“…when your heart changes, you change, and you have to make new plans.”― Katherine Hannigan
Granite Falls Cameron Cabin
Liam watched his two sisters and three cousins scurry away with their grandmother Rory, back to the cabin, their laughter and chatter getting quieter until it echoed off into the distance, while he himself remained at the nearby lake with their grandfather Declan. A peaceful scene, quiet, cozy, calm, just the two men fishing to substitute the family’s dinner.
“I feel honored you chose staying here with me over feasting on your grandmother’s delectable apple pie like the rest of the kiddos. Tough choice for sure, especially when you don’t have diabetes like me.” the old man chuckled.
“Always, grandpa. Now had it been her peach cobbler, I don’t know …” Liam joked, receiving a nudge by his laughing grandfather.
A contagious laugh, one Liam had always loved. Felt like … home.
“Listen, kid, I meant to talk to you alone anyway.” Declan said, now more serious again.
“Uh oh. Either a tongue-lashing is upon me or you wanna sue someone.” Liam smirked.
“Neither. You’re my oldest grandkid, and while I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, I think you and I always had the tightest bond. I know you kids are all adults, you have your own lives now, but I have been wondering how things have really been going for you. I worry about you the most of all the grandkiddos. You are so smart and dedicated, all work, too little play. You need to make sure not to get buried in things that won’t matter when you get to my age, Liam. You are only young once, enjoy it while you have the chance.”
“I am great, grandpa, no reason to worry. My marriage is great, Vivien has been busy too, travelling for performances, and we both have been on two nice vacations together since the honeymoon. Whenever she is not travelling I do make an effort to be home at a decent hour and we do date nights and such often. I had to work hard for a while to get to where I wanted to go, now I made partner at the firm, which at my age is pretty big. Sadly, I am still lightyears away from being able to afford opening my own practice, even though Lana’s husband died and left her the big law firm she and I both started out at. She offered to let me buy in, 50% ownership, but it’s iffy.”
“Lana … she used to be your … companion, right?”
“Yeah, something like that. Vivien just doesn’t like me talking to her at all, even though she has zero reason to be jealous. Lana and I hardly ever have any contact anymore and if, always 100% work-related. Like last time, when she called to offer me the buy-in.”
“Don’t do it. Let it go, kid. Not worth it. No matter how tempting the offer, if your wife doesn’t support it, forget about it. It became a ‘we’ when you said ‘yes’, remember that, Vivien gets a say in everything important now, no matter how you feel about that, just like you get a vote in what she does. How are things with the relationship though?”
“Yeah, you’re right and I won’t. Things with Viv are great, grandpa. Listen, this is still hush-hush, nobody else knows, don’t tell anyone, but something really got me very excited recently. You know that Vivien is working on an album, but what nobody knows yet, except her parents and I, well, and now you, is that it will be her last. She’ll release it, maybe do a few concerts to promote and then she’ll announce her official retirement as ViVa. She is just over the whole pop music thing, did a 180 and already got a new job as the first chair for the concert piano at the Grand Hall right across the plaza from the penthouse, she can literally walk to work in two minutes. That is HUGE. No more travel, classical music with the audience sitting down neatly and Vivien wearing formal gowns, rather than pop-music with obnoxious fans trying to get up in her business and her wearing miniscule, barely there stage clothes always just one wardrobe malfunction away from showing to the world what only I should see. But something that may interest you even more is that we recently began talking about starting a family. Now, at this point it is still just talk, still a lot of loose ends to tie up before we get started on that, but it was actually Vivien who brought all that up for discussion. I felt like I hit the lottery, grandpa. I cannot tell you how excited hearing her plan that with me made me. Once upon a time, not even that long ago, she and I basically broke up because she just couldn’t see herself married and with a child.”
“Congrats kid! I am very excited for you, thank you for sharing that with me! You are right, this is huge. Her wanting to settle down with you on her own accord, yeah, that is great news. I do remember all the heartbreak you two went through to get here. I hope I’ll be around to see the amazing offspring you two brilliant and gorgeous people will create, but even if not, I know it will be a much loved child with the best character and genetics imaginable, since both parents are smart, dedicated and wonderful people. I don’t have to see it happen to know you will make an excellent father, Liam, just like I had not the shadow of a doubt that you would make a great husband for Vivien.”
“Grandpa … of course you’ll be around! And if it’s a boy, I’ll name him after you, in your honor. Love you, grandpa.”
