Everleigh had parked her car on the small parking lot down the hill and was walking the rest of the way – which was truthfully more of an involuntary waddle now – up the small paved road to the old cemetery.
It was easy to find, located atop one of the rolling hills outside Windenburg, the bell tower of the small, century-old church the cemetery bordered on was visible for miles.
This was where they had moved the remains to of those once laid to rest in the now demolished Forgotten Hollow cemetery. The thought still gave Evey the creeps. So much for eternal rest. Only eternal until some politicians decide to relocate you. Amen.
She reached the gate and took a small breath.
Twins were not an easy pregnancy, Evey got winded easily now even though there were still many weeks to go until the birth.
She entered and continued on past the many graves of people she once held so dear.
The smell and sight of disturbed earth to make room for the new graves among those that had been here, some of them for hundreds of years.
She wished her grandparents were still here. Above ground, that is, she thought sniffling away the tears as she caressed her grandpa’s headstone.
So sad to imagine them in the cold ground, among the cold stone angels and headstones, when they both had been such warm people with big hearts. She kissed the tip of her finger and placed it on the late Liam Cameron’s headstone.
How badly she needed their advice now. Wondered if they knew.
Luckily there was a bench right by their graves where she gratefully sat down to rest her aching feet, stare an empty stare, wanting to ask things burning hot in her mind, knowing even if she did there would never be an answer.
Not now, and not ever again.
Tears began to fall. She had always thought that her grandpa Liam would one day meet her children. He and her grandma were the reason she was married to KC now. The reason KC had a good life now. Possibly the reason KC was even alive now. Meeting her and KC’s babies would have made that unlikely success story come full circle.
Her pregnancy should be a happy time, memorable, and she felt genuinely happy and excited most of the time. The rest of it she faked it until she was alone.
Tears flowed freely.
Tears she would not have to justify to anybody who would walk by. Tears apparently mourning her losses. Nobody needed to know they weren’t only shed for family laid to rest here.
Heath and Abigail had been on her mind a lot.
Still no word, no sign of life from either.
She had been hurt initially by Heath’s reaction, his words, but her anger faded and left only regret along with the longing to have her best friend back along with his daughter, whom she had loved like her own since birth.
She had tried to get in touch. She had texted, which came back ‘undeliverable’.
She had called and only got a canned message informing her that the dialed number was no longer in service.
She had sent letters. First only one, when there was no reaction for weeks she mailed another, hoping the first one had just gotten lost. To no avail. No returned letter, no reply, no visit. Nothing.
She had tried to go by his place one last time, but the area around Forgotten Hollow had already been sealed off and was guarded by heavily armed military.
Maybe Heath could not get in touch. Or maybe he really did not want to anymore, like he had said.
Ever since she first thought of having a child of her own, she had always pictured Heath and Abby with her baby. Or babies as fate would have it.
Heath’s last words to her still echoed in her mind. All of them, but in particular the ones where he told her he had always imagined her as the mother of his children.
So, what if KC had always been right about Heath’s true intentions and not just been jealous for no reason?
What if the inner feeling she had so carefully kept muffled for many years, had not just been some infatuation?
What if Heath was more than just a friend to her and what if it wasn’t just a one way street?
What if her teenage puppy love (read here) and a heated kiss many years later after a huge fight with KC had been neither confusion nor the search for comfort.
What if??? Why was she ‘what-if-ing’ this? She knew it was true, she had always known and Heath knew it too as he had straight out told her so several times.
But she loved KC!
How was this even possible? Nobody could love two men at once. Or could they? Could she?
KC was the father of the children she was carrying under her heart now. Whatever the truth, it would be too painful for too many people to act on it anyway, so it best stay buried like all these people resting here. Deep down within her heart.
The price if it didn’t was just too high, a lot of people would get hurt in the process.
Heath and hers was a love that could not be anyway, a forbidden, dangerous love between a girl and a New Breed vampire.
