Between the Books: Volume Thirty

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Volume Thirty - "Submerge"
Character(s) Carlos and Damali
Date Fall 2009
After The Thirteenth
During Post Armageddon
Before Dawn and Darkness Book One: Ashes to Ashes
Location The New Compound
Between the Books Navigation
Atlantis Rising

Carlos put on his headphones and lowered his shovel, then threw his full weight behind the task. Trees had been cleared and some of the huge stones still had to be moved before he could whirl in a tractor. One year in and food was getting scarce. It was either grow it or steal it from the already famine-stricken masses. Nobody in the compound would vote to do that, especially when they’d been blessed with resources.

The other Guardian brothers had offered to help, but at the moment, he craved solitude. Nobody took offense; there was plenty of other stuff to do and each brother found his solo sanctuary among the never-ending chores. Building maintenance was ongoing, just like reinforcing demon barriers was an all-consuming project. Then there was constantly looking after little ones who were beginning to crawl and getting into everything imaginable; that was an around-the-clock affair. God Bless Mom Delores, Mom Stella, Marj, and Marlene. They took a lot of the weight. Soon he’d also have to think about creating a school of some sort. There were other teams around the world that were dug in, living off the grid, and needed a haven for their kids.

The old Greenbriar Hotel was two football field lengths away and filled with the lively hubbub of household activity. He stared at the building for a second before sinking his shovel into the rich, dark earth again—he and his Guardian brothers had somehow gone from warriors to organic farmers… lovers to fathers, and yet he knew that he, among all men, was truly blessed. He wouldn’t complain.

Still, there was something to be missed about the old days, as insane as they were. This time, however, he wouldn’t make the mistake of pining for what had been. He’d damned sure learned that lesson the hard way, and wasn’t about to bring disaster on his family by hoping for things of the past. He simply admired those old memories for the mental relics they were, and kept digging.

There was an easier way to do what he was doing the old fashioned way. Manual labor helped him think, though. If he got his Tactical brothers out there with Big Mike, they could clear a field and have it plowed in a few hours. But on days like this, the physical labor felt good. He needed to break a sweat. Needed heavy bass tones, needed to feel the music thump in his veins. But his playlist seemed like it had a mind of its own.

Carlos stopped to adjust his iPod and thrust his shovel into the earth, annoyed. The only logical explanation for the music jumping from his workout list to his slow jamz list was that he was throwing off crazy energy. It was lucky he hadn’t fried the damn thing. Had taken JL a week to get everybody hooked up with contraband music.

However the small break in the action allowed him to stand back and see just how much he’d actually accomplished in the brief hour he’d been outside. Felt like only a couple of songs, and he’d practically cleared a hundred yards. Damn. It reminded him of how quickly mortal time flew by. An hour… a year… it went by in a flash. It was all a blink. A breath.

Sweat made his t-shirt cling to him and he wiped thick beads of perspiration off his brow with the back of his forearm. Slow, sultry tunes filled his ears, causing him to walk away from his shovel and farther away from the house until he stood at the very edge of a high precipice. There was a blackened ring of trees below and beyond that was a small town. Life was clawing its way back from the ashes, just as he had years ago. Time… time was so fleeting, so misunderstood. One moment his wife was in his arms and the next moment she was filled with life… then there were two new little people looking up at him needing the world, and he didn’t have time to get it all done before their needs changed again. Time was a beast.

How did a mere mortal make sense of any of it?

He closed his eyes and opened his arms, not asking a question—he’d stopped arguing with God a long time ago. This was an embrace of all there was, feeling the breeze enfold him, remembering life before it got so complicated, even though one could argue that it was now simpler than it had ever been… remembering Damali’s voice… remembering when she’d brought him back to life over and over again with her touch. A man with no heartbeat had become a father. A man with no future had been able to live forever and see the Light. A man trapped in perpetual night had been blessed to see the sun.

The totality of it overwhelmed him. When had there been time to step back and assess any of it? They’d been on the move, pushing forward, fighting, surviving. Then time had jumped, just like his playlists, and there were kids to feed, clothe, and shelter. There was an entire world to protect. Was there a place left among any of it for a Scorpio to find solace? Where was there a quiet sanctuary from his thoughts? Was there a place he could go where all of it would stop clawing at his mind?

