Family Ties - (Book 3 of the Marvelous 3 Saga)

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20 - The Last LaFleur

“Auntie?! Auntie Camille! It’s your niece, Kiara! Please let me in, Auntie, it’s important!” Kiara had been banging on the front door of her Aunt’s porch for nearly 10 minutes and still received no response. “Auntie, please! It’s Kiara!” Kiara said, banging with more ferocity.

Elijah and Alexander exchanged uncertain glances as if they already had a bad feeling. “Kiara,” Elijah said, pulling her back. “Let me...”

Kiara stepped back as Elijah easily broke the door handle. “She’s going to be so pissed at you,” Kiara said.

“I’ll pay for the damages,” Elijah said. He opened the door and gestured for her to walk in. But at soon as he opened the door, the strong metallic odor immediately hit him and Alexander.

“Kiara, wait-” Alexander said quickly.

But Kiara had already run inside with Marshala at her heels. “Auntie! Auntie Camille! Where are you?!” Kiara said, running through the house.

Alexander looked anxiously at Elijah as he felt his heart sink. “Elijah, she’s-” He was quickly cut off by a blood-curdling scream. Elijah and Alexander both rushed inside the house to see Kiara stumbling into the hallway. She was violently throwing up and hyperventilating as she screamed again and again. Marshala tried to hold her as Kiara became hysterical.

Alexander could smell the strong metallic aroma of blood before he peeked inside the bathroom. There was blood everywhere. On the walls, on the floor, the mirror, in the sink. Kiara’s Aunt lay dead against the corner of the bathroom wall and floor. Her head was nearly severed from her body from the ferociousness of the attack. Her body was already starting to decay, meaning she had been dead for quite some time.

“No! Please, God, no!” Kiara screamed out helplessly. “Please!” The walls of the house shook as multiple light bulbs exploded in response to her cries.

“I’m so sorry, Kiara,” Marshala cried. She once again had to hold a hysterical Kiara in her arms. They both slid to the floor as Marshala rocked her in her embrace, trying to comfort her.

Alexander growled with anger as he felt an intense rage consume him. “Dammit! That fucking son of a bitch! He did this!” Alexander shouted, banging a huge hole into the wall next to them.

Elijah narrowed his eyes as he quickly grabbed Alexander’s arm and dragged him into the kitchen away from Kiara and Marshala. “Alexander! Keep it together!” Elijah ordered.

“He killed her, Elijah! He killed the only family she had left!”

“I know, Alexander. Just-”

“It was him! I know it was him! He’s doing it again! He’s trying to get to us!” Alexander snarled.

“Alexander!” Elijah shouted. He roughly pushed him back against the wall that cracked from the sheer force. “Calm yourself!”

Alexander looked at Elijah angrily before he shoved Elijah off of him. “I’m tired of running, Elijah,” Alexander seethed. “I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of giving him so much damn power over our lives. I want to kill him!”

Elijah exhaled with exhaustion. “Your anger is valid, Alexander. Our father has been a plague on our lives. And it pains me to see how he’s hurt Kiara and massacred the entire LaFleur family.” Alexander could only feel his anger increasing as a murderous rage filled him. “But try to think rationally, little brother,” Elijah continued. “We are not prepared for this... for him...”

They both stepped back into the hallway to see that Kiara’s screaming had died down to heart-wrenching sobs. Elijah watched Kiara curl up into a ball on the floor as Marshala tried desperately to comfort her.

He turned to Alexander who still had the murderous look of rage in his eyes. His hands were in his hair, pulling anxiously as he watched the woman he loved in anguish. “...Alexander...” Alexander quickly glanced up at Elijah to see a peculiar look in his gaze. “I know that I’ve always told you to stay away... But I think now is when she may need you most,” Elijah said softly. He looked back down at Kiara. “What she needs right now is not your anger or your rage... but your love...”

Alexander looked at Elijah, trying to read the emotions that flickered in his eyes. He looked back down at Kiara drowning in her distress and nodded his understanding of Elijah’s advice. He walked over to her and crouched down beside her. Marshala glanced at Alexander as he gently pulled Kiara’s hand from her face.

“Kiara...” Alexander said softly.

“Alexander, don’t-” Marshala started. She felt Elijah’s hand on her shoulder and looked up at him to see him give her a quick shake of the head.

“Let him try, mon coeur,” Elijah said, taking her hand. He pulled her to her feet and away from Kiara and Alexander.

“Kiara,” Alexander said again. Through her sobs, Kiara looked up at Alexander to see a loving softness in his gaze. “Come with me, iubita mea,” he said, standing to his feet. Kiara looked at him with hesitation, before she slowly put her hand in his. Alexander pulled her to her feet and crouched down, quickly picking her up in his arms.

Kiara looked at him startled as he wrapped her arms around his neck. Alexander glanced at Elijah who nodded at him with approval. Alexander took off in a flash and they both immediately disappeared.

“Where are they going?!” Marshala said, rushing to the door to look outside.

“Come, mon coeur,” Elijah said, grabbing her hand. “We have much to clean here...”

Marshala looked at him and gave a sad nod. She rolled up her sleeves as the laundry closet swung up and several cleaning items floated towards her.

