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Blood of Anteros, Page 2

Georgia Cates

  “It’s a long, depressing story.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk about it.

  “Well, then tell me something good about how you ended up here.”

  My new riding companion could ask to hear something good all he wanted, but my tale would continually disappoint until today. Unaware of why, I wanted to share my good fortune with Solomon. “Something incredible happened to me this afternoon and I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around it, but I’ve been unsuccessful thus far.”

  “Did you find a senorita to tickle your fancy, or what? Come off of it, dude. I need some incredible in my life, so what happened?”

  Most would be jealous of my good fortune and wouldn’t press me to tell them about anything that brought happiness to my existence. This wasn’t really the kind of story I could just jump into. “How much time do you have?”

  “Are you kidding? How much time do I have? I think you know I have forever,” he laughed.

  Solomon was pleasant company and I began to see his offer of a ride was out of the goodness of his heart, an act I had never seen that in selfish beasts like us. He was different, almost human in his actions.

  I considered how different he was from the evil fiends I had known and wondered if he could be the someone I needed to help figure out what had happened to me. “Actually, I would love for you to help me figure things out because I’m hoping you know something I don’t know.”

  The only way to tell this story was to start from the beginning, the day Marsala entered my life. Only minutes into the story, I saw sympathy across his face and he was horrified by the depth of evil inflicted upon me by Marsala. I had not put a dent in my story when we reached the ferry at La Paz, so I paused, knowing we had arrived at our destination.

  He pointed toward a small cruise ship and said, “That’s the ferry that will take us to Mazatlan.”

  It was then that I remembered I didn’t have a dime on me. I had enough money for lifetimes to come, but it was useless without access. It was humiliating and I had no choice but to tell him, “I don’t have money for the ferry because I walked away from everything I had.”

  “No worries because I’ve got you covered. You know our lifestyles and money is no problem.”

  “I can pay you back, but I don’t know when.”

  “I’m not worried about a few bucks. Just don’t forget where to pick up with the rest of your story because I want to hear everything. I’m certain something incredible did happen if you are free of Marsala, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here now.”

  The ferry ride was long, giving me the time I needed to tell the complicated story of my last 139 years. When I concluded my story with the events of the afternoon, he sat motionless, staring at me. The confusion was apparent on his face and he looked like he was waiting for the punchline. “So, you walked in the sun today, and you weren’t burned at all?”

  I looked him straight in the eyes, conveying my honesty, when I answered, “I did, and no, I wasn’t burned at all.”

  He looked at me curiously. “Can you do it again?”

  I put my raised palms up in the air and shook them as I answered, “I have no idea.”

  Solomon stood and began to pace a small path in the tiny room we shared on the ferry. “Do you think your ability to walk in sunlight was associated with the supernatural event of the eclipse?”

  “If it was, why me? Why not someone more deserving? I don’t get it.”

  He hesitated for a moment. “I have a suspicion.”

  I looked at him, waiting to hear his explanation. “Let’s hear it, I’m dying here.”

  “It sounds like your deranged maker hacked off the gods so your release was her punishment. I studied many years with a mentor. His name is Sebastian and he is the wisest vampire I have ever known. He has taught me more about the power of the gods than I would want to know in five lifetimes and the most stressed lessons were always the same. First, never anger the gods and second, there is a reason for everything. The gods always have a plan and one action leads to another, so there is a reason you were able to walk in sunlight today and there is a reason I stopped to offer you a ride.”

  I pounded my fist against the armrest of the chair I occupied and said, “But I need to know now.”

  He was amused by my impatience. “All of your questions will be answered in good time, when the gods want them revealed, so you might as well stop worrying about it because it’s going to get you nowhere fast.”

  My frustration was growing and I said, “I know nothing of gods, goddesses, and titans. She never told me anything about such things.”

  “Looks like she kept you in the dark a lot, no punt intended,” he laughed. “She made sure you were screwed if you ever got away, my friend. She should have been showing you the ropes, but she used your lack of knowledge as a form of control. She might have been your captor, but she placed herself in a very pivotal place as your protector and now that you are without her protection, you’ve got to put it in reverse and learn it all from the beginning if you want to survive.”

  “How do I learn all the things Marsala didn’t teach me? It’s been so many years, is it too late for me?”

  “I can teach you if you’ll let me, but you’ll be my first, so I guess that makes me your surrogate maker. Forget I said that because it sounded too weird. Let’s just stick with mentor.”

  I guess that meant he had never changed anyone, so he wasn’t a sire. “I’ll agree to the mentor thing.”

  “We should find a safe place to stay when the ferry lands. Mexican deserts are a bitch, even for humans, and dawn will be creeping up just after we land.”

  It was my turn to question him. “Solomon, how old are you?”

  He didn’t hesitate in answering, “I’m almost 300 and I’ve been a vampire for 274 of those years.”

  I thought he looked close to my age. “So, you were 25 when you were changed?”

  He began laughing as he answered, “Forever confined as a 25 year-old, every man with erectile dysfunction’s dream.”

  His sense of humor was strange, making me more curious about him. I couldn’t help but ask, “Was it your choice?”

