COLE HEARD THE drumbeat, and he knew that he had been right.

The drummer boy hadn't perished in the fall. He had been found by whatever vampire or vampires had been pulling the strings since the Battle of the Wilderness. He had been assumed dead, buried alive and revived by the effects of the vampire's bite.

Cole felt Megan at his side, and he knew that her gentle touch was a warning that they were all susceptible to their emotions, and that he couldn't afford to be fooled by this.

But he didn't intend to make any mistakes. He had never promised that he would find the boy and return him to the loving arms of his parents. He had vowed that he would find the boy, yes, and then allow him to lie in peace, in the arms of God or whatever great power ruled over them all, yes. But not to live.

He looked out the window, and there was the boy. He was in the tattered remnants of his regiment's uniform, his kepi in place over dusty brown hair. He showed his youth as he just stood there, picking up a beat once again. Rat-tat. Rat-tat-tat. Stop.

He smiled, a boyish grin.

"You've been looking for me!" he called out. "I'm here. You fools. I've been looking out for you, although I did think about a bit of revenge. I mean, you all would deserve it, you know? I was a prisoner, and you teased me, and you made me cry, which was hard. I'm twelve. I wanted to be a man, and you made me cry. I wanted to be a man, and I was only a boy."

He waited, and then drummed out a beat once again.

"Come out! Look at me! I'm not broken to bits anymore. I've healed. I'm much, much better."

He looked so much like a regular child to Cole.

"Listen. This is the truth! I should have smothered, the way you all buried me so quickly. But I got out of that louse-infested shroud and dug free. Oh, come on out now. You teased me, but you liked me. I'm a good kid. I just wanted to go home to my mother. Please...come on. I'm just a kid."

Cole found himself mesmerized for a moment, watching the boy. He looked like a kid. Just like any kid. Just like dozens of boys who had been nothing but children, and yet had been drawn into the whoop and holler of the war effort, drawn to dreams of valiant victory.

A kid. He didn't even have a hint of growth of a beard on his cheeks.

"Cole," Megan whispered softly at his side.

He nodded.

The boy grinned and started tapping on his drum again.

"Come on, fellows. You said that no one could keep a beat like me. I want to be your friend again. I want to sit around while you drink your whiskey and tell your tall tales. Please, I'm well, but I'm lonely, and I'm afraid out here. There are monsters in the night, you know. Terrible monsters. I've tried so hard to hide from them."

Newcomb groaned softly.

Megan's touch on Cole tightened.

He exhaled and drew an arrow from his quiver.

He took slow and careful aim.

And he fired.

And caught the boy dead in the heart.

The boy didn't fall. He let out an unholy screeching sound and began to shake where he stood, the hands holding the drumsticks then causing an erratic and horrible beat. A pale miasma of ash and shadow formed around him.

"Jesus!" Newcomb said, and crossed himself.

Only after all that did the boy fall, and it seemed as if Cole heard a collective sigh from all those within the chapel.

There was silence then, broken at last when Dickens asked, "Should we go and get him, make sure that it's finished?"

Cole shook his head slowly. "No. They might still be there, trying to draw us out. It's almost daylight. We'll wait until then."

They eased back down at their positions. Megan slunk low next to Cole. She took his hand and smiled sadly as she looked at him. "You fulfilled your promise," she told him.

He nodded glumly.

"We'll get Father Costello over here," she said, "and he can say a service for all of the men, and it won't matter what their faith was."

He looked at her then, reached out and cradled her cheek. He wondered that she could have the blood of such monsters running in her veins, and be so deeply concerned for the well-being of others, so gentle and so tender in her outlook at life...beneath the surface, he reminded himself. And he almost smiled, thinking of the very ferocious young woman he had first met. But Cody had fought his inner demons by going to medical school-Megan had followed men onto the field of battle, not to kill, but to try to heal when she could.

But he knew then that he had uncovered much more than just her softer side. He wasn't sure how it had happened. Lust could exist at first sight, but not love. He had never known anything as sexually glorious and satisfying as sleeping with her. And he knew he loved her then. As they sat in the poor, abandoned chapel with death all around them, he knew that it had been something that had grown bit by bit, when they talked, when he had watched her move, when he had seen the beauty within her heart and her soul.

