I’ve come to realize that the thing in life that’s important, the reason we’re all here, is to love and do well for each other.— Tony Gonzalez
Windenburg Isle Esmée Cameron's home
His hand like an iron clamp on her upper arm, he pulled her into the downstairs bathroom and slammed the door shut behind them, before shoving her against the window, keeping her in place.
“Why did you not tell me?!” he hissed.
“Tell you what? That my pregnant sister and her husband would drop by for a surprise visit tonight? Do I look like an oracle to you? Which part of surprise do you not get?! If this is you trying to be kinky with them just a wall apart, I’ll tell you now, keep your pants on and your junk holstered! This house is a shoebox they can hear us and that’s just not happening!” she whisper-yelled back at him.
“Not in the mood for fucking! He is a fang! There is a fang in this house! WHY?!” he responded in kind.
“Oh jeeze! Connell is your big problem? I didn’t think you of all people would get your panties in such a bunch over a vampire, tough guy. Yes, he is one, and yes, he is very much an acquired taste, I am not the biggest fan of the vamp thing either, but he’s harmless. He won’t touch any of us, he can control his urges. He’s part of some important VIP vamp family and their leader made this rule decades ago that no vamp can touch a Cameron or something to that tune. Spouses and such are included.”
“I am not your spouse!”
“I KNOW that. But if I tell him you and I …”
“You will do NO SUCH THING! Not a word! Never mention me.”
“What the hell is wrong with you? You are overreacting!”
“With me? What is wrong with YOU that you don’t mind your sister married to, and procreating with, a living corpse who dines on human blood!? The vamps don’t fucking follow rules, are incapable of human emotions. They are DEAD and dangerous, literally! Your sister is fucking and having kids with a dead man! We all would benefit from a stake through his heart. You don’t bring that into your home! Don’t you know the rule that once you allow a fang access, they can always just enter?! Don’t you get what that means?! You could become dinner one of these days, maybe even realize you no longer have a mirror image but fangs instead one day!” Michael shouted at her.
“ENOUGH! Do not – I repeat – do NOT ever tell me who and what my family is! Connell doesn’t break and enter, he has emotions and he looks VERY much alive to me! He loves Emmy and I have seen him CRY holding his daughter!”
“He probably cried for disappointment realizing that baby is a mortal! They despise mortals, maybe the only emotion they may be capable of, we’re below them, just food to them, two-legged blood-cows, they can milk for food. Mortals are not family to them! You are out of your mind letting that into your home!”
“And you’re an asshole and nothing more than a human-sized vibrator! I don’t know why I even bother with you. I have to keep you a secret, you are rude and crude and rough, except unlike a vibrator you are never really there when I REALLY need you!”
“That’s what you wanted. No strings. That’s how you like it, keep anything out of your life that could tie you down or interfere with your work. Don’t give me that family-bullshit! You had a baby you couldn’t shit out fast enough to hand to her daddy and be rid of, you have no room in your life for a relationship, neither do I, face it sugar, we couldn’t be more perfect for each other. But not if you have vampires in your life. If that’s the way you wanna live, this is where we part ways. For good!”
“Connell isn’t in MY life, but my sister’s. And don’t make me choose between my family and you. Won’t end well for you.”
“Unless the family is wearing diapers, huh? I don’t want kids any more than you do, for very different reasons though, but if it were to happen, I would never abandon them. That baby you dumped on the sperm donor to deal with is your family too, you sexy little hypocrite.”
Esmée slapped Michael so hard, his head was thrown to the side, she pushed him off her and left the bathroom, running right into none other than Connell.
With quick vampire reflexes he caught her, cushioning the impact, holding on to her but very differently than Michael just had, gentler, barely touching her, when his facial expression changed, his nostrils moving as if noticing a terrible scent, stiffening, letting out what could only be described as an infernal growl, deep, guttural and dangerous, his purple eyes seemed red for a moment, before returning to normal.
