The Vast Explorer
Sailing toward Beau Harbor
11pm, October 29
Judson Cross pulled the jacket close around his body while the wind whipped around him. Small ice pellets struck his exposed skin and he knew he’d have to go back inside before the storm got worse. Mackenzie Previn was behind him and he turned to look at the young woman who’d saved his life on more than one occasion.
"It’s a lot warmer inside, Judson," Previn said.
"Tell me about it," Cross told her and sighed heavily. Since leaving the hospital, Mac and Gabe had both been overly protective of him and he was grateful to them, but there were times when he needed to be alone.
"Why don’t you come in and have a cup of coffee?"
"I’ll be there in a few minutes, Mac," Cross assured her. The darkness had closed in around them and he felt a chill throughout his body.
"All right, Judson," Previn reluctantly agreed.
Judson heard her leave and turned his attention toward the gathering tempest that had nearly engulfed them. There was something surreal about the way it bore down on them and the explorer shivered expectantly when a familiar voice echoed like thunder on the winds.
Smooth Sailing, Judson
God, he hated the pirate’s voice and shuddered to think what the man had planned for him and Gabriel Patterson. John Roach had offered him Gabe as his first feast as a vampire, but Judson had turned him down flat. Now he was hearing the lilting voice in his dreams and it seemed to have followed him into the real world.
"I won’t let you hurt them, Roach!" Cross vowed and grabbed at his side when needle like pain gnawed at his flesh.
We shall see, Judson, we shall see!
Cross whipped around and searched the deck for the person who had spoken so close to his ear. A dark shadow formed near the entrance to the engine room and he shook his head in denial when a hand reached out and beckoned to him. He resisted the voice, but there was something hypnotic that made it impossible to do anything but step toward John Roach. In the light from the cabins Judson could see the extended fangs and felt Roach reach for him.
"Such a waste, but you will both be mine, Judson...both be mine...both be mine...both be mine..."
Judson gasped when he felt his head tilted to expose his throat and soon felt something sharp enter his body. With that first bite, Judson knew all was lost and screamed in silent denial.
"Easy, Judson, you’re okay..."
Cross sat bolt upright in his bed and looked around in frenzied haste. His eyes explored every corner of his room and his breath came in rapid gasps until he thought he’d pass out. A hand touched his arm in a comforting gesture, but sent shockwaves of fear through his body until he focused on the woman seated beside his bed.
"Mac...where is he?"
"Who?" Previn asked worriedly.
"Blood...he was here...on deck...during the storm!"
"What storm," Previn asked. "We’ve had clear sailing for days now, Judson and will soon be in Beau Harbor. You must have been dreaming."
"No...that can’t be! I saw him, Mac, he was here!" Cross stated.
"Are you two okay?" Patterson asked from the doorway.
"Judson, are you all right?"
"Dream?" Cross asked hopefully and looked from one to the other before laying back on the bed.
"Yes, it was," Previn said and touched his forehead.
"Don’t," the explorer ordered.
"You’re warm, Judson," the young woman stated. Cross still wasn’t completely recovered from the bullet wound he’d received while trying to recover the Crucible of Geber. He’d spent several weeks in the hospital once they reached France, but was still having trouble with the wound, although the physicians had assured them it was fine. Unfortunately while in France they met with a client in a chateau and ended up fighting for their lives because a dead man had hidden a CD on the property. Judson had been an active participant in the apprehension of the baddies, but again he hadn’t been in the best of shape and now things seemed to be getting worse.
"I’m okay, Mac," Cross said and slid long legs over the edge of the bed. He ran his fingers through disheveled blond hair and felt the two people he cared about watchin him closely. "Any coffee made?"
"That’s why I came in," Patterson said. "Breakfast is ready."
"Are you cold, Gabe?" Cross asked.
"No, why?" Patterson asked.
"Why the scarf?" the explorer enquired.
"I’ve been working on the back rail and my neck is sunburned. Figured I’d better cover up before I end up with skin cancer," the young man explained and reached down to help the blond stand up. "Come on, Judson, scrambled eggs ala Patterson do not keep well."
"Damn, maybe we should both feign being sick, Judson!"
"Very funny, Mac, for that you get half rations!"
"Lucky lady," Cross quipped and followed the two friends out onto the deck where Gabe had set up a table fro the three of them.
‘Smooth sailing, Judson!’
Cross turned around and searched the ship, but again came up empty. He could feel Mac and Gabe watching him and finally took his seat.
"Judson, are you sure you’re okay?"
"I’m fine, Mac, just a little tired," Cross answered.
"Maybe you should eat and go back to bed," Patterson suggested.
"Think I will," the explorer said, shivering as if an icy wind had crossed his bow.
The Vast Explorer
Several miles south of Beau Harbor
11 pm, October 30
"Gabe, I’m worried about him," Previn said upon exiting Judson’s room and finding the young man seated on the deck.
"He seemed fine to me," Patterson said.
"Oh really...what about the fever?"
"It’s not bad."
"Gabe it’s over a hundred and after everything he’s been through since you rescued that lady in distress..."
"Oh come on, Mac, are we back to that? I had no choice!"
"There’s always a choice," Previn told him.
"Look, we’ll be in Beau Harbor in a few hours and if he still has a fever we’ll take him to Saint Luke’s."
"We might have to hog tie him," Previn said and noticed how pale the young man was. "Gabe, are you sure you’re okay?"
"Me? I’m fine, Mac, just a little queasy...probably from breakfast," Patterson said with a grin.
"Or maybe too much sun," Mac teased of the scarf around his neck.
"Probably," Patterson said and moved toward the engine room.
"Gabe, why don’t you get some rest?"
"I will...as soon as I check the engines," the young man assured her. "You going to be okay out here alone?"
"Why wouldn’t I be?" Previn asked and saw the grin form on her friend’s face.
"Well it is the eve of Halloween. There could be wailing banshees or mermen or any number of..."
"Gabe, you’re batty..."
"No...not yet," Patterson chuckled and hurried away, leaving a bewildered Mackenzie Previn standing alone on the deck.
"What the hell did that mean?" She asked and made to follow the younger man, but a terrified cry from Cross’ cabin made her change direction. She stepped through the door to find Judson standing in the corner as if trying to hide from someone or something that only he could see. His stance reminded her of the time when they’d been searching for the cause of his friend’s illness and discovered hallucinatory spores in a cave. She moved quickly toward him and wrapped her arms protectively around his shoulders and tried to draw him away form the wall.
"No...Mac...help...he’s here," the blond whispered as if afraid to speak aloud.
"Who’s here, Judson?" Previn asked.
"Judson, there’s no such thing as a vampire!" Previn told him.
"Yes there is, Mac, and he’s going to come back...for me...don’t let him...okay?"
"I won’t, Judson, no vampire or banshee or anything else will get near you on my watch! Now why don’t we get you back to bed?" the woman suggested, worried about the blond’s fever and what was causing it.
"S...sounds like an in...vitation I c...can’t refuse," Cross said softly.
"Yeah, well, I don’t mean I’ll be joining you..."
"You’re the one who once told me to shut up and get naked," the explorer teased as if the night terrors had left him.
Mac couldn’t help but laugh when his words brought back the memory of a mission to a virtual reality type Mars mission. She’d told him they needed to share body heat in order to survive and when he seemed to balk at the idea she’d told him to ‘shut up and get naked’. She eased the blond onto the bed and sat next to him, watching him closely for several long seconds.
"I’m okay, Mac."
"Are you sure?" Previn asked.
"Think so, it’s just been a long time since I’ve had nightmares like this," Cross told her.
"Well, after everything you’ve been through I’d be more worried if you didn’t have them. Want something to drink?"
"No thanks, Mac, just need to get some sleep. Where are we?" Judson asked and lay back on the pillows.
"Gabe says we should be in Beau Harbor in a couple of hours," Previn answered and tucked the soft blue blanket around the explorer.
"Thanks, Mom," Cross whispered and closed his eyes.
Mac watched him closely and wondered why she suddenly felt the need to sit with him and protect him from whatever nightmares visited him while he slept. She eased her body down beside him and soon drifted off to sleep, unaware that her friend’s nightmares were very real.
"Come to me, Gabriel..."
"I am here, Master," Patterson whispered and removed the scarf from his neck, revealing the marks left by the enigmatic Englishman. He stood facing the darkness at the stern and stared blankly ahead, tilting his head slightly and giving the dark form access to his neck. Gabe swallowed several times and gasped when he felt the teeth attack his throat and trembled when the bigger man suckled the wounds in his throat. It didn’t take long and Gabe stared at the man who stood before him dressed completely in black.
"You are a sweet young treat, Gabriel, but it is your friend I seek," John Roach whispered. "You will help bring Judson into our world and help him live forever."
"Judson will fight you," Patterson vowed and felt strong fingers on his chin.
"I’m sure he will, but he is weakened by the injuries he suffered recently and with your help he will take Daniel’s place at my side."
"When will you take Judson?"
"We will take Judson tomorrow night. We will both feed from his veins until there is nothing left and he will join us as one of the undead. Perhaps as dessert the three of us will enjoy Miss Previn’s rich blood. Rest, young Gabriel, for tomorrow night you will need your strength for the final feeding."
"Yes, Master," Patterson said. He wrapped the scarf around his neck and turned away from the baron. Making his way inside he lay down on his bed and touched the wounds to his neck. Gabe knew this was the second time he’d been visited by John Roach, once known as the pirate Captain John Blood. The first time had been during the late hours of the 29th when the vampire had overpowered him in his own bed. Roach had quickly explained that it would take three feedings to change him completely and then they would join together and feed off Judson Cross, draining the blood together until the last drop left the explorer’s body.
