Plain Jane

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7: Awkward Explanations and The Very Awkward Date

Jane and the coven had seated themselves at the kitchen table and they waited for Lilith to begin her tale. Jane couldn’t help the feeling of déjà vu that passed over her – this was disturbingly like when Lilith explained the Clans’ history to Jane, only this time, Jane wasn’t alone in her ignorance. They’d all been lied to – possibly even been put in danger by Lilith’s behavior, and they deserved an explanation.

Jane only hoped that they realized that this was exactly how she had felt when she found out about all of them: betrayed.

Tension and anticipation hung heavily in the air, so thick it was suffocating.

Lilith took the last seat in between Lukan and Jane before beginning.

“I had hoped that I would have more time to prepare all of you,” Lilith said sadly. “I had thought that once everyone saw Jane’s powers begin to manifest, that things would begin to fall into place for you. As it is, I suppose that my explanation shall have to make do.

“During the mid-fourteenth century – I was nomadic then – I met a Celt by the name of Convel O’Donnelly. I had just defeated several vampire hunters in a back alleyway in Galway, Ireland while it was still under British rule, and he had been impressed by my… technique. He told me that he was wolf-kind, and after a very short while together, we fell in love. In time a difference of opinion came up: He believed that all three of the Clans were superior to humans – not just lycanthropes – and deserved to rule over mortals because of it.

“I did not agree,” she said, her voice so sad it was tragic.

“We tried to work through it, each trying to convince the other that our way was better, but after two hundred years of trying to make the impossible work, we realized that it just would not work. We had different goals and plans. So we parted, our hearts broken and heavy from the years of struggle.

“After hundreds of years – nearly twenty years after settling here in Lysander – I met Convel again. He seemed no different to me than if we just spoken the day before. He had heard about The Haven, but not who owned it, he had said. We caught up on old times right here at this kitchen table. When we did he told me that he’d learned that humans deserved our protection, not our tyranny, I believed him. He told me everything I wanted to hear, and not two days after he arrived, he proposed marriage to me. Without hesitation, I accepted. My thoughtlessness would be my undoing.

“We were married and the first six months of our marriage was spent in relative peace and happiness, until Lukan overheard Convel trying and succeeding to recruit a small group of our guests against the cause which he had so profusely proclaimed to be loyal to. He was building a coven of his own whose sole purpose was to dominate mankind and he had started recruiting in my own home, using me to achieve his goal.

“I was hurt and furious when I found out. I did not even give him a chance to really explain. I regret that. You will never know how much, but he did not love me enough to put aside his world-conquering goals in order to see the truth. He used me and my family. I could never forgive him for that. But I gave him a second chance. I told him I would never be able to love him again, but that he could stay if he swore to never do such a thing again. He refused to make me that promise, but he did ask me to come with him, to set aside my dreams of a peaceful, happy life at The Haven spent with my family, but I would not even let him finish telling me he loved me before I threw him out. It was the hardest and easiest thing I had ever done, hard because I still loved him, and easy because I had never known such pain.

“It was not a month later that I found out that I was pregnant. You must understand how much of a shock that came to me. No vampire had ever before given birth to a child – but then again, even before The Great War, no vampire had ever been with a lycanthrope. It simply was not done.

“Some centuries ago, there had been a foretelling of a girl, ‘born of two, holding the power of three,’ who would unite the Clans under a single purpose once more. As there had never been an actual birth amongst our species, I believed the prophecy, and in fear that the single purpose my child would unite the Clans under would be Convel’s, I made a very difficult choice: I decided to leave my child – Jane, I had named her – to be raised by humans, so that she might learn to understand them, so that any chance of becoming like her father would be obliterated. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong humans.”

She turned to Jane with a sad, regretful look, her lips trembling with emotion.

“I am so very sorry, Jane,” she said, tears falling onto her cheeks.

When Jane refused to look at her, she swallowed thickly and continued, addressing Jane, despite the fact that Jane wouldn’t acknowledge her.

“I left the coven to Lukan while I went off in search of a young couple that would suit my purpose, telling no one for fear that if I so much as breathed a word of you, Jane, Convel would somehow find out and use you in his ruthless pursuit of power over Mankind.

“The ones I chose had just recently lost a little girl themselves. I thought that in their grief they would allow you to replace their own child, until you were seventeen, the age of accountability in a Clan, at which time they would return you to me. They agreed to my plan, despite the heavy shock of learning the truth about our kind. The loving way they looked at you… I thought that they would surely treat you so much better than they have, and for that I must beg your forgiveness, Jane,” Lilith said, taking Jane’s hands in her own.

By now, Jane, Lilith, Sofiya and all the other females in the room – with the exception of Moonbeam, who was staring vacantly but sadly at the scene before her – were openly crying and most of the males had sniffled at least once. Such a tale of heartbreak, loss, sacrifice, and love couldn’t help but touch the heart of everyone in the room, with the notable exception of Lukan, who was brooding.

“I only did what I thought would be best for you,” Lilith sobbed uncontrollably.

Jane, finally taking pity on Lilith, wrapped her arms around the older woman, who sobbed and cried, the relief of no longer carrying her secret burden alone being too much for her heart to bear. Soon all the females were out of their chairs, trying to console Lilith, while the males in the room – with the exception of Lukan – just stared awkwardly at the walls, or the floor, or anything else that wasn’t a crying female. Lukan just sat at the table broodingly waiting for the outburst of female emotion to subside, which it eventually did.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Lukan demanded. “I could’ve… I could’ve done something… to help…”

Lilith, who was just now sitting up properly and whose sobbing had subsided, smiled sadly at Lukan.

“You know why I didn’t tell you. You were already so hurt… I didn’t think it fair to add to your burdens.”

Lukan nodded his head, but he looked hurt and angry.

They all sat in the kitchen talking until it was time for Jane to go home.

The drive was once again silent, but this time the silence was pleasant and there was a feeling of companionship between Lukan and Jane. They shared something now, other than their love of arguing. It was a bond – a strong one – and they both knew it, though neither would admit to it should they be asked.

That bond would be a very telling difference in their future relationship.

***

It was mid-afternoon the next day – a Saturday – and true to her word, Lilith had made reservations at La Vienne Rose – a very fancy and expensive restaurant – to Jane’s irritation.

How Lilith had gotten Jane to agree to go with him Lukan couldn’t even begin to guess, but he would be eternally grateful for it. After all the recent… developments of late, The Date, as Lukan thought of it, would prove to be a very interesting event, he believed. The preparations alone already had him in stitches.

“Jane! You come back here!” Lukan heard Sofiya shout from down the hall as Jane ran past him and into the bathroom, locking the door behind her.

“You have to try on this dress! Oh my word…” Sofiya mumbled as she stalked past him followed by Moonbeam, Tracy, and Anne, the resident goth.

