The Discord Trilogy





Book II  - Abomination

(scroll down for the first two chapters)


Taralie Severin and her sisters have secured a non-aggression pact with the rulers of the vampire world, the Noricum. Having relocated to Cannon Beach, Oregon, Alexander prepares to marry his beloved Tara. But when an encounter with average vampires goes wrong, the Severin coven’s fragile amnesty with the Noricum is destroyed. With the supremacy of their rule challenged, the Noricum set out to restore the balance of power, leaving the Severin family two choices – die on their feet, or live on their knees.

Chapter 1 – Because I Can



The noise level in the terminal is staggering. Planes scream off the runway, baggage carousels grind, spoken words echo, and unspoken thoughts invade my mind. Normally I suppress foreign thoughts, relegating the cacophony to background noise. Right now I’m looking for one human in particular: Blake Severin, my soon-to-be father-in-law.



Filtering through so many unwanted voices is difficult. But training from my former masters, the deposed Dacian rulers, honed my telepathy skills to perfection. The assignment was to gather intelligence from their enemies, the current vampire rulers known as The Noricum. After going rouge I spied on Duncan, the Noricum North American prefect. Searching his mind, I found ways to stay hidden from both the Dacians and Noricum.



As prefect, Duncan maintains the balance of feeding grounds. To keep our family hidden I telepathically learn what cities are lying fallow. Much like a farmer rotates his resting fields, the Noricum ban covens from hunting in revolving cities. It keeps suspicions down, allows populations to flourish, and since we don’t eat humans it gives us the perfect hiding place. It’s why we moved from Montana to Chicago and why we’ve selected Cannon Beach, Oregon as our new home. Only two hours away, Portland is in a rest phase.



Four months ago when Thomas, Ruben and I went to Toronto, we tried to spy on the coven blatantly overhunting their Noricum-issued feeding quota.



Finding a family of four half witches turned into vampires was the last thing I expected.



I also didn’t expect their leader to be handpicked by the Dacians to wage war on the Noricum, or that their leader had killed my sire, Cothelas. A vampire so feared he held Noricum armies at bay for centuries. And they didn’t stop there. I would’ve never imagined any vampire would threaten the Dacian king Draco, a more powerful vampire than Cothelas… all for the sake of their father’s safety.



I didn’t expect they’d already been attacked by the trained executioners of our world, much less that they’d won. The Noricum detachment had not taken a casualty in several hundred years. It wasn’t the only kill the sisters would claim.



I couldn’t have conceived the two ancient covens of the vampire world would join forces against us. But what I never expected, not ever, was that I would fall for the half witch’s leader…Taralie Severin.



I can’t hear her mind, nor can I place my thoughts in hers. The result of a magical gift from her mother when she was just a child. I still remember the night we first met. Her silent mind was a mystery, a dangerous thing in my world. I saw the way she hovered over her sisters. She would kill to protect them or die trying. With their abilities, she won’t be making that choice anytime soon.



We finally learned to trust each other. In doing so, a strange thing happened. Her mental silence taught me more about life than I ever thought possible.



The honesty of a question.



The thrill of anticipation.



The excitement of discovering another’s perception, one paintbrush stroke at a time.



Quiet moments with someone.



A simple act of faith.



After we stopped trying to kill each other I spent weeks watching Tara, figuring her out by observing Arianna, Augusta, and Coralia, her sisters. Just when I thought I understood her, she did something out of character, she fell in love with me and tried to keep it from her sisters. She doesn’t know how badly she hid it and I’ll never tell her. I waited for weeks on Aggie’s advice to tell her about my affection.



She’s unaware Cora and I are in Portland picking up their father two weeks early. He’s coming for a double wedding at our home in Cannon Beach. Since leaving Chicago, he’s only visited once. But with the way her face lights up when he’s around, she’ll love this wedding present.



At baggage claim, Cora telekinetically moves people’s luggage out of her way. She’s never cared if people notice her, or her handiwork. At least she’s being somewhat discreet today.



She gripes, “They’ve changed the baggage carousels again! We have to go to the other end of the terminal.” 



“You’d think he’d let Ann and Ruben bring his bags, even if he doesn’t like traveling via the teleport.”



I hear her thoughts before she speaks, another way she’s different from Tara. “He’s far too independent. I’d hate to be his assisted living nurse.” We make our way to the new baggage claim. Cora asks, “What color are his bags?”



“I’ll find out.”



Searching through hordes of mental voices I find Blake. He’s standing in line at the custom’s desk.



I put my voice into his mind, “They’ve changed your baggage claim, we’re at the carousel. What color are your suitcases?”



He startles. “Geez Alex, warn the old man before you pop in like that. This checkpoint guy is looking at me weird now, probably thinks me a Canadian terrorist. Can they gate rape me after I get off the plane?”



His casual approach to our strange existence is another thing I didn’t expect. I chuckle remembering he’s known about witches since before my soon-to-be-wife was born.



Don’t worry, he’s looking at the woman two people behind you. Your bags?”



They’re blood red. I assume you can see that color, right?”



“Very funny, Blake. You never met a vampire joke you didn’t like.”



“I like you, don’t I?”



I laugh out loud and am greeted with looks and thoughts that paint me as a mentally deranged person. Mentally deranged, possibly. Person, not so much. “They’re very…red.”



She hustles her way to the front of the conveyer belt and gets annoyed at the sluggish rate the bags slide to the carousel. Just when I think she’s going to jump onto the machine, Blake turns the corner and spots us both.



“Dad!” Cora yells, abandoning her search. He drops his carry-on and wraps his arms around her. The love he has for all his daughters is endearing. They are pieces of his late wife he was lucky enough to hold on to. But he also loves them as individuals.



He loves Ann’s sweetness, Aggie’s integrity, Cora’s tenacity, and Tara’s friendship. His relationship with Tara is different than the others. Tara is the only daughter who remembers their mother and he’s found peace in how well she takes care of his family. Above all, he loves their mother, which is why he won’t be turned into one of us.



