Part Twenty-eight
As Barnabas and Angelique walked through the woods toward the Old House later that evening, Barnabas found himself recalling Angelique's announcement that she had found a way to stop Nicholas Blair. She had been prevented from explaining the remark by the number of people around them, but Barnabas had noticed her considering glances toward Carolyn over the course of evening.

Sarah had become tired, and Maggie and Quentin had taken her home an hour earlier, so now Barnabas and Angelique found themselves alone on the dark path to the Old House. "Julia seems happy, doesn't she?" Angelique said.

"I'm glad that she is. Julia's been the best friend anyone could ever have. She stood by me when there was no one else -She deserves some happiness."

Angelique laughed, a soft, fluttering sound that echoed through the darkness. "Did you see her face when David called her 'Mom'? I don't know who was more surprised. Julia, or Roger."

"Angelique, what did you mean earlier this evening? About finding a way to stop Nicholas?"

She became quiet. "It's very complicated, Barnabas. And I might not even be right in what I suspect. Until I call someone- an old- friend," she admitted carefully. "She's known Nicholas longer than I have - until I can contact her, I'd really rather not say anything more."

"You can't even tell me what you suspect?"

She looked thoughtful, trying to decide how much to tell him. "I'll make the call when we get to the house," she promised. "I should know something then." She saw his troubled expression, knew he was recalling their vow not to keep things from each other. "If I'm right, Barnabas, Nicholas has already failed in his quest to claim Collinwood."


Maggie joined Quentin in the parlour. "Sarah asleep?" he asked, taking her hand and leading her to the love seat beneath the windows.

"Not yet. She's trying to stay awake so that she can tell her mother and father good night."

"She might have a long wait," Quentin suggested, putting his arm around her shoulders to keep her close. "Barnabas and Roger were pretty deep into a business discussion, if I recall."

She lay her head on his shoulder. "When is Julia going to be here?" she wanted to know.

"When she can," Quentin told her.

"I wish you would tell me what you've done that's so terrible," Maggie said. "You make it sound as if you're an axe murderer - or-"

"There are just- things you have to know about me, Maggie," Quentin told her. "Important things that will help you understand why I feel the way I do about -"

"About staying at Collinwood?" Maggie asked.

"Yes. And why I can't take you with me when I *do* go," he said gently. Turning to look at her, he found her eyes on him. "Oh, Maggie. I really would do almost anything to make it possible for me to stay with you-" They heard the door open, and he easily pulled her to her feet as Angelique and Barnabas entered the room.

"Maggie. How is Sarah?" Angelique asked.

"Waiting to tell you and Barnabas good night," Maggie explained.

Angelique looked up at Barnabas. "I'll make that call after we do that."


Barnabas found himself pacing the study as Angelique dialed a number that would connect her to Nicholas' villa in France. "It's the place he always went when he needed to regroup," she explained. "He has a sizable coven established in the area - and when he's not there, Lizette takes over for him." She paused as the telephone was answered, and began to speak in French.

It had been a long time since he had heard the language, Barnabas realized. Too long. He found that his understanding was somewhat limited. All he got out of the conversation was that Angelique wanted information on someone named Gabriella, and then asked Lizette to come to Collinwood for a short visit to confirm her suspicions. But it was the final attempt to convince Nicholas' assistant that surprised Barnabas. Something about if it were true, then Lizette would have the coven all to herself, as she had wanted for a long time.

When Angelique hung up the telephone, she looked up at him. "She's coming."

"When will she arrive?" Barnabas wanted to know.

"Tomorrow morning. She has to make some arrangements for her absence," Angelique explained.

"Who is Gabriella?" Barnabas asked.

"The only woman that Nicholas has ever *really* loved," she responded.


Julia arrived as they rejoined Maggie and Quentin. Looking at Maggie, she asked, "Are you sure you're willing to do this, Maggie?"

Maggie took Quentin's hand. "It's important, Julia," she said. "What do you want me to do?"

Julia indicated one of the chairs. "Sit down," she said, pulling the round, mirrored medallion from her pocket. It had been a long time since she had tried to put Maggie under, but she knew it would work. Maggie, for all her strength of will, was an excellent subject. "Now," Julia said, dangling the medallion before her. "Look at the medallion, Maggie." She glanced at Quentin's hands on the younger woman's shoulders, and he returned the look. Sighing, Julia returned to her work, and within a few moments, Maggie's eyes closed. "Can you hear me, Maggie?" she asked.

"Yes. I can hear you." The voice was flat, devoid of emotion.

"Maggie, I'm going to wake you in a few moments, but I want to return to the trance immediately when you hear me say 'Sam'. Do you understand?"

"Yes," Maggie replied.

"No matter what else you may feel, no matter what else is happening, you will return to the trance the moment you hear the word Sam," Julia repeated. "Now, I'm going to count to three, Maggie. And when I snap my fingers, you will be wide awake. One. Two. Three." Julia snapped her fingers sharply, and Maggie opened her eyes, sitting up and looking around.

"What-? Did you do it?"