Lukan smirked to himself, leaning against a wall to enjoy the show.

“That dress isn’t me, Sofiya. It’s you, and just for your information, I’m not a Barbie doll. I can, in fact, dress myself,” came Jane’s muffled voice from inside the bathroom.

“I hate to break it to you, Jane, but they won’t even let you in the door if you dress the way you usually do. You need fashion therapy. That’s why you have us,” Tracy said, examining her perfectly manicured nails for flaws.

“You can borrow my best spiked choker if you want, Jane,” Anne piped up.

“And I have a beaded American-Indian skirt that you would look lovely in,” Moonbeam offered in a soft, far away voice.

Tracy and Sofiya looked at the other two girls for a moment before exchanging a ‘look.’

“Okay, what I meant was…” Tracy said. “… that that’s why you have me and Sofiya. Moonbeam and Anne are just here for moral support.”

Anne glared at Tracy and Moonbeam just looked like she was in a thoughtful haze.

“Ugh!” Jane opened the door, nearly ripping it from its hinges in her irritation, before walking past them all.

“Hey! Wait up!” Sofiya and Tracy called after her at the same time.

Ray and Jamie were walking by and hearing the girls’ uncanny synchronization, all three young men shivered. Lukan exchanged a look with the other two boys, letting them know how thoroughly he was enjoying himself at Jane’s expense, as well as at the expense of the other girls.

Both Ray and Jamie shot him a look of warning that clearly said, “Just wait until it’s your turn, pal. Jane will get you back. She always does.”

Lukan ignored them, watching the girls run down the hall after Jane. He walked away chuckling.

Yep, this is going to be… interesting.

***

Jane fingered the wolf necklace her father- Convel had given to her. She had managed to keep it hidden from the other girls while they helped her ‘primp,’ but only just. There had been one too many close calls for Jane’s taste. She wasn’t quite sure how her new family would feel about her keeping the gift of a man who had caused them so much pain, but she just couldn’t bear to part with it. It felt almost as though it were a part of her.

The silver wolf with its great expansion of onyx wings looked back at her with its opalescent white eyes. Jane couldn’t help but think that the fact that there was more of him than Lilith in the wolf pendant had been deliberate, and yet he’d made an attempt to include her in it. Jane couldn’t help but wonder if her real parents’ separation had been as hard on him as it had on Lilith.

It was so strange to think how little had really changed since that revelation. Things were warmer between all of them, especially between Lilith and herself. Lilith had insisted that Jane continue to receive a paycheck without working, and nothing Jane had said or done had changed her mind – and Jane had tried pretty much everything.

Lilith had said something about making up for lost time, contributing to Jane’s raising, adding to Jane’s college fund, getting all emotional and hug-ie as the list of reasons went on and on, and eventually Jane had given in – at least for the mean time. She still had plenty of plans for The Haven and she had every intention of pulling through with them.

Sofiya had been jubilant about adding another ‘sister’ to the ‘family’. The other girls hadn’t been much less enthusiastic about it, though Tracy had seemed a tad dubious at first, and Jane couldn’t really blame her.

After all, it was rather strange having the girl who serves you breakfast one day become a surrogate sister the next.

The guests seemed to be giving her a slightly wider berth. Since the Lunch Room incident, they had seemed afraid to even look at Jane for fear of what Lukan might do to them. She still couldn’t understand why he’d been so ready to defend her, to kill for her – when he so often proved his lack of caring for others. Why had he chosen to defend her of all people, and why with so much outrage and anger on her behalf?

Jane wasn’t really sure how Lukan felt and that made her feel a little unsure of where they stood. He treated her as he’d always treated her, as though nothing had changed at all. In a way, that small constancy comforted her, especially as Jane’s dreams – now that she no longer thought of them as nightmares – had left her.

It was rather unsteadying, having something so constant in your life just disappear. Having realized that her father had sent the dreams, Jane wondered why he was giving her space. Surely he knew that she wanted to know more about him? That she wanted more of him in her life, not less?

Her ‘Other Parents,’ as she now thought of them, had been colder to her ever since she had taken the job at The Haven, and downright frigid when she had started ‘dating’ Lukan. Jane could hardly bear to sleep in their house anymore, let alone spend any extended period of time there. It was almost too much to take to even stay in her pathetic attic-room anymore. It was as though the coldness creeped up through the floorboards into the attic, pushing at her, trying to worm its way into her soul – or at least it felt that way. The coldness was so tangible, so there that Jane’s heart seemed to contract.

It shouldn’t hurt, Jane thought. They’re not my parents. So why does it feel like my heart is breaking?

Jane had asked Lukan to stop by the Parkers’ house so that she could pick up something. Jane had a feeling that he knew she only wanted to stick it to the people who rejected everything she ever was on her own merits. Some part of her just wanted to show them that she was good enough – that someone out there knew it, and loved her for herself. It was a lie, though. A farce, and Jane knew it, but at least her Other Parents wouldn’t.

With a sigh, Jane tucked away the wolf pendant into her purse, taking courage from the fact that some part of her father would be there tonight, cheering her on. Taking one last satisfied look in the mirror, Jane walked to the door and went to face the music.

This is going to be… interesting.

***

Lukan paced the shining hardwood floor of the Library impatiently.

The girls had dragged Jane to Merytonburg, a town nearly an hour outside of Lysander – apparently it was the only decent place to get clothes in the surrounding area, because heaven knew that Lysander didn’t carry anything but the preppie stuff everyone seemed to be wearing there – and they’d been up in Sofiya’s room ‘primping’ Jane ever since.

Lukan had to admit to himself that he was nervous. Things had been progressing between him and Jane, though he highly doubted that she actually knew it. Her mind didn’t work the same way that others girls’ did. She didn’t think in terms of dating and clothes and boys. She thought in terms of right and wrong, good and bad, honorable and dishonorable, hardworking and lazy, humble and prideful… The list went on and on in that fashion. She was the most moral person that he’d ever met without ever touching on religion. She believed in God, but she didn’t hold with that ‘better than thou art’ attitude. She did what she believed to be right, and when she was wrong – even if she didn’t admit it right away – she always tried to do better.

At the same time though, she was a preachy little thing, always telling him when he was wrong. He knew that she didn’t do it to make herself look better, as it was so decidedly unlike her, but more out of an innate desire to help others better their lives.

He’d never met anyone so selfless in their bossiness.

It was so strange to think of her as Lilith’s daughter, to know that he was exactly as he was now when she’d been born. It wouldn’t have been any less strange had she been human, as he had first thought, but that he was in the same room with her while she was in her mother’s womb… It all seemed so strange to him.

Actually, it was downright weird, which is why he refused to think about it as he paced.

