Chapter One

First Edition: June 2003


This book is dedicated to those people who believe in things unseen and have walked by faith for so long that it's second nature. All of us know the elders who have that unshakable belief that there's a spiritual plane, and without those individuals holding the line, who knows what shape this world would be in? And yet while predators come in all forms, and have besieged our communities on many levels, there still seems to be a force that keeps a total eclipse of the light at bay. These elders teach, impart quiet wisdom, and ready another generation to take the baton as they pass it.

On the surface it may appear that the battle is a hopeless cause, and that there are no young, strong replacements... one could easily buy into "the illusion" that all is lost. Not so, because there are so many young warriors out there whose names we have yet to learn, and so many old guardians still keeping the lantern lit. Some say it's myth, others call it legend - but I have seen these people moving in mysterious ways. Therefore, do not believe in the smallness of things, believe in the light within.

In his inauguration speech, Nelson Mandela said it best: "Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our dark-

ness, that most frightens us. ... As we are liberated from our own fear our presence automatically liberates others." Keep your lights on!

To my spiritual team of women warriors of light, I thank you: Mom, Aunt Julia, Aunt Hettie, Aunt Ruby, Aunt Ruth, Grandmom Pete, Grandmom Thornton - y'all were awesome while on the planet! Count them ... there were seven, who have now crossed over into the light... and who keep me there in my darkest moments. Thank you, Father God.

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Special acknowledgments go to: My editor, Monique Patterson - whose creative vision and chutzpah allowed this project to be realized; my agent, Manie Barren of William Morris Agency, Inc. - the crazy man who dreamt up and pitched the concept! To the Evening Star writers of Philadelphia: Hilary, Kamal, Karen, Jenice, and Sheila ... thanks, guys, for guiding me and reading scary stories that nobody wanted to read. To my sister, Liza Peterson, a spoken-word, hip-hop artist/actress extraordinaire! Thanks, sis, for keeping it real. Last, but not least, thanks to my husband and children for putting up with my dark side, my late nights, and total immersion in the realms of otherworld-liness while I went into the mind-set and half-turned personae of vampiri in order to create a story about keeping the light. 

Twenty Years Ago

New Orleans

sarah richardsstood in the middle of her bedroom try-ing to console her infant who was wailing at the top of her tiny lungs. Yes, she knew what pain was, and wanted to cry out as much as her baby was carrying on right now. Instead, silent tears slid down the sides of her face as she turned her chin up to the ceiling and shut her eyes. How, Lord, was a preacher's wife supposed to deal with the fact that her husband was having an affair?

For months she'd denied the obvious. But now her husband's lies regarding his whereabouts had been found out. He'd even violated the sanctity of their home by bringing this woman to their bed - their marital bed. Evidence, in the form of the marriage-violator's perfume and blood, still clung to the sheets. She'd only been gone an hour on a church errand her husband had contrived for her to do. One hour, and now this?

Sarah covered her mouth and turned away, hastening from the sight and stench of the filth, taking her baby girl to lay her in her crib. With her hands trembling, she left the screaming infant, whose wails intensified as she turned away from her. Shame burned through her. How could she call the church elders, or talk to Mother Stone about something like this? How did a preacher's wife, the first lady of the church, force her lips to say that her husband, the Reverend Richards, had lost his natural black mind?

Amid the now hiccupping bleats from the nursery, Sarah became very still as she heard movement in the small clapboard house below her. There were two voices. One soft, seductive; the other was that of her husband. He'd brought this whore back