“Your mommy is very brave, isn’t she?” Jeff asked the baby. He twisted in his father’s arms, letting out a small yawn.
“Am not,” Charlotte mumbled.
“Rest, baby,” Jeff told her. “You can play with Pax when you get up.”
“Pax?” Charlotte was too tired to turn around, so she couldn’t see Jeff’s wide smile.
“I found your list of baby names. Pax was top of the list. A cool name for a cool kid, I say.”
“He could be a nerd, like my sister.” Charlotte covered her mouth to suppress a yawn.
“No way, my son is not going to be a nerd,” Jeff said. “He’s a vampire. That sets his cool level to max right away.”
“Plus, he’s a Gray.” Jeff turned around to see a smiling brunette.
“Mr. Gray, you’re here.”
“Don’t act so shocked, this is my house,” Alistair said.
“Yeah, but Adeline is acting like a security guard. I’m surprised she let you in.” Jeff laughed. “Want to hold Pax?”
“You let Charlotte pick out the name,” Alistair concluded.
“He went through my stuff, daddy,” Charlotte whined. “I wanted to pick out a name together.”
“We did. It just so happened to be the one that you suggested.” Jeff sat on the bed next to her and stroked her back. “What part of sleep, don’t you understand?”
“I’m not tired.” She rolled around to face him. “I love you, you know that right?”
“Of course, I do.” He kissed her lightly on the lips. “I love you too. And our son.”
“Am I going to be on bed rest forever?” Charlotte groaned.
“You’ll be up in a few hours, I’m guessing,” Alistair said. “You’re very strong. But until then, I’m not giving you Pax.”
“Daddy, don’t spoil him,” Charlotte warned.
“I spoiled you, didn’t I?” He asked. “Look how amazing you turned out. He’s my first grandchild. Of course I’m going to spoil him.”
“I don’t know.” Charlotte scrunched her nose up. “It’s awfully bright.”
“It’s already got a nursery built, what more could you want?” Jeff asked.
“Some dark walls. This whole house is turquoise and purple. What are we, imaginary friends?” She held Pax tightly in her arms.
“Char, if you don’t like it, we don’t have to live here.” He placed a hand on her shoulder blade. “We’ll be raising a family here. You have to be comfortable.”
She sighed. “It is pretty far from my dad and sisters. I like that a lot.”
He laughed. “We’re not planning to live in isolation, are we?”
“No.” She shook her head. “But, now I have an excuse not to see them every day. It’s bad enough that Adeline can literally break through my thoughts.”
“So then, this is the one?” He asked.
She nodded. “Yes, we can live in the barbie dream house, Bennett.”
“I think it’s cute.” He shrugged, with a smile.
It had been a few days since they had moved into the brightly colored house. Charlotte realized that the colors actually calmed her quite a bit. She rocked with Pax in her arms, slowly lulling him to sleep. “That’s the bell,” Jeff said, smiling from the doorway.
“Who did you invite?” She looked at him.
“Me? Invite someone? Never.” He smirked deviously.
“I invited your family here,” He said. “For a housewarming.”
“They’re all coming?” She asked. “Oh no. I have nothing prepared.”
“Just Adeline, Dionysus and Astra are coming,” Jeff said. “Your dad has some Keeper stuff, and Millie and Zander are still on honeymoon phase. You have to prepare nothing, Astra is pretty pumped about cooking for you.”
“You should get to know her,” Charlotte said. “I’d like to have her babysit Pax for us a few weekends during the year so we can go on date nights. It’d mean a lot if she wasn’t terrified when you walked into the room. She knows you’re a nice guy, but she deals with anxiety, so ease her into your presence.”
“Surprising that you two came together,” Jeff said.
“We di-dn’t,” Astra muttered. “We got here at th-e same ti-me.”
Dionysus laughed. “Bro, I’m just surprised you invited me here.”
“Nice ki-tch-en,” Astra said quietly.
“Oh hey, make yourself comfortable. Dionysus and I will go into the next room. You can take all the space you need, and use whatever we have in the cabinets and fridge. I have some cooks in the family, so my ingredients are top knotch.”