It didn’t really matter though, he supposed. He would live until the end of time, and so would she if his guess was right. After all, if she had ‘the power of three’ like Lilith said she did, she ought to be pretty durable.

Lukan looked at the antique clock. They were going to be late, and they still had to run over to the Parkers’ house to grab something of Jane’s.

Lukan smirked a bit. He knew that she just wanted to rub the fact that she had a boyfriend in their face a bit – to prove that she was worth something more than what they thought – and Lukan couldn’t blame her. After everything those people had put her through, Jane deserved a little vindication of her uniqueness.

Lukan heard the girls coming down the stairs.

The torture wouldn’t last much longer.

Jane would be down at any moment.

The thought made him even more nervous.

Lukan walked out of the Library to wait for Jane’s grand entrance on the staircase – only to find the entire household, guests and all, waiting there as well. Even Study had come out of his beloved basement for the event.

Lukan nearly throttled someone when he saw that more than one person was snacking on popcorn, acting as though this was a movie theatre show put on solely for their entertainment. It seemed everyone was curious to see the Frankenstein monster that the girls had created, and Lukan admitted to himself that he was more than a little curious too. He suspected to find a little bit of every one of the girl’s styles in Jane’s outfit, including Anne’s spiked dog collar, Sofiya’s favorite sunshine yellow high heels, Tracy’s purple spandex midriff top, and Moonbeam’s recycled newspaper skirt – and between the four of them, who knew what make-up poor Jane would be inflicted with.

Lukan pushed past the massive crowd, not caring who he bumped, pushed, or deliberately shoved in his pursuit to be the one closest to the stairs where Jane would descend.

“Hey! Boyfriend coming through! Move it!” Lukan shouted above the slightly loud murmur of the crowd.

Finally – after being severely wrinkled, which nearly gave him a stroke – Lukan had reached the bottom stair, finding the girls and their respective boyfriends, Study, Sofiya, and Lilith, all standing nearby.

Lukan shuffled over to stand next to Lilith on the left side of the massive staircase.

“What’s with the crowd? If I were human, I would’ve been suffocated trying to get through that mob,” Lukan said irritably.

He had pictured the moment he would see Jane in all her primped glory a little more… private, even if her primped “glory” was a little scary to his fashionable mind, and the invasion of their moment ground on his already racked nerves.

Lilith just beamed at him, which didn’t help.

“They love her, Lukan. I don’t know when it happened. It just… did. She won their hearts and now they want to show their support in her moment. They want to give her the spotlight for once.”

Lilith seemed near tears. It touched Lukan a bit, but the cynic in him just wouldn’t let her remarks go… at least in his thoughts.

You’re delusional, woman. Delusional and naïve. These people aren’t here to support anyone. They’re here for entertainment. They’re just waiting to see Jane fall on her face or embarrass herself in some other way.

But as Lukan listened to the murmur of the crowd, he slowly started to distinguish individual voices regaling others with stories of Jane’s kindness or compassion.

…engine wouldn’t start, and then she looked it over, and what do you know? She found a leak in the gas tank that I had missed…”
“…and I spilled milk all over her nice clean floor. She didn’t even get irritated. Just smiled and said it was okay…”

“…couldn’t find Frou, my pet tarantula. Janie spent over an hour looking for him. He’d been hiding in one of the girls’ underwear drawers, little rascal…”

“… and I needed something to get rid of the damned aphids on the hothouse roses. The kid knew right off the bat. Ladybugs, she said, and who woulda thought it, it worked! Right gardener, that one, girl’s got herself the greenest thumb…”

Tale after tale of kind, selfless act, humorous anecdote, and good advice given, was told. It hit Lukan rather hard how winning she was – how it seemed as though she could work her way into even the coldest, deadest of hearts… like his own.

The noise of a door shutting upstairs caught the attention of all, and Lukan noticed that the girls who had helped Jane get ready giggled, even Anne, who was very decidedly opposed to girlishness of any kind, especially giggling.

Lukan’s heart jumped to his throat when he heard her footfalls as the noise of the crowd began to fade and he was almost sure he would pass out when he saw Jane’s shadow pause on the wall as she readied herself to turn the corner and walk downstairs for her first ‘date.’ The shadow began to move and for a moment in time, it seemed as though the world had stopped turning on its axis.

Lukan’s stomach did flip-flops, and he suddenly felt very much like what he imagined a teenage girl would feel like on her very first date – heady dizziness, butterflies in his stomach, blurred vision, pounding heartbeat…

Pull yourself together, man! It’s just Jane. That’s all. Just Plain Jane Park-

Lukan got the shock of his life when a woman he’d never seen before stepped around the corner and into view. She was wearing a black halter dress that accentuated her figure in all the right ways. The dress came down to her feet in a flowing mass of silk. As she moved, he could see the shining crimson highlights in her otherwise black hair, the soft ringlets bouncing against her back and shoulders as she walked. She wore no jewelry or other accessories that he could see.

She didn’t need any.

His vision being naturally superior to that of a human’s, Lukan could easily see that this young woman wore only minimal cosmetics, a dark red lipstick on her delicate lips being the most attention-drawing part of the ensemble, with the exception of her eyes, the lids of which were colored with a smoky grey, accenting the silver and opalescent flecks in her blue-grey eyes.

The young woman came to a sudden, jerked stop at the top of the stairs when she saw the massive crowd staring up at her, nearly losing her balance and falling flat on her face. It wasn’t until she straightened herself, gave a tiny nervous laugh and a slight wave that Lukan recognized the beautiful creature in front of him as Plain Jane Parker.

***

I can’t breathe. I’m going to pass out any second now and fall down those stairs, knocking every one of them on the way down like a bowling ball making a strike. Everyone is going to laugh at me and then I’ll have proved my Other Parents right. I’ll have proven myself worthless…

Jane laughed nervously and gave the slightest of waves at the massive crowd below.

As if I wasn’t nervous enough before

“Hi?” Jane said a little unsurely.

This seemed to rouse the shocked mob into loud cheers, wolf whistles, and obscene comments being thrown in Jane’s direction. Jane blushed a deep rose color, only adding to her newfound beauty, making the crowd grow a little wilder.

It was with the greatest satisfaction that when she caught sight of Lukan that he was the only one still silent, and looking up at her as though in a trance.

Their eyes met for what seemed an eternity before Jane took an almost involuntary step toward Lukan. He seemed to just be drawing her in, and Jane almost laughed again at the thought of Lukan saying, “Look into my eyes… I vant to suck your blood… Look into my eyes…”

In his completely black dinner suit with his black long hair tied back in a black silk ribbon, wisps of hair framing his handsome face, he could easily have played the part of a very charming and devilish Count Dracula.

Jane walked down the stairs slowly, both Lukan and Jane looking at only each other.

