“You are playing with fire,” Ansgar stepped out onto the bridge. “Can’t you see the glow?”“Stay away from her,” Caden growled. “Let her be.”“I know what it is…” Ansgar said slyly, drawing his own sword. “I know what she is capable of… do you?”***Edith Doyle’s father had moved to a remote place to write his stories in peace, but now he’s dead and has left his home to his daughter, Edith. She gets a job at a marketing firm and meets Caden Byrne, owner of the company and well-known breeder of exquisite horses. Through a chain of events, Edith not only discovers he is a vampire, but also that she has an ancient power that can help, or destroy, the vampires in this realm, and the Night realm where every nightmare walks freely.How will Edith use her power? Will her heart, or her mind, prevail?***The Light Everlasting is created by Heather Dilts-Baiano, an eGlobal Creative Publishing signed author.
Chapter 1: The Funeral
The overwhelming scent of lilacs in full bloom hung heavy in the cool air as Edith Doyle stepped from her car and opened her black umbrella. She noticed how the dark sky and relentless rain suited the unhappy situation, and with a deep sigh, Edith lifted her chin as she joined the small, waiting crowd. She led the way, walking slowly, yet steadily, down the stone path behind her father’s horse—drawn coffin.
“He could never do anything easy,” Edith thought aloud, fixing a strand of straight, red hair behind her ear.
“What was that?” Judith Carson, Edith’s closest friend, whispered as she leaned in close. Her dark curls brushing Edith’s shoulders.
Edith answered Judith without taking her eyes from the pair of black horses ahead.
“Dad never did anything normal or easy. He moved out here into the middle of nowhere to write stories. He waits months to tell me he was sick, then dies before I can get here. Now, we could have driven our cars up to the gravesite, but no…he makes us walk in heels down a long, stone pathway in the pouring rain. At least there are horses.”
Judith cast a thoughtful glance at her friend’s tense, grieving face.
“I miss him, too,” she said as a tear escaped from Edith’s eye.
The rain continued to fall as the horses rounded a turn and came to a halt beside a prepared grave. Their breath rose in clouds of mist as they stood and stomped among the raindrops. A firm word from the driver, and the pair of horses settled instantly.
Then the priest stepped forward, and as Edith took her place, he began to speak. The steady rhythm and tone of the priest’s voice made it easy for the dead man’s daughter to let her mind wander. She hadn’t visited her father for several years as work kept her busy and her father was so involved in writing his stories. Liam Doyle rarely picked up the phone. They did have a monthly video call, and during the last one Liam told his daughter he was ill. Edith struggled to get to her father’s remote home as soon as she could, but he was gone before she even got on a plane.
A large, icy raindrop splashed on the back of her neck, causing Edith to adjust her hold on the umbrella.
When the graveside service was finished, Edith was swarmed with sympathetic, well—meaning guests. After a few minutes, she found herself numb and nodding, shaking hand after hand, accepting hug after hug. Finally, Edith shook the hand of the priest.
Enough. It was over.
She exhaled loudly and turned away, avoiding looking at the grave as it was filled in.
Edith looked around dismally, and her eyes fell on the black pair of horses standing still and silent in the rain.
“Let’s go see the horses,” she decided.
Judith followed her friend towards the hearse. The driver of the hearse saw her coming and nodded a welcome. She took in the uniformed darkness of the pair’s black coats, their matched height, and their braided manes. The horse closest to her pricked his ears at her approach.
“May I pet your horses?” Edith asked. “I know it isn’t a usual request at a funeral, but my father loved horses and made sure I grew up with a solid education in riding, horse health, and barn management.”
The driver smiled. “Go ahead. They love attention.”
Judith cautiously moved to the other side, so each horse got their share of attention.
“Your horses are exquisite,” Edith ran a hand along the smooth, black neck of the horse beside her. She could feel the strong muscles beneath her hand, and was impressed at the calm and patient demeanor of the horse.
“Well, you definitely have an eye for horses, you are Liam’s daughter. I’m Miles,” The driver nodded. He pointed at the horses, “Your father requested this pair. They have incredible bloodlines, and are well—trained. Both are bred by the mysterious Caden Byrne.”
“Caden Byrne,” Edith closed her stormy, blue eyes for a moment. “That name…”
“He has a rather small stable near here, but breeds impressive horses,” Miles said helpfully. “Doesn’t really talk too much, keeps to himself.”
