The most beautiful moments always seemed to accelerate and slip beyond one’s grasp just when you want to hold onto them for as long as possible.E.A. Bucchianeri
Time seemed to have flown by, everyone had been so busy with their lives, so let’s just to get everyone caught up to the current state of affairs of all the families before we continue the our story.
Windenburg Cameron Lake House Blaine 61, Viktoria 60 Dogs Max 8, Laika 2
At the old legacy residence things were slow and steady.
Blaine still wrote and produced music, still occasionally performed live on and off, brought out an album every now and then, and still occasionally was nominated for the Starlight Accolade Awards. Most of the time he didn’t even bother attending and eventually his awards would get delivered to him. They’d sit in the box until I would find a place on the shelves for them. Though sometimes he surprised me and we went there, and then we had a ball. And yeah, he still pulled me up on stage during his acceptance speeches. Some things never changed.
Blaine’s old dream of making it big in the music business had been replaced by his desire to have the life he had now. Music was still his big thing, a preferred hobby of sorts that also constituted the majority of our income, and something he was teaching to his grandkids. Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you have it, and Blaine now had what he wanted. He’d much rather take the grandkids camping in Granite Falls than sit in a fancy lobby in Del Sol Valley waiting for an appearance in some talk show or to receive some award.
Our dog Obi had since passed, he had been the second generation Cameron dogs, one of our first dog Charlie’s pups, there had been 10 in total, all of which preceded Obi in death.
Obi had reproduced at a relatively young age, so his son Max, who made up the third generation of Cameron dogs was already in his senior years now, and one of Max’ three pups was living with us too, so generation four of the Cameron canine crew, a female this time, who had already grown into a young dog. Her name was Laika and she had beautiful cream color with grey markings and a black mask and ears – and oddly enough, sported Charlie’s signature one droopy ear. She was less of a klutz than Max used to be, more observant and a problem solver like most shepherd breeds.
While our hair had started to show more ashy hues, and the first noticeable lines appeared on their faces, both of us still felt no different than in our 40s, physically and mentally, guess what you call ‘young at heart’ and we were both considerably fitter than many our age, the romance still very much alive between us, needless to mention at this point, right? We kept very close with our family, we all saw each other often and we thoroughly enjoyed playing a big role in their four grandchildren’s lives. Blaine was so happy in his grandpa role, I would have never guessed this.
A.N.: Blaine and Viktoria are still adults, not elders yet, they won’t be until they reach 65, which will be around the time the twins become teens.
Windenburg Cameron Beach House Brendan & Natalie 30, Declan 6, Everett 4 Dog Loki 8, Cat Grimm 7, Cat Tigger 2
Life at the Cameron Jr. household was busy.
While both parents had jobs allowing them to work from home a lot, though not always, they were in demanding careers, while raising two sons took up a lot of their energy and time.
Green-eyed like daddy and grandpa Blaine, towhead Declan looked so much like his daddy had at his age, and was just as mischievous, but very sweet, courteous and kind, and sharp as a whip. He was in school now and had already made a lot of friends, brought home good grades, just like his daddy had before him.
Everett had shocked everyone when his hair turned into a fiery red as he grew into a spunky toddler.
Chase explained to all of us that it often happened when a blond and a brunette parent had a kid, which made sense, even though nobody was ever sure if Brendan was a very dark blonde like me, or a light brunette.
Either way, green-eyed like his daddy and his grandpa Blaine as well, freckle-faced Everett had taken all hearts by storm, he adored his big brother, who seemed to have taken him on like a mentor a scholar. As amusing as the notion was at this point, none of us adults was quite sure how we really felt about this.
Brindleton Bay Cunningham Estates Gerard & Emma, 72, Chase 38, Anastasia 35, Collin & Claire 8 Dog Stella 7, Cat Zahara 7
Chase’s parents were in their 70s now and fully retired, leaving the Cunningham Country Clinic fully in Chase’s hands, which had him busier than you’d expect.