She had grown up a mortal human descendant of former vampires, her grandfather and great-grandparents, who had been un-turned into mortals long before he was even born, even thought she had never really known any personally except Heath, but Everleigh never would even entertain the thought of ever becoming one herself. As a mortal loving Heath in every sense of the word would kill her.
A problem without a solution.
A revelation of a truth to be considered once and after the tears she was crying now would run dry, it would get buried deep within her heart and put out of her mind for the sake of all involved.
“It will be fun, you’ll see!” Isabelle told Everleigh as she pulled her along towards the impressive looking spa resort building reminiscent of an ancient Roman temple.
Signs proclaimed this to be a “members only” venue and ‘by appointment only’. It was a sort of country club for the wealthy ladies – and gentlemen – of the region.
Isabelle had been wealthy and famous all her life, as the daughter of a famous actress and a screenwriter, and granddaughter of a famous actor. Now she married into the not less famous old money of the Ellingtons, generations of Ellingtons dating back centuries, always residing in Willow Creek.
Isabelle’s new husband, Charlie, though lived with his father and step-father, all successful doctors in their own right, in Willow Creek in an old and sizable mansion, a former side residence of the Ellingtons.
After a messy divorce when Charlie’s father came out as gay, that was what the lawyers had agreed on to be best, which suited David Ellington, Charlie’s father, just fine, since the hospital where he and his new lover both worked, was in Willow Creek too. Wealthy people got divorced. Even old money like the Ellingtons. But the reason being that a father of four suddenly realized he was homosexual was unheard of in such an esteemed family and wreaked great havoc. Drama and rumors were Isabelle’s thing, she did not mind marrying into it, just as she did not mind their still significant wealth. That added to the large dowry her parents gave them to start life as a young family made a lot of things easier to digest, if you were so inclined.
And Belle was.
She and Charlie had married after dating only briefly, in a hush hush ceremony in Las Vegas. When her family finally got to meet Charlie, for most the first they even as much as heard of his existence, all were surprised.
He was the opposite of Isabelle, quiet, sweet, courteous, kind. Everleigh really liked him a lot. Attractive in a muted kind of way, unlike the shimmering bird of paradise Isabelle was.
When an Isabelle Ferrer-Ellington entered a room, everybody knew it.
Isabelle was a complicated person, not easy to deal with, which was the reason that aside from Everleigh, none of the other cousins ever met with her alone, only in a group setting. Even Isabelle’s older and quiet brother Cameron was rarely ever alone with his sister.
She was a handful and could be abrasive with her outspoken, judgmental ways and views of the world, but Evey knew her well enough to realize that beneath all that bratty egoistic bitchiness lay a golden heart. Belle had grown up in Del Sol Valley and having to find her way among the arrogant children of superstars left their mark.
She favored their grandmother Leonie in appearance and had her inner kindness, carefully hidden.
Evey hoped that maybe becoming a mother would change her for the better and bring the hidden goodness to the surface.
Isabelle had visited Everleigh to showboat new maternity wear, she was a few weeks further along than Evey, but with only one baby and therefore visibly smaller. Belle noticed that Evey was down and decided they needed pampering in the exclusive club, her treat, as Evey could never afford something like this.
It was easier to go along without putting up a fight, Evey found.
Isabelle checked them in, once changed into robes they waited for the series of treatments Belle booked for them.
While waiting, Evey admired the tasteful, elaborate decor, everything was white and gold with fresh accents, the staff all in matching outfits suitable to the surroundings.
Which is why some people, obviously workers of some sort judging by the matching overalls and gloves they all sported, scurrying past for the blink of an eye, seemed unusual as their outfits were an ugly tan color that didn’t seem to fit in at all. When some more came past, she asked Isabelle about them.
“Oh those? Those are Thralls.” Isabelle whispered.
“Thralls?” Evey parrotted, as she had never heard that term, unsure she heard her cousin correctly.