~*~

Kiara thought her stomach had jumped into her chest. She swore she was going to throw up altogether when Alexander finally stopped running. He carefully put her down and she stumbled a little feeling a bit dizzy. “Are you okay?” he asked worriedly as he tried to help her find her balance.

“Yea, yea, just... trying not to throw up,” she said, leaning over with her hands on her knees.

“Here.” She looked up to see Alexander handing her a bottle of water. She gratefully took it and used it to rinse her mouth before sipping the rest of the water down. She took a few deep breaths as she heard Alexander walking around when suddenly she felt significantly warmer. She stood up straight and looked around. Her eyes grew wide as she took in her surroundings.

She was in a cozy cave decorated with multiple candles and a few blankets and pillows. She could hear the sound of rushing water outside the opening of the cave. “Where are we?” she asked.

“A cave in Cape Cod,” Alexander said. “I found this place years ago. I come here sometimes to... think.” She felt a warmness wrap around her and looked up to see Alexander wrapping a blanket around her body. “Come,” he said as he led her to a corner of the cave.

He helped her sit down before he sat down next to her. Kiara pulled her knees to her chest and looked down at the ground. “Thank you for this, Alexander...” she said softly.

He looked over at her and could see that tears continued to fall down her beautiful sad face. “I just... I can’t believe she’s gone. She didn’t deserve to... to die like that,” Kiara choked out. “I’m the only one now... I’m all alone.” She choked out another sob and dropped her head into her lap, heaving her sadness.

Alexander frowned. Her pain was palpable and shook him to his core. He brought his hand to the back of her head and gently stroked her. “But you’re not alone, Kiara. You have Marshala, Elijah, Cole, Peter...” He hesitated as he gently caressed her. “...me...”

She raised her head to look at him as tears brimmed in her eyes. Alexander’s light blue eyes switched from her eyes to her lips before he leaned in towards her. Kiara closed her eyes and felt his cool lips brush softly against hers. His tongue caressed her bottom lip before slipping its way into her mouth and seeking out her own.

He cupped the back of her neck with one hand as she leaned into their kiss. This kiss was the softest, and most tender and passionate that Kiara had ever received from Alexander. As if he were afraid he might break her. He nearly stole her breath away. Kiara slowly opened her eyes to see Alexander staring at her with such love. She felt an abrupt rush as her stomach jumped again and suddenly found herself lying on a bed of pillows.

She put her hand to her chest to catch her breath from the rapid movement when she saw Alexander hover over her. “I’m going to make you feel good now, iubita mea...” he said softly. He lowered his face to hers and kissed her deeply. Alexander’s lips delicately scoured down her jawline and over the curve of her neck.

Control, Alexander... control... he thought to himself. He shifted his hands underneath her shirt and gently tugged it upward over her head. He thought he was moving rather slow but Kiara couldn’t believe how quickly he managed to get her shirt off of her as her bra soon followed. A moan escaped Kiara’s lips when she felt his hand palm her bare breast. His lips descended to her sensitive bud, suckling it between his soft lips. His tongue swirled in circles around her hardened Hershey kiss nipple as his fingers twirled the other.

Kiara’s skin felt like soft silk to Alexander and he couldn’t get enough. His lips roamed down the smooth dark brown skin of her stomach, his tongue leaving a trail. Every inch of her tasted sweeter than the next as he dipped his tongue into her navel. Kiara felt him tug at her pants. She lifted her butt slightly and he quickly pulled both her pants and panties off in one fell swoop.

Alexander plopped her clothes to the ground and stared at her heaven in awe. He had never been this close before. Her heated aroma sent all of his senses into overdrive. He crawled up between her legs and like a magnet his fingers found her core, gently caressing her lips that were already wet from anticipation. She shivered intensely beneath him.

“Don’t be nervous. If you ever want me to stop, Kiara, just tell me... I only want to please you,” he said, looking up at her from between her legs. She quickly nodded and took deep breaths, eager for him to touch more of her.

Alexander looked back down at her dripping wet core and gently spread her lips apart with two fingers. Her small clit teased him and it took everything in him to remember to take his time so she could enjoy it. He felt her shiver underneath him as his finger rotated her nub in slow agonizing circles before pushing a finger inside of her. She let out a gasp as he pumped inside of her, feeling her drip down his hand.

“My god, Kiara…” he breathed out. “Look how wet you are…” The wet sound of his finger pumping into her dripping core complemented the gasps that escaped her lips every time he hit her spot.

He slowly pulled out of her, feeling her twitch, and tasted her on his finger. Her taste lit a flame in his belly and a carnal hunger took over. He lowered his mouth to her core and eagerly yet softly slid his tongue between her lips. Her legs shivered as he further nestled between her thighs. His tongue traced every crevice as he moaned his satisfaction for how delicious she tasted.

His eyes flickered when he noticed Leo’s mark just underneath her thigh. It took everything in him to control his anger. This wolf was a problem. Ignoring his angry thoughts, he held her thighs against his shoulders and dipped his tongue into her heaven. He felt her entire body heave with want.