He took his job very seriously, and son Collin showed great interest in all thing clinic already, luckily, as he – for better or worse – would one day follow his his ancestors footsteps. It had been done this way for many generations before him and it would be continued till the end of time.
As lovely as the Cunninghams were, there were some things Blaine and I could easily stub our toes on if we didn’t just do what Anastasia did and overlooked it. With the children away from morning till evening in the private school, chock full with academics and other activities designed to form prim, proper and perfect members of the local high society, Anastasia had been able to talk Chase into helping her realize her old dream of her own law firm when the building next to his family’s clinic came up for sale. By now she worked just as much and as hard as Chase.
Glimmerbrook, Chadwick Home Riordan 36, Evangeline 27 Dog Trixie 5, Cat 4
It hadn’t been the easiest road, but with the Camerons help, Riordan had been able to convince his uncle to let him at least stay a few days at a time on and off with Evangeline at the quaint little home tucked away in the deep woods which she moved to not long after they officially started dating.
Vannie made money selling her various crafts at farmers markets, from honey and wax, over candles, homegrown fruit, vegetables and flowers to her infamous kombucha.
The tiny home had an even tinier basement which was now occupied almost completely by a coffin for the times Riordan was able to stay over for more than two nights or so.
The rest of the home evoked an instant chuckle during the housewarming party all Camerons had been invited to, as Vannie’s taste was more than obviously on the very girly side, clashing starkly with Riordan’s dark and grungy style. Riordan didn’t care, he was finally getting a good taste of the sort of life he had always dreamed of, no longer lonely, and as close as he could get to living the regular life of a mortal.
Several Camerons – me excluded – had started a betting pool as to when Vannie would end up pregnant, a notion that left Caleb Vatore, Riordan’s uncle, highly unamused to put it mildly, and made Riordan grimace and change the topic instantly. It was just one of those things where him being a vampire torpedoed any potential future plans.
Years ago Brendan had realized how much the distance from his oldest and only true friend Ana hurt Riordan, so right after Riordan had set her free, Brendan had started to invite him over a lot, for video nights, just to hang out, and along with the rest of the family to meet Everett after they had brought him home from the hospital.
Riordan was very appreciative, Natalie was always very sweet to him and Declan loved cool uncle Riordan. The first time Declan referred to him as ‘uncle Riordan’ had evoked a rollercoaster of feelings from Riordan. Caught somewhere between shocked, surprised, happy he had mumbled “Now I really have become like uncle.”, referring to Caleb Vatore having been in Brendan and his sister Anastasia’s lives since they were born, both used to refer to him as uncle Caleb.
After Caleb and Ana had the big falling out, she never did again, while Brendan never stopped. And now the next generation of Camerons seemed to do the same with the next generation of Vatores.
Present Day - back to the actual story Brindleton Bay Cameron-Cunningham Law Firm
The door opened and Ana’s assistant stuck her head in.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Cunningham, there is a man here to see you. He’s not on the schedule or in our client files.” Carol said.
“Why didn’t you just tell him we do not take walk-ins and to set up an appointment with you? I am busy, Carol, you should know that, you keep my calendar!”
“I know, that is what I told him, too, it’s just that he mentioned that he knows you. Personally I mean.”
“Oh, really? Does he have a name?” Ana wondered, while her assistant came further into her office after looking behind herself quickly.
“I didn’t really catch it, something foreign sounding, but he is really, really handsome …and charming. In the unapproachable manly rakish kind of way, you know?” Carol whispered just loud enough for Ana to hear, making her chuckle.
“Ah, could he by chance be tall, dark, handsome, with a mysterious aura, eyes as dark as coals? And could the foreign sounding name have been Italian, something along the lines of ‘Vuh-tor-eh’?”
“Yeah! That’s him! Ooh, Italian. That explains a lot. He doesn’t have any accent though … but still.” Carol swooned, her eyes glazing over.
