Authors: Jeanne C. Stein
Tags: #Vampires, #Strong; Anna (Fictitious Character), #Contemporary, #General, #Urban Life, #Fantasy, #Fiction, #Occult & Supernatural
David came with me to the funeral. He and Max were never friends, but he respected him. He also knew that Max and I had been lovers once. He was the first one on my doorstep when he heard of Max’s death. He holds my hand and lets me lean on him as the proceedings come to a close. One by one the guests leave.
Now we’re the only ones left. I insisted on staying out of sight during the service. I hate funerals. I’ve never been comfortable sharing my feelings, especially with strangers. David didn’t question it. He’s never been big on public displays of emotion, either, and he knows my history—I lost a brother when I was seventeen. There were enough public displays of emotion at that funeral to last an eternity.
I touch David’s arm. “You can go now, David. I appreciate your coming with me, but I’d like a few minutes alone.”
He looks around at the deserted gravesite. “How will you get home?”
“I’ll go back to the caretaker’s office and call a taxi,” is what I say. In my head, I’m thinking a little physical exercise, like an eight-mile run home along the Pacific, is just what I need to clear my head. I dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and athletic shoes this morning for just that reason. And as another excuse to stay out of sight of the more traditionally clad mourners.
I knew Max would understand.
David nods and leans over to kiss my cheek. He doesn’t ask why. He doesn’t try to talk me out of it. He simply leaves.
I wait until he’s gone before approaching Max’s grave.
I kneel down and touch the side of the casket. “Culebra sends his love. He couldn’t come, Max. He didn’t want to leave Adelita and she doesn’t have her formal papers yet. He was afraid they’d have trouble getting back across the border. I think it was more than that, though. He knows you were shot with one of those ATF rifles. He’s sick about it. I told him you didn’t hold him responsible, that it’s more the fault of the ATF genius who thought up the gun sting, but he doesn’t believe it. Maybe
could tell him, pay him a visit the way you did me?”
I stand up and pull a rose out of one of the floral arrangements and drop it onto the casket.
“Thanks for saying good-bye, Max,” I whisper. “Sorry if I held you up. Safe journey.”
HE RUN ALONG THE COAST RENEWS MY SPIRIT. THE air is crisp and the sky clear. A low winter sun sends shards of light bouncing off a calm ocean. A perfect January afternoon.
A hell of a start to the new year.
My family gone.
At least with my family, it’s only “gone” in the sense they no longer have a home here.
No. Not true. They’ll always have a home with me.
I’m back at the cottage, seated on the deck off my bedroom, watching the ocean. I spoke with Culebra after I got home from the service. He will not be easy to console; his guilt over Max runs deep. But Adelita is there, and his voice when he speaks of her is hopeful and full of wonder. He’s already enrolled her as “his niece” in a Catholic school in Tijuana. She starts at the beginning of next week. In the meantime, she is adjusting to his unconventional lifestyle and even finds the rather special clientele his bar caters to fascinating. I think the fact that she revels in feeling safe and secure for the first time in her young life has much to do with the ease of her acceptance.
And spending a week with a vampire.
The parallels between Adelita and Trish are remarkable. Both have found real family in bonds of love rather than biology.
A car honking in the alley draws me back. I look down to see a taxi pulling into the driveway. I wave that I see him, shut and lock the slider, grab up my bag and run downstairs.
I have one more journey of my own to make.
To a Navajo reservation.
I wonder how my parents will feel about a new grandson.
* * *
Ace Books by Jeanne C. Stein