Tonight the sea flung itself at the rocky woodland shore below, and the moon bobbed overhead, as oblivious as the briny wind in his face. Ellory closed his eyes and let it all fade away, until he could no longer feel the stony outcrop beneath his feet or hear the crashing waves, until all that existed in his world was her presence.
Irresistible. Unseen. But closer. Closer than she had ever felt before. But why here? He'd spent twenty-five years trying to ignore her, devoured by the mere awareness of her existence in the world; twenty-five years struggling to outrun a dulcet shadow in his mind; twenty-five years waking to moonrise, feeding, needing, dying at sunrise, only to find her in the last place on earth he wanted to be.
He blared his silent declaration of war at her, filling the thought-path shared by the New England enclave with his anger. None of his kind could fail to hear him. Whoever you are and whatever you want with me, I'm here. And I didn't come halfway around the world to play games. I've uprooted my children from a place where they were safe and happy. I've reclaimed a domain I want no part of. So, if you mean to have my blood, show yourself. One way or another, we end this tonight.
He waited. No answer. As usual.
A moment later, a familiar vibration disturbed the breeze, and Meical materialized on the outcrop beside him, brushing leaves and dirt from his best corduroy blazer. "Running a bit late tonight. I think part of me is still in England. You can take the man out of Yorkshire, but you can't take Yorkshire out of the man."
Ellory watched him pluck the mulch from his hair. "You know, there's no reason to act like a ghoul and sleep under my garden. We have room to spare in the cellar. The extra bedroom is for you. Why don't you use it?"
"Because your rapacious brood of sucklings is too fond of me," his tall, blond hunt-brother replied. "'Uncle Meical, give us a little sip to tide us over 'til we go hunting. Pleeeease?' There'd be nothing left of me if I slept indoors with you and your lot."
Ellory grinned. "As if you wouldn't give them your last drop if they needed it."
His friend grumbled, as he often did when his affection got the best of him, and paced along the very edge of the rocky ledge, arms flung wide as he balanced like a tightrope walker. "Your announcement just now was a little heavy-handed, don't you think? We've scarcely been in the country for seventy-two hours. Try not to alienate the neighbors just yet."
"I'm hoping if I provoke her enough, she'll show herself."
"After a challenge like that, if your mystery harpy doesn't drop out of the sky and turn you to toast, it means she intends to jerk your chain awhile longer. You may as well get on with your night. Let's chase down some supper. I'm famished, and your B&B is a veritable pantry."
"I thought I made it clear," warned Ellory. "The Benedikt Inn is off-limits."
"Killjoy. It's just a house, not a sacred relic. Don't be maudlin about it. And anyway, one would think you'd want to forget the place. What did you have to look forward to there as a human?" Meical shuddered. "A loveless marriage."
Ellory cast him a withering look. "That'll do."
"Fine," Meical said with a dismissing shrug. "I won't go near your inn."
"It's not just sentiment, you know," said Ellory. "My innkeeper is trying to improve the old place. I'd rather not risk any accidents with her clientele."
"Judging by the way you described her choice of decor last night, I'm sure she won't need our help to run them off. 'Roadkill' was the word you used, I believe."
"Not all of it's that bad. There's a painting of the Black Swan over the mantle in the parlor, Meical. I don't know how the artist made her come alive like that, but she looked just like the last time I saw her. So much sunlight in her sails."
"Get a grip, Ellory."
Ellory paid no heed to Meical's scoffing response. In that moment, he was on the deck of the Black Swan again, with a bracing wind behind him and miles of turquoise sky and sea ahead of him. He wouldn't share this with another soul, but he'd forgotten what sunshine looked like until he'd seen that painting.Top of Page