New Kingdom: European Court Ch. 09byMicKay©
As always, thanks to WorldHistoryBuff for editing and patiently working w/ me on timing issues.
Emma stared in silence at Gloria, the beautiful woman claiming to be her mother. Since childhood, she had dreamed of meeting her mother but nothing could have prepared her for this moment in time. As a child, she fantasized about a reunion with her mother who had miraculously survived whatever tragedy that had supposedly claimed her. Or, one of Emma's personal favorites, a beautiful woman would introduce herself desperately explaining that the hospital had switched babies.
Watching this woman who resembled a porcelain doll, Emma wondered at the possibility of this outcome. She looked at Antony, uncomfortable in the woman's embrace, and then saw the only confirmation that was needed. Somehow, he seemed uncertain of her response to meeting Gloria. Yes, the woman was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen. Yes, Gloria did not look old enough to have an adult child. But no, there was no doubt in Emma's mind. Gloria was her mother.
And no matter how outrageous her own fantasies, Emma accepted the fact that her mother had used her last human breath to beg for Antony's promise to save her child and when she was relieved of that burden, she had accepted Tecumseh's office of immortality.
"Stranger than fiction," Emma murmured receiving a look from everyone in the room.
"Hardly, my dear," Gloria said patting Emma's cheek. "You've yet to see the world as we do. As a human, you know what you're told. But when you join us, you will see everything."
Emma could only smile at the woman and shake her head in confusion. When she turned to look at Antony for an explanation, Gloria suddenly tugged her hand and gently lifted her from the sofa.
"Come. We have so much to discus. Of course, I remember nothing of my human life and that's probably for the best. But you have so much to tell me about you."
"No, not really."
"Don't be silly. I want to hear it all."
"All twenty-four years?"
"Yes of course. But if you prefer, I could just drink your blood and then read your mind," Gloria answered and then paused to stare at the trembling girl. "Emma, I'm joking. Antony, what have you done to my poor girl?"
As the women approached the door, Gabriel pursed his lips to speak but stopped when he felt the familiar grasp of a small feminine hand on his elbow. Turning to look at Alena, he frowned in response to her thoughts but allowed Gloria and Emma to leave without delay.
"We needed Emma to stay and help with this information," he complained to his mate.
"And she needs to be alone with Gloria for now," Alena replied reaching up to plant on kiss on his stoic face. "Besides, she's already cracked the code. It's up to you guys to decide what to do with the information."
"Yeah," Iona interrupted. "What's happening with our money?"
"It's moved," Edward answered never looking away from the monitor.
"Where?" his mate asked.
"For now, it's equivalent to cash in a mattress. I've liquated anything that was not controlled by the Third Creation."
"Isn't that a bit extreme?" Antony finally asked from the couch.
"Possibly," Edward answered. "Do any of you disagree with the extra precaution?"
"At this point, I appreciate the security," Alena answered walking to the door. "I need to check on the children but call me if I'm needed."
When she walked to staircase, she noticed Gloria and Emma standing near the door speaking to Alesso. Picking up the final parts of the conversation, Alena was able to hear the personal assistant offering his assistance whenever the ladies decided to go shopping. Before she could communicate the information to Gabriel, Alesso apologized for having a prior engagement and then bid the ladies goodbye.
Sending Gabriel a quick mental note of Alesso's exit from the house, Alena proceeded up the stairs and toward the rooms assigned to her family. As she approached the doors to the area that was now shared by the children, she felt a shiver run through her body. Using her new vampire senses, she searched for intruders and finding none, then listened for the children's voices. Even their childish quarreling brought a smile to her face.
Entering the suite, she paused again as her sense of smell was assaulted by something both familiar and strange. Searching the area, she tried to remain calm as Joshua walked in and greeted her.
"This is so cool," he said with a voice that wavered in pitch. "I'm almost finished moving into my new room."
"Your new room?" his mother asked. "I thought Abigail declared the master suite would be hers."
"She did but then she started whining about something. Then she was sick. Then she was crying."
"Is she ok?" Alena asked feeling an odd sense of panic.
