“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it.
That factor is attitude.”William James
Forgotten Hollow Vatore Castle
Visibly fuming for anger, yet eerily calm and composed on the outside, Caleb stared down his son, the intense glare would have been enough to force any mortal man to his knees with fear, but not his own son, the crown prince of the vampires of a considerably large region, who remained standing, awaiting his father’s reaction to the news he just shared with him.
“Have you lost your mind? How dare you?” Caleb’s voice now roared into the uncomfortable silence from before.
Caelan didn’t answer, but averted his gaze.
“I did what you wanted me to. I found a bride. I made my choice.” Caelan’s tone sounded defiant.
One long glare by Caleb, who then without warning raised his hand and struck his son, a forceful hit, most mortals would have been thrown to the ground by it, yet Caelan barely lost his footing, took it without a sound, closed his eyes briefly, then looked back into his father’s eyes.
“You know very well that was not what I meant, so don’t try to play me for a fool! That is at best disrespectful to me! How dare you turn someone without my consent? You knew better than most what sort of serious transgression that is. Must I remind you that, in fact, it is YOUR job to bring to justice those who broke that very rule? Being my son doesn’t exempt you from abiding by it yourself! Or do you suggest you are above the law?”
“I had no choice! I lost Ally, and I lost Seraphina. I was not going to lose Ingrid too. It got harder and harder to hide what I really am, I knew I couldn’t tell her and risk the secret getting out so I had to turn her. And I do not want to lose her to time and aging, like Riordan did with Anastasia. I know what you are gonna say, I should have just found a vampire woman, but I don’t want a cold as ice vampire bride, I needed someone recently turned, so she would be … feminine and … emotional.”
“Good grief son. You did not lose Ally, for she was never yours, you told me so yourself. All along she was in love with that Witcher. You may have loved her, but that was a one way street. Seraphina still loves you, but you were too stubborn to forgive. So you go find a new woman and just turn the first one who gives you the time of day, willfully breaking my rule? Was she even aware of what was going on? I mean, the truth about who and what you are and what you were doing to her?”
“She … I … well, immediately leading up to it I am certain she kind of figured it out about my … condition. But not the … rest of it all. No. I felt it best not to startle her with what lies ahead.”
“Condition? CONDITION?! Don’t you dare call our state of being a condition, as if it were some debilitating disease. Show some pride! Know your standing in this society, you are the son of the leader of a large community of people with that ‘condition’! And you didn’t think it would startle her waking up realizing she is dying, to be startled again once she rises again afterwards, feeling very different and confused, only to have to fully relearn life again?! Hmm?! No?! Where is she now?”
“In my room. Locked in. For now. She is still mortal, I only turned her last night, so she hasn’t … started the … well, the effects haven’t set in yet. Probably a few days …”
“She’s in my castle. Just splendid … locked up, too. How charming! For someone afraid to startle her with the truth of what you are and the choice for her to join, you aren’t afraid to startle her by holding her hostage in your private quarters? Oh, for heaven’s sake, son! What are you using for logic this season?!” Caleb’s face darkener further.
“I could hardly leave her in her apartment for her roommates to find, thinking she were dead. She would have ended up at the city morgue and either they would have buried her, cremated her or if it took too long, she would have risen – in desperate need to feed – all way too much of a risk.” Caelan tried to justified his actions.
