Del Sol Valley
I bet you didn’t think you’d hear from me so soon again. Well, surprise.
Back in again with the same relationship thing, just a lot different than you might think.
So, let me lead you into the mess we are currently dealing with. Cliff Notes version.
It all started when Bear had a really close call at work. Don’t worry, he’s fine, but almost wasn’t. We were both at a routine type of job, it turned sour, shots were fired, he took a hit, but luckily was wearing a protective vest, however, the bullet hit awfully close to the upper edge of his thorax protection, near his carotid artery. Literally fractions of an inch more to the left and Bear would have been no more.
Instead, he had an immense amount of luck, a pretty nasty contusion, a cracked collarbone, super-sore shoulder, but miraculously not even a drop of blood was shed by him, even though I had felt my entire life flash before my eyes seeing him go down like in slow-motion. I got the scare of my lifetime at that moment. If I had a beating heart, I would have had a fatal heart attack and be dead as a mouse now.
Caring about someone, loving them even, SUCKS! My life had been SO much easier before. But – after sitting with him at the hospital all that time, even holding his hand, I finally caught Bear looking at me the special way Chase looks at Hailey. And that, ladies and gentlemen, made EVERYTHING worth it to me. I got my confirmation; I was worthy, he REALLY cared about me the way I needed him to, and I would do literally ANYTHING to have him look at me that way again. ANYthing!
That look is more addictive to me than any drug could be to a mortal. I wouldn’t know first hand, drugs don’t work on Vampires. We don’t have a beating heart, the blood we consume just gets absorbed, so … no circulation. That’s why we’re so cold. Obviously. I mean, duh, right?
At the hospital I was velcro-ed to his side while we waited for him to be seen, thinking about how I had used my Vampire speed and powers completely off-the-record to quickly put an end to the mess after Bear had gotten hit. I know I am not supposed to, but I didn’t have the nerves to dodge bullets while those dickheads who tried to kill my lover got away Scot-free. Nonono, I didn’t kill them, of course I didn’t!
Admittedly not out of the goodness of my heart, but because that would have put me on the chopping block with the Vampire leader, my grandfather, Caleb Vatore. Killing mortals bears a death-sentence among my kind because of the laws he put in place, and it wasn’t like I could have denied it was me, my presence was all over that scene and my uncle Caelan and cousin Connell, my grandpa’s executioners/punishers couldn’t be fooled. I really didn’t have a death wish.
Otherwise, all four men would be busy decomposing somewhere. What?! I always told you; I am NOT a good person. I am not. I am an asshole with my dad’s sailor mouth, wrapped in a deceivingly pretty package.
So, the perpetrators are alive, just a little dinged up. Okay fine, a whole lotta dinged up, two of them are in the ICU with fucking bashed in heads, the others where the fuck ever you put mortals with half the bones in their body broken, but they all would live. Officially their getaway car flipped trying to escape. Yeah, it sure the fuck did. I staged that scene on their mortal asses after I … okay, letting this go.
That’s just what you get for fucking with a Vampire’s man. Especially when she really loves him. Should’ve done it back when I didn’t give a shit.
Anyway, inside of me, that close call triggered some unknown new side of incredibly disgusting clinginess, even after we were sent home, him bandaged up and high on pain killers, but very much alive, as proven by the amounts of cursing every time the effect of the strong pain pills the emergency room doc had sent us home with started to wear off or when my increased snuggle attempts hit the wrong spot.
Oh Bear, that poor man could not get rid of me for five minutes, we even had words about me helping him go to the bathroom.
What? He almost died, I was thrilled he hadn’t, and not like he had anything to hide I hadn’t seen a million times before from every angle imaginable.
That’s what you get for making me care about you.
For the most part Bear took it in stride, I think secretly he was thrilled and man-proud that he had managed to turn the rakish relationship-fearing bad girl into a tame kitten, well, maybe more accurately a more civilized wildcat, as I definitely still had my claws and bite and sharp-tongue plus lots of opinions I wasn’t afraid to share, but the close call had triggered the need in him to make me his sole heir to everything he owned, above all his beloved business, and in case of any future emergencies he wanted me to have Power of Attorney, so I could be his full proxy in all business, financial and health matters. Legally.
