Loved, p.10
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       Loved, p.10

         Part #2 of The Vampire Journals series by Morgan Rice
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Chapter Ten

  The sun was setting as Caitlin and Caleb approached Hawthorne's house. The simple, red house was set back about 50 feet from the sidewalk, with its walkway and bushes, looked like any other small, suburban house. With its dark red paint and shutters, it had an antique simplicity about it. It was modest.

  Still, one could tell it was different. It exuded history.

  They both stood there, looking at it, and a silence fell over them.

  "I thought it would be bigger," Caitlin said.

  Caleb stood there, furrowing his brows.

  "What's wrong?"

  "I remember this house," Caleb said. "I'm not sure from when. But I seem to remember it being somewhere else. "

  Caitlin looked at him, at his perfectly sculpted features, and marveled at how much he remembered. She wondered what it was like to remember so much. Hundreds of years - thousands. He was carrying around things, experiences, that she could never even dream of. She wondered if it was a blessing or a curse, and she wondered if she would even want that for herself.

  She took a few steps forward, to the iron fence enclosing the property, and as she tried the latch, she was surprised to find it locked. She looked at the sign: 9AM to 5PM Weekdays.

  She checked her watch: 5:30. Closed.

  "Now what?" she asked.

  Caleb looked furtively around, and she did, too. There was no one in sight on the suburban street. She got what he was thinking. He looked at her, and she nodded.

  He reached over the metal latch and in one smooth motion, ripped it off its hinges. He looked around again, saw no one coming, and opened the fence and motioned for her to hurry through. He closed the gate behind them as best he could, gently laid the metal latch down in the grass, then hurried after her down the walkway.

  Caitlin reached the front door, and turned the knob. Locked.

  Caleb stepped up, reached for the knob, and prepared to break it.

  "Wait," Caitlin said.

  Caleb stopped.

  "Can I try this one?" she asked, and broke into a mischievous smile.

  She wanted to see if she had that kind of strength. She felt it, coursing through her veins, but didn't know its limitations, or when or where it would come.

  He smiled at her and stepped aside. "Be my guest. "

  She tried the knob, and it didn't give. She tried harder, and still nothing. She felt frustrated, and embarrassed.

  She was about to let it go, when Caleb said, "Concentrate. You're turning it like a human. Go deeper. Turn it from a different place in yourself. Let your body turn it for you. "

  She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She placed her hand gently on the knob and tried to focus, following his instructions.

  She turned it again, and this time was surprised to hear a snapping noise. She looked up and saw that she had broken the knob. The door was ajar.

  She looked over at Caleb, and he smiled back.

  "Very good," he said and gestured for her to enter. "Ladies first. "

  The house was cozy, with low ceilings and six over six windowpanes. The outside light was fading fast, and they hadn't much time to search, unless they wanted to start turning on lights. They walked quickly through, floorboards creaking, trying to take it all in as fast as they could.

  "What are we looking for exactly?" she asked.

  "Your guess is as good as mine," he said. "But I agree that we're in the right place. "

  At the end of the hall, there was a large exhibit devoted to Hawthorne's life. She stopped and read aloud: "Nathaniel Hawthorne was more than just another author who wrote about Salem. He lived in Salem. Most of his stories are set in Salem. Most of the buildings he described in Salem are integral to his stories, and many of them still stand here today.

  "More importantly, Hawthorne had a direct personal connection to some of the events and characters in his work. His most famous work, for example, The Scarlet Letter, tells the story of a woman, Hester Prynne, who is imprisoned and scorned by her peers for her adulterous behavior. Hawthorne had a more direct connection to these events than one would think. His real grandfather, John Hawthorne, was one of the principal judges in the Salem witch trials. John Hawthorne was responsible for accusing, judging, and putting the witches to death. It was a heavy Salem ancestry that Hawthorne had to bear. "

  Caitlin and Caleb started at each other, each becoming more intrigued. Clearly, there was a strong connection here, and they both felt that they were onto something. But they still didn't quite know what. There was still a missing link.

  They continued through the house, examining various objects, searching for something, anything. But as they finished searching the first floor, they came up empty.

  They both stopped before a narrow, wooden staircase. It was blocked by a velvet rope, on which hung a sign: "Private: upstairs for staff only. "

  Caleb gave Caitlin a look.

  "We've come this far," he said.

  He reached over and unclasped the rope.

  Excited, she went first, her footsteps echoing on the hard, wooden staircase. The house creaked and groaned as they went, as if protesting its new visitors.

  The second floor of the house had even lower ceilings, barely high enough for Caleb to stand in. It was now almost dark, and there was just enough light to see by. They stood in a beautiful and cozy room, with wide plank wooden floorboards, six over six windowpanes, and tastefully decorated with period furniture. At its center was a brick fireplace with black stain around its edges, clearly worn from years of use.

  Greeting them at the top of the staircase was yet another exhibit, this one devoted to Elizabeth Paine.

  Caitlin read aloud: "Hester Prynn, Hawthorne's most famous character, the woman at the center of The Scarlet Letter, the woman who was persecuted for refusing to reveal the true identity of her child's father, was, many scholars say, based on a real life Salem resident: Elizabeth Paine. No scholar has ever been able to identify the lineage of Elizabeth's child, as she refused to reveal to any of the townsfolk who the father really was. Legend has it that he was a mysterious man, come over on a ship from Europe, and that their romance was a forbidden one.

  "Elizabeth was banished from Salem and forced to live in a small cottage, by herself and with her child, in the woods, on the outskirts of town. The exact location of her cottage has never been found. "

  Caitlin looked to Caleb. She was speechless.

