“I would prefer for you to call me Anthony,” requested the priest. “‘Father’ is so restrictive.”
“Then you are a man of the new cloth,” replied Vincent.
“The cloth doesn’t age, only the man wearing it.”
“That depends on the man.”
Anthony Love and Vincent Savage stared at each other and a relationship formed. What type of relationship that was, was yet to be determined. But Anthony, like most of Nightfall, could separate strangers from residents. And these two men who suddenly appeared before him were definitely strangers.
While the three men talked, Anthony noticed how serene the atmosphere had become. The air in the normally bustling inn seemed suspended, awaiting a command to return to normal.
“You’re new to town aren’t you?” Anthony asked.
“Yes. I have just recently taken a position here,” Vincent replied. “I’ll be teaching ancient history at St. Agatha’s night college.”
“And I’ll be a freshman,” Adam added.
“Then we’ll be seeing each other quote often,” Anthony said.
“Are you connected with St. Agatha’s, Father?” Adam asked. “I mean . . . Anthony.”
“Yes I teach theology and I’m Nightfall’s pastor.”
“A position of great importance,” Vincent interjected. “The Loves must be very proud.”
“You know my family?”
“One cannot know of Nightfall without knowing about the Loves. The two are intimately connected.”
At that comment, all three men smiled – one with honesty, one with self-pleasure, and one with a small, but real, sense of fear.
Amanda and Joe
Amanda and Joe continued their telephone conversation, oblivious that Perry and Edwina were separately listening. Amanda’s fingers curled the telephone wire just as they’d twirled Joe’s hair only hours earlier while Joe casually touched his chest and other parts of his body that Amanda had kissed and caressed during their spontaneous reconciliation. Their lovemaking had been sudden, but brewing for years. Circumstances, events,
and one wily younger sister had driven them apart, and one letter had thrust them back together. They would not be ripped apart again, unless, Edwina and Perry had their ways.
“When can I see you again? Alone,” Amanda asked.
“Tomorrow. We’ll both go to the airport to pick up Jonatha and Winter,” Joe replied.
“Perfect. We’ll pick up our children together. Just the two of us.”
“Hearing that takes my breath away, Amanda.”
“I’ll pick you up at noon. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, my love.”
Edwina wasn’t sure what was rushing up to her throat faster: the pure hatred she felt for her older sister or the bile that begged to surface after hearing such a nauseating display of intimacy. When she heard the click of the telephone, she raced to her private bathroom to regain control of her emotions. She caught her reflection in the mirror and was struck by two things. First, her face was twisted into a mask of pain, which was a truly distasteful image, and was only erased after much conscious effort. And second, Edwina noticed how splendidly her auburn hair fused with the reddish pink paint of her bathroom. She remembered how Joe once remarked that the bathroom looked like it belonged to a French whore—it was dramatic, devious, and devastating. It was time to remind her husband that although she wasn’t French, she could still act like a whore.
Perry’s first instinct was to barge into his daughter’s room and dictate that she should end this insane dalliance before it escalated into something that would have dire repercussions. But he knew how stubborn Amanda could be, especially when it came to that poster-boy for working class slobs, Joe Lassiter. So he scurried back to his room and was drawn to the ocean, the stars, and the vast space through his windows and he knew he had to stop his daughter from rekindling her past.
“If you’re not worrying about the past, you’re worrying about the present.”
Madeline’s haughty whisper pierced the darkness startling Perry.
“Madeline I didn’t see you.”
“Amanda’s been with Joe,” she whispered. Madeline could see her husband’s surprise through the shadows and assured him that a mother can tell when her daughter has been taken.
“I must put an end to it,” Perry said.
“When will you realize that you can’t control a woman’s heart?”
Perry watched his wife leave his room in retreat to her own bed. He knew that her comment referred to all the women in his life, not just Amanda. Although his heart raged with passion for Madeline, after years of her unreturned kisses and pitying glances, he was unable to find the courage to reach out to her again. Perry stood at his window gazing at the restless ocean for quite some time before retreating to his own bed.
The Day After
Rummaging through her closet in search of the perfect outfit, Amanda felt like a schoolgirl dressing for her first date. She had spent eight years with Joe as either friend, lover, or wife (sometimes all three at once), but today felt like a turning point.
It was the day after they made love. The day after they made the first tentative steps toward a reunion and Amanda’s mind was filled with many thoughts. She used all her strength to focus on the good aspects of such a reunion, and not dwell on the negative.
