“You Immortals have no grasp of time, I swear,” she said as she pulled back and gave me a sad smile. “It’s really been that long.”
I smoothed her wind blown hair and gave her an understanding nod. “I’m sorry, my friend. We can make up for lost time. We’ll send the boys away and have some time just for us girls. Order Chinese food and watch movies all night, whatever you want to do is fine with me.”
Summer nodded as she wiped at her eyes, embarrassed for the outpouring of emotion. “That sounds lovely.”
Christopher, who had just greeted Link, switched with his wife and gave me a hug as Summer did the same with my husband. “It’s good to see you again. She really has missed you,” he whispered. “The fertility treatments have her pretty tightly strung. I never understood why she resisted letting you try to help. It’s as if she thinks she’s some sort of failure because she can’t get pregnant the regular, old-fashioned way. The medications have affected her, but more importantly her sense of failure has…”
I put my hand on his arm. “I understand, Christopher. I’ll do my best to convince her that she isn’t a failure, and she definitely won’t need to take the injections anymore.”
“Thank the Lord!” Christopher sighed.
“Thank the Lord for what?” Summer inquired.
“Just for Charity and Link arriving and for seeing that gorgeous smile on your face.” Christopher reached for his wife’s hand as he answered.
Summer shook her head. “I think there was more to it, but my friend is here and I’m happy so I’m going to pretend that’s exactly what it is.”
Christopher raised his eyebrows with a smile, grateful for her good mood. “Excellent idea.”
The day was clouded, big puffy greyish swirls of cotton moved slowly across the sky. It was good for Lincoln. His eyes couldn’t handle the sun anymore. He was luckier than most of his kind. Lulach required black-out glasses to protect his eyes, and had to be guided because he cannot see during the daytime hours. But Link only required a dark pair of sunglasses. The sun would burn the eyes of a regular Dark One, and cause temporary blindness until the body could repair itself, which could take days and would leave him (or her) extremely vulnerable to a fatal attack. That is where the myth of sunlight burning a Vampire to death came from.
“We’re in for a hard rain,” I remarked as I looked up at the sky.
“Actually, I think I read that these clouds are moving out today. A light sprinkle at best,” Summer replied with confidence. But after she noticed the amused look on my face, a small laugh followed. “Okay. Okay. I’ll shut up now. When will it start to rain, oh knowledgeable one?”
“In about thirty minutes,” I told her.
“Then let’s get in the car and get on the road. If I speed real fast, we can get there in time,” Christopher joked.
Link shook his head at Summer. “I can’t believe you doubted my wife.”
Summer smiled. “I can’t believe it either.”
“She’s stubborn.” Christopher squeezed Summer’s hand. “The best kind of stubborn. Tenacious and determined like no other!”
“Are you sure that’s a good thing?” Summer asked, with doubt in her voice.
Christopher kissed her. “I know it is. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Link’s arm shot out and he grabbed my hand as he walked forward. “To the Vamp-mobile!”
I sighed, closed my eyes, and shook my head. “Will you ever stop using that term to refer to Lulach’s car?”
“Not in our lifetime, baby. Not in our lifetime…”
“So basically never,” I said as we approached the vintage, Nineteen Forty’s Packard Super Eight Limo that Link had so aptly nicknamed.
We arrived at Lulach’s Park Avenue building just as the rain was coming down in sheets.
“You could probably stop this, huh?” Summer asked. “I mean… you could get your flaming eyes to work and make the rain go away. Just for a couple minutes. Pretty please.”
“I try not to mess with nature unless I really need to,” I told her.
“We just have to make it from the back garage to the private entrance,” Christopher said as he turned the corner. “She hates pouring rain.”
“I’m right here!”
Link covered his ears. “Yeah. We can hear that.”
“Isn’t Lulach the only one with a garage in this building? Count yourself lucky,” I chided her.