And here is where it got messy again.
I had my brother-in-law Liam look into this for us, he had been the Cameron family attorney for almost all his career now, and while Barrett Security had their own law firm on retainer, when you’re a Vampire you want legal counsel who is well versed with the sometimes unsavory and often complex and complicated laws and rules of your own kind.
Liam discovered that Bear’s whole still-married mess would pose a problem. Technically Bear’s estranged wife still had Power of Attorney for him, from back when they were first married, changing that would require her to sign off on the amendments.
While we had to confront his past already, Bear wanted to finally do what should have been done forever ago and file for the much overdue divorce, which I personally supported the fuck out of as I cannot even begin to explain how much that fact of MY man being married to some other chick had bothered me ever since finding out.
Finding his wife wasn’t too difficult, it was part of what our company did, investigations, plus Liam had his own investigators on retainer, so that took only a couple days, but getting her to want to talk was not so easy. Liam somehow managed to talk her into it, using his charm and charisma. He really was very good at what he did.
Since she was accommodating our request, we took a road trip and drove the 2+ hours from Del Sol Valley to her home in Oasis Springs. I felt a little awkward when Bear had to park the car on some diner’s parking lot a little down the road from where the navigation device had directed us to, you could literally see her house just some hundred yards away, but there was no parking in front of her home, which compared to ours seemed miniscule and looked outdated, built in the 1950s and never updated or something. Like the exact opposite of my taste. If I were to ever have a nightmare about how and where I lived; tada here is your visualization of that nightmare: THIS.
I followed Bear and Liam from the diner parking lot to the front door, eager to see the woman who had my man before me, and legally, still did, which gave me proverbial hives.
Naturally, had I tried to grill Bear about her and them as a couple, but he just really didn’t like talking about it, looked miserable when he did, so I usually didn’t press the issue much. All I knew so far was that they met in college, got married right after graduation, moved to Oasis Springs, had a son, Teddy Junior, then a girl, Shelby. The kids were 6 and 4 when disaster struck. Bear eventually left Oasis Springs, that was now well over a decade ago.
Secretly I hoped his still-wife would be some haggard looking old woman, wrinkly and spent. Like the witch from children’s stories.
The woman who opened for us seemed reserved, understandable, but wasn’t so bad at all. Average looking. Definitely no competition for me, which was good, but sadly she wasn’t quite the ugly old hag I hoped she’d be. Bummer.
She was polite, but didn’t smile at anyone, except at our Liam, the charismatic charm fountain, but obviously not at her aloof estranged and hopefully-soon-to-be-ex-husband, most definitely not at me for I was mostly ignored. All very understandable. I wasn’t here to become BFFs with her anyway. I wanted her ass out of my and Bear’s life forever as soon as humanly possible, I felt so strongly about it that Liam had suggested tossing her a big fat financial bone to make that deal sweeter and more agreeable – and likely move more quickly. I really didn’t want to be here at all, the only reason I had even come at all was to make sure she didn’t take one look at my man and try to reel him back in or something with sappy ‘remember whens’.
Once we were seated at her dining room table, her on one side, the three of us like three little black ducks lined up across from her. All Vampires almost exclusively wore black for probably very obvious reasons, I was no exception, Bear preferred dark clothing, since he never knew when he may have to cover for one of his men or take a last minute type job on short notice, dark clothes blended better since 50% of personal security was to be invisible, the other 50% you wanted to look as imposing as possible, which would be hard to do in lime green, baby blue and Pepto-Bismol pinks, and always stylish Liam just happened to be wearing black that day, even though that probably made us look like some trio version of the Blues Brothers, especially as I noticed looking out the car window on the way into town that in the desert people seemed to prefer dressing in brighter colors. Another mark against this place for me. Yuck!
Liam immediately started to go over the divorce papers with her.
“Mrs. Barrett, …” Liam said now and hearing that woman called by my man’s name gave me the feels in a bad way. Nope, nope, NOPE. Just nope. Divorce ASAP, if not sooner – PLEASE!
