Authors: Colleen Faulkner
Emily felt the eyes of the portraits on her as she met Gordon eye to eye. "We had no choice. What did you want us to do? Stand on the dock in the rain?"
"I wanted you to go!" He swung his fist at the standing suit of armor in the entryway and hit it so hard that it crashed to the ground.
Emily jumped in her skin. This was not her Gordon, not her man of laughter, of lost Fabergé eggs. This man was dark and brooding. This man was frightening.
"Go," he said through gritted teeth, pointing a long, tapered finger.
She stared at his face. Had his incisors grown? Were they longer, overlapping his lower teeth slightly, or was she just imagining it?
"Go!" he shouted again, taking a step closer.
It was all she could do not to cower. But she didn't. She wouldn't. This was her second chance to save him, perhaps even divine intervention. She would not fail this time. "No," she said softly. "There is no place to go."
"The hour approaches!" His bass voice reverberated off the high ceiling and echoed ominously. "You canna stay!"
She strode past him, whipping off her wet cloak. "We'll have to think of a way to protect ourselves. We'll lock ourselves up. Lock you up."
He shook his head violently. "No… they… I am very clever. If I smell human blood—"
She threw up her hand. She'd not let the gruesome detail distract her. "We don't have time for this, Gordon. Now where's the book?" She let her cloak fall to the floor. They were running out of time. She could hear it in Gordon's voice. She could smell it in the air.
"What book?" He followed her. He had changed out of his kilt into black trousers and a black frock coat. His cravat was red… blood red splashed against a lily white linen shirt.
"You know what book," she said patiently. She refused to be intimidated. This man was not Gordon Fraser. He was not the Gordon she loved. He was an impostor, an evil impostor created by the spell all those hundreds of years ago. "The vampire book. Get it for me."
"Nay, I willna," he sneered.
She pushed him lightly on the chest with her hand.
"Dammit, Gordon. Listen to me. I'm trying to save your life. One of our lives. Because if what you say is true, if we don't come up with a solution in the next six hours or so, you may kill one of us."
A light passed through Gordon's dark brown eyes that had turned a brilliant green. A light of understanding. "Get it," she repeated firmly. "Now, Gordon." To her relief, he turned on his heels and headed for the library.
An hour later Emily sat at the dining table poring over the vampire book. It was in such poor repair; so many pages were either missing or damaged beyond recognition that she was beginning to think this was a hopeless cause.
"Ye called for me, madame?" Angus appeared behind her.
"Yes. Gordon's becoming very agitated. He says you may be able to get a rowboat. He wants you to row him to that little island off the leeward shore of this island." Emily didn't want to let Gordon go, but she knew in her heart that this back-up plan was logical. If nothing else, if it could be arranged, perhaps it would calm Gordon.
Emily massaged her temples as she continued. Her head was pounding. "He says we'll be safe because he could never swim it, not even in an empowered state." She glanced up. "So can you get the boat, Angus? I wouldn't ask if I saw an alternative, and I feel as if I need to protect Ruth. I brought her here."
"Aye, for my Ruthie." Angus hung his head, his face turning green before her eyes. "I'll do it. I didn't think the master knew, but I can set a signal with the lantern. One of me brothers will leave a rowboat on the shore of the far side. They never liked the thought of a MacReed keeping house for a vampire."
She returned her attention to the book. She was using her razor blade to try and separate pages. Something seemed to be stuck between two, but so far she'd not been able to pry them apart. She glanced up at him again, feeling badly about sending Angus into the rough seas in a rowboat. "Perhaps I could row him to the island. I'm strong for a woman."
"Nay." Angus swallowed. "He wouldn't allow it. I must do this for my master myself."
Emily didn't argue because she understood. Because of his relationship with Ruth and Gordon, Angus seemed like a brother to her. She knew he felt the same pain she felt. The same fear. "See it done, Angus."
"See what done?" Emily heard Gordon's agitated voice behind her.
She turned in her chair. "Angus is going to
"Hurry, man," Gordon ordered as his manservant took his leave. "There's little time left. If I'm not gone from here I don't know what you'll do… I'll do." There was a tremor in his voice. It seemed to Emily that he was battling now, Gordon the man against Gordon the vampire.
"We've plenty of time, Gordon," she assured him. Then she returned to the book and the knife.
"I don't know why you don't give up with that." He paced behind her. "There is no answer, I tell you. Let me die."
"I won't give up on you."
He halted behind her and she felt his hand brush her shoulder. She felt a tremor of desire… laced with fear.
"No. I doona suppose you will, my sweetness." He lifted the hair from her back and placed a kiss on the nape of her neck. She closed her eyes; her heart raced. His kiss made every fiber of her being tingle. It made her warm in the pit of her stomach. It made her burn with desire for him.
I could surrender, she thought, lightheaded. Give myself to him… save him.
