Wednesday, 5 November 2014
A Reluctant Love Ch 10:2.
Chapter 10.2: Throw Back Thursday
Emily gazed around Karpathia's her eyes shining with pleasure. A large number of the younger vampires had slowly drifted down the room, all wanting to pay their respects at her engagement. It had been more than she could have hoped for. Some even lingered, friend's of Alice's brother Chris who she had insisted stay with them as being part of her extended family.
Quite a few of the older vampires faces had set hard as their hallowed space was encroached upon, a few had even left but most of them chose to put up with the indignity. Emily could even see some begin to relax and mingle a bit more with the younger vampires.
She felt eyes on her and looked up to see Liam smiling broadly at her. He gestured with a slight crook of his finger and she extricated herself from Cullen's arm and headed across the room to him.
"Truly masterful," the dark haired vampire breathed softly against her ear as he bent to kiss her cheek. "A touch of pure genius, little Emily."
She laughed at the note of respect and approval in his voice. She really had come to think of Liam as part of her family. That he approved of her efforts on behalf of his kind made her very happy.
"I have something for you, Emily," he smiled, taking her arm and leading her to one of the sofas. He handed her a long box with a prestigious jeweller's name when they sat down.
Emily blinked in surprise and opened the box. She gasped in shock as she saw the exquisite bracelet inside. It was made of three ropes of white gold joined together at intervals by delicate, little heart shaped amethysts.
"It's beautiful, Liam," she breathed softly, her eyes shining with unexpected tears.
"The stones match your eyes beautifully," he smiled. "It is my engagement gift to you, little Emily. It is part of a matching set.
The necklace I will gift to you on your wedding day. The earrings, on the day that you join us."
She looked up surprised that he would know her decision when she had only just made it herself.
Liam smiled at the look of surprise on her face.
"Emily," he said softly. "You may be newly come to your decision, child, but it has been plain to me since the first day I saw you with Cullen. Your love for him burns like a bright flame. It burns so bright that anyone close to you becomes consumed by the flame also. One lifetime would never be enough for a love that bright. And you have come to love our kind almost as fiercely."
"Yes I have," she smiled gently. "There is such beauty within you all, Liam, not just the external beauty everyone can see, but a deep inner beauty."
"You are showing us that beauty, little Emily," he replied. "And your joining with us will make us so much stronger, so much more compassionate. Not all of my kind may know it, but I believe we have been waiting millennia for you to come to us, to show us the way to a better existence."
Emily felt a lone tear slide down her cheek and she smiled when the vampire gently brushed it aside.
"You give us so much, Emily," he sighed. "I know your brother has agreed to walk you down the aisle on your wedding day. It is fitting that he do so as your father is with you no more. It would be my honour if you would allow me the privilege of taking on a father's role when you join us, sweet one."
Emily gasped in shock and then she threw her arms around Liam and gave him a big hug.
"The honour would be mine, Liam," she said tearfully.
"Why is my fiancé in tears again?" Cullen asked, a smile tugging at his lips as he sat down beside them.
"Liam's going to be my dad," Emily hiccupped, turning to cuddle against him.
"If you have no objections, Cullen," the dark haired vampire said quietly, inclining his head respectfully.
Cullen's eyes widened in surprise at the unexpectedness of the gesture and also the huge honour being offered. He wondered if Emily even knew how much of an honour it was.
"Whatever my heart desires is fine with me," he smiled, inclining his head to Liam. "I think she is overcome at the prospect," he added with a laugh when Emily hiccupped again.
Emily sat up, her eyes shining as she brushed at her wet cheeks. She held out the box still clutched in her hand. Cullen admired the pretty piece of jewellery. He took it from the box and fastened it against Emily's slender wrist.
"Just as well you announced your intentions before I saw you giving such beautiful gifts to my fiancé, Liam," he laughed. "I would have had to resist beating you up so as not to have my Emily annoyed with me at our engagement party."
Emily's eyes flew to his and then she relaxed when she saw the amusement on his face.
"I would be very annoyed with you, indeed," she laughed, kissing him lightly on the tip of his nose.
Cullen threw back his head and laughed. "If you've finished with my fiancé?" he said to Liam, standing and pulling her into his arms. "We have some mingling to do, my love."
Emily paced nervously in the airport waiting area. Cullen was sitting quietly on a chair, watching as she pace up and down in front of him, her anxiety plain for anyone to see.
"Come and sit down, Emily," he said for about the tenth time, his tone patient.
"I can't," she muttered anxiously. "I just wish he'd get here so I could have this over and done with."
Cullen sighed and stood up, catching her as she moved passed him. He held her securely in his arms, his hand stroking down her back as he tried to calm his beloved.
"It's going to be fine, Emily," he told her softly. "I understand that Anton will be feeling very protective of you. I will not hold that against him, in fact, it gladdens my heart to know that he loves you so much. The more protectors you have, the happier I am."
"You don't know Anton," she moaned. "He's not one to mince his words, Cullen. If he doesn't like you or feels that you're more of a danger to me than anyone else, he'll just come out with it. I don't want you to get angry with him if he says unkind things."
