Time has a way of getting away from people, and before you know it, in the blink of an eye it seems, the world has changed around you.
KC and Everleigh’s babies grew and were now toddlers, just turned three years old.
Toddlers were always a handful, two of them at once kept their parents very busy. Busy, but very happy.
Josh and Emmi had a healthy boy they called Coleton – named in honor of Emerson’s late mother, it had been her maiden name. When she died in the car crash when Emmi was still a young girl, the last of the old Coleton family vanished with her.
Josh was gone during the week attending school and living on campus, doing well and now already a Junior in college, Emmi was attending classes at an arts academy locally in Brindleton Bay. Evey watched Coleton – Cole for short – when she was working from home, and Emmi would in turn watch the twins when Evey had to go into work at EC Architects.
Whenever home, Josh primarily took care of Cole. Never once a word of complaint about not being able to do what other 21 year old college boys did. He had inherited the love of children and family from his grandfather Liam and was a natural at taking care of babies.
In only a few short months, Cole would become a toddler as well.
One by one, it seemed that everybody had moved – again.
Everett and Katie stayed in the lovingly renovated Beach House and would not move ever again.
They were getting older and started thinking about retirement and prepare for a time when getting around wasn’t going to be as easy anymore. As soon as Josh would graduate college, Everett planned to hand over the reigns to him and Everleigh equally, stay on until he felt he was no longer needed and then retire to enjoy some active years with Katie travelling and just enjoying life as they saw fit.
Both parents were nearing their sixties, both still active, fit and healthy, but both liked to plan and be prepared, so they could sit back, reap the fruit of the love and hard work they had so carefully sown during their life together, instill the learned lessons of life into their three grandchildren, watching their children succeed and be happy that the siblings spend so much time together.
Just like always, there were frequent meals together as a family at Katie and Everett’s home. Not always the whole family as everybody’s schedules would just not line up like that.
Everleigh and KC had moved into her childhood home when the babies were just a few months old.
It was filled with memories, happy ones. And it was just a short walk to the schools, which they could see from their bedroom window.
Both loved her grandparents’ former home but felt uncomfortable living there. Nobody challenged them, as everybody understood. And this home was one designed and build by Everleigh’s dad, and would always be special.
Josh, Emmi and baby Coleton plus a new cat named Tammy were now living in the home across the street once renovated by KC and Evey.
Once the baby was born, it had just gotten too crowded in the Beach House. Being pet lovers like most of the Camerons they had wanted a dog, like KC and Evey’s dog Alpine, but a cat was all they could swing for now.
There was no way either of them could guarantee frequent walks. Not yet. Eventually. They wanted their boy to grow up with a dog.
Aside from the houses, which he gifted to his children, Everett also still owned his grandfather’s Skyline Club in San Myshuno, and the current proprietor quit to move away to be with family, so after long discussions he gifted it to KC, who gave up coaching and took over as the new owner to run daily operations like Blaine once had done.
Everleigh worked from home most days, only going into the office at EC Architects for meetings.
After one of such meetings she visited Sam one day in her flower shop.
Over lunch learned about issues with Sam’s rental home, so she offered her the quasi empty grandparents’ home for a small nominal rent each month, which would help with the problem of what to do with Heath and Abby. Thralls weren’t allowed to remain unsupervised and Evey’s childhood home had huge windows and no basement for Heath to hide during the day.
So, officially Sam became the warden for Heath. It had not been hard to see that both still cared much about each other when Sam stopped by after the twins were born to meet them, unaware Heath lived there.
The moment they met again could have been straight from a romantic scene in a movie.
Ever since, Evey had been trying to get them together. Both were shying away from it, now they had no choice. What came of it remained to be seen.
Heath was very aloof due to the strict rules for Thralls but another development was underway to change that to his benefit.
Isabelle’s husband Charlie had been elected the youngest mayor of Greater San Myshuno & vicinity, and kind-hearted as he was as a former doctor, he immediately started negotiations to change life for vampires again. This had been in the works for years now without much to show for it, except no new vampiric convicts could be sentenced to either death or servitude as Thralls. Those who already were would remain as such for the time being, but their living and working conditions were checked frequently, creating new jobs in the process.
Requiring only a few more formalities to pass was his current project, to get rid of the awful collars.
To follow were pardons and releases with smaller stipulations. Most of those convicted were in that position not due to any criminal intend but some BS charges brought upon them by mortals hating immortals.
Isabelle loved her new prestigious role as the mayor’s wife. Charlie loved having such a social butterfly as his wife shielding him from the needed connecting and bantering which was not his forte, while he focused on true issues.
