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In the Lonely Dead Of Midnight

From the novella:  (Please note this excerpt is unedited.)

"IN THE LONELY DEAD OF MIDNIGHT:
Tarot-The Knight of Cups"

New Orleans, Louisiana
Thursday, 11:04 pm
May 10, 2001

Julian nodded at Chance’s aversion to the house. "I understand why you don’t like this place. I know it’s where you died, but I had to have somewhere with parking and I didn't want to be too far from home. This was the only one for sale in the Quarter that fit the bill." He crossed the street and began to key in his entrance code on the pad beside the door.

Chance followed reluctantly, waiting in the middle of the empty street until Julian opened the door. Only then did he finally step up on the sidewalk. As soon as his silver-bedecked cowboy book touched the broken concrete of the sidewalk, he was slammed against the wall of the house. A furious wind sprang into being, whirling though the empty street, howling and crying.

"Thief!"

It held him pinned against the old brick. The chain link fence surrounding the parking area rattled and chimed with the sound Julian described as always following the ring of gunshots. The trees bent in the gale, young leaves torn from the branches, blossoms spinning in wailing currents, their softness turned sharp and stinging as they beat against Chance's skin. The wind whipped Chance's dark hair across his face, the ebony strands thrashing against his teal eyes, tiny sharp flails that sent tears cascading from their ocean depths down his cheeks.

"Robber!" the wind cried.

Chance was lifted by the tempest, thrown past Julian and slammed against the fence with enough force that bright splotches of light played across his vision as his head slammed into one of the steel posts. The metal links tore into his shirt. The wind ripped at his clothes, tearing them. Debris whisked up by the hurricane grated against his skin, seeking to tear it the way it was shredding the delicate silk of his shirt.

It shrieked in his ears, deafening him, labeling him a thief. Sand blown by the maelstrom filled his eyes, further blinding him. He felt as though someone was raining hard blows from determined fists on his face and body. He could feel unseen knuckles, cruel and stony, pounding against his cheek bone, against his stomach.

Disoriented by the blast of sound and the might of the wind, he couldn't battle the force that held him pinned to the fence. There was only the wind, the noise of it overpowering and unstoppable.

He could barely hear Julian calling out to him but Julian's hands were strong and solid as his brother pulled and tugged, trying to drag them both to some sort of shelter. Chance felt the inside of his mouth split as one of the phantom blows drove his teeth against his lip. Blood, salty and metallic, flowed across his tongue and dripped from the corner of his mouth.

Julian threw himself against his lover, trying to shield Chance from this invisible attacker, shouting that they needed to head for whatever safety and help they could find at their father's house. Wrapping his arms tightly around the slim form he'd sworn more than once to love and protect, Julian threw them both out into the street.

The wind died as quickly as it had sprung up. The night was peaceful and calm, the only sounds crickets in the hidden courtyards and the soft beating of human hearts behind the walls of shuttered houses. Further away there was music and the hum of tourists and distant traffic. But here the French Quarter was quiet.

There was no evidence that a hurricane had swept down Royal Street except the sound of the vampire brothers' rough breathing and the tang of Chance's blood on the still air.

Lying in the middle of the street, they both heard the dying whisper of that illusory wind: "Thief!"

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