When Jason Cook boarded the train to San Francisco, he didn’t plan on coming back. He never really thought he’d see Nebraska or Lizbeth Petersen ever again. But when an unexpected turn of events threatens the woman he’d loved and lost, he has no choice but to go back and try to make things right.
Lizbeth never thought she’d see Jason again, either—and she’s not so sure she wants to see him now. Her life’s a mess, but at least it’s her mess. And after a lifetime of other people making decisions for her, she’s looking forward to finally figuring out some things on her own. Besides, Jason already left her once when she needed him. Why should she trust him not to do the same again now?
Warning: This is not a drill. Vampires are invading your favorite, small Nebraska town this Halloween. Does this mean Type-O flavored booze will soon be the new rage in Sapphire Falls? Hopefully, it won’t come to that. But you never can tell…
Have you ever wondered what might happen if real vampires were to be let loose in a small town over the course of Halloween weekend? In Going Back To Find You is my attempt to answer that question.
This is a Sapphire Falls Kindle World book featuring characters from my Children of Night vampire series (the first six books of which were re-released this summer!). The hero of Going Back To Find You is Jason Cook, who appeared only briefly in book one of the series (In the Dark). He’s never been a main character in the series, however, and I’ve always felt he should have his own story.
The Friday before Halloween…
Jason scanned the area around Sapphire Falls’ town square, searching for others of his kind and coming up blank. Not a huge surprise. He’d been hanging around the small town for over a week, following up on a tip he’d received from Nate, a former nest-mate, and he had yet to find any sign of vampires. He was starting to wonder if perhaps Nate’s informant hadn’t been bled a little too hard. It was possible the man had been making stuff up toward the end, or no longer knew what he was saying.
Oddly, there was no dearth of paranormal activity occurring in and around Sapphire Falls this Halloween season. Jason had already had some interesting encounters. Just the other night he’d come to the aid of a Sidhe lord, a woman and…and something else. He wasn’t exactly sure what. Something that looked human but was probably an elemental of some sort. They’d been in trouble and asked for his help, so he’d driven them all (along with a full complement of dogs) down to York to get medical help from some other creatures he hadn’t immediately recognized. That had been an eye-opening experience. But as far as vampires went, they were scarcer than ghosts. There didn’t even seem to be any rumors floating around.
It was still pretty early, however. It was just coming on sunset and most of the people currently enjoying the festival were families with young children—not the most promising of settings for anyone wishing to feed unobserved. But just because Jason couldn’t sense any other vampires in the vicinity didn’t mean they weren’t here. Or that they couldn’t sense him.
He growled softly in frustration . Time was running out for the Allen vampires. If he didn’t catch up with them soon—before they were too far gone or before they did something irredeemably stupid—they’d be screwed. He should have already contacted Marc, or even Conrad, and told them what he’d learned. But it wasn’t much and it wasn’t good. So he’d waited.
He understood why he’d been chosen for this mission. Given his familiarity with the area, and his past relationship with some of Felicia’s family, it made sense for Conrad to have sent him here, rather than choosing one of the others. And, if he were honest with himself, he’d wanted this. He’d have asked for it, if it hadn’t been offered. He’d have been disappointed as hell if the assignment had gone to anyone else. But, his personal feelings and experience aside, what were they thinking giving him this much responsibility? Surely there must have been someone they could have found better suited for the task?
He wasn’t supposed to confront the ferals, he was merely supposed to track them and report back. To track them, for fuck’s sake. It was like hiring an opossum in place of a bloodhound.
It wasn’t often that Jason wasted time bemoaning his fate. Things were the way they were, and all the wishing in the world wouldn’t change that. He’d never asked to be a vampire. He hadn’t ever thought it would be “cool” to live forever. He’d felt no need to be faster or stronger—or, lord knows, more flammable—than nature had intended. It had happened, however, all the same, and without regard to his wishes, and he’d accepted that. Along with all the pluses and minuses that were part of the package. Because, really, what other choice did he have?
But, if he had to be made Vampire, was it really too much to ask that he be made a moderately competent one?
In his human life, he’d at least had that. He might never have been the best at anything, but he’d still managed to be better than most at pretty much anything he’d tried his hand at. Becoming Vampire had taken that away. And, for the first time in as long as he could remember, Jason found himself cursing his maker and angrily consigning Floyd’s worthless soul to hell.
So many of a vampire’s individual abilities were dependent upon the strength, at the time of his turning, of the vampire who’d sired him. The ease and distance at which he could recognize other night-walkers; his susceptibility to sunlight; even the frequency at which he must feed—all were determined by that one event.
Attempting to create too many spawn in too short a timeframe could wear a vampire out, leaving him or her temporarily the worse for wear. But for the unlucky spawn, the weakness was permanent. Not that Floyd had cared about that.
Floyd Hall had been a pompous ass; greedy, opportunistic, unwarrantedly cruel. Jason didn’t think he’d ever been particularly strong, even at the best of times, but when he’d sired Jason, he must have been abysmally weak. A fact Jason hadn’t been in any condition to even comprehend. Once, before he knew any better, Jason had thought Floyd monstrously strong. It was only after Jason had begun to have dealings with vampires who actually were powerful that he’d learned to tell the difference.