"I’m sorry, Judson," he whispered into the darkness while the cold swept through his body leaving him completely aware of death creeping up on him. Death would not take him, because he’d been marked and would forever walk the world as one of the undead.
The Vast Explorer
Entering Beau Harbor
5a.m., October 31
Mac woke to the sound of the engines slowing down and rubbed at her aching head. Her dreams had left her weary and uneasy, but she could not quite grasp what was causing the unease. She sat up and looked down on the sleeping blond, glad to see he was still sleeping soundly. She touched his forehead and again felt the heat emanating from him. The faster they got him to the hospital, the better she’d feel. Smoothing down her clothing, she headed toward the deck and was not surprised to find Gabe already there. What did surprise her was the fact that in addition to the scarf covering his neck, he now sported a pair of dark sunglasses.
"Gabe, are you okay?"
"I’m fine, Mac, it’s the damn boat that’s causing problems."
"What’s wrong with it?"
"I don’t know, but right now we’re dead in the water and drifting out to sea!"
"Gabe, I heard that from you once before when Judson needed a hospital...don’t do this...not now!"
"What do you expect form me, Mac? I’m doing everything I can, but there’s just no power anywhere. There’s not even enough juice to power the lights!"
"Gabe, Judson needs a doctor..."
"Why? What’s wrong with him?"
"I don’t know! He’s running a fever and it probably has something to do with his side. The wound out there by your lovely damsel in distress!" Previn spat angrily.
"We’ve been through that, Mac! I did what I had to do!"
"You sure did and it nearly got Judson killed!"
"Well look at miss high and mighty! I suppose you’ve never done anything that could’ve gotten him killed!"
"That’s not fair, Gabe! What the hell’s the matter with you?"
"Not a damn thing!" Patterson cursed.
"Mac, leave me the hell alone so I can get this damn boat working!"
Mac watched the younger man stride toward the engine room and slam the door upon entering. She stared at the closed door for a few minutes before walking to the railing and looking out at the calm waters that seemed a perfect contrast to the turbulent seas churning in her gut. Something was happening to the two men she cared most about, but for the life of her she could not quite put her fingers on what it was.
At first she thought the name was a figment of her imagination, but it came again and she turned around in time to see a dark shadow against the darker outline of the sky. Her heart stopped for a fraction of a minute before the figure completely materialized before her.
"Daniel?" The smile was weak, but there was no mistaking the young heir to John Roach’s empire.
"Mackenzie, I don’t have much time, but you need to beware..."
"Beware of what? How did you get here? Why did you disappear after the Baron did?"
"I do not have time to explain fully before dawn, Mac..."
"Are you still pretending to be a vampire, Daniel."
"I pretend nothing, but you must listen to me or you will lose them both. John Blood has been feeding on Gabe...and Judson through his nightmares..."
"John Blood died a long time ago, Daniel..."
"No, he did not. John Blood is cursed and must be stopped if you wish to save Gabe and Judson. I need you to listen closely and follow my directions to the letter before it’s too late."
"All right...let’s just say that for the moment I believe you...how do I stop a vampire?"
"You don’t, but I will. You must take Gabe away from Judson. Get him off the boat and if you can do it persuade a physician to give him a blood transfusion. I don’t know if this will reverse the process, but it will stop it long enough..."
"Long enough for what?" Previn asked.
"For me to stop John Roach for good. I must kill him before he has time to finish what he started," Wainwright warned.
"What he started?"
"Gabe is in the process of becoming one of the undead, Mackenzie, and if John Blood succeeds he will walk the streets by darkness and his soul will be forever damned."
"How do you plan on stopping him?"
"That is something you do not need to concern yourself with. Just know that I will do everything I can to protect Judson, but you must not allow Gabriel to stay, for together they will be unstoppable," Wainwright explained. "I must leave before daylight, Mackenzie, but I will return tonight when darkness falls."
Mac’s mouth hung open, but no words escaped when the newcomer disappeared in a flourish of dark clothing and smoke. She rubbed her arms in an effort to restore the warmth, but the chill resided deep inside her where no amount of heat could reach.
Mac spent the rest of the day caring for the explorer who woke at different intervals, shaking as if his body could no longer find the heat it needed. She fed him hot liquids in an effort to help and piled several blankets over him, but she could still hear his teeth chattering. Unbeknownst to her the icy chill invading her friend had more to do with his nightmares than the wounds he’d recently received.
The Vast Explorer
Dead in the waters near Beau Harbor
4pm, October 31
Gabe continued to work on the engines, but so far there had been little or no progress with the engines. Mac watched him closely and on several occasions noted the young man’s aversion to sunlight. Gabe stuck to the shadows, unaware he was being watched and Mac was beginning to believe Wainwright had been telling the truth about John Roach.
"Gabe, any progress?" Previn asked.
"Think so...wish me luck," Patterson said and placed his hand on the starter.
"Good luck!" Previn said and held her breath when he flipped the switch and the engine sputtered before finally kicking in. "Yes!"
"I told you I could fix it!" the younger man said with a grin.
"That you did, Gabe. How long before we reach Beau Harbor?"
"Could be a few hours yet, Mac. I can’t chance running the engines on full because there’s no telling how long the repairs will last. The engines will need a complete overhaul once we reach Beau Harbor."
"Good thing we actually got the commission on that last dive," Previn said.
"Judson, what are you doing out of bed?" the young woman asked worriedly and moved to help the explorer.
"Heard the engines...everything okay?"
"Everything’s great. Gabe says we should be in Beau Harbor in a couple of hours. Right, Gabe?" Previn answered.
"That’s right, Mac," Patterson agreed and moved back into the shadows.
"Gabe...you okay?" Cross asked.
"I’m fine, Judson, just tired."
"Gabe’s been working on the engines most of the day," Previn explained. "Maybe now that he’s got them working he can get some sleep."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Patterson said. He knew John Blood was visiting Cross in his dreams and sapping the warmth from his body as easily as he’d drained the blood from his veins. "Judson, you should go back to bed."
"Hmm," Cross agreed and stood on shaky legs. He let Previn guide him toward the cabins, but shuddered when he caught sight of something darkly familiar in Patterson’s stare. He tried to see the familiar eyes behind the dark glasses, but was overcome by weakness and nearly fell except for Mac’s steadying grip.
"Easy, Judson, I got you," Previn said.
"Watch out...out for Gabe," Cross said and knew nothing else once she’d eased him back to the bed. He closed his eyes and visions of a wild eyed Gabriel Patterson haunted his dreams. The younger man’s mouth dripped blood, and distended fangs could be seen inside the grinning mouth.
"Mac, you look like you’ve seen a ghost," Patterson said when Previn joined him in the mess cabin.
"I’ve never seen you eat steak so rare, Gabe," the young woman said.
"I...I guess I’ve acquired the taste for..."
"Blood," Previn whispered.
"What did you say, Mac?"
"I said you acquired a taste for blood...when did that happen?"
"I’m not sure," Patterson said with a grin and cut into the nearly raw meat. "It’s really good...want some?"
"No...I’d rather my steak wasn’t mooing when I cut into it," Previn said and reached for the box of crackers on the counter. She watched Patterson eat with gusto and shuddered when a droplet of blood escaped from the corner of his mouth and dripped down his chin.
"It’s very good," Patterson said offering her the next piece he cut.
"No, thanks," Previn said. "Gabe has anything happened that you’d like to talk about?"
"You’re acting strange and I’m beginning to think Judson’s not the only one who needs to see a doctor."
"What do you mean?" Patterson asked, turning away before she could see the anger in his eyes.
"I had a visitor last night, but I thought it was a dream...now I’m not so sure."
"A visitor? Out here? Come on, Mac, that’s absurd!"
"Is it? I think you’ve had a visitor too, Gabe."
"Oh really...and who do you think visited me?"
"John Roach? The pirate?"
"That’s the one," Previn said.
"Mac, I think you’re the one who needs to see a doctor. One of those specialist who’s willing to listen to fantasies."
"Let me see your neck, Gabe."
"What the hell for?"
"Let’s just say it’ll ease my mind if you do," Previn said.
"All right, Mac, but be warned it’s not a pretty sight now that the blisters have formed on the sunburn," Patterson said and eased the scarf away from one side of his neck, revealing blistered skin. "There...happy?"
"The other side," Mac said.
"Oh for God’s sake, Mac! Give me a break!"
"What’s it going to hurt to show me, Gabe, unless you’re hiding something!"
"I’m not hiding anything," Patterson said and fixed the scarf in place once more.
"Mac, leave me alone!"
"All right, Gabe, but if John Roach has been visiting you it proves he really is a vampire and you’re falling under his spell."
"Like hell he is...go take care of Judson and I’ll make damn sure we reach Beau Harbor," Patterson ordered and hurried away.
Mac knew there was nothing more she could do about Gabe and hurried to check on Judson Cross. Whatever was happening to Patterson was having an adverse effect on the explorer and Mac now understood Daniel Wainwright’s warning. Somehow she had to find a way to help both her friends and keep them alive. The hard part was going to be convincing Gabriel Patterson that this was the only way to save them all.
The Vast Explorer
Anchored in Beau Harbor
8pm, October 31
Mackenzie Previn hit the off button on her cell phone and thanked her lucky stars that Phillip Newman had answered her call. As soon as they anchored in Beau Harbor she’d placed the call she hoped would save both Judson and Gabe. She’d quickly told Newman that Gabe had lost a lot of blood and was in need of a transfusion. She’d shied away from any other explanation and hoped the man would not ask too many questions until they had more answers. She walked out of Judson’s cabin and up onto the deck.