“You gonna get those?” he asks me, pointing to his bags as they pass by on the conveyer belt. Cora is wrong. It’s not that he’s independent, it’s that he doesn’t want his daughters taking care of him. Future son-in-laws are fair game.



I wave dismissively. “Cora, can get them.”



For a second, he’s horrified I would say such a thing. Then he realizes I’d never do anything like that to a woman, much less to Cora. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, but I’m not suicidal.



During the ninety-minute drive home to Cannon Beach, Cora regales Blake with stories of the prank wars. Tara likes heeled boots so Cora sawed through all the heels half way. She was out hunting when the first pair broke so she didn’t notice right away what was going on. It wasn’t until the second pair broke at the aquarium we volunteer at she realized her shoes failing was no accident.



In response, Tara forced a stekie on Cora, essentially making her unconscious, while Thomas and I buried her neck deep in the sand on the beach. Our modern five-bedroom home overlooks the Pacific Ocean…the view is quite different when you’re buried up to your head and a wave is headed straight for you.



To retaliate for that, when Thomas was working on teaching Tara how to use his bio-chemical kinesis, Ann and Ruben teleported in, snatched them both and reappeared five-thousand feet in the air above the ocean. They jumped away of course, leaving Tara and Thomas to a quick plummet and wet landing.



We’re lucky all our neighbors are old and don’t look at the ocean view much anymore.



I’m planning something in return and Tara’s in on it. This trip has two purposes: telling Cora to come pick up Tara’s wedding surprise was a way to get her out of the house. Telling Tara we’ve gone to Portland to pick up some medicine for the sharks at the aquarium was a way to hide Blake. Thomas is getting Ann and Ruben out of the house for an afternoon of wind surfing. Ann goes because she likes it and wants to be with Thomas; Ruben because he doesn’t want to be here when Blake gets in.



He eloped with Aggie so Blake hunts him for sport.



In any case, we agreed when Blake was in the house pranks are off limits. They can get destructive and with him being mortal and all, we didn’t want to risk potential injury. Technically, this prank was set up before Blake got to the house so it’s legal. Blake’s helping, even if he doesn’t know it. His heartbeat will mask the two dozen heartbeats from the feeder mice Tara is putting in a box with a trap door which feeds into Cora’s shower.



I’m driving while Cora sits in the back, relinquishing the front passenger seat to Blake.



She asks, “Do you wanna go windsurfing later? Thomas taught us how to but Ann is the fastest of us all. She’s so small. It’s like a flea on the back of a horse. Also, do you wanna go sky diving? Ann and Ruben found a way to teleport high enough into the sky so that we get a pretty good ride down. I know you don’t like the teleport but it’s really fun.”



Blake cringes. “Cora, I just spent thirteen hours on a plane to avoid the pleasure of bending the rules of space and time. How about you give the old man at least a day to brush my teeth, sleep, and make my peace with God before you start suggesting ways to make me piss my pants, eh?”



Now it’s my turn to cringe.



Cora starts rattling off less strenuous things to do, like clean the Newport aquarium shark tank with me and Tara. Sometimes she doesn’t notice when people aren’t listening to her. This is one of those times. It’s not that Blake isn’t interested, it’s that he wants to talk to me before there are too many ears and talents to hide from. We’re getting close to home.



So, Alex…I’ve come into some good fortune.” He’s staring out the side window while his thoughts are aimed at me.



“Yes, I’m glad you get to spend more time with your family.”



He purses his lips. “You know that’s not what I’m talking about. It seems I’ve suddenly acquired a retirement account with liquid assets in the tens of millions. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”



“And if I do?”



“I can’t say I’m thrilled about it. Just because you’re taking care of my girls doesn’t mean you have to take care of me. I’ve made an honest living, my retirement is my business.”



“I understand, but in my defense, it’s the only wedding present Tara would accept from me.”



“Well…now I kind of feel like a jerk.”



“I’m sure Thomas can help with that.”



He barks out a laugh. Cora stops talking and puts together the fact she wasn’t the only one in the car communicating. “Hey, secrets destroy families.”



Blake replies, “And families destroy secrets. I’m not letting you spoil this one.” He assumes the others don’t know about my latest financial endeavor and except for Aggie and Tara, he would be correct.



She sits back in her seat faking a pout. We turn onto Oak Street. Our house is the first on the road. We have one of the bigger lots at two acres and the ocean is literally six hundred feet from the back deck. Tara likes it because it’s similar to the eastern shore where she grew up on Prince Edward Island, Canada.



Cora is excited to show Tara our surprise and patience has never been her strong suit. We leave the food-colored suitcases in the car for now and make our way in the front door. Aggie said we’d be able to surprise Tara and now I see how. She’s mopping the kitchen floor with ear buds in, listening to dance music.



I take a second to watch her. It’s not very often I can see her without being seen. She’s swishing to the beat of the music, turning a chore into something gratifying in its own right. It’s a joy to be around her. Contentment is never in short supply.



Cora rips the mop out of her hands, garnering her attention. “Hey, what-” her voice cuts off as she turns around. Her eyes gleam with a light only Blake brings.



“Daddy!” She runs to him so fast he barely notices. “You’re not due for a couple of weeks!”



She’s gotten better about being around humans in the past few months, they all have. With meditation they’ve learned to conserve energy. With hunting animals regularly, I think they can get jobs or finish school if they want to.



He chuckles, hugging her tightly. “It’s one of Alex’s wedding presents to you.” She sticks her nose up and returns a look of defiance. He crooks a smile and nods. Blake is a smart man, he knows when a fight is unwinnable.



“Come, let’s get you settled.”



While she shows him to the guest room we’ve prepared, I grab his bags lest Cora levitate them inside, just because she can. Rather than show off her telekinesis, she makes Blake something to eat.



“What’s that supposed to be?” I ask as she places some canned ravioli in a hoagie roll. The only reason we have mortal sustenance in the house is because Ann likes to cook human food for the other volunteers at the aquarium.



