The moon was as full and as bright as it was on that fateful evening fifteen years ago when Joey was ripped like a piece of almost-ripe fruit from the Love family tree. But unlike that night when the ocean was joyful and the wind frolicking, there was a different feeling in the air. The stars were in hiding and the waves were quieter than usual. It was as if nature knew something important was about to happen and it wasn’t sure if it wanted to be witness.
Amanda, with Joe at her heels, led her family to the beach. Her heart was ravaged by such a large collection of emotions that she had to breathe deeply to calm herself. One moment she was excited, then she felt frightened, and in the next breath she was peaceful. All Amanda really wanted to do was break out into a run and embrace her long lost son and wash away her heartache and struggle as quickly as the surf erases footprints in the sand. She just wanted to look into Joey’s eyes once more and know that her son was healthy and unharmed. Instead, she focused her mind to remain quiet so she could walk steadily to the area on the beach that was illuminated by Nightwind’s outside lights. The place where the reunion would take place.
As she stood on the beach and strained in the moonlit night to catch a glimpse of her son, Amanda realized her life would soon change, hopefully for the better. Reaching behind her, Amanda found Joe’s hand and held it tightly. His hand was damp and she realized that he too was about to meet his son again for the first time. She looked into his eyes and saw fear mixed with excitement and she kissed him softly as together their lips formed one brave smile.
Behind them stood the rest of her family. Madeline, Perry, Anthony, Edwina, Winter, and Jonatha, all of them anxious and unprepared. Ondine, Dashiell, and Llewellyn stood behind them not sure of what they were about to see, but convinced it was going to be interesting nonetheless. Even Amanda’s unborn child seemed to feel the tension and kicked her stomach several times fiercely. But Amanda didn’t feel a thing. She was concentrating on making her body stop shaking for just at that moment she saw two figures emerge from the mist and walk towards them.
“Hello Amanda,” Vincent said. “My name is Vincent Savage.”
“You?” was all Amanda could say.
“I am the man who has been writing to you,” he replied. “I hope my letters have given you some comfort through the years.”
She was finally face to face with her son’s kidnapper and it turns out to be a man she had heard of but had never seen. A man who looked so familiar and yet so foreign. For so many years she thought she knew exactly how she would respond if she ever met the man who had taken her son from her. She dreamed of killing him in many different ways, some elaborate, some primal, but now that she was facing this stranger, all her anger and rage had abandoned her. She desperately wanted to push him out of the way so she could see her son.
“Where is my son?” Amanda asked quietly.
Vincent smiled at his sister’s impatience, disappointed that his preternatural state had altered his physicality. He would have liked to have seen her expression when she looked into the face of her twin. Oh well, he thought, not everything could be perfect. He took one step to the right and Amanda found herself looking into the eyes of a handsome, young man and she thought to herself that this couldn’t possibly be her son, this person was an adult. She was supposed to meet her little boy and instead she was being tricked. How could they think she would believe that this tall, virile man was her little Joey? But then she looked into his eyes.
She saw the same eager, blue eyes she saw every night in her dreams. The eyes that could grow as big as the moon and the same eyes that could never hide any emotion whether it be happiness or guilt or sorrow. She looked into those eyes now and knew that no matter how different this man looked physically, he was still her little boy and that was all that mattered.
“Joey,” Amanda said as her family held its breath.
“My name is Adam.”
Jonatha, Winter, and Anthony couldn’t stifle gasps of shock at this revelation for they knew Adam and couldn’t believe he had always been within their grasp. Adam looked at Amanda, who was obviously his mother, but was unable to make any connection to her, emotional or physical. She did have the same blonde hair as the woman who often penetrated his dreams, and if he used all his preternatural vision he could see a familiarity in her eyes, but that was it. He thought that when he met his mother, the emptiness that embraced him would be replaced with serenity, but now he only felt confusion. Perhaps Ondine was right and this mortal woman didn’t deserve his attention. So, as always during a crisis, he looked to his father for guidance.
“I christened you Adam,” Vincent replied. “But your given name is Joseph.”
“You are our son, Joseph,” Amanda said bringing Joe closer to her so Adam could have a good look at both his parents.
“Hello son,” Joe said awkwardly. “I’m your father.”
“No, he is my father,” Adam said indicating Vincent. “You’re just a man.”
“I know this is confusing. You were taken from us when you were very little, but you are ours,” Amanda said.
“I know what the truth is,” Adam protested. “You are my biological parents. This man is my family.”
The silence that engulfed them was excruciating. The Loves were too respectful of Amanda and Joe’s situation, or just too nervous, to speak, and they remained silent. Even the wind was mute and the waves only dared to break in a whisper. Vincent, however, relished the silence and smiled a devilish grin that melted when Amanda finally spoke in a voice that was both hurt and harsh.
