The King smiled as he led the boys into their rooms. His grin brightened as they all ran to the gifts that were laying on their beds.
Every box contained a neatly, fine-tailored suits for each of them. Each had the same black colored pants and suit jacket, but the shirts underneath differed; Eros had red, Elijah had blue, Aris had green, and Morpheus had white.
“Now we can dress like Adlaric!” Morpheus exclaimed. The other day, the boys vocalized their desire to wear fine clothing like their King. Adlaric happily assisted in adding to their wardrobe. Since they arrived, their belongings had increased significantly in size, much to their enthusiasm. They had toys, books, games, and a closet of clothes that any other child should have access to. Adlaric’s smile faded when he saw Elijah slowly put the shirt back down on the bed, instead of putting it on. He went over and kneeled beside him.
“What’s wrong, Elijah?”
Elijah looked nervous to speak. His eyes went from Adlaric’s to his feet over and over again. “You’ll be mad at me,” he whispered, biting his lip.
“Have you done something bad?” The King retorted. Elijah looked up, shaking his head.
“I don’t think so,” he mumbled.
“Then you can tell me. How about this, even if it is something bad, you won’t be in trouble if you tell me what you did.”
Elijah stayed silent for a bit before insecurely lifting his head. “I-I want to wear pink.”
Adlaric stayed silent for the briefest moment, and in that moment, Elijah become increasingly apprehensive. “I’m sorry I shouldn–”
“That’s okay, Elijah,” the King chuckled, ruffling the child’s hair. “Unfortunately, I only have these colors, but while we are out we can stop somewhere and you can pick out a pink dress shirt, yes?”
Elijah’s eyes lit up and he happily nodded, the tears in his eyes dissipating.
“Can I tell you something,” Adlaric asked. Elijah nodded. “You never have to worry about telling me or Eve something like that, alright? How you choose to dress is an expression of yourself and we are the best versions of ourselves when we stay authentic. Do you understand?”
“What does autentic mean?” He asked, messing up the pronunciation.”
“Authentic,” Adlaric repeated, slower this time. “It means to be true to yourself.”
“That makes sense! Thank you, Adlaric.” Elijah jumped into Adlaric’s arms and kissed his cheek before finishing getting dressed.
“Remember, we have to be quiet. A library is a place of learning, not playing.”
The kids all nodded their heads at Eve before walking into the palace they considered a library. They drove a few hours to visit the George Peabody Library in Baltimore. Evangeline had always wanted to visit, but never gotten the chance to go...until now. The outside resembled an 18th century classic home with stone walls and greenery climbing up the sides.
There were ornate fixtures decorating the outside windows which made the atmosphere feel classically English. When you entered, it was almost as if the outside lied to you because the ceiling was far higher and the building was far larger than it appeared. The floor was a pristine marble with pillars on each end that rose to each balcony. The walls were decorated with books of all genres.
Evangeline found out that there was a children’s reading session happening almost as soon as they arrived. Adlaric signed them up and watch as they sat in front of the teacher as he read to them. They all were eager except for the oldest two.
“May we go to the fiction section? I can read by myself,” Aris explained. Adlaric nodded and Emma followed him up the stairs to the next level.
Adlaric smiled as he wrapped his broad arms around Eve’s waist from behind. With a sharp pulled, she was firm against his chest. She smiled up at him and placed her hands on his that were resting on here stomach. He kissed her cheek. “I want to show you something,” he whispered softly in her ear.
Puzzled, she looked at him as he pulled away and grabbed her hand. She then looked hesitantly at the children who were occupied.
“They’ll be busy for a while. It will only take a moment.”
She followed him up five flights of floors. Multiple times she had giggled at his complete and utter excitement as he stomped up the marble stairs. When they arrived at the top, he pushed open two large doors that led to a roof garden with a terrace of books.
Eve gasped, taken back by the pure beauty and naturalness of the bright flowers and archaic books. She walked further out to where two trees met in the center. Looking down, tears sprung to her eyes. In dark, black letters, with a gold plate underneath it read: The Evangeline Atheneum.
She bit her lip to contain her excitement as she felt his strong arms wrap around her waist again from behind. She felt his hand move her hair away from her neck, followed by the gentle caress of his lips. He kissed, succulently, down her neck to her collarbone, causing her to shutter and shrug into his touch. “Do you like it?” He asked.
“I love it, Adlaric...but why?”
“I figured it would make you happy.”
“You did this just to make me happy?”
His hands turned her around so he could look her in the eyes. With a swoop of his hand he pushed a strand of her hair back behind her ear. He leaned forward, their noses barely touching. “I’d do anything to make you happy.”
Leaning on her tip toes, she wrapped her hand around his neck and pulled him down to kiss him. “You don’t need to buy me extravagant gifts to make me happy. You make me happy. I must say, though, this is pretty amazing.”
“I love you, my Queen.”
“And I, you, my King.”