Isabelle had grown up a lot, shed her arrogance and superficial ways to become a true lady of society.
The rest of Isabelle’s family had moved back to Del Sol Valley to get back into their acting and screenwriting careers.
Isabelle’s father, Rhys Ferrer, was born there and Belle’s mother Natalie had grown up there. To them it was home, more so than sleepy Brindleton Bay. Isabelle’s older brother Cameron and his wife Rose welcomed a little girl they named Elodie. Cam got back into screenwriting with his father.
Locally, KC was a natural at running the Skyline Club, he had learned it from the bottom up from Blaine a long time ago.
Like Blaine, he kept a low profile and was a very well liked and hands-on boss, never above working the bar – or even bus tables or help with the coat check – when it got busy, and he still performed every now and then.
One night, the grandparents were watching the twins, so Evey could go keep him company, when after a few drinks he grabbed his guitar and her hand and dragged her along to the stage, where after giving the sign to cut the music he addressed the audience.
“Guys, I know it ain’t ‘Live Thursday’ tonight and not all y’all wanna hear my tunes, but you’re gonna anyway. I wrote this little piece a while ago and have been dying to see how it goes … oh, this little lady here is my wife Everleigh … well, babe, you stay right here and so will all y’all down there. It’ll be quick, I promise. Dontcha all move or I’ll have them lock the doors.”
He chuckled while getting ready for his song, as the audience laughed.
He plucked a few notes, and it got quiet when he started playing a surprisingly calm tune, most of his original music was usually upbeat and faster. He sang to the audience, smiling, with meaningful side-glances at Evey.
“Six years old, standing beside me outside the school
I knew it then, I know it now, I’ll always be her fool.
The way she smiled giving her lunch to me
Me showing her a side of me that only ever she would see.
Years later now, looking at me with those eyes of green,
The warmest, most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen
In her hands I am just putty,
and she is so very … gutty.
KC stopped singing and spoke chuckling
“Y’all thought I’d sing ‘nutty’ now, didn’t ya, ha – gotcha!”
He quickly stole a kiss from Evey while the audience laughed until he started singing again.
One day I got down on one knee and gave a wedding ring
to the girl who’s my lover, my savior, my everything.
The girl became a woman, a mother and a wife
But she’ll forever be my best friend and love of my life.
Love’s got a face, love’s got a name,
I beg, now and forever,
Let us break never,
It’s so plain to see
My love’s name will always be
Everleigh … Everleigh”
Striking the last chord, it was easy to see that Everleigh wasn’t the only one deeply moved by his song.
The audience had gotten quiet, listening to the lyrics, now they cheered demanding an encore, while Everleigh rushed into KC’s arms, crying and kissing him.
Eventually he took the microphone and told the audience.
“Sorry guys, you will all get your canned dance music again, cos – no offense – but the only encore I am interested in tonight has nothing to do with singing or even music. Have fun y’all!”
He and Evey left the stage and barely made it past the curtain when he received the first installment of things to come that night.
For one fleeting moment life was grand for everybody, KC and Evey with their kids, Josh and Emmi and their son, their parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, wherever they were, everything was on the up and up for all of them.
But as usual, a wind of change was already moving in to complicate things that didn’t need to be …
“Sammy, Sammy, will you read me my story?” Abigail’s high pitched voice begged.
“If your daddy does not mind…” Samantha replied, smiling, then looking up at Heath.
“Of course not.” he returned the smile.
“Maybe you can check on Jacob?” Samantha suggested.
“I think he’d prefer his mom. I don’t think he likes me much…”
“He just doesn’t know you well yet, he is stand-offish with everybody but me. Maybe he could feel his father’s rejection when I still tried to make him want to spend time with his son. Don’t take it personal. He’ll come around. How could he not, you are still every bit as sweet as you ever were ….” there was sincerity in her eyes and voice.
“Jacob likes ME…” Abby stated, but remained without a reply.
Samantha and Heath’s eyes met, locked, until Abby loudly demanded Samantha’s attention, which broke the spell and Sam went along with the child to read her to sleep, not without looking over her shoulder at Heath one more time.
Heath stood in the hallway watching Sam and his daughter disappear up the stairs, the same hallway where he once met Abigail’s mother Heather for the very first time, at one of Liam and Leonie’s parties.
He had secretly loved those parties, watching all those people so happy and cheerful. Especially their family. Heath would have given anything to be part of the Cameron clan. Or to be happy and cheerful without having to force it, fake it – like them.
Now all of them where gone. Scattering into the four winds.
