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

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3 - The Blackbournes

“That’s the last of your bags. Need anything else?” the cab driver asked, knocking Kiara out of her flurried thoughts.

“Um... no. Thanks,” she said, scouring her book bag for her wallet. She pulled out a couple of bills and handed it to him. He nodded his thanks and hopped back into his cab. She watched him drive off and took in her surroundings. She barely remembered what their house let alone their neighborhood looked like that night that Elijah dropped her off at the hospital. It was so dark that night and she was still out of it.

The weather was a bit misty despite how sunny it had been the whole day. “So, they live by the woods... and a lake... This is definitely a white neighborhood. The houses are so big there’s only 3 on this block!” she said bewildered. New England was typically known for being very WASP, but this area was particularly... WASPY.

She pulled out her phone to check the address again when she felt the slight tickle of a wispy breath on her neck. She spun around to look behind her but saw no one. Just the trees and an open road. She continued walking forward, down the pathway, and felt an oppressive air settle around her. Feeling uneasy, she quickened her pace until she reached the manor.

It was large with an old Victorian style. She looked up hesitantly at the foreboding estate before her. She started her long ascent up the stairs, huffing until she finally reached the top. The large doors towered over her. She searched out a doorbell but couldn’t find one. “Weird...” she muttered to herself. As she went to knock, the door opened before her knuckle could make contact with the old wood.

“Ms. LaFleur.” Elijah greeted her with a warm bright smile. He still looked just as handsome and enigmatic as before. “It’s a pleasure to see you again so soon.” He opened the door wider, allowing her to walk in.

“Hi, Elijah,” she said nervously as she stepped into the massive foyer. “Trust me, I’m just as surprised as you are.” She heard him lightly chuckle as he looked at her as if he already knew something she didn’t.

Her eyes widened as she took in the impressive mass of the place she stood in. It looked even bigger than she remembered. The Victorian-style was consistent as grand chandeliers hung from the ceiling and a large staircase led up the stairs to the second-floor balcony. The large living room to her left had the velvet couch she remembered from the night of the attack, and a grandiose hallway to her right that led to the dining room and kitchen.

“Your place is even more incredible than I last remembered,” she said with her mouth slightly open.

“Thank you,” she heard him say behind her. “Are these all of your things?”

She turned around to see him effortlessly carrying all of her heavy bags in one arm as if they weighed nothing. “Uh.. yes! Please be careful! I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself!”

“Thank you for your concern,” he said politely. He quickly walked into the house with her bags and set them in the middle of the floor. “How is your head?” he asked her.

She looked at him confused for a minute when she finally remembered her injury from the attack. “Oh! It’s better. Thanks,” she said nervously. She didn’t know why she felt so unnerved. He was an extremely kind man and gave her no reason to feel unsafe. She tried to break away from her creeping apprehension. “I never thought I’d be working for your family. How many of you are there?” she asked.

“I prefer to say that you are staying with my family rather than working for us,” Elijah said. He leaned against the wall as his blue eyes seemed to analyze her. His eyes probed her, taking in every detail as if he were trying to remember the physical attributes of a long lost lover. He saw her anxiously avert her eyes and could tell his habitual staring was making her feel uneasy. He quickly put on a warm smile. “There are 5 of us. Me, Cole and Alexander who you met before. Peter the youngest brother, and Evangeline... our... sister...”

Kiara looked at him surprised. “Wow! 4 boys and 1 girl! Your mother definitely had her hands full. I can’t imagine how rough it must have been for your sister to grow up with all boys.”

Elijah chuckled softly as his eyes glazed over a bit. “We are... very protective of her...”

“I can imagine,” Kiara smirked.

“Elijah!” They both turned around to a high-pitched young voice that came from the hallway. Kiara spotted a small boy with the same bright blue eyes as the others. His hair was perfectly coiffed and he wore a pair of grey trousers and a white button-down shirt underneath a grey sweater. He held multiple crayons in his small hand.

“Why hello, Peter,” Elijah said, approaching him.

“I was looking for you!” Peter squeaked. He raised his short arms in the air for Elijah to pick him up. He too seemed to have an English accent similar to Elijah’s which confused her even more.