Cora smiles at her creation. “It’s a meatball sub, like the one we saw on the commercial the other day.” I grimace at her concoction. Even for a human it hardly looks appetizing. “Hey, it came out of a can. I can’t screw it up!”



Grabbing the plate she huffs past me, taking her potentially edible item to Blake. Passing her on the stairs, Tara doesn’t fare any better at hiding the apprehensive expression for Cora’s culinary skills.



Cora gently knocks on the guest room door. “Dad, I brought you a sub.” Tara puts her hand over her mouth, silencing her laughter. I tuck her head under my chin while doing the same.



“Oh… thank you.” Blake replies, far more convincing than I was. Through Blake’s mind I see the look of hopeful acceptance on Cora’s face. “I was just gonna hop in the shower but I’m famished. Airplane food just doesn’t cut it.”



Cora smiles at Blake’s praise then struts downstairs, going for her victory lap. Blake turns on the shower. What she doesn’t know, and what I won’t tell her, is that he didn’t turn on the shower for a cleaning ritual of any sort…just yet. It’s cover noise. With guilty thoughts, he tears up the sandwich and tosses it in the toilet, flushing it to its ultimate demise.



“Alex, I’m surprised he paused long enough to tear it into pieces.”



I smile at her.



Polite, as always, announcing your presence.”



Cora leaves to fetch the others from the ocean.



“Alex?” Tara asks.



Nearly crying, but with a gentle smile, she wraps her arms around my waist, and burrows into my chest. “Inamorata?”



“Thank you.”



She’s so easy to please, getting as much joy from her family as she gives.


Her ability to mimic any power in a five-mile radius is instrumental in providing the blanket of safety for our family. With talents the Noricum amassed they thought themselves invincible and for many years, they were. Now their power is hers should we attack Boulogne. They would have offered her almost anything to join them, but the gift of her family is what brings tears of gratitude to her eyes.



And that’s why I’m marrying her.






The windsurfers were so far out to sea Cora had to swim to find them.



They’re almost back to the house. Ann, Aggie, and Thomas are excited to see Blake. Ruben offers to put away the surfing gear. Blake doesn’t hate Ruben like he thinks, but Aggie is right. It’ll do him some good to sweat it out. At the very least it’s entertainment for the rest of us.



With evening approaching, Tara sits on the couch, talking with her father about our wedding plans. We’re having the wedding here, nothing fancy. Neither Ann nor Tara wanted a big affair. Thomas and I breathed a collective sigh of relief. In all honesty, besides Blake, who would we invite, the Noricum? I can imagine the seating chart now. Former Dacians at one table, the quorum at another. In the back we’d put the trained killers of our world, the Noricum detachment.



“Dad!” Ann yells the second she gets in the door. It’s a surprise for her as well, though Thomas and Ruben knew beforehand. She hugs Blake, forgetting for a moment she’s wearing a wet suit.



“Ann,” he greets her softly, “it’s good to be able to hug you.”



“I thought you weren’t coming for another two weeks! Oh, sorry.” Thomas comes up behind her and she absentmindedly reaches back for his hand while dabbing her towel on Blake’s wet shirt.



“Alex and Cora brought me out early as a surprise.”



“I can see that. Did Tara totally geek out?” Blake places a kiss on her forehead.



“No, but I brought what you asked for last time I was out here.”



“What’s that?” Ann asks.



Blake walks over to his carry-on bag by the front door and produces a medium-sized jar full of sand. “It’s from the beach down the street you used to play on.”



Ann’s mind lights up with memories of her and Tara taking the twin toddlers to the ocean shore. She opens the jar and places a finger inside, remembering the feel of it.



“Well,” Cora cuts in and starts pulling the seaweed from her hair. “I’m gonna go take a shower.”



Ruben comes in the room, looking nervous as ever and Blake doesn’t miss the opportunity. “Geez, boy. You call yourself a vampire? Come on in and join the party.I don’t bite.” The nervous reaction he gets from busting Ruben’s chops only encourages more teasing.



While everyone’s attention is focused on Ruben and Blake, who are now smiling, Tara retreats to the laundry room. We both know that’s the one place Cora wouldn’t look for anything. After a few seconds, she returns with the remote control. It opens the door to the mice cage positioned in the vent leading into Cora’s shower.



With that devastatingly mischievous look on her face, Tara pushes the button.



We hear Cora in the shower; I know the door is closed. While Aggie and Ruben talk to Blake about the upcoming school year and his travel plans, I listen for the sound of victory. Patience is not required in this case.


The scream from upstairs is both chilling and hilarious. Cora demolishes the bathroom door to escape her worst nightmare.



“Sick…agh… Rats in my hair!”



Ruben and Ann rush to her aid. Thomas high-fives Tara and I while Blake pieces together what just happened. I’m sure Aggie already knows.



“Tara, why did you put rats in your sister’s hair?” Blake asks.



Tara laughs even harder. “Because I can!”



“Should I go up there and sedate her?” Thomas asks, still chuckling. I’m pretty sure he’d be working overtime to reduce the levels of adrenaline in her system enough to quiet the shrieks of horror still emanating from Cora’s room. Just then it goes quiet and Cora’s stekie form appears in the living room, wearing a towel.



Ann had to calm her down by using her ability to stekie as they call it. She can force someone’s consciousness to appear wherever she can visualize. To everyone else it looks like a ghost. In a stekie, your body is unconscious and completely vulnerable. In this state I cannot read or talk to the victim’s mind, nor can Thomas perceive their bio-chemical states.



“There are no words for how bad I’m going to get you,” Cora hisses at Tara who just laughs harder.



“Says the stekie in a towel,” says Tara.



Ann calls from upstairs. “Cora, I’m putting you into my room. Don’t freak out when you wake up, all right? All the rats are out of your hair and Ruben has made sure all the mice are in your room. None of them got out.”