Julia smiled tightly, nodding. She looked up at Quentin. "Your turn."

Maggie placed a hand over one of his as it lay on her shoulder, suddenly frightened. "Quentin?"

"I'm just trying to decide where to begin," he told her, coming around to sit near her as Julia moved away to stand with Barnabas and Angelique, at a spot where she could keep a close watch on Maggie's reaction to what Quentin was about to say.

"How about the beginning?" Maggie suggested softly.

"I guess you're right. How much do you know about the Quentin Collins who lived at Collinwood in 1897?"

"Not very much," Maggie said.

"He wasn't a very nice man," Quentin told her. "He was a user. Used anything he could to get what he wanted. People, things, nothing mattered except Quentin Collins and his thirst for excitement and adventure - and power. He never felt as if his family cared about him, about what he did- and he started doing things deliberately designed to shock them, to make them pay attention to him. And to that end, he married - but not someone that his family would approve of. He married a singer - a beautiful young woman named Jenny that he'd only known for a few days. He really thought he loved her at first, but once she charmed his grandmother- and most of the remainder of the family, he lost interest in her, began reverting back to his old ways. He used to meet other women in the cottage - Even his brother's wife." Quentin's eyes darkened as his thoughts turned inward, dredging up memories he tried hard to forget. "When they were discovered, Quentin ran away - and his sister in law followed. They traveled, and she was -" he glanced up at Barnabas and Angelique, knowing that they would understand what he was saying. "She died while they were in Egypt. Quentin decided to come back to Collinwood, having heard that his grandmother was ill- and thinking that his wife had left during his absence." Quentin rose to his feet, guilt making him restless.

"When he returned, he began an affair with the woman who had been Jenny's maid, Beth Chavez. He loved Beth. More than he would ever know until it was too late. He wondered why she was still at Collinwood if Jenny was gone, but didn't let it trouble him overmuch. Until one night, Quentin was in the cottage, when Jenny appeared, and tried to kill him." Maggie gasped, but Quentin refused to look at her. "Quentin managed to survive the attack," he said, "but the family had found a new place to keep Jenny away from him. She hadn't left Collinwood," he told her. "After Quentin deserted her, she lost her mind, began living in a dream world - a world where her husband would be coming home to her, and everything would be fine. But she knew better. She knew that her marriage was finished. That Quentin had never loved her as she loved him." He sat down again, knees apart, hands clasped between them, his gaze locked on his intertwined fingers.

Taking a deep breath, he continued. "Quentin began a campaign to find Jenny, to get rid of her somehow, to remove the reminder of his failure from Collinwood. But the family was one step ahead of him. He finally went to Beth, asking her help. She refused, saying that Jenny didn't know what she was doing, that she was insane. Beth - Beth began to cry, fearful for Jenny's life, and Quentin took her into his arms to comfort her. Unknown to either of them, Jenny was hiding in the room, and seeing her friend Beth in Quentin's arms brought her from her hiding place with the intention of finishing what she'd started. But Quentin was quicker, stronger. He grabbed her, put his hands around her neck-" his hands parted, curving as if it were happening again. Clenching his hands tightly, he said, "He strangled her." He drew a shuddering breath.

"That should have been the end of it. But unknown even to Quentin, Jenny had kept secrets from him. The day after Jenny's burial, a gypsy woman who was living on the estate, Magda, came to Collinwood and announced that Jenny had been a gypsy- and her sister. Magda knew that Quentin was responsible for Jenny's madness- for her death, and she decided to get her revenge. She placed a curse on Quentin and the eldest male descendant of each succeeding generation."

"A -curse?" Maggie asked, speaking for the first time since he'd begun his narrative.

He nodded sharply. "When the full moon rose, Quentin Collins went through a horrible transformation - he became a werewolf." When she would have spoken again, Quentin shook his head. "Let me finish, Maggie. Please. Beth discovered that Magda's curse extended past Quentin, to any male children he might have- and that's when Beth told Jenny's *other* secret: that during Quentin's trip abroad, Jenny had given birth to twins. A boy and a girl. They had been sent by the family to live with a woman in town." He shuddered. "Realizing that she had cursed Jenny's son, Magda started trying to find a way to end the curse, to save the child - but her efforts only caused the infant's death." He closed his eyes, trying not to remember that it had been his son's death that had brought about his being told about the children. He felt a hand on his, and opened his eyes to find Maggie's hand covering the white knuckles of his own. "Through other sources, Quentin found someone else who was willing to help him- and as a result, a portrait of Quentin was painted, and the curse was transferred from Quentin to the canvas - freeing him - but not his daughter's children. There was another side effect of the portrait," he told her, looking into her eyes. "It caused Quentin not to age. To always look exactly the same as he had the day it was painted. The portrait ages, the man doesn't." He saw the disbelief, the shock in her eyes. "That's right, Maggie, I'm telling you that I'm *not* the grandson of that Quentin Collins. I *am* the Quentin Collins who was born at Collinwood in 1870, who grew up here, who brought his wife here, and killed her, - who buried a son - and -" His hands were shaking badly, and he wanted a drink. A *lot* of drinks, he amended. "It's the reason I can't stay at Collinwood, the reason I can't take you with me - no matter how much I want to."