Well, all of those who once liked him.
Just like when they were kids, she was all he had.
She and Abby.
He longed for the gentle touch of a woman, the last hint of it left with Everleigh months ago. While they had never gone any further than that one kiss many years ago, she would touch his face, hand, arm and it would make him feel better and less alone. As far back as he could remember back he had often been melancholic, nothing unusual for him, but after he had gotten a taste of what a relationship, what love between a man and a woman could be like, how elating the feeling, the bitterness of the truth that it well beyond his reach now was nearly unbearable.
The only one he would ever dare confide into was Evey, but he never did tell her about those feelings, he’d feel too guilty complaining, after all she had done for him. She had managed to find his lost child, in a very unforgiving and unwelcoming world and against all odds she had made sure he was okay and that the worst Abby would realize of her dad’s sentence to servitude was to see her daddy wear an ugly “necklace”. The first months of his time as a Thrall had been terrible and demeaning, grinding away on his will to live until he ran into Evey at the spa. Right when he had been about to give up and do something he knew would end his existence, suddenly there she was again, once more the light illuminating his perpetual darkness. The minute Evey had lost conscience, the second he held her in his arms again, he knew he couldn’t end himself. He knew he could never hurt her so, and he knew that if his child was still alive, she would find her. And she had. Even KC had been more than kind. A true friend now.
And here was Samantha again. Old feelings returned the minute he had run into her in the nursery. He had checked on Evey’s twins when the door opened and Sam walked in, catching him by surprise.
A pleasant one.
Their eyes had locked then, like they had earlier.
He remembered the first words they exchanged after a long time.
It didn’t feel strange, odd or wrong like you’d expect, instead it was like coming home.
But he was afraid.
Relationships did not seem to come easy to him, seemed to cause much pain for all, and did not seem to last. Moreover, they usually ended in tragedy.
He was afraid of what could happen. But the temptation to forget all about those reservations grew each day. It would be easier if Sam moved back out, but he knew he could never let that happen.
He wanted her to stay as much as he wished she would leave. No, that was a lie. He wanted her to stay. Period.
His life seemed more than complicated, what really got him down was when he painted the picture of what his daughter’s life would be like. She would not be a child forever. With the help of Evey and KC he was able to make her feel like all other children, provide a happy childhood. She would grow older and eventually she would want to do things teenagers do. Throw and attend parties, go out, date … but she would not be able to. He could not let her. She could not even attend high school. She would never be able to marry, have children, a house, a pet, a job. And all through no fault of her own, only because who her father is and what it made her. Maybe death would have been more merciful for both of them.
Once, in a weak moment, he had mentioned this to Evey, who would have none of it, just about slapped him for even thinking that way.
She was putting all her money on the Mayor Charles Ellington card, convinced Charlie would undo the paralyzing laws and rules for vampires and they all would happily and freely live side by side again. Everleigh was thoroughly convinced that all it was now was a waiting game.
As wonderful as having at least a gleam of hope would be, Heath could not buy into it. Nothing would change.
Not now, not ever, not for him and not for his little girl.
He was condemned to eternal life in solitude and so was his little daughter.
He shook his head, then went to the shed and down to his room. He felt safe here, despite the emptiness. Everywhere else he felt backed against a wall with no way out.
Sitting on his little sofa, staring at the floor after staring at the pictures of him and Everleigh as children and teens on his wall, wishing back those days.
Back then there was still hope. Now, even the last gleam had been extinguished.
It wasn’t until he heard someone clear their throat that he looked up.
When he did, he saw Samantha in lacy underwear, her clothing pooling at her feet, as she now came towards him, a promise of determination in her eyes.
He wanted to protest.
Tell her it cannot happen.
Wanted to leave.
She came to him, he felt the kiss, her warm body so close, a lover’s touch and it made him forget everything as she straddled him now as he more than willingly returned her kisses which grew more and more demanding …
When he arrived at the prison, KC was tense and visibly uncomfortable. The one time he answered a call from a number he didn’t recognize had gotten him here. It had been his father. From prison. KC had wanted to hang up, but felt paralyzed, listening to the voice of the man who nearly ruined his life had it not been for Evey and her grandfather. Feeling reminiscent and melancholic at the thought of Liam he agreed to come and see his father before the time for the call was up. And here he was now, a man of his word, despite wanting to turn around and drive back home.
While he was no stranger to prisons himself, all that seemed like lifetimes ago and he now felt embarrassed walking through the doors, so he kept looking over his shoulder to assure nobody he knew would see him.