Then she realized what he was doing… drawing her into the spell. It was the evil inside him overcoming the good. "No, Gordon." Though it took every ounce of her resolve, she pulled away from him. "Don't touch me. Go back to the library. I have work to do."
He let her hair fall to cover her neck. "You do not ken what you're missing," he said huskily in her ear.
She held perfectly still, fighting her desire for him, knowing that if she gave in, she would be giving up her soul. "Go."
His footsteps echoed hollowly in the great hall as he retreated. Emily drew an oil lamp closer and hunkered down over the vampire book. She had to find the answer…
More than two hours later, Gordon appeared behind her. This time she never heard a sound until he was there. "It is time."
She started. "Not yet. Not so early." She turned in her chair to look up. "Not—"
Who she saw, what she saw, so astounded her that she couldn't finish her thought. It was Gordon, yet it was not. Even in the last two hours he had transformed more profoundly. His face was gaunt, his eyes ringed with black shadows. Those were definitely fangs she saw now.
She rose from her chair but stepped away from him, rather than toward him.
"Close your eyes, Emily," he whispered. "Let me leave with the memory of days past. Not now, not this way."
She closed her eyes, a sob rising in her throat.
Gordon put out one finger and touched her lips. She kissed his finger.
Emily opened her eyes to see Gordon stride toward the door, his black cape fluttering behind him.
Ruth appeared in the doorway and handed Angus his cloak. "You're really going to go through with this, aren't you, Angus? You're going to row out into the middle of this. With any luck at all, you'll both drown." She crossed her arms over her chest, obviously perturbed, but also concerned for his welfare.
How could she still not believe, even seeing Gordon like this? Then Emily wondered if everyone could see this transformation or just some people.
Ruth stepped out of the way to let the men pass. "Men and their ridiculous little games. And what are you going to say in the morning when you have to haul him back, alive and wanting breakfast? Hm?"
Angus put himself between Ruth and his master and leaned over her, dwarfing her tiny frame. He kissed her soundly on the lips.
Emily watched as Gordon disappeared through the door. As he disappeared, she felt the blood drain from her face… her heart. Perhaps it would have been better that she give her soul so that he might live…
Emily stood there feeling sorry for herself for a full minute before she got a grip on her herself. "Sit down," she said aloud. "You're so clever. You think the answer is here. Find it."
It was close to eleven when Angus returned, wet and seasick.
Emily didn't glance up from the vampire book. It wasn't that she didn't care, only that she knew each second counted. Her heart raced. She nearly had the stubborn pages peeled apart. "Are you all right, Angus?"
She heard him gulp. "Aye."
She glanced up quickly to see the giant man swaying precariously. He appeared as if he were going to be ill at any moment. "Get yourself warm, dry clothes. Something hot to drink, maybe eat."
He shuddered, his massive shoulders hunched. "Nay, I willna eat. Ever."
"Ruth." Emily woke her friend, who sat in a chair asleep at the table.
She lifted her head off the table and blinked sleepy-eyed and confused.
"He's back. Take him down to the kitchen and warm him up."
Ruth went to Angus's side and looped her arm through his to lead him away. "Got the vampire settled for the night, have we, my mighty sailor?" She pressed her cheek to his wet sleeve. "Let's see if we can get you warm."
Emily drew back the razor. Just one more slit and the two pages would be free. She didn't know what she would find between them, but she knew instinctively it was important.
"Aha," she breathed. "There we go." She set down the blade and pushed her reading glasses further up on the bridge of her nose. Cautiously, she peeled the pages apart to reveal what was inside. "Oh, God," she whispered, not in blasphemy, but in praise.
It was a translation, written in old English. She could read old English. But a translation to what?
She studied the faded ink, glanced at the two pages that were stuck together, then back at the translation again. "This is it. This is it." Tears clouded her eyes, and she dabbed at them beneath her lenses.
Her heart pounding, she read the two paragraphs of scrolled, faded writing.
"It's so simple…"
Emily slapped the book closed, tossed her glasses on the table, and leaped up. She had the answer! She laughed aloud as she raced across the room, nearly hysterical with happiness. Fear. She was the answer.
Now if only she could get to the island in time.
Emily kept her head bowed as she rowed, her back into the wind as waves crashed over the side. She was soaking wet, with water in the boat over her ankles. Her arms felt like lead weights from the exertion. She was so cold that her fingers were numb. But she clutched the oars tightly and rowed. Rowed. It had to be nearly midnight. The bewitching hour of Gordon's anniversary was upon him.
Emily had sneaked out of the castle, not telling Angus and Ruth where she was going. If she'd told them, they wouldn't have wanted her to go. Perhaps Gordon might have even given Angus instructions to physically restrain her if she attempted to reach him.
Emily glanced over her shoulder in the direction she rowed. The wind and rain stung her face. She could see the island. She turned back and rowed harder. The island was small, but not that small. What if she couldn't find him in time?