Amanda dressed the way she knew Joe liked—simply. She wore a white t-shirt beneath a yellow cashmere cardigan, which made her shoulder length blonde hair seem even blonder, and a pair of old jeans that still fit her body the way they did when she wore them on her honeymoon. Before she left to join the waiting limousine she grabbed a neglected bottle of “Angel” perfume that Joe once gave her and sprayed the long-forgotten vanilla scent onto her throat. But as she descended the stairs her sensual thoughts were restrained by the reality of the situation. Was reconnecting with Joe a rational thing to do or was it just an overdue act of passion? She knew that she loved him, but she also knew Edwina wouldn’t relinquish her husband without a nasty struggle. Amanda was strong enough to fight her sister, but there were many other lives that would get caught in the crossfire, namely their children, Winter and Jonatha, both of whom had been forced to deal with so much dysfunction already. If only Joe didn’t make her so damned happy. Joe’s impish grin flooded her mind’s eye as she opened the front door and was met by Perry.
“Amanda, where are you going?”
“To pick up the girls at the airport,” Amanda calmly replied.
“Wonderful,” said Perry. “Let’s go.”
“Daddy, you must be tired from your flight yesterday.”
“I’m never too tired to see my granddaughters.”
Suddenly—and most events at Nightwind happened suddenly—Madeline appeared behind Amanda.
“Perry, there you are. You have a call the laboratory in Oslo.”
“I can’t take it now.”
“The young lady sounds frantic. She said it’s horribly important.”
“I’ll see you both later,” Amanda said.
“I’ll have Cook prepare something extravagant for the girls,” the older woman said. “Airplane food is so disagreeable.”
“Thank you,” said Amanda to her mother as she made her escape.
“Amanda!” cried Perry futilely.
“You’ll want to get that call, Perry,” Madeline said, preventing her husband from leaving with their daughter. “Norwegians are not a patient people.”
Amanda and Joe
The limousine pulled up to Joe’s home, and Amanda’s heart began to race. She felt giddy and hopeful, and yet nervous and shy. Her emotions abruptly changed when the door opened and she saw her sister, Edwina, sporting a smug smile, standing in front of Joe.
“You didn’t think I would let you two have all the fun meeting our girls at the airport, did you?
Edwina pushed her way into the limousine forcing Amanda to shift to the far right. Once Edwina settled herself in, a stern-looking Joe followed. Edwina, thrilled that she thwarted the lovers’ backseat tryst, couldn’t hide her pleasure and she smiled and hummed along to the classical music that filled the limo. Every once in a while she would stop to make comments or ask questions laced with innuendo.
“Amanda you haven’t worn “Angel” since, well, since you were married to my husband.”
“I was feeling sentimental this morning,” Amanda replied.
“Why Joe, your palms are sweaty. I guess being in the backseat with both Love sisters makes a man nervous. One of us should ride up front. C’mon Joe you pick which one should leave.”
“There’s room for all of us back here,” Joe said.
“Spoken like the red-blooded man you are,” Edwina quipped.
Typically, whenever the former Mrs. Lassiter, the current Mrs. Lassiter, and Mr. Lassiter himself shared the same space, the atmosphere became tense. On this occasion, however, the atmosphere was dangerously close to the point of combustion. Amanda turned away from the two other passengers for fear that her face would betray her and reveal the strong desire she felt for Joe. On Edwina’s left, Joe stared straight ahead, and battled with his own inner turmoil. He was furious that he couldn’t convince Edwina to stay behind and let him go to the airport alone with Amanda, he was frightened that his wife might already know that he made love to another woman, and he was disappointed that he couldn’t tell his first wife that he never stopped loving her in spite of the fact that he divorced her so many years ago. Joe Lassiter was definitely a confused man not in control with his emotions. But even though they were being driven by their very competent driver, this limo ride was being controlled, expertly, by Edwina.
The Thames River always seemed more romantic when illuminated by the setting sun. And Llewellyn always felt more romantic when he could be near the river at this time of day. With each passing day, however, Llewellyn was growing more wistful and scared.
Between bites of very rare filet mignon, Llewellyn Radcliffe gazed at his companion of the past two years and a profound sense of loss began to fill his entire being. It was an unbearable feeling that caused droplets of tears to fall from his eyes. After a moment, Dashiell spoke.
“Please don’t cry.”
“My tears are all I have left. You’ve taken everything else away.”
Dashiell was almost physically hurt by Llewellyn’s words, but unfortunately he had to agree that they were true. Dashiell had taken everything from Llewellyn: his innocence, his love, his future. Llewellyn was only 15 when Dashiell’s mother handpicked him to be her son’s companion, and luckily Dashiell approved of the selection wholeheartedly. But Dashiell also knew he gave his partner things few men could ever dream of promising. Although Dashiell was only 19 himself, thanks to his mother’s riches and social status, he had the power to give Llewellyn a life filled with adventure, mystery, and astonishing events.
