Seven months. They’d managed to go seven months before Lorde was put on bedrest but only for half the day. She just didn’t carry well. He didn’t see any more children in the future for them. He couldn’t imagine she’d want to go through another pregnancy and a part of him was okay with that. He was exhausted.
SAGE was doing well, so well that he’d hired Gracie and Emma to work for him along with two chefs and three rotating cashiers. Steph was a pro at managing the bakery and wanted to expand, but he’d had to tell her no. They simply weren’t ready for that kind of commitment. Expanding meant construction, hiring more people, and more work for him. And he just could not take the time right now, not when Lorde needed him.
Although, it wasn’t like she wanted him around. She fought him on everything. Doctor’s appointments, learning the sex of the baby, even redecorating the nursery. It was frustrating and if he was honest with himself, it made him want to just say forget it. His mother said it was hormonal changes and that she would get better. Seven months in and she was the same raging –
Taking a deep breath, Kieran made his way to the nursery.
“Daddy!” Colin came running up to him.
Bending down, Kieran picked up his son. “Hey big man.”
His son gave him a kiss and asked, “Daddy, can we go to the beach today?”
“Sure, if your mama says it’s okay.” Colin was five and growing like a weed. He was in kindergarten now and his teacher was very impressed with his social skills. All the kids loved him and Kieran wondered if it was just his personality or if magic was involved. He hadn’t shown any of the typical signs of being a witch but Kieran had started to test him a bit. His son might be sympathetic, like he was.
“Yes, Colin?” He looked at the boy.
“Mama will say no. She always says no.”
And how sad was that? Kieran stared at his son. “Well, not always. But you know what? I promise she won’t say no this time. She might not be able to go but we will have a boy’s day out, how’s that?”
He smiled for his son’s benefit.
They had a wonderful time at the beach. Colin loved the water and divided his time chasing the waves and building sand castles. Kieran loved these moments, where he could just relax and enjoy the time with his family. On that note, he reminded himself to call Gracie and set up a time to visit her new place. He’d been meaning to, ever since she moved to Moonlight Falls, but he just never had the time.
“Are you comfortable? Do you need anything?” Surprisingly, Lorde had agreed to come to the beach with them. He’d told Colin, who’d taken all of two seconds to think about it and agree to the change in plans. He loved his mama and wanted to spend time with her. It was just sometimes not obvious that Lorde felt the same way.
“No, I’m okay, thank you.” Lorde sat on a lounger. She was quiet and Kieran felt lulled into a sense of peace.
“Lorde?” She turned to look at him. “Thank you. For today, I mean.”
Closing her eyes, she said, “When you say things like that, when you thank me for spending time with my family, it makes me feel like I’m letting you down somehow.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I know. I’m just letting you know how I feel. That’s what you wanted, right?” She kept her eyes closed.
“Right. I’m sorry.”
“You’re doing it again.”
“Mama! Look! I found a seashell!” Colin came running up to them, brandishing a shell for his mother to look at.
Lorde struggled to sit up – Kieran didn’t move to help – and smiled as their son reached her. “Wow, that’s awesome baby! Are you going to use it on your castle or will you bring it home?”
“Oh, can I? I know just where to put it!” He rushed back to the hole he’d been digging around his castle.
“You’re thinking of what?” Eden exclaimed. Shock and glee warred for room on his face.
They were playing pool in the den. Something Kieran rarely did, not with a small child who couldn’t navigate the stairs well and a pregnant wife on bedrest.
“Somehow, I don’t think you’re as shocked as you’re trying to look.”
“Is that a human observation or a magic-person one?” Eden chalked his pool cue and finally let himself smile.
“Magic person?” Kieran studied the table. He felt edgy, unbalanced. He needed to get out of the house.
“Dude, in the last six months, I’ve met a witch, a werewolf and something called fae touched. Ya’ll ain’t human.” He raised a hand before Kieran could protest. “But that’s okay. I’m easy.”
Kieran smirked. “You sure are.”
First thing Eden had done after he was released was head to Beach City to see his sister. Unfortunately for him, it just so happened to be at the same time as Kieran’s uncle, Dre. He’d gotten a warm welcome and a stern talking to. But he’d made it out in one piece and that’s all that mattered, right? Kieran smiled wider, wishing he’d been there.
“Hey!” Eden laughed, reaching out with the pool stick to hit Kieran, who ducked. They swiped at each other for a bit, using the sticks as swords but Eden soon grew serious. He watched Kieran for a moment before asking, “Are you seriously thinking about divorcing Lorde? She’s about to have your daughter. It’s kind of bad timing, don’t you think?”
“I said I was thinking about it. Not that I would actually do it.” Kieran had asked himself the same question. He would be the asshole that left his wife with a small child and a newborn. But was it fair to stay in a marriage that was clearly a sham?
“Well, whatever you decide. I support you, man.” Eden placed his pool cue on the table and cleared his throat. “Can I ask you something?”
“Of course.” Feeling a bit calmer now that he’d voiced his feelings, Kieran placed his own cue down and turned to look at his friend.
“Belle, she… She’s getting so much better so quickly. I was hoping that she could move closer to me. Maybe take some classes at MFU and finish her degree here. I know that living in Beach City is hard for her, especially now that your parents have moved. And I can’t really afford the trips, so…”
“Hey, Eden.” Kieran interrupted him. “Stop. Whatever you need, just tell me. I’ll take care of the details. Besides, Belle has a trust that you can draw from for whatever she needs.”
Eden stared at him and Kieran could tell he was struggling to accept the help. He’d always been proud and would rather steal than ask for a hand out. But this was for Belle. If he had to beg on hands and knees, Eden would.