There had been a time in his life where he cared little about such things, but that time was long gone and he was a very different person now, the careless teen had grown into a responsible man, husband and father.
It had been tough to shake off Everleigh who at first insisted on going along, luckily nobody was available to watch the kids. This was the last place he wanted to take her. He prefered to avoid confronting her, reminding her, of where he came from. She knew all she needed to know already.
At the last glance over his shoulder he caught a glimpse of the trailer park he grew up in and the strip club across the street. Ironic that both would be practically next door to the prison like a bad omen, a promise. A visible reminder of where any and all inhabitants of the trailer park would end up, sooner or later.
He checked in, after the document check, passing through a metal detector, he was lead into a room and shown to a table with chairs.
There were no other visitors.
A while later a man arrived, lead in by another officer, his handcuffs were removed and he came to sit across from KC.
Older than he remembered him, but still unmistakably his father.
A large scar across his face, spongy from years of drinking into a near coma and tired eyes.
A wave of memories of growing up as the son of this man, all of which bad, washed over KC making him want to turn on his heel and leave again.
“You really came. Lookin’ all grown up. Like a real man. Strong, too. You were always such a scrawny kid. Who’d have guessed.” the man smirked.
“What do you want?” KC wasn’t in the mood to fake politeness.
“I don’t like this much either, but I need your help. My wife, your stepmother, and I had a bad fight last time. She said a lot of terrible things, among them that she would leave me, now she is not taking my calls, hasn’t come back to see me in months. Your mother won’t help me, and your uncle is who knows where. I need to make things right with my wife. There are things I need to tell her. Urgently.”
“Step-mother? Ha! Thanks for the memo. Guess that wedding invite got lost in the mail, just like mine to you did.” KC snorted a laugh.
“You are married …” it was a statement, not a question.
“Yes. And a father. You have two grandchildren.” KC didn’t know why he told him, he never had any intention to share anything personal of his new life.
“You’ve come a long way. Maybe you can bring your wife by so I can meet her …”
“I wouldn’t hold my breath on that if I were you. So, why would I help you?”
“Because there is nobody else I could call, that should make you feel good and you have always been the mushy kind and I need your help, son. You are still my blood.”
“Took you nearly 30 years you figure that out.”
“30? Damn you got old, kid. Means I got old too. Well, had to happen some day.”
“There was a time when not a lot of people would have put money on me ever reaching that ripe old age, and I am 29 right now! I’ll be turning 30 soon, there will be a nice party, too bad you’re gonna have to miss it. Again, like all the other ones before it. Real pity.”
“Yeah yeah, you sarcastic prick. But I can see that I deserve it. So you gonna help me, kid?”
“Naw, don’t think so. Great catching up. Oh, and lose my number.”
“Don’t go. Please. I really need you to help me.”
“One good reason….”
“I am dying.”
“You’ve been dying since before I was born! Your bottled buddies Jack and Johnnie saw to that.”
“KC … I am serious. Please. I have been a sorry excuse for a father, but I am the only one you got. I’d give anything to get a chance to make things right with you. I’d fall to my knees, but as you well know, they don’t like such antics here. Assuming you are not interested in watching me turn into a corpse in fast-forward, I need Tansy to give me another chance. I don’t want to be alone when the time comes. It is going to go downhill fast soon. Now, if you would be interested in coming to see me again … maybe only once … and maybe you could bring your wife and kids … at least pictures. You are my only child, Kieran.” Deangelo Cullen looked sincere, and as much as KC didn’t want to, he remembered once being given a chance when someone didn’t have to.
“Fine. I’ll see what I can do, but don’t expect much. I’ll think about your one request and will see if I can find that wife of yours. Not gonna put forth a lot of effort, not for YOU. I’ll let you know if I figure something out. Oh, and – don’t go anywhere.” KC smirked at the last part.
“Fuck you, son.” his father flipped him off.
KC got up, an officer came over to accompany Deangelo Cullen back to his cell. Near the door he turned around.
“Kieran… umm, KC.” he corrected himself.
“Proud of you son. You’re the only one of the whole fam-damn-ily who made it out of the shit hole. You made something of yourself. Always knew you would. Felt it.” Cullen turned and the door fell shut behind him and the officer with a metallic echo like an audible exclamation mark.
It was not hard to see the mixed emotions in KC’s face. He would have been less surprised had his father told him he secretly was a unicorn.