"I swear I will hold my temper, no matter what your brother says," Cullen sighed, bending his head to kiss her lightly on the lips. "Trust me, Emily. I will do nothing to hurt you, my love."
She sighed and relaxed against him. "I know you won't," she finally said. She looked up at him. "I just so want him to like you, Cullen. It's very important to me."
"I know, love," he smiled tenderly. "I will do everything in my power to put your brother at ease. Try not to fret so, Emily."
Anton spotted them before they did him. Emily was pacing and looking worried. He paused and watched as the tall, golden haired vampire stood and caught her in his arms. He couldn't hear what they were saying but the look of complete adoration on the vampire's face wasn't hard to miss.
At least Cullen loved his sister. He was sure that was the case as Emily could not have loved the vampire so much if he didn't return her feelings. Anton felt uncomfortable as he watched them.
His instincts screamed at him to do something to stop the upcoming union. But he couldn't break Emily's heart like that. The months of endless weeping he'd endured when she had been apart from her love had been more than he could bear.
He watched the couple kiss and took a deep breath. This was Emily's choice. He was smart enough to know that he couldn't condemn this strange lifestyle when he knew nothing about it. He would try to keep an open mind.
"Emily," he called loudly.
He saw her head turn, her eyes anxious as they met his. He forced a smile and then she was running across the waiting area and throwing herself into his arms.
"Oh, Anton, you came," she said breathlessly.
He hugged her tightly, his smile becoming more genuine as he kissed the top of her head. "Of course, I came, baby girl," he said softly. "You know I'll always come when you call."
"Really," she asked, her voice small and unsure. "Even after?" she left the sentence incomplete as she searched his eyes intently.
He stiffened slightly but maintained his smile. "Even after," he sighed quietly. "I still think it's complete and utter madness, baby girl, but if it's what you want, then I will live it."
Emily relaxed slightly. "Come and meet Cullen," she said tugging at his hand. "Please be nice, Anton. Give him a chance, for me."
Anton nodded, his expression guarded. He let her pull him towards the golden haired vampire who was watching them intently, his own expression guarded.
"Cullen," he said with a slight nod as Emily made the introductions.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Anton," Cullen said quietly, returning the scrutinising gaze the other man was giving him. "Emily speaks of you often."
"Likewise," Anton said shortly ignoring the sharp tug on his hand from Emily.
"I'm not going to lie to you, Cullen," he continued. "I think this is a colossal mistake. My gut instinct is telling me to get Emily as far away from you as possible but I know she wouldn't thank me for doing so."
"Anton," Emily groaned, her cheeks flushing.
He looked down at her. "I'm sorry, Emily, I'm not going to lie about it. The mess you were in when you came home makes me want to beat the living daylights out of him. Not that I'd stand a chance of that," he added ruefully.
"I understand totally," Cullen said softly. "I would feel the same in your position, Anton. All I ask is that you give us a chance. Get to know us, see how precious your sister is to us. Then hopefully you will be able to find it in your heart to give Emily the blessing she so desperately craves from you."
"I'll try to keep an open mind," Anton finally said. He smiled down at Emily as he spoke. "This is certainly going to be interesting to say the least, Em."
"Just try and behave, Anton," she smiled. "Please, for me."
Anton rolled his eyes and laughed.
Cullen joined in with his laughter. "She does that to me too," he said fondly, smiling at Emily who punched him on the arm.
"No ganging up on me allowed," she said tartly. "I know I want you both to like each other but not at my expense."
Anton laughed again and reached for his bag. He watched as Emily gravitated back towards Cullen and the other man's arms opened automatically to shelter her in his embrace.
He grudgingly felt some respect towards the vampire. He couldn't deny the other man's feelings for his sister. The way that he had responded to his blunt attack on him too had been favourable. Maybe he was being too hasty to judge what he didn't really understand. What really mattered was Emily's happiness. Cullen obviously made her happy and Anton couldn't imagine her being safer with anyone else.
Cullen stored Anton's bag in the boot of his car and then slid into the driver's seat. He listened quietly as Emily chattered away with her brother, asking about old friends from the company. He was pleased to see her brother had relaxed slightly, the rejection in his body language softening. He hoped for Emily's sake that Anton would come to accept them.
His initial thoughts on the man surprised him. He had expected to have to force himself to like Emily's brother but the other man's bluntness and obvious love for his sister had actually touched Cullen. He found himself liking the man instantly. He just hoped the feeling was mutual.
"Can we stop at the office first, Cullen?" Emily asked. "I want Anton to meet Alice before tonight."
"Maybe Anton would like to clean up and have a rest before he's thrown into the public arena?" Cullen laughed softly. "It might be nice to ask him first."
Emily blushed and turned to Anton. "What do you want to do?" she asked.
"Office is fine with me," her brother smiled. "I'm curious to see Cullen and Cross after all the investigative work I did on the place."
Cullen raised an eyebrow and Emily giggled lightly.
"We were just keeping an eye on what you were up to while I was away," she explained.