Connell took his hands of her, stepped past her, almost as if shielding her, she turned and saw Michael, equally as tense, could have sworn his eyes were briefly glowing yellow, both men measuring each other up.
“How did HE get in your house?” Connell asked, his voice deep, dark, threatening and commanding, leaving no room for lies or stalling.
“He was here before you and Emmy came over. We’ve been seeing each other. Casually. Romantically.” Ezzy told the truth.
“How long? You and him?”
“6 or 7 months, maybe longer. Started before Aryelle was born.”
“This has to stop now. Do not see him again. And you – LEAVE – now, while you still can. That gracious offer will expire very soon.”
“Connell!” Esmée exclaimed. What was wrong with her brother-in-law?! He barely ever spoke, let alone make claims in someone else’s home.
“Do you even know what you invited into your home?” Connell asked dryly.
“SHUT YOUR MOUTH, FANG! Esmée doesn’t take orders from DEAD people!” Michael now growled.
“Michael – stop! I can handle Connell myself! You both need to remember that this is MY home. You are both GUESTS in it!”
“You haven’t told her. You are using her. No surprise there.” Connell continued to address Michael directly.
“Don’t mess with me, vamp and don’t pretend you know anything about me. Won’t become you, and that is my gracious advice to you. I am not just any old pack member. I am an Alpha. An Apex. Keep that in mind before you decide what your next move is gonna be. My only and final warning.”
“Oh, doggy doggy doggy, I am not just any old vamp either. I am Connell, son of Caelan, grandson of Caleb, of House Vatore.” Connell’s voice was deep, hardly recognizable.
“Ugh, fuck my luck, out of all the chicks I picked the one with connection to the goddamn Vatores. You have no idea what your sister dragged into that family you are so proud of, Ezzy. Fine, I tend to choose my battles and plan my wars, this is NOT worth my time, I can’t barely breathe for stench of decaying corpse and stale old blood, so you have fun playing house together. Family – ha! What a travesty! Count me out. “
“Smart choice.” Connell added emotionless.
Ezzy couldn’t believe her eyes when with a growl and like a flash, the spot where Michael had just stood was now vacant and the front door was falling shut.
“Connell, what was that” came Emmy’s voice from behind them.
“Angel-love … how long have you been standing there?” Connell’s voice changed significantly to a much softer tone, worried, so much so that Ezzy could barely believe the difference. The way he now kissed his wife’s forehead and ran his finger across her cheek with a tender smile made her jealous. He was dead and cold, a fucking vampire and could be like that, so gentle and sweet, why couldn’t Michael treat her this way? All he ever wanted was … well … THAT wasn’t exactly bad either, but a little more affection couldn’t hurt.
“Long enough. Answer me, baby. The truth, please.” Emmy said, and to Ezzy’s surprise, Connell nodded, but turned to her with a question instead.
“Esmée, how serious has this been? Can you verify you are not pregnant by him?”
“Excuse me?! Are you literally shitting me right now, Connell?! I am not discussing my personal stuff with you! None of your business! Unbelievable! Who do you think you are?!”
In a split second, Ezzy found herself pinned to a wall yet again by a man, she shrieked almost simultaneously as Emmy did, it was Connell this time and she saw his purple eyes turn bright red right in front of her this time. Feeling the iciness radiating from him, everything about him felt different from a mortal man, and the eyes now changing color, plus knowing there were fangs inches from her, all that frightened her. Oh yeah, he was a vampire and definitely dangerous. So much for why Michael can’t be like him. He was like that, EXACTLY like this.
“Connell! Let go of her right NOW!” Emmy’s voice sounded angry, as she was pulling on him, and while Ezzy had felt the sheer strength Connell possessed, making it clear that if a vampire attacked, no mortal would have a prayer, he relaxed and let his wife pull himself off Ezzy like a toddler.
“How dare you!? Are you nuts?! You can’t do that! You scared her!” Emmy complained at him.