How in the world do they all have different accents if they live in the same house... she wondered to herself.

“Peter and I spend the most time together,” Elijah said, looking at her quickly. “He picks up after my habits sometimes, including how I speak.” Kiara looked at him startled, wondering how he knew what she was thinking.

“Who is the pretty lady, Elijah?” Peter asked, looking at Kiara curiously.

Elijah held the boy in his arms and spoke softly. “This is Kiara. She will be staying with us for some time to look after Evangeline,” Elijah said comfortingly as his gaze locked onto Kiara.

“Really...?” Peter said with raised brows on his tiny pale face. “You’re going to save our Evangeline?”

Kiara felt her heart speed up a bit as she looked into the boy’s crystal clear oceanic irises full of wonder and skepticism. “I’m certainly going to try,” she said to him.

“Come now, Peter,” Elijah said, putting the boy back down on the ground. “I must finish helping Kiara settle in and show her around the manor. Go play.”

“Will you come play with me later, Elijah?” Peter asked with hopeful eyes.

“Yes, of course. Run along now,” Elijah smiled at him. Peter gave one last curious look to Kiara before bounding down one of the long hallways.

“He’s absolutely adorable,” Kiara sighed.

“And a bit of a troublemaker. You’ll have to watch out for that one,” Elijah grinned. “Now, let me show you to your room.”

They both reached for her bags at the same time, and her hand accidentally brushed against his. “Oh!” she squealed from his touch. She was surprised to feel his hand was cold as ice.

“My apologies,” he said, quickly retracting his hand from her. “We often keep it... rather cool in here.”

She looked at him a bit dazed and allowed him to gather her things before following him up the long-winding steps. She noted several paintings on the walls of elegant people dressed in Victorian clothing. “You guys seem to love the Victorian Era,” she spoke up.

“You could say that...” Elijah said without looking back. They finally got to the top of the stairs and stood in front of a large hallway with multiple doors on each side. “Here is your room,” he said, leading her to one of the rooms on the mid-left. Kiara walked in and her mouth nearly dropped to the floor as her eyes widened.

“It’s beautiful! Honestly, it’s bigger than my entire apartment!” she gasped as she marveled at the decor.

“I’m glad you like it,” he said, placing her things down. “I’ll leave you to get settled before I introduce you to Evangeline.”

“Thank you, Elijah,” she said, turning to him. He nodded before leaving and closing the door behind him.

~*~

Kiara had just about finished unpacking her things when she heard a knock on her door. “Kiara?” she heard Elijah’s voice.

“Come in!” she said.

He opened the door and immediately smiled at her. “I hope you’ve settled in well.”

“I have,” she beamed at him. “Are you here to take me to meet Evangeline?” He nodded and she nearly jumped off of the bed, running to meet him at the door. He looked at her surprised as she eagerly clutched her notebook and pen. “Sorry... this is just a really big moment for me. I’m so excited to meet her.”

“I understand,” he smirked. He led her down the hallway until they came to a secluded room. He unlocked the door and opened it, motioning for her to enter. The room was chilly but had a window that let in just a small sliver of natural sunlight in the darkened room. Lavender flowers decorated the room, almost making it look like a garden. At the center of the room, she saw a large bed covered with blankets and pillows. Someone was in it.

“Is that-...?” she asked. Elijah nodded to her. He gracefully crossed the room and knelt down by the bed.

“My dearest Evangeline,” he said softly. He brought a finger to the woman’s face. Kiara noticed a strange-looking ring on his ring finger. Kiara heard the woman whisper something before she started dry coughing.

Kiara quickly crossed the room and approached the frail yet beautiful woman lying nearly lifeless in the bed. She had long, dark brown hair peppered with grays. Her face was rather pale and her lips a faded pink. Her bright blue eyes were barely noticeable under her heavy lids. They matched that of the rest of the Blackbourne brothers, only there seemed to be a little orange and green in them that was striking to Kiara.