His current sire, Conrad Quintano, was generally acknowledged to be one of the strongest vampires in the country, possibly the world. So it was only natural that many of those he’d personally turned would be exceptionally strong as well. There were even those like Marc, who were uniquely gifted, possessing skills that not even Conrad could lay claim to.
Useful, potentially life-changing abilities. Such as the talent for rehabilitating vampires who’d gone feral.
It was that particular ability, and the fragile hope that hung from it, that had brought Jason back to Nebraska, that had brought him here to Sapphire Falls just in time for Halloween. Of all the rotten luck. Talk about bad timing!
Everywhere Jason looked, he saw reminders of the holiday. From the artificial jack-o’lanterns grinning down at him from every lamppost, to the amiable scarecrows and sheaves of corn that lined the sidewalks. There were gauzy ghosts with gleaming eyes and brightly colored spiders hanging from the branches of trees in the park. Artificial cemeteries had sprung up overnight in front of the haunted house and over by the petting zoo. It was all so charming and picturesque and playful.
It was depressing as hell.
Most years, Jason managed to ignore Halloween. He knew vampires who enjoyed it, who took a perverse pleasure in dressing the part. Occasionally, they’d tried to convince him to join them in crashing one of San Francisco’s infamous Halloween parades. But the idea of pretending his very existence was imaginary left Jason feeling like the punch line of a joke. A really bad joke. Like being a turkey at Thanksgiving, an elf around Christmas time, or a small, winged god on Valentine’s Day. Not that he’d ever personally met any small, winged gods, but it stood to reason.
This year was the worst. It wasn’t because he couldn’t ignore it. It wasn’t because he felt like more of a cliché than usual. It was because of what might happen if Nate’s intel turned out to be good after all.
Whatever the Allen vampires had planned for this weekend, there was a good chance they’d be successful. Jason still didn’t know exactly what that plan entailed, but from what little he’d gleaned it wasn’t anything good. And all the emphasis on plastic fangs and goth makeup, on fake gore, fake blood, and dead bodies would make their success that much more likely. Would allow them to go unnoticed that much longer. Which was probably what they were counting on.
Jason took a deep breath, hoping to calm himself, and ended up filling his lungs with the last thing likely to help. The air was laden with familiar scents. They propelled his mind back to the days of his youth—to a time before he’d even heard of vampires. Apple cider. Kettle corn. Pumpkin pie. His mouth was watering, and he didn’t even eat human food anymore. Nostalgia settled over him like a swarm of cabbage moths—soft and pretty to look at, too destructive to safely ignore. For every memory he brushed away, another dozen took its place, leading his mind inexorably back to the last thing he wanted to think about right now. Lizbeth Petersen.
All these years he’d been content just knowing she was alive and relatively safe. Sometimes, he’d look up at the night sky and wonder if she wasn’t somehow doing the same. Mostly he hoped she wasn’t.
He wanted to think she’d moved on with her life. That she was happy. That she’d forgotten all about him. About them.
But there was also a small part of him that selfishly wished to be more memorable than that. That wanted nothing more than to imagine she occasionally felt a pang of regret, that every now and again he crossed her mind, and she remembered what they’d once had, and thought fondly of him.
Felicia’s death had altered everything. Her family was either scattered, or had gone to ground. Jason didn’t know where Lizbeth was, or how she was or…anything. That was the biggest reasons he hadn’t contacted Conrad yet. He couldn’t take the risk of being ordered back to San Francisco before he found Lizbeth, before he knew for certain whether she was even still alive. He didn’t know if he could find her, didn’t know if he could save her, didn’t know if she’d even want him to. But he had to try. He had to try.
“She’s not gonna bite you.”
“She would if I asked her to,” Jason replied without thinking. “Wait. What?” He narrowed his eyes against the late afternoon light and focused his gaze on the man who’d addressed him— one of two men standing in front of him, accompanied by a couple of dogs and a handful of kids. “Excuse me? What did you say?”
The two men exchanged glances. They were both in their mid-thirties and there was something vaguely familiar about the pair of them, though Jason couldn’t have said just what that something was. They had similar builds, similar blue eyes, and dark hair. If he had to guess, he’d say they were brothers. But what in the world were they talking about? “Did you say something about biting?”
“I was talking about my dog,” the first man said, pointing at a pretty little pit bull with soft brown eyes and a gentle expression. “Luna. She’s not aggressive.”
Jason nodded. He could well believe it. Luna looked to be about as ferocious as a baby rabbit. “Yes. So I see.”
“You seemed worried.”
Worried? Jason drew himself up to his full height and frowned at the man. “I was not worried. Certainly not about your dog.” He was a vampire, for gods’ sake. The damn dogs should be worried about him. Which they obviously weren’t. Luna continued to gaze raptly at him. The other dog was a wriggling mass of joyous excitement. “Down,” Jason told the dogs, adding a hint of a growl, too low for the men to hear, just because he could. He watched in satisfaction as the dogs flattened themselves against the sidewalk. “See?” He turned back to the man, triumphant. “Not worried.”