The Immortal Beside Me, Book II

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Chapter 5

Callie pretended to read in her room so Hugh would leave her alone. He was truly entrenched in the idea that everyone should pitch in to run the household. She wasn’t like minded. Even though she was now living here permanently, she felt as if she were her brother’s guest. Everyone knew, of course, that guests weren’t required to do housework. Since that was the case, she was going to continue keeping her lazy ass glued to the bed.

The annoying bray of the vacuum cleaner started up, tempting her to grab a pillow and throw it over her head. She had too much to think about, and the annoying noise would not allow her to do so. Moving here had immediately tuned her in to other immortals in town. She thought her senses were directing her toward Clark. Somehow, the psycho had found her. He didn’t know she had ties to LeVale, no one did. Apparently, that wasn’t the case. She was drawn toward another direction instead. Her interest peaked when she heard of the murder. She also picked up on the feelings running through Lynch. He was certain of his guilt. The only factor that kept him sane was Jenna.

As Hugh continued to run the vacuum over and over the same spot on the carpet, Callie’s eyes settled on the black case hidden from everyone’s view but hers. It contained the serum, the cure. If Clark found it, he would certainly destroy it. She had a limited amount of the compound and wasn’t certain she could recreate it. It was her duty to protect it, to help others who might need it. In LeVale, the only other immortal was Lynch Tackett. She could cure him; show him that she was good enough for him.

The vacuum blessedly stopped. She sighed with great relief. Certain Hugh was finished cleaning, she threw her book to the floor. She was about to get off the bed and check on the syringes in her case when her cell phone twittered. Frowning, she picked it up and glanced at the screen. It was an unknown number. She had gotten a new phone and number right after moving here. No one other than Hugh had the number. Thinking nothing about it, she assumed it was a sales call.

She looked at it before putting it to her ear. “Look, don’t call this number again.”

Right before she could disconnect the call, a deep, raspy voice barked, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Callie.”

It couldn’t be. How would he find her number? Was finding her next in line? “How did you find me?”

He chuckled. It rumbled up from his belly and crawled up to his chest to be expelled out of his throat like a noxious fluid. It wasn’t a sound that most people would associate with jolliness. “How do I find anyone?”

“You psychotic son of a bitch. Lose my number,” she demanded. Her teeth were clenched so she could speak quietly, but with authority. She certainly didn’t want Hugh walking in on this call.

“Not until you destroy the cure, Callie,” he said softly. “I know you didn’t want the blessing I gave you. It doesn’t mean I don’t. I want to spread the happiness, my love, even if you don’t.”

“Fuck you, Clark!”

With that said, she snapped the phone closed, hoping that he wouldn’t call back. After a moment, when the phone didn’t ring, she breathed her second sigh of relief for the day. Clark had found her somehow. Obviously, he hadn’t figured out where she was staying in LeVale. However, he was close enough. His call proved it. The closer he drew to her, the sooner he would find her. It was another item of interest that she would have to bring up when she saw Lynch again. She asked herself numerous times a day why she became so entangled with the wrong kind of men. Right now, she asked herself again. What the hell was she going to do now?

Jenna waited until Lynch left for work before she called her friend Cecilia, Cici to her most intimate of buddies. Cici lived past Calember County, enough miles between her and Lynch. Back in the eighteenth century, this town was once called Riverbay. After a rich family moved in, it was renamed to Karon. There she could finish the business she needed to before coming back home. When Cici discovered who was on the other end of the line, she was surprised. The two women hadn’t seen each other in about five years. That was okay. The two of them had been really close in school, so Cici remained fond of Jenna. She announced that she would love to have Jenna visit with her for a couple of weeks.
After the call ended, Jenna sat up in her room on the bed for a very long time. Her body hurt. It felt like the flu, but ten times worse. Every now and again, she checked her wound. The puncture marks were violently inflamed now, swelled so much that it hurt to touch it. There was one thing she had left to do before leaving for Cici’s.

Down in the basement, where the vials of Lynch’s serum were stowed away, Andy kept a box filled with silver shavings. Jenna had yet to transform, so the injections would do nothing for her. Her last resort was the shavings. They kept them for Lynch. When his immunity increased, the silver would keep him from fully transforming while they waited for a new vaccine. The edges of the shavings were sharp enough to allow them to be inserted in Lynch’s fingertips. It was agony putting them in, watching him grimace with pain. Now it was her turn.