He missed her voice… her performances. That had been his sanctuary—Damali. When she crooned low and sweet her voice stopped the world imploding in his mind. She blotted out the darkest shadows of his night. Stopped the terror that lurked down deep within—because he knew how bad, bad could be. She made him know there was something greater than the evil that tracked them. Her wings were testimony to that, just as her soft kiss had always been. He missed his wife. Missed how she took him to a place where there was nothing but her. Missed her blue-white heat, that tidal wave of Damali that drowned out past, present, and future… missed drowning in her love.

Carlos shook his head as Maxwell’s Submerge: Til We Become The Sun entered his earphones and took over his mind. He could almost hear Damali’s voice replace the soulful crooner’s, could hear it fuse with the lyrics, fuse with his pulse. Then he suddenly felt her behind him. She didn’t speak, just continued that soft harmony that entered his head as her arms enfolded him, sending visions through him as though metal video for the song. Yeah… he’d go down with her wherever she wanted to go. Take me under, baby.

He let go and mountainside wildflowers crushed in Tibet soon stung his nose, the visual was so real. Her touch arched his spine, her voice marrying every note, pulling him under deeper with the music. He could feel the rush of sudden wind against his face as she mentally took him plummeting over the rail of the Australian Master’s lair. Together they hit the desert floor, him landing on his back in the cool night’s heat.

This was his sanctuary.

White wings enfolded him as a shea-butter soft cheek nuzzled his old vampire bite wound at his neck. He was going under hard.

This was his sanctuary.

Her mango-stained breath laced with mint followed the line of his jaw and captured his mouth. She hadn’t forgotten who they’d been before children and change. She remembered the warrior… remembered the vampire… remembered the man.

This was his sanctuary.

She’d saved a little piece of heaven just for him, clutched it in her palms that tightly held the back of his shirt. Gave it to him redux, pulling away his earphones and replacing them with her soft whisper and the tip of her tongue.

Fair exchange was no robbery; he’d be her sanctuary, too.

Would make her remember who the young girl was that first stepped up to the mic. Would make her remember ripening as a new Neteru. Would let her know that he’d never forget that she was always the one. Would never let her forget that she was a woman.

Oh, God, yes… submerge into the light… see if I’m breathing… I don’t know if I’m alive.

This was Damali’s world and he’d saved it just for her.

All she had to do was tell him with her body, with her breaths, the hitch in her voice, her touch… what memory she craved and he’d replay it. He was definitely going under, submerged in her spell and needing to be inside her. Fire and water, Scorp and Leo.

His hands traveled over the swell of her hips, over the fabric of her jeans, damning it as he knocked her head back with the edge of his jaw. Remember the vampire… till we become the sun. Both burning, on fire in the light. Is that what you want?

Her sharp gasp confirmed it, lengthening fangs in his mouth as he breathed her in, his nose trailing up her jugular.

Everything came back in an instant, like riding a bike. Hands in her hair, the vein strike was blind-lightening. Pleasure poured into the open wound, emptying him from the center of his soul, and causing her to climb up his body with a shrieking gasp.

Sound, blessed be her voice. No more quiet creeping in the middle of the night. Two football fields away, there were no infants to wake. Not today. He remembered when her soprano could shatter glass… shatter me, baby.

A man without a lair, the forest became their sanctuary. Soft moss broke their fall. White birches and her white wings stood guard against the sky. Boots and sneakers then sweat-slicked fabric shed slowly like snake’s skin; bodies writhing out of its hold.

The compound and the mundane evaporated. There was no time, just the present. Just the two of them… original man and original woman in new Eden, naked without shame. His dirty angel; her barrios bad boy. He stared up at her with tears of appreciation in his eyes. She bit her bottom lip, her own tears streaming. Words would only complicate the uncomplicated. They both understood. Each in his and her own right needed to be heard, needed to be seen in their original forms before parental titles blurred them out to each other. It had been getting harder to remember. Today it all came back in a flash-flood of passion.

His fingertips gently traced their way up her torso, reading the Braille of gooseflesh that rose for them. To have time just to see that again made him shudder. Her exquisite cinnamon brown skin soaked in the sunlight that dappled through the trees, her breasts warm, heavy, and ripe… beautiful fruit made sweeter by motherhood. He wanted to experience every nuance of her body, but she closed her eyes and hung her head, covering her exposed belly with her hands. He wasn’t having it and gently pulled them away, then leaned up to cradle her face.

“Don’t,” he said quietly, and then stopped her protest with a deep kiss. He could feel it bubbling within her, about to steal a sliver of her joy. A few battle scars from carrying his babies to term were badges of honor; she didn’t understand.