  His humor left and he took a deep breath, causing me to regret my decision to question him, but he answered, “No, it wasn’t my choice, but my circumstances were different from yours. You were changed by a possessive woman, hell-bent on having you and her possessiveness created an unusually strong bond with you. Most aren’t like that.”

  “Forgive me. I feel so ignorant because I don’t even know if I’m being rude by asking.”

  “You will learn all you need to know, but it will take time. My bond was different because my brother was my maker. He was changed by his lover, who later abandoned him, and he was lonely and missed our companionship. It was a selfish act, but it wasn’t out of malice. It was out of brotherly love, and it took years, but I forgave him.”

  “I don’t understand how you could forgive him. I would hate him,” I confessed.

  There was such kindness in his eyes and it was so foreign to me. “That’s the vampire in you speaking because hate is the one lesson you were taught well. I spent too many years hating. It is exhausting and it leaves a terribly bitter taste, so I decided it was time to forgive my brother. He didn’t have to ask for forgiveness because it was my decision that he didn’t have to pay anymore. The only regret I have is that I didn’t forgive him sooner.”

  I wondered if he had any contact with his brother. “Do you have a relationship with your brother?”

  “I do. I love him very much and he is my best friend.”

  I thought about my brother and how different my feelings were toward him. “I had a brother years ago. His name was Sully.”

  “Then, I know you understand the bond between brothers.”

  I shook my head, thinking of my feelings toward Sully. “I use to, but not anymore.”

  “What happened?” Solomon asked.

  “It’s his fault I was changed into thi
s. He introduced Marsala into my life when he knew what she was. He blamed me for her obsession with me and the only thing I did was refuse her advances toward me.”

  “Maybe Marsala was the one in control and she was the puppeteer all along, leading your brother’s actions. She controlled you, so why wouldn’t you consider she controlled your brother, as well.”

  I had not considered that because she had made it so difficult to think for myself.

  Solomon continued, “I noticed you don’t refer to yourself as a vampire. You haven’t even said the word, so what’s up with that?”

  “I never have and I never will because I don’t accept this damnable creature I have become. It wasn’t my choice and I’ve been miserable since the day it was forced upon me. I’ll never use that word to describe myself, because to claim it, gives it power. It has too much power over me and I refuse to give it another ounce.”

  “Not all vampires are loathsome wretches,” he said with an offended look on his face.

  I recalled the dead, drained pregnant woman on the couch at the suite, only hours earlier, and replied, “I’ve never known any that weren’t.”

  “Now, you’ve met a vampire that’s neither loathsome nor wretched. I can show you how to live a happy, productive life, but that’s going to be difficult when you refuse to acknowledge what you are,” he said, then waited for my response.

  “If that’s a requirement for happiness, then I might never find it.”

  He laughed at my stubbornness and said, “I can see you’re not going to make this easy on me, but I’ll adjust that attitude for you.”

  He had a high opinion of himself, but I couldn’t help but like him. “Do you really think you can undo 139 years of opinion?”

  “I believe you can change because you’re just a puzzle piece searching for your place. I didn’t understand why Sebastian insisted on teaching me the things he did until this moment. I thought it was entirely unnecessary, but I did as he asked to appease him. I knew I would never be a sire, but he insisted I learn how to mentor, and all along, he was preparing me for you.”

  Chapter 3

  Mississippi Coast

  21 Years Later

  Solomon turned out to be a wonderful mentor and friend to me over the years we spent together. He taught me so much more than he would ever realize and I couldn’t imagine a way I would ever be able to repay him the debt I owed him.

  Although I still denied myself the peace of my own acceptance, I had a task before me because my hatred for Marsala had become a roadblock in my path for happiness and my ability to help save the unsavable. My return to the scene of the evil committed against me was necessary for me to face my past and forgive the one responsible for my eternal sentence. I hoped forgiving Marsala would lead me to the peace I sought because my heart knew Solomon was right. The hatred inside me had been my master for too long.

  Returning to life among humans meant I needed ordinary transportation, so I bought a pickup truck. I settled for an ocean blue 1972 Chevy Cheyenne with a white mid section and matching blue interior. Since I didn’t need questions or a paper trail, I bought the first vehicle I found for sale by an individual and three hours later, I followed the curvy road leading to my destination.

  When the trees and residential streets were behind me, I saw the ocean’s water and knew I had returned to the place my heart would always call home. I made the sharp right curve onto Beach Boulevard, then pulled onto the side road leading to the driveway.

  I stopped to study the house, a white, two-story Greek Revival with a raised basement. The three dormers and windows were adorned with black shutters and a double staircase descended from the center of the raised porch. The pair of staircases curved toward one other, resembling two open arms, welcoming me home.

  The landscaping was different; it was better, and great care had been taken in the tending of the yard. The Live Oaks I had planted along the drive and property had matured and they stood over one hundred feet tall, providing the house with the much needed shield from the hot, coastal sun.

  The house had diligently stood strong and proud against the anger of the sea and defiantly survived the hurricanes and storms that attempted to erase it’s existence. I knew this well because I had once called this home. I lived here more than one hundred and sixty years ago and while cruel circumstances had forced my unplanned departure, destiny had commanded my return.

