I have a new book out today. To Curse the Darkness is the sixth book in my Children of Night series and I've finally figured out what I'm writing about. I know, I'm slow. Don't judge.
I mean, I always knew I was writing about a vampire family. That was the whole point. But I never really considered how central to the story that family is. Turns out the series isn't just about a single family. It's about what family means, the impact the whole has on the individual members, and all the ways in which the relationships change as parents age or children grow up.
So, in a way, To Curse the Darkness is a coming of age story. And this is true even though Julie, the character who comes of age in the story, is in her forties.
But, after all, these are vampires. Given her life expectancy, I don't find that unreasonable at all.
In the following scene, Julie has reached a decision that Conrad disagrees with. And that doesn't sit well with her sire at all.
“What are you doing here?” [Conrad] demanded. “How dare you defy me. You are not to endanger yourself. How many times must I say it”
“I don’t—” Julie bit back the angry words she wanted to say. That she didn’t need his permission—or anyone else’s. That it was her life, her choice. “I’m not endangering myself,” she said instead, figuring she didn’t need to add fuel to this particular fire. It appeared to be burning quite nicely all on its own.
But, oh, she really didn’t like the way Christian had distanced himself from her so abruptly. His reaction put her in mind of the time Armand had snuck up on the two of them while they were kissing. Then and now, it left her feeling defensive—as though she’d been caught doing something wrong.
And she didn’t like Conrad’s out-of-control protective streak either. His stubborn determination to stick with a decision that could only lead to unhappiness or everyone involved was nothing short of stupid.
Damn it, she thought she’d have more time. She knew she hadn’t convinced Conrad or completely changed his mind, but she’d been hoping she wouldn’t have to.
When she’d left Conrad and Damian in the salon, in the aftermath of Conrad’s confession, she’d expected they’d want to take some time to sort through their emotions, maybe talk to each other, reassure each other. They certainly needed to! How many hundreds of years had they spent together? And they still hadn’t figured that out?
She’d been hoping the task would keep them busy long enough for her to get through with this. She hadn’t thought it an unreasonable assumption, but apparently it was, because here they both were.
She eyed her parental figures with annoyance, grimly pleased to note that Damian had nothing to say. The drawn, unhappy expression on his face was a pretty good indicator that at least she’d made her point with him. If Damian still had objections, she had no doubt she’d be hearing it. There was no way he’d be holding his tongue. His silence, even more than his strained and anxious expression, convinced her that he understood what she’d been trying to convey and that he agreed with her conclusion that Conrad was unlikely to ever recover from being forced to kill his best friend.
On the plus side, at least she was halfway to her goal. She only had to convince one of them now.
“Come and sit down,” she said, crossing to Conrad and taking one of his hands, “and we’ll talk about it.”
“There’s nothing left to talk about,” Conrad insisted. “My mind is made up.” Still, he let her lead him over to one of the armchairs in the suite’s small sitting area.
Once he was seated, Julie dropped to her knees by his side. The anguished look in his eyes made her want to cry. She hated seeing him like this. When she was a child, he’d seemed invincible. She remembered sitting on his lap after a bad dream or some other childish disaster had brought her to tears. Being with him made her feel safe—in part because she knew he’d always be there to protect her. Now, she just wanted to give a little back. Was that so wrong?
She gazed up at him entreatingly. “Why won’t you let me do this for you?”
“For me?” Conrad stared at her in horror. “Carissima, no. Please don’t say that. Since the day you and your brother were born, seeing to your well-being has been my first priority. Would you burden me now with the guilt of knowing that I was the impetus for this decision—a decision that could very well cost you your life? How has this become something you would do for me, or to further my interests in some fashion? Tell me, please.”
“Georgia saved your life—isn’t that what you told me? That none of us would be here if it weren’t for her?”
Conrad winced as though the reminder was painful. He swallowed hard before nodding. “Yes. It’s true. She saved me from such a state of utter misery that…that I could never have survived without her help. Without her, I would have had to find some way of ending my life long before now. Do you understand what I’m saying? It was torture. I couldn’t bear it.”
“So then why wouldn’t you want to save her life in return? Or how about all those other people who were infected with this disease? The ones you had to kill over the years, to end their suffering. Didn’t you ever wish there were some way to cure them?”
“Yes, child, of course I did. But there wasn’t any other way. I’ve told you that several times now.”
“I know,” Julie agreed. “I understand. Up until now, there was nothing you or anyone else could do to help them. And there’s still no way that you can cure Georgia. But I can. I can save her and Christian too. Just think: if this works, you’ll never have to kill anyone else—not ever again. That’s gotta be worth some risk, right?”
Conrad brushed her arguments aside. “Never is an inconceivably long time. I’m sure there will be many people who I will deem it necessary to kill. The woman who hurt your brother, for example. Eventually, we will find her. She will pay for what she’s done.”
“That’s not the same thing, and you know it. You want to kill her. It’s not something you’ll be forced to do.”
“I still cannot let you go through with this.” His expression was as determined as ever, but Julie could feel his resolve weakening. “It’s a parent’s job to look after his young, to care for and protect them, do for them what they cannot do for themselves—not the other way around.”
Julie couldn’t help but smile. “But it doesn’t have to be that way forever. ” She resisted the impulse to point out that she was no longer that young. It seemed childish to mention it. Given the differences in their respective ages, she doubted it was an argument she’d ever win anyway. “There has to be some point when things change, when the tables turn and you let others care for you. Don’t you agree?”
Conrad shook his head. “I’m not yet so weak that I need to depend on others for support.”
“Querido,” Damian interjected suddenly. “Since when is it a weakness to accept help from those who love you? Did you think yourself weak when you sought my help in raising the children?”
Conrad spared him a brief, unhappy look—a look that suggested Damian was an idiot for even asking. “Yes. Of course I did. And so I was. Weak. Desperate. Afraid. Don’t pretend now that you did not resent me for it. That you didn’t hate me for placing your life in jeopardy. I know for a fact that you did.”
Tears glinted in Damian’s eyes as he turned away, muttering angrily to himself. Julie sighed. “Look, when you think about it, doesn’t it make perfect sense? If Georgia hadn’t saved you, you couldn’t have saved us. I don’t think I’m wrong about that, am I? Marc and I wouldn’t be here right now either if it weren’t for you. So why shouldn’t it be my turn now? Let me save her; that way it all balances out and everyone’s happy.”
Conrad shook his head. “No. It’s bad enough that I could not protect your brother from that madwoman who abducted him. Or that I would not have been in time to save you the other night if others had not intervened. I’ve failed you both enough already. Do not ask me to do so again. I will not be the cause of any more pain.”
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