did not understand what was happening to her physically, but she knew the only way to survive was to remain as mentally alert as possible.

“Your mother is strong,” the raven-haired woman whispered to Winter.  “She reminds me of myself.”

Winter couldn’t respond audibly, but wondered why her mother was being put through such agony and further, would she live through it.

“Your mother will survive,” said Winter’s controller.  “Until, of course, she has completed my work.”

 

Mercy Hospital

“Get your hands off me!”

Edwina’s blood-curdling scream ripped through the emergency room of Mercy Hospital startling the staff, the people in the waiting room, and causing one patient to rouse, albeit briefly, and perhaps only coincidentally, from a comatose state.

The second Mrs. Lassiter was being held tightly on either side by Anthony and Jonatha.  She was trying to break free from their grip with such force that no one would have suspected less than an hour earlier, she was laying in a pool of her own blood with a broken spine and seconds from certain death.  No one except Anthony who witnessed the miracle and Jonatha who performed it.

The trio was quickly greeted by a team of doctors and nurses who, accustomed to Edwina’s outbursts were nonetheless put off-center by these current hysterics.  Anthony explained that Edwina had been in a car accident and lost a great deal of blood.  Jonatha added that she was driving the car that Edwina crashed into, but neither she nor Anthony

offered any information about the aftermath of the crash.

Kicking and screaming like a B-movie actress in a breakthrough role, Edwina was led into the examining room where she was sedated more for the safety of the hospital staff than for her own.

“Don’t you people know who I am?!” Edwina screamed before being injected.  “I am Mrs. Joseph Lassiter! I’ll have my husband arrest every one of you lower-middle-class butchers!”

Jonatha wandered over to a chair unable to comprehend the evening’s events and was grateful that Anthony put his arm around her shoulder, but remained silent.  They both knew words could not explain what had occurred.  With a jolt Anthony also realized he couldn’t explain Adam’s absence.

 

The Legend of Serenity Pond

The legend of Serenity Pond was the stuff of Nightfall folklore and every child born in this region knew the story of the two young lovers who were destroyed by a demonic force.  Near the tranquil pond that now rested on Love property, not long after the Mayflower sailed into Plymouth Rock, a man and a woman fell in love on this land.

Amelia Lawrence was the daughter of the town’s physician and was a woman of remarkable beauty, both physical and spiritual.  James Lowell was the most honored lawman and the man who single-handedly led armies to protect their borders.  Their union was consecrated before the church elders and celebrated by all in the land, except one.  An immortal woman, who was never seen by mortal eyes, but was feared more than the most ferocious untamed animals that lurked in the woods.

A year after their blessed marriage, Amelia and James were expecting their first child.  The townspeople were in a state of extended bliss and prayed daily that the birth would be painless and the child, a worthy addition to the Lowell clan.  Hidden from the elders, they even made sacrifices and offered presents to the higher forces to protect the child from the unseen woman.  Fate, however, would not prove to be their friend.

One summer day, near the end of her pregnancy, Amelia walked alone along the banks of the pond that lay in the center of their land.  She tickled the water with her bare feet and sat for hours contemplating her love for James and the child she would soon present to him as an emblem of that love.  Suddenly the sun that had been shining so brightly grew dark and ominous looking clouds appeared in the sky.  Not wanting to get caught in a summer rainstorm, Amelia turned from the pond to return home and came face to face with her destiny.

Amelia involuntarily clutched her swollen stomach and instantly grew fearful at the sight of this strange woman, whose ebony hair fell in lustrous waves over her shoulders and breasts almost to the length of her knees.  She was clad only in a shimmering white robe that blew softly in the wind and Amelia saw that her feet, delicate and small, didn’t touch the earth.

 

London

From the moment Ondine Chauvelin burst into Dashiell and Llewellyn’s apartment pandemonium ruled.  She embraced her son, Dashiell, with mink-clad arms, smothered him with air kisses, and dropping her voice an octave told him that he looked simply ravishing.  Then she turned her sights onto Llewellyn, hugged him and lifted him a few feet off the ground before raising her voice an octave to tell him that she must have his moisturizer because his skin looked like porcelain.  She then proceeded to tell both men that she was joining them on their journey to America.

“You can’t come!” protested Dashiell.

“I can, I am, and you cannot stop me,” Ondine replied.  “Mon chér.”

“Mother you don’t understand,” Dashiell said, sounding very much like a perplexed toddler.

“I do understand,” Ondine said.  “You want to find out if the young, and although you probably haven’t noticed, nubile, Jonatha Lassiter is aware of her power and if she will pose as a threat to me.  I am touched, as only a mother can be touched, and I too am curious about this girl and her . . .abilities.  But I am also angered.”

When Ondine paused, Dashiell and Llewellyn knew this was when her whole demeanor would change from endearing to venomous.

“How dare you conspire to go to Nightfall without me and in secret, and when I say “you” Llewellyn I am using the plural tense.  You do not remain unscathed.  Ms. Lassiter is a thorn in my life, and I will not allow two boys the freedom to dabble in my life so they can feel like men!  Now get my bags, my jet is fueled, and it is ready to take us all to this little provincial town you are so eager to visit.  I have already made reservations at what I’m sure will be an inadequate inn and once we arrive, I will contact an old friend, Perry Love, and arrange for us to have dinner with him and his family, which includes the mysterious Jonatha, on Friday evening.  You see, children, Mother might be in a spot of trouble at the moment, but never underestimate her ability to overcome.”

Ondine turned on her heel, swaying her mink coat elaborately, and as she left the room commanded: “Come boys, America awaits.”

 

The Legend of Serenity Pond

Hours later when the sky returned to the color of summer blue and the clouds disappeared, James found his bride lying next to the pond.  She was weeping uncontrollably and her torn gown was soaked with blood.  James cradled Amelia in his arms and tried to soothe her, but she was inconsolable.

“She took him,” Amelia said between sobs.  “She took our son.”

“Who?” asked James, fighting his own fear in order to understand the situation.

“The raven-haired woman.”

Instantly James understood whom Amelia spoke of.

“Where did she take him?” James begged.  “Tell me so I can bring him home.”

“In there.”

Amelia pointed to the pond.  She explained that after the raven-haired woman tore their son from within her, she raised the child to the heavens, and then plunged into the pond with their son.  She told James that they were still in there somewhere.

Upon hearing that, James gently placed Amelia onto the ground and dove into the pond to rescue his son.  He swam fitfully around the pond searching for his child and the woman with raven hair, peering into the small dirt caves and in between the underwater branches until he could no longer hold his breath.  When he tried to swim back up to the surface his foot got caught on a patch of twine.  He valiantly tried to wrench his foot free, but the twine held him prisoner and his lungs filled with water causing him to drown.

While her husband was dying, Amelia crawled to the edge of the pond to try to catch a glimpse of what was happening underneath the surface.  Holding on to a nearby tree branch, she submerged her face only to see James fighting to free himself from the twine’s grasp.  Without thinking, Amelia plunged into the pond to rescue James, but when she reached him she saw that he was already dead.  Her heart broke as she held on to the only man she ever loved and feeling her own chest constrict she knew she had to rise to the surface alone.  But before she could push with her legs, she saw the raven-haired woman holding her son.

The woman let go of Amelia’s son and he drifted into his mother’s arms.  With one hand Amelia held the lifeless child to her heart and with the other she held her husband to her cheek as she allowed life to flee her body.  The last image she saw before she took her final breath was of the raven-haired woman floating and laughing.

The three bodies were later found entangled together and were buried nearby in one grave. Legend has it that if you come to Serenity Pond and prayed hard enough and possessed a good soul, the spirit of Amelia would wash you with peace.  The pond was

renamed Serenity Pond, and whenever the people of this region needed to overcome tragedy or frustration and wanted to bring tranquility back into their life, they made a visit.  Unfortunately, Aimee Pomeroy, the Love’s maid, found no peace at Serenity Pond, only death, and David Anderson, Nightfall’s youngest policeman, who now stood over Aimee’s body, had no idea the same fate would befall him.  Adam Savage, crouching in the darkness of the forest, would make sure of that.

Mother and Daughter

Amanda finally crawled through the escape hatch and made it to the beach.  The air was considerably colder now and without a torch, she could see only as far as the moon allowed, which, tonight, was a distance of only a few feet.  Her body felt very distant from her mind as if she were outside her body merely looking at it and saw herself laying face down on the beach, shivering.  Then she saw the blood.

From atop the steps that lead from the tunnel to the beach, Winter could see her mother and she wasn’t sure if she was more horrified by the blood that was seeping from underneath her mother’s motionless body or the smile that was forming on the raven-haired woman’s lips.  However, the next scene she witnessed proved to be even more frightful.

A sudden wind swept through Winter’s hair and the next moment she saw a winged creature hovering over Amanda.  Slowly the jet black wings receded and the creature began to grow taller and its posture more erect.  Wings became shoulders and claws became feet as the creature turned into what appeared to be a man.

Vincent Savage towered over Amanda and the vampire fought an almost uncontrollable desire to devour this woman and rob her of the sweet, silvery blood that flowed through her veins.  The passion boiled within him and his fangs grew sharper and bared themselves over his lips as he knelt before the woman he had watched for so many years.  Vincent burrowed his face into the sand and drank the blood that now poured from Amanda, it was intoxicating and Winter could hear him moan in unbearable ecstasy.

 

With inhuman restraint, Vincent scooped Amanda up in his arms not letting the scent of her blood overwhelm him.  As he lifted his head, his eyes, now crimson, met Winter’s.  He smiled wickedly at the young girl before he and Amanda vanished into the night.

 

Mercy Hospital

Anthony and Jonatha listened as the doctors reassured them that Edwina would be fine.  They were, in fact, amazed that she had been in any type of accident at all.  She hadn’t broken any bones, lost any blood, and the only scratches she had were self-inflicted when her own sharp nails scraped her flesh as the hospital staff struggled to sedate her.  They were thankful the doctors hadn’t found anything wrong with Edwina, but they were also frightened.

“Uncle Anthony,” Jonatha said softly.  “What did I do?”

“I don’t honestly know,” Anthony replied.  “But I believe it was a miracle.”

“You really believe in miracles?” she asked.

“Yes.  And now I have proof that they exist.  Thank you.”

“I’m scared.”

“Don’t be.  I know this is confusing, but you have some sort of gift.”

“I know.  But is it a gift from God?”

Before Anthony could reassure his niece that her healing powers had grown from the purity of her soul, Perry and Madeline burst into the room.

“Anthony!” Madeline cried.  “What’s going on?  A nurse called and said Edwina was in an accident.”

“Mom, Dad,” Anthony said.  “She’s absolutely fine.”

“Why didn’t you call us?” Perry asked.

“I was just about to,” Anthony stammered.  “She really is fine.”

Anthony explained, in as little detail as possible, that there was a car accident.

“Was she drinking again?” Madeline asked, interrupting Anthony’s explanation.

“Maybe,” he answered.

“Jonatha, honey, are you okay?”  Madeline inquired, hugging her granddaughter tightly.

“Yes, I’m fine.  We were worried about Mother, but she came through without a scratch.”

“You know Edwina,” Anthony said.  “She’s got nine lives.”

Madeline sensed her son’s forced joviality was an attempt to cover up something.  She decided not to press matters any further at the moment, but made a mental note to question Anthony later.

“I want to see my daughter,” Perry declared.  “And I want to see her now.”

A nurse responded to Perry in an exaggeratedly pleasant voice, which amused Madeline despite her growing concern that her family was in more danger than she was being led to believe.  They were brought to Edwina, who was beginning to awake from her sedated state, and were relieved to find that she truly looked fine.  They would soon find out that she sounded fine as well.

“Daddy, they’re trying to kill me!,” Edwina shrieked.

“No one is trying to kill you dear,” Perry said soothingly.  “They want to help you.”

“They shoved needles in me and tried to restrain me,” Edwina whined.  “Oh Daddy it was just horrible.”

“Well they can be misguided.”

“I want you to fire them!  Close down this hospital,” she cried, then pulled Perry by the necktie so he was inches from her face and whispered: “We do own it don’t we?”

Perry kept trying to calm Edwina down as Madeline merely sighed at her daughter’s antics.  They were all so consumed by Edwina’s tirade, that no one noticed Vincent enter the emergency room with an unconscious Amanda in his arms.

 

Serenity Pond

The makeshift bandage that covered Aimee’s neck was caught by an unexpected breeze and was sent twirling into the night.  David Anderson peered closer to the two puncture wounds in the dead woman’s neck and wondered if all the ancient tales about vampires thriving in Nightfall were true.  He unzipped his jacket and felt his throat to make sure the crucifix he always wore around his neck was still in place.  It was and its presence calmed him slightly until he heard footsteps in the distance.

In one fluid move that would have made any officer proud, David wheeled around in a crouched position, aimed his flashlight, and pulled his gun to face the intruder.

“Slow down,” Joe Lassiter said.  “It’s only me.”

“Sorry sir,” David said, putting his gun back in its holster.  “It’s a little creepy out here.”

“Yes it is.”

Both men stood over Aimee’s pale white body and could not take their eyes away from the blood stained wounds on her neck.

“This is at least the second victim,” Joe said quietly.  “I think we have a problem on our hands.”

“What did you do the last time this happened?”

David’s question startled Joe for although rumors of the unexplained deaths circulated the streets of Nightfall, few people actually mentioned the events out loud.  The townspeople felt some history was better left unspoken.

“One day the killings just stopped.”

“I get the feeling you don’t think we’ll be so lucky this time.”

“I don’t,” Joe admitted.  “But let’s keep that between the two of us.”