“Yeah, Thralls. Have you been living under a rock? Thralls are modern slaves, although you are not supposed to call them that. We are thinking about getting some. Pricey at first, if you buy quality, but once you have them, MUCH cheaper, easier and reliable than the needy staff, good help is SO hard to find, and always with their constant excuses ‘sorry I am late my child was sick .. blah blah’ and wanting a day off and this and that. For the Thralls all you need is a basement and a coffin – oh and some plasma fruit – and they are good to go! 24/7 if you need them to be. Easy-peasy!” Isabelle smiled.
“A what? What do you mean slaves and coffins … they are not … are they?” Evey could not say the words, nor truly process what she was hearing.
A joke, right?
They sat down.
She really had not watched news anymore, after all they did was rehash the traumatizing events and the following actions over and over until Everleigh felt safer sticking her head in the sand than listen to one more word of any of those news anchors, analysts, politicians and all the rest.
Evidently, she had missed something big.
“Oh yeah, vamps. Don’t worry, just those who broke the law not all of them. I mean, better a slave than rotting in some lame cell in some vampire prison, bored out of your skull, right, until you get incinerated? At least I think that’s how they get put to death. Who knows? I don’t find that problematic. They should be thankful when someone takes them in, instead of letting them get put to sleep, and I am pretty sure they all are. I mean, look at those working here. This place is amazing! What more could a Thrall ask for? If I had to work, which luckily I won’t ever have to, but a place like this would be awesome! A spa. Seriously, they should all be doing back flips! I’ll let you know if and when we get some. You need to come over and see them then! Ours of course will get better outfits, none of those dreadful baby-poo colored overalls. Yikes! Maybe you should get some too. Thralls I mean, not overalls. Those are so last season.” Isabelle chatted happily as if talking about recipes.
“I don’t know what to say …” Everleigh stuttered, thinking this had to be a sick joke.
“Oh, don’t worry, they are 100% safe. They all wear muzzles and have some special safety collar they get fitted with as soon as they are captured. That takes away their powers – you know the teleporting, mind-control, etc. some of them do and what not – and the owners get remote controls, if they misbehave you can punish them at the click of a button … or even kill them, but then you’d be out of money and need a replacement , right. They cannot take the collar off, only authorized people can with a special machine, or else it will kill them. Those spikes that point out also can go in with some mechanism and there is some substance in them. Harmless for mortals, but deadly for vamps. I forgot what that was. Who cares, right?” Belle informed plainly.
“How do you know all that?” Everleigh was appalled.
“I told you, we are looking into getting some … oh there we go, that’s us. Ready to get pampered?”
Evey followed the massage therapist, but only marginally managed to enjoy the treatment or even register what was going on.
Did she travel back in time? What was wrong with the government to allow that?! So much for evolution and human rights. Oh, right, bad argument there. Evidently, human rights only applied to mortals. Still outrageous!
Even if the vampires were technically not humans, that was just not right. For the first time she was grateful the vampires among her family and even Caleb Vatore were not here to witness that abomination.
Then again, if they were, Caleb and Blaine would have never let it come to this. Without them and the entire vampire society, nobody assured the rights of the vampires were honored and nobody was left to sit in endless debates with the government of the mortals to assure a harmonious side-by-side of both species.
What we had now was something headed straight into resembling a world dreamed up by Tim Burton.
She had to try and talk sense into Isabelle. The mere thought of her – or anyone – owning slaves made Everleigh’s blood run cold. Even if they were “only” immortals.
The massage was over and she was sent to wait for the next treatment. On her way to a bathroom she got lost in the impressively long and confusing hallways of the facility.
Finally she gave up circling aimlessly, her feet ached under the weight of the babies as did her back.
When she saw one of those … ‘Thralls’ … with their back turned as they were folding towels onto some shelves she approached them.
“Excuse me, could you tell me where the bathrooms are? I am lost.”
The Thrall halted in mid-motion, standing stiffly for a moment, before turning around halfway looking at her over their shoulder.
When they did, Everleigh felt as if she had been struck by lightning.
“Hello Little Leigh …”