‘Daniel, I hope to God you know what you’re doing!’ she though upon spotting Patterson working at the back of the boat.
"Mac, how is he?" the young man asked.
"His fever’s worse, Gabe, and I don’t know if there’s anything else I can do," Previn answered the younger man with a voice that spoke of the weariness she was feeling.
"Should we take him to Saint Luke’s?" Patterson asked.
"I don’t think the hospital is the answer this time...least not for Judson," Previn stated and leaned heavily against the railing.
"Mac, you can’t seriously believe John Roach is doing something to Judson? The man is dead!"
"I don’t know what to believe anymore, Gabe! All I know is Judson is getting worse and there’s not a damn thing we can do to stop what’s happening!" Previn snapped and slammed her fists down on the railing.
"Mac, I know Daniel Wainwright told you he couldn’t go into the sunlight, but..."
"What about the picture, Gabe? You have to admit it was Daniel and there’s no way in hell he should have been alive!"
"But to believe he’s a vampire...that’s straight out of Buffy or Angel! It’s not possible!"
"What happened to you, Gabe?" Previn asked, frowning when she looked into the younger man’s eyes.
"Nothing happened to me, Mac," Patterson snarled and turned away.
"Bullshit!" Mac spat and grabbed at his arm only to have it pulled away.
"Don’t touch me!"
"Why? Are you afraid of me, Gabe?"
"No, should I be?"
"Maybe...take off that scarf, Gabe."
"Prove to me there’s nothing wrong!"
"There’s nothing wrong!"
"I don’t believe you and neither does Judson. Is Captain Blood trying to get at Judson through you?"
"I told you John Blood is dead!" Patterson warned, snarling again when she latched onto his arm.
"I won’t let you!"
"Won’t let me what, Mac?"
"I won’t let you give Judson to John Blood!"
"What makes you think you can stop me?" the younger man snapped and savagely struck Previn across the face. He stood over her, laughing while fangs extended and saliva dripped from his mouth. "John Blood is dead, Mac. Judson killed him..."
"No...no he didn’t, Gabe," Previn said and struggled to her feet. "John Blood is one of the undead and he’s trying to make you and Judson part of his life. Don’t you remember he offered you to Judson and Judson refused?"
"Judson was weak," Patterson laughed. "He should have done as John asked."
"No, he shouldn’t," Previn said and watched the shadows behind the younger man. "Thank you for coming back, Daniel."
"I could not allow John to do this," Daniel Wainwright told them.
"You can’t stop us!" Patterson shot back. "John is strong and he will kill you both!"
"He can’t kill me, Gabe," Wainwright said sadly. "I’m already dead because of him, but it’s not too late for you. Did you do as I asked, Mac?"
"Yes, I have everything ready," Previn said and watched Wainwright move into position. She knew the plan was farfetched, but with everything she’d seen since coming to work with Judson Cross anything was possible. Wainwright had told her some scary stories since he’d contacted her and she still did not completely believe him, but she had to put her faith in the young baron if she wanted to save the two men. From what Daniel told her, John Blood had fed upon Gabe twice and if he succeeded in getting to him a third time, then Gabe would become one of the undead until someone drove a wooden stake through his heart. Mac knew she was taking a chance, but right now it seemed the only chance she had to save her friends.
"You better leave before John gets here, Daniel!" Patterson warned.
"John won’t be here until midnight, Gabe! He wants the power at its strongest and we both know that. He’s left you here to make sure nothing happens to his prize. He’s using you, Gabe!"
"No he’s not!"
"Yes, he is!" Wainwright snapped. "Years ago he took my most prized possession and he will do the same to you unless you let us help you, Gabe. John Blood does not want you or he could have easily taken you in England. No, John Blood wants Judson Cross because Judson is everything he could have been if he’d chosen the right path."
"No," Patterson spat, but there was a hint of belief in his words.
"Gabe, we can stop John Blood forever, but we need your help," Previn said and moved toward the younger man. "Daniel says that we can slow John Blood’s progress by giving you a transfusion and stopping him from feeding on you tonight. If you do this you’ll be stronger and he won’t be able to force you to do his bidding."
"That’s only from the movies, Mac," Patterson told her.
"Is it?" Wainwright asked. "Think about it, Gabe. Years ago when John Blood first made me what I am those stories were around and part of the vampire legend. It’s the same as using a stake through the heart or letting sunlight burn through a vampire’s flesh. There is some truth in all of the legends and we can free you if you’ll allow us to."
"Please, Gabe, I can’t lose you or Judson," Previn said and watched the younger man sink onto the chair. She finally understood why Gabe had shied away from the sunlight and stayed inside most of the day, John Blood had left his mark and they had to erase it before it was too late. "Gabe, we need your help."
"Are you sure this will work?" Patterson asked, looking from one person to the other.
"It has to, Gabe," Previn said.
"Do it," Patterson ordered.
"Where are we going?" the younger man asked.
"Dr. Newman is waiting for us at Saint Luke’s." Previn smiled when the younger man looked at her and frowned. "With your rare blood type he wants you where he can keep an eye on you. Besides with you off the boat it’ll make it harder for John Roach to get to you and Judson."
"What about Judson, Mac? We can’t leave him alone," Patterson warned.
"I’ll be here with Judson," Wainwright assured him.
"You’ll have to excuse me, but that doesn’t make me feel any better," Patterson said. "You’re as much a vampire as John is."
"Am I?" Wainwright asked. "I have never drank blood from a human body and I never will. John Blood made me what I am, but I have found other ways to survive without killing. Believe me I will protect Judson until you return."
"We’ll be back before midnight," Previn vowed and escorted Gabe off The Vast Explorer. She looked back in time to see Daniel Wainwright move toward the cabins and prayed they were doing the right thing. She’d already spoken with Phillip Newman and explained Gabe’s loss of blood, but was unable to give a reason for it and knew she’d have to think fast on her feet once they reached the hospital.
Daniel Wainwright watched the two friends leave the boat and took a deep breath before turning toward the cabin. He walked into the one belonging to Judson and wished there was some way he could ease the nightmares the man was lost in. He knew from his own experiences with John Roach that the man was wreaking havoc with Cross’ body, but until the baron showed up there was nothing he could do. To interfere in the nightmares would only warn Roach that he was there. He moved back onto the deck and looked out over the town of Beau Harbor and wondered what the people would think if they knew vampires and other monsters really did exist.
Saint Luke’s Hospital
9:14 PM, October 31
"Mac, bring him in here!" Phillips ordered upon seeing the two young people enter the ER. His expert gaze took in the trembling form and washed out appearance of Gabriel Patterson.
"Thanks, Doc," Previn said and glanced at the clock.
"On the bed, Gabe," Phillips told the patient and looked around. "Where’s Judson?"
"He stayed with the boat..."
"Mac, it’s Halloween not April Fools...no way in hell Judson would send the two of you here alone. Judson insists on making sure you two are properly taken care of. That man doesn’t trust anyone when it comes to you two."
"He trusts you, Doc," Previn said.
"Mac?" Patterson groaned.
"Right here, Gabe. What’s wrong?"
"Judson...I need to go back...need to help...need to prepare him!" the young man’s head came up, eyes glowing in the bright light and fangs dripping saliva.
"Mac! What the hell!" Phillips asked and was shoved away.
"Doc, get something to knock him out!" Previn shouted and tackled her friend before he reached the physician.
"What’s gotten into him?"
"Just do as I said, Doc, or we’ll lose him...lose them both!" Mac shouted and fought to keep the younger man on the floor. She couldn’t take the time to check on the doctor because all her energy was needed to control the twisting form beneath her.
"Get off me, BITCH!" Patterson ground out and worked one arm free. He struck her twice in the lower torso, but couldn’t shake her off. "I have to get to Judson!"
"No, Gabe! You have to stay here and let them help you!"
"Mac, what’s wrong with Judson?" Phillips asked.
"I’ll explain later...just give him the damn shot and put him out!" Previn snarled. She heard a commotion behind her, but was glad when Phillips delivered the shot to Patterson’s shoulder. The younger man’s struggles slowed and finally stopped and Mac lifted her upper body until she could look into his face. Satisfied that he was out, she pushed completely off and stood on shaky legs.
"What the hell was that all about, Mac?" Phillips asked and helped lift the sedated man onto the bed.
"You wouldn’t believe me if I told you," the woman stated.
"When it comes to Judson Cross and his crew I’d believe anything," Phillips said and reached into the drawer for the restraints kept there.
"Good idea," Previn said and helped attach them from her side.
"Well, what’s this all about?"
"Do you believe in...shit, Doc, I don’t even think I believe in them, but Daniel...and Gabe...and," Previn reached down and pulled back Gabe’s lips revealing the fearsome fangs she’d spotted earlier. "Look at these."
"What are they?" Phillips asked and frowned when he leaned in close. "If I didn’t know any better I’d swear they were..."
"Yes, but how?"
"That’s where it gets strange doc," Previn said. "It’s also the reason he needs a transfusion ASAP!"
"I’ll need to run some tests before..."
"Doc, please, just listen to me and..."
"You Bitch!" the words were in Patterson’s voice, but Previn and Phillips barely recognized the snarling visage before them. "Let me go!"
"He shouldn’t be awake!" Phillips snapped and moved to check the patient’s pupils.
"Don’t touch me or I’ll rip out your throat and drink every drop of..."
"Gabe, listen to me," Previn tried to get through the young man’s rage, but the head snapped toward her and bared its fangs.