Just as Joe was about to call for an ambulance his cellphone rang.  It was a nurse from Mercy Hospital informing him that Amanda was just rushed into the emergency room.  Despite Joe’s remarriage to Edwina, the town still considered Joe and Amanda a couple.

“My wife’s been rushed to the hospital.  You stay here and wait for the ambulance.”

“Is Edwina going to be alright?”

“No, it’s Amanda.”

Watching Joe run off into the darkness to be at Amanda’s side, David couldn’t help think how complicated the Chief of Police’s personal life was.  He couldn’t understand why he stayed married to a woman he didn’t love.  David smiled as he thought of his recent engagement to his long-time girlfriend, Noelle Parker.  It was Noelle’s smile he was imagining when he looked up to see a grinning Adam Savage standing directly in front of him.

 

London

Ondine’s private jet was more like a hotel in the sky.  She had a masseuse, a make-up artist, a personal assistant, and several other employees whose sole purpose in life was to make sure Ondine was content.  It was, as they all would admit, a difficult, though well-paying, job.

Dashiell and Llewellyn hadn’t spoken to each other since Ondine burst into their apartment and took control.  Once again they were relegated to the roles of children, and for Dashiell it was a position he detested.  He couldn’t wait until he crossed over to the Golden Life so he could be free of his mother’s suffocating actions and be with Llewellyn.  He glanced at his lover, who was gazing at the clouds through the plane’s window, with such a deep affection that he felt his heart swoon.  He hoped that Llewellyn would forgive him for concealing his real reason for wanting to make contact with Jonatha Lassiter.  He didn’t want Llewellyn to know that this girl was the only person who could help destroy his mother.

Lying naked on a table in her therapy room, Ondine succumbed to her masseuse’s expert fingers and felt the tension in her limbs be replaced by a peaceful calm.  This blissful state made her mind wander and soon she was remembering the last time she was in Nightfall.

 

Christmas Eve – Forty Years Ago

Although the pearl necklace looked beautiful around Ondine’s long, slender neck, it was much too sophisticated a piece of jewelry to be worn with a nurse’s outfit.  But she just had to wear Perry’s Christmas gift.  She was in love with the exquisite strand of pearls almost as much as she was in love with Perry Love himself.

She looked at herself in the mirror and wondered how improbable it was that she had become a nurse at Mercy Hospital and was secretly dating the most promising intern on staff, an intern who just happened to be engaged to wed the wealthy socialite Madeline Wexler.  Whenever Ondine heard or even thought of that woman she bristled.  Madeline Wexler was the only person who stood in her way of becoming Mrs. Perry Love, and with Perry and Madeline’s wedding scheduled in only a few months, time was running out on Ondine if she was going to convince Perry that he should choose her and not Madeline.  Or as Ondine liked to call her, the Ice Princess of Maine.

Everything would change tonight at the hospital’s Christmas Eve party.  Madeline was home suffering from the flu and Perry, as an intern with high career aspirations, could not miss the best networking event of the year.  Ondine would make the most out of Madeline’s absence and decided tonight was the night she would tell Perry the truth about herself.

Ever since she arrived in this small town six months earlier, she had allowed people to believe that she had lost her parents in a boating accident overseas and had come to America to start a new life.  As expected, her tragic tale gained the town’s sympathy and soon she was being invited to social luncheons, inducted into the Daughters of Mercy, the

philanthropic arm of the hospital, and courted by the sons from the most prominent families in Nightfall.  No one could have imagined her real history, for it was true what was said about fact, it was stranger and far more unbelievable than fiction.

Against all expectations, Ondine had become enchanted with Nightfall mostly due to her relationship with Perry Love.  The moment they laid eyes on each other they both became entranced.  Ondine loved Perry’s intelligence and self-confidence, and Perry was infatuated, not merely with Ondine’s obvious beauty, but with her grace and sophistication.  They exchanged heated glances in the hospital corridors, made quick, passionate love in vacant hospital rooms and locked storage closets, and sometimes even had lunch.  Since Ondine was still technically an outsider, and Perry was on the brink

of a successful future as a surgeon, they both had much to lose if their affair was discovered, so they became masters of deceit.  No one knew that they were lovers, especially not Madeline.  However, Madeline didn’t suspect Perry was involved with another woman, not because Perry and Ondine were careful and clever, but because Madeline didn’t care.  She agreed to marry Perry Love because her true love, Clifford Spencer, had been killed in a skiing accident the previous year, and Perry was the least offensive of the cadre of suitors who, since Clifford’s death, clamored for her affection.

Lately, however, Ondine had grown restless.  Her love for Perry was also becoming all-consuming.  She was no longer satisfied with brief moments in the shadows and wanted to show everyone how deeply in love they were.  In her entire life she never wanted to be paired off with just one person, nor did she ever think that one person could ever satisfy her many hungers, but Perry Love changed everything.

 

The Christmas Eve party began innocently enough with everyone drinking a bit too much egg nog and gossiping about certain candy stripers.  Ondine kept her ears arched, but not once did she hear any comment linking her to Perry.  She thought to herself that these people were either very naïve or very stupid.  Either way, she was still looked upon as the poor orphan girl from Europe and that suited her just fine.

Soon after Perry was announced this year’s Snow King, and Madeline, in absentia, his Snow Queen, the party began to draw to its close.  Some unlucky guests had to go back on shift or spend some time in the emergency room, but Perry was free to drive Ondine home.  It was the moment she had waited for all night long and she was going to make the most of it.

 

Mercy Hospital

Bound to the stretcher, Edwina watched in disbelief as everyone’s focus shifted away from her and toward her sister.  She overlooked the fact that Amanda was being carried by an extremely tall, and handsome, stranger, and that she was bleeding, and preferred to concentrate on the fact that once again Amanda was upstaging her.  If it weren’t for the damned armstraps, she would have made a dramatic exit.

Quickly, a doctor and two nurses put Amanda on her own stretcher and wheeled her into a trauma room, all the while bombarding Vincent with questions, mainly about how he came to find her.

“I was taking a walk on the beach, ” Vincent replied.  “And I saw her lying there, not moving.”

The doctor realized it was more important to stop Amanda’s bleeding, than to try and get an explanation out of Vincent so they began to work vigorously on their patient.  The Loves, however, wanted to know more.

“What the hell have you done to my daughter!?” Perry screamed at Vincent.

Anthony and Madeline interpreted Perry’s rage to be the misplaced anger of a frightened father, but Vincent knew better.  The vampire looked directly into his enemy’s eyes and simply said, “Nothing.”

“Vincent,” Anthony said in an attempt to uncover a bit more information.  “Was there an accident?”

“I don’t know,” he said.  “It was such a clear evening I thought I would take a walk along the beach.  After a mile or so I saw Amanda’s body and when I got closer, I realized she was unconscious.”

Since this was the first time Madeline was in Vincent Savage’s presence, she studied him and was intrigued by the sense of familiarity she felt when she looked into his eyes.  She didn’t understand it, but she felt an immediate connection with this man.  Then again, she thought, she might just be grateful that he had rescued her daughter.

“It’s quite a chilly evening to be taking a leisurely stroll on the beach, Mr. Savage,” Madeline said.

“Yes it is,” Vincent replied.  “But I lived in Washington State for quite some time, so I’m used to chilly nights.”

“Is that where you’re from?” Madeline asked.

“It’s one of the places where I have lived, yes,” he replied.

“Thank you,” Jonatha said, looking directly at Vincent.

Vincent turned to face the young girl and he had to shut his eyes to shield them.  The purity that emanated from Jonatha was, to a typical human being, comforting, but to a vampire it was terrifying.  It was also awe-inspiring for although Vincent wasn’t sure exactly what type of power this young girl possessed, he knew it was immense, which meant she was a threat to him and to Adam.

“You’re welcome,” Vincent stammered after forcing himself to open his eyes.

With his preternatural senses he felt that Jonatha was about to extend her hand to him, so he quickly moved toward Perry, which was much safer ground.  But it wasn’t only Jonatha whom Vincent needed to be wary of.  Edwina, whose eyes never left the vampire once Amanda was taken out of her line of sight, saw something in Vincent that intrigued her.  Several times while Vincent was speaking she saw him glance to the door beyond which Amanda lay on a stretcher and Edwina saw Vincent’s eyes become drenched with a powerful emotion that she knew very well.  It was lust.

 

Christmas Eve – Forty Years Ago

The second after the door of Perry’s jet black Cadillac closed, Ondine began massaging his thigh.  While he drove, she kissed his neck and nibbled on his ear, stroked his chest and the area well below, and whispered how incredibly sexy he looked to her.  She undulated against the leather interior and told Perry that he should pull over on the side of the road.  Perry protested, claiming the recent 10-inch snowfall hid most of the road’s shoulder and that they would have to wait until they got to her apartment.  Ondine told him that she just wanted to talk, that she wanted to tell him the truth about her.  But Perry wasn’t listening, he had something important that he wanted to say.

Whether it was woman’s intuition or just gut instinct, Ondine knew whatever Perry wanted to tell her was not something she wanted to hear. So she immediately began telling Perry that she loved him and wanted to offer him the kind of passion and compassion that Madeline could never give him.  His body stiffened during her monologue and he actually shifted a few inches away from her.  It was, needless to say, not the reaction she was hoping for.

“Ondine,” Perry began.  “This has been a wonderful diversion for me, but I will marry Madeline, nothing will change that.  So I think it’s best if we stopped seeing each other.”

Ondine stared at Perry who continued to drive as if he was discussing the weather with an acquaintance.

“A diversion?” Ondine asked quietly.  “That’s what I am to you?”

“You know what I mean,” Perry replied without taking his eyes off the road.

“No Perry, actually I don’t!”

When Ondine didn’t get a response she added:  “Perry I would appreciate it if you stopped this car and looked at me.”

Perry continued to drive without acknowledging Ondine’s request.  He had said all he cared to on the matter and couldn’t comprehend why his passenger kept bothering him.  Infuriated by his silence, Ondine grabbed the wheel and yanked it to the left causing the car to swerve on the slippery road.  Instinctively, Perry pushed her into the passenger window and regained control of the car.  Oblivious to the blood that ran from a cut over her right eye, Ondine continued questioning Perry.

“You told me you loved me,” Ondine said, more to herself than to the man whom she loved.  “You said that I made you feel alive and that I was more of a woman than Madeline could ever be.”

“You do.  You are.  But that doesn’t change the fact that Madeline will be my wife.”

Ondine stared at Perry as if she was looking at roadkill.  She was disgusted, horrified, but hooked.

“How dare you treat me this way.”

She then started to kick and hit Perry, who tried to keep the car from dipping into the snowy embankments.

“You have no idea who I am and how I can destroy you,” she screamed.

“I knew you would threaten me,” Perry shouted back.  “You’re nothing more than a scheming alley cat.”

“I’ll do more than threaten you, I’ll destroy you.”

“Why, because I don’t want to marry you?”

“Because you lied to me Perry!,” Ondine seethed.  “You’ve treated me like a fool and all I ever wanted was your love.”

Ondine was crying now and began to accentuate every sentence with a punch to Perry’s arm or face and it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to keep the car on the road.

“No woman who is so comfortable in a man’s bed like you are could ever know what love is.”

“You bastard!”

Ondine slapped Perry’s face so hard he slammed into the side window and was briefly knocked unconscious.  When he came to moments later he saw his car careening towards a cliff and realized Ondine’s foot was pushing down on the gas pedal.

“You’re going to kill us both.”

“No,” Ondine replied calmly.  “I’m just going to kill you.”

Ironically, they were both wrong.  The Cadillac veered off the road at 80mph and, after being airborne for five seconds, crashed into a snowy ravine and flipped over twice before landing right side up.  When Perry awoke he saw that Ondine was laying across him with blood teeming down her face.  He felt for a pulse but couldn’t find one, and then, he panicked.

Working quickly, and with shaking hands, Perry dragged Ondine from his car and began making a clearing in the deep snow.  He laid her on the ground and started covering her up in the snow until she was completely erased from the landscape.  He got back in the car, which somehow was still running, and drove parallel to the road until he got to an area that was free of snow.  He was about to get the blanket from his trunk and smooth out the tire tracks, when it suddenly began to snow very hard and he knew that all the evidence connecting him to this place would soon vanish.  Perry drove home without ever looking back at Ondine’s makeshift grave.  If he did, perhaps he would have seen her hand emerge from the snow.

When Ondine’s masseuse was finished she was completely relaxed and her body tingled with anticipation.

“Oh Perry,” Ondine mumbled to herself.  “What a delightful revenge I have in store for you.”

Serenity Pond

David reached for his gun, but Adam grabbed it first and flung it into the pond.  Next, David prepared to punch Adam in the gut, but Adam deflected it with his right hand and with his left he spun David around so that Adam was standing behind David with his right arm lodged underneath his neck.  Before letting his fangs sear into David’s muscular neck, Adam hesitated allowing the smell of fear and musk tantalize him.

Taking advantage of Adam’s loosening grip, David reached for the knife in his belt.  He grabbed it and stuck it into Adam’s cheek, dragging the knife downward to Adam’s throat.  Adam yelled in pain and let go of David, but David was unable to run.  He saw that although the wound on Adam’s face was a gaping hole, not one drop of blood poured from it like it should have.  He then saw the gnarled flesh on Adam’s face heal itself and in seconds Adam’s skin was as smooth as it always was.  Involuntarily, David’s eyes glanced at the two puncture wounds on Aimee’s neck then back to Adam who was now baring his fangs and growling.  David was only able to recite the first line of the Lord’s Prayer before Adam attacked him violently.