“If he didn’t have the garage, and the private entrance, and the massive secrecy, Christopher could let us out in front of the building and I could just hop from the car straight under the awning and barely get wet at all. But nooooo. Can’t do that. Then someone would start asking us questions. Christopher is a guy that picks up messages and package, he’s not a resident of this building. No, not at all,” Summer ranted.
I looked at Link and my eyes opened wide. I gave him a, my friend is clearly not herself, those hormones are working overtime, look. And he nodded his head and gave me a, I know what you mean, let’s just ignore it, look back.
“His floor cannot be accessed from the main lobby,” Christopher said softly.
“Oh, I can’t believe it. I’m doing it again,” Summer said as her eyes misted over. “Why do I keep doing that?”
“No it’s not,” she said and her voice cracked. “I’m not this person. I’m not snippy and harsh and whiny.”
“You’re not. I swear, you are not,” Christopher assured her as he pulled the car into its private garage space.
“I can put a protective bubble around us,” I assured Summer. “Not a drop of rain will touch you.”
Summer managed a small smile. “Thank you. You’re the bestest friend with unnatural powers that I’ve ever had.”
“Oh, am I, now?”
“Yup. You really are.”
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New York City is quite lovely in the spring. It’s a wonderful contrast… the manmade rough edges of the city against the delicate lush new blooms. The hard against the soft. Actually, New York City is quite lovely any time of the year.
I love NYC, I just don’t seem to get out there enough, especially not since my lovely friend, Summer, made it her home. I’d met Summer Paxton in Telluride, on my first day of pretending to be a high school student (yet again) when I’d moved to town. We had an almost instant friendship. She was sincere, loyal, caring, and when she found out that the world wasn’t nearly as normal as it seemed… she wasn’t completely freaked out at all. She actually didn’t mind being entangled in the lives of several types of supernatural creatures.
She didn’t crumble when she discovered that her new friend was an Immortal, and that Witches, Shifters, and Vampires exist. She took it all in like a champ! She fell in love and moved to New York with Christopher Hightower, a young man that was employed by my favorite Dark One, Lulach. Well, my favorite full-on Dark One. My favorite partial Dark One was my love, Lincoln Knight.
But, I digress.
My face was all-smiles as Link and I were in the sleek, black jet that Lulach owned, en route to our temporary home in the city. I sat in the soft leather seat and imagined all the fun I’d have with the extended visit with a few of my favorite people. Link sat beside me, working away at something on his laptop. He said he had some stocks to sell while the market was still open. I tried to concentrate on the book in my hands, but it was no use.
When the plane finally landed, and we walked down the steps to the tarmac, I screamed in excitement when I saw Christopher and Summer waiting for us. I hurried down the stairs as Summer ran toward me, and I could see the tears in her eyes right before she wrapped her arms around me.
“Mrs. Hightower!” I said, calling her by her married name. It was something we always did.
“Mrs. Knight! I’m so happy to see you. You have no idea. Two years is too long,” Summer scolded me in a quiet voice that threated to crack.
“Has it been that long?” I asked. It seemed as if Link and I had recently visited.
There are some people in this world that put a lot of stock in the act of procreation: creating a new life that carries a tiny piece of you within it. I suppose, in a way, it is a part of you that will continue to exist and walk the earth after you are no longer here. But what if you are Immortal? What if you never die? Doesn’t that negate the need for offspring? I’ve come to believe that children are what mortals use to feel a little Immortal. They try to follow their genetic trail for hundreds of years… because they are unable to live for hundreds of years.
My mortal friends, Summer and Christopher, have that yearning need for a baby. They’ve been anxiously trying to conceive for nearly two years. Summer has started to lose confidence in her ability to do so without intense medical intervention. I can hear the desperation in her voice. Nothing donated, no adoption, she wants to create something made with her own DNA.
