The sun was one of the best things that Florida had to offer.
And for some reason, I hated it.
Felicity and Zack were swimming in the crystalline water, laughing and dumping salt water over one another as the tide shoved them closer to shore. They were engaged and getting ready to move farther up north at the end of summer when everything was settled. I smiled at them from the shady comfort of my umbrella and closed my eyes. It was nice to see my friends doing what made them happy.
The beach wasn't very crowded. I couldn't help but notice a lot of couples strolling together hand-in-hand, and one with a big black dog caught my attention. I'd always liked dogs. Neither of my parents wanted to let me get one so I was going to move in with my boyfriend, Will.
We were expecting a baby in a month, which could've been why I'd become so afraid of the sun. I honestly detested going to the beach now and tried hiding away in my bedroom but my friends insisted I needed the vitamin D. Will held a parasol over my head while I walked, wincing and supporting my bulging belly. Our baby was heavier than all hell and kicked like a madman.
It was weird, but I thought there were blank spots in my memory. Will told me I was crazy and the doctor said it could've been caused by the baby. I'd never even seen a sonogram of whatever was growing inside me. The machines always broke down when they tried. Doctors were baffled but assured me the pregnancy was most likely fine and I would give birth to a health child in a month.
"Something wrong, Cie?"
Will was lying in the sun beside me. He'd recently changed his major to aviation: he told me he felt like he should be flying for some reason. I smiled and shook my head.
Nothing was wrong other than the same general confusion.
We stayed out until nightfall. Will drove me back home in the truck and we kissed before I got out, hobbling awkwardly into my house. Mom and dad were sitting at the kitchen table and gave me a warm greeting when I passed them. I smiled weakly and went upstairs to show before bed.
For the past few months I couldn't shake the feeling that I was forgetting something very important. It would be the worst at night or when I was in the dark. Will and I had a great relationship before but it felt like the pregnancy had ruined it somehow. He was still committed but I wondered if there was something else. I rubbed my stomach idly while I washed myself. Weird.
The house was quiet when I finished my shower. I crawled into bed and tossed and turned for a while, which wasn't easy with a bulging stomach, and eventually gave up. It was three in the morning when I put on my flip flops and tied a robe around my nightgown. A visit to the beach was in order.
I was panting by the time I had walked down the road to the bridge cutting through the dunes. No one else was out; kind of a special occasion for someone like me. I slipped off my shoes and went barefoot all the way down to the cold sand where the tide had recently withdrawn. Crabs scuttled around but mostly ignored me as I calmly approached the black water a ways away. It was beautiful. I hadn't been able to swim in so long because of the pregnancy.
The baby suddenly turned and I slouched over, briefly out of air. Shit!
Someone stepped up beside me. "Nice night for a walk, don't you think?"
My eyes widened and I turned quickly, panting like a dog in the middle of summer, to find a tall man was the culprit. He was wearing a suit and black dress shoes that weren't exactly beach appropriate. His black hair had been styled but was being blown amok by the breeze from the ocean. Two glowing golden eyes focused intently on the moon far across the waves.
He was… familiar. I knew his voice. Had I heard him in a movie? Or was it a dream?
I swallowed. "Uh… yeah, it is. Who are you?" I looked around us to find the beach was entirely deserted. There were no flashlights from people walking their dogs.
The man cocked his head without looking away from the moon. "I have been with you for every moment, Cecile. I stayed in the shadows and was forced to watch another man touch you…" He paused, grinding his jaw. "Love you. I'm not entirely sure what will trigger your memory but my six months are up and I am very eager to reclaim what is rightfully mine. It's time to go."
"W-what are you talking about? I don't know who you are." I took a step back.
"Beelzebub, Apep, Apophis, Quetzalcoatl," he rattled off like he'd said it a hundred times before. "I've had so many names that I lost count. The only name that matters is the one I met you with. Sebastien. I have been alive for thousands of years and I never thought a mere six months, a second to me, would crawl past in such a torturous way. I cannot wait any longer. Our son belongs with his father: I can feel him searching for me each day."
"What the hell is wrong with you?!" I shrieked, truly panicking. "I'm warning you, I live right down the street and everyone on the water knows me! They'll see you if you do anything!"