“I am sorry, my beautiful. Apologies to you as well, Esmée, but what you have been doing is incredibly dangerous – to all of us. You ask me who I think I am, well, you know very well who and what I am, but you have no idea about him, and THAT alone should cause you worry and tell you my warnings are not idle. You cannot fraternize with that kind. His kind. Don’t see him again, not even once. I don’t know what his plan may be, but I know his kind are desperate to multiply, he may be trying to do that with you the regular way, as those born supernatural are almost always more powerful than those turned. You HAVE TO listen to me. Look at me. Look right here, right into my eyes. Do not see …” Connell’s voice had become a monotonous blur to Ezzy, but stopped when Emmy gave him a hard nudge, making his head snap to her with a mild hiss.
“Do NOT do that, Connell! I can’t believe you’d try that with me right next to you! You promised to never do that to me or family!” Emmy commanded unusually assertive.
“What are you both talking about? You are scaring me.” Esmée admitted.
“He was about to compel you, it’s a vampire thing, they can control our minds and make us tell them things we don’t want to or make us do things, but we don’t do that, do we, Connell? Especially not to family!” Emmy stated, sounding more like his mother rather than his wife, Connell sighed, then addressed her sister instead.
“You should be scared, Ezzy, but not of me! I follow a strict and rigid code, well – most of the time – but that Michael and his kind don’t. Promise to stay away from him. For your own sake, but also that of your family, and me. If not for me, then for Emmy and your nieces.” Connell demanded.
Ignoring the amazement of how her angelic, sweet sister could so easily stop someone like Connell, which Ezzy had no doubt could be incredibly dangerous, Ezzy looked at Connell’s once more purple eyes, gorgeous eyes, unusual ones, which their first daughter, Jaymie, had inherited making her a gorgeous infant like no other. Ezzy couldn’t help but think that Connell would be such a droolworthy hunk if he weren’t a vamp. That just didn’t do it for Ezzy. Yikes.
“Why? What do you care who I fraternize with and why do you think he’s dangerous? You are more dangerous than anyone I can think of and yet, you are in my house, and I like to think that’s safe. He’s never met any of my family and had you both not come over unannounced, he still wouldn’t have. He never hurt me, well, at least not like that. We both seem to enjoy certain things a bit on the rougher side, but other than that he never once seemed dangerous to me, not any more than any person has potential to. All he wants to do is … well … stuff with me, we never once spoke about family, except me mentioning it’s important to me and that I wasn’t keeping my baby, since I was pregnant when he and I first met. He didn’t even know about you, Connell, I never mention that to anybody who doesn’t already know. He somehow figured it out tonight and flipped out just like you have, but I am still failing to see why exactly.”
Emmy spoke up in his stead.
“Oh – I think I know why. Connell, is he a vamp too? Like one of those rogues or divergents you and your dad track down?” Emmy tried to coax more information from Connell, who was clearly unwilling to share, but Esmée interjected.
“No, Emmy, he is not! I would have noticed by now! Michael is warm and goes in the sun. Like sits in it, tans shirtless and enjoys being outdoors a lot, I know that, as I have seen it. Never seen Connell do that.” Ezzy told her sister.
Connell spoke up.
“Nor will you ever. He’s a lycanthrope. A werewolf. Dangerous to your kind and mine. One bite while they are transformed can kill a vampire, it’s toxic to us, and obviously vampires can and will kill anything that could be dangerous to them. Needless to say, our kinds have been at odds with each other for centuries. They were believed to be nearly extinct, the few that still were around weren’t of much concern to us, until we had reports of increased activity around Moonwood Mill. The witchfolk have big problems with them as well, as with us, three ever-feuding species, however, there currently is a peace treaty in place with the witchfolk because of my half-sister Leeora, a witch and my father’s illegitimate child, making her partial to us vamps, she is also one of their leaders, and very recently married a vampire. However, she and her kind are doing nothing about the Lycans, so when 3 of our scouts sent to track the wolves were killed by them not long ago, my father and I left traces of those missing mortal PBP Studio executives around the werewolves’ main stomping grounds, purposely discoverable, then we tipped the authorities off, keeping the wolves occupied with police and FBI snooping around as payback. Like us, they hide in plain sight, but authorities poking around the home turf is bad. In other words, they are getting stronger, they are now pissed off at us as they at the very least suspect it was us, which puts us at the edge of a war. That is all I can tell you.”