“May I?” Kiara asked Elijah. He nodded in approval and moved out of the way for Kiara to sit next to her. Kiara gently grabbed Evangeline’s frail wrist to check her pulse. It was faint. She spotted an old ring quite similar to the one on Elijah’s hand, dangling from her limp finger. She checked her forehead and felt she had a high fever. Kiara turned to Elijah who had been watching her from behind. “Has she always been in this particular state or are their variations?” she asked him.

“Her fever comes and goes. She hasn’t stopped coughing. Her pulse hasn’t fluctuated from its faint cycle,” Elijah said somberly.

Kiara nodded as she looked over Evangeline’s pale face. The woman was absolutely gorgeous despite being on the brink of death. “Was she ever checked into a hospital?” she asked.

“For a time...” Elijah answered. “But there was nothing they could do to help her.”

She turned around to look back at him. “Thank you, Elijah. If you don’t mind, I’d like to do a quick examination.”

“Yes, of course,” he said humbly. “I will give you two some privacy.” He quickly bowed out of the room.

~

Kiara executed her standard protocol of checking vitals and symptoms just as she was trained at the hospital. She analyzed Evangeline’s small frame. She looked emaciated. “Hi, Evangeline...” Kiara said softly. The woman’s eyes slowly fluttered, just barely able to open, as she attempted to look at Kiara. “My name is Kiara.”

A small smile crept onto Evangeline’s lifeless pink lips as she struggled to speak. “...s-soo... b-beautiful...” she breathed out weakly.

Kiara looked at her surprised not only that she could speak but by what she had said. “Um... thank you.” She saw Evangeline trying to reach for her hand and made it easier for her by carefully placing her hand on Evangeline’s lap.

“M-Mellie... I..I m-missed... y-you, m-my... M-Mellie...” Evangeline struggled to speak before she slowly exhaled and closed her eyes.

Kiara’s brows scrunched together in confusion. “Mellie? Who’s Mellie? Evangeline?” She went to touch her wrist to make sure she was still breathing when suddenly a bright flash invaded her mind. Kiara felt like she couldn’t breathe as her eyes rolled up. Her vision faded to black before a strange scene popped into her mind.

~

Sometime in the 1800s...

“Mellie, are you hiding from me again?”

“Maybe...”

Evangeline heard a soft giggle and the patter of bare feet on the wooden floor. Tiptoeing carefully, she tried to be as quiet as possible. She peeked inside one of the empty bedrooms of the large mansion and frowned.

“Don’t hide from me, Mellie! I want to see you! It’s been too long already! Don’t make me wait...”

“But, good things come to those who wait, Evangeline...” the voice said again.

Evangeline rolled her eyes and huffed as she stomped frustratingly into the room. She plopped herself onto the large bed, her expensive ivory dress flailing out around her.

“Giving up already, Evangeline?” the voice asked.

“You know I hate playing this game, Mellie!”

“But, it’s so much fun...” the voice teased.

“For you maybe. Just come out already and stop torturing me!” Evangeline whined.

She heard the closet door creak open and her eyes slit to the side to see a pretty young dark-skinned woman wearing a plain peasant maid’s dress.

“You’re so impatient, Evangeline,” Mellie smirked as she sat next to her lying on the bed.

“I am not!”

“You remind me of Master Martin when you act like that,” Mellie teased, poking her.

“Don’t compare me to that monster!” Evangeline said, quickly sitting up. “I would never hurt you the way he does!”

Mellie looked at her quite surprised before smiling at her reassuringly. “I know you wouldn’t...”

~

Kiara stumbled backward as she came back to reality. She blinked her eyes furiously as she tried to process what just happened to her. “What the heck was that?!” she said out loud. She looked over at Evangeline lying in the bed sound asleep. “I must be coming down with something,” she said, shaking her head as she stood to her feet.

Kiara was often in denial about the strange things that happened to her, like seeing random visions. She used to have them all the time as a girl but had no one to help her figure them out. As she got older, she would try to confide in her aunt, but was only met with ridicule and made to believe that it was all in her head. So, that’s what Kiara often assumed when these strange events happened to her… that it was all in her head…

Shaking off the disturbing feeling, she glanced about the room to admire the old paintings of the family hanging on the wall. “These people and their paintings. Wouldn’t an actual photograph be easier?” She shrugged as she headed for the door.

