Part 3.5: Bloodlines RP

We are exploring Samantha a little now. While she is a catalyst for a lot of the events in Bloodlines, she is not really seen.

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Samantha dropped her bag from her shoulder and tossed her hood back. The warm spring weather had turned to a surprisingly cold rain around lunchtime and she didn’t really feel like walking home in it.

“Hi, Andrew,” she called out as she came in. “can I hang out here for a while?”

Rainy days brought one of two things to Hallis’ Mystic Books. Either an unusually large amount of customers, escaping the rain, or nothing, as people stay at home or in their workplace. Today had been the latter, which was honestly Andrew’s preference. Of course, he wanted people to come in and buy things, but too many people in the store was chaos, and unable to concentrate on each individual, he made no more sales than to a single customer at a time.

Checking his inventory at the counter, marking down items he was going to have to order more of (Tarot Cards, mostly, and crystals. Always crystals), Andrew glanced up as the bell rang, and smiled at Samantha.

“Yes, of course.” Despite caring for the girl as a . . . he guessed maybe Uncle, family relationships had never been anything he’d had much experience with, Andrew couldn’t help but check she wasn’t dripping water all over his store. “Do you want something to drink? There’s still some coffee in the back, or . . . I think the mini-fridge has some pop in it.”

“Coffee, please!” She grinned at him as she shed her coat at the door and hung it up away from the main path. “It got cold,” She complained needlessly. She picked up her school bag and grabbed a stool from the behind the counter to sit on. She’d been here enough times to feel comfortable doing that.

“Everyone stay home today?” She asked. “I half expected the place to be full of the nouveau hippies, who didn’t realize birkenstocks and crocheted shawls would not keep them dry.”

Andrew chuckled. Adrian was a fairly indulgent parent, at least with the unimportant things, like coffee consumption. It was getting more crucial now that Samantha had reached adolescence, that she be kept safe from the circle.

Then he chuckled again at the comment. “So did I, but it seems like today they’d rather stay away. I’m not complaining.” Hoping the coffee is still hot, Andrew went into his back room to get it. “Do you still drink it half milk, or are you too old for that now?!” he called back.

Samantha laughed. “You are never too old for a latte,” she insisted. “Unless you are, Daddy and then he would insist that it is a waste of perfectly good coffee.” She pulled a sketch pad from her book bag and a couple pencils.

“Might explain why he never sleeps. Not that you can tell him that,” she snorted. She knew Andrew would understand.

“He’s in a meeting with Rei right now, but he should be done soon. If it doesn’t stop raining he’ll stop by to get me.” She told him.

Andrew wouldn’t allow his customers to bring food or drinks into the shop, and had several almost-rude signs to that effect, but he made exceptions for himself, Adrian, and Samantha. As long as they drank in a travel mug. He brought the rainbow mug out to her, smirking at her comments about her father.

“I think Rei is the only person who truly still believes they can tell your father what to do,” Andrew agreed, tidying his inventory work to give Samantha room. “I hope the meeting’s nothing serious?” He has a moment of concern, that the meeting regards the girl next to him, and tries to quash it. Whether or not she had shown any sign of abilities, Andrew couldn’t believe there was nothing, and certainly she would sense any worry over her.

After all, he’d been a few years younger than Samantha when his talents first began to manifest . . . and both of them had shown latent abilities since early childhood.

“Who knows,” Samantha flipped to a page where she had started a sketch of Emily. The little girl had been looking at a book on the floor in the middle of the living room last weekend and the sun had been coming in the window at the perfect angle. Samantha still found it funny that it was a book on Old World Fairies Emily had out. These were not the pretty fairy of kids stories, these were the real and terrifying ones. The kid loved that book.

“You know him,” she shrugged. “He wouldn’t say if it was. But it is probably just about the last trip he went on. The one in Maine.” She too worried that it might be about her. She would never let either of them know how scared she was though. Both men had too much to worry about as it was.

She knew her father was trying to find a way to convince the Circle she was harmless without actually binding any abilities. He had promised her that he would not put her through that. She had seen how badly if affected him every time they reapplied bindings and the thought gave her nightmares.

