When Aidan forced his feet to carry him up the cellar stairs a few moments after Sean’s exit, he found him sitting on the couch in the main room of the home, his fingernails drumming so forcefully against the end table that the wood varnish was beginning to chip away.
“So much for an uneventful visit” Aidan mumbled more to himself as he used even more willpower to carry him toward that sofa. There Sean seemed to be using quite a bit of will of his own to keep from responding to Aidan’s presence in any way.
“Was there something you wanted?” Sean finally forced words as Aidan moved to a spot between the couch and the nearby chair “something else you wanted” Sean corrected with barely veiled sarcasm.
Aidan thought of a million different things he could say in response, but none of them seemed to even come close to being adequate. He finally sighed and upon seeing that Sean hadn’t moved to rip his throat out just yet, he took a wary seat on the nearby chair.
“What you said about Erica was a bit harsh” Aidan managed, though his voice shook with each word.
That was when Sean turned those ice blue eyes to him with an even icier look in them “excuse me?”
Aidan just shook his head; eyes down “it was a bit hurtful” Aidan decided he may as well continue since he had started down that path at all, unwisely as it may have been.
“Gee, Aidan, I’m so sorry that you felt hurt tonight” Sean returned with obvious insincerity.
Aidan simply sighed again as he tried to find any more words that could even come close to covering the situation he now found himself in “she told me that you two had barely even had a relationship in the last three and a half decades” was the only response Aidan could manage.
“Ex—“ Sean began, only to have his voice fail him as he sensed Claire’s presence a moment before she appeared at the top of the cellar stairs.
Claire furrowed her brow a bit at the expressions both men wore upon her return, both turning what almost looked like angry gazes on her. She shook her head, caught for a moment, but pressed on as she moved into the room “well, the servants were a bit loud tonight, weren’t they?” she managed, attempting a smile despite the looks she had received from both her sire and her childe.
“Excuse me?” Sean managed to finish his sentence then, with more than a bit of coolness reflected in his tone as well.
“The servants. I’m surprised you didn’t hear them up here” Claire clarified as she warily moved closer to where the two men still looked at her with a bit of disbelief, which continued to make her a bit more than uncomfortable.
‘You know. Just whatever. What the fuck ever” Sean added in a huff as he turned away, refusing to look back at either Aidan or Claire right then.
“Um” Claire began, more than a bit thrown “did I miss something?” she asked, her voice growing smaller as she looked between the two men for answers.
“I believe that’s my line” Sean muttered more to himself, fixing his eyes on the expanse of sea outside the window, running his hands through those long golden locks once more.
Claire narrowed her eyes further at her husband, the hurt obvious in them. She then turned to Aidan “what’s going on here?” she asked him in the same small voice.
Aidan scoffed loudly “please, Claire” were the only words he could offer her as he pushed himself up from the chair, shaking his head with disbelief as he quickly moved to exit the house rather than dealing with any more of this situation right at that moment.
Claire let out a small sound of defeat as Aidan slammed the door behind him and Sean continued to glare out at the nighttime sea, refusing to even grace her with the slightest glance. Swallowing back her emotions, Claire sadly took a seat on the chair Aidan had just vacated, continuing to watch Sean in the hopes that he’d offer her any explanation at all.
Nearly half an hour passed with Sean staring out into the night and Claire staring down at the floor wracking her brain for any clue as to what had made them so upset with her that night, but somehow afraid to even try to ask; considering the responses she had gotten to any and all of her words already.
At last, Sean spoke to her again. Though instead of the anger, his tone and aura were instead just saturated with sadness “did it at least make you feel better?” were the only words he could manage.
“Did what make me feel better?” Claire stammered hoarsely.
A slight scoff preceded his answer “Aidan.”
“What about him?” Claire asked in the same confusion that had been plaguing her since entering the room.
Sean just shook his head with his own sound of disbelief “I suppose I should be glad that you chose revenge over grief. Maybe that’s why I’m just sitting here, talking myself into trying to get past this” he added more quietly.
“Sean what on earth are you talking about? Please, I am so confused right now” she pleaded.
“I mean, I honestly don’t even have any right to be upset at all, do I?” he continued.
“I am so completely lost here, Sean” she repeated, finding herself wishing for the first time in her life that she had actually had Haven’s mind reading ability right then.
