January 1, 2001
Julie pulled the string on another party popper. Confetti shot across the living room, accompanied by a faint smell of gunpowder. Marc sighed wearily. “C’mon, Jules. Don’t you think that’s enough now?”
“It’s New Year’s Eve,” Julie replied, stubbornly setting off another one. Tangled strings of paper floated lightly to earth, and ended up draping themselves over the icebucket in the middle of the living-room coffeetable.“What’s wrong with you? I’m trying to be festive.”
“It’s after midnight,” Marc pointed out. “So, technically, it’s New Year’s Day. Besides, it’s you, me, a bucket of blood and Dick Clark on TV, so festive might be a stretch.” Leaning forward, he brushed the confetti aside and retrieved one of the vinyl blood-bags. “And, just so you know, you’re on your own with cleaning up all this confetti.”
Marc bit through the vinyl and immediately felt as though he’d been transported back in time. The faintly chemical taste of the blood reminded him of his childhood—all part of Julie’s plan, he supposed. He couldn’t recall when the last time had been that he’d tasted anything like it, but it certainly wasn’t any time in the last year. Conrad’s instructions to him had been clear. They were to eat out as much as possible and in the time honored tradition of their kind, which was to say, under cover of darkness. They were not to bring food home with them unless circumstances required it, but Marc had understood that to mean live prey.
Under no circumstances were they to do what Julie had done—to buy, barter, or compel any human to provide them with an alternative form of nourishment. They were still too young, too untried, Conrad had said. He did not yet feel confident in their abilities to influence thought.
It had never occurred to Marc that Julie would not have received the same instructions he had. He didn’t have the heart to mention it to her now, not knowing she’d gone out of her way to surprise him.
“It’s our first New Year’s Eve alone, Marc. I just wanted to make things nice.”
Marc sighed. “I know. You always do.”It was the same thing she’d been doing all year. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and now tonight. And it still doesn’t matter. It still isn’t enough.
“Just think, maybe next year we’ll be doing this in San Francisco,” she said in wistful tones. Just as she’d said on all those other holidays as well.
“Maybe not next year, but I’m sure it won’t be too long.” At least that’s what he wanted to believe.
“An actual city, a whole house full of vampires—can you imagine it?” Julie asked, her eyes aglow as she contemplated the future, but all Marc could think about was the expression on Conrad’s face, the note of concern in his voice, the night he and Damian had left for the west coast.
“You won’t be the only vampires around. There are others in the vicinity. You might run into them from time to time. You might even be able to go to them if you encounter trouble. But, in general, try to steer clear of them,” Conrad had cautioned him. “I’m not sure how soon I can send for you but, in the meantime, you will look after your sister for me, won’t you?”
Marc had nodded. “Of course. Have a good trip,” he’d added with barely conceived envy. Julie wasn’t the only one who dreamed of big cities and houses filled with others like them. Some day.
“Thank you,” Conrad had said as he turned to go. Then he turned back again. “And, Marc?”
“Look after yourself, as well. I don’t always say it, but I hope you both know how very dear you are to me.”
Of course they knew that. It was a big part of why it had been so hard to say good-bye. It was why it was so hard, even now, to contemplate a future where they’d be on their own.
However much he and Julie had wanted the chance to prove themselves, to stand on their own two feet, to make their own decisions—and that was mostly him, anyway—he knew they were both still daunted by the prospect. Maybe it was a vampire thing, or maybe it was the result of the way they’d been raised, but he was pretty sure neither he nor his sister was ever going to be truly happy until they were reunited with their family.
Maybe it would be a year. Maybe it would be a decade. Whenever or however it happened, it would be good to be home.
* * * *
Damian and Conrad’s road has been a rocky one, and Damian is struggling to trust in the relationship he and Conrad now share — what seems like a perfect love. After all, it’s fallen apart before, why couldn’t it do the same again?
Secrecy and conflict within the nest continues to grow, and Georgia’s hold on the deadly secret she carries begins to erode. What she hides threatens their entire species…