"Get back here and explain, Natasha!" The voice rudely yanked me from the growing drama between Charles and the Renee who it seemed that I didn't know nearly as well as I'd thought. I found it amazing that Renee had been involved in creating a bloodline for vampires during the Civil War. And from what she'd been saying, Beau had begun it from a time long before the war had even started.
I sighed and said, "What do you want?" Like I didn't already know. He wanted me to tell him precisely what I saw. I was growing more and more assured that he couldn't travel back into history like I was, or he wouldn't be pushing me so hard to tell him about what was happening. It felt like I'd been vicariously living Charles' life for months, not what was probably hours or even mere seconds. Like a dream or a nightmare that seems to run forever in your mind but it turns out to be just seconds, the mind does peculiar things. I felt strange, at the very least, and admittedly fearful at times too. There were layers upon layers of plotting and planning that goes on in the vampire community, and it wasn't a brand new concept from everything I'd seen in the small Southern town where I'd last seen Charles and Renee interacting.
"Natasha, you need to tell me what you see. I told you. I want to hear every detail and now." He didn't tell, but rather he highhandedly demanded, but I wasn't going to quibble. I wondered if I was dead for the umpteenth time.
"And as I told you before I am seeing everything." Repeating my earlier comment didn't serve to make him happy, and just like that I pushed myself back into the past leaving him screaming at me in the gray.
1863 in the South ...
Charles had just asked Renee to tell him something he didn't know. And she did.
"Rose is pregnant." She delivered the news flatly. The stale air in the basement seemed to pull in on him and he felt a chill chase down his spine.
"Why should that concern me?" He was trying to dismiss the growing fear but he was at a loss how to do it. It wasn't like he even knew Rose. After all he'd just met Willow and Rose the night before and there wasn't exactly enough time to learn much more than their names.
"Because she says that she hasn't been with a man in a year."
Okay, he had to admit that was odd.
"So then how'd she get pregnant?" It wasn't like the conception process was a mystery. Charles was figuring that Rose had an unknown lover that had impregnated her, and Willow wasn't as a close of a friend as she'd thought. Women had their own rules, he'd discovered over the years, and there was no way that he'd even begin to try to understand the convoluted maneuverings of ladies much less venture an opinion.
Renee continued to pace and slowly explained, "From what I can tell she was invaded in her sleep and her memory of the incident was completely erased. She and Willow are claiming that she and Jasper met up in secret and that was how she conceived the baby. Everyone in the town is skeptical but they allowed her the dignity in the fabrication and didn't argue the facts. The fact is that Rose is pregnant, at least two months, maybe even three. She's not showing yet but after she saw the local midwife the secret was out. The midwife then gossiped to everyone around the town and revealed the pregnancy. Willow knows that Jasper is far away and hasn't been to see Rose in nearly a year. They both don't have a clue how she was impregnated. I tried to find out by delving into her mind, but it's cleaned out utterly -- it's like there's a giant hole where she used to have those memories. Something like what we vampires can do, but from the feeling I got it wasn't a vampire. The baby inside her is aware of me but not in the least bit frightened. That's new. I've found that usually when a vampire slips into the mind of a pregnant woman the baby gets agitated and scared. It was like the baby already is used to having the mother's mind seized. That was truly frightening. Didn't you notice anything when you slid through her mind?"
She wasn't asking if Charles had pried into Rose's mind but simply assumed that he had. She'd assumed correctly. He thought for a minute then answered.
"No, I didn't notice that she was pregnant. The sorrow and fears were topmost in her mind. Her worries about the war and the depth of emotions flooded her thoughts. I've experienced the feelings of an unborn child before, but didn't notice anything when I was in her mind." Charles felt odd that he'd missed something so vital.
Renee nodded like that made sense to her in some way. She then added, "I think the child senses things outside the womb. When I went into Rose's mind I was actively looking for the baby and the memories so I found the one but not the other. The conception of her baby was a complete mystery to her and she was frightened. Overall it's truly unusual."
Charles agreed, but didn't bother to reply. There were so many unusual things happening for it to even register. He still wanted to know where Beau had disappeared to and if he was even alive. The sibling's actions weren't noble but they were fairly consistent if he really gave it some deep thought. He didn't want to but it looked like he'd be forced to figure out what Beau had done and see if there was anything he even could do. If necessary he'd go it alone, but he asked the vampire facing him, "Renee, what do you want to do?"
