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Authors: Pati Nagle

Tags: #magic, #ælven, #vampire, #Immortal, #fantasy, #New Mexico, #Twilight, #elves, #southwest

Eternal

BOOK: Eternal
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Pati Nagle

Evennight Books

Cedar Crest, New Mexico

 

 

 

Eternal

Copyright © 2012 by Pati Nagle

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portion thereof, in any form.

ISBN: 978-1-61138-169-6

Published by Evennight Books, Cedar Crest, New Mexico, an affiliate of Book View Caf
é

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

for my sister, Carol

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Chris Krohn, Patricia Rice, and Deborah J. Ross for editing help, and to my colleagues in Book View Café for being my safety net.

= 1 =

I
never should have let them talk me into giving blood.

Len was my best friend, but since she hooked up with Caeran I'd seen a lot less of her, which pissed me off though I tried not to let it show. Fact was, I felt like a third wheel. Now that the semester was over they were heading up north to visit his family—tonight was supposed to be our farewell fiesta after this bloodletting—and I was looking at a boring, lonely summer.

It was almost eight and the donation center was getting ready to close. Still light outside in late May, and the view of the Sandia Mountains from the picture windows was fantastic. All the couches faced those windows, for which I was thankful as I lay squeezing a little foam bar and contributing my pint.

I hated needles, and I didn't much care for the sight of blood even if it was in neat little plastic bags. I was mad at myself for letting Len wheedle me into this. Ever since she switched to pre-med, she was nuts on this kind of thing.

She and Caeran had already finished donating and were over in the lounge area with the cookies and punch. So sue me, I bleed slow.

The technician came by and jiggled my little bag of blood. “Almost done,” she said cheerily.

I didn't answer. I was working up to a first class sulk.

The mountains outside were turning pink in the sunset, earning their name, “watermelon.” Not as picturesque as the Sangre de Cristo mountains east of Santa Fe, named for the same reason but rather more graphically. Those Catholics.

My eye was caught by movement just outside in the parking lot. A man, I thought, though androgynous in just the way I like: tall and slender, high cheekbones, long hair. For an instant I thought it was Caeran, but I could hear his voice behind me and he wasn't dressed like that—the stranger had on a hooded sweatshirt.

“OK, all done!”

I watched the tech remove the needle from my arm and press a patch of gauze over it. She made me hold my arm in the air for a minute, asked me if I felt dizzy, then wound some hot pink vet wrap around my elbow to secure the gauze and released me to the snacks.

I got up carefully, since I hadn't done this before. I'd heard of people passing out, but I just felt a little lightheaded, and even energized.

Len looked up and smiled as I made a beeline for the drinks. “Feeling OK?”

Ignoring her, I filled a paper cup with lemonade. It was bad, from a powdered mix. I chugged two cups.

“I'm always thirsty too,” Len said. “I wish they'd have something besides all this sugar.”

I glanced at Caeran, who was munching an apple. Probably he'd brought it along. He was Mr. Healthy Eater, claimed he didn't like sweets. I could have hated him if only he wasn't so damned gorgeous. And nice. Disgustingly nice.

OK, I was jealous. Len had scored the best-looking guy on campus. I'd had some dates, but none of them came close to Caeran for all-around wonderfulness. I kept telling myself I'd find the right guy eventually, but it was hard not to wish I'd spotted Caeran first. Or rather, that he'd walked up to my station at the library desk instead of Len's.

“Movie starts in twenty minutes,” Len said. “We'd better go.”

She and Caeran headed for the door. I hung back to look through the cookies, grabbed the last packet of Oreos and shoved a Moon Pie into my pocket, then hurried after them.

The front parking lot had been full when we arrived, so we'd parked in the lot to the north. Now the center's lot was empty except for one car at the end of the row. The pavement radiated the day's heat.

I paused to open the Oreos and stuffed one into my mouth. As I looked up, I glimpsed the guy I'd seen through the window standing by the blood red wall that surrounded the center.

His hair was long like Caeran's, but it was white even though he looked young. Goth, maybe? His clothes were black. Lean bones. I stood ogling him, then he looked at me and his nostrils flared.

I froze. Cold flooded my stomach.

He was dangerous. Not risky,
dangerous.

I play poker. I'm used to sizing people up fast, and I trust my gut.

I looked away from him, as if that would make me invisible. Yeah, I know—acting like a frightened animal, but I had to get out of there. I started after Len and Caeran, head down, walking as fast as I could.

The cookie in my mouth was too dry to swallow. I got ready to spit and scream.

I rounded the corner of the building. A lot of the cars were gone from this lot, too. Caeran and Len were opening the doors of her Subaru.

I lost my cool and ran. When I had the car between me and the stranger, I finally had the nerve to look back.

Either he hadn't followed me, or he was invisible. I became aware that my mouth was full and started chewing.

