They did keep re-filling my wine glass though. And that worked almost as well.
Given all the stress and strife I went through to get this book written, I was kind of surprised, when I sat down to write a post about it for the Samhain blog the other day, to find myself writing, "I loved writing this book." But, the truth is...I really did. I hated splitting it into two books, even though I got TWO freaking awesome covers out of the deal. I hated trying to balance two weeks of present time action with forty years of backstory. But, seeing the twins as babies? Priceless. Seeing Conrad and Damian as daddies? Also priceless. Seeing Marc and Julie begin to come into their own, stretch their wings and start to fly? Possibly the best thing ever. Until the next book comes along...
I also get some yummy new characters to torment. Really, what's better than that?
New Year’s Eve, 1969
A brooding silence settled over the room, broken only by the small, sucking noises of the children. Damian waited, biding his time, gauging his companion’s mood, finally asking, “So have you given any more thought to what you might want to name the children?”
Conrad sighed. “How is it you are not yet tired of the subject? How many times must I repeat myself? What’s the point of giving them names when it’s by no means certain they’ll live long enough to even use them?”
“Conrad,” Damian chided softly. “There’s nothing in life that’s truly certain, is there? Does that mean we should never hope for the best? How is one to live like that? What chance have we to succeed at anything if we can’t even—”
“Stop it,” Conrad growled angrily, cutting him off. “You sound like a child yourself when you talk like that. Do not speak to me of hope. It’s one of life’s cruelest jests, the most dangerous, destructive emotion that could ever exist. To live without hope is precisely what we should be attempting to do—especially at a time like this.”
Damian stared at him. “Live without hope?” How did one even survive without hope, without some faint belief that tomorrow might yet prove better than today? He’d rather kill himself. If he had to resign himself to the idea that even eternity would not be long enough to make Conrad love him again, if he had to give up his belief that, together, the two of them could accomplish anything, even this, what would be the point of even waking up on the morrow? “You can’t mean that.”
“Why should I not mean it, when doing anything else is to court disaster? How many men have clung to false hopes and so wasted their lives, holding out for a dream that was no more than a chimera—and dying miserably because they’d refused to resign themselves to the reality of their condition?”
Damian shook his head. “I have no answer for that. But I do know I’d rather count myself in their number than attempt what you’re suggesting.”
Conrad sighed. “Has it really not occurred to you, my friend, how foolish we both are for even attempting this venture? Or how infinitesimally small are our chances of succeeding with it? Not just because of the endless need for secrecy and the constant possibility we’ll be called upon to fend off attacks, perhaps even kill those we’d once thought of as friends. Merely keeping the children alive will take a miracle.”
Damian chuckled. “More like a series of miracles. I consider it quite an accomplishment we haven’t killed them already—with all the best of intentions.”
Conrad eyed him bleakly. “Do not celebrate that victory just yet. The decision to put them out of their misery might still have to be made.”
“What?” Damian felt the blood drain from his face. His pulse began to pound. He clutched the girl in his arms a little more tightly. “No. Conrad, you-you can’t. Don’t even say such things.”
“I will not allow them to suffer unduly. I tell you this now, Damian, and make no mistake for I will not change my mind. If it becomes apparent to me that our mishandling of them has gone too far, that we ourselves are endangering them or that our ignorance has caused them irreparable harm, I will have no choice but to end this…experiment.”
“Stop it.” Damian swallowed hard. He did not like where this conversation was headed. Time to return it to his original point. “I believe you may have misunderstood me, querido. I was not giving the credit for their continued survival to either of us, but to the children themselves. I believe it is their own will to live that is keeping them alive—even with all of our ‘ignorant mishandling’ of them, to use your own words. And for that valiant struggle, if for no other reason, they deserve the dignity of a name. It is far too easy otherwise to discount what they have accomplished.” It was far too easy to talk of ending them. “You owe it to them to call them something.”
Conrad didn’t answer right away. He gazed pensively at the child in his arms and Damian, with equal intensity, and more than a little fear, gazed at him. The minutes ticked steadily by. “Marcus,” Conrad murmured after a little while had passed. There was a note of finality in his tone.
Damian frowned. “What’s that?”
Conrad smiled fleetingly, a somewhat sheepish expression on his face. “Marcus Maximilian. I thought it would make a good name for my…for my ‘grandson’ here. What do you think?”
So, he did know which twin he held. Damian felt weak and almost giddy with relief. He smiled. “Bueno. I like it very much. We can call him Marc, for short.” He nodded at the girl. “What about this one?”
“I thought…Augusta, perhaps?”
Damian studied the little girl he held, still greedily attacking her meal. Poor child, she deserved to be called something far prettier than that. “It’s certainly an unusual name,” he answered diplomatically. “Especially in this day and age. But it’s not particularly modern, which might cause comment. What on earth put it in your head anyway?”
Conrad shrugged. “It was my mother’s name.”
“Was it?” Should I have known that? Damian wracked his brain in an attempt to remember, but in five hundred years, he was almost certain this was the first time he’d ever heard Conrad speak of such a thing. Perhaps this was yet another sign he was mellowing with age? “Well then, why not give it to her as a middle name? Surely that would be better, don’t you think? That way, we can call her by something that, while not as special, would be less likely to cause awkward questions as to how she came by it.”
An expression of grim amusement curled Conrad’s lips. “If you’ve another name in mind, my dear, why do you not simply tell me what it is and have done with it?”
“Are you asking for my opinion in this?” It wasn’t the first time he’d done so—not exactly, anyway—but Damian was still getting used to this new Conrad who did more than issue orders and announce decrees, who occasionally took someone else’s opinion into consideration and even asked for things as well, things like assistance, thoughts, advice.
Conrad seemed to hesitate—as though he found the concept strange as well. Finally, he shrugged and said, “Since it appears likely you’ll be using their names as much as I, it seems only fair that you at least be allowed to offer suggestions.”
“Very true. So I should be. And, that being the case…I was thinking that Juliet was a very pretty name, especially when shortened to Julie, and romantic besides.”
Conrad frowned. “I’ve never understood that. What’s so romantic about flouting your family’s traditions, defying your parents’ wishes and then killing yourself when it all goes horribly wrong—as anyone might have predicted it would?”
“Well, nothing, if you put it that way,” Damian answered crossly. “But, risking everything, or perhaps even dying for love’s sake? Is that not the essence of romanticism?” Was that not exactly what Damian was doing now? What he’d done countless times over the centuries? But perhaps Conrad didn’t see it like that. Would he ever?
“Very well.” Conrad turned his attention back to the child he was feeding. “Marc and Julie they shall be. And now at least that subject’s settled.”
****Now Comes the Night is available at the following links:
Only blood can break your heart.
Children of Night, Book 4
New Year’s Eve, 1999. The world is braced for Y2K, but that’s not the only ticking time bomb in Conrad’s life. Damian wouldn’t be the first vampire to find a way to die, but Conrad is determined he will not be one of them.
Present day. Damian struggles to trust that fate could possibly be kind enough to give him a love as perfect as Conrad’s. Conrad balances on the keen edge of his own fear that one more slip of his formidable control could drive his lover away—permanently.
Julie learns the hard way it’s not just interspecies relationships that seldom work out. Even between vampires, love is not a smooth course.
Meanwhile, intrigue and conflict within the nest continue to grow, fueled in no small part by Georgia’s slipping hold on a deadly secret. Marc works to consolidate his position as leader of the ferals—and discovers that being a walking anomaly has certain advantages. Including some that are totally unexpected.