Read As Twilight Falls Online

Authors: Amanda Ashley

As Twilight Falls (6 page)

BOOK: As Twilight Falls
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“Where do you sleep?”
“That’s something you don’t need to know.”
“How did you get in my house? I was told none of the vampires could come in without an invitation.”
“I don’t need an invitation. The town—and everything in it—belongs to me.”
And she was part of “everything.”
“My car is out back. Go get your things. You won’t be going back to Vaughan’s house again.”
“But . . .” She glanced out the window. It was dark as pitch outside.
“No one will bother you.”
She lifted a hand to her neck. “My scarf . . .” Without it, she would be vulnerable.
“You no longer need it. My scent is on you now. No one will touch you on pain of death.” He withdrew a key from his pocket and handed it to her. “You might want to stop at the store and purchase a few groceries and whatever else you need. Just tell the clerk you’re with me now.”
Too overwhelmed to speak, Kadie nodded, then hurried out of the house, anxious to be away from Rylan Saintcrow and the conflicting emotions he aroused in her.
Outside, she took a deep breath. She had a feeling that living with Saintcrow was going to be like living with the Prince of Darkness. She had his protection, but she was afraid it might come at the cost of her soul.
 
 
It didn’t take long for Kadie to pack up her few belongings. Still, she was in no hurry to return to Saintcrow, so she lingered in the house, alternately sitting on the sofa staring into the fireplace, and pacing the floor.
After an hour and a half, she climbed behind the wheel of Saintcrow’s silver ZR1 Corvette and drove to the store. She didn’t know much about cars, but she recalled seeing an ad for a car like this one in a magazine. If she remembered correctly, it cost over $100,000.00. How would a vampire come to have so much money?
Of course, she thought, he probably took it from those who came here. The humans had little need for cash in this bizarre place. Or maybe, being a vampire, he just took what he wanted and killed anyone who objected. She shook her head. He was over nine hundred years old. Even a small savings account would acquire a lot of interest in that amount of time.
She was turning onto Main Street when she made a hard right and headed toward the bridge. She was driving the head bloodsucker’s car. Maybe it could bypass whatever spell prevented her from leaving. It was certainly worth a try.
Hands gripping the wheel, she held her breath as she drove across the wooden expanse, but then uttered a very unladylike curse word when the car stopped a few feet short of her goal.
Expelling an aggravated sigh, she backed up and drove to the store, wondering what Mr. Rylan Saintcrow would do if she deliberately drove his luxury automobile into a brick wall.
Later, while pushing her cart up and down the aisles, she wondered why he even had a car, since vampires seemed to be able to whisk themselves wherever they wished to be.
She was standing in the bread aisle, trying to decide between white, whole wheat, or potato, when a sudden tension in the air warned her she was no longer alone. She didn’t have to turn around to know that Saintcrow was standing behind her.
“Finding everything you need?” he asked.
“Not really.”
“If there are things you want, all you need to do is make a list and I’ll see that you get them.”
“Is that so?” She turned to face him, and wished she hadn’t. She had forgotten how tall and broad he was. How intimidating. But she refused to be cowed. “Who do you think you are—Santa Claus?”
He laughed—a deep, masculine chuckle that made her toes curl.
Annoyed by his amusement, she moved to the next aisle, all too aware that he was following her.
When they passed the liquor aisle, he added several bottles of red wine to the cart.
“I don’t like wine,” she said curtly.
“I do.”
His nearness made her nervous. Deciding she would do her shopping during the day in the future, she headed for the checkout line.
Apparently Saintcrow made everyone nervous. The woman at the cash register refused to look at him or at Kadie. The bag boy kept dropping things. The checker handed her a receipt.
Saintcrow picked up the bags and followed her out to the car.
“You didn’t pay for anything,” Kadie said while he loaded her groceries into the trunk. “Why not?”
“No one here pays for anything.”
“Then why bother with receipts, or checkers or bag boys and cash registers?”
“The computer keeps track of what’s ‘bought’ so we know what to restock. As for the rest . . .” He shrugged. “It makes the humans feel more at home if we keep things the way they’re used to.” He shut the trunk and opened the passenger door for her.
After a moment’s hesitation, Kadie got into the car. She was living in The Twilight Zone, she thought as Saintcrow slid behind the wheel. No doubt about it.