“No Joey, you are our family,” Amanda said. “This man took you from us, he took you by force and I think it’s about time that he explained why he did such a thing.”
The moment had finally arrived, Vincent thought. The truth was about to be revealed and Perry Love was going to be exposed as a fraud.
“I think that’s a question you should pose to Perry,” Vincent said smiling.
Every head snapped in unison to look at Perry as he desperately searched his brain to think of a plausible explanation. He looked at the confused and concerned faces of his family and he realized there was no loophole he could slither through any longer. Only two choices remained, he could either tell the truth, or lie and proclaim his innocence. Naturally, he opted for the latter.
“Daddy?” Amanda asked.
“I don’t know what this . . . fiend is talking about,” Perry stammered.
“Perry, you mustn’t lie in front of the children,” Vincent said. When his eyes met Ondine’s, he added: “Have you learned nothing from your life here on earth?”
“Amanda I swear to you, I know nothing!” Perry cried. “He’s a madman.”
“Hardly,” Vincent said. “Just a son.”
That casually spoken comment slipped by most of the members of the gathered audience, but not Madeline. She grabbed Anthony’s arm for support for she understood what Vincent’s remark truly meant.
“Oh dear God!” Madeline exclaimed. “Perry, you knew that he was Amanda’s twin all along!”
Once again stunned faces spun around to Perry, whose own face had suddenly turned ghostly pale. He felt as if his body had turned to steel and although he desperately wanted to flee the scene, he was physically unable to move. He wasn’t strong enough to admit the truth, but the consummate businessman realized it was time for damage control.
“Yes, Vincent is your twin brother,” Perry began. “He was kidnapped at birth and your mother and I thought it best if no one ever knew.”
“You thought it best!” Madeline cried, clinging onto Anthony with even an shakier hand. “I begged you to tell. And when Joey was kidnapped I knew it was too great a coincidence not to be connected, but you still made me keep our secret and like a fool I obeyed.”
Although each person remained silent, their thoughts shouted loudly with panic. Edwina was slightly ill as she looked at Vincent and then Adam and realized she had fornicated with her brother and her nephew. Anthony kept trying to ignore the pangs of fright that crept into his mind and remind himself that this was nothing more than family strife and not the beginnings of something more devastating. Winter squinted in the darkness for a sign of the raven-haired woman for she knew that she played some role in this madness, but even though she sensed the demon was near she couldn’t find her. And Jonatha watched the scene unfold and prayed to the Blessed Mother for grace and guidance, though neither came to confront the young girl. It was Adam whose own frenzied thoughts made him break the silence.
“So you never looked for your son Perry,” Adam said,” just like my parents never looked for me?”
“That’s not true!” Amanda cried.
“We searched everywhere for you!” Joe added.
Pandemonium broke out and the only one who was happy about the chaos was Perry, because it shifted the focus off of him for at least a few minutes until, of course, Vincent once again took control of the scene.
“So it seems there are actually two reunions taking place tonight,” Vincent said. “Two family members have returned to the flock.”
When Madeline began to cry, her family at first became uncomfortable simply because it was a rare sight to see. They then quickly realized the Love matriarch was overwhelmed by this juggernaut and Jonatha and even Edwina stood next to her to lend their physical and emotional support. But Madeline didn’t need anyone’s support. From a place deep within her that she always kept tightly locked rose an anger that would not be abated. She walked towards her newfound son, stopping only when she was an inch from him, and slapped him hard in the face. It was only the intensity of her emotions that kept her from realizing that Vincent’s skin was as hard as stone.
“Coward!” Madeline shrieked. “You are a coward! Why did you take Joey away from us and hide? Why didn’t you join us and be part of our family?”
Perry was motionless as he watched his wife stand up to their son in a way that he was never able to.
“We would have welcomed you, you are my son.” Madeline continued. “I would have welcomed you with loving arms.”
Vincent, unexpectedly, was moved by Madeline’s raw emotions and needed a moment before he could respond with his usual detached flair.
“I wanted revenge,” Vincent responded. “I wanted to make you live with pain just as I have lived with the pain knowing my father played a part in my kidnapping and did nothing to ensure my safe return.”
“The same family who did nothing to ensure my safe return,” Adam added.
“That’s not true!” Joe shouted. “We spent years looking for you. We’ve never given up!”
“I don’t believe you,” Adam said simply. “And I don’t want you in my life. So if you’ve had enough of a look at me, I’d like to go home.”
Abruptly, Adam turned and started to walk home. Amanda was dumbfounded that her son was exiting her life for a second time and that she was doing nothing to prevent it.