“Love you too, Liam, but that poor future kid of yours! I cannot tell you how many times my name has gotten butchered beyond my recognition and people thought I was simple-minded because they thought they were talking to me and I didn’t react to Devon, Devlin, Deacon or David or whatever they had turned me into in their minds. Hahaha. So, do my future great-grandson a favor and make it a middle name at least, to give the boy a fighting chance or let’s pray you have a girl. I do thank you for the immense honor though, Liam, you are a great kid. Oh, and maybe, if you can, give him a little brother with red hair. Those are worth their weight in gold.” Declan winked, referring to his own 2 years younger brother Everett, the two having been best friends all their lives, from earliest childhood on and still to this day, as they both enjoyed their retirements with their wives usually all together as a foursome just spending time at the Lake House.
“Ha ha ha – I’ll do my best, grandpa, but currently the plan is to stop at one kid. We both feel it’s easiest to dedicate as much of us as we can to only one child, while still being able to keep the level of dedication our jobs require. Plus, space at the penthouse is limited and neither of us is interested in moving.”
“Solid plan, Liam, just remember your father and uncle are twins, so it runs in the family.” Declan chuckled at Liam’s wide eyed-stare.
The evening ended by the campfire with the rest of the cousins and grandmother Rory, until the sun went down, it got cold and everyone was too tired to stay up, and even the next day their cheeks hurt from all the laughter and fun.
Forgotten Hollow Vatore Castle
While some of the Cameron grandkids enjoyed their outdoor adventure, several towns over, tucked away in vast forests and hills, at the Vatore Castle, Caleb was airing his frustrations.
“Say, do you just live for the sheer enjoyment of agitating and aggravating me?!”
“Father? I beg your pardon?” Caelan looked and sounded taken aback.
“Don’t play coy! As if I would condone a marriage between my only son – my precious heir – and a witch?! Have you lost all footing in reality now? What is wrong with you, my son!? Where have I failed you in your upbringing?! I could pick a random mortal off the street and believe he would NOT be capable of worse choices for the vampire society than you have been making!!”
“But father, I thought that’s what you wanted. For the greater good. It would create an ally and …”
“An ally?! Let me break this down for you, what a marriage between the heir of the vampire leader and a the grand mage of the witches would do. It would create ridicule at best, and a war in the worst case scenario! I have said little when you procreated with that … woman. Things happen, pregnancies happen, I love my granddaughter dearly, and we all had our hand in a cookie jar where it didn’t belong at some time or another, and sometimes fate calls us out on our actions. But a deliberate action such as marriage?! To a witch? Never! Marry your fill of mortals and outlive them to do it all over again, bring me a girl you wish to turn for my approval, or choose a decent vampire bride, but most certainly not one of those wand-wagging charlatans with a history spanning millennia of producing vampire hunters to kill our kind in the name of the Lord, which, considering they are all heathens is ridicule to the power of ten. That would be like the mongoose marrying the snake – where it is clear to all that only one will walk away from that union victoriously.”
“But … I … she has a point that we all do what we have to do, even if that means killing, for the greater good. Her ideas and mine line up well and …”
“The greater good, the greater good … spare me the greater good drivel, son! Someone of your standing does not get married for the greater good, you can afford to marry for love if you make sane choices. Which, to anyone with a functioning brain, should already exclude marrying the enemy, which we hold a rather feeble truce with. Would you maybe prefer me to consult your mother about this? I am sure she will be more than happy to tell you what she thinks about her only son looking at marriage as a sort of edict with the witch-folk! And why in the world would you suddenly consider marrying a mortal, witch or otherwise, but mortal nonetheless?! For years, decades even, you have talked our ears hot about how much you do not want to – and I quote – end up like Riordan with Anastasia. Seraphina will die, or is the big idea here to turn her? It better not be, if you were to even attempt that, I would strangle you myself, and promise you, I would only be the first in a long line to do so! In case this was not painfully clear yet, under NO circumstances is the witch to become a vampire. Am I understood?!”
“All right, father. But there is something else you must know. Something darker, involving Seraphina. I was hoping I could avoid telling you this, to let sleeping dogs lie, but it feels wrong and since Blaine, that motormouth, knows too I don’t want him to tattle, deliberately or accidentally. I want you to hear it from me.”
