Part Twenty-Five

Julia placed the clipboard on the nurses' desk, then glanced up, smiling as she saw Barnabas enter the hospital. "Barnabas. This is a surprise." Her smile faded as she noted the serious expression on his face. "What's wrong?"

"You know me too well, Julia," he said quietly. "We need to talk."

"My office?" she suggested. When he nodded, Julia turned to the nurse. "I'll be in my office, Jane."

"Yes, Dr. Hoffman."

Julia led the way down the corridor, pushing the door open, then turned, hands in the pockets of her white lab coat. "Now. What's going on? Is it Sarah?"

Barnabas seemed suddenly uncertain. "In a way - she's no worse, but-" He took a deep breath. "Are you *certain* that Sarah's illness has a medical cause, Julia?"

"A *medical* cause?" Julia repeated, confused. "What do you mean?"

"Could it be result of some- outside influence?"

"Such as?"


"Barnabas, you're not seriously suggesting that Angelique has somehow caused Sarah's illness, are you?"

"Not Angelique," he confirmed. "But someone else - "

"Why would anyone do such a thing? No, Barnabas. Sarah's illness has its foundation in the physical, not the black arts. Who suggested otherwise?" she wanted to know.

"Nicholas Blair came to see me a short while ago. He - insinuated that he and his master are somehow responsible for Sarah's illness - and that he can cure her."

"And what was his price?" Julia asked.

"Nothing much. Just- Collinwood, and that I somehow convince the family to enter into a covenant with his master."


Carolyn didn't bother to knock on the door when she arrived at Nicholas' house. She was too anxious to discuss Maggie with him. And his strange comment about Quentin. He had left her at the shop after lunch, promising again that they would talk this evening. "Nicholas?" she called, moving into the parlour. He didn't appear to be home, and Carolyn moved toward the fire, removing her coat as she did so. She considered using the spell he'd taught her to try and locate him through the flames, but she was afraid. Afraid that he was with Maggie.

She gasped as hands fell on her shoulders. "I've been expecting you," Nicholas said into her ear.

Turning, she looked at him. "I didn't hear you come in - didn't you hear me call you?"

"I was downstairs," he explained. "Are you ready to begin?"

Carolyn forced herself to look away from that dark gaze, to move away from his hands on her shoulders. "You said you would explain why you went to see Maggie," she reminded him. "And why Quentin can't offer her a future."

Nicholas looked at her blonde hair, shimmering in the firelight as he said, "You were right. I *did* go to the Old House to see Maggie -" Carolyn's head came up, and he read again the jealousy in her eyes. "To find out if the past truly *is* in the past."

"And- is it?" Carolyn wanted to know, her voice loud in the still room.

"Maggie Evans means nothing to me now," Nicholas said, ignoring the little voice in his head that said in an accusing tone, "LIAR." He touched her cheek. "She's only a means to an end. Nothing more."

"I want to believe you, Nicholas," Carolyn said. "But - if it's the truth, why did you lie to me about why you went over there?"

"Carolyn, if I had anything to hide, would I have mentioned the visit to Angelique in your hearing?" Nicholas questioned. "I knew you would be curious about it -"

"And what about Quentin? You don't like his being attracted to Maggie. I could see that when we discussed it at lunch."

"On the contrary," Nicholas insisted. "It could be very helpful in my plans."

"What did you mean about his future?"

Nicholas smiled. "How much do you know about your Cousin Quentin, my dear?" he asked.

"He's from the French branch of the family that was established by his grandfather Quentin in 1897," Carolyn said. "He's a writer -"

"Oh, he's been many things, Carolyn. Writing is simply the latest occupation."

"Stop talking in riddles, Nicholas," she said. "What do you know about my cousin that I don't?"

"For one thing, he's not your cousin."

"He's not?" Her eyes were wide with surprise. "Then who-?"

"He's your great-great uncle," Nicholas said. "Your grandfather Jamison was his nephew."

She frowned. "But- that would mean that he's- "

"The original Quentin Collins," Nicholas confirmed, "who left Collinwood in 1897 to go to Europe, never to return."