"You think you can save Judson for yourself, Mac? You can’t...and neither can Daniel! John will drink your blood but he’ll leave you a shriveled husk of a shell and I’ll help him!"
"Mac, I think we need a psyche evaluation..."
"No, what we need is for you to give him a transfusion. Just look at how pale he is, Doc."
"I can’t...not without tests..."
"Then he’s going to die and so will Judson."
"You keep saying that, but you haven’t given me anything I can..."
"Doc, it’s Halloween and just for tonight I need you to suspend belief and look at Gabe. Look at his eyes and his teeth. Listen to his voice and tell me what you see!" Previn ordered.
"Do it!" Mac spat impatiently. She stood watching the physician and moved to close the door to keep out prying eyes. Phillips continued to examine the younger man in spite of Gabe’s angry curses and struggles.
"Tell me what you see not what you want to see," Previn ordered.
"If I didn’t know any better I’d say he believes himself to be a vampire..."
"Not a vampire...not yet anyway, but he will be if John Blood gets his way. That’s why I need you to give him the transfusion."
"I’ll need to do a blood test to make sure he gets the right type..."
"I’ll need someone to stay with him..."
"I’ll be here."
"This goes against everything I believe in, Mac."
"I know, but who knows maybe there is a Santa Clause too," Previn lightly teased and sank onto the chair beside the bed.
"This won’t take long," Phillips assured her, glancing at the angered man before exiting the room.
"Thank you, God," the young woman said softly. She rubbed at her throbbing skull and tried to ignore the angered cursing from the young man she called friend and hoped to save.
Judson forced heavy lids to open and was startled by the figure standing next to his bed. There was something vaguely familiar about him, but he could not quite grasp the memory until the newcomer spoke.
"I’m here to protect you, Judson..."
"Daniel," Cross whispered and sat up. His vision blurred and his side throbbed while his body trembled from the frigid air around him.
"I’m glad you remember me, Judson..."
"It’s hard to forget a man who’s been dead for over two hundred years."
"I wish I were dead, but I’m afraid it’s not that simple."
"Oh please...don’t tell me you’re..."
"A vampire," Wainwright finished the unspoken thought. "Whether you believe it or not, that’s exactly what I am, Judson. John Roach is a black hearted creature who takes what he wants and since he couldn’t get her he took me."
"God, what the hell did Mac put in that drink?" Cross spat and ran his fingers through his hair before looking at Wainwright again. "Where are Mac and Gabe?"
"They’re not here," the young baron answered.
"What the hell do you mean they’re not here? What have you done to them?" the explorer snarled with more strength than he thought he had left. His body was weak, as if he’d been drained of every ounce of energy he had.
"It has, Judson."
"What?" Cross asked in confusion.
"John Blood has been visiting you in your dreams and he has been draining your strength."
"I thought vampires drained your blood," the pale man snapped.
"They do, but they can also interfere with normal sleep patterns and insert themselves into their victim’s dreams. When they do the victim does not get the sleep he requires and he becomes more susceptible to a vampire’s wishes. You were able to escape John Roach once, and that has made you something of an enigma in his eyes. He does not like to lose."
"Makes him a sore loser. Where are Mac and Gabe?" Cross repeated and noted the time on his watch at 10:47.
"You are not the only one John has been visiting. How much do you know of the vampire legend?"
"Only what I’ve seen in the old movies...I wasn’t impressed with the newer versions and stopped watching."
"Judson, vampires do exist and the truth about them is a combination of everything you’ve learned from TV and books. Vampires are strong and they prey on those who are easily manipulated. You fought John Blood and you beat him. That victory is short lived because you did not kill him and now he has come back to claim you."
"Why now?" Cross asked.
"Because he had to regain his strength. He has claimed several victims although none of them will be undead because he drained them in one savage feeding, but Gabe..."
Judson’s head came up and he stood to his full height, ignoring the pain in his side when he grabbed Wainwright’s collar. "What about Gabe?"
"I am trying to tell you," the younger man said and pried Cross’ fingers from his shirt. "Do not touch me again, Judson!"
"What have you done to Gabe?" Cross snarled, amazed at the strength the other man showed.
"I have done nothing, but John is using Gabe to get to you. He knows you’re strong and that you turned him down once and he has visited Gabe twice."
"Visited? Don’t you mean bitten?"
"Yes, and he will be here shortly to finish what he started."
"I have to get Gabe out of here!"
"Mac already did."
"Thank God...where are they?"
"She took him to the hospital and hopefully she convinced the doctor there to give him a transfusion. If she did he should be all right as long as John Roach dies tonight."
"Where is Roach?"
"He will be here at midnight..."
"Why not now?" Cross asked tiredly.
"Because he wants to take you when his power is at its strongest. He wants you to know he has beaten you and he wants your conversion to the undead to be a painful reminder of who he is and why he chose you."
"I beat him once..."
"You were lucky, Judson, he won’t make the same mistakes again," Wainwright said. "You’re a smart man and you’ve seen a lot of things in your life..."
"Tell me about it," Cross whispered. "Why are you here, Daniel?"
"I’m here to help."
"Because of what John Roach did to me...what he took from me. I am ready to die, Judson, but not until he is defeated for good. I told you I’ve never fed upon another human being and that’s why I am weaker than John, but I do have the strength to help you drive him straight to hell."
"Tonight we will fight John together. You need to trust me completely."
"That’s kind of hard to do, Daniel."
"I know it is, but it is the only way."
"What is?" Cross asked nervously.
"What I am about to suggest goes against everything I have fought, Judson, but it is the only way we can defeat John. I need to be stronger than I am and you need to be marked as belonging to someone already."
"Marked? How?" the explorer asked, his voice trembling slightly at what he knew this young man was about to suggest.
"You need to be marked by a vampire..."
"No!" Cross spat and stood up, pacing the narrow confines of his cabin.
"Then you have condemned yourself...and Gabe to his fate."
"I’ll fight Roach!"
"I’m sure you will, Judson, but it will do no good. He will take what he wants from you and from Gabe and if you fight him he will grow stronger and I’m afraid he will set his sights on Mac next. He will not stop at draining her blood for John loves beautiful things and Mackenzie Previn is beautiful."
"I won’t let him."
"I said the same thing when he went after my..."
"I’ll kill him!"
"I’m sure you’ll try, Judson, but you will lose. He has been in your dreams and even now you’re feeling weak. You can barely stay on your feet. There is only one way to defeat him...only by giving yourself to me will you gain the strength to help me defeat John Roach once and for all."
"Give myself to you," the explorer whispered. "How?"
"My letting me feed on you," Wainwright answered softly. "It is not something I want to do, Judson. In fact I abhor the thought of it, but it is the only way to stop him."
"Won’t that make me what you are?" Cross asked in contempt.
"No, that part of the vampire legend is true. It would take three feedings to make you as I am, but one feeding would mark you as mine and no other vampire would be able to touch you. The choice is yours, Judson, but there is not much time."
"Give me something hard to choose from," Cross snapped and walked to the dresser. He picked up the picture and stared at the trio of faces. It had been taken shortly after they’d worked their first exploration and he’d framed it because of the simple smile on each of their faces. He held it close and knew he’d do anything in his power to protect Mac and Gabe.
Mac watched the blood feeding into Gabe’s arm and sighed in relief. Since Phillips had come in to tell her Patterson’s blood was dangerously low she’d felt as if a weight had been lifted from her heart. The physician had also cleaned the bite marks on his neck and had looked to her for an explanation she could not give him.
"Mac," the voice was weak, but there was no mistaking it and Mac found the strength to smile at her friend.
"Hey...how are you feeling?"
"What do you remember?"
"I...I’m not sure...mostly dreams. John Blood was in them."
"They weren’t dreams, Gabe. He did visit you...that’s why you needed the transfusion."
"He bit...bit me?"
"Yes, he did."
"He’s on the boat..."
"God no! You have to go to him, Mac, Roach wants him!"
"I know he does, but Daniel is going to help Judson defeat the pirate!"
"But he’s a vampire too, Mac," Patterson said ad struggled against the restraints.
"I know, but he’s not like Roach. He doesn’t feed the same way," Previn stated. She watched his eyes closely and knew Gabe was not completely back with her. There was a subtle hint of darkness in his eyes that cut through her soul, but she continued to play along with his charade.
"How can you be sure? We only had his word that he never fed off a human."
"I know, but you’ve already been a victim of Roach and I needed to get you out of there before he came back for both of you."
"Mac, go help Judson..."
"I need to stay with you."
"I’m not going anywhere," the younger man said and looked at the straps across his chest. "I’ll be fine, Mac, but Judson won’t be unless you go to him."
"Daniel is part of Roach and I don’t trust him."
"I wish I could trust you, Gabe, but you’re in no position to fight Roach if he decides to come after you."
"Mac, I’ve learned some things from Roach and I know it’s lame, but the transfusion will keep me safe. He can’t drain the blood from me anymore..."
"I thought you couldn’t remember anything, Gabe?" Previn said and saw the eyes change instantly.
"Damn you, Mac! Let me go!"
"I don’t think so, Gabe," the woman told him. "Not until I hear from Judson or Daniel!"
"I need to be there!"
"No, you don’t...you need to be right where you are!"
"Damn it, Mac, don’t you care about Judson?"
"I care about both of you, Gabe. Go back to sleep!" Previn said, ignoring the vicious tirade from her friend. She walked to the window and looked out over the town of Beau Harbor while the minutes ticked by on her watch. She knew midnight was drawing closer and there was less than an hour before the fight to save both Judson and Gabe would begin. God, Daniel, I hope you weren’t lying! she thought and pressed her head against the cold glass.