Jenna dug out the box and gazed down at the silver. Just looking at it made her feel sicker. She didn’t know whether this was true or if her mind was playing a trick on her. Whatever the case, she felt a strong aversion to it, a great dislike for the idea of picking it up. Fighting with all her strength, Jenna reached into the box and took hold of a shard. It was difficult work. The slice of metal was about the size of a small sewing needle. She would be forced to insert the silver into at least two fingers. She would then have to take some with her in case it was needed.

She looked at the piece of silver for some time. Then taking a deep breath, she held it high, aiming at the fleshy part of her finger. She made quick work of it. The prick of the razor sharp tip made her jump, cry out, and immediately burst into tears. Forcing it all aside, she pushed it until she could only see a tiny fleck of silver. She repeated the process on another. This time, it wasn’t as intense. The silver connected with her flesh like water and oil. It didn’t match. It didn’t go with her new DNA. An agonized sneer marred her beautiful face. It made her feel as if she was about to faint. Jenna continued to struggle against it, shoving it aside and blessedly out of her body. The silver would keep her safe until such a time that she was ready to dig it out for her first transformation.

Leaning over, she fought a wave of dizziness as she grabbed the container that held the vials. Once opened, she saw that there were many bottles. There was enough for Lynch here. Andy might miss the vial, but he would never suspect her. She hoped to be gone before Lynch came home from work.

Before leaving home, Lynch told Jenna and Andy he was going to work. That wasn’t necessarily the truth. He was due at work tonight. First, he had a serious meeting with Callie. It was time to find out how true her story was. Lynch was not a man swayed by a pretty face. He had plenty of questions that absolutely needed answering, and he would know if Callie was lying in an instant.

When he arrived at their agreed upon meeting place, he saw Callie seated on an uncomfortable wooden bench. He chose the area where he ran because he knew neither Andy nor Jenna knew about it. This was one secret he kept to himself. Everyone needed a place to unwind on their own without the hindrance of familial ties. He slowly approached her, taking note that she had come dressed in clothing that she wore to exercise. Obviously, this was her way of keeping Hugh out of the loop.

He sat beside her without waiting for an invitation. There was no need for it right now. “Start talking, Callie,” Lynch commanded.

“No small talk? No hello?”

Lynch glanced at her. She seemed hurt somehow, wronged. He didn’t understand. “Callie, I’m not here to socialize today. You told me a story at my house and I want to make sure it’s valid. That’s it. Now go ahead, tell me.”

She smiled bitterly. “Okay. If that’s how you want it.” She curled her leg underneath her. This could take a while, and she might as well make herself comfortable. “I knew nothing about immortals until I met Clark. At first, I was certain he was mental. I thought he was good looking, smart, and well put together…just mental. We had a few dates before I noticed how odd he truly was. He stared at other people in a weird fashion.”

He looked at her, trying to read if she was telling the truth. Thus far, it seemed as if she was. “He was looking at them like an animal looks upon its prey,” Lynch said, suddenly understanding.

Callie nodded. “Yes. As if they were prey. I didn’t understand it at the time. I simply thought he was curious. There is nothing wrong with a little curiosity. I’m the same way; it’s just that Clark was somehow different. Not only was he Clark, he could shift into other people. Mostly, he stayed in a female form, but I never forced a name from Clark about that. We were together a month or more before I slept with him the first time. He might have been different, but he was exciting, always ready to go out, have fun, and mix it up. I started to actually have feelings for him. He wasn’t a casual one night stand for me; I thought I was building something with him. I thought I finally found the one.”

Lynch knew where she coming from. He had felt like that many times in his eternity. “How did you come to know he was immortal?”