Sean swallowed again, still not looking back in response to any of her claims of confusion “I think the thing that I really am the most upset about is that you waited ‘til after I actually thought things were ok again. I mean if you had done this back before you and I were the way I thought we were now; that I could’ve understood. I probably would have even expected it, on some level. But I honestly did think we were ok again. But I guess I made myself try to forget how hurt you would be if you did find out. I mean, that’s what this is really about, isn’t it? How long have you known? How long were you planning this at all?” only a slight pause “because if you knew about it last night, when the two of us gave each other that Kiss, then you are by far the very best actress in the world. Completely blindsided me with this. Completely” he repeated.
That was when Claire let out an even louder sound of frustration and despair “oh my fucking god, Sean. I literally have no goddamn clue what you are even talking about! What did I do? What am I getting revenge for? What did I know about? What was I planning? What the fuck is any of this?” she asked, her desperation adding to her anger at not having deciphered any of that night’s conversation at all.
Upon hearing her continued claims of not having any idea of what he was speaking about; as well as the desperation in her voice, Sean finally turned back to her. He braced himself a moment as he watched her look back at him questioningly. Then upon turning his nerves to steel, he looked back at her, into her. A moment later, Sean was the one wearing a look of pure shock at what he had found there inside her head when he had finally given himself permission to look at all, despite knowing how much of a violation it truly was.
“What?” Claire asked, seeing his expression change so thoroughly to one of shock and regret.
“Oh god” Sean whispered as he stood.
“What?” Claire repeated more loudly.
“I’m so sorry Claire” he told her as he bit back emotion as he forced his eyes back to her.
“What?” she repeated a third time.
“You really don’t have any clue at all what I’m talking about, do you?” he returned in the same whisper.
“That’s what I’ve been telling you all fucking night, Sean” she exclaimed.
“I’m sorry” Sean repeated “I guess it would be futile to tell you to try and forget this entire conversation?”
“Yeah, a bit” she added with a bit of her remaining anger peeking out “what the hell is going on, Sean?” she pressed.
“I thought that…” he struggled with the words “it’s going to sound so ridiculous. Because it is ridiculous” he added as he shook his head, turning his eyes back toward the cellar steps.
“Care to add a few more words to any of those sentences?” Claire returned impatiently.
Though his mind then moved on to the real culprit who had set this whole disaster into motion. He then moved back toward the steps without giving Claire any of those answers, as he wasn’t even that completely clear on some of them himself.
“Sean!” Claire called after him in annoyance, but his feet were already carrying him quickly down the steps once more.
However, when Sean made his way back to Aidan’s room, he found it empty once again. Of course, that only solidified his anger. But at least now that anger was no longer wrongly aimed at Claire; well not at the real Claire anyway. He sighed as he shut the door to Aidan’s quarters again, only to turn back and find that Claire had followed him down the steps, arms impatiently crossed over her chest.
“Sorry, I had to…” he tried to find the words that would even begin to explain any of the evening.
Her fog of confusion had finally cleared enough to run all of his words that night through her head once more as she centered a suspicious look on her husband “how hurt I would be if I found out what?” was the only question she offered then.
Sean closed his eyes tightly at her words, “this whole night was just one huge misunderstanding perpetrated by that little…”
“If I found out what?” she repeated, cutting him off.
That was when Sean looked away, with actual fear in his expression “Claire can we please just try to forget any of this night even happened?” he pleaded with her not to force him to hurt her so much worse than he ever had before.
“Found out what?” she returned more angrily.
“Please don’t make me answer that Claire. Please” Sean repeated, his own tears forming at the corners of those blue eyes.
Though her face made it clear that he no longer had to give her the answer, as he already had “so you thought I had done something tonight…with Aidan I guess?” she shrugged, her own tears threatening to emerge “to get even with you?” she looked down as she swallowed hard “that about cover it?” she choked out the last few words.
“Claire…” he attempted, not even sure what he even could say as she looked down quickly biting back more tears. Seeing her despair as the damage had already been done, he forced more words “it was the night Avan died. When you told me you’d never be the girl I loved again. It had been ten years that I had to live without you by then, Claire” he choked back his own emotion before continuing “I thought I had completely lost you, forever. I didn’t want to go on. I didn’t care anymore. I was just…done. I barely even remember what happened. I didn’t even feel it. It just happened, because that night I went away too. I couldn’t bear to still be me, if it meant being without you” he choked out the rest of the confession.