  I knew it was an extension of destiny to find the “Room For Rent” sign on the lawn, so I phoned the number listed. I spoke with the owner, Anna Emerson, and was instructed to arrive at six o’clock for an interview, but I arrived a few minutes early to give myself the necessary moment to gain my composure. I pulled around to the back of the house and parked on a concrete drive that replaced the beaten path once used by my horses and carriages.

  Although it wasn’t a job interview, I wanted to make a great first impression. Since it was the middle of May and already showing signs of a hot summer, I chose to wear a crisp, white button-up and jeans. Although I wasn’t bothered by the heat, I casually rolled my sleeves up to match the informal personality I had developed since knowing Solomon.

  I took a deep breath and slowly blew it out, a nervous habit I never kicked from when I was a human, because I had reason to be nervous. I would be living among humans, and although it had been more than two decades since I drank from one, I was nervous. It was much easier to suppress the temptation when they weren’t under your nose everyday.

  At six o’clock on the dot, I walked to the backdoor where Mrs. Emerson had instructed me to come, stating, “Just come around back, we’re not formal around here.” I walked up the back steps to the door I knew entered the kitchen and knocked. A woman called out from inside the house, “Come on in. It’s unlocked.”

  I was alarmed to realize that she would leave herself so vulnerable by keeping her doors unlocked, welcoming any number of dangerous unknowns into her home. I would have to find some way to tactfully tell her that maybe it would be safer for her if she locked her doors.

  I entered the kitchen, a room used only by my help all those years ago, and found the interior adorned with an abundance of cream colored kitchen cabinets and modern appliances. It was spotless and smelled of warm sugar and apples, suggesting a dessert was baking in the oven.

  An attractive, aging woman entered the kitchen saying, “Hello there, you must Curry. I’m Anna Emerson.” She extended her hand, and although it was remained awkward after all of these years, I took her hand in a firm shake.

  “Yes, ma’am. I’m Curry Brennan and it’s very nice to make your acquaintance.”

  Anna Emerson’s hair was blond, but graying, and cut in a medium length bob. I could easily see she was once a lovely young woman. She was well dressed in black capris and a matching pink and black floral pullover, without a hair out of place. She would not be seen at less than her best; of this, I was certain.

  “Please come have a seat with us in the living room and you can meet my husband, Grady.”

  I followed Anna from the kitchen to the living area, the room we called a parlor when I lived here. Her husband was lounging in a Queen Anne style recliner, but lowered the footrest when we entered.

  “Curry, this is my husband, Grady,” Anna introduced, and the man with a full head of salt and pepper hair rose from his lounger. I was, again, greeted by an extended hand.

  “It’s good to meet you, Curry,” he said.

  “Good to meet you, sir,” I replied with a firm shake as I met his deep brown eyes and gave a single nod.

  Of course, they wanted to know all about their potential tenant and Anna started, “Tell us about yourself, Curry. Where are you from and what brings you to Pascagoula?”

  It was time to begin my deception, so I answered, “Well, I don’t have any family, so I haven’t been tied to any one place since I was a child. I was born here and thought I might return permanently since my parents loved this place. I hoped to find what it was that they love
d so much.”

  Grady asked the next question. “What kind of work do you do?”

  I expected this question and had my deception prepared. “I’m an artist and photographer, so I don’t have a typical nine to five job. I mainly do freelance work and I often sleep late because I work late into the night. I haven’t hit it big yet, so I guess I’m lucky to be a trust fund baby, but I won’t have problems making the rent.”

  “What kind of artist are you?” Anna asked curiously.

  “I’m a graphic designer by profession, but my passion is photography and I love photo manipulation. I also enjoy soft pastels and oils, but I don’t paint as often as I’d like. I’ve been working on graphics so much lately, I’m out of practice. I hope I can find the time to do some pieces while I’m here because I suspect the beach is quite inspiring.”

  I was a little stunned by Anna’s next statement. “I do a little painting myself. I’d love to see some of your work, if you wouldn’t mind showing me.”

  Art and photography weren’t a profession for me, but they were my passion and I was glad I had incorporated a little truth into the image I portrayed for them. “Absolutely. I love to show my work, but there’s one requirement; you have love it,” I laughed and added, “I would love to see yours, as well.”

  The Emersons made me feel welcome in their home and I wanted to ask some questions of my own. “Do the two of you live in this big house by yourselves?”

  Anna responded with, “We do. Our children grew up and left the nest, but we love it here so much, we can’t bear to sell. It is too large for us, but it is our home, although it is becoming more difficult to maintain as we age. We hope the income from the rental will allow us to hire someone to maintain it for us.”

  Anna rose from the couch she occupied. “Come with me, I want to show you my studio.” I followed her up the staircase to one of the bedrooms she had turned into her art studio and she explained, “I took up oil painting when I retired from teaching.”

  I expected to find an easel with supplies stuck off to the side of a bed, but it definitely wasn’t. “Wow, this is quite an impressive studio. I would love to have something like this someday.”