“May I take a guess, son, at your perceived big, dark secret? Could it be that it was Seraphina who poisoned Ingrid? Is that supposed to be news? I do not need her, you or Blaine to tell me, I already figured that out myself. I had my suspicions, but your sudden change of heart regarding her only confirmed what I already suspected. I do not know what the witch told you, nor do I care, but you need to get your head on straight. The act itself of her poisoning your bride may not have been illegal by our laws, or theirs, but it was a serious trespass nonetheless, one I have no intentions of tolerating and Seraphina will answer to me for it in due time. At the very least she entered our home uninvited to kill someone we were harboring. Anyone I invite to this home should feel save and be under my jurisdiction and only die if it is of natural causes or because I chose so. She abused the trust being my granddaughter’s mother afforded her, but that privilege has been revoked, in other words, if I ever see her anywhere near the castle again, it will be her death sentence and I have already informed her accordingly. Not only that, but her actions upset your mother greatly, which is an even greater offense in my book, meaning: the witch is lucky to be the mother of my granddaughter or we would already be speaking ill of a deceased at this moment, I would have personally seen to her end, and truth be told, she is not out of the woods yet. I may still change my mind, once I feel I have weighed off the consequences of that action in my head enough. The more reason for you not to marry someone so doomed to be on my list to potentially be eliminated. All that aside, my son, is it really THIS hard for you to find a suitable woman to share your life and bed with, one who not only would NOT cause some war or break laws for you to acquire and retain, but also have a high possibility to make you happy? Ideally because you make her happy and she CHOSE you out of her own free will? Do I really have to add playing cupid to my full plate yet again? If you bring home one more hair-raising attempt at a future bride, I swear to you my son, I will marry you off to Lilith’s daughter after all. That would at least get my sister out of my hair about her daughter being a shelf-warmer with the men. Constantly in my ear about finding her a match or advice on finding a mate. I have advice for her daughter: find different parents! But that is neither here nor there.”
“Oh god no! Father! Not Veronique Kyran! She’s my cousin and she is … dreadful! And aunt Lilith as my mother in law! No way! You cannot do that!” Caelan’s eyes widened for fear.
Caleb couldn’t help the smirk, a chuckle, his eyes glistening mischievously.
“No worries, it was merely a joke, although it would make infinitely more sense than the rubbish you have presented me with to date, however, I am not a monster and you are lucky I love you, son, even though you try your best to make that as hard as possible for even the most patient of fathers. Besides, I am quite certain your mother would make my life a living hell were I to even entertain that idea of making Veronique your bride for only a moment. I believe the only times I have ever seen your mother truly lose her cool was with Lilith, and with her, many times. Luckily Lilith knows if I were made to choose, it would not be in her favor, so she usually just at least tries to stay out of Breana’s way to avoid agitating her. As amusing as this anecdote is of your sweet-tempered mother whipping that devilish sister of mine into shape, on a more serious note again, I do wish you would get along with Blaine better. He is your sister’s husband, father of three of my biological grandchildren and he could definitely help you along with the lady-folk. Maybe you could watch and learn from him. To a degree.”
“What?!” Caelan’s facial expression spoke volumes.
“Oh, I am quite sure you heard me just fine, and comprehend me as well, my son. If you wanted to appease me and please me alike, putting some serious effort into remedying whatever it is that makes you dislike your brother-in-law so would be a step in the right direction. It would please me immensely and make your sister very happy. Your mother likes him very much as well and he is Vivien’s father, don’t forget that. I would enjoy seeing to two of you get along. Maybe even develop a friendship.”
“With all due respect, father, but I’d rather stick an umbrella up my rear and open it up, than become friends with that … that … cretin! Actually, if I am perfectly honest, I recently found out first hand that Blaine may not be all that bad and is a very reliable ally in a time of adversity. Not a fan, but he may not be quite as useless as I always thought … and you are right. He IS Viv’s father. Can’t be all that bad if he helped create such an excellent human being, who has always been my best, dearest and only friend.”
“You bring up another point I meant to discuss with you, son, because you should have friends your own age. I wish for you to put an effort to working towards that, it may do you a world of good. On a lighter note, your almost kind words about Blaine were highly unexpected and have me slightly worried about you, kid. This may be some unrecognized disease that befell you, which I am not aware of. ” Caleb chuckled.