“Save them for popcorn!” Thomas calls out to his soon-to-be bride. Despite the fact they are engaged, Ann is on the opposing side of the prank wars. Cora disappears, returning to her body and thankfully doesn’t start yelling again.



Ruben hollers from upstairs. “They do seem rather crunchy. Cora stepped on a couple and I can see their bones.”



“Ruben!” Tara screeches in horror. That makes two of us.



Cora yells from Ann’s room. “I’m going to leave and when I get back, there will be no rats in this house!”



Blake is horrified. “I never want to live with you people.”






With the clock ticking past midnight, Blake finally admits he can’t keep his eyes open but won’t go to bed till all the mice are accounted for. Tara and I find all but two. The missing-in-actions were probably washed out from between Cora’s toes hours ago.



The only diurnal creature in the house is asleep before his head hits the pillow, leaving us to our nocturnal activities. Tara sprints upstairs to our room as soon as she knows Blake won’t be snooping anytime soon. She’s been working on a present for him, a painting of her mother, Teegan, reading to Tara as a toddler.



Cora, Aggie and Ruben hunt. Thomas and Ann take some private time down at the beach. Tara paints. She may ask for help tonight but doesn’t like it when I hover. To pass the time, I read a conservatory report on a Bach aria that was discovered among a box of birthday cards for Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar in 2005. A truly remarkable find.



If only it would be performed in Portland in a couple of weeks. I’d take Tara to that on our honeymoon rather than the Vivaldi in Seattle I have planned.



Tara puts down a small paintbrush harshly. “Alex, can you help me get the lips.” While she’s accomplished great strides in her painting skill, she still has trouble with the fine details. The trick is to look at the whole painting as you paint, that way it stays in proportion. The warrior witch in her always looks for the small things, the tiny flaws that can ruin a battle plan.



She watches intently as I correct the facial lines. I see their mother’s same gentle smile on Tara’s face every day, making it easy to copy. Ann and Aggie look more like their father with the exception of their red hair. Even with the same color hair as the sisters, Cora looks adopted.



A couple hours after he falls asleep Blake mumbles, “If you’re gonna moon the class, at least wear clean underwear.”



Tara and I burst out laughing. Whatever he’s dreaming about is too good to miss out on and I quickly find his mind.



He stands at the whiteboard in a high school math class, writing a quadratic equation on the board. In the front row there’s a baggily dressed boy on the floor scrambling to stand up and raise his pants to a respectable level.



Blake’s eyes don’t leave the white board. “When your pant’s crotch isn’t around your knees, you need to go to the counselor’s office. I think he has a spare belt, and your mother’s phone number.”



The student petulantly gathers his things. “Yes, Mr. Severin.” The other students laugh quietly.



Once the student leaves, Blake laughs a little himself. “All right class, we ready?”



A female student in the front row raises her hand. “Mr. Severin, how did you know he had dirty drawers on?”



“That boy fell out of bed, rolled around on the floor and wore whatever stuck to him. You don’t find clean underwear on the floor.”



The setting fades into another without warning, as is common in dreams. These surroundings are familiar, but the décor is not. It looks dated. Although I’ve only been there once the sisters think about it often. Blake is dreaming of Tara’s home in Toronto.



Tara cooks in the kitchen with her back to the doorway. Blake puts down his bag quietly and sneaks up on her. Before he reaches her she laughs. “You wanna remember who you’re married to and try that again?”



The woman turns around and although she looks like Tara, it’s not, it’s Teegan.



Tara startles and covers her mouth, tears springing to her eyes.



Blake rushes over and clings to her tightly. “I miss you. She looks so much like you. I always dream about you when I see her.”



Blake startles awake and sniffs a couple of times. He narrows his eyes and returns back to sleep. It’s fitful but there’s nothing I can do about that.



I hug her, the painting forgotten. “Shh, it’s all right.” Tara clings to me and lets out a  choked sob but it only lasts a few seconds before she reins it in. “Why does him dreaming about your mother bother you so much?”



She takes a deep breath. “Growing up I always felt like I made him sad. He said it wasn’t true but I look so much like her. I’m a reminder of what he lost.”



I’ve been inside his mind enough to know she’s both right and wrong.



“Yes, you remind him of your mother but it doesn’t make him sad, it brings him peace. He can’t have her, he can have you and he’s grateful every day for it.”



Tara’s eyes snap up to mine. “Really?”



I kiss her forehead. “Really.”






The next morning Aggie and Ann sit in the living room pouring over bridal magazines. Cora reads the morning news on her laptop while Tara cooks Blake’s breakfast. He’s just as quiet as her, sipping on a mug of coffee, watching how much she moves like her mother.



Tara butters some toast she made in the oven because we lack a toaster. She’s made a full bacon and eggs breakfast for him. He hasn’t eaten since lunchtime yesterday although Cora doesn’t know that.



I want this visit to be happy, not awkward as it now.



“Hey, Blake. Tara and I get to clean the shark tanks at the Newport aquarium today. Wanna come help?”



Chapter 2 – Father Of The Bride



Blake is more confused than anything. “I’m sorry. Did you say clean a shark tank?”



Aggie starts humming the music to Jaws from the other room.



I say, “It’s not a big deal. Even humans can scrub the algae from the tank glass without too much trouble.”



Tara laughs and sets down breakfast in front of him. “Yes because that’s every human’s concern when getting into a shark tank. How stubborn the algae is gonna be.”



“How about it Blake? Your other option is going over bridal magazines.”



Now he looks like a deer, right before I eat it.



Blake takes a bite of bacon like it’s gonna be his last meal. “Yeah…I can help…clean a shark tank.”



Tara pours Blake some orange juice. “Quit freaking him out. The sharks are docile. I don’t see what the problem is.”



Cora says in a Mortal Kombat video game accent, “Mortality.”



Tara rolls her eyes. “We’ll give him a pointy stick.”



Blake chokes a little. “Wow, you guys really know how to make the mortal feel welcome.”



I say, “Feel free to go look at bridal magazines instead.”



Tara says in the same Mortal Kombat accent, “Finish him.”



