Chapter 1: Part 1
Two hundred years ago...
The time has come.
I turn to Ivan who is barely holding it together. "Take the pack away and don't return until tomorrow night." It's an order but that has never stopped Ivan from voicing his opinion.
He stares at me for a long time before sharing his thoughts, "I don't think that's a good idea, Marcus. You need me here; you need us here." So many emotions play across my friend's face. His pain is almost as great as mine. Almost.
I need him to understand how important this time is. "This will be my last night with Victoria and I want to be alone with her my friend." My voice is soft and I do everything I can to keep it from cracking.
A fierce fire burned in Ivan's eyes. "Can you keep the promise you made?"
I've thought of nothing but this time and it will be the hardest thing I've ever done. "Yes, my friend, I will keep my promise."
He nods, sorrow a part of him, the heaviness making his shoulders to slump. "I will return tomorrow, as you ask. Send the call if you need me. I love you, my brother." Ivan leaves the room with one last glance at the woman on the bed, the woman he loves too.
I sit on the bed, where Victoria rests and take her hand. Frail - covered in age spots and wrinkles - the most beautiful hand I've ever held. I touch her white hair and run my fingers through the brittle strands remembering its softness from her youth. She's the love of my life and sixty years is too short a time. The clench of my heart is physically painful. Even eternity wouldn't be long enough.
Her cloudy eyes flutter open, their beauty dimmed with age. They hold a white sheen...the look of death. I smell the waiting nothingness on her too, but her coming death doesn't yet overwhelm the unique scent that is all hers. The perfume of the life she lived so gallantly still fills my senses and surrounds the bed.
"I love you," I tell her gently. My heart breaks, because I know tonight is the last time she'll hear me say the words.
"And I love you, my heart," she whispers, her voice filled with so much sadness.
I see through the wrinkles lining her skin put there by the years she's remained at my side. Past the wrinkles I see the beauty of her youth, and for just a moment a sudden small spark in her eyes shows the vitality and sense of humor I've loved for so long. "Are you in pain?" I ask. It's been the hardest thing for me to handle. I can't bare her dealing with pain when it's so unnecessary.
"No," She answers in a weak, raspy voice and lifts one finger. She breathes in and out slowly and I wait patiently for her to continue speaking. "My time is at an end. I feel at peace, my heart." Determination filled her hoarse words and I know she's letting go. I want to scream. I want to beg. And through all my want, I simply want more time.
My hand tightens slightly on hers fully aware that too much pressure will hurt her. I don't think I'll make it through the next hour, much less the lifetimes I'll live without her by my side. She's everything in my world. Everything.
"Someone is out there for you." She sighs with conviction. "Someone special who wants to spend eternity with you. I am sorry it can't be me. You have given me a love I thought I would never have. My heart will follow you even after my body is dust. I want you to love again. Give yourself time and then find your soulmate. I will not rest peacefully until you're happy." Her lips quirk slightly and the exhaustion momentarily leaves her expression. "Don't give up, my heart." Her eyes flutter and her breathing stops for a few seconds before she exhales. I too stop breathing until her chest rises and falls again.
We've had this conversation so many times and she'll never understand that what she asks is impossible. Before I can reply, Victoria inhales sharply, takes my hand in both of hers and asks, "One last gift I want you to give me. It's unfair of me to ask, but I'm a selfish woman." The corners of her lips lift in more of a grimace than a smile but she tries and I will deny her nothing.
"Anything," I whisper. The universe has no idea that I will trade any life, take any life, stop at nothing to see her at peace.
Her eyes focus on mine before she speaks, "Take my blood as my heart stops."
My breath catches. I've not tasted her blood in almost fifteen years. She became too frail to sustain me, and I wanted her with me for the beautiful love she gave. It's far more powerful than all the blood in the world. I've craved it until my body cramps with the loss.
"I cannot, Victoria," I tell her honestly. I want to scream into the universe that this is so unfair. "I cannot," I answer again desperately wanting her to understand.
She holds my gaze and refuses to release me. She's always been stubborn and why I expected anything else at this time is beyond me. "Marcus, I have not shared with you in so long. I'm not asking this second. You will know when, you will feel my last heartbeats. I'm afraid and I want you with me completely at the end." She closes her eyes as if the request is more than she has energy for. Her chest rises and falls in quiet sleep - her face at rest without the pain that's followed her for weeks. I can't survive losing her. The thought of endless days and nights without her is intolerable.
When Victoria next opened her eyes, they were panicked. There was no air for her to draw into her oxygen deprived lungs. She looked to me and calmed instantly. I didn't think about her request or why I didn't want to give in. I struck, my teeth sinking into her throat and tasting her incredible life's energy.
As I drew the last of her blood, Victoria's breathing slowed then stopped. I withdrew my fangs and memorized her pain free, beautiful face. She had a smile on her lips and I laid my head on her chest and cried.
I cried because of my promise.