She had not put anything on the pages of the book in the drawing and was about to sketch in a small sprite when she remembered that Andrew had something better.

“Do you still have that Hob?” She asked. She had been only 6 the first time Adrian brought her in here, but she remembered the replica Hob.

Knowing how much kids Samantha’s age, teenagers, valued their privacy, Andrew makes no attempt to look at what she’s sketching, turning his attention instead back to the bookkeeping and inventory work, that is so routine by this point he can do it with only half his attention. “Yes, probably.” Andrew hoped this was the case. Adrian’s missions for the circle were definitely a possibility, and he wondered how many of them were designed specifically to get Adrian killed. Either directly or indirectly.

Even without paying too much attention to what she was doing, Andrew could tell she was troubled. There were far too many things for her to be troubled by, that he couldn’t make a guess what it was. Her father’s own recklessness was a subject that concerned everyone who knew Adrian, but there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it.

“Hm?” Andrew turned to her at the question. “Yes, actually, I just put it away after too many complaints. Apparently the majority of my customers are more comfortable with the lie of pretty little harmless flower fairies.”

Andrew returned to his back room, not even questioning Samantha’s interest in the creature. . . well, not really a creature since it was a fake. Since he’d first purchased the hob, he’d had a chance to see the real thing or close enough, a mummified brownie that was somehow even more horrifying than what he’d imagined. Picking up the wooden display case, he brought it back out for her and set it on the counter, dusting the glass with his shirt sleeve. “Have you seen the real thing yet?”

“Not yet,” Samantha said sadly. “Dad is planning to take me to Europe next summer though. We will go see the old castles and hopefully some of the real fairies.” She smiled at him as he brought the doll out and she positioned it so she could sketch it into her drawing.

“God knows what poor old woman he plans to charm that kind of money out of. I swear he has no shame sometimes.” She grimaced and glanced at Andrew.

“Sorry, I  should not say that. He doesn’t do it all the time, but he has and it’s weird as shit.” It was true. Adrian rarely cared about money as long as He and Samantha had food and a roof over their heads.

The Circle paid enough that he was able to keep the basics, and the blog brought in a little more, but sometimes there were expenses he needed a little extra for and the ability to charm people came in handy. He never saw anything wrong with it, and only did it when it was important, but it still appalled Samantha. More because it made her feel weird to see him flirting with these women, knowing  full well about Sofia and Andrew. Not that Adrian knew she was aware of either.

She realized she may have just said something that might upset Andrew and she bit her lip. “Sorry,” she mumbled. That was out of line.”

“The last time I know of that he did that was when I broke my leg at school and they made me go to the hospital. It cost so much…” she looked down at her sketch. Her heart pounded and her stomach dropped. She would be upset if she had just ruined something. Her father did not have a lot of friends and she knew that Andrew was important to him even if he would not admit it.

Though he had never had much chance to travel himself, Andrew was trying not to be jealous at the travel plans, as Andrew couldn’t dredge up enough certainty that it would actually ever happen. Samantha spent so much of her time in the tiny apartment she shared with her father, she deserved some pleasant daydreams. And who knew, maybe Adrian would even pull it off. Maybe they would both be better off if they stayed there. . . and Andrew couldn’t help but feel a pang at the thought that they would leave him.

Then she made her comment about charming old ladies, Andrew blanched, staring intently at the order form without actually taking in the information. Did she know something or was she just, telling him something that her father did, that Adrian wasn’t likely to want her sharing. And Andrew couldn’t even blame him for it. Honestly, it was better than what he’d done, since Adrian was doing it for his daughter. Though it had been almost a decade since he’d gotten the money to open the shop, it was still part of his life that he had fucked up badly. Though his relationship with Cloud hadn’t combusted yet, Andrew couldn’t help feeling, in retrospect, that he had already been making an exit plan.