But all those facts meant nothing to Dashiell now as he watched the tears
pour from Llewellyn’s eyes. He moved in very close to this young man who
was both his friend and lover, until their faces were mere inches apart. He kissed
away Llewellyn’s tears and spoke tenderly.
“Why are you so afraid?”
“I overheard you speaking with your mother on the phone earlier. I know you’ve set a date to cross over.”
“Yes I have. But you knew that day was coming.”
Self-consciously, Llewellyn looked into Dashiell’s eyes.
“What’s to become of me?”
“You will be what you have always been. My anchor. My beloved.”
“But the Lassiter girls. . . why must they be a part of us?”
“In time you’ll understand. For now, trust me.”
“I’ve trusted you with my life.”
“As I have trusted you with mine.”
Both young men knew words could no longer express the intensity of their feelings and their hungry mouths instinctively found each other. Llewellyn’s tears continued to fall and his heart began beating so thunderously that he had to pull away from Dashiell’s grasp to reclaim control over his body. The man who would soon be immortal, enveloped his lover in his arms and carried him to their bed. For the next several hours, the Lassiter girls would be the furthest things from each of their minds.
No matter how many times the Love limousine parked in front of the quaint Collins Inn it always looked out of place. Jonatha and Edwina waited inside the car as Joe and Amanda stood awkwardly on the Inn’s rustic front porch.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t be alone today,” Joe said.
“I know. We need to talk,” Amanda replied and shifted her gaze from Joe’s blue eyes to Edwina’s stare, which penetrated from the limo’s backseat. “But you have a family waiting.”
Joe fought the urge to wrap his mouth around Amanda’s lips and walked back to his wife and daughter. Amanda watched them drive away, but refused to give in to the sadness that threatened to consume her. She also had a daughter she needed to return to. A minute later Amanda was sitting across from Winter at a cozy table that was situated underneath a portrait of Amanda’s grandmother, Priscilla. Winter duplicated the deceased matriarch’s mischievous smile and tried to figure out how Amanda was different. Her clothes were a bit more casual than the typical “Amanda Love” outfit, but that wasn’t it. Her questions about Winter’s London vacation were less investigative, but still brimming with motherly concern, so that wasn’t it. And yet Amanda appeared changed, almost reversed, from her normal reserved persona. Then it dawned on Winter what had caused her mother’s change.
“You’ve had sex!” exclaimed the teenager.
“What?” Amanda exclaimed right back.
“Who was it? Do I know him?” Winter prodded. Then her face shadowed as a thought crossed her mind. “Oh God, please say it was a “he.” I have nothing against lesbians, there are three on my swim team, but I’m not stable enough to be known as ‘Winter, the girl with two mommies’.”
Amanda paused to prevent herself from laughing. She adored her daughter’s sense of humor and spontaneous nature, and even though Winter had uncovered Amanda’s secret, she wasn’t ready to confirm her suspicion.
“I am not a lesbian,” Amanda declared. “And you of all people should know I’ve been celibate longer than you’ve been dying your hair blonde.”
“Mother, you are oozing with satisfaction,” Winter responded. “I only streak my hair, and who deflowered you?”
“You know he was the first man I made love to,” Amanda said. “He’s the only man I have ever been with.”
“Jeepers, Mandy! For a moment I thought the family was headed back to the front page of the scandal sheets.”
“No we’re safely ensconced in the society section.” Amanda reassured. Then she added with mock anger, “And must I remind you not to call me Mandy?”
Winter continued to interrogate her mother in between bites of lobster stew, Caesar salad, and homemade biscuits, all to no avail. Amanda refused to tell her daughter the truth as much for Winter’s benefit as for her own. She knew that Winter had adopted a cavalier attitude to deal with her complicated lineage and to protect a heart filled with pain. Amanda didn’t want to give Winter false hope that her parents might reconnect, because she knew her daughter would immediately fantasize about having a real family again. Only when Amanda was certain that she and Joe could once again become a couple—and she wasn’t sure this could truly happen—would she announce it to her loved ones. Ironically, Winter’s fantasies had nothing to do with having a real family again.
“Winter, I’m surprised you haven’t asked about your brother.”
“Is there anything worth telling?”
After swallowing another delicate bit of lobster, Amanda quietly said, “No.”
On the other side of Collins Inn, Vincent watched Adam finish his seafood pasta. Vincent remembered how wonderful shellfish tasted, especially when drenched in a spicy tomato sauce and mingled with hearty pasta as it was now. It had been a long time since Vincent tasted anything but blood, but he hoped his son would not have to give up that joy when he completed the final stages of crossing over. Vincent dreamed that every new vampire would maintain the best of both the human and superior worlds and he was
working toward that goal. Adam caught his father’s stare and said, “I won’t miss it terribly Father.”