“Ah,” Edith inhaled with the sudden recollection. “My father told me about such a breeder near here. He said the man was mysterious indeed. Dad must have been talking about Byrne.”
Miles pulled on his black leather driving gloves and climbed back up into the seat to begin the drive back down the lane.
Edith thanked the kind man and turned away. Judith got in the driver’s seat and started the car.
“So, back to the house?” she asked, pulling out directions on a wrinkled piece of paper.
“Yes,” Edith sighed. “The lawyer should be there to read the will within the hour.”
Without another word, the friends left the cemetery.
“Why did I ever agree to having the Will read on the same day as the funeral?” Edith rubbed her eyes.
Judith squinted at the crumpled directions, “I believe you said you wanted to just ‘get it over with.’”
“True,” Edith covered her eyes. “He couldn’t possibly have anything of value. Dad lived for writing books, nothing else.”
Judith suddenly turned and drove down a narrow dirt road. Edith fell into silence, taking in the scene around her. Eventually, Judith parked the car before a small white cottage surrounded by several wild—looking fields. Lilacs grew in unkempt bushes around the house, and the lawn looked like it hadn’t been mowed in months.
“The lawyer must already be here,” Judith nodded at the shiny, black car parked on the side of the road.
Edith watched as a man in a fitted, blue suit exited his car and waved. The young women returned the wave and stiffly got out of their car. The rain increased, causing the trio to dash for the door. Edith’s high heels clicked loudly on the flat stone pathway leading up to the arched, wooden door. As the lawyer unlocked the door, he said, “I’m Mr. Whitlocke, your father’s attorney. Let’s… oh!”
A brilliantly marked, orange cat sprinted from a nearby bush, past Edith and her friend, and into the legs of the surprised lawyer.
“That would be Blaze,” Whitlocke wiped his pants briskly.
The cat jumped on a nearby chair and eyed the newcomers with suspicious, amber—colored eyes.
“I didn’t know my father had a cat,” Edith raised her eyebrows.
“He’s a new addition. I think he’s only been here about three months,” Whilocke turned and motioned for Edith and Judith to sit.
“Let’s get right to it then?” he asked, although it was more like a statement.
Edith looked around the small house, taking in the fireplace, the small table at which they sat, the few odd pieces of furniture, and the pile of papers by the window.
Mr. Whitlocke droned on and on, seeming as bored as everyone else was with Liam Doyle’s wordy will. All debts had been settled, and there were no financial issues to discuss. Suddenly the lawyer sat up.
“Ah, he’s left you the house and everything in it.”
“What?” Edith blinked hard, turning her attention from the fireplace.
“He left you the house. You don’t have to keep it,” the lawyer shrugged.
Absent—mindedly twisting her long hair, Edith began to pace.
“She would have to leave her job, her apartment, and the show barn…” Judith began.
Her friend’s voice faded as Edith drew closer to the mantle. It was decorated with photos of her. There was one of her on her father’s horse when she was three years old. There was another of her on her first horse, Daisy, a dapple—grey barely larger than a pony. Edith could see several more photos of her early, up to her current, horse show adventures. He had a photo for each one.
Edith’s heart warmed and her eyes filled once again with tears.
“I’m going to stay,” she stated firmly. “I’ll keep the house.”
“You’re going to move here?” Judith raised her eyebrows.
Edith nodded, “It’s what he wanted. I’ll just have to find a marketing company who will hire me.”
The lawyer handed Edith a pen and pushed several papers her way to sign. He paused thoughtfully.
“Do you want me to take the cat to the shelter when I leave?”
Edith frowned and looked at the cat, who was now peaking around the doorway at her.
“No,” she said. “He can stay.”
After the papers were signed, Mr. Whitlocke stood up and prepared to leave. He reached the door, and turned to hand Edith the house key.
“You know,” he said suddenly. “That Byrne fellow owns a marketing and investment company in the town, perhaps you could apply there.”
“I will, thanks,” Edith thanked the lawyer and shut the door as he left.
That evening, after her friend, Judith, had left to catch her plane home, and Edith was left on her own, she started a fire in the ancient fireplace. Blaze slowly crept forward until he was purring contentedly on her lap, enjoying the warmth.
“Well, Blaze,” Edith looked over at her funeral clothes laying over a nearby chair. “Let’s see what tomorrow brings.”