He touched her cheek, ready to say so-

"Thank God!" Newcomb's gruff voice suddenly boomed through everything, even Cole's thoughts. "The daylight is here at last. Men, we've got to divide, catch a few hours' sleep. Those things don't need rest to stay alert, but we do."

Cole squeezed Megan's hand and rose. "Quick catnaps, fellows. We're heading back down to Harpers Ferry. We haven't the manpower to fight night after night-we're going to get reinforcements. We'll catch two hours of sleep, divide up and one hour per man. Then we'll be ready to ride on down."

He walked to the door and opened it. Morning had come quickly.

He walked over to the body of the drummer boy, and he knelt down.

And he did what had to be done.

MEGAN DARED TO catch the first hour's rest, and she was surprised to wake and discover that she had slept soundly, through the entire two hours. She rose quickly, noting that Newcomb had the men packing in a manner that allowed each man to easily access certain supplies. She hurried out to find Cole.

He was standing by the horses, looking puzzled.

"What is it?" she asked him.

"The horses," he said.

"What about them?" she asked.

"All those hungry vampires out there-but they didn't attack the horses. A horse would be one really nice supply of blood."

"We're meant to take the horses," she said. "They've been left on purpose, so that we can ride out through the trails, supposedly."

He nodded. He looked back at the chapel. "When we leave here, we'll definitely be under attack in the open. But if we stay...we'll run low on supplies, low on food and low on manpower, because even if our fellows are hardened and battle weary, they'll have to have some real sleep."

She hesitated. "I can go," she told him.

He smiled, but took her by the shoulders. He brushed her lips lightly with his own, a kiss that wasn't passionate, just brief and tender. "Megan, you can't ride down by yourself. I know that you are amazing in your abilities, and I even know that a single strike wouldn't hurt you much. But they'll attack en masse, and there's no way even you could protect yourself from a horde falling upon you-none of us could."

She stiffened her shoulders, loath to point out the differences between them, and yet knowing that he was right and something must be done.

"Cole," she said quietly, earnestly, "I can move as they move. I can become shadow, and I can-I can be there before they've known that I've gone."

He winced, lowering his head.

Yes, in essence I am one of them, she thought.

He looked at her with his grimace set, and still, somehow, it seemed to catch at her throat and her heart, and hurt to the core. She didn't want to leave-she definitely didn't want to leave his side. She was so afraid that when she did so, she would never find her way back again. In fact, she realized that since she'd met Cole she hadn't even shifted out of her human form, so secretly scared she'd been-deep under the surface-that such a change would stop her return to this intriguing, wonderful man. But now that she was certain that she was more than just a physical challenge, or even a physical plaything, to him, the prospect of taking another form wasn't as terrifying.

"Cole, it's really our only hope," she told him.

He shook his head. "You have eight other men in that little chapel who would never dream of letting you go."

She turned around to head for the chapel.

"Hey, where are you going?" he called after her.

"To tell them the truth!" she yelled back over her shoulder.

"No!" He came running after her, catching her by the shoulders. "I've taught them not to give in to women or children, Megan. If they think that you're-what you are, they may fall upon you and kill you, thinking they're doing the only right thing!"

She hesitated. He had a point.

"Cole, we have to have reinforcements, or more will die," she told him.

"No. I will think of something else," he said. "I've got the men aware that our formation must be tight, and that we probably will be attacked. We'll make it," he said firmly.

"You know I'm your only chance," she whispered.

He drew her into his arms.

"Then I'll die happy with you." He released her and headed back to the chapel.

She watched him go, and it seemed that her heart had already been torn in pieces.

But it didn't matter. It couldn't matter. This time, she knew she was right.

She took her horse quickly. She had to have taken her mount, or the men would be suspicious.

She rode down the trail, listening, aware. But the attackers were watching the chapel.

Waiting for the men to move.

She left her mount near the foot of the main hill, gave the mare a slap to head her on in the direction of town, and paused, concentrating, summoning forth those feelings she'd neglected for a little while now, willing the change to take place.

When it did, she flew, and with all speed.

THE LAST OF THE SUPPLIES were gathered, with the men having checked and double-checked the position of the bows, quivers, stakes and holy water they all carried on their bodies. The packhorse was being loaded, and they were nearly ready.

That was when Cole called out for Megan, and she didn't answer.

He hurried over to Newcomb. "Where's Megan?"

Newcomb frowned, his grizzled face caught in a mask of concern and consternation. "She was with you, Cole. Last I saw her, she had awoken and was heading out to you."