When both walked back downstairs all but two children were waiting by the door, ready to go. They were all excited to be dressed up so formally; they were thrilled to be going to a classy restaurant. Evangeline looked around for Aris and Eros. Adlaric gently tapped her shoulder, and with a teasing glance, smiled toward the childrens section. Eve’s heart warmed when she saw Eros between Aris’ legs paying painstakingly close attention to the words Aris read. “Let’s give them five more minutes, yes?”
Eve looked up at him and nodded. “How about you go put them in the car and when that’s done we can get them. I kind of want to watch them...”
Adlaric nodded and ushered the others outside. When he returned, he saw Eve actively peering at the boys with a look of distant hope.
She jumped slightly from his voice as he came up behind her. She smiled, although it didn’t reach her dark eyes. “Can you hear what they’re saying.”
Adlaric focused for a moment as he nodded. “They’re talking about The Tale of Desperuex. Eros is talking about how he wants to finish the book and Aris said he has it at home.”
Home. Her heart twisted in her chest. She turned around to Adlaric and held her hand firmly against his chest. “I don’ want–” She stopped mid sentence, afraid and nervous.
“What is it Evangeline?” His own heart was hopeful she would say something about keeping the kids.
“Nothing,” she said turning around. A deep solemness rooted itself into the depths of her stomach. “I’ll get the boys.”
When the day comes, the children have their suitcases next to them and are wearing their favorite pieces of clothing.
Early that morning they had woken up without their usual overactivity and exuberance. They all seemed to slowly fall out of their beds and trudge downstairs where Eve and Adlaric were no better. Eve tried to put on a happy face, but everyone could see right through it.
As usual, breakfast was served, but there wasn’t the usual buzzing excitement pulling the conversation. In fact, no one spoke, and you could only hear the harsh scraping of silverware against the ceramic plates. Adlaric had heard the cars pull up and helped them all outside.
Now they stood in age order. Eve and Adlaric were at one end, watching as the chauffeurs placed Aristotle’s bag in the trunk of his car. The driver then opened the door for Aris. One by one this continued until it was Aurora’s turn. She clutched Eve’s hand so tightly, the Luna whimpered slightly. When Adlaric went to remove the child, Eve shook her head.
“Please! Eve, we promise we will be better! We won’t be as loud, we won’t stay up as late. Whatever we did wrong we promise it won’t happen again,” she sobbed as her head fell in front of her. Her tiny braids fell over her eyes, so as Eve knelt down, she had to push the braids away.
Eve had her own tears streaming down her face. “Listen to me,” she cooed. “You did nothing wrong. None of you did. You’re going to go to a place that makes you very happy and they’ll buy you presents and toys and whatever else you want. You must be a good girl. Go Aurora. You must go, sweetheart.”
Aurora still clung to Eve even as the driver was forcing them apart. When Aurora finally let go and was placed into the car, Eve turned into Adlaric’s embrace. She could hear the brigade of vehicles make their way down the stone driveway.
Adlaric could hear the sobs of the children inside the car. He could even hear his own heart shattering. “Evangeline,” he rasped out. She pulled away and looked at him. “I know you’re young. I know you don’t feel you are ready to be a mother and I feel I am not ready to be a father, but I do know how I feel about those kids,” he whispered. “I’ll raise them even if you don’t want to, but I don’t want to make this decision. We must agree.”
“How dare you assume I’d let you raise our kids by yourself.” Her voice was terse and tense, but a small smile brightened up her face. Adlaric pulled away and took off his suit jacket, handing it to Eve before leaping impossibly high into the air. He landed in front of the first car, placing his hand on the hood. The car came to a complete stop from Adlaric’s force. He walked around and opened Aristotle’s door before walking to the car that Emmaline was in. One by one he pulled open their doors until all the kids were standing back beside him and Eve on the stairs.
An elder of the council stepped out of one of the cars and went to Adlaric.
“My King, these children must find a home.”
“They have,” Eve responded.
Adlaric smiled at his mate as he turned back to the elder.
“As King you cannot have eight illegitimate children before you have one child with the Queen! Your first born heir cannot be a child that is not biologically yours,” the elder explained in rushed worry.
“You forget who you stand in front of,” Adlaric started, walking forward. “I can do whatever the hell I want. I’m King. Goodbye, elder Mattise.”
Of course, the words of the elder had gotten to Adlaric, but he would never express that. The questions he posed were valid; who would take his throne, where would his biological child be placed in the hierarchy, and could the lycanthrope world have a human King?
Aristotle is the oldest, therefore, when the time came he would take Adlaric’s crown. The King’s eyes widened as a new line of thought invaded. Aristotle would probably be dead a hundred years by the time Adalric handed down his crown, unless he was mated to another lycan. That goes with all the human children; Cynara, persephone, Elijah, Aris...
As Adlaric and Eve went back inside, his mind ran with the sour thoughts, but he let them all go as Aurora climbed into his lap.