Long after Adam had finished feeding, he kept his fangs deep within David’s neck, and held the policeman’s body close to him.  He licked his lips and tasted the mixture of the salt from his tears and the sweetness of the young man’s blood.  Try as he might Adam only enjoyed the kill when he was in the throes of hunger.  He understood that he would need to come to terms with his feelings if he ever wanted to find happiness once he fully crossed over to the Golden Life.  Unable to look at David’s still-opened and frightened eyes, Adam gently placed his body alongside Aimee’s and began to walk home.

On the way he realized he would have to come up with some explanation that would satisfy Anthony and Jonatha as to why he fled after the accident.  But his thoughts were quickly interrupted by the sight of Winter Lassiter sitting on the beach.  He stood over the young girl and saw that she was wearing her pajamas and shivering.  When he scooped the girl in his arms to return her to the warmth of her home she was awakened.  Their eyes met and with a smile she whispered, “Joey?” before giving in to unconsciousness once more.

 

Mercy Hospital

The struggle between David and his unseen attacker was vibrant and real in Anthony’s mind and, unfortunately, so was the pain.  In mid-sentence, Anthony felt the pain rush up from his gut and claim his entire body before collapsing to the ground.

The doctors who weren’t working to control Amanda’s bleeding, rushed to Anthony’s side but not before Jonatha knelt next to her uncle and cradled his head in her lap.  When Jonatha touched Anthony’s forehead and clasped his hand, he became calmer.  His body stopped convulsing and his breathing eased, though he did not wake.  The doctors, Perry, and Edwina, who by this time was finally untied, thought they were seeing Anthony’s seizure end as quickly as it had come.  Madeline and Vincent, however, understood that Jonatha was somehow controlling the event and it frightened them both, though for very different reasons.

While Anthony still lay on the floor in Jonatha’s arms envisioning David being murdered by a beast that he couldn’t identify, Joe burst through the emergency room doors.

“Where’s Amanda?” Joe cried.

“Oh I’m fine honey,” Edwina shouted back.  “Thank you so much for asking.”

“Edwina,” Joe said.  “Someone called me and said Amanda was rushed to the hospital.”

“I guess they neglected to tell you that your wife was rushed here too,” she said. “And I got here first!”

“Your wife needs you Joseph,” Perry said, deliberately gesturing toward Edwina.

“Yes, Joe, she does,” Madeline added.  “Amanda will be fine.”

Joe noticed Anthony and Jonatha on the floor and correctly surmised that he had had another vision, which meant someone else had been murdered.

“What on earth is happening?” Joe whispered.

At Joe’s comment, Madeline felt her neck tingle, and a chill invade her body.  She turned around and saw Vincent staring at her with what she thought were menacing eyes.  Breathless, she forced herself to turn away and saw the curtains, which had been concealing Amanda, open.  Her daughter was propped up in bed and, though her face was flushed, she looked like she was merely waking from a fitful night’s sleep.

“Mother!”  Amanda cried.  “Is that you?”

Madeline, Perry, and Joe rushed to Amanda’s side.  Vincent lingered behind them and Edwina, truly more interested in Vincent’s reactions to her sister than her sister’s diagnosis, stood off to the side and watched.  Jonatha remained with Anthony in the other room to ensure his safe recovery.

“Are you alright?” Madeline asked.

“Yes,” Amanda replied.  “I collapsed on the beach.  One minute I was fine and the next I had the most incredible pains in my stomach.”

“What were you doing on the beach in this weather?” Perry asked.

Forcing herself not to look at Joe, Amanda replied: “You know how much I love to walk on the beach and think.”

“Luckily so does Mr. Savage,” Madeline said.

But when she turned to introduce Amanda to her savior, she couldn’t find him.

“Mr. Savage?” cried Madeline.

“He must have snuck out,” Edwina offered, as surprised as Madeline was that Vincent had vanished.  “I guess he didn’t want to interrupt the reunion.”

Ignoring his wife’s obvious unhappiness with his actions, Joe stayed next to Amanda.

“As long as you’re okay now,” Joe said fighting back tears.

“I am now that you’re here,” Amanda said looking right into Joe’s eyes, then quickly added.  “All of you.”

“Amanda?” asked Dr. Jeffrey Saxon, her physician as well as a friend of the family.  “Has the abdominal pain subsided?”

“Yes it’s completely gone.”

“That’s wonderful news,” he said.  “For you and the baby.”

“What?”  Amanda cried.

“Your baby,” he replied.

The doctor realized every person in the room was staring at him with a shocked expression and he suddenly became very embarrassed.

“I’m sorry I thought you all knew,” the doctor said quietly.  “Amanda is four months pregnant.”

Hold Back the Night – Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Winter

Winter stared into the mirror and directly into the eyes of the raven-haired woman not because she was interested, but because she was paralyzed.  The moment she made eye contact with the mysterious woman, Winter could feel pangs of fear creep into her body making her heart pound and her breath hard to catch.  She begged God to give her the strength to look away from this stranger, but was not surprised when her plea went unanswered.  She had never been a faithful servant of the Lord which she knew made Him unhappy, but it was an act that filled the raven-haired woman with joy.

Deep within the recesses of Winter’s bruised soul, she could not prevent something bad from washing over her.  With the part of her brain that she still controlled, Winter wondered if she was being punished.

“No, my child,” said the raven-haired woman.  “You are being rewarded.”

 

Edwina

Edwina stared into the pieces of mirror that still clung to the frame and fifteen self-images bombarded her at once, which in Edwina’s drunken state was fifteen too many.

“Stop looking at me like that!” Edwina screamed at herself.

After spending the entire day alone, unable to contact her husband, Edwina was anxious and, as usual, she allowed her self-indulgence to override her rational thought.  On her short walk to her front door she lost her footing twice before disregarding her coat and her logic by grabbing her car keys to search for Joe.

 

Perry

Perry stared at his own reflection in the mirror and spoke to the other person in the room.

“How have you been, Vincent?”

“Very well,” replied the vampire.  “I had forgotten how much I enjoyed life on the East coast.”

Unable to turn around and face his visitor, Perry remained focused on the mirror.  He felt the beads of sweat accumulate at the back of his neck and slowly slide down his spine.  Regardless of how many times he was in Vincent’s presence, each time felt like he was  in a cage with an exotic, wild animal; you just never knew when the animal would strike, but you knew at some point it would.

“Perry, where are your manners?” Vincent said.  “Please turn around so I can see you.”

Slowly, Perry turned and winced upon seeing Vincent in the flesh.  The creature looked the same as the last time they had secretly met: stylishly dressed, distinguished, and physically striking.  But over the years Perry had learned to look beyond the basic outline of this being.  He could see that Vincent’s skin was a bit too smooth, and his fingers a bit too long.  Perry noticed the vampire’s jagged teeth creasing the flesh around its lip and Perry’s heart lurched as he wondered if he was becoming better at noticing Vincent’s differences, or if the vampire was toying with him.

“You said it was important that we meet,” Perry said.  “What was it that you wanted to discuss?”

“Such the businessman.  Are you not at all interested in the well-being of your  grandson?”

Perry swallowed hard before he replied: “I think we should stick to business.”

“Very well then.”

Vincent brushed up against Perry as he went to sit in the older man’s desk chair.  Vincent could smell Perry’s fear and couldn’t help but laugh at the man.  They had known each other when Vincent was still mortal and now with a vampire’s heightened senses he understood the man so much better.  This better understanding made Vincent’s disgust for Perry grow for Perry had no morals.  Vincent may have been a killer of men, but he had his own code of ethics that he steadfastly upheld.  Sometimes he faltered by misunderstanding the importance of mortal life and wound up killing innocent people who deserved a better fate, but Vincent was, after all, of a higher species.  Perry, on the other hand, had no ethical code.  He simply lived to protect himself, and since Perry had countless secrets to protect his was a very full life.

Vincent’s size 13 black leather Kenneth Cole boots made a loud thump when he draped his feet on Perry’s desk, causing several files to fall to the floor.  Neither man moved to pick up the scattered papers, they just watched them waft to the floor.  Vincent kept staring at Perry’s face, while Perry remained focused on Vincent’s boots.  The vampire realized he held less compassion and sympathy for Perry than he did for his victims.

“I understand the research in Oslo is proceeding nicely,” Vincent started.  “The first set of test results was extremely promising.”

“Yes.  I organized a brilliant team of scientists.”

“Yes, Ms. Hallström is leading an intelligent group.  But Adam crosses over on October 20th, the day after your dear Madeline’s sixtieth birthday.”

“Don’t mention her name,” Perry bristled.

“Does her name conjure up bad memories?” Vincent asked, knowing full well the loveless nature of the marriage of the first couple of Nightfall.

“I’ll inform Ms. Hallström of the situation,” Perry replied, ignoring Vincent’s remark.

With the speed of a jaguar and the elegance of a python, Vincent rose and moved to stand in front of Perry.  “When you speak to Ms. Hallström,” Vincent whispered, “convey to her the need to accelerate our project.”

“They’re working as fast as they can,” Perry stammered.  “They’re already ahead of schedule.”

“And if they finish after the 20th when Adam has crossed over to the Golden Life completely, then all is for naught.”

“I told you this might not work!”

Perry clenched his fists and slammed them against the innocent air like a petulant child who had been denied a toy.  With amused eyes Vincent drank in the man’s red cheeks and sweaty brow, and paused before responding to his childish outburst.

“Do I have to remind you what is at stake here?”  Vincent asked.  “If our plan fails, if you do not help Adam retain some of his human characteristics, then your life, as you know it, is over.”

“But . . . it’s not my fault!” Perry protested.

“Oh but it is, Perry.  All of this.  Is your fault.”

 

Amanda and Joe

The only light that shone in the underground tunnel was Joe’s small flashlight, which was part of a Swiss army knife he always carried with him.  He hadn’t seen Amanda enter the tunnel, but he knew that when she wanted to be alone this is where she sought refuge.  But he didn’t care if she wanted to be alone; he needed her now and he knew in his heart that she would never turn away from him.

When the first flickers of light illuminated Amanda, Joe could see that she was crouched in a corner weeping.  The sight left Joe unable to breathe and he felt as if an eager hand was clutching his throat.  Choking back his own tears he moved toward her, placed the flashlight on the ground, and held the woman he loved.  Amanda didn’t pull away.  Instead, she held onto him until her tears subsided.

“Why, Joe?” Amanda asked.  “Why would my father want to hurt me?”

“Maybe he wants to protect you.”

“Protect me?”

“From false hope,” Joe said as he brushed away her tears. “From thinking that some day we will be reunited with our son.”

“Even if we didn’t get that last note, even if I had no idea if I would ever see Joey again, I would never declare him dead.  He’s my child.”

“I know, Amanda, I know,” Joe said as he held Amanda close to him.  “He’s my child too, and I won’t rest until I see him again.”  After he caught his breath, Joe  continued: “I’ve screwed up so many times in my life . . .”

“Joe, don’t.”

“No, I have.  I ruined us, I ruined my marriage to Edwina, it’s a miracle my daughters still talk to me.”

“You’re a good man, Joe. You are.  And I . . .” Amanda suddenly lost her voice.

“What, Amanda?” Joe whispered.  “What were you going to say?”

“And I love you so much.”

Their arms intertwined and soon Amanda found herself laying on the cold stone floor as Joe, straddling her, was quickly unbuttoning her blouse, and then her belt.  Her desire would not yield to the doubt that was creeping up within her.  She understood this newfound bliss she had found with Joe might not last, and she also knew that the longer she allowed it to continue, the more painful it would be for her when it finally had to end.  But for now she allowed Joe to shower her with kisses, and she let his tongue caress

her neck and his rough hands stroke her breasts.  She was simply too weak to resist.

 

Edwina

The stop sign was nothing more than a red blur to Edwina so she drove right through it.  She had the top of her fire engine red BMW convertible down and felt the night hair mingle with her hair as she raced down the streets of Nightfall.  Speeding past the countryside on a quest to find her husband, Edwina was plagued by images of him wrapped in the arms of another woman whom she knew intimately.

Ever since she was a toddler, Edwina had been compared to her older sister, Amanda.  She was constantly reminded that she didn’t walk as early as Amanda, she didn’t talk as well as Amanda, and she wasn’t as smart as Amanda.  It didn’t matter that Amanda never criticized her sister or flaunted her accomplishments, it only mattered that Amanda was the reason Edwina would never be anything more than secondary.  In her parents’ eyes, and in the eyes of all the inhabitants of Nightfall—most of whom Edwina felt were meddling and ignorant—Amanda was the special one and Edwina, the prodigal daughter.  Naturally, it didn’t help that Edwina was irresponsible, manipulative, and self-centered, but to Edwina, those were tactics and not traits.

As the image of Joe and Amanda having sex (even drunk, Edwina couldn’t imagine that they made love) grew clearer in her mind, Edwina tried to counteract it by remembering intimate moments that she shared with her husband.  She focused on the happier times in her marriage, and soon her mind was occupied with mental pictures of Joe and Edwina frolicking on the beach in Mykonos.  When she closed her eyes and surrendered to the memory, she could still taste the salt water and feel Joe’s sand-covered hands exploring her body, but before she got to the moment when Joe made love to her in the dunes, she was jolted back to reality by another car’s horn.

Her eyes opened immediately and she saw that she was driving in the wrong lane.  She moved the steering wheel to the right, swerving out of the way of the oncoming car seconds before impact.  She slammed the brakes, causing the car to skid off to the shoulder of the road.  When she realized she was still alive, she peered into the rear view mirror and saw the other car drive off into the blackness.  Once again, she was a survivor and the thought of it made her tingle euphorically.  When she pushed down hard on the gas pedal she couldn’t decide if she felt glorious because of the adrenaline rush or the alcohol, but then she decided she really didn’t care.