“No!” Amanda cried as she moved toward her son to grab his shoulder.
She couldn’t believe how strong his arm was when the last time she touched him it was so soft.
“Please, I . . .” Amanda began but she couldn’t find the words to express what she wanted to say.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, Amanda thought. Joey was supposed to run into her arms and tell her he loved her and missed her and never wanted to be apart from her again. But this man was telling her he didn’t want her in his life. She began to feel that all her dreams were dreamt in vain and she let go of her son’s arm so he could turn away from her. Which is exactly what he did.
The tall, young man who was named Adam walked away from her and into the night. She, along with the others, watched him go, and Amanda felt the promise of a new life slip through her tired hands. And then she heard the encouraging words her mother said to her just a few days earlier, that she needed to make Joey understand, no matter how difficult, that she prayed every night for his homecoming. She heard Madeline’s words echo louder until she realized she could never let Joey out of her life again without putting up an incredible fight.
“No!” Amanda cried. She ran to her son, grabbed him by the shoulders, and looked him straight in the eyes.
“You listen to me!” Amanda said to a startled Adam. “Whether you like it or not you are my son. You were taken from me by force by that man—my own brother—because he had a vendetta against my father. He kept you from us and I had no idea if you were alive or dead, but I never, never, stopped looking for you, not for one day, not when everyone around me begged me to stop and accept the fact that you were never coming home. I couldn’t accept that then and I will not accept that now! I have woken up every morning convinced that I would find you and I have gone to bed every night convinced that tomorrow would be the day you would return to me because you are my son! And I am your mother and nothing, not this man, not fifteen years, not your own fear can ever change that.”
“I am not afraid of you,” Adam protested unconvincingly.
“Yes you are,” Amanda said. “And I’m afraid of you too a little, because you’re so different. But look into my eyes, just look . . . you’re my little boy. And this is your family and we want you to be a part of us.”
“I can’t just change my life because you want me to,” Adam said.
“Don’t change it for me,” Amanda replied. “Change it for yourself. I can offer you something that no one else can: pure love. This man can’t offer you that.”
“This man is my father,” Adam said. “And he’s a good man.”
“He may have treated you with kindness, but he is not good,” Amanda said. “How can a man be good when he destroyed my family just to get revenge on my father?”
“This is all a crazy misunderstanding,” Perry mumbled.
“Tell your family the rest Perry,” Vincent said. “Or I will.”
“Oh for God’s sake, what more could there possibly be Daddy?” Edwina asked nervously.
If Vincent could produce bile he would have tasted it in his throat, but he merely bit his lip and waited for Perry to address his family. When no sound came from Perry’s quivering, and very, very pale, lips, Vincent spoke in his place.
“I am not what you think I am,” Vincent said.
“Stop it with the games!” Joe cried out unable to contain his fury any longer. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I was not meant for this earth,” Vincent replied.
That string of words sent a shiver down Jonatha’s spine. She wasn’t entirely sure what Vincent meant by them, but she knew he didn’t choose them arbitrarily. Somehow her own personal problems were intertwined with this strange-looking man and the boy who was really her half-brother.
“Nor was I meant to be part of this family,” Vincent continued. “My dear father voluntarily gave me up to a stranger as payback for an earlier crime he committed.”
“You what!?” Madeline gasped.
The air around her became suffocating. She couldn’t breathe when she tried to gulp in the breeze and her throat merely constricted. Vincent’s words reverberated inside her head and she realized that Perry not only knew the fate of their firstborn son all these years and kept the truth from her, but he played a principal role in his kidnapping. She knew her husband was crude and heartless, but this act of tyranny was unfathomable.
Perry looked out at his family and saw each set of eyes staring at him with a mixture of disbelief and hatred. Then he saw that both Vincent and Ondine were smiling at him and he felt rage pour out of him.
“Yes I sold my own son!” Perry screamed. “But I had no choice. My life would have been destroyed if I didn’t give the boy away. I kept the girl for you Madeline because I knew you’d prefer to raise a daughter.”
Madeline’s shrieks of disgust were barely heard over the rest of her family’s cries of outrage.
“Don’t you understand?” Perry shouted. “She was going to tell everyone the truth. She was going to tell them that I left her for dead. If only she would have stayed dead, when the snow melted they would have found her and no one would have suspected that I killed her. Tell them Ondine, tell them that it was an accident!”
Once again the focus of the scene shifted. All eyes fell on the mysterious French woman with the lush, white hair.
“My dear sweet Perry,” Ondine said softly. “Once, a long time ago, I loved you. And Madeline, forgive me, but I did share a bed with your husband for a time. But now, Perry, I only feel pity for you, which, I’m sure, is much better than what your family is feeling for you right at this moment.”
