A heavy brass key lands in my hand and I immediately know it’s not for this house. The Sigil identifies it as belonging to another residence–the place where Vincent is holding our agápes captive.
Curry and I reluctantly accept that we won’t be finding Avery and Chansey today so we go back to the compound to begin researching the Sigil. We’re defeated for now but we have the first clue we need in steering us toward their direction. And that’s a hell of a lot more than we had when we started last night.
The babies are crying when we enter the house and Curry immediately runs for the nursery with me behind him. The curtains are pulled closed to block the sunlight but I easily see Gia and Lairah sitting on the couch in the nearly black room. Each is holding a baby and rocking fiercely. “Thank the gods you are here. These two have not been happy since they woke and found both of their parents gone.”
Gia and Lairah’s faces fall when they see we are alone. “You didn’t get them back?” Gia asks as she rises from the couch with James Grady so she may walk the floor and bounce him in an attempt to make him happy.
Curry takes his daughter from Lairah and sits in the glider before he motions for Gia to bring his son to him. “It appeared as though we had just missed them.”
Both babies are immediately soothed by their father. It’s absolutely amazing what his voice, smell, and touch does to calm them. Avery has that same effect on me.
“Did Dr. Knight come?” Curry asks.
“Yeah. She had us mix one part infant formula to one part blood. They didn’t like it but they finally gave in and took it because they were hungry. That was only about an hour ago so they had to have gone at least ten hours without eating.” That can’t be good for them.
“Poor little things. They had to be starving because Chansey nurses them every four hours.” Curry kisses Anna Grace on the forehead and then James Grady. “They may not be very old but they already have an ironclad bond with her. I’m sure they’re confused because she isn’t here to feed them.”
“All the more reason to get her and Avery back as soon as possible,” Gia says. “It sounds like they’re still close if they hadn’t been gone long when you got there. They couldn’t have gotten far since the sun was coming up so they must still be in Savannah or the surrounding vicinity.”
“Those are our thoughts exactly.” I take the heavy brass key from my pocket and hold it up for Gia and Lairah to see. “And we don’t think Vincent would be hiding this key in a secret compartment if the house it unlocks isn’t nearby.”
“Wow. That’s a complicated Sigil,” Lairah says. “I’ve never seen anything like it but what makes you think this is the key to the house where he’s hiding Avery and Chansey?”
“Avery has a fylgia like Chansey and Ella. Anteros sent her to me. She’s the one that told me where to find the key.”
“This whole agape-fylgia thing is just freaky. Wouldn’t it have been easier if she would have told you the address instead of giving you clues?” That would have been too simple. Anteros didn’t work that way.
Lairah reaches for the key and takes it from me. “Wouldn’t Vincent need this if it unlocks the place he’s holding Chansey and Avery?”
“He might if he hadn’t changed the locks in the last two hundred years.” Even vampires make updates.
“So you’re looking for an old house in the Savannah area–at least two hundred years old. That doesn’t help a lot since Savannah is a historical town flooded with mansions fitting that description.” I don’t have time for Gia’s pessimistic attitude.
“Not all of them bear the sign of this sigil. All we have to do is find a vampire that can identify it.” Or maybe luck would be with us and we’d happen upon it.
Lairah passes the key to Gia. “Maybe Sebastian will recognize it.”
“I’m up. I couldn’t sleep knowing what the two of you were doing today.” Sebastian is standing in the doorway of the nursery. “I heard everything. Let me have a look at it.”
He takes the key and studies it as he turns it one way and then another. “I don’t recall seeing this symbol before but its design is ornate and baroque so it’s old. My guess is more than two hundred years since the first square in Savannah was constructed in the seventeen thirties. We should begin by looking at vampire archives to see if we can identify any houses built by our kind. The older records won’t be listed in the computer database so I’ll have to travel to the New Orleans compound to retrieve them. I’ll leave tonight and hopefully we’ll find a lead when I return with them.”
“May I ask a favor?” Curry says.
“Gia and Lairah would be much more help if they were out searching with us so I’m going to ask Chansey’s grandmother to come take care of the babies. Can she ride back with you?”