 

St. Agatha’s College

No matter how many times Jonatha walked through the Square, she couldn’t help but smile at the college’s Old World appearance.  She longed for the day when she would become a full-time college student instead of an eager high schooler taking evening classes, for then she could immerse herself into a world of education like she always wanted.  Unlike many of her friends, and especially her sister, Jonatha enjoyed school and went to class each day, thrilled at the prospect of learning something new.  Some day, she told herself, she would be like her Uncle Anthony and would teach other students about history or perhaps religion.  Until then, she’d study and absorb as much information as her mind would hold.

Jonatha walked between Adam and Anthony, her boot heels clicking on the cobblestones in a carefree, teen-aged rhythm.  She had offered to drive both men home and they had agreed.  Anthony had stopped driving ever since he began having his visions again, and Adam was delighted to spend some more time with Jonatha, whom he found quite intriguing.

During their walk from the classroom to Jonatha’s car, Adam was quiet for although he was enchanted by Jonatha’s beauty and charm, he had realized early on in his life that if you ask someone too many questions, inevitably they will start asking questions about you.  His father had warned him that they were not yet ready to answer any questions about themselves or their reason for relocating to Nightfall.

“Adam,” Jonatha asked, “why are you only taking evening classes?”

“Well, my father and I made the decision to transfer to Nightfall quite late in the year,” he replied.  “So all the classes I wanted to take were only available at night.”

“If it weren’t for your father, you wouldn’t have gotten into my class at all,” Anthony interjected.

“I know.  I’m grateful he was able to pull some strings.”

“Is your father someone important?” Jonatha asked.

Anthony explained that Vincent Savage was the new head of the Ancient History department as well as a leading authority in Egyptology.  To himself, Adam added that was because Vincent currently knew some vampires who lived during Queen Cleopatra’s reign and had gotten first hand knowledge of life during their time period.

“Well Mr. Savage sounds very exciting.  I hope to meet him soon to discuss ancient lands,” Jonatha remarked.  “I love that stuff.”

“Perhaps you’ll get the opportunity,” Anthony said.  “Vincent and Adam live on the estate, in the old servant’s quarters.”

“Really?” Jonatha said.  “Well then I do expect an invitation, Adam, and very soon.”

Adam couldn’t tell if Jonatha was being flirtatious or sincere.  All he knew for certain was that he was mesmerized by her aura, a pure white glow that emanated from her . . . an aura that both entranced and frightened him.  This was a young woman he desperately wanted to get to know, but he knew she was also someone he felt could expose him for the fraud he was.

Jonatha opened the passenger door of her silver Volvo, and allowed both men to enter. When Adam bent down to enter the backseat, he glanced upon Jonatha’s gold crucifix necklace.  He shut his eyes tight but could still feel a burning sting as he stumbled into his seat.

“Are you alright?” Jonatha asked.

“Yes,” Adam answered.  “I just have something in my eye.”

“I told you to watch that power of yours, Jonatha,” Anthony said playfully.  “No mortal man can resist.”

“Get in priest-man,” Jonatha joked and slammed the door shut.

Walking around to her side of the car, Jonatha had to admit she was beginning to realize men were noticing her more and not just her physical appearance, they seemed drawn to something deep within her.  She would have to think about this further, but for now she had her favorite uncle in her front seat and a cute stranger in the back and she was more than content.

 

London

The two red leather suitcases and matching carry-on bag were all Dashiell and Llewellyn were planning to take with them on their trip to Nightfall.  They weren’t sure how long they would be staying, but they had booked a room at the Collins Inn for two weeks, and told a woman named Inez, that they may stay longer.  She told them that considering it  was the start of the off-season, she would be able to accommodate an extension.

Llewellyn was sitting in a cub chair, with his legs draped over one arm.  He watched Dashiell nervously pace the room.  He had made no secret to Dashiell that he did not want to go to Maine, but as always Dash convinced him it was something they had to do.

“We have to do this for my mum,” Dashiell had explained.  “In order to help her we must make contact with Jonatha.”

“We already did,” Llewellyn protested.  “Why do we have to traipse to America to snuggle up to the girl?”

“We need to find out just how powerful she is and if mum truly needs to fear her.”

“Even when Mum isn’t meddling, she manages to get in between us.”

“You’re the one who’s getting in between us, Llewellyn!  I want to prove to her that I can help her, can’t you see that?”

“Can’t you see that you’ll never be anything more in your mum’s eyes than her bastard son?”

During the silence that followed this comment Dashiell felt suspended between ‘hate’ and ‘love’ and closed his eyes tightly to avoid seeing Llewellyn.  Whenever the two men spoke of Dashiell’s mother, an argument ensued because Dashiell desperately wanted his mother’s respect and Llewellyn knew it was something she would never dispense.  Llewellyn knew better than to try and apologize or rationalize with his lover during these blow-ups, but he also knew that when it came to Dash’s mother, he was right.

Ondine Chauvelin was a beautiful, domineering woman with an old world elegance that made people feel like genuflecting before her when they came into her presence.  She expected no less from her son.

From the day he was born, Dashiell, was her trophy.  No one knew who his father was, and wise enough to know that curiosity brought fame, Ondine refused to reveal the man’s name.  Her enemies circulated rumors that Dashiell’s father was a cruel, third world dictator, her male admirers that it was them.  Before Dashiell cut his first tooth almost one hundred men had admitted to being his father, but Ondine would not confirm or deny any of their boasts.

As far as she was concerned Dashiell’s father had never existed, which meant that Dashiell was hers and hers alone.  And as his only guardian, Ondine felt it her responsibility to shower him with exquisite gifts to ensure that he felt loved.  For, as Ondine believed, the best, most enduring love, could only be measured in a price tag.  He had the best toys, the most expensive clothes, and when he got older, the best education money could buy.  Before she gave birth to him, she knew she wanted her child to cross over into the Golden Life, for she wanted to sire an immortal, and her plan was currently

working.  Her connections and money had allowed Dashiell to be welcomed into a preternatural world that typically shunned mortal wannabes.   She always laughed at how movies and books exploited the world of vampires making it seem as if any vampire could create another just for companionship or to alleviate the boredom of traveling the world alone for an eternity.  Vampires had a moral code that they to had to follow, her friend Vincent had taught her that, and before one immortal being could create another they needed to be given permission by the council.  If they didn’t, the consequences could be grave.  For a young vampire, Vincent had a great deal of power with the council, and he had convinced them to allow Dashiell to receive the gift of the Golden Life.

Two weeks ago, Ondine had watched with eager, rapturous eyes as Vincent seduced her son and sucked the blood from his neck, slowly at first, and then with ravenous delight.  For hours Ondine gazed at Vincent as he took life from Dashiell’s veins, then let it flood back in, creating a mixture of vampire-human blood that would flow in Dashiell’s veins for several weeks before he could cross over completely.  Soon he would have to hide from the sun and feast only on red ambrosia, and then Ondine would let Vincent teach her son the ways of the night.  Unaware that Vincent had other plans, Ondine counted the days until the final transformation would take place and her son would join the select ranks of immortals, who walked this earth.  But until then Dashiell was still just a man.

“You always act like a child when we speak of Ondine,” Llewellyn said quietly.  “That’s one of the reasons I love you.”

“Don’t try to play ‘kiss and make-up.'”

“You can never resist.  I don’t really know why you try.”

“I need to focus, Llewellyn.  I need to be the one to save my mum.”

“Then let’s just tell Ondine about this trip and how we’re going to reveal what secret powers lie within the heart of the mysterious Jonatha Lassiter.”

“No!” Dashiell cried.  “I need to do this without her help.”

Llewellyn knew Dashiell well enough to be sure that this line of conversation would only aggravate him further and make him completely incapable of any rational thought.  So he changed the subject.

“What about Jonatha’s annoyingly American sister, Winter?” asked Llewellyn.

“Now she might be a problem.”

 

Winter

The raven-haired woman’s voice was gentle and soothing and made Winter feel almost calm.  She was still trying to comprehend what was happening to her, but she  realized that when she didn’t resist the woman’s grasp, the paralyzing fear lessened and she could breathe more easily.  Winter still could not look away from the mirror and the longer she stared at the woman the more she noticed how little she resembled a woman and more like a porcelain sculpture she was.

“Winter,” the woman said, “from now on you are in my control.  Do you understand?”

“Yes,” was the only response Winter could utter.

“You will be my eyes and ears.  Through you I will learn all I need to know.”

“Use me as you see fit,” Winter replied, still unable to move more than her lips.

“Very good,” she said with a smile.  “I can see you will be a worthy subject.”

The raven-haired woman continued to speak and told Winter that even when she gave Winter control of her body once again, their spirits would be joined and the woman would be aware of everything Winter said and did.

“Now, child, lead me to them.”

 

Joe and Amanda

Exhausted, Joe lay on top of Amanda for several moments before reclaiming his strength and pulling himself off of her.  The two dressed quickly and silently acknowledged the awkwardness that cut through the dimly lit air.  Neither was sure how many times two people could succumb to their passion before they were forced to confront reality, but they would soon have to talk with words instead of kisses.

 

Luckily their introspection was interrupted by the ringing of Joe’s cell phone. He glanced at the number and since it was work and not his wife, he shrugged apologetically at Amanda and answered the call.

“Lassiter.”

“Captain, this is Anderson,” said David.

“What is it?”

“We’ve found another body, sir.”

“Where?”

“Near Serenity Pond.”

Joe didn’t repeat the name of the location out loud.  Serenity Pond was only three miles west of Nightwind, and he didn’t want to alarm Amanda.

“Do you know who it is?” asked Joe.

“Yes.  Aimee Pomeroy, the Love family’s maid.”

Joe hoped Amanda didn’t see him wince at the mention of the Love’s trusted servant.  Aimee was much more than a domestic, she was Madeline’s friend and her death would greatly wound her.

“I’ll be right there,” Joe replied.

“Is something wrong?” Amanda asked.

“They found another body.”

“Oh no.  What’s happening, Joe?”

“I don’t know, Amanda,” Joe replied honestly.  “Let me walk you back to the house.”

“No.  I need to stay here and collect myself.  I’ll be fine.”

“You make sure you take the passageway back the same way you came.  Don’t go out to the beach.”

“I won’t,” Amanda said, then quickly added: “You be careful.”

“I will.”

The two lovers stared at each other, the only light being the flashlight and the fire within their eyes.  Each knew they stood on the threshold of a shift in their personal lives, but both were afraid and too tired to examine it just yet.  Joe’s lips brushed against Amanda’s cheek and he pushed open the secret passageway that led to the beach above.  They were both unaware that a few yards away Winter was watching them.

 

Perry and Vincent

“How dare you tell me that this is my fault?!” Perry exclaimed.

Perry often made Vincent laugh, especially when the mortal tried to act innocent.  As Perry’s fists clenched tighter and the veins in his neck threatened to burst through the collar of his hand-made Italian shirt, Vincent roared with laughter, infuriating Perry.

“I will not recite the litany of events that you both created and orchestrated which have brought us to our current situation,” Vincent said, pausing in an unsuccessful attempt to stifle his laughter.  “We both know the truth.  It seems I alone, however, wish to accept it.”

“You evil creature!”

“I could say the same of you,” Vincent replied, and howled in a greater burst of laughter.

“I have had enough of this meeting,” Perry declared.  “I’m going home.”

Before Perry could get his hand on the doorknob, Vincent sprang from his seat, leaping halfway across the room to stand between Perry and the door.

“Do not be a fool, Perry.  Remember what you are dealing with.  Now sit down in your chair and use that intercom to buzz for an assistant,” Vincent said calmly.  “Suddenly, hunger overwhelms me.”

Intimidating was not what Vincent was trying to be, but when you are a very tall and handsome vampire and you state you are hungry that is what you become.  Perry was stunned for he was being asked to supply Vincent with a meal, to be an accessory to murder, and he knew that if he didn’t respond accordingly, he could very well be Vincent’s next victim.

“Do not test me, Perry!”

The vampire’s cry jostled Perry so that his fingers hit the intercom button before he even knew he had done so.

“Yes, Mr. Love,” said Noelle Parker, Perry’s assistant.

“Noelle,” Perry said, “you’re still here.”

“Yes, I was just about to leave,” she replied.  “Can I get something for you or Mr. Savage before I go?”

Perry gave Vincent a pleading glance, but the vampire just smiled and bared his fangs.

“Please come in here right now.”

Perry shut off the intercom before Noelle could respond, and seconds later the young blonde-haired woman entered the room.  As Vincent pulled her nubile body close to him, Perry remembered how grateful Noelle was earlier in the week when the office celebrated her recent engagement with a surprise cake.  Unable to look away, Perry watched as Vincent feasted on Noelle’s neck.  He watched Vincent’s face distort and resemble something that resembled an extinct animal as his fangs pierced into the young, succulent flesh over and over again.  He watched Noelle’s eyes flutter and heard her throat moan softly as if she were in the middle of ecstasy.  Just when Perry felt he could no longer repress the scream that welled up within him, Vincent let Noelle drop to the floor and then wiped the traces of blood from his lips with an eager, practiced tongue.

“Now let’s get back to business,” Vincent said ignoring the girl at his feet.

“But, but . . .” Perry stammered.

“Oh Perry, you are a worrywart,” Vincent chided.  “I only took enough to satisfy my craving, she will wake up in a few hours and think she dozed off at her desk.”