The mob – seeing that a romantic moment was occurring right before their eyes – quieted down just as Jane reached the bottom stair right in front of Lukan.

“Shall we?” Lukan asked, holding out his hand to her.

Jane cocked her head to the side and thought for a moment, making Lukan’s brow furrow.

“Why not?” Jane said, taking his hand and smiling.

Lilith walked toward them, smiling happily.

“You look beautiful, darling,” she said, cupping Jane’s face in both hands affectionately. She kissed Jane’s forehead and turned to Lukan, tears in her eyes. “Take good care of her.”

“I will,” Lukan replied, giving his friend and mentor a swift nod.

Jane seemed oblivious as to why her mother was so near to tears, shooting Lilith a concerned look. Lilith waved her off.

“Oh, do not look at me like that. I am alright. A woman is perfectly within her rights to get a bit emotional on her daughter’s first date.”

Jane gave her a confused look, opening her mouth to tell Lilith that it wasn’t even a real date, but just closed it again. She didn’t want to say that – didn’t want to remind herself that none of this was real. That the most beautiful young man she had ever laid eyes on wasn’t hers.

She didn’t know when she’d realized that she had a crush on Lukan, but she did whether she liked it or not. And now she was stuck with it.

Sofiya came up to the couple next, looking in between Jane and Lukan before giving a girlish squeal and throwing her arms around Jane in a tight, sisterly hug.

Everyone in the Coven came up and gave Jane a hug, some giving Lukan a pat on the back or a “behave yourself” look. It was as if they were all saying that Jane was part of the family now, and that they heartily approved her presence.

Eventually, they did manage to escape to Lukan’s black Porsche.

Once inside, they got on the road and headed to the Parkers’ house as quickly as possible.

“I’m really sorry about that. I don’t know what got into them,” Lukan said, sounding almost nervous.

Of course, Jane knew that wasn’t possible. What did he have to be nervous about?

“That’s alright,” Jane said, smiling. “It’s kind of nice actually – knowing they care, I mean. The wolf-whistles were just a bit much for me though.”

Jane laughed a little, trying to hide her own nervousness, both of Lukan and her Other Parents.

“I noticed,” Lukan said, trying to hide a smile.

The rest of the car ride to the Parkers’ was silent – but it was a comfortable silence.

***

It was only as Lukan pulled into the Parkers’ driveway that he realized how nervous Jane really was about seeing the people who had raised her.

Lilith had called and told them that Jane would be staying the night before at The Haven to make it easier for the girls to help Jane get ready, so Jane hadn’t seen them since the revelation of her real parentage – something that even Lukan still hadn’t gotten over yet.

Lukan had gotten to know Jane so well that he could guess her thoughts just by the way she fidgeted: What am I going to say? What will they say? Will they know that I know?

The nervous side glance she gave Lukan made her thoughts even easier to read: What will they think of Lukan? Will they hate him like I thought they would? Will they surprise me and give him a chance? Will they break out Dad’s shotgun or did they buy silver stakes?

It was rather a shock to Lukan when he realized that Jane still cared about what the Parkers thought of her – that despite her independence, she had always cared.

As Lukan cut the engine and moved to get out of the car, he was surprised by Jane gently grabbing his arm. He looked back at her and she stuck out her hand for him to shake.

He took it, a quizzical look on his face.

“The back door is right in the kitchen – just in case you need to make a quick getaway. Good luck, Lukan. Believe me when I say you are going to need it since I seriously doubt the odds being ‘ever in your favor,’” Jane said, quoting The Hunger Games.

She released his hand, unbuckled and got out of the car.

The fact that Jane actually seemed serious bothered Lukan as he got out of the car and followed Jane up the stone-lined path to the Parkers’ front door.

Did she really think that he would just cut and run if things got uncomfortable?

He didn’t have much of a chance to think about it because they were at the front door before he knew it, Jane leaning down and lifting a small welcome mat, and picking up a key.

Could these people be any less creative? he thought in disgust. At least hide it under a potted plant or something

It surprised him how much venom he had in his heart for the Parkers. Yet it wasn’t surprising at all if one really thought about it. They had mistreated her. And he was falling for her. Fast. So he hated them. So what as long as they didn’t hate him?

Jane unlocked the door and stepped inside, motioning Lukan to do the same. Once he was inside, she quietly shut and relocked the door.

“Mom! Dad! I’m home!”

Lukan shivered as he thought of Jane calling a place like this home. It had to be the most frigid place he had ever been in. Everything was pale and plain it seemed. Colorless, lifeless – a little dead even.

Even the air was cold, and Lukan could hear an air conditioning unit running. It seemed just a bit odd to run an A/C unit during the chilliest fall Lysander had had in twenty years.

Lukan’s thoughts were interrupted by the most forbidding couple he had ever seen walking in from the kitchen, blocking Jane’s recommended escape route.

I really might need to rethink my position on escape if this starts going sour…

When Lukan had first seen this place and the Parkers when they had come to ask their permission to date he had been bored and disinterested, the only thing really catching his eye being the little attic room Jane slept in, though Lukan couldn’t think how anyone could sleep in a house so absolutely unwelcoming. He hadn’t even given the Parkers more than a glance at the time, so their forbidding demeanor came as quite a surprise to him. Lukan was truly beginning to realize what Jane meant when she called him the most selfish, self-centered being she had ever come into contact with.

He made himself sick.

The Parkers walked forward, walking at the same time, more like a unit rather than two separate individuals. They were just as plain and lifeless as their house it seemed, and twice as frigid. They both seemed shocked by how beautiful Jane looked.

Somehow though, Mr. Parker managed to squeak out a few words.

“You’re to be home by ten o’clock, Jane. Not a minute later. Do you understand?” Mr. Parker said, deliberately ignoring Lukan’s presence.

As a matter of fact, both of Jane’s ‘parents’ were ignoring Lukan, which really irritated him. Lukan understood that they didn’t want Jane dating, least of all dating him, and that they knew what he was, but there was no excuse to be quite that rude.

“Hi. I don’t think that we’ve been formally introduced yet. I’m Lukan Masters,” Lukan said, holding his hand out pointedly for Mr. Parker to shake. “I’m your daughter’s boyfriend.”

“Yes, we know who you are,” Mr. Parker said just as pointedly, looking at Lukan’s outstretched hand with a disdainfully raised eyebrow but not taking it. Lukan left it in the air between them stubbornly, Jane and Mrs. Parker looking between them a little worriedly, both looking hopeful that things didn’t come to blows, Jane because she wasn’t sure if her father would be able to take a hit from Lukan, Mrs. Parker because all the furniture was new.

The tension in the air stretched between them all, and Mr. Parker and Lukan simply stared into each other’s eyes, waiting to see who would back down first.