~

Kiara walked out of the bedroom and into the hallway, scribbling her findings in a notepad.

“Hello there, little thing.” She looked up to the deep, teasing voice and locked eyes with Cole Blackbourne. His eyes raked shamelessly over her body before a small smirk painted his face. Out of all the brothers, he especially made her nervous the most.

“Oh... Hey, Cole.” She quickly looked down, pretending to go back to her notebook as she attempted to walk around him.

“So... I hear you’re my new housemate,” he said with a teasing grin. He blocked her path to keep her from leaving.

She looked up at him startled by his quick maneuvering. “Um, yea. I know it’s kinda weird since we only just met and under strange circumstances. It’s just for the semester though.”

“Mhm…” he grinned, looking down at her and undressing her with his eyes. He was amused by how unnerved she was in his presence. “You look nervous, little thing...”

“I-I’m not nervous,” she said, trying to pass him again.

“Do I frighten you,” he smirked as he blocked her again.

“Not as much as you’re starting to annoy me,” she said, getting irritated.

She heard him chuckle and immediately backed up as he imprisoned her against the wall. His hands leaned against the wall on each side, entrapping her. His long ombre hair fell around his face and brushed against her cheeks from his close proximity. “Why’d you leave so quickly, little thing...” he whispered. He lowered his mouth to her ear, nudging her hair with his nose. “You didn’t want to join in...?”

She looked up at him abruptly as her breathing got heavy. Crap! He knew it was me that walked in on him at school? she thought, staring at him wide-eyed. His teasing bright blue eyes bore into hers, sending an intense shiver down her spine.

“COLE!”

Kiara heard a thunderous voice and looked past him to see Elijah with an angry glare in his darkened blue eyes. She had no idea his voice could even get that deep. He sounded like a completely different person and the look in his eye made him look dark and sinister.

Cole smirked as he pushed himself off the wall and away from Kiara. “See you around, little thing,” he grinned. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and walked towards Elijah. Elijah gave him a dark glare and Cole rolled his eyes before disappearing into his room.

Elijah looked back at Kiara and immediately softened his face as he looked at her apologetically. “Are you alright?” he asked her with concern in his voice.

“Yea, I’m fine,” she sighed. Elijah’s presence was reassuring for her.

“I apologize for my brother. He’s a bit of a...provocateur...” Elijah said. “Have you eaten?”

“Now that you mention it. I’m starving,” she said as she heard her stomach grumble.

“I’ll show you to the kitchen,” he said, leading her downstairs.

“Oh dang!” She was in awe, taking in the grandeur of the kitchen. She walked around, running her fingers over the marble countertop.

“We bought you some food items we thought you might like...”

She turned around to the melancholic voice that spoke and her eyes immediately locked with the electrifying blue gaze of Alexander, standing at the entrance of the kitchen. She gave him a bright smile and for a moment his signature sad blue eyes seemed to perk up.

“You guys didn’t have to do that for me,” she said, walking to the fridge. “I’m fine just eating whatever you eat. I’m not high maintenance or anything.” Elijah and Alexander exchanged glances as Kiara opened the fridge.

“But, I am excited to cook again. All my money usually goes to rent and ramen. Struggle life. Now I can have actual meals again. What do you guys usually eat?” she asked, looking at the strange array of contents in the overloaded fridge. When no one answered, she turned around to see Elijah and Alexander looking at each other. They seemed to be having their own non-verbal conversation. “Guys?”

They both turned and looked at her. “Er... we dabble... here and there,” Elijah said hesitantly. “We’re open to a variety of cuisines.”

“Like what? Thai? Spanish?” she probed.

“Yes,” Alexander said abruptly.

She looked at them both confused and then shook her head as she turned back to the fridge. Elijah glanced at Alexander and saw his brother’s eyes dilate as he watched Kiara’s every movement. “I’ll just make some spaghetti since it’s quick and it’s getting pretty late,” she said.