"No," he answered in a tone that was almost a squeal. "She's mental." And then in a conspiratorial whispered he asked, "Girls develop differently as they mature. I read about it on the internet."
"If you want to live long enough to see a girl develop, then I suggest you keep your opinions to yourself. What's wrong with your voice?"
"Puberty," he answered simply. "As embarrassing as it is, I'm apparently developing too."
"And you know this how?"
"What else have you discovered on the internet?" she asked and immediately regretted the question. "Oh no, forget I asked. As a matter, let's forget this conversation. Promise me you won't tell your father."
"Oh yeah," Joshua said with a chuckle. "He warned me that you wanted to have a talk with me."
"He did?" she asked more than just a little annoyed. "I'll have you know that you and your sister will be experiencing changes that only a human can understand. Your father was never a child so I'm your only help."
"Or what?" Josh asked holding his hands out from his waist. "It won't grow?"
Alena stepped back in shock at the sight of the boy talking to her. Was it not just a few days ago that she had secretly cuddled her small son after he was attacked? He and his sister had grown so quickly that she had begun measuring their growth by the need to buy new clothes. But now, Joshua stood before her as a totally new child as though he had drastically changed since she had seen him earlier in the day. In her confusion, her senses kicked into high gear as she attempted to find explanations. In the next room, she could hear low muffled moans coming from Abigail as though she were in pain. Before she could move to her daughter, Alena was struck the odd smell also coming from her daughter's room.
"Sorry," Joshua said quietly.
"I'm sorry I said that," he repeated and then walked into his mother's arms. "Are you ok?"
"Yes. No. I don't know. Joshua, you've grown so much."
"No, I mean, it's like you've grown since this morning."
"Yeah. Ever since we got here, it's like everything started speeding up. I swear I can almost feel it sometimes. Hey, my head is almost to your shoulder."
"It almost is," Alena agreed quietly. "Is there any way we can stop this so you can be my baby boy for just a little longer."
"I'll always be him even when I'm as big as Dad," he said and then kissed her cheek.
"Why is Abigail crying?"
"I don't know. She said something about her stomach and then went to bed."
When Alena stepped into Abigail's room, she was shaking from the various assaults to her senses. Trying to remain calm, she sat on the side of the bed and tried to find her daughter under the mountain of blankets.
"Abigail, are you hurt? What's wrong?"
"My stomach hurts," the girl whined.
"Ok, get out of this fortress you've built and let me see what's wrong."
When Abigail was finally unwrapped from her cocoon, her face was stained with streaks from her tears and her mouth was swollen and pouty.
"Sweetheart," Alena could barely whisper, "have you been hurt? Did you cut yourself?"
"Has someone else beside your brother, father or me been in these rooms?"
"Something weird is going on," Alena moaned placing her hands over her eyes.
"Something besides Joshua? Have you seen him? He looks like a damn mongrel," Abigail said sitting up on her bed.
"What's with the language?" Alena snapped. "And why do you have this despicable attitude towards your brother suddenly?"
Alena watched in horror as Abigail's face twisted in emotional misery and new tears started flowing down her cheeks. Before she could react, her daughter started sobbing.
"You love him more than me," the child wailed.
"It is absolutely impossible for me to love him more than I love you," Alena said barely able to contain her frustration.
"Then why do you always take his side?" she asked between hiccups.
"I don't take his side. You have started creating sides. I don't understand what's happening," she finally moaned. "Actually, I do. Yes, I do."
"I told your Dad that I was holding on to my human memories so I would be ready for this and then I failed miserably. He was right. I should have bought a book."
"He's always right."
"He is. And he's ours. How lucky are we?" Alena asked kissing her daughter's forehead.
"Very. He's my hero."
"Mine too. He rescued both of us from the worst possible fates."
"Death?" Abigail asked in a dramatic tone.
"No. Life without him," she answered and then kissed her daughter again. "Go wash your face and then we'll talk."
As Abigail leaped from the bed, Alena was overwhelmed by the strange odors in the room. Suddenly, it hit her. She snatched the cover from the bed and saw the evidence of her anxiety. Moving to the bathroom door, she was contemplating what how she would explain this to Abigail. Lost in thought, she felt him rather than heard him.