“But her neck,” Perry shouted, “it’s, it’s. . . . been ravaged.”

Vincent sighed melodramatically and bent over so his mouth was once again poised over Noelle’s neck.  Instead of piercing her flesh with his fangs, however, he ran his tongue over her wounds.  Seconds later Vincent and an amazed Perry watched as Noelle’s wounds healed, leaving only the slightest puncture mark that would be covered by the young girl’s long hair.

“I can’t do this any more,” Perry begged.  “Please we must end this . . . this . . .”

“This partnership will end when I say it ends,” Vincent replied.  “If you think this is a game, you are a very stupid man.  You will inform your lady scientist that Adam will be ready for his first injection by week’s end.”

Vincent rose and moving so fast that Perry could not see his actions with mortal eyes, picked up Noelle and sat her in a chair where she would awaken later.  Just as Vincent placed his hand on the doorknob, he heard Perry calling after him.

“I’ll do my best, but I can’t guarantee that we can make that deadline.”

“I understand,” Vincent replied.

“Thank you,” Perry said, visibly relieved.

“And you will understand that if you fail I will kill you and your entire family,” Vincent said casually, but before he shut the door he added:  “And that way you will never be reunited with your grandson.”

 

A Late Night Meeting

The dulcet tones of Celine Dion singing My Heart Will Go On drifted from Edwina’s car radio and pushed the inebriated woman deeper into her own little world.   Absentmindedly, she sang along with Celine and pounded her heart with her first imitating the French-Canadian singer’s campy choreography as she once again started to veer into the wrong lane.

“Joe Lassiter, where the hell are you?!” Edwina screamed over Celine’s vocal gymnastics.

Assuming the worst, Edwina was headed to the center of Nightfall, where she expected to find her husband and her sister in a romantic embrace at the Collins Inn or some other nightspot.  Luckily, for Edwina, the town wasn’t a hotbed for adult entertainment so her search wouldn’t take long.

Jonatha drove through the center of town feeling very much like a full-fledged grown-up.  Both Anthony and Jonatha filled Adam in on more of the town’s history and Jonatha talked about her recent trip to London, but carefully left out the part that included her impending visitors so as not to give Adam the wrong idea about her, while Celine Dion’s lush voice on the radio underscored their conversation.

From the back seat, Adam had a clear view of Jonatha’s throat and try as he might he couldn’t peel his eyes away.  It was nearing his feeding time and he knew he had to escape Jonatha’s company soon or else he would not be able to resist temptation.  As a fledgling vampire he was still unable to curb his cravings so he forced himself to look out at the countryside as a diversion and decided not to partake in any more conversation.

Interpreting Jonatha’s rambling and Adam’s silence as teen-aged tension, Anthony tried to steer the conversation to neutral territory: his class.  Anthony told Adam that he was very intrigued with the comments he made after class about the myth of Jesus and would like to continue the talk over coffee.

“Adam,” Anthony asked, “does that appeal to you?”

But Adam was concentrating so hard on ignoring Jonatha that he didn’t hear the priest’s question.

“Earth to Adam Savage,” Jonatha said.

Jonatha looked in the rear view mirror to see why Adam wasn’t responding.  At first she couldn’t see him so she adjusted the mirror to get a view of the entire back seat, but even then she still couldn’t see him.  Perplexed, she turned around.

“Adam!”

A few feet ahead on the other side of the road, Edwina was driving towards them.  She was thinking back to the first time she lured Joe away from Amanda.  It was a few months after Joey’s disappearance and Amanda was in Boston looking through yet another book of mug shots in a desperate attempt to recognize someone who might be Joey’s kidnapper.  The police at that time thought the Love’s, being a wealthy and prominent family, might have enemies who would kidnap an heir.   Before she left,

Joe and Amanda had gotten into a terrible fight because Joe blamed the incident on the “stupid Love tradition” of making a wish in the ocean on your fourth birthday.  Amanda interpreted Joe’s anger to mean that he didn’t think their tradition was stupid, but that she was stupid for losing sight of their son.  She left in tears vowing not to stay married to a man who could accuse her of causing such heartache.  For his part Joe accepted an assignment to track down a con man in Mykonos, which just happened to be one of Edwina’s most favorite places on earth.

As Celine’s rapturous high notes swirled around Edwina’s intoxicated head, she remembered feeling Joe’s wet flesh on that beach in Greece where adultery came in as many shapes as sand particles.  Despite the chilly wind, she could feel Mykonos’s hot sun burn through her loins as her mind’s eye saw Joe’s bathing suit get pushed down around his ankles.  Then she saw her bikini top get tossed somewhere between the dunes.  But as Celine continued to sing, Edwina’s mind went blank.  She couldn’t push her memory any further to relive the moment when Joe and Edwina first made love and created their daughter Jonatha.  She closed her eyes and tried to see them making love; she could see the beach, the waves, but nothing more.  Her inability to conjure up this memory infuriated her because it seemed that the only link that remained to connect her to her husband was being ripped away from her.  She didn’t dare think that the many glasses of wine she consumed earlier in the evening distorted her memory, so she did what she always did in times of stress.  She blamed her sister.

“Damn you, Amanda!”

And those were the last words she cried before her car crashed into Jonatha’s.

 

London

The clock in the posh apartment chimed eight times and both young men knew they had to leave for the airport.

“Do you have your passport?” Dashiell said, trying to sound like one half of a suburban couple.

“First, tell me why you think Winter Lassiter could be a problem,” Llewellyn protested.

Dashiell claimed he felt Winter had a crush on him and might therefore get in the way of them uncovering the truth about Jonatha.  Dashiell took this opportunity to remind his lover that they would have to hide their true feelings for one another while they were in Nightfall, especially since Winter would be underfoot.

“I have a bad feeling about this, Dash.”

“You worry too much,” Dashiell replied as he pulled Llewellyn into an embrace.  “I told you long ago that I would never let anything happen to you.”

“It’s not me I’m worried about.”

Llewellyn kissed Dashiell tenderly on the lips and both men felt their cheeks grow warm.  They held each other tightly until the front door flung open and they saw Ondine standing in the doorway wearing a floor-length black mink coat that made her snow white hair appear even more dramatic as usual.

“Bon soi! I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

 

An Accident

The first one to move after the two cars collided was Anthony.  He roused himself to checked Jonatha’s pulse and to his relief discovered that she was still alive, though she seemed to be unconscious.  She had a cut on her forehead, caused, most likely, by her head hitting the steering wheel.  He tried to turn around to see how Adam was, but when he moved his head completely to the left a stabbing pain shot from his neck all the way down his arm.  Instead, he undid his seatbelt and after struggling a bit with the door, he was able to open it and get out.

He saw that the front of the car had a large dent and the small rear window was shattered.  He quickly surmised that the back portion of the car must have absorbed most of the impact of the collision.  Adam was covered in tiny shards of glass, but shaking his head and obviously beginning to awaken.  As Anthony leaned over to help Adam out of the car, drops of blood from a cut above Anthony’s eye dripped onto Adam’s lip.  Instinctively, Adam licked the crimson liquid and lunged toward Anthony with lusty eyes.  With ease, Adam broke free from his seatbelt and both he and Anthony fell to the ground.

“Adam!”  Anthony cried.  “No!”

Just as Adam was about to bare his fangs and plunge deep into the priest’s throat, he caught sight of the Anthony’s familiar eyes and stumbled back.  He lay panting on the ground as Anthony stroked the back of his head urging him to be calm, and fought the urge to suck every drop of blood from Anthony’s body.  The only thought that kept him from doing just that was that his father would not be pleased if he killed one of the Loves.

When Anthony stood up he witnessed something so miraculous he wasn’t sure how he would later explain it.  In the middle of the road, Jonatha was kneeling over Edwina’s body.  Anthony realized she was the other driver and had been thrown from her car when it flipped over near the trees on the shoulder of the road.

A puddle of blood was flowing from under Edwina’s head and her legs looked oddly twisted.  She didn’t move and as Anthony got closer it didn’t look as if she were breathing.  Calm and serene, Jonatha moved her hand over her mother’s body and soon a white light enveloped Edwina.  The puddle of blood began to recede and Edwina’s legs resumed a more natural position.  Jonatha’s hand moved directly over Edwina’s heart and Anthony could see the color rush back to the ghostly pale face and her stomach start to rise and decline again in the movement of the living.  The priest moved in close to his niece just as she fainted in his arms.

 

Winter and Amanda

In the nearly pitch black darkness of the tunnel, Winter watched her mother cry.  Winter wanted to go to her mother to ease her pain, but she was under the raven-haired woman’s spell and could not move.  Her desire to comfort her mother grew as she saw Amanda fall to her knees and clutch her stomach.  Winter wondered if she was causing her mother’s pain and desperately wanted to embrace her, but each time she tried to move, the raven-haired woman tightened her hypnotic grasp.  The young girl could only watch as

Amanda screamed out in agony one last time before collapsing onto the ground.

Hold Back the Night – Chapter 5

Chapter 5

The Dream

It was only 5 pm and already it was dark outside.  There was a definite chill in the air and snow threatened to cover the land.  Amanda was asleep on the living room couch, her face flush from the fireplace flames, and although the room was warm, her hands clutched the crocheted afghan close around her.  She wasn’t afraid, merely anxious.  She was in the part of her dream that made her happy, but even subconsciously she knew this euphoria would not last.

“What would you like to do today, Joey?” Amanda asked her son.

“I just want to be with you all day, Mommy,” the 4-year-old replied.

“I would love that.”

“You could read me my favorite story over and over again.”

“That would be fun.”

“Or we could sing the alphabet song all day.”

“Okay.”

“I know.  Let’s make a sandcastle on the beach.”

“No!”

“Why not, Mommy?”

“You can’t go to the beach.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want you to.”

This is the part of the dream that Amanda hated.  In her subconscious reality, Joey began to age into a young man of 19.  Just as it had happened in all the dreams before, he became handsome, but unrecognizable and bitter.  When this older version of her son spoke to her, he did so with such scorn it made her weep.

“Are you afraid the man will take me away?” the grown-up Joey asked.

“No . . . I . . .” Amanda stammered.

“Are you afraid you’ll blink your eyes and I’ll disappear?”

“No.  You will come back to me.  He said so!”

“Maybe he’s a liar.  Maybe he’s not what you think he is.”

“That can’t be.  Joey, please come home.”

“My name isn’t Joey.”

“Yes it is.  Come home, Joey, and I’ll make everything right.”

“When I return home, will you still love me, Mommy?”

“Yes.”

“Forever?”

“Forever.”

Adam awoke abruptly in his coffin.  He focused his eyes on the white crushed velvet lining as he fought to control his breathing, which had become rapid during his dream.  It had been a long time since he had a dream, and he thought such amenities were no longer his to enjoy.  This dream, however, had been far from enjoyable.

He rose from his coffin to find Vincent standing near the window watching the first brave snowflakes fall languidly from the clouds above.  Vincent loved the snow and felt it was like the earth’s coffin, a blanket of white that covers and protects the earth.

“Father?”

“Yes, my son.”

“Have I ever been to Nightfall before?”

Vincent smiled as he realized his son had made the connection sooner than anticipated.  Family ties, he thought, are indeed binding.

“Yes.  When you were very young.”

“I thought so,” Adam smiled.  “This place feels like home.”

 

The Lonely Lady

Edwina was bored.  She lay sprawled on the chaise lounge in her living room sipping her third glass of Merlot since noon.  In her extended right hand, she held the Baccarat glass precipitously over the white bear skin rug, but Edwina, although well on her way to becoming drunk, made sure not one drop of the crimson liquid plummeted downward to stain her precious possession.  She was clad in emerald green satin pajamas and white slippers trimmed with ostrich feathers and looked every glamorous inch an old-fashioned movie star.  But was she a star on her way up to success or one who was about to crash land?

She was listening to Pachebel’s Canon, the music from Ordinary People, and was reminded of yet another misunderstood woman; the mother in the film played by Mary Tyler Moore.  Most everyone viewed the character as heartless and brittle; Edwina thought her to be merely honest.  However, she wasn’t experiencing the usual joy she did when listening to the exquisite cello; she was frustrated and wanted to know where her husband was.  Joe had left before dawn and now, after sunset, he still hadn’t called her.  Her husband was definitely slipping away.  No, she corrected herself, he was being pulled away—by her own sister.

“You had your time with him, Amanda!” Edwina screamed to the emptiness.  “You don’t get a second chance!”

Even alone, Edwina refused to admit that perhaps even she couldn’t destroy pure love.  Perhaps this was because she did it once and felt she could do it again with equal ease.  Her only hope this time, however, might be her father’s intervention.  She didn’t quite grasp why he so passionately wanted to separate Amanda and Joe, but she was grateful to have him on her side.

Taking a large gulp of the dark red wine, she grabbed her cell phone and tried, once more, to make contact with her wayward husband. Once more she failed.

 

Amanda and Joe

Joe heard his cell phone ring four times, but ignored it and let the call transfer into his voice mail.  He had more important things to do, like watch Amanda sleep.

Before he’d knocked on the front door of Nightwind, Joe had concocted a ruse that would explain why he was on the doorstep when he should be having dinner with his wife.  He had decided to say he wanted to speak with Perry about the rash of killings that occurred fifteen years ago, but he had no need for that plan, because no one besides Amanda was at home upon his arrival.  He used his key and wandered through the mansion absorbing its majesty and old-world charm until he saw a beauty sleeping.