Not surprisingly, it was Mr. Parker who eventually lowered his eyes and took Lukan’s hand, though he made no effort to conceal his disgust with Lukan by only shaking the tips of Lukan’s fingers, as though he were some dirty beast or diseased animal.

Lukan frowned, his vanity being wounded more than a little at the poor treatment. Other than Jane, no one dared irritate him. He was rather surprised that – knowing what they did – these two puny little humans actually had the guts to cross him.

Either they were incredibly brave or incredibly stupid, and Lukan didn’t think for a second that it was the former.

As Mr. Parker tried to remove his hand from Lukan’s, Lukan grasped the man’s hand a little tighter, adding sufficient pressure to ensure that Mr. Parker would be favoring that hand for at least the next few days.

Jane looked between the men for a moment as Lukan released Mr. Parker’s hand, Mr. Parker giving the ‘younger’ man a very dirty look.

“If I go get what I came for, will everyone still be in one piece when I get back?” Jane asked saucily. “I want my nice, clean floor to remain untainted by blood and other bodily fluids, thank you very much.”

Wait, Jane,” Mrs. Parker said, speaking for the first time since Jane and Lukan had arrived.

She walked up to Jane and then made a motion for the young woman to turn so that she could see Jane’s dress. Jane turned around slowly so Mrs. Parker could take in her appearance. When Jane had finished and Mrs. Parker continued to look at her ‘adopted’ daughter, Lukan couldn’t help but notice the look of hope in Jane’s eyes for her ‘mother’s’ approval.

“The dress is lovely,” Mrs. Parker said emotionlessly. “Where did you get it?”

Jane seemed to glow just a little at that comment.

“There’s a really great dress shop in Merytonburg. The girl’s took me shopping there and I found this-“

You picked it out?” Mrs. Parker said, not even having the decency to try and hide her surprise at Jane’s newly discovered taste in clothes.

“It looks expensive. Who paid for it?” Mr. Parker asked suspiciously.

Jane’s glow seemed to dim just a bit.

“It was a gift from Lili- Principal Kingsley – sort of a bonus, I guess.”

The Parkers exchanged a look that clearly spoke of their hate for Lilith. Lukan wanted nothing more than to hit one of them – both preferably. He was past the point where he had a problem hitting humans, even women.

“Well, at least it’s not one of your usual fashion train wrecks. It’s one thing to look like the remnants the garbage disposal leaves behind on a day-to-day basis, but when one goes on a date one should at least make the effort not to disgrace herself by wearing some dreadful mass of formless creation.”

Mrs. Parker’s voice had been so cruel, so cold, that Lukan wasn’t quite sure that he was still in his right mind. He just couldn’t quite convince himself that he had heard something like that from the woman who had raised Jane.

The expression on Jane’s face convinced him otherwise. The look of hurt, disappointment, and burning humiliation on her face Lukan he had heard Mrs. Parker correctly. But as soon as the look of pain had crossed Jane’s face it was gone, replaced by a look of rebellion and fire instead.

“Well, I’m so terribly glad that for once in my life I don’t disappoint you,” Jane said bitterly, tears in her eyes.

Lukan couldn’t take it anymore – he had to do something.

Lukan put his arm around Jane protectively and kissed her forehead in an unmistakable gesture of possession, looking directly at Mr. and Mrs. Parker as he did so, his eyes deliberately turning a dark crimson so deep it looked the color of blood. She was his, damn it, and he’d be damned if those creatures weren’t going to know it by the end of the night.

The looks on their faces told him that they got the message loud and clear.

“Jane looks gorgeous in whatever she wears,” Lukan said, his tone clearly stating, If you hurt her in any way ever again I will. Eat. You. Alive. “She always does.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Lukan saw Jane look up at him in surprise, and then a smile slowly spread across her face. He smiled at her and winked playfully, making her smile widen into an absolute grin. Lukan dropped his arm from around her shoulder and nodded toward the stairs, which were directly to the left of the entryway, indicating that she should go get what they came for.

Jane stole a side glance at her parents and then looked at Lukan pointedly, as though to ask if he would be alright. Lukan almost laughed but fortunately stopped himself, giving her an arrogant smirk instead. Jane rolled her eyes and began her trek upstairs into her attic room.

Lukan and the Parkers watched Jane bound up the stairs until she could no longer be seen. Lukan walked past the Parkers into the living area, taking a seat in a rather comfortable, albeit dull armchair, and propping his feet up on the coffee table.

“So,” Lukan began cheekily. “Tell me more about Jane.”

***

It took Jane only a few minutes to find what she was looking for. The silver colored picture frame winked at Jane in the semi-darkness. Jane remembered very clearly when Todd had given it to her. It was the day he had left for college, leaving her alone to defend herself against Melody’s tyranny and their parents’ coldness. Jane wondered what he would think about all this – vampires, wolf-people, merpeople, betrayal, surrogate parents, real parents popping up and saving her life whenever they saw fit, fifteen years of haunted dreams about a blinding white light and an Irishman’s voice…

Todd’s handsome, friendly face smiled back at her. It was such a pity really, that he couldn’t live his own life, that he’d allowed their parents to dictate who and what he would be. They wanted him to be a lawyer when all he wanted to be was an artist. He was quite good actually.

Such a pity… she thought sadly.

Jane left her room and walked down the stairs.

With each step Jane could hear more and more of a conversation between Lukan and the Other Parents.

“… she’s read every Jane Austen novel but Pride & Prejudice. She said that she was saving it for a special occasion,” Jane heard her mother say scornfully.

“Really? That’s fascinating. Please, do go on. What else does Jane save for special occasions?” Lukan said, sounding eager.

Jane rushed down the stairs as quickly as she could to avoid any more embarrassing tales of her odd habits and quirks being revealed to Lukan, who seemed just a bit too interested if you asked her.

She found both her Other Parents and Lukan in the drab living room. Lukan was sitting in the only comfortable armchair in the house and her Other Parents were sitting together on the couch across from him.

Lukan was the only one who looked at ease.

“Sorry that I took so long. It took forever to find what I was looking for.”

Jane walked into the room, drawing everyone’s attention to her. They stared at her in awe for a moment, Lukan especially, as though they still hadn’t gotten used to the new look Jane was styling at the moment.

Don’t get too used to it, Jane thought. I happen to like my baggy jeans and loose hoodies.

Lukan smiled at her and rose from his chair, walking over to her. He put his arm around Jane’s shoulders, pulling her body close to his in a possessive way.

“You look beautiful, Janie,” Lukan said softly, kissing her forehead gently.

Jane knew that all this was only a show for her parents’ sakes, but that didn’t keep her heart from beating so fast that it felt like it was going to beat right out of her chest – and from the smug look on Lukan’s face, he knew it too.

Jane’s parents seemed to be floundering for something to say but no words escaped their mouths.

