You are far
When I could have been your star
You listened to people
Who scared you to death and from my heart
Strange that I was wrong enough
To think you’d love me too
Forgotten Hollow Vatore Castle
“Daddy, daddy!” the squeaky voice of the little girl sounded excited, her eyes were bright, she ran as fast as her little legs would allow towards the tall man dressed in all black, his young face clearly not used to smiling, but the smile nonetheless was genuine as he crouched down to catch the toddler in his arms, raising up while turning around in circles with her in his arms, which she accredited with giggles and happy squeals.
“How is my beautiful princess today?” he asked, his eyes and voice unusually soft and gentle.
“Hungry daddy! Do you have cookies?” she flashed a well trained ‘I-want-something’ smile.
“No more cookies, you little cookie monster or you’ll get a tummyache. If you are hungry, I am sure daddy can find you a sandwich and an apple.” the red-headed woman who had brought her here now told her, firmly but gently, the love for the little girl apparent in her tone.
“I don’t like daddy’s apples … they stink! Yucky!” the child informed decidedly.
“She probably means plasmafruit, those really are dismal. Colton and Chase are typical teen boys and leave them laying around half-eaten all the time when they are here for their training. Maybe last time you were here with her she came across one of those while playing.” Caelan told Seraphina smirking as their eyes locked for just a second too long to fool anyone into believing their spiel about the co-parenting on a purely platonic basis.
“What’s pismahl?” echoed Leeora in her squeaky voice.
Chuckling, Caelan explained the correct word, unusually patient.
“Dismal, not pismahl. It means yucky, baby.”
“Then why didn’t you say yucky, daddy? I am not supposed to make my own words, so you can’t either. Mommy says, that is not good for when I finally go to school. I want to go to school and learn and be big like you and smart like grandpa!”
“You are right. But let’s not rush, enjoy the time you have before you have to go to school. Your daddy didn’t like school too much.” Caelan chuckled again, with a quick side-glance at Seraphina.
“Why?” the little girl inquired.
“Because your daddy doesn’t like too many people around him for too long.” Caelan told her.
“Why?” came the next question.
“Leeora, baby, why don’t you go find your grandma and grandpa and give them the drawing you made for them?” Seraphina came to Caelan’s aid.
“Yay! Daddy – down! Quick!” she urged, Caelan obliged, the toddler ran to the small bag Seraphina had brought with her, containing some of Leeora’s things for her weekend with her father, dug around in it, leaving some items on the ground, briefly distracted by some toy, then remembered her original task, she grabbed her drawing an ran to her beloved grandparents in a back corner of the large room.
“We have definitely reached her inquisitive phase. If she isn’t asking holes into my brain with a thousand questions, she explores. She definitely needs a lot of supervision now. Especially with all the sharp objects and stuff around the castle. I really need you to keep your eye on her 24/7, Cae. Promise you will.”
“Of course! After you leave, one of my parents or Riordan are gonna be with me the entire time, and all three are very intense parents, I can attest to that. None of us need sleep, so no worries, she will be fine. I would never let anything happen to her, but I will admit I am more nervous now than I ever was during my entire warrior and vampire training – where mistakes can cost you dearly, as the scar on my face confirms. Watching my own daughter is frightening on a whole new level to me, but I really want to do it. I promise you she will be absolutely fine here. If I should fail, Ri, father or mother will correct it.” he said, unusually honest about vulnerability, showing that despite all, he still trusted Seraphina a lot.
“I know, Caelan. If I didn’t think you could handle this, I would never leave my precious little girl with you for an hour, let alone an entire weekend without me there too. You admittedly need a lot of practice, but a blind man can see how much you love our daughter. And you’ll learn fast, simply because that child won’t give you a choice. Our little girl is sharp as that sword you are so proud of.”
“Your faith in my paternal capabilities honors me.”
“The honor is all mine, you silly man. And also you need to simplify how you talk to her and around her, Caelan, if you do not want to constantly get tangled in a web of questions like the taste you had earlier. I think between you and me I am definitely the more patient one, but it can frustrate me to no avail. If you use big words with her, you’ll lose your mind in no time flat. Just a word of caution. For your mental wellbeing.” Seraphina giggled lightly, the corners of Caelan’s lips turned slightly upward.
