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Aris Returns: A Vampire Love Story CHAPTER 1 Sarah yawned, stretching her neck and shoulders. Her muscles felt tight, tense from sitting too long at her computer. It was almost midnight, the witching hour. Her business day was filled with back-to-back sixty minute sessions, but the hard work didn’t begin until her last client left her office. The analysis of each session consumed the rest of Sarah’s time; the task of transposing her notes and deciphering the code each subconscious mind spoke. She was exhausted at the end of each day but never bored. Every client brought something unique and absorbing to their sessions. They allowed her into the deepest, darkest part of their minds. Her gaze drifted to the pile of newly printed books stacked neatly on the corner of her desk. The graphics on the cover were stark and clean. “Psychosis and Past Life Regression” by Sarah Hagan. She was proud of her work. Relentless hours of research led her to develop her theory of practice, taking copious notes and reading volume after volume on psychology, psychiatry, hypnotherapy and past life regression. Some regression texts were useless, written by charlatans or people who were looking for escapes and reasons for their unfulfilled lives. But some . . . some were written by scientists and from them and her own client experience, she formulated her particular hypothesis. And there it sat in book form right in front of her eyes. As she finished stretching, she reached to shut down her computer. She closed the lid to her lap top, unplugged it and slipped it into her brief case. Smiling, she gave in to her own minor obsessive compulsive tendencies, clearing her desk of paper and pens, squaring the book stack perfectly on the corner before she reached to turn off the small bright reading lamp. Sarah scooted her chair away from her desk, swiveling around to look out the window at the night skyline. She was amazed and grateful for her new found success as author. Just last year her office was one small cramped room, part of a therapy group that occupied a small storefront in a respectable part of town. Now her eyes swept the bright lights of the Chicago night skyline from her office on the fortieth floor of a building with a posh address. The soft burgundy leather furniture and dark, rich mahogany desk and tables were so new they still smelled of the showroom. Rising from her chair, she crossed to the window. Snowflakes danced in a light wind coming off the lake. The air would be cold as she walked the two blocks to the subway. She was glad she wore boots even though the weather report said no snow for two days. Growing up in Chicago, she learned not to pay too much attention to the weather people. She left the shades open. She placed her brief case and shoulder bag on her desk as she slipped her arms into her black faux fur coat. She buttoned it, tying her cream colored muffler around her neck. She twisted her shoulder length blond curls into a bun, tucking her head inside a cozy black knitted cap. It fit snuggly over her ears. Gathering her belongings, she stepped into the hallway. Once she locked the door, she tucked her small hands into her lined black leather gloves. She reached the elevator and just as she pressed the down button, her cell phone rang. It jolted her. Her heart began to race. Who would call at this late hour? Reaching into the pocket of her purse lining to retrieve it, she was surprised not to find it in its designated place. Her hand dived into the bottom of her bag and just as she touched it, the elevator chimed, the door opened and the ringing stopped. The elevator was empty. As she stepped in, she recognized some classical version of an old Beatles song playing through the intercom. She opened the phone to read the display. “Colleen Stevens. What in the world is she doing calling me at this time of night?” She tried to get into her voice mail but the elevator and lobby of the building were two places where she received only sporadic cell service. She was concerned, waiting impatiently, watching each floor number register in a bright digital green. When the elevator reached the lobby, the doors silently opened. She hurried across the large room toward the main revolving door to the street. Snow fell in huge, wet flakes and the wind whistled through the glass panes of the door. A shiver ran through her body at the thought of the walk to the subway. “Good night Miss Hagan.” The security guard gave her a smile that was overtaken by a huge yawn. “Night Tony. Looks cold out there.” “It sure does. Glad I’m on inside duty tonight.”

