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I was unsure of how long we stood staring at one another. Sounds and smells melted around me as I stared at her porcelain face and thought back to the last time we had been together. She was dying, a political prisoner in The Conciergerie. It was summer of 1794 and selfishly, I need to see her one more time, to sink myself into her warm flesh and take her, just as she had taken over my heart and soul.
We made love and I took her blood while she begged me to turn her, to not let her die. I could have given her the dark gift but there was something about her and the time and place that just fit. I could not image living with her here and now. I could move ahead with her memory perhaps, but not with her beside us. She was so perfect, existing in the 18th century, poised and so powerful among all of us vampires. The modern world would have swallowed her up and her uniqueness would have been lost, like fog just before dawn, its tendrils burning up in the morning sun.
I stared into her hypnotic emerald green eyes. She was beautiful – my god, she was still beautiful, but something had been lost in her transformation, unless it was my memory failing me. She seemed icier and less caring. At least that is what I saw in her eyes.
“Hello, Michel, are you surprised?” She smiled coldly.
She still had a rich French accent, not like mine which had dulled after living in New York for over a hundred years. Ironically Christian had retained a heavy accent too, as if time could not alter their roots.
“Quite, Madame Delacore.”
Her eyes grew darker. I had always towered over her, and draped in her velvet cape she seemed even smaller, almost child-like, though I never ever saw her as anything but powerful.
The boy beside her did not move but studied me carefully, as if he had heard horrible things about me and was trying to access if they were true. His hand rested lightly on her shoulder as if protecting her, but from what? He looked so much like Christian and then like tumblers on a lock, it all fell into place for me.
I looked from him to her and I knew, though I am not sure how it would have been possible, but I knew.
“Yes, Michel, this is Mathieu, Christian’s son.”
I subconsciously made a mental note to apologize to Amanda later.
“And Christian never knew about him?” I was treading on thin ice already. Why was I antagonizing her?
“You both had left already, remember?” She smiled and in her eyes I saw such disdain. “You left for England before I knew……”
“You and my father were dear friends.” Mathieu spoke for the first time. Even his voice was sedate and deep like Christians’.
“We still are,” I tried to sound calm.
“That was the one thing I could always count on. You two were inseparable.” Josette smiled up at me.
Did she know? Dare I tell her? How could I tell her that it was no choice for either of us? We had to leave her behind and get out of France.
“Until now anyway.” She smirked at me. “He left you both and sought me out in Paris. The young mortal knew it all along and now here you both are and he is with his…father.”
So she knew about Amanda and I living together. This was not good.
“Philip has been dead for hundreds of years.”
“This is true, but Philip was not his father. His mother, Eléanore, bedded a far older and more powerful being and conceived Christian. This was her secret which she took to her grave.”
“Josette, this sounds like….a science fiction movie. Who was this powerful being?”
“I am not sure, Michel, though your paths have crossed more than once. He always watched over you both and when I was rotting away in prison he came to me and offered me immortality in exchange for him.” She nodded towards Mathieu.
And she began a tale that sounded so far-fetched I knew it had to be true. I have lived a long time and I have heard all manner of bullshit and this was almost chilling. Mathieu’s eyes never left mine as she spoke about raising him in the French countryside with a mortal woman named Nell and this being…..I am not even sure she called him by name, protected them both, though why she would not say.
I remembered a strange man when we were children and Christian’s mother had just died. He was in her boudoir when we stumbled upon him and now I know why he was there. Eléanore was his lover and he needed to grab onto anything to remember her by.
“Where are they now, Josette?”
“Christian is somewhere in France though I have no idea where.”
“And this “he”, Christian’s father. Does he have a name?” I needed to play dumb though I was not sure why. I did not want her to know that I had met him several times, the latest being in our town house in New York City.
She shrugged. “I cannot use it freely. When he knew Eléanore he used ‘Captain Andreas’, so perhaps that is what we should call him.”
“Captain Andreas…..and he does not realize that his son wants nothing more than to be left alone to dwell on his past mistakes.”
