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The Dawning

This story was published by Amira Press and the rights have since reverted to me.

Ruins of a Past Day is a sequel, sort of, to Casting Call for Love. Be sure to read the foreword below.



The Dawning

Bloodlust 2


Melodee Aaron


This story is a continuation of the saga of Valerie, Roland, and Elektra as originally appearing in Casting Call for Love and expanded in Ruins of a Past Day, Bloodlust 1.

The Bloodlust series focuses on the interactions and twists between Roland, Valerie, Elektra, and the vampire Markinson. While all interrelated, each story stands on its own and does not rely on reading the other stories. Frankly, the reader will learn a lot more about these characters and their lives by reading all of the stories. For me, that makes the entire experience much more enjoyable.

This is not a historical novel in the sense that all the facts are accurate. I’ve sacrificed historical facts primarily for the sake of the story, but also when it suits my fancy. It’s my world and welcome to it!

As with many of my stories, I break a lot of rules in this one. Ruins of a Past Day, Bloodlust 1, combined horror and romance. You’ll have to read on to see what happens here.

Keep Loving!

Melodee Aaron

February 2008

Guatay, California


Pearl Harbor, Present Day

Valerie leaned on the railing, looking out over the calm waters of the harbor. Like most actual working harbors she’d seen, this one was far from the pristine blue of the tourist traps. The big ships kept the sand and mud from the bottom churning, and no matter how hard the crews tried, small amounts of oil and fuel always leaked into the water. The result was a brownish froth that looked a lot like the small lakes and ponds from her childhood back in Kansas. But the water here, near her white perch atop the massive ship below, held more oil. It glittered in the sunlight, casting rainbows from the surface of the gentle waves.

She sighed. The scene would have been beautiful if not for the very reason for the memorial’s existence. Even the polluting oil still seeping from the wreck of the battleship USS Arizona lying as a silent tomb below her feet painted a pretty picture as it rippled and rolled on the water. The memorial itself, when she ignored the meaning, was a beautiful addition to the seascape.

Her gaze moved from the water near her feet and came to rest on the top of some part of the superstructure of the once mighty ship rusting on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. She didn’t know anything about ships, especially warships, but it looked like maybe a gun turret. In her mind’s eye, she could see the sailors, in a panic and with little command, fighting to save their ship from the attacking Japanese aircraft.

In her mind, the Arizona lived again, as it had more than seventy-five years ago. Bristling with guns, big guns, and other weapons she didn’t recognize, it shown a dull gray in the morning sunlight. But something was terribly wrong with the picture. Aircraft looking like tiny flies compared to the enormous ship swarmed in the skies overhead. The whistling of bombs, like those she’d heard in old war movies, filled her ears, and torpedoes left bubbling white wakes in the water of the harbor as they moved with blinding speed towards their targets. Explosions rocked the air and many ships around Arizona belched huge clouds of black smoke, and her mind could see flames pouring from many.

The sailors fought valiantly, manning the antiaircraft guns and other weapons on the deck. She saw some men with rifles, down on one knee, firing at the aircraft as they came in fast and low to deliver their deadly payloads. But the men fought in vain. From her perspective of future time, she knew the outcome, if not the details, of the battle that raged in her mind.

“This tends to put the entire war in perspective, does it not?”

Valerie jumped when the man spoke. She turned to face Stanley Markinson where he leaned casually on the rail beside her. She hadn’t even seen him walk up next to her. He did that a lot, moving like a phantasm through the night, silent and unnoticed.

“Yes, it sure does.” She hesitated. She really didn’t like Markinson that much, which always struck her as strange. He was always nice and polite and, in some ways, reminded her of her grandfather. Roland always said that Markinson was like the old-world aristocracy—cultured, refined, and unfailingly polite, but always just a little uppity, with an attitude that he always spoke to someone he saw as inferior.

“I did not mean to startle you.” He nodded toward a bubble of oil that surfaced from the rotting hulk below. “Amazing that there is any oil left to leak out, is it not?”

Maybe his avoidance of using contractions bothered her. She really didn’t understand why she never warmed to the man—she only knew that he made her a little nervous. “It is that. I wonder why no one has ever tried to clean it up.”

He laughed softly. “There have been many such plans, but all involved disturbing the tomb below us. Perhaps, today, it could be done.” Markinson waved his hand around at the memorial. “Too many people have forgotten what this place means. We have lost the perspective of an open window on the past.”

Roland walked toward them with a small entourage around him. He shook his head at Jack Ortega, one of the two screenplay writers for the Bloodlust series.

“No, no. We can’t do that, Jack.”

Ralph Kramer, the other writer, stepped up alongside Roland. “We’re going to need special effects, and good ones, for this film, Roland.”

Roland rolled his eyes. “I agree, but what you’re talking about is two hundred million dollars’ worth of ILM work. We simply can’t afford that kind of outlay just to get a fifteen minute scene.” He looked around for his director. “Jim, come over here.”

Jim Alba was the senior director since Roland stepped down from directing nearly every film Midnight Interludes Studios produced. Valerie suppressed a smile at Jim’s pained expression. He hated dealing with the writers and preferred to have one of his nasty cigars in his mouth when forced to. “Yeah?”

“These two are making me crazy with the FX stuff. Here’s the deal.” Roland took a deep breath. “If you, as director, say there’s no way to make this movie without spending all this money on the special effects, then we’ll spend the money, even if I have to sell pencils on Hollywood Boulevard.”

Jim shrugged, and Valerie saw him pat his jacket pocket, as if checking to make sure he had a cigar in there. “Right now, my feeling is that all the FX would take us in a direction we don’t want to go.”

“How’s that?” Jack stood very close to Ralph, as if circling the wagons for the coming attack.

“Well, this is a romance, not an action film. I think a huge battle scene is going to swamp the romance.” Jim looked at Markinson. “What does the author of the novel have to say?”

Markinson smiled. “The attack on Pearl Harbor is central to the story, and several chapters are devoted to it in the book. But for a film, I am not sure we need to play it up into a major scene.”

Roland glanced at her and winked before he turned to Jack and Ralph. “That’s my feeling exactly. Stanley is just better at putting it into words than me.”

Jim made sucking motions with his lips as if he had one of the cigars that smelled like a cat box overdue for changing shoved in his mouth. “I think we can do it just as well with newsreel and other historical footage. We could even get permission to colorize the stuff if we need that for continuity.”

Roland turned to her. “What do you think, baby?”

Valerie blinked a few times. “Who, me? I’m just the casting director and acting coach.”

“Exactly. Will the performers have an easier time getting into character one way or the other?”

“I doubt it makes any difference. Old footage or new FX, it’s not live action they can interact with.” She thought for a moment about the images still echoing in her mind of the battle for Arizona. “Actually, it does make a difference. The special effects are fake, someone’s idea of what happened. The footage Jim is talking about is real, what did happen. I’d vote for the historical footage.”

Roland laughed as he slipped his arm around her waist. “After being married to me for more than two years, I’d think you would know this isn’t a democracy.” He kissed her cheek softly, and pleasant tremors rolled through her body, along with a wave of warmth. “OK, people, let’s talk some more.”

Roland and the entourage walked off to look at some other aspect of Battleship Row, leaving her alone with Markinson again.

“That is very wise, Valerie. The real events of the past always have a larger impact than simple stories.”

“I think that’s right.” She chuckled. “But what do I know about history?”

Markinson looked around at the tourists who wandered around the memorial and at the small group of cast, crew, and executives from Midnight Interludes clustered at the far end of the platform. A smile, one Valerie thought looked a bit wistful, slowly spread over Stanley’s face.

“You might be very surprised.”

Honolulu, December 5, 1941

“So what do you have planned for the weekend, Elisa?”

Elisa wondered about Betty. Here the woman was in the middle of the office with her foot up on the corner of the desk as she straightened her hose. Exposing her leg from foot to thigh, the position always gathered the attention of everyone in the office.

“I’m not sure yet. I think I’ll go to the beach tomorrow, though.” She knew better than to question Betty’s antics. Everyone in the office knew that she and Mr. Rigby had a thing going on.

“Going with someone?” Betty lowered her leg and her skirt. “Maybe you’ve got some guy on the side I don’t know about?”

Elisa smiled. Betty could have no idea how poorly that would work out. “No, not me. I’ll just go down to get some sun and do a little reading.”

“We have got to get you a man! You’re going to die an old maid!” Betty walked off toward Rigby’s office, her hips swaying from side to side.

Elisa wasn’t a prude, and never had been. At least she hadn’t been one at any point in the last four thousand years. She’d lost count of the number of men, both mortal and of her kind, who she had shared her bed or even just a hurried grope with over the centuries.

In some ways, being what most mortals thought of as a vampire was a part of that. Her passions often triggered the change, and animal lust would overtake her. The reaction often meant death for a mortal man in her arms. Over the many years, there were exceptions, though. Sometimes, a mortal male touched something in her, some leftover bit of her own humanity, and he lived through the experience of loving her.

She’d been in this role as Elisa O’Connell for several years now and had no desire to change any time soon, unless forced to. She had a job here in the sugar plantation office. She had a few people she could almost call friends, and none of them knew her secret. In Hawaii, no one cared too much about her past, and the hustle and bustle of the mainland was far away. She could live as the mortals lived, only coming out to feed.

The whistle blew meaning it was time to go home. As she walked along the street in the falling twilight, she watched people going about their shopping for Christmas in just a few weeks. She gave up being interested in the life and death of a man from two thousand years ago. Elisa remembered seeing this Jesus once while she was still in what was now called Egypt. There had been nothing special about him or his wife and son. At least not then.

She saw him a few years later in some far away armpit of a village the Roman’s controlled. Rome had sent some third-rate bureaucrat to run the area, and the man took the job seriously. This man from Galilee, called Christ by the crowd, was in the way of the Roman governor’s plans for social climbing. So the wandering preacher from the tribes of Israel ended up nailed to a tree.

