“Your hair,” I said in shock. “You straightened it?”
“It’s always been like this,” Declan said, pulling the covers down from his barley clothed body. It was our first night together again, and I didn’t want to do anything to ruin the moment. I was willing to accept the change in time if it meant that things could go back to what was a normal pace for me. I still had a lot to worry about, but tonight, I’d be relaxing and taking a deep breath. “I just styled it the last time. To impress you, I guess.”
“Impress me?” I stifled a laugh. “I was never one to care too much about the way a person looked. You cared enough about me to give up so much. That trumps everything.”
“It’s nice to hear that you look good from someone you really care about,” Declan said. “But, you left before we could really do much together.”
“Except, I kind of knocked you up, which is still a strange concept to me,” I said.
Declan pushed me backwards onto the bed. “I’d do it over again, and again and again. Even though we weren’t each other’s firsts, it was still special to me.”
I blushed, but nodded. “Me too. But, it’s not happening again tonight, not with all these kids around here and Alistair..”
“Yes sir,” Declan sighed as he rolled off of me. “Don’t want the kid to feel uncomfortable. Does he know about the birds and the bees yet? Or do we have to explain.”
“I’m sure he does,” I said. “Listen.” I grabbed his hand. “Be patient with him. This is all new to him. He’s my nephew.”
Declan nodded. “I’m sorry, I’ve just been stressed lately with the girls and, well, Altiere.”
“I want to know again why I should trust my girls with him,” I said.
“We can argue all night about this, or you can just go and pick them up after their lessons tomorrow. They’ll be studying with him, and you can do your father thing.”
“If I say I want them withdrawn, will you fight me on it?” I asked seriously. “Will you try to take my right away as their father?”
“Absolutely not,” Declan said. “You’re their birth father. I was just taking care of them. Your rule is golden. But, I do hope you take into consideration what I have to say because I have raised them for a considerable amount of time.”
I pulled my arms over my chest. “What time are these lessons?”
“7 to 3, like a normal school day. Except they learn about their powers without Damian’s scrutiny.”
I nodded. “I’ll be there, and I’m going alone. I don’t want you there with me. Understand?”
Declan sighed. “Yeah, but don’t do anything stupid.”
It was late into the night and I couldn’t sleep at all. “Declan,” I whispered, poking his arm. “Wake up.”
“Hrmm?” He grumbled. “What is it?”
“I’m heading downstairs, don’t get too worried,” I answered.
He rubbed his eyes. “It’s like 4 in the morning, what are you even doing up?”
“Can’t sleep,” I murmured. “I want to check on Alistair.”
“He means a lot to you, doesn’t he?” Declan sat up.
“Of course he does,” I said. “He’s just like me, in so many more ways than one. I want things to go the way he wants them to. I don’t want to be a shitty uncle. He’s in a strange place, I’m going to stay with him.”
Declan nodded. “Go ahead. But call me if something happens.” He yawned and rolled back over in our bed.
I frowned at the sight of Alistair sprawled across the living room couch. He was so small a few hours ago and now he was a teenager. He acted like it didn’t phase him, but was that the case? Was he really this calm about everything happening? “Big Al?” He muttered, squinting his eyes.
“Go to sleep,” I whispered. “I’m sorry, I’m just passing through. I couldn’t sleep.”
He shook his head and sat up. “No, stay. I’m a little lonely. It’s embarassing to admit but, I’m not super comfortable here. I feel so much pressure, both supernatural and other.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, sitting next to him.
“Well, the supernatural is obvious the vampires and mages in this house, which I didn’t think were real to begin with. But, there’s something else off. Besides the fact that I feel utterly alone.”
“There’s always something else,” I muttered under my breath. “I can’t ever be left alone, can I?” I rubbed Alistair’s back soothingly. “I think I know the other. Why don’t you come with me later to pick up the girls from school. There’s something I need to show you.” I then stood up. “But for now get some sleep.”