“Alexander!” she moaned out as she gripped the top of his head. His hair weaved through her fingers. He could already tell that she was about to come and he cursed his speed for bringing it to an end so quickly. Her moans increased as her thighs clenched around his head and his lips french-kissed her own. His tongue traced along every crease, claiming her in an act of love and dominance. He sucked her labia between his lips as his tongue lapped eagerly at her heaven. “Oh god, Alexander! Oh god, oh!” she squealed. Her clit became swollen with how many times he had sucked it between his lips as he prepared her for her climax.

Her orgasmic moan was melodious music to his ears. His tongue never stopped. He made sure to let no drop go wasted. Kiara breathed heavily, trying to catch her breath as she felt Alexander crawl back up towards her. “I hope it wasn’t too much...” he said with a bit of concern in his voice as he looked down at her. She wanted to laugh as she merely shook her head. She grabbed his face between her hands and pulled him down for another kiss.

Her hands roamed down his chest, tugging at his sweater. He quickly pulled back from her and quickly discarded it. Kiara took her time roaming her hands down his finely, sculpted chest. She tugged her bottom lip between her teeth and looked up at him with wanting eyes. “Do I feel warm?” she asked him.

Alexander grabbed one of her hands and kissed the back of it tenderly as he kept her locked in his gaze. “Always…” he said.

Kiara watched him release himself from his pants and gawked at his size. “Jeez, Alexander! Where the hell have you been hiding that?!” she blurted.

Alexander chuckled. “Well, I’m glad you’re impressed. But performance means more than size.” She bit her lip nervously as he positioned himself between her legs and leaned over her. He pushed her hair to the side and whispered in her ear. “I plan to make you scream, Kiara… would you like that?”

She felt the air leave her lungs from both his words and the sensation of his large member rubbing against her slick pussy. She swallowed thickly before speaking. “A-Alexander, I… I don’t have a condom.”

He pulled back and gave her a sad smile as he tried to hide his emotions. “You don’t have to worry about that. A vampire has... never really impregnated a mortal...”

Kiara stared at him wide-eyed. “Wait really?”

Alexander shook his head. “It’s never happened before, so... I don’t think we can,” he said to her.

Kiara felt a tinge of sadness as she bit her lip. “...I’m sorry,” she said.

Alexander lightly chuckled as he shook his head. “You have nothing to be sorry for, Kiara.” He looked down at her dripping core and gently stroked it again with his finger. He felt her shiver against him. His eyes flickered up at her. “May I have you now…” he said, looking at her heatedly.

Her breathing got shorter as she quickly nodded her head. He widened her legs and stroked his manhood. As he leaned over her, he slipped himself inside of her, causing her to gasp. “Are you okay?” he asked, looking at her. She quickly nodded and wrapped her legs around his waist. He hooked his arms underneath her armpits and pulled her body into an upright position until she was sitting in his lap with his manhood deep inside of her.

“Oh god, Alexander!” she groaned. Her arms settled around his neck as she rested her cheek on his broad shoulder. She loved how intimate this position was, but it felt like his dick was practically in her stomach.

Alexander pushed her hair away from her sweaty face and left soft, fleeting kisses along her jawline and neck. He gently tilted her chin up and plastered his lips against her skin, sucking on her soft flesh. Her throat moved against his tongue that traced along her veins. His strong hands careened down her smooth dark naked body, squeezing her with hunger until he got to her hips. He firmly grabbed her ass with both hands and started rocking her against him. His pelvis met hers in ferocious thrusts that made her jump roughly on his lap.

Alexander had been dreaming of the day when he’d be able to make love to Kiara. The moment felt surreal as he finally claimed her body. He had never felt this euphoric. He wished he could enjoy it even more if not for the carnal hunger that was building up inside of him. He had intended to be gentle and go slow for her sake, but he found his thrusts had quickly picked up the pace. His grip on her hips became tenser as he throbbed inside of her. She bounced roughly on his lap as they made their own mix of wet, sticky love between their thighs and stomachs. He pushed his face into her breasts, sucking her nipple into his mouth again. He tried desperately to control himself as he battled with his intense desire and hunger.

Kiara gasped and breathed erratically on his lap as she clawed at his back, her whimpers teasing him even more. You love her... you love her... you won’t hurt her. You love her... Alexander told himself over and over again. He grabbed the back of her head again and buried his face into her neck. Her scent had increased and her body felt like a furnace. Alexander’s eyes flickered between its friendly blues and the blood-red as he felt the tips of his fangs. “I love you, Kiara,” she heard him mumble into her neck. “I love you more than anything in this world.” Kiara was confused when she heard Alexander mumble things in Romanian. The only thing he said in English was that he loved her.

Alexander was both frustrated and grateful for the release he knew was coming from Kiara. Her walls tightened around his shaft and she cried out his name. She came hard, tugging roughly on his hair and biting down on his shoulder in the process. He groaned out, nuzzling her neck with his face. He quickly found his own release as well, making a huge sticky mess between their bodies.

Kiara shivered on top of him as he reluctantly lifted her hips and pulled out of her warmness. He lay her back down on the bed of pillows and used a towel to wipe some of the liquids they had swapped from off of her thighs and stomach. He grabbed a blanket to cover them both and pulled her into his arms. Feeling her rest her head against his chest brought a content smile to his face.

