“Mrs. Gray,” Nerissa began. “I really don’t want to go today. May I have permission to stay home?” She looked up at Charlotte with her pleading eyes.
“Nerissa, what is this about honey?” Charlotte crouched by the girl’s side. “Graciela is going to be there, and Pax too.”
“Pax is coming?” She could see the girl perk up for a moment. Charlotte smiled at the attention her son was getting in the house. “Er..isn’t it girls only?”
“Well, yes. It was supposed to be,” Charlotte said. “But I thought that Camilla might like to have him along so that she doesn’t feel so lonely.”
“That is really nice,” Nerissa answered. “But are you sure it’s okay if I come along? I’m not really part of your family. I know that you’re just letting me stay here because you feel bad about my parents. It’s okay. Really, I don’t mind that they’re not here.”
“I will never be able to replace your parents but I’d like for you to think of me as a second mom.” She patted the girl’s head affectionately. “This is your house. We are your family. Don’t you ever feel out of place. Understand?”
“She’s right.” Jeff had walked into the room and in passing heard the girl’s words. How could she think she was anything but family at this point? He knew it was a rough patch for her, but everyone, even the kids were ecstatic to have her in their home. Nerissa looked up at Jeff and smiled brightly. “You’re part of this family. If there’s anything you need, you just ask.”
“Thank you both!” Nerissa nodded graciously. “This means everything to me.”
“I know it’s a little cramped upstairs, but once Waverly is a little bigger we’ll turn the nursery into another room,” Jeff said.
“It’s okay. I don’t mind, it’s like a big sleepover with the girls. I never had that before.”
Justine lifted the crying toddler from his crib. “Mrs. Gray, you wanted me to stay a little longer today, right?” Justine was the caretaker that Audric had rovided to Charlotte. He thought that she may need an extra hand around the house with the kids, and he was right. She was an immense help.
“Where are you going?” Jeff asked.
“Don’t worry about it.” Her answer to him was cold and he knew she was still angry at him. “I’m taking Graciela, Pax, Nerissa, Camilla and Harmony out today.”
“Have fun,” He answered rigidly.
“Of course we will.”
Camilla outstretched her hand to the smiling brunette. “I’m Harmony, Pax’s cousin. We haven’t officially met.”
“I’m Camilla,” The girl answered coolly. “I guess we’re the only kids here, huh?”
“Besides my cousins, you and Nerissa, I’m not sure if there are any other kids here. It’s kind of…empty.”
“I don’t like it.” Camilla shook her head. “In Moonlight Falls there were tons of people.” But she only cared about the one who she had been traveling with. How could Dionysus leave her so easily? She hated him, but she missed him immensely.
“I know, but mom and dad say that we can’t go back for a while. Evil vampires or something, which is so unfair,” Harmony complained.
“I can take care of myself, I don’t know why Dio left me with the Grays. I’m not a baby.” Camilla grumbled.
“I don’t know, but I’m glad that you’re here. Only seeing my cousins all the time would get boring.”
Charlotte watched her kids scatter around the room. Harmony and Camilla were talking nicely. Pax was belting out tunes at the karaoke machine and Graciela and Nerissa were cheering him on. “Hey there stranger.” She jumped at the sound of the voice.
“Zayne? What are you doing here?” She asked.
“You didn’t actually say where you were taking the kids. Millie and I were just exploring town and stumbled upon this plae. What is it anyway?”
“Some kind of recreational facility I guess?” Charlotte shrugged. “There’s games for the kids.”
“Not much to do around here, huh?” He asked.
“We have to talk to Audric about that. If I have to stay in my house every day for the rest of my life, I’ll go insane.”
“Are you alright?” Zayne asked suddenly. “With Jeff I mean.”
“You talked to him, didn’t you?” She lowered her eyes at him.
“Of course we did,” Zayne answered. “He’s my best friend. We knew each other in the other dimension.”
“How is Millie not completely pissed at you?” Charlotte asked. “You and Jeff both came through Mason.”
“Why aren’t you pissed at me?” He inquired.
“You’re not the father of my kids,” Charlotte answered. “I could care less f you turned on us. Well, that’s harsh. I’d care a little, but if Jeff did it I’d be devastated.”
“Do you think he would really do that?” Zayne asked. “Honestly?”
“No,” She mumbled. But she was till mad. “That doesn’t change anything. He lied to me for so long.”
“To protect you.”
“To protect himself,” She answered. “I don’t need protecting and he knows that.”
“Maybe he didn’t want you comparing yourself to his old wife, and comparing your family to his old one. He wanted to move on and live a new life. He’s proven time and time again that he wouldn’t turn on the Grays. You have to realize that.”
“Put yourself in my shoes, Zayne,” Charlotte answered seriously. “I have five kids in my house right now. Five kids that I need to protect, okay? I can’t risk anything anymore.”
“Come on,” Graciela said, tugging her best friend’s arm. “If we don’t get up there now, Pax will totally make our ears bleed.”
Nerissa blushed. “I thought that he was doing a good job.”