“We’ll leave you to it,” Elijah said abruptly as he ushered Alexander out of the kitchen.

~

“Why do you keep pushing me away from her?” Alexander said annoyed as Elijah chaperoned him into the living room.

“I believe we need to make some things clear,” Elijah said sternly. He noticed Cole walking into the living room with a glass of liquor in his hand. “Cole, this applies to you too. Especially after that abhorrent stunt you pulled upstairs,” Elijah said annoyed as he beckoned Cole over.

Cole rolled his eyes as he walked over and perched himself on the arm of the couch. “We already knew she was going to stay with us, Elijah. What more do you need to tell us?” Cole said annoyed.

“What did I tell you both before she arrived?” Elijah said, folding his arms across his chest.

“That she’s here for Evangeline,” Alexander said in a low voice.

“And what else?” Elijah asked.

“To intimately acquaint ourselves with her,” Cole smirked as he sipped from his glass.

“Cole, do not provoke me,” Elijah said coldly as Cole snickered.

“To protect her,” Alexander said quickly. “Which I am. That’s why I’m taking that ridiculous class as you ordered. So I can keep an eye on her in front of Volkov. But you keep pushing me away from her anytime I get close.”

“And why don’t I want you getting close, Alexander?” Elijah asked authoritatively. Alexander averted his eyes as his face fell.

“Because our brother here has a soft heart, a hard head, and a weakness for pretty girls with nice lips,” Cole teased.

“Fuck you, Cole!” Alexander glared up at him angrily. “At least I don’t screw everything with legs!”

“You say that like it’s something to be proud of,” Cole scoffed. He leaned back against the wall, folding his hands behind his head. “What else are mortal women for... but to fuck?”

“That’s enough! From both of you!” Elijah said angrily. “The most important thing either of you should have taken away is one simple word... behave! She is not your pet. She is not a toy. You will treat her like the guest she is. Do I make myself clear?” They both looked away from him, feeling disgruntled.

“Why are you all so upset...” The three men turned to see Peter standing in the doorway, rubbing tirelessly at his eyes.

“Great... We’ve gone and woken the little one. It’s a wonder she hasn’t heard us herself,” Elijah sighed in frustration.

Alexander approached the small boy and picked his brother up in his arms. “We’re just talking, Peter. Are you okay?” he asked.

“I’m hungry,” Peter whined. “I smell food. Where is it, Alexander?”

“Oh! You must mean my spaghetti!” Kiara said, walking into the living room with a bright smile. They all turned to her to see that she had taken off her sweater, exposing her bare arms and shoulders as her scent wafted into the living room. So minor, but enough to still stir them in the most unpleasant of ways.

“I want to say hello to the pretty lady,” Peter said in his thick English accent. He eagerly wiggled out of Alexander’s arms.

“Peter, wait!” Alexander called out. But Peter was already across the room and latched onto Kiara’s leg.

“Oh! Hello again, cutie!” she smiled. She reached down and touched his head.

“Pretty lady... you smell so good...” Peter said, nuzzling his face against her calf.

“Peter! That’s enough!” Elijah said forcefully, startling Kiara.

Peter looked at Elijah with wide emotional eyes. “But, I’m hungry!” Peter blurted. Kiara’s face contorted in confusion.

“I will feed you. Come,” Elijah said, approaching them. He plucked Peter off of Kiara’s leg and carried him in his arms.

“He can have some of the spaghetti I made,” Kiara said to him.

“Oh ah... no... that’s... that’s alright...thank you,” Elijah said quickly.

“Okay...” she said, trying not to feel slighted.

“It has nothing to do with your cooking,” Elijah said quickly. “I’m sure it’s delicious. It’s just... we have Peter on a... special diet. I will be right back.” Kiara watched Elijah quickly leave the room with Peter.

“How does he seem to always know what I’m thinking,” she chuckled to herself while Cole and Alexander exchanged glances. “Would you guys like some? I made plenty for everyone.”

“Mmm, I’m more than willing to have whatever you’re cooking,” Cole smirked.

“Cole!” Alexander snapped. He glared at his brother before glancing back at Kiara. “We’ve already eaten. Thank you,” Alexander said politely.