“Medical costs are exorbitant and cruel,” he tried to keep his tone light, still not sure what she knew or suspected. If the break had happened outside of school, he knew Adrian would have taken her to him, and could have saved a lot of money and trouble. But of course the school wouldn’t keep a child outside of the hospital if they were seriously injured.

“And you don’t need to apologize, we all do things sometimes, to take care of people, that we might not . . . otherwise do if we had a choice.” And again, he couldn’t help feeling like the most selfish man on the planet.

“Yeah,” Samantha said quietly. “I just worry sometimes, because he just does things and doesn’t think about it. I guess it has to do with Rei and Gerard always telling him that he’s going to either get killed or they are gonna do it themselves.”

 

“I’m not supposed to know that,” She admitted, “but he was talking on the phone one night when he thought I was asleep. He’d had a meeting with Rei and they’s had an argument. It makes planning ahead a little hard.” She kept sketching the hob in the book in her drawing.

“Why do they keep telling him that?” She asked. She knew it was probably unfair to Andrew to put him on the spot like that. “Is he really that terrible a person?” She put down her pencil and looked at Andrew. He’d know her father longer than anyone other than Sofia and Sofia never wanted to talk about anything to do with the Circle. Which made sense. She was not a part of that world or that part of Adrian’s life.

“I’m not stupid, clearly I know he has some issues, but the only person he is a danger to is himself.”

Of course everyone who knew Adrian, at least those that cared about him, worried about his behavior. It wasn’t fair for him to do that to his daughter, though, but of course there wasn’t anything to be done about it. It was just Adrian. It was worse, the question about the circle’s attitude towards him. Admittedly, Adrian didn’t really take much care with himself, but . . .

“I’m afraid some of it has to do with his ancestry.” Andrew finally took a look at Samantha’s sketch, just to focus on something other than the girl in front of him. “With the ancestry we all have. Nothing to do with his being a bad person, it’s just prejudice.” It wasn’t as if she didn’t know this, didn’t know the circle considered them all a threat simply due to an accident of birth. Or would, if they had seen the full picture with Andrew when they’d first discovered him.

“I think if . . .” his phone chimed, and Andrew pulled it from his pocket to see the message:Just got done, but traffic is shit. If S is there I’ll be there is about an hour. If you are busy put her to work or send her home, she won’t actually melt. Ha.

“Speak of the devil.” It was a poor joke, but Andrew was not eager in laying out the reality of being half-demon with Samantha. Not that she wouldn’t already know. Though considering her father’s ancestry, she was even less human than Andrew was. And his own mother couldn’t have been fully human, just, non-demon. “Your father says I should put you to work, and he’ll be here in an hour. I imagine you actually have homework?” As he spoke, he texted Adrian back: S is here. Trying to get her to work on homework since it’s a quiet day. I’ve let her know when you’ll be here.

Samatha’s own phone chimed. Don’t be in the way and don’t drink too much coffee. Love you. She rolled her eyes and sighed as only a teenager could do, putting away the sketch of Emily and pulling out a heavy textbook instead.

“Yeah,” she admitted. “I am pretty certain the history teacher is trying to actually bore us to death. We have 30 pages to read before tomorrow.” She flipped the book open to a random spot and stopped, frowning. The section was on the Salem Witch Trials.

“It’s hard to believe that really happened,” she said. “Is that why no one knows about people like us?” She gave a sniff of dissatisfaction as a middle aged woman came in.

The new customer wore a long skirt and billowy top that did nothing to conceal her extra weight, despite it being black. Her graying hair was damp and sticking to her head. She seemed to know Andrew and the shop and made a beeline for the Tarot decks. She carried a large black purse and wore a number of rings, a large necklace and several earrings. She knew her father would be appalled and this aging former goth.

“Did the new decks come in?” She asked Andrew as she approached the counter, giving Samantha a seemingly genuine smile. She twisted a silver ring around on her chubby finger, seemingly nervous. Samantha gave her a quick smile back before flipping to the correct section in her textbook.

“I didn’t know you had kids, Andrew,” she said.

