Betrothed, p.23
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       Betrothed, p.23

         Part #6 of The Vampire Journals series by Morgan Rice

  As Caitlin sat there, staring back and forth between Caleb and Violet, she could not believe what she was seeing. She felt her entire body start to shake. How could this be happening? And why now, of all times? When things were finally looking so bright? When all the obstacles for their relationship seemed to have finally disappeared?

  Like a thunderbolt out of the sky, this woman had appeared, ruining the high of their engagement party. It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair.

  Worse, Caitlin could see in Caleb's eyes, could sense deep down, that these two had a special relationship. The one who had turned him? She had never even considered such a thing.

  Of course, now that she thought about it, she should have. Someone had turned him, at some point. But she had never considered it would be a woman. And a gorgeous woman at that. Or that, possibly, the two might still have feelings for each other.

  Caitlin remembered once being told that the strongest relationship you could have in the vampire world was to the person who turned you. It was something that ran deep in your blood and soul, something that you could never shake. It helped make you what you were, as that person's blood ran through you.

  Caitlin knew that to be true. She felt that with Caleb. After having been turned by him, she felt as if he were always there with her, a part of her. It felt deeper than love, deeper than a connection.

  It truly felt like they were one.

  Now, as she examined Violet, Caitlin wondered if Caleb had the same feelings for her. Was she always there, somewhere inside of him? Did he ever think of her? From the way he was stammering, and from the nervous look on his face, Caitlin suspected that he did. Maybe, she realized, deep within his consciousness, there was another woman lurking there.

  It was too much for Caitlin to think of. She didn't want to do or say anything rash, especially after having learned her lesson back in France. And she desperately didn't want to assume the worst, as she had before.

  But at the same time, she just couldn't bear to sit there and watch this unfold before her eyes any longer. Whatever game fate was playing on her, she didn't want any part of it. She had to get out of this place, this loud drinking hall, to clear her mind, to get fresh air. She had to leave before she did anything rash, or jumped to any conclusions, or said anything she might regret.

  Caitlin stood abruptly, taking Scarlet's hand.

  Caleb stood, too, a concerned look on his face. "Where are you going?" he asked her.

  Caitlin didn't trust herself to answer him, didn't trust herself to say the right thing. So instead, she silently took Scarlet and pushed her way out through the crowd.

  "Caitlin, you don't understand!" Caleb yelled out after her, "It's not like that. It was centuries ago!"

  Caitlin grabbed Scarlet's hand more firmly, and parting the crowd, finally made it to the staircase, and up the steps.

  "Mommy? Where are we going?" Scarlet asked.

  But she was distracted by Caleb's words, which rang through her mind. Centuries ago. She desperately wanted to believe that there was nothing there. She breathed deeply, willing herself to believe it.

  She made it outside, and standing there, she began to feel better already. She breathed deeply, trying to get a hold of herself. She willed herself to believe Caleb. She had made the mistake in the past of not giving him the benefit of the doubt. And she felt that now she had to grow, to become a better person, to learn from that. She had to believe him.

  Rationally, she knew that she did. But deep down, emotionally, it was hard. She saw the look in Caleb's eye. And the look in Violet's eye. The way they looked at each other. As a woman, she knew there was something there.

  Caitlin stood there, feeling at a crossroads. She didn't know which way to go. A part of her wanted to flee, like she had in the past, to get far away from Caleb, and everyone.

  But another part of her, a part that was evolving under her eyes, knew that she had to be more mature. Patient. To hear everyone out. To think things through. To allow everyone the benefit of the doubt. She had to be the bigger person.

  "Mommy, I'm not feeling so well," Scarlet suddenly said.

  Caitlin snapped out of it. She knelt down and looked at her, and brushed the hair out of her eyes. As she did, she noticed how clammy her forehead was. She already knew Scarlet well enough to see that she was not herself. In fact, she looked extremely pale and sick.

  Scarlet reached down, and scratched her ankles with both hands.

  Caitlin looked down, and her heart dropped as she saw that they were covered with welts. Bites.

  At the same time, Caitlin noticed several rats, scurrying past them in the mud.

  Bites. Around the ankles. Large, red welts.

  Caitlin's breathing stopped, as she realized what they were. Flea bites.

  Caitlin tried to push the thought of her mind. Flea bites didn't necessarily mean the Plague. But she knew it didn't bode well.

  "Mommy, I feel really sick," Scarlet said again. And then, as she said it, Scarlet suddenly fainted.

  Caitlin's lightning fast reflexes allowed her to catch Scarlet in mid-air, in her arms.

  "Scarlet? SCARLET!?" Caitlin screamed, frantic.

  But she didn't respond.

  Scarlet opened her eyes, gently. She looked deathly ill.

  "Mommy, can we go home?"

  "Of course, sweetheart," Caitlin answered, repressing tears.

  Scarlet closed her eyes again. As she did, Caitlin picked her up, and took off into the air, flying with more speed than she ever had. She knew where she had to go: to the one person in the world she knew who could help someone who was deathly ill.


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