He takes another bite of bacon. “When do we leave?”



“That depends on how we get there. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive or a one-second teleport jump.”



Blake chokes a little. “Daddy, finish breakfast first. Alex, go get the keys.”






It’s a nice summer drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. From the back seat of my Audi, Tara talks about how Cora will be finishing up her undergraduate history degree in the upcoming academic year. Aggie is doing the same thing, just in architectural engineering. Blake thinks it’s funny Aggie wants to build buildings while Ruben specializes in explosive demolition work.



When Blake asks Tara if Ann has any plans, I have to bite my tongue. Ann hasn’t told anyone yet, she’s waiting till everything calms down after the wedding, but she’s thinking about culinary school. There’s no way we can live together peacefully if I broadcast everyone’s thoughts.



When we’re fifteen minutes away from the aquarium, Blake brings up a sore spot for him.



“Tara, Alex says the only wedding present you’d accept from him was putting ten million into a retirement account for me.”



I keep my eyes on the road, hands on the steering wheel, and my mouth shut. There’s no way I’m getting in the middle of this.






“And you didn’t need to do that.”



“I know. I wanted to. I just didn’t know how to do it or I’d have done it myself.”



Blake glances at her in the back seat. “Tara, you shouldn’t be taking care of me.”



“Why not?”



“Because I’m the parent. Even as a child you tried to take care of me. I didn’t let you then and I’m not letting you now.”



“It’s only money. I know it’s uncomfortable at first but you get used to it.”



“I don’t need your money. I’m giving it back.”



Tara sits back in a huff. “You sound just like me a few months ago. Alex, tell him he sounds just like I used to sound.”



I take an exit off the highway. “I’m staying out of this.”



“Good choice, son,” Blake says.



Tara leans forward and puts her chin on my seat. “Daddy, look at me.”



Blake doesn’t want this to turn into a fight. He wants his daughters to feel taken care of and they can’t feel that way if they’re taking care of him.



“You should be able to quit your job if you want to. Travel the world. If I’m being completely honest, I want you to live closer to me. I spent four years as a witch hiding from you because I thought you couldn’t know about us. I don’t have to hide anything anymore.”



“But I-” Tara cuts him off.


“Daddy…I’m gonna live forever, you’re not. I only have forty years left with you, tops. Is it so hard to believe I had Alex give you that money in the hopes I could see you more? This isn’t charity. Alex’s present to me, is you.”



Blake strokes Tara’s face and she leans into it. “Just like your mother.”



She laughs. “No, I’m like you. You just don’t want to admit it.”



“Alex, how do you ever hold your ground with her looking at you like this?”



“She hasn’t tried that look on me yet. I’ll let you know how it goes.”



Blake says no more on the matter…Tara gets her way.



I pull into the parking lot of the aquarium. From outside the building looks like a rundown warehouse. Inside is a fairly modern eight-hundred-thousand-gallon tank partitioned into three sections. I hold the door open but the chief aquarist jots out into the lobby to meet us.



“Did you get the meds?” Kevin asks. He’s as tall as me, a little wider, in his early fifties, and sporting a salt and pepper beard.



I hand him the Styrofoam container. “Picked it up in Portland yesterday, kept it in the fridge overnight.”



He opens it and checks the label. It’s Phenoxyethanol for the leopard shark. It has some substantial fin rot they’re trying to treat.



“I’ve got the SCUBA gear all laid out. Is this the guy joining us today?”



“Kevin, this is Tara’s father, Blake. Blake, this is Kevin.”



“They said you’d give me a pointy stick,” Blake says.



Kevin laughs. “Nah, the sharks were fed yesterday. They won’t bother you. You a certified diver?”



Tara produces a totally fake diver certificate card for Blake. Aggie said nothing would go wrong, I’m taking her word for it.



“Then let’s get to it.” Kevin says and leads the way to the diving gear room.



In the tank it’s dim and quiet. The only thing Blake can hear is his own breathing in the darkness until Tara starts a playful conversation by mimicking my telepathy. Tara works the algae with the scrubber while Blake keeps watch. She can clean much faster than he can.



I help Kevin inject the sick shark with a medicinal spear type contraption. It’s not hard at all. The sharks pretty much swim in the same circle over and over again. When he shoots the shark a little blood leaks out and garners the attention of the other sharks. One of the smaller sharks swims a little closer but then turns away. I figured with the smell of blood in the water they’d be a little more interested.



By the time we’re done the tanks are squeaky clean and Blake can tell his high school students he went swimming with bleeding sharks and lived to tell the tale.



On the drive back it’s fun to watch him recount it. He sounds just like Tara when she gets excited about something. He thinks she’s like her mother but he doesn’t see how much like him she really is.



It doesn’t take him long to fall asleep that night.



Tara and I go hunting. After I take down two coyotes and Tara a coyote and a couple of rabbits, we get some time on the beach by ourselves. I’m sitting against a large piece of driftwood that’s actually a tree Cora tossed out to sea. She wanted to see how far she could throw something. It took two days to come back.



She rests her back on my chest while drawing patterns on my leg and pushing her feet into the sand. “I like the smell of salt water and sand in between my toes.”



I move her long hair to the side and place a small kiss on her neck. She snuggles deeper into my frame. “I like the smell of you.”



I live for quiet moments like this where nothing needs my attention. Quiet used to mean being alone, but it doesn’t anymore. We spend the night on the beach meditating.



It’s as close to sleep as vampires get.






Blake’s curiosity has not abated for two weeks. He asked Thomas to do whatever it is he does. Cora levitated him for a few seconds before he threw in the towel. Ann stekied him but made sure Ruben wasn’t in the same room as her, lest Blake get teleported by accident.



Tara paints during the night while Blake sleeps. Sometimes I pretend like I’m not watching her paint. Other nights I read or hunt. After the wedding I’ll probably join the Portland Symphony Orchestra. I played the violin in my human life and the orchestra is holding auditions in a couple of months. Every now and then I ask Aggie to check in on the Noricum. As far as Aggie and I can tell, they don’t have any plans for us.