“Now he calls me dad, huh? Well, I suppose the official part of the meeting is over anyway. Son, I mean it, it is not healthy for you to keep to yourself all the time or rely on a young mortal woman to be your one and only confidant. I know Vivien thinks you hung the moon, but you need someone aside from her to keep you grounded. For that reason I am going to suggest you go stay with Scarlett and Blaine at their mansion for a week for a much overdue family visit. It’s been quiet here, Riordan could probably handle it if something were to come up. And it would give you some opportunity to bond more with your younger nieces and nephews there, while I doubt it would ever become the bond as you have with Vivien, a little more interaction couldn’t hurt. And maybe you can deepen whatever made you change your mind about Blaine. Plus, those two know a LOT of people, maybe they can help you make new connections worth keeping.”
“I didn’t change my mind about Blaine, dad, I still think he is … well … not my favorite, nor will he ever be. All I said was that he has proven himself to not be as much of a waste of skin as I always thought he was. And even more surprisingly, he even finally learned how to port.”
“Finally? My dear son, he has only been a vampire for a relatively short time and might be one of the fastest to master that skill I have ever encountered. But then again, I suppose, if you had five children, anyone would learn things like that quickly as well.” Caleb chuckled again.
“Right. But I think I’d rather go hang out with Vivien and Liam. They both know a lot of people, too, and we could …”
“Oh, I am sure you would, but you will do no such thing. Vivien and Liam have other worries, she is changing careers for him, both trying to settle down more, so you will NOT bother them with your homebrewed, nonsensical problems. You will go to Del Sol Valley, and that is an order. Oh, and Caelan, stay out of the sun. Tanning is not for us.” Caleb chuckled again at the last part.
“Thanks dad, very funny. You are really on a roll tonight. But please remember whom you are speaking too. You think I have the mental capacity of a Blaine Cameron?”
“After your attempts at finding a suitable mate, I am not so sure what to think about your decision-making skills anymore, my son. And make no mistake, Blaine isn’t a fool. Quite the contrary, his whole extremely casual act is nothing but smoke and mirrors to hide how intelligent and cunning he is beneath, a trick of many great leaders. Never let the enemy see your cards. He would make a worthy opponent to anyone, who ever got on his bad side. Blaine is learning the vampire skills fast and solid, I am honestly considering having him join me and Riordan in the ranks of legislator for the vampire society at some point down the line, a job once intended for you, but you never showed any interest in it, rather go hunt and/or slay perpetrators. Well, to each their own, I suppose and you do excel at it. However, my decision stands. You will visit in Del Sol Valley for a week, I will inform your sister accordingly. I suggest you spend some of that time observing Blaine, you could learn a thing or two from him yet. Useful things, social graces, how to charm a lady, small talk in a masculine way. Just do not go and pick up that terrible, terrifying potty-mouth that man has on him. Should Scarlett or any of the children ever start sounding like him, I shall lock Blaine into our dungeon myself for an entire fortnight!”
Del Sol Valley Cameron Mansion
“Ah nahhhh .. you again? Did you get lost on your way to hell? Miss me already, huh? Just couldn’t live without me. Brings tears to my eyes. No seriously, I almost wanna burst into tears for having to deal with you AGAIN. Besides, if you are looking for Viv, she ain’t here. She’s in San Myshuno, where she lives now.” Blaine said, frowning, but grinning, while stepping aside to allow Caelan to enter.
“I know that. And no, didn’t miss you, just hadn’t puked in a while. Thought looking at your ugly mug would do the trick. It works, I feel nauseated already.”
“Aww, look at you being all cute trying to deliver a solid burn. Bad move though, or do you think it’s a smart choice to insult a man in his own home?” Blaine smirked triumphantly.
“This isn’t YOUR home, this is … oh.”
“Yeah, my little Caeley-pooh, it’s MY home all right. I am the wealthy motherfucker around here, your big sister didn’t marry down. She may be some vampire heiress born and raised in real life castle, but I had shit-tons of cash and a castle of my own already, which is now also hers, obviously, but I ain’t no leech, my boy. Speaking of wives, did you bring the wedding invitation with you? Assume that’s why you are here.”
“There will not be a wedding. This is a social call at the behest of my father, I am sure he already informed Scarlett of my arrival. Blame him for me being here. He requested I’d stay for a week.”
“Oh, a whole week, ah, didn’t I just win the fucking lottery here. Who cares, we got the room, you can even have my coffin, I barely use it, easier to plow your sister in a real bed anyway. However, this place is big enough to avoid each other, if I don’t want to, I won’t even know you are here. But I am curious though, did your dusty old brain finally kick into gear and gave you the epiphany that marrying a witch who killed your last bride is yucky-yuck?”