Andrew was about to answer, remembering back to ages ago when he was in high school and how tired he was of all his teachers. After his powers had manifested, but before the circle had found him and he’d realized the dangers in certain abilities, he had gotten by on doing the minimum of work and somehow still convincing them to give him passing grades. The thought made him wince, but before he could say anything, one of his more regular customers entered the store, apparently not deterred by the weather.

“Hello, Rose. This is my niece, Samantha. I’m a lifelong bachelor so, no kids for me.” He hoped Samantha wouldn’t mind, since he couldn’t claim her as his daughter without freaking both himself and Adrian out. Andrew pointed to the display of Tarot cards, which was all he had at the moment. Maybe she didn’t own every deck. “I think you wanted the Raven deck?”

Samantha grinned at him. She always considered him family, so it was nice to hear him say that.

“I saw those in the back the other day,” Samantha offered. “I thought they were really pretty, but Daddy said I had too many decks already,” she laughed.

“Can you ever have too many decks?” Rose asked with wide eyes, clearly joking.

“You need to tell him that,” Samantha said playfully. “Want me to go grab those?” She asked Andrew. The conversation had turned dark and she did not like to think she was troubling him, so this was a nice distraction. She hopped down off her stool eagerly. “Surely the civil war will still be here when I get back.”  She glanced at the book.

Andrew returned her smile, relieved and heartened that she didn’t mind. What kind of uncle it made him considering his relationship with her father, he didn’t know, but Samantha didn’t have to know that part.

The conversation of Tarot cards made him chuckle. He couldn’t resist giving the girl decks as gifts, much to Adrian’s dismay. He was relieved Rose had come in when she did, changing the topic. “Yes, thank you Samantha.”

Turning his attention to his one customer, Andrew smiled at her charmingly. “Is there anything else you’re looking for today?”

Rose tittered happily, and smiled at Andrew. “No, I was just checking to see if the deck was here. How sweet of you to let your niece help out around here! Such a pretty girl. It must run in your family.” Her cheeks were slightly pick as she said this. She just could not help herself when she was around Andrew. It was strange.

Samantha returned from the back room with the deck and more coffee. Her father would gripe, but it was just one more cup. He just liked to complain about small stuff. She knew it was so he didn’t have to talk about the big stuff, but it made him happy so she tried to indulge him occasionally.

“Here you go,” She said cheerfully, placing the deck on the counter in front of  Rose.

She was 15 now, and tall like her father. She had no idea how tall her mother was, Adrian never wanted to talk about her, but at 5’-10” or so she was taller than most of her classmates, though she was still more than half a foot shorter than her dad. The lady at the counter wasn’t much over 5’. She didn’t want to tower over her so hopped back up on her stool. No need to make the customers nervous.

Fully aware of the effect he was having on Rose, considering it was intended, Andrew tempered his ability, as she wasn’t interested in buying anything else and he didn’t want to cause a scene. Particularly with Samantha there, already disturbed by her father’s use of the same ability. “Hah, yes, we do come from attractive stock.”

Not the same stock, but she didn’t need to know that. “Thank you, Samantha.” She was already as tall as he was, and Andrew fully expected Samantha to end up taller than him by the time she reached her full height. As she sat back down, he began ringing up the Tarot cards for Rose. If Samantha hadn’t been there, he would have tried to beguile her into buying more, but was feeling odd about using the powers in front of the girl. “Have a good day, Rose.”

Rose waddled out happily, new deck of cards clutched happily in her chubby hands.

“She seemed nice,” Samantha said after the door chimed and shut behind the woman. “Not a drop of anything magical in her though,” she added. She inherited her father’s talent for reading auras and he had taught her how to spot magic users and regular people.

“I wonder if she can actually use those cards for anything.” She looked at Andrew. “It must be weird to be them.”

“Speaking of,” She said. “Are you related to Daddy? You both have similar auras. I’ve wondered that for a while.” Granted if he said yes, she was going to be a little concerned about their relationship.

