The sight of Cahol’s grave for the first time in so many years hit me like a lead weight to my heart. I stood before his grave hand in hand with Aodac and wept forever. I wept the same bitter tears that I had known for so long. I asked Aodac to leave me there alone at Cahol’s grave and come back for me an hour before dawn. It was only with great reluctance that he agreed to my request. He agreed that I needed to confront Cahol alone. I sat down in the dirt next to his grave and told him everything that had happened from the day he had died all of the way up until now. I even told him about Alan and my plans for him. Then I asked Cahol for his forgiveness for the part I played in his death. I needed his forgiveness. I knew that as long as I ran from the past I would be forever dead. I lay down six feet above him and closed my eyes as I entered a trance like state.
I stood surrounded in darkness; I saw a bright light in the distance and I moved cautiously toward it. I saw a shadow flicker and looked closer. It was the outline of a man moving toward me and I froze at the sight of this unknown threat. The shadow moved ever closer in the dark. I began to see details of the unknown. I saw a tall wiry body that was muscular in build yet lean and trim. I saw light reflected through dark hair. Realization dawned slowly until elation replaced caution. I ran toward the shadow and embraced him in fierce desperation.
“Cahol, my love, I have missed you desperately. Please forgive me, for I am the reason you died.”
He withdrew from me and held me at arms length. He looked into my eyes with concern on his face. “Il mio piccolo un, you must stop blaming yourself for the actions of another.” He said quietly.
“But…Aodac killed you because of me.” I said sobbing.
“My love, I have never blamed you for what happened to me; I never will blame you because it was not your fault.” He said firmly. He wrapped his arms tightly around me again as he looked at me and then looked away as he gestured with one hand and said “Look.”
I watched as the darkness was swept away and replaced with rolling hills that were lush with grass and fields of flowers. Cahol took me by the hand and together we walked. He led me toward a large oak tree at the top of a nearby hill. Our walk was peaceful. My heart was content for the moment yet it brimmed with so many things that I wished to say. Cahol’s eyes shone with nothing but happiness. Cahol guided me to the base of the tree and leaned me up against it as he turned to look at me once more.
“I cannot forgive you for something that you did not do. Francesca, there is nothing to forgive.” It broke me in half to hear my name on his lips once more. Cahol held me as the tears slid down my face. He gently reached up and brushed a tear from my cheek as he said, “Little one, I loved you for many years from afar. I was blessed enough to have briefly held you in my arms. That was the happiest time of my long and lonely life. I wouldn’t take it back even if I could. Forgive yourself for what happened to me because I have never blamed you, my love.”
His hand on my cheek turned into a gentle caress and he leaned down to lightly kiss my lips. He held me tightly in his arms one last time and I knew peace for the first time in over fifty years. We kissed then, a hard and hungry kiss full of longing, desire, and sorrow. We knew that our souls didn’t have long, and we made love for the last time under the oak tree. It was everything I remembered it to be and more. “Cahol.” His name was a soft sigh on my lips as we lay there wrapped in each others arms knowing that we only had a few minutes left to us. We kissed each other softly, passionately. He said goodbye as he brushed a tear away from my eye.
“Mmmm.” I moaned as I was shaken out of my trance. I saw Aodac as I opened my eyes and I wrapped my arms around him and smiled as I exclaimed, “Aodac, he forgave me! He forgave me!” I felt so light and free as the tears fell from my cheeks so easily. I was happy for the first time in decades. Cahol had forgiven me and he had made love to me one last time. Il mio amore mi ama ancora. Il mio padrone antico, Cahol, mi ama ancora. ‘My love loves me still. My ancient owner, Cahol, loves me still.’
Aodac looked down at me with a smile on his face though it was full of sorrow; he leaned down and kissed me on the forehead. “Go home to our guest, Francesca. I will remain and see if an old friend speaks to me one last time. I’ll be home before the sun rises.” Aodac said to me.
“Aodac, you can’t. The night is nearly over. Please wait until tomorrow.” I begged of him.
“You know this is something I have to do. I will be home before the sun rises.” He repeated as he kissed my forehead once more. “I promise.”
“Alright.” I said as I left him to be with his best friend.