I knew long ago that I’d never give birth. A female Immortal One can only conceive before, or shortly after, finding out she could self-heal. The window of opportunity would be forever closed after a few years. My first fiancé and I had never made love before he lost his life during the bombing of Pearl Harbor and I was too distraught afterward to even consider a relationship with another man. I was nearly a hundred years old before I was willing to risk my heart again, when Link came into my life. Our union would never produce a child.
I’ve come to believe that family is what you make it. I’d created my own family with James and Catherine. Child, Sister, Aunt, Cousin… those relationships could be created without genetic bonds. I’d come to terms with my baby-less fate many, many years ago... but I knew there was something I could do to help my friend, Summer, become with child.
I am The Caster after all!
BEGIN AGAIN… AGAIN
I opened my eyes while simultaneously rubbing the sleep from them. I had slept, which was unusual for me, but for how long?
I glanced at the clock on the bedside table. It wasn’t a digital glowing monstrosity; it was an antique, given to me in the Nineteen Forties by the family of my then fiancé, Roger. His mother had found it in a box in their attic and was going to throw it away. It was old, she said, hadn’t worked in over a decade, and wasn’t modern enough for them to display in their newly redecorated home. I happily rescued it from a toss in the rubbish pile and took it to a clock-shop; they had those in abundance back then.
The clockmaker was a cheery old man and seemed happy to have something challenging to work on, so I was able to charm him into giving the piece his full attention. I remember the look on his face when he proudly announced that he’d studied with master clockmakers in Switzerland when he was a young man. He poured his love and attention into my little mantle clock and restored it to near perfect condition. I still found comfort in the sound of the clock’s movement, and I took pains to make sure that it was sent off regularly to his son, grandson, and then great-grandson… and they all kept my precious clock ticking away.
I don’t think anyone had ever questioned that the handwritten thank you notes, faithfully sent after each tune up, were written by the same hand.
Antiques had always fascinated me, even before I knew I would become one. They were these perfectly preserved and well cared for items that held on and kept going, even after all the other things from that era had stopped working, became broken down, and had been thrown away. And much like my beloved clock, I was perfectly preserved… forever the same age on the outside, with more stories on the inside than any mortal could ever fathom.
If my charming old clock was still keeping perfect time, which it most definitely did, then I calculated that I’d slept for a full six hours; something I hadn’t done for years. I hardly ever seemed to get more than a catnap. Twenty minutes here and there, a couple days a week – it was all my body ever seemed to require. After becoming The Caster my need for sleep gradually fell away, which suited Link just fine, he hardly slept either. Being a tri-bred creature of Mortal, Immortal, and a Dark One had immediately placed him on a lesser sleep schedule as well. And after being together for so many years, with Link surviving from mostly my blood, we’d begun to sync what little sleep we did get.
I hadn’t told Link yet, but the Mortal part of his blood was beginning to shrink away. He was no longer aging, not even in the minutest sense, I could tell. I had no idea how long it would take to completely fade away, maybe years.
The moment I’d stirred from my sleep, Link’s arm, which I’d woken to find resting on my torso, moved to pull me closer into the curve of his body. “Do you feel better?” he asked, whispering into my ear.
I closed my eyes again and willed by body to maintain its relaxed state; I wasn’t ready to get up and face another afternoon, or morning, or another evening… not just yet. “I feel so much better. It’s like a blanket of calm has been spread over me. I can’t believe I slept so long. I haven’t done that in years. Did you?”
“Sleep? No. But I did enjoy lying beside you and holding you in my arms this whole time.” Link pulled a book from behind his pillow, flashed it in my face, and then tossed it onto the cushioned chair beside the bed. “And I was able to finish my book. So that was nice.”
“Egypt was exhausting. A shopping vacation gone awry,” I mumbled as Link kissed the back of my neck. “That feels lovely.”
While I finish The Arrival of Dawn... I'll be posting the unedited pages here for you to read (since some of you have been waiting YEARS for this book to arrive). Check back daily! YUP... there will be errors. AND, YUP... things might be changed around a bit. But, I hope this tides you over until the book is released! Thank you, and much love, to my dedicated fans of The Immortal Ones!