“You got that right, a risk, and the news are that it’s still not averted. You have no idea what’s ahead of you, attempting to contain her, train her and make sure she won’t go rogue, once transformed, unless you plan on keeping her locked up for the end of days. Well, like you said it should take her a couple more days till she collapses and perishes to start her transition and a couple more days till that’s done. Knowing you, she’s young and healthy, so all that should maybe take a full week, give or take. That should give us a little time to plan a wedding fit for the crown prince and to dream up a believable tale as to why I would have consented to such nonsense and to introduce her to our rules and the society. You, my son, had better make sure she will be obedient and oblige by all that is expected of her. I want no fiasco, whatsoever. I will inform Riordan and your mother, after all it will fall on her to teach the ways of a proper vampire heir consort – what is even the name of my future daughter-in-law? If that is not too much to ask …”
“You know her, father. I brought her here for you and mother to meet just a few weeks ago. Her name is Ingrid. Ingrid Rykerson, she is from Sweden …”
“Spare me the banter – I don’t give a toss where she is from or about her last name. And you have been bringing girls here to toy with, feed off and for your carnal pleasures since you were old enough to have figured out what that even means! How was I to realize this one is someone you are serious about?! In other words, I faintly recall you introducing someone briefly, but your mother and I barely got past a greeting before you whisked her off to god knows where, nor do I even want to guess what for!”
“I told you … and mother … even then, that I … deeply cared about Ingrid …” stuttered Caelan.
“You deeply cared about a lot of things over a lot of years, son, none of which ever had any staying power! None, except your primal desires to kill and to use women. Those always remained, one became your calling and task in this society, the other what could be called a past time. Now you expect me to applaud the sudden news of a cad like you turned husband material overnight? Pardon me for not being an instant believer! How does Miss … ahem … Irene, was it? No, wait, that wasn’t it, argh, such foreign, non-Italian, non-English names always sound like jibberish to me.”
“Ingrid, father. Ingrid Rykerson. Not Irene!”
“Irene, Ingrid, … what counts in our case is the last name and that will soon enough be Vatore now, whether she fancies that or not – whether ANY of US fancy that or not – thanks to your imbecile demeanor. Ingrid Vatore, well, not the most elegant flow of a name I ever heard, but oh well. I may recruit your mother and Scarlett as well to get this Ingrid up to par on proper behavior among us – and I will make sure my sister and her devilish brood are kept at bay until I can be sure this Ingrid is trustworthy and even fit to represent our name. What does my future daughter-in-law even look like? I didn’t think too much of it when you brought a girl over, and frankly, I have since welcomed a good dozen of new vampires to the region, while I pride myself on an excellent memory, I still only have a brain, not a computer chip to recall over 500 years worth of faces and names.”
“Oh, she is beautiful, father, true sight to behold, looks just like an angel. Delicate pale skin of a soft Ivory shade, long light blonde hair the color of moon rays, blue eyes the color of Forget-Me-Nots, …”
“Oh, dear Lord, you are actually in love with the girl. Well, hallelujah, at least something to build on, let’s just hope the feeling is mutual – and will remain so after you just turned her against her will. I must admit, I have my doubts …”
“I do love her and she me, I am certain of it. She will forgive me.”
“As you forgave Seraphina? Your own actions bely your hopes, you are banking on quite sandy grounds, my son.”
Caelan’s eyes filled with equal defiance and fear at his father’s words, he briefly and faintly shook his head as if to shake the dark thoughts of worry out of it.
“That was different father. Ingrid will forgive me and love me, or I shall spend the rest of eternity making her love me all over again. Soon I shall marry her. And I will train her, but maybe someone could help me while I am away on missions. Besides, she and I didn’t barely just meet, father, you are mistaken. We met the beginning of fall of last year. It is now January. Almost two full seasons together already …”
“I own a calendar, son, but that still hardly makes this a long-term relationship by any stretch of imagination! Well, who am I to judge, back in my days, most people of our standing faced long arranged strategic marriages, and you only met your betrothed the day before the wedding, if not the day of, matrimony for love was a thing reserved for the peasant folk. I was to be wed myself to a girl I never laid eyes on just before disaster struck ending with your aunt and myself penniless, homeless and turned into vampires, while our entire family had been killed and the home taken from us. Well, fine then, please do find the time to make yourself familiar with what is expected of a groom of your standing, I will inform Riordan, Scarlett and your mother and start orchestrating a wedding. That was the last thing I needed on my plate now, but, for whatever it is worth, congratulations. Now, you did tell Seraphina about the woman you have been courting and your suddenly impending nuptials?”