I waited nearly two and a half hours for Aodac to return to me. It was painfully apparent that Aodac had awoken me before I told him to come back for me; though I was not going to complain that my time with Cahol was cut shorter than it should have been. I was starting to get very worried for the sun would be up soon. I knew there was only another half hour at most before dawn broke and Aodac would be turned to dust. I wondered if Cahol would visit Aodac just as he had visited me. I wondered what Cahol might say if he did appear to Aodac. I was so lost in thought that I was startled out of my pondering when I heard the door slam shut.
I jumped off of the love seat I’d been sitting on and ran out of the salon door. Aodac stood there in the entry hall and I couldn’t help myself, the words just came out of me. “Aodac! What happened?”
“Come, we’ll talk downstairs. The sun has almost risen.” He said as he grabbed my hand and we fled down the stairs into a passageway that lead to another two flights of stairs. We stopped inside a room at the bottom of the hidden corridor. The lair he led me to was a huge bedroom. I imagined that this was the place he took me every day when the sun was in the sky and at night he would bring me up from here so that the servants could watch me as he left to feed.
I was jittery as I took a seat on the bed. I couldn’t contain myself any longer. “Please, Aodac. Tell me what happened!” I said impatiently.
Aodac turned toward me slowly with a somber look on his face. “When you left me there I sat down in the grass facing his tombstone. The weight of the years shone on my long face, and echoed in my heart. I have been weighted down with the truth all of these years. I told Cahol everything that has happened since his death. I told him of all the hurt, of all of the betrayal, and all of the suffering we have caused each other. I laid down on his grave the way I found you, and I went into this deep meditation.”
“Aodac, please tell me what happened? Did he come to you too?”
“Yes! He appeared to me!” Aodac said with great enthusiasm. “I looked at him and began to cry. I begged his forgiveness for the crimes I had committed.
He said to me, ‘Aodac, why did you do it? I knew you were mad at me for giving her what she wanted all her life, but why did you have to kill me? I loved her, Aodac. I loved her more than anything in my life. You came between us so that you could lay with my offspring. How does it feel to have what you killed for?’ His voice was quiet but I couldn’t deny his accusation.
I told him, ‘Knowing that you are the only man she will ever love hurts. She’s had my heart since she was a little girl, but she’ll never love me as she loved you. I’ll never have her heart. I killed you for her love and I lost her forever because of it.’
‘So what did killing me bring you, Aodac?’ Cahol asked me.
‘Nothing but suffering, Cahol.’ I said to him.
‘Aodac what have you thought of all of these years since my death? Are you sorry you killed me because it was wrong? Because you hurt the only woman that we both love? Because it took your friend away from you? Because your jealousy made you blind to the truth of what would happen? Because you were punished by The Council? Why? Why are you sorry for killing me? If you are sorry at all.’ He replied to me with anger in his voice.
‘There was never any reason to kill you, Cahol. I knew that I would never have her. We all knew that she would never have left you. I killed you to purge a jealousy that was the end of all three of us. I killed you so I could win her love and in the end all I won was her body. She may sleep with me, but I know that every time we lay together she wishes it was you next to her, sleeping with her, holding her, loving her. I may have her body, but I’ll never have her heart. She will always belong to you, Cahol. I killed you for nothing. Yes, I am sorry I killed you to get her. You never should have died and I was infinitely wrong to have killed you, Cahol.’ I said, crying to him.”
“What happened then?” I probed. I wanted to know if our past was at last buried with the past. Was our past finally dead?
“Ah, il mio piccolo vampiro, he said to me, ‘If you really believe that, then I can forgive you. We all deserve to put this behind us at last, but can you forgive yourself, Aodac?’
‘I can try.’ I told him sadly. I asked him to come visit you tonight. You and he can have one last night together in the flesh before he leaves forever. After tonight he will progress beyond the spirit realm and enter Heaven.”
“You mean Cahol might actually come to me soon?” I was so joyous I couldn’t contain myself. I felt hope. I threw myself into Aodac’s arms in a fierce embrace; I was overjoyed at this unexpected and selfless gesture.
“He said he would come to you at seven o’clock tonight as we awaken. You will have all night together. I called ahead and I have left strict instructions that Alan be entertained for the evening as well as instructions that you and he are not to be disturbed under any circumstances. I don’t want you to waste a minute of your time together.”