When they reached the stone house, he carried the grocery bags and her suitcase into the kitchen, then stood in the doorway while she put the groceries away. The appliances were all state of the art. There were dishes in the glass-fronted cupboard, a set of stainless-steel utensils in the drawer. Since he had no use for the stove or the refrigerator or anything else, she supposed he kept all of it for his human slaves.
“Slaves? That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think?” He’d never thought of it like that. True, most of the residents would rather not be here, but they had stopped asking for their freedom. After all, life here wasn’t that bad. The people lived in nice houses. They had enough to eat, stores to shop in, a movie theater, a park, and a swimming pool. The ones who wanted to work had jobs. Hell, they were a lot better off than most of the people living in the outside world these days. They didn’t have to worry about the high price of living or anything else.
Startled, Kadie whirled around. “How did you know what I was thinking?”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “Don’t you know?”
Grimacing, she put away the last of her groceries. She would have no secrets from him, she thought irritably. No privacy at all.
Sweeping past Saintcrow, she ran up the stairs, entered the first bedroom at the top of the landing, and slammed the door.
The sound of Saintcrow’s amused laughter followed her all the way.
Chapter 7
Needing some semblance of reality, Kadie went to visit Marti first thing in the morning. Marti hugged her as soon as she entered the house.
“Oh, you poor thing!” Marti exclaimed. “Is there anything I can do?”
“You heard?” Kadie asked.
“It was all over town this morning, how Vaughan let Saintcrow take you without a fight.”
“But how did it get around so fast?”
“Vaughan told Pauline. Of course he didn’t say it right out like that. And Pauline passed the word. Let’s talk in the kitchen. Rosemary is here. I just made a pot of coffee. Judging from the circles under your eyes, you look like you could use a cup.”
“You’re right about that,” Kadie said, trailing Marti into the kitchen.
“Kadie, we heard all about it,” Rosemary said with a sympathetic smile.
Kadie nodded as she took the seat across from Rosemary. Morgan Creek might not have a morning paper but that didn’t keep people from knowing the latest news.
Marti set another mug on the table, filled all three cups, then sat down. “So, what’s he like?” she asked, cutting right to the chase.
Stalling for time, Kadie added sugar and cream to her coffee. What was he like? “I really have no idea,” she said at last. “He seems nice enough on the surface, I guess.”
“Nice!” Rosemary rolled her eyes. “He’s a killer. They’re all killers.”
“Maybe you’ve misjudged him,” Kadie suggested. “I mean, I asked him outright if he was going to kill me. . . .”
“You what?” Marti shook her head in disbelief. “What did he say?”
“He said I wasn’t in any danger.”
“And you believed him?” Rosemary asked.
Kadie stared into her coffee cup. “I have to,” she said quietly. She had to believe him. It was the only way she could get through the days ahead without going crazy with fear. “He let me drive his car to the store last night. Told me to buy whatever I needed, and then he showed up and followed me to the checkout line.” She shook her head. “It was all so . . . so . . . I don’t know. Bizarre.”
Rosemary and Marti both sat back, their expressions thoughtful.
“He’s probably just lulling you into a false sense of security,” Rosemary remarked. “They’re all monsters.”
Kadie nodded, remembering that Saintcrow hadn’t denied it when she accused vampires of killing humans. What had he said?
It is, indeed
.
“You’re not wearing your scarf,” Marti observed.
“I know. He said I didn’t need it, that none of the other vampires would dare touch me now, on pain of death.”
“I wonder why he keeps the other ones here.” Marti glanced at Rosemary. “Do you know? You’ve been here the longest.”
Rosemary shrugged. “I have no idea. Maybe he just wants the company of his own kind.”
Marti snorted. “I never thought of vampires as being social creatures.”
“Me, either,” Kadie said. “But then, until I came here, I never thought of them at all.”
Marti and Rosemary both looked at her, and then, to Kadie’s surprise, they burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Kadie asked.
“Nothing,” Marti said, wiping tears from her eyes. “It’s just that we’ve all said that very thing at one time or another.”
Rosemary nodded. “Welcome to Morgan Creek, Kadie. You’re truly one of us now.”
One of them.