Cole marched out to the burial ground, now little more than a field of dug-out dirt, hacked-up coffins and the remnants of the cremation pyre they had ignited.

"Megan!" he cried, and his voice carried on the wind, but there was no answer.

And he knew.

His fists tightened at his sides and he fell to his knees. He wasn't angry.

He was frightened.

He heard Newcomb running up behind him. "Sir! Her horse is gone."

He nodded.

"Tell the men to get back into the chapel, Terry. Megan has gone for reinforcements."

"What? She'll never make it, sir! We've got to go after her!"

"No, Terry, she's with us because she's so good. We have to give her a chance. We have to be prepared to end this thing, here, tonight."

SHE DIDN'T HEAD FOR the town itself straightaway. Instead, she went to the graveyard and landed as shadow. It was lonely and desolate: the perfect place to find her form again. There she willed herself back to look like what she had always sworn she really was.

She paused for a moment, finding her strength, because it had been a long, hard, speeding journey, especially since she hadn't fed or slept much.

But she couldn't tarry long, so she headed to the church and found Daniel making repairs to the roof with Father Costello.

Daniel saw her first, and there might have been something in the way she was walking that alarmed him. From up on the ladder he cried out and quickly came down to her. He caught her as she swooned to fall. Father Costello rushed forward, as well. They led her into the church and sat her down on a pew. "Megan! What's happened...the men, all lost?" he queried desperately.

She shook her head. "No, man is lost. And the others will be. They need reinforcements. It's a full-fledged war up there, Father, and our men are starting to run out of supplies."

"There's blood left in the cellar," Daniel told Father Costello. "I'll get it."

He left her with Father Costello. "I've done what you asked-we have a healthy supply of holy water here, and there are stakes and hammers, hatchets, swords, mallets, down with the Union garrison. We'll get word to General Bickford. It's been completely quiet since you've been gone, so he'll readily set out another troop.... But how did you get here?"

She looked into his deep, concerned eyes. "You don't want to know," she told him.

He smiled at her. "You've been safe in my church, Megan. There is nothing that will ever convince me that you are not one of the most beloved creatures of our Father."

Daniel came with a large canteen filled with blood. She drank deeply. Pig's blood. Not her favorite, but it was filled with whatever need she had for the substance.

"There's no time to waste," she said. Father Costello helped her to her feet and started to escort her on her own out the door.

"Wait!" Daniel called.

They both turned. "Daniel, they might take you as a Southern prisoner," the priest warned.

Daniel shook his head. "I'm just a mountain boy, Father. Megan found me on her way here, and I helped her to the town. It makes sense."

As the three of them went down Church Street, one of the general's aides saw them coming and rushed into the headquarters. Before they even reached the door, General Bickford was in the street, walking toward her.

"Megan! How are you here-alone?"

"I ran out, General, because I'm familiar with this type of terrain, and because, frankly, we all know the men wouldn't concede on their own to let me come. This is Daniel, from the mountain. He helped get me here." She took a moment to catch her breath. "Please, sir, it's imperative that we get men up to the heights immediately. The troop has done well, but the-the nest, the core of the clan, the real monsters-are up on the heights. They have to have help."

General Bickford looked at her gravely for just a split second before calling out an order. "Do it! We'll take twenty men-Company A-armed and out of here in a hour!" He looked at his aide. "Get Lieutenant Dawson, and get it done!"

"Yes, sir!" the man replied, and ran off to do as bidden.

"Daniel, eh?" Bickford said, looking at the young man accompanying Megan and the priest.

"Daniel Whitehall, sir, at service in this battle," Daniel said.

Megan noted that he didn't say "at your service." Bickford noted it, too, probably.

"And you know the terrain, eh?" Bickford asked.

"Like the back of my hand, sir!"

"Fine. You'll lead. You, young lady, will get into my quarters and get some rest. We'll handle it from here."

"No, please, I have to go back," she told him. "General, this is what I do!"

"Inside and upstairs, young lady, and there are no two ways about it. I'm the general, and you will take orders."

She thought about arguing; it would be useless.

She looked at Daniel, and she knew that he was aware she could easily slip out when she chose and beat them all there.

"I'll take a wagon up the road for the holy water," he said. "Father Costello has been filling vials nightly."

"Do it, son," Bickford said, and Daniel turned with Father Costello to carry out the task.