“Yes,” Andrew replied, to both the comment about Rose being nice, and her complete lack of magical ability. He always assumed more normal people used Tarot cards the same way they used a flip of the coin or that eeny-meeny-miny-moe game other children had used when he was younger. Just to make up their own minds about things, without any true divination involved at all.

And anything he might have said on that subject were stopped short by Samantha’s next question. Andrew had to admit, it was a reasonable question, and he had even wondered it himself. Considering how many ‘benefits’ there were to his friendship with Adrian, he wasn’t sure he ever wanted to learn the answer.

“I could lie and say of course not, but the truth is I don’t know anything about my father other than that he was an Incubus. And extremely handsome, is a detail my mother apparently thought important enough to mention.” Andrew laughed bitterly, but of the both of them, he wasn’t sure if Samantha was more fortunate or unfortunate. Her mother hadn’t wanted her any more than his had, but at least one of her parents was there.

Samantha tried to hide her surprise. “I really should have figured that out before now,” she admitted. “The whole charm the ladies bit. I never asked what kinds, and he never volunteered that.”

She sighed and shut her book. “I am so screwed,” she complained.

“Do you know what else he is? He says he is mostly human, but if you are half…” She didn’t finish the thought out loud. Did he not know? She wondered. She could not see her own aura, so it was likely he could not see his own either. She had not met her grandparents so she had nothing to compare him to other than Andrew and Sofia.

Realizing that maybe Samantha hadn’t known she carried Lilin blood on both sides, Andrew swore internally. He’d only recognized it in Adrian because the similarities in their talents were so obvious, as well as the whole seduction thing. Though even without powers, Andrew would have been attracted to Adrian.

Which was not at all what he wanted to be thinking about in front of Samantha. “I’m afraid I don’t. Several things, I’d think, based on his abilities. The circle thinks I’m mostly fey and some celestial ancestry, which I’m guessing I inherited from my mother. My father being full demon amplifying that somehow.” Andrew shrugged. “Heredity seems complicated enough, without adding nonhuman ancestry into it.”

Now that she mentioned it, Andrew couldn’t help feeling slightly concerned that they actually were related. Not that there was anything they could do about it now.

Samantha chewed her lip for a moment and thought about it. “It does seem a little haphazard,” she admitted.

“What’s haphazard?” Adrian asked, coming into the shop. Samantha froze for a second and then turned to him.

“Genetics,” she said. “Class work stuff.” She picked up the textbook and went to put it back into her bag. Thunder rumbled outside.

“Since when did you study genetics in history class?” He asked.

“It’s all about history,” Samantha said with a laugh.

“I’ll just believe you. I don’t think I remember that part though,” He looked at the mug of coffee. “How many cups did you have?” He asked.

“Probably fewer than you have today,” she said. Adrian could not argue there. He had not gone to sleep until well after three, and had to be up and to Rei’s office by 9. It had been a long day and he was tired. He had been drinking coffee since he got up and his stomach felt sour and his head hurt now because of it.

The meeting had not gone well. They wanted to send him out again already, this time to California. It sounded like a job for a team, but they insisted he go out by himself. He would come back by tomorrow to get the things he would need. Hopefully it would be a slow day at the shop.

“She been driving you nuts?” He asked Andrew with a grin.

Andrew couldn’t tell if he was relieved that Adrian arrived when he did, or if he didn’t want more time to stop thinking over whether there was a relation there. Of course, he was probably just being paranoid. He’d even questioned whether Courtenay was somehow related to Adrian, and altogether that seemed more likely than his having one.

He tried to smile at him, hoping he had enough control that Adrian couldn’t tell he was troubled. It was easier to look normal, listening to the familiar bickering between the father and daughter, or worrying about Adrian’s general health as usual, so by the time Adrian asked him about Samantha, Andrew’s answering grin was almost completely natural.

“She’s not nearly so prone to it as some people I might mention,” Andrew teased. “Samantha even helped with a sale today, one of my Tarot card addicts.”  Andrew sighed, looking out the window to check if it was still raining. “Though I really do need to get back to restocking my inventory. Especially now I’m out one more deck.”

