Loved, p.22
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       Loved, p.22
 

         Part #2 of The Vampire Journals series by Morgan Rice
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Chapter Twenty-Two

  Caitlin and Caleb flew over miles of dark woods as they crossed Martha's Vineyard, heading into the late afternoon sun. She marveled at how big the island was. She had imagined it to be a small place, but as she looked down, she realized that it was massive. The Aquinnah cliffs, where they were heading, were on the far corner of the island, all the way on the other side. Even flying at Caleb's speed, it would take a while.

  Caleb didn't like to fly if other people were around, as he never wanted to draw undue attention to him or to the race. But the island was so deserted this time of year, that he had no qualms about flying them from one side to the other, especially over a patch of woods.

  Caitlin's mind spun as she thought of the whaling church, and of the latest clue they'd found. It was not at all what she'd expected. She had guessed it might be another key. Instead, they'd found a scroll - a brittle, yellowing parchment, and torn in half, right down the middle. It had been obvious, from first glance, that the other half of it was missing, and that without it, the first half would be useless. Half of a riddle. Given its condition, it was amazing it had survived, and she was sure it would not be preserved if it hadn't been stored inside a narrow, metal, airproof container - one which she now felt bulging snugly in her pocket.

  The three of them had scrutinized the cryptic message on the half of the scroll, knowing even as they did that it would be useless. There were words and phrases which were torn down the middle. Fragments. Pieces of a riddle. It read:

  The Four Horsemen. . .

  They leave. . .

  Enter a ring. . .

  Meet at. . .

  And find the. . .

  Beside the fourth. . .

  They had guessed again and again, trying to complete the sentences. But try as they did, they could not decipher it without the other half.

  They had all felt deflated, and Roger had seemed apologetic. There were no hints, no leads whatsoever as to where the other half of the scroll might be.

  So Caitlin and Caleb had decided to go to the only other lead they had: the Aquinnah Cliffs. Her dream.

  Caitlin struggled to remember the dream, and it already felt distant, hazy, as if she'd dreamt it months ago. She started to worry if she'd even dreamt it at all. She didn't want to let Caleb down, or lead him any deeper on this wild goose chase.

  As they turned the bend, the woods below them opened up, and the landscape changed to beautiful, tall grass, swaying in the wind. It was lit up by the late afternoon sun, and glowed a soft red. It was beautiful. Below, she saw a farm, random sheep and cows spread out on the primitive landscape.

  Soon Caitlin could smell the salt air, and as they rounded another bend, the landscape shifted to dune grass, then to sand.

  Then, the cliffs came into view.

  They were breathtaking. Hundreds of feet high, their sand glowed with a mystical red color. Especially in the late afternoon sun, it looked as if these huge cliffs were alive, on fire.

  At their base was a soft, sandy ocean beach, littered with rocks of all shapes and sizes. Amidst these were occasional boulders, sitting haphazardly on the sand and out into the crashing waves. They look prehistoric. The entire place like magical, like a beach set on Mars. She couldn't even fathom that such a place existed.

  Rose must have sensed it, too, because she, still tucked into Caitlin's jacket, peeked out her head and looked, sniffing the salt air.

  As they circled the cliffs, slowing, coming in for a landing, something about them struck Caitlin as familiar. She definitely felt as if she had been here before. Yes. This was the place she. More importantly, she seemed to remember being here with her Dad at some point.

  She didn't know if they would find anything, but she felt as if they were exactly where they were meant to be.

  The beach was empty, entirely theirs. They set down softly, Caleb gently landing on the sand, and Caitlin let Rose down. Rose ran in the sand, jumped into the water, then ran back to the shore as the water crashed on her.

  Caitlin and Caleb smiled.

  They walked slowly down the beach, taking it all in. They walked in silence, as Caleb reached out and took her hand.

  The beach was dominated by the sound of the crashing waves, and smell of the ocean air. Caitlin closed her eyes and breathed deeply. It felt so refreshing.

  Caleb scanned the cliffs, the beach, the rocks. So did she.

  "This is definitely the place," Caitlin said. "I feel like I was here with him. "

  Caleb nodded. "It would make sense. This is a very powerful place for our race. "

  Caleb looked at him in surprise. "Have you been here before?" she asked.

  "Many times," he answered. "The Aquinnah Cliffs are one of our sacred places, one of the oldest energy fields on earth. The red clay and sand store and discharge ancient energy, which restores us.

  "Humans, of course, don't realize. They have never understood the exact meaning of this place. But we have known for thousands of years. It is a place of power. A mystical place. One created by the ancients.

  "It would make sense for your father to bring you here. It is a rite of passage for all vampires. A place where we bring our young, or those who have been turned. Primarily, though, it is a place of love. "

  Caitlin looked at him. "Love?" she asked.

  "Vampire weddings are very rare," he continued, "because we cannot procreate, and because committing for eternity is not something we choose lightly. But when two vampires marry, the ceremonies are very elaborate and sacred. They can go one for days. And nearly always, this is the place they happen. "

  Caitlin looked around, in awe.

  "If we were to come here at night, especially on a full moon," he said, "you would likely find a vampire wedding ceremony. It is a place of matrimony, as these rocks symbolize eternity. They are among the oldest elements on this planet. It is believed that their energy charges the union with a bond that can never be broken. "

  Caitlin felt her heart swell with his words. Although they'd been together a short time, she already felt like she knew him forever. As he spoke of the ceremony, of marriage, she realized that there was nothing she'd like more than to be assured that she could spend the rest of her life with him. It depressed her that her life would end before his, that they were of two different races, that their love was forbidden. That she would be just another memory for him.

  She wanted to tell him all this, but she didn't know what to say, exactly, or how to express herself. And she didn't know if he felt the same way about her. So she just kept walking, silently.