Judson looked at the young vampire and nodded once before sitting on the bed. He’d seen many things in his lifetime and believed in things others would have balked at. He held the picture tight against his chest and waited for the inevitable.
"I need to hear your answer, Judson. Time is running short."
"Do it," Cross told him.
"Are you sure?"
"No, but there doesn’t seem to be any other choice. What do I do?" the explorer asked.
"Nothing, just try to relax," Wainwright told him.
"Got a bottle of Valium?" Cross asked.
"I’m sorry...this will be uncomfortable, Judson, but it will be over very quickly."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better? Because it doesn’t," the blond told him.
"I’m sorry," Wainwright said and helped the explorer to stand.
Judson trembled, but managed to stay on his feet and stare into the dark eyes that seemed so enticing. He swallowed several times and felt his head tilt to the side, exposing the corded muscles of his neck to the young vampire. He felt Wainwright’s cool breath against his skin and fought the urge to pull away. He felt the difference in the man’s body and soon felt the sharp fangs graze over his neck. He closed his eyes and knew when the teeth sank into his vein and gasped when Wainwright began to draw the blood from his body. Time no longer had any meaning while the exquisite agony intensified until he cried out and fell back on the bed when Wainwright released him.
"I’m sorry, Judson, but it had to be done," Wainwright explained.
Judson swallowed again and again and stared at the blood, his blood staining the other man’s mouth. He lifted his arm, vaguely aware that it took every ounce of strength he had just to do this simple task, and touched his neck. He felt the telltale marks and knew it was all real and stared at the man who controlled his destiny.
"John will be here soon."
"Help me up," Cross ordered and was glad of the other man’s strength.
"You should rest..."
"There’s no time. What are we going to do once he arrives?"
"We do nothing. It will be up to me to defeat Roach."
"You couldn’t do it before, Daniel, what makes you think you can do it now?"
"I have fed for the first time and the strength of new blood flowing through my veins is amazing," Wainwright said, his eyes flashing dangerously as a grin spread across his face revealing the elongated fangs that still held a drop of Judson’s blood.
Mac looked at her watch and felt her body tremble with unknown fear. Something was happening, something she could not...should not feel, and yet she did as surely as she felt the room suddenly grow colder.
"Gabe," Previn whispered and studied the young man’s face. There was something different about his eyes and she knew he was really with her this time, but for how long she didn’t know.
"Mac, you need to help Judson."
"There is only so much Daniel can do. He’s fed on Judson..."
"What? No way!" Previn snapped.
"Yes, he did, but he did it with Judson’s approval. They think they can defeat John Roach if Daniel marked Judson has his own."
"How can you know all this, Gabe?"
"Through John...he knows about the blood transfusion, but we’re still linked. He knows what Wainwright has planned, and is not going to allow it to happen. Daniel doesn’t realize what he’s done by feeding off Judson."
"What has he done?" Mac asked.
"He’s opened the door to the craving and he won’t be able to shut it. He might defeat John, but he won’t be able to control his cravings any longer and he will use Judson until there is nothing left in his veins."
"Damn it!" Previn snarled.
"We need to go to him, Mac...or Judson will become one of them."
"We can get Judson here and give him a transfusion," Previn said hopefully.
"John won’t let that happen, Mac. He’ll kill Daniel and then he’ll take what he wants from Judson and take him..."
"Take him? You make it sound like Roach wants more from Judson than his blood."
"He does, Mac. He wants Judson as a companion...a lover..."
"A gay vampire! Jesus that’s just what we need!"
"Mac, look at me."
"I am looking at you!" Previn snapped irritably.
"No, Mac, really look at me. I’m not under Roach’s spell anymore...at least not right now and we need to get to the boat before midnight."
"In case you didn’t know that’s only fifteen minutes!"
"Then get me out of these! God, Mac, there isn’t much time!" Patterson said and breathed a sight of relief when Mac began to loosen the restraints.
Judson felt the air around him shift with a turbulent wave of icy wind and knew John Blood was close by. He turned to see Daniel standing in the doorway and walked toward him. The darkness beyond the cabin was absolute and yet he knew there was something out there...something dark and sinister.
"Hello, Judson," Roach’s voice came out of the darkness and the explorer felt a change come over Wainwright.
"What the hell do you want, Roach?"
"You, of course. I have always wanted you, Judson, and it is fitting that Daniel be here to join me in feeding on you!"
"He is mine, John," Wainwright warned.
"Is he, Daniel," Roach said and motioned for the two men to join him in the cool night air.
"I have fed on him with his permission," the younger man stated.
"Yes, I know and therefore he is yours to give to me."
""Don’t be so quick to answer, Daniel!"
"Get off my boat, Roach!" Cross ordered.
"Now, Judson, it seems you have forgotten your manners. I opened my home to you and what did you do to repay that kindness? You shot me with a cannonball! Too bad it wasn’t made of wood, but alas we both know a vampire cannot be killed in the normal way."
"But they can be killed!" the explorer told him.
"Yes, they can, but you will not kill me, Judson, for you see that I am your natural master. I play Alpha to your beta."
"Never, he is mine, John!" Wainwright interrupted.
"For now...but all I have to do is get rid of you and take what belongs to me."
"I’m not that easy to kill," the younger baron warned.
"No, but you have fed off a human and already your body is craving the taste. Your eyes are filled with the bloodlust and it won’t be long before you take more from him. You played a mean game, Daniel, but you don’t have the cards to win."
"We will fight you!" Cross snapped.
"You are still human, Judson," Roach said with a smile before lashing out with his hand and grabbing the explorer by the throat. He lifted the younger man off his feet and tilted his head until the telltale marks were exposed.
"Release him, John!" Wainwright warned.
"You want to feed again don’t you, Daniel?"
Judson felt the baron’s fingers working at the wounds and felt blood seep down his neck. He saw Wainwright’s face and watched the tongue lick at dry lips and understood what Roach was doing. The smell and sight of blood seemed to send Wainwright into a frenzy and Judson felt fear, real fear at what was about to happen.
"You want more, Daniel, but Judson no longer wants you to take it. You’ll have to force yourself on him. Can you do that, Daniel? Can you take the blood from his body without his permission?"
"Not yet, but he could be. I could hold him for you, but I want something in return!"
"What?" Wainwright whispered, licking his lips in anticipation.
"I want him as my companion. It is my right as your master and I will reward you."
"No!" Judson snapped and began to struggle against the strong arms that held him off the ground.
"Be quiet," Blood warned and tightened his grip.
"What will you give me?" Wainwright asked.
"Gabriel Patterson or would you prefer Mackenzie Previn...perhaps both," Roach said.
"I want...both," Wainwright said.
"The blood lust is indeed upon you, Daniel," Roach said with a grin. "You may have them...they should be arriving shortly. Meanwhile, waste not, want not."
Wainwright stood watching the older vampire drag the struggling Cross toward the cabin and wished there was something more he could do, but he had to wait until the time was right. Yes, the blood lust was upon him, but he was fighting it and could feel his strength growing. He heard the sound of a car and rushed to the stairs in time to see Mac and Gabe exit the car.
John Roach smiled and licked his lips at the thought of finally claming his prize. Judson Cross would fight him, but he could easily overpower the explorer. He released his hold on the corded neck and licked the blood from his fingers.
"Such a tempting morsel. I shall enjoy making you mine, Judson."
"Over my dead body!" Cross spat.
"Why, yes, that is a given isn’t it?" Roach said with a slight, teasing grin.
"You can’t touch me!"
"Why, because you belong to Daniel? That is no longer an issue since he has dealt you to me. I do love a good fight, Judson, so please give it all you have!"
Judson darted to the left when Roach reached for him and came up swinging. His fist caught the other man in the jaw, but there was very little strength behind it. Roach simply laughed it off and cut off any thought he might have had of escaping through the door once more.
"You and I shall have a most interesting relationship..."
"Like hell!" Cross snarled and again struck the man. He knew he could not hold out much longer and prayed something would happen to change the course of events playing out right now.
"Daniel, where’s Judson?" Patterson asked, leaning wearily against Previn as they stepped onto the deck.
"John has him..."
"Where?" Previn snarled impatiently.
"Inside," Wainwright said and the trio hurried toward the cabin, only to find the door slammed forcefully in their faces.
"Damn it!" the young woman cursed and rammed her shoulder into the unyielding obstruction.
"Mac, that won’t help!" Patterson warned angered at the sounds coming from inside.
"Let me try," Wainwright ordered, but was unable to do anything against the barrier.
"Can’t you change into a bat or something and fly through the portal?" Previn snapped.
"That part of the legend is just that," Wainwright told them.
"Mac, take the pegs out," Patterson ordered.
Previn nodded and moved to the engine room to grab the mallet from the bench. She returned to find the two men pounding on the door, but to no avail.
"Judson, I do enjoy a good game of hard to get, but I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of time."
"Then get the hell out of here," Cross snarled, and dove out of the vampire’s reach before scrambling to his feet.
"Not without my prised possession. I own you, Judson, and I grow hungry!" Roach grinned and struck out, connecting with the explorer’s face and slamming him back against the edge of the dresser.
Judson heard something break and reached blindly for anything he could use to defend himself. He knew Roach was toying with him and could easily overpower him, but Judson was not a man to give in easily.
Roach advanced on the downed man and reached for the explorer. Gripping the blond by the arms, the vampire lifted him to his feet and let his fangs extend to full scale, chuckling when he spoke. "In the words of Count Dracula...I vant to sucka your blood!"
