Craved (Book #2 of the Vampire Legacy) (15 page)

BOOK: Craved (Book #2 of the Vampire Legacy)
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Scarlet was shocked.

Now? Of all times? Why did he have to ask her now?

She thought of the irony: if he’d asked her only 48 hours before, she would have been thrilled—she would have given anything. But now, she had genuinely lost interest. Now, she had Sage. And with Sage in her life, nothing else mattered. This dance, her friends, the cliques, the fights—all of it seemed so petty to her now. It felt like a world that was already far away from her.

“I’m sorry Blake,” she said. “But I can’t go with you.”

Blake looked at her, eyes open wide in astonishment. Clearly that was not the answer he had expected.

Scarlet didn’t wait for a response. She turned and headed off, walking down the hall, thinking of Sage—and wishing the minutes would tick faster until she could see him again.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY

 
 

Caitlin lost all track of time and place. She had no idea how many hours she’d been in this secret back room of this rare bookstore, combing frantically through stacks and stacks of books. There were mountains of them. Worse, they were all thrown in haphazardly, in so many different positions and directions, it was almost as if someone had deliberately tried to keep them disorganized. Perhaps that was the point: perhaps whoever did this wanted to hide that book.

Caitlin had seen chaos throughout her career in bookstores and libraries—but she’d never encountered anything like this. Not only were there so many books, but they were also each so rare, so valuable. She was astonished. She’d never seen such an abundance of riches under one roof. Some of the books that she’d already passed through her hands, she knew, would be worth millions of dollars on the open market. Why had anyone treated them this way?

Clearly, Aiden knew what he was talking about when he sent her here. And now she understood why the old woman was so reluctant to open her door. She was sitting on a gold mine. Each and every one of these volumes belonged in a museum, or university library, and a part of Caitlin wanted to stop and spend time with each one as she picked it up.

But there was no time. She felt a greater urgency than ever as she rifled through one book after the next, opening the binding as quickly yet carefully as she could, glancing at the title page, skimming through it to make sure it was not a printer’s error, and moving on.

Hours had passed, and she’d already managed to go through hundreds of titles. She was sneezing at a more rapid rate, the dust piling up, and was beyond exhausted, especially after not sleeping on the plane. A sense of hopelessness was starting to creep in. What if the book was not here after all? What if the page was missing? What if its ceremony didn’t work? What if she didn’t find it in time?

It could easily take weeks, she knew, to find the book in this room—if it even existed. She would have to get supremely lucky.

Caitlin scanned the room: there were thousands of titles yet to go, some stacked all the way to the ceiling. She swallowed, having no idea how she would even access those.

But she was not one to give up easily. She jumped back into the stacks on the floor, dealing with what she could in front of her. She rolled up her sleeves, reached over and hoisted yet another heavy volume. She went through books faster now, one, two, three at a time. Now, she just scanned the title pages and moved on. In some cases, she just scanned the spines, when visible.

After another hour or so, Caitlin, her back killing her, on her hands and knees, reached the far wall. At the very bottom of one of the tallest stacks, she yanked out one particularly large and heavy book—and as she did, the entire stack came crashing down around her; she quickly covered her head as the mountain collapsed, and got out of the way just before being completely crushed.

The books finally settled in a huge cloud of dust, and she looked up, dazed and confused. She felt like she wanted to cry.

But as she looked up, through the dust, suddenly, she spotted something that made her heart stop: the crumbled stack revealed another, smaller stack behind it, one she had not seen before. And there, right in the middle, was a book with a rich, red spine. She recognized it immediately. Suddenly, she felt an electric thrill. This was it. The matching volume.

Caitlin nearly lunged across the room, grabbing the book and holding it up to the candlelight with shaking hands.

Please God, let this be it
, she thought. She pulled back the cover and nervously flipped to the title page:

De Fascino Libri Tres.

Her heart flooded with relief. She could hardly believe it. She had actually found it.

Caitlin quickly thumbed through the pages, going as fast as she could to the missing page.

Please, please be there. Please be the matching page.

She started to worry about what she would do if the matching page weren’t there. Or if this was all a hoax. She was shaking with anticipation as she got closer. 530, 532….

She turned the page, and her breath stopped. There it was. 537.

And there, before her eyes, was the other half of the page.

She was speechless.

She reached into her bag and extracted the other half. She held them together. The ripped edges fit together exactly. It was a perfect match.

Hand shaking, she read the complete text for the first time. It was all in Latin, and the words lined up perfectly. She read the ritual again and again. As she did, she felt in every pore of her body that this was genuine. For the first time, her heart filled with hope. Here it was, right before her eyes. A way to save her daughter.