"I should have thought of that," Cullen said dryly. "Might have found you sooner if I had."
Emily laughed. "Dorian found me by accident, Cullen," she said. "You two were really pretty hopeless at trying to find me.
Maybe Anton should give you the name of his private investigation team. Help you out a bit."
"Less of the cheek," Cullen growled good naturedly swinging into the car park of Cullen and Cross.
"If you could give me the name," he continued in a large stage whisper to Anton as they climbed out the car.
They were all still laughing as they entered the building and went through security.
"Nice offices," Anton commented as they stepped out the elevator on the top floor.
Cullen headed towards the boardroom and opened the door.
"I'll get Dorian and Alice," he said, kissing Emily lightly on the head before disappearing out the room again.
Emily looked at Anton expectantly and he groaned loudly.
"All right, he seems like a decent enough guy," he finally conceded. "It's obvious that he adores you, Em, and that you adore him right back. Maybe I was being hasty, making judgements without knowing all the facts. I'm keeping an open mind, I swear I am."
Emily smiled warmly at him. "That's all I ask, Anton," she said softly. "I'm sure you'll come to see why this is so very right for me."
They turned as Dorian, Cullen and Alice entered the room.
"You don't look anything alike," Alice complained, a hint of disappointment in her voice. "Hi, I'm Alice," she said brightly to Anton, holding out her hand.
Anton stared at her in bemusement but shook her hand anyway. "Your Emily's friend that she was so worried about," he said.
"Good to see you again, Anton," Dorian said with a smile. "Emily has been practically bouncing all over the office the last few days, she's been so excited at your coming over."
Anton nodded to Dorian as Emily's cheeks flamed red.
"I have not been, Dorian," she said in a scolding tone. "I've been far too busy working to have time to bounce anywhere."
"Keep telling yourself that, love, and maybe you'll believe it," Dorian chuckled sitting in one of the chairs.
Alice sat down beside him, her eyes bright with excitement.
"Speak in Spanish," she pleaded, her eyes going to Anton and then to Emily. "I want to hear what it sounds like."
"I can see why you love her so much, Em," Anton said, slipping into Spanish to cater to the little woman's whim. "She's a little bundle of energy."
"She is that, big brother," Emily replied in Spanish. "Her exuberance is practically contagious."
Alice crowed in delight and clapped her hands. "I think I want to learn to speak Spanish," she sighed happily.
Dorian laughed and caught her clapping hands. "I swear you could power this entire building with your energy," he said, smiling fondly at her.
"So what are the plans for tonight?" Anton asked sitting down and accepting the glass of red wine Cullen offered him.
"I thought me, you and Alice could have a light dinner at the apartment," Emily answered. "Then we could meet up with Cullen and Dorian a bit later on for a drink. Nothing too taxing because you'll be tired after the flight."
Anton looked at her with a raised eyebrow at the split evening.
"We don't eat food," Cullen explained quietly. "Emily felt you would find it less awkward this way."
"Oh, right," Anton said, his expression a bit startled. "But you can drink?"
"Yes, we tend to drink red wine when we're among human company. It helps us blend in." Cullen answered.
"You get used to it, Anton," Alice said, her tone blasé. "Emily and I don't mind eating while they watch. They're incredibly fascinated when we eat. I think they're slightly jealous."
"Alice!" Dorian groaned with a laugh. "You really say the oddest things sometimes!"
"That's why you love me so much," the little dark haired woman quipped, throwing him a cheeky smile.
Alice's natural exuberance kept the mood in the room light and relaxed as they all laughed at her cockiness.
Anton watched Dorian's face light up as he listened to the little woman's chatter. So there was more than one unconventional love match in the room. That fact seemed to alleviate more of his concern for Emily. By the time he was ready to head to his sister's apartment, his misgivings were almost totally gone.
Emily glowed under the adoration of the people around her. There seemed to be no bounds to the level of happiness that wafted from her. She was loved and well taken care of with her adopted family, it was plain to see.
"May I have a private word with Emily and Cullen?" he asked politely before they left the Boardroom. Dorian and Alice smiled and left them alone.
Anton cleared his throat, feeling suddenly overwhelmed. Emily looked at him expectantly, a slight hint of worry in her eyes. He smiled gently at her.
"Don't look so worried, baby girl," he said fondly. "I just wanted to say that I understand now. The way you thrive here, surrounded by your friends and loved ones. It's breathtakingly beautiful to watch, Em. I can see that this is right for you. You have my blessing, baby girl."
Emily cried out with joy and threw herself into his arms. "Oh, thank you, Anton," she whispered tearfully. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," she cried kissing him all over his face."
"Hey, calm down," he protested, laughing. He hugged her close and looked at Cullen who was smiling broadly, his golden brown eyes warm.
"I know there is no one better for her, Cullen," he said quietly. " I can see that her happiness with always come first with you. What more could a brother ask for in a brother-in-law?"
"Thank you, Anton," Cullen smiled, his tone full of respect. "It gladdens my heart to have your approval, not just for Emily's sake, but for