As this Christ hung on the cross, she remembered looking up at him. His pain painted a horrid grimace on his face, not unlike that of her victims in the last moments of life, but this man didn’t beg his captors for either mercy or death. He just died.

A man dressed as Santa Claus rang a bell on the street corner, and Elisa dropped a few coins in the black kettle in front of him. He smiled at her. “Thank you, miss. Merry Christmas, and God bless you.”

She returned his smile and muttered something she didn’t even think about. The gods had certainly not blessed her, not by any stretch of the imagination. While to her kind, the cause of her state was known to be an illness, it seemed the gods, or God, damned her to an eternity of killing and hiding.

Over the years, she had come to think in rather clinical terms about her affliction. She knew the one who had infected her. In fact, she knew him very well. When she closed her eyes, she saw the steel gray of his eyes burning in the darkness of the gardens at the Temple of Ma’at. Memories of his hands moving over her body, pressing her through the fine linen of her robes and massaging her breasts as her nipples hardened, made her pant even now.

His words floated back to her across the millennia. “Aset Ma’at Amen, give yourself to me, for all time.” She shivered as she moved down the sidewalk, the remembered passion escalating in her mind and body.

She had leaned her head back, like her neck had broken, exposing her throat to him knowing full well what it meant. Her pussy moistened at the recollection of his mouth moving over her body, of his lips kissing softly at her skin. When the thought of how his sharp fangs pressed against her throat and the sensation of prickling pain that accompanied the teeth dipping into her flesh, she stopped and grabbed a palm tree to support herself.

A military police officer at the corner noticed, and walked up to her. “Miss, are you all right?”

The young man was attractive, maybe twenty years old, and proud of his navy uniform. Casually, she wondered how many in his family had been sailors. “Yes, I’m fine, thank you.” She managed a small smile. “Just a little overwhelmed.”

He smiled back, the look of concern fading. “Last-minute Christmas shopping can do that to you.”

“It certainly can. Thank you.” She moved off down the street again, and the thoughts of four millennia past again assailed her.

The fangs had bitten deep into her flesh, and the pain was an exquisite delight. He had lapped at her skin frantically with his tongue, gathering the bright arterial blood that leaked around the pointed teeth. She recalled moaning and pulling his head tighter against her neck, wanting him to take her and drain her.

Then the change of the infection had hit her. Her own teeth had moved and writhed in her mouth like living things, growing and sharpening to fangs to match his. Her vision had altered in acuteness and in coloring. Objects glowed in an eerie green light while living things and warm creatures glowed with red and had white outlines in her new vision that sensed heat. Had she been able to see them, she believed her ears had become pointed, like those of the jackal, because she could hear even the breathing of the mice in the temple granary a dozen rods away.

Her skin took on a leathery appearance and feel, like the armor worn by Pharaoh’s guards, and had a mottled color like that of a crocodile’s skin. Her hands twisted into claws tipped not with nails but with talons better suited to some huge bird of prey. When she spoke, her voice came as a low rumble, like the growl of a lion or tiger.

As Elisa reached the steps of her apartment, she shook herself out of the memories of the past. She pulled her key from the small purse she carried and started up the stairs.

“May god, some god, damn you Set Ankh Halus.”

Honolulu, December 6, 1941

Darrel couldn’t believe his luck. He had finagled thirty-six hours of leave, and he didn’t even have to take it on the ship. He never followed the news that much, but he knew things in Europe weren’t going well. France had fallen, and England wasn’t far behind. Hitler and Mussolini were sweeping through Europe like Sherman through Georgia.

Here in the Pacific, things didn’t look much better. Japan might as well have taken China since resistance had effectively ended. The Japs and Nazis managed to catch Stalin and his Russian buddies in the middle. Hitler pushed from the west, and the Japs pushed from the east.

And Darrel gathered enough from letters from back home that things stateside were getting goofy, too. A good number of very loud folks didn’t want the United States in the war, but Europe, China, Russia, and most of Africa were begging for help. He wondered how long Roosevelt could, or would, stay out of the fray. As third-generation navy and a petty officer first with eight years of sailing in his sea bag, he didn’t really have an opinion on the war. He just followed orders and did his best.

But he was a radioman and saw a lot of the communications that the skipper saw. Much of it was stuff that no one other than the skipper and him ever saw. And some of it was scary.

There were lots of reports of Jap mini-subs showing up all over the place. He knew many of the reports were wrong, civilians seeing things they didn’t understand and such, but if only a handful were true, it meant the Japs were cruising into San Francisco and Seattle. The Nazis were doing the same on the eastern seaboard, too.

Then there was the missing Jap battle fleet. Somewhere out there in the vast Pacific was a flotilla of Japanese warships, including aircraft carriers, and no one knew where it was or what it was doing.

He hadn’t seen anything in the communications, but Darrel wondered if something was afoot. Many ships from the Pacific Fleet were here in Pearl for various reasons. Repairs, restocking, refits, and the like were all normal, everyday activities in navy life, but it seemed like everyone was here and wanting to get done as soon as possible.

Some of that was because the skippers were getting nervous. So many ships in one place made a good target, but he never heard anyone say that the Japs would actually do anything. Rumor had it that Hitler didn’t want the United States in the war until Europe was controlled, and everyone knew the Nazis and Japs were all in bed together.

Darrel wasn’t worried, though. The Arizona was a good ship, if a little old. Even an old battleship could take care of herself, and the Japs didn’t have anything that could stand up to the firepower of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He chuckled as he thought that the Pacific Fleet could just about sink the Japanese islands.

He stretched in the sun as he laughed, then froze in place, the chuckle stuck in his throat. A woman walked down the beach in his direction, and he couldn’t even breathe.

She was a little thing, maybe five-foot-nothing, and she had hair like he’d never before seen on a woman. The ocean breeze whipped her long, blonde hair around her shoulders to point gently to the land like some kind of shimmering golden flag on the deck of a flattop. And her body just wouldn’t quit.

Her legs reached all the way from the sand to her ass. He almost wished she were walking away from him instead of toward him because then he could have seen her ass. Instead, he watched her hips as they snapped back and forth on top of the shapely legs that looked a lot longer than they should be on such a little woman. He could feel his eyes jumping back and forth in his head like loose marbles as they followed the delightful motions.

Her hips were the perfect size, too, just broad enough to accent her narrow waist that the T-shirt she had tied around her torso left bare. From there, things got bigger in a hurry. Her breasts were large, round, and firm, and even from where he sat, he could see them jiggle and her nipples pressing hard against the white material of the shirt.

Her neck was long and supple, moving in smooth contrast to her hips as she swiveled her head around slowly, looking from the water to the beach as she walked closer to him. When he caught full sight of her face, his mouth went dry, like the time he spent six hours bobbing around in the water as shark bait when he had been blown overboard by the prop wash on his only tour on a flattop.

Her nose was small and turned up a little at the end, and her skin was clear and looked very touchable. Full, red lips rested in a gentle half smile under the nose, but what really grabbed him were her eyes. They looked like two big sapphires set in fresh cream as it solidified into a face. They sparkled and shown in the sunlight, throwing blue fire in every direction as she glanced around the beach.

She would probably slap him down like a bad dog, but Darrel had to at least speak to this beauty. If he could get his voice to work through the desert of his mouth. He took a swig of Coke from the wasp-waisted bottle he’d left resting in the sand and decided to try.

“Hi, there. Looking for some company?”

She stopped and stared, like she’d only just seen him. Her face went oddly slack. “Um, I wasn’t, no.”

He patted the cooler of iced Coke next to him. “You seem to have nothing to drink, and I’ve got plenty of Coke if you’d like one.”

She just stared, and Darrel wondered if this was how the critters under the microscope felt when the medics looked at them.

She seemed to shake herself a little. “No, that’s all right. Thank you, though.”

He’d spent the last eight years following the old navy tradition of a girl in every port, so he called on all the smoothness he could muster. “Well, suit yourself. If you have someone coming to meet you, I don’t think he’s here yet.” The beach was nearly empty.

“Oh, no. I’m here alone.”

“Then you might as well join me.” He gave her his best smile, knowing it was pretty damned good. “While I’m not a commissioned officer, I give you my word as an officer and a gentleman that you’re safe here with me.”

She stared at him for a moment, and then a smile broke over her face like the dawning. “I know I’m safe.” She dropped her bag to the sand and sat down beside him. “I’ll take that Coke now, if you don’t mind.”

Elisa saw the man far down the beach, and letting her predator’s eyes look into the distance a bit, she could tell he was attractive. He was maybe a foot taller than she and had coal black hair. His eyes, though dark brown, seemed to give off a light of their own, even in the bright afternoon sun.

She could see all of this clearly. She could even smell the clean scent of his perspiration from more than two hundred yards away. She even heard his breathing stop when he first saw her walking toward him.

What she didn’t understand was why she kept walking towards him. For a Saturday afternoon, the beach was nearly empty, and she could sit down in the sand and be isolated from others. But her legs kept moving her closer and closer to him.

Elisa took the offered soft drink. “Thank you.”

He leaned his bottle to tap the neck against her bottle. “To Christmas in paradise.”

She laughed as she clinked her bottle to his and drank. “That’s good.”

“Yes, it is. By the way, I’m Darrel Crenshaw.”

She took the offered hand. “Good to meet you. I’m Elisa O’Connell.” The touch of his hand felt warm and sent electric tingles up her arm.

“Elisa . . . that’s a pretty name. Do people call you Lisa?”

“No, they call me Elisa.”

He chuckled. “Got it.”

“What of you, Darrel? You said you’re not a commissioned officer. What is it that you do?”

“As surprising as it may be in Pearl Harbor, I’m a radioman in the navy.”

“And as a petty officer now, do you plan to get that commission some day?”

He frowned. “How do you know I’m a petty officer?”

She cursed herself silently for looking into his mind. “Just a lucky guess.” Elisa pushed a smile to her face she hoped didn’t look too strained. “Three quarters of the men in Honolulu are petty officers.”

