Cloud City (Anna Strong Chronicles #9)


I feel Leticia's anxiety growing with mine.

"What have I done?" she whispers.

I move to stand beside her. "You did what Sophie asked."

"But what if I've killed Jonathan?" Her voice becomes hard, concern replaced with anger. "She didn't ask Jonathan what he wanted. I should have made her bring him back. Let him choose."

I remember Sophie in the office when she came to ask me to accompany her to Leadville. "Sophie would have gotten rid of Jonathan one way or the other. She was that desperate."

Leticia turns puzzled eyes on me. "I don't even know how they came to co-exist. How could such a thing happen?"

I give her a condensed version: who Sophie was, how she came to have access to Jonathan's ashes when he was immolated, what she tried to do with them that produced the unorthodox results.

Rather than feel sympathy for Sophie after hearing the story, Leticia snarls. "She should have been happy. He gave her youth, wealth, a life without bounds. Stupid witch. If she survives and he doesn't I'll make her pay for her ingratitude."

I blow out a breath. I can tell from what she's feeling, there would be no use arguing the point. And I have a question of my own.

"You and Jonathan obviously loved each other very much. Why did you part?"

For the first time, a deep well of regret opens in Leticia's thoughts, allowing me to glimpse the depth of her remorse. "I talk of Sophie being stupid. I was no less so. I wanted to move on, to California where new adventure beckoned. Jonathan liked our life in Leadville. And he knew part of the reason I wanted to go to California was because Anthony, my sire, invited me there. He sent letters full of stories of the beauty of the state, of the ocean. Jonathan felt I might still have unresolved feelings for Anthony. And he was right. I did. But Anthony had moved on. He found he liked 'recruiting' new vampires into his fold and I would have been just one more in his harem."

"Why didn't you return to Jonathan?"

"Why do you think? Pride. Embarrassment. Time moves slowly for vampires and it makes forming attachments difficult. I soon found temporary relationships, be it with mortals or vampires, work best. At least I did until I heard Jonathan's voice."

She looks at me. "You have not been vampire long, have you? I know you have extraordinary abilities but you also still have a mortal family. I have heard the stories. I can feel your uncertainty about what lies ahead for you. I can only give you one piece of advice. If you are lucky enough to find a soul mate, whether the relationship lasts a mortal lifetime or an eternity, you may be given only one chance at real fulfillment. Don't let it slip away."

We have been talking quietly, heads close together, caught up in emotions transmitted both in words and thoughts.

I find myself envying her and being fearful for her at the same time. If Jonathan is truly gone, it was a cruel act of fate, and Sophie, to remind her again of what she lost.

She can do nothing about fate, but Sophie is another matter.

A sound snaps our attention to the circle. Sophie is sitting up, confusion drawing her face into a scowl. She looks around, eyes cloudy with the effort of trying to remember, questions reflected in her expression. She doesn't know where she is.

Leticia takes a step forward. I stop her. "Wait. Let her come back."

I shield my thoughts and try to reach Jonathan, first in Sophie, then in Prendergast, still unconscious.

I get nothing.

From either of them.