In the parking lot he fought an inner fight with himself. Should he really help the man who had made his young life a living hell? KC snorted a laugh when he caught himself thinking ‘what would Liam do?’. Father. Whenever KC thought of a father Liam came to mind, then Blaine. Not once in the past decade had he even thought about his biological father. Well, why not go and talk to the magical woman that managed to get his father to settle down. At least until he screwed it up again. He didn’t have to put forth much effort. At least he could say he tried. No harm, no foul.
The trailer park had changed little if at all. None of the trailer doors were locked and all were empty.
KC glanced across the street and closed his eyes.
The strip club. Gals N Dolls. It was where all the women in his biological family worked, – and probably still did. Cursing to himself he crossed the road and walked up to the front door.
When he opened the door the light was too dim, the music too loud, the air was filled with the stench of cheap booze, cigarette smoke, stale air mixed in with vanilla perfume and other undefinable scents. It took his eyes a minute to adjust to the dark reddish light occasionally interrupted by strobe lights from the stage.
Immediately a pink-haired woman came over, rubbing up against him.
“Hey baby, what’s your fancy? Want a dance?” she purred.
“No, looking for someone. You seen Sally?” KC stood stiffly and spoke coolly.
“Sally? I don’t know no Sally, but I can be your Sally, baby.” the woman cooed into his ear.
“Take your hands of the boy, Tansy! That’s your step-son. Hi Kieran. Almost didn’t recognize you, kid.” Another woman said.
“Mother.” KC stated, unable to hide his surprise.
“Oh damn, sorry … I just didn’t know. I mean, your father has told me about you, but I didn’t know what you looked like.” Tansy said apologetic.
“No worries. Until half an hour ago I didn’t even know a thing about you, guess we’re even.” KC forced a polite smile.
“Come, follow me, Kieran, we can talk over in the private room.” KC cringed when his mother used his legal name. It wasn’t the name itself, but what it reminded him of.
“I went to see my sperm donor.” he told her as he followed her.
“So the bastard finally reeled someone in. Tansy’s done with him. Can’t blame her. Don’t fall for whatever lies he dished up for you. He hasn’t changed and he ain’t gonna. Stay away and keep away, like you been doin’. But there is someone I want you to meet.”
She took him into another room where a dark-sinned girl and toddler-aged girl were playing. A cornucopia of emotions on KC’s face only surpassed by his mother’s next words.
“That there is Rosemary, your sister – half-sister – and this is your cousin, Felicity’s daughter. Your aunt Felicity is on stage but I am sure she would like to tell you hi if you could stick around for a bit.”
The little girl saw her mother and ran up to her, Sally caught her, and the girl giggled. Aside from the very inappropriate place for a child, both kids seemed okay and happy. Nothing like the childhood he remembered with his late cousin, Lillian, whom he grew up with.
“Rosie, say hello to your big brother Kieran.” Sally said with an unusually soft voice.
“Hi Kieran, wanna play with us? Wow, you are really tall. I hope to be tall one day too.”
“I’d love to stay and play, Rosie, but I have to go. Some other time, okay?” KC managed to keep composed for the little girl’s sake. His half-sister.
“But on the weekend then, ok? Monday through Friday I am in school until 4, have practice after, then homework and I have to be in bed by 8. Mommy is strict. Even though I am a big girl. But I want to be a famous dancer one day!” Rosie now informed him.
“How can you let her do that?!” KC’s composure was gone, as he barked at his mother.
“Kieran, she is talking about ballet, not my kind of dancing. Rosie is very good and may get a scholarship into some academy. She is also a straight A student, even though I haven’t been able to help her with homework for years, I don’t understand a thing. But you know that. I am clean now, and sober. Ever since Rosie came along. You taught me that – in a way. After you went to live with that rich family I saw you a few times at the park, the store, downtown. I just watched you, didn’t want to embarrass you. I always knew I failed you, I was so weak. When Rosie came along, I knew I had a chance to make it better. I tried to find other work, but nobody would hire me and those who would are far away and don’t pay nothing. Rent is high. So here I still am, still at the trailer park with my sister, her kid, your father when he is not in the slammer and his new wife. And my Rosie. But I am making sure Rosie will have it better one day. I’ll make sure he gets out too. Like you. And maybe one day you can forgive me.”
KC could not handle any more. Politely and pale he said goodbye and rushed out without even attempting what he had come here for, to speak to his father’s new wife. Screw all of that.
He literally ran back to his Jeep.
Fighting with his composure until he got home, when he saw Evey he just rushed to her, held her, pressing her tightly against him.
“So … how did it go?” she carefully fished, obviously aware it had not been the time of his life.
“You wouldn’t believe it. I am not sure I do … but I am desperate for your advice.” he told her.