  "A forbidden romance?" she asked. "As in. . . . "

  Caleb nodded. "Yes. It was between a vampire and human. His story is not really about adultery. It is all masked, hidden. It's an allegory. It's really about us. Our kind. More specifically: it's about you. Their child. The half breed. "

  Caitlin felt the world spinning beneath her. The ramifications were overwhelming.

  She also couldn't help feeling that the story was repeating itself, that, generations later, she was playing out the same pattern. A forbidden romance. Two races. Her and Caleb. Repeating history once again, following in the footsteps of her ancestors. It made her wonder if lifetime after lifetime just repeated itself, endlessly.

  They slowly surveyed the room. It was hard to see in the fading light, and she still didn't know exactly what she was looking for. But now, she definitely, without a doubt, knew that they were looking in the right place.

  So, apparently, did Caleb. He walked around the room curiously, inspecting everything. They both felt sure that whatever it was they needed would be in this room. Maybe even the sword itself?

  But the room was sparsely furnished, and after she inspected, she didn't see where anything could be hiding.

  "Here," Caleb finally said.

  Caitlin hurried over to him. He stood beside an antique hutch.

  He felt the side of it with his hand. "Look at this," he said.

  He took her hand, and guided it along the side, and she felt it. It had a small, metal indent. In the shape
of a cross.

  "What is it?" she asked.

  "I don't know," he answered, "but I do know one thing: it doesn't belong on this piece of furniture. And I suspect something else: this unusual shape, the curved lines: I would bet anything that is the exact shape of your cross. "

  She looked at him blankly, not comprehending what he was talking about. Then she suddenly realized and reached down. Her necklace.

  "I think it's a key," he said.

  She took it off quickly, and together, her hand on his, they inserted it gently into the indent. She was ecstatic to see that it fit perfectly. It entered with a soft click, and as they gently turned it to the right, a narrow, vertical compartment opened.

  Heart pounding, Caitlin reached inside and gently extracted a frail scroll, yellowing, brittle. It was tied with an ancient piece of string, all but crumbling.

  She handed it to Caleb, and the two of them unrolled the scroll together.

  It was a map. Handwritten, hundreds of years old.

  At the top of the map, in a handwritten scrawl, it read: Elizabeth's cottage.

  He looked up at her.

  "Her cottage," he said, breathlessly. "It's a map to where she lived. "

  She stared at it, in awe.

  "Whoever stored it here wanted you to be the one to find it. Your necklace was the key. And it's never been opened until now. He wanted you to find this map, to find her cottage. Wherever it is, there will be something in it for you. "

  It was meant for her. For Caitlin, and Caitlin alone. The thought of it overwhelmed her. Made her feel, for the first time in her life, wanted. Loved. Important. That she had a connection to something greater than herself, something hundreds of years old. That she was the center of this entire puzzle. She could hardly contain her emotions.

  Then, suddenly, it happened. A horrible pain gripped her stomach. It knocked the wind out of her, and she keeled over, gasping for breath.

  "Are you all right?" Caleb asked, as she felt his hand on her shoulder.

  The feeding pangs. They were back. They hurt so badly this time, she could barely breathe.

  Another pang suddenly struck, and this one hurt so much, she stood up with a jolt. She heard herself growl, a horrible, unearthly sound, and she saw herself running across the room, trying to get the pain out of her body. She ran right into a big exhibit, knocking it over, and heard it shatter.

  But she couldn't control herself. She was spinning, out of control, and she was going to destroy everything in this room.

  Caleb appeared beside her, grabbing her firmly.

  "Caitlin," he said firmly, "Caitlin, listen to me!"

  He grabbed her by the shoulders with all his might, but he was barely able to contain her.

  "You are going to be all right. It's just the feeding pangs. Do you hear me? It's going to be all right. You just need to feed. We need to get you out of here," he enunciated slowly. "Now!"

  Caitlin looked up, and in her haze, barely saw him. On one level, she heard him, but on the other, it hurt too badly. It was overwhelming her. A desire to feed. To destroy. To get her fill. Now.

  Caleb must've seen whatever it was overcoming her, because, before she could react, he quickly and firmly took her arm, and let her down the staircase, and out the house.

  It was nearly dark as they hurried out the front door of Hawthorne's house and down the walkway. They were moving so fast, they didn't even look up, and didn't even realize that they were walking right into a huge trap.

  "Freeze!" yelled a voice.

  Standing before them, guns drawn, stood several Salem policemen.

  "Hands in the air! Slowly!"

  Caitlin was still in a haze. The pangs struck her sharply, and she couldn't resist the waves of rage, of violence, that were overcoming her. It was hard to focus, to hear exactly what they were saying. She saw the police, but she had no fear of them. On the contrary, she wanted to pounce.

  Through her haze, she felt Caleb's strong grip, clasping her shoulders, and it was the only thing that kept her in check.

  "I said, hands in the air!" screamed a cop, as the two other officers came in closer.

  "Calm, Caitlin, calm," Caleb whispered, as he slowly, still clutching the scroll, raised his arms high in the air, and prodded her to follow. "They can't harm us. "

  Caitlin, though, felt anything but calm. She saw the police, saw them pointing a gun at Caleb, and felt a red hot rage. A pang struck again, and she could no longer control herself as she zoomed in on a policemen, on his throat, the blood coursing through it. She needed it.

  Caitlin pounced. She leapt right for the center policemen, and before he could react, she was on him, clutching him, her head back, teeth protracted, sinking right for his neck.

  And then: a gunshot.

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