Megan left them and went to the general's quarters and up the stairs, figuring she would have to escape Lisette Annalise and Trudy Malcolm.

But neither woman was there.

She paced restlessly, watching the preparations from the window, and waiting. At last, the multitude of men, heavily armed with the unique weapons, rode out of town. She watched them go, and restlessly, she waited.

She wondered again where Lisette might be, hoping she wouldn't reappear at a most inopportune time.

Then she remembered her dream. Her dream of Lisette Annalise walking toward Cole.

And she knew that she had to hurry.

BOTH HENRY AND THE DRUMMER BOY had been removed from the clearing in front of the chapel. They rested now, a true rest, in the graveyard-albeit it in pieces.

As the first hours of the morning went by, Cole ordered the men to eat and rest the best they could. With Megan gone for reinforcements, he had taken the supplies they were going to need in from the packhorse, but filled the bags and boxes the horse carried with various pieces of ripped-up lumber from the chapel, so that whoever-or whatever-watched them would think that the troop was still preparing to move.

"When will it come, Cole?" Sergeant Newcomb asked him.

"Not for a while, I don't believe. They'll wait a few hours, thinking that we're still preparing to get down the mountain. Rest. Get all the rest that you can."

Newcomb shook his head. "Megan," he said mournfully. "She'll never make it."

"Yes, she might."

"Why did she go? Why did she risk herself so?" Newcomb demanded.

Cole answered him quietly, but with conviction. "She felt that she had to, Sergeant. She felt that she had to. And she might have been right."

The sun rose to its zenith. Noon came, and went. As it did, the men were weary enough to rest and doze at their positions.

"Anytime now," Cole began to warn them. "They'll realize that we're not leaving and there's not enough daylight left to get down the mountain. They'll come at any time."

The words were barely out of his mouth before Gerald Banter let out a cry. "From the west, from the west-they're coming!"

Megan wasn't with them to reinforce the alternate sides of the church as she had before. Cole had to trust Newcomb to take the front and hurry from window to window as the attacks came at them in swift fury. Cole used arrows as long as he could, but the enemy was coming at him far too quickly and managing to get far too close for them to suffice, no matter how swiftly he shot. He was forced to cast down the weapon, and take up with a bayonet, striking savagely and furiously again and again, all while keeping his distance. His arms ached; the bayonet attacks wounded, but didn't kill, and he had to keep both arms and hands moving at immense speeds as he plunged and cut and then made strategic use of the holy water.

The dead piled up at the windows. Others continued to use their arrows. Sometimes their arrows struck but didn't kill, and the beings would rise again and head for the windows. Sometimes Cole dared reach out to stake them, and sometimes he did not. Sometimes he used precious holy water, and sometimes he was able to stab savagely through their hearts and then quickly retreat before a counterattack came.

One flew through a window at Cole-its arm was quickly hacked off as Newcomb brought down his ax head. Cody impaled another flying creature hovering just outside the window with a stake from his right hand, and managed to catch a wounded one with a vial of holy water from the other.

After a few more tense moments, the attack ceased.

All was quiet.

"Hold, boys. Hold-and be ready," Cole said.

Another hour passed. The men were tiring, the tension of waiting adding to their exhaustion.

Newcomb gripped his arm and looked at Cole. "If they take me, if I'm...injured, you'll do what needs to be done?"

"They're not going to take you, Newcomb. We have to believe. Have faith."

Newcomb grimaced. "If you're first, I'll do you the same courtesy."

Then, he was stunned by the plaintive sound of a feminine voice at the door. "Hello! Cole, Newcomb-Dickens! What is going on here? Where is everyone?"

Cole quickly moved to look out the window. To his utter amazement, Lisette Annalise, beautiful in her riding outfit, sidesaddle atop a fine mount, was in the clearing before the chapel, her assistant, the ever-suffering Trudy Malcolm, just beyond her on a far less pretentious steed.

"Jesus, save me!" Newcomb muttered. "In the midst of all this, that woman makes it up to the mount? Is she insane?"

Newcomb started toward the door. Cole caught his arm. The other men were rising, Dickens among them. He came forward quickly. "Sir, we've got to get her in here, quickly! Those things could come back at any time. And she can shoot-I've seen her. She's here now, we've got to get her in and tell her the score!"

"No, stop! I'll go out to cover them, and if anything happens, you men get the door shut and barred again, and pray that more men get here!" Cole commanded.