"But- that would make him over a hundred years old," Carolyn pointed out, not sure if she wanted to believe Nicholas. "He -"

Nicholas led her to the settee and began to explain.


"He wants *what*?" Quentin asked after Barnabas had explained about Nicholas' visit to the yards.

"Collinwood. And he wants the family to enter into a convenant with his master."

"A convenant with - the devil?" Maggie said, her eyes finding Quentin's as he took her hand reassuringly.

"I hope you to him no, Cousin," Quentin said.

I - agreed to think about it," Barnabas confessed, drawing a concerned gasp from Maggie.

"You did what?" Quentin asked. "Baranbas-"

Angelique placed a hand over her husband's. "Why, Barnabas? Why didn't you simply tell him no?"

"Because he offered to cure Sarah if I agreed," Barnabas said. "He told me that her illness isn't medical- that it's -"

"I think we need to talk to Julia -" Angelique decided, starting to rise, only to sit back down as Barnabas spoke.

"I did. This afternoon after Nicholas left."

"And what did she say?"

"That there's a definate medical reason for Sarah's illness, and that she's certain she can find a cure through her research."

"This doesn't make sense, Barnabas," Quentin said. "Sarah's illness isn't life threatening. It's not as if she's going to die tomorrow -"

"Nicholas said that her condition could change quickly -"

Angelique knew only too well what Barnabas would do to save Sarah. "Barnabas, you mustn't even consider it," she said. "Nicholas is lying. He has no power over her illness."

"But he can harm her - " Barnabas said softly. "I'm not sure I can risk that happening."

"Cousin, if you did agree - would the life Sarah has be worth it? Growing up in a family connected to -"

"I know, Quentin. I *know*. I've thought of that."

"Elizabeth would never agree," Angelique told him.

"Nor would Roger," Barnabas said, sighing. "Julia told me that earlier."

"We'll just have to find a way to protect Sarah," Maggie insisted. "To keep her safe from Nicholas and his spells."

Barnabas nodded. "I suppose you're right."


An hour later, Quentin rose to his feet. "Well, I think I'm going to leave. Think about what I've said, Barnabas." He turned to Maggie. "Care to take a walk?"

Maggie smiled. "Let me check on Sarah and get my coat," she said. "I'll be right back."

Quentin stood in the doorway, watching her climb the stairs. "Quentin-" Barnabas said, concern in his voice. "Is it wise for you to become so involved with Maggie?"

Blue eyes turned to him. "Probably not. But since when have I ever been wise, cousin?" he asked, half smiling.

"She's - quite fond of you. I'd hate to see her hurt when you have to leave."

"Maggie's a grown woman, Barnabas," Quentin pointed out. "She and I have discussed this already. She knows I can't stay at Collinwood, and she's willing-"

"To carry on a clandestine affair?" Barnabas finished. "She's too good for that, Quentin. She deserves better."

"I think Quentin knows that, Barnabas," Angelique inserted in a quiet voice, reaching out to him as he stood near her.

Maggie's return brought an end to the conversation, as she smiled at Barnabas and Angelique. "Sarah's sleeping," she informed them. "I hope you don't mind my going out for a little while-?" she asked, seeming to note the tense undercurrents in the room.

"Of course not, Maggie," Angelique said into the silence. "I'll see you tomorrow morning."

"Good night, Barnabas."

"Good night," he returned, moving to the doorway to watch as the front door closed behind them. "I still think Quentin is making a mistake," he said to Angelique as she joined him.

"Then it's his mistake to make, Barnabas."

"At Maggie's expense?" he asked.

"Maggie knows -"

"She doesn't know anything," Barnabas insisted. "I'm sure she believes that he'll change his mind, decide to stay here at Collinwood with her, not realizing how impossible that is."

"Then perhaps someone should explain it to her."

Barnabas looked at her as though she had taken leave of her senses. "You can't be serious."

"Surely there's some way for Maggie to be told the truth, in a situation where her reaction could be controlled," she said, talking mostly to herself. "I know. Julia. She's an excellent hypnotist, isn't she?"

