The Door to the Spirit Plane slammed shut behind them. Crow hit the ground. He inhaled cool night air trying so hard to be human. Any little bit at this point helped. Any little bit preserved that one drop of blood for Olive. He took another deep breath and inhaled a mouthful of dirt. Crow coughed and gagged. Pain shot through his arm and around his chest. Broken ribs stabbed at skin and muscle as they expanded and contracted. Crow got his knees under him with a groan. Fortunatus dropped down next to him and set Jack, now a small boy, gently on the ground. Crow wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and across his watering eyes. He grabbed Fortunatus’ shoulder. The smells and sounds of a sleeping circus – stale popcorn, stale sweat, soft breathing – washed over them.
“We made it,” Crow said.
“You reek of bodily injuries. May I suggest you do not take on a flying tree again.”
“I’ll try to keep that in mind,” Crow said through gritted teeth as his body started the work of healing. He suddenly wished he had a way to stop it. He could take the pain for a little longer if it meant guaranteeing she was his again. But he could no more stop his body from healing than he could make Jack’s start healing.
“We left them,” Jack moaned.
“We had no choice,” Crow growled. “They wanted to give us a chance and we had to take it.”
“Crow, we need to get Jack to a doctor,” Zephyr said. She fluttered off his shoulder and took up her post on the chest of the boy.
A loud click broke the night silencing the nightly insects. Bright lights surrounded them. Relief, almost painful itself, broke over Crow. They were here. All of them. He didn’t have to go hunt down Jones or Stan. He didn’t have to stumble through camp banging on doors. They had been waiting for them. Breaking from the lights like the magical being she was, Olive knelt on the ground in front of Crow. Tears streaked down her face. She held up trembling hands not daring to touch him.
Crow lunged for her. He cupped her face – the face he loved more than any other – in his hands and kissed her. He poured all the pain, anguish, and sadness of their journey into each kiss. A deep well of undeniable gratitude filled up inside him. Never, he swore in his heart, would he take for granted the simple magic of being able to touch this woman, feel her soft skin, taste her sweet lips, or pull her close to himself. Olive laughed. If the first babies laugh created fairies, this laugh born on the back of loneliness, sadness, and fear created something far stronger, far deeper, and more mysterious. It brought hope to life. It filled Crow up. Olive wrapped her arms around him. She pressed her face to his. Hope hurt more than the broken ribs and elbow, yet he didn’t want to be healed. Tears ran tracks through the dirt and dust on his face. Olive wiped them away one by one.
“Why are you crying, Crow?”
He shook his head and kissed her again his tears wetting her face.
Time, time, time ticked in Crow’s mind. She wasn’t healed yet. If Crow didn’t hurry this would be the last time he kissed her, not one of many. He stood up pulling Olive up with him. The whole circus stood around them, big and tall, short, lithe, and silly. Crow tucked his broken arm around his ribs and wrapped the other around Olive’s slim shoulders unwilling to lose physical contact with her. Fortunatus rose to his feet gathering Jack.
“Where is my son?” a giant woman asked.
Guilt flooded Crow. He almost hung his head, but hope wouldn’t be so easily defeated. Instead, he raised his eyes to the giantess and her husband. Around them, as usual, huddled all the little people. The families of the men he had to leave behind looked at him with fearful, glistening eyes. They had heard the Door shut. They saw only Crow, Fortunatus, Jack, and Zephyr. They knew what that meant, but they needed to hear it. They needed the man who led their sons away to die to tell them their sons were dead.
“I’m sorry. I’m very and truly sorry. They….they….” What could he say?
Mrs. Johnson fell to the ground with a broken sob. Crow grunted as if he’d been kicked. A small hand yanked on his shirt sleeve.
Crow blinked. He couldn’t say anything. They had given everything so he had a chance to save Olive.
“They died to save us,” Fortunatus said. “They died to save us….” his voice trailed off into a whisper.