"They cannot see me." Sebastien looked at me and his eyes were somber and ancient. "I will never hurt you, Cecile. I am recollecting what I have loved and lost."
Suddenly, I couldn't speak. I tottered back another step and an enormous black shadow formed beneath my feet like a whirlpool, swirling and sucking sand deep inside its recesses. I screamed in terror when black hands emerged from the darkness to grab my ankles, holding me firm as the whirlpool dragged me deeper and deeper. Sebastien gazed at the moon for a moment longer before stepping inside with me.
His hands were clasped politely in front of him and we were abruptly dragged through whatever weird portal he had created. I screamed and my wrists were bound by thick bonds to keep me from squirming too much. The man grabbed my elbow to keep me steady as we rushed through semidarkness so fast that I worried I would throw up. I squeezed my eyes shut.
Everything stopped as quickly as it had begun.
The hand gripping my elbow turned gentle and I peeked out from my eyelids. We were standing a big room with an enormous window that opened up to reveal the entire ocean. I was momentarily awestruck by the sight of it but quickly remembered I had been interdimensionally kidnapped.
"Hey!" I said hotly when Sebastien walked toward the window, passing a big canopy bed. "What the hell are you doing?! Who are you and where am I?"
"We're still in Florida, darling. I know you have a fondness for the ocean so I didn't want to remove you from it." He opened one of the windows and I realized it was actually a very large door. "After you've regained your memories we can return to Navarre to tell your parents what happened. For now, it's safer that I keep you in our home away from others. Our son will be born soon."
I put a protective hand on my stomach. "Excuse me, but this is Noah and I'm having him with my boyfriend, Will. I don't know who you are. Am I dreaming?"
"No, you're not dreaming. And we are not naming our child Noah. No Christian names."
When I continued to belligerently demand to know where I was, Sebastien rolled his eyes and approached me. I took a step back after he was very close and my cheeks flushed with heat. It was another familiar sensation: I could've sworn we were in that kind of position before. He sauntered nearer and nearer, golden eyes studying my frustrated face and the hand around my stomach.
My back pressed to the wall and Sebastien leaned close. I watched in terror as long fangs dropped out of his mouth, accentuating the horrible smile he was giving me. I remembered it… vaguely…
He put his hands on either side of my head. "I'm very disappointed you can't recall the night I impregnated you. It wasn't long before you were taken from me and our bond was broken. It was an evening I will never forget, Cecile. It kept me sane when I watched you with Will."
"You're crazy," I snapped. "I've never met you in my life. Are you a vampire?"
"Don't insult me with your culture's bastardization of my kind. I am not a vampire. I am a demon, a very ancient demon, and you are carrying my son."
"You and I struck a deal one year ago to save the life of your little boyfriend and, against my wishes, I fell in love with you." He grasped my face between his hands, scowling. "Thus, it upsets me greatly to see you do not have even a slight recollection of our time together. Perhaps this will help."
Sebastien kissed me hard on the mouth, fangs and all. Only a brief moment of fear passed before the pain reminded me of everything and I shoved him back in shock.
I slumped against the wall, trembling. Holy shit. Every gap in my recent memory was promptly filled with knowledge I'd been avoiding for only a few shorts months. Sebastien… he came back for me like he promised. As a matter of fact, he never left. I rubbed my face and tried to catch my breath. It was all going to be okay after all. Now I remembered everything.
The pulsing pain in my lips made me angrily slap my demon beau across the face. He was still a complete asshole, of course. "You moron! I'm not a demon anymore so I don't heal well!"
Sebastien only laughed and yanked me away from the wall to hug me as tight as he could without harming the now thrashing baby. I wanted to stay mad but I never could. Tears brimmed in my eyes and I cried into his shoulder, still punching his back weakly. What an idiot. He could be so thoughtless and instinctive and stupid sometimes that—
My eyes popped open.
"Uh," I said uncomfortably, sniffling a little, "sorry to break this up but…"
"Of course," he growled. "Let the joys of parenthood commence. Come, I'll bring you to your room. Olivier and Luvart are both waiting."
I clapped my hands excitedly. "Are they really?! I've missed them so much!"
