When Darkness Falls

Page 52

"Let's go home," Sean said quietly. "To my house for now. It's safest-and we need some sleep."

"It's almost daylight."

"I know. My habits are changing," Sean said with a shake of his head.

"Do you think Rick's going to be all right?"

"All right?" Sean said. "Jack, Rick is dead."

"As the undead," Jack said quietly.

"I don't know. I don't know. God, I pray we made the right decision!" Shanna worried about Jade; she had taken Rick's death badly. At Maggie's house, however, she had calmed down after having a cup of hot tea.

Jade was sedated, Shanna quickly discovered, but still quivered in a pile of tears and devastation that not even the twins could ease. She was put to bed.

Shanna stayed awake with Maggie for a while, then determined that she must get some sleep herself. The mansion was huge and delightful. Her guest bedroom had French doors that opened to a wrought-iron balcony and the garden below.

The doors, of course, were closed that night. The windows were closed. The house was secured.

She thought that she would never sleep, but Maggie must have slipped a little help into her tea as well. She dozed restlessly soon after hitting the pillow.

She was plagued by dreams.

Dave was in her dreams. I'm not well; you know that. I really need some help. Some comfort, he teased. It was as if they were standing just outside the hospital doors. I meant to call you. I will see you again; oh, I will see you.

"I have to go," Shanna told him.

Don't be mad. I'm sick. I need help tonight. Come on, please, let me in?

His smile was charming. He was so cute. But she shook her head firmly. "My friend died tonight. I have to deal with my family."

Let me in. Come on, Shanna. I am in already; I'm in your heart, your mind. Open these doors; get rid of those smelly garlic vine things Maggie has wrapped everywhere.

"No! Go away! I'm tired!"

She jerked up, realizing that she had spoken aloud. The French doors had come partially ajar; they were still half-dosed by the garlic vines. She got up and secured the door again, muttering.

She heard someone crying. The twins were just next door, between her room and Jade's. She ran in.

Jade already had little Jamie up and in her arms. She was soothing him. She looked like hell. "Jade, give me Jamie; get back to bed. You're in horrible shape."

"You're not in any better!" her sister protested.

"Better than you," she insisted. "Maggie didn't whack me with as much sedation." Jade arched a brow, but wasn't really surprised or angry. She started to bring her baby brother to her sister, then wound up hugging him between them. "I'm scared. I'm so scared for Liz now, for Dad, for all of us. ..."

"It's going to be all right."

"It is!" Jade said, handing over Jamie and smoothing a lock of wild hair from her eyes. "I'm going to make it be okay." She smiled, kissed Jamie, and left the room.

"All right, kiddo, how're you doing?" Shanna demanded.

"Bad dreams," he told her. "The cable man."

"The cable man isn't here; don't worry."

"He was."

"We're all right. You come on and cuddle with your big sister. We're going to get a few hours' sleep, and we'll be just fine; we'll protect one another. Okay?"

He nodded. "Shanna?"


"The cable man is gone now. But he was here. Really."

"I'm glad he's gone. Let's get some sleep."

It was very, very late when Renate finally got to bed. She had stayed at Jade's with the boys for a long time, and they had all grieved over Rick Beaudreaux, and thought about Jade, who was devastated.

"It's the guilt thing as well," Renate had told Matt and Danny. "Guilt. She didn't love him, poor fellow.

And there he is-dead."

"There he is-dead. You don't need to be guilty to be upset about that!" Matt told her.

They were both so cool to her, she decided to leave them to their own wallowing. She might have tried to soothe them more, make tea with brandy, help them get some sleep. But she simply informed them she was returning to her own place, and that they should let her know if she was needed. They barely noticed that she left.

The night was almost over when she finally lay down.

In her dreams, she twisted and tossed.

And a man was in her dreams. She knew him, if only casually. She seemed to remember that she had told him he could come in before. He was good-looking, very good-looking, but he was hurt. He was suffering from cuts and burns. He whispered her name softly, so softly. His whisper was like the gentlest, most sensual touch of fingers feathering against her cheeks. She moved to that touch.

Renate, those fools, they don't appreciate what they have, someone smart, kind, and gentle, someone who knows. . . .

"They're terrible," she murmured aloud. "Horrible friends," she agreed.