Hands on either side of her head, he showed her what he saw, sliding her to lie back, submerging her into bliss. His mouth coveted all that his twins so freely indulged. For just this moment, she was no longer mother, team seer, Neteru… she was his lover. His special sanctuary and he’d be hers.

Light made of flesh, blood, and bones made woman arched beneath his kisses that took a path from her throat to her pendulous breasts. Solar heat filled her palms that spread over his shoulders… her body was lush, plentiful, and he laved her tight brown nipples until they wept for him. Then she wept for him as the side of his face paid homage to every stretch mark her body was made to endure. Trembling fingers traced them, followed by his reverent kiss, deepened by desire, knowing what each one meant, also knowing how they scared her soul. He’d erase them all in her mind once and for all the only way he knew how. She had to remember why they were given to her; he’d take her back to Mid-heaven and show her.

His palms spread beneath her and then held her hips firm as his face submerged into her dense thicket… her sweet, pungent forest… the darkness he could never fully wrest himself from… the only rapture he’d ever known… the only angel he’d ever prayed to, prayed for, the only one that had ever saved him from everything, including himself. She had to know that she was his world, still, after it all. She was his sun, had always scorched him, left him a dry husk when she was done.

The moment she heaved and called him by name, it was as though she’d summoned him home. It was reflex to slide up her slickened body and sink deep within her. An agonized moan stopped his breath. Pinpoints of light danced behind his tightly shut lids. Damn… it had been so long. Just let it go, echoed in his soul. He shook his head. That’s not who they were, but only how it had recently been due to time, life, and kids.

He took her mouth hard like he took her body—old school, roughneck, then broke it down smooth. Master Vamp, Council master, he had time eternal, was eternity itself… wasn’t about rushing, was only about stroking, easy, taking her back to mist. Hell, yeah, he remembered—just like it was yesterday. Too much time had gone by, too much water under the bridge, too many other people’s needs to fulfill. But not today.

Right now she was his bad habit, his narcotic, the one that made him chase the dragon, made him lose his mind and not care… made sweat drip off his nose and roll down his back, made old blood hunger uncoil in his groin even though his eyes now turned silver. She could bring it all back and did in a flash-fire of skin-against-skin, wet slap. Would have him calling on his Maker, por Dios. Would make him stutter in Spanglish, forgetting both his mother-tongue and his new tongue, all behind her tongue… just eating him up and sucking out his marrow.

“’Mali…” Damn… “Mi corazon…” She had… to… slow… down… shit, yeah. But that’s what he loved about her most; she never listened, not even when he begged, por favor.

Soft hands griped his ass, swept up his spine, spread over his shoulders so silky… fingertips played over working muscles, separating them out, singling them out, giving each one a command to do her bidding. Mango-lacquered kisses, shea butter, and woman, his woman, sent instant delirium into his brain. She owned his nose, always had, just like she’d branded him forever. Satin calves twined with his, then anchored around his waist, pulling him in deeper, harder. Feathers were everywhere.

But it was her voice that was his ultimate undoing…

That melodic wind-chant that sent birds into flight and stopped deer in their tracks.

That urgent whisper, “Just let it go,” that stole his reason.

That demand that broke his name into long syllables peppered with “Papi…”

That, that, that, “Oh, damn…” command.

It hit him like a blinding wave out of the blue. He knew it was coming, had early warning sac contractions, but just couldn’t get out of the way of it fast enough. It took him under, over, inside, and out. Left him sprawled, trembling, sputtering, trying to catch his breath. The force of it wiped his memory clean for ten seconds when it dredged him bone dry.

Only her kiss brought him around. He looked up at her bewildered and sated. She looked down at him and smiled, her eyes warm and filled with mischief.

“We didn’t have all day,” she murmured against his mouth.

Still mind-stunned, he didn’t even struggle to sit up or argue.

“The kids started giving Marlene fits almost as soon as I came to find you.”

He closed his eyes. Damn… he hadn’t even heard them.

“I know,” she said, laughing softly and then kissed him again, this time longer.

He threaded his fingers through her locks and stared up at her. There was so much he wanted to say to her but didn’t know how to express it, and definitely didn’t want her to take offense or to get an attitude. Right now it was all good, all peace, and was rarely that any more.

But rather than her eyes flashing with anger the moment she picked up on his unguarded thoughts, her quiet stare became gentle while her fingers stroked the edge of his jaw.

“It won’t always be like this,” she whispered.

His arms surrounded her and he rested his head on her shoulder, knowing that two other people now had more right to her body than he did. How could he argue? How did one even begin to claim any ground against that? And, yet, it was as it was supposed to be. Deep conflict tore at him as he released her.

