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LOVED (CHAPTER 1)

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ENJOY THE FIRST FEW CHAPTERS OF LOVED, THE SEQUEL TO TURNED!

CHAPTER 1

FACT:

In Salem, in 1692, a dozen teenage girls, known as "the afflicted," experienced a mysterious illness that led them to become hysterical and to independently scream out that local witches were tormenting them. This led to the Salem witch trials.

The mysterious illness that gripped these teenage girls has never, to this day, been explained.

"She dreamt tonight she saw my statua,

Which, like a fountain with an hundred spouts,

Did run pure blood: and many lusty Romans

Came smiling, and did bathe their hands in it:

And these does she apply for warnings, and portents,

And evils imminent..."


--William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

The Hudson Valley, New York

(Present Day)

For the first time in weeks, Caitlin Paine felt relaxed. Sitting comfortably on the floor of the small barn, she leaned back against a bale of hay, and exhaled. A small fire raged in the stone fireplace about ten feet away; she had just added a log, and felt reassured by the sound of cracking wood. March wasn't over yet, and tonight had been especially cold. The window on the far wall afforded a view of the night sky, and she could see the snow was still falling.

The barn was unheated, but she sat close enough to the fire for its warmth to take the edge off. She felt very comfortable, and felt her eyes getting heavy. The smell of the fire dominated the barn, and as she reclined a little bit further, she could feel the tension starting to leave her shoulders and legs.

Of course, the real reason for her sense of peace, she knew, was not the fire, or hay, or even the shelter of the barn. It was due to him. Caleb. She sat and stared at him.

He reclined across from her, about fifteen feet away, so perfectly still. He was sleeping, and she took the opportunity to study his face, his perfect features, his pale, translucent skin. She had never seen features so perfectly chiseled. It was surreal, like staring at a sculpture. She couldn't fathom how he had been alive for 3,000 years. She, at 18, already looked older than he did.

But it was more than his features. There was an air about him, a subtle energy that he exuded. A great sense of peace. When she was around him, she knew that everything would be all right.

She was just happy that he was still there, still with her. And she allowed herself to hope that they would stay together. But even as she thought it, she chided herself, knowing that she was setting herself up for trouble. Guys like this, she knew, just didn't stick around. It just wasn't how they were built.

Caleb slept so perfectly, taking such small breaths, that it was hard for her to tell if he was even asleep. He had left earlier, he'd said, to feed. He'd returned more relaxed, carrying a stack of logs, and he'd figured a way to seal the barn door to keep out the snowy draft. He had started the fire, and now that he was asleep, she kept it going.

She reached up and took another sip of her glass of red wine, and felt the warm liquid slowly relax her. She had found the bottle in a hidden chest, under a stack of hay; she'd remembered when her little brother, Sam, stashed it there, months ago, and on a whim. She never drank, but she didn't see the harm in a few sips, especially after what she'd been through.

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