I was ecstatic at this news; I threw my arms around Aodac and kissed him deeply for the selfless act. I would have my Cahol back for one night, and for one night I would lie in his arms, hold his body next to mine, and brush my fingers through his hair. I knew bliss for the first time since Cahol had died. While it would be Aodac’s body I held that night it was Cahol’s soul, Cahol’s mind, and Cahol’s heart. I know that I slept with a smile on my face that day.
I awoke with a start when I felt hands shaking me. It was Cahol, my one and only love. I knew it was him; I felt it, saw it. The look in his eyes was unmistakable. My Cahol had returned to me. No words passed between us. Words weren’t needed. He reached down and kissed me. There was over a half a century’s worth of longing and loneliness for both of us in that kiss.
It wasn’t long before our bodies merged that night just as they had long ago. Our souls were fused into one. Our love had withstood the tests of time, pain, betrayal, distance, and we were together again even if it was only for one night. There is no scale that could have registered our passion that night. The grandness and wholeness of our sex was unmatched by all of history. Never again would I feel that complete and at peace.
His hands were a feather light caress on my face, and I knew contentment. He kissed my neck and brushed his fangs over my veins. I felt excitement course through me. I hoped he would bite me. I wanted him to bite me. I wanted this to be just like the first time we had laid together. I felt his teeth scratch the surface of my skin and I felt his tongue lick the blood that followed. I felt it then… swift and hard, I felt his teeth impale my neck and I felt his lips close over the bite. I felt him feed from me in a ravenous hunger.
He turned my lips to his and kissed me passionately before turning his neck to me and allowing me to bite him in an attempt to satisfy an age old craving. Ah, he tasted good. He actually tasted like Cahol. I was in sheer bliss the way his hands caressed my breasts, the way his fingers traced my lips, and the way his lips touched mine. I moaned, groaned, and shouted my pleasure to him. The angels wept for us that night just as they in turn rejoiced for us. I was sorry it had to end, though I knew that eventually it would. I wish that night would have lasted forever. But dawn came and brought with it a warning from Cahol as well as our sad good-byes. It was as if Cahol had died all over again and I was left to mourn anew once more. I went to sleep in the arms of my beloved Cahol and I awoke in the arms of Aodac. His smile was genuine and his kiss was tender, but my heart was in pain.
“How was your night il mio piccolo vampiro? Was your night with Cahol everything you wanted?” he asked me quietly, my answer held our future within it.
“Ah il mio dolce, my night with Cahol was the best night I’ve had in a lifetime, in my lifetime. I was sorry to see it go.” I said in a sorrowful voice.
Aodac sat down in a slightly rigid way with a tight look on his face. He never could understand me or the way I talk. “So, Cahol has won. You’ll never be mine.”
“Aodac, don’t be absurd.” I said, putting my arm around him. “I know that Cahol is gone and nothing will ever change that. Last night was a way of saying good bye to him and nothing more. He is in a place where he can watch over us and we are here, together. We are together and it’s going to stay that way, il mio amore.”
“You mean that you’ve gotten over Cahol at last? You are mine completely?” he uttered in surprise.
“Aodac, I’ll always love Cahol but I got over him a long time ago. Last night was the end of something that was abruptly halted a long time ago. It’s only you and me now, forever!” I kissed him then, without giving him a chance to respond. He didn’t protest. Why would he? After all, he had finally heard the words that he had so longed to hear; they were the words he had killed for long ago.
He started to return my kiss and he actually began to enjoy it. His hands which had been hanging limply at his sides started to find some life as he reached up to encircle my waist. His hands slid up my back and around to my breasts until they reached my shoulders and slid over my neck. His hands finally came to settle on either of my cheeks. His hands then began a slow decent back down my body until they finally settled on my waist, and Aodac pulled me tightly to him as he held me fast so that I could not move. As if I would want to move from his embrace.
“Ah Aodac, it has been far too long since I have been kissed like that.” I teased.
“Believe me, Francesca, there won’t be a need to wait so long next time.” He toyed huskily.
“Aodac, we have put our past to rest. Cahol is finally at peace.”