“Meaning me?” Josette caught Mathieu smiling.
“He has never gotten over you, my lady. He is still racked with guilt and pain over… the entire affair.”
“And what about you my dear Michel?”
“Forever the roué I suppose.”
“A roué who is playing house with a beautiful mortal girl and her son, or is she not so mortal?”
“She saved Christian’s life,” I confessed, focusing my attention on Mathieu. “She was in turn reborn with the blood of another vampire, yet she is not quite vampire. She has a vampire’s…intuitions.”
“She has more than that, Michel. She is one of my descendants and you know how powerful I was even before being turned.”
I had always wondered. There was Christian’s intense attraction to Amanda and something about her reminded him of Josette too, with blood that called to him like the song of a siren. Amanda had no idea of her heritage and now she was even more powerful, full of Sabin’s blood.
How ironic, the continuing circle of fate which kept them bound to one another.
Their presence was so unsettling. She had followed us here, but why? And how long had Amanda been telling me about seeing Christian in the club? Josette’s presence in Southern California was no coincidence.
“Yes, I certainly remember.”
“Leave us, Mathieu, wait for me outside alright?”
You would think I would have so many questions for her, but I had closed the door on her centuries ago. It was almost hard to believe she was here and yet, nothing she did should have surprised me. I was no longer in love with her and in that regard she had the wrong vampire.
“Christian’s father sent us to the New World to get Mathieu away from France. There is much unrest there now, no leadership, and he wants Christian to assume the throne—”
I burst out laughing. The irony was so overwhelming, tears filled my eyes. I tried to catch the blood before it stained my leather jacket. I could not believe what she was telling me.
“Josette, this makes no sense. Is this Andreas deluded?”
“No, he is…..more powerful than you could ever imagine but he has Christian and he has plans for him. Plans even I cannot thwart.”
“So what is it you want from me now?”
“I’m not quite sure.” And her face changed and for a moment she seemed scared and unsure of herself.
“I have a bar to run, Josette. When you figure it out let me know.”
I left her on the catwalk just like that. I scanned the room for Amanda but did not see her. I prayed she had gone home. Casually I slipped into my office and out a back door which dumped me into an alley behind the club away from the ocean. No, I cannot fly, but I can move faster than the naked eye and I glided home afraid of what I might find.
I couldn’t believe I had walked away from her. She had been the center of my world for what I considered the best years of my young vampire life and I was walking away. I was desperate to know where Christian was and at least I now knew he was somewhere in France. It was better than nothing.
I silently entered our tiny cottage and immediately relaxed. I smelled their warm human flesh; their hearts beating in unison. Once inside her bedroom, I found them both asleep, mother wrapped around her son, holding him close.
God, they were so vulnerable. I bent over and brushed her warm cheek. Josette knew where we lived. I was many things but not naïve. She would kill Amanda and her child in her own time. Did she know the child was Christian’s?
I could no longer leave them here alone at night unprotected. What to do?
There were plenty of vampires I trusted to run my club in my absence. That was not the issue.
Thoughts tumbled as I tried to sort out where we could go quickly. New York was out of the question. Someone had already burned down our townhouse, a clear message. Now Venice Beach was no longer safe. I hesitated to wake them but we had to pack and leave within the hour.
Christian was somewhere in France, so it seemed the most logical place to start. I found myself booking airline tickets on the red eye from California to New York and then onto Paris. I had no time to second guess my decision, it was now or never. I could not believe I was actually considering going home after centuries of being here in the New World.
As I closed the laptop, I wondered if I we would ever find Christian and if so, would we be welcome in his world or had he descended into darkness, in the chaotic world of the Parisian vampires? And what of Andreas, his true father? What would he do with us? We were stuck with nowhere else to go and so I roused my mortal charge from sleep and explained how we had to leave now.
She cried as she packed, begging to know what had happened at the club to cause me to take such drastic measures.
How could I tell her that everything she ever thought about Josette Delacore was true? That she and Julien were in mortal danger and we had to leave now for that danger was right here in Venice Beach?
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