“You alright?” Zander slipped into the chair next to the worried mage.
She was holding back tears, but she nodded. “Yeah, everything is going great.”
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Zander said.
“Why are you here?” Millie asked slowly. She stared quizzically at the boy. Lessons were over and he should have been at home with his clan.
“My friends’ grandfather is hurt, there’s no way I’m going to sit at home and listen to my father rattle things at me when I could be here doing whatever I can to help.”
“And Silas?” She pointed at the green male.
“I brought him along with me, because we’re friends. It’s what friends do. If you need anything from me, don’t hesitate to ask, alright?” Zander reached out and touched her hand. “Promise that you’ll come to me. I want to help you.”
She nodded. “Thank you. That means a lot to me.”
Millie excused herself when she saw her cousin approach her. She nearly jumped from her seat. “How’s Astra?”
“Nice to see you too, I’m doing great,” Alistair said sarcastically.
“I care about you too, but she’s my twin, we’ve got a special bond,” Millie said. She hugged her cousin. “It’s just strange seeing you here, unless something happened. Did something happen?”
“Long story short, I heard that grandpa might be in trouble, so I came to check it out. Astra’s fine but-”
She cut him off. “But what?”
“She’s got this crush on this older man. He’s like 28. Now, I don’t want her to get hurt and she’s already expressed that he says he’s too old for her. She won’t admit it, but she’s really upset about it, what do I tell her?”
“Let me write her a note. Can you take it back to her? It’ll be better if she can reread it to remind herself,” Millie said. “Astra is the kind of person that needs constant reassurance.”
“I noticed.” Alistair nodded. “But, I’m trying my best. I won’t let her get hurt.”
“28 is old…” She bit her lip. “Really old. Maybe I can convince dad to let me go and visit her one day. If theres a way around the guardians.”
“She’d love to see you.”
Charlotte stared straight ahead listlessly. She was exhausted and upset. She hadn’t meant to freak out on Jeff again, but she did. She had an explosive temper and didn’t know how to control her emotions. He sat down by her side, feeling equally as bad for dismissing her in his thoughts. She was a person in pain, he should have been more patient with her. He was angry himself, at Mason. At the predicament he was in. Anyone else would be happy that they had a second chance. Caleb was happy to have a second chance. Jeff was wasting his. “Charlotte.”
“Jeff,” She said slowly. Her voice was emotionless, as if she had given up entirely.
“What’s wrong?” He asked. “Besides the obvious. What happened with that journalist?”
“Information broker,” She corrected. “But, he’s going to give me the information free of charge.”
“Just like that?” Jeff frowned. “You know it’s not that easy, right?”
“Not just like that. We’re romantically involved,” Charlotte said. It sounded strange saying it out loud.
“Did he ask you to sleep with him for information?” Jeff demanded. “Did you sleep with him?”
“Maybe,” She said. “Why would you care?”
“Men like that are scum. If he forced you into anything, I’ll destroy him. And none of that human crap, I’m capable of doing it,” Jeff said fiercely. He couldn’t fight the anger welling up inside of him. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“We didn’t sleep together, but he asked me out. He wants to see me again,” Charlotte said. “You were flirting with that fairy, remember?”
“We were talking and you interfered,” Jeff said. “So, I think I have the right to do this. This goes against everything I was taught at the police academy. This guy, whoever he is, is taking advantage of you. You’re smarter than that Charlotte.”
“I am smart, and I know what I’m doing,” She said. But her gusto wasn’t there. Normally, she would have snapped at him by now. He frowned watching her.
“Why do you push me away?” He asked. “Why is it that everytime I try to have a heart to heart with you, and give you some sort of reassurance, you push me away?”
“It’s none of your business, that’s why,” She said coldly. “If you were smart, you’d stay away from me. I bring trouble.”