“… I think you will find our offer to be very generous, all things considered, including the fact that most of Mr. Barrett’s wealth was accumulated well AFTER you two legally separated and hencewith won’t be a part of the shared property which would become part of the divorce proceedings, as that would have required shared bed and table, per law. Obviously the one-year separation has been satisfied.”
“Yeah, that’s fine. Far as I can tell it all looks good, sounds acceptable, but I will still have my own lawyer read over this, as I am sure you’ll understand.” she said, sounding as if she, too, was very much ready to be out of the marriage.
“Oh yes, naturally, as a matter of fact, I would insist you do that, Mrs. Barrett.” Liam smiled.
More polite banter pertaining to the documents and the divorce was exchanged.
All went well until I gave Bear, who was sitting next to me tense as a bow, an encouraging smile, then briefly and gently ran the back of my hand across his cheek, which diverted his soon-to-be-ex’s attention to me, after pretty much barely acknowledging my sheer existence up until that point.
“Excuse me, are you Theo’s girlfriend? I thought you were Mr. Cameron’s assistant, but I guess not. Dear Lord, how old are you, girl?! Theodore, you’ve become a cradle robber now?! Is THAT why you are suddenly after a divorce, so you can marry that child?! She can’t be more than 18, 20 tops! Is she even legal yet?”
Argh, here we go now, I thought. Ding, ding, ding, prepare the ring for the throwdown. Round one forthcoming.
“Hey lady, I am older than you think, definitely old enough to drink and then some! Thank my mom for my youthful genes!” I snarled, thinking “Yeah, the gene making me a Vamp and I am definitely old enough to drink your blood, bitch – and all of it – if you don’t shut that piehole ASAP!”
Immediately, she retorted, with a dismissive Karen-shrug, before loading up the bitch-gun to fire off another round.
“If you say so. You still look half his age! Has he told you about the reason we didn’t work out? We would have children almost your age if he hadn’t been so …”
Bear had been staring at the table, his head now snapped up at her and he talked right over her.
“Susan – please! Our kids would be nowhere near her age! As Fallon already told you, she looks younger than she is, she is a grown woman, very talented and smart and helps me run my business, which is what my request is related to. No need to air dirty laundry here now, nor for your concern about what Fallon and I do with our private lives. Judging by the happy family portrait on that wall, you do not want to be married to me any more than I want to be married to you, so this is just a formality while we are already meeting about the other things, no need to stir up issues, let alone cause new ones.”
Following his brief eruption, Bear resumed staring at the table, while Susan Barrett, arched an eyebrow, then responded.
“Oh, you could not be more right about that, I want out of this marriage, so I can finally become Phil’s wife legally. Unlike you, I just had no idea how to find you and also unlike you, we don’t have the kind of spare change to pay someone to track you down. I would have never guessed to look for you in Del Sol Valley, knowing how private you are and how you always hated attention. But I won’t let you swipe the tragedy under the rug, as if it never happened. It did happen, and you left me here to deal with it all by myself. Looks like that worked well for you, you definitely upgraded your life all the way around, a new start far away, Theo, but I have always been where you and I used to be, right here in Oasis Springs, with reminders of what we lost everywhere. Maybe I would have liked to leave, a chance to forget, but someone has to look after our children’s graves, and I couldn’t bear the idea of both parents abandoning them! Have you even ever been back to visit their final resting places since the funeral?! We both know the answer, no, you have not, you were way too busy starting over fresh. And boy, did you! Guess it’s true what they say about when you reach for the stars you might not get them but won’t come up with a handful of dirt either.” her tone was asinine and hearing her address him by his first name rubbed me wrong too.
The name Theo didn’t even suit him. He was Bear, goddamn it. MY Bear, to be precise! And my Bear spoke up now.
