Addie grew up similarly naïve, pampered and sheltered by her mother and father. In her mind, Momma shined like the princess in her bedtime stories and Daddy was as charming and handsome as any prince. As she grew, everyone around her told her that she was the perfect mix of her parents – blonde, tan, and fine-boned like her mother; tall, lean, and green-eyed like her father.
She was only ten when her daddy died. Addie didn’t remember much of the event or the immediate aftermath. She remembered with startling clarity the afternoon she came home from school a few weeks later to Momma crying on the porch swing and being comforted by a man she called Niall.
The man left Momma’s side to introduce himself to the child. When he inhaled, he turned sharply to the crying woman. “Why haven’t you called me sooner? Do you want her drained like Caelum?”
“I thought I had more time. Her scent isn’t as strong as Caelum’s was,” the grieving blond replied. “He was half.”
“And you’re an eighth. Her blood is only going to get more tempting as she goes through puberty… her scent… her allure will only increase. If you had any sense, you’d let me take her for her protection.”
Momma stood tall, wiping angrily at her tear-stained cheeks. “To that wasteland that wanted to keep hybrids prisoner? Over my dead body! You are NOT taking my daughter. I will protect her and teach her to use her gifts in a way that I never had. I will gladly take your help though. Teach her to cloak her scent like you can.“ She sat back down, looking defeated. “Already I can’t leave her alone with Jessica or Willa. Jess has a history for having a taste for hybrids and Willa’s only just started getting mentored by Keith. Part of me wants to hate him for releasing her before she was ready and then leaving. If Keith hadn’t offered to foster her, I don’t know what she would have done.”
Niall patted the woman’s arm comfortingly. “I’ll be happy to help, but haven’t you felt a difference since Caelum died?” She looked at the older man cluelessly. “The two of you formed a bond, combining your light and your blood in the form of your daughter. Because of that bond, when he passed on to the Summerlands, his light came in to you. Haven’t you sensed the change?”
Addie leaned against the porch railing watching the adults interact and converse, apparently forgetting her presence. “What does that mean, his ‘light came into’ me?”
Niall’s expression softened. “Child, how old was your husband?”
The blonde woman sniffled and scrubbed her cheeks with her palms, trying to erase the tear-tracks. “Thirty eight. We laughed because his birthday was two days after mine. He told me I was lucky he had a thing for older women.” She chuckled and choked back a sob at the same time.
Her great-grandfather gave her a sad smile. “And how old do you think I am?”
Momma’s brow furrowed. “To look at you, I would think… maybe early seventies? But you knew Warlow soon after he was turned, right? He drained your tribe when you were a baby.”
The old man nodded. “That was more than thousands of years ago, love,” he told her affectionately.
While her mother gaped speechlessly, Addie tried to comprehend what she had heard. Despite being a very smart girl, her youthful brain was unable to comprehend a life for that length of time.
“It is the light in me that gives me my extraordinary lifespan. Caelum was the same age as you, and even as a Halfling, he could have lived for several centuries. With his light combining with yours… well, provided you no longer court danger blindfolded, your life is now extended several times over.”
Addie’s mother closed her eyes and shook her head. “And once I’m sick of outliving my family, my child, everyone I love… what? Just offer myself to a hungry vampire and become a pile of dust?”
“That won’t be a concern,” her grandfather tried to assure her, but by the skeptical look in her cocoa-colored eyes, she wasn’t comforted. He flicked his cornflower-blue eyes toward the silent child mere feet away and locked eyes with the woman, seemingly saying something with his gaze. When she nodded slightly, he beckoned the attentive child with his finger. She approached the man apprehensively, even though her mother seemed to trust him. He took her small hand in his larger one and stared deeply into her spring-green eyes for several long moments. “Did you hear anything?” he asked after letting her go.
She shook her head. “Should I have?” she asked, looking worriedly at her mother.
Momma’s brow furrowed. “No, baby. I’m just surprised.” She looked at Niall. “Caelum didn’t have that skill either. Maybe another talent?”
The older man thought about it and looked around. The weak fall sun peeked intermittently from behind dark gray clouds as it sank toward the horizon. “How do you feel, princess?”
“Confused. Sad because Daddy’s gone. A little scared. Kinda excited because I might get to learn something new. But mostly sad.”
“I’m not picking up any of that,” he mumbled and thought silently for several moments. “Call your brother. Ask him to come over,” the man ordered his granddaughter, who complied despite her confusion.
