Nearly four hundred years ago, Sarah Latham and William Fuller disappeared without a trace.
Legend has it she was a wicked witch and he was her demon. Legend also has it that whenever a Latham descendant reaches thirty years of age, Sarah comes to drag them to Hell.
Good thing twenty-nine year old Elizabeth Latham doesn’t believe in legends. Or at least she didn’t until she happened upon a woman in the family cemetery who just happened to look an awful lot like the paintings in the local museum.
Elizabeth is determined to stay ground in reality, but her idea of reality is shattered when she realizes Sarah and William have returned. But Elizabeth quickly realizes that Sarah is about as far from wicked as William is from being a demon.
So if Sarah hasn’t been killing generations of Lathams…who has?
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The pile of mending next to Sarah seemed never-ending. John, Sarah’s husband, was entrenched in his Bible. His efforts at keeping the evils of the world at bay were a bit ironic. Sarah smirked until the needle between her fingers slipped and poked through the flesh of her palm. She gasped quietly as a drop of blood squeezed through the tiny hole and formed a bubble on her skin. She sucked her wound, gazing at John.
Once the wound stopped bleeding, she shifted in her seat and hid her hands from John’s view as she whispered under her breath and the needle took on a life of its own. Holding the torn trousers in her hand, she silently directed the needle in and out of the material.
The sound of a mob approaching outside pulled Sarah from her task and the needle stilled mid-stitch. John jumped from his chair and opened the door. Women in the village had been falling ill. Fear of witchcraft had taken hold.
A chill touched Sarah’s soul and caused her to shiver despite the heat of the summer night. She never had, nor would she, cast spells upon people. Sarah simply wanted to mend, care for her husband and sons, and live her life, but she had little chance of convincing a panicked crowd of that should they discover her powers.
Sarah trembled at the thought that the screaming crowd one day might come for her.
“What has happened?” John demanded.
“Katherine James saw the demon. It’s William Fuller,” Edward Johnson shouted. “She awoke as he sneaked out of her mother’s bed!”
Sarah dropped the shirt she’d been sewing and rose from her chair as John reached for the axe he kept by the door.
She had sensed William was a blood drinker the moment he came to their settlement. He could hide his true nature from their neighbors, but he couldn’t hide from her. She felt the vampire in him as clearly as she felt the rain coming. Sarah wondered how Edward had come to suspect what William was. Edward Johnson had been subtly pointing an accusing finger at William since the first woman had fallen ill months ago. Though the victims fully recovered, fear of the unholy had crept through the village. Edward, self-imposed town savior, fed the fear with his so-called preaching.
Sarah grasped her husband’s elbow. “Don’t go.”
“An evil is amongst us, Sarah. He has infected several women already. It is time to stop him before he does harm to more.”
“If he were a demon—”
“If? Katherine James saw him.”
“Katherine is a child. All this talk of witches in town has probably given her bad dreams.”
“If Pastor Johnson believes William is from Hell, who are you to disagree?”
“We are all living in fear because of the preaching of that madman. He puts images into our minds, creates suspicion with his words. These women suffer from an illness. They’ve all recovered, John. There is no demon.”
“Pastor Johnson is a man of God—”
“He is arrogant and dangerous.”
“If William Fuller is a creature from Hell,” she continued, “how will those men stop him?”
“The pastor will know.”
“The pastor knows nothing but fear and greed.”
John rested the axe handle on his shoulder and frowned at her with the same expression he used with their sons when they were misbehaving. “Go back to the mending, Sarah.”
“John,” she whispered, “you put too much faith in that man. Please, I beg of you, do not join him.”
He cocked a brow at her and closed the door, joining the other men from the village. Sarah looked to where her sons slept in the loft. She would do anything for them, even if it meant leaving them forever. Though William would not intend to harm anyone, his survival instinct would kick in. If she didn’t intervene, men from the village—including John—could die at the hands of the vampire. She could not bear the thought of her sons losing their father; they needed him much more than they needed her. John could find a new wife, a woman in need of man to care for her, but could she find a man to raise another’s children? Not likely.
Climbing the ladder, she looked upon the five boys one more time, smiling when her sweet Jasper muttered in his sleep. Her heart ached as she stepped down, eased out of the cabin, and rushed into the woods. She knew where every tree, every stump, every fallen limb was along this path. She’d taken it many times under the cover of night. Though they were not the lovers William had often suggested they should be, Sarah felt bonded to him because of their supernatural states of being. Only William understood the difficulty of living among mortals when she had untapped powers brewing inside of her. In a sense, William was her one and only friend, her only connection to her real self, and she could not allow him to be hurt. Nor could she allow him to hurt others.
