“Listen!” Jack said suddenly.
The pub television had late-night news on. The big story of the evening was the cemetery fire set by a gang of kids. They knew it had been set—they weren’t sure yet how or when or even what kind of fuel had been used, but the tomb had been sabotaged with an inflammatory substance prior to the fire’s being set.
They all stared at Lucian.
“I still haven’t found the talisman. I think it’s in the tomb, but...” He shrugged. “I knew she had to be burned, but they had Jade, so I had to play it very carefully. And then, suddenly, you were all in there.”
“But she’s gone now, right?” Shanna said.
“Yes, she’s gone.”
They were all so wound up, they couldn’t sleep. It was very, very late, nearly daylight when they returned to the hotel.
They hugged and kissed as they said good night.
And then Jade was alone with Lucian.
“Will you be with me in the morning?” she asked.
“Tomorrow morning, yes,” he said, and that had to be enough.
She didn’t care.
“I would be with you anywhere, you know,” she said very softly. “I’d sleep in the dirt with you, in a coffin, among the dead. You can seriously bite my neck anytime.” He kissed her gently.
“That’s a very serious decision.”
“The way I feel about you is very seriously love,” she told him.
But he shook his head and told her ruefully, “The way I feel about you is very seriously love. So ...”
“We’ll wait. There are things you have to know.”
“Maybe there’s a way out. I mean, Maggie was a vampire, until Sean ...”
“I’m not sure, Jade, that I can give up what I am. Not now. Not until I’m certain. Jade, I never actually found the talisman. And I can keep a certain power and order and sanity....”
“I love you.”
He smiled. “Do you? Really? Can you really?”
“Yes.” She studied his face. “I don’t believe that I’m your Igrainia come back. I really don’t, Lucian. I’m Jade. Do you really love me—Jade?”
He touched her cheek. “I love you— Jade.”
She leaned her head against him. He stroked her hair.
“We have come through the fire.”
Jade hesitated. She felt slightly ... different.
She didn’t know if it meant anything or not.
Sometime in the night, he would know. He would see the tiny puncture wounds in her throat, left by Darian when he touched her in the crypt.
In the morning Jade phoned home as soon as she woke up. She heard a female voice at the other end.
“Yes, Jade? I can hear you perfectly. Is everything all right?” Maggie asked anxiously.
Jade was still in bed. Lucian lay behind her. He wound his arms around her.
“Fine. I’m worried about you all there. My dad, Liz ...”
“They’re fine. Liz is doing very well.”
“And the twins are there?”
“Yep. My Barney and Pokemon tapes are about worn out. Everything is fine here, really fine.”
“Thank God. Thank God. Maggie, please, tell ... Dad and Liz that we love them, and that we’re fine.
And tell Jamie for me . ..”
“Tell him we’ve gotten rid of the bad cable man.”
Lucian’s arms tightened around her. He took the receiver from her. “Hey, Maggie. Everything is really, really all right. The old cable guy is gone, the bogeyman is dead. We’re all right. We’ll see you soon.” He was silent a minute. “And thanks, Maggie. Thanks for everything.” He hung up the phone.
And he looked at Jade. And his finger ran down her throat. His eyes were coals, shielded, so dark. “I’m sorry. So very sorry. I knew that if I showed myself as he wanted, he would have killed me, and then you. I—”
She put her fingers to his lips. “There was nothing you could have done. But... what does it mean? Am I just... tainted? Will I simply heal?”
“Probably. And maybe ...”
“I don’t know.”
“But... you’ll be with me?”
He smiled slowly, and nodded.
He meant so much to her. Everything. So quickly he had become her world.
And she still didn’t believe that she’d known him before, that she could be his long-dead Igrainia. He was simply everything to her now.
His lips touched her. Fire woke her spirit.
“I will be with you,” he said. “Who knows? I hear they’re having a shortage of policemen in New Orleans. It might be as good a place as any to work toward the future,” he told her. And then he lifted her hand and kissed her fingers. “But for now ... have I told you,” he queried, “that I really do love Scotland, that it can be one of the most beautiful places in the world? Gorgeous, colorful... wild, rugged, a passionate land! When the wind blows, and the waves beat against the cliffs ... it’s like a heartbeat. So sensual ...”
She smiled and kissed him back. She might not have loved him before. But she loved him now. And she would do so into eternity....