I need you. I need you so badly . Touch me, heal me, let me in, take care of me, I need you, I need your help so badly.

She smiled. Great dream.

He was so sexy.

So nice, pleading, wanting her.

He was on his knees before her. Her fingers fell into his hair.

I need you, Renate, I need you. . . .

"Sweetheart, I need you," she murmured.

And she tossed. And she turned.

And she wasn't alone.

Lucian, at last, rested.

He had gathered and prepared what he would need when Rick awakened, and he had given Rick the healing sanctum of his coffin, and so he lay on a topcoat and pillow before the stained glass, his eyes closed. He hated to allow himself such a vulnerability, but he closed his eyes and allowed the power of his mind to take flight again.

There was a room in the very strange darkness of day, and in the center were the chairs, the carved chairs that had stood in the center of the fisherman's cottage. And one was empty now, as it had been for hundreds of years, but sometimes he could still see her there-see the fall of her linen tunic, the cold chain of the elegantly crafted belt she wore about her hips. Her hair was free, or sometimes tied into little braids; her fingers curved over the arm of the chair as she listened. Her eyes were like the sea, blue and green in ever-changing waves, wide as she mused a situation and gave it careful thought that she might advise him. . . .

Her chair was empty. He sat in his own and summoned the powers around him. Ragnor, from the far northern isles, Yves d'Pres from Bruges, the Spaniard, Roberto Domano. Lisa Clay from faraway Seattle, her consort, the artist, Fucello. Jean d'Amore from Burgundy, Chris Adair from Limerick. More and more they appeared around him. It was Ragnor who stepped forward to say, "Of course she's returned. Sophia has escaped her lead tomb. We've seen it; we've feared it."

"Lucian, why not let her wreak havoc among the humans until they bring her down themselves?" Wes suggested.

"Easy," Lisa interjected. "She will create such turmoil that the people will begin to believe in legends, and when they believe, they will be ready to kill, and a furor will go out, and we will all be hunted down. Men can be such fools! Don't you remember the witchcraft burnings in Europe, the hangings in England and the U.S.?" She shuddered. "I barely escaped myself! I agree with Lucian. She will bring us all down."

"But we are hunters, warriors, wolves!" Yves protested. "It is our lot to hunt. Lucian. You are the mediator; you are the guide. You are the king of all our kind. That I would never dispute, but I cannot help you hunt down a fellow creature; she came before you. This fight is yours."

"Do you grow weak, Lucian?" Roberto demanded. "Too concerned for the fate of those who would hunt us?"

"I do not grow weak, Roberto. I have saved many of your lives by keeping you from the carnage that would be your ruin. I don't want any of you to help me bring Sophia down. Few of you are old enough to have known her, or known the extent of her power, her malice. This is what I do want-I want New Orleans kept safe from all our kind. There have been too many killings there. Too much that is too strange."

"Even for New Orleans?" Wes said, laughing.

"Even for New Orleans," Lucian told him.

"I will watch over your city, Lucian," Ragnor told him.

"I only warn you all not to join with Sophia and Darian; don't be fooled that they will bring me down, because they will not; I will not allow it. And if you care to join with me, then you are welcome. It is not a command I can give you, nor would I. But you are all aware of the turmoil, of the ripple in the darkness, of the danger we face. We do not destroy our own kind-that is the unwritten law, as ancient as the hungers that rule us. But times have changed, and the ways of men and the world have changed as well.

When we are all threatened by the excesses of a few, it then becomes a war, and as I have ruled our kind these many years, I tell you that I have no choice now but to seek the justice that will let the rest of us survive. And to those of you who may decide to join with them, be warned: this is a war, and I will destroy anyone who stands against me. Are we understood? If the law is one of nature, and I burst into flames at such an act, so be it. I will not allow Sophia's depravity to destroy their world, or our own." A series of ayes sounded from the group.

They lowered their heads. He released his hold upon them.

He looked up. Chris Adair remained.

"I will fight with you, Lucian."

"I am best off moving alone, or with a new man among our number, who will shortly awaken. Ragnor will keep watch here. And I will be grateful if you will keep watch among us." Chris nodded. "Aye, Lucian. I'll keep watch...."

* * *

"Whoa! Where the hell am I? I'm starving, man!"

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