Joe knelt before Amanda and gazed at her pink cheeks and her furrowed brow and wondered if he was dreaming of him.  He stroked her blond hair, and with his index finger traced the lips he so longed to kiss.  His heart filled with joy when he gazed upon his first and only love and he prayed that she could forgive his past betrayal and accept him once again into her life. He desperately wanted them to resume the relationship they once shared, but, unfortunately, he could not forget how complicated their relationship truly was.

As Joe let his fingers linger on the warmth of Amanda’s cheeks, he noticed she was becoming restless in her sleep.  He watched her knuckles grow white as she clutched the afghan tighter and he saw her lips tremble.

“Don’t leave me!” Amanda cried.  She grabbed onto Joe’s shirt collar with such ferocity that he pulled back in shock.

“Amanda, wake up,” Joe pleaded.  “You’re having a bad dream.”

She released the afghan and used her free hand to grab the other side of Joe’s collar.   Tears appeared from underneath her closed lids and sped down her cheeks while painful sobs locked in her throat.  Amanda began to gasp for breath.

“Amanda, wake up!”

“Don’t leave me!  I beg you, don’t leave me again.”

“I won’t, I’m yours forever.”

“Oh Joey, my baby.”

Amanda startled them both by opening her eyes abruptly.  Her disappointment

at seeing her ex-husband’s face instead of her son’s was not lost on Joe.

“Joe, hold me,” was all Amanda could say.

Joe obeyed and took his lover’s shaking body eagerly into his arms.  He tried to absorb some of her fear, but she wouldn’t let go of anything that reminded her of her son, regardless of how painful it might be.  After a few moments, Amanda found her voice again.

“What are you doing here?”

“I had to see you.”

“Do you think that’s wise?”

“No.  But . . .”

“I know.  We have to come up with a plan to find Joey.  This waiting is intolerable.”

“I don’t know what we can do, except wait,” Joe said.

“But we’re so close to seeing our son again.  It’s all I can think about.”

“Trust me, Amanda.  Our family will be reunited, but we have to wait.”

“And what do I do in the meantime?”

Joe was out of words and explanations and answers, so he did what he had come to Nightwind to do.  He brushed away Amanda’s tears, rested his hand on her smooth neck and kissed her, tentatively at first, then passionately, then roughly.  Amanda accepted every one of his kisses and felt her body grow warmer.  She pulled Joe in tighter and let her hand roam inside his shirt to press down on his muscular back.  Just as she was about to rip his shirt off to expose his rounded shoulders and sculpted chest, she heard footsteps.  Instinctively, she pushed Joe away. He’d  heard the footsteps as well and quickly stood up and gazed out the front window.  When Perry entered the room he saw his daughter sitting on the couch, wrapped in an afghan, and his son-in-law standing with his hands in his pockets, looking at the darkness through the window.

“Amanda?.  Joe?.  I’m glad I caught both of you,” Perry said.  “Madeline and I would like to speak with you both.  She’s waiting in my den.”

 

Their kisses went undiscovered, but they were summoned by Perry.  They weren’t sure which was worse.

 

The Love Family Den

Perry was already seated at his desk when Madeline entered.  She took a seat in the cream-colored, straight-back chair and stared at her husband, trying to determine why she was asked here.  When she’d questioned him earlier, Perry told her he had a way to unite his family and needed her support.  Madeline would wait until she heard Perry’s proposition to decide if she would support him.

Fully composed, Amanda and Joe entered Perry’s den.  Madeline’s left eyebrow arched slightly in surprise that Joe was also attending this meeting, but she made no comment.  She watched her daughter and this man, whom she loved like her own son, sit on the brown leather couch with only inches separating them.  Madeline knew her daughter’s prim posture and silence were premeditated and could almost see the sparks ignite in the space between Joe and Amanda.  She wondered if that was why Perry called them all here.

“I have two announcements to make,” Perry declared., “that will affect the entire family.”

“Then shouldn’t the entire family be present?” Madeline inquired, as she inspected a chip in her otherwise perfect French manicure.

“They will all be told in due time,” Perry said.

The members of the Love family had realized long ago that Perry enjoyed playing the part of the powerful patriarch, and this meeting was yet another attempt to yield that power.  They therefore allowed him some leeway to be dramatic.

“It has come to my attention that I will need to spend some extra time in Oslo with the Love Foundation, overseeing our research labs,” Perry explained.  “In my absence, I will need someone to preside over the Foundation’s New York presence.  Amanda, I would like that person to be you.”

Since she had never been involved in the day-to-day operations of the Love Foundation and its various scientific research and charitable projects, she was perplexed about why the responsibility was being handed to her.

“I’m flattered, Dad,” Amanda said.  “But I’m also confused.  Why me?”

“With your degree in psychology and your connections with the New York social elite, you’re the perfect choice,” Perry said smoothly.

Before Amanda could disagree, Joe piped in.

“Why not let Edwina take over the reigns?  She adores New York.”

“That is precisely why Edwina is unsuitable,” Perry said.  “I fear my youngest daughter would forget why I asked her to take control of the non-profit branch of Love Industries and reacquaint herself with old friends and new retailers.”

“May I make a comment?” Madeline asked and waited a moment for the permission those attended knew she didn’t need.  “I think it’s a wonderful idea.”

“You do?” replied Amanda, Perry, and Joe simultaneously.

“Yes.  Amanda dear, you could use a distraction.  I’ve noticed lately you’ve been preoccupied with . . . other things.  This appointment will help you spend your time wisely.  And, of course, help your father.”

Madeline said all this while maintaining eye contact with her daughter.  Amanda understood her mother’s underlying message and knew it was useless to argue.

“I accept,” Amanda said.

“Wonderful,” Perry responded.  “I’ll contact the New York office immediately.”

“However,” Amanda interrupted.  “I will commute to New York.  I will not live there for any stretch of time.”

“But, but . . .” Perry stammered.  “That’s not practical.”

“I have a young daughter who has been through a great deal of turmoil.  She does not need an absentee mother, especially at this time of year.”

Amanda further explained that the private jet could shuttle her back and forth to New York on the days that she needed to act as Perry’s understudy.  It was a sound solution and one that Perry hadn’t thought of.  He was so thrown by this turn of events that he almost forgot about his second announcement.

“Wait,” Perry said.  “I have something else to say.”

Before he could proceed, his private phone rang.  It was Edwina.

“Daddy, where the hell is my husband!?  I can’t find him.”

“I’m busy right now.”

“Like I’m not?!”  Edwina said while trying to decide between a caramel Godiva truffle and one with a raspberry liquor filling.  “I, too am incredibly busy, Daddy, but I’m finding time to look for my husband, who is probably with your other daughter even as we speak!”

“He is.  But I must go.  I’ll call you later,” Perry said returning the phone to its cradle.

“Daddy?  Daddy!”  Frustrated, she popped both chocolates into her mouth at the same time and washed them down with the rest of her wine.

“What is it, Perry?” Madeline asked impatiently.  “What other proclamation would you like to declare?”

“It is time to declare my grandson Joey legally dead.”

 

St. Aggie’s Square

Three blocks from the Collins Inn was St. Agatha’s Church, the oldest building in Nightfall.  The main chapel was built in 1798 when only a handful of Loves populated this small town, which served as a refuge for Catholics.  Since its creation, St. Agatha’s has been modernized to accommodate Nightfall’s larger population, and has even spawned the town’s only college.  The cluster of buildings, connected by cobblestone streets, is affectionately known as St. Aggie’s Square, and has become a hub for the younger set who are hungry for adventure, but frightened to venture too far to find it.

As a teenager, Anthony Love wanted nothing more than to teach at St. Agatha’s, even when his advisors wanted him to pursue a more high-profile career in baseball.  But Anthony possessed an inner will stronger than most and had no intention of giving up his dream to satisfy the delusions of others.  Long ago he’d realized he had one superior, God, and as long as Anthony felt he was fulfilling His desires, he could not be swayed.

Anthony never felt more comfortable than when he talked to his students about theology. With his tousled hair and razor-stubbled chin, chiseled features, rolled up sleeves, and weathered workboots, he looked more like a movie star playing the role of a priest than a priest playing the role of a teacher.  But his appearance was only a small part of the reason that his classes filled up minutes after registration began: He was passionate about religion and teenagers relate to passion.  Anthony loved and believed in theology and was therefore able to lure his class into lively discussions about the bible and all aspects of religion, even those classes comprised of cynical and materialistic teens.  He considered it his mission to inspire others to discover the beauty within the Bible.

Sitting on top of his stately oak desk, Anthony was preparing to end his lecture.  The desk, which was too large for the small classroom, had been built for him by his grandfather Pierce.  Whenever he sat on it and let his feet dangle like a child on a swing, Anthony remembered his grandfather’s words: “If you ever get nervous or lose your way, grab onto this desk, and you’ll feel my strength.”  Now, Anthony wouldn’t think of conducting a class without being near it.

The twenty-three students taking Theology: Part 1 listened intently to Anthony, some were scribbling down notes, while others were typing into laptops, which looked curiously out of place in the old-fashioned room.  They didn’t mind that there were too many of them wedged into one windowless room, in fact, they felt lucky that they were there at all.  They were so mesmerized by Anthony’s words that a few students jumped when the end-of-class alarm

rang.

“For the next class,” Anthony told his students,  “read the Book of Luke, Chapter 1, verses 39 through 56.”

“When the angel tells Mary she’s the chosen one?” asked a girl sitting in the front row.

“Yes,” Anthony replied.  “Exactly.”

Anthony was busy sorting through the clutter of papers on his desk and gathering his books, which were overflowing with post-it notes and didn’t realize that one student remained after all the others had left.

“Father Anthony,” Adam said, “may I ask you a question?”

As often as Anthony tried to convince people to drop “Father” and call him by his first name alone, he realized that as long as he was a priest who wore a white collar, few people would.

“Of course, Adam.”

“In the Bible it seems that lifespans are much longer than ours are today,” Adam began.  “But I’ve read that scientists think this generation should expect to live to be well over 100.  Do you think that the Bible was actually ahead of its time and we need to catch up to the life-sustaining abilities of Abraham and his contemporaries before we can live in peace again?”

“Well, that’s very thoughtful,” Anthony replied, unable to conceal a smile in response to Adam’s spirited question.  “But you can’t forget that the Bible is man’s interpretation.”

“So you don’t think immortality is attainable?”

“Our soul lives on forever,” Anthony said as he gathered his books and began to walk toward the door.

“And our body?”

“The physical host will perish, but our spiritual being, which is a lot more important to God can thrive for eternity.”

During their conversation, Adam found his eyes lingering on the priest’s muscular neck.  Even though he and his father both fed before separating to pursue their mortal pursuits, he grew anxious watching the veins in Anthony’s neck shift as he spoke.  Adam lingered on Anthony’s throat, bulging with muscles and a bit rough since it looked as if he hadn’t shaved recently.  Adam admired Anthony for his peaceful demeanor and knew the priest’s blood would wash over him like a tranquil storm.  But he couldn’t dare allow himself to dream of the unattainable.  Or could he?

“Is that what you believe?”  Anthony asked, interrupting Adam’s bloody dream.

“Pardon me?”

“Our physicality is inferior to our spirituality?”

“Perhaps for someone like you who accepts so willingly the myth of Jesus,” Adam said, “the spiritual is stronger than the physical.”

Anthony was taken aback by such a blunt statement and let his hand rest on the doorknob as he contemplated a response.

“You believe Jesus is a myth?”

“I’m not sure what I believe.  That’s why I’m taking your class.”

Anthony found this young student refreshing, even if his questions were radical in nature for someone studying theology.  Anthony loved competition of all kinds and he loved to win.

“Do you think other beings are capable of physical immortality?” Adam asked.

“You’ll need to define ‘other beings.’”

Adam hesitated, then said, “Angels.”

At that moment, Anthony opened the door and he and Adam came face to face with Jonatha.

 

The Lonely Lady

Taking the final swig of Merlot that emptied glass number four, Edwina decided to call on yet another man in her life: her chaste and apostolic brother Anthony. On her cell phone’s touchpad, she pressed Memory and then number three and let the miracle of speed dial do its thing.  As she waited for Anthony to answer, she realized that while she called her brother Father, she called her father Daddy.  She laughed at the irony until she was transferred into yet another voice mail system.  Instead of leaving a message, she struggled to sit up straight long enough to pour herself Merlot glass, number five.

 

The Loves’ Den

“I will never allow you to declare Joey dead!” Amanda cried.  “Never!”

“Amanda, please, listen to reason,” Perry said.

“I’m listening to lunacy!  You want me to kill my son!”

“I want you to get on with your life.”

“How can you possibly think a legal document that erases my son’s life could help me get on with my own?”

“It’s been fifteen years, Amanda.  Let him go.”

Before anyone could even think to subdue her, Amanda slapped Perry harshly across the face.  The venomous attack left everyone in the room stunned, until Joe spoke.

“I think you have your answer Perry.”

Perry looked toward his wife for support, but she only permitted him to see her disgust before turning away to look at anything other than her husband.

Never accepting defeat, Perry continued: “I understand you’re reacting emotionally.  I’m sure you’ll see that declaring your son’s death is a long overdue response to his disappearance.”

“You can’t possibly know how irrevocably you have hurt me,” Amanda said.

“I’m late for a meeting,” was Perry’s unemotional, and inappropriate, response.

Perry almost knocked over his granddaughter, Winter, on his hasty retreat.  If he had paused at the doorway, he would have heard his only supporter speak.

“Mom, I think you should do what Grandpa wants,” Winter said.  “Letting Joey rest would be best for everyone.”