Newcomb pulled the pew-bolt from the door and Cole opened it. He waited for Lisette to dismount and come to the door.

"Cole Granger, what is the matter with you? I've come up here, and you don't even come out to assist a lady? Good Lord, you boys need all the smart help you can get, and this is how you behave?"

Cole didn't answer. He pulled a vial of holy water from his inner coat pocket and threw it into Lisette's face.

IT HAD SEEMED a greater effort to change again, but it was an even greater effort to move through the air. But Megan was determined, and desperate.

The men had all been warned. Cole had been warned. And yet they all knew Lisette well, and that she had come at the command of the Pinkerton Agency-and Pinkerton often worked directly through the White House-so they would never have suspected that she could be the demon moving so easily among them.

Megan was exhausted. She could barely will herself through the air, barely concentrate to create the shadow wings needed to propel herself faster. She didn't see the troops, and she didn't know how long the journey was taking her now, only that the landscape was moving by far too slowly.

At last, she passed the troops making their way in haste.

And after what felt like an eternity later, she saw the chapel before her.

She might be too late.


At least, nothing that he expected happened.

Lisette stood there, sputtering, staring at Cole with incredulous indignation. "Cole Granger, what on earth is the matter with you? You may be a sheriff in Texas, but I swear, I'll see your ears pinned to your head in D.C.! Lord Almighty, what are men coming to?" she demanded belligerently.

Cole stared at her blankly.

Dickens went running by him, ready to make amends. "Miss Annalise, forgive him, we've just been through hell up here-hell, I do mean hell!" he told her. "You come right on in and I'll get you a cloth to dry your face, dear lady. Oh, Miss Malcolm, you come right in, too, please!"

"Cole Granger!" Lisette said furiously. She had dismounted and stood near the door. Trudy was still on her horse, shocked and waiting.

"Something is not right," Cole said, staring at her.

"You idiot bastard!" she said. "Trudy, get down here and let's get in. I don't believe this! Cole Granger, I'm warning you-"

"We've got to get in!" Dickens warned. "This isn't the time. Please, please, all of you! Trudy, come, please!"

"Something is not right," Cole said again.

"Dickens is right, damn it, move!" Lisette ordered haughtily.

But Cole stood there, wary, still staring at Lisette, and Lisette staring back at him with indignation and fury.

"Hurry!" Dickens urged. "Trudy, please, come!"

Trudy dismounted, clearly made meek and disturbed by the situation as she moved to join them. She looked uneasily from Cole to Lisette.

"All right, yes, let's get in!" Lisette said.

Dickens started toward Trudy, wanting to hurriedly get her inside while Cole dealt with the wrathful Lisette.

But it was then-as Cole stood, jaw locked, his peripheral vision on the sky as he wondered how he could be wrong-that the truth began to dawn on him.

"No!" he said, turning to catch Trudy Malcolm.

She'd been with the vampire child, Betsy, alone, and the child hadn't hurt her but gone straight for Megan. Lisette had searched her assistant, but she wouldn't have shown signs of a bite-because Trudy had been bitten long, long ago.

It was amazing how the woman could change so quickly, and so entirely. Suddenly, she wasn't stooped. She wasn't frumpy, and she wasn't downtrodden. She was tall and her eyes bore a malicious light of pleasure, cruelty and brutality.

Cole couldn't stop her. Trudy burst past Lisette, slamming Newcomb with a backhanded swipe that sent him flying across the chapel. "Trudy, how dare you!" Lisette cried. "Oh!" she gasped, seeing the true picture in a moment of sick realization. The chapel door was open, and the sky came alight then with winged shadow creatures, all of them trying to force their way into the small church.

"Get down!" Cole shouted to Lisette, and she dropped to the ground, covering her head, as though that might help when the hungry came for her.

Trudy Malcolm, having worn the best mask possible, was now in the chapel in her true form-powerful and potent and clearing the way for more of the creatures to enter. Cole took up a position at the doorway, trying to stop the onslaught. One of the dark animals nearly landed on Lisette, but he was able to stop the creature with holy water. He raced to the horses, grabbing a cavalry sword from a saddle holster, and raced back into the fray, believing that slicing through the frenzy around him would stop the onslaught enough to give the others a chance.