Shrugging, she said, “From our first night together. He told me he wasn’t human. I thought it was my cue to pack up my undies and get the hell away from him. Then he did something horrifying, something I’ll take to my grave. He picked up a gun, aimed it at his temple, and pulled the trigger.” She shuddered at the memory. “I rushed over to him, believing I had watched my boyfriend killing himself. There was…a…a…hole in his head.” Her tears came freely and she noticed that Lynch drew closer to her, putting his arm around her. “And like a movie, some horridly awful movie, the bullet slowly emerged from his head and plopped down to the floor. The wound instantly closed up, totally healing within minutes. He stood up, smiled, and yelled ‘aha’ at the top of his lungs as if it were some sick magic trick.”

At that point, Callie completely broke down. Lynch drew even closer and gathered her in his arms. He held her for a long time while she cried. Runners passed them, glancing at them curiously, but none stopped to see if they could offer help. Lynch was happy about that. He didn’t feel like dealing with an onlooker right now. When her tears began to dry up, he noticed the change in her demeanor. He slowly withdrew, staying close enough if she had another breakdown.

Callie wiped the tears out of her eyes with the heel of her hand. Actually, she wasn’t wiping them away at all. Instead, she seemed to be digging them out. “After the shock wore off, I had two choices. I could have run easily. I chose the other option, I stayed. God help me, Lynch, but I was interested. Clark excited me more than any other man I’ve met. I began to think Iwas crazy. Perhaps at first, I thought I had had a mass hallucination.”

Lynch continued to study her body language, to look into her eyes. He used the typical tools that detectives did to read if a perpetrator was telling him nothing more than tall tales. Everything about her seemed real. “How did he come to pass it on to you?”

She glanced at Lynch, noticed his serious expression, and she could tell he was trying to debunk her words. It should have been offensive. It wasn’t, because she knew he believed her. She felt more relieved now, more at ease. “We were messing around a little. Neither of us intended on taking it any further than just heavy petting, I suppose. I think Clark had other ideas. I don’t know if he wanted to turn me or attack me. He had me down on the couch, touching me, driving me nuts. Suddenly, I felt a sharp sting at my neck. Scared, I pushed him away. Within seconds, there was blood pouring out of two puncture wounds. Clark threw me back down on the couch and he…”

Her words were trying to dry up. There was more to the story. He put his arm around her again, hoping the move would encourage her. “I know it’s hard, Callie,” he said, prodding her along. “Go on.”

Callie nodded and fought back more tears. “He lapped the blood from the wound, like he was drinking it. I have never been so terrified in my life. He then said my mortal processes would die while the sickness took me. I had a week of feeling ill before I felt normal again. I felt like me, but empty. I felt without a soul.”

Her words shook Lynch to the core. He understood the feeling she described. It was if the heart were removed and replaced with a rock. “I see.” He wanted to say more; those two words were all he could manage.

“Clark said there were certain proteins, enzymes, and other compounds that would stop the process in its tracks and revert my DNA back to wholly human. When I asked about it, Clark never told me anything, even if I begged. It was like he had a mission to fulfill.” She turned her head so she could be eye to eye with him. “I didn’t want to be an immortal, Lynch. I didn’t want to live forever, and I sure as hell didn’t want to rely on murdering humans to sustain myself.”

He also identified with that as well. He was more than happy other foods could nourish him as long as he received injections to tame the wild beast inside him. “What is he, Callie? What kind of immortal?”

“He said he was a hybrid mix of two immortals. I’ve never heard of it before. And I can’t remember the name right now. Something like hardros and schuifelen?

Lynch almost froze when he heard schuifelen. This was the creature Wit Hoff mentioned their needing lycans to stand guard centuries ago. As far as hardros could be concerned, it was an alien concept. The words were originated in the Dutch language. He also remembered Andy’s father telling him of a mythological creature apparently found only in lycan lore. The creature was a mixture of serpent and demon blood lines. They were the lycan version of the boogeyman, as it were. They craved blood like vampires, but were more shape shifters. They were hard to detect, relatively easy to kill, but they had to be caught first, and that was next to impossible. When he heard this story, Lynch purely believed it was nothing more than an urban legend. Now, someone completely unknown to him was telling him her ex-lover was one. He didn’t know whether to believe her or not. The cop part of his mind was also working overtime. The murder in Calember County sounded like a kill the creature would commit.

“How long did he say he had been immortal?”