It was a sobering thought and yet, to Kadie’s amazement, it gave her a surprisingly unexpected sense of camaraderie.
“How long have you been here, Rosemary?” she asked.
“About twenty years, as near as I can figure.”
“Twenty years,” Kadie exclaimed softly. A lifetime of memories lost, she thought, thinking of all the birthdays, holidays, and graduations Rosemary had missed. Never knowing if her sons had married, if she had grandchildren, great-grandchildren. It was so unfair.
Kadie frowned thoughtfully. Rosemary was certain the vampires were killers, but if the vampires intended to kill the inhabitants of Morgan Creek, they certainly didn’t seem to be in any hurry.
“It seems much longer,” Rosemary said. “There’s nothing to look forward to here, no reason to live.”
Kadie murmured, “I’m sorry,” because she couldn’t think of anything else to say. The utter hopelessness in Rosemary’s voice, the stark defeat in her eyes, tugged at Kadie’s heart. “How did you get here?”
“Just stumbled into the place, the same as everyone else,” Rosemary said. “We were on vacation. My husband and my four teenage sons had gone fishing. If only I’d gone with them! Instead, I decided to do a little sightseeing. I ended up here.” She blinked rapidly, but not before Kadie saw her tears. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Of course you don’t,” Kadie said sympathetically. She sipped her coffee. It was hot and strong. She tried to think of a topic of conversation that was safe, but in the end, she asked the question that was uppermost in her mind. “Do either of you know anything about Saintcrow that you can tell me?”
Marti shook her head. “He’s a mystery to all of us.”
“In all the time I’ve been here, I’ve never seen him,” Rosemary said. “The other vampires don’t talk about him.”
“The only thing I know is that he rode with King Richard in the Crusades,” Kadie said.
“Did he tell you that?” Rosemary asked.
“No, Vaughan told me.”
“That’s so hard to believe.” Marti looked bewildered. “Are you sure he didn’t make that up?”
“I guess he could have,” Kadie replied with a shrug. “But why would he?”
“Who knows why they do anything they do?” Rosemary’s voice was tinged with bitterness. “They’re vampires.”
It explained everything.
And nothing.
“Tell us about yourself, Kadie,” Marti said.
“There’s not much to tell,” she said wistfully. “I’m a freelance photographer and writer. I live in California with my folks and my younger sister, Kathy. She’s very ill, but none of the specialists she’s seen can diagnose the disease.” Kadie bit down on her lower lip, blinking rapidly to keep her tears at bay. “I’ve got to get home before it’s too late.”
It was midafternoon when Kadie took her leave. Reluctant to return to Saintcrow’s house, she walked the few blocks to Main Street, her mind replaying the conversation she’d had with the women. She had a lot to learn about vampires and life in Morgan Creek. It seemed Marti and Rosemary had given up any hope of escape, Kadie mused, but she never would. There had to be a way out of here. There just had to be!
And what if there isn’t?
queried a little voice in the back of her mind.
What then?
At loose ends, Kadie decided to check out the movie theater. She was surprised to discover there were four auditoriums, all playing different movies. She was a little disappointed that she had already seen them all, but she frequently saw movies she liked more than once.
There was no charge, of course, no one to take tickets, but Leslie and Chelsea were behind the concession counter, handing out popcorn, candy, and soft drinks.
“Hi, Kadie,” Leslie said cheerfully. “What’ll you have?”
“Popcorn and a root beer, please.”
“Coming right up,” Chelsea said.
Leslie leaned her elbows on the counter. “So, have you settled in yet?”
“I guess so.”
“I hear you belong to Saintcrow now.”
“I don’t belong to anybody!” Kadie exclaimed indignantly, then quickly apologized for her outburst.
“It’s all right,” Leslie said. “We all get frustrated now and then.”
“Do you two work here every day?” Kadie asked.
“We all take turns,” Chelsea replied, handing Kadie a bag of popcorn and a large soda. “It helps to pass the time.”
Nodding, Kadie thanked the women for their help, then went into the first auditorium. No one else was there.
The movie had been playing about twenty minutes when a man entered the auditorium. He glanced around, then took a seat in Kadie’s row, leaving one seat between them.
“I’m Carl Freeman,” he said, his voice gruff. “You must be Kadie Andrews.” He didn’t bother to whisper, since they were the only two in the place.
