The men stood in front of a mausoleum. The same mausoleum that Altiere had set up base just a few years ago. The memories came flooding back into his mind, and suddenly Jeff found himself becoming very angry. “Why…why are we here?”
Zayne let out an immeasurable sigh and looked at his friend. “You didn’t question me when I told you I was alive. Why?”
“I’m asking the questions here, Zayne. This place is dangerous.” No one had bothered actually venturing inside, but Dionysus had let them all know that he hadn’t noticed anyone coming in or out of the building. He was basically the man on the ground when it came to things like this. Alistair couldn’t exactly go out on his own and scout as he had wanted to.
“I know about Altiere and everything. I’m here to help.” He ran a hand through his pale pink hair. “I don’t know how yet, but I am.”
“Did Mason bring you to life?” That’s what Jeff had assumed. He had to address the elephant in the room sooner or later. “There are things that Charlotte can’t know. Please…”
“Jeff, how long have we been friends?” Zayne asked. “Would I ever compromise anything?”
“No but…” Jeff looked down. “I trust you, but it’s different now. I have a family that I have to protect. I just need to make sure that you’re on my side. This whole thing can’t be as easy as this. I mean, we were brought back to life for a reason.”
“I don’t mean any disrespect Jeff, but you had a family before. Yours and mine.” Zayne recalled just how good of a father Jeff had been not only to his own kids but to Zayne’s son as well when he had disappeared for a few years.
“It’s different now.” Jeff paused to gather his thoughts. His life had always been a complicated one. Then and now. But, he was young again and had a new chance to make things right. He didn’t anticipate falling in love with Charlotte, he didn’t anticipate having kids even…it’s just how it had happened. He was happy where he was now and didn’t want to think of the past. Not because it didn’t matter to him, but because he was so afraid of playing the comparison game. He loved Lisa and his children with her. But, he also loved Charlotte and Pax.
“It’s a little bit more difficult, yeah.” Zayne nodded. “I can see that, with the vampires and all of that. But from one man to another, are you really happy? Is this the life you want? I’d give anything to be back to my old life. I miss my son and I haven’t even been alive that long. You’re telling me that you don’t miss your kids? Your sister? Your nieces and nephews?”
“Zayne…I’m with my family now.” That’s all he could muster saying. He would always love them, and there wouldn’t be a single moment in his life where he didn’t wake up and wish his family was alive with him now. But, he also didn’t regret his choice to move on. That didn’t stop the guilt from eating him up every time he saw Charlotte’s brilliant smile or Pax’s vibrant pink hair. Was he betraying the Bennetts? “Charlotte is a Gray.”
“Like Caleb.” He nodded. It was hard to believe he was seeing Caleb’s descendants. Despite having a full explanation from Audric, it was still awe inspiring to be in the presence of people that he had come to know and love. It was even stranger to see these descendants having no real relation to the people he once knew.
“Well, our Caleb and this Caleb are different I think.” Jeff scratched his head. “I just know that Charlotte is the third generation child from his brother. I can’t remember his name.” Though, Jeff did recall that Caleb was brought back from his dimension or something his sister had said. So that meant that maybe this family was much closer to Caleb than he had initially thought. “Wait. I have an idea.”
“Is it a dumb one?” Zayne asked. “It’s always a dumb one.”
“A dumb one that saves your ass every single time.” Jeff punched his friend’s arm playfully. If this was some sort of trick, it was a really good one because Zayne was exactly the same as he had been when they were both alive. “But first, explain what you’re doing here. This will only work if…well, you’ll see.”
Zayne chose his words carefully. “Mason brought me back to life. I…I don’t know what he wants.” Lying to Jeff was hard, but its what he had to do for their safety.
“To destroy the Grays,” Jeff said. “It’s why I’m alive. Maybe…maybe he thinks I’ll turn on Charlotte still…” He had trouble verbalizing his fears. “I don’t want him near my family. Zayne, please don’t do what he tells you to. Even if we die…I know this is selfish, but we were never supposed to be here to begin with.”
Zayne was astonished with just how much Jeff cared about the woman who had been more than vile in his presence. “I’m doing this for you, and I hope that woman is much nicer than she lets on to be.”
