Three men sat in the barely lit room, while a fourth, Blaine, placed glasses filled part way with an amber liquid and ice cubes in front of them, before joining them on the bar stools with his own drink.
Three of the four men were dark haired, the fourth apparently once had been, but the still very full tresses now shimmered in a rich dark slate grey. All of them dressed in dark clothing, three in jeans, the slate-haired one in tan slacks. The mood was low, all of them currently pondering a problem before one of them broke the silence.
“He’s been a problem for a long time now.” It was Silas Blackbourne, usually a quiet man, who spoke first. His voice deep and melodious, matching his attractive exterior. Despite it all, he was known to be a loner by choice.
“He has, but we have to carefully consider every aspect of whatever we decide, if we decide on anything.” Caleb Vatore responded, always soft-spoken, always calm, always a light smile curling at his lips. He looked like a young man, but was a very old vampire, incredibly powerful, his powers and abilities probably surpassed the currently sitting Elder’s by a long shot, which made him quietly confident.
“We may be able to talk to him, present him with facts, suggestions on how to change his direction. A business plan of sorts. Plus make clear the ramifications if he declines.” the slate-haired man suggested, which caused all faces to turn to him.
“Talk. Pah. Maybe also work on branching out to the moon while we are at it, you fucking moron!” the last of the four, Blaine Cameron, now snarled with a joyless laugh.
“Do you have a problem with …” Ezio Auditore straightened his back, glancing at Blaine.
“Gentlemen, this is not helpful at all. Blaine, surely you did not mean it. Ezio, forgive him, he is probably just exhausted from chasing that adorable toddler he has.” Caleb prevented another brawl.
“Bet he is tired, all right, but not from caring for a child, more like from trying to make more!” Ezio growled under his beard, causing Silas to chuckle.
“Jealous much?!” Blaine taunted.
“Blaine, a word in private please.” Caleb slid off his barstool and looked at Blaine waiting for him to follow, his face still neutral.
“Nah, that’s ok, I know, I know …”
“I was not asking. Come, now!”
Blaine followed Caleb into the hallway.
“Look Caleb I …”
“No need to explain. I know exactly what is going on here, which is why I will tell you this now, and only once: the four of us are planning something big, too big to fail. Before we go any further I need to be sure that all four of us are equally as invested and committed. If you and Ezio feel the need to bring your side-battles to the table, this will not work and you both will be excluded. Did I make myself clear?”
“Clear as glass.”
“Wonderful. Now, tell me, and be truthful: can Auditore be trusted?”
“Are you certain?”
“100%. He has integrity. Is a fucking asshole, but committed, diligent, smart, ya know, useful. Especially for being such a dickhead! But I’d trust him with my life. Even though he is a rich, arrogant, but loyal prick!”
“Glad you got that out of your system. Feel better now?” Caleb smirked.
“Much.” Blaine grinned back.
“All right buddy, let’s go back in and plan.”
“Hey Blaine, how was .. hmph…” I had gotten up off the couch to greet my husband after his mysterious meeting, when he pulled me into a tight embrace and kissed me, hard and long.
When he finally let go he looked serious when he told me
“I want you to know that you are, always have been and always will be the most important person in my life. You ARE my life, my reason for being. My everything. I mean it. Without you, nothing matters. I love you.”
I admit, I was overwhelmed and unsure how to respond to this. We were not strangers to terms of endearment, frequently told the other that we loved them. But this was a different level.
“Blaine, are you … drunk?”
“Where is all this coming from? What happened at that meeting?”
“If you could know, you would have been invited. I cannot say. I need to rest. I’ll see you after dusk, babygirl.”
He walked off. Oh, something was wrong here. This was not the normal Blaine. I had known him for way too long to ignore that something really big was going down here. And I knew myself well enough to know that I was not going to sit this out. I was a fixer, not someone who swept problems under rugs. And this problem seemed too big for any rug.
I hurried down the stairs to the basement and opened Blaine’s coffin.
