A Scanguards Novella
Jake Stone comes to an island with a magical spring to have his only wish in life fulfilled: to be mortal again. As a vampire, he’s tired of the lonely and unfulfilling life he’s been living. Then he meets Claire Culver, a woman whose trip to the island is her last hope. She wishes for a miracle to cure her of a terminal illness.
Will her wish be granted, or will this be her last Christmas?
Where does this novella fit into the Scanguards timeline?
It takes place several years before Samson’s story kicks off the Scanguards Vampires series in San Francisco with Samson’s Lovely Mortal. Jake is first mentioned in Quinn’s Undying Rose. Well-loved Scanguards characters—Gabriel, Zane, and Amaury—will make an appearance in this short novella.
Previously published as part of an anthology
This is a longer version of Mortal Wish, which first appeared in the anthology “Summer on Seeker’s Island” in 2013. Some character names, settings, and events have been changed, and several chapters have been added to this new 2015 version. This short novella of approximately 60 pages is over 50% longer than the 2013 anthology version.
On an island in the Gulf of Mexico, December 1991
Jake watched the man as he tied the ferry to the boat dock, then proceeded to move the gangplank over the gap between dock and ferry and secure it tightly, before he hollered to the captain, “Boat’s tied up.”
The captain waved back, then shifted his gaze to Jake. “Have a pleasant stay.”
Jake walked over the gangplank and onto the dock. He’d been the only passenger on the evening ferry. He assumed that most visitors descending upon this tiny island of barely one thousand inhabitants had done so with an earlier ferry, but he hadn’t had a choice. Traveling during daylight hours was impossible for him.
At a voice calling his name, he turned his head and noticed a gangly kid who couldn’t be more than twenty years old waving at him from next to the harbor master’s hut. The boy’s red hair was like a beacon in the night, as was the scent that came from him: fresh, young blood.
Luckily, Jake had fed plenty before his departure from the mainland, not wanting to be caught hunting on the small island. He’d also packed blood he’d stolen from a blood bank in New York where he’d lived during the last year. There, anonymity had been his friend, whereas in small towns people looked out for each other and would interfere when they saw something odd happening—like him sucking on the neck of a juicy human.
“I’m Jake Stone,” he called out as he approached the kid, whose blood smelled pure and rich, and just a tad too inviting.
When he stopped before the youngster, holding his overnight bag in one hand, the kid gave him a wide smile. “I’m Carl. Welcome to Seeker’s Island. Mrs. Adams sent me. I’ll take you to the Sunseekers Inn.”
Carl made a motion for the bag, but Jake didn’t relinquish it. “Lead the way.”
The kid gestured to the street that ran alongside the small harbor. “I’m parked right here.”
Jake arched an eyebrow. He hadn’t expected this island to allow cars. “Where?”
Carl pointed toward a white object that stood at the curb.
“A golf cart,” Jake murmured. With a sprig of mistletoe dangling from its rearview mirror?
The kid nodded enthusiastically. “We don’t have cars on the island. But I get to use one of the golf carts to drive tourists around. I mean, it’s practically mine.”
Jake forced a smile and followed him. Great: Carl was a chatterbox. That was just what he needed. If he’d had a choice, he wouldn’t have come to a small island like this where everybody knew everybody else’s business, but he hadn’t had a choice. This was his last resort.
As Jake slunk into the passenger seat and set his bag between his feet, Carl started the electric engine and pulled into the street that ran alongside the coast. Houses and shops lined the quaint road and made him feel like he’d entered Disneyland. Well, Disneyland decked out for Christmas—because practically every store and restaurant was decorated with colorful lights, red and green being the dominant ones. And maybe this island was just like Disneyland, full of make believes and wishes for things he couldn’t have.
“Are you here for the… you know?” Carl continued.
Knowing that the kid was referring to the hot spring that was said to have magical qualities, Jake gave no direct answer and instead let his eyes wander toward the ocean and the impenetrable darkness beyond the shore. “The… you know what… doesn’t really work, does it?”
Carl sat up taller as if wanting to display more authority. “Of course it does!” Then he lowered his voice and leaned closer, whispering now. “I grew up here. Everything you’ve heard is true. If you drink from it, you’ll get your heart’s desire.”
Jake suppressed the urge to scoff. If the spring really worked, why was a young man like Carl still living here, performing the thankless job of chauffeuring tourists around the island? “Sure, whatever you say.”
Maybe he was just cynical—what one-hundred-forty-seven year old vampire wouldn’t be? Or maybe he was simply bracing himself for the moment when he found out that the magical spring didn’t actually have the power to grant any wishes.
“You’ll see!” Carl prophesied and brought the cart to a stop. He pointed to the large Victorian house that stood behind a white picket fence. “We’re here.”
Jake pulled a five dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to the kid. “Thanks, Carl.”
The youngster grinned as he pocketed the money. “And if you need any transportation on the island, I’m happy to drive you around.”
Jake had no doubt about that. He was sure that opportunities for making money on the island were few and far between. “I’ll let you know.” He got out of the cart and walked up the entrance way to the house, bag in hand.
