“Dad?” I asked, as I entered my home. “What’s going on? Where is everyone? Are the triplets okay? Pandora, she-”
“I already spoke to her,” Ethan replied. “Everything is alright. Pandora warned me about the time change and-”
“Time change?” It was my turn to interrupt.
“Yes.” He nodded. “This isn’t a time distortion. It’s just that time runs differently here than in imaginationland. You can rest assured, Mason only thinks he’s in control.”
I let out a sigh of relief. “That’s great news!”
Ethan grinned. “Yep, and it gets better. Everyone is back home with your father. He is no longer going to be all alone. For the time being, at least. Scarlett does want to know if her son is alright though.”
“I’m fine,” Alistair answered. “I guess she wants me to go there?”
“You’re her son, what do you think?” He asked.
“I want to stay here,” Alistair said. “We have some things we need to find out.”
“The book?” I frowned. “Just drop it.”
“It’s important, don’t you think so?” He asked.
“Al,” I said. “She’s your mom. She’s worried.”
“I don’t want to hear it now, Al!” He called as he walked away.
I followed my dad into the next room. “He is difficult.”
“You were too growing up,” Ethan said. “You didn’t think I wanted to yell at you and shout at you when you weren’t listening?”
“I’m trying to protect him. This path, wherever it leads, isn’t going to be this fun adventure that he thinks it will be.”
“He knows,” Ethan said. “He knows hardship just like the rest of us. He was hunted, like you are. Alistair, he wants to help and the only person he can relate to is you.”
“I didn’t realize.” I shut my eyes and leaned against the couch. “It’s just tough, you know? How am I supposed to do everything? I just found out that Altiere wants Adeline to be the heir to the vampires and Astra has a learning disability. How can I be a good father to my girls when Mason and Damian are looming above me? And then this whole keeper of magic thing.”
“Pandora and I are working on Mason. We’re trying to weaken his control over time. We’re also keeping an eye on the guardians. They’ll no doubt be making a move very soon. I’d say when the girls are teens, they’ll send their next agent, or whatever they call them. As for Damian, I think Altiere is on to something. Is it such a bad thing if Adeline does head the vampires? I assume she’s purebred and with the right training, she could become incredibly powerful. Let Altiere teach her what he knows and she can usurp him when the time arrives.”
“I didn’t think of that,” I muttered.
“You’re a beginning dad, give it time,” Ethan said. “Astra is going to need a ton of patience, but she is a precious little thing and will be so rewarding. Alistair looks at you kind of like a guardian, or an older brother, so you have to set a good example for him as well. The keeper of magic-”
I sighed. “I was hoping you’d forget that.”
“Thats the most important thing. With it comes great responsibility and also perks.”
“I want to hear the perks first.”
“Immortality, at least until you’re ready to pass it down to the next generation. You could be alive for hundreds of years,” Ethan said.
“Dad, thats not a perk. I have a family, I don’t want to watch my children die of old age and me still be young.”
“There isn’t anyone else who can do this job,” Ethan said. “Lucas wanted YOU to do it.”
“He wanted Declan,” I mumbled. “But that plan fell through.”
“Declan was his backup, not you,” Ethan said. “Do you think he’d appreciate giving it to someone out of the Nair bloodline? We have been doing this for years.”
“It should be you,” I said.
“No. I made a promise to someone and I can’t go back on my word. Not this time. I’ll be here to train you, and Declan knows a lot as well, despite not being able to cast spells. Everything will be okay. You just have to relax.” Ethan ruffled my hair. “Now come on, your boyfriend has been slaving over the stove all evening making you dinner.”
“How do you know that he’s our grandpa?” Charlotte asked.
Adeline shrugged. “I can feel it.”
“Grandpa will be staying here for a while,” Declan confirmed. “Be nice to him.”
“Hey now, I’m not that old. Not yet. It’s Ethan to you.” He playfully punched Declan.
I took my seat next to Alistair who seemed to be struggling with something. “Need help?”
“What could the ending be?” Alistair asked, scribbling things down. “I know you don’t want to help but I have to do this.”
“About that, I’m sorry. I know this is important, so I promise to be more supportive, alright?” I asked.
“Seriously? That’s awesome!”
“What’s for dinner daddy?” Charlotte asked. “No! Don’t sit there, I want to sit next to dad. Daddy, move.” She pushed Declan away from the vacant seat next to me and sat down.
Declan laughed. “Jeez, fine. He’s all yours.”
“Will you be coming every day to pick us up from lessons?” Adeline asked.
