Best friend: the one with whom you can get angry only for a short period of time because you have important things to tell them.
Del Sol Valley
Awkwardly, Blaine shifted around, then just spontaneously hugged the older man before him, who melted into the display of genuine affection, as he started trembling with tears he could no longer hold back.
The older man was his lifelong best friend Kai, technically a year younger than Blaine, a fact that still cut deep whenever they met up. The hands of time had stopped for Blaine decades ago after he got turned but not for the many mortals in his life, watching loved ones around him age and die was hard on him. And Blaine would openly admit he loved Kai like a brother he never had.
Kai had just recently buried his oldest son Benedict, called Benny, and Benny’s wife Loreleigh, who perished in a freak accident. Blaine had been Benny’s godfather and felt like he lost his own kin. Benny and Loreleigh’s daughter Iliana, Kai’s oldest grandchild, was in her mid-twenties when she became an orphan. This setback had taken a tremendous toll on warm and kind Kai, a family man through and through, and Blaine didn’t have the right words.
“The house … it’s so empty now and feels too big. Once it was filled with so much laughter, first my three kids, then the grandkids, now they are all grown and flown the coop. Only Benny and Loreleigh stayed with us. Now they are gone. Blaine, you have no idea what it’s like to lose a child. And Loreleigh was like another daughter to us.”
“I know. I get it. If there is anything …. hey, I know! Why don’t you give the shed to one of your other kids or sell your place and you and Cheyenne move in with us? This place is huge! And you’d definitely get your fill of laughter and liveliness again, with the teens and Gavin. And George. Where is George? Always underfoot, unless you need him! That pooch is much better at consoling people than I am. Trust me Kai, George will console the fuck out of you. Hey GEORGE, you damn mutt, where ya at?! Get your useless furry self over here before I shave you and sell you as a hairless guinea pig!” Blaine yelled the latter part out and through his tears, Kai had to chuckle, then laugh out loud when said dog peeked around the corner, giving Blaine one of those ‘How dare you?’ glares.
“Oh, dontcha look at me in that tone of voice! Get your furry ass over here and console Kai already.” Blaine ordered.
George tilted his head, snorted, then walked off, demonstratively slow.
“You lil asshole! If I wanted another teen, I would have knocked up Letty again! I just might! And send you to the pound! Damn dog!” Blaine grumbled, but it impressed the dog as little as anyone else. Blaine was crazy about that little dog, everyone knew it, including George.
“Please don’t. I don’t want to have to bury you too. I don’t know how to kill vampires but am confident Scarlett would find a way to butcher you. Or just set her creepy brother on ya. She’s been very clear about the fact that she is done having kids.”
“That creepy brother-in-law was just recently here, standing where you are standing now, whining about having a son who is hiding something from him. Caelan thinks Connell is in love with a mortal and is freaked out about it. Too young, not finished with his training, blah blah blah wah wwahhh. What a ninny. I set his ass straight! He should be thrilled that any girl even as much as looks at the creepy son of the creepy dude!” Blaine grumbled.
“He he he – Too bad he can’t date one of your teen twin daughters, since they’re cousins, but they’re already vampires. Ha ha ha. Caelan’s probably afraid of yet another accidental turning. Lord knows there have been many.” smirked Kai.
“Keep talking and there will be another one.” Blaine ‘threatened’.
“If you wanted to turn me against my will, you should have done it when I was in my prime, not an old man. This frail shell doesn’t need to be preserved for eternity.”
“Frail, my ass. You as frail as a tank! We’ll get ya some ‘Just for retired attorneys’ hair dye, maybe a little face lift, and you are good as new! I didn’t get turned till I was in my forties either, not sure I’d call that my prime, but here we are. Not like it was planned.”
“Speaking of unplanned, how are the kids?” Kai smirked, the sadness of mourning had given way to the old spark in his eyes when he was messing with Blaine.
“Aren’t we all sorts of fuckin’ smooth? Well, they are a punishment of God, thanks for asking. I am changing the twins’ names to ‘HELL NO!’ and ‘FUCK NO!’. Interchangeable, they look the same anyway and are equally as big a brats. I thought Vivien was bad at that age about trying to wear skimpy outfits. Those two are awful! And that boy is a little smartass and snarky bigmouth!”