With Blake around, I get to see more of how the sisters were as siblings. Cora’s disposition is usually more like a battering ram. With her dad it changes into playful banter. Tara is quiet and observant but if provoked, rapidly changes into logical mode. Blake brings out the little girl in Ann nobody knew was there and worries about her the most.



Her quiet disposition, deferring nature, and mild manners always ensured she didn’t get seconds at the dinner table, especially with Aggie around. Blake takes special care to ask Ann her opinion on things as he knows she doesn’t volunteer it often. All the sisters look to Tara as a mother, Ann more so.



But Blake is unaware of the burden Aggie carries. Teegan was also a prescient and because of that, he thinks Aggie has similar abilities. As a human, Aggie’s abilities mirrored her mother’s but her conversion to a vampire created something much more. I don’t envy her.



It’s only the thoughts of others that invade my mind and I’ve had centuries more practice at regulating them to background noise. The faith we all put in her is a terrible responsibility. She thinks if we act on information she gives and the ensuing result is detrimental, she’ll be to blame.



It’s in Ruben she finds her normality. He’s always lived in the moment, eager for the surprises the future brings. His training as an old world sailor taught him to take things as they come. He doesn’t plan many things, including the words that come out of his mouth. It allows Aggie to love him and be with him, knowing he’s not always looking to her, thinking about the next move.



Not planning things is what led him to elope with Aggie. Thomas is much further in Blake’s graces than Ruben, having become attached to Ann… and not eloping.



With everyone under the same roof, we want for nothing. Life is better than I ever thought it could be.



Tomorrow I’m marrying Tara. She’s not nervous and neither am I…about that. What’s weighing on me is that Blake has planned a bachelor party for us all, including Ruben.



Blake leads us towards Ruben’s Land Rover as the sisters watch from the porch. “Get in.”   



I have Ruben sit in the front as Blake drives. It makes him more of a target but in all reality, he’s already married to one of this guy’s daughters. What’s the worst he can do to him? Not only that but we’re vampires. What’s the worst he can do to us?



And then I find out.



My soon to be father-in-law drives half an hour to Astoria where he pulls into a lively strip club. Neon signs cast an uneasy glow on the dashboard. The pounding of the music bleeds out of the building and I can’t shove the minds of the people inside out of my head fast enough. Ruben shifts away from his door.



“We’re here, boys.”



What am I even supposed to say to this?



“I called ahead so we could get private dances.”



Ruben exhales sharply. “Sir, I mean no disrespect but I’m a married man and even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be going into a place like that. I mean if you’re into that, it’s your own business, but for me, I won’t be party to an industry that sells someone else’s daughter.”



Putting the car into reverse Blake smiles. “That, Ruben, was the correct answer.”



Ruben sags in relief.



“Dude, Alex. You knew he was going to do that and didn’t warn us?” Thomas punches my arm.



Blake laughs. “I had the idea on the way out to the car and from what Tara tells me, Alex puts a great deal of effort to stay out of our minds if he can possibly help it.”



I nod. “It’s true.”



We end up going to a tasteful restaurant where Blake orders some grilled seafood for himself. He’s not self-conscious, even though he’s the only one eating. We ask him for stories about the sisters from when they were kids and he happily obliges. It seems even in human child form, Cora in the kitchen was a danger. When he finishes his grilled salmon, he grills us vampires.



“So, this is the part of the evening where I interrogate you about how you treat my wonderful daughters. The first question for all of you is: why them?”



“Why not your daughters?” Ruben asks. I would have put it a different way, but it’s Ruben so I’m not gonna be picky.



“Because they’re my daughters.  I want to know are you marrying my daughters because you have no other options or because you love them for who they are?”



Ruben answers quickly. “Eternity is a long time to spend with someone because they have the right anatomy.”



Did Ruben take some of the dipping butter from Blake’s seafood plate and use that to grease up his shoe? It’s like he’s trying to see how far in his mouth he can shove his foot.



Blake’s mouth hangs open, as do all of ours. “Thomas, was he always like this?”



Thomas shakes his head. “It’s just you and although poorly phrased, he does have a point. We all love your daughters for who they are. If you think for one second Cora can’t sniff out when someone only wants arm candy, you’re sorely mistaken. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t cross Cora in that way for my life, let alone Tara. She’s very protective of them all.”



Blake taps his fingers on the table. “Ruben, you’re first.”



“But I’m already married.”



Blake chuckles darkly. “Ruben, Ruben, Ruben…Do you think that makes one bit of difference to me? I worry about your lack of a spine. You let Aggie talk you into eloping. How can I respect a man that can be talked into such a thing when he knows there’s a better way to go about it?”



Ruben straightens up a bit. “I understand that, sir, but you need to understand something about Aggie. The present is very important to her because the future taunts her. She didn’t want to wait because it meant what she wanted was just another one of the possible futures demanding her attention. She wanted it to be real, so did I, and we both wanted it to be in the now. She looked long and hard to see if it would cause any problems and couldn’t find any. What she did find was happiness that she didn’t have to wait for, or try to realize based on her visions. Also, I married her right after the widow of Cothelas almost killed you in Toronto. She pulled the even-vampire-life-is-too-short speech and she was right. I’ve been alive a long time so when I found something I wanted, I grabbed it. While I appreciate your concerns and think what we did wasn’t smart, it was the right thing for us.”



Well played, Ruben, well played.



Blake nods appreciatively. “And that’s the kind of spine you’re going to need for Aggie to respect you as a man.”



Thomas raises his prop glass of water. “To vertebrates!”



“So what about you, Thomas? Having a spine is not the challenging part about caring for Ann.”



“No, it’s not. It’s getting her to use her own.”



“Noticed that, did you?”



“I did. Was she always like that as a child?”



“She’s always favored Tara’s opinion but I sense she now cares more about yours. That’s a dangerous power you hold. How do you plan on making sure you never abuse the trust she has in you?”