“Actually,” I began. “I’ll be sitting in on your lessons. At least for a while.”
“Seriously?” Charlotte asked excitedly. “Cool. I wanna see if you’re as smart as daddy says.”
“He’s totally the smartest,” Declan said. “Seriously, ask him anything. He’ll know the answer.”
“I didn’t agree to this,” Patrick said. “You tricked me.”
“Well, if I told you that I was the one who wanted to speak to you, would you have come?” She asked.
“Hell no,” Patrick spat. “I’ve had enough of your crap.”
“Now now,” She said. “I didn’t take Sienna from you. That was my father who drove her right into her best friend’s arms.”
“You bitch,” He growled. “Sienna is happy with Miles and that’s all that matters! He can give her what I can’t.”
“Who cares?” She rolled her eyes. “Enough of this talk. You’re a terrible lover anyway. That’s besides the point.”
“Did you call me here to fucking insult me?” He was quickly losing his patience.
Her smirk grew wider. “Alright, touchy subject huh? Fine then. I’ll tell you why I’m really here. I want to see my kids.”
“What do you mean, why? They’re my children!” She cried. “You can’t keep me from them.”
“Altiere specifically hired me to keep them safe,” Patrick said. “Your care is not safe.”
“Altiere is a dirty liar! He used me,” She spat. “Once my father gets his hands on him, oh that pathetic excuse for a vampire will die.”
“Not so nice when someone pretends they love you huh?” Patrick crossed his arms over his chest.
“Oh shut up. I haven’t reached rock bottom like you. Hiding form your preciousl little pink girlfriend. Man up! Show me where my kids are.”
“No, because I know what your intentions with them are,” Patrick said. “And I can’t allow you to interfere.”
“Fine, suit yourself,” Aria said. “Seems like I can’t get close enough to the girls with you hanging around. But, I will be back. When they’re old enough not to be brianwashed by you guys, I’ll come for them.”
“Good luck with that,” Patrick said. “I won’t allow you to get that close.”
“You won’t allow me?” She smirked. “Are you forgetting who told her father to keep you alive?”
Patrick stiffened. “That was your choice.”
“What it was, was idiotic. But, I’ll have my way sooner or later. You, Alistair, Declan, Sienna, Altiere, you all better watch out.”
“I’m glad you came Alistair, take a seat. Girls, get out your books,” Altiere said.
“I’m fine here, thanks.” I crossed my arms over my chest as I watched the vampire.
“Okay, whatever you’d like. Girls, don’t let him be a distraction, He’s here to learn just as you are.” Altiere droned on and on about vampires and their history and I was honestly bored out of my mind. I wondered if he was doing that just to scare me away, or if it really was this boring of a topic. I never really liked school to begin with. “Alistair, do you know the answer?”
“I thought I was an observer.” I tried to stifle my yawn.
“You’re a student. You need to know this just as much as they do if you’re to understand vampiric culture. It’s importqnt.” He placed his marker down. “Charlotte, can you enlighten your father?”
“Sir Luxand the fourth liberated the vampires from the mages in the early 400s,” She answered.
“Correct. Take a page out of your daughter’s book, Alistair. I don’t expect you to reach the same brain capacity as her, She’s a vampire afterall, but at least try.”
I rolled my eyes. “Alright.”
“How was school?” Alistair snickered.
“Don’t make fun. Your grandfather has been in contact with your mom, did you now that?” I asked.
“He has? How?” Alististair frowned.
“Time Machine. It literally takes two seconds to transport to different worlds with no time distortions or anything. Point is, she said you can stay with me as long as you visit her every once and a while, at least two times a month and that you go to school here.”
“I can’t go to school!” He cried. “I’ve never been to it before. What if I look like an idiot?”
“Don’t worry about it. You’re a smart kid, you’ll do fine. And, you’ll make some friends your age.” I poked his shoulder. “Cheer up, I have even better news.”
He groaned. “What?”
“We’re going to find those pages. Operation, the vault. If you need information, thats where you’ll get it.”
“What vault?” Alistair asked, his interest piqued.
“The Vault of Antiquity. It has two parts. One open to the public and another only open to the keepers in the town.”
“The keepers?” He asked.
“A leader,” I answered. “There are leaders for each occult group. Werewolves, Vampires, Fairies and Mages. I’ve never met the leader of the fairies or werewolves but the vampires have Damian and he is terrible. He’s the headmaster.”
“Sienna was telling me that.” Alistair nodded. “He sound terrible.”