He smiled and nodded. “That’s true, I suppose.” He seemed to lose himself in thought, but just for a moment. “I don’t really know. My dad and his dad were happy being chiefs. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to sit in that big chair on the bridge, though.”

As she stared at him, she could see him as an officer, not in the coming war but in others, past and future. Elisa knew that her kind often had precognitive dreams and visions, and she had them herself sometimes. She lacked the training and experience to put the jumbled mass of visions together into a coherent story, though.

She knew, however, that she had met this man before, and would meet him again. Elisa just didn’t know how she knew this.

Wellington Hughes stood on the boardwalk watching the couple far down the beach. Perhaps the centuries had burned all shame from him, but he felt no remorse at spying and eavesdropping on them, just as he felt no remorse for following her to this armpit of an island in the middle of the expanse that mortals called the Pacific Ocean.

He had had to join the navy to get here without her knowing about it. She would never suspect he would do such a thing and would never think to have her spies look for him among the ranks of the military.

He chuckled at the idea of spies. All of their kind used mortals as spies. The weak minds of most humans made it easy to control them by gentle nudges to their thoughts and motivations. Just as he could control mortal women through sex and feigned love, he knew Aset Ma’at Amen, or whatever she called herself now, could also control mortal men in the same ways.

He glanced at his watch. He needed to act, to get her out of this place, very soon. In a matter of hours, this tropical paradise the mortals loved so much would become his kind of world. And hers. In the aftermath, this would not be a good place to go into the inevitable feeding frenzy.

He listened to them chatting casually, his ears picking up the sounds of their voices from six hundred yards away. He saw their hands touching now and then, and his predatory nose picked up the telltale scents they both gave off as the attraction between them built.

Wellington heard enough to know the man was a petty officer. Perhaps Wellington’s captain’s bars would be enough to drive him away. If not, there were other ways to deal with mortals.

He stepped into the sand and made his way toward the would-be lovers.

Honolulu, Present Day

Roland stood in front of the mirror in the hotel room and adjusted his tie. He finished and ran his hands through his once pitch-black hair, turning his head from side to side to look at the streaks of gray above his temples.

“Maybe I should get this colored.”

Valerie laughed. “Don’t you dare.” She came and slipped her arms around his neck. “I think it’s sexy.”

“Yeah, but you’re biased.” He put his arms around her waist. “You look great tonight. Delicious, in fact.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere.”

“That’s my plan.” He pulled her to him, his lips pressing firmly to hers as his tongue parted her lips to plunge deeply into her watering mouth.

Unbidden, her mind flashed back to the scenes from the Arizona Memorial earlier. The great battleship again was whole and fighting for her life against the surprise attack.

An attack that Valerie somehow knew shouldn’t have been a surprise at all. She’d heard in school all the theories of how the president and military had known the attack was coming. She’d heard dozens of different conspiracy theories, all with gaping holes, that it was all a ploy to get the United States into the war. None of the theories held water.

This feeling was different, though. Somehow, she knew someone could have warned the navy about what waited off the north coast of Oahu on the morning of December 7, 1941. With a lifetime of study and perspective to their credit, most historians today agreed that the attack on Pearl Harbor had been botched. The carriers had been untouched, as had the fuel depots and most of the repair facilities. The infrastructure of the navy and Army Air Force had remained essentially undamaged. While the loss of the ships, planes, and men had been a heavy blow, it hadn’t crippled the Pacific Fleet.

But more than two thousand people died. And it didn’t need to happen.

Even though she knew nothing of military strategy, Valerie somehow knew that a simple show of force by the navy and army air force would have sent the Japanese Carrier Attack Force scampering for the high seas.

Suddenly, the image of a man who looked very much like Roland filled her mind. He stood on the deck of a ship dressed in civilian clothes, but he wore the white cap of a sailor. Bullets ripped the deck around him, and men screamed, some calling out orders, but most in terror. This big man stood his ground and fired a rifle at airplanes as they passed overhead.

As if turning her head in the vision, she saw a wall of the superstructure. Neatly stenciled white lettering read, USS Arizona.

Honolulu, December 6, 1941

Elisa found that she liked spending time with this man, this mortal. He wasn’t the first mortal she found enjoyment with, but she felt like she had known him for many years, many more years than the twenty-eight years he’d lived.

At some point, she found that he’d taken her hand in his, and it felt good there. Warm waves lapped up her arm, like the gentle breakers on the beach just a few yards away, sending alternating shivers and feelings of safety through her. His laugh came easy and natural, and he always seemed to have two smiles, one for himself when he looked at her and another for her when she needed one.

Darrel sighed and looked out to sea. “I have to be back at the ship in just more than twenty-four hours. We shove off in a few days.”

She’d learned over the last couple of hours that he had a wonderful sense of humor and that he could take good-natured kidding as well as he could dish it out. “Moving on to the next port and the next girl, then?”

He laughed a little. “Seems that way, doesn’t it?” He turned away from the sea to look deeply into her eyes. “This will sound like a line, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

“You’re right. It does sound like a line.”

“I guess I deserved that shot.”

The predator in her stirred the hair on her neck, and she felt compressions in the air behind her. Someone approached them. She casually looked around, and her heart almost stopped in her chest.

Set Ankh Halus was dressed in the uniform of a navy captain, and he stopped a few yards away.

Darrel made no move to stand up, but nodded to the man. “Afternoon, Captain.”

“Good afternoon. I am Captain Hughes, and I would like to have a word with the young lady.”

Fury welled in her, but she managed to keep it out of her voice. “I have nothing to say to you.”

“I think you do. Is it Elisa now?”

Darrel stood up slowly. He was a good three or four inches taller than the captain and half again as wide at the shoulders with muscles like rocks bulging through his shirt, but Elisa knew that didn’t matter. At least it wouldn’t matter if Hughes decided it didn’t matter.

“Captain, I think the lady doesn’t want to talk to you.”

The cold steel moved across Hughes’s gray eyes, and Elisa heard a rumble in his voice, like the grating of rocks deep in the ground in an earthquake. “What you think matters not at all.” He leaned his head to one side and smiled. “Shall I make that an order?”

Darrel chuckled. “Let’s see now. I beat the crap out of an off-duty desk jockey because he’s getting pushy with a woman. Won’t be the first time I get busted in this man’s navy.”

“Being busted to seaman will be the least of your worries.” Elisa saw Hughes’s hands flexing, preparing for the change.

She stepped between the men and put her hands on Darrel’s chest. “No, it’s all right. I’ll listen to what he has to say.”

Hughes nodded. “A wise move.” He pointed to a picnic table about fifty yards away. “You and I can talk there.”

Darrel’s eyes never left the captain’s. He nodded, but didn’t look at all happy. “OK. I’ll be right here if you need me.”

She forced a smile. “I’ll be just fine.”

Elisa followed Hughes to the table. He waved his arm in regal fashion. “Please be seated, my love.”

“No matter how much you may want otherwise, I am not your love, not any more than I have ever been.” She sat down.

“Very well, but I do care about you. This is not a good place for you. You have surely had the dreams.”

“I have, and I know the war is coming here soon.”

“No, Elisa, not soon. Tomorrow morning, only seventeen hours from now.”

She shrugged. “The details of the lives of mortals are of no concern to me.”

“They should be!” His hand morphed to the claw of their kind, the talons digging deeply into the cement tabletop. “Your history is one of continued involvement with the mortals. This man is just another example.”

“And what concern of yours is that?”

“You know as well as I that the coming carnage will trigger you—and all of our kind here—into a feeding frenzy. The blood will push us beyond the point of control. We must leave here. Now.”

She laughed at him despite the look she’d come to know over the last four millennia. “Do you plan to take me from here by force, then? That will reveal us to the mortals as surely as the feeding frenzy.” This man was amazingly dangerous when angry, and he was very angry now.

“No, I do not.” He smiled, and it looked sinister, plotting. “But I can remove your reason to stay.”

“You wouldn’t dare!”

As soon as she said it, she knew that he would dare. Over the many centuries, he had, in one disguise or another, removed many of her mortal lovers from the evolutionary chain. What would one more matter to this monster?

“You know me far better than that.” The evil smile broadened, threatening to meet at the back of his head. “Of course I would.”

A new approach came to her. As ludicrous as it sounded, why not appeal to the monster’s sense of right and wrong, to his sense of romance? She allowed the pending change, the preparation to fight him, to fade away.

“Hughes, I ask you to not kill him.” She hesitated, gathering her thoughts. “There is something about this man, something familiar, like I’ve known him before.”

His claw faded back to a normal human hand again. Hughes stared at her for a long time. “Do you know that mortals reincarnate?”

“That’s what the priests taught me as a child, yes.”

“No, not what the purveyors of religion spout. Their souls come back to live again until they complete whatever task it is that the gods have planned for them.” He glanced at where Darrel stood watching them. “It is possible that this man has been in your life before.”

“Then I ask you not to harm him.” She paused, studying the face of the monster who had damned her to this eternity. “If you really care for me, don’t harm him.”

“What purposes will that serve? It does nothing about you leaving this place before the morning.”

She smiled. “It will show that you do care and have a hint of humanity left in you.”

“After more than a hundred centuries, perhaps there is no such humanity left.” He paused. “What about leaving this place?”

“I can’t. Not now.”

“Then the mortals will find you feeding on the dead and dying.” He stared at her for many moments. “Perhaps even on this man.”

“That remains to be seen.”

Hughes chuckled. “You are the literal eternal optimist. Very well. The man shall not die by my hands or actions, and you may do as you like.” He reached across the table to brush his fingertip down her cheek. “Take care, my love.”

Hughes stood suddenly and walked away down the beach.

Darrel stood watching as Elisa talked to Captain Hughes. He couldn’t hear what they said, but he saw them both tensing. He wondered if he would have to break up a fight between the two of them instead of fighting Hughes himself.

Despite focusing on the pair, he couldn’t help but think he’d been right. When Elisa stood and walked away from him, the view of her on the way to the picnic table had been amazing. Her hips moved like a pair of tomcats fighting in a gunnysack.