“Yes, il mio piccolo vampiro. Nothing will stand in the way of our happiness now.” Aodac said to me in a silky caress.
“Not quite, il mio amore. Cahol left me with a warning of one last obstacle we must overcome before we reach eternity. We must discuss this.” I told him bluntly and absolutely.
Aodac raised his eyebrows quizzically and asked me in a wary voice, “What is it? What else stands in our way?”
“Cahol’s warning to us. Cahol said that one from the past will bring our death on silent wings. He will be familiar and other, known and mystery. In the shadows he plots a revenge unknown that will not be seen until the end, and our deaths will follow revelations unmatched.” I said to Aodac.
“Francesca, what are you talking about?” He asked me in a worried voice. “Who could possibly come from our past to hurt us?”
“I think I know.” I said quietly.
“Who?” Aodac asked me again in a desperate plea that begged for understanding.
“Alan...” I whispered.
“What? I thought you were the one that liked him so much you want to seduce him.” Aodac threw at me in mild shock.
“I know I invited him to stay two nights ago, but I didn’t tell you why. Aodac, there is something strange about that boy, familiar. Don’t you feel it? It’s like he’s come from the past to haunt us. I don’t know what it is, exactly. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s like I already know him but I don’t. It’s like I’ve known him my whole life yet I have never met him. I know his voice… his movements… his face. I’ve seen it somewhere before. I didn’t tell you the other night, because I didn’t want to run the risk of being overheard, not by anyone, especially him. He’s not who he says he is, Aodac. I know it; I feel it. That’s why I came up with that story of seducing him. I wanted to keep him close until I could find out who he is, though after I heard Cahol’s warning I am less than enthusiastic about keeping him here.”
Aodac waved me into silence. “What are you talking about, Francesca? Two nights ago, all you could say was how much you wanted to seduce him and now you’re rambling about him like he’s the king of all succubus’s. What’s going on?” Aodac asked in utter astonishment.
“Did you hear me tell you Cahol’s warning? I am convinced Alan is the one Cahol spoke of.” I said sharply.
“Why?” Aodac asked me curtly.
“Things just don’t add up. Did you see how eager he was to share his life’s story with us? Hopes, wishes… family situation? Even stories his grandfather told him as a child? I have never known one person in all my life who would have said a word to two strangers that they had just met. Furthermore, did you see how quick he was to accept my invitation to stay here despite your obvious ire at the offer? Go ask any person you can find… they would all have refused such a ludicrous invitation like that in less than half a second. I have this feeling about him, Aodac. He knows us, and he wants something from us.”
“Stop!” Aodac screamed as he shook me. “You are not making any sense!”
“No, Aodac. Please listen to me. I don’t know what Alan wants from us yet but I will. He is not what he says he is. There is something not right in him; it’s almost as if he is out of balance somehow. His aura is wrong. We have to play along with him for a while; maybe we can have the servants spy on him. That is, if they are loyal. Then all we can do is wait to see if he reveals himself to us. If he doesn’t then we are going to have to force the information out of him. I want to know what game he is tempting The Fates with and why he’s drawn us into it. By all the Gods that ever lived, Aodac, he practically told us our life story last night without saying one single name in it. Did you hear him? ‘Vampires, murders, true love, revenge…’ And the omission was deliberate! I could feel it. Something is so not right here, Aodac.”
Aodac absorbed all of my words, and looked at me to see if I was serious. One look at my face assured him that I was more than serious. “What do you think he wants, Francesca?” Aodac said slowly.
“I don’t know. Who are the loyal servants in the house? Who can we trust above all others here that have access to every corner of the house and everything that happens within it?” I asked.
“Well,” Aodac said as he thought about my question, “there’s Kramer, Julie, Kevin, and Blair. They are the most loyal of the bunch and they wouldn’t say anything we don’t want them to. They know the value of discretion.”
“Who is the one that you most trust, Aodac? Above all others?”
“Kramer. Without a doubt.” Aodac said with the ring of absolute certainty in his voice.
“Good. Then I will go now to have a talk with him. He will be the one to pass my instructions on to the others. I’ll see you close to sunrise, il mio amore. I must go and feed when I am done speaking with Kramer. I can feel that my blood grows weak and lifeless.” And with that, I left.