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.”
“I know. Let’s make a sandcastle on the beach.”
“Why not, Mommy?”
“You can’t go to the beach.”
“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?”
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.
“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
“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.
“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.
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’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.