“Learn to wear your scars like wings.”― Purvi Raniga
Newcrest Home of Chase & Hailey Cameron with infant son Connor, and Colton & Maddie Vatore with infant daughter Keira
The days following the long flight back from Tartosa, Italy were tough. Stuck there for weeks until the Italian doctors attending Hailey okayed a long-distance flight back home under close and constant medical supervision, and ever since their return, she had been weak and slept a lot. All normal part of the recovery from almost dying in childbirth, due to an accumulation of freak things involving broken arteries, internal bleeding and sepsis. At least finally her prognosis was good again to make a full recovery, even though the path would be long. Hailey certainly was bound and determined, as was Chase.
Standing at the coffeemaker with Colton, Chase looked up and instantly smiled as if by reflex when Hailey walked into the kitchen, slowly, each step deliberate and slightly insecure while lightly stabilizing herself on the wall, then the counter, until Chase put down his cup, rushed to her to whisk her up into his arms, where he kissed her.
“Hey you … that’s enough now.” he told her, smiling at her in his arms.
“Hey … I CAN walk … you know. And I am supposed to.” Hailey responded with a soft, weak, and slightly apologetic smile.
“I know you can, and the doctors said you should, but you are not supposed to do it a lot. Not yet. Especially not take stairs! You are to build back up slowly and ALWAYS with someone there to catch you in case you go weak. I didn’t hear you call for me, or did you forget my name? Bad Patches. Tssk.” Chase reprimanded gently, ‘Patches’ was an old nickname he had for her, just as one of many of hers for him was ‘Gump’.
“Quit babying her, bruh. She’s gonna forget how to function completely, poor Hailz. She is our sweet one, but not made of sugar. Welcome back girl.” Colton said, referring to the long sleeps Hailey took in between her few, brief waking times, first at the hospital in Tartosa, and now here, ever since flatlining after Connor’s birth.
“Thanks Cole-sweetheart. He’s right, you know, Chase, I know it comes from a place of love, so thank you, but please put me down. I am starting to feel like your toddler, not your wife. How long was I out for this time? I hate that all I ever do these days is sleep. How’s Connor? And how is beautiful little Keira?”
“All is well, babe. We got it. Connor is fine, as is Keira. Want me to take you up to the nursery?”
“I want some of THAT. And I want you to put me down, please.” Hailey pointed at Colton’s coffee mug.
Smirking, Colton held out his cup to Hailey, she greedily reached for it, which Chase foiled by turning away with her in his arms.
“Patches … no caffeine. Not yet. Doctor’s orders.” Chase gave her an apologetic frown.
“Chase! If I am EVER to get back to normal again, I need to start living a normal life … please. Put me down and let me have a tiny sip. I promise I won’t overdo it.” Hailey told him.
“Seriously Chase … chill. Your poor wifey! She’s a Cameron now, if what happened didn’t kill her, prolonged coffee withdrawals will for sure.” Colton added.
“Fine. I am just worried.” Chase put her down, made her sit, then gave her his own cup, barely a quarter full now, from which she drank tiny sips, moaning contently as both guys joined her.
“Please don’t look at me like this, guys. Makes me feel like a specimen in a lab.” Hailey told them.
“We’re just happy to have you, Hailz. Sue us. You scared the SHIT out of all of us.” Colton told her, his voice gentle and sincere.
“I know, Colton. Scared the shit out of me too. At least now I know first-hand what dying feels like. Not something I was eager to find out, but oh well. I do not recommend, seriously, no. Hey Chase, can I see our son now? And Cole’s beautiful baby girl? I need to smell some babies to get the memory of that birthing drama off my brain. Going into early labor during your sister’s destination wedding ceremony would have been bad enough already, as was being too late for an epidural, but no – I had to one up myself. Oh man.” Hailey sighed.
“Sure, my lil overachiever!” Chase picked her up and rushed to the nursery with her at vampire speed, then put her down, both stood and stared in awe at the two sleeping babies. One of these humans they created. The other had been made by their best friends in the whole world. Looking at them, sleeping, in cribs next to each other, it was almost certain that these kids would be best friends one day, just like their parents.
“Patches … my grandpa Caleb was here earlier … ” Chase finally said quietly.
“Oh? To visit his great-grandson? Sweet. Sorry I missed him.” Hailey said.
“He was sorry to have missed you too, but … it wasn’t just a social visit. See, you know my grandpa is this very powerful uber-vamp, very old, and he has abilities and skills most of us vamps don’t have. For one, he can detect things we can’t really pick up on …” Chase was serious, Hailey could read in his face and tone what he was trying to say.
“Oh. So, Connor is …”
“Okay. Wow. I am sorry, it’s a bit of a shock, even though of course we both knew this was a possibility. Don’t get me wrong, I am cool with it, just need to wrap my head around that I gave birth to a vampire baby. What about Keira?”