She laughed half-heartedly and said, "Nothing. We can't stay here and there's nothing I can do about her mind. It won't be mended -- it's just gone. She is disturbed by the loss but is slowly coming to terms with the irregularity. Some of what Beau did when we were here was make the humans dismiss oddities in their lives and not overly worry when they came across something out of sequence or discovered that time had been lost. It safeguarded us if someone was strong-minded and able to push our control aside, if even for a dream. After all the years, it created a certain level of acceptance within their natures."
Again Charles wondered how many years she truly meant. She'd already said decades and since he'd personally taken blood from a neighbor and found out from Renee that she was in fact well into her nineties not the mid forties as she'd appeared to be, he knew that Beau had done a damn good job at making them accept the differences and oddities in their world.
But then he'd had years of practice, and from what Charles was being told, there were many more such communities set up around the East Coast for culling humans to fulfill the blood needs of the clans. It certainly wasn't a new concept. Charles knew of a few such clans that set up human feeding stations throughout the world. It just was the first he'd heard that Beau had been involved in such maneuvers. It disturbed him on so many levels.
"Then we need to head out. If what you say is correct, there's a creature out here that can wipe memories just as cleanly as vampires and is also able to impregnate humans. Do you have any idea what type of creature it is?" Charles asked while slowly getting to his feet. The sword was still glued to his hand and he knew that there was more vampire blood to be shed as well as whatever monster had made Rose his incubator. What type of monstrosity remained to be seen.
Renee shook her head. "I'll find out if I can. Let me get out of here and see if there are any new humans who moved into the town since we were last here. I'll be back in an hour. Do you think you can try to find out from Willow if she knows something? I think it's possible that you may be able to delve deeper because of your blood tie to Beau. She was fed by him not me."
Knowing it was a touchy subject Charles nevertheless asked, "Do you think it's possible that Wren knows something? She's had your blood."
From the furrow on her brow between her eyes he knew that she'd considered it. "She's so young."
It was a weak excuse and he said, "Yes, but that doesn't mean she hasn't observed something. Besides how old is she really?"
At that Renee sighed and said, "Fine, let's go upstairs first and see what we can discover before I head out into the town."
It was a reluctant acceptance, but Charles took it. They both went up to find the women in the living room, feeding the fire. Wren was busy embroidering a sampler that she immediately dropped when Renee showed up.
"Auntie Renee! I thought that was you I saw in my dreams!" The child uttered an excited squeal and launched herself into the vampire's waiting arms.
Charles greeted the two women while carefully looking for signs of age. It was true, both women, though stressed, looked far younger than they probably were. He sat down on the couch and said, "Thank you, Willow, for allowing us to stay here. Are there any chores you need done that I can help you with?"
She blushed softly and said, "More firewood, if it's not too much trouble?" Charles nodded and carefully slipped into her mind.
Willow was overly concerned about Rose's pregnancy. She found herself wondering if Rose was lying about not having taken a lover. Jasper was a sweet enough man, but Rose deserved far better from what Willow thought. And she thought that Renee's new boyfriend was very attractive in that gentille Southern way. She also knew that he hadn't been from the South originally, but somewhere over in Europe. She wondered why he didn't have an accent like the couple from Italy who had just moved into town. She pictured the house the two newcomers had bought -- and he knew where he needed to go next.
Charles slipped out of the woman's mind, knowing he'd just found the link to Rose's missing time and pregnancy. The 'couple from Italy' were more than likely the monsters Renee and he sought. Catching Renee's eyes he nodded his head once letting her know that he'd figured out something. She spun Wren around once and put her down next to her discarded sampler saying, "Okay, Wren, you settle down and do your embroidering and we will visit later."
"The firewood I am thinking of is another two hundred yards or so East from where you found the logs yesterday," Willow indicated with her hand the direction of the felled trees.
"Do you mind if I go help?" Renee asked while smiling mysteriously as if there was some sexual reason for her to help. The ladies all tittered and gave Charles the once over again with their eyes. He didn't blush, but dropped his eyes. He still hadn't figured out why it was fine for Renee to play at a romance with him in front of these women, but the moment he did anything in the same manner she got all prickly. Women definitely were a mystery to him even after all these decades.
"No, feel free. We'll see you two when you get back," Willow had a slight smirk on her face and Wren giggled at the women, not knowing what they were talking about, but delighted by the lighthearted atmosphere.
Together Charles and Renee headed out. He stopped long enough in the mudroom to pick up the axe that he'd used the previous night. Hefting it onto his shoulder, he opened the door, allowing Renee to go outside first. It was then he felt the anger directed at them.