Stepping close to the entry way, Sarah did her best to access her voice mail while still holding her bag and brief case. With a soft sigh she gave up, placing them on one of the bright patterned chairs arranged in an informal conversation group for visitors. She stripped her gloves from her hands as she sat down. “Sarah, this is Colleen. I’m at the police station trying to save the butt of one of my parolees. I need your help so please call me as soon as you get this.” Sarah groaned. She wanted to go straight home, but she couldn’t ignore the call. Colleen was not only one of her first clients but also one of her closest friends. As she unwrapped her muffler and unbuttoned her coat, she hit the recall button. After five long, loud rings, Colleen’s phone cut to voice mail. “Leave a message and I’ll call you back.” Short and sweet. Exactly like Colleen. “It’s Sarah. I’m just off work and going to the subway. If it isn’t an emergency, call me in the morning. If it is, call me now.” She tapped the end button; made sure the phone found its proper resting place in her purse then wrapped up preparing for the cold wind that always whistled down Adams Street. # The subway platform was empty except for a young couple locked in a sweet embrace. Sarah smiled as she stepped on the train. It had been a long time since she shared such a tender, loving moment. After her divorce she threw herself into her work. Thinking about other people saved her from falling into the dismal but relatively common roll of “woman close to forty loses husband to woman hardly twenty.” Her study and work not only saved her, but opened a door to a new realm of a rare and non-perfect science. Past life regression possessed her. All her waking hours and dreams revolved around times long gone. The subconscious mind amazed her. It often spoke in pictures of the past. It was a thrill when her clients related those pictures to their present lives, when they found the answers they were seeking. The train rattled as it pulled above ground. Her stop was next. She gathered her bags, buttoning her top button, girding against the wind she knew would be whipping across the platform. The bright lights reflected on the huge snowflakes and the gusts stirred them until it appeared they were falling sideways. The cold air took her breath away. She hurried down the stairs and through the turnstile into the street. Feeling the chill on her face, Sarah quickened her pace driven by the unrelenting Chicago cold. Her toes began to feel frozen despite her boots. She was glad when she reached the entrance to her building. “Good evening Miss Hagan.” “Hi Ralph.” She shivered as she stepped from the winter air into the warmth of the lobby. “Working late tonight, aren’t you Miss?” “Not nearly as late as you are.” She smiled, patting his shoulder as she passed him. “Have a good sleep,” he called as she stepped into the elevator. She pressed the fourteenth floor, raising her hand in a wave as the doors slid closed. Once inside her apartment, she kicked off her boots, took off her gloves and unwrapped her muffler. Flipping on the light, she yawned. She hung her coat in the hall closet and as she crossed the living room to the kitchen, the thick pile of the beige carpet felt welcoming to her cold feet. Seeing her breakfast dishes still in the drying rack reminded her she hadn’t eaten lunch and as she opened the white cabinet above the sink to put them away, her stomach growled. She rubbed it in a little circle. “Okay, okay, let’s see what we have here.” Opening the refrigerator, she peeked in. “What a sad, sad situation.” The all but empty shelves held a couple of old carrots, some cottage cheese and a pint of yogurt. In the back of the top shelf she found some old take-out Chinese that was growing a science project. Her stomach rumbled again. “Hush! You’re just going to have to wait ‘till morning. I’ll take you out to breakfast.” A long plaintive protesting grumble was the only answer. # Sarah sat in the restaurant savoring the huge plate of scrambled eggs and potatoes in front of her. She took her first sip of the strong black coffee in her cup. The deli was her usual breakfast place.Many days breakfast was the only meal she had time to eat so she always ate heartily. The food at Saul’s was simple, delicious. There was plenty of it and it was close to her office. Today Ruth was her waitress. All of the women working at Saul’s had been there since the restaurant opened. Several of them had the pinkish hair that happens when red dye goes over snow white strands. Their uniforms were harvest gold with brown bib aprons and they all had their name tags pinned to the lacy handkerchiefs they wore on their lapels.