“Jeez, Alexander, you wore me out,” she chuckled sleepily.

“Good,” he said, kissing her temple. “Now, get some rest.”

~*~

“Why aren’t they back yet?” Marshala said, pacing the Blackbourne’s kitchen.

“Patience, mon coeur. They’ll be back soon,” Elijah reassured her.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Marshala said. She shook her head as she walked back and forth. “I wanted to protect her from all of this. I didn’t want her to suffer.”

“Marshala.” Elijah quickly appeared in front of Marshala, blocking her from pacing. “No good will come of you worrying yourself sick.” He gently stroked her arms, trying to soothe her. “Relax...” he said softly.

Marshala closed her eyes and took deep breaths as she tried to calm her nerves. Elijah watched attentively as Marshala’s lips slightly parted, luring him in for just a taste. He knew he had been pushing boundaries with her, but he couldn’t deny how much he craved her. Marshala exhaled slowly as she tried to clear her mind when she felt the cool chill of soft lips pressing against her own. Elijah instinctively wrapped his arms around her and pulled her body against his.

As it always did, her body betrayed her. Marshala melted into his embrace. She felt his hand cup her backside and his erection press into her before she finally gathered the strength to push him away. “Elijah,” she said annoyed. She stepped back from him, wiping her mouth. “Where is your self-control?”

“I’m afraid that disappeared the moment you entered my life,” he chuckled.

Marshala shook her head before a terrifying realization hit her. She looked up at Elijah, and he immediately lost his teasing smirk when he saw the look in her eyes. “Marshala...?” he said concerned.

“If... if William really is back,” Marshala said. “He’ll come for you... all of you...” Her eyes filled to the brim with tears of terror. Elijah felt his heart break as he quickly enveloped her in his arms. “We can’t let him near you guys again. Not again,” she said, trembling in Elijah’s embrace.

“We will be okay, mon coeur,” Elijah said.

“Elijah!” Marshala said, pulling back from him. “He nearly killed you last time! And what he did to Cole after he-” Her eyes widened and she anxiously shook her head. “I need to consult Gina.”

Elijah’s eyes sharpened as his entire demeanor went cold. “Honestly, Marshala, you really don’t need her...”

“Elijah, please,” Marshala said, waving him off. “I know you don’t like her, but she’s one of the most skilled and well-versed witches around. And she’s survived multiple encounters with your father. I have to speak to her. We need all the help we can get.”

Elijah frowned, wanting to protest when he heard Kiara and Alexander walk through the door. Kiara looked significantly better. Her face was practically glowing. Elijah gave Alexander a knowing smirk. “Kiara,” Marshala said. “How are you feeling?”

“Better,” Kiara answered. “I’m still... really disturbed with everything. It’s hard coping with the loss of my aunt. Still trying to digest the fact that I’m the last LaFleur. The only person left in my bloodline...”

“I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” Marshala said. “We as a people have suffered for far too long. We’ll make preparations for your aunt’s funeral. We’ll make sure she is sent off properly.”

Kiara nodded as she lowered her head. “Thank you, Marshala...”

“Kiara, there are some people that I think you should meet. People I think can help,” Marshala said. “Get your things.” Kiara nodded and headed upstairs.

“You controlled yourself,” Elijah smiled at Alexander. “I’m proud of you.”

“It wasn’t easy,” Alexander said. “But my love for her... actually supersedes my hunger.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Elijah said, putting his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “And Kiara looked all the better for it.”

“Please tell me you’re both not talking about what I think you’re talking about,” Marshala said.

Elijah looked at her blankly as Alexander nibbled awkwardly on his bottom lip. “Making love is one of the best remedies for an aching heart,” Elijah said.

“Elijah!” Marshala said with wide eyes.

“Marshala, it is common knowledge that we Blackbournes are extremely skilled lovers,” Elijah said as if he were telling a scientific fact. “You of all people should know.”

“Oh my god,” Marshala groaned covering her face. “Kiara! Are you ready yet?”

“Yea, yea, I’m coming,” Kiara said, running down the stairs with a backpack. Marshala walked to the door as Kiara quickly rushed to Alexander. She hugged him tightly as he wrapped his arms around her. He gave her a quick peck on the lips before she followed Marshala out the door.

~*~

Marshala pulled up to Rhea’s house and hopped out of the car with Kiara in tow. “Have you ever met any of Rhea’s other family?” Marshala asked as she knocked on the door.

“Not really,” Kiara frowned. “Anytime I slept over, no one was home.”

“They tend to travel a lot,” Marshala said, knocking again.

The door was finally opened by a beautiful, barefoot dark-skinned woman with large kinky hair. She wore blue overalls and held a black kitten in her arms. “Marshala!” the woman said excitedly. She quickly hugged her as the kitten jumped on her head.

“Ava,” Marshala said, rubbing her back. “It’s good to see you, sweetie.” Marshala turned to Kiara. “Kiara, this is Ava, Rhea’s older sister, and my other god-sister.”