“Charlotte is rough around the edges, but there’s no doubt in my mind that she will do whatever it takes to keep those she loves safe.” That was an A+ in Jeff’s book, Zayne knew.
“So tell me about this plan.”
Charlotte stared at her younger sister, pain growing in her chest. “What’s wrong?”
“I just…I don’t know. I should be happy but everything feels so wrong. I love him, but I know I can’t be with him.”
“Astra, what are you talking about?” Charlotte asked her sister. “You came all the way here, so stop being so cryptic.”
“Audric. It’s Audric.” Astra breathed. “He says he loves me but I just know that it won’t work out for us. I’m not an idiot but I want to trust him. I really do.”
“That wizard guy? We had this discussion already, didn’t we?”
Astra nodded. “And I recall you telling me to come talk to you about this stuff. So no lectures, just hear me out.”
“Fine.” Charlotte nodded. “What is it?”
“Audric is really powerful. I don’t know how much really, just that he was able to triple seal the lair. He told me to work with Ade and Erik in translating the seer’s tale and that you would take the head of the fight.” Astra could tell by the look on Charlotte’s face that her big sister didn’t approve.
“I don’t like people who know too much Astra. This is dangerous!”
“I know, but I love him okay! I really love him.” Astra could feel the tears biting the corner of her eyes. “He wants to help us.”
“Is this your infatuation blinding you?” Charlotte asked. “Or is what you really feel true?”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I love him. It’s kind of crazy to think about but I love him. I do. it’s just, I know how much is at stake. Our family. Your child. Millie’s child….” Her voice trailed off. She wouldn’t have a child if she chose to stay with Audric. “We can’t play dangerous games, but at the same time it’s the only kind we have left.”
Charlotte was impressed by her sister’s maturity. She had grown up so much. “I know that this is hard, but it won’t always be hard.”
“What do I do, Charlotte? He said…he said that we can’t have a conventional relationship. He loves me, and he wants me but he won’t see me until the war is over.” That part was her choice, she wasn’t going to abandon her family in the middle of a war. “And he says we won’t be able to have a conventional relationship. No kids. And it gets even worse!” Charlotte listened intently but she didn’t see how this could get any worse. “He’s Dionysus’ brother. Dio hates him with all of his guts, and now he’s giving me the cold shoulder. He claims that Audric is scum, but I just don’t see it.”
“Astra…” Charlotte treaded carefully. “Dionysus has done nothing but help us. If he says Audric is bad news, then he is probably bad news.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” She frowned. “But I’m holding out hope.”
Astra decided that she would spend the night at Charlotte’s house. She didn’t want to be home, because Dionysus was there. She was being immature, sure, but she couldn’t bare to look him in the eyes. He had been nothing but kind and supportive of her and she had done something to make him angry. She gazed lovingly at the little boy in front of her. He was so sweet and precious. She’d never have anything like that with Audric. Was she willing to give that up for Audric? Frankly, she had been asked to give a lot up. Just last week, she would have given up everything to be with him. But now, she saw how hard her family was fighting and just how malicious the world was to them. She couldn’t be so carefree anymore. She had to be strong and vigilant. Still, she feared she was overreacting when it came to Audric. Maybe he did mean well and his words were all true. But what Dionysus said rang in her heart and made it hurt.
“Afra!” Pax giggled. “Afra!”
“Close enough little buddy.” She tousled his hair and kissed his forehead. “Why am I shocked that a vampire is learning so quickly, hmm?”
He wasn’t saying anything but she could see that he was watching her with some kind of intuitiveness. He understood something about her that not even she knew. “Don’t worry. Your mommy and daddy won’t let anything bad happen to you. You’ll be happy. I’ll do the same thing too.”
Pax crawled over to Astra’s lap and crawled into it. “If it comes down to it and he wants to hurt you, or your mommy or grandpa, I will do what I have to do. I promise you.” She needed to do her part just as much as the rest of the family, no matter how hard it would be. But for now, she wouldn’t think of the negatives and enjoy the time she did have with her family.