Callie shook her head. “He never said for certain. I don’t think he has been around long. I just don’t know. He never talked about that type of stuff. I looked at samples of my own blood and could see the evidence that I was different. I began to use any and every compound imaginable until I found one that killed the elements. He knew I invented an antidote. He wanted no part of it, because he enjoyed how he lived and what he did. Every time he found the compound on my person, he destroyed it.”

“And that is why you wanted to come here to get away from him,” Lynch said, looking at her again.

“Yes,” she whispered. “I wanted nothing to do with him. He claimed he never killed anyone, but I don’t believe him. He was just too…evil.” She shuddered again. “He somehow found my cell number and called. He wants to get his hands on the compound. I can’t let him. If he is a him. For all I know, his main ‘face’ is the woman. I want you to benefit from it, Lynch.”

Her beautiful eyes were studying him. He remembered he had yet to tell her the truth about his own problem. He had yet to admit it. If he told her, and she was lying, his life would be over. Since connecting with Jenna, he thought his life had begun again. He wasn’t ready to die. If he told her, he would break years and years’ worth of promises not to divulge his secret. Although Callie was cured, she still had the sense enough to detect that he was immortal. There was a choice here, one that wasn’t as easy as a person might think.

Lynch thought of Jenna so far away right now. What if he called her, to tell her he fully believed Callie? Would that make a difference? Would Jenna come back to him? Would she more or less give him permission to tell? Did he need it? After all, it wasn’t Jenna’s issue. It was his. After a moment, his decision was made.

“Callie, can you sit here for about fifteen minutes while I make a call?”

She shrugged. “Sure. I have nowhere else to go. I’ll wait.”

“Thank you,” he said with a gentle smile. His lips buffed the side of her cheek. “If you need me, I’m in my car.”

Leaving Callie behind, he strolled casually over to where he parked his car. Looking back at her and ensuring that she would keep her word to stay, he unlocked the driver’s side door, and climbed inside. Lynch dug his phone out of the glove compartment. He didn’t know the number where Jenna was staying, but he knew she had taken her cell phone in case of an emergency. He dialed the number and waited impatiently for her to answer.

After four rings, a muffled, strained voice answered. “Hello?”

It was Jenna. She sounded ill, like she had the flu. “Jenna? You sound terrible. What’s wrong?”

She recognized his voice right away. She had only been at Cici’s for approximately half an hour. The drive exhausted her, so as soon as she briefly caught up with her friend, Cici set her up in the guest house. She immediately went to bed for a quick nap. Her limbs were aching terribly, the shoulder wound throbbing, and her head was about to explode. “Lynch, I told you I needed some time away. You’re calling me after less than two hours? Do you not understand what ‘time away’ means?”

Lynch discerned that she was beyond upset. There seemed to be tears clotting every word she spoke. “I’m sorry, Jenna. I’m here with Callie and she has told me everything. There is nothing about her or her words that lead me to believe she’s lying.”

Jenna heard the passion in his voice. He was with Callie. Great. “That’s wonderful. Hope you’re having fun.”

He groaned. “Jenna, it’s not like that. Will you please listen to me?”

Jenna knew she was in no shape to listen to anybody right now, especially Lynch. She wanted so badly to tell him she was in the midst of leaving her mortal body. From experience, she knew he would not be happy to hear the news. It wasn’t like they were newlyweds finding out they were having a baby. Fighting the urge, she sighed heavily and said, “Okay, Lynch. I’m listening.”

“I want to tell Callie everything.”

Her fog lifted for a moment. “You want to what?”

“I want to tell her everything. She has the cure; I believe it wholeheartedly, Jenna.”

There was hope in his voice. She hadn’t heard that in a long time. “I don’t agree with your decision, Lynch. Saying that, there is nothing I can do to stop you from doing what you want.”

“Come home, Jenna,” he said gently. “I need you here with me.”

A horrid cramp assaulted her lower leg. She bit down hard on her lip until the cramp passed. “I’ve been there for you twenty years. Why wait until after we make love to appreciate me? I can’t, Lynch. Not yet.”

Her words were meant to be hurtful, vengeful. He didn’t sense it was her true purpose. She was simply trying to get rid of him. It didn’t take his lycan sensitivity to understand that. “What is going on with you? Maybe I should come up there and take you home.”