“Kiara?!” Ava squealed. She nearly toppled Kiara over, trying to hug her. “I’ve heard so much about you from my baby sister. It’s so nice to finally meet you!”

“Nice to meet you too,” Kiara said a little dazed. “How come I’ve never seen you before?”

“Oh, I’m usually out and about. At the zoo, in the garden, at the aquarium, another state,” she smiled. “I’m usually never home unless it’s to sleep,” Ava chuckled.

“Ava, is either your aunt or uncle home?” Marshala asked.

“Both, surprisingly! I know that’s rare. Auntie Giselle is in the kitchen cooking. It smells so good. Too bad I probably won’t stick around long enough to try it. And Uncle Bernie is in the den with Rhea, messing around with potions again. Come in,” Ava said. She turned around and led them into the house. “AUNTIE GISELLE! MARSHALA’S HERE!” Ava rang out so loud it almost sounded like she was singing.

Kiara raised an eyebrow as she looked at Marshala. “Ava... is a bit of a free spirit,” Marshala chuckled.

“I can see that,” Kiara smirked.

A beautiful older woman with caramel skin came running out of the kitchen with an apron wrapped around her waist. A large bowl floated next to her, stirring with a large wooden spoon. “Marshala!”

“Giselle,” Marshala smiled. The two of them immediately embraced.

“I was wondering when you’d stop by. You never come over for dinner anymore,” Giselle said.

“I’m sorry, I’ve been... really busy,” Marshala said apologetically.

“Ain’t nobody too busy to eat, Marshala. You better be taking care of yourself. I’m not trying to find out about you catchin’ sick cause you out here worryin’ about everybody else but yourself like you always do. Remember what happened last time you caught a fever? You nearly gave me a damn heart attack!” Giselle scolded.

“Oooo, Auntie! Why you cussin’?” Ava teased.

“Chil’, hush,” Giselle said, rolling her eyes. She heard a light chuckle and saw Kiara standing halfway behind Marshala. “Stop it! Don’t tell me this is Candace and DeAndre’s little girl?!” Giselle said, looking at Kiara.

Marshala nodded with a huge smile on her face. “Sure is.” Kiara squealed as she felt a powerful force spin her body around.

“Let me get a good look atcha! Oh my lord! She looks just like her daddy! Lookit them eyes! She definitely has Candace’s eyes. AH! And that smile! She got her daddy’s smile too!” Giselle said, feeling giddy as she took Kiara into her arms. Kiara felt an overwhelming flood of emotions as this strange woman squished her into her bosom and spoke to her as if she knew her her entire life. She looked at this strange woman and felt warmth, peace, love... and family.

“Auntie! You’re making her cry!” Ava said, staring at Kiara surprised.

“Oh no, sweetie, I’m sorry! Was it something I said?” Giselle said worriedly.

“No, no,” Kiara said, shaking her head quickly. “Sorry, I just... no one has ever spoken to me about my parents before...”

Giselle frowned and looked at Marshala. “Um, Giselle.. can we talk?” Marshala asked nervously.

~

Kiara followed Ava to her room while Marshala and Giselle spoke in the kitchen. “So... I’m guessing you like... animals,” Kiara said. She watched Ava feed a rabbit while simultaneously using her magic to clean a glass box two snakes were residing in and the poop out of a hamster’s cage.

“Like ’em? I love them!” Ava chuckled. “They’re the best things about this planet. Witches are responsible for protecting nature. Keeping it balanced. That includes animals. People can be so cruel to them. They need our love, care, and protection. My mother was a veterinarian before she died. I think I’m just following in her footsteps.”

Kiara frowned. “I’m really sorry about that... that you lost your parents.”

“Thank you,” Ava smiled gratefully. “It was really rough for us. Especially my baby sister who is still very scarred from witnessing their murder. Since losing my parents, I’ve learned to appreciate every day I have on this beautiful planet. Being around animals is how I cope. Rhea has Levi, thankfully, and I have my babies,” she said, scratching underneath her kitten’s chin as it purred.

“Do you like Levi?” Kiara asked.

“Levi’s a sweetheart. He’s a bit rough around the edges but deep down he’s a bit of a marshmallow just like the rest of those Volkovs. I’m glad Rhea has him. He’s so good to her. If anyone deserves my baby sister, it’s him. I’m just waiting for them to give me some nieces and nephews now,” Ava smirked. Kiara laughed out loud. “Just like Rhea is waiting for you and Leo to give her some as well,” Ava said mischievously.

Kiara coughed as Ava burst into laughter. “Beware the Volkovs, Kiara. They will surely try to get you pregnant,” Ava continued joking.

“Leo better calm his ass down, I swear! I got things I wanna do first before I worry about kids!” Kiara laughed. “So, you’re close to the Volkovs... What about the Blackbournes?”

Ava put the rabbit down and sighed. “We... we don’t really talk about them...”

Kiara couldn’t help but frown. “...Do you hate them too?”

Ava turned and looked at Kiara. “Hate is a strong word. I don’t really hate anything or anyone. But our family... Most of them are not fond of vampires, considering our history and what they did to our people. The Blackbournes... well... I’d say we tolerate them but we stay away if we can help it. Elijah is a perfect gentleman, however. He rescued one of my chinchillas from being devoured by the littlest brother.”

