Of all the mistakes Conrad Quintano has made, driving Damian away is the one that haunts him the most. He hates the fact that’s he’s hurt the man he loves more than anything. For the sake of the twins, though, Conrad and Damian parent as a united front, a challenge that grows more and more difficult with each passing year. And with Conrad in his weakened state after his kidnapping, it grows more difficult than ever to be around the one man he can’t have.
But an old enemy’s mission to create a dangerous new breed of vampire threatens the twins’ lives, and it’s now more important than ever that the estranged lovers put the past behind them, or everything they hold dear might be ripped apart.
The second book in my Children of Night series, Old Sins, Long Shadows features my favorite Halloween Party. It was hard to know which scene to post first. But I like this scene because it’s the first one in which Damian and Georgia face off with each other, and also because of the conversation between Marc and Georgia illustrating how the different generations of vampire view the holiday.
Marc was somewhat surprised to see Damian return to the ballroom alone. He was even more surprised when, rather than rejoining him on the dais, Damian went straight for the snacks; pulling a young man from the dance floor with barely any warning and practically throwing him onto the first available couch. Marc had no idea where Conrad had disappeared to, no idea what was keeping his sister from making an appearance at her own party, but even left to his own devices, he was having no trouble keeping himself entertained.
As the guest of honor and the son of the house it seemed everyone present was eager to make his acquaintance or get to know him better. He was not averse to either. Especially not while traces of the unusual power he’d tasted the previous evening still lingered in his system. He was hungry for more and anxious to meet anyone who might help him touch it again—like the woman approaching him now, for example. She seemed a likely prospect. Tall and fair, strikingly good-looking, she carried an aura of power that was palpable even from halfway across the room. The crush of people seemed to part before her purely on instinct, opening a path that led her directly to the dais. Directly to Marc.
He smiled in greeting. “Good evening. Welcome to my party.”
“Your party?” One elegant brow arced higher, two perfectly painted lips pursed into a petulant little moue. “Is it really? Well now, that is a surprise. Is Conrad no longer in residence?”
“Oh, no, he’s here.” Marc scanned the room without finding him. “Although I’m not sure where he’s gone to, at the moment. I only meant that I’m the one he’s throwing the party for. Me and my sister, that is. I’m Marc, by the way.” He held out his hand.
Lavender-blue eyes studied him curiously. “Georgia,” the woman replied, giving him her hand after a brief pause. “So, tell me, Marc, what is it you and your sister have done to merit being honored with so elaborate a fête? And on Halloween, of all days. I really can’t imagine what’s come over Conrad, all of a sudden. Why, I recall when the mere suggestion of such a thing would have been enough to enrage him.”
“Really?” Marc grinned. “We didn’t do anything special. I think it was Damian’s idea. It’s just that today’s our birthday, you see.”
“Your…birthday?” Georgia stared at him, lips curling into an expression of faint distaste. “Oh, surely not? You can’t mean to tell me someone had the incredibly bad taste to turn you actually on Halloween? Who was it? Not Conrad, I know. I can hardly believe even Damian would be capable of anything so tacky.”
“Tacky?” Marc looked at her in surprise.
“Well, clichéd, then. At the very least. I mean to say, vampires? Halloween?”
Marc shrugged. “I guess I never thought of it that way before. But, that’s still not what I meant. Today’s our actual birthday—the day we were born.”
“Your actual birthday,” Georgia repeated, the look of distaste growing stronger. “I see. Well, that does make a difference, doesn’t it? And you’ve chosen to celebrate that, have you? My, how very…very…quaint.”
Marc stared at her in surprise, not certain how to respond. Luckily, he was spared the attempt by Damian’s arrival.
“Was that my name I heard mentioned?” Damian asked as he came up behind Marc and clapped him on the shoulder. At the sight of Georgia, he stopped dead in his tracks, his expression a mask of joyous surprise that appeared completely staged. Marc was surprised he didn’t squeal in excitement. “Why, Georgia, darling, is it really you at last? Conrad will be so very pleased. You can imagine how thrilled I was when he told me you would be joining us.”
Georgia gave him a frosty smile in return. “Hello, Damian. I see you haven’t changed. Tell me, does Conrad allow you out of the house dressed like that? It’s a wonder he doesn’t worry someone might try and steal you away. Again.”
Damian sighed. “Dear Georgia. It’s always such a pleasure to renew our acquaintance.” He slid his arm around Marc’s shoulders, a gesture that struck Marc as being oddly protective. “I see you’ve met our birthday boy? Now, I must warn you, he and his sister are Conrad’s pride and joy. Alas, all the rest of us must resign ourselves to taking a backseat in his affections. But I forget myself. You, of course, are an old hand at dealing with such things. Isn’t that so?”
Georgia’s eyes narrowed. “Where is Conrad, anyway?”
“Oh…you know how he is,” Damian said, with a disinterested shrug. “I’m sure he’ll join us in his own good time. I’d offer you something to snack on, while you’re waiting, but I’m sure you’re much too fatigued from your journey to eat right now. I hope your flight was everything you expected?”
“It was delightful,” Georgia growled from between clenched teeth. “And where did you say Conrad was again?”
Damian batted his eyes and smiled wickedly. “Oh, but I don’t believe I did.” Fascinated though Marc was by their conversation, he was also alarmed by the fury building in Georgia’s eyes. And Damian, beneath his carefree demeanor, was so tense the arm he’d slung around Marc’s shoulders was vibrating. Marc was wracking his brain for a diversion when fate provided one for him in the person of his sister.
“Sorry I’m late,” Julie said as she joined them on the dais. “Did I miss much?” Her eyes lit up as she caught sight of Georgia. She smiled shyly. “Hello. I don’t think we’ve met.”
“Hello to you too,” Georgia replied, staring at Julie as though she were a ghost.
Damian wrapped his free arm around Julie’s waist and pulled her close. “Where have you been, niña? You’re missing your own party.”
“I was just upstairs,” Julie replied, blinking innocently—a clear tip-off she was hiding something, Marc thought. “There was something I needed to do.”
Damian sighed. “Well, you’re here now. That’s what matters. Allow me to introduce you to one of Conrad’s very…oldest…friends. Julie, this is Georgia.” He turned to Georgia and smiled. “Oh, wait. I’m forgetting. You like to be called Lady Lancaster now, don’t you?”
Georgia smiled grimly back. “You know I’ve never been one to stand on ceremony.”
Damian had opened his mouth to reply when Julie forestalled him. “Oh, so you’re the one. That’s what I was coming to tell you, D. Conrad said to let you know he’s gone upstairs, to his study. He said he was having refreshments brought up and that you and Lady Lancaster should join him there.”
“Did he?” Damian replied, his voice flat. “Well. How splendid. Let’s not keep him waiting. Shall we?”