The passion was back in his voice. Oh how tempted she was to tell him the truth, to let him come here and take her home. She held back her tears. “No, Lynch. Don’t come out here. I’ll be home in two weeks. I have to go now.”

Before Lynch could say another word, Jenna hung up. Lynch growled as he stared down at the phone. Suddenly, he wanted to throw it, maim it. It wasn’t the phone’s fault Jenna had decided to stay away from him. Then he understood. All this time, all these years, he had taken her for granted. Now when he needed her the most, she wasn’t here. Part of him couldn’t blame her. The bigger part of him felt like an unruly five year old denied an ice cream cone. He placed the phone back into the glove compartment. There was still unfinished business with Callie.

Callie looked up as Lynch approached the bench and sat down. She gazed up at him with a quizzical look on her face. “Will you let me help you?”

He met her gaze. “We’re not finished talking yet.”

She held out her hands. “And?”

Lynch sighed deeply. How hard would this be for him? “You’re right, Callie. I’m a lycan. I was born this way. My mother was lycan, my father human. It wasn’t a choice for me and I wasn’t attacked by another. I just am.”

“Thank you for telling me,” she said with a warm smile. “I knew it anyway, and I knew I wanted to help you. Why don’t we go back to my place and I can give you the cure?”

He held up his hands. “Not just yet. Jenna is away visiting friends. When she returns, I will take you up on that offer. I just want her here first. Do you understand?”

She nodded. “Of course.”

“There’s something else,” he said cautiously.

“That is?”

“The murder in Calember County, Callie. Do you think Clark did it?”

“No, Lynch,” she said easily. “Clark could be cruel, he could even play horrible tricks, but I don’t think he is near here. If he was, he would have found me first.”

“And you’re certain of this?” He pressed. If there was a chance the murder could be solved, he was taking it.

“I’m positive. He’s still out in New York constantly partying.” She placed her hand over his. “Come back to my place,” she offered again. “I’ll fix you lunch.”

He sensed an unspoken invitation for other things that had nothing to do with lunch. “Callie, I don’t think that is such a good idea.”

“Why not?” She asked her voice tinged with hurt. “Jenna is not here for you right now. I am.”

She had spoken very true words. As angry as he was with Jenna, he didn’t think it would be a good idea to get tangled up with Callie. “Jenna and I have moved our relationship to the next level,” he began. “I don’t think there can ever be anything between you and me.”

Her hand was still on top of his. When he spoke, she tightened her grip. “When you kissed me, I felt what could be between us. So did you.”

Of course, he wasn’t truthful in his kiss. It lied to them both. He saw Jenna behind those incredibly soft lips, behind the sweet tasting lip gloss. “Callie, I can’t…”

She released his hand. “Just lunch. I promise. I want to hear more about your life, your family, what you have gone through.”

This, he was sure, wouldn’t hurt. “Okay. Lunch amongst two friends.”

She smiled brilliantly at him. “There you go.”

The two of them went back to Callie and Hugh’s apartment. According to Callie, Hugh had left for the gym. He and Lynch would be due for their shift in a couple of hours. Although he thought coming here was a bad idea, he had to admit he was starving.

Lynch sat at the breakfast nook while Callie stood in the kitchen getting their lunch together. She said she was making her special chicken salad for him. He actually liked chicken salad and he began to relax. She served him a glass of iced tea with his meal before getting her own together. Callie sat across from Lynch at the nook and silently watched him eat.

“So,” she began, “what’s your story? What’s it been like to live as you have?”

After taking a bite and swallowing, he drank some iced tea to wash it down. “I’ve lived this life for centuries,” he said. “My mother was mortal, my father a lycan. He said they met at her parents’ estate. Apparently, Mother’s family was blue bloods. My father owned a mercantile.”

Callie took her fork and played around with her food without putting any in her mouth. “Is that right?” She drank a sip of iced tea. “And your father? How did he come to be?”

Lynch shrugged. “He said he was born from a union between a mortal and a human. My father was human,” he said. “Oh, he heard stories of werewolves. Yet, he didn’t want to accept them. He always believed there was good in our breed, just like there is good in any human. Nikolas Tackett wasn’t a man who bought any line of bullshit.”