 

St. Aggie’s Square

The moment when Adam Savage first met Jonatha Lassiter was magical.  Preternatural vision allowed Adam to look not only into Jonatha’s eyes, but also into her heart and her soul.  As his senses submerged themselves in her aura, he couldn’t believe what he saw.  Jonatha’s soul was so pure its white light was almost blinding.  He looked within himself and for the first time since beginning the journey of crossing over to the Golden Life,

Adam felt sadness for the fact that he no longer had a soul.  And even if he did, he knew it would never be as unblemished as Jonatha’s.

While Adam was surveying Jonatha, she noticed his full, red lips, his aquiline nose, and his lush, unkempt mane of brown hair, but she also sensed something more.  She felt his vulnerability and a unique quality that she couldn’t quite decipher.  But he intrigued her and, if she had anything to say about it, they would become closer.

“Uncle Anthony,” Jonatha said, “is this one of your students?”

Anthony introduced the teenagers, but was unaware of the feelings that were stirring within them.

“Savage,” Jonatha remarked.  “That’s an unusual name.”

“So is Jonatha.”

“That’s something else we have in common.”

“What’s the first thing?”

“We both know my uncle.”

Adam felt himself blush when he was reminded that they weren’t alone and relished this new experience.

“What are you doing here so late Jonatha?” asked Anthony.

“Debate club practice.”

“What were you debating?” the priest asked.

“‘The Second Coming of Christ: Fact or Fiction'” she said, reciting the title with mock drama.

Finally Adam found a reason to speak.  “And what side of the debate are you on?”

“Oh I believe Christ is already here on earth,” she replied matter-of-factly.  “We just have to find him.”

 

The Loves’ Den

Standing in the archway to her grandfather’s den, Winter realized she had rendered her parents and her grandmother speechless.  She was convinced by their appalled looks that this was not a good thing.

“He’s your brother!” Amanda cried. “Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“It means you’re more preoccupied with mourning him than noticing me!” Winter yelled back, allowing her anger to mold her words.

When Amanda raised her hand, this time to slap her daughter’s face, Joe was able to prevent contact, but he couldn’t stop Winter from recoiling in fear.

“I’ve never ignored you!” Amanda cried. “If you weren’t so selfish you might understand what my life has been like without my son!”

Joe began to follow Amanda, who ran from the room, completely distraught, but was stopped by his daughter.

“Daddy, please . . .”

Torn between comforting Amanda or Winter, Joe made a split decision that would set in motion a series of disastrous events.  As he ran to find his ex-wife, he could only find the strength to whisper “I’m sorry” to his daughter.

Madeline was about to speak when the phone rang.  Winter took this interruption as an opportunity to escape her grandmother’s wrath and fled the room.

Madeline picked up Perry’s private phone. “Hello.”

“Mother?” slurred Edwina.

“Edwina, I’m glad you called.  Your father made some interesting announcements just a moment ago, and I’d like to know what role you played in them.”

“You’re not the one I want to talk to!”

Edwina accentuated her outburst by flinging her cell phone against the mirror over the fireplace.  She couldn’t stifle her laughter when the mirror shattered and pieces of glass fell in a shower and got lost in the whiteness of her rug.

 

Reunion

Perry felt to arrive early for a meeting meant you were in a position of power.  As he stood in front of the full-length mirror that graced one entire wall of his Love Industries office, he felt calm and in control.  All that would soon disappear.

“Perry Love,” Vincent said, “how nice to see you again.”

Perry trembled involuntarily at the sound of Vincent’s voice.  Although he couldn’t see the vampire’s reflection in the mirror, he could feel Vincent’s breath on his neck.

Fighting to control the quiver in his voice, Perry replied: “Hello, Vincent.  I’ve been waiting for you.”

 

Winter

Winter’s heart beat wildly as she threw open Amanda’s bedroom door.  She was expecting to find her mother in her sanctuary, but found it empty.  The fury she felt from her mother’s accusations and her father’s dismissal had not subsided, but grew.  How dare her mother call her selfish?  Winter had spent her entire life drowning in her brother’s shadow, and now that her grandfather offered her a lifeline, a chance to breathe air uncontaminated with her brother’s memory, she wanted a second chance to convince her mother to agree to Perry’s wishes.

Her eyes raced around the bedroom and landed upon the framed photographs of Joey on her mother’s vanity table.  One by one she took the pictures and smashed them to the floor.  She then washed her right arm across the table and sent the rest of the contents hurling through the air.  Winter surveyed the mess she created and her heart skipped a jealous beat when she saw the most recent note from Joey’s kidnapper amid the debris.  She picked up the note intent on ripping it to shreds, but noticed it carried a different message than usual.  She grew livid when she realized not only would her brother be returning home very soon, but also that her mother had lied to her.  It was obvious to Winter that Amanda’s didn’t think she was good enough to know the truth.

Winter looked into the mirror and saw a rage lurking in her eyes so raw that she closed them in fear.  When she opened them again she was no longer gazing into her own reflection, but that of a strange woman with a malicious grin and hair, so black, it was the color of a raven.

Hold Back the Night – Chapter 4

Chapter 4

The Lassiters

“Congratulations, Jonatha,” Edwina said.  “It seems you’ve inherited your mother’s remarkable ability to ensnare the opposite sex.”

Joe gripped the arm of  his black leather club chair and dropped his jaw.  His daughter would only turn sixteen in a few months and already Edwina was applauding her skills as a seductress.  Moments like these made Joe realize he didn’t understand women at all.

“Winter and I only had breakfast with them,” Jonatha protested.  “I’m as shocked as you are that they’ll be visiting.”

“I’m not shocked dear,” Edwina declared.  “I’m relieved.  I was wondering when you’d display a touch of your mother’s charms.”

Finally, Joe managed to speak: “Well I’m shocked.”

“You would be,” his wife replied, dismissing him from the rest of the conversation.

Jonatha ensured her parents that she and Winter did nothing to entice Dashiell and Llewellyn to make such an impulsive trip.  She couldn’t believe that the mildly interesting conversation they shared propelled the two Englishmen to book transatlantic flights.

“It was weird,” Jonatha said.  “They were weird!”

“Are they cute?”

“Mother!”

“Well are they?”

Jonatha glanced sheepishly at her father, who suddenly felt like an eavesdropper at an all-girls sleepover.

“One is.  The other is odd-looking.”

“That’s always the way.  A homely boy is always trying to ride the coattails of the Prom King,” Edwina said.  “Your father’s male friends were always beneath him, speaking cosmetically, of course.  When you’re a teenager and your life experiences can all fit neatly in one pretty pink diary, that’s really all that separates one suitor from the next.”

“Mother!  Sometimes you are so . . .”

“Absolutely right?”

“Incorrigible.”

“Joseph, tell your daughter to stop using such outdated words.”

Even though Joe knew that his wife and daughter were having a good-natured dialogue, all he could focus on was the fact that a half-weird, half-cute English duo was about to visit his daughter.  Perhaps he had been spending so much time thinking about his little Joey that he had forgotten his youngest daughter was becoming a young woman.

 

The Collins Inn

Only four people remained in the Collins Inn—Anthony, Amanda, Winter and

Inez, the Inn’s owner.  Inez remained behind the oak bar settling the day’s finances with her back to the Loves not out of duty, but out of respect.  She never glanced up to the huge, gold-framed antique mirror that hung over the bar, so she didn’t see Anthony clinging to Amanda, his face awash in sweat and tears.  But Inez didn’t need to look, for years earlier she witnessed this scenario when Anthony was first plagued by the visions.  She knew it was best if she let his family attend to him.

Amanda cradled Anthony as she helplessly watched him pass through the familiar stages.  The episode of unexpected, but unstoppable pain finally transformed into a state of unconsciousness.  After several minutes, Anthony finally broke free from the invisible power that held him captive.  His breathing was becoming regular once again and Amanda knew he would soon be completely awake.  As he lay in her arms with his collar loose and without his white priest’s tab, which Amanda ripped off him during their struggle, he looked as innocent and vulnerable as he did when he was a teenager and his visions first began.  With all her energy aimed on her brother, she didn’t notice Winter cowering a few feet away.  It was Winter’s first taste of true fear.

Anthony’s body shook as he opened his eyes:  “Have they found the body?”

His question cut sharply through the silence, startling Winter and making her gasp.

“Inez called Joe,” Amanda replied.  “They’re searching the beach.”

“Tell them to look in the forest.”

Without hesitation Inez dropped her receipts and picked up the phone to call Nightfall’s chief of police to relay Anthony’s statement.  Amanda wiped her brother’s brow with a napkin, quenching the moisture that had claimed his face and asked one more question.

“Was it the same as before?”

“No.  I was frightened.”

“You were always afraid for the person in your vision.”

“This time I was afraid for our family.”

Hearing this Winter scrambled to her feet, unable to remain still any longer.  Before she could escape the suffocating situation, her uncle spoke.

“Winter, you’re bleeding.”

Winter looked down and saw a stream of blood trickle from her clutched fist.  When she opened her hand she saw it was Anthony’s crucifix cutting into her flesh.

 

The Forest

Twenty minutes after Inez’s phone call, Joe was scouring an isolated stretch of woods near the northwestern outskirts of Nightfall with three other policeman.  It was a densely populated forest that most residents avoided unless their goal was to remain missing for several days.

It was a perfect night to search for a corpse, the night sky was filled with stars, and the air was crisp but windless.  After a few minutes, Joe heard a nervous cry from the youngest member in the search party, a stocky rookie cop named David Anderson, a third generation policemen.

“Sir!  I found him!”

Joe and the others made their way to the body, which was laying face down in the center of a small clearing and surrounded by large rocks.  The other officers stood their ground as Joe knelt and turned over the body to reveal Eli Vaughn, a local lobster fisherman and recent widower.  Then Joe noticed two things that made him flinch.  First, Eli’s eyes were wide open and filled with terror.  And second, there were two small puncture wounds on the right side of his neck.  The bold crimson of the dried blood surrounding the wounds accentuated the ghostly white complexion of Eli’s skin.  Joe had never seen a corpse quite like this, but he had heard stories.

Around the time of his son Joey’s disappearance, he heard wild tales of unexplained deaths in Nightfall and the nearby communities.  The storytellers claimed bodies were found drained of all their blood and although the rampage didn’t last long, it sent a shiver of fear up Nightfall’s collective spine.  Now, within days of receiving the new thank you letter that offered a promise of a reunion with his son, a similar corpse was discovered.  Joe wondered if, somehow, the unusual deaths were connected to his son.

“What do you think those marks are, Sir?”

Anderson’s question brought Joe out of his thoughts.

“I don’t know.  But let’s keep this information to ourselves.”  Joe remarked as he closed the unfortunate man’s eyes.

 

The Strangers

Adam’s bedroom was located on the top floor of the new home Vincent rented.  It was a quaint, two-story Victorian home on fifty acres of Love property and in view of Nightwind.  Looking out of his bedroom window and gazing at Nightwind, Adam’s preternatural vision allowed him to see the Love limousine pull up to the front gate.  He then saw the priest he had met earlier being helped into the castle by two women.  Before he could make out their faces, he heard his father’s voice.

“How did your hunt go tonight, Adam?”

“It went well, father.  I think Nightfall suits me.”

“I agree.  What do you see?”

“The priest, Father Anthony.”

Adam looked out the window, but saw that the priest and his companions had vanished, presumably into the safety of the castle.  With his superior vision, enhanced by years of training, Vincent could easily see through Nightwind’s stone walls to see Anthony’s family attending to him as if he were hurt.  But Adam decided to keep this information to himself.

“I have news,” Vincent said.

“Of your meeting?”

“Yes.  It was a success.”

“I’m glad.  I know it was important.”

Adam didn’t realize just how important it was, and Vincent preferred it that way.  Adam believed his father was searching for a serum that would allow vampires to retain some of their mortal abilities and functions, but know nothing specific.

“I telephoned one of my scientists, and she believes that we can begin the experiment sooner than expected.”

“Really?  I didn’t think it would be finished before I crossed over.

“You will learn, my son, that when Vincent Savage makes a request, it is quickly carried out.”

“Do you think I’m ready?”

“Yes.  And do not worry, I will be with you every step of the way.”

 

Nightwind

By the twelfth stroke of the grandfather clock that held court in the middle of Nightwind’s entrance parlor, the Loves had rallied together to make Anthony as comfortable as possible.  Aimee, the Love family’s faithful maid, had drawn his bath, Madeline had his favorite peppermint tea waiting on the settee next to the tub, and Perry offered his hand to help Anthony climb the stairs to the East Wing on the third floor near Madeline’s own quarters.  Instinctively, Anthony reached for his mother’s hand and the two climbed the stairs together.

Amanda clasped Perry’s outstretched hand and asked her father to spend a moment with Winter, who was quite disturbed by the evening’s events.  Amanda herself needed to crawl into bed as she was suddenly hit with a wave of exhaustion.  She hugged her daughter, told her everything would be fine, and kissed her goodnight.

Perry spoke to his granddaughter. “Winter, my baby, you must be frightened.”

“No,” she said stoically, “I’m fine.”

Perry saw through his granddaughter’s mask of calm, but since he embraced any opportunity to avoid an emotional confrontation, he merely assured Winter all would be fine and bid her goodnight.  Alone at the foot of the marble staircase, Winter sensed that no one really wanted to protect her from whatever danger her uncle had been in, so she resolved to protect herself by ignoring that any danger existed.  But when she opened her palm and saw the mark left from the crucifix, she was less confident and suddenly felt a presence beside her.  She wasn’t sure, however, if the presence was good or evil.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Lassiter

The sound of a car door closing stirred Edwina from her nap.  For once, she was glad sleep had added some puffiness to her eyes and as she heard Joe walking up the front steps she responded quickly.  She grabbed a tube of eye drops from her pants pocket and squeezed some clear fluid into her eyes.  Magically, imitation tears fell from her heavily-mascarad eyes.  Then she kicked her foot, clad in a thin red alligator mule, into the large

mahogany chest under the front window, seconds before Joe entered the room.  The pain raced up her leg and brought forth a few genuine tears to compete with the fakes.

