“Daddy?” Eva took her father’s hand in hers. They were cold and lifeless and she had to look at the beeping machines for reassurance that he was still alive. She lay her head on the hospital bed and tried not to cry.
“Daddy, I’m so sorry but I don’t know what to do. It’s his sister! How do I turn in his sister? I love him. Dear God, I love him so much. I’d do almost anything for him.”
She looked up at his face, “How do you stop a love like that? How can I make the right decisions when I can’t stop thinking about him and how he will feel?”
“If I go to the police about his sister, we’re done. But, what she did to you. Oh daddy. What do I do?”
“Eva?” Eva turned around to see her mother standing by the door. Had she heard…
“Hey sweetie,” Rae said softly. “Just wanted to check in on you two. Do you need anything?”
Eva’s heart was still beating fast but her mother hadn’t heard. Thank the Goddess!
She shook her head and watched as Rae came closer to the bed, tentatively stroking her husband’s hand. Eva frowned, she didn’t have the right! Where was she when he’d needed her? If she’d been home, she would have noticed a witch’s spell.
As she studied her mother’s face, Eva realized that she had yet to see her mother cry. Why was Tony changing into a ghost worthy of tears but not her daddy dying? “You don’t even care. He’s here, dying and you can’t even pretend to care. First you abandon us, abandon him, and now you can’t even try to act like you love him! What kind of monster are you?”
She was lashing out, being reckless with her tongue. But she couldn’t help it. If mom had just loved her father enough, he wouldn’t have cheated on her. That bitch wouldn’t have sunk her claws into Eva’s daddy. He would be okay right now and she wouldn’t have to decide whether or not to betray Matt. She turned back to her comatose parent and whispered. “I hate you right now mom.”
Rae looked at her daughter holding Connor’s hand and felt a flash of pain. She couldn’t do this. She wasn’t strong enough to give her children the support they needed. She turned to leave, feeling a deeper sense of despair than when she’d entered. As she opened the door, she felt a soft brush of air on her cheek. It was so faint, she almost missed it, but when the all too familiar scent of Connor followed the slight touch, she stopped and turned back around.
Rushing to the bed, she grabbed Connor’s other hand and squeezed. It was him, she just knew it was. Connor please, if you’re there my love do it again. I need – please Connor. She waited, staring into his face, hoping for something, anything, a twitch…
When that same soft wind caressed her face she broke down and sobbed.
Eva stared at her mother as she cried. Something was wrong. For a second it had smelled like her father. The way he smelled after Turning during a full moon. Like fresh air and the forest and like daddy. Had her mother felt it too?
“Mom?” If Rae heard her daughter, she didn’t act like it. She just held on to Connor’s hand and cried.
Rae looked at Eva, sadness and exhaustion clearly visible in her eyes. “When did I abandon you Eva? What did I do to make you hate me so much?”
“I must have been 11 or 12. I came downstairs one night to get some water and I saw daddy sitting by the fire crying. I was so scared, I ran back to my room.” Eva felt tears start to track down her face. God she hated that she was so emotional lately! “The next day he said you had to go away for a while, something about grandma, but that you’d be back soon. I waited and waited for you. You never came back and then I had to go to Siobhan’s for the summer. When I finally came home, everything just felt different. You were different.”
“Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry, I didn’t leave on purpose. Don’t you remember, that was the year grandma passed away. I went home and Connor stayed with you kids. We didn’t want to upset you and bring you. The boys were only nine.” Rae took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Eva, not once have I ever considered leaving my family. I had a hard time when my parents died but all that did was make me love you four that much more. You are my life, Eva. You, the boys and your dad. You all are my everything.”
When her mom walked around the hospital bed to hug her she instinctively stiffened. But as Rae continued to hold her, Eva’s body relaxed and suddenly she was clinging to her mother. How could she have been so wrong? If her parents were still in love, then her father would have never cheated. Did her mother know? “Oh mom, it’s magic. It’s a spell and I’m so sorry I didn’t say anything but it’s Matt’s sister and I love him so much.”
She took a huge breath and felt her mother rubbing her back, soothing her. “Shhh Elle, it’s okay my love. Slow down and just get it out. Whatever it is, just calm down and tell me.”
At the sound of her mother’s baby name for her, the floodgates opened. She told her mother everything; about Matt, about Michelle – everything. She ended the story by saying, “I’m terrified I will never know what it’s like to love another because I’ve given all I have to him. I’m pissed because I was happy in my ignorance, not knowing what it meant to be truly intimate with someone, not on a sexual level, but on an emotional and spiritual level. To want, not for myself but for him. That feeling that nothing is too much as long as he is happy. No matter how much the decision makes me cry or feel disgusted with myself or how incredibly lonely I am without him, even though I’m surrounded by family and friends.”
Rae had moved the two of them to a couch by the windows. She sat stunned and all Eva could do was wait for her mother’s reaction. When had she ever been this open and honest with her mom? She couldn’t think of a single instance where she’d gone to her mother for advice.
“Eva…I don’t know what to say. A part of me is furious that you’ve kept this from me but I also understand why you did it. When you love someone that deeply, none of your choices are ever just about your happiness anymore. I get it sweetie. And I’m so sorry you’ve been carrying this burden around all this time.”
Of all the things she’d expected her mother to say, she’d never thought she’d hear her mom say she understood. “Mom…he was kissing her back! How…why aren’t you upset?”
Rae smiled softly. “Your father and I have been through a lot in the last thirty something years. He proves he loves me every day. With the way he looks at me, the subtle smiles and even the occasional annoyed frown. He loves me, the way a husband freely loves his wife – with passion, understanding, and a good sense of humor. And it is enough. For me it is enough. That knowledge helps me get through times like these; when doubt would like to creep up and destroy what we’ve built.”