“Well, I guess we had better be off. You ready, Jane?” Jane gave a slight nod. “Great. Nice meeting you Mr. and Mrs. Parker.”

Lukan voice was overly sweet when he said this, almost sickeningly so.

Jane’s parents mumbled something that sounded like, ‘uh huh.’

Jane felt as though she were in a daze as she got her coat, walked to the car, and Lukan drove for an hour to the shore-side restaurant.

As Lukan drove up to the front door and a valet opened Jane’s door for her, she realized where they were: La Vienne Rose, only the most expensive and selective restaurant on the east coast. The mayor of New York City was lucky if he could get a table here, and yet here they were – people of obscure origins – about to eat here.

Another valet opened the glass door for them, and as they walked in Jane noticed that there was a surprisingly small amount of tables – more than likely because the prices were so high they could afford to have fewer tables – making the atmosphere more intimate.

Jane was now very grateful to Sofiya and the other girls for forcing her to wear something she normally wouldn’t have been caught dead in.

While Jane took in her surroundings, she vaguely noticed Lukan pull aside their waiter and hand him something, though Jane couldn’t guess what. As Lukan and she were being led to their table, Jane noticed a dance floor as well as an orchestra playing a song called, I’ve Fallen In Love With You by Joss Stone.

The waiter would have pulled out Jane’s chair for her, but Lukan beat him to it, gently sliding the chair in behind her. Lukan then sat down himself, getting a dirty look from the waiter for depriving him of helping Jane into her chair.

“Iz zhere anyzing I can get for you, mademoiselle?” the waiter said with a French accent, leaning down toward Jane flirtatiously.

Jane drew back a little, clearly uncomfortable. Lukan glowered at him.

Thank you, but we’re fine right now,” Lukan gritted out dangerously.

The waiter, taking the hint, left menus for them and walked over to another table to flirt with a different customer.

Lukan!” Jane whispered, leaning forward. “This is La Vienne Rose! Why the hell are we at La Vienne Rose!? Do you know how expensive this place is?”

Lukan looked at his menu unconcerned.

“I should – I own it.”

Jane gasped. She couldn’t even think of a response to that. Lukan sighed, folding his menu and putting it down on the soft, cream-colored table cloth.

“We have investments all over the world,” Lukan said, knowing that Jane would know that ‘they’ meant the coven. “This is one of mine – a favorite actually. I started it up in 1945, though I very much doubt that pansy of a waiter would know anything about it.”

The last part, Lukan spoke under his breath. Jane’s eyes widened.

“How old are you?” Jane asked in a harsh whisper.

Lukan froze for a moment as though not sure that he should tell her or what she would think. Lukan swallowed hard and forced a resolute look on his face.

“I was born on September third…” he said, pausing heavily. “… 1791.”

The air between them was suffocating and they felt as though they could hardly catch their breaths, Jane especially, who was doing the math in her head.

Two hundred-eighteen years old? How could he be two-hundred and eighteen years old? Great. I have a serious mad crush on a guy old enough to be my great-great-great-great grandfather. My life just could not get any better…

“Wow, that’s… umm… pretty old, I guess,” she replied, very uncomfortable. “How’d it happen? Unless you don’t want to talk about it. I understand if you don’t…”

Jane felt as though her tongue had been tied up in knots and she just didn’t know what to say.

Lukan wasn’t much better off.

***

She’ll never want to be with you if you tell her. She would despise you for all your darkness and the evil that you have done. What would she think of you then? Do you think her beautiful, loving heart would still beat faster at the feel of your touch? If it did, would it be out of fear?

Lukan looked at Jane, who was so obviously worried about having offended him that his decision was made before he could unmake it.

“I’ve done terrible things, Jane – things that would shock you to your very core. There isn’t one evil act that I haven’t participated in at least once, most committed under the influence of my sire…. some not. I haven’t any idea what I should tell you…”

His voice was so low Jane could hardly hear it. Lukan hung his head in obvious torment, his hands gripping the table so hard it was a wonder that he didn’t break it.

“You can tell me whatever you want,” Jane said sincerely, placing her hand over Lukan’s, his relentless grip on the table loosening at her gentle touch. “Everything or nothing. I’ll listen to whatever you want to tell me. I won’t judge you for who you were a hundred years ago, or even yesterday. You weren’t even the same person then. Things happen. People change. I understand that. I won’t judge you. I promise.”

Lukan looked into her eyes and realized he was seeing a side of Jane that he’d never seen before – the side that made people who were determined to hate her come to support her and cheer her on when she went on her first date. The side that made her different from every saucy heroine in every pornographic novel that could be found in the romance section at any book store. The side of her that Lukan was made Lukan feel like a schoolgirl with a crush, sweaty palms and racing heartbeat included.

Lukan’s gaze held Jane’s for what seemed forever before he spoke softly.

“I don’t deserve your compassion, Jane. I am completely unworthy of it.”

He lowered his eyes to the table cloth again, unable to meet the eyes of someone so innocent.

But Jane wouldn’t have any of it.

She cupped his chin in her hand and raised his face to meet her gaze.

“I’ve always found that it’s the ones that deserve compassion the least are those that need it the most,” she said softly.

And she smiled at him. It was an understanding smile – a compassionate smile that made him think that maybe… just maybe he could tell her all the things that had burdened his heart for hundreds of years.

He confessed so many of his wrongs at that little table in their little corner of the restaurant that night. He told her things he hadn’t even dared to tell Lilith, and he’d told Lilith so much already.

Jane kept her promise – at least as far as Lukan could tell. She never judged him, even at the worst of his crimes. There were a few times that tears had come to her eyes, whether for his victims or himself, or even both, Lukan could not tell, and it didn’t occur to him to care.

By the time the night was over, he felt like a new man – a free man, nothing hanging over his head. For the first time in his life, both as what he was now and before his change, he finally felt like he wasn’t alone.

They danced before they left La Vienne Rose. When they had first walked in Lukan had bribed the waiter to have the orchestra play God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You. Jane had never danced before, but she was a quick learner and Lukan was an excellent teacher.

As they danced both Lukan and Jane realized that something had changed between them – a new and stronger bond had formed. Neither knew what that bond would lead to but for the time being, they were content just to dance in each other’s arms.

Neither knew that Lukan’s past would come back to haunt them both in more ways than one.

***

The night had been perfect. Lukan had seemed determined to make Jane’s night as carefree and wonderful as possible after she had listened to the story of his past at La Vienne Rose.

His past had disturbed her – chilled her to her very soul. He’d done shocking things, but she’d kept her word. She hadn’t judged him.

She was damned proud of herself for that.

Jane looked over at Lukan, who was in the driver’s seat, relaying a rather interesting tale, smiling at his story.