“No, I have not.”
“That should be your next task then. By that I mean, go now. And Caelan, keep your composure, remain polite, we are making excellent progress with the witch-folk, I would hate for you to burn those bridges with your fiery temper. Tread lightly! Am I understood?”
“Father, I don’t think I should …”
“Oh, but I do. And you will. Now. Make haste, son. Daylight is afoot.”
“Father – Seraphina and I are already broken up, I do not see the value in annoying her with such news that bear no value to her. Why hurt her if there is no reason for it? I really do not want to do this, especially not now. Leeora might hate me for making her mother cry … Please father, can’t this wait? I promise I will have the talk with her … eventually … just not right now.”
“If not now, when then? Just avoid her till she died? They may have worked before you had a child with her, but that is not an option, remember? You will have to tell her, sooner the better.”
“Father – I do not see the rush for this. It’s all the same to Seraphina whom I turn or marry …”
“My dearest son, you seem to suffer the misconception that we are having a discussion here. We are most certainly NOT! You already defied my wishes enough, from here on out you WILL abide by ALL rules in place and everything I ask of you, have I made myself sufficiently clear now? If not, I can summon Riordan, which I would really not want to have to do, considering his wife is about to give birth any day now, I would hate for him to miss the birth of his daughter on account of sentencing his cousin for his gruesome transgression against vampire codex and I would hate to be without a male heir bearing my name. So, considering all that, my child, you will now go and do as I instructed, speak to the mother of your illegitimate child, who also happens to be a VERY valuable and important ally to my efforts for the whole vampire nation. And in future, remember to practice restraint. I let your sister off the hook when she turned her husband, and covered her mistake up, lying to our people about it all having been my idea, which it MOST CERTAINLY was NOT, so it seems only fair I’d do the same for you, but make no mistake, I am livid about all this! Livid with you!
“Yes, father. I understand. Thank you for your kindness. I won’t disappoint you.”
“Oh, I bet you won’t, and if you do, I will ascertain you will recall every single word of this very exchange for all eternity. My weakness is and always has been my family, you are my son, I am – above all – a father, so we shall accept what cannot be undone and make the best of it. Caelan, be gentle with Seraphina’s feelings, do not be tempted to allow your temper or any harsh words, no matter what she might say or do, but be sincere, but make sure she understands the weight of your words.”
Caelan nodded briefly, then turned and left.
Once he was gone, Caleb rubbed his forehead for frustration, before he teleported to his personal quarters to meet his wife.
“Hello my love, our son just bestowed the most auspicious of news on me.”
“Oh dear. What did he do this time?”
“Defied me, as usual and created an avalanche in the process. He turned a girl he brought for us to meet some time ago, who is incidentally in this very castle awaiting the begin of her journey to be like us. Once that is completed, she’ll be our daughter-in-law. Are you as ‘happy’ as I am about this – not?! Fret not, I let the boy have it, for putting us in such an awkward position because of his insolence. AGAIN!”
“Oh for heaven’s sake, honey. How is Caelan doing?”
“How is HE doing? Shouldn’t you be more worried about how I am doing, having to figure out how to cover and clean up his immense mess?”
“Oh, don’t be so theatric, Caleb. I find it rather – romantic. The boy is clearly in love, and love made him do it. Make her his for all eternity. Now it all makes sense. He hired a violinist and I saw him dancing with a lovely lady wearing one of the old gowns two nights ago in the ballroom below. How sweet and darling, who knew our son could be so very romantic while courting his future bride. Oh, my heart, my knees turn into pudding about all that!” Breana was highly enamored, an emotion that surprised Caleb, as he had expected her to be as appalled as he was.