My little bundle of joy violently kicked me in the stomach I yelped in pain, almost collapsing before Sebastien caught me. He seemed angry and more than ready to see the world. I clung to Sebastien to catch my breath and realized with a trill of terror that I couldn't move. The baby was shifting into place rapidly, completely disregarding me or our delicate timeframe.
My demon lifted me into his arms and carried me a ways while I began to gradually lose consciousness. I dimly registered seeing my two favorite demons open a door and scurry to their places when Sebastien hissed orders at them. I was laid on a bed and Luvart hopped up beside my head to gather my hair away from my face while Olivier perched beside my abdomen. Sebastien pinned back my robe to expose my stomach and I watched one of his talons grow very long.
Olivier shook her finger at him. "No, Lord Beelzebub! Cecile is a human! She needs medication to help her pain and sterilized medical instruments—"
A contraction that felt more like repeatedly being punched in the gut ripped a scream out of my throat and Olivier nearly dropped the scalpel. They were giving me a c-section. It was as much of a relief as it was horrifying. Three demons slicing open my abdomen seemed just a little dangerous.
"No time for pain relief," Luvart said, draping a wet cloth on my forehead. "Lord Beelzebub, may I suggest you stand at the other side of your human? She'll need something to squeeze." I screamed and the little demon shrank back. "Or perhaps something to bite?"
Sebastien did what he was told and I blindly groped until his strong hand was in mine. He'd retracted his talons to keep from stabbing me when I wrung his fingers and presently, a dark object obscured my vision to help me relax. The scalpel cut through my skin and I shrieked, thrashing so severely that bonds wrapped around my ankles to hold me in place. I couldn't breathe.
"Shouldn't this whole process be slower?!" I ground out.
"Demons are very impatient," Sebastien joked and I angrily bit down on his hand.
It didn't take long for me to convince myself labor was never going to end. Luvart and Olivier were only being careful but I kept screaming and screaming for them to hurry the hell up. Sebastien was distraught by my agony but the baby vying to be free didn't seem to give a shit and when my flesh was broken enough he began forcibly removing himself from my uterus. I could feel his fingers grasping me and my eyes rolled back in my head.
I heard a plaintive wail and the pain was gone very suddenly, leaving my body shivering and weak. While Olivier and Luvart worked together to repair the damage the black bar across my eyes melted away so I could hazily look around, clawing for Sebastien's touch. Where did he go?
"Done!" Olivier crowed. "All things considered, we did quite well! Cecile has a very high tolerance for pain now, Lord Beelzebub. Let us wash him before she sees. Luvart, could you hook her up to an IV and fetch a blood pack? She's lost quite a bit."
"Will do!" Luvart said.
"He… looks too much like me," Sebastien said quietly.
"Give him to me." Olivier was very firm all of a sudden. "He needs to be washed."
I heard water sloshing and the crying settled down a little. The chair beside me that Sebastien had sat in scooted across the floor and I turned my head to see him there, holding a comical pink blanket tightly in his arms. He was staring down at the baby; our baby, and hesitantly placed him in my arms.
Two wide, curious brown eyes met mine immediately. I knew I looked horrible and I had a sneaking suspicion that the baby was already sentient and judging me. His hands were curled into tiny fists and he cocked his head the way Sebastien always did, pupils narrowing to slits. A patch of black hair was on top of his head and two pointed ears emerged from it.
Fangs descended from his mouth and I jumped in surprise. Definitely a demon, but beautiful nonetheless. I would love him with the same veracity I loved his father.
"What will you name him?" Luvart asked, borrowing one of my arms to hook up the IV and blood bag. "He's very unique. Nothing plain will do."
I puckered my lips and to my delight, my son did the same thing. Sebastien stood and leaned over me to offer his index finger to the baby and he sank his tiny fangs into his flesh but withdrew quickly, scowling at the foul taste. He'd prefer my blood. I doubt I'd be feeding him milk.
"Atticus," I said. I looked up at Sebastien sheepishly. "The lawyer from the book To Kill A Mockingbird. Doesn't it feel fitting?"
"It's far better than Noah."
Atticus gurgled. I pressed my lips to his forehead and felt the comfort of human warmth rather than the stiff coldness of a demon. His heart thrummed in tune with mine.
Against all odds, I had found my eternal bliss.