But, apparently, Trudy Malcolm was set on bringing him down first. She burst out of the chapel in a cloud of black-winged fury, and she lit on the ground just feet away from him. "Ah, there he is! The great Texas lawman, dabbling his feet in Union waters. It's a pity I can't just let someone hang you as a traitor."

"Are you fighting for the South?" Cole asked her, weighing his chances as they circled one another.

"Me? Not particularly. Smart boy-I was pretty sure you had it all figured out. But you seemed to think it had something to do with Megan, that pathetic creature. I saw how your mind was working. No, no, you've missed what I would think is obvious. The country is busy killing itself. I'm just adding to the death toll, letting the fevered feed on the fevered, that's all. Eventually, it will be all one country again-my country."

"That's insane. What do you want with a country?" he asked her.

"The history of all empires is building a feeding ground," she said. "You killed the girl, and the little drummer boy. They were the beginning of my family, but that's all right, you see. I'll just pick and choose better and create the world I want to live in. It will still take some time, Cole, but I'm up to the task. And in the meanwhile I'll be-I've been-so amused, watching the way men kill men. Seriously, how can you think of me as a beast?"

"Because the men who die believe in a greater cause, Trudy. It's tragic, but they fight for what they believe in. You kill for yourself," Cole told her.

"Oh, you are going to be delicious!" She paused for a moment, pouting. "Where is your delightful little girlfriend, Cole? I had imagined pinning her down first, and letting her see how a real woman handles a real man!" She laughed.

"Megan isn't here. You can't touch her."

"No matter. I'll just let her see the remains of what I can do!"

She lifted off the ground, fangs bared, ready for him. He splashed a vial of holy water at her, giving her pause-but just pause. "I'm stronger than that, big boy!" she said, though her face had been punctuated by some pockmarks. "But you really are making me angry, Cole. And when I'm angry, I can make it very slow and very painful!"

She pounced again. This time he raised his sword, not at all sure if even injuring her would suffice, but ready to fight until his last breath.

But she never reached him.

Something burst from the sky and caught Trudy Malcolm midair. They flew several feet together and then landed as a clump of rolling bodies just feet away from him. Dust rose, and for a just moment Cole couldn't see a thing.

But he knew Megan had come back. Megan had taken Trudy and was rolling with her in a death grip. When Trudy's jaws opened impossibly wide and he saw the length of the fangs she lowered toward Megan, he burst into a run, wrenching Trudy from her with all his strength and tossing her a good five feet off. Megan, weakened, staggered up.

Trudy herself rose, a cry of fury escaping her mouth to shake the very trees. She looked from him to Megan, and decided to finish Megan first.

There was no choice: Cole flew on top of Megan, forcing them both into a roll. Trudy hit the dirt just feet away from them but swiftly recovered. This time, her pocked face was covered with dirt, and with her spitting and screaming again-a sound more terrible than that of a banshee in the night, or the howl of a thousand wolves. Trudy was a terrifying sight to behold.

For an instant, Cole caught Megan's eyes. Saw the way she looked at him. And he whispered swiftly, "I love you."

Then he braced his core, because Trudy was coming again, and he didn't know if their combined strength or the vial of holy water he uncorked with his teeth could even give her pause in light of her torrid frenzy. He braced...

But the vampire never touched them. Something, a greater shadow, huge and winged and somehow beautiful, came and swept the woman away. The two conjoined shadows blew past then and went tumbling into a mound of ash in the cemetery.

Something else swept by him; the battle was still on. Yet more creatures emerged from the trees, though perhaps less than in previous waves. From his prone position, Cole launched the holy water vial at the creature nearest him and watched it go down in whirl of screams and cinders. He jumped to his feet, reaching down for Megan, drawing her behind his back and pulling out his cavalry sword all in one continuous motion.

But nothing else came at them.

Newcomb staggered from the chapel. He leaned heavily against the door frame. "It's done. I think it's done."

"No, no, be on guard, there will be more!" Cole cried to him. Megan had moved from behind him. He turned to see that she was staring at the graveyard. A winged shadow was rising from the ash.

It didn't turn toward them. Instead, it soared high into the sky and disappeared over the trees.

Megan started running toward the ash. Cole ran after her. When she slowed to a stop he came around by her side.

What remained of Trudy Malcolm lay at their feet. Her head had been wrenched from her body and lay at an awkward angle. Her limbs were still twitching, but as they did so, they seemed to ooze and then blacken, and the flesh turned to powder, which the breeze picked up and blew into the distance. Soon they were staring at nothing but disarticulated bones.