“Oh, okay...” she said softly. A still silence fell among the three of them as Kiara fiddled with the tips of her hair. “So... what do you guys like to do for fun?” she asked, trying to break the awkward silence.

“Oh, little thing, what a naughty question to ask. You sure you wanna know?” Cole smirked.

“Cole! I swear!” Alexander threatened.

Kiara chuckled at their brotherly bickering. “I just wanna get to know my home-stay family a little better.”

“There’s not much to know about us...” Alexander said quietly as he stuffed his hands into his pockets. His eyes locked intently on her.

“Oh, there’s gotta be something,” she said. She walked to the couch and sat on it, folding her legs beneath her. The two of them watched surprised as she got comfortable like she had lived there for years. “I’ll start. I love to read!”

“Sounds boring,” Cole sighed.

Kiara rolled her eyes. “Boring or not. It’s what I love. When I was moved between foster homes and leaving temporary friends, books were the only consistent thing in my life.”

“I’m sorry...” Alexander said sadly.

“Sorry for what?” she asked.

“About your family...” he said.

She looked at him confused as Cole gave him a sharp glare. “My… family?” she asked.

Alexander quickly straightened up. “I-I just assumed that since you lived in a foster home... maybe you didn’t have... a...”

“Smooth, brother...” Cole said sarcastically, low enough for only Alexander to hear.

“Oh...” Kiara frowned. Then a smile came to her face. “It’s fine. You can’t really miss what you never had... Besides, it gave me thick skin...” They both analyzed her as she seemed to get lost in her own thoughts. Alexander looked at Cole nervously, feeling awful for having opened up what seemed to be an emotional wound. “Anyway, what about you guys?” she said, perking up again.

“Music,” Cole said simply.

“Oh! You’re a musician! What do you play?” she asked.

“Guitar,” Cole said plainly.

Oh lord, not the short answers again. What is it with these two? she thought to herself.

“He also sings,” Alexander added, noting the frustrated look on her face. “He’s in a band.”

“Wow!” Kiara said, looking at Cole impressed. “I’d love to hear you play sometime.”

“And I’d love to play with you...” Cole smirked.

“Cole, dammit!” Alexander growled angrily, getting fed up with his brother’s side remarks.

“It’s fine,” Kiara laughed. “I get his humor.” Cole gave Alexander a smug look as Alexander glared back at him. “And you... Alexander?” she queried.

Alexander looked at Kiara and caught her large brown eyes probing him. The way she said his name excited him more than he wanted. He felt a strange warmness invade his body. “I… do… art,” he said stiffly.

“A musician and an artist! You guys are a creative family. I’m afraid I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” she laughed. “I mean I sing sometimes... in the shower. I’ll try to spare you guys from hearing any of that,” she chuckled. Her laughter had an unusual effect on the brothers. Alexander noticed that even Cole seemed sensitive to her persistent brightness. It was not something either of them were used to.

“Well, that’s not a sound you hear every day,” Elijah said, walking into the living room.

“Oh! I’m sorry. Am I too loud?” Kiara said, quickly covering her mouth.

“Not at all. It’s been a while since we’ve heard a woman’s laughter in this house,” Elijah said softly. “What with our sister and all…”

Kiara looked at the three of them and realized they all shared the same somber expressions. “I’m so sorry about Evangeline,” she said to them. “I did a few tests and would like to report back to you all what I’ve found so far, but... I might need another day or two and to get some more equipment from the school.”

“That’s alright. Take all the time you need,” Elijah assured her.

She nodded and stood to her feet to head up the stairs. “Oh wait,” she said, suddenly turning around. They all looked at her curiously. “Do you know who Mellie is?” she asked.

They immediately stiffened and shared inconspicuous glances. “Erm... why do you ask?” Elijah asked hesitantly.

Kiara shrugged. “Evangeline called me Mellie. She’s probably just suffering from hallucinations. It’s one of the symptoms of the disease, but I was wondering just in case any of you knew. It’s no big deal,” she smiled. “I’m going to head to bed. I’ll see you guys in the morning!”

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