Fixing his bow tie one last time, Pax headed to the door. He hadn’t remembered ever dressing this fancy since his parent’s wedding. “Hey, Pax. Wait up!” Jeff called after his son. Pax turned around to face his father, grinning at him like the Cheshire cat. “You know what to do today, right?”
“Yep. Don’t worry. I’ll get everyone there and home in one piece. You enjoy your night with mom. She obviously put a lot of effort into her look for you.” Pax gave him a thumbs up. “She’s out of bed. Make sure that you make her not ever want to go back. I hate seeing her so depressed.”
“Depressed?” Jeffrey said the word aloud as if hearing it for the very first time. “Your mother isn’t depressed, she’s sick. I mean, maybe she’s a bit disillusioned that she isn’t in charge of herself as much as she was before but why would she be depressed?”
“You’re smart, dad. That’s exactly why she’s depressed. Mom likes to be in control and she feels like she isn’t capable. She doesn’t know what to do with the girls because they’re humans.” Opening the door, the cool air pelted Pax’s face. “But do you see her walking around today like it’s no big deal? She isn’t weak. She’s depressed. That’s why she’s stuck in bed, not because her body is exhausted.”
Jeff was astonished that his son had picked up on so much. He had thought about those prospects. But, he wrote off depression almost instantly. She had always been the type to shut people out when she was upset and there was a scare when she was pregnant with Pax that if he was a human, he’d destroy her body. He had thought… No wonder why Charlotte always pushed him back. Tonight would be different. Things would go smoothly. He had prepared a beautiful evening for the both of them. “You’re a smart kid. Keep Graciela and Camila safe tonight.”
Sitting inside of the lounge, Graciela tapped her feet impatiently. They were early. She had been anxious to get out of the house and away from Nerissa. As Camila went to talk to the hostess about where the party was being held, Pax and Graciela sat side by side. “So,” He began, breaking the silence. “Maric is pretty great for throwing this party for you.”
“Isn’t he?” Graciela gushed, a smiling forming on her lips. “He knew I hated big crowds but still wanted a party. He set this whole thing up with that in mind. I mean…wow. No one has ever done that for me.” A hand flew to her heart. “I’m so happy to have him.”
“And I noticed the darkness isn’t so loud when he’s around. That only ever happened when you were with Leon,” Pax pointed out. “So that’s good.”
“Something’s bothering you,” Graciela pointed out. “It’s okay. You can tell me. It won’t ruin my birthday. If I don’t know I’ll get anxious.”
“It’s just Camila,” Psx said, lowering his voice. “Have you noticed anything strange about her? She’s much more…I don’t know, aggressive? She seems so much more distracted when we’re together.”
“Sometimes,” Graciela agreed. “She’s busy a lot these days.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about. Something clicked when we were talking to Nerissa earlier. She said that you mentioned something about her parents. Well, think about it. We don’t know how Nerissa, Camila and Gregg feel about being away from their families. We grew up with our family around us.”
“You think that maybe they’re homesick? Nerissa did get very mad when I spoke about her parents…” Graciela bit her lip. “She misses them.”
“Maybe. I don’t know. Camila’s parents are dead,” Pax confirmed. “But I think she hasn’t accepted this life for herself. Even if it’s been a long time and she acts like she’s adjusted.”
“Pax, that’s really sad. Are you sure? But Gregg doesn’t know his family,” Graciela replied. “Still, he must want to know where he came from.”
“Keep it in the back of your mind,” Pax said as he saw Camilla approaching them. “Right now, just have some fun at your party, alright? Camilla loves you like you’re her blood sister.”
“Okay,” Graciela said with a quick nod. “Thank you for telling me.”
“Meet me at the fountain,” The paper on their bed had read. When she called out his name and no one answered, she was afraid. Until Alistair and Ethan had rang the bell and assured her it was a date night. They would take care of everything. She was to have a fun and romantic evening with her husband. No distractions, or children crying.
Taking in a deep breath, Charlotte didn’t know what to expect. Saying their relationship was on the rocks was an understatement. How did one have any time for romance with 8 kids and a world out to get them? She felt a pit grow in her stomach, knowing she hadn’t made it easy on Jeff. She could have tried harder, but then again, she couldn’t. How was she to explain to him the debilitating emotional pain she was in on a daily basis? She hated him and she hated her life. Those weren’t her feelings. The longer she laid in that bed though, the easier it was to forget that. She had created some sort of fake life for herself where he hadn’t cared about her at all.
When Charlotte looked up she had seen Jeff in a blazer and a freshly ironed shirt. He looked slender and tall. Had he gotten taller or had she just stopped recognizing things about him? She hated herself more than anything in this moment, as she realized she had let the man who had continually swept her off her feet, become a blur to her. “Jeffrey,” She whispered, half hoping he’d disappear into the wind.
“Charlotte,” He replied loudly, holding a hand out to the woman. “You look amazing. Gracie told me this was for me?” Amusement danced behind his eyes. “You know you don’t have to get dressed up for me. I will always love you, no matter what.”