“We’ll get out of your hair then,” Adrian said, giving him an arch eyebrow at the comment. He resisted the urge to lean over the counter and touch Andrew. Where had that impulse come from? Was Andrew letting his ability leak out? His control was usually better. He frowned slightly. He was always careful to not be too affectionate with Andrew in front of Samantha. He didn’t want her feeling awkward, and she was at the age where the thought of her dad being with anyone was bound to be weird.

“I’ve got to go back out again soon,” he said. “I’m low on some stuff. I’ll be by tomorrow to get everything ready.” There was definitely something off, but he was distracted from that thought by Samantha.

“Again? Really?” She huffed. “They need to cut that shit out.”

“Samantha!” Adrian scolded. While he was not surprised at the swearing, she learned it from him after all, he was surprised at the vehemence directed at the Circle. Maybe he should be more careful with his attitude about them around her.

“You just got back,” she complained.

“I don’t get to chose these things,” he said firmly. He turned back to Andrew, “Tomorrow then?”

What would he have done if Adrian had actually touched him? Andrew didn’t want to push him away, but he wasn’t certain he could be with him right now without feeling strange about it. Fortunately for the both of them, Samantha was there, and they were always careful in her presence.

Hadn’t Adrian only just returned on circle business? It seemed like they were trying to wear him down, purposefully, but Andrew really couldn’t. His own dealings with the circle were as circumspect as possible. He visited his old mentor sometimes, just because he owed a lot to her, but there was always the concern that one day she would realize that he wasn’t what she thought he was.

“You’re not wrong, Samantha,” Andrew sighed. “But it’s his job . . .” this seemed a weak defense, and couldn’t help her feel better about her father’s absence. “If you want, you can come by the shop again while he’s gone. I’ll even pay you for your help.” Glancing up at Adrian, he just nodded. Hopefully, he would feel better about things the next day.

“Really?” Samantha got excited. She wanted out of the house more. It was just getting so hard, the older she got the more paranoid Adrian became. “Sure!”

“You sure that is a good idea?” He asked. “If she is around too much, someone might notice. Last thing you need is to be associated with me.”

As much as he didn’t want to disappoint his ‘niece,’ Andrew had to take these concerns into account. He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “I think your father’s right, Samantha, but . . . “ he looked over to Adrian. “Just while you’re gone, then? “

“That’s fine!” Samantha said eagerly. “She hated staying by herself, so the more time she could be out of the apartment the better.  “Thank you!” She did throw a quick hug around his neck before grabbing her bag off the floor. Adrian took it out of her hand and to the door. He looked back at Andrew one last time before they left, wondering what was going on. Maybe he could find out tomorrow.

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The bright morning sunlight made Adrian’s headache worse, even the sunglasses were not helping. It had been a long night again and he really did not want to be up this early, but midmorning was usually a good time to come by if he wanted Andrew’s undivided attention.

He intended to find out what had the man so rattled yesterday. Samantha had been unable or unwilling to tell him. It was unlike her to be secretive, so he was even more concerned.

He’d known it wasn’t going to give him any answers, but Andrew had been so preoccupied by the idea of some relationship between he and Adrian, that he had tried to divine it the previous night, with several different questions and several different methods. Which hadn’t worked, of course, and eventually he had fallen asleep on his apartment’s sofa, still fully dressed. A quick shower and change of clothes when he’d woke in the morning had only helped slightly, but he wasn’t worried about it anymore. It was highly unlikely he and Adrian had more than a slight relationship, and he was too tired, anyway.

Now all Andrew was concerned about was what he was going to tell Adrian, when he came by.

The door was open, but Andrew was not behind the counter when he first came in. That was odd. Adrian went toward the back room.

“Andrew? Are you in?” The shop did not have the feel of an empty building, but there was a strange tension in the air. He went behind the counter and looked into the little back room.

If it was anyone else, Andrew would have been irritated that they’d had the gall to barge into his back room. But Adrian was allowed, not that he could have stopped him anyway. Andrew turned to look up at him, from his seat on the sofa, drinking more coffee. From the look of Adrian, he probably would want a cup himself. Whether or not coffee was what he needed, or sleep, was a completely different story.