“You made me give you Vincent!” Perry cried madly. “I know it was you! You made that woman threaten my life and my family’s life if I didn’t give her my son.”
“How can one woman force a man to hand over his firstborn child?” Ondine replied dramatically. “Don’t blame me for what you have done to yourself Raz. This is your destiny.”
“What did you call me?” Perry asked.
Fortunately, no one else heard the slip of Ondine’s tongue, they were all watching Madeline run towards Nightwind and then, with the exception of Vincent and Adam, everyone rallied together to pummel Perry with more questions and shrieks of anger. Even Dashiell and Llewellyn found themselves joining the mob.
Enraged and disgusted, the Love matriarch ran up the steps of Nightwind. She needed her sanctuary desperately now, she needed to be alone to sort out her overwhelming emotions, but by the time she reached the top step, Madeline heard a familiar voice calling her name.
“Just leave me alone,” Madeline replied without stopping or turning around.
“Would you like to know the whole truth?” Ondine replied softly.
“Why should I listen to a woman who slept with my husband?
“As if you actually cared about your husband’s sex life.”
The two women faced each other in the hallway. They heard the wind swirl past them as Madeline realized how foolish her comment was.
“What do you know?” Madeline asked.
“Why should I believe you?”
“Take my hand.”
Madeline hesitated, but then saw a flicker of something flash across Ondine’s face. She wasn’t sure if it was something to be trusted or feared, but knowing her husband, she knew there was much more to his story and she had to take the chance to uncover everything, no matter how devastating it would be. It was the last time Madeline would ever underestimate how bad a situation could actually be.
Ondine didn’t respond except to hold out her hand. Curious, Madeline put her hand on top of Ondine’s and immediately felt a surge of energy, every nerve in her body danced and tingled. Madeline wanted to let go of Ondine’s grasp, and even though their hands weren’t clasped, she was unable to lift her hand from Ondine’s. Her senses were on fire as wave after wave of memory raced out of Ondine’s brain and flooded Madeline. The unsuspecting woman witnessed Ondine’s entire history, the darkness surrounding her own kidnapped son, Vincent, and the truth of Amanda’s unborn child. Other images pulsated through Madeline’s body that she didn’t understand, but that she felt were painful and evil. It was simply too much for her to bear and after a few seconds of being in Ondine’s power, Madeline collapsed to the floor.
“One down,” Ondine said with a smirk before leaving Nightwind and gently closing the door behind her.
From a hidden enclave of hand-clipped bushes to the right of Nightwind’s exterior steps, Winter was hiding and saw Ondine slowly walk down the stairs. Although Winter thought Ondine looked weak and apparently suffering from some physical ailment, she knew she was an odd woman and someone who should be avoided. She waited until Ondine was out of view before she climbed the stairs to Nightwind to comfort her grandmother.
“Grandma!” Winter cried when she saw Madeline sprawled out on the floor.
By the time Winter got back to her family there were several people missing from the gathering. Perry had fled the pack to an unknown location and much to everyone’s surprise Vincent suggested that Adam return to the servant’s quarters with Amanda and Joe to have a more private conversation. Naturally, Adam balked at first, but he finally acquiesced to his father’s command, as he always did. But at the moment Winter didn’t care about them, she was looking for Ondine.
“Where is she?” Winter cried as she ran down the beach. “Where is your mother?”
Realizing she was talking to him, Dashiell tried to hide his concern.
“Why are you looking for my mother?” he replied.
“She’s hurt my grandmother.”
“What?” Anthony cried.
“I don’t know what happened,” Winter said breathlessly. “But after Ondine left Nightwind, I went in and found Grandma laying on the floor. She needs our help.”
Instantly, Anthony and Edwina raced to Nightwind. They were both so consumed with fear over their mother’s fate that they didn’t realize this was the first time they reacted the same way to an event since they were teenagers and neither of them were deemed old enough to attend a Fleetwood Mac concert in Boston. They also didn’t realize that their older brother, Vincent, was running right behind them.
As Jonatha and Winter started to run after their older relatives, Dashiell and Llewellyn each grabbed a girl by the arm.
“Get off me!” Winter cried.
“If you really want to help your grandmother,” Dashiell said, “you’ll listen to me.”
“You have thirty seconds,” Jonatha said grimly.
Parents with Child
The servant’s quarters were decorated in a much less elaborate style than Nightwind. There were no velvet curtains or marble staircases or crystal chandeliers. However, in the foyer, amid the slightly frayed brocade loveseat and the out-of-tune grand piano, were three individuals who were linked by a history of deception, fate, and blood.