“I hope you will never have to miss this or any other experience you have grown accustomed to.”
“It’s a small price to pay for so much glory,” Adam said. “The Golden Life means a life of limitless adventure, travel, immense wealth, superiority over a whole race of mortals. It’s what I want!”
“Such fierce words from one with such a gentle soul.”
“A soul can have many attributes, some of them contradictory.”
The elder Savage knew his son’s endless future was beginning and if Vincent’s dreams could come true, Adam’s eternity would be filled with unequalled glory. It was a revelation that almost took the vampire’s breath away.
“Father, it is time to feed the other part of my soul.”
As the men passed Amanda and Winter’s table on their way out, no one, not even Adam, noticed that time stood still. Vincent stared at the women and wondered when would be the perfect time to make formal introductions. He pondered that thought and saw that Amanda’s soul was pure and strong, while Winter’s soul was much older and had thin, but very dark, edges. Vincent knew both women would play important roles in his and Adam’s futures.
Mere seconds later, time regained control of itself. Vincent had been taught how to stop time by the raven-haired woman, but she refused to teach him how to maintain that power for more than a few seconds. Vincent understood that a woman, human or otherwise, could not afford to give away all her secrets.
Before a roaring fire in their living room, Jonatha sat between Edwina and Joe. On a subconscious level perhaps she was trying to bring them closer together. Edwina opened up her final gift from Jonatha: a tartan plaid handbag from Harrods.
“Say what you want about the Scottish – and a lot can be said – but they understand fabric,” declared Edwina.
“Daddy I got you a tie in the same pattern,” Jonatha said. “It’s the latest style.”
“That’s what I’ll tell everyone when I wear it tomorrow,” Joe beamed.
“I missed you both, especially yesterday,” whispered Jonatha.
“Yesterday is over,” Edwina said. “Let’s forget it ever happened.”
Joe and Jonatha were used to Edwina’s ill-worded outbursts and knew they were almost always an attempt to steer the conversation away from the topic of Joey Lassiter’s disappearance. This time it wouldn’t work.
“How was Aunt Amanda?” Jonatha asked.
Before Edwina could roll her eyes, Joe answered: “She had a rough start as always, but once she got the thank-you letter, she felt much better.”
Edwina listened to them wonder aloud what Joey might look like today, where he might be living, if he remembered anything about Nightfall, and if (and this was the biggest if of them all) he would ever return to them. Edwina nodded and added an “I hope so” when appropriate, but spent most of the time deciding if she should get a tartan plaid mini-skirt or wide-leg slacks to compliment her new bag.
Edwina, was also a realist and she acknowledged to herself that Joe spoke more intimately with Jonatha now than he had with Edwina in recent months. Her husband was slipping away and it was time to react to the situation. After a good night’s sleep, Edwina knew she would awake with an inspiring plan, but before she could excuse herself, the phone rang.
“Hello,” Jonatha said.
“Hello, love, it’s Dashiell. Do you remember me?”
“Dashiell! Why are you calling?”
Dashiell explained that he and Llewellyn would be arriving in Nightfall in a week’s time. They had become enchanted with Jonatha and her sister and just had to see them once more. Jonatha was surprised that their brief time together could result in enchantment, but merely mumbled something polite to her British acquaintance as Joe and Edwina patiently waited for an explanation.
“If you’re half as excited as Llewellyn and I are, we’re destined to have a memorable visit.”
“Well, we’ll see you next week then.”
Dashiell rested his head back on his pillow and pulled Llewellyn closer to him. Llewellyn didn’t try to resist.
But Joe and Edwina did resist bombarding Jonatha with questions, they just stared at her in confusion. Meekly, their daughter replied: “Oh, I forgot to mention, Winter and I met some boys in London.”
Adam had followed the old man ever since he picked up his scent on a desolate road. Now, the man was walking, slowly and aimlessly, into the dark woods. Every once in a while, the old man stopped to peer into the darkness or catch his breath, and a few feet behind, Adam would stop as well. He tried to remember how his father taught him to control his hunger until the final moment. He wished his father was here with him now to supervise his feeding, but Vincent said he had important business to deal with.
Feeling his temples throb, Adam knew it was time to feast. He swept the old man in his arms, the bulky frame feeling like a feather to Adam, and danced his tongue over the man’s neck before piercing the flesh with his sharp fangs. Wave after wave of blood flowed into Adam’s eager mouth and soon he had the strength he so desired.
Across town, Anthony Love entered Collins Inn and before the door closed behind him the priest clutched his head in agony.
“No! Not again!”
Hearing his cries, Amanda and Winter rushed to his side. Anthony’s bible hit the floor at the exact time the old man’s blood-drained body hit the ground.