She smiled. “Perfect, I li-ke to use the b-est ingredien-ts.”
“You have to make my girl stutter, Jeff.” Dionysus hit him on the back. “Shame on you, her regular tone is so adorable, and you deny my ears that.”
“I’m sorry that you have to deal with this guy, Astra. If he’s ever too unberable, you know where to find us.”
She nodded. “Unbearable? Nonsense! I brighten her day and she knows it.” Astra was already digging through the fridge, ignoring him. “One day,” Dionysus whispered to Jeff. “She’ll be mine.”
“She doesn’t seem interested, man.” Jeff shrugged. “But, what do I know about the Gray girls, right?” He smirked.
“How’s my god son?” Dionysus asked.
“Your god son?” Charlotte raised her brow. “Who said that you can be Pax’s godfather?”
“Jeff totally did.”
“Did not!” Jeff called from the other room. “Don’t let him be our kids godfather.”
“Is that any way to talk to the guy who is literally in control of thousands of elves? You’re quite rude Jeffrey.”
Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Zander will be pissed if you’re the godfather and not him.”
“Would he? Would he really?” Dionysus asked. “Has he come to visit you at all?”
“He’s newly married,” Charlotte said.
“No excuse,” Dionysus huffed. “I’m here, I should be the godfather. Vouch for me Astra.” There was no response. “She’s so adorable when she pretends not to hear me.”
“My little sister if off limits,” Charlotte said. “No ifs ands or buts about it, mister.”
“No need to go all mom mode on me,” Dionysus said. “But she is an adult and can make her own decisions. You can’t stop her.”
“Yes I can, I’m her older sister. I know whats best for her,” Charlotte said.
“You don’t like when people tell you what to do, correct?” Dionysus asked. “Why am I such a bad guy that I can’t pursue your sister?”
“She’s not interested,” Charlotte said.
“I’m not so sure about that.” He shrugged. “But if she is, what’s stopping us?”
“We used to be a thing,” Charlotte said. “You’re totally a playboy.”
“Charlotte,” Dionysus said seriously. “You came to me all those years ago, to make Jeff jealous. I never once took advantage of you, in fact, I stopped when I knew you had affections for someone else, didn’t I?”
Charlotte sighed. “Yes…I know, but…she’s my little sister. My baby sister. I wasn’t able to be there for her all these years. We used to be really close. She came to me for everything. I want to be a good big sister.”
“Protect her from a threat,” Dionysus said. “Not me. I would never make a lady cry.”
Charlotte let out another sigh. “I just don’t know, Dio. I just don’t know.”
“These are delicious,” Jeff said in between bites of food. “I didn’t know you could upscale waffles so much.”
Astra gave Jeff a small smile. “I wouldn’t call it upscaling.”
“Char and I usually just eat the frozen ones. We cook them first, obviously. But, you know what I mean.”
Astra let out a small laugh. Jeff wasn’t such a bad guy. In fact, she thought her sister was lucky to have him in her life. How many other guys would have left by now? She knew her older sister was not easy to deal with on her best days. “Th-ank you, for taking c-are of my s-ister.”
Jeff laid his fork on the table. “No. I should be thanking her. She quite literally gave me a reason to keep on living.”
Astra wanted someone to love her that much. To be willing to give it all up for her. Was it possible? Could she be loved like that? “She cares a l-ot about y-ou.”
“I know. I’m the luckiest man alive.” He turned slightly so he was staring Astra straight in her brown eyes. “Chin up, kid. You’re only twenty one. It’s way too early for you to be worrying about things like love. You have your whole life ahead of you.”
She blushed and looked down. Was he right? Was it really okay that she didn’t have someone to call her own? At Millie’s wedding, she felt happy, warm. But, the minute it was over, she saw the painful truth. Charlotte had Jeff, Millie had Zander and even Adeline had Erik. Who did she have? She was fighting an internal battle. She loved Audric, she knew that, but when she thought of Dionysus, her heart did flips. Was that just time that was doing that to her? Would she ever see Audric again?