As he watched, the pair seemed to relax a little and settle into a more civilized conversation. Hughes looked a little resigned, like he’d been through all this before. That gave Darrel pause.

What was it Hughes had asked her? “Is it Elisa now?”

What did that mean? Obviously, these two knew each other somehow. Did she lie to him about who she was? Maybe she was hiding from something. Or someone. Maybe even Hughes.

He didn’t know Hughes other than by reputation. He was some kind of assistant flunky in supply. Rumor had it he was a rich-kid college boy, but no one really knew much about the man. He had shown up in the Pacific Fleet a few months ago and had parked himself in an office deep in the bowels of supply. People then more or less forgot about him.

The short-lived confrontation also made him wonder. Darrel was at least four inches taller and forty pounds heavier than Hughes, but the man didn’t even blink when Darrel got in his face. He either had balls the size of coconuts, no sense whatsoever, or Hughes knew something Darrel didn’t. Elisa seemed very worried about the imminent fight, too. Why else would she have stepped between them and agreed to talk to the man?

She sat at the table watching Hughes’s back as he walked away. Darrel decided to go talk to her, and walked to where she sat. When she looked up at him, her remarkable blue eyes were red and puffy, and a few tears still ran slowly down her cheeks.

She managed a weak smile. “Sorry about that.”

“No, it’s OK.”

She nodded as she wiped at her face. “I guess you have some questions. I can either answer them or leave. Your choice.”

He sat down beside her and leaned his back against the edge of the table. “I think I’d like to hear the answers.”

“All right.”

“Who is he? I mean who is he to you?”

“I guess the most correct answer is that he’s an old flame.”

“He can’t be that old of a flame. What, are you about twenty-five or so?”

“Or so.” She smiled as if she hid some secret. “Old enough then. Before you ask, there’s nothing between us now and hasn’t been for a long time.”

“I believe you, but why do I get the feeling he thinks otherwise?”

“Because he does.” Elisa shrugged. “But I don’t return his feelings.”

“OK, then. Why was he here?”

“The short version is he wanted me to leave with him.”

“And you decided to stay here.”

“Yes, I did. I actually decided that a long time ago, too.”

Darrel turned around to face the table and rested his elbows on the hard cement. He glanced down and saw a place on the tabletop that looked like some impossibly large and strong eagle had dug its talons into the concrete like any other bird would do to an unfortunate rabbit. The hard stone had shattered and crumbled like chalk in a strong man’s fist.

He poked at the dust a little. “I wonder what happened here?”

She looked out at the gentle waves. “It doesn’t matter.” She shivered a little and wrapped her arms around her body.

“Are you cold?”

“Maybe a little, yes.”

He pulled his shirt off and draped it over her shoulders. “We should get off the beach before dark. You’ll freeze to death out here.”

She giggled. “Yes, I guess we should.”

The open-air car Darrel had checked out from the motor pool to come to the beach wasn’t much warmer than it had been on the beach. She huddled in on herself and smiled at the thought of her freezing to death.

While not strictly true that she, or any other vampire, couldn’t die, she couldn’t freeze to death. That didn’t mean it wasn’t uncomfortable, though. Contrary to the legends of vampires that came down through the history of the mortals, vampires did feel the pain of injuries and wounds. They just healed from the wounds, no matter how horrendous. New limbs would grow to replace lost ones, and holes would close. It hurt like hell, but it would heal.

The only thing that could kill a vampire would probably amuse most mortals familiar with the legends of monsters of the night. She never understood where the human legends of were-creatures came from. The best explanation she could see was that the ability of her kind to change into the appearance of animals somehow split off on its own to create a new legend. She could change into a wolf, or what looked like a wolf, any time she liked. Maybe someone, at some point in the past, saw a vampire do just that and the werewolf legend had been created.

Someway or another, word spread that silver would kill a werewolf. In today’s versions of the legends, it was a silver bullet. The fact was that a silver bullet, or any other way of getting silver inside a vampire, could kill him or her.

There was no guarantee of death, though. There were a lot of variables she didn’t understand, but some of her kind said this was because of the curse actually being an infection, and silver could kill the organism causing the sickness. The side effect was killing the vampire.

The car bounced to a stop in front of her apartment. Darrel shut off the car and came to the passenger side to help her out. “I’ll walk you to the door.”

He held her hand as they climbed the steps, and she felt warmer just from his touch. When they reached the door, she turned to face him in the dim light of the sliver of the waxing moon. Her eyes let her see his face clearly, but she doubted he could see her anywhere near as well. He smiled, but it looked a bit shy, much shyer than she would have expected from a sailor.

“I think I’m supposed to try and kiss you now.”

“That’s the next logical step.”

“Yeah, it is.” His face softened as he strained to see her in the darkness, and Darrel leaned forward to press his lips to hers. Trembles fired through her as the warmth of his embrace drove away the chill of the night. As her hands drifted over his back, the rippled muscles there flexed and bunched when his arms moved.

The predator senses of her body filled with him. The taste of his lips made her mouth water, and she pulled his head tighter to her, darting her tongue into his mouth as the flavor pushed her into overdrive. His smell was different from any man of the last four thousand years. Perhaps from his years at sea, she could scent the odor of the open ocean on his skin, fresh and clean with a salty, acrid hint to the mix.

The heat from his body threatened to burn her skin where they touched, but she didn’t want the sensation to stop. Elisa reveled in the warm sensation, wanting more.

He suddenly pulled away from the embrace and stepped backward. Had she not grabbed his shirt, he would have fallen backward down the steps.

Darrel blinked rapidly a few times, then seemed to find one of his endless smiles. “I’d better go.”

Despite that many mortals didn’t survive the experience, she decided in an instant. “You don’t have to leave.”

He stared at her for a long time, his mouth moving silently. “Elisa, you deserve better than a one-night stand from a sailor.”

“Maybe I do, and maybe I don’t. Isn’t that my decision, though?”

“I guess so.”

She turned and opened the door. As she stepped inside, she knew he would follow her.

Honolulu, Present Day

A huge aerial photo of Pearl Harbor dominated the wall of the banquet room. When Valerie asked one of the men on the local arts and film board about the picture, he said it had been taken late in October of 1941, about six weeks before the attack. Even without a recent picture for comparison, she knew the scene would look very different today. Valerie stood at the wall, looking at the picture, while Roland and the others chatted with the locals on details of shooting on location.

With her eyes, she traced the line of big ships anchored along Battleship Row. She had no idea what ships were in this picture, but she wondered if one of them was the Arizona. Other ships, all smaller than the battleships, dotted the edges of the harbor. Valerie had no idea of even what kind of ships they were, though. Even if she could have seen them clearly in the greatly enlarged photo, she didn’t know the shapes of the ships well enough to identify them.

She’d read many articles and historical accounts of the attack, and as she stared at the photo, she tried to imagine the Japanese sorties swinging in from four directions to pounce on the waiting ships. She could see the Kates, Japanese torpedo bombers, coming in low over the water and dropping the fish strapped to their belly, only to climb out again as the motor of the torpedo propelled it through the water towards the sleeping target. Was that the California burning?

The dive-bombers, called Vals, came in fast and hard from out of the rising sun, screaming with acceleration and loosing the huge bombs they carried, each nearly a ton of explosives.

The nimble Zeroes swarmed overhead like angry hornets, strafing and taking targets of opportunity. She glanced to her left and saw smoke billowing from Hickam Field. The Japanese fighters would have little to do in engaging American aircraft.

She saw other Kates, configured as level bombers, cruise into view. While not precision heavy bombers, their accuracy was much better than anything the Japanese had used so far in the attack. Falling from stable, level platforms, the bombs did their work with terrible efficiency.

Through the explosions slamming in her mind, Valerie could catch occasional words, not from the table behind her, but from the picture in front of her. She heard a man, his voice far calmer than it should have been, calling out, “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not a drill.” She made out repeated calls, not nearly so calm, of “General quarters!” and “Battle stations!” Mostly, she heard screams.

As she watched a Kate drop a bomb on a line of B-17s at Hickam, it occurred to her; how could she tell a B5N from a Flying Fortress? For that matter, she barely knew the difference between a 767 and a Piper Cub. She glanced at the picture again, and her eyes came to rest on Ewa Beach. Where the hell did she learn that?

A hand touched her arm, and she jumped like one of the Zeroes might have targeted her. “Are you all right, my dear?” She turned to find the images of war replaced by Stanley’s steel gray eyes only a foot from hers. She could only stare at him. “Valerie? Are you all right? Come, sit down here.” He led her, stumbling, to a nearby chair, and she flopped down like a dishrag.

From somewhere, Roland appeared and knelt beside her. “Baby? What’s wrong?”

She blinked and looked from person to person as more surrounded her.

“She was just staring at the picture.” Stanley ran his fingers through his mouse-colored hair, leaving it messier than when he started. “She looked about to fall.”

“Valerie? Come on, baby, talk to me.” Roland glanced up at Jim. “Call an ambulance.” Jim nodded and left the gathering crowd.

She blinked again, and things seemed to return to normal, at least a little normal. “I think I’m all right now.”

Roland smiled, but she knew him well enough to tell when he faked it. “I know you are, but let me enjoy my paranoia, OK?”

“Don’t I always?” In an instant, she felt fine. Whatever hold the picture had placed on her was gone now. “Really, I’m fine now.”

Jim walked back to the group. “They’ll be here in five minutes.” He smiled at her. “Back with us?”

“I think so, yes.” She patted Roland’s hand. “I just need to get some rest. It’s been a busy day.”

Roland laughed. “Oh, no. I have to pay for the ambulance now no matter what, so we’re going to use them. You know me.”

Jim chuckled. “Yeah. You’re so tight you squeak when you walk.”

Elektra had no choice but to sit calmly on the examination table while the doctor poked, prodded, and peeked all over the body she shared with this woman. She used the time to admonish herself. She’d let her own memories spill over into the woman’s consciousness so much that it overwhelmed Valerie.