"Damn it," she muttered preparing for the next scene in her life of drama.
Gabriel burst through the door in a fury of motion. Alena leaped into his arms trying to capture his attention before he made the situation worse. Just when she thought he would never notice her, Gabriel stopped suddenly and locked his arms around her waist.
"She's ok?" he asked
"She will be and I will explain everything to you but I really need to talk to her ..." Alena stopped when she was interrupted by Abigail's scream, " ... first."
Gabriel tensed tightening his hold around his mate but he kept his eyes focused on hers. She knew he needed an explanation but her quick thoughts and images were not going to ease his worries until she could talk with him. But for now, taking care of Abigail was her priority.
Placing a kiss on his lips, she gently pushed him back through the door, sent a mental message to her sister and went to her daughter's aid.
Gloria and Emma had settled in a small formal sitting room and had discussed the high points of Emma's life from childhood until she arrived in Europe. "He's very handsome," Gloria whispered. "And he used to be somewhat scandalous but I can see that he's changed."
"Ah, the brothers, they have quite a history. I'm sure Gabriel would kill anyone who breathed a word of his past to Alena. "
"Gabriel doesn't seem like that kind of guy."
"He's not. Well, he's not now. He changed several years ago. He's always had a head for business and security but he was known as wildest one of them all. Since he was not given one land to rule, he visited all of the courts and left many heartbroken women, human and immortal, in his wake. But even before he met his mate, there was something good about him. He helped Antony with you."
"He did?" Emma asked. "Isn't all of this more than just a huge coincidence? It's like we've completed a circle."
"We have but there are no coincidences Emma. The night I was found, Tec and Antony were on their way to some god forsaken whorehouse but Tec stopped when he heard me crying. Here he is, a king, but he stopped and our lives changed. He takes a pitiful woman, who is about to give birth, beaten to the point of death, and makes her his queen. Antony takes an infant girl and delivers her safely to her family. I wonder," Gloria paused, "I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't given him my sister's address."
"He would have probably pitched me into the nearest dumpster."
"I don't think so," Gloria responded. "Of course, so much of this is just being revealed to me because Tec doesn't have to hide it any longer. Did you know that he named you?"
"Tec named me?"
"No. Antony did. Emma. The name means 'whole' or 'complete' as though you completed him."
"I seriously doubt he thought that at the time," Emma said. "It would have been great if I could have stayed with you. I guess that wasn't an option because ...?"
"Because I was Tec's first priority. He could not take care of both of us and he honestly believed that you were exactly where you should be."
"But he could have checked on me. He could have just to let you know when your sister died that I was alone," Emma said as the tears filled her eyes.
"Darling, don't you understand? When I woke, I had no memory of carrying a child. I only felt a vague feeling that something was missing. If he had brought you to me, I may have killed the only good thing in my life!"
"Oh yeah. It always comes back to that," Emma murmured. "Blood thirsty vampires."
"It's not as bad as it sounds," Gloria corrected. "I was newborn and had not been educated in the ways of the New Kingdom."
"Blood is needed to live. Only monsters indulge to the point of excess or take from an innocent. We take from mates or willing hosts."
"It's just difficult to understand."
"Because you're human."
"You make that sound like a bad thing."
"It's a weakness. Humans were the second creation and failed. Through generations of practicing the forbidden sins, they are fragile, blinded, and easily led into destruction."
"But drinking blood? If Antony needs it then I'll give him mine but the thought of just biting someone and ... oh, I don't think I ever could."
"You're so innocent. You don't think about the source of your food or the air you breathe. It's a necessity for us. But the blood from a mate is so, so ...."
"And sensual. Oh my dear, I have so much to tell you."
Alesso scanned his badge and waited for the gates of the parking garage to open. If he had not been delayed, he would have been on time or even early. Their meetings had become so rare and precious that he could barely tolerate any interruptions. Over the years, his professional life had increasingly devoured his private life.
