Now Eternal: More Love Stories With Bite presents all-new YA stories featuring vampires, the romantic heroes and heroines that still hold the reading public enraptured. A mix of writers from the first anthology and new contributors makes for a fresh new collection with all of the dark romance of its predecessor, and a book that’s sure to thrill vampire romance fans old and new.
The book includes an original introduction by Cast.
|Publisher:||BenBella Books, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
P.C. Cast is an award-winning fantasy and paranormal romance author, as well as an experienced speaker and teacher. In addition to her New York Times bestselling paranormal YA series for St. Martin’s, The House of Night, she writes the popular Goddess Summoning Books for Berkley, and epic fantasy novels set in the world of Partholon for LUNA. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and Laurel Wreath.
Currently she lives and teaches in Oklahoma with her talented daughter who is attending college, her spoiled cat (who has refused higher education), and her Scottie dogs better known as The Scottinators. Ms. Cast loves to hear from her fans and can be reached through her website, pccast.net.
Contributors to Eternal include:
Rachel Caine (the Morganville Vampires series) revisits the setting of her popular series, where the vampires are in charge and love is a risky endeavor, even when it comes to your own family
Claudia Gray (Evernight) takes us into the world of her Evernight series, in which a preCivil War courtesan-to-be is courted by a pale, fair-haired man whose attentions are too dangerous to spurn, in more ways than one
Nancy Holder (the Wicked series, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) immerses us in a post-apocalyptic New York where two best friends are forced to make a choice that may kill them both
Heather Brewer (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)
Jeri Smith-Ready (YA paranormal Aura Salvatore trilogy)
Lili St. Crow is the author of several urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and young adult books. She lives in Vancouver, Washington, with her two children, three cats, and assorted other strays
Read an Excerpt
A Story of Evernight
The air in the USO canteen was hazy with cigarette smoke, thick with longing. It would've been hard to say who was more easily enchanted by romance in this place. Maybe it was the young men going off to war, desperate for comfort and perhaps for someone to fight for. Or perhaps it was the young women, "junior hostesses" as the USO called them, who were supposed to drink and dance with them but never, ever to fall in love. Sometimes Patrice thought that rule only existed so that infatuations would also have the rich glamor of the forbidden; any kiss was sweeter in secret.
Patrice could have sneered at the naivety of the young people around her, if she wasn't the most bewitched of them all.
She glanced in the mirror for the fourth time that hour. Her reflection was slightly translucent, but any observer would probably think it was a trick of the smoke. These 1940s fashions suited her, Patrice thought: her white dress had navy piping and a matching belt that showed off her narrow waist. Bright red lipstick played up her smile, and her hair was curled up into a complicated twist. Appearance was important to her — always had been, always would be — but tonight she was even more particular than usual.
Once more, she glanced toward the door of the canteen — and just as the band swung into "The Nearness of You," Charlie walked in wearing his crisp army uniform. The smile that lit her up from within was soon matched by his own. They walked toward each other as though it were casual; the senior hostesses, middle-aged matrons who oversaw the USO canteen, would be shocked if Patrice did what she really wanted to do and ran immediately into his arms.
"There you are," she said as they took each other's hands. It was as much of a touch as they dared in public, and the warmth of his skin coursed through her like a pulse. "I've been looking for you."
"You know I got here as soon as I could." How she loved his deep, rumbling voice. "Nothing in this world could keep me away from you for long."
"Come on, then." Patrice put her fists on her hips, mock-angry. "You've kept me waiting to dance long enough."
By the time the band moved on to "Chattanooga Choo Choo," Charlie and Patrice had joined the crush on the dance floor. Girls with orchids in their Veronica Lake hair danced with soldiers, sailors, any man in uniform who could get into the USO canteen. Although there were still a few glances in Charlie and Patrice's direction, she was pleased to see that the novelty of black girls in the USO was apparently starting to fade. Black soldiers had always been able to come to the canteen — but at first, the USO hadn't seen fit to allow black girls in to dance with them. Dancing with white girls would probably have caused a race riot. So the black women of Boston had banded together and fought for the right to help entertain the soldiers before they shipped off to Europe or the South Pacific.
There weren't many other black couples on the dance floor — but Charlie and Patrice weren't alone, and to her astonishment, she thought they were almost accepted there. Which was the least the soldiers deserved, in her opinion; if black soldiers were good enough to fight and die for their country, then they ought to be good enough to share in the fun at the canteen.
That was why she had joined the USO herself — more out of pride in her right to do so than out of any concern for the war effort. Patrice had seen too many wars to get misty-eyed over this one.
But then, one night last month, Charlie Jackson had walked in, and for the first time in far too long, her cool heart had caught fire.
"Look at you," he whispered into her ear now as they swayed together to the tune of "String of Pearls." "The most beautiful girl in this room."
"Look at you." She couldn't keep the devilment out of her smile. "Dancing with the most beautiful girl in this room." Charlie laughed so loud half the room stared at them.
Later, she drew him into one of the far corners of the room, supposedly to enjoy some Coca-Cola. (Patrice would've preferred something harder, but Charlie was a strict teetotaler.) Really it gave them a chance to sit close together, near enough that his knees brushed hers beneath the table.