When she saw the big picture of Pearl Harbor, she’d lost control, flashing back to that day so many decades ago, and the memories had poured in like water through a broken dam.

Only a few years after that day in December, she had found the man who taught her to leave behind her physical body. Since then, she hadn’t, as herself, been with a man, mortal or vampire, and so Darrel held a special meaning for her, and a special place in her heart. She had lived, vicariously through this young woman for the last ten years, and things were going well. She was successful, respected, and had a good man as her husband.

Elektra knew that too many mistakes like today could jeopardize all of that, though. At best, people would think her mad, or at worst, possessed.

Roland sat beside her, and Elektra studied him casually as he chatted with her other self. Extremist conservatism marked the history of human civilization. Most mortals today knew a little about Victorian times, but most had forgotten about the Inquisition, Middle Ages, and other times before. Elektra knew that living through those times had colored her perspective, but she tried to keep an open mind about liberalism.

But try as she might, that this Roland made movies that exploited sex between two people bothered her. Sex was a private thing between two people, not something to be splashed twenty times larger than life on a screen in order to make money.

And yet, he was a good man. He cared for Valerie and took care of her. He didn’t mistreat her or abuse her in any way.

In a word, Roland loved her other self.

Elektra wondered what he would do if he knew what lurked inside his precious Valerie.

Honolulu, December 6, 1941

As Elisa dropped her bag in the armchair, she heard Darrel close the door behind him. She turned and saw him standing there in the entryway, looking just a little lost.

Stifling a giggle, she waved at the sofa. “Have a seat. Would you like something to drink?”

He sat down and, after a moment, nodded his head. “Just some water, thanks.”

She filled a glass with water and added a few ice cubes. After she’d sat next to him, she chuckled a little. “You look nervous, but I suspect you still have questions for me.”

“That’s one way to put it, yeah.” He gulped the water. “The biggest one is just what the hell am I doing here.”

“Just to go with the short version. I like you, and I want to spend time with you. I think you feel the same way.”

“Well, sure, but what’s the long version?”

“Frankly, it’s longer than we have time for. Let’s just say that I don’t do this for every man I meet. In fact, I haven’t done this for many years.”

Darrel sipped at his water as he stared intently into her eyes. “You keep talking about many years, but you haven’t even lived many years, let alone dated.”

“It’s all a matter of perspective.”

“OK, I can see I’m not going to get a straight answer on that one, or maybe I never really asked a straight question. Let me try another one.” He sipped at his water again. “Why do I feel like I know you from someplace?”

She shrugged, buying some time to think. This man could see more than many mortals, but Elisa didn’t know what it meant yet. “Maybe we’ve met before.”

“No, I don’t think so.” He smiled, and his glance flickered down to her chest for a split second. “I’d remember meeting you.”

Heat flushed in Elisa’s cheeks. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“That’s the way I mean it.” He paused a moment, then seemed to make up his mind to press on. “You probably have no idea how pretty you are.”

She laughed at his only moderate change of direction. “What brought that on?”

“I’m just a swab. I’ll probably never command, I’ll definitely never be rich, and I clearly won’t ever be famous. What’s a girl like you doing with a sailor like me?”

“Does that matter? One thing I’ve learned in my life is that you have to take things as they come. If you get all wrapped up around the axel worrying about why or how, you’ll be frozen with fear and all the wonderful things life has to give you will just roll right by.”

He frowned. “How old are you?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“If you say so.” He sat quietly for a long time, just staring into space. “You’re not a Nazi or Jap spy, are you?”

“No, why?”

“Because they teach us all about how both use beautiful women to seduce unwary men into spilling their guts.”

“I’m not a spy for anyone, especially not the Nazis or Japanese.” She smiled at him. “I can’t promise I won’t seduce you, though.”

Darrel blinked a few times. “Oh.”

“Thank you, Chief.” Wellington waited until the Chief Petty Officer left his office before he opened the communiqué from Fleet. Rear Admiral Kimmel had personally denied his leave request.

Elisa would have been proud of the fact that he held his temper for nearly a full minute before ripping the top from the heavy metal desk and throwing it through the concrete wall of the office. The explosive sound of the failing wall of course attracted attention from outside his office. The CPO, accompanied by a petty officer shore patrol, rushed in, side arms at the ready.

“Captain! Are you . . .”

The change had come on Wellington fully now, and he turned to face the two men as a real vampire. Not the charming creatures from the movies played by the greats like Lugosi, but the real McCoy with two-inch fangs glittering in the dim light cast by the desk lamp from where it landed in the corner.

The men stood staring, their service revolvers forgotten in their hands and their mouths agape as they saw Wellington’s eyes. He knew what faced them—the glistening black of his eyes surrounded by round, red irises speared by eerie, green-glowing pupils set in a mottled, leather-looking skin—was beyond their understanding.

The SP recovered first, at least a little. “What the fuck is that, Chief?”

The CPO only shook his head.

Wellington smiled, the leathery skin pulling taught across the fangs. “Bad timing, boys.”

The chief finally got his feet under him a little. “Kill it!”

The men fired, emptying their revolvers into Wellington’s chest with near-perfect aim. The bullets hurt as they hit, but he had long ago learned to ignore pain. Instead of flinching, he laughed, the rumbling of grating metal coming from deep in his body.

His eyes sensed the heat radiating from the bodies of the two men, and he saw a gathering of heat in their legs as they prepared to run. Moving like flowing lightening using an efficiency learned in ten millennia of predation, Wellington was on them.

A swipe of his talons across the stomach of the SP caused the man to crumble to the floor as he struggled to hold his insides inside. The CPO threw a punch that connected to Wellington’s jaw, but as the man’s fist trailed across the exposed fang, it ripped through the meat to the bone. Wellington grabbed the chief’s arm and pulled. The arm came off in his hands, and he tossed it casually in the lap of the whimpering SP.

“Believe it or not, I am sorry for this. But you will probably be dead in a few hours anyway.” Wellington grabbed the chief’s hair and yanked his head back, pulling the man’s gaze from where his arm had been until a few seconds ago. He lunged forward, his fangs ripping through the flesh of the exposed neck, tearing the pulsing arteries and thumping veins. The spurting blood from the stump of the man’s shoulder stopped almost instantly, instead spraying from the gaping wound in his throat. Wellington drank deeply, feeling the warmth of nourishment flooding his body as the red fluid filled him.

In less than a minute, he dropped the drained corpse to the floor and turned to the shore patrolman still holding his abdomen and cradling the CPO’s arm in his lap. Wellington smiled again, blood staining his face and dripping from the fangs to his shirt.

“Waste not, want not.”

Gripping the petty officer’s head in his claws, Wellington pulled him to his feet and then plunged his teeth into the man’s neck.

After draining the SP dry, he dropped the body to the floor beside the chief. Wellington sat down at the remains of his desk, and the change slowly receded. He pulled a napkin from the desk drawer and patted at his face, getting some of the blood off, but by no means all. He casually wished that someone would hurry up and invent Wet-Naps.

He wondered what to do with the bodies, and how to explain the damage to the office, but he looked into the memories of his precognitive dreams and saw he did not need to do anything. At 8:23 tomorrow morning, a seventeen-hundred-pound bomb would hit this building, reducing it to nothing but the foundation.

All he needed now was a bath, a change of clothes, and someplace to hide until this was all over.

With his firm touching stirring desires within her that always gave her pause, Elisa trembled as Darrel’s hands moved over her body. Her kind often succumbed to pure animal passions, blind drive that turned off the cognitive parts of the brain and allowed a violent, single-minded zeal that left even vampires wounded. The vampires would heal, but mortals rarely lived through the event.

His lips moved up and down her neck, and some part of her longed to feel the stab of fangs in the skin of her throat. She prayed that the piercing kiss of a true love would take away the curse in the same way as that from a false love infected her so many centuries ago. She knew neither would, nor could, happen, and she tried to push the longing from her mind.

Her body responded to him, though, and she ran her hands over the firm muscles of his chest as they pressed against the material of his shirt. The rise and fall of his breathing quickened as their lips met again, and the wonderful flavor of him filled her mouth as he caressed her.

His hand slipped from her back, tickling over her ribs, as he moved to grasp her breast. Although some part of her yearned to feel talons ripping through her shirt and into her skin as she would feel with one of her own kind, the odd gentle and firm touch of this mortal made her desire flair. She stayed alert for the change to come on her, but it seemed millions of miles away despite the hunger she held for him.

Darrel pinched her nipple between his fingers, and a shot of heat fired through her, causing her to yelp with delight. He pushed her back on the sofa and gripped her shirt in his fists. With one pull, the material shredded in his hands, leaving her naked from the waist up. He leaned forward, and she felt the warmth of his mouth encircle her nipple, his teeth nibbling playfully at the hard bud while his tongue flicked in rapid flashes over the tip.

As he lay atop her, his hard cock pressed against her leg, and he moved slowly, rubbing his stiffness against her. The motion caused her to yearn for him to fill her pussy, to thrust wildly into her over and over. She pulled his head tighter to her, rubbing his face over her breasts as he moved from one breast to the other, sucking and licking her.

Darrel slid down, kissing across her stomach, and his tongue fluttered in her navel, causing her twitch and giggle. His hands moved to unfasten the shorts she wore, and he pushed them down her legs along with her panties. He stood suddenly, panting with sweat rolling down his face, and pulled her clothing from her legs. As he stared at her naked body, he fumbled with his pants and shirt until he stood nude beside her.

The sharp definition of his chest that she’d felt under his shirt gave way to a series of ridges marking the ripples of his stomach. Farther down, his cock stood at raging attention, a drop of glistening fluid clinging to the very tip. As he watched her carefully, Darrel knelt beside the sofa, and leaned to her, kissing her stomach again. His hand slid up and down her thigh, tickling the lips of her pussy as he teased her with his tongue and lips.