“More like my head turns into fireworks, but no, I do not find severe lawbreaking very romantic at all. Last I saw him he was wiggling like an earthworm about to be devoured by a crow, as he knew full well he had severely failed us. I will admit, despite the headache he caused me with the ungodly mess he created, it was the most fun I had of late watching him squirm. Well, looks like our son chose a bride, for better or worse. Hope you and Scarlett are ready to plan a wedding, seeing how Riordan’s wife is currently otherwise occupied. Has she had the child yet?” Caleb smiled devilish, making him look more like a little boy, than an old and very powerful vampire.
“Caleb, you horrible man. You should not toy with our poor son like that. And no, no news about Riordan and Layla’s baby, but they did send Colton to Del Sol Valley for the weekend to hang out with Chase, and so Blaine and Scarlett can keep an eye on him.” Breana tried to keep a straight face, but couldn’t hide a light smirk.
“Oh, puh-lease, ‘poor son‘, I beg you! Oh, but you bet I toyed – and did I ever! I even got to slap him for effect, gave me some sense of satisfaction, payback for some of his disrespect he dared to give me over the years. No worries, he is absolutely intact. Merely a strong pat on his cheek.”
“I am NOT in favor of you hitting our son, Caleb, no matter how hard or soft or the circumstance! This time, I am absolutely serious!” Breana looked upset, and now it was Caleb who squirmed uncomfortably.
“Our son, my love, tracks down and retrieves or kills other vampires for a living. I can assure you they won’t just let him catch them without a serious fight, most of them are older and some significantly stronger than him, meaning they will not touch him with kid gloves. He uses weaponry with great frequency, has been dragging around his Longsword like a binkie before he was strong enough to even lift it and until recently I would have sworn he goes to bed with that thing. Caelan gets punched, shoved, strangled and such things in the process of retrieving perpetrators or when carrying out sentences – and if not on a mission, he misses violence so he deliberately gets into bar brawls! In other words, he can handle a simple, light slap by his father. In fact, watching his entitled ways sometimes, I believe I should have spanked his obnoxious behind a lot more during his childhood. Arrogance has been the downfall of many a great men, especially leaders, as history teaches us.”
“Oh Caleb, please, spare me another history lecture. I never want to hear about you man-handling our son ever again, you hear! I stand by your side to back you up like the wife of a leader should, but if it comes to our children I am very serious when I say we are to support them, not torture them when they make mistakes. I am convinced both children aim to make us proud, but they will fail, and then they need us to help them back on their feet, not pile on complaints, let alone amuse ourselves at their cost! You think about that, Caleb, while I shall go check on the girl. Is she still unconscious? Oh, how is our other granddaughter going to handle this you think? Leeora, I mean.”
“I haven’t a clue, and you are right, my petal, it was wrong of me to lay into him as much, but Caelan committed a crime, punishment ranking from exile all the way to death, let’s not forget that. Considering that, the tongue-lashing he received was most certainly the lesser of two evils, so be sweet to me again. And Bre, my rose, leave the girl be, she should be Caelan’s responsibility to calm and contain, at least initially. All I know is that he brought the girl into the castle, I will presume locked in his room without the foggiest idea how she got there and why. I am also going to assume she might still be unconscious, since we have yet to hear any indications of her trying get out, but he only just turned her, meaning, it may take some time. That will be Caelan’s worry for when he returns, I sent him to clarify things with Seraphina – and obviously Leeora. He is enroute as we speak.”
“Good call, sending him to clear the air. And fine, I forgive you, but no more violence towards our family. You are lucky I love you and find you so terribly irresistible, Mr. Vatore.”
“Well, Mrs. Vatore, you must not forget that I am not just but a man, but also the leader of a very large and potentially very dangerous array of overgrown, fanged, immortal toddlers. I have to show strength and be strict enforcing laws and our codex, or otherwise they won’t take me serious at all. That could mean terrifying news for all mankind, vampires, mortals, witch-folk alike.” Caleb spoke, then gently pulled his wife into his arms, she melted into his embrace.