Seriously? Oscar Wilde based The Picture of Dorian Gray on a diary you wrote and lost several hundred years ago?”

Lukan laughed at Jane’s obvious shock.

“Pretty much, although Wilde did make certain implications in the book that were most definitely not in my diary,” he replied pointedly.

“Really? Such as?” she said with a coy smile.

Lukan looked at Jane uncomfortably and then cleared his throat.

“Well… Wilde made it sound almost as though Dorian Gray was… you know…”

Gay?

Lukan blushed to the roots of his hair and Jane burst into laughter.

“Well, I’m very glad you’re not gay,” she replied lightly. “You would be disappointing a mass of teenage girls at St. Defendens High if you were.”

Lukan watched her with his peripheral vision.

“Would I be disappointing you?”

Jane’s head snapped up, looking like a deer in the headlights.

“E- Excuse me?” Jane said hoarsely.

Lukan pulled into the Parkers’ long driveway and put the Porsche in Park, turning in his seat to look at Jane.

“Would I be disappointing you too? Would your heart break if you knew you didn’t have a chance with me?”

Jane looked into Lukan’s eyes, searching for the good-natured teasing he had been doing all night, in his face.

It wasn’t there, and it was then that Jane realized he was being completely serious.

He wanted to know if she liked him the way a girl likes a guy. Jane floundered for words. What could she say to this beautiful man looking at her, at Plain Jane Parker? She had nothing to offer him.

Jane was just about lie to him, to tell him that she wouldn’t be disappointed in the slightest when she was saved by her Other Parents opening the front door and stepping out onto the porch, arms folded and waiting for Jane to come in.

Jane unhappily noticed that the radio clock in Lukan’s car read 12:47.

I am so going to get it when I get in there… she thought miserably.

“Don’t worry,” Lukan said, seeing the direction her eyes had gone in and the wry expression that followed. “I took care of curfew while you were getting your brother’s picture.”

Jane’s eyes softened as she looked at him.

“You think of everything,” she said, smiling.

Lukan smiled back at her.

“Why did you bring your brother’s picture anyway?” Lukan asked.

“I had thought we’d be stopping by The Haven before coming back here and Sofiya wanted to see what ‘that louse who never calls me’ looked like. Apparently she wants to be able to recognize him so that she can punch his lights out if ever she sees him.”

Lukan raised a well-groomed eyebrow at this.

“We were going to but I took a look at the clock and realized, curfew or not, you needed some sleep. And I can’t believe you’re actually letting Sofiya see your brother’s picture. I thought you liked this brother of yours.”

Jane looked down, hurt painfully obvious in her expression.

“He deserves a good punch in the face,” Jane muttered bitterly. “Maybe it’ll teach him to return people’s calls every once in a while.”

Lukan’s expression darkened severely, his eyes turning almost crimson.

“How long has it been since you spoke to him last?”

“Two days shy of two months. I don’t get it. He’s always been so good about calling me at least once a week – usually every other day – checking up on me and such but this semester has been different – he’s been different. When he does actually call, he sounds distracted, almost guilty. I just don’t get it,” Jane said, wiping a tear away from her eye.

Lukan’s expression softened toward her.

He looked in the direction of Jane’s parents, who were still standing by the front door, looking anything but patient.

An idea came to Lukan and he looked at Jane again.

“Hey, would ticking your parents off make you feel any better?” Lukan asked mischievously, waggling his eyebrows at her playfully.

Jane smiled.

Undoubtedly,” Jane said looking up. “What did you have in min- Mmmf!”

Jane was cut off by Lukan’s lips pressing against hers in a gentle, chaste kiss, her head being cupped in his strong, but not surprisingly soft hands.

It was Jane’s first kiss and she thought it couldn’t have been more perfect – except that it wasn’t actually real.

A few seconds passed and the kiss began to grow less chaste and more hungry, Lukan running his tongue across Jane’s bottom lip, making her world spin headily. Jane had never been the swooning kind but if she had, it would have been that perfect time for it. Lukan’s hands moved down from her face, and he wrapped his arms around her waist tightly. He was just about to-

“JANE!”

***

Lukan and Jane quickly broke apart. They looked around, ready to fight if necessary.

“JANE, GET IN HERE NOW!!!” they heard Mr. Parker practically scream from the front porch.

Both Lukan and Jane sighed in relief. They looked at one another and laughed a little. Lukan quickly unbuckled, opened his door and ran to Jane’s side to open the door for her. Jane unbuckled and Lukan took her hand gently, helping her out of the vehicle.

“You may not want to walk me to the door. My parents look pretty mad,” Jane said, sneaking a look in the direction of the fuming Parkers.

“I’m not bailing out on you, Jane. I can handle your loony parents,” Lukan said, putting his arm around Jane and leading her toward the front door.

Jane knew that he could hear her heart beat faster with fear as they approached where her Other Parents stood waiting for her by the way Lukan growled a little and his arm tightened around her waist protectively.

“Well, did you two have a good time?” Mrs. Parker asked with nasty meaning as Lukan and Jane walked up to the front her and Mr. Parker.

Lukan picked up Jane’s hand with the hand that wasn’t around her waist and lifted it, his lips hovering over it closely.

The Other Parents leaned forward anxiously, looking like they didn’t know what Lukan was going to do: kiss their daughter’s hand or eat it.

“We had…” Lukan kissed Jane’s hand seductively, making Jane blush from the tips of her toes to the roots of her hair and her parents gasp for air. “…a very good time.” He threw best Transylvanian Dracula accent into the last words, forcing Jane to cover her mouth with her other hand to keep from bursting into laughter.

Jane’s Other Parents looked as though they very well might faint.

“Good night, Mr. and Mrs. Parker,” Lukan nodded his head in the direction of the Parkers, his eyes turning crimson in an unspoken warning. He turned to Jane and she felt her heart speed up. “Jane.”

A lascivious smirk formed on Lukan’s face and he winked at Jane as he said her name.

Jane watched as Lukan turned and walked to his car, hopping in, starting his engine and driving away into the darkness of the Witching Hour, as it was once called long ago.

When Jane could no longer see the speck of his car in the distant darkness, she turned around… her parents looking at her with raised eyebrows and folded arms, obviously expecting an explanation.

Jane just shrugged her shoulders and walked past them into the house. Mr. and Mrs. Parker looked at one another before quickly following Jane into the house.

“What was that about?” Mr. Parker demanded of Jane, who was already halfway up the stairs.

“Just Lukan being Lukan,” Jane replied, softly smiling, not stopping her trek upstairs.

“Jane, your father and I need to speak to you about that boy. He’s dangerous,” Mrs. Parker said.

Jane halted very suddenly, her body tensing in anger. She whirled on the people she had called her parents for the past fifteen years.