“Pleased to meet you,” Kadie said.
He gestured at the screen. “This is a good one. Have you seen it?”
“Yes, back home.”
“Where’s home?”
“Morro Bay.”
He nodded. “Pretty country down there. I’m from L.A.” He grinned wryly. “Hard to believe anyone could miss the smog and the congested freeways, but I sure do.”
“What did you do there?”
“I was a draftsman for a successful firm.”
“How long have you been here?”
“I don’t know, it’s hard to keep track of time. Five years, maybe six. What difference does it make?”
Kadie nodded. His voice held the same note of despair as Rosemary’s. “I’ve only met a few men who aren’t vampires.”
“We’re few and far between.”
“I was told there’s a female vampire here. Have you met her?”
“Oh, yeah. Her name’s Lilith. She’s as ugly as sin and meaner than hell. She prefers to feed on men and, lucky me, I’ve become her private stock.” He stared at the screen for a few minutes, his hands clenching around the scarf at his neck. “I tried to get one of the others to kill me, but they won’t do it. I can’t blame them. They’re afraid of repercussions, I guess.” He looked at Kadie intently. “I don’t suppose you’d . . . ?”
“No,” Kadie said quickly, horrified by the mere thought of taking a life. “Don’t even ask.”
He sank back in his seat, fidgeted a few minutes, then got up and left.
Kadie stared after him. Had his only reason for coming in here been to find out if she’d put him out of his misery?
 
 
It was dark when Kadie left the theater. Caught up in the misery of others, she paid little attention to her surroundings as she left Main Street. Earlier, with the sun shining brightly, she hadn’t realized just how long a walk it was from Saintcrow’s house to town. Now, strolling along the quiet, shadowy streets, she wished she had taken his car.
She had never been afraid of the dark, but then, she had never lived in a town full of vampires before. She jumped as a cat ran across her path. She told herself there was nothing to worry about. She was perfectly safe. Still, she was almost running when a man stepped out of the shadows to block her way.
She came to an abrupt halt, her heart pounding like that of a rabbit’s caught in the jaws of a fox.
He didn’t say anything, just stared at her. And then, before she even saw him move, he was on her, one arm holding her close while he sniffed her hair and skin. She opened her mouth to scream, but there was no need.
Muttering an oath, he pushed her away, then disappeared into the darkness.
My scent is on you now. No one will touch you on pain of death.
She heard the words in her mind as clearly as if Saintcrow was standing beside her.
He was waiting for her in the living room when she entered the house. Dressed in black jeans and a gray T-shirt, he might have been an ordinary man but for the power that radiated from him like heat from a furnace. His hooded gaze swept over her, his nostrils flaring like a wolf scenting its prey.
She stood in the doorway, uncertain of what to do or say.
He crossed his arms over his chest. “Did you enjoy your day?”
Kadie shrugged. “Not really.”
“Did you enjoy your visit with Rosemary and Marti?”
“How do you know about that?”
“I know everything that happens in my town. You’ve been to the movies. You ate popcorn and drank a soda. You talked to Carl. He’s still looking for someone to end his life. Quinn accosted you on your way here.”
Kadie fisted her hands on her hips. “Why do you bother to ask about my day if you already know everything that happened?”
“Conversation brings people closer together.”
“Maybe, but you’re not people,” she said flippantly, then swept past him on her way to the kitchen.
She decided on breakfast for dinner. Two slices of French toast, a couple of sausages, a glass of orange juice, a cup of coffee. It was quick and easy.
She refused to acknowledge Saintcrow, who stood in the doorway, one shoulder braced against the jamb, his arms folded over his impressive chest.
She carried everything to the table, sat with her back to him, and picked up her fork. She could feel the weight of his gaze on her back, knew he was watching her every move.
She tensed when he pushed away from the doorway and dropped into the seat across from hers.
“Tell me about yourself,” he said.
“ No.”
He lifted one brow. “No?”
“Is something wrong with your hearing?”
“Is this how you want it to be between us?” he asked darkly.
“There is no ‘us,’” she retorted. “There’s you and there’s me. I can’t fight you. I can’t escape, but I don’t have to like you, or talk to you.”
BOOK: As Twilight Falls
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