Kieran would never let him. Picking up their forgotten pool cues and handing one to Eden, he said, “My parents wouldn’t leave Beach City unless you let them set it up, remember? Well, they have more money than they know what to do with. So use it. And I’ll talk to Gracie – see if there’s room in her house for one more. It will be better for Belle to be around family.”
At the mention of family, Eden swallowed and looked away. They were family but Kieran knew it wasn’t the same. He wouldn’t tell Eden yet but that trust was in both Belle and his name. He would find out eventually. No need to give him a reason to refuse the help for his sister.
“Now let me finish kicking your ass in this game.” He watched as his animated friend returned.
“In your dreams, you David Blaine wannabe!”
After Eden left, Kieran made himself a drink, thinking about how he could help his friend. He smiled to himself when he thought of Eden’s teasing. It was a good reminder that he needed to practice his magic. It was like a muscle and needed constant stretching. Eva had been upset to learn he wasn’t using his practical magic at all these days.
He set his glass down and thought of a simple spell. He flicked his wrist and the fireworks he’d wanted sparkled in the air. David Blaine, my ass.
He would have to get some of his mom’s primer books for Colin. She and Matt had written over thirty books about magic, ranging from beginner to advanced. Siobhan’s journal had proven helpful, since the fairy had written most, if not all, her spells inside. There were some that he would never share with anyone – they were that dark and twisted but the majority were safe. And it felt good to know that he was helping his parents with their dreams.
He would use the primers to teach Colin a few things. With that thought, he cleaned up and made his way back upstairs to his family. At least the den was a safe place to practice without Lorde finding out. He sighed. He’d have to tell her, especially if he started to teach Colin. He was so not looking forward to that conversation!
Kieran walked into SAGE and sighed. He turned to find his sister staring at the menu, muttering under her breath. It was going to be a long day. Pulling out a chair, he sat down and nudged her. “What are you looking for?”
Stephanie looked up and smiled. “Hey stranger!” She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek before returning to the menu. “I think it’s time we changed the menu.”
Kieran leaned back and glanced around the room. Business wasn’t booming but SAGE turned a profit. Enough to pay for school for Steph and give Gracie and Emma some pocket money. They didn’t need it but it helped keep them busy. Plus the experience would look great on Gracie’s resume when she started looking for a real culinary job and Steph once she started her MBA.
“What’s wrong with the menu?” He asked absently. He was studying the young woman at the table beside theirs. She looked familiar but he couldn’t place her.
“It’s the same menu we’ve had for two years. Don’t you think it’s time for a change?” Steph responded, without looking up at him.
Sighing, he said, “You’ll have to take that up with Gracie. She’s doing all the baking. I’m sure the two of you will figure it out.”
Stephanie pursed her lips but didn’t say anything. Sighing again, Kieran stood up from the table and leaned down to give his sister a kiss on the cheek. “I have to run. I’m meeting Eden at the train station soon.”
She looked up. “Eden’s here?”
Kieran laughed. “You still have that crush?”
Blushing, Steph dropped her gaze to the menu. “I do not have a crush,” she mumbled.
“Yeah, okay.” Laughing, Kieran walked through to the kitchen. Some things never changed! Steph had been infatuated with Eden when they were younger, even though she was just twelve to his seventeen. She seemed to grow out of it once she hit puberty but maybe he’d been wrong.
Shrugging, he walked into the small kitchen area and smiled at his grumpy looking cousin.
“How can she gain experience, if no one will give her a chance?” Gracie snapped while rolling the dough she would use to make tomorrow’s bread.
“Gracie, I have two 18-year-olds baking and a 22-year-old as the general manager. I need someone with more experience. I’m sorry.” They’d spent the last half-hour bickering back and forth about her friend, Claire. He leaned down and gave her a peck on the forehead. He rarely said no to her but with the pregnancy demanding his and Lorde’s full attention, he didn’t have the time to devote to SAGE anymore. “I have to go, Gracie. Love you.”
She huffed but muttered, “Love you more.”
“With enthusiasm Gracie, with enthusiasm!” He waved his arms, silently asking for more volume.
“I love you more than the sun and stars!” She shouted as he walked through the doors. He could hear her laughing and that made him smile. He really hated disappointing her.
He waved to Emma on his way out of the shop, thinking about Gracie’s friend – Claire, was it? Maybe he could find something for her to do…
As Kieran walked down the stairs and headed towards his car, he suddenly remembered where he knew Claire. Because that was who that young woman sitting at the table next to him and Steph had been. She was the bartender he’d met a few months ago at Titanium. And she was Gracie’s friend and roommate.
She looked completely different in the daylight but he was good with faces. He was good with remembering a person’s psyche – soul, whatever. Everyone had a vibe, a spiritual imprint that was just as unique as a fingerprint. And he was good at distinguishing one from another. Although some were harder to pinpoint than others. It had taken him a while to realize where he knew Lorde from. But it was what made picking up emotion and memories so easy for him.
At the bar, with the flashing lights and the press of people, he hadn’t been able to pick up too much of Claire’s vibe. She’d seemed cool, flirty but reserved. She was much more approachable sitting alone at one of his café tables than she’d been at the bar.
He thought back to that night. He’d been so angry and frustrated with Lorde. And then he’d gone to Titanium and had a great conversation with Claire. He hadn’t given her much thought after that night but she’d been funny and flirty. She’d made him feel normal. And she’d given him top shelf bourbon.
Smiling to himself he decided that he could definitely find something for her to do at SAGE.