“We’d better get dressed… I have to finish the field.”

Her palm cradled his cheek. “Oh… baby… I…”

“No, D, it’s cool. It is what it is. I’m just glad you came and found me for a little while, anyway.” He looked out into the distance toward the direction of the compound. “I’m also glad you can still hear me in your heart sometimes,” he added more quietly.

“I hear you all the time,” she murmured and then kissed him softly. “It’s just so hard to…” She looked down at her hands, now holding them in her lap as she shielded her body with her wings. “They’re always in my head. The babies.”

He sat up slowly wishing that she didn’t hide her body from his view. She didn’t used to do that and it made him sad.

“I know, boo.” There was nothing more he could say. He reached out and summoned his pants into his grip and then stood, pulling them on in defeat. “We should get back.”

Turning slowly, he held out his hand to Damali to help her up, mesmerized by how the sun still kissed her pretty brown skin with gold and red highlights. Her amber dreadlocks were all over her head, freshly tousled by him. But he shunted that out of his mind as he handed Damali her clothes, wondering when it had happened that she now turned away from him to put on her bra and tank top. As she drew her wings back into her delicate shoulder blades, he remembered how they’d sleep beneath them for hours, how the downy texture held the fragrance of their love. Then they’d bathe or shower together, which would start a whole new round of lovemaking.

Now, there was never time. Damali’s lithe body seemed so resolute as she slid on her panties and her jeans that it was like standing outside of himself to witness it.

“I’m sorry,” spilled from his lips before he could catch the words, not even sure what he was apologizing about. But a sadness claimed him in a way that he couldn’t express beyond that.

She turned and stared at him. “I was going to say the same thing.”

Instinct made him open his arms and she filled them, and then she began to cry. It was a hard down rain type of sob that he didn’t fully understand but knew he really didn’t have to. Something told him that right now all he had to do was hold her, so that’s what he did.

“This is harder than fighting demons,” she finally said with a sniff, burying her face against his chest.

He held her tighter and nodded with his eyes closed. It was the God’s honest truth—the Gospel according to Damali, but he dared not say amen.

“It’s like… don’t get me wrong,” she said on a thick swallow. “I love our children, I’m so glad we have them, but sometimes, I miss me. I miss us.”

This time he was the one to bite his lip as he petted her back and began to rock her.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m just a host,” she said, beginning to cry again. “Just a body for them to suck everything out of… and after carrying both of them for nine months, now I’m a feeder entity. There’s no time for anything. Time just goes by in a flash and I look up and the day is gone, I’m beat, and it feels like I close my eyes and then the next day is here to do it all over again. Every couple of hours, I have to stop everything I’m doing to pull out a boob and feed somebody!”

He knew better than to comment, knew that whatever he was feeling had better wait or her memory would lock in his reply forever… and that wasn’t what he wanted going into her female vault. The only thing he could think of to diffuse a solar meltdown was to tell her everything she’d already told him.

“It won’t always be like this, baby…” He spoke into her hair, sending love and warmth into it. But he truly understood what she meant about the vagaries of time.

She nodded. “I love our kids, don’t get me wrong—and I love being a mom… there is something so special about feeding them when I look at those little faces or see them sleeping and realize how easily it would have been to lose them… They’re such a gift, but I need time for me, too… time for us.”

“I know, baby…” His voice had become a refrain of gentle reason, saying everything by saying nothing really at all.

“But I’m just so tired, Carlos,” she said, her voice wobbling before it finally stumbled and fell.

Guilt lacerated him. Clearing a field was obviously nothing compared to the physical and emotional demands of what his wife was trying to describe. Everything he had to do was task-oriented; he did whatever and then it was done and over with until there was the next task… but having little people literally dependent on his body like tiny love parasites. Damn. Women deserved a special place in heaven.

“I don’t want to go back to the compound and listen to screaming babies and give over my body to breast feeding right now, but I have to. I want to be here, resting quietly in your arms. I wanna feel like I used to. I remember it all, Carlos—BC, before children.” She looked up at him with a tear-streaked face. “Does that make me a bad mother?”

He stared into her eyes, his palms cradling her face, trying to give her back a little bit of heaven and realizing how selfish he’d been. “No, baby,” he murmured. “It just makes you human.”

She slid her palms over his as she closed her eyes. Two big tears rolled down her cheeks and he kissed them away.