Sitting stoically in the center of the room in an uncomfortable, wingback chair was Adam. His grim countenance hid the occasional feelings of joy that permeated his confusion. After so many years he had found his parents and although Ondine’s vile voice teared through his mind, he wasn’t completely convinced that they had ruthlessly abandoned him. He had decided he would let his parents argue their own defense. Mortals did need to be given special compensation at times.
Joe had made Amanda sit on the loveseat to conserve her strength while he paced the room with enough nervous energy for both of them.
“I do wish you would stop pacing,” Adam said. “You’re like a caged animal.”
Joe fought the urge to scream at the boy who he currently regarded as an adversary instead of a son. He could accept any unkind words or harsh accusations Joey threw at him, but he hated seeing Amanda treated with such disregard. He took a deep breath and apologized.
“I’m sorry,” Joe said. “It’s just that I’m, well, I’m nervous.”
“Why should you be nervous in the company of your family?” Adam quipped.
“Don’t speak that way to your Father?” Amanda interrupted. “And don’t tell me once again that he isn’t your father because that’s starting to bore me.”
The two men were shocked by Amanda’s outburst and it took them a few seconds to regain their composure.
“Is that the way you’ve decided to win me back?” Adam asked. “With assertion and parental disdain?”
“You’re obviously a well-educated young man,” Amanda replied. “I must thank my brother for your schooling. But I don’t want to talk about how well you can turn a phrase, I’m more interested in what’s in your heart. What are you feeling right now?”
“What? Adam asked uncomfortably and got up to look out the window and stare at the moon.
“You always loved the moon,” Amanda said, moving close behind him. “On the night you were taken from us you wished you could ride right through it. You thought it was a tunnel.”
“I was a silly child,” Adam said.
“Yes you were. You made me laugh all the time,” Amanda replied. “You would say incredibly absurd things and draw whimsical pictures and ask questions that I couldn’t answer, but that would make me smile.”
Adam turned to his mother and this time he saw her differently. She was the woman in his dreams, the one who held him close and whispered softly to him and kissed his hurt away. The young man wasn’t sure if he still had a heart, but he did feel an ache begin to grow deep within him.
“Like what?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” said Amanda.
“What kinds of questions would I ask?”
“You would ask me why clouds didn’t fall to the ground. Or how sandcrabs could breathe under the sand. Or why soap didn’t fall from the sky if water did,” Amanda said, fighting the need to cry. “Oh Joey, my baby, please, you have to understand that I would have done anything . . . your father and I would have done anything . . . humanly possible to have you returned to us.”
One simple word, “humanly”, made Adam catch his breath. How gullible could he be? How vulnerable to a mortal’s words could he have become? He couldn’t accept these people into his life for he wasn’t human.
Adam looked away from Amanda’s hypnotic gaze and his eyes fell upon Joe’s hand. Small drops of fresh blood lingered near a recent cut. Unexpectedly, Adam felt his hunger grow and he knew from experience that his natural appetite needed to be quenched immediately or else it would consume him and he would not be responsible for his actions.
“I have to go,” Adam said desperately.
“No,” Joe said. “We’re not going to let you just walk out on us.”
“You don’t understand,” Adam tried to explain. “I . . . I’m not like you.”
“Yes you are,” Amanda said, misunderstanding her son’s statement. “We’re all scared, but we love you and that’s all that matters now.”
“No!” Adam growled. “You can’t love me! My Father and I . . . we’re not like you! This is what we want!”
Adam grabbed Joe’s hand violently and sank his teeth into the fractured flesh. Joe screamed out in agony and horror as he watched his son suck the blood from his hand. Unsure of what was happening, Amanda tried to pull Adam off Joe, but Adam reacted instinctively and slapped Amanda in the face with the back of his hand, the force of which sent her flying backwards into the wingback chair. The sight of his lover hovered on the floor, using only her arms to cover her unborn child, made Joe feel a surge of adrenalin unlike anything he had ever experienced before. He punched Adam in the face and he felt the fangs retract from his flesh.
When Adam looked up at his parents his appearance had changed. His skin was gnarled and contorted and bloody fangs protruded over his full red lips.
“Can you love this?!” Adam growled. “This is what your son has become!”
Suddenly the smell of new blood caressed Adam’s nostrils and he saw that Amanda was bleeding from the womb. When she noticed what was happening, Amanda tried to cover up the blood, but it was too late, Adam was already transfixed by the oozing liquid. He lunged towards Amanda, but never saw Joe spring into the air to deflect him. Joe struggled to subdue Adam as Amanda screamed and tried to crawl to safety. As she tried to get to her knees she felt the blood rush from her and realized safety was far, far away.