Just as she began to open her mouth to say — something, anything silly and flirtatious, it hardly mattered what — he turned to her and solemnly folded one of her hands in both of his. The smile he'd worn all night had faded, and only now did she see how false it had been. Patrice knew what he was going to say before he said it, but that made it no easier to bear.
"We got word this afternoon. We'll ship out next week."
"Next week?" she whispered. "So soon?"
"You know they need every man over there."
"Just like I know I need you here."
"Patrice. Sweetheart." His voice cracked on the last word, and she could hear his plea to help him be strong. And for a moment, Patrice was ashamed of herself. This news scared her, but how much worse did it have to be for Charlie? Going over there to fight, perhaps to die —
She leaned closer to him and whispered in his ear, "Let's get out of here."
He went very still, as if he didn't believe what he knew she had to be suggesting. This was a moralistic age, one where unmarried men and women pretended they didn't go to bed together. But Patrice knew war had a way of breaking down such silly rules. "Are you sure?"
So she slipped out into the night with him and went straight to her apartment house for young women; the land-lady, a patriotic sort, wasn't strict about the "no gentlemen visitors" rule if the gentleman in question wore a military uniform. Charlie came into her apartment, into her bed.
Patrice hadn't felt the warmth of a human body next to hers in so long. Too long. She had forgotten how the heat of a man's skin could sink into hers, through chest and belly and thighs. She had forgotten how his breathing changed, from even to quick to ragged and desperate. And how his heart would beat faster and harder until it thumped through his chest into hers, as if she could take his pulse and make it her own. She surrendered to him, and to her own hunger, in the moment that she saw Charlie was utterly lost in her. Then she could contain herself no longer. Clutching his shoulders, clinging tightly to him, she sank her fangs deep into his throat.
Blood. The weight of his body. The heat and taste of life. She swallowed deeply, metal and salt against her tongue, and for a moment the ecstasy was almost as good as being alive.
When Charlie collapsed unconscious onto her mattress, Patrice forced herself to stop drinking. She pulled back, panting, and licked her sticky lips. Charlie lay next to her, his breathing shallow but regular. The moonlight painted the muscles of his arms and chest, making him even more beautiful than he had been before.
She remembered what her sire, Julien, had told her almost a century before: the first bite is preparation. Charlie would awaken in a few hours, woozy and with his senses unnaturally sharpened, but he would almost certainly have no memory of what she had done. Only after that first bite — after the preparation — could she drink from him again, this time to the death, and have him rise again as a vampire, like her.
The decent thing to do would be to explain fully to Charlie what was going on, who and what she was, before she completed the change. Even Julien, cruel bully that he had been, had given her this courtesy. But Patrice wasn't sure decency was the same in wartime. She didn't have time for niceties, and she couldn't risk him rushing off, not understanding, and getting himself killed before she could make him see sense.
No Nazi was going to kill Charlie Jackson. Patrice intended to make him immortal before the Germans got the chance.
* * *
She shooed him back to base well before dawn, lest he be considered AWOL.
"I hate leaving you like this," Charlie whispered as he shrugged his shirt back on. He winced — how the noises and smells of the house must be tormenting him now, but he was too stoic to mention it. Probably he thought it no more than a headache. "It's not right, walking away from a lady after — well, after that. Not the way things ought to be done."
His modesty charmed her. Patrice snuggled deeper into her robe. "I'll see you this weekend. We'll have more time together before you go. And if you aren't on the base in the morning, they'll reprimand you, and you're too good to have something like that on your record."
Besides — you don't know it yet, but we're going to be together forever.
Charlie kissed her so deeply she almost forgot her resolve and took him back to bed — but then he straightened his cap and slipped out into the night.
Patrice sighed as she closed the door behind her. For a moment, she simply studied her surroundings, trying to measure the distances she'd traveled, the ways in which her world had changed and how it had remained the same. She had been born the daughter of a free woman of color in New Orleans and a plantation-owner father who paid the bills and would never, ever acknowledge his black child. Julien had freed her into an entirely different kind of existence. Unfortunately, he had also killed the first man she'd ever loved, Amos. For that, Patrice had doused Julien in lamp oil and set him ablaze. Her first kill: her sire, shrieking as he turned to charred dust.
She protected what she loved.
Since then, there had been men, but not love. Well — Ivan, perhaps — but no, she wasn't going to think about Ivan Derevko tonight. Charlie Jackson was the first guy to come along and make her feel as warm and sweet and overcome as Amos had. And the life Charlie led! He was a sergeant in the army. He'd even been studying at Howard University before the war broke out, and intended to become a professor of mathematics.
She'd grown up seeing black men in chains as slaves. To imagine him as a professor —
Could he do that, after I changed him?
But she pushed aside that momentary concern. Colleges didn't check to make sure students were alive, she figured. Even Evernight Academy didn't have a test to make sure its students were all dead. Charlie might look rather young for a while, but the addition of a pair of glasses could buy you several years; maybe he could be a professor for a decade or so before they had to move along to avoid attracting undue attention. That would be long enough, wouldn't it?