"Because you won't age- and I will," Maggie said. "The daughter- *your* daughter," she amended. "What happened to her?"

"She never knew that she was related to the Collins family," Quentin told her. "Lenore grew up, married, and her daughter married - Her daughter married a man named Jennings."

Realization struck Maggie, and she blinked. "Jennings? Chris and Tom?"

"Not Tom," Quentin told her. "Chris is the older twin -"

"He's a- but, Sabrina -"

"Sabrina knew when she married him, Maggie," Quentin assured her. "Amy doesn't know- and Chris knows that she'll have to be told one day, so that she won't continue the curse to another generation." He rose and went to the fireplace. "I told you that I'm not a nice person, Maggie. I've no redeeming qualities, no reason for someone like you to want to stay around me -"

He felt a hand on his back and turned around. She was standing there, her hazel eyes shining, filled with something he hadn't thought he would see. "Quentin, I don't care what you did in the past - the man I know, the man I'm in love with, is a warm, caring, loving person. And I won't hear anymore of anything to the contrary. I love you, Quentin. And I don't care if we only have a week- or a month, or a year. As long as you can stay, I want to be with you."

Quentin pulled her into his arms, holding her tightly, knowing that there were tears on his face. "Oh, Maggie. I love you so much - I couldn't live with myself if I hurt you - if you wound up like Jenny-"

"I won't," she assured him. "You're not the same man you were then, Quentin."

"Entirely because of your influence," he told her, lowering his lips to hers. Watching them, Barnabas pulled Angelique close to his side.

Julia cleared her throat gently. "Excuse me?" Maggie and Quentin remained locked in each other's arms, lip to lip. "I *do* have a wedding tomorrow," she reminded them. "And I think I need to *try* to get some sleep, don't you?" she asked, smiling as they finally turned to face her. "It wouldn't do for the bride to have circles under her eyes from lack of sleep, would it? I need to remove that suggestion," she said.

Maggie smiled. "I'm sorry, Julia," she said, sitting down again.

This time, Julia didn't bring out the medallion. "Sam," was all she said, and Maggie's eyes closed as she entered the trance. "Can you hear me, Maggie?"


"How are you feeling?"

"I feel fine."

"No fear?"

"No," Maggie said.

"You're not afraid of Quentin?"

"I love Quentin," Maggie responded simply.

"You don't want to tell anyone what you've heard here this evening?" Julia asked.


"From now on, when you hear the name 'Sam', your reaction won't be any different than it has always been," Julia told her. "Do you understand, Maggie?"

"I understand."

"When I snap my fingers, you'll wake up." She snapped her fingers, and Maggie blinked again. Julia stood up. "Well, I'll see you all tomorrow," she said.

"Thank you, Julia," Maggie said.

"You're welcome, Maggie."

"Angelique and I will walk you outside," Barnabas decided, as Quentin pulled Maggie back into his arms.

"No, Cousin," Quentin said. "Maggie and I will walk Julia back to Collinwood. We need to talk about some things in private- I'll get her back her safely."


Carolyn entered the House By The Sea, only to find the parlour deserted, the house dark except for the fire in the grate. "Nicholas?" she called.

"Here," he responded, moving from the camel backed sofa in the parlour. "You're late."

"Mother wanted to talk to me," she explained, moving closer to him, removing her coat. The fire glinted on the ruby, and Nicholas reached out to touch it with a fingertip, the touch sending a shiver down her spine.

"What about?"

"The wedding tomorrow. I think she's trying to figure out some way of keeping you away."

"I see."

"Nicholas, where did this come from?" Carolyn asked, touching the ruby herself.

"I've had it for a very long time," he said. "Why do you ask?"

"Angelique had a strange reaction to it. As if she'd seen it before, but she wouldn't explain it. She suggested I ask you about the ruby."

"There's nothing to explain," Nicholas told her. "Nothing at all. It's simply a - bauble I've had laying about that I thought would look nice on you." *Almost as if it were meant just for you*, his mind said. But he didn't say that aloud. He couldn't. "And it does," he said instead, tracing its fall again, this time dropping his finger to the cleft of her breasts. "But it would look even better on bare skin," he said, as his hands moved behind her to the zipper on the back of her dress. Lowering it, he drew the material down until it was a shimmering pool of fabric at Carolyn's feet. "Venus, rising from the waves," he murmured, pulling her into his arms.

"Nicholas," Carolyn insisted, "I want to know what she meant."

"Later," he told her, lifting her into his arms and heading toward the stairs. "Later."


Julia entered Collinwood and locked the doors behind her, then turned toward the stairs. The grandfather clock across the foyer began to strike. Two a.m.

"Where have you been, Julia?" Roger asked from the drawing room doorway. "Or do I even have to ask?"

Julia turned slowly to face her angry husband to be.

Back  Home  Vault  E-Mail Next
Original content ©2001 by Nancy Eddy