He’ll be forced to tell her what’s happened. “You won’t be able to keep the truth from Anna if she comes here.”
“I’m pushed into a corner.” Curry shrugs. “I need her help with the babies. And she’s Chansey’s grandmother so I think she has the right to know what’s happened.”
“That’s probably best,” Lairah says. “Gia and I love these little guys to pieces but we weren’t made for staying up during the day to take care of them.”
“I know and I thank you for doing it today. Trust me when I say I know it isn’t easy. I don’t know how Chansey does it. She’s such a natural with them. She’s a wonderful mother and that’s why they need her back as soon as possible.”
Lairah places a supportive hand on Curry’s shoulder. “Go. We know you’re dying to get back out there and look again now that you have a starting place. We can take care of them until Anna arrives.”
“Thank you. You don’t know what it means to me and Sol,” Curry tells them.
“Don’t mention it,” Lairah takes her hand from his shoulder and gives him a hug. “All we want is the safe return of our sisters.”
Curry and I park on a side street off of Johnson Square. Built in seventeen thirty-three, it was the first square constructed in Savannah so it’s our starting point. It certainly fits the bill for being more than two hundred years old.
We take a quick look and Curry says, “The majority of these places don’t look like residences. Most are businesses.”
That’s a good thing and should speed up the process. “Then we should be able to rule them out quickly.”
We inspect every structure–both business and residential–for the sigil. No detail is left unobserved but our initial search at Johnson Square is unavailing so we move onto the next. The scenario is very much the same during our next quest but then we stumble upon something encouraging at a residence off of the main street.
“Look.” Curry points at the symbol above us. “It’s a sigil. Not the one we’re looking for but it supports the theory that we could be looking in the right place. It’s possible they might know Vincent’s whereabouts.”
“There’s at least four inside. Maybe five so we shouldn’t approach them alone.” Walking into a nest of unknown vampires is a huge risk. They reside in the city where the coven of Landra has built our newest compound yet they remain faceless and nameless to us. That means they don’t share our coven’s opinions and still drink directly from humans–probably willing and unwilling. “We’ll return tonight with the others and pay them a visit along with any other vampire residences we find.”
We complete the search through two more squares along with their surrounding streets and bring our total vampire residence discoveries to two. The day has been a total failure unless one of the groups of vampires have information that can lead us to Avery and Chansey.
On the way back to the compound, I pray to anyone that might hear my plea. Please bring my beloved Avery home to me safely. I willingly give my life in place of hers and the miracle inside her right now. Our child.
I’m certain there’s a baby growing in Avery and I marvel at how similar he already is to a vampire without considering my contribution of DNA. He resides in darkness with blood as his only nourishment and although I’d never want him to be like me, I pray he’s developing the strength of a vampire. He’ll need that resilience to survive if Vincent drains Avery near depletion like he did the night of the blood ceremony.
The thought makes me consider everything that could go wrong. Our child might not survive the things Vincent will do to Avery. He needs her rich blood supply to live. His mother’s blood is his only lifeline. It’s the one and only way he receives oxygenation and nourishment to grow so chances are good that this baby won’t make it if I don’t get her back soon.
It’s a thought that plagues my mind the whole ride back to the compound and that’s when I begin to worry that things may have already gone bad for Avery and the baby. “It’s been a quiet day with Avery. I haven’t felt much from her today.”
“I haven’t either but I’m sure it was a long night for her and Chansey so they’re probably sleeping. I’m guessing we’ll feel more than we’d like after Vincent and his nest are awake.”
The thought is almost enough to make me lose my mind. “My gut tells me Avery’s pregnant. Did you feel that way before you knew with Chansey?”
“No.” He shakes his head and laughs. “It was the complete opposite with us. She was the one with the suspicion while I was in denial.”
He probably thinks I’m insane. “I have nothing to base it on except a hunch. That’s insane, right? It’s only been a couple of days so maybe I’m just being hopeful.”
“You share a beautiful connection with Avery. A baby solidifies that bond in a way you can’t imagine until it happens. I didn’t feel anything until I accepted the reality of Chansey’s pregnancy.” He’s grinning as he drives. “Once I did … it was crazy good.”