Unlike Ruben, Thomas thinks his answer out for a few seconds before speaking. “I don’t deny my attraction to her calm, yielding nature. But when Ann gets run over, she doesn’t say anything, she feels it deeply. When she feels it, so do I and I don’t like it. I don’t want to change who she is because in the swirling mess of my friends and your daughters, Ann sees and feels the good in everything. I selfishly want that for myself. If you can’t trust that I will do everything in my power to protect her, trust that I have wanted for decades the innocent nature I felt the first night I met her.”



“You know if you hurt her Tara will kill you, right? Just as Ann has sought Tara’s good opinion, Tara is the most protective of Ann.”



“She already told me as much.”



“Aye, Tara would, which brings me to you, Alex.”



With a straight face I say, “Throw down, old man.”



“You’re over four hundred years old. I fail to see how I’m the old man here.”



Both Ruben and Thomas bark out a laugh before quieting down to watch the show. “You’re definitely slower.”



“Not all of us can have the grace of the undead.” I finally can’t hold back the smile. “In any case, you’ve chosen my first born.”



“I have.”



“Responsibility is nothing new to you. It’s nothing new to her either. Under your roof you have the most legendary half-witches the Milunfra ever had the privilege of using, not to mention these two.” He motions to Thomas and Ruben, the latter of which feigns emotional injury.



“I am aware.”



“Is that something you can handle?” This is the most important question he will ask me because this isn’t something he hands over lightly…the care of his daughters.



“It’s not my place to handle any of them, let alone Tara.”



“Very well. I’ll rephrase: Are you capable of leading my daughters?”



“I’m capable enough to know Tara leads the sisters, and we support each other.”



“Leadership is something Tara never wanted. She wants the peace that comes with not feeling like her back is up against a wall, always having to make the decisions.”



“But she’s not the type to sit back and let someone else carry the burden just because she wants a break.”



“Exactly. If you want to give her that reprieve, taking care of her can’t be a burden. You can’t hear her mind and if she chooses, she can hear yours. Can you in your deepest thoughts honestly relish the responsibility of taking care of her?"



Blake knows his daughters far better than they give him credit for.



“I already do. But, understand, with Tara’s silent mind, I get to make mistakes I wouldn’t make with other people. I relish the honesty of that experience. In each other we will never be alone, no matter who is taking care of whom. I can promise you she’ll be as respected and loved as your Teegan was, mistakes and all.”



His eyes widen as he gasps.



The waiter startles him, offering him a refill on his drink. He asks for the bill without taking his eyes off me. I’ve crossed a line I didn’t want to cross, but I meant everything I said. I stay out of his mind, despite my desire to know what he’s thinking about. It’s not till he drives away from the restaurant that he says anything.



“Aggie was right. Maybe turning into vampires wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened to them.”



Ruben exhales. “Dude, you scared me with that whole silent thing.”









The house is a flurry of activity. The girls get ready upstairs while Ruben retrieves a Justice of the Peace. We don’t have chairs to assemble but Blake and I are setting up a camera Aggie will operate. We’re getting married on the beach. Tara and Ann have fond memories of the beach they played on as children. We’re not having a reception as it was agreed that having Blake do the chicken dance at a vampire wedding was not only tacky but false advertising…we can’t eat him.



I have a tux on, at Tara’s request.



Ruben walks in the door. “The rent-a-pope is here!”



Aggie tromps down the stairs. “I’m so glad I eloped. You would think I’m asking Ann to wear fake eyelashes with how much she complains about dressing up. Getting married in goat milking clothes is not acceptable!”



From the living room, Cora makes the bleating noise of a goat.



The officiator wonders what kind of people we are. What I want to say is we’re not really people. What I do is shake his hand and welcome him to my wedding day.



Aggie herds us out of the house so it’s only Blake and the brides left inside. We all take our positions on the beach facing the ocean.



I never thought this possible after so many years. The life of a spy is lonely, even more so than being alone. It got better when I found Ruben and Thomas but something was missing…and now I know what it is. That something is the fairer sex. It changes men for the better, everything wrong with the world can be held at bay by their kindness and beauty.



Blake strolls up just behind us, Tara on one arm, Ann on the other. A leather necklace around his neck holds his and Teegan’s wedding rings. He thinks to himself, “Teegan, I hope you can see this. You would be so happy.”



Thomas and I look at our brides. Seeing the smile on Tara’s face as she takes every step closer to becoming my wife is so peaceful. It’s like every hardship in my four hundred years served a purpose and led me to this beach. Her smile makes me feel like I can take on the world.



She’s choosing me.



And then Ruben has to go and ruin the moment by noticing there are two beautiful women on Blake’s arms. “Like a boss.”



Cora and Aggie smack him upside the head for that one.



Blake hands off Tara to me. She kisses him on the cheek then offers her hand to me.



I love you.” Her voice penetrates my mind.



As I love you, inamorata.”



I hope the ceremony is short.



“Dearly Beloved…”






Even though it’s the end of August, Portland is under a cloud cover. Tara loves the flower festivals, farmers’ markets, and the museums. We spend hours at the museums. It’s just the two of us and spending our honeymoon away from the others is like nothing I’ve experienced before.



We love our family, but balancing the dynamics of so many people is more draining than I realized. With only Tara, my attention need not be divided. I can watch whatever I choose for hours without distraction.



And I choose watching my wife.



The joy she gets from doing normal things is something of an oddity for me. After so many years spying on the Noricum, I’d forgotten what contentment felt like. Their never ending quest for more power, more blood, more fear, more gold, simple things like a summer breeze didn’t even register.



Then there were the entombed ones, their minds on fire from over powering thirst and fatigue. More blood…it’s all they could think about and for many years, it was all I remembered.



I don’t know what Tara thinks about, but right now, it looks like she’s thinking about cherries. She stoops to smell some produce from a local farmer in the open market.



“Do you want one?” I ask.



She furrows her brow. “What would I do with it?”