She lifted her fork to attack the eggs when her cell phone rang. She fully intended to ignore it until after breakfast but she made the mistake of looking at the caller ID. “Colleen. Damn!” She put her fork down then answered the phone. “What’s up?” “Are you at Saul’s deli?” “Yes, why?” “I’ll be there in ten minutes. I need your help.” “What’s up Colleen?” “I’ll tell you when I get there.” Suddenly, there was silence. Sarah replaced the phone on the table. She hurried to finish her breakfast before Colleen descended on her with more energy than she was ready to deal with on an empty stomach. # “It’s colder than a well digger’s butt in Alaska.” Colleen slid into the booth opposite Sarah, shaking the melted snow off of her spiky black hair. “In December.” Her dark rimmed glasses fogged when she came in from the cold. She removed them to clean them with a napkin lying on the table. “Maybe if you wore a hat . . . ” “In a snowstorm.” Sarah laughed, signaling Ruth to bring her friend a cup of coffee. “Okay Colleen, what’s up? What was the phone call at midnight last night?” “It’s a whole story. Are you in a hurry?” Still cold from her walk to the restaurant, Colleen rubbed her hands together then looked at her watch. She saw her own brown, bloodshot eyes reflected in the crystal. The sight reminded her why she was already on her tenth cup of coffee of the morning. And it was only eight o’clock. “I’ll never sleep again,” she said as she pulled the mug closer to her, wrapping her cold hands around the warm ceramic surface. “What are you talking about? You’re not making any sense.” “I know; I’ve been up all night. Okay.” Colleen unzipped her jacket. She slipped it behind her, tucking it around her shoulders as she realized the deli was not as warm as it normally was. “Are they conserving on energy here or what?” She waved at Ruth to warm her coffee and gave her a tight lipped smile as the waitress filled her cup to the very brim. She muttered under her breath. “Thank you, thank you. Now I’ll burn myself for sure. And I won’t ask you to fill my cup again.” She looked at Ruth to see if she had been listening. “Like that wasn’t the plan.” “C, quit complaining or complain loud enough for Ruth to hear, not just me. Okay?” “Sorry, just really tired.” Her grin was sheepish. She stirred her coffee for a very long time before she raised her eyes. She laughed out loud when she saw the scowl on Ruth’s face. “Will you please concentrate?” Sarah exhaled loudly in mock exasperation. Colleen was highly fragmented. Her personality resembled the spikes in her hair. Extremely intelligent, she was able to handle being all over the place just fine. It was those around her who might have a bit of trouble. “Oh. Okay. Well, I wanted to talk to you about this young guy who is one of my parolees.” She sipped her coffee, made a face then poured more cream into the cup. “This guy is a special case. He’s been in and out of trouble since he was in juvenile hall. Now he’s twenty five and on parole for grand theft auto.” She stirred the coffee, tapped her spoon against the side of the mug, then put it back on the table. “I caught him carrying a blade. If I report it, it’s a violation.” “So?” “Good coffee here.” Colleen tipped her head toward the mug as she placed it next to the spoon, pausing only a moment before continuing her original thought. “He’s been clean for a year, I know that. And he’s really smart. I mean smart, Sarah.” She played with her napkin for a moment in silence then raised her gaze to meet the eyes of her friend. “I don’t know what else to do for him.” Her voice had a pleading tone. “I just can’t reach him. It’s as if he doesn’t care what happens to him.” The look on her face was one of honest concern. Sarah knew what Colleen was intimating, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to work with an ex-con. She hesitated a moment, then spoke. “This is a little out of my line of expertise if you’re suggesting what I think you are, C.” Colleen scooted to the edge of the bench seat, “Look Sarah, I’ve read your book and I think it’s brilliant. I think that maybe if we hit this guy from a different angle, we may be able to figure out what’s going on with him. I can’t get anything out of him; he just keeps it all inside.” She drained her cup as she signaled for the waitress

corps to come do their duty. Ruth balked at having to return to the table once again, but thought better of it. “You get into people’s heads; you know what to say. Maybe he’ll talk to you.” She smiled. “So, how about a little pro bono work?” Sarah looked at the check the waitress placed under her mug, pulled her wallet out of her purse, then slipped her credit card under the bill. “I don’t know Colleen. I’ve never worked on a case like this one.” “Why don’t you just meet him? After that, decide what you think. It’s worth a try, isn’t it? Come on, Sarah.” “Well, I’m really not sure but I guess there’s no harm in a consultation. Have him call to make an appointment and we’ll see how it goes. I’m not promising anything.” Colleen smiled, “Thanks for the coffee.” Sarah nodded returning the grin, glad to make her friend happy so early in the morning. “And thanks for helping Carlos. His name is Carlos Havarro.” “Carlos Havarro, huh? Nice name. I’ll let you know what happens.” Sarah toyed with her cup a moment before she spoke again. “I had that dream again last night.” Colleen leaned forward. “You mean the one where you wake up with the guy standing in your bedroom?” “Yeah, except this time he was right next to the bed and he didn’t have a shirt on. It’s really disconcerting to wake up in a dream in your own bed and still be dreaming.” “I’ve done that a couple of times. I know what you mean.” “That’s all. He was just standing there. I just think it’s kind of strange, that’s all, C.” “Could you make out who it was this time?” “No, it’s too dark but I could see an athlete’s torso outlined against the light from the window. Whoever it is, he’s something to look at.” Colleen chuckled then spoke. “Sarah, have you and Steve done the deed yet?” Her friend’s cheeks turned pink as she replied. “No, not yet.” “For God’s sake, what are you saving it for? You’ve been dating a few months already. I mean I don’t particularly like the guy but obviously you do.” “That’s just it. I like him okay but in all the time we’ve been seeing each other, we’re hardly alone. We’re either on a business dinner or he’s exhausted from work.” She sipped her coffee. “I just don’t feel I really know him well enough to sleep with him.” “Hon, you’re thirty seven years old. You’ve been married and divorced. What in the hell is wrong with just getting laid?” “I know I’m a bit provincial.” Colleen laughed out loud. “A bit?” “Okay, a lot. I’m just not ready to be vulnerable like that again.” “Yeah, well Steve reminds me of that narcissistic ex-husband of yours. Knocking boots with Jeff wasn’t so great and I doubt it’d be any better with Steve.” She slipped her arms into her jacket sleeves. “Maybe you should just carry on with your dream man for a while until a hunk with some real blood in his veins comes along”

Aris Returns: A Vampire Love Story  

Psychologist Sarah Hagan thought she had her life under control. She pulled herself together after a painful (and unexpected) divorce. She’s...