“Got it. Won’t be too hard, I had to do that around my sister’s simple-minded husband ever since she first dragged him into this castle decades ago, and my four year old daughter is probably three times as smart as Blaine Cameron! Scarlett just had to marry and procreate with some mortal musician, and not just one kid, but three by him, not counting the rest they are raising too. I can’t understand how that man could father a girl like Vivien, must have been sheer luck or all Vatore genes! And now he’s one of us since Letty turned him, supposedly accidentally, meaning his stupid ass attends our meetings and events. Used to be so nice when it was vampires only and got to slam the door in his face. Anyway, how are things going with you?” Caelan finally realized that his rant about his much disliked brother-in-law was out of place, so he changed the topic to something more relevant.
“The Spellcaster turmoil you mean? It’s a process … in the right direction at long last, even though it will take some time to find the right equilibrium the majority of Spellcasters agree to and the rest can live with without wanting to go up on the barricades. This wasn’t the first power handover, and since we Spellcasters are not immortal, it won’t be the last. The precursors here were admittedly a bit more taxing, but my brother Dorian is a great help to me now, so much so that now we made yet another change to the old system, by both of us being equal leaders. A big step to have a man in the highest power position, together with a woman, for my kind that is unheard of. The biggest selling point was that this way neither one of us would have the power monopoly again, which seemed to have poisoned my mother’s mind. After her death, more and more things that none of the other Elders would sanction came to light, so we have a lot of cleanup to do amongst our own kind, all are eager to find ways to prevent this from ever happening again. My biggest , most exciting and dearest project is though that we have majority support by the Spellcasters to be actively working on rekindling a truce, if not a sort of alliance with the vampires, which is shockingly amazing. Spellcasters generally hate vampires, as you know, so there being an interest in changing that in future is HUGE. As ancient as our creeds are, we are not above progress and modernity, just seems to take us longer as a whole than it does the regular mortals. But I am sure your father and Riordan told you all about that. We have had several unofficial meetings about it and are making very good progress. Soon, there will be an official meeting – I am certain you will be in attendance …”
“Not sure. They mentioned it, but may think it better to keep me out of it. I have never been really interested in the decision making, not my cup of tea. I am more the executive branch rather than legislative, the hands-on is more up my alley. I leave the negotiations and law-making to my father, diplomacy isn’t my forte.”
“No kidding.” Seraphina smiled at him, but it was a bittersweet smile, her expression filled with regret, causing him to avert his eyes.
Things between them were courteous, friendly even, but still strained with very firm lines drawn in the sand in all directions. Caelan had supported Seraphina a lot after she killed her mother, protected her, hid her, her brother and nephew from the wrath of the Spellcasters, until they were ready to listen and investigate. After the council of grand mages cleared Seraphina, Dorian and Lysander from all punishable wrongdoing in Minerva’s death, they eventually hailed them as heroes for bravely preventing Minerva’s delusions of grandeur to cause even more chaos than she had already created. Standing up to such a powerful witch as Minerva had been, had taken skill and bravery, which was now acknowledged and even Caelan secretly admired that a lot in Seraphina.
Even after she was officially sworn in as the new grand mage, which were the highest leaders of the Spellcasters of a certain region, she and Caelan stayed in touch, she repeatedly signaled him her still unchanged interest in him romantically, he quickly made very clear that he wasn’t ready to rekindle their relationship, but he was interested in getting involved in their daughter’s life.
Since then they had met many times with the toddler, only for some hours, first several times on neutral ground, then Caelan had visited Seraphina in her home, he was noticeably distant and uncomfortable, so Seraphina started bringing Leeora to Vatore Castle for visits to make Caelan more comfortable and to give her daughter a chance to meet her grandparents and rest of the vampire family, introducing one by one at a time each visit to not overwhelm the four year old. Leeora LOVED the vampire side of her family, nothing about the darkness and mystery they exuded scared her and she LOVED Forgotten Hollow and Vatore Castle.
Today marked the first time that Caelan would watch their daughter for the entire weekend, by himself, without Seraphina, with the help of his parents in the background. Riordan and his wife Layla had moved out of Vatore Castle into a large estate in walking distance from it, after finding out Layla was pregnant with their second child, still both were only a stone-throw away and ready to help if needed. Their son Colton was a teenager now attending frequent vampire training at Vatore Castle with Blaine and Scarlett’s son Chase, who was 13 now as well.
