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I stood at the side of the casket, looking down at the beautiful wrinkled face framed by white silky hair. I reached down, stroking the hair I once used to braid, silently saying my final goodbyes. A tear slipped down my face. “I wish you would have let me turn you, Natalie.”
Cliff put his hand on my shoulder, and I sighed. We made eye contact and then walked away from the casket, allowing everyone else in line to say their goodbyes too.
“It was what she wanted,” Cliff told me, wrapping his arm around me.
I nodded, knowing he was right. Not that it made it any easier to lose my sister, even though she had lived ninety-seven good years. She had lived the life that she wanted. She and Braydon had married as soon as she graduated high school. They had the huge, beautiful wedding that she had always dreamed about. Although the world had changed a lot over the previous eighty years, she and Braydon had done well for themselves and pretty much saved the town of Delphic Cove themselves.
We walked to the back of the room and stood against the wall. I looked around the room, filled with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I’d been able to spend time with her children as they grew up, but as soon as one of them noticed how young I looked, since I wasn’t aging, Natalie had insisted that I stop visiting my nieces and nephews.
Before she’d even had any kids, she had made it clear to me that she didn’t want to have anything to do with becoming a vampire and she had even gone as far as making me swear to never turn her kids or grandkids. After Francine had kidnapped her, using her as bait against me, Natalie hated vampires. She wouldn’t talk about them and told me never to bring the word up to her again or she would cut me out of her life for good.
“Do you want stay in town for a while or go back to the castle?” Cliff asked, giving my shoulders a squeeze.
“Let’s stay a little while. I want to see my nieces and nephews for a little bit, since I can’t talk with them.”
As I looked around, I was able to easily spot her children, despite not having seen them for many decades, not since they were teenagers. They were in their sixties now. My parents had been gone for a couple of decades and I had no relationship with any of Natalie’s descendants.
This would likely be my last visit to Delphic Cove, the place I had grown up. I had no more ties here; what friends I did have had been long out of my life. I had to stop seeing them too once they noticed that I wasn’t aging. It was the curse for vampires who’d grown up with mortals. It was something every common vampire had to go through. If I would have grown up with my vampire family, it would have been a non-issue.
I looked at Cliff and tried to smile. “Thanks for coming with me. You have the patience of a saint.”
He laughed. “There’s nothing saintly about me. We’re—”
“Sure going to miss Natalie,” I interrupted, afraid that he was going to say vampires.
“Yes, we are,” he said, grinning.
My ears zoned in on a conversation across the Sanctuary. Natalie’s oldest daughter, Heidi, was whispering to her brother about me. I watched them from the corner of my eye, pretending to look at a flower arrangement. It was strange to see them with graying hair and wrinkles. Aside from that, they looked exactly as I had remembered them.
“I swear, Parker, that’s Aunt Alexis,” Heidi said, looking my way.
“Aunt Alexis? Mom’s older sister?” he asked. “You need to get home and rest. Losing Mom is really getting to you. That girl looks to be in high school.”
“Don’t you remember when we were in junior high and I asked about Aunt Alexis looking so young? Mom freaked out and then we never saw her again. I swear to you, that’s her. That’s exactly what she looked like back then.”
“Maybe we’d better get going,” I whispered to Cliff, pulling on his arm.
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