“Oh jeez...” Kiara said, covering her face. “It just sucks that they’re so... unliked.”

“I’m afraid you may have to get used to that, Kiara. There’s a lot of violence and death associated with vampires. We don’t just keep our distance out of disdain. We keep it for the sake of our safety. Unfortunately, we’ve all lost someone because of their kind...” Ava glanced at Kiara and noticed tears slipping down her face. “I’m sorry, Kiara! I didn’t mean-”

“No, it’s okay,” Kiara said, wiping her face. “I... I lost my Aunt Camille recently.”

“Oh no...” Ava said sadly. She cautiously wrapped her arms around Kiara. “I’m so sorry...” Kiara allowed herself to feel the warmth of Ava’s embrace as she cried in her arms.

~

“Camille? Camille LaFleur is... dead?” Giselle said with shock. Several pots on the stove were stirring on their own through her magic.

Marshala nodded sadly. “I think William got to her...”

“That bastard!” Giselle said angrily. “He’s killed the entire LaFleur family! Is he still tormenting those poor boys?”

“The Blackbournes are okay... It seems like Kiara may be the new focus of his attention. He’s been sending ferals after her,” Marshala explained.

Giselle shook her head. “A demon is a demon is a demon. I wish Melissa had done away with that devil when she had the chance.”

“Giselle,” Marshala said. “That’s why I’m here. We need to do the ceremony as soon as possible. Kiara needs to establish the link with our ancestors so she can speak with Melissa. Once she talks to Melissa, she can figure out how to break this curse. Then we won’t have to worry about William sending ferals after her anymore.”

“Marshala, no one’s been able to talk to Melissa in decades,” Giselle said. “Melissa made it clear she don’t wanna talk to nobody. I doubt she all of a sudden gonna change her mind for DeAndre’s little girl when she wouldn’t even talk to him herself.”

“Kiara is her direct descendant, Giselle. A perfect match in every way. She’s... different,” Marshala said. “And she’s our only hope right now.”

Giselle heavily exhaled as she covered one of the pots on the stove. “We’ll do it tomorrow night,” she said. “We’ll give Camille a proper burial. Send her off to our ancestors and establish the link for Kiara. I’ll inform the others.”

“Thank you, Giselle!” Marshala said relieved as she quickly hugged her. “I’m going to take her to see Gina first so she’s properly prepared for the ceremony.”

“What ceremony?” a deep male voice said.

Marshala and Giselle looked to see Rhea and her uncle Bernard entering into the kitchen covered in black soot. “What in the world happened to you two?!” Giselle said looking at them. “Bernard! Look at your niece! How you got her out here lookin’ like the inside of a chimney?!”

“What?” Bernard chuckled. “This is the uniform of a hard-working genius. Ain’t that right, Rhea?” he said, nudging Rhea’s side.

Rhea chuckled as a kitchen cloth floated across the room to wipe some of the soot from her face. “Uncle Bernie and I... maaaay have mixed some of the wrong ingredients together...”

“Dang, Rhea! How you givin’ your Uncle Bernie up like that?!” Bernard laughed.

“And this is why she’s better off learning from me,” Marshala grinned.

“That’s cold, Marshala. She may be your protégé, but she’s still a Moreau. She’s got her daddy and her grandaddy’s smarts for sure,” Bernard said proudly.

“Unfortunately, that gene somehow skipped you entirely, Bernard,” Giselle said coldly.

“Woman!” Bernard said offended as both Rhea and Marshala chuckled.

“Kiara!” Rhea said, noticing Kiara walk into the kitchen with Ava.

“Hi, Rhea! Uh... what’s on your face? ...And clothes? ...And hair?” Kiara asked.

“You don’t wanna know,” Rhea chuckled.

“Lemme find out! This here DeAndre’s baby girl?!” Bernard said shocked. “Well, I’ll be! Don’t she look like just like her daddy.”

“That’s what I said!” Giselle smiled. “Spittin’ image, I tell ya. Got his smile and everything. Kiara, your daddy used to make all the girls swoon with that dazzling smile of his. Used to be a bit of a player too. How could he not as handsome as he was.”

“Sure was, the little heart-breaker,” Bernard chuckled. “That man was smooth like butter. Had women falling at his feet.”

“But it was ya mama that stole his heart,” Giselle said. “She was as beautiful on the outside as she was on the inside. One of the sweetest and most powerful witches in the LaFleur family.”

Kiara smiled brightly as a tear trickled down her face. “They sound awesome. I wish I could have met them,” she beamed proudly.

Everyone’s face suddenly fell as the bleak reality of Kiara’s situation hit them. “...We should go...” Marshala said softly as she held out her hand. “Kiara?” Kiara looked at Marshala’s hand and nodded as she took it.

“We’ll send word to everyone and prepare for the ceremony,” Giselle said.

“Thank you, Giselle. Camille’s body is at the church,” Marshala advised.

Rhea and Bernard quickly looked at Marshala in shock. “Camille? Camille LaFleur is... she’s-” Bernard started.

“We’ll talk about it later,” Giselle said, quickly noting the look on Kiara’s face.