"Go to hell!" Cross cursed and brought his arm up in a swift arch until he could drive the piece of wood into the vampire’s neck. Roach cried out and released him, staggering back until his legs struck the bed. Judson watched, transfixed by the rich dark blood pooling around the sharp instrument, but it was Roach’s sudden laughter that broke the spell.
"Through the heart, Judson, not the neck!" the vampire laughed and pulled the wooden dagger from his throat and pitched it aside. "Enough! Come here!"
"Hell...yes I know, but I’m afraid hell is too tame for someone like me..."
"Sounds like someone is worried about you. Why don’t you tell her we’re about to get to know each other intimately..."
"No!" Cross said and tried to get away, but this time, Roach moved with a speed he’d forgotten and Judson was pinned against the wall.
"I do love it when you fight, but it is time," the vampire said and forced Judson’s head to the side. He licked at the blood that seeped from the wound and sighed contentedly. "You taste sweeter than the finest wine."
Judson struggled, but soon felt the sharp fangs graze his neck before sinking deep into his throat...he screamed, but was unable to break free.
"Mac, hurry!" Patterson shouted when a blood curdling scream sounded from inside the cabin. "Judson!"
"Got it!" Previn said and pulled the door out of its frame. The sight that met her eyes sent fear into her heart. John Roach lifted his head from his victim’s throat, exposing the bloodied wound and ravaged flesh.
"Thank you for this gift, Daniel, perhaps you and Gabe would like to join me in this feast," Roach said and lifted the semi conscious blond into his arms.
"Let him go!" Wainwright ordered.
"I don’t think so. We had a deal. Enjoy them while you can, Daniel, for someday I will come back for you and teach you the proper etiquette amongst our kind."
"You’re not taking him!" Patterson vowed.
"Ah, Gabriel, it would have been fun having you, but I believe Judson will be enough to keep me occupied for many nights," Roach answered, easily shifting Cross’ weight until he hung over one shoulder. "It is time to go."
"No, John, this stops here...stops now between us."
"Daniel, you were fun, but you were never in my league. Judson is more my type and I believe we will have an adventurous relationship."
"Not if I can help it. Put him down, John!"
"Daniel, you try my patience!" Roach grew angry, and tossed the dazed explorer onto the bed before reaching for the younger baron.
"Take care of Judson," Wainwright ordered and mirrored Roach’s every move.
Mac was first to reach Cross and gasped at the sight of his ravaged neck. There was no doubt this had been a savage feeding and she touched her fingers to his throat, relieved when she found a pulse there. She could hear the two vampires and the snarling vulgarities they slung at one another, but her attention was totally on the explorer.
"Gabe, we need to get the bleeding stopped," Previn warned of the seeping punctures to Cross’ neck. "Gabe, did you hear me?"
"Huh...oh...sorry, Mac," Patterson said, unconsciously touching his neck. He grabbed for the first aid kit at the same time the two opposing warriors locked in an immortal contest of strength and agility. There was something magical about their movements and he stared at the duo without blinking.
"Gabe!" Previn snapped and reached for the kit. She opened it and grabbed several gauze pads and held them to the wounds.
"Mac, we need to leave!"
"No shit!" the woman snapped.
"I mean it, Mac, no matter who wins this fight the other one is going to try and finish what they started."
"Has had his first taste of blood and that’s why he’s getting stronger."
"Mac...Gabe...get out o...of here!"
"Not without you, Judson," Previn vowed. "Come on..."
"I know, but with me and Gabe helping, you’ll be able to get off the boat!" Previn warned, turning at the sound of the door slamming shut once more. "I’m getting tired of this!"
"They won’t let us leave, Mac," Patterson said and sat next to the explorer.
"We’ll see about that!" Previn said angrily and stalked across the narrow space to the door. Somehow the bolts had been replaced and there was no way for her to knock them out from inside the room. She could hear the ongoing fight on the deck of the Vast Explorer and hoped someone would hear the cacophony and call for help, but she doubted they’d be that lucky. Mac looked at the clock on Judson’s dresser and noted the time at a little after 1:40 and wondered where the time had gone.
"Mac, we need something to use as a stake," Cross whispered, utter exhaustion evident in his slurred words.
"Something wooden," Previn agreed and began to look around. She spotted the cross nailed to the wall above the bed and reached for it. "I just need to get close enough to drive it into his heart! We need a plan!"
"Mac...give it t...to me," the explorer ordered and tried to sit up, grateful when Gabe reached out to help him. He ached all over and pain flared in his chest, driving home the fact that Roach had connected with more than just his fangs.
"Why?" Previn asked.
"If Roach wins he’s going to come for me and I want you to let him..."
"What kind of plan is that?" Patterson asked.
"The only one with a chance to work. Roach thinks he’s beaten me into submission, but he hasn’t. I’m not sure why, but I can fight him."
"Maybe it has to do with both of them feeding on you," the younger man stated. "Maybe you’re being drawn into their fight and...Mac, I think Judson’s right. Give him the cross."
"You’re both crazy!" Previn said, but reluctantly handed the wooden cross to the explorer.
"Don’t you dare thank me! This goes against everything I’ve been trained to do, Judson."
"I know, but this is one time I’m right."
"How long do you think they can keep this up?" Patterson asked.
"I don’t know, but it would be great if they stuck it out until the sun comes up and fries both their asses," Previn snapped.
"I doubt we’ll be that lucky," Cross stated, leaning back against the wall and closing his eyes. He felt himself drifting toward sleep, but forced the darkness away in an effort to stay conscious. "Mac?"
"Right here, Judson."
"If Daniel wins we...you’ll have to kill him...He’ll come for you first," Cross stated.
"Why?" Patterson asked.
"Mac reminds him of his loss and he’ll want her...now that he’s tasted blood he...he can’t be t...trusted."
"Judson, what’s wrong?" Previn asked, jumping when something struck the door with a resounding thud.
"Roach...hit me a c...couple of times...think he cracked a rib," Cross explained.
"And you want me to let you face him?" Previn snapped in disgust.
"It’s the only way, Mac, I’m okay...or I will be once we take care of those two," the explorer assured her and reached for the blanket. He pulled it up around his body and hid the wooden cross from sight before closing his eyes once more.
"Gabe, if he passes out..."
"If he does," Previn continued, ignoring the explorer’s words. "I’ll take out whoever comes through that door while you protect him!"
Outside the world of darkness was rocked by the battle being waged on the deck of the Vast Explorer. The two male vampires were locked in an immortal battle that would end with only one victor. John Roach knew Wainwright had gained strength since tasting the essence of Judson Cross, but he’d also fed on the explorer and knew the blond was his equal in every sense of the word. Once Cross joined him they would be an unbeatable team. He smiled and stared into the darkened soul he’d created so long ago.
"Ah, Daniel, too bad you did not show such strength when I first took you!"
"I’ve always been strong, John," Wainwright said, his hands resting on his knees while he stared back at his creator. "You were just too weak to see it."
"No, as my protégé you were too weak to act on the gift you were given."
"Gift!" Wainwright said with disgust. "What you gave me was a curse and I am finally going to show you the mistake you made in making me what I am now!"
"The only mistake I made was in choosing a worthless..." Before he could finish his thoughts, Daniel Wainwright renewed his attack and the fight for domination continued. Heavy handed blows landed against the bodies of both vampires, opening wounds that healed almost instantly while bruises formed and faded in the blink of an eye.
"To what, Gabe?" Previn snapped. She’d been pacing the confined space of the cabin in angered impatience.
"It’s quiet out there!" Patterson whispered as if to speak aloud would bring the vampires inside.
"Damn," the woman spat and turned back to Cross. "Judson, are you awake?"
"Yes, help me sit up," the explorer ordered feebly and was glad when the duo took charge. He knew the blood loss was making him weak and prayed for the strength he’d need when the door finally opened. He glanced at the clock and realized nearly three hours had passed since the fight had begun and no matter which one came through the door they had to be ready. His hand clasped the wooden cross and he knew if Roach came for him this would be his final defence.
"I’m ready, Mac...let’s finish this!" Cross told them. The door opened and the trio of friends waited with bated breath until Daniel Wainwright stepped through the door.
"Daniel, don’t come near us!" Previn warned, gasping when she saw the blood covered sliver of wood protruding from the vampire’s chest.
"Oh hell!" Patterson said when Wainwright fell to the floor revealing a smiling John Roach standing framed in the darkened doorway.
"What a waste!" Roach spat and turned his attention to Cross and his protectors. "This is going to be much more sporting!"
"We won’t let you take him!" Previn snarled.
"Oh, I do love a good fight, but this has nothing to do with you Miss Previn. Judson was meant to be mine and I will take him. I offer you a deal, Judson!"
"What kind of deal?" Cross asked.
"He’s not interested!" Patterson interrupted.
"Tut tut, Gabriel, must I remind you that transfusion simply delayed the inevitable. You are mine, but if Judson agrees to my offer you are free to go! Interested, Judson?"
"What’s the offer?" the explorer asked.
"Judson, he can’t be trusted!"
"Mac, let’s hear him out!"
"And then kick his ass!" Previn finished and folded her arms across her chest before staring at the vampire.
"Time is running short, Judson. If we are to leave it must be soon. I will make this offer only once and if you accept then your friends will be permitted to live out their lives free of any threat from me."
"What happens if..."
"If! Oh no, Judson! You’re not accepting anything this sonofabitch offers!"
"Mac, let me handle this!" Cross ordered sharply and turned his attention back to the vampire. "You’ll let them go?"
"You have my word!"
"No, Judson!" Patterson said.