“Nerissa, gross. Stop.” Garciela looked at her seriously. “Don’t tell me what I think…GROSS!”
“Shh!” Nerissa hit her friend’s arm. “Be quiet!”
“You have a crush on my brother?” She scrunched up her nose in disgust. “Eww you have seriously bad taste.” Though, she didn’t really see any other kids around, so it made some sense. “He’s off limits.”
“He likes Camilla, I already know.” She frowned. “So what?”
Graciela shrugged. “He’s stupid anyway.” She could feel the jealousy rising within herself. Nerissa was her friend. Pax had Camilia, he didn’t need Nerissa too. “Come on, let’s just sing. You pick out the song.”
“They said that I was bad?” Pax laughed. “They’re so bad!”
“Nerissa sounds really nice,” Harmony said. “She has a nice voice.”
“But Gracie doesn’t, she sounds SO BAD. BOO GRACIE!” He raised his voice on purpose so that his little sister would hear him. She stuck her tongue out at him in response.
“Guess what I just found out?” Harmony asked. Pax looked up at her. “I’m going to be a big sister.”
“Huh? No way! That’s awesome!” Pax cheered.
“Yeah, AND one more thing.” She pointed to Zayne, who she noticed was talking to Charlotte. “He’s my dad now.”
“Really?” Pax hugged his cousin. “That’s so great, Harmony.”
“I know, I couldn’t wait to tell you. I’m really happy. Maybe this place won’t be so bad after all.”
Camilla watched everyone converse. She felt so out of place. This wasn’t where she belonged. “I hate you Dio,” She muttered under her breath. He didn’t even tell her goodbye. She deserved that much, didn’t she? They were supposed to take on the world together. What was in that book that was so much more important than her?
Her eyes fell onto Graciela and Nerissa. Those two were like sisters. They did everything together. When Camilla was with them, she felt like she didn’t belong. They tried to include her, but she could tell it was like trying to fit a square block into a round hole.
Then, she saw Harmony and Pax. Harmony was nice, but she was a Gray. She was part of their family, and Camilla could never fit into that dynamic. And Pax…he made her heart jump and she didn’t like it. She wanted to go back home. This place would never be it for her.
“Whatcha thinking about?” Pax asked. Camilla jumped, as she felt Pax’s arms slink around her torso.
“Wh-en did you get here?” She asked.
He smiled triumphantly at her. “I’m a vampire, I’m super fast.”
“I bet I can run faster than you in my cat form,” Camilla challenged.
“You definitely can’t,” He said confidently. “But mom would get mad if we run around here.”
“She ruins all my fun,” Camilla grumbled.
“Don’t be like that,” Pax said. “She loves you like you were my sister. She just gets very protective. Evil vampires are after us, remember? You were the one who said I have to be more serious.”
She shrugged and looked away. “Come on and sing a song with me. It will be fun. Stop sitting here by yourself and sulking.” Maybe this wasn’t home, but she couldn’t bring herself to want to part from Pax.
“Is everything alright with you and Charlotte?” Millie asked.
Zayne nodded. “Mostly.”
“Mostly?” Millie frowned. “What does that mean?”
“She’s pissed at Jeff,” He answered. “She can’t get passed the fact that Mason brought him here.”
“It doesn’t bother me,” Millie said. “But you have to remember, this war has been the hardest on Charlotte. She was captured and tortured by Altiere. Declan, who we thought loved us, betrayed us. At one point Charlotte was closer to him than she was with Dad. He may be my birth father, but he had a profound impact on Charlotte. He was the one who was so adamant about her and Jeff being together in the beginning and you can see how that scares the crap out of her.”
“And she isn’t one to show that kind of fear,” Zayne concluded. “But Jeff is my best friend, and he’s feeling this too.”
“You have to give them time. Don’t interfere. They can work this out on their own. It’s been over a decade, they aren’t breaking up over this little thing. But Charlotte is right. Jeff shouldn’t have lied, no matter what the case.” She stared at him firmly, urging him to end the conversation. “Now, look at Harmony. She’s having such a great time with her cousins.”
“Well?” Charlotte grinned at the girl. “Having fun?”
“I was…I mean, I am!” She answered quickly. Charlotte followed Narissa’s gaze and saw her son with his arm around Camilla. They were far too young to be jealous of each other. “Nerissa honey, Pax and Camilla re best friends like you and Graciela.”
Nerissa nodded her head. “I know that.”
“Gracie was really excited to come here with you,” Charlotte continued. How could she tell the girl not to be jealous? She had been in the same position when she noticed Jeff talking to that fairy wen they had first met. Nerissa was little and hopefully she’d outgrow this little crush.
“I know,” Nerissa continued. “I’m waiting for her to come back from the snack stand. She is getting us a snow cone. I was going to ask Pax if he wanted one, but I don’t want to interrupt them.”
“I can ask him for you,” Charlotte said. “Would that be okay?
Nerissa shrugged. “Yeah, I guess so. Gracie is waiting for me, so I’m going to go, okay?” Charlotte nodded with a heavy heart.