“Always?” Charlotte choked out, feeling tears form at the corner of her eyes. “Even if I can’t make sense of it? Even when I push you away?”
She took his hand, pulling him up to stand in front of her. “Even then. I’m sorry, I didn’t know how you were feeling. All this time, I thought you were physically exhausted. I thought…I just didn’t understand. For that, I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” She mumbled, looking up into his eyes. “I let those bad thoughts get to me. This is going to sound stupid but, at times I felt like I understood Graciela. There are dark thoughts in my head, telling me that I’m not worth it and that you deserve so much more than me. Or that you hate me and I’m unlovable.”
“That’s not true,” Jeff said softly. “You are my everything. I would go to hell and back for you.”
She sniffled. “I know. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Consciously, I’m aware of everything you do for me. I know that you’re the person that makes my heart skip a beat but those thoughts…I’m afraid of losing you.”
Jeffrey pulled her body towards his. He leaned over and began to whisper into her ear. “Do you think the darkness could be affecting you too? You were vulnerable when you gave birth to the twins.”
Her eyes widened, and she grabbed a handful of his shirt, wrinkling it in the process. “Is that possible? Do you think…?”
“Anything is possible,” Jeff said. “But I think it’s a good possibility. The woman I love more than anything, the woman who was willing to take down Altiere’s whole army herself, the woman who held an entire family’s legacy on her back, has been completely shut down for the past year. I don’t know what it is, but I know that I love you and whatever is happening will pass. Things will get better.”
“Focus on me in this moment. There isn’t any bad thoughts, just you and me.” Faint music could be heard coming from a restaurant nearby. “Care to dance, my lady?” He placed his left arm around her waist and took her right hand in his.
“Really?” She asked, eyes sparkling. “We haven’t danced like this since our wedding. You don’t know how bad I want to marry you all over again.” Looking at him like this, just the two of them out here, she realized that she wouldn’t trade her life for anything in the world. Letting Jeff into her life was her first step to true happiness. She couldn’t imagine herself anywhere else. Why had she been so tied down to those thoughts back int he house?
“So let’s do it again,” Jeff said, a smile stretching across his face. “Let’s get married again. We can renew our vows. The kids are all grown up, we don’t have to have a huge party. Your dad, grandfather, your sisters if you want them and the kids.”
“Callen too,” Charlotte said, smiling up at him. “We can’t forget him. I mean, if you are indeed asking me to marry you again.”
“I am,” He replied. “Charlotte, will you do me the honor of being my wife…again?”
“Of course I do.” She leaned up and captured his lips in hers. She hadn’t felt like this in years. As his hands roamed her body and her heart beat sped up, she had forgotten all about everything that had plagued their lives. In this moment, she had felt nothing but love for the man who held her in his arms.
“If you’ll have me,” Jeff whispered into her ear. “I rented us a room at the fanciest hotel in Fortitude. Don’t worry about anything. Just me and you.”
“Okay,” She said, caressing his cheek. “Lead the way, my Knight.”
“The woman of the hour.” His voice made Graciela’s heart jump. He handed her a bouquet of red flowers that made her eyes water.
Instantly, she jumped up from her seat and smiled brightly at her boyfriend. “You’re here.”
“Did you think I wasn’t going to show up or something?” He frowned.
“I don’t know,” She said quietly. “I thought maybe this was all some elaborate prank that Shae and Raina put you up to. Dating me, the party…everything.”
“Never,” Maric said with a smile of his own. “I would never do that to you. Gracie, I’m in love with you.”
They had said they liked each other before, and even that they loved each other. Being in love was something totally different. “Right now I’m giving you the opportunity to take it back. You don’t have to say that just because it’s my birthday.”
“I’m not just saying that,” Maric replied, handing her the roses. “I’m in love with you. I really mean it. Look around you, would I do all of this for someone I just liked?”
Graciela reached up to caress his face. “Really? You’re in love with me?”
“Yeah,” He replied. “Why is that so hard to believe? You’re beautiful, smart, creative, courageous. I mean I could talk about how amazing you are all night.”
“People don’t really tell me things like that,” She whispered. “They don’t go out of their way for me. I’m just shocked. Maric, thank you. Thank you for the flowers, for the party and for just being here for me. I’m in love with you too. Meeting you under that cherry blossom tree changed my life.”
“Our tree,” He quipped. “The day I met the woman of my dreams.” He turned towards the people who were now flooding in. “We should go say hi to your guests.”
“In a moment,” She whispered. “Can we stay like this for a moment? Just you and I?”
“Of course,” Maric replied, leaning in and kissing Graciela on the lips. When they pulled away for air he grinned. “You’ll have to save me a dance tonight, alright?”
“I will.” She nodded, taking her hands in his. “You’re really incredible.”
“Me? Babe, that’s all you.” He winked at her. “Come on. Let’s go face your guests.”
AN: The club that Graciela’s party is being held at is called The Hive and it can be downloaded here. I didn’t make it myself, but it is super nice. Also there will be a part 3 Sweet Sixteen chapter next. Thanks for reading! 😀