“You’re lovely,” he breathed between kisses. “Destroying that pack of Dark Ones was necessary. I could hardly believe the number of captive mortals we found… barely clinging to life and kept in cages as a food source. We did what was necessary.”
We had arrived back in Telluride, Colorado the day before, after a quick departure from what was supposed to have been a shopping excursion. But that had been cut short. I’d wanted to find some authentic Egyptian antique trinkets, but instead we found a pack of dangerous Dark Ones toying with, feeding from, and ultimately killing a string of people unlucky enough to cross paths with them. We chose to leave town right after we did the deed. It was unknown if they had friends willing to attempt retaliation, and I wasn’t going to wait around to find out. I wasn’t in the mood for a battle. Not again.
“I know we did. I hate being the executioner, but they weren’t going to learn their lesson and change their lifestyle. I listened to their thoughts, Link. They’d been living that way for nearly a century. So many homeless drifters, runaways, people they thought no one would miss, all spending their last days living in terror while being fed upon until their bodies gave out.” I shuddered and pressed myself even closer into him. He hugged me tightly. “No one should have to live like that.”
“Those Dark Ones didn’t have anyone to show them that there’s a better way.”
I turned around to face Link and frowned. “No one should have to show anyone that continually taking the lives of the innocent is wrong. There are other ways.”
“I am in no way excusing their actions, it sickens me, but you don’t know the hunger like I do. It can be all consuming. I can see how someone could cross that line, whether they wanted to or not, and drain a person without intending to. But instead of feeling remorse for an accidental death they made killing a way of life, a cruel game, and that was so wrong.”
“I’m sure most Dark Ones know exactly what you’re talking about, about crossing that line unintentionally, but I know that self control is possible. I know that you can stop yourself before it goes too far,” I protested. “Lulach has always told me that. You can drink a glass without draining the bottle.”
“Lulach has drained quite a few bottles,” he reminded me.
“And he chooses only the people who live without remorse for their own evil actions, Lincoln.”
“Not always, my love.” He softened his tone knowing that I rarely used his full name. “Remember, that was a choice Lulach made after…”
“I know. Not always. But never, ever, did he keep anyone around for days, or weeks even, living in terror, slowing draining their life’s blood,” I sighed.
“Which is why we stopped them.”
“If that new one hadn’t been bragging to you in the club, we would never have known of their existence.”
Link nodded and pressed his forehead against mine. “Thank goodness for careless, bigmouth vamps and for your ability to heal the mortals that we freed from those cages. Are you sure they won’t remember anything?”
“I wiped them clean before we drove them to the shelter. They have food, clothing, and resources to start a new life. I just hope they don’t fall prey to some other creature.”
“You can’t control everything, Charity. You can’t save everyone.”
“But I will always save whomever I can,” I insisted.
“We both will.”
I kissed him, grateful to have him in my life. He was the perfect companion. “You haven’t been on a trip with Lulach lately. Isn’t it time for the two of you to go off on your own?”
Link and Lulach would disappear with each other, every so often. Lulach called them hunting trips, hunting for twisted criminals, but Link usually tried to label them as getaways… for my sake. Link and I rarely discussed whatever happened during those trips away. There are people who believe that you must be an open book and share everything with your loved one, but I never asked for details. If Link wanted to share something with me, then he would, if he didn’t, then I let him have his privacy.
It was good for him to get away without me. I enjoyed our time apart as well. And that old saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder, was spot-on in our case. We were always so excited to be with each other again, and I craved him so badly near the end of our time apart that the days after we were reunited were always blissfully spent locked away somewhere together. That’s probably why I didn’t mind him leaving; I loved the reunion so very much.