“I hear what you are saying, Susan, and I know you are not all wrong. I have made mistakes and still do. Yes, hard work paid off for me. It took a long time, but yes, I did what I had to do and moved on. You have a point about the kids’ graves, I should have visited, but you also know Del Sol Valley isn’t exactly around the corner and we established I work a lot. Blaming me for leaving town is not fair, you know as well as I do had I staying here in town, our paths would have crossed again and again, which would have only made things worse, for you and for me, but it wouldn’t have changed what happened. You could not stand the sight of me anymore. So, rather than play the blame game, which serves no purpose, I suggest we act like grown adults, let bygones be bygones and focus on the matter on hand. You look good, Susan, happy. You have a nice home, and it doesn’t seem like you are suffering loneliness either.” Bear pointed at a framed photo of that Susan-lady with some man, obviously not her brother and a little boy, who was clearly the fruit of their loins.
“I didn’t claim I was unhappy, Theo, we both moved on, we both did what we had to do to live our lives, I am happy; Phil makes me happy, and our little Keith is growing into a fine young man, and I would happily finally become Phil’s wife and take his name. Judging by the number your attorney tossed at me to get rid of me for good, our ‘nice’ home must give you claustrophobia. Well, congratulations, looks like being a workaholic paid off for you, even if it costs us our two babies. And this just dawned on me, I just recognized you, Mr. Cameron, you looked so awfully familiar all along, but I just couldn’t place you, until I saw your full name. Who would have ever expected that pop singer ViVa’s attorney husband would come to their home? I wouldn’t, yet here you are, Del Sol Valley royalty right here at my dining room table, how ironic. I know you too, girl, I have seen you on TV. You are one of that foul-mouthed rock musician Blaine Cameron’s daughters. I don’t know which one, but I know it’s you. You really reached for the stars, Theo. Literally. Straight into the firmament of the DSV hills.”
While she had addressed and looked at Bear, it was me who snapped at her.
“Well, I am obviously the Blaine Cameron daughter named Fallon and also obviously not the daughter who is Liam’s wife or do I look like ViVa to you?!” I snapped at her.
Sidenote: my sister Vivien had just released a new album under her stage name ViVa and her face was literally EVERYWHERE at the moment. We looked a little alike, as sisters often do, but not to the point that you couldn’t tell us apart. Plus, she was mortal, 30 years older than me and showed signs of aging even though she went through great lengths to counteract it.
I was honestly shocked Susan had recognized me at all. Liam wasn’t much of a surprise, for many decades Vivien had dragged him to every red-carpet event she went to, he’d been on the cover of magazines more often than most supermodels, but I usually kept in the background, behind all the famous people in my family. Old Susie here still figured it all out, ha, guess Bear’s type never has been dummies.
Liam shot me a warning glance from the other side of Bear, begging me not to do my usual Fallon thing, but I didn’t even get the chance, Susan did it for me.
“Maybe not, but then again, from what I have heard about your family, I wouldn’t put past any of you Camerons to consider the lines about who should be doing what with whom very blurry. Sodom and Gomorrah, and that’s the type of crowd you are running with now, Theo? The kind of life you sacrificed everything for?” Susan wondered.
Bear’s head snapped up to look at her, my mouth fell open, but Liam growled
“Mrs. Barrett! I do beg your pardon!” the tone of his voice a clear warning, daring her to continue and deal with the consequences, while glaring at her with his dad stare that still managed to force both his young adult kids to their knees.
Not only was Liam proudly a Cameron by birth as well, just from a different branch of our extensive family tree. Our good Mrs. Barrett had unknowingly agitated a very sore subject with him, since he and Vivien – and I obviously – were also second cousins, which they both had always gone through great lengths to bury deep. You see how ole Susie’s comment would rub him raw and cause an inflamed mood with him too?
She knew what was good for her and let it go, instead directed her attention at Bear. But she wasn’t done stirring shit up. Bitch was on a roll!
“So, you are in cahoots with Vampires now, huh? Would suit you. Even back then, you were always the serious and darker type. And if you have your barely-past-puberty-girlfriend there turn you, you won’t ever have to worry about getting shot ever again. Or about any children you two might have, if you don’t already, they’d be tough to kill. At the rate you seem to be soaring towards the top, you probably have replaced everything we once had with something bigger and better. Including our babies, probably with some spoiled brats with ridiculous names like famous people do.” she continued to unleash her poison at us.
I had enough of it.
