“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?”
“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 . . .”
“Joseph, tell your daughter to stop using such outdated words.”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.
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.”
“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.
“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.
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.