The electric engine made barely any sound when Carl left.
Jake opened the entrance door and entered. The foyer was cozy and well lit. A large Christmas tree adorned with antique ornaments took up half the entry hall. He had to admit—despite his aversion to Christmas—that the fresh blue spruce looked rather pretty, and the scent brought back memories of his childhood. Memories of happier times.
A large wooden staircase led to the upper floors. To its left was a reception area, which looked like a booth with a high counter in front and shelves at the back. He approached it and set his bag on the floor. Seeing nobody, but sensing he wasn’t alone, he hit the little bell on the counter.
As the soft ping chimed through the foyer, he suddenly heard a sound and an instant later, a woman rose from behind the counter, righting the sleeve of her colorful dress, while giving him an apologetic smile. He hadn’t seen her earlier, nor had his senses picked up on her smell. The scent of the fresh tree, the potpourri, and the scented candles that seemed to be wherever there was a ledge or an available surface, was too overwhelming.
“Oh, dear, you’ve caught me now!” She chuckled and blushed furiously. “Those darn straps, they never stay in place.” She pulled her hand out from under her sleeve and adjusted her scoop neck.
Jake could only imagine that she was talking about her bra straps and tried not to focus on her ample chest. Instead, he looked at her face. She was still attractive even though she seemed to be in her early sixties. Had he met her twenty or thirty years ago, he would have seduced her.
“Yes, and you must be Mr. Stone.” She let her eyes roam over his face and body, not hiding the fact that she found him attractive.
He was used to those looks. He got them from women of all ages. But all they saw was his perfect shell: the dark hair, the chiseled chin, the classical nose, the piercing blue eyes, and the sculpted body. What they didn’t see was the man inside, the man who yearned for a real life, for a mortal life. For a purpose.
“I have a wonderful room for you. On the top floor. It’s got a gorgeous view of the bay on the other side of the island.” She reached for the board of keys behind her and took one of them down, placing it on the counter.
“Perfect.” He smiled and grabbed the key.
“Breakfast is included.” She pointed toward a door next to the stairs. “The breakfast room is through here. We serve breakfast from seven till nine thirty.”
“That won’t be necessary. I’m not much of a morning person. In fact, would you mind if I declined housekeeping? I’m quite a night owl actually and sleep really late.” Late as in until sunset. After all, daylight didn’t agree with him. The charred look had never appealed to him.
“Oh?” She cast him a surprised glance. “I hope you won’t be too disappointed about the nightlife here, but there’s practically none. A lot of our visitors are here for the hot spring.” She leaned forward, her boobs resting on the counter as she did so. “I assume you came for the same thing?”
Jake sighed. He’d been here for less than half an hour and already two people had managed to ask him the same question. But being the intensely private man he was, he had no intention of getting dragged into a conversation about his very personal desires. Desires he could share with nobody.
“I hear fishing is good out here.”
A disappointed frown spread over Mrs. Adams’ face as she straightened. “Yes, yes, it is.”
“Top floor, you said?” He pointed toward the stairs and picked up his bag, not waiting for her answer.
“Number twenty-one. Turn left at the top of the stairs.”
The stairs creaked as he walked up the first flight. Runners covered the worn floors on the landing. Jake let his eyes wander over the old paintings on the walls and the antique sideboard that adorned the second floor hallway. His eyes lingered on the fine workmanship for a moment longer, then he already continued around the banister.
He ran into something soft. His head jerked around, and his hand released the grip on his bag in the same moment that he instinctively reached for the person he’d run into. His eyes perceived a woman, her arms flailing, releasing the handbag she carried. As its contents spilled onto the floor, Jake caught the woman, preventing her from falling.
“Ooops!” he called out. “Gotcha!”
She breathed heavily, and his superior senses picked up her elevated heartbeat.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t look,” he apologized.
“That’s quite all right,” she answered breathlessly. “It’s my own fault. I was running around the corner without looking.” She eased from his grip and stepped back.
Jake’s eyes fell on her face. Her eyes were just as blue as his, and her long hair was of a rich auburn shade. Her skin was flawless, but pale, almost like porcelain, and it made her lips look as red as fresh blood. Hunger surged within him instantly, despite the fact that he was sated. He pushed it back. Instead he looked to the items that had fallen to the floor and bent down.
“Let me help you with this,” he offered and handed her the handbag.
She took it and crouched down opposite him, quickly picking up some of the fallen items: a lipstick, keys, a small notepad.
Jake handed her a handkerchief and a pen, then searched the rug for anything else that might have fallen out, but found nothing.
“I think I’ve got everything,” she said and rose.
He got up from his hunched position and offered his hand in greeting. “I’m Jake, by the way.”
She hesitated, before she shook his hand very briefly. “Claire.” Then she motioned to the stairs. “I’ve gotta go.”
He watched as she hurried down the stairs. Her footsteps echoed in the foyer as she rushed out the entrance door. Only when it fell shut with a loud thud did he pick up his own bag and proceed to his room.