“True, but it is the man I fell in love with, Caleb, not the leader. I feared the leader, but can barely keep my hands off the man ….”
“Hmm … I’d like to hear more about that part, my petal. I believe it requires a lot more in-depth analysis, in fact, and the headaches our children tend to give me are dissipating quickly.” he said, then kissed her.
Glimmerbrook Seraphina's home
Seraphina turned away from him, making him feel and look tortured just the same.
“I truly am sorry … it was never my intend to hurt you.”
“I knew I had lost you, I could feel it, the last few times you came to see Leeora, something about you was different. The iciness around your heart was melting. Foolish of me to hope it was because you were forgiving me. You were in love, you ARE in love, just not with me.”
She turned around and looked into his eyes.
“I am happy for you, Caelan, truly, I mean it. Love is what it’s all about, the whole meaning of life. I had to make a choice, once upon a time, and it cost me your love, but I would make that same choice over again a thousand times, if I had to, for even then I felt it already, that there is no greater love than between a mother and a child.”
“Maybe that between a father and a child. At least equal.”
“Of course. I trust our arrangement will remain the same?”
“Nothing could stop me from seeing my daughter.”
“All right, at least I won’t lose you completely. I’ll see you when you come to see her.”
“You cannot ever truly lose me, just our connection has transformed into something different, Seraphina. Through Leeora we will always be connected. I will go as far as to admit that I look forward to seeing you, when I come to visit her. I truly hope you will find love again. No, I KNOW you will. Equal or better than what we had. After all, we both know without your guidance I was never much of a boyfriend.”
“Something better? Is that even possible? What we had, you and I, was unique. That will be hard to replace. To be perfectly frank, I have been hesitant to let go of that very last inch of hope, you coming here to tell me the truth has liberated not only you. But it looks my heart was on a fool’s errand, hoping. And I am not getting any younger. Unfortunately, unlike you, I cannot escape the rat race of time and I am already showing my age. If I wait much longer, I will be lonely for good. Not the way I imagined my life to end, alone.”
“You would never be alone. You have our daughter, and you have me. We still share our child, even if we no longer share a bed. And you are still … beautiful.” Caelan said, meaning every word, except the last part.
Yes, Seraphina was still attractive, but she had aged significantly and was no longer the young girl he had fallen in love with. He didn’t want to think it, but couldn’t help admitting to himself that he would never fall for her now. A humbling realization of the occasional shallowness of the heart of a vampire, who was born knowing he would never age past a certain point.
“Charming liar, you are, but thank you nonetheless for the words of encouragement. Much needed.”
“Might I come to your wedding?”
“I am afraid not. I wish it were possible, but the rules are firm and clear: Vampires only. I cannot even have Leeora there. Or my niece, Vivien. I so much want both of them there, but I know there is no way. Rules, and laws, edicts and decrees. Too many ‘Nos’, never enough ‘Yes’. Maybe, despite the progress my father thinks you are making together for us, the witchfolk and the mortals, I am afraid that nothing will ever change. Not at the very core. We will always be but square pegs trying to fit into the round hole that are each others’ worlds, your kind and mine hiding who we truly are in the shadows, even though both of us are far stronger than any mortal could ever dream to be.”
“I believe that one day there will be peace between us all, maybe not within my lifetime, but maybe Leeora will find a way, or maybe at least our species can be together, if they so choose. Maybe Leeora will one day find her own vampire prince, and will live out what her mother couldn’t. I will most certainly not keep her from finding her happiness, even if I had to change every single law and rule there is in the entire magic realm for that to happen.”
“And I would kill anyone who would dare stand in the way of our daughter’s happiness.”
But then Seraphina casually said something that would engrain deeply into Caelan’s soul.
“Then let’s just hope for all our sakes that won’t ever be your new bride … you know what they say about step-mothers …”