Charlotte slumped against the wall. She stared at him, trying to figure out what was going on in his mind. She was bad news. She knew it. She was a trainwreck. She just kept going and going and going until she crashed, and the crash was always inevitable. She gasped as she felt a warm touch on her face. Jeff wiped away the tear she didn’t know she was crying. “If I didn’t like trouble, I wouldn’t have become a cop.”
“Vampire trouble is different than regular trouble,” Charlotte said quietly. She stared at him, wide eyed, not knowing what to do next.
“Charlotte, what did I tell you earlier?” He asked. “About my parents.”
“They were shot,” Charlotte whispered. She was realizing for the first time what it meant to consider the feelings of others. “My mom is some evil vampire my dad won’t talk about. I know that she’s the daughter of the headmaster, and I have some of the other vampire leader’s genes inside of me because of some really weird time dna thing. So, I don’t have the best dna pool, and I…I’m rambling because I feel like I owe you something and what do I say to the guy whose parents were shot?”
Jeff placed his finger on her lips to silence her for a moment. “I didn’t tell you so that you could make me feel better. I told you because I trust you. I told you because I wanted you to know who I am.”
She was crying again, this time consciously and more forcefully and there Jeff was again, wiping away her tears. “You don’t have to tell me what makes you who you are. You don’t have to tell me anything.”
“I want to,” She muttered. “My mom is the daughter of the headmaster.” She tried again to vocalize her history. “She somehow sped up time…I don’t know how, but she did and somehow, manipulated my dad into sleeping with her. She was trying to get the vampire genes to revive Altiere and well, he came back to life anyway. But, he and Aria are a part of me. I’m bad because of them, I’m never be able to be as great as my father, because I don’t have the family that he has. I’m reminded of that everyday of my life.”
Jeff slid next to Charlotte. “Is that what you think? That because of some genetics you’re a bad person?”
“I’m a terrible person and you get the brunt of it every single day,” Charlotte said. “It’s just facts.”
Jeff smiled and bumped his shoulder into hers. “You could be a little nicer, but it’s not because of your genes. In fact, your dad is an incredible person from what I’ve seen, and our grandfather. I just feel like the Grays are great people.” He thought to Caleb who treated his sister and kids like they were the only people in the world. It made him smile. The Grays were special. He knew that, whole heartedly.
“They are,” She whispered, a small smile forming on her lips.
“So are you,” Jeff said. He looked over at Charlotte who had her eyes closed once again, but this time she looked peaceful. As if hearing that her mother did not define her was all she needed. “You’re perfect the way you are, so don’t try to do things to scare me away.” But he didn’t think she heard the last part.
A little while later, everyone sat gathered at the table. Millie’s hands were drumming nervously agains the table, Charlotte was staring at her cousin who was in turn making faces at her to cheer her up. Silas was laughing at the spectacle, and Jeff and Zander were coexisting peacefully for once. “Mills, it’ll be fine,” Zander said.
“Since when do you call her Mills?” Charlotte asked.
“Oh, well, we see each other all the time because of the group project, so we kind of just developed some nicknames,” Zander said.
“Not true,” Silas said. “I have seen them equally as much but neither has given me a nickname. Nor, have you been granted one and you’ve known him since childhood.”
“Wow, Zander, hitting on my little sister now?” Charlotte asked. “Real low, buddy.”
“He’s not hitting on me,” Millie clarified. “Don’t be so rude.”
“He is indeed fond of her,” Silas said.
“Dude,” Zander said. “Come on!”
“What? Charlotte is my friend, and I am just telling her facts.” He smirked mischeviously. “It is a matter of time until they start dating. Zander’s dad will be furious.”
Millie’s eyes widened. “Guys, stop!”
“At least the vampire is your age,” Alistair said.
“He’s my age,” Charlotte clarified.
“It’s still not ten years older like your other little sister,” Alistair said.
“What the hell?” Charlotte demanded. “Oh hey guys, anything else to just throw at me?”
“We’re not throwing anything at you,” Millie said carefully. “This is news to me as well.”