Caelan knew Seraphina was still in love with him, but forgiving had never come easy to him. If there were any feelings left for her in his mind, body and soul, they lay deeply buried beneath all the feelings of perceived betrayal by her, so deep that even rhyme and reason had so far not been able to unearth them. His job of being the executioner of his father’s judgments had caused him to perfect his natural ability of disconnecting his feelings from his mind.
The weekend started with some hiccups for the new father, the new tasks were confusing for Caelan, but he insisted on doing everything himself, including preparing food for his child. He had some training from the times he had watched his niece Vivien, who now was a full-grown young woman and still his closest – and only – friend and confidant. Which is why after the weekend, once Leeora had been dropped off with her mother again, he went to see Vivien.
Del Sol Valley Cameron Mansion
“I am so proud of you, CaeCae! I knew you’d be a great daddy the first moment I saw you looking at the baby! A whole weekend of being a daddy – and see, you did great! And you liked it. I knew it! So, how are things going with Seraphina? You still love her, don’t you? Say nothing, you’d just deny it, when we both know you do. So, what are you gonna do about it?”
“I best get back to the castle, to see if father has another mission for …”
“Stop it! Don’t you dare try to puss out on me now! We both know if grandpa needed you, you would already know, and I am not buying your distraction tactics. I thought we tell each other everything. So … TELL! And everything, if you will.”
“There is nothing to tell. Seraphina is the mother of my child. A child I didn’t want, but Leeora exists nonetheless and I wouldn’t want to miss her for the world. That sums up the full extend of the relationship Seraphina and I have.”
“Because you are stubborn.”
“No, because I learned my lesson the hard way.”
“And what lesson would that be? That Seraphina is a good mother and did what she thought she had to do to protect her helpless child?”
“That I am not one for relationships. We both know I am not the romantic type, we both know who and what I REALLY am. I know you Viv, and I can tell you are hoping for a romantic sunset moment here, but I am not the prince on a white horse, nor do I want to be.”
“Maybe not the prince on the white horse, but you are the crown prince of the vampires. A dark prince. If you ask me, that works much better with a witch anyway. In other words, when are you gonna ask her on a date?”
“I don’t date, Viv. You have known me all your life and I never lied to you or hid what I am from you, so you should know that I use women to satisfy my needs and then I move on. The two times I strayed from that rule did not work out for me at all. Allie broke my heart, Seraphina broke my heart. How many more times do I need to try for even you to understand that no matter how much you want this to be one of your chick flicks starring me and Seraphina, it won’t work?”
“Chick flicks? I graduated from those many years ago, Cae, all I want is my beloved wonderful uncle to be happy, and preferably with the mother of his beautiful baby girl, whom he loves. That’s not a chick flick, that’s called real life, Cae!”
“Maybe for you mortals. For us vampires there are other rules.”
“Well, again, good thing Seraphina is a Spellcaster then! Bet she matches your ‘other rules’ perfectly. If you are too stubborn to accept what the rest of us can see, then think of Leeora. Try for her.”
“Many parents are no longer together. Leeora’s are no exception, it’s not that big a deal. Your parents weren’t together for a good part of your childhood. Seraphina and I do not need to be a couple for our daughter to be happy. Besides, even if we were together, we could not live together. I am so NOT moving to that dismal Glimmerbrook. And I cannot see the grand mage of the witches living with the vampires. So, good luck fangirling that problem away, Viv.”
“I never said it was gonna be easy, but where there is a will, there is a way! All am saying is that you two clearly still love each other, you were only separated because of some evil old witch, who in the meantime got roasted like a marshmallow, leaving only my stubborn uncle pumping the breaks.”
“Holy crap, girl. For a mortal you sound pretty cold and calculating. Are we really sure you are not one of us after all?”
“I wouldn’t mind being like you, but if you even breathe that around mom or grandpa, they have the vampire equivalent of a coronary. I was kinda hoping now that dad is like them … but no. Just tell Seraphina you still love her.”
“No! She sat in the meeting room of the castle and proclaimed in front of everyone that she never loved me!”