Joe stood in front of his door, key in hand, and was reluctant to enter his home.  He wanted nothing more than to lock himself in his bathroom, rip off his clothes, get into a hot shower, and let the water and thoughts of Amanda push the image of Eli Vaughn’s startled-eyed corpse from his mind’s eye.  But he could see light and Edwina’s silhouette through his front window.

“Edwina, are you alright?” Joe asked tentatively after he closed the door.

“Yes.”  Edwina said as she wiped her eyes, and her non-waterproof mascara along with it.

“I’m glad you’re home,” she continued.  “I was getting worried.”

Edwina blew out the candles, so only the moonlight lingered in the room.  She tried to walk past Joe quickly, but he grabbed her arm and turned her towards him just as she knew he would.

“Why are you crying?”

Edwina stared at her husband and no longer tried to conceal her tears.

 

“I always cry at this time of year.  I just hide it from you.”

“Why?”

“Because you have your own grief to deal with. You don’t need mine.”

“I didn’t realize you were in so much pain.”

“Do you know how it hurts me to see you relive you son’s disappearance every year?  I try so hard to be strong for you, but I know that nothing I can do will ever bring your son back.  And I know that’s the one thing you want most in the world.”

“It’s hard for all of us.”

“Especially Amanda.”

Joe wasn’t exactly sure what to make of this statement.  He could tell that Edwina was upset, but thought he heard a trace of sarcasm.  Given the late hour and his wife’s emotional state, he decided to ignore her statement.

“I’m going to take a shower.”

Edwina paused, then as Joe was halfway up the stairs, she added quietly.

“I know it’s selfish of me, Joe, but I think you sometimes forget that I lost someone too.”

Once more the tears ran down Edwina’s face, surprising only Joe.  Moved by her performance and guilty over his recent dalliance with her sister, he descended the stairs and took his wife’s hand.  He searched his mind for the right words that might ease Edwina’s pain or at least mollify her until morning when the sun would bring with it rational thought, but his mind failed him.

He held Edwina close to him, stroked her hair and finally whispered, “In the morning everything will be alright.”  Edwina then stared in disbelief as Joe escaped her grasp and walked a tad too quickly back up the stairs.

 

An Alliance

The next day was sun-drenched and chock full ‘o possibility.  It was a stark contrast to the interior of Edwina’s limousine, which was dark and filled with quiet rage.  It was the typical atmosphere when she was on her way to Nightwind, but this afternoon,

despite the companionship of a cheerful Jonatha, she was angrier than usual.

The evening before was a complete disaster.  She sacrificed a perfectly good shoe and didn’t even succeed in luring Joe into her bed, her base of operations.  She didn’t even get to whisper that she would never let him forget his son’s special day as she faked another orgasm.  She felt the course of her marriage was out of her control.  But with her daughter by her side, she was on her way to visit someone who would make sure she would never feel out of control again.

The sun made the dust dance on the lace curtains that framed the large bay windows in Nightwind’s foyer where Anthony and Madeline sat, drinking hot tea and eating scones.  In times of crisis, Madeline Love returned to her roots and became very British.  Physically, Anthony was completely recovered from last night’s traumatic events, but spiritually he was wounded.  Perhaps this was because he was not yet allowed to see the body of the man who was murdered and therefore prepare its soul for the final journey.  He believed that without last rites, a soul remained confused and condemned to seek passage to heaven, instead of being offered immediate entry.

“I’m glad you’ve decided to stay here for a while,” Madeline said.  “I miss your company.”

“When the Love matriarch makes a request, is anyone strong enough to resist?” Anthony replied in jest.

“I would trade all the power I yield in this town if it meant these visions would no longer plague you.”

“I know.  A mother bears the weight of her children’s pain,” Anthony said.  “But right now I’m not in any pain.  On the contrary, I feel safe with you—as always.”

“Nightwind is our sanctuary,” Madeline replied.  “It has always been that for me.”

“And now that we are safe, let’s talk of more pleasant things.”

Other conversation would have to wait for at that moment the front door sprang open and Edwina and Jonatha swooped into Nightwind’s greeting room like a mother vulture and her reluctant, mismatched, offspring.  Edwina ignored Aimee’s greeting and walked directly toward the main staircase until she heard Jonatha chirping with her mother.  Redirecting her step, she turned to see her mother and Jonatha embracing as Anthony looked on.

“Mother!” cried Edwina.  “How nice to see you.”

Pleasantries were exchanged and Anthony and Madeline listened attentively to Jonatha’s tales and impressions of London.  There was even some gentle ribbing when Jonatha mentioned the impending arrival or her suitors.  Just when the trivialities of her family’s conversation were beginning to grate on Edwina, she was saved by Winter’s entrance.

 

“Auntie Edwina!” Winter cried from the top of the stairs.  “What are you doing here on a non-holiday?”

“Watch that sassy mouth, missy,” Edwina replied with a smile, “or I’ll wash it out with my rose-scented soap.”

“I prefer lavender.”

As the kindred spirits hugged, Winter acted as if she had not witnessed her uncle’s anguish the night before.  Soon, she and Jonatha retreated to her bedroom to ensure their girl talk had privacy.  On their flight to freedom, they barely missed bumping into Perry, who joined his family in the foyer.  By the time Perry entered the room, Anthony and Madeline had resumed their earlier positions, while Edwina sat in her favorite hunter-green, velvet loveseat, which was nestled in the shadows of the room.

“Did you sleep well, son?” Perry asked.

“Yes, Dad.  Thanks.”

“I didn’t realize you slept here last night,” Edwina remarked from the shadows.  “Are the nuns redecorating the rectory in ecclesiastical brown?

Anthony smiled at his sister’s comment and after a pause decided to meet arch wit with honesty.

“I had a vision last night.”

That was the last thing Edwina thought she would hear, and for a moment she thought her brother might be joking.  Then she saw the sadness in his eyes and knew he spoke the truth.

“I’m sorry.”  Embarrassed, Edwina continued.  “Daddy, I need to speak with you.”

“Of course dear,” Perry replied.

Father and daughter left mother and son and retreated to Perry’s isolated den in an annex on the first floor.  To reach the room, one had to pass a small, enclosed walkway made entirely of glass.  Madeline felt its futuristic style contradicted the rest of Nightwind’s gothic structure, only visited it when forced, which helped Perry keep his covert business dealings covert.

“Now that we’re out of sight of The Watchers,” Perry said,  “what’s wrong?”

“I believe my husband is having an affair.”

“He is,” Perry confirmed.  “With Amanda.”

“Obviously my sister doesn’t understand the meaning of discretion if you’re aware of the situation as well.”

“Amanda doesn’t have your cunning.”

“I’ll ignore that remark if you’ll help me.”

“Do what?”

“Get rid of Amanda.”

 

Winter and Jonatha

In Winter’s bedroom on the fourth floor of Nightwind, Jonatha sat on her sister’s mahogany sleigh bed feeling very much like a world-weary sophisticate and not a shy New England teenager.  She applauded when Winter came out of her walk-in closet clad in one of the new outfits she bought in London.  With sky-blue angora on top and black leather on bottom, Winter looked and felt older, wiser, and, most important, sexier than Jonatha.  In a minute that feeling of superiority would vanish.

 

“You should wear that outfit when our visitors come,” Jonatha squealed.

“What visitors?”

“Dashiell and Llewellyn, the two blokes from London,” Jonatha replied in a bad British accent.

“How do you know?”

Jonatha described the call she received from Dashiell and jabbered on about how crazy, but, sort of exciting, it was that they were coming to visit.  Winter feigned enthusiasm, but was deeply hurt that Dashiell reached out to Jonatha first and not her.  It wasn’t fair.  She was older, prettier, and more mature. It just didn’t make sense.

“So what do you think?”  Jonatha asked.

“About what?” Winter replied having no idea what the original question was.

“For the special occasion should I paint my nails Jolly Rancher Pink or Mocha Latte?”

 

Mother and Son

“Thank you, Aimee,” Anthony said as the maid cleared away the table.

“If I may say so, Father,” Aimee said,  “it’s good to see you up and well.”

“It feels good, too.”

“If you won’t be needing me any longer ma’am, I’ll be heading out for my sister’s,” Aimee declared.

“That’s fine,” Madeline replied.  “I’ll see you on Sunday.”

“Yes I’ll be back in the evening.”

“Good night, Aimee,” Anthony added.

“Good night, Father.”

“I must go too,” Anthony said as he watched the maid, whom he had known all his life, leave the room.  “But I won’t be long.”

“I would rather you stay here,” his mother said.

The sun balanced on the tip of the horizon and had almost completely disappeared behind Madeline forcing Anthony to squint from the glare.  He led her into the entrance room and explained that he had to meet with a new colleague at St. Agatha’s.

“Actually, you may know him,” Anthony said.  “His name is Vincent Savage.”

“What an untamed name!”

“I assure you, he’s harmless. He teaches ancient history, and he and his son are renting our old servant’s quarters.”

“Really?  Perry must have arranged it,” Madeline said.  “Is there a Mrs. Savage?”

“I don’t believe so.”

“What time shall you return from the lair of the savage beast?”

“Mother!  Before the clock strikes twelve I shall pass once more through the hallowed arches of Nightwind.”

“I would think nine strokes will afford you enough time to finish your business with the beastmaster,” Madeline replied.  “And don’t make fun of your mother.”

They embraced warmly and Anthony went to meet the waiting limo.  Madeline

watched her son from her window and impulsively prayed that the angels would watch over him.

 

 

Father and Daughter

Edwina loved her father’s den.  She loved the scent of the brown leather couch and the mocha-colored velvet drapes that covered the only window in the room.  Perry poured them each a double shot of Scotch and swallowed a large portion of his in one gulp.

“How do you suggest we ‘get rid’ of your sister?”

“Make her the president of the Love Foundation,” Edwina replied.

“What good would that do?” Perry asked.  “It’s based here in Nightfall.”

“But the international headquarters is in Oslo.”

“No!” Perry declared.  “Amanda will not go to Norway.”

Startled, Edwina flicked her scotch-stained lips and quickly surmised that her father would not reveal his motive until another party exposed it.  As a woman who chose the battles she fought wisely, she let his angry words dissolve in the air, then spoke without reference to their subtext.

“If Norway is too far away,” Edwina began.  “Perhaps she could work in New York?”

“I don’t know if the answer is to send her away.  I believe the way to sever Amanda and Joe’s relationship is to sever the tie that binds them.”

“Daddy, I had several glasses of wine with dinner so can you be more specific?”

“What binds them to each other?”

After a thoughtful moment Edwina replied: “Joey.”

“Yes, their son.”  Perry said.  “I think it’s time to take Joey out of the equation.”

“And how can we ever do that?”

“I want to have my grandson declared legally dead.”

Edwina was less impressed with her father’s ingenious solution and more interested with the desperate measure Perry was willing to go to separate his daughter from a man.  She emptied her glass and wondered what secret her father was hiding.  She didn’t waste time wondering for too long since she knew, ultimately, she would find out.

 

Amanda

The wind was cool and the ocean spray cold, but Amanda’s body was warm in Joe’s arms.  They hadn’t spoken a word since they met on the beach, the only communication had been with their bodies.  Even though each wore a jacket and heavy clothing the fire burning in their hearts and on their lips kept them warm.

Underneath the stars, Amanda looked into the eyes of her ex-husband and was comforted by the serenity she saw there.  Minutes earlier, when she stood alone on the beach, she questioned her recent actions and wondered if she was behaving selfishly.  When Joe arrived, awkward and shy, all her doubts fled.  She was with her soulmate and somehow she knew the two would soon be reunited with their child.

“I can’t stop thinking about Joey,” Amanda said.

“Me too.  I wish there was something we could do to speed things up.”

“It’s out of our hands.”

“But we are going to see Joey again,” Joe said.  “We all will.”

Amanda didn’t want to think about the rest of her family just yet.

“Remember, Joe, we promised to keep this our secret.”

“I know.  It will do no one any good to know the truth.”

“It might even hurt Joey.”

Amanda explained her fear that if the kidnapper discovered that she told anyone he (or she) might renege on the deal.

“It’s our secret,” Joe said.

“Just like our love.”

Unfortunately, Perry and Edwina had already discovered the secret of their love and now a third person would join that elite club.  About a mile away, Vincent witnessed Amanda and Joe’s passionate kisses.  Vincent smiled as Amanda’s lips danced on Joe’s. The vampire then pushed his fangs deeper into Aimee’s neck.  Vincent held the maid tightly and covered her mouth to stifle her screams, though there was no danger that Amanda or Joe would hear them, since their ears were pounding with each other’s heartbeats.  As Vincent drank Aimee’s blood, memories of her past, including her time with the Loves rushed from her mind and into Vincent’s.  He was weakened by images of Amanda’s innocence and youthful beauty and almost let Aimee fall.  Soon his awe turned to passion and he penetrated even deeper into the maid’s throat as Amanda and Joe held each other in their arms and kissed as if they would never hold each other again.  And in the back of a limousine a priest cried out in terror and pain as he watched his friend fall to the sand and lay motionless at a stranger’s feet.