“I love you,” she whispered. “I don’t want you to ever think I forgot about you or don’t want you.”

Her confession stabbed his soul with a new pang of guilt. She might as well have gored him with her Isis blade.

“Oh… baby, te amo,” he said, pulling her more closely against him. “I never thought that.” The lie was a necessary one, a practical one.

He felt her body relax within his hold as she released a heavy sigh.


He kissed the crown of her head. “I’d better get you back.”

“I’m sorry,” she murmured, looking up at him now, searching his expression for any fraud.

He made sure she found none.

“I’m storing up big to collect big. I’m talking jackpot. Gonna double-down on you next time, girl,” he said with a sly half-smile. “You know I have a good memory.”

He was glad that his comment made a smile come out of hiding on her face.

“So do I,” she said with a sexy wink.

“Maybe in a few months when they’re weaned… you and I can go somewhere overnight, even for the weekend?”

It was a hopeful suggestion, a pretty lie he’d let himself believe in for now, one he’d thrown out there as much for her sake as for his own mental health. Where were they gonna go, truth be told? Away from the compound and the kids with the Anti-Christ on the loose and old Lucifer pissed off enough to spit nails—not likely. But he’d thrown out the concept like a man having a seizure. It was sudden, erratic, with no intelligent comprehension behind it. Still, a man had to have hope.

“Promise?” she said, unfurling her wings again to allow the dazzling sunlight to catch in them.

Hope sprung eternal. One day. Better yet, one night.

He stepped back and nodded, watching her turn back toward the compound as the bleating sound of baby wails finally cut into his psyche. Once again the twins were in his head, too, even though too far away for his normal hearing to have picked up their cries.

“I promise, mi corazon,” he murmured as she flew away. “Bank on it.”

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • This story was posted to L.A. Banks' blog on September 7, 2009. [1]

See Also[edit | edit source]

Novels 1 - 9 Minion • The Awakening • The Hunted • The Bitten • The Forbidden • The Damned • The Forsaken • The Wicked • The Cursed
Armageddon Finale
(10 -12)
The Darkness • The Shadows • The Thirteenth
Anthologies Make it Last Forever in Stroke of Midnight • Ride the Night Wind in Love at First Bite
Dawn and Darkness (Comics) Individual Comics Book One: Ashes to Ashes • Book Two: Dust to Dust  • Book Three: Bygones to Blood • Book Four: Ride or Die
Graphic Novel Graphic Novel (Parts 1 - 4)
Neteru Academy Novels Shadow Walker • Shadow Seekers (Unreleased) • Shadow Slayers (Unreleased)
Between the Books (Official Website Stories) Vol. 1 • Vol. 2 • Vol. 3 • Vol. 4 • Vol. 5 • Vol. 6 • Vol. 7 • Vol. 8 • Vol. 9 • Vol. 10 • Vol. 11 • Vol. 12 • Vol. 13 • Vol. 14 • Vol. 15 - The Ripple Effect • Vol. 16 - Damali's Dilemma • Vol. 17 - Carlos' Dilemma • Vol. 18 - Damali's Dilemma Part II • Vol. 19 - Training Day • Vol. 20 - Training Day Part II • Vol. 21 - A Neteru Apex • Vol. 22 - New Mansion Compound: • Vol. 23 - New Mansion Compound: • Vol. 24 - New Mansion Compound: • Vol. 25 - "Truth Between Brothers" • Vol. 26 - Shabazz: THE FALL OUT • Vol. 27 • Vol. 28 • Vol. 29 • Vol. 30 - "Submerge"
Other Nothing Like the First Time (Prequel) • That First Kiss • Between Man and Wife • Atlantis Rising
Damali's Journal Volume One • Volume Two • Volume Three • Volume Four • Damali's Journal: Special Volume
Carlos' Black Box Volume One • Volume Two
Inside the Mind of a Vampire Volume One • Volume Two • Volume Three • Volume Four • Volume Five • Volume Six
Additional Content & Short Stories Promotional Media Secret Desires • Exotic Contraband: LA Banks' Vampire Huntress Legend Concept Art Book • Vampire Huntress Legend Sampler • Atlantis Rising • VHL Teacher's Curriculum Guide
Vampire Huntress Legend Sampler Nothing Like the First Time • Damali's Journal: Special Volume • The Power Players: A tour by Master Vampire Carlos Rivera • Character Dossiers
Unreleased Vampire Huntress Legend Series Movie (Unreleased) • Vampire Huntress Legend Series Manga (Unreleased)

References[edit | edit source]

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