  Everything felt so perfect, just the way it was right now. Why couldn't things stay this way? She loved this island, this beach. She could see herself staying here, settling here with Caleb. She could see them building a life together, safe from the rest of the world, at peace. Maybe they'd build a small house, high up on the cliffs, overlooking the ocean. They could leave their pasts behind, start over. Was that even possible?

  Over the last weeks, Caitlin had felt so out of control of her life. She had felt events happening all around her, felt herself being swept up in everything. But now that things had quieted a bit, now that their trail had seemingly come to a dead end, she wondered if they could stop searching. She wondered if things could actually return to some semblance of normal.

  A part of her, deep down, knew that it was impossible. She knew that, no matter what they did, they were both rushing headlong into destiny. Into their fate. And that, very soon, things between them would change forever. It depressed her.

  She found herself thinking of Caleb's piano playing, of how beautiful the music had been. It's notes rang in her ears.

  "I didn't know you could play the piano," she said softly.

  He sighed. "It's been many years. I'm afraid I didn't do the piece justice. You should've heard Ludwig play it. "

  She looked at him, shocked. "Do you mean Ludwig. . . as in Beethoven?" she
asked, dumbfounded.

  He nodded.

  "You heard Beethoven play that? Personally?"

  "Yes," he said. "Towards the end of his life. "

  She was flabbergasted. It shocked her to consider what he must have seen.

  "So, then. . . you met him?" she asked

  "Yes," Caleb said. "He was a close friend. He was one of us. "

  "A vampire?" Caitlin asked, shocked.

  Caleb simply nodded.

  Caitlin wanted to know more - she wanted to know everything - but she could see that Caleb didn't want to talk about it. Whatever had happened, it held deep feelings for him.

  "It must be so incredible to have met people like that. To remember things like that," she said.

  "Sometimes," he said. "More often, it's a burden. "

  "Why?"

  "After time, memories begin to weigh you down. You get so lost in past events, it becomes hard to live in the present. It's like a house filled with old things. After a certain point, there's no room to bring in anything new. "

  They walked in silence for several minutes. The sun was beginning to set, and it cast a soft light over everything. The waves crashed, Rose yelped as she ran by their feet, and some passing seagulls screech overhead.

  Caitlin looked around, wondering if there was any clue, any trace of her father, anything that she remembered. But she couldn't find a thing.

  She heard a loud noise, and felt a breeze, and suddenly, two white horses raced past them. She turned to look, to see where they had come from, but there was nothing anywhere in sight. Wild horses. They galloped right past them, down the beach, running in the shallow water.

  Caleb and Caitlin turned and looked at each other at the same time. It was amazing. Unlike anything she had ever seen.

  "Wild horses," he said. "And white. An excellent sign. Let's catch them!" he said, and took off at a sprint.

  Caitlin at first thought he was crazy: how could they possibly catch up with a horse? But then she remembered her newfound speed, and she ran.

  Caitlin felt her legs running for her. Before she knew it, she was racing faster than she had ever thought possible. She caught up to Caleb, and the two of them sped up, and within seconds, they were running alongside the horses. Rose ran right behind them.

  Caleb smiled wide. "Let's ride!" he screamed.

  He jumped onto the back of one of them, and Caitlin followed suit, running as fast as she could, and leaping in the air onto the back of the other.

  She couldn't believe it, but she was now riding on the back of this horse, beside Caleb. He was laughing, his hair blowing wildly in the wind. The two of them raced down the beach, side-by-side, racing further and further into the sunset. She couldn't believe that she was able to do this, to hang on. It all felt too surreal.

  The horses took them down the beach, for miles. As they went, they got a bird's-eye view of the cliffs, the rocks, the sand. Caitlin was surprised to see just how huge this beach was. It seemed to stretch forever.

  And then suddenly, without warning, the horses came to an abrupt stop.

  No matter how much prodding Caleb and Caitlin did, they refused to move.

  Caitlin and Caleb exchanged glances, puzzled.

  "I guess they want to let us off here!" Caleb yelled, laughing.

  Caitlin looked down and saw that the horses were standing in the ocean, in knee-high water.

  Caleb smiled wide. "Guess we'll have to get a little wet!"

  He jumped down, landing in the knee-high water.

  Caitlin took off her shoes, holding them in one hand, and followed.

  The water was freezing on her bare feet, but it only came up to her shins as the wave receded. And it actually felt refreshing on her bare feet, as did the soft sand.

  She looked up and saw the horses galloping away, down the empty beach, towards the sun.

  Rose ran along the sand, testing the waves, then running back to the sand again, yelping.

  Caleb came over, grabbed Caitlin, and playfully picked her up as a wave came in, keeping her dry. He was so strong, the wave crashed into his legs, and it didn't even budge him. He was like a rock. He held her close, hugging her, keeping her dry, laughing and smiling, as he whirled her around.

  She felt her heart swell.

  As he gently lowered her, holding her tight, she looked into his eyes, and he looked into hers. Their eyes locked. Slowly, his smile faded. His expression turned more serious. Turned to something else.

  She saw his eyes change color, from brown to a sea-green. He stared down at her, right back into her eyes, and they both felt the same thing at the same moment.

  Her heart pounded, as he leaned in and kissed her.

  *

  It was a kiss of one thousand suns. Her body filled with a warmth and tingling unlike anything she had ever experienced. She kissed him back, more forcefully, and soon he was holding her, picking her up out of the water, and walking her towards the shore.

  He brought her to the dry sand, and they lay down together, on the empty beach, with seemingly the entire world to themselves. Their kisses became more passionate, and she reached up and ran her hand through his hair.

  She had been imagining this moment from the first time she met him.

  She had never loved anyone as much as this.

 
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