“Sorry, I didn’t sleep well and I needed to sit down for awhile.” Andrew gestured at the sofa and the coffee. “Help yourself, I should probably stop drinking it today or I’ll end up staying up tonight, too.”

Adrian gave a grunt of agreement before pouring a cup for himself and sitting down next to Andrew. The other man barely reacted. Adrian slouched down until they were the same height and took a sip from his cup while watching Andrew.

“OK,” he finally said when Andrew did not seem willing to say anything. “What did I do this time?”

What was he going to do about Adrian? They couldn’t be brothers, Adrian wasn’t half-Incubus. They didn’t even look that similar, aside from this sort of . . . attractiveness that seemed inherent in their race, which wasn’t even necessarily a physical attractiveness. It was in Adrian’s case, but Andrew often thought he’d look quite average if it weren’t for his demon blood.

The other man sunk into the sofa beside him, but it wasn’t until Adrian spoke that Andrew turned to him, guilty. “You think it’s something you did?” he reached for Adrian’s hand. “It’s not even really about you. Samantha and I were talking about the circle, how they use you and . . . it’s not easy telling a little girl that there are people out there who want her dead, just because of what her mother was.”

Adrian sighed. “Damn. For once I wish I had done something stupid to upset you.” He took the offered hand and leaned into Andrew, balancing his coffee cup on his leg, forcing him to sit still or risk spilling it. He slid down a little further and rested his head on Andrew’s shoulder.

“I’m working on it, I won’t let them have her. I sure as hell won’t let them try to bind her and I’ll kill them all before I let them hurt her.” He squeezed Andrew’s hand.

“We may have to disappear someday,”  Adrian felt a stab of sadness at the thought, but he could never ask Andrew to run away and spend the rest of his life hiding from the circle and their ilk. It was suddenly hard to breathe for a moment.

“I’m running out of time.” He gave a bitter laugh.” Probably am out of time, she won’t tell me, I’m sure. Who would want to tell their dad that? “ He shifted his head so he could see Andrew’s profile.

“Adolescence I’d hard enough without having to tell your dad you are definitely a succubus. I just hope she doesn’t hurt someone before I figure something out.”

His thumb caressed Adrian’s fingers idly, relaxing into Adrian’s closeness, more concerned now by the circle than anything else. He sipped his own coffee, studying the other man’s face as he spoke. It wasn’t as if Andrew hadn’t expected this. Hadn’t he just been thinking the other day that Adrian and his daughter might disappear into Europe, rather than taking a simple family vacation. Not that anything was simple where Adrian was concerned. Or any of them.

“She’s smart enough to know what’s going on,” Andrew said, hoping he was right. Not that Samantha wasn’t smart, he knew she was, but that she would be able to help herself. “Even if she doesn’t want to tell us about it.” He sighed. “I told a customer she was my niece, yesterday, when she asked if she was my daughter. I hope you don’t mind. . . or my offering her a job. That was definitely something I should have asked you about first.”

He sighed. He was definitely going to have to disappoint Samantha. It would be better coming from him, than from her father. At least then she couldn’t blame Adrian for anything else.

“No, it will be good for her to be out of the house some,” Adrian said. “Just keep her in the back as much as possible. I would hate for you to get in trouble now.” He meant it too. He did not want to be the reason the circle looked at Andrew any closer.

“I’m sorry it’s so complicated,” Adrian said. “We’ve certainly made your life harder over the years.” He pulled Andrew’s hand up and kissed the back quickly. “It is my greatest talent.” He meant it to sound like a joke, but it came out sounding a little bitter.

Andrew nodded. He doubted Samantha would be super pleased by this, but at least she’d be out of the house and Andrew could make sure she was fed, and he certainly could use the help. He sighed, as Adrian kissed his hand, not sure what to say in response. It wasn’t as if Adrian was wrong, but . . .

“I don’t have any regrets.” Not about Adrian or Samantha, at least.

 

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