Guiding her leg with gentle pulls, he lifted and moved her until her leg draped over his shoulder, his fingers darted around her clit. Spreading her pussy with his fingers, he leaned forward and slowly licked the length of her slit, his tongue swirling around her clit in wild ways that sent shockwaves through her.

As he nibbled tenderly at her clit, she realized through the fog of passion that she felt only human desires, the same as a mortal woman would feel. No hint of the change lurked in the dark crevices of her mind or body, and she no longer wished for him to rip and gnaw her flesh. Instead, she wanted to feel his touch, strong, firm, and tender as he made love to her, man to woman and mortal to mortal.

His fingers slipped deeply into her pussy, and his lips sealed tight around her clit, sucking and rolling the nub as he probed her with his hand. When his fingers curled upward to press against her G-spot, Elisa flinched and her back arched high off the sofa, forcing her pussy harder against his face and hands. A billion flashbulbs seemed to explode in her head, the light glittering and sparkling like some tremendous chandelier built by a manic tinker with unlimited resources. The light almost blinded her, or perhaps it was only the intensity of the orgasm gripping her in its velvet fist like a strong man.

Screams of nonsense leaped from her mouth as she thrashed on the sofa while his mouth and hands still worked her, playing her as a virtuoso plays a violin, knowing exactly how to get the perfect reaction and sound from his instrument. And she responded to his touch, giving her all to please him.

When Darrel pulled his mouth from her clit and slipped his hand from her pussy, she wondered if the change had indeed come, despite her not feeling it near. Her vision swam, as if she looked at him underwater, and she heard only the pounding of her pulse. He still knelt beside the sofa, resting easily on his knees. Springing from the sofa, she dove at him and threw her arms around his neck, drawing him into a hug. As he fell backward to the floor, he pulled her from the davenport, and they ended up on the rug together, rolling and pawing at each other as their lips locked together.

The flavor of his lips, now enhanced by the tastes of her pussy lingering there, made her head spin, and she rolled until she was on top of him. Kissing rapidly, she moved down his chest, gently biting and sucking his nipples, and licking his bulging pectorals. His hard cock pressed against her stomach as she moved and slowly slipped to rest between her breasts.

The slick fluid oozing from his cock made a slippery lubricant, and she rocked back and forth as she licked his chest, his cock slid easily between her breasts as his eyes fluttered closed and a soft moan came from his lips. At one point, she rocked downward, and the head of his cock touched her chin. The thought of his dick so close to her mouth pushed her over the edge, and Elisa eased down to swirl her tongue around the mushroom-like head.

Darrel jerked as her tongue flitted across the tip of his dick, and she wrapped her lips around the head and sucked as hard she could. His hands came to her head, and she prepared herself for when he would force her head down onto his cock, but the event never came. His hands slowly and gently moved over her head, sometimes wrapping a little of her hair around a finger before moving on.

A series of low moans escaped his lips as she swallowed as much of his length as she could, and Elisa looked up to see his eyes locked to her. A weak smile struggled its way to his face. “That’s wonderful, baby.”

She paused at that. Something about what he said sounded familiar, but maybe it was the way he had said it. All mortal men spoke softly and gently when she sucked their cocks. A vampire would simply ram his cock through the back of her throat. She would heal. But something about Darrel was different from other mortals. Something made him very special.

His hands pulled her head away, his cock slipping from between her lips with a loud pop before he sat up and rolled her to her back. He knelt between her spread legs and massaged her thighs as his cock strained to reach the ceiling. Darrel leaned forward, and his cock slipped into her pussy, parting her lips to make way and reaching the full depth of her.

He supported himself on his hands, looking down into her face as he thrust slowly into her and then retreated until only the head of his dick remained inside. He stared into her face, as if he saw some wondrous thing there that no man had ever seen before. A soft smile rested on his lips, but he spoke not a word, as if afraid the sound would break the spell woven around them.

She clenched her teeth against the rising tide of her orgasm, wanting to wait for him, and she didn’t have to wait long. He tensed, the tendons in his neck standing out like cables under the skin, and he gave a mighty thrust into her, burying his cock until his balls slapped against her ass. As the velvet fist closed around her once again, his cock throbbed in her, his hot come filling her to overflowing. Her hips bucked against his, trying to get just a little more of his length into her as they grunted and screamed incoherently in the throes of mutual climax.

Darrel started to roll to the side, but she pulled him against her chest, taking his full weight onto her. His breathing felt like an overworked steam engine, gulping and gasping for air as he rested on her. Her own rapid panting added to the exchange of air, and the sweat pouring from their bodies mingled and ran slowly to the floor where the rug absorbed it.

He kissed her lips softly, like the touch of a butterfly’s wings, and smiled at her.

“You’re so very beautiful.”

“Thank you.” She sighed. “You’re not planning on leaving now, are you?”

“Not unless you tell me to leave.”

She hugged him to her. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Honolulu, Present Day

“Really, Roland, I’m just fine.”

He didn’t know if he should believe that. He trusted Valerie fully, with everything he had, including his life. He’d do anything that she asked of him, even kill or die. Roland knew his primitive male brain equated that kind of trust and obedience to love. He also knew that she probably didn’t see it that way at all. It bothered him that he didn’t fully believe her when she told him she was OK.

“Baby, I know you think that, but something is wrong.”

She put her hands on her hips, a move that always grabbed his attention because it accentuated the shape of her hips, waist, and bust line. He fought the urge to lick his lips.

“The doctor and I both say you’re wrong.”

“Yeah, well—”

“Well, nothing.”

He’d come to recognize the attitude she had now. At this particular moment, the subject wasn’t open for discussion, but she would, at some point, allow him to return to it. “OK, I get the picture.” He hesitated before risking putting his hand in the blender. “Just tell me if the voices, or whatever they are, come back again.”

She sighed. “They haven’t bothered me much for the last five or six months, and that’s no worse than usual.” Valerie came and put her arms around his neck. “I’ll tell you if gets worse, though. Promise.”

He slipped his arms around her waist. “That’s good enough for me.”

Honolulu, December 7, 1941 – 0110

The dreams, showing an often-shadowy future that she never learned to piece together, came to her, just as they did to all of her kind. She saw the bombs hitting Kaneohe, and then Hickam. The torpedo bombers came in low and slow, dropping the long, narrow mini-ships into the harbor, where they sped through the water to strike their targets. Elisa heard the call, as if she had a radio in her head, of, “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not a drill.” She turned in the dream to look at the clock on the wall. It read 7:48.

The American personnel, caught off guard and sleeping at the dawning of a Sunday morning, reacted slowly at first but with increasing ferocity. Many ships lacked experienced commanders, but the sailors fought valiantly even without direction. Chief petty officers assumed the role of captains, petty officers acted as lieutenants, and seamen were pressed into duty as chiefs. But other dreams told her that all this bravery, all this dedication to duty, would be in vain. The Japanese would complete their attack with minimal losses and maximum surprise.

After two waves, the Japanese would withdraw, making their second mistake of the attack. The first had been to attack at all. The attack would fail to cripple the U.S. Pacific Fleet, despite dealing a heavy blow to naval operations. The planned third wave might have completed what the first two only started. The attack would, however, galvanize the United States to action, breaking the political stalemate between the doves and hawks. In just four months, next April, a daring raid would be led by an Army Air Force officer to drop bombs on the Japanese mainland. Despite three more years of war to come, Doolittle’s Raid would mark the beginning of the end for the Empire of Japan.

She saw those on the battleship Arizona fighting off the attacking aircraft. Men manned the guns, and the mighty ship gave a good accounting of herself. Her dream vision saw a man on the deck, in civilian clothes but wearing the Dixie-cup cap of a sailor, down on one knee firing a rifle at passing aircraft. A man she recognized because he slept soundly beside her now.

Suddenly, a single bomb pierced the deck of Arizona near one of the forward gun turrets, and the ship seemed to explode, all at once and nothing first. A scream caught in her throat, and Elisa sat bolt upright in bed, awake and panting wildly. She felt the bed next to her, and Darrel still slept there.

Hughes’s voice spoke from the darkness. “The dreams have always bothered you.”

She wasn’t surprised he was there. “You know they have.”

Her eyes let her see him clearly wearing civilian clothing in the darkness. “Come, let us go to the other room before we wake your friend.” He left the bedroom by the door to the living room. She eased out of bed and slipped on her robe before following him.

“Why are you here?”

Wellington shrugged. “To give you one more chance to leave. A few of us have found a cave in the mountains on the other side of the island, and we will wait there for a few days, maybe a week, and then come back. Things should be cleaned up well enough by then that we can resist the frenzy.”

She nodded toward the bedroom door. “He’s more than my friend.”

“I know that, but I also know his fate.” He sighed. “And so do you.”

“I know a possible fate for him. I believe it can be changed.”

“You always do this to yourself, Elisa.” Wellington chuckled as he sat on the sofa. “You fall in love with these mortals, and then when they die, your heart is broken. It pains me to watch that.”

“Then don’t watch.”

“You just do not understand that no matter how you may feel about me, I love you. I always have, and I always will. What happens to you, that you are hurt, matters to me. I wish I could make it different.”

“You’re four thousand years too late for that.”

“Perhaps I am. You have never believed me when I have said that I am sorry for infecting you.”

“No, I don’t believe you.”

“Be that as it may, it is true.”

She hesitated for a moment, wondering what else to say to him. “I’ll come to your cave, but I can’t go now.”

“It may be too late if you wait.”

“I’ll take that chance.”

“Very well.” He stood and walked to where she hovered near the bedroom door. “Do not wait too long.” Wellington again brushed his fingertips across her cheek. “Until we meet again.”

He walked out the door and into the night.

Something woke him, but he didn’t know what. Darrel felt around in the bed, and Elisa wasn’t there. He pulled on his trousers and followed the light leaking under the bedroom door to the living room, where he found her sitting on the couch staring at the front door of the apartment.

“What’s wrong, baby?”

She turned to face him and smiled, but it looked forced. “Nothing, really. At least nothing you need worry about.”

He sat next to her. “If you say so.”