Patrice walked to her closet and pulled out the hatbox where she kept her most precious souvenirs. Within was a lace scarf she'd worn the last time she saw Amos, a fan that had belonged to her mother, a few bills of Confederate money, a bracelet from her first trip to Paris, some newspapers with headlines about the Crimean War, a Fabergé egg that held much more than sentimental value, a stole from a Moscow furrier, some Armistice Day poppies, and the older version of the Evernight Academy uniform.
She'd been considering returning to Evernight this fall — but now she had more interesting plans. Instead of teaching herself about the ever-changing world, she'd be teaching Charlie how to be a vampire.
Reverently she folded her pillowcase — the one with Charlie's bloodstains — and settled it in the hatbox before replacing the lid and pushing it back into the closet.
* * *
Charlie's next leave was on Sunday night, only two days before he was due to ship out to Europe. When he saw her, he flung his arms around her like he never wanted to let go.
"I can't stand the thought of leaving you," he whispered into her ear.
"Then don't think about it." Because you won't be.
Although they met at the canteen, neither of them was in any mood for dancing — Charlie because he was practically afire with worry for himself and for her, Patrice because she was impatient to get on with it. The canteen itself wasn't the same; half the girls had tearstained faces, and the boys were either shadowed with terror or wild with the cheap, feral glee some humans felt at the prospect of killing. With her experience of war, Patrice knew that the terrified were the smart ones. The band played upbeat songs, like "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree," but the cheery tunes almost seemed to mock the darker mood in the room.
Within half an hour they'd walked out into the night. Patrice had assumed that Charlie would want to return to her room, though she figured she'd have to be the one to suggest it. But he led her along by the hand, walking with purpose to his steps, though they didn't seem to be headed anywhere in particular.
"You have to know what these past weeks have meant to me." His dark eyes could make her melt. "That I love you like I've never loved any other girl."
"And I love you." She couldn't add like I've never loved any other boy. To do that would be to betray Amos and the only love she'd ever known as a mortal woman. Being a vampire meant constantly negotiating between past, present, and future. Someday Charlie would understand this, too.
"A lot of the fellows — they're not bad men, but they just want a romance to comfort them before they go to war. What you and I have is more than that."
"I know, Charlie. It is for me, too." The moonlight outlined him in the night — his broad, muscular shoulders, his army hat, his masculine profile. With her night vision, Patrice could see that he hadn't knotted his tie as tightly as usual, that his collar was unbuttoned at the top. No doubt he didn't remember how he'd scratched his neck and why the skin there was slightly raw — those who were bitten almost never recalled the moment itself. But Patrice did. Remembering the warm velvet of his skin against her tongue and the rush of his blood filled her with longing.
He said, "I've never been one to run around with women. That's not how a Christian man should behave. I knew from the moment I met you that you were the kind of girl I'd been looking for all along. Sweet-natured. Beautiful. And sensible, too, not some flighty little thing."
"You're so sweet," Patrice said, but almost by rote, distracted as she was. She glanced around them: they were on the outskirts of a park, where the thick leaves of trees would shadow the streetlights and provide a bit of privacy. The time had come to kill and claim him.
Charlie was leading them toward the park already. He wanted them alone, too, though no doubt for different reasons. Patrice hid her little smile behind one hand.
"I don't have anything I can give you," he said. "Like — I mean, I don't have a ring."
No need to hide her smile anymore. "Oh, Charlie."
"But when I get home — and I promise I'm coming home for you, Patrice — when I get back from the war, I want us to be married. I know my family back in Baltimore will love you as much as I do."
In-laws. Perish the thought. "I want us to be together forever, too."
"And when this war is over, we can build a life together. The life I've always dreamed of." Charlie's grin shone; the fear of war had left him for a moment, as he looked toward a better future. "I don't know what Howard's policy is toward married students — never had to know, but I'll find out. And if we have to wait while we're engaged, that's all right, too, isn't it? I'll take double the courses. Get done even faster. Once I'm in graduate school, we can get married. Maybe buy a little house. Start our family."
"Our family," she repeated. The thought was all but alien to her, the shadow of a dream that had died for her almost before it began.
He hugged her close. His breath was warm against her ear. "I can't stop thinking about a bunch of little girls as pretty as their mama. Or a baby boy on your knee."
Patrice slowly put her arms around him in return.
"I'm going to love you all my life, Patrice. When we're old and gray, I know I'll feel the same way about you I do right now."
Old and gray.
He loved life as much as he loved her. Too much for her to rob him of it, no matter what. Letting him live the way he wanted meant letting him go — at least, for now. She had forgotten that love sometimes demanded sacrifice. Tears welled in her eyes.
Charlie felt her start to weep and cuddled her closer. "Honey, don't be scared. I know it's hard, but we'll be together again."
"When you're home from the war." And then she broke down in tears, surrendering him to the battle, and the dangers of mortal life.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Eternal"
Copyright © 2010 P.C. Cast.
Excerpted by permission of BenBella Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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