“Oh, worried about me, are you? Might’ve happened a little sooner rather than later, don’t you think? Or is it that you’re worried that I might find out something?” Jane asked with meaning.

The Parkers’ eyes widened. They understood that she knew now.

“Jane-” Mrs. Parker began softly.

Don’t,” Jane replied dangerously. “I don’t want to hear it. I’ve had a beautiful night – the best night of my life, and that’s one thing I won’t let you ruin!”

Jane turned and ran up the stairs, not looking back even when she heard her parents call her back. She couldn’t deal with that now – she wouldn’t deal with it now. She would think about Lukan. She would think about their date and the kiss they shared, even if both were only for show. She had those things forever and no one could take them away from her.

Jane entered her room, shut the door and leaned against it heavily, sinking down to the floor. Remembering her new dress Jane stood up immediately, brushing off the back of her dress as best as she could.

That was when Jane noticed the change in her over-sized attic-room.

Even in the dark she could see that the boxes lining her walls were gone, replaced with bookshelves painted a crisp white, every space of them filled with more books than Jane could have ever hoped to own. And when Jane turned the light on, she noticed that the whole room had been decorated in a Cape Cod theme. The walls and ceiling were painted a pale ocean blue with white chair railing and crown molding accenting the lower half of the walls. Matching crown molding separated the walls from the ceiling and the old futon bed had been replaced with a four poster white canopy bed with a thick, warm coverlet, the design of which had a large lighthouse on an island on it. Jane’s makeshift desk of a box had also been replaced with a large white desk to the right of Jane’s circular window looking out on the street.

A large box-shaped package in blue and white wrapping paper with a silver bow sat beside the desk, a note attached. An embroidered chair, also with a lighthouse scene, sat in front of the desk.

Jane walked over to it and sat in it, seeing that the reason the desk and chair had been placed there was because Jane could see a slight glimpse of the ocean in the distance from there, even in the darkness that now surrounded the Parkers’ house.

Jane turned to the package next to her new work space, pulling it away from the wall enough to open it without any detriments. Jane carefully unwrapped the paper on the box so as not to tear it and lifted it away. She was left with a large cardboard box. Jane hesitantly pulled on the interfolded flaps, not sure if she really wanted to know what was in it. Are all these beautiful things just to lull me into a fasle sense of security? Is this thing going to blow up when I open it? Is it full of garlic and holy water? Would that stuff even work?

All thoughts were pushed aside as Jane looked inside the now open box. A large leather briefcase was in it with a lot of paper underneath it, hiding whatever else the box held. Great. It’s a bomb Jane thought snidely.

Jane slowly pulled the leather briefcase out of the box and laid it on the crisp white desk in front of her. It was locked, but the key was tied to it with a silver ribbon so that she could easily open it.

Jane detached the key and unlocked the case, shutting her eyes in preparation of the explosion she was almost sure would come.

Nothing. Not a sound, let alone an explosion.

Jane slowly opened her eyes. She took her hand from the key and very warily opened the case. Inside was a brand new Apple Macbook laptop, the power cord neatly rolled up beside the laptop.

The first thing that came to Jane’s mind was writing. She’d wanted a laptop for a long time now so that she could do homework and work on her writing.

A wave of excitement rushed through Jane as she untied the power cord and plugged it in, turning to dig through the box for whatever else it might hold.

In Jane’s exploration, she found an iPod, a printer, three sets of headphones, speakers, a microphone/headset for her computer, word processing software, instruction manuals, software for just about everything imaginable, as well as programs to teach you how to become computer literate, even software to hack into things and break firewalls.

Pretty much everything she would ever need for a computer and her writing.

The laptop had already been set up for Jane’s use, and she found a note with the password on it. Daughter, is what it read.

Jane typed the words in with a full heart. Lilith had really outdone herself on this one.

Jane felt undeserving of all the splendor before her. She hadn’t the first idea how to pay Lilith back, but loved her all the more for thinking of all the things Jane could have wanted. What bothered Jane was that very few of these things had ever been mentioned to Lilith, and how she had known exactly what to get was nagging at the back of Jane’s mind, but Jane pushed the sensation away.

When Jane’s new laptop had finished booting up, she was wonderfully surprised to find writing book after writing book there for her use and education in the field of creative writing. Everything from style and voice to dialogue and subtext was covered.

Jane’s mind was blown well and truly. The generosity of these beautiful gifts, the thought put into them, and the room décor on top of it all, was almost too much to bear and tears sprung to Jane’s eyes.

To distract herself, Jane began to fold the lovely wrapping paper that she had set aside in her haste to see the contents of the box. As she folded it, a part of the paper was being difficult to fold. Jane turned it over and saw that a card had been attached that she had missed before. Across the front of the envelope, in a beautiful scroll read:

“To my darling daughter, Janet.”

Smiling through tears, Jane carefully removed the envelope and opened it. In the same delicate, beautiful scroll was a letter.

“Dear Janet,

“I hardly know how to begin. The changes in your room and the gifts in the box before you are only the beginning of making up for the loveless life you’ve lived thus far, due to your mother’s irresponsibility.

Here Jane paused.

My mother? But I thought…

Jane’s eyes widened as she realized who the gifts were from.

Convel! But how…?

Anxious, Jane hurriedly continued to read the letter.

“I have much more to give you than the material things you see here. I can teach you things beyond your wildest dreams, my darling daughter, can help you achieve the things that were once out of reach, but no longer. When you wish to reach out and pluck a star from the sky, I will be there to lift you up on my shoulders. I will be there in the dead of night to protect you from those who would do you harm. I will spend my life making up to you my absence, my bonnie Irish lass.

“You will see, my princess, that I keep my promises. I am a man of my word and no matter whose side you choose in the coming war, I will always be there to love and protect you, just as I have been… in your dreams. Yes, my darling. I sent the dreams, though I think they disturbed you more than they comforted you, and for that I must apologize. It was the selfish wish of a father to have some part – even if only a small one – in the life of his daughter. I simply could not bear to see you suffer alone, without the comfort of knowing that there is light in the darkness before you.

“I know not what else to write, my love, except that I love you and we will see one another again.

“Your loving and only father,

Convel O’Donnelly

“P.S.

“It would give me the greatest joy if you chose to use your rightful name, the name I would have given you had you been in my care from the beginning:

Janet O’Donnelly

Jane sobbed unashamed.

She was loved –she was so loved – by so many people and she could not think of a thing she had done to deserve it, most especially the dedication, generosity and love her real father showed.

Jane knew that he was in the wrong about humans, but she couldn’t help it: she loved him too, with every single fiber of her being, though she knew little of him. It seemed as if he showed his love at every turn.

Jane hardly knew how she could bear so much love at once when her life had been so loveless such a short time ago.

Jane went to bed with a heart so full that night that she cried herself into the first contented slumber of her life.

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