He heard the sound of hoofbeats. General Bickford and his reinforcements had arrived and their fresh bows launched arrows into what was left of the straggling, frenzied creatures still flying about.

IN THE AFTERMATH, the world consisted entirely of silence.

Then General Bickford dismounted, shouting orders. Cleanup had begun, and Cole knew that neither he nor Megan were required to do anything more. She slumped into his arms, and he lifted her off her feet, cradling her against him. They had done what they needed to.

She looked up, her eyes wide, a curious smile on her lips. "It was my father, Cole. I know it was my father."

He didn't want to argue with her. God knows, she might be right.

"Maybe," he said.

Her smile deepened, and then she frowned. "What did you say to me?" she asked him.

"I said 'maybe.'"

"Before that."

He arched an eyebrow. He felt a grin tugging at his lips. "Oh, before."

"Yes, before."

"I said, I love you."


"Yes, really," he told her gravely.

She found the strength to thread her fingers through his hair and pull his head down.

And kiss him.

TELEGRAPH WIRES SENT an official report to Washington that the strange "guerilla" attacks on Harpers Ferry had been put down.

Cole made sure that it carried the information that a certain drummer boy, a Confederate drummer boy, had been laid to his rest and had received full burial rights.

Megan stood at the window in their lodging house, watching the street and waiting for Cole's return. He and a number of officers-and Lisette Annalise-had been sequestered with General Bickford while the goings-on of the episode were completely reported.

She looked at her hand, and she marveled at the plain gold ring on her finger. Cole hadn't had diamonds or jewels, but she hadn't wanted them. She still couldn't believe that he loved her so deeply, no matter what she was, no matter what her background, no matter the lives they had led or all that they had been through. It was humbling to think of how she was loved, and how deeply she loved in return.

Their ceremony at the church had been very simple, presided over by Father Costello, with Mary-Anne Weatherly standing by as her witness and Sergeant Newcomb standing by Cole. They had toyed with the idea of waiting until Cody and Alex could have been with them, but they knew that the two would understand.

They were living in perilous times. A time of war, and in such a world, every moment of peace was precious.

Her eye drawn back to the street below, she noticed a man on the sidewalk. He wore a handsome top hat, a long coat and carried a smart walking stick. She was curious, thinking that she hadn't noticed him in the town before.

He looked up. His face was caught in the moonlight, and she held her breath, staring back down at him.

It was Cody, but it wasn't Cody.

It was Cody as he might look in another ten or twenty years.

It was her father.

She froze there; she wanted to run down the stairs and into his arms.

He lifted a hand, and he blew her a kiss.

She turned from the window and raced across the hall, then down the stairs and out onto the street. She searched up and down, but he wasn't there.

Turning, she crashed into Cole.

"What are you doing?" he asked her.

"He was here, he was here! My father. It was my father. I saw his face. He's like Cody, Cole, so much like him, just older. Cole, I swear it was him."

Cole looked around them. "He's gone now."

"Why? Why did he see me and leave?" she whispered.

Cole lifted her chin. "Maybe he'll come to you when the time is right, Megan. When war is over. Or maybe he still feels that he has his own war to fight. God knows, maybe we've taken but one monster here, while others still wreak havoc elsewhere."

She looked at him and nodded at last.

"I really wanted to see that man," she said.

"Will this man do?" he asked her, a slow grin curving into his features.

"If he's mine for the night."

He swept her off her feet. "He's all yours. For the night, and forever," he told her.

"You've already carried me over the threshold. And I'm feeling quite well and strong."

"I hope so," he said.

"I don't want you huffing and puffing once we're up the stairs," she told him.

To his credit, he managed not to huff or puff a bit as he stood her up before the hearth-and their bed that remained a pile of pillows and sheets and quilts on the floor.

They looked at each other and smiled. And then they were in one another's arms, and clothing was flying and ripping, and they laughed all the while.

Soon they were down on the floor, and they made love tenderly, feverishly and tenderly again. And then, when they lay together, just looking at one another, she said, "You saved my life."

"You saved my life," he told her.

"No, you saved mine."

"You saved mine."

She laughed, remembering when the argument had gone the other way.

She touched his cheek tenderly.

"But you saved my soul," she told him. "Beat that!"

"You are my soul," he told her, and he kissed her again.