Marshala went to pull Kiara towards the door when Rhea quickly rushed Kiara and wrapped her tightly in a desperate embrace. “I’m sorry, Kiara,” Rhea said, hugging her tightly. “I’m so so sorry...”

“It’s okay, Rhea...” Kiara smiled sadly. Rhea reluctantly let her go. She felt her sister wrap a comforting arm around her shoulder as they watched Marshala and Kiara leave.

~*~

The drive up north was exceedingly long before Marshala and Kiara pulled up to a traditional Japanese house with a large cherry blossom garden surrounding it on all sides. “Would never imagine something like this in New England,” Kiara said, taking in all the details.

“Gina’s family has been here longer than New England,” Marshala said as they walked up to the door. The door opened before Marshala could even knock. A serious-looking Asian woman with perfect almond eyes and pert lips eyed the two of them suspiciously. Kiara nervously bit her lip, feeling awkward as Marshala’s face remained stoic.

“Marshala...” the woman said with no emotion in her voice.

“Makiko...” Marshala said with the same monotone voice.

Kiara tried to figure out if the two of them hated each other or what. There was nothing being said between the two of them. Suddenly the Asian woman’s serious face cracked into a bright smile that lit up her entire face. She immediately broke into laughter. “Ha!” Marshala teased.

“How come I can never keep a straight face with you?!” Makiko said in a thick Japanese accent.

“Because I’m amazing and you love me and I’m the best,” Marshala teased.

“PFFT! YAH RIGHT!” Makiko laughed as she quickly hugged her. “Come in.” Kiara and Marshala walked into the large home and Kiara’s mouth nearly dropped to the floor. The outside hardly did the inside justice. The entire place lacked any furniture as it took on the scene of a traditional dojo.

“Where... do you guys... sleep?” Kiara murmured, looking around.

“Oh, we don’t sleep. We hang upside down on the ceiling like bats until the sun sets,” Makiko said seriously. Kiara looked at her with wide eyes before Makiko burst into laughter. “Marshala, who is this gullible, naive girl asking stupid questions?” Makiko snickered.

“Hey!” Kiara said, offended.

Marshala chuckled. “Kiara, this is Makiko. Makiko, this is Kiara LaFleur.”

Makiko’s eyes got big as saucers and she immediately stopped laughing. “Oh! She’s a LaFleur?! I am sorry that was rude of me,” Makiko said quickly. “I was just making fun. Forgive me.”

“It’s okay...” Kiara chuckled nervously as she eyed Makiko. “Are you... a...”

“Witch?” Makiko finished. “Well...”

“She’s a hybrid,” a soft voice said. The three women turned around to see an elegant and strikingly beautiful Asian woman wearing a kimono enter the dojo with a Japanese bobtail kitten in her arms.

“Gina!” Marshala smiled. When Gina smiled, fangs revealed itself that shocked the crap out of Kiara. In seconds, the woman appeared in front of them before she and Marshala embraced. The kitten jumped out of her arms and ran out of the dojo.

“It’s good to see you again, old friend,” Gina said. “You never visit anymore.”

“You’re like the third person to say this to me in the past week,” Marshala said.

“That says more about you than anything,” Gina smirked. “Perhaps you need to spend more time with your friends and less on trying to save the world.”

“I’m not trying to save the world, Gina,” Marshala rolled her eyes.

Gina smirked as she glanced at Kiara and whispered loudly. “Marshala swears she is Wonder Woman. But I tell her, even Wonder Woman had her limits.”

“Gina!” Marshala laughed.

Gina chuckled as she turned to Kiara. She looked at Kiara intensely as if she were trying to unravel her mind. It made Kiara feel unsettled. “Um...” Kiara muttered.

“She looks like Melissa,” Gina said suddenly. A smile was frozen on her perfect face as a red blood tear started to trickle down her white porcelain skin. “She looks so much like her...” Gina’s fangs descended again as her eyes darkened to a blood red. Kiara’s heart quickened as she started to panic.

“Gina,” Marshala said, stepping in front of Kiara and blocking her view.

Gina suddenly snapped out of it as her eyes went back to its chestnut color and her fangs retracted. “Sorry!” Gina said quickly. “It has been a while since I’ve been around a mortal.”

Kiara looked up at Marshala confused. “Gina and Makiko are hybrids. They’re vampire witches,” Marshala explained.

Kiara gawked. “Holy crap! Those exist?!”

Makiko immediately burst into laughter. “She speaks as if we are animals at a zoo!”

“Sorry. I just... this is all so new to me,” Kiara apologized.

“It’s alright, child,” Gina smiled. “Makiko, why don’t you take Kiara to get some tea while Marshala and I catch up.”

Makiko nodded and motioned with her head for Kiara to follow her. Marshala gave Kiara a reassuring smile and waited for the two of them to leave. “Yes, William did kill Camille,” Gina said abruptly just as Kiara and Makiko turned the corner.