“No. Father thought it unwise. Let’s just say he was quite adamant about vetoing my choice.”
“Ah. In other words, Caleb shit a brick about that BS, just like I did, because despite all your verbiage on how vampires differ, it was and is a bullshit idea to everyone with a brain. Gotcha. Well, but what really butters my toast here is the relief that I am not getting the witch as a sister-in-law after all, since I wasn’t exactly a big hit with her. Good thing I am a vamp, or I’d most likely be the next one keeling over dead while foaming from the mouth after a sippy-sip.” Blaine huffed a laugh.
“Sippy-sip? Can you really not talk like a normal man?” Caelan sounded irritated.
“Sorry, it’s what happens when you are around a talkative, curious toddler all day long.”
“Right. Anyway, Seraphina wouldn’t dare touch you, she knows full well that Scarlett only seems so calm, but she would tear her to shreds. My sister is incredibly powerful, in case you haven’t figured that out yet. And my father would start a war about it. You are perfectly safe. Truth be told, Blaine, I am rather relieved. I felt obligated to strike the match with Seraphina, but can see now that it would be nonsense. Maybe once upon a time that might have worked, but she and I both evolved in very different directions and are no longer a match at all. By the way, I meant to thank you for staying by my side during all of that.”
“Yeah, no problem. That’s the Cameron way. We don’t leave our own behind and we are there for each other. But since we are in the middle of kumbayaing here, can I ask you something personal?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Did you actually love that chick? Ingrid?”
“I thought I did. Now that she’s gone I feel nothing. A void, and maybe relief. I made a terrible mistake, one I wish I could undo, but it will just be on my conscience for all times.”
“What conscience? Was I dreaming that or did you not just recently schoolmaster me on how you are different than me and how we both are different from regular mortals and neither one of us has a conscience and all that jazz?”
“Interesting thought, to know you are dreaming of me.” was Caelan’s bone-dry retort.
Blaine lips turned into a grin, and suddenly both men burst into laughter simultaneously.
“You know, you old nightmare, you aren’t all that bad when you are trying to act like a human being. Almost believable.” Blaine chuckled.
“Well, you sailor-mouth, you can actually be decent if you put your mind to it. Maybe father was right and I should take a page out of your book, considering you did very well for yourself marrying my sister, and the girl you had before her was quite my type as well, too bad she’s dead. Maybe you could lead me to a place where there are more women like that, with some luck maybe you could help me find one I could enjoy and my father would approve of.”
“Does this shed look like the fucking Love Boat to you, Caelan? But yeah, I can try and get that head on straight for you about girls worth your while, maybe make a few introductions, but you are gonna do the legwork your-damn-self, I am not a friggin matchmaker. I don’t know many vamp chicks yet, but if you promise the next time you get your tail in a spin about some mortal babe, you go and ask your daddy for permission first and then make sure the girl is cool with that shit BEFORE you nibble her into immortality, and in that exact order too. Oh – and if the girl doesn’t want to, you will walk yo ass away from it all, okay? Deal? Well, then yah, good old Blaine can get you hooked up, mah brother from another mother and father. At the very least we can get you around pretty girls enough that once you meet Miss Right, when it REALLY counts, you can behave like a decent human being to win her affections after all my training, because Lord knows you need help with your social skills, bruh. The sirens blaring kinda emergency help, man. But Blaine to the rescue, we’ll get you there. Come here you freak, and bring it in.” Blaine said and surprisingly Caelan did step forward for the bro-hug.
Into this walked Scarlett, with a freshly bathed Caitlin on her hand, flanked by Chase and Blake, to greet Caelan.
All of them froze in their tracks, staring on in disbelief, until Blake broke the silence first.
“Mom, what’s going on here?” he wondered.
“I have NO idea, Blake …”
“Whoa…” made little Caitlin, while her brother Chase now added.
“I don’t think I should be exposed to this “Brokeback Mountain” moment between dad and uncle Cae, before one or both of them lose their shit and start trying to off each other or something in our home. I’ll be in my room to finish the level of my new game.”
“If you go ANYWHERE right now – ESPECIALLY near that computer of yours, I will break the keyboard over your head, Chase! We all are staying and smiling while we observe whatever this is now. I am sure there is some sound, logical explanation to this. So, smile already!” Scarlett hissed at her teenage son, while trying to wrap her head around the highly unusual scene presenting before her.