As Sarah ran at an unnaturally fast pace, the shadows and her speed kept her hidden from the angry mob. She reached William’s cabin in minutes and burst through the front door. She found him kneeling in front of the fireplace.
“Witch or not, Sarah Latham,” he said without looking at her, “you should not startle a vampire.”
“And you should not be feeding within the village. I have said this to you before, William.”
He stood and faced her. “The child saw me?”
Sarah nodded. “The men have gathered. They mean to kill you.”
He exhaled loudly after a moment. “Let them. Better that than living as this thing I have become.”
“Your instinct will take over. You are the one who will kill them.” She crossed the room to stand before him. “John has joined them.”
“So you are not concerned about me, but a man who doesn’t even know you anymore?”
She frowned. They’d had this conversation too many times to count. She’d been human when she and John married. She’d been mortal. He may not know her as a witch, but that didn’t mean he didn’t know her. Her soul may have been altered, but her heart was the same. “My children need their father,” she whispered, hoping to avoid an argument.
“They can have him.” He stepped to her. “I will leave if you come with me. You do not belong here anymore than I do.”
“I have children.”
“They will uncover your secret eventually,” he said.
She didn’t deny the truth of his words. She just wasn’t ready to walk away from her sons.
“Go, William. Before it is too late.”
The shouting neared, demanding he show himself.
“I believe it is already too late.”
“This is not a game, William!”
“William Fuller,” Edward’s voice boomed. “Come forth!”
William ignored the demand. “You know as well as I that our souls were meant to meet. Why else would we both be in this godforsaken village?”
“They will kill you.”
“So you said. Would it matter to you, Sarah?”
The uncertainty in his words made her heart ache. Though she was still tied to her mortal life, she cared for William deeply. She put her hand to his cheek. “You know it would.”
“So come with me.”
She jolted when the door was thrown open.
William turned, as if to protect her, and Sarah’s gaze fell upon her husband. His fury changed to confusion. He breathed her name, his voice more a question. A slow dawning shone in his eyes, and she could almost feel him putting the pieces of the puzzle together in his mind.
Their lives over the last years had been simpler than most. Their crops had grown better, their illnesses had been minimal, their children had survived while so many others had perished. He’d so often thanked God for their blessings, but the reality of it was the curse that had been placed upon his wife had protected them.
In a moment, Sarah transformed from his beloved to something wicked.
Edward pushed John aside and held up a Bible. Prayers fell from his lips as if they had the power to cast out the demon inside of William.
William had tried prayer. So had Sarah. There were no words in that book that could help or harm them.
John walked farther into the cabin, staring at Sarah. “What are you? What kind of devil are you?”
“I am no devil,” she said.
“Then what are you?”
“I am your wife.”
“What are you?” He demanded so loudly her ears rang.
“Sarah,” William warned. “Don’t.”
She ignored him. “I am what you call a witch. But I am not wicked.”
“A witch?” Edward gasped.
“I am not wicked,” she insisted again. “William is not wicked.”
Edward screamed loudly enough for the men outside to hear. “The Lathams have been cursed by the demon and his witch. They must be banished.”
Sarah stepped closer and leveled a glare at Edward. “If harm comes to my sons, good pastor, it’s you who will be cursed. I will come for you.”
She stared him down, and when she was certain fear was embedded in his soul, she moved back behind William. While she had powers of her own, she was no fighter. He was going to have to get them out of danger.
“Step aside,” he said. “Let us leave.”
“Never,” Edward challenged.
“I do not wish to harm you, Pastor.”
“You have brought nothing but harm to this village.” He looked at Sarah. “She was a good woman, William. You have cursed her.”
Sarah opened her mouth to argue. It had not been William. He had saved her. She would have gone mad had he not seen her for what she was and made her believe she would be okay. William had not turned her; he found her this way. The medicine woman, the midwife who had birthed her youngest, had made Sarah as she was. The baby had been breech and Sarah lost more blood than any woman ever should. The old woman whispered in her ear, told Sarah that she had been waiting for this chance, that she had been waiting for freedom. And then the midwife pushed her soul into the dying woman and Sarah had lived. And would live forever with a mix of this blessing and curse.
So no, it wasn’t William, but before she could say so, he hushed her.