She laughed at this. “Sounds like you.”

He chuckled and took another bite of chicken salad. “I suppose.”

Intrigued now, she forgot all about her food. She leaned her chin on her hands, placing her elbows firmly upon the nook. “How did he meet your mother?”

“They were suppliers of his. When he went to gather inventory at their estate, he saw a young woman there. Her name was Constance. She was delicate, genteel, but also strong-willed and stubborn.” He smiled fondly as he remembered his father’s words. He was a no nonsense type of man. Despite that, he told his son that he fell head over heels in love with her at first sight. “He immediately knew he wanted to marry her the first time he saw her.”

Callie sighed under her breath. She was a woman of science. That didn’t stop her from believing this story truly romantic. It fit those she read in romance novels, her one guilty pleasure in life. “How did your father muddle through life as a lycan? How did he fall in love without the guilt of possibly turning her?”

Lynch ate another bite of chicken salad, washed it down with more iced tea, and suddenly felt uninterested in food. “Good questions. It was different in those days, I suppose. He didn’t think about the consequences whatsoever. I’m sure he was afraid of himself with her without it interfering in their romance. Like I said, in those days, it was easier to disappear, to deal with the transformation, find wild animals in the woods to use as feed, and return home with the wife as none the wiser.”

“How did your mother’s family deal with their relationship? As you are aware, history tells us that blue blooded families were a bit more choosey in those days.”

He let out a cynical chuckle that dried in his throat the moment he thought about his father’s past. There were secrets even he didn’t know. “History wasn’t far from the truth. It didn’t matter to Constance’s parents. They were successful suppliers and also made coffins for funerals. They were much too busy to care about who Constance had their eyes on. Her brother and sisters didn’t care for him much, but they grew out of that. Other than that, her parents understood what a good business deal their marriage meant. They saw it as practical. I can’t remember meeting any of Mother’s family. Nikolas wasn’t wealthy, but he didn’t do badly for himself. There was more, and he knew it. He could speak of his lost love or his father’s lover, Lydia Blount. A woman who almost mirrored Jenna. Yet, he had no way of truly knowing what happened after his mother died. It was one story his father never touched. The image of his father’s, Lydia’s, and his love’s ashes haunted him.

“Of course they would,” she said with cynicism clearly in her voice. “They produce the products, he sells them. Everyone gets rich. Did your mother ever know about your father?”

“No. It was his one regret in their marriage. He hid it from her well. Whenever he felt the first tinges of change, he left. He had a certain sixth sense of when he was about to have a transformation. Most of us do. When it came upon him, he told her he had to leave for a few days to gather supplies.” He didn’t know, couldn’t, that she had confessed on her death bed that she had known her husband was different all along.

Callie watched him fiddle with his fork. She knew it was difficult for him recalling his personal history, especially with someone he didn’t know well. “What happened to your parents?”

“I never knew my mother,” he said sadly. He drank some iced tea to soothe his throat. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember speaking so candidly about his parents with anyone else other than Jenna. “She died during childbirth. My father was murdered.” With my first love and her mother, he thought vaguely. By her own stepfather. He was a smart man, but never deduced the connection.

She wanted to know the reason behind his father’s murder. She didn’t want to pry, because she could see how haunted his eyes were when he spoke the words. There was more behind it. More she wanted to know. “Did you ever find his killer?”

He gazed straight into her eyes. “Absolutely. It was the first kill I ever made without the need for food.”

“What about lovers? You had to have those.”

Something about his demeanor changed completely. He went from being totally open to closed in nanoseconds. “I don’t want to go into it.”

Her face pinked with embarrassment. “I’m sorry, Lynch. I didn’t mean to pry.”

He sighed heavily, realizing he had likely hurt her feelings. “You didn’t pry.”

Without thinking, she reached across and placed her hand over his. “It might help if you wanted to talk about it, Lynch. There are things you have seen, lived through, that I cannot possibly imagine.”