With a twinge of guilt, Caitlin delicately tore the half page out of the book, placing it in her folder with the other half of the page. She set the book down, picked up her bag, and hurried across the room to the stone wall, banging on it.

In seconds, it opened.

Caitlin squinted at the bright sunlight that flooded in. It was hard to believe it, but it was daytime. A bright, sunny day. Caitlin wondered how many hours she’d been in there.

The old woman stood there, staring back at her.

“You found it, didn’t you?” she asked.

She stared at Caitlin meaningfully, and Caitlin suddenly realized that the old woman knew what she was after all along. How had she known? Had she been trying to hide it?

“You knew?” Caitlin asked.

The old woman stared back, expressionless.

“Why didn’t you tell me where it was?” Caitlin asked.

“It’s not for me to tell,” the old woman said. “It’s only for the worthy to find it. You, clearly, are worthy.”

Caitlin’s mind spun with all the implications. Had this woman been guarding a secret here? For how long? Her whole life? Who had asked her to guard it? Was she a member of some secret society? What had Caitlin stumbled into?

The old woman reached out and took Caitlin’s hand with both of her small, frail hands.

“I was in your position once,” she said cryptically.

Caitlin stared at her, trying to understand, wanting to know more. She wanted to know everything. But there wasn’t time.

“It’s real, isn’t it?” Caitlin asked, fearfully. “It’s all real?”

The old woman stared back.

“You will come to learn, young lady, just how real it is.”

 
 
 

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

 
 
 

Sage stood on the back terrace of the house, watching his final sunset over the Hudson River. His bags were all packed, securely in the trunk of his car, ready to go. No one had seen him pack, except his sister, the rest of his clan out and busy during the day. After their little argument, she had left him alone—going god knows where.

Sage felt bad about it. The two of them had a long and complicated relationship, about as complicated as a two-thousand-year sibling relationship could get. On the one hand, she was always his biggest critic, ready to point out his faults, and always the first one to complain to his parents about anything he did wrong. On the other hand, he always sensed that deep down she was attached to him, and truly loved him. There were, in fact, a handful of instances over the centuries when he could remember her actually standing up for him, completely surprising him. That was her: inscrutable. After two thousand years, he felt as if he still didn’t really understand her.

As he looked out at the last light on the Hudson, at this place he’d called home for centuries, he felt nostalgic. He wasn’t really ready to say goodbye. He wasn’t ready for life to end, period. It was amazing, he realized, but despite having lived thousands of years, he still felt like he didn’t have enough time. He just wanted a bit more. Just time enough to be with Scarlet, and to live out her lifetime with her.

He heard a commotion inside and took a deep breath, bracing himself. The time had come. He’d have to confront his parents. He’d have to tell them he was leaving. That this was his final goodbye.

His relationship with his parents was even more complex than his relationship with his sister. Over some of their centuries together they had felt like his parents, while over others, they had been more like siblings—and over others, they more like his own children. Their relationship seemed to be ever-evolving. Over the last hundred or so years they had fallen squarely back into the parents role, and Sage wasn’t really used to it, or ready to concede to it this time. Now, when they tried to order him around, he didn’t feel obliged to listen. He was through listening to them. They’d had centuries to order him around. Now, it was
his
time. Now, nobody was the boss of him. And while he knew they would throw a fit when he said his goodbyes, at the end of the day, there was really nothing they could do about it.

Sage turned and marched into the house, prepared to get it over with. He marched across the great living room, across the family room, dining room, and ascended the wide, twisting marble staircase that led to their master room. As he reached the top landing he saw the large double doors were open and walked into their thickly-carpeted room, floor to ceiling windows stretched out in a circle, overlooking the Hudson.

There, before a huge, walnut desk, sat his mother and father, both agitated, looking down, poring over papers. She wondered what paperwork they could be so upset about. After all, they would be dead in a few weeks. Didn’t they realize that? They should be out there living—not sitting here worrying. He was amazed everyone spent their final weeks of mortality worrying, doing anything and everything but living. Not him. Now, finally, he was determined to live. To really live. Since meeting Scarlet, he found a reason, and he was determined to.

The two of them looked up. Immediately, their faces crumpled in frustration.

“There you are,” said his father.

“Where were you all day?” asked his mother.

“I’m through with being interrogated by you both,” Sage replied. “I just came to say my goodbyes. I’m leaving.”

“You are not,” answered his father.

“And where do you think you’re going?” asked his mom.

“As I said, I’m through answering to the two of you. It’s been a great two thousand years. It really has. But our time together is over. In fact, all of our time on this planet will soon be over. Let’s end this graciously. Goodbyes are so cumbersome.”

His parents looked at each other, then at him. They saw that he meant it. A worried look flashed across their faces.

“So that’s it?” said his mom. “Just a curt goodbye? You’re just going to abandon us? Abandon the whole family? Just like that?”