“Well, he’s part Italian, part Irish with a dash of Japanese, but was born and raised here, a local boy, hence no accent. And before you melt into a puddle of Harlequin novel goo, please send him in.” Ana told her laughing and shortly after Riordan appeared in the door, declining her assistant’s eye-batten offerings of beverages with a headshake and a smile, before he gallantly slid her out of the room, then carefully closed the door behind her.
“RI! You are really here! What a surprise! Ri! Ri! RI!!!” Ana squealed for joy as she rushed into his open arms for a hug, he caught her, twirled her around, she giggled, and for a moment she wasn’t the always composed tough lawyer, but the 14 year old teen girl again with two braids, while her 15 year old vampire best friend was holding her like she weighed nothing at all.
His face reflected everything he felt holding her again, the feeling seemed very much mutual as the hug lasted much longer than the average ones between old friends should.
When they finally parted, Ana just smiled up at him, melting away his sadness.
“Wow Ri, have a seat! Man, how long has it been that we have spoken alone?”
“Five years, 2 months and 5 days.”
“Oh boy, but who’s counting, right?” Ana chuckled amused, while also feeling a pang of guilt and regret.
“Well, my decision was made at Declan’s 1st birthday, not so hard to remember then. Declan’s six now.”
“Oh, right. Wow. Five years. Long ones. At least it wasn’t like we had not still seen each other a lot … just … differently than we used to before. Always with someone watching, but we have always been in touch. Right?” her tone seemed insecure, looking for validation by him.
“Hmm. If you say so. I won’t insult you with platitudes and cannot admit the truth so let me just get to the reason I came here. I need actual legal advice. Yeah, you heard that right, I am here as an actual, paying client today.”
“Well, seeing how this is a law firm and I am a lawyer, you came to the right place! More than happy to take your money. So, what can I advice you on. Wait, you didn’t try to buy fake documents again, did you? Should I call Brendan? He knows everything about the executive branch of the legal system.”
“Even if I had, they would have never caught me. Not like they could arrest me, and even if, it wouldn’t go a way they would particularly like. Besides, I don’t exist, remember, so how could I have a record or any legal trouble at all. No, it’s not about me. Wondering about a name change for Evangeline. Can you help with something like that?”
“A legal name change?” Anastasia repeated surprised.
“Right, her last name to mine.” Riordan confirmed.
“You want to marry her?!” Ana’s face reflected surprise.
“No. At least not yet. Just doing my homework to see what’s possible, you know, come up with some options, since we could not have a real wedding accepted by your mortal bureaucracy. So we’d have a vampire one, then change her last name legally and it’s almost the real thing, or at least close to. She’s practically an off-gridder, so tax benefits wouldn’t matter to her and I won’t die, so no inheritance issues. But this is just me planning ahead. Not happening anytime soon. I just want to have all the details before I continue thinking about it all. Want to know my options and that none of them would get hung up on kinks at the last minute.”
“Wait a minute! You don’t even live with her yet, do you?”
“Sorta. On and off. I guess I stay over as much as I can, so there’s that. You know uncle.”
“Oh yeah, I know your uncle, which is why I am telling you, he is the kink you really need to work out first!!! If he doesn’t even let you move in with her now, how do you want to marry her? A long-distance marriage? What’s the point?!” Anastasia frowned.
“Well, she could move in with us. I am sure he’d approve of that, he really seems to like her, as does my mother, surprisingly. Mother adores her, calls her ‘principessa d’oro’ which means ‘golden princess’ in Italian.” Riordan’s tone sounded as if he was trying to convince himself, more than convincing Ana.
Anastasia laughed, before she suddenly got serious.
“Ri, sorry for laughing, but how naïve are you? Your ice queen mother gives your girlfriend a cutesy Italian name and you believe they want what’s best for you? Puh-leeese! Look, with all due respect to your heritage, but your mother is a bitch on wheels and probably looks at poor Vannie like a doll, a play thing, and your uncle has proven more than once that he is nothing but an irate creep if things don’t go his way. Don’t forget that I experienced that first hand. You three plus Forgotten Hollow are pretty much the exact opposite of everything that Evangeline personifies, opposite poles of a magnet. Her living in that place would never work. That’ll go the way for your uncle’s first wife … what was her name again?”