The next morning was filled with fatherly duties that I was more than thrilled to be a part of. I was awoken by the shrill cries of Astra. “Hello darling, Daddy is here.” She reached up for me and I picked her up. My heart swelled. She was so precious, and she was a product of mine and Declan’s love. I loved Charlotte and Adeline to death, but there was something about having a kid with someone you really loved. “Sienna lied to me, you have my daddy’s black hair. It’s still pretty but it’s not my gorgeous brown.” She blinked her eyes and stared up at me. She couldn’t talk yet.
“Maybe you should spend the morning teaching the girls some skills,” Declan said, coming into the room. “I’ve been teaching Millie to talk and she’s got the gist of it. I want to teach Astra too. You could teach Millie how to walk.”
“Me?” I asked.
“Yes, you.” Declan nodded. “You’re their dad, not a stranger. Remember?”
I nodded back. “Yes, I know. It just feels weird. I missed so much.”
“You can’t dwell on it,” Declan said. “You can only move forward and enjoy what you have in front of you.”
I nodded. “You’re right. I have to make up for lost time with the girls.”
“Good morning,” Sienna said happily.
“You’re in a great mood,” I said.
“Mhmm! I got a date with Miles tonight!” She gushed. “I didn’t think I’d be into him, but I am.” I thought back to what Pandora and Mason said. Patrick was alive. Was that through? Was Patrick alive? If so, how would Sienna react to that? Miles was a great guy, but I knew how much Patrick and Sienna cared about each other. “You look like you’re upset, you okay?”
“Uh yeah!” I said quickly. “I’m just nervous about picking up the girls later. It’s not so much meeting with Altiere. It’s the reaction I’ll get from the girls.”
“Are you hesitant because they’re reacting so well to you?” Sienna asked.
I nodded. “A little too well. My father told me stories about his dad. My grandfather went to prison trying to protect my family. When he came back, my dad was ecstatic to see him, because he grew up with him. My uncle Ambrose didn’t take it so well. He hated my grandfather well up until his adult years. The girls should be harboring some sort of resentment towards me.”
Sienna shook her head. “I’m not saying that they aren’t wary of you, or questioning your intentions but Declan worked really hard to get them to accept the idea of you, and that you were coming back. it was his top priority.”
I smiled. “Seriously?”
“Yes,” Sienna said. “He wasn’t trying to step on your toes or anything. He was trying to keep you relevant.”
Sienna’s words echoed through my mind as I played with Millie. She and Astra would not have any doubt in their mind. I was their father and they’d know. But, I still had a nagging feeling in the back of my head. It was about Charlotte and Adeline. I wasn’t a vampire. I didn’t look like them. They were spitting images of Aria. Did they know about her? What would they say? Would they think that I didn’t love or care about them? I didn’t want them to have the relationship with their mother that the triplets had with Lynette, but it was impossible to avoid. They’d ask questions and Aria wasn’t someone I wanted near my family. “Dada?” I looked down at the pink haired toddler in front of me.
“Me?” I asked in shock. I turned around. Declan was standing behind me of course. “Oh.”
“That isn’t for me.” Declan smirked. “She calls me daddy. Never dada.”
“You’ve been teaching her, haven’t you?” I asked.
Declan nodded. “Of course. I wanted everything to be perfect when you came back.”
I smiled brightly. “Thank you.”
Declan nodded and sat beside me on the floor. “You have to be patient with Astra. Millie is a quick learner, but Astra takes her time with things.”
“Is she sick?” I asked.
“No.” Declan shook his head. “No need to worry. I’m just afraid she may have slow motor skills. It’s hard for her to talk. I’m teaching her little by little but there is no doubt that she’s going to be behind her classmates and other kids her age.”
“That isn’t a problem,” I said. “We just teach Millie to look out for her. You understand the importance of siblings.”
Declan grinned. “Of course.”