Kai couldn’t help but laugh.
“Just like daddy, huh? It’s true what they say, kids are payback of what we put our parents through.”
“Gavin maybe, I deserve his bullshit. But not what those girls do it me! I don’t recall ever trying to sneak out in tiny outfits as a teen with my non-existent tits nearly popping out left and right!”
“No, but I know first-hand that teen Blaine was a pain in the butt nonetheless. I myself had to talk you off ledges more than once! If you ask me, all the crap you pulled in your younger years, leaving me to save you from yourself, not to mention that I spent my entire attorney career saving you and your family from the self-inflicted Cameron-drama, Blaine, I would have preferred you in tiny hot pants instead.”
“Speaking of, wanna check out my ass in some shorts while we both jump in the pool and chill there?”
“Tempting, but some among us still need to eat and in order to do that and keep it down, I don’t need to be looking at your rear end. Oh, speaking of dinners, after we leave here tomorrow afternoon, we’re going straight to Newcrest to visit our granddaughter and meet her new boyfriend. Sadly, her parents can no longer keep that meet the family dinner date, but her grandmother and I will. The poor girl deserves happiness and from the sounds of it, that young man might fit the bill. He’s in IT, so sounds like a smart kid. Oh, he does have a child. Teen boy.”
“A TEEN son? How old is her new fucker? Don’t tell me she went and got herself a sugar-daddy!”
“No, he’s somewhere around her age range. I think it was one of those teen pregnancy things, and he got stuck with the boy, mother’s not in the picture. According to Iliana, Asher is very responsible. Been raising the kid while going to school, then worked, lived with his parents, his mother died, and he took care of his elderly father until he recently passed.”
“Wait a sec! That sounds familiar. Did you say Asher? What’s his last name?”
“I don’t recall, Blaine. Why?”
“Cos that little fucker sounds like Chase’s wife’s best friends lil brother. Skinny kid with a wanna be 5 o’clock shadow, shaggy hair, about yay high?”
“Blaine – Cheyenne and I are about to meet him for the very first time tomorrow. I don’t know. On the photos Iliana sent we can only see his face.”
“I’d LOVE to take a gander at that mug!”
With a sigh, Kai pulled out his cell phone, tapped around on it for a bit, then handed it to Blaine.
“Hits ya like a tornado of dirty diapers! Small world. That’s him. That’s the Hadley brother! Yup! Seen him just recently, my daughter-in-law Hailey was throwing a party for this young man’s sister, evidently she’s knocked up again, I swear that family is trying to catch up with Scarlett and me. He was there at that party, but there was no Iliana with him.”
“They are dating, Blaine, not conjoined at the hip. I am not sure he’s introduced her to his family yet, she hasn’t, since we all live so far apart. They are inching closer, for heaven’s sake, my granddaughter just buried her parents! From what I gather, he recently lost his father, mother’s been dead for a while, you take things slow, especially since he has a son. So, you don’t like him?”
“Who said that?! He’s a bit skinny for my taste, but then again, who am I to talk. If I were any skinnier, they’d use me as a classroom skeleton for bio class and being a vamp now, there is fuck all I can do about that. Can’t eat, can’t put on the pounds. And all my kids inherited my skinny gene. I know that Asher kid lost his father, I was there for that too. Another party at Chase’s, that kid and his dad showed up, the dad seemed fine one minute, the next he’s collapsing right there in their living room. Dead as a mouse! I am not besties with that family, but from what I can tell, that Asher-kid is the quiet type, just like his sister. You can tell he lived with his parents for a long time, cos whenever I see him, he’s running around with dirty dishes and I bet he knows better where the cleaning supplies are at Chase’s house than they do. Good with my grandkids, and he likes dogs. George likes him. So, he’s got my seal of approval. Plus, Chase knows where he lives in case he fucks up.”
“Gotcha. How’s Vivien? I know they recently moved again.”
“Argh, that was nothing. Literally one house over, same Windenburg, same island. We rallied the fam-damily and got that shit knocked out in an afternoon. I like the new house better. Bigger, nicer. Got a pool and great views. Good move. Worth it.”