“You are joking, right? This is a big joke. Werewolves? Have you been smoking the good stuff?” Ezzy shook her head, letting out a brief, joyless laughter.
“Ezzy … if Connell says they exist, then I believe him, and you should too. He would never joke about such things and one thing I learned while living at the castle is that there are a lot of things in this world that are inexplicable, but that doesn’t make them not real. I can’t talk about any of it, but I can say that I know the witches are real. I have met his sister. Sorry, half-sister. No tricks there, she’s the real deal, she can do actual magic, I have seen it and I wouldn’t mess with her.”
“What a bunch of BULLSHIT, guys! Come on now. Vampires – okay fine, kinda hard to deny those. But now werewolves and witches and Little Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland and mermaids and aliens and pixies and elves and tooth fairies – am I forgetting something? Give me a major break. You may have my sister brainwashed to believe all that drivel, but not me! So you don’t like the guy I am sleeping with, your prerogative, but honestly, Connell … ya know?” Ezzy shook her head at him.
“I wish I could claim otherwise, I wished the wolves weren’t real or the witches. Unfortunately, do I know better and also know it’s not a joking matter. I am not trying to tell you whom to fraternize with, Ezzy, but that guy who was in your house wasn’t a regular man. He is a Lycan. Werewolf. A cursed soul by many names, but one thing remains: They are dangerous, Ezzy, not only to my kind. Their curse binds them to the moon, and at full moon, they are not in control of themselves, not even the strongest ones, they transform, become thirsty for flesh and blood and hunt mindlessly and carelessly. The oldest writs claim that vampirism started as a curse as well, binding us by the sun, making my kind unable to withstand daylight, but unlike the Lycans we evolved greatly, learned to control our urges and most of us have found ways to gain sunlight immunity to certain degrees, so we can walk among your kind undetectable, even though prolonged direct exposure still would be detrimental to any of us, drain us, and turn us into nothing but ashes. The wolves are mostly in denial about what happened to them, some may be able to learn to control their urges and how to turn at will, but few have the incentive. A curse will always come at a price, that’s why it’s a curse, not a blessing. Just like my kind will never be able to fully embrace and tolerate the sun, his kind cannot control what happens during a full moon. I don’t know how to make myself any clearer to you, Ezzy, he is very dangerous. Even to you, and even if he doesn’t want to be. I know you don’t like me much, and I don’t blame you, but you must believe me.” Connell pleaded.
By the time they had left, with more warnings and expressions of concerns, hugs and invitations to stay with them if she felt in danger, Ezzy was alone with her thoughts, riding a crazy rollercoaster in her mind. The seed of doubt had been planted, the wheels in her head were turning hot, but not only about Michael and what he may or may not be, but Michael’s words to her had left a stinger deep in Ezzy’s heart with what he had said about her baby. Ouch.
The doubts weren’t that new, the first dark clouds had come when Rohan had delivered their baby and handed it to her to hold for the very first time. Looking into those innocent eyes, she couldn’t for the life of her recall why she didn’t want the child.
Once back home, and back to work, everything was fine, until for her dad Jamie’s birthday, some weeks later, Rohan had brought Aryelle over. Seeing every family member pour over the baby, her baby, made Esmée doubt every single decision in her life, as had seeing Rohan with her cousin Aria-Grace, smiling, holding hands, so clearly a happy couple – it stung.
She still didn’t want Rohan, even though this shone a very new light on him, but why could she not have what Rohan seemed to have with Aria-Grace – or what Emmy had with Connell – or what their brother Ewan had with Ashley – but with Michael instead? Would he ever come back? Would she want him to? Did he ever think about her when they weren’t together, like she did? Did he miss her at all, did he care about her at all – or was it just the sex?