Chase shook his head.
“Huh? How can that be? Both fathers are vamp, same level, same age, both mothers are mortal, why is one kid vamp and the other not? Makes no sense!”
“I don’t know, Patches. Grandpa didn’t even have a solid explanation. Maybe it’s because my mom is very powerful, as is my grandpa, so maybe it magnified it for us … I don’t know. He did suspect though that Connor being a vamp had something to do with your medical emergency, while Maddie just gave birth normally.”
“Huh? But your parents were mixed too, until your dad got turned. Your mom had six kids, 5 of them vampires at birth and she was fine every time.”
“Yeah, but my mom was the vampire in the relationship and my dad the mortal. In our case it was the other way around, and there often are complications when the one carrying the child is the mortal. Vampire babies can be hard on a mortal’s system sometimes, evidently. I didn’t know, Patches, I swear. There is a lot of stuff about vampires that even we vampires don’t always know, until we start digging for it. Even my grandpa, who is a walking, talking vampire encyclopedia doesn’t know everything, unless he starts researching.”
“So, what does that mean for us as parents?” Hailey wondered.
“Nothing until puberty. Vampire babies, toddlers and children are the same as mortal kids, nobody can tell the difference, as you can see with my younger siblings. The actual transformation doesn’t happen until puberty hits, so around 13ish. The hormones are what triggers it. That’s when things change for us. Connor will lose the ability to eat foods, to stand direct sunlight, will need to feed on blood or blood alternatives and will need to start vampire training. For us that would obviously be at Vatore Castle, most likely by my grandpa or Riordan, over the course of several years. Like special classes he will have to attend on some afternoons and such, that’s what my siblings and I did. I’ll port over with him and bring him back after he’s done.”
“Okay. Well, that’s good. Right?” Hailey said.
“Yes Patches, everything is good. It’s just like you dealing with me being different. For the most part it’s not too obvious, at least I like to think so. Patches, it’s nothing to worry about, we both knew there was a 50:50 chance this could go either way. Maybe telling you now was a bit soon into your recovery, but I just wanted you to know. Well, that and … you know the pact we made when we first found out you are pregnant?”
“You want to turn me now?” Hailey presumed.
“Not now. You’re still too weak and need to recover a lot more before I would even feel remotely comfortable attempting that. But honestly, after almost losing you, Hailey, I need you to do this. I have never pushed you one way or another, I really wanted the decision to be 100% yours, but I cannot go through this ever again. I can’t lose you. I finally understood why Riordan literally went mad for a long time after losing his first wife, Anastasia, a mortal. I heard the stories and always thought it was a bit over the top, but – not anymore! I don’t think I’d ever recover, I’d just stay mad and Caelan would have to off me or exile me permanently. So, I am sorry, I don’t mean to sound like an egoistic prick about this, but it has become very important to me now. I NEED you to get turned.” Chase’s tone matched the urgency of his words.
“I get it. I agree with you, plus we have a child to consider now, but we need some more time. I need more time. All those naïve and comforting near-death experiences you hear about were nothing like what I felt. I was mortified the entire time, there were no angels singing and comforting bright lights to go towards. It was terrifying, I felt scared, so powerless, so extremely tired, my world went darker and muffled and I could feel life slipping away from me but was not in control of anything and completely at everyone’s mercy, I could do absolutely nothing about any of it. That kind of fear and helplessness are worse than any nightmare I ever had. I don’t know what being turned is like, but you DID say I would literally die at some point before rising again transformed and I am not in a hurry to go through that experience again so soon.”
“I understand. Really, I am not too eager myself. Before all this, when you and I first talked about the option, I had all those romantic notions of how I wanted it to be, part of a super-romantic date together, at some point I bite you and we go through the ritual – total romance movie material … but to be honest right now, I have never turned anybody, I am mortified to fuck it up, so, I think I would want my mom or my grandpa there to help out if things don’t go as planned. Not very romantic. So – that’s gonna suck some unromantic dick.”
The door opened and Maddie appeared, giggling.
“How about your dad, Chase? Sorry, couldn’t help but overhear what you just said, and just thought, if I do choose to get turned, I think I want Blaine to be my backup – and make sure he gets some action time. YUMMY! If Cole fucks it up, which I am 75% sure he will as my hubby has the attention span of a common gnat, I get to have Blaine Cameron nibbling and sucking around on me. YES PLEASE! Win-win situation and definitely sweetens that turning deal for me. I may ask for a few trial runs, just in case … hee hee hee.”
