Birthday dinners are usually a given for humans, but I didn’t want to take Chansey to just any ordinary restaurant. I took her to one of the finest in New Orleans. Our dinner was exceptional, but being with her trumped the food and I was happy simply because I was with the woman I adored.
Chansey wore one of Gia’s simple black dresses and it fit like a glove, hugging every one of her perfect curves. The thick black liner on her upper lid extended outward into a point and her charcoal eyeshadow had a sexy, smokey appearance. Her lips were stained her signature deep scarlet like the skin of a red delicious apple and they pleaded for me to taste them.
I propped my face in the palm of my hand and stared at Chansey’s lovely face as the candlelight flickered upon it as she talked about our wedding and the happy life we were going to have. Her words sounded like a dream. All of this felt like a dream and I was terrified I would wake up to discover that none of it ever existed.
“Curry, are you alright? Am I scaring you with the things I’m saying about the future?”
“I am scared, but not of anything you’ve said.” I placed my hand on top of hers across the table and confessed, “I’m terrified of losing you. My mind can’t fathom how you could be mine.
I’m petrified of making my next mistake because I fear you’ll see all of this for what it is and decide you want no part of it.”
She leaned forward and said, “I love you, Curry Brennan, and there’s nothing that will change that. I’m going to marry you because I want to spend the rest of my life with you and love you until the end of my days. Hopefully, that will be through eternity as a vampire.”
I squeezed her hand and said, “You are everything to me and without you, I am nothing.”
“Ditto. Now, I’m changing the subject to something less serious…something like what you got me for my birthday?” she hinted.
“Who says I got you anything for your birthday? Maybe this dinner is your only birthday gift.”
She laughed and said, “It probably cost so much I shouldn’t get anything else.”
The anticipation of seeing her face when she opened her gift was almost more than I could stand. “I have a gift for you and you are going to love it. It’s been killing me to not just go ahead and give it to you.”
“Is that where you went this morning? To buy my gift?” she asked.
She was anxious like a child. “Am I getting it now or when we get back to the compound?”
“I didn’t bring it with me because I didn’t want to risk damaging it. Something told me that you might be a little snooper, so I hid it in my room when you were in the shower.”
“Hmm…It must be somewhat delicate if you thought it might get damaged,” she said as she began to narrow down the possibilities based on what I had said.
“Perhaps, but we have somewhere else to be before we go back, so you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to find out.”
I paid our check and we left the restaurant in search of the driver I hired, finding him on the street directly in front of the entrance. Already aware of our destination, he drove toward Bourbon Street where the club was located.
The driver took us as far as he could and stopped to let us out of the car. “I’ll call when we’re ready to be picked up,” I told him as we got out of the dark sedan.
“Yes, sir,” he responded.
We walked down Bourbon, passing some rather questionable looking establishments along the way. There were people outside the entrances trying to corral potential customers as they passed, inviting them inside to watch nude dancers and other unmentionable acts.
“I’m sorry I’ve exposed you to…this,” I apologized.
“Stop acting like you’ve scarred me for life by bringing me here. This isn’t my first time on Bourbon Street. I’ve been here with Shelby and Abby.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t help myself from feeling like I’ve made you vulnerable by bringing you here. When I found you, this force to protect you was born inside me and I couldn’t contain it if I tried. It has intertwined with who I am and the two can’t be separated. We can’t be separated.”
She stopped walking and turned to look at me before saying, “I don’t know how to describe it because it’s hard to find the right words, but I think I feel my inner self embracing your protective nature for me. It’s like the Agápe in me tangibly intertwines with you and we melt within one another until we become one. I want to be closer to you because it’s what I want, but the Agápe within me drives me to be closer, more intimate with you.”
I was amazed at how well she described the sensation I had been feeling for her, but I didn’t realize she was experiencing the same thing. Although our relationship was still new, I should have known because the relationship between a vampire and an Agápe was never one-sided. “I didn’t know you were feeling that way.”
“I know, it sounds too bizarre to believe. That’s why I haven’t said anything about it,” she admitted.
“No, it doesn’t sound bizarre to me because it’s the way I’ve been feeling about you, too. I just didn’t know how to describe it.”
She smiled because she was happy and I understood. “Sebastian didn’t tell us about this part.”
I thought of what Sebastian told me about not wanting to place expectations on us. “I have a feeling there’s a lot more Sebastian hasn’t told us because he wants us to discover things for ourselves.”
I took her hand in mine. “Come on, we’re almost there.”
We walked the short distance until we reached the entrance of Club Infinity. She grinned and shook her head. “Where are you taking me?”
