A Very Fond Farewell to 2017
Promised Land …
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*** Happy New Year, New Orleans ***
Lock leaned against an arched doorway as security shooed tipsy guests from Steven’s apartment. “Gentlemen, one last sweep for stragglers.” He snapped his fingers. “At Mr. Banitierre’s standing request.”
The guards finished scurrying and stood at attention. “All clear, boss.”
“Always remember.” Lock pointed at Steven, obsessively straightening bottles behind the bar. “He, is the boss.”
“Brilliant. I’ll see everyone again on…” Steven sighed at the silence when the door finally clicked shut. He slouched his shoulders and dragged his feet into the bedroom. “On Thursday evening. Can’t wait.”
“That look on your face.” Lock took measured steps across the stone floor. “Makes me want to cry.”
“I loathe these parties.” Steven unsnapped cufflinks and flung them in a drawer. “Juggling maniacs and their fragile egos—”
“Building alliances. We’ll need them when Sorcha comes home.”
Steven ripped his tie off and slumped against the antique armoire. “I lost her.”
“She’s not lost.” Lock place his hand on Steven’s shoulder and squeezed. “Just hiding, for now.”
“I didn’t sleep a wink yesterday. This place reminds me of family…especially during the holidays.”
Lock straightened Steven’s collar. “My apartment is just across the square.”
“Can I just shower first?”
“You smell delicious. But, come over whenever you’re ready. I have a surprise.”
Steven’s eyes followed the vapor trail of energy left when Lock flashed out of the room.
On this longest night of the year, darkness was still waltzing in her own glory when Steven stepped into deserted Jackson Square. Sharp wind swirling down the alleys reminded him of the damp red curls around his neck. He savored rare crisp air while his eyes roamed galleries ringing both Pontalba buildings and holly wreaths adorning empty flower boxes.
This used to be my favorite season. Steven strolled around a wrought iron fence decorated with red bows, and stared up at the spires of St. Louis Cathedral framed by a steel-grey sky.
The best view in the world. His mind flashed back to evenings when he walked the flagstones with an armful of friends and family.
Not a care in the world except shopping and celebrating.
Until the sky fell.
A closer look at the iron barrier revealed crooked and charred rails. Ugly scars left over from that fateful night.
Sorcha’s cape. The Allemand’s spell.
The first shots of a war that crashed an empire.
Exploding Christmas trees. A murdered nun.
Without Raimond, our family will never be…
“Damn it.” Steven collapsed against the fence and coughed so hard, he wheezed.
That was years ago.
He swiped a blood-tinged tear from his cheek and flashed to Lock’s apartment on Rue Ste. Anne. Beyond the plain white door, spiral stairs loomed at the end of a dark and silent corridor.
All right, Lock Dorge. Surprise me.
“Quit stalling in there!” Steven pounded on the bathroom door while Rayna, Julia, and Penny paced the floor. When Sorcha emerged in her slip, she was pushed into a chair in front of her dressing mirror. More maids scampered through the door and went to work painting her nails and setting her hair in curlers.
Lily babbled as she applied false eyelashes, strand by strand. “I recommend the dark lip stain—less smudging.”
Penny spritzed sample perfume on linen strips.
Steven grabbed his nose and sneezed three times. “You know not to spray that near me.”
“The spicy jasmine, please.” Sorcha patted Steven’s back.
“It’s just allergies. That slip is beautiful enough to be the dress itself.”
“Your allergies are in your tiny mind.” Julia snorted.
“Oh, shut up.” Steven held a handkerchief over his face and collapsed in a coughing fit.
“Ok, stop,” Sorcha said, “I want a short break and Steven could use some air. You all need to get dressed, too.”
Julia stormed out.
The rest of Sorcha’s attendants hesitated until she gave each a sincere hug. “You’ve made me feel like a movie star. Steven, how in the world do you have allergies?”
“Never mind.” He dabbed the corners of his eyes with a sleeve. “I’ll see you downstairs.”
“Can someone send for Raimond? I need to have a word with him.” Digging in her nightstand, she found a smashed pack of cloves. Glad I don’t have allergies. Sorcha straightened the least damaged cigarette and lit it in the doorway of the balcony.
“I’ve been summoned?” The duke appeared out of the shadows, dressed in tuxedo pants and unbuttoned shirt, missing his tie and shoes.
“That’s a dashing look—you should attend the party as you are,” Sorcha said, “I especially like the slicked-back hair.” Sultry and dangerous.
“Touché.” Raimond scanned her outfit. “Is that underwear or your gown?”
“Ha-ha. There’s an important question I need answered. I want to know the procedure to change a human into a vampire.”
He shook his head and his finger in unison. “Way too soon.”
“I’m serious—I need to know.”
“Do you require my assistance?” The prince appeared on the balcony, like a phantom in a silk robe…
Can you feel it…the dawn of spring?
If you just got buried by Blizzard #Stella, you probably can’t see past mountains of snow.
But the snow is melting and the Spring Equinox is just days away.
Time for the story of a beautiful girl in her sapphire gown, waltzing into vampire royalty.
As soon as she drags herself out of the bathtub…
The evening of the party kicked off before sunset, the equivalent of early morning for a house full of vampires. Sorcha’s eyes fluttered open and settled on bustling around the armoire.
“Whoa, is that my dress?” She threw the blankets off and flipped on the chandelier. The blue fabric leapt to life in the soft glow. Her fingers caressed the subtle tone-on-tone pattern. Steven outdid himself. A silver slip lay on the nearby chair; its boning and fluffy layers would give the skirt perfect fullness.
“Breakfast is served!” Steven and Lily barged in, carrying coffee and chalices of blood. “You have to eat early today—you’ll need your strength for tonight. Hurry up. Hair and makeup take time.”
Sorcha fiddled with her food, spun her glass and left everything but her coffee on the tray before retreating to a tub full of bubbles.
“Quit stalling in there!” Steven pounded on the bathroom door…
Last night, I saw the splendor of our future. Not in the glow of the bursting full moon or the blaze of crackling fire, but in the halo of my protégé.
In a tiny room, bathed in the glow of a rose-glass lamp, one of our dearest and loveliest patients received the Lord’s call. Reaching for the light, the elderly woman’s fingers trailed the air as if a loved one’s grasp fell short, time and time again. The hand she finally found belonged to you—her lifeline between the realms of heaven and earth.
Then tonight, I discovered you alone and grieving in our private chapel. Your tears fell to the stone floor with the weight of time’s relentless march, reminding me of all the life lights we’ve watched flicker out and the spirits we’ve had the privilege to set free. While we share what some call the curse of immortality, in your hands it’s a miraculous blessing. You, the youngest of old souls, soar closer to the flame than most of us dare—ever vulnerable to the heart-wrenching pain of human tragedy. Dignity and grace in the face of death…that is a talent born into your blood.
So, on this year’s darkest and deepest of winter nights, I implore you to celebrate the ritual of Solstice with our family. We will feed well, drink deeply, and unite our energies until the veil separating us from the ancestors falls away.
Mourning and respect offered for those lost, will heal your heart. Joy that transcends time and restores hope for the new year, will grant you wings.
Until tomorrow night then, my brave angel,
They found the Quarter just as they left it, a kingdom where time seemed to stand still and perpetually sagging buildings were held up by invisible forces.
Damn, I missed this place,