“No it isn’t,” Silas said. “They have been meeting secretely to “work” on the project. As if they think I’m dull. Mr. Gray did say that the group project brought people closer, but its not very fair to me. Millie has Zander and Charlotte has Jeff. I’m the lone wolf, where is my pretty girl?”
“Silas!” Charlotte hit his arm. “Jeff and I are not dating. I’m already seeing someone.”
“Yes, sure.” Silas nodded. “But if the two of you become a thing, I wish to be best man for calling it.” Jeff just stared dumbfounded at the boy, not knowing what to say.
“You are something else,” Zander said. “Is this because we wouldn’t use your idea for the project?”
“This is because you all needed a distraction from the topic at hand.”
“A good distrction, Silas. Not whatever this is. My sister is dating my best friend and my other sister is involved with a man ten years older than her. What the hell is next?”
“Your sisters did what?” Declan asked. All eyes were focused on him. “We’ll have to talk about Astra,” He said to Alistair. “But, Zander. Break my daughter’s heart and I will come after you.”
“And me, and my dad, oh and Ethan will murder you,” Charlotte said nonchalantly.
Zander bit his lip. “I’m not trying to hurt her, I love her.”
“Good, I’m glad. She needs someone in her life.” He winked at his daughter. “But I mean what I say. Now, the reason I’m really down here is because Adeline explained what was going on with Apollo and I thought you’d all like to know.”
The group errupted. “Yes, daddy, tell us!” Charlotte exclaimed eagerly. “Is he okay?”
“He will be fine for the time being. If he is near someone with enough power to sustain him through another attack.”
“What does that mean?” Millie asked.
“Your grandfather is suffering a time fluctuation because someone is here that shouldn’t be here.” When Declan said this, Jeff gulped and hoped no one had noticed. “This someone is directly related to him. Your father isn’t hurt because, one he has enough magic to fight it, and two, this person is more closely related to Apollo.”
“Who is it?” Charlotte asked.
“I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound good. We have to find the person who is inflitrating time, then we have to eliminate them,” Declan said. “Along with your group assignments, I want you to make it your priority in finding this person. It’s unclear what exactly they’re doing that causes these attacks in Apollo. So, we don’t know if it’ll happen again. Until then, Adeline is going to be moving in with him. So, Jeff, take care of her but don’t try anything.”
“He likes your other daughter,” Silas snickered.
“Oh my gosh Silas,” Millie said. “Stop it!”
Alistair chuckled. “Silas, we should be best friends.”
“Wait, stop,” Charlotte began. “So, what does that mean? Adeline is going to be living with grandpa? Why?”
“Since we don’t know when he’ll have another attack,” Declan said. “We need Adeline there to help him through it in case it it happens again. Which you should be happy about because that means her lessons with Altiere are going to stop. You guys focus on finding this person. Apollo will be fine.”
“Dad, if we don’t find the person,” Charlotte said. “What will happen?” Declan frowned and shook his head. She knew what that meant. They couldn’t fail.
Ethan hungrily devoured Apollo’s lips with his own. They remained like that until Apollo had to pull away for air. He stared at the amn in front of him whose tear stained face broke his heart. “Don’t ever do that to me again….” Ethan grunted. “Ever.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Apollo said breathlessly. “I didn’t mean…”
Ethan pulled him closely again and passionately kissed him. He was putting everything he had into it. It was as if Apollo would disappear if he pulled away. When they pulled away for air again, Apollo pulled Ethan’s head to his chest. “I love you, Ethan.” He felt his husband’s tears drenching his shirt, but he didn’t care. He rubbed the red haired male’s muscular back soothingly. “You can’t leave me,” Ethan said.
“I’m not ever going to leave you,” Apollo whispered. “I promise.”
“If you die, I don’t know how I’ll ever live with myself…I don’t think it’s possible.”
Apollo smiled and kissed Ethan’s forehead. “You worry too much.”
“I worry…too much?” He let out a small laugh. “Damn it, Apollo. I love you so fucking much.”
“I love you too. More than you know.”