She looked up at the flashing neon sign and looked a little bewildered. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my wallet. I paid for our cover charges then took her hand again and led her through the club until I saw my family sitting at several tables against the back wall.
My family stood when they saw us and passed Chansey around as they hugged her and told her, “Happy Birthday.” When they finished, we all sat down and she leaned over. “Did they all come here for me?”
She was humbled. I could tell by the look on her face. “Of course. They love you and wanted to celebrate with us because you’re a part of our family now.”
Jett’s band was alternative and did their own renditions. I recognized a lot of the songs they played, but none of them sounded like the original artist and I wondered what they might do with ‘Steal My Heart Away.’ To me, it seemed perfect the way Van Morrison did it.
Lairah walked up to the stage between songs and whispered into one of the guitarist’s ear, so I assumed he was Jett. She returned to our tables and gave me a wink, letting me know it was a go.
The next song was ‘Steal My Heart Away’ and I asked Chansey to dance with me. I led her onto the dance floor and cupped my right hand around hers as my left hand rested gently on her waist.
Before the vocalist began to sing the lyrics, he announced, “This next song is dedicated to Chansey from Curry and he says that every day you steal his heart away. Happy Birthday.”
Her face lit into a smile. “Thank you for making me feel so special. How did you manage to pull that off without me knowing?”
“Lairah, the eternal roadie, knows the band. She suggested I bring you here after dinner because she thought you might enjoy the music.”
She nodded and said, “She was right. These guys are great.”
“Lairah definitely knows music,” I agreed. “I…”
I couldn’t finish my sentence because there was something terribly wrong. I heard the whisper of a female voice as she chanted. I turned to my family to see if they heard it as well.
None of them appeared phased by the soft sound of evil murmuring, which meant I was the only one hearing it.
Chansey was panicked by the look on my face. “What’s wrong, Curry?”
I felt myself break into a sweat, something I hadn’t done since I was human. My heart started racing and my head began to painfully pound behind my eyes as my vision began to blur.
“You’re scaring me. What’s happening?” Chansey demanded.
And then it happened without any warning. Twenty-two years without feeling her presence and I suddenly felt her again. It was Marsala.
My vision was worsening as the chanting became louder. I reached for Chansey’s arm. “Don’t ask me why because there’s no time, but I need you to take me to Sebastian.”
She did as I asked and didn’t question why she had to lead me toward my family and I wasted no time getting to the point, “I think Marsala is here. I don’t know how, but she has done something to me. I have an excruciating pain behind my eyes and I can’t see, but I hear her voice chanting something. It began as a soft whisper, but it’s grown louder. It feels like it’s getting closer and it’s beginning to drowned out everything else.”
I barely heard Sebastian ask, “What is she saying in the chant?”
I listened to the repetitive cycle and then repeated it for Sebastian.
“I use the bark of this white thorn tree,
To give my eyes freedom to cross the sea,
I use this spell to conjure the one I love, yet cannot find,
And like a nail, I drive my eyes into his mind,
So I may see what it is he sees,
Do you hear me coming? Soon, it shall be.”
I felt the slam of someone’s hand over my eyes. “Shut your eyes, now!” Sebastian roared at me. “Don’t open them. Someone is helping her use Black Magic to find you. She is using a spell to bind herself to you so she may take your vision as her own. That’s why you can’t see; she’s stealing your sight. She is trying to find you by identifying your surroundings. We need to look around the club to see if there is anything that would clue her to where you are.”
“Do you think this means she is close?” I asked, begging it to not be so.
“I don’t think she’s on this continent because the spell spoke of crossing the sea, but I think she will be soon if anything in this place can identify where we’re at. What were you looking at when this started?”
I thought back to the moment I noticed it beginning. “Chansey and I were dancing, so I was looking over her shoulder as we danced in a circle. That means she got a panoramic of the entire room. When I stepped back, I looked directly at Chansey’s face, so she knows exactly what she looks like. When we came to the tables, I was straining to see all of you. You know what that means.”
I heard Sully say, “Lairah and I weren’t sitting at the tables when Chansey led Curry to the tables. We were at the bar getting drinks, so she didn’t see us.”
I guess you can call it the big brother in me, but I was relieved to hear that because I didn’t want Marsala to know that Sully still existed.
I heard Sol’s voice next. “Guys, we have a problem. Look at the sign behind the bar.”
“What does it say?” I asked.
No one responded to my question.
“Somebody tell me what it says” I shouted.
Sebastian was the only one brave enough to reply. “Club Infinity on Bourbon.”
I reeled in my anger at Marsala and myself as I calmly said, “Will someone call the driver?
Chansey and I have to leave New Orleans immediately.”
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