Once I finished Twilight Destiny, I had a pretty good idea who Vincent was to the Community. At this point I still didn’t know where the Haven’s Realm cast was taking me, but as I sat down to write The Darker Path, two opportunities presented themselves to further define my tortured soul.
In the following scene, Ki’ara, an extraterrestrial empress sent to earth to help a vampire in New England, takes a much needed brain break in Fulcrum, GA, with her friend and her mother. While they soak up some atmosphere in a local pub, Vincent takes notice of the woman with extraordinary mental capabilities, and suspects her of being the hunter who struck down Devon.
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They sat in a tavern in the small town of Fulcrum, Molina sipping a drink curiously called a Bloody Mary which, to Ki’ara’s relief, did not contain blood. Molly nursed a glass of white wine and she sipped ginger ale. In the center of their table lay a tray of hors d’oeuvres they’d been working on for almost an hour. While Molly and her mother talked on every subject from why Molly should move from Stone Ridge to why she had yet to be remarried, Ki’ara listened in silence. She didn’t realize her mind had wandered until Molly poked her arm.
“What? I’m sorry,” she said when she realized both women were looking at her expectantly.
“Mother asked what you think of America,” Molly told her.
“Your mind is far away,” Molina observed. “Thinking of home, eh?”
“Not exactly,” she answered self-consciously. “I have a problem to solve. I didn’t mean to be unsociable.”
“Ah, it’s a man, isn’t it?” Molina gave her a knowing smile. “Men can be a trial. But, as I’ve always said, they are worth the effort.”
“Sometimes I wonder.”
She realized suddenly they were being watched. She straightened in her chair and swept the room with her mind while she gave Molly a questioning look.
“Yes. I know,” she said softly. “He’s been watching you for half an hour.”
“I think he’s a…”
“He is,” she interrupted. “I’ve been blocking him since the moment he arrived, but you, I think, were too preoccupied. He knows you know.”
“What are you two talking about?” Molina asked as she motioned to the waitress to refill her drink.
Molly flustered for a moment. Obviously, Molina was not in on all her secrets. “A man is giving Ki’ara the eye. He’s sitting at the other end of the bar.”
Molina waited until the waitress returned with her drink before she took a look around the bar. Ki’ara mentally applauded the woman’s discretion. “He is handsome, eh?”
“You may as well turn around and look. He’s coming this way,” Molly said uncomfortably.
She took another sip of her ginger ale in an attempt at casualness while raising her protective mental shield, turning her head only when he appeared in the corner of her eye. He was handsome, she supposed, tall, well built, with dark chestnut hair and a sensitive face. His vibrant, deep blue eyes were pinned on her too intently. Seriousness in those eyes belied the gentle smile he put on his lips.
“Excuse my intrusion, but I simply cannot help myself. What must a lonely creature like me do to convince such a graceful beauty to join me in a dance?”
He spoke in a voice as smooth and light as refined honey, with just enough undertone to communicate threat. Although his stance and mannerism reflected nonchalance, his mind worked to break the wall she’d erected around hers.
“You could promise to behave like a gentleman,” she responded with enough sharpness to make him stop his mental assault. Molly kicked her under the table in warning, but she gave her a slight smile, hoping to tell her friend without word or thought she knew what she was doing.
“You have my word,” he responded, his hand extended in invitation.
She allowed him to lead her onto the dance floor, and winced inwardly when he swept her in his arms and held her too close to him.
After little more than a minute, and in a voice meant for her ears only, he commented, “You know what I am.”
“And yet you are not afraid.”
“Do you mean me harm?”
The rhythm of his steps faltered, as if her question took him by surprise. “We shall see,” he said at last. “Your friends do not appear to share your knowledge, though one has the smell about her.”
“It’s not hard to sense if a mortal has fed a vampire.” He spoke his words so close to her ear she could feel his lips move in her hair.
She shot a quick glance at Molly while suppressing her surprise. “I didn’t know.”
He shrugged. After another minute, he said, “We cannot talk freely here. You will come with me. I’d prefer you do so willingly.”
“Where will you take me?”
“I have some friends who will want to question you.”
His tone of voice, while still soft, held the undercurrent of tension already evident in his muscles, as if he were preparing for battle. Her defensive alarms switched to high alert. “What about?”