“BW8 was as big as Johnson,” Jack said turning his head down to the little man. “He was as big as Johnson over there.”
The little man smiled, patted Jack’s arm, and returned to the group huddled around Mrs. Johnson.
The lights ran together. Crow drifted away. His body forced him to focus on healing. It wanted all the magic to knit bones and organs back together. Crow snapped back up. Stan braced him, keeping him on his feet. Wen, Emma, and Rose stepped from the crowd to join them.
“Fortunatus?” Crow grabbed at the vampire. ”There are a few hours left till daylight. Get Jack to a doctor. Stan, I need to do the transfusion now or it will be too late.”
“I’ll go with them, keep them out of trouble,” Zephyr said.
Stan hauled Crow to an RV. It was the same one which started the whole crazy circus adventure. The same one where Crow first met Johnson and BW8. A burning candle sat on the window sill, and Crow had come home. Stan dragged him up the stairs. Sweat broke out all over Crow’s skin. He had never fought against a healing in his life. He couldn’t stop it, but he tried to slow it down. Please wait. Stan laid him in the bed. Olive climbed in after him and laid next to him. Crow rolled up on his good elbow and ran his hand over her face.
“Are you afraid?”
“Yes. A little.”
Not thinking, just doing, Crow bent his head down to her neck and bit her. Warm blood coursed from the wound over his lips and filled his mouth. Tiny pinpricks of power stabbed at him. His ribs and elbow protested the increase in the pain communicated to the nerves in his body. But, the night and the clouds of Caroline still in his blood protected him. Olive’s blood tried and tried to hurt him. It tried to burn him from the inside out with all the power of the sun. Caroline’s cool darkness sheltered him. Olive’s blood filled him. His ribs healed, no longer waiting. His elbow re-knit. Her blood – sweet, magical, and warm – called to him. Forget who you are, it whispered. Forget what you are, it sang. Give into the lust of vampires. Become the night which shelters you.
Here was a witch, the witch, offering all of her life to him. Drink deep. Olive’s heart beat in his head and her body beneath him radiated heat. Everything about her screamed life, magic, power. The blood-wine of her being flushed Crow. But, he held back. He took her in. He emptied her, but he kept the lust caged. This might be a witch. This might be the witch freely offering herself to him, but this was his Olive. This was his Olive and he wanted her, all of her – alive, whole, and untainted by his lust.
Olive’s heart slowed. Her breathing stopped. Her flesh went cold.
Crow pulled away.
She lay dead on the bed. Not even one tiny drop of blood trickled from the bites on her neck.
“Olive, wake up! Please!”
“Wait, Dhampir, wait,” Emma whispered.
Crow rocked back.
He clutched her hand, able to touch it even though all of Caroline’s blood was gone from his veins. It was cold and lifeless. His Olive gone. He would rather have an alive Olive he couldn’t touch, than one dead by his own hand.
“It won’t, it’s not working….Oh God! I killed her.”
Crow leapt to his feet in horror. The morning sun of a new dawn blinded him as it peeked in through the window. Without stopping to think, Crow grabbed Olive up and carried her outside. He shifted to an opening in the jumbled RVs. The sun marked him with brilliant light. All that was vampire inside him hid away. Crow dropped to his knees, and held up his one love, the witch of seasons. He offered her up the sun, glorious and bright. He offered her to the antithesis of all that was darkness and vampiric.
Olive’s whole body went rigid. It arched in Crow’s arm. She opened her mouth and screamed.
The sun rose past them.
Crow brought Olive down to himself. He gathered her close to his body. Her eyes were shut, and her face pale but not deathly so. Crow ran his hands through her multi-colored hair.
Two emerald-green eyes opened….
…Join me, next Friday, for the continuation of the tale…
“The future does not belong to the fainthearted, but to the brave.” – Ronald Reagan
(I apologize for the shortness of this post, but this is the ending of the second part of the book. Next week, we will begin part three.)