“That’s just like you,” his dad said. “Looking out for your own needs.”

“This is about
her
, isn’t it?” his mom asked, her eyes narrowing.

“Leave her alone,” Sage said firmly. “You’re wasting your time with her. Her key will do you no good if she’s dead.”

“On the contrary,” his father corrected. “Her being dead might just do us all the good in the world. You still don’t seem to realize that we will stop at nothing to have what we want, do you?”

Sage slowly shook his head. They just wouldn’t listen.

“You can’t harm her,” he said. “Not without harming me.”

His parents snorted in disdain.

“You’ve underestimated us, once again,” his dad said. “We saw this coming—and we’ve already prepared our contingency plan. In fact,” he said, looking down at his watch, “Lore will be leaving at any moment. He will achieve what you failed to, and will brings us what you could not get.”

“And then,” his mom added, “when all the rest of us achieve immortality, guess who’s getting left behind?”

His parents both grinned, an evil grin, and Sage felt himself fuming. Was it true? Had they really set Lore in motion?

He studied their expressions, their small, satisfied smiles, and sensed they were telling the truth.

Sage summoned his super hearing, and zoomed in on the activity in the far reaches of the house. As he did, he could hear a commotion in a far corner of the house. He sensed Lore hurrying through the rooms. This meeting had been his signal. His parents had indeed set him in motion to find Scarlet. To kill her.

Without another word, Sage suddenly turned and raced from the room, through the open front doors, down the marble staircase. He took them three at a time, and found himself on the lower level, in the large marble foyer. At that moment, Lore was also dashing across the room, heading for the front door. Sage sensed that he was on his way to kill Scarlet. He was determined not to let that happen.

It all happened in a flash. Without thinking, Sage charged across the room and slammed into Lore, tackling him to the ground just before he reached the front door. They both slid halfway across the marble floor until they slammed into a wall.

Sage spun on top of him and pounded him several times.

But Lore was equally powerful, if not more so. He quickly spun Sage around, and kneed him hard, knocking the wind out of him.

Sage, determined, found an opening and spun and kicked Lore square in the chest, sending him across the room.

“Stop it! Both of you!” screamed Phoenicia. She ran into the room, trying to break up the two of them, as she had their entire lives.

But this time, she would not. Sage was determined. And so was Lore.

Sage thought quickly. He was desperate, absolutely desperate to stop Lore, and there was no way he could outfight him.

In a sudden flash, Sage realized what he had to do: he had to kill him. For good. For all time.

It was something Sage had wanted to do for centuries. Something that the Grand Council might even have permitted, given all the new feeding Lore had done lately. But it was something that no one in Sage’s clan had the backbone to do.

But now, finally, with nothing left to lose, the time had come. It was time for Sage to kill one of his fellow Immortalists. He had never done it before. But he knew how.

As Lore got up and raced back towards Sage, this time, Sage waited. He let him get closer and closer.

Sage waited until Lore was halfway across the room, beneath a chandelier, directly across from the huge mirror over the fireplace. Then he burst into action.

Sage reached over, grabbed a candlestick from the mantle, and just as Lore was perfectly aligned with the mirror, he hurled it.

“NO!” Phoenicia screamed, realizing.

There was a huge shattering of glass, as the pieces of the mirror poured down in a million pieces. It was what Sage was aiming for. It was the only way to kill an Immortalist: to catch his reflection in a mirror, then shatter the glass.

Sage looked over, expecting to see Lore flat on his back, dying.

But what he saw stunned him.

As he looked down, he didn’t see Lore there, but rather Phoenicia. She lay on the ground, gasping for air.

Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Lore dart from the house.

Sage realized what had happened: Phoenicia had jumped in the way of Lore’s reflection. It was her reflection that got caught. It was she who he had killed.

Sage was suddenly overcome with guilt and grief. He had never meant to harm his sister.

“Sage?” she asked, looking up, a shocked expression on her face. “Why did you do this to me?”

“Phoenicia!” he screamed, wailing, collapsing to his knees.

He bent over her and held her head in his hands, wiping her tears away. Tears of his own dripped down onto her face.

“I’m so sorry!” he wailed. “It wasn’t meant for you. It was never meant for you!”

She sat there crying, while he knelt there immobilized, unable to leave her side.

“Was she really worth it?” she asked, in a weak voice.

As she lay there, dying, Sage rocked her, her words tearing his heart in two. He knew he had to leave, to rush to the dance, to meet Scarlet. But he couldn’t bring himself to run away from here, not while Phoenicia was dying like this. He knelt there and held her, wishing fate didn’t have to be so cruel.

 
BOOK: Craved (Book #2 of the Vampire Legacy)
8.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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