In the Dark
Children of Night, Book 1
Available at Entangled Publishing!
San Francisco, California
Saturday, November 1, 1969
When you live forever, you're bound to make a few mistakes. It goes with the territory, especially if you're still partly human. To err is human--isn't that how the saying goes? It doesn't matter how old or how careful or how intelligent you are, every now and then there's going to be something you fail to take into account. It's inevitable. There's really very little in this world more prone to miscalculation than the human heart...or even the mostly human heart.
It wasn't that Conrad thought himself immune to such failings, but, after eleven hundred years, he had grown a little complacent. What miscalculations were left for him to make? He thought he'd seen it all--everything new and old under the sun--life, death, comedy, tragedy, the rise and fall of civilizations; all the glory and depredation of which humankind is capable. But he hadn't ever seen anything like Suzanne Marie Fischer. Lovely. Desperate. Dying.
Suzanne, or Desert Rose as she was calling herself then, had been living on the streets of San Francisco when he met her. A petite, free-spirited, dark-eyed waif, she was only one of countless, teenage runaways drawn to the city by Scott McKenzie's lyrics in the waning days of the 1960s.
She wasn't the first pretty girl ever to cross Conrad's path, during the course of his long life, and even he knew she wasn't likely to be the last. All the same, he fell for her the way old men have always fallen for pretty girls: hard. He was blinded by his feelings for her; by his lust, his love, his passion, his need. Call it what you will. He was rendered thoughtless, selfish, reckless, ruthless. And so he came to make what was probably the biggest mistake of his life.
"My baby?" Suzanne gasped the last time he saw her; her agony apparent, determination blazing in her eyes.
Conrad stared at her in horror; the woman he'd loved. The woman he'd killed. He had no idea how it was she could still talk, or even breathe. Certainly her heart was no longer beating. If it was he'd have heard it.
"Babies," he replied, automatically. "You had twins. A boy and a girl. They're...fine." For now.
"Take them," she murmured, her voice even fainter than before. "Safer. With...you."
"Suzanne..." He was still staring helplessly, thinking hard. There had to be something he could do, something he could try, something to-- "What?"
Them. Her babies. The children who should not have been--who could not have been--born But were. Conrad roused himself from his own feelings--from his grief, his confusion, his pain, his loss—long enough to consider hers. He met her gaze and nodded. "I will, I promise. I'll protect them with my life. Forever."
Suzanne seemed satisfied, but then the fire went out in her eyes leaving only the pain. "Hurts," she whimpered weakly. "Kill...me."
But even if Conrad could have brought himself to honor this final request, he knew there was no need. As her eyes closed and she slipped away from him for the very last time, he gazed at her sorrowfully and answered very softly, "I already have."