Although she was too weak and too frightened to turn around she heard Joe, and the thing her son had become, fight. She had no idea who was winning, but she knew she would soon find out.
“What have you done with my son?!” Joe cried.
“I am your son!” Adam shouted back. “This is what we are. We’re vampires, you mortal fool!”
Joe was rendered speechless by Adam’s announcement and he realized the fantastic stories that not only were legendary in Nightfall true, but that his son was at the center of all the rumors. While Joe pondered this bizarre piece of hometown history, Adam threw one final punch. Throughout his career as a policeman, Joe had taken several hits before, but never had he been hit with such force. He flew several feet above Amanda and didn’t stop until he hit the textured wallpaper and slid to the floor landing several inches from her face.
“Joe,” Amanda whispered helplessly.
Although the pain and her tears distorted her vision, Amanda could see Adam coming towards her. She thought she had heard him proclaim himself a vampire, but that couldn’t possibly be true. Vampires weren’t real, they were fantasy. She too had heard the whispers in town, but she never believed them. But this thing that hovered over her didn’t look real, he looked like something out of a grotesque fairy tale. She felt herself be lifted to her feet and then higher. She found herself looking into crimson eyes and then she heard her voice.
“Joey?” Amanda asked. “I don’t know if this is you, but if it is I know you can hear me. You don’t want to hurt me. You have to fight whatever force is taking control of you.”
She felt hot breath and the scrape of sharp fangs on her throat.
“Because whatever it is, my love for you is stronger,” Amanda whispered. “I love you Joey. I always have and I always will.”
Once again she saw the crimson eyes, but now they were wide and innocent. Slowly she saw the contorted face regain its original shape and she saw her son once again.
“I knew you wouldn’t hurt me.”
“Mother,” Adam said.
“Yes, baby,” Amanda replied.
Adam longed to be held by Amanda, to weep in her arms for the endless nights he spent as a child wondering what had happened to his family. He wanted to tell her that he was terribly afraid of crossing over to the Golden Life, but the glorious scent of blood tantalized him again and he knew that if he didn’t flee his mother’s presence he would take life from her.
“I do love you,” Adam said, just as he flew out of the room into the unsuspecting night.
Since Anthony and Edwina didn’t know that Vincent had left with them, they didn’t realize that he hadn’t entered Nightwind. They were on either side of Madeline now trying to ascertain her condition. She seemed quite peaceful, her breathing was calm and steady, she had no bruises, nor did she look to be in any pain. If she were laying in her bed instead of on the hardwood floor, they would have thought she was sleeping.
“Mother, can you hear me?” Anthony asked.
“Anthony,” Edwina said. “Do you think we should call a doctor?”
“I have a feeling a doctor would be no use to us now,” he replied.
Edwina felt completely helpless as she watched her brother attend to her mother. She also felt excluded. Her mother and her brother had always had a special bond, which she alternately coveted and loathed, while she allowed the family to think that she was her father’s special little girl. She simply understood that her father was practical and that his practicality was often misinterpreted as unemotional. Unfortunately, she had learned tonight that her father actually leaned closer to insanity.
She helped Anthony lift Madeline onto the chaise lounge and muddled thoughts of her and Vincent penetrated her brain. A few short hours ago she had kissed this man and had incredible sex with him and his son. Now, she realized she had committed incest. Some days, she thought, just don’t turn out as you expect them too.
“Would you like to pray with me Edwina?” Anthony asked.
At many points in her life that question would have seemed laughable, more accurately the question would never have been put to her. But now as she knelt beside her brother in front of her unconscious mother, it seemed to be the most natural question of all.
“I’m not sure if I remember how,” Edwina admitted, “but if you lead, I’ll follow.”
Anthony smiled wanly at his sister and took her hand. Then they each took hold of Madeline’s hands and were unprepared for what happened next. They could hear their mother’s thoughts as they held her hand. They looked at each other incredulously and listened to what Madeline had to say.
“Your father is scared, which means he’s dangerous,” Madeline telepathically told her children. “You must stay away from him. Vincent may be your brother, but he is also a vampire.”
When Anthony and Edwina heard this amazing claim they almost let go of Madeline’s hands, but she clung to them even tighter.
“He’s turned Joey into a vampire as well,” Madeline continued. “We’ve lost our grandson to the darkness.”
They could hear Madeline cry, but could see no tears. Currents of immense emotional pain pulsated from Madeline into her children and they knew the only way they could comfort her was to listen.
“Ondine has orchestrated all of this pain,” Madeline said. “She took Vincent and sold him, she helped him steal Joey from us, she even created Jonatha.”
Upon hearing this, Edwina flinched and looked at her brother for help. Mentally, she asked her mother for an explanation.