Marshala looked at Gina stunned as Gina turned to face her. “How did you-”

“Being both a vampire and a witch has its advantages, Marshala,” Gina smiled as she started walking towards the end of the dojo. Marshala quickly followed after her. “Unfortunately, it also has its disadvantages. As neither witches nor vampires want anything to do with us.” Gina let out an ironic chuckle. She led Marshala to a shrine surrounded with candles and decorated with pictures of past Japanese witches in her family.

“It’s fine. I rather like the peace and quiet. It’s only Makiko I worry about. She’s so excitable. She gets bored easily. There’s only so much amusement I can provide the girl that doesn’t involve snacking on the townspeople,” Gina smirked. She adjusted her kimono to kneel down in front of the shrine.

“Gina... you know you’re awful at jokes,” Marshala said flatly as she knelt down next to her.

“Then allow me to be serious for a moment,” Gina said, looking at Marshala. “William is going to kill Kiara.”

Marshala felt a shiver run up her spine as she stared at Gina wide-eyed. “Gina... why would you-”

“She’s the last LaFleur left, Marshala. Sooner or later, he will find her. And he will kill her. And his revenge against Melissa will finally be complete.”

Marshala swallowed hard as she rang the sweat from her hands. “How... how do we stop him?” she asked weakly.

“You can’t,” Gina said. She hovered her hand above one of the lit candles, allowing the flames to lick at her skin. Marshala could smell burnt flesh as Gina’s hand started to smoke. Gina hissed slightly before she pulled her hand back. She looked at her hand and watched it quickly heal. “Sometimes... I hurt myself to remind myself I can still feel. It’s been centuries, and yet I still hate what I am. If not for my love for Makiko... and my promise to my sister to look after her daughter as my own... I would have ended myself a long time ago...”

“Gina,” Marshala said desperately. “Please...”

Gina looked at Marshala and shook her head. “William’s hatred for Melissa is like the hatred I feel for myself. It’s deep. It’s rotten. It’s unforgiving. And it can’t be stopped. And he won’t stop until Kiara is dead. I’m sorry, Marshala. There is nothing you can do.”

“I refuse to believe that,” Marshala said, shaking her head vehemently. “I will not allow him to take her.”

“What can a mere mortal such as yourself do against a vampire as old as him? I am older than Elijah and not even I can defeat William despite how many times I’ve tried,” Gina said.

“The Blackbournes will fight for her. The Volkovs as well,” Marshala said.

Gina scoffed. “The Blackbournes fear him. As they should. And the wolves are savages that William doesn’t take seriously. The vampires only respect Elijah enough to leave the witches only. But his passiveness towards mortals has weakened their trust in him. They would sooner side with William than with him. You’re outnumbered, Marshala.”

“Not if we break the curse,” Marshala said quickly.

Gina looked at her curiously. “Ah yes... the whole premise of your treaty... imminent war postponed and temporary peace established all for the love of... what do they call it these days? Pussy?”

Marshala’s eyes widened. “Gina!”

“Don’t pretend it isn’t true,” Gina smirked.

“It’s a bit more layered than that...” Marshala said.

“Yes, yes. Vampiric politics, wolf pacts among packs, so long as they can both avoid fucking you. Which neither of them can, and I’m surprised we haven’t already plunged back into war. I guess it’s all about optics at this point.”

Marshala sighed with defeat as she put her face in her hands. Gina eyed her friend wearily, immediately feeling bad. “I’m sorry, Marshala,” Gina said apologetically. “Makiko is the only person I speak to nowadays. Sometimes I forget how to... sympathize. I am aware that Elijah and Nicholas both love you. It’s a rare emotion that I haven’t felt in a long time.”

Marshala merely grunted as she ran her hands over her face. “Get Kiara to break the curse,” Gina said, trying to comfort her. “Make good on your promise to the vampires and perhaps they will side with you more than with William. The less support he has, the more allies you gain. The greater her chance of survival.”

Marshala slowly exhaled. “We plan on holding the ceremony for Kiara as we bury Camille and help her pass on to our ancestors.”

Gina nodded as she stood to her feet and walked to a closet. Marshala watched her as she rummaged inside and pulled out a small jar. “Use this oil as you prepare Kiara. It has been used in my family for generations. I saved a little... before they cast me away...” Gina said, holding it out to her. “The potency is strong and will help in making the connection. Hopefully she will even see Melissa.”

Marshala took it from her and tucked it into her bag. “Thank you, Gina,” she said. She cupped her hands around her mouth. “Kiara! Time to go!”

“There is... one other thing,” Gina said quickly. “Perhaps a ray of hope in all this darkness in Kiara’s life.” Marshala looked at her curiously. “With each LaFleur... each descendant that William killed, that power each of them had... had to go somewhere. It didn’t just disappear...” Gina said insistently.

Marshala looked confused, trying to think before her eyes widened. “KIARA!”

Gina nodded with a smile on her face. “William would not know that. He’s blinded by hate and revenge. But in his drive to kill, he may have inadvertently helped create one of the most powerful witches of our time.”

Just as Gina said that Kiara walked back into the dojo. She tripped, knocking over a bunch of old scrolls on a pillar as Makiko burst into laughter. “Sorry!” Kiara said as she quickly picked up the scrolls.

“Eh... with some practice first... lots and lots of practice,” Gina said hesitantly as Marshala covered her face.

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