It was finally time to pick up the girls and Alistair was more than happy to be out of the stuffy house. I was going to talk to Declan later to see if we could redecorate one of the rooms for Alistair. If I was being completely honest with myself, I didn’t know when Alistair would be able to see his mom again. But, Ethan was there and I trusted him more than anyone. “THis is it? It’s just a house.” Alistair scrunched up his nose.
“Mhmm.” I nodded. “That is strange. Declan better have given me the right address.”
“What if we get jumped? THis could be a set up!” Alistair exclaimed, running down from the steps.
I grabbed his arm. “Declan would never do that.”
“I sense that he wants to get rid of me,” Alistair said.
“Declan has been through a lot. It’s hard for him to accept new people. When we first met, he was a total shit to me. We didn;t get along at all. All we did was fight.”
“Then how are you guys together now?”
I looked at him and remembered something. All he knew was his mother, father and sister. “We just kind of grew on each other. I dunno, we realized that we had more in common than we initially did and that tunred to love.”
Alistair looked thoughtful for a moment but then shook it off. he banged on the door. “Let’s get this over with.”
We were led inside by a very enthusiastic Pepper. It took everything I had in me not to explode. Once we were seated, Pepper began to speak. “Decan did say you were coming. I didn’t think you’d bring over another Imaginary friend. Is he yours?”
“Technically you’re mine.” I lowered my eyes at her. “Alistair is a person. Not an imaginary froend. Don’t refer to him as that. He isn’t some doll to play with.”
“Of course he is,” Pepper said. “That’s what we’re meant for. To do as we’re told from those we’re connected to. i was conected to you who was connected to Altiere so in turn, I was connected to him as well. I cannot abanon him. It is my duty. ”
“Alistair is a human,” I repeated. “I don’t tell him what to do. He lives the life he chooses.”
“There is no choice, and there won’t ever be one for people like us Alistair-”
“I’m here to pick up the girls, where are they?” I cut her off angrily. “I’m so over imaginary friend drama. You made your choice pretty clear. I don’t want anything to do with you.”
“Are you going to take your girls out of our program? You can’t, they need Altiere’s guidance.”
“I’ll find another vampire,” I said. “They don’t need him. What is it that you’re trying to indoctrinate them with anyway?”
“We’re teaching them about this world. There isn’t any other suitable place for them to live,” Pepper said.
“We’re? What do you know about any of this?” I demanded.
“I just do as Altiere instructs, it’s my job as his connection.”
I stood up angrily. “Just tell me where the hell my daughters are. I have no time for your games.”
“Dad is here,” Adeline said calmly.
“Geez, finally!” Charlotte groaned. “I hate learning so much. I’m tired now and ready to go home da-” She paused when she saw me. My heart dropped. She didn’t look so happy to see me. “What are you doing here?”
“He’s here to get us out of this program,” Adeline said.
“How did you-” I began but Altiere cut me off. He entered the room looking as smug as ever.
“There are a lot about purebred vampires that you don’t know about. That’s why I’m teaching them,” He said. “But I do take it that you want to talk to me by myself, correct?” I opened my mouth to answer when he spoke again. “We can read minds, Alistair. Not all of us, just the purebred ones. Now, follow me into the classroom. I’ll show you what I’m working with.”
“Big Al, will you be okay?” Alistair asked. “The book said two bad vampires, we have no ending.”
“Just watch the girls alright? Yell if anything happens.”
“I’m going to get straight to the point. I’ve lived in your brain for many years, I know exactly how you think, Alistair. You’re here because for some reason you think that I’m this bad guy. I’m not, honestly. I did some tyrannical things to get what I wanted in the past, but you must understand that my goal is an important one. I need to overthrow Damian as the headmaster. He is destroying the reputation of all vampires. Real vampires.”
“He’s not a real vampire?” I asked. “What constitutes a real vampire?”