“The knowledge you hold is forbidden. Of this we will know how and why. Also, someone has been hunting us, a mortal woman with an unusual level of psychic awareness. I’m afraid you fit that description.”
She pushed herself back so she could look at him, but he continued to hold her close. She met the power of his gaze with equal resistance. “Your friends may examine me if they must until they are satisfied I am not the one you seek. Only promise me I will be returned safely to my friends once your curiosity is satisfied.”
The surprise on his face was instantaneous. “Why will you submit to me so willingly?”
“Because I have questions of my own.”
He lifted one eyebrow aristocratically. “We definitely need to talk.”
She nodded once and disengaged herself from his arms. “I’ll get my things.”
“Tell them nothing,” he warned. “You will only place them in danger.”
“I know how to be discrete,” she countered indignantly. She returned to the table and picked up her purse. “There’s something I have to do,” she told the women. “It might take a day or two.”
“Ki’ara, be careful,” Molly warned, her voice carrying many meanings.
“I think this is the best way I can solve my problem,” she said, keeping her voice light. Pulling a note pad from her purse, she added, “Write down your mother’s address. Wait for me there.”
Molly jotted down her mother’s address and handed the pad back to Ki’ara with sorrow building in her eyes.
“Going off with strangers is not wise,” she heard Molina comment.
“I’ll be all right,” she assured them both. She turned around to see the stranger standing right behind her. “Won’t I?”
He gave the seated women a bright smile. “I will be the model gentleman,” he told them.
She sensed a wave of mental energy passing from him to her friends. They instantly smiled back at him as if he were an old friend. He turned, sweeping her along with him as he exited the tavern.
She seated herself in his shiny black car and fastened the belt while he brought the engine to life. “Tell me your name.”
He glanced at her briefly as he swung onto the road. “Vincent. You?”
“I am called Ki’ara.”
“You possess mental skills uncommon among mortals.”
“It runs in my family.”
“Where are you from? Your accent is unfamiliar to me.”
“You wouldn’t believe me.”
He cast her another glance, a faint smile on his face. “Try me.”
“I am not from your world.” She held her breath in anticipation of his scorn.
“You’re right. I don’t believe you.” He shifted the car again, accelerating the vehicle at an alarming rate. “How long have you been in this area?”
“Not long. Almost a week. I’m visiting.”
“From where? And don’t say another planet this time.”
She took a deep breath and let it go slowly. “I’ve been staying in Stone Ridge, Massachusetts, in the home of a vampire.”
He downshifted and swung the car off the main road and into the woods, spraying dirt and gravel in his wake. “I will know more of this vampire,” he said tightly. “He will be disciplined for leaving you uncontrolled.”
“Why is that important?”
“You really don’t know, do you?” His voice held a note of confusion.
“Vampires don’t exist on my world,” she answered.
“Still clinging to your extraterrestrial story. Forgive me for being skeptical, but you insist on keeping your mind closed from me.”
“My people are extremely psychically sensitive. The power of the vampire mind is painful to me. If I open my mind to your scrutiny, you will damage me.”
He thumped the steering wheel with his thumbs while he considered her words. “All right, assuming your story is truth, I will enlighten you. Vampires have existed for more centuries than anyone knows. No one existing today remembers our origins. We exist outside of society, keeping our presence a closely guarded secret. Throughout time we’ve been hunted by fanatics because of a misguided belief we are all inherently evil. We are always in danger of discovery and annihilation, so I guess in that way you might call us hopelessly paranoid.”
“I see. My knowledge of your kind places you in danger.”
“That all depends on what you intend to do with your knowledge. Of course, we cannot be certain your motives won’t change in the future. This is why all mortals with knowledge of vampires are carefully kept under our control.” He slowed his car and pulled off onto an ill-used dirt road filled with ruts and potholes. After several minutes, he aimed the car at a thick crop of underbrush and pulled to a stop. “This is as far as we go.” He got out, leaving the lights on.
“Here?” She followed him and took in the midnight black surroundings with growing unease. “What are you going to do to me?”
His smile was alarming. “I’ve sent a summons to my friends. They should arrive momentarily.”
“They will question you. Once it’s certain you are not our enemy, you will be released, after we remove your memories of us and our kind.”
She shook her head. “If you attempt to do so, you will damage me. I may not recover. And I need to know as much as I can about your race. My future depends on it.”