"Now, Gabriel, the choice is not yours...although leaving you behind is a waste, but alas, Judson is the prize in this case! Your answer, Judson!"
"What happens if I say no?" the explorer asked.
"If you say no then I will simply feast on their blood while you watch and take you away from here with the knowledge you could have saved them!"
"I’ll go with you," Cross whispered.
"No!" Previn spat.
"You can’t trust him, Judson!" Patterson said and moved in front of the blond, but was quickly sent flying across the room.
"Miss Previn, I do not adhere to the idea of not hitting a woman, so please don’t make the same mistake as Gabriel."
"Mac, I know what I’m doing...take care of Gabe!"
"Judson, no," Previn tried, but moved to check on the dazed young man.
"Wise decision, Judson," Roach said and moved to the explorer. He stood over the pale man and smiled when he noticed the slight defiance in the eyes. "Would you like me to complete my second feeding here or at my estate?"
"Neither, you bastard," Cross said and stood up. He reacted instinctively and preyed his knowledge of the human body did not fail him now. He saw the fear in Roach’s eyes even as he drove the cross forward into the vampire’s body. The high pitched keening wail sent daggers of pain through his skull, but Judson never flinched. He shifted slightly, making sure every ounce of strength he had left went into burying the cross deep in John Blood’s heart.
"You had it backwards, Roach," Cross said and shoved the quivering body away from his own. "I play alpha to your beta!"
"It seems I un...der....estimated you."
"That you did!"
"We could have been a great team!"
"No, thanks, we," Cross indicated Previn and Patterson who now stood shoulder to shoulder with him. "I already have the greatest team a man could want! You go to hell where you belong!"
"Judson," Cross turned at the new voice and shook his head when he saw Wainwright sitting against the wall holding the stake in one hand.
"Does this ever end?" Cross asked.
"It will...when the sun comes up!" Wainwright assured him. "You need to take us onto the deck and leave us there. The stake did not touch my heart as Roach thought, but it is enough to weaken me. You may have killed Roach, but somehow I don’t think it is that easy."
"It never is. It’s like the old horror movies where you scream at them not to touch the dead body, but they do it anyway!" Previn stated. "Daniel, is there anything we can do for you?"
"Yes, make sure I die, Mac, and maybe I’ll be with my beloved again."
"He may have taken my blood, Mac, but he didn’t force me to go along with him. His intentions were honorable, but if he lives now he will crave the blood just as Roach does!" Cross explained and looked at the clock. The sun would not be up for at least another ninety minutes, but right now they seemed to have everything under control.
"He’s weak...we both are, Judson, tie us up and bring us outside. It needs to end today!" Wainwright ordered.
Judson looked deep into the young baron’s eyes and knew he was telling the truth. They had to deal with this once and for all or John Blood would find a way to defeat them again and the consequences of that happening were far too great for him to ignore. He nodded and sat on the edge of the bed before looking at Previn and Patterson.
"Tie them up...both of them," Cross ordered and watched Gabe move to John Roach while Mac moved to Daniel Wainwright.
"I wish there was another way, Daniel," Previn said.
"There’s not, Mac...you are truly beautiful and I will remember you forever," Wainwright told her.
Judson closed his eyes as a wave of dizziness washed over him and knew the blood loss was taking a toll on him. A soft voice began to play on his subconscious, but he fought the lilting tones and forced his eyes open.
Judson, come to me. Don’t let them do this!
"Judson, are you all right?" Previn asked when the explorer stared hard at the pirate’s unmoving body.
"Yes...no...Mac, we have to do this fast," Cross warned. "Roach...he’s...I can hear him."
"Damn it!" Previn said and flipped the vampire onto his back. She quickly pulled the cord from a lamp and wrapped it tightly around his wrists. "That should hold him until the sun comes up!"
Judson could only watch while his friends dragged the two vampires outside and dropped them onto the deck. He knew the next seventy-five minutes would seem like forever, but they had to outlast Roach and Wainwright. Neither man had received a killing blow, but at least they were weakened and hopefully unable to break free of the restraints.
Judson, help me!
"Go to hell, Roach!" the explorer snarled aloud and felt Previn and Patterson watching him.
"John is t...trying to g...get Judson to help him e...escape," Wainwright explained.
"I didn’t hear anything," Patterson said and snapped his head around when Roach’s voice echoed inside his skull. He grabbed his ears and shook his head vehemently. "No, damn you!"
"Easy, Gabe, he’s trying to use you and Judson. The sun will be up before long and his fate will be sealed!" Previn explained.
"He’s in my head!" the young man screamed.
"I know, but you can fight him...you and Judson are going to be all right once this is over."
She’s jealous, Gabriel! With you and Judson at my side we can rule the world!
"No!" Cross shouted and grabbed Patterson’s hands. "Don’t let him in, Gabe! Help me fight him!"
"Mac, lock them inside..."
"No, Mac," Cross told her.
"It might be for the best," Previn said.
"No, it would leave you vulnerable. Daniel doesn’t want to hurt you, but he’s growing weaker and the craving is getting stronger. He’ll work on you if you’re alone," the explorer told her.
"Judson’s right, Mac, we’re in this together," Patterson vowed.
"Oh, I must say I tire of this three musketeer attitude," Roach said, shifting until he could sit with his back against the side of the ship. "Please spare me the one for all and all for one crap!"
"Too bad, because that’s exactly how this goes," Previn spat venomously. She paced the deck, watching the sky begin to brighten and hoped the sun would smile on them before long.
Judson’s energy level was almost nil, but he was not going to give Roach the satisfaction of seeing just how badly he was hurting. The vampire licked at his lips and Judson’s hand went to his neck, but he felt a soft touch on his shoulder.
"Don’t let him get to you, Judson," Previn warned.
"Thanks, Mac," Cross said. The trio grew quiet, but stood watching over the restrained vampires. As dawn brightened the sky, John Blood’s composure slipped with each passing second.
"Judson, you’re throwing away an opportunity to live forever!" Roach spat.
"That’s not what I’d call living," Cross told him and turned to look at Wainwright. "I wish there was some other way, Daniel."
"So do I, Judson, but there’s not and at least I’ll go to my grave knowing he won’t hurt anyone ever again!" Wainwright said and began to writhe as the sun began its journey.
"I’ll kill you for this! All of you!" Roach screamed, but the bright sun was already burning his flesh. The skin sizzled as if on fire, blood red blisters forming and bursting in the wink of an eye while his body convulsed in the throes of death, one that was both horrible and final.
"I don’t think so, Roach," Cross said and moved away. He watched the final demise of Wainwright and Roach until all that remained was the dry husk of a body hidden beneath the clothes. By the time the sun was completely above the horizon, there was nothing left but a powdery dust that blew away in the chill wind that swept across the bow.
"It’s over," Previn said.
"Yes, it is," Cross agreed and dropped heavily onto the chair.
"Mac, we need to get Judson to the hospital."
"Actually, Gabe, we need to get you both to the hospital," Previn said. "Now, do I call for an ambulance or do we go in the car."
"I don’t need..."
"Car it is," the young woman said, ignoring both men’s protests.
Mac paced up and down the corridor waiting for word on the two men she’d brought in over an hour ago. She’d had a lot of explaining to do before Phillip Newman would allow her to remain at the hospital. He’d been angry when he’d found out she’d helped Gabe escape the hospital the night before. It was hard for her to believe so much had happened in such a short time, but Halloween was over and they’d defeated Roach at his own game.
Mac walked toward the two rooms that housed Cross and Patterson and leaned against the wall between the two doors. Newman had moved between the two several times, but had ignored her presence, this time she’d be waiting for him when he stepped through the door. She needed to know how they were and whether they’d recover from the experiences of the last twenty-four hours. The door to her right opened and she turned to face the physician, ready to force him to tell her what she needed to know.
"Doc, how are they?"
"If I tell you are you going to let me do my job...because right now I don’t trust you one bit!"
"I did what I had to do, Doc, or we would have lost them both," Previn stated.
"Would you care to elaborate on that?"
"You wouldn’t understand."
"Mac, I told you before I understand plenty where Cross is concerned and I’m beginning to think he’s rubbed off on you and Gabe. Now before I go into details about Judson and Gabe I need to know exactly who bit them and where this person is."
"It wasn’t a person..."
"No, but you wouldn’t..."
"Believe you if you told me. Well, if I didn’t know better I’d say they were both attacked by vampires, but we both know they don’t exist."
"You’d be surprised," Previn whispered.
"What did you say?"
"Nothing...are they going to be okay?"
"They should both be fine. Gabe is just exhausted and has a few bruises to contend with. I’ll keep him for twenty-four hours just to be sure there are no residual effects from his encounter. Judson is a different matter. I’ve given him a transfusion, but his blood pressure is still dangerously low. He also has a couple of broken ribs and that’s going to make things uncomfortable for a while. He’ll be here for a few days."
"I bet that went over well with him," Previn said.
"Actually, he doesn’t know yet and since you’ve added to my headache over the last twelve hours or so I’ll leave it up to you to tell him."
"Damn, Doc, you don’t play fair!"
"Neither do you," Newman told her and folded his arms across his chest. "Now if you so much as look like you’re helping those two escape I’ll get Costa involved and right now he’s not a happy camper!"
"I don’t think any of us are," Previn said and pushed open the door to Cross’ room. The explorer’s eyes were closed and his face had the washed out appearance of someone near death and Mac realized he really had been that close. She sighed heavily and let the door close behind her before moving to the bed.
"Mac, how’s Gabe?"
"Gabe’s going to be fine. He’s in the next room. How are you feeling?"