Claire was quiet a long moment, as both their cheeks were streaked red by that point. She finally spoke again, though her voice was barely a whisper “you could have ‘went away’ with anyone else in the world but her” with that, she could do nothing more than rush back to their bedroom, sobbing quietly as she did.
It wasn’t too long after her encounter with Aidan that night, or rather ‘Claire’s’ encounter with Aidan, that Taylor arrived back at the place where she had been living since leaving Haven’s home. Of course, it was also the same home she had lived in before ever even going to present herself to Haven nineteen years earlier. The home itself was nearly as large and luxurious as Haven’s own, and it was located at the northernmost tip of the large settlement there along the coast.
When she stepped inside, she found Awsha sitting upon the sofa with a glass of her chosen sustenance in hand “and where have you been all night?” Awsha greeted the grinning blonde as she moved into the room.
“Making your life a lot easier” Taylor responded as she placed a light kiss over Awsha’s lips and took the seat next to her.
“What did you do now?” Awsha asked with brow raised.
“Oh, just spent the evening breaking hearts into a million pretty little pieces” Taylor smiled, her eyes then immediately turning toward the man who entered the room upon her return to the home that night.
He stood at about six feet tall, his waist-length locks as black as his clothing and even his eyes. He had white streaks running through those long locks, and the kind of presence that made others whither before his majesty, much the same way they reacted to any elder Kindred with that particular type of magnetism.
“And what did my little heartbreaker do?” he asked as he stepped toward the couch where the two women had instantly turned all their attention to him upon his arrival.
“I was wondering that myself” Awsha managed to interject before Taylor could offer her response.
“Did I ask you to speak, Awsha?” he told her plainly, the mere sound of his words cowing Awsha into forcing her eyes back to the floor and letting Taylor give her explanation.
“The heir to the throne is now nothing more than a broken wreck, as is his wife. He’s ripe for the taking” Taylor added as she grinned over at Awsha once again.
Awsha looked up at the man, waiting to see if he had any more words to speak before she dared to voice any more of her own “what does that mean, exactly?” she asked Taylor in a small voice.
“I made Sean think that Claire knew about his little transgression with you. The second one, I mean” she added with a smirk.
Awsha looked a little startled by that “how did you do that?” she asked worriedly.
“And why do you sound so worried?” the man interrupted as he scowled down at Awsha.
“Just curious” Awsha stammered.
“Lying to me is a good way for me to tell Taylor to permanently become you. Then you will have lost any of your use, Awsha. And you know what happens to things that have no further use” he told her, the threat plain.
Awsha swallowed hard, as she looked away again, voicing no further questions right then. However Taylor offered the answers anyway, never one to shy away from taking credit for her little games “I made him think that Claire found out; and that she was so upset that she decided to get even with her lovely husband” Taylor informed with another smile.
“Even how?” Awsha managed, trying very hard to keep any emotion out of her voice. After all, the man who listened to their every word was known to see emotion as nothing short of weakness.
“By having Claire be the one who broke his heart into those millions of pieces of course” Taylor chuckled.
“And how did she do that?” Awsha managed.
“Well she, meaning me, took a nice long ride on her pretty little childe. And Claire, meaning me” she repeated with another smile “made damn sure Sean would walk in on them. It was beautiful I’m telling you” she allowed another chuckle.
“Sean walked in on you with Aidan? And you looked like Claire at the time?” Awsha repeated as her eyes widened.
“It was priceless…” Taylor allowed another giggle “especially when he accused the real Claire of doing it to get even with him, for you. It was my masterpiece, I tell you” Taylor added with further amusement.
Awsha tried very hard to not show her fear of what exactly Sean would do now that their secret was known. Especially after telling her that he would not be able to go on at all if Claire was ever allowed to be destroyed by that sin.
But before Awsha could even attempt any other reaction, the man spoke again “so, I guess you have to go comfort your brother now” the man told her as he moved his eyes to the door “and don’t disappoint me, Awsha. Remember how easily I can replace you after all” he reminded as he let his hands curl in Taylor’s long locks to accent his statement.
“Of course I’ll do whatever I need to, Baron” Awsha told him as she stood to move toward the door with as much confidence as she could force into her tone and her walk; despite the very real fear that this serpent did truly inspire.