“Cassandra. I think uncle has changed. I think he wants me happy now. Just … as you well know, because of who and what I am, plus my high rank in the vampire society, I am not as free to do as I please like other vampires might be.”
“Argh, he’s still doing that Grand Master Vampire bit with you? So ridiculous, acting as if you were vampire royalty, for heavens sake! I never understood that, he won’t die, he is literally immortal, so what the heck does he need an heir for so badly. And if he does want heirs so much, why doesn’t he bed a bunch of hoes and make one of his own? With enough effort, one is bound to fit his bill.”
“Uh, what?! That would be highly irresponsible, not to mention immoral!!”
“Oh yeah, sure! Pardon me, of course your uncle is the epitome of always doing the right thing to save everyone from heartbreak. So is he in your ear about knocking up Vannie to continue that precious Vatore blood line? He should have foam fingers and banners with that printed on it by now. Vannie is really pretty too, those genes should produce some awesome kid, vamp or otherwise. And Vannie seems to be cool with you being so different, so who cares if vampire or mortal, right?” Ana’s tone was dripping sarcasm.
“Wrong! Uncle would literally kill me, were I to get her pregnant. She is beautiful, I adore her, but not the right type. He would never approve of an heir with her. That he made more than clear to me.”
“Not the right type?! Approve of an heir?! Are you friggin’ kidding me right now?! What kind of selective breeding bullshit is that now?! So, is that why I was rejected too, not the right type?! Do something without his approval for once, Ri! I mean, grow a pair, neither of us are dumb school children looking for uncle Caleb’s approval and guidance! Plus, he isn’t exactly one to talk about accidental pregnancies. How’s Cara by the way? You know, his accidental daughter, your cousin. Heard her twins are growing like weeds, just like the other kid she already has, you know your uncle’s GRANDCHILDREN!”
“Point taken, that was a lapse of judgement he admits to, it still weighs on his mind, but it just somehow worked out in everyone’s favor. Still, obviously Cara isn’t heir-material, nor are her children.”
“Ah, because she not a vamp? He could have just turned her when she was younger, she adores him, and voila – you would have been on the hook and we could have …. uh, you know .. things could have been different.”
“WAIT! So you feel it too! Still!”
“No, no, no, you don’t get to make me show you mine and then back out of showing me yours. I am not the only one still partially stuck in the past, am I? That’s why we really never talked without someone else watching, not because you didn’t want to or didn’t trust me, but you didn’t trust yourself, cos you were well aware I made the promise not to approach you, so it would have had to be your initiative! Am I right?! Admit it!”
“First of all, you didn’t need to show me yours, seen it, wore the t-shirt. No wait, that came out all wrong, eew. Anyway, fine if you want to make this awkward, I’ll play. Yes, Ri, I admit it, I didn’t trust myself alone with you, I still think about you a lot, about us and what could have been. Yes, when visiting you and Vannie with the rest of my family I often thought this could have been us, together in some little house at the edge of civilization, but happy together, if only we had only used our heads and planned better. I often look at my twins and wonder what they would be like, had they been yours. And I told you a long time ago that I would love you forever, still holds true and I cannot change that, no matter how much I love Chase and my kids.”
“You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that, Ana. I used to drive myself crazy with such thoughts. I was absolutely dysfunctional and paralyzed after I set you free, your brother actually helped me get through it, he really is a good guy.”
“No, need to tell me. Brendan is such a sweetheart, I adore him now, but still feel so guilty for having been such a bitch to him growing up, don’t even know why anymore. And to my mom, man, she helped me and us so much. I wish I had a time machine to go back and fix that.”
“Me too.” Riordan said, his voice changed, he got up from the chair, stepped behind Ana’s desk, pulled her up and then …