She laughed softly. “I guess I do.”

“Why are you out here?”

“I just had a bad dream, that’s all.” She hesitated for a moment, studying his face. “Just a dream.”

“Why don’t you tell me about it? That helps sometimes.”

She paused again, her eyes running over his face. “You wouldn’t believe me if I did tell you.”

“Try me.”

She laughed a little. “All right. The Japanese are going to attack Pearl Harbor in a few hours.” She nodded toward the clock hanging on the wall. “At 7:48.”

He felt an odd relief. The dream she’d had was just a normal dream of nonsense. “You’re right. I don’t believe you.”

“See?” She paused a moment. “If they do, I want you to stay here with me.”

He shook his head. “No one is going to attack Pearl. And if they do, I can’t stay here. I have to get to my ship.”

“The Arizona will be sitting at the bottom of the harbor in a little more than five hours.” She swallowed. “With eleven hundred men still aboard.”

This didn’t sound like a normal dream. She had way too many details. “Elisa, how do you know this?”

“I sometimes have dreams of things that have yet to happen.”

“And you see this attack in your dreams? Have any of your dreams come true?”

She nodded. “Yes. The Japanese fleet you’ve been worried about is sitting off the north coast of the island right now, getting ready to launch their planes.”

Darrel shook his head to clear it. How did she know about the Jap fleet? This was nonsense, but if she was right, what did that mean? Either she actually was a spy or she really dreamed about the future. Either one was a hard pill to swallow. If she was on the level, he should call someone. He could hear van Valkenburgh now. How did he expect the skipper to react to such craziness from his radioman? This sort of thing could end a man’s career. No, he would tell no one about this.

“OK. It’s just a dream.” He stood and took her hand. “Come on back to bed. Maybe you can dream about our future.”

Honolulu, Present Day

Valerie sat waiting in the visiting room of the retirement home for the staff to bring an old sailor she knew only as Chief Brandon out to see her. She learned of the old man through some brief research into a story told about the attack on Pearl Harbor where some men claimed to see monsters on the deck of the Arizona as she was sinking. Brandon had been a petty officer cook on the Arizona, and as far as she could learn, was the last living man to have reported the monsters.

The nurse pushed a wheelchair with a dried up little prune of a black man covered in blankets riding the chair. She set the brakes and moved to where the old man could see her.

“Davey? This is Mrs. Westwood, the lady I told you about.” The nurse spoke slowly in a loud voice. “Now you be nice to her!”

The old man’s head shook slowly as he looked up, and his hands trembled with some kind of palsy. When his gaze came to rest on her, he smiled, and Valerie could see the twinkle in his eye.

His voice was soft and had a tremor to match that in his body. “Do Mrs. Westwood got a real name?”

“Yes, I’m Valerie.”

His laugh sounded like chickens cackling. “Well then! When a man gets to my age, he got to save time, so how you, Val?”

She smiled. “How old are you, Mr. Brandon?”

“Jes calls me Davey. I’s ninety-seven years old, little lady, soon to be ninety-eight ifin these sons of bitches don’t kill me wit theys nasty foods.” He reached up with a shaking hand to scratch above his left ear. Not a single hair graced his head that she could see, and his ears stuck out like open doors on a taxi.

“Davey, I understand you were on the Arizona when the attack came. Do you remember much about that day?”

“You bet I do. How’s can a man forgets that kind of thing?” He took a few ragged breaths. “Back then, we darkies was in the navy, but we was cooks and porters, not reg’lar navy. It weren’t ’til after the war that old Ike integrated things. But them boys was still my shipmates, and that day, we fought the fucking Japs side by side, jes like God’s gonna line us up fer review up yonder.”

“You know, all America is still proud of the job you and your shipmates did that day.”

The old man cackled again. “I’s ain’t heard that in many a year now.”

“I’m hoping you can tell me about the monsters you said you saw that day.”

A wave of shivers passed over him that swamped even the tremors of his palsy. “Ain’t nobody asked me about that since 1943.”

“Well, I’m asking now.”

“You ain’t from the navy, is you?”

“No, my husband and I make movies, and we’re working on one that involves the Arizona.”

“The navy told me that I best not say nothin’ to nobody ’bout them monsters.” He cackled again, triggering a bad fit of shakes. After coughing a little, he looked up at her, his eyes sparkling like diamonds set in black leather. “But what they gonna do to old Davey now, eh? Hell, I’s be dead afore they could get me to Washington to stands for court-martial!”

She laughed with him for a moment. “Maybe not. You may outlive me.”

“Mayhaps I will.” He scratched at his head again for a few moments. “Them monsters. I ain’t never seen nothin’ else like them. They was normal sized, like men, but they had skin like gray leather, and darker blotches in it so it looked like scales on a gator.” He shook again and pulled his blanket around his arms. “Theys had nasty-looking claws, too, like some kind of bird, mayhaps a hawk or eagle. I seed one of them, the bigger one, dig them claws right into the bulkhead like the steel was made of hot butter.”

“So there was more than one of them?”

“Oh, sure enough. They was two of them there. I always thought one was a man and the other small one was a woman monster. But other than they size, theys was about the same. The baddest part was they eyes. Black as pitch right from the pits of hell they was, but they had red dots there, like fresh blood. When I first seed them, I thought the red was blood, cause they was so many boys hit and bleeding on the deck, but then I seen the centers of they eyes. Right there in the middle of that red was green slits, like a cat’s eye. Green as that stone around yer neck.”

Valerie glanced at the emerald necklace Roland had given her for their first anniversary. It seemed to glow by its internal light. “What else was there about them?”

“I thinks they was mad. They argued and fought, growling at each other as the bombs went off and the bullets hit the deck. There was a boy down on the deck next to ’em, and the little one acted like she was trying to eat him up, but the big one kept pulling her away.” He shivered again. “I fired my rifle at ’em, and I saw the bullet rip right through the big one’s chest, but he didn’t take no notice, jes went on a fightin’ wit the little one.”

“When did you last see them?”

He laughed. “You know them John Wayne movies where you’s always hears the bullet what kills you coming? Well, I don’t know ’bout no bullets, but I heared the bomb what kilt Arizona. It slammed right through the deck into the forward magazine, and the whole fucking ship just blowed up. I woke up when I hits the water, but I didn’t see the monsters. Fer all I knows, they’s down there with the rest of the boys still.”

“It sounds like you were very lucky in several ways, Davey.”

“Mayhaps I was, mayhaps I wasn’t.” He paused, his head bobbing around like a fishing lure. “You got someone down there aboard Arizona?”

“I just don’t know.”

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 – 0645

She and Darrel woke about six and made love again. She’d lost count of the number of times they’d held each other as they shared passion that night, but Elisa knew this would be the last time. In an hour, it would begin, the beginning of the end.

He came up behind her and slipped his arms around her waist. Elisa half expected to feel his erection pressing against her back, but he only held her tenderly, happy just to be with and touching her.

“How are the dreams?”

She sighed. “I still want you to stay here.”

“I’ll stay until I have to get back to the ship this afternoon.”

“No, I mean when the attack starts.”

He turned her in arms to face him. “Baby, there isn’t going to be an attack. It was just a dream.”

She gave up. “Yes, you’re right.”

“Of course I am.” He led her to the small kitchen and held her chair as she sat before going to the refrigerator. “Let’s see. There are some eggs here, and I’m pretty handy with a stove.” Darrel cooked breakfast for them both, and they sat together as they ate, just staring at each other.

“This is really good.” She smiled, but she didn’t need to borrow one of his. It came very easy for Darrel.

“Thanks.” He paused for a moment, and then seemed to make up his mind about something. “What I said yesterday, about not needing a girl in every port, I meant that.”

“I know you did.”

“Well, I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like you to be the only girl in any port.”

She watched his face for a minute. In forty centuries years of living with mortals, she’d learned to read their expressions like mortals read books. There was no mind reading or mind control involved, just simple experience along with trial and error over the many centuries. She could see on his face that Darrel was serious about what he said and that this wasn’t just a line he fed to every woman he bedded.

She wondered how to respond, though. She knew his future, and hers. It felt very wrong, but no matter how she looked at things, she couldn’t see where lying to a dead man walking would make any difference.

“What are you trying to say to me?”

He poked at the remains of his eggs with his fork for a moment before he looked up, staring deep into her eyes. “Elisa, I seem to have fallen in love with you.”

She smiled her best smile for him. “And I with you.”

Pearl Harbor, Present Day

On her way back from the nursing home, Valerie called Roland on his cell phone, and he had said that he and Stanley were going back out to the Arizona Memorial to check a few things and she could meet him there.

When she stepped off the launch, she saw the two men at the far end of the structure, looking out across the water at the gun turret, the rainbow waves from the leaking oil coloring the water in gay hues. She walked toward them and noticed how very different the two men were.

Roland stood at six feet tall, almost even, and Stanley was just under five and half feet. Roland probably outweighed Stanley by forty pounds, but where Roland’s body was solid muscle, Stanley looked like he probably had fought a potbelly for most of his life.

Valerie knew full well she was biased, but Roland was the kind of man that everyone noticed when he came in the room. Outgoing and outspoken, he was impossible to miss, and that didn’t even deal with his devastating good looks.

Stanley, on the other hand, tended to blend in. Unless someone actually looked for him, he would be easy to miss in even a small crowd.

And yet, she knew there were similarities in the two men as well as differences. Both had drive and determination. Roland turned his ambition to building a successful movie studio, growing from just another backroom porno studio into a powerful and respected operation that dominated the adult film industry, making enough inroads into the mainstream to scare the big players on the block. Stanley had focused his drive on writing and had written one of the most popular series of erotic romance novels ever published, and this in spite of being a man in a field dominated by women.

Both men were opinionated and could be more than a little domineering when they wanted to get their point across. And both men had a soft streak they tried to keep well hidden from the world, but that came out into the light of day from time to time.

Roland smiled when he saw her. “Hi, baby.” He kissed her cheek. “Did you get to talk to your old sailor?”