Charlotte looked at her sister. “I was wondering if you’d like to stay the night?”
Astra looked up at her sister. She hadn’t realized how beautiful Charlotte had really gotten. She was stunning, just like the models she had seen in Lucky Palms. “I don’t have any clothes. Or a toothbrush.”
“Feel free to raid my closet,” Charlotte said. “Or Jeff’s. He probably has some old tshirts he doesn’t wear anymore. As long as you don’t get any ideas.”
“You think I’d flirt with your boyfriend?” Astra frowned.
“It’s a joke, lighten up. You don’t smile anymore. Not that you did much when you were younger. But now, you just seem like something is bothering you.” Charlotte reached out to touch her sister’s shoulder. “Is this about being single?”
“I really don’t want to talk about this with you,” Astra said.
“Why not?” Charlotte asked. “I’m your big sis. I’m who you’re supposed to come to with boy trouble.”
“Well, you can’t help me. This is something I have to do on my own. I can’t see him again if I keep thinking of Dionysus. The only way to get him back is to make sure I never see Dionysus again!” Astra covered her mouth. “That’s not fair, Charlotte, you can’t use your powers on me!”
“I didn’t,” CHarlotte said. “I haven’t used mind reading and control in a while. I got in so much trouble for doing that to Jeff. Grandpa nearly kicked my ass.”
“How is grandpa anyway? Ethan said Grandpa Apollo is feeling better, but I’m not sure he’s telling us the whole truth,” Astra said.
“Don’t change the subject,” CHarlotte said sternly.
“But it’s important!”
“Grandpa is fine,” Charlotte said sharply. “Nothing is going to happen to him while grandpa Ethan is there. So chill, and lets go back to what you just said about Dionysus. Spill.”
“Charlotte,” Astra whined. “It’s fine, I really want to figure this out on my own, okay?”
“Is this some kind of love triangle?”
“It’s…something like that. I don’t know. Remember how I was living with the humans? Well, I left two years ago, and was living with this elven mage and-”
“Elven mage?” Charlotte raised her brow. “Those don’t really exist.”
“That’s what Dionysus said, but it’s true. Audric is an elven mage. He really is, he taught me all kinds of spells, and some forbidden magic. What? Don’t look at me like that, I’m not crazy!”
“I’m sorry but that sounds really dangerous.” Charlotte crossed her arms over her chest. “Forbidden magic? Does dad know?”
“I tried to tell him, but he just brushed me off. No one believes me, but it’s true.” She pushed her bangs out of her face. “Everyone thinks I’m this baby.”
“Start from the beginning, I think you’re leaving out some vital information. How did you meet this guy? The guardians had you stuck in Lucky Palms, remember?”
“I got the news that dad…Declan…that Declan left. I heard about his betrayal, and I couldn’t sit back any more. He was the one thing I looked forward to, we had a long talk about how much he loved us and dad, and this! I was confused, and I didn’t think about the consequences. I ran, I know I didn’t go far. I was sure that I didn’t even leave Lucky Palms, but suddenly I was in this massive castle and this elf was talking to me. He told me things I wanted to hear, and I stayed. Something about him was calming.”
“And he taught you forbidden magic?” Charlotte scratched her head. “This doesn’t sound good at all. You know what they say about people who come out of nowhere? He was waiting for the opportune moment to strike.”
“He wasn’t striking, he was protecting me,” Astra tried to explain. “He loves me. He said so himself, he-”
“So he kidnaps you and tells you he loves you?”
“Charlotte! It’s not like that at all!” Astra placed her hands on her hips. “See? This is what I’m talking about. Nobody listens. Whatever. I’m going to play with my nephew. You and Jeff do whatever you guys do. I’ll take care of Pax.” She pushed passed her sister, making sure their shoulders made contact. Why the hell couldn’t anyone listen to her? Audric wasn’t like that. He cared about her, he loved her! She missed him, and longed for the day that she’d be right by his side once again.