“Good. Sounds like she and Liam are stable now? No more love drama and almost divorces?”
“Nah, they are cool now, downsized, both keep busy with their careers, but travel a lot with the kids. My grandson Nick’s got some drama of his own. He’s had that girlfriend, one of the many Auditore kids, Adrianna, pretty little thing, smart, I like her a lot. They’ve been together for a long while now, especially by teen standards, but her mother recently croaked, which is ironic, since she was like 2 decades younger than her husband, the old Auditore. Anyway, the old Auditore freaked the fuck out, packed up the remaining two daughters, both teens, and moved them all to his homeland of Italy without any warning. I know Addy didn’t want to, but daddy had decided and that was that. Gone she was. Nicholas is moping something fierce. I don’t recognize the kid AT ALL. Aria-Grace is fine. I swear every time we see them, I see Vivien as a young girl in her. She is only a few steps away from reaching her teens too. Scary.”
“Scary indeed. Poor Nick. That’s so sad. Such a good kid.”
“No, what’s sad is that all the vampires in this family are afraid to look at any of his texts now. Every time it’s something to try to get one of us to port him to Italy to see his girlfriend.”
“So why don’t you? I mean, it costs you nothing. Just take the boy to see his flame.”
“Kai. Come on, buddy! I still work, I have a business to run, when I am not recording my own shit, it’s someone else’s, since I own a big recording company now. I don’t have time to be in a live version of some teen flick. And would YOU want to be the grandpa that literally pries Nick away from the girlfriend then, when they forget all rhyme and reason? Yeah, me neither. You don’t think for one second you take him to see her and after a few hours he goes back home willingly without drama, do you? Scarlett doesn’t want to get in the middle, Chase plays deaf, Caitlin calls him and buries him in words. Next time I see him, he forgot what no means and starts in with it again. Quit grinning or I will punch your wrinkly old ass over to Newcrest from here!”
“Ha ha ha, as if. You LUV me too much.”
“Do I? I am a vamp, remember? Need me to turn on the TV and find one of them doomsday bitches for ya, who keep telling everyone that all everyone says about vampires being just the same as mortals with a twist is wrong and that in reality, we are all emotionless evil demons going for world domination?”
“Turn it on, if you must, but I know you too well. You can’t even dominate your own house, unless wifey allows it. Also, my grandfather is a vampire, remember?”
“Oh I know. Did Riordan tell ya that he’ll be a grandpa again?”
“No. Another one for Colton?”
“Nah, the other kid. Annaleigh. KC knocked her up now. Guess we’ll find out how much he is over Caitlin and she over him. Either Caitlin really is over him and she’ll just be happy for them, or we’ll soon get a phone call about a Heath Junior in her oven, because she is playing some ‘what you can do, I can do better’ chess with the kinda/sorta ex. Personally, I love my Cait, she is beautiful, but she ain’t ready to be a mother, and I am not even gonna say what I think about Heath as a father.”
“Yeah, no matter how many kids someone has, each is still special and unique in their own right. I had the twins and then Dylan, all three are so different. Benny was such a dreamer, once he met his Loreleigh, he knew he was gonna marry her. And he did. Luckily he finished college before they did. My Ballentine is so much into the environment and met a guy who is borderline Hippie. Yet, they are still happy as can be and their son is just like them. And then the youngest, Dylan. Married a girl from the islands, but both are classy and focused, he became a lawyer like me, but they stayed on the islands with us, and took over your legal support. Can’t believe their boy is going to be 18 soon now. Jensen wants to be a lawyer, like his dad and like me. Makes me proud. I betcha Jensen will be the next generation of laywers for you and your family.”
The next evening, Blaine chuckled looking at his phone. A text from Kai, just a picture.
It was his granddaughter Iliana, and that young man, Asher, Blaine knew through his son Chase. Next arrived a message with some Emojis by Kai, hearts and thumbs up, meaning he and his wife Cheyenne liked him and felt it was the real deal.
Grinning, Blaine sent back his own Emojis. An eggplant, baby and wedding bands.
Instantly, Kai responded with a one-finger-salute Emoji, making Blaine laugh out loud.