Of course, he accepted the blame for losing control of his own life. When he started his employment in Lord Melchiorre's household, he had nothing else occupying his time. After several months of loyalty, he was promoted as the Lord's personal household assistant. He had once referred to himself as a secretary but Lord Melchiorre had quickly corrected him saying he had preferred his secretaries to be beautiful leggy blondes. So for the last decade, he had been known as the Antony Melchiorre's personal household assistant.
The job paid well and was actually quite enjoyable. In a way, Alesso had the authority over all staff and activities in the castle without the responsibility of paying the bills. He was living in a fairy tale and yet, a nightmare had crept into his perfect world. As he gave more time to the household tasks, more time would be demanded of him until he had become available every minute of Lord Melchiorre's day.
Ironically, if he had not been available for every beck and call, he would not be here in this garage right now. Three years ago, he had driven to Kingdom Investments to bring a package that had erroneously been delivered to the Antony's home rather than his business. While Antony had been caught in meetings for the day, he had emphasized that the package was needed at the office immediately. And there, while playing errand boy, Alesso had met his counterpart of Lord Melchiorre's business life.
When he first saw George, he had experienced a myriad of emotions ranging from jealousy to excitement. At a few seconds of silence, the men smiled at each other and formed a bond that neither could explain. To the public, these men assisted Antony in his business and personal life. In private, each was the only person in the other man's world.
George had quickly accepted the package and instructed someone to deliver it to the CEO immediately. He then asked Alesso if he had plans for the evening. After dinner, they had progressed into a physical relationship neither could explain nor questioned. George, divorced and childless, had never considered himself gay nor had he thought he would even be married again. He had devoted his life to work and was content. Alesso had never felt a connection to any woman that lasted longer than a few weeks.
During their three years together, they had become more than lovers. They were addicted to each other and one needed the other to survive. Loyalty to everything else diminished as their commitment to each other increase. And because of that commitment, they found themselves in this odd predicament.
Alesso parked the car and walked in the shadows until he reached the familiar sedan. Sliding into the passenger seat, he shut the door and secured his seatbelt as the car moved out of the garage. Looking at his companion, he waited with a small smile knowing the silence would end soon
"You're late," George mumbled.
"And we both know that it was not by choice. I was stopped by the latest addition to Melchiorre's guest list."
"Someone new?" George asked looking at the man to his right.
"Ah yes, and it's not the last of them. Watch the road. By the end of the day, every room and most of the guest cottages will be occupied."
"When did this happen? We need to report this."
"I know and it's just happened today. As a matter of fact, the South American king was en route when the invitations were sent. Edward's mate had to help assign rooms while I arranged for the troops moving in."
"Troops? You mean like an army?"
"Yes," Alesso answered and then paused. "You know that I would do anything for you, right? I would die for you. But do we really need to report everything?"
"Are you backing out now? This is not just my life. If I thought they would just kill me then I would quit this."
"I know. I know," Alesso groaned. "What if we, you know, just talked to Melchiorre? I think he suspects something."
"What? No!" George answered. "He would kill me. How would he know anything? What have you done?"
"The only person I've spoken to is you," Alesso responded. "But I think the general is suspicious of me. Attacking his kid was a bad move."
"You know that I don't agree with hurting a kid. Hell, I don't agree with anything they are doing. I was just supposed to report the activities. It will be over soon and we can get out of here."
"You really believe that don't you?" Alesso asked looking out the side window. "I used to, but I don't now. I would confess if I thought Gabriel would accept the white flag but I have nothing to offer."
"You would turn me in just to save your ass?"
"No. I would sacrifice myself to save you. Damn it George, you weren't there today. They have something. Something we missed and didn't report."
"How could we miss anything? We told them about the American girl, gave them everything she had found and everything going on at the house. What else is there?"
"They missed her. She must know something," Alesso answered.
"Their fault. They had her. They lost her."
Their conversation returned to silence as they continued their journey. They moved through the city until reaching George's apartment. As they moved through the building's common areas, George walked ahead leading his companion to the elevator. Confined in the lift, they remained separated never touching or speaking. Once they were secluded in the apartment, George pulled Alesso around to face him but held him at arms' length.