"Probably better than I look. When can we get out of here?"
"Mac," Cross said and tried to sit further up in the bed, only to be reminded of how weak he was. "Damn."
"I bet," Previn said and fixed the pillow behind his head. "Judson, the doc’s decided you’re staying."
"Why...he gave me a transfusion. I’m fine."
"You know I’d be more inclined to believe you if you didn’t look like death warmed over," the young woman smiled and placed her hand on his shoulder. "Sorry, Judson, but you’re stuck here..."
"You could help me escape."
"Wish I could, but I’m already in Newman’s bad books for helping Gabe out of here last night. He’ll bring Costa into it if he even thinks I’m helping you out!"
"Damn, he doesn’t fight fair," Cross said, wincing slightly when he tried to shift on the bed.
"Might as well relax and put up with it, Judson, you’re stuck here for a couple of days..."
"A couple of days!"
"At least. I wouldn’t put it past Newman to make it longer if you try anything he doesn’t like," Previn said.
"Damn, he would too," Cross said. "Have you seen Gabe?"
"Not yet, but he’s here for at least a day," Previn told him.
"Lucky," Cross said, growing silent when the door opened and Newman stepped inside.
"I take it you’ve given him the good news?" the physician asked.
"If that’s your idea of good news I’d hate to see you really angry!" the explorer snapped.
"Oh, that still could happen, Judson," Newman said. "If you so much as look toward the door I’ll order a real nice proctological exam and an enema to go along with it!"
"You wouldn’t dare!"
"Don’t bet on it. Now the orderly will be here in a few minutes to bring you up to your room. I’m putting you in with Gabe just so it’ll make it easier to know what you’re both up to. Mac, you can visit them when they’re settled in about an hour."
"Thanks, Doc," Cross said sarcastically.
"Don’t thank me yet, Judson, I do believe Nurse Haggard is on duty today and she’s been so looking forward to seeing you again!"
"Mac, get my clothes!"
"Sorry, Judson, I’m not going up against the hag..."
"Better watch what you call her, Mac, she’s not in a pleasant mood today," Newman said with a grin and finished checking Cross’ IV. "I’ll see you tomorrow, Judson, and maybe you’ll be able to tell me what happened to you."
"I doubt I’d be able to clear things up, Doc," the explorer said and closed his eyes. It wasn’t long before he drifted to sleep unaware of anything except his body’s need to rest and heal.
Gabe leaned tiredly against the pillows and watched the second stretcher being pushed into the room. He could see the tuft of blond hair sticking out above the sheets and instinctively knew Judson was not sleeping. He listened to the nurse and orderly helping the injured man into the more comfortable bed and then making him comfortable. He waited until they left before sliding out of bed and drawing back the curtain.
"How are you feeling?" Patterson asked.
"Feel like hell...you?" Cross asked.
"The same," Patterson answered. "Was it real, Judson?"
"If it wasn’t then I’d like the number of the truck that hit us," Cross said and rubbed at tired eyes. The door opened and Mackenzie Previn entered the room.
"Well you two look like hell!" the woman stated with a grin.
"You would too if someone had used your neck as a chew toy," Cross told her irritably.
"Nice, Judson," Previn said. "Seriously...that was too damn close."
"Tell me about it," Patterson answered and sat on the edge of his bed. "Are they really dead this time?"
"They’re dead, Gabe," the woman assured him. "What the stakes didn’t do...the sun did. We all saw what was left of them."
"Nothing but dirt," Cross whispered.
"Exactly. They’re gone for good," Previn stated.
"I hope you’re right," Patterson said. "Because the next person who marks my neck better be a beautiful..."
"Gabe, I don’t think your choice in ladies has been very good either...remember Ana and what about that..."
"I get your point, Mac," the young man said, smiling sheepishly. "I have had a run of bad luck with the ladies."
"A run? That’s putting it mildly," Previn teased and turned her attention back to the blond. Cross had grown quiet and she knew he was thinking about how close they’d come to being caught in Roach’s trap, but they’d escaped and now it was time to move on. She’d received a call from a museum asking if Cross would be interested in taking on a recovery job. "Judson, what do you say to sailing south for the winter?"
"I’d like nothing better, Mac, but we need to find a way to bring in some cash," Cross explained.
"Well, we could do both."
"Talk to me!" Cross said hopefully.
"I got a call from a Museum Curator named Sandra Wallace. She says she’s discovered new evidence on the whereabouts of The Black Medallion."
"You’re kidding?" Cross said and was soon sitting on the edge of the bed.
"No, she said to tell you she has evidence in her, and I quote here...hot little hands."
"Damn, I need to get out of here!"
"Judson, that’s not going to happen!" Previn snapped.
"Like hell it’s not. We need to get moving."
"What good would that do, Judson. You can’t dive with broken ribs. I explained to Miss Wallace and she’s willing to keep the information under wraps until you’re cleared to dive," Previn explained.
"Mac," Cross said and reached for the IV taped to his arm.
"You touch that and I’m asking for ringside seats to the proctological exam!" Previn warned.
"Is there a problem in here?" Judson’s worst nightmare stood framed in the doorway.
"No!" Cross snapped.
"Yes!" Previn corrected.
"Mac," Patterson tried, but the young woman turned on him. "You’re both going to shut up and listen for a change! You need to rest...I nearly lost you both and I’m not going to let that happen because you’re too damn stubborn to let someone take care of you for a while!"
"What the hell was that?" Cross asked, rubbing his shoulder when Haggard smiled at him.
"That, Mr. Cross, is a sedative and it will take effect pretty damn quick so unless you want to end up on the floor with your bare ass to the wind I’d advise you to get back in that bed!"
Judson silently cursed while sliding back onto the bed. Whatever she’d given him was pretty strong and was already sending him toward sleep. He looked into Previn’s worried eyes and sighed heavily when she lifted the blanket’s up over him.
"Thanks, Mac, sorry...being a j...jerk," Cross told her.
"Yes, you were, but that’s one of the things that makes you who you are, Judson," she said and turned in time to see Haggard produce a second syringe and motioned for Gabe to get into the bed. As soon as he was lying down the nurse delivered the sedative and covered him with the blankets.
"Now maybe we’ll have a peaceful afternoon in spite of these two being here."
"How did you know?’ Previn asked.
"Dr. Newman knows these two and expected them to try something. Now as long as you don’t cause any trouble you’re welcome to stay with them until visiting hours end."
"You won’t hear a sound from me," Previn said. She watched Haggard leave and realized there were many facets to the nurse...this newest one proved that she really did care about her patients. Sighing heavily, Mac sat in the uncomfortable chair and soon drifted off to sleep. She never felt Haggard ease a blanket over her, nor did she see the sign of the cross the woman made.
Carol Haggard knew many things in her long life. She’d been given the gift of sight and she knew what these three had gone through and that they still had many hurdles to fight, but as long as they held to their fate, they would come out the victor every time. With one last look at the trio, she left them to sleep and heal until it was time to tackle another fight.
Judson stood on the deck of The Vast Explorer and breathed deeply of the cool afternoon air. It had been a week since Roach and Wainwright had died, and yet he could still hear the haunting echo of John Blood’s voice.
"Judson, are you all right?" Patterson asked.
"I’m fine, Gabe. What about you? Anything bothering you about what happened?"
"No...not really. I just keep thinking it must have been some kind of dream."
"Wishful thinking," Cross said, his fingers lightly touching the healing wounds on his neck. He knew Gabe’s neck bore the same marks, but they were also fading and should disappear completely in a few days.
"I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself." Patterson said.
"That makes two of us..."
"Three," Mac corrected from behind the two men.
"What did you do with their clothes, Mac?" Cross asked.
"Burned them," Previn assured him. "I figured it’d be best to get rid of any evidence that they were here."
"Good plan," the explorer said and looked out over the waters of Beau Harbor while the sun began to drop below the horizon. He shivered at the thought of John Roach and how much the black hearted pirate wanted from him. Roach was gone, but so was Daniel Wainwright and he prayed that the young baron had found peace in death. Tomorrow they’d be leaving to explore a series of caves in the Caribbean and hopefully they’d find the lost treasure of The Black Medallion. The ship was said to have sunk during a severe storm in the early seventeen hundreds and recent discoveries seemed to indicate the caves might just hide the cursed treasure.
"Are you sure you’re ready for this, Judson?" Previn asked.
"What’s not to be ready for, Mac? Sun, seas, treasure and the Caribbean. What more can a man ask for?"
"A few less complications and a little more luck," the young woman answered and looked at Gabe.
"I guess it’s time to hoist the main sales!" Patterson quipped.
"This isn’t a pirate ship, Gabe, but I can arg with the best of them!" Cross said and grinned when Patterson saluted and hurried to the engine room to get things underway. He leaned against the rail and sighed tiredly when Mac walked up beside him.
"You sure you’re okay?"
"Yes, I’m sure. They’re both dead, Mac, and once these scars disappear completely we’ll have no proof that they even existed," Cross said and turned to smile at her. "Now if I try to bite you..."
"That’s not funny!" Previn snapped and tapped her finger against his chest. "Don’t think I won’t kick your ass..."
"Easy, Mac, I was kidding," Cross said with a grin. "Why don’t we relax...God knows we’ll be wishing for some quiet time when we reach our new destination."
"You sure about diving those caves?"
"Hell yeah!" Cross told her and reached for the rolled up maps leaning against the rail. It would take them a few days to reach their destination, until then he would go over every inch of topographical maps the museum had supplied. This promised to be quite an adventure and he looked forward to diving the caves in search of the lost treasure of The Black Medallion.
Or a new beginning?