“Ondine isn’t human, she needs a soul to survive so she created a child that you carried.”
“Joe and I conceived Jonatha!” Edwina shouted at her mother’s expressionless face. “Ondine had nothing to do with it!”
“No, you and Joe never conceived a child,” Madeline explained. “It was all a lie.”
Unable to listen to any more of her mother’s ramblings, Edwina let go of Madeline’s hand. As much as she wanted to believe that what she heard was untrue, she realized it explained why she could never remember actually making love to Joe that first time when Jonatha was conceived. Nothing was the same for Edwina. The only constant she had in her life was her daughter and now she had been taken from her, she had never felt lonelier in her entire life. She was so consumed with her own pain that it took her a moment to hear Anthony’s screams.
“No!” Anthony shouted, “It’s not true!”
“What?” Edwina asked. “What did she say?”
“Jonatha’s life is in danger.”
The moon’s glow made Serenity Pond shine with light as all around it darkness hung quietly like a panther ready to strike its defenseless prey. Dashiell and Jonatha hid together in the brush on one side of the pond. On the other side, Winter and Llewellyn stood behind a weeping willow. The young men had filled in both girls on Ondine’s mission and they understood that in order to defeat Dashiell’s mother, and save Amanda’s unborn child, they had to work together.
Crouching next to Jonatha, Dashiell admired how bravely the girl had taken the news that she had been born for the sole purpose to die at the hands of a Soul Angel. Dashiell didn’t realize that Jonatha was hiding her feelings and that she was devastated to learn why she was not meant for this earth. She wasn’t conceived, she was created by some crazy demon woman who just wanted to rip out her soul so she could live another hundred years. Silently she thanked God for allowing her to be born without a soul thwarting Ondine’s master plan and the Blessed Mother and the angels for intervening and giving her a soul when she was safely out of Ondine’s reach. Now that same sick woman was going to take the soul from Amanda’s unborn child. Well, she was going to try anyway. Jonatha, along with the others, was going to do everything she could to stop her.
“Foolish children, do you really think you can stop me?”
Ondine appeared before them in the center of Serenity Pond, floating on its cool liquid surface.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” Ondine declared.
No one moved, which only made Ondine grow more impatient.
“Then I will come into the bushes and drag you out and kill you one by one until I find the child who has irked me so.”
Before Dashiell could pull her back into the bushes, Jonatha walked out of her hiding place and stood at the water’s edge. She stared at Ondine, and although she was quite afraid, she knew that somewhere, a higher power was on her side.
“Such a brave little bitch you are,” Ondine said, still an inch or two above the water’s surface. “Too bad your bravery will get you killed.”
All four teenagers watched as Ondine commanded every ounce of her strength to revert back to her original physical state. Her white hair, which had grown brittle and coarse in recent days, turned dark until it was as black as a raven’s feather and so long that it brushed against her ankles. Her wrinkled and blotchy skin faded away to reveal a smooth, and breathtakingly beautiful, complexion. They couldn’t believe that a creature so exquisite could be so evil.
As Ondine raised her hand in Jonatha’s direction she heard a rustling from the bushes where she had been hiding. Like uncontrolled lightning, Dashiell sped towards Ondine and crashed into her with all the preternatural force her could corral. Alas, he was not used to his superior strength and had not yet learned how to control it. Ondine easily pushed him off of her and as she moved safely toward the grass, Dashiell crashed through the pond’s chilly surface.
“Who’s next?” Ondine asked.
From the opposite side of the pond she saw Winter running toward her. As the young girl ran to protect her sister, she silently chastised herself for not realizing that Ondine was actually the raven-haired woman who had been controlling her. Before she could berate herself any longer, Ondine raised her hand in her direction and Winter stopped abruptly. The two locked eyes and Ondine silently commanded the girl to fight on her behalf. Winter had no choice but to comply and she suddenly found herself seeking out Llewellyn.
“Winter no!” Dashiell cried as he climbed out of the pond. “You must fight her!”
But Winter was just a girl, and Ondine was a supernatural entity who had conserved her strength these past several days so she could fight with her full arsenal against all those who wanted to put an end to her life. Winter raced toward Llewellyn, took him by the scruff of his neck, and effortlessly swung him into the trunk of the weeping willow several times before hurling him into the depths of Serenity Pond. Finally, Ondine let go of the spell she had on Winter and the girl saw both Jonatha and Dashiell dive into the pond to rescue Llewellyn. She also saw Ondine plunge in after them.
Like black tentacles, Ondine’s raven hair reached toward the teenagers under the pond’s surface. Jonatha was the first to reach Llewellyn and she had to wave her hand in front of his face to make the blood float away. She saw that his eyes were closed and his mouth open so she put her hand over his mouth and pushed his body to the surface. Dashiell was inches from Llewellyn’s feet when Ondine grabbed his legs and pulled him farther below.