Lynch couldn’t believe what he was about to do. He hadn’t told Jenna anything about the first love of his young life. What was it about Callie that made him feel as if he could speak so freely? “There were women, Callie. Many of them. I had a great love of my life. She died with my father and her mother.” He would tell her that much without mentioning her name. He would not speak it to her, to anyone.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I can see the hurt in your eyes. We never truly forget the people who touch our lives.”

He noticed her hand was still on his. He wanted to move it away; he couldn’t. Without Jenna here, he needed the closeness of a human. “No, we can’t.”

Desperately wanting to change the subject, Callie asked, “What did you do all these years?”

Thankful for the direction she had taken, the ice was once again broken. He slowly moved his hand away from hers and busily attacked his food. Swallowing a bite, he said, “Almost everything. I fought in the Revolutionary War and remained in the military until I was thrown out. Before the Civil War began, I was a Pinkerton. I was in love with the law, and my father once said I followed our town’s constable everywhere he went. I also more or less drifted from place to place. He left a significant amount of chattel. It supported me most of my life, until I connected with Andy and Jenna’s ancestors. They began developing the serums which have sustained my life.”

“And your fabulous house? How long have you owned it?”

“As long as it looks,” he said amusedly. “The home is actually one my father built for my mother before they were married. In those days, Pa called it Tackett House Manor. I was born right up in the master bedroom. Over the years, I’ve changed things here and there. Although my father left a modest estate, his mercantile was sold off after I served with the Pinkertonst to pay the remaining debts on it.” He didn’t mention anything else about those days. Most was still a mystery. “My Pa had a breakdown of his own, which he never discussed, and I began running the mercantile when I came back home. That is how I met…” He stopped speaking for a moment. He had almost said her name. He cleared his throat and continued: “I’ve blown through most of my money on it and a lab I had built in the basement.”

Her ears perked up, she was more than listening now. “A lab? I’d like to see it.”

He shrugged. “It’s nothing special, really. Just the right equipment for Jenna to complete her work.”

She would get back to that subject later. Right now, more questions piqued her interest. “And what about your job now? What happens when people begin to notice you never age?”

“I have been a cop for almost fifteen years. Knowing when I should age, I sometimes take steps to progress the process. Lycans who are pure born stop aging in their twentieth year. I work at a job, dye gray streaks in my hair, and retire. I move on to other careers in fields within different communities. When it’s time for me to leave the police department, I will find something else and start over.”

“Your life must be a lonely one,” she began, “have you ever considered turning someone so you will never be alone?”

He shook his head. “Never,” he stated emphatically. “One day, the compounds Jenna invents will stop working. Both she and Andy have instructions.”

Callie again put her hand on top of his. “They won’t need to use them, Lynch. My cure will end it. That I promise you.”

The two of them finished their chicken salads with conversation floating away from talk of immortals. Lynch allowed Callie to walk him to the door. There, Callie boldly moved forward and placed a kiss on his mouth. Stunned, Lynch didn’t know how to react other than to simply let it happen.

When it ended, Lynch wasn’t sorry. His heart belonged to Jenna. It had belonged to her for a very long time. With this on his mind, he didn’t think allowing Callie to kiss him could honestly tarnish anything. “Callie, I wish…”

She wouldn’t let him finish his sentence. “It’s okay, Lynch. I know you’re not available. I wish you were. If you ever are, you know where to find me.”

Since his (or her) last kill, the self-proclaimed ender of human life began the hunt for another prey item. Moving from one area around Calember County to another part of the state, he spotted the next human he wanted to make his own. He stalked the area without being seen. He was good at that, actually…better than most. The man he chose moved around at night, which was perfect. The killer moved around then as well. He could hunt during the day, and pounce once the sun set. The problem with that, however, was his prey didn’t stay alone. He had a plan to isolate him. It would work. It had to. He was hungry for blood.

Thinking of his prey, he laughed. Most horror movies liked to portray blood thirsty killers as eyeing women as targets. Why didn’t these pieces of trash ever get it right? True hunters of humans weren’t limited to one gender. They bent both ways. This last thought sent him into hysterics. He laughed heartily, forcing those sitting around him to look at him as if he were crazy. Most people might think he was. He wasn’t. Oh no. What he was could be explained away as something that happens to every living thing. He was hungry and ready to strike. Would tonight be the night? He didn’t know, but he was ready.

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