“Ahem … yeah, right … seriously Mads? That is my dad you are getting all giddy over.” Chase frowned, even though he and Hailey both knew how Maddie was, basically harmless, but very honest and outspoken. Chase grew up knowing that many females of all ages liked his dad Blaine a lot more than was appropriate, just most kept it to themselves. Maddie – not so much. Whenever she fangirled Blaine around Colton, he would start gushing about Chase’s mom or one of Chase’s grown sisters to get back at his wife, which only made Chase cringe. Were Colton not Chase’s best friend, he would have probably laid him out cold many times.
“Not my fault you have the hottest dad on earth, Chase. But seeing someone like him be a dad to grown kids made me finally understand how and why there is such a thing as incest. I mean, thinking about anything romantic with my dad makes me puke, but if MY dad looked and moved like Blaine, I don’t think I’d even care that we’re related! As they say, incest is best, put your daddy to the test, amirite or what?” she winked at Hailey, who looked just as appalled at Chase, despite knowing it was just jokes, Madilyn trying to push buttons for her own amusement. Colton had the same type of off-color sense of humor, which was one of the many reasons they worked so well as a couple.
“UGH. TMI, Maddie. This was supposed to be a Hailey and me convo, if you don’t mind.”
“Don’t mind, but this is a shared nursery and I came up to check on my daughter. Obviously she is fine, sleeping and you are here to look after her, so you can have all the privacy you guys need. Good to see you feeling better, Hailz. I’ll leave to you two to it then.”
“Thanks. Same. Hey, Maddie? Are you going to do it?” Hailey asked her friend.
“Getting turned? Don’t know. Honestly, I wasn’t gonna, but after your near-death drama, I started to really consider it. You REALLY scared us all. I mean, I was so scared and seeing what it did to Chase … I don’t want to put Colton through that. Then again, I am sure Chase has told you that my daughter is a mortal, so … I don’t see much of a rush. Guess we’ll see. Especially if my damn husband doesn’t learn to pick up after himself. I don’t know if I want to deal with an eternity of dirty socks and underwear across the floors.” Maddie sighed, then left.
“Great visual. I will probably dream of Colton’s dirty panties from now on. Eew, we’ll never have sex again, babe. Ha ha ha.” Hailey laughed at Chase, who shrugged, smiling.
“It’s true though. That guy is a walking tornado of messes. I used to have to dig my way into his room through piles of dirty clothes and what not, back when he and I were younger. Plus, I used to be the same way as a teen boy. Before our time. I cleaned up my act after meeting you.”
“Oh no you didn’t. I still got the full traumatizing experience of the super-scary and mentally scarring Chase Cameron chaos room at your parents’ mansion. I have seen things … terrible things … terrifying things. No wonder you coming out as a vampire to me barely fazed me anymore back then.” she giggled, which made Chase feel like everything would be all right again, so he chuckled too.
“And yet, you married me.”
“Good point. And had a son with you. Oh Chasey, I still cannot believe we are parents.”
“That’s because you mostly slept through the first few weeks with Connor. I don’t need much sleep, but I am wiped. I totally went from night owl to permanently exhausted pigeon, like any other new dad does, while my wifey snoozes comfortably all day and night in bed. If I am not a modern man, emancipation and all, then I don’t know.” laughed Chase, as Hailey swatted at him.
It was all in good humor, their chuckles and giggles dissipated, and Hailey leaned into a willing embrace by Chase, reminding him of the scary moments when nobody knew if she would live, the memory making him hold on to her tighter.
“I just thought of one good thing if I get myself turned.”
“You mean WHEN you get turned.”
“Yeah, that. We could have another child then. Or six more, like your parents …or hell, just round it up to a full dozen. Whatcha say?” she grinned up at him.
“PATCHES! I think you are having a mental breakdown, and if you are not, then I may be suffering one. I love you, I love our son, but I want to hear NOTHING about babies and pregnancies for the next decades! I am not even joking! I can tell by the little grin that you are just fucking me me now, but you are NOT funny! Not. One. Bit.”
“Yeah, I am.” she giggled.
“No, most definitely are NOT!”
Into their playful bicker their son Connor awoke, demanding food and attention right away. Hailey reached for him, Chase let her, standing back watching, taking in the beautiful sight to him, having come so close to losing the person that gave his life meaning, until he had to look away in order to keep from bawling like a baby over the very close call this little family already had to live through.
Chase’s brain was working overtime, trying to figure out a good timeline, far enough in the future to allow Hailey to be fully recovered, strong enough and ready for that experience, while soon enough to allow Chase to not suffer severe anxiety at each odd breath, ever odd move Hailey made. Ideally, he would find some way to turn her and it being romantic and private somehow, while having a seasoned vampire with turning experience on standby in case things didn’t go as planned. Maybe he could ask his dad. No, nix that. His mom. She would try to think of something romantic. Blaine would only start talking about how he got turned, unplanned and accidentally, during some X-rated sexcapades, all seven Cameron siblings had heard at least parts of that story many times before and neither was eager to hear it again.