His arms flailed out in search of his mother, but he couldn’t reach her, he only felt her hit him like a cat toying with a mouse. Then he thought that if he was going to defeat this creature he had to think like her and so he grew very quiet to regain his strength. After a moment, Ondine paused, her raven hair swirling around her, and contemplated her son. She understood what he was doing and in her own maternal way, she approved. Plus, the kill was so much more satisfying when the prey put up a good fight.
Suddenly, Dashiell propelled himself into Ondine’s stomach and rose with her through the pond’s surface. When they were nearly twenty feet in the air, Dashiell let go of Ondine and flew to the right, landing securely on the ground as he watched Ondine fall back into the pond. He raced to Llewellyn’s side and saw that his lover wasn’t breathing.
“Llewellyn!” Dashiell bellowed.
“I’m sorry,” Winter cried, “I didn’t mean it!”
Before anyone could speak further they heard the ground shake and saw the pond water begin to crest. Although Ondine was nowhere to be found she had obviously grown restless. From the depths of the earth’s soul, they heard her speak.
“Do you really think I will allow four children defeat me?” Ondine asked, her voice booming in the night. “I was created by God, I am a Soul Angel! It is my destiny to be immortal and that destiny will be fulfilled by the first light of the sun!”
They saw Ondine rise from the pond, completely dry, and with a look of menace that took their breath away. Ondine hardly seemed to move, but in an instant her hand was clutching Dashiell’s throat and shaking him violently as Winter and Jonatha screamed several feet below.
“My only son turning against me,” Ondine said. “I should have done this on the day of your birth.”
With absolutely no remorse she tossed Dashiell into a collection of boulders near the pond’s edge. Before his lifeless body slid down the curved stone to greet the soft dirt, Ondine had lifted both girls into the air. In one hand she held Jonatha and in the other, Winter, and let them face each other as the three were suspended in mid-air.
“It’s time to say good-bye girls.”
Even if they didn’t have Ondine’s hands wrapped around their throats they still wouldn’t have been able to speak. Jonatha watched as Winter was thrown to the ground and landed on top of Llewellyn. Somehow Jonatha found the poise to simply look at Ondine. She didn’t cry out or beg for mercy, she just stared.
“Where are your angels now?!” Ondine cried, just before she and Jonatha plummeted into the pond a final time.
As if in slow motion they grabbed at each other, Jonatha valiantly trying to fight against Ondine’s inhuman strength. She saw, but could not hear, Ondine laugh at her, and she felt, but could not stop the water invade her lungs as darkness began to creep into the edges of her eyes. She knew that she was drowning. She tried to remain peaceful and accepting, but she only grew more frightened, she just didn’t want to die. And then she saw an angel.
“Not again!” Ondine cried to the angel that tried to grab Jonatha from Ondine’s clutches.
Rising furiously from the pond, Ondine broke the water’s surface like a bullet and held Jonatha overhead like a prize.
“You will not get in my way this time!” Ondine said as she let Jonatha fall and flew into the angel blocking its path so it couldn’t prevent Jonatha from crashing into the ground.
Ondine, with the angel at her side, surveyed the area and saw Dashiell, Llewellyn, Winter, and Jonatha laying on the ground. Ondine laughed and the angel wept, as they realized that four bodies had fallen to earth, but only three would rise again.
The corridor between Perry’s office and Nightwind was half the length of a football field and enclosed by glass on all sides. Vincent walked quickly down the hallway and entered Perry’s office to find his father and Astrid waiting for him.
“Well, well, Mr. Savage,” Astrid said. “It’s about time.”
“I want the serum,” Vincent bellowed.
“And I want my money,” Astrid replied, clicking open a briefcase filled with five million dollars.
“Here!” Vincent shouted as he tossed a similar briefcase onto Perry’s desk. “Now give me the serum!”
Perry was shocked by Vincent’s outburst, but Astrid was merely amused.
“Don’t go getting all ornery Mr. Vampire-Man,” Astrid said, “Especially when it’s only fifteen minutes before sunrise.”
The Final Battle
The blood wouldn’t stop rushing from between Amanda’s legs and she knew that if it continued any longer her baby’s life would be in question. She shook Joe’s body with weak hands, but he didn’t stir. Hope was running out, but Amanda knew that she had to rise from the floor and find her family.
“Dear God,” Amanda whispered, “Won’t you please help me?”
Amanda gasped as she saw two bare feet floating above the ground in front of her.
“God’s a bit busy,” Ondine said, “but I’ll lend a hand.”