“She lied to save your daughter’s life! She had no choice, you KNOW that. So quit being such a lil whiny bitch, CaeCae!”
“You know I have killed people for less that that, so careful, little one! And besides, nobody knows for sure if she was lying then or is lying now! Maybe she wants me for some strategic reasons to somehow tied vampires to Spellcasters.”
“Threating me? Really Cae? Anyway, you do have a valid point, so you are gonna have to go by the signs. Seraphina is beautiful and powerful, yet she still patiently endures your bitchiness, while she keeps hoping you see the light. I have seen you two together, and you have moments where I want to bend you over my knee and spank nice into you. Seriously, Cae, this holdup is a YOU-problem. I have no doubt that she really loves you, Caelan and it pisses me off that you are throwing it away because of hurt pride.”
“Vivien, you don’t understand ..”
“You got that damn right, I do not understand! I am here looking at my own relationship dead and gone, because I was stubborn and arrogant and egoistic, full of my hurt pride, just like you are now. Liam has forgiven me over and over for all my bullshit and now, he won’t even return my calls or texts. He literally kicked me out of the penthouse, Cae, after I accused him of cheating and threw the engagement band in his face. Looking back now I don’t even know how I could do that to him. Any other man, maybe, but not Liam. I know him too well to have been thinking what I was thinking … I know had I been right he would have reacted differently. He was innocent and I broke it all because I am a fool. A stubborn, proud fool. So at the very least learn from my mistakes, Cae, since it looks like you are able to get a second chance, maybe I didn’t lose what I had with Liam completely in vain then.”
“What?! Viv, I didn’t know … you and Liam? Holy crap! Why didn’t you say something?!” Caelan’s eyes were wide, he stiffened and it was obvious that he didn’t know how to react. Emotions had never been his strong suit.
“Me living back in my room at my parents’ home didn’t give it away? Yeah, I fucked up good, Liam kicked me out and we are broken up.” Vivien’s tone was monotonous to keep herself from succumbing to her pain.
“I … just thought you were visiting a lot. I didn’t realize this was permanent. But why didn’t you clue me in!? You KNOW I am no good with such social cues. I don’t even know what to say or think right now.”
“As you said yourself, you are not the first address for relationship problems, besides, I don’t need to discuss what went wrong, I already know. What I can’t figure out is how to fix it, nor do I know that it is still fixable at this point, but hope dies last, right? So far, nothing I have tried has worked. Liam just won’t have it. He blocked my calls, blocked me on Skype, … I am really worried that it’s too late, Cae. I think I screwed up one time too many and lost him for good.”
“No way! I’ll go talk to him! Right now! We’ll fix this!”
“Caelan, please don’t! I don’t need you to go and end up in a fight with him. I know him, he’s definitely still very angry and won’t take advice, especially not the way you tend to deliver it. And you won’t like the way he is now, it would just end in a giant disaster. And I cannot have my uncle handle my relationship problems for me. I am 25, not 15. Look, it’s not his fault. It’s mine, I pushed him away because I forgot that a relationship requires compromise and diplomacy – and trust. Liam is too awesome to take my kind of abuse forever.”
“Oh, little one. You are awesome too, even if you may not feel like it now. You are beautiful and precious and smart … but you are right. I hated it when others meddled in Seraphina and my relationship, I know how that feels. If you don’t want me to, I won’t do anything. But I wish someone would have told me. I would never have sat here overwhelming you with my silly problems, too blind to see your own heart is broken. What can I do? How can I make it better?”
“Try with Seraphina, for me, for Leeora. Show me that there is hope, even when things really went awry. Give me hope that way, Cae. I never needed it more than now.”
Caelan pulled his niece, confidant, best and only friend into his arms, sighing deeply, closing his eyes.
He was a cold, calculating person, fearless, careless and reckless, but whenever Vivien had been unhappy, his life had come to a screeching halt until he had found some way to make her smile again. Seeing her like this hurt him at the very core. Which was most likely the reason for his next words, which definitely did not come easy to him.
“Fine, little one. For you, I will try, but only if you promise you will not give up yet either. I like you with him, he is good for you. If what you need from me is to give Seraphina a chance, and so it will be. Please stay strong, little one.”