“Damian’s lineage is tracked down to a vampire and a human. He doesn’t know it, and I don’t tell people about it either. It’s a well kept secret that hasn’t reached his ears yet. Which explains quite a few abnormalities. For one, the rumor that purebred vampires can only breed with other vampires is completely true. Aria isn’t a purebred vampire which is why you were able to have kids with Declan and your friend Patrick is still very able to have children of his own.”
“He’s alive?” I asked. “For real?”
“Yes, he works for me, but he prefers to stay in the shadows. I’m not sure why. But, we’re not here to talk about him. Purebred vampires can read minds. We are immensely powerful and even more rare. Almsot every vampire in Moonlight Falls can be traced back to one or more humans in their lineage. There was a spell that allowed them to procreate, but purebred vampires like my family, have chosen to abstain from that inter race mingling. It’s disgusting if you ask me. Why would someone give up half their power to be with a human?” Altiere paused before continuing. “If you think Damian’s strength is incredible, imagine a purebred vampire’s. Damian is only at half strength. We can take him down with the next generation of purebred vampires.”
“Why can’t you fight him if you’re purebred?” I asked.
“It’s simple really. Damian expects it. And while I do weild more power than him, it is nothing compared to the amount of people he has in his arsenal. he expects me to come and he has already started placing security that could block my powers specifically. We need a new generation to knock him down a few pegs.”
“My daughters aren’t purebred vampires,” I said. “Aria is their mother, and according to you she isn’t a purebred, and then there’s me who isn’t a vampire at all.”
“See, that’s where you’re wrong. Aria is not a purebred vampire, and that is true, but think about it. If a mage and a human have a child, is their child going to be a mage or a human? It could go either way. Now, because you had my genes, the children that Aria had could have come out as a mage, a vampire or a purebred vampire. You added my blood to the mix. Adeline is a purebred vampire, Charlotte is not. Which is why Adeline is more intuitive than her sister. You’ll notice that Charlotte is more sociable and more open with her feelings. She doesn’t have what weighs down a purebred vampire. We hear things, and we have urges to feed. Regular vampires can get away with plasma juice, but purebred vampires have to feed off of animals or humans. We cannot survive off of plasma juice. She is still young yet, but once Adeline turns fourteen, she’s going to need to feed. Animals are the most beneficial for her. She can drink from a human without sucking away too much of their life force or changing them, but it takes a lot of contol and she needs training for that.”
“I don’t understand,” I said breathlessly. “What do you want from me?”
“Adeline needs the supervision of a purebred vampire. I have no intention of taking her from you. I still have strong feelings for Declan. I know that he is a remarkable man, and Adeline will be in good hands with you and him. But, there is alot that mages cannot teach young vampires. I need Charlotte here as well to be her sister’s support system. Even though she is only half, there are things she can do that you or Declan cannot. You are more than welcome to sit in through the lessons, and Patrick is always here as well. You have noting to fear.”
“When this is over, and she’s learned what she needs to know,” I began. “What then? She fights Damian?”
“You know just as much as I do that he needs to be taken out. She can do that, Alistair. Think about it.”
I bit my lip. “I can come every time and supervise these lessons?”
“Yes, in fact, I encourage it. It would be awkward for Declan to be here, which is why Patrick is here most of the time. But, if you sit in you can learn about how to take care of the girls and be prepared for what is to come. You also might want to do something about that keeper of time position being offered to you.”
“When is the next lesson?” I asked.
“They come here every weekday from 7 to 3 in place of regular school. I have a tutor come in and teach them the basics like math and science, and then they learn about their heritage and things like that afterward. When they’re a bit older we’ll do more hands on learning, for now they’re just learning from a book. They’re free on weekdays and holidays because I’m not soulless.”
“Fine,” I answered coldly. “We’ll be here, but it isn’t for anything other than to protect my daughters.”
“Smart move, Mr. Gray. I’ll see you very soon then.” Altiere waved. “Have Pepper show you out. I’ll make sure she isn’t present when you’re around. Man, you can cut that tension with a knife.”