She took Eva’s hand and held it firmly. “I’m not perfect and no one, not even my husband, thinks I am. But he says he loves me, and I believe him.”
Eva let out a soft breath. The moment her mother’s hands had touched her, she’d felt an overwhelming sense of love coming from her. Her mother was literally exuding love. She wished she could see auras because Rae’s would be heartbreakingly beautiful right now. “Mommy…”
“I know I haven’t been there for you like I should have been but I’m here now. We’ll figure something out.” They both turned to look at the most important man in their lives.
Eva sat on her bedroom floor and tried not to cry. It had been weeks since she told her mother everything. The hospital had discovered poison in her father’s blood and had called the police. Because a police investigation required information, her mother had given them half-truths. She’d given the name Michelle had used while working at the University instead of her real name.
Privately, they were talking to Brian and Siobhan to see what they could do for Connor. Now that they knew who and what had happened, they’d been able to stabilize and stop the poison from spreading. There was nothing the doctors could do for Connor but they kept him there for observation.
Rae had decided not to tell her sons the truth. They didn’t need to know all the gritty details, just that there were people working on fixing their father.
Matias had sent flowers. Every day like clockwork, a delivery person had shown up with a bouquet of roses or lilies or tulips. She’d refused each delivery and had to finally call the post office and every other delivery company and tell them to return all flower deliveries back to sender.
Eva placed a hand on her stomach and pressed down. In her worry and fear, she’d forgotten about her pregnancy. The fact that she was well over four months and the baby hadn’t moved nor had her belly grown, had made forgetting easy.
She’d woken up this morning and decided she had to get back home. Al needed to go back to school and she needed her work. Otherwise, she would go crazy in this house.
“Yes, a dozen pink roses. No, no card. Thank you.” Matt hung up the phone and swiveled in his chair to look out the window. He never thought the sight of Oasis’s skyline would upset him so much. He wanted to be home with Eva and Al. But he had to work and that meant showing up to uGenex meetings. And not camping out at the house of the man his sister tried to kill.
“Ah, Matias King, right?”
Matt turned his head around to see Brian Gates standing in his doorway. He stood up, “Dr. Gates, how can I help you?” He frowned as he watched his boss enter the room and look around. Aside from when he interviewed for the job, he’d never seen or spoken to the man. So why was he here now?
“Matias, you’ve been with us for almost ten years now. How do you like it here at uGenex?” Brian walked over to the chair across the desk from Matt. He had an open, curious expression on his face, but Matt could sense tension coming from him.
“I like it just fine sir. Why?” He’d meant to be respectful and patient. But again, patience was not a virtue he possessed. Something was off here.
“I hear you and Eva London are expecting.” Apparently the small talk was now over.
“Yes, we are. Would you like to have a seat?”
“Yes, actually. Thank you.”
Both men sat down and even though Matt was the one behind the desk, Brian Gates was clearly the more powerful. It wasn’t anything he did, it was just who he was. Matt remembered Eva laughing at his description of the man. She’d been right, he didn’t know Brian at all.
“How may I help you, sir?”
“I don’t know what the rumors are about me in this building but I’m sure 90% are untrue. I wanted to tell you in person what kind of man I am. I like to view myself as being fair and loyal, logical and thoughtful. I never rush to judgment, always give the benefit of the doubt and like to think I’m forgiving.” Brian leveled his gaze on Matt. “I struggle with that last one Matias. I’ve lived a long life and have an excellent memory. I find as I get older, my capacity to live and let God grows, but I am not perfect.”
As Brian Gates sat across from him and spoke, his skin had begun to take on a peculiar pallor. By the end of his speech, Matt was sitting across from a very different man than the one that had sat down. How had he not noticed?
“How can you do that?”
“A long life and powerful friends.”
“What do you want from me,” Matt asked. Brian Gates, his boss, was a vampire. And a very old one at that. Whatever he was here for, Matt knew there was no point in fighting. Brian would win.
“Where is she, Matias?”
“Excuse me?” His heart skipped a beat. He knew exactly whom Brian was asking for. But why did a vampire care about his sister?
“I am extremely close to Eva’s family. Her mother works for me and so does her brother. The only reason I’m even asking and not just taking the information I need from you is because Eva loves you and it would hurt her if you were to suffer. Where is she? I won’t ask again.”
Matt’s first inclination was to tell him to go burn in the sun. But he buried that feeling quickly. Brian was right. He didn’t need to ask, Matt wasn’t strong enough to stop him from just finding his answers. Fighting would be painful and futile. “She’s in Dragon Valley.”
“You will bring her – ”
“I will not.”
“Won’t you?” Brian stood up and leaned against the desk, full on intimidation mode.
“Like you said, you won’t hurt me because of Eva and I won’t help you get my sister. She’s my sister!” He knew that Michelle deserved everything that was coming to her; she had poisoned a man just so she could get revenge for their father. Their father, who had tried to ruin these people’s lives to begin with. But regardless of what may or may not be fair, she was his sister and he couldn’t help the people who wanted to find her.
Brian looked at him for a moment. “Very well. Dragon Valley, you said?”
Matt sighed and looked away. “Yes.”
Brian turned to go but Matt stopped him. “I’ll start clearing my desk.”
“Whatever for? Your personal life has no bearing on this company. And as long as you keep it that way, I see a very long and prosperous future for you here.” Brian glanced out the window. “Hmm, you really do have a spectacular view. Goodbye Mr. King.”
Once Brian was out the door, Matt leaned back in his chair and rubbed at his eyes. Brian Gates was a weird and terrifying man. No, not man, vampire.