“Let us leave, Pastor. ’Tis all we wish.”
“So you can spread your evil unto the rest of the world?”
“So we can all survive this night.”
William’s fury was becoming palpable. The air was stirring, his voice had grown deep, and Sarah was certain his face was morphing into something hideous.
“Let us pass, John,” she whispered. “We wish you no harm.”
“Your evil stops here,” Edward yelled, though Sarah could sense his fear.
“Let us pass,” William returned.
Without warning, William slammed his arm into Edward’s chest. The pastor flew across the room until the stone fireplace stopped him. The air in the room stilled, as if time had stopped. Finally, Edward staggered to his feet and faced them.
William laughed with quiet amusement and Sarah smirked. The man’s cheek was marred by two burns in the shape of a cross from the fire grate. His cheek would forever hold the symbol that the man so deviously hid behind. Edward lifted his hands, his fingers trembling as he touched his face.
Sarah looked at her husband. “Our children are free from my curse, John. They are not inflicted with what I have become. Protect them. Or I will return for you.”
He nodded slightly—just enough that she was satisfied. With that, she took William’s hand and allowed him to pull her from the cabin. By the time they stepped into the moonlight for the men to see, William’s metamorphosis was complete. His skin had lost all pigment, his face elongated to compensate for the fangs in his mouth, and wings had torn their way through the flesh of his back.
Gasps filled the air as he pulled Sarah against him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder as he tightened his arms around her waist and pushed off the ground.
The horror of the crowd was muffled by the sound of William’s wings cutting into the night air as he carried them away from Willowtown.
Sarah was certain there was nothing more glorious than autumn in New York. Sitting on a bench in the park, she sipped her coffee and watched people rushing by. They were always coming and going, never resting.
But she liked this. She liked the hustle and bustle, the quick pace, and the constant happenings around her. She was going to miss this place, but the time had come to move on. Five years was the longest she and William ever stayed in one town. Sarah decided that five was her lucky number.
She had raised five boys, five faces she could still see as clearly as the sun on a summer day. After she left and was no longer there to protect and heal her sons, disease and accidents had claimed all but two. Ethan and Jasper had lived to be old men. They’d married and had children of their own. Even so, she could still picture them as boys, playing chase and laughing as they ran through overgrown fields.
“You’re thinking of them again,” William said, breaking into her thoughts. He’d eased onto the bench next to her while she was lost in her memories.
“I always feel a bit sentimental when this time rolls around.”
“I know.” His arm slid around her shoulders and he pulled her close. He kissed her temple and sighed. “Where are we going? Hmm. It is your turn to choose.”
“Vermont? We haven’t lived in Vermont for decades.”
William groaned as if she’d suggested he eat a slug. “Winter in Vermont is horrid.”
She chuckled. “Paris?”
“England has lost its charm.”
She nudged her elbow in to his ribs as she cast him a playful glare. “Then you choose.”
He was silent for too long, and she knew what he was thinking before he voiced his thoughts. “Perhaps it’s time to go home,” he said.
He had suggested a return to Willowtown before, but it had always been too painful for Sarah to even consider. They had returned to his hometown, a small place in England, in the early 1700s. Their time there had been hard on him. Nothing was the same, yet nothing had changed. The buildings were different. The people. But the landmarks, the real landmarks remained, and memories of his former life had haunted him until they left.
She would feel the same should they return to Willowtown. Her home would no longer stand, the trees would be dead, the fields built up, but some things would still be there. The memories. The dreams. The plots where her sons were buried.
She drew a deep breath and let the crisp air settle deep in her lungs. “I don’t know, my love. Centuries have gone by. Why go back now?”
“Because Willowtown follows you wherever you go, no matter how much time goes by. It is your home.”
She put a hand on his face, the face that looked exactly the same as it had since she’d first known him. “You are my home.”
He smiled and his eyes lit with amusement. “Romantic as that is,” he said, his English accent coming through, making his words sound thick and sultry, “you had a home. You need to put that place to rest. Put those memories to rest. Let your sons rest.”
She dropped her hand, imagining her boys running.
“The time has come to face the past and let it go, my Sarah.”
She smiled. She loved when he called her his Sarah, something that rolled off his tongue from days long gone when women were identified by whom they belonged to—a father or a husband. Days that she couldn’t seem to forget.
Perhaps he was right. Perhaps it was time to face the past and let go.
“Okay, my William,” she said softly. “Take me home.”
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