“Blaine. BLAINE! Hey Blaine!” I shook him, and without opening his eyes he spoke.
“I cannot tell you!”
“No, that just won’t do. There is something big going on. And by your behavior it’s dangerous. Since there are not many things dangerous to a vampire, especially not one of your rank, I know it is something bestially huge. And I am your best friend, your wife and as you put it, your ‘everything’. So spill.”
“Blaine Cameron, WTF! Talk! I am not going to let this go. Tell me now or deal with me until you do!”
Blaine sat up in his coffin now, obviously annoyed, his gaze dead serious.
“For the last time, I cannot tell you. Please let this go. You will find out all about this in due time, one way or another.”
“Not good enough. I will find about it NOW, one way or another.”
“Don’t need luck, I have skills! And logic on my side.”
“I need to rest now. Talk to you later, babygirl.” Blaine attempted to close the lid, which I prevented, glancing at him, challenging.
He sighed, and I could see anger brewing.
“Viktoria please stop.”
He shoved at me, vampire or not, he was still stronger than me and I fell back on my butt, as he pulled the lid shut. This pissed me off something fierce. I went over again, ripped it open and laid into him.
“Who the hell do you think you are! I am concerned for you, something is wrong and I deserve to know! Your words earlier mean nothing at all, just empty bullshit, if you still do not feel that after over 40 years of knowing me you cannot f-ing trust me! This is ridiculous!”
Blaine’s eyes were aglow now, were I not a vampire too it would have probably frightened the living daylights out of me. He rose up fast and within a split second was next to me, grabbing me by the upper arms and twisting me around to face him, while bringing his face close before mine.
“All right, you want to know? Fine, then know. But if you do, I cannot protect you from whatever may happen to me, because you KNEW.”
“That does not even make sense!” I lifted my chin up in defiance.
“No, what does not make sense here is YOU. Speak of trust when it is you who cannot trust MY judgement here.” Blaine roared.
“You can let go of me now too!” it was phrased as a request, but delivered as an order. And it worked, he let go.
Without another word he crawled back into the coffin and closed the lid.
OK, fine. I went upstairs and simmered in my anger until it started getting dark. Then I had enough. I grabbed Liam and dropped him off with Melissa and Ezio, while I drove to Forgotten Hollow.
“Viktoria, what a surprise.” Caleb smiled and gestured me to enter.
“Caleb, we need to talk. Under four eyes. Now.”
“Ah. Follow me.”
Caleb lead me to a smaller room, let me enter then closed the door behind us.
“Sorry to just drop by like this but I have to talk to you about …”
“I know why you are here. I knew this would happen.” Caleb remained calm.
I just looked at him, he offered me a chair, then sat down facing me.
“Did he tell you?”
“Not a peep.”
“I see. And you think I will?”
“I hope you will.”
“What if I told you I am sworn to secrecy, much like Blaine?”
“I’d say it’s bullshit. Who all knows?”
“I may not tell you that either, but know it is a very small circle. And also know that your exclusion is not a reflection on your integrity or talent, but solely based on the fact that you have a child who needs you.”
“Oh, and Liam does not need his dad?”
“Not necessarily. He needs one of you two.”
“A-ha. So it is dangerous and my husband may not return from whatever you are planning. I betcha I can guess another member. Silas. Am I right?”
Caleb smiled approvingly.
“What are you guys doing, Caleb?”
“I will not tell you. But I will tell you this, it is honorable and important. The reason why your husband was chosen and not you is because he outranks you as a vampire and for no other reason, if that makes a difference. And if you did not have that child, you would have been included. There is another member with small children, and if this fails, you may not only have to deal with your own loss, but also assist their family, as I am sure you would.”
“What other … oh God, Caleb, please do not tell me Ezio is involved too!”
“I won’t and I can’t. Just like I will not speak any more of this, as I already said too much. Do not think you know something you do not, and do not distribute any of this, not to anyone. You understand? Whatever you think is right, I think you would agree that not endangering your husband’s – as well as all other collaborators’ – safety is paramount, would you not?”