“Seriously, lady? You done spewing moronic bullshit yet?! I have better things to do with my life than be some replacement wife and mother, what Bear and I have is bigger and better! Anyone with a vajayjay can fuck and pop out a bunch of kids, that’s not award-worthy, but building something like Bear has, is! And being Vampire isn’t some sort of natural failsafe for our line of work!” fell out of my mouth before I could help it.
“No, young lady, there most certainly isn’t anything natural about being what you are. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And I wonder how your mother feels about your devaluation of motherhood! Then again, she probably never had to worry about anything in her life, that’s what nannies are for in your privileged circles, am I right?!”
Okay, that did it! I flew off the handle, jumped up and started yelling, I have no recollection on what all I said, but it wasn’t complimenting her shoes, so much is clear, and I wouldn’t shut up until Bear grabbed me and dragged me out of the house and down the road to the car with him.
Moments later Liam appeared with a grim face, tossing the briefcase into the car, then told me to go sit in the back.
“Excuse me?!” my attempt to give him Fallon’tude fizzled out by his grim glare. He’d been around Vampires too much to fear them, plus, if any Vamp were to bend a single hair on him, mom would have them for breakfast. Including me. As would dad. No thanks.
“Well, she refused to take the papers to her attorney, told me to take the stack with me and shove them. I need to call around to try and fix what you just fucked up, Fallon! That’s easier in the front seat while Bear drives us back home. Go, scoot!”
“Fix what? She started it, Liam! She insulted me and my kind – and then my mom! If either of you were Vampires too, you’d be just as pissed as I am! If you have to fix something, you are fixing HER bullshit, not mine! So, what now? She wants more money? What a greedy ass old bitch! But if it’s money she wants, she can have it. I still got plenty and I happily shove it down her throat till she suffocates on it just to get her out of my life for good!”
“Well Fallon, welcome to being an adult in normal society! If I were to snap at people every time, they said something I find offensive, I would NEVER have been able to make it in law, let alone around your side of the family! Learn to fuckin’ live with it, especially if you want to run a business! And while you are at it, please also take note that money won’t fix everything!” Liam roared at me.
“Liam, please, calm down. I think Fallon got the message! Just do what you can to get us back on track.” Bear came to my aid, receiving Liam’s glares now.
No, Liam wasn’t easily impressed either as his next rant proved.
“Let’s hope she has. And to answer your question, Fallon, no, she doesn’t want more money – or anything. She straight out refuses to sign the papers now out of principle, as she says. Means, no divorce, unless we go petition court directly and that’s gonna get messy, if we even have any success, plus it could take months to be assigned to a judge who may just end up dismissing this bullshit. Good job, Fallon! Contrary to what you both are probably thinking right now, during my several phone conversations with her I personally found Mrs. Barrett to be very reasonable when not taunted and upset, she clearly is still very bitter about Bear’s and her shared past, understandable in a way, so I will check on all the options first, while giving her a day or so to simmer down. Tomorrow, I will call her, calmly, and discuss everything again in peace. WITHOUT you. Without both of you. I am confident I can convince her to reconsider, especially since she already said she wants to marry the father of her son. But for the next appointment I will have you BOTH muzzled, so we don’t look like the Three Stooges again! You behaved worse than a tired teething toddler without their binkie, Fallon! And you weren’t much better, Bear! Now I have to be the one to blow sugar up her ass to calm her back down. I really can think of better ways to spend my time!”
Bear looked awkward, while I gasped, all I heard was no divorce yet, so I ranted
“What? Oh, hell no! We’re not gonna have you kiss that bitch’s ass, Liam! I am gonna go talk to her about that bullshit! We need to be done with this marriage business – NOW! I am so over that! We’re here, we got the papers, bitch be signing NOW!” I tried to walk off, but both Bear and Liam held me back.
“Dudes! I am not gonna fucking kill her. I am just gonna talk to her. Like with words! Not fangs!”
“Absolutely not! For the last time, get your ass in that backseat now, Fallon” Liam roared, while Bear shook his head at me.
“Get in the car. Please. I am with Liam. Things need to calm down first or it’s just gonna get messier.” Bear said, and with an aggravated sigh, I obliged.