“You OK, Manda?” Len said over the car.

I shook my head. Chewed madly and swallowed.

“There was a guy—a scary guy. In the parking lot. Looked a little like you,” I said to Caeran, “except his hair was white.”

Caeran and Len exchanged a wide-eyed glance, then Caeran took off running for the front of the building. I hadn't expected that.

“Get in the car,” Len said.

I got in back, my usual place. Len got in the driver's side and locked the doors, then turned in her seat and looked back at me.

“Where did you see him?”

“In the parking lot. I saw him out the window earlier, too. What kind of creep hangs around the blood donor center?”

Len frowned instead of answering, then looked out the windshield. “White hair? You're sure?”

“Yeah, I'm sure.”

Caeran was coming back. Len unlocked the doors and he got in.

“He was gone. He must have seen me.”

Len gave him a worried look. “You can't tell…?”

“No.”

They stared at each other for a long while. They do that a lot. I had always chalked it up to mushy stuff, but this was not a romantic moment.

Caeran turned to me. “I am sorry, Manda, but I think we ought to cancel the movie.”

“The theater's across town. He won't bother us there, right? So, come on, let's go.”

Caeran looked at Len, who showed me a smile I didn't believe. “Hey, you know how you keep bugging us to take you up to Guadalupita?” she said. “How about now?”

“Wh-hat?”

“Let's go tonight! You can come along—Madera won't mind, will he, Caeran?”

“I will call and ask.”

They'd been planning to leave in the morning. Guadalupita is way the hell north of Albuquerque, a good four hours plus of driving, or so Len liked to complain. She said it was worth it, but even if we left that minute we wouldn't reach it until midnight at the earliest.

Caeran had his cell phone to his ear. I heard a buzzy sound that was the answering party.

“It's Caeran. Would you mind if we came up tonight and brought a friend?”

An inquisitive buzz. Caeran answered in another language. Might have been French—it was all smooth and flowy. Or it could have been Italian. What did I know? I suck at languages.

It wasn't Spanish, though. Spanish I could recognize. Growing up in New Mexico gives you that.

He talked a little more, then hung up and put the phone away. “Madera says that Manda is welcome.”

“Great!” Len's smile looked pasted on. “Let's go pack you a bag, girlfriend!”

“Wait a minute—”

“Oh, did you have plans for the weekend?”

I glared at her. Of course I didn't, other than wallowing in some ice cream after they were gone. Maybe a poker tournament.

She smiled a real smile now. A worried smile.

“Humor me, OK, Man?”

“What are you not telling me? Other than the usual stuff you don't tell me.”

“I'll explain on the road. Let's get out of town before it gets dark.”

She started the car and drove to my dorm. Len used to live in the neighboring dorm, but she and Caeran were now sharing a house in the student ghetto. My loss; Len had been my best buddy on campus. We still hung out, but not as much as before.

The campus streetlights had come on, casting a warm glow on the adobe-colored stucco of the buildings. They roused a memory from months before.

“Hey, Len—you know maybe it was that guy you saw last fall that had you so freaked out. The one that might have been the campus killer? You said he had white hair, right?”

“It was not him,” Caeran said flatly.

“What if it was?”

“That guy is dead,” Len said.

“How do you know?”

“I just know, OK?”

I slumped back in my seat and crossed my arms. I hated it when they kept secrets from me. They did it a lot, actually. Usually I could ignore it, but my blood sugar was whacked and I was in a bad mood.

I picked up the package of Oreos, which I had dropped on the seat beside me. They were a bit crunched up, and decided I'd had enough sugar. I needed protein, like a big burger or something. With fries.

Len parked behind my dorm, and Caeran announced he wanted to stretch his legs before the drive. The words sounded casual but the way he looked around when he got out of the car was anything but. Not until he gave the nod did Len open her door.

Caeran walked us to the dorm and waited outside while Len came up to my room with me. She sat on my bed and watched me rifle my bureau for clothes to shove into my gym bag.

“Do I need anything dressy?”

“In Guadalupita?” She guffawed. “No. Bring a sweater, it gets cold up there. And bring your cell phone charger.”

Odd recommendation, since ninety percent of the calls and texts I got came from her, but I tossed the charger in my bag and went to fetch my toothbrush and stuff from the bathroom I shared with my neighbor. I considered makeup, but skipped it since Len had said there was no need to be dressy. I usually only wore it on days when I worked at the library.

I came back and dumped my grooming gear into the bag. Added the book I was currently reading. Looked around trying to decide if I needed anything else.

I should have been excited. I'd wanted to visit Guadalupita ever since Len told me how beautiful it was. And I was curious to meet Madera, who was Len's mentor outside of college. He was a curandero, and I suspected he was the one who had talked her into going into pre-med, since she'd had zero interest in medicine before she'd gone with Caeran to visit him.

BOOK: Eternal
11.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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