“Taste it of course.”



She looks even more confused. I order a few of everything he has. Tara stares at me impatiently. If it wasn’t for the hordes of people around us, she’d be reading my thoughts for answers. There are too many mental voices for it to be anywhere near comfortable for her so in a way, the crowd is my protection.



Taking our bags of produce, I lead her to the waterfront and grab the bag of cherries. “All right, I’m dying to know what you have planned.”



I place a cherry on her lips. “Bite.”



Her eyes light up. “We can still eat food?”



“No, we can taste it though. Just rub it on your tongue a bit.”



She devours more. Fruit after fruit we taste then degenerate into a watermelon-seed-spitting contest…which I’m losing. “How do you get it so far?” I half complain after she spits it a good few feet farther than mine.



“You have to curl your tongue like this.” She pokes her tongue out like a child, showing me her skills. For all my capabilities I cannot curl my tongue. Tara suddenly whips her head around.



“I feel a power.” She stands up and moves too quickly toward the crowd.



I didn’t sense any vamperic thoughts, which makes the keeper of this power an unknown. Grabbing her wrist, I pull her back. “Tara, wait. We don’t know how many vampires there are.”



She shakes her head and keeps tugging me toward the crowd. “It feels like my sisters before I turned them.”






“I just want to see.”



“Find out what they can do first.” We don’t want to scare them and the last thing we need is to find out the hard way what power they wield.



She stops moving toward the crowd and relaxes a bit. “It’s not in the hands, or the eyes, it’s only in the mind. I can feel the life of the air, like it’s on me but it’s not an air witch, I can’t tell that part of them. It’s really vague.” 



“Try using it. You said you can feel the air on you. Take the air off you.”



“Okay.” Closing her eyes, she does…whatever she does. The air starts to move, then the overcast skies clear up almost instantly.



Unbelievable…it’s a Meteokinetic.



“Tara, you have to see this.” I shake her gently.



She laughs, opening her eyes and squinting at the sun. “They can control weather.” The crowd also takes notice which means it’s time to get out of here before the owner of this power tries to find us.



On the way back to the hotel Tara grows quiet. By the time we’re back in our suite, I’m slightly worried. She always said there were lots of witches out there. We were bound to run into one sometime.



“Wanna take a hike?” She exchanges her heeled shoes for hiking boots.



“Sure, we need to hunt anyway.” I change into my hunting gear but she remains quiet.



On the slopes of Mount St. Helens we sate our thirst, but not my curiosity.



“Why’d you bring us here?”



She gazes around wistfully. “A volcano, the only perfect union of fire and earth.”



“Do you want to talk about what’s bothering you?”



Kneeling on the ground, she forces her fingers into the dirt. “It’s not bothering me; it just made me remember a few things. I still can’t feel her.”



“Who?” I sit down next to her. She lays her head in my lap.



“Earth. I was an earth witch and used to be able to feel her but that part of ourselves was killed in the change.” Tara rarely speaks about this part of her life and I seize the opportunity to learn.



“What does earth feel like?”



She chuckles. “Balance, soothing, grateful, thoughtful.”






“Earth likes to take care of things, she sustains the living. It’s in her nature to think about how to provide.”



“She’s sentient?”



“Not how you and I think of sentience. She’s aware but has no judgment. You wouldn’t know it to look at her but she likes to be used well. Some think earth wants to be left alone, put in a box to be admired. She likes to be used in balance, finds fulfillment in the purpose of her creation.”



In hearing Tara describe Earth I wonder with her having formerly been an earth witch, how much that connection shaped who she is now. Then I think about all the sisters. Aggie and her steadfastness, like water shaping rock over time. Ann and her yielding nature, like air she expands or contracts to fit her container. Cora was a fire witch, that’s obvious.



Tara has a wistful smile on her face. “Do you miss it?” I ask.



She sits up, runs her fingers through my hair like she did the dirt, “Sometimes I feel like something is missing but I have my sisters, and I have you.”



Yes Tara, you do.






The next day we drive to Seattle. There’s a concert at Benaroya Hall I’m excited to see. Tara says Vivaldi’s Gloria is not a reason for a three-hour drive. I disagree. She’s humoring me, saying she’s going just to tease me by wearing a pretty dress.



Among the hustle and bustle of pre-concert seating, I pause to admire the workmanship of the concert hall. Although live music was much more popular in the decades after I was turned, it was often performed in cold stone buildings. Largely overlooked in favor of more contemporary music, classical is the closest thing I can think of to a soothing mother earth. A way to communicate what words cannot.



The conductor steps out to applause.



The first violinist plays his tuning note and the orchestra buzzes to life.



The first notes of In Excelsis Deo are struck. Tara gasps.



Her face lights up and doesn’t fade. She doesn’t speak, but leans forward and grasps the railing.



“Breathe, Tara.”



She exhales sharply. “It sounds nothing like I thought it would.”



Watching her raw reaction is delight, discovery, and simplicity all wrapped into one. She’s completely absorbed by the music and her fingers dig into the railing. Only when I pry her fingers out of the wood does she sit back in her chair.



Et In Terra Pax is how I imagine God speaking to a mournful child. Now that I think about the name, was Vivaldi on to something naming this piece after Tara’s comforting Earth? My wife grasps my hand.



Piece after piece plays, and by the end Tara is quietly shaking with tears.



When everyone stands to leave, she remains still, watching the stage. The buzz of the hall dissipates and ushers begin to close up. “It’s time to go, inamorata.”



She startles me by jumping up and wrapping her arms around me. “Thank you!”



We stroll around Seattle as she’s never been here before. We look very out of place walking in the salty cool air with evening apparel on. Tara is animated about the concert’s impact on her. Her expectations about how music feels moving through your body were shattered. The echoes of cars honking are a far cry from the celestial musings of Vivaldi but listening to Tara describe the music lets me relive it.



Just over the horns I hear a scream. Tara hears it too. I reluctantly expand my talent and start filtering for the cause of the alarm. I find it.







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