“Yes I did, and it was an interesting chat.”

Stanley frowned. “An old sailor?”

“Yes. He was on the Arizona on that last day, and he claims to have seen the monsters you based this story on.”

“Ah! I did not know that any of the men who made that report still lived. He must be nearly a hundred.”

“Ninety-seven, and he’s quite the old man.”

Roland had swiveled his head like watching a tennis match as she and Stanley talked. “Wait. You mean people actually claimed to have seen something on the Arizona?”

Stanley nodded. “Quite right. About a dozen sailors reported seeing monsters on the deck just before the explosion that sent Arizona to the bottom.” He smiled. “Perhaps Elektra really was here.”

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 – 0744

Elisa sat with him, but no matter how hard she tried to stop, her eyes kept drifting to look out the window of the apartment that overlooked Pearl Harbor. She couldn’t keep her thoughts focused because the future memories distracted her. She thought that completely understandable given the situation.

He touched her hand. “Did you hear me? I said I have to be back at the ship in six hours, so if you want to go somewhere today, we should get moving.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” She squeezed his hand. “I think I’d just like to stay home.”

“That’s fine.”

She looked out the window again, and her predator’s vision picked out a cluster of black dots against the northwestern sky. As she watched, the dots moved slowly into formation, and several broke away from the pack and descended to a lower altitude.

Darrel followed her gaze, but she knew he wouldn’t be able to see anything other than blue sky. He frowned a little. “What are you looking at?”

She faced him again. “Nothing, my precious.”

When she looked back to the sky, the dots had split into three groups. She sighed. Dive bombers and fighters high, level bombers middle, and torpedo bombers low. She wondered what the rest of the sky looked like.

Elisa glanced down at the harbor and saw the battleships lined up on Battleship Row, all trussed up like Thanksgiving turkeys. She could make out the lettering on the USS Arizona, California, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, and she knew the other was the USS Nevada. In less than two hours, two of the ships would be lost and the other three would suffer serious damage.

Darrel smiled and pointed out the window. “Look there. A flight of B-17s.”

She hesitated a moment, and the roar of aircraft overhead made Darrel’s face go slack.

She shook her head. “No, those aren’t B-17s.”

Things came at him way too fast. In the last eighteen hours, he’d met the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, spent the night with her making love like half-crazed rabbits, listened to her stories about impossible dreams, told her he loved her, and now he watched as two flights of aircraft he didn’t recognize flew into Pearl Harbor’s airspace. Perhaps the most troubling part of all was the calm, matter-of-fact way she had announced that the planes weren’t B-17s from Hickam.

The distant, unmistakable rumble of high explosives rolled over the harbor, reverberating from the surrounding hills, and he looked back out the window. Black smoke boiled from Hickam Field, and as he watched, he saw three more explosions there. The sound reached them a few seconds later. He glanced at the clock on the wall, and it said 7:48.

He turned to Elisa and tried his to speak twice before any sound would come out. “What’s going on?”

She wiped at a tear that ran down her cheek. “You should get back to your ship.”

“You knew. You were right.”

“Yes. Go. Now.”

He grabbed his shirt and pulled it on as he half ran for the door. She stopped him with her hands on his chest. Tears flowed freely down her face now, but she sounded much stronger than he felt.

Placing her hands on the sides of his face, Elisa kissed first one cheek, and then the other. She managed a small smile.

“Godspeed, my precious.” She kissed his lips tenderly, and then placed his Dixie-cup on his head.

He wanted to say something to her, and he knew there must be a million things to say to the woman he loved at a time like this, but he couldn’t think of any.

Instead, he turned and ran down the steps for the parked car.

After Darrel left, she sat for almost five minutes watching the swarming Japanese aircraft as they neutralized the airfields. The fighters waited high overhead for any aircraft the airmen happened to get off the ground, but they had little to do. As she watched, it occurred to her that she wasn’t ready to give up, at least not easily.

She ran for the door as the change came partially to her, heightening her senses and increasing her strength to something to haunt the nightmares of children and men alike. Elisa sprinted through the streets, passing panicked people, screaming emergency vehicles, and curious onlookers of the battle, none of which took any notice of her.

When she reached the harbor, no military police guarded the pier, and the launch sat tied to the service dock near the ships, so she dove into the water and swam like a dolphin for the anchored Arizona.

The attackers had turned their attention now to their primary targets; the ships on Battleship Row. The bombs and torpedoes came in a rain of destruction, and wounded, dead, and dying men littered the deck of Arizona. The blood and the smell of cooking flesh from the fires forced the change on her fully, triggering the feeding frenzy Wellington had warned her about.

Her vision changed, turning the air around her green with men glowing bright red with hot white borders. Her heat vision cut through the smoke letting her see clearly, and special adaptations in her filtered the glare from the burning fires that erupted from the onslaught of bombs and torpedoes.

The two-inch fangs filled her mouth, and she flicked her tongue out to lick them in a casual, unconscious move as her hunger for blood flared. Her ears picked up the sound of a closing aircraft, and she spun in place just as a trail of bullets hit the deck and ran up to her feet. The slugs tracked up her legs and slammed into her chest, tearing gaping holes in her skin. The pain distracted her, but only for an instant.

A mortal jumped from behind a bulkhead and dropped to one knee as he tracked the aircraft with the rifle he held tight to his shoulder. He squeezed off shot after shot at the receding plane, but she saw no effect from his efforts.

Something in her brain clicked. The man wore civilian clothes, but he had a white naval cap on his head. Maybe some part of her, some tiny fragment still human after all the centuries, knew the man was Darrel. She froze in place, just as any predator freezes when the prey looks their direction.

Darrel turned away from his last target and saw her. She still wore the pants and blouse she had on when he ran from her apartment just a short time ago, but her body had changed. Her skin had altered into leather-like armor, gray with greenish blotches, and her eyes with the green pupils set in red irises against pitch black balls were the stuff of nightmares.

Her hands, the same hands Darrel seemed to love so much to hold, had mutated into horrid claws tipped with three-inch glistening talons able to rip through the hull of the battleship they were aboard. Capping the sight were the long, white fangs that protruded from her mouth dripping saliva as her mouth watered with the hunger for the blood spilling around them.

Not only did he see her, but she could also see in his eyes that he recognized her. Darrel’s arms went limp, and the rifle fell from his hands to hit the deck, but the sound was lost in the riot of explosions, wailing aircraft, and screaming men. She didn’t know how he remained standing.

His eyes were round with a combination of confusion and terror, and her ears picked up his weak voice as he whispered, “Elisa?”

So distracted by the urge to flee and hide from his sight, she missed the air compressions coming from behind her as well as the accompanying sound of the revving motor of the diving Japanese aircraft. The deck on either side of her exploded in a hail of bullets that, this time, missed her but walked straight to Darrel. The slugs chewed him like invisible dragon’s teeth, ripping his body as they hit. He crumpled to the deck and lay still, blood pooling around him.

She bellowed, a scream to drown out the roar of aircraft engines, exploding bombs, and firing guns in the battle raging around her. She sprang to the still form on the deck of the dying ship and bent to pick him up.

Someone grabbed her arm, and a growling voice spoke above the din of the firefight. “Come, we must go.”

She wheeled on Wellington. “No! I must take him!”

“He is dead, Elisa, just as most of these other men will be soon. You can do nothing for him. Come.”

She yanked her arm, but he held her fast. As strong as the change made her, Wellington was several times stronger.

The crack of rifle fire sounded nearby, and a large hole exploded in Wellington’s chest, healing almost as quickly as it appeared. She looked past him and saw a young black man holding a rifle, smoke drifting from the muzzle as he stared at them, his eyes wide with fear.

Wellington chuckled. “It matters not. Come.”

Suddenly, the world around them exploded. She found herself flying through the air, Wellington still clutching her arm tightly. Shrapnel dug into her skin, burning hot, and the concussion from the explosion had broken several bones, but the pain in her body didn’t match the pain in her heart. Wellington transitioned to a large bird, and she let him take her where he would.

It didn’t matter now.

Honolulu, Present Day

This made about twenty times that Valerie had gone through the list of the dead from Pearl Harbor, and she still didn’t see any names that grabbed her attention. She tried every variant of Darrel she could imagine, and found several names, but none seemed right. She wasn’t even sure in her mind what “right” was, but these names weren’t it. For that matter, she didn’t understand why she looked for men on the list named Darrel. She couldn’t recall knowing anyone by that name, so why it stood out in her mind was a complete mystery.

Roland came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. “What are you doing up at this time of night playing on the computer, baby?”

“Just looking at a few things.” She hesitated, and decided her preoccupation was nothing Roland needed to worry about. “Just trying to get the feel for things so I can help the cast get into character.”

“That’s all very commendable for a studio executive and the casting director, but why don’t you come back to bed?”

After a moment’s consideration, she realized she could never solve this mystery. It was just a case of déjà vu and nothing more, so she was best to leave it alone and accept it for what it was. She stood and turned to face her husband. “You’re right.”

Roland put his arms around her waist and smiled at her. She always loved his smile, and knew it was the very thing that attracted her to him when they met. When he smiled, she knew she was the center of his universe and that nothing else mattered.

He leaned his head to one side. “You know I’m crazy about you, right?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Do you also know that I feel like we’ve been together forever?”

She chuckled a little. “What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure I can put that into words.” He shrugged. “Even though we just met less than three years ago, I sometimes feel like I’ve known you a long, long time. Much longer than I am old.”

“And you think I’m crazy because I hear voices sometimes.”

Roland laughed, and his whole face smiled as it lit up with joy. “OK, that was a fair shot.” The smile faded as he leaned to put his forehead against hers. “Baby, do you believe in reincarnation?”

“Well, most religions I know of say it doesn’t happen, and the scientists say it can’t happen.”

“That’s not what I asked. Is it possible that you and I have been together before in some strange place and time from the past?”

“I don’t know.” She slipped from his arms and took his hand in hers as she walked for the bedroom. “Anything is possible.”