After a few minutes of arguing, she hung up with a scowl. “He says Bridget is out with the kids and he wants to relax and enjoy the quiet house.”
Niall smirked. “Addie, you call him. Don’t make it sound urgent, just impress upon him that you’d like to see him right now.”
Using her mother’s phone, the girl called her uncle. Seconds after making the request, she hung up. “He’s on his way.”
The old fairy sat next to his shell-shocked great-granddaughter. “Outside of vampires and your parents, when is the last time you didn’t get what you wanted?”
The little girl had to think. “I don’t like when Adilyn babysits. Lisa lets me eat as many desserts as I want and stay up until Momma is almost home. She’s a lot of fun!”
Ignoring the girl’s mother’s widened eyes and surprised sputtering, he continued. “And at school? Do you have many friends?”
Biting her lip, Addie answered. “It’s weird. I hear people say they think I’m creepy or Momma’s crazy or my uncle’s a… it’s a bad word,” she whispered. “But if I ask to sit with them at lunch or play with them at recess, they let me and act like we’re friends until I’m gone. Then they talk nasty again.”
The old man smiled at the girl then her mother. “Call one of your vampires. I want to test a theory.”
Arlene was called and Keith responded to the request, smiling at the woman he had become close friends with over the past decade. He had become used to the sweet scent that usually surrounded the woman, but when he bent to kiss the girl on the cheek, he stumbled in shock. Besides the girl’s usual smell, a weaker version of her mother, he smelled sawdust, wood smoke, rotting garbage, and fresh cut straw. It was a strange combination that he hadn’t been exposed to since leaving England after he was turned and made flashes of his human family and their modest little home wash over his mind. He blinked and saw the “humans” around him staring at him. He quickly tried to regain his usually unflappable demeanor and asked how he could help.
Under the florescent porch light, Niall instructed the vampire to glamour the child. Both monster and mother started at the fairy incredulously. “Something innocent, if you please. Her mother is immune as you know; I’m hoping the ability is inherited since her uncle is still quite susceptible.”
The Tudor-era vampire locked eyes with the blonde girl. “You have the sudden desire to run and roll in the nearest mud puddle.” Addie’s fastidiousness was well-known to her family friends and she would no sooner play in mud than she would cut off her shiny locks or help her uncle gut a deer.
The girl crinkled her nose in disgust. “Ew, Keith. Mud is gross.”
He pushed his will harder, but remained gentle enough to keep from hurting her. “No, you think mud and dirt are great fun. You get to use your imagination.”
Addie gave the man an exasperated eye roll as only her mother’s daughter could do. “I use my imagination plenty when I play with dolls and when I read. There is no need to make myself filthy in the process.”
Keith pressed one last time, as strong as he was willing to go with one so young. As her mother and great-great-grandfather watched, the girl stared back at the vampire defiantly, irritated that he wanted her to get dirty.
“Excellent!” Niall exclaimed, clapping his hands loudly and breaking the silent trance on the group. “Keith, I’m sure you don’t need to be told that no one can learn of this development. Addie, you are a very talented little girl. As your mother will not allow me to take you with me for your own protection, I am providing you with a guard who can train you in your gifts.” With a snap of his fingers, a man popped into the yard and the vampire’s fangs dropped.
“Keith, leave now, for your own good,” the blonde woman warned; the man fled the property using his supernatural speed. Turning to the stranger, she asked, “And you are…?”
With military propriety, he stepped forward and bowed. “Levi Parker, your highness. I’ve been training with His Highness’ royal guard since I was old enough to wield a sword. May I offer my condolences for the loss of your mate.”
Addie and her mother both considered the man. He was tall with broad shoulders and a narrow waist, with thick dark hair like Addie’s father. However, something in his hazel eyes was lacking. Niall approached and the guard bowed again. “Parker, your charge is Addie. She is who you are to focus your attention on… not her mother. Train Addie to use her talents. She seems to have parts of several. She is more fae than her mother, so we need to gauge her light. The child needs to know how to use her instinctual protection from those who would… lose control around her.”
While the child was too young to understand what the prince left unspoken, neither the guard nor the girl’s mother were left in blissful ignorance. As such, over the next decade Parker became a mainstay in the family. He also became fast friends with his charge’s uncle, charmed by his easy-going demeanor and simple country-boy charisma. And although his focus was on the girl, training her to use the inherent gifts of her blood and protecting her from those who would do her harm, his attention and affection was saved for her mother.