"Yes. But I don't-"

"Let me talk to her tomorrow. Maggie and Sarah and I are having lunch at Collinwood with Julia and Elizabeth." When Barnabas still looked worried, Angelique laughed softly. "Why don't we go to bed, Barnabas? It's been a long day - and I need to feel your arms around me."

Barnabas grasped the hand she held out. "But -"

She placed a finger to his lips. "Shh. No more. Not tonight." She replaced her finger with her lips, pleased when Barnabas lifted her into his arms and moved toward the stairs.


Quentin and Maggie entered the West Wing the same way that Maggie had the night before. Once in his rooms, they sat on the sofa, arms around each other, watching the fire. "Do you think Barnabas would seriously consider Nicholas' offer?" Maggie asked.

"I hope not. But when it comes to Sarah, it's hard to say."

"He does adore her, doesn't he?" She laid her head on his shoulder. "He doesn't think we should see each other, does he?"

"No. And he's probably right. I can't do anything but hurt you, Maggie."

She looked up at him. "Quentin Collins, you could never hurt me. Not deliberately."

"And what about the day I leave Collinwood?" he asked. "You can't come with me, Maggie. And I can't stay. I wish I could explain, but-"

"I told you that I don't expect explainations," Maggie reminded him. "I just want to be with you. For as long as possible."

Quentin gazed down into her green eyes. "I love you, Maggie. Where were you when I was younger?"

"Right here," she told him. "Waiting for you."

He laughed softly, knowing that when he had been younger, she hadn't even been born. "Come on," he said. "I'll walk you back to the Old House."

Maggie refused to move so he could get up. "I'm not going anywhere, yet," she told him, pressing her lips to his as her fingers moved to the buttons of his shirt.

"Maggie-" he began, pulling away slightly, wanting to give in to her advances, but afraid to let it happen again. But Maggie's hands were inside the fabric now, touching him, moving lower- "God, Maggie, what are you doing to me?" he asked, coming to his feet with her in his arms.

"The same thing you're doing to me," she told him, placing a kiss against his neck, smiling as she felt his shuddering response. He released her beside the bed, and stood there, looking at her. "What?"

He shook his head and brought her against his body, lowering his lips to hers. . .


It was after midnight when Quentin walked her back to the Old House, refusing to allow her to make the trek alone this time. When he returned to his rooms, he went to the bar and poured himself a glass of brandy. As he lifted it to his lips, Nicholas Blair spoke.

"You're not good enough for her, you know."

Quentin whirled, instantly on his guard in the face of an enemy. "I don't remember inviting you in, Blair."

"I was on my way home when I saw you and Maggie leave to return to the Old House," Nicholas informed him. "I thought you and I ought to have a little -chat."

"Stay away from Maggie, Blair."

"Oh, I've no intention of harming Maggie. Tell me, does she know about you? About why you drink so much when the moon is full?"

"You know she doesn't. She wouldn't understand."

"So what are you going to do? Simply leave her one day, as you did your wife- what was her name?"

"Jenny," Quentin ground out. He went to the door and opened it. "Good night, Blair."

"You're going to send me away before I tell you how I can help you?"

"Help me? That's a laugh."

"You want to be able to stay here, at Collinwood, with Maggie, don't you?"

"I'd give almost anything to be able to do that," Quentin admitted.

"I could arrange it so that you can," Nicholas said smoothly.

"And the cost would be my soul," Quentin said. "Sorry, Blair. It's already spoken for."

"True. And it's not your soul that concerns me. I want you to convince Barnabas Collins to accept the offer I made him earlier today. And then convince the rest of the family. Between the two of you, it should be quite easy to talk them into a convenant. Think of it, Quentin. To be able to spend the rest of your days here, at Collinwood, with Maggie at your side, watch your children growing up-"

"You just lost me, Blair. You know as well as I do that-" Children were out of the question for Quentin Collins. He couldn't risk continuing the curse which that damned gypsy Magda had set on him and his progeny.

"Not if you agree to help me." Nicholas picked up his hat and gloves from the table. "Think about it, Quentin. When you're ready to discuss it, you know where to find me."

To Be Continued ----

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