Link sat up in the bed. “I’m not planning a trip with Lulach right now because we need to put the house on the market, you know this. James and Catherine moved away two years ago. Telluride can’t be our home base any longer. We’ve put it off for too long.”
I frowned as I looked around the room. “I don’t think I can bear to sell it and leave here. This is where we met, where we fell in love, and where I realized that I get to hold on to you for as long as possible.”
“Telluride will always be special and in seventy years, when nobody is around to remember us, we can come back and stay for another decade. But it is time to move on.”
“It is.” I sat up and squeezed his hand. “I had some boxes delivered while we were gone; they should be in the storage shed next to the garage. I figured we would spend a couple days packing up everything personal and then we can hand it over to the realtor.”
“But I hadn’t really thought about where we would go next. We need a home base. James and Catherine are just aimlessly travelling for however long… but I can’t be a drifter. I just can’t.”
Link wrapped his arms around me. “We won’t be drifters. I have a surprise for you. We are going to New York. Lulach has decided to share his not so humble abode until we find a new home base for ourselves.”
“I can’t impose on Lulach. He enjoys his solitude.”
“It was his idea. I promise. No imposition. In fact, he insisted.”
“I’ve never stayed with him longer than a month or so. I suppose we could find somewhere to live within that time frame. Are you sure he wants us there?”
Link nodded his head and laughed softly. “I’m sure, my love. He even said to tell you there were no time constraints. It’s been over a century since he moved into that building and started his solitary life. He’s actually looking forward to the company.”
“Alright, alright. I believe you. New York it is.”
“Good, because I have a transport company coming next Tuesday to pick up all our belongings, and our vehicles, and Lulach is sending his plane for us the next day.”
I stood up, happy to have a plan in motion. “You know what’s the best part about this plan?”
“Hmmm… let me guess…” Link said with a laugh.
“Summer!” I squealed. “I haven’t seen her in forever. It’ll be nice to spend lots of time with her and Christopher.”
“So, we should start packing.”
“In a little while,” I said as I pealed off my shirt. “I have some pressing business for you to attend to first. Show me what you can do with those powers of yours.”
Link smiled that perfect brilliant smile and I immediately melted into his arms “My awesome powers,” he corrected as he lightly trailed his fingers down the bare flesh of my sides and grabbed onto my hips, pulling me toward him.
One last ski day in Telluride was a must. We couldn’t imagine leaving our mountain town without gliding down the slopes one more time. It was near the end of March, the slopes were slush, but I had to get out on the snow – no matter what the conditions.
After a long day spent organizing our belongings so we could begin to pack up, we agreed that the moment the lifts opened in the morning we’d get our boots on and go.
Fate (or maybe it was my Caster powers… I’ll never tell) stepped in, and in the middle of the night a huge snowstorm blew into town. It continually dumped snow, covering the entire ski resort in a fresh blanket of thick white powder. And as luck (again maybe me, maybe not) would have it, the powder quickly packed itself down into a nice new solid base, and a film of grey clouds covered the bright sun. We would get to ski in pristine conditions… for us.
“One last trip down from the very top?” Link asked me as we did our heel toe, ski-booted walk toward the edge of the run that was beside the house.
“I want to ski for the entire day. Every run we’ve ever skied together,” I told him.
“That sounds like a perfect day.”
“It’ll be the last time we can show our faces in Telluride for a very very long time,” I said with a frown as I snapped my boots into the bindings on the skis.
“We’ll come back when it’s safe. And if we’re ever really missing it, you can always change our appearance for a day.”
I smiled widely. “I suppose I can.”
I dug my poles into the fresh white snow and pushed off. Gravity and my skis took over, and I was soon gliding down the slope. My hair blew behind me and I breathed in the glorious mountain air. This is one of my own personal heavens. I was so glad that I’d allowed Link to teach me to ski. At that moment, I knew how much I was going to miss coming back to Telluride. But I also knew that I couldn’t stay away from this magic place forever.