“He is.” I nodded. “But, worry not. I’m going to be the leader of the mages pretty soon and that grants me access to the vault. Lucas left paper work in there. I had never actually checked them out, but maybe they’re important.”
“Could they be our pages?” He asked excitedly.
“I don’t know, but we’ll definitely check. I don’t want Declan to know about this so we’ll have to be discrete.”
“Discrete is my middle name.” Sienna sat down. “Let me help you.”
“No,” Alistair said. “How can you help us?”
“I give you all this information and you can’t trust me?” She laughed.
“Your brother is the enemy,” Alistiar said.
“And he’s my boyfriend.” I rolled my eyes. “He’s not the enemy. Be nice.”
“I’m just saying, they’re blood.”
“He isn’t going to kick you out,” Sienna said. “So relax. Now, let’s talk. You need a distraction? This weekend is the halloween festival. Ally, take the girls and Alistair with Declan. Alistair, you sneak out and go into the vault. The key that you need is enchanted. Ally can give it to you.”
“Ally?” Alistair snickered.
“Shut up.” I punched his arm. “It sounds like a good plan. You can turn into an imaginary friend right? So no one will see you, if Damian catches you, I don’t know what will happen.”
“Be careful, it doesn’t seem like anything Damian will be interested in, but if he senses something, he’ll pounce,” Sienna said. “I’ll watch the toddlers.”
“Thanks.” I nodded. “I owe ya one.”
“How was lessons with Alistair?” Declan asked.
“He was bored. I could tell,” Charlotte said.
“He never did like magic lessons either, now that I think about it.”
“Well, I’m happy he’s there. This is going to sound dumb daddy, but I’m really excited to hang out with him.”
“That doesn’t sound dumb at all. He’s your father. You should be excited to hang out with him. He is really cool.” Declan ruffled her hair. “I like him.”
“I like him too.” She nodded. “It is a little strange, because he’s my dad but I’ve just met him. I’m glad that I listened to Adeline and trusted him.” She yawned. “He’s really fun.”
“Well,” Declan began. “He wants to take us to the Halloween festival this weekend. Are you up for it?”
“Can I dress up?” She asked excitedly.
“Of course you can!” He chuckled. “What fun would it be if you didn’t?”
“Thanks daddy,” She shut her eyes. “I love you, goodnight.”
“I know you’re exhausted, but nows a better time than any to train,” Ethan said.
I groaned but stood up. “Being me is tiring.”
“Being a Gray is tiring,” Ethan corrected. “Your dad was this stressed as well.”
“And grandpa, and I’m sure my great grandmother was as well,” I said.
He nodded. “Yeah, but you guys are tough. I may be able to control magic, but there isn’t anyone I know that is stronger than your father. It seemed like he was dependent on me, but in all honesty, it was the other way around. Your dad is so powerful. Being able to withstand the separation-” He stopped. “Sorry, let’s get back to work.”
“How is he?” I asked.
“Old,” Ethan muttered. “It kills me. When we first met, I was older than him.” Ethan rubbed his eyes. “I love him so much, so I’ve kept him at a distance. I can’t go to him just yet. Not until I fufill my promise and things are safe. Please do me a favor.”
“If I never see him again, please make sure he knows that I love him. With all of my heart.”
“Dad,” I said. “Don’t-”
“Let’s just get back to our lesson. I don’t want to speak about it just yet.”
Later that night, I headed to the living room. “Hey Millie, my girl.”
“Dada,” She cooed. “Dada!”
“How are you princess?” I snuggled her close to my chest. All of this was worth it if I got to be with my children at the end of the day.
“Alistair,” I turned to the source of the voice. Ethan. “I’m sorry about putting all of that on to you earlier.”
I sat down next to him, Millie in my arms. “You owe me an explanation. What promise did you make?”
“Rickie wants me back,” he answered. “To keep you guys safe, I’ll do anything.”
“He won’t hurt me. The minute I die, he dies. We worked so hard to rescue your siblings. Let them live their lives now. I’ll be fine. I shouldn’t even be alive right now,” Ethan said.
“But what about dad-”
“He has the triplets.”
“What about me?” I murmured.
“You’ll do great. You knew almost everything we went over today. Lucas taught you well.”
“I can’t let you leave,” I replied.
“Trust me, son. Everything will be okay. You’re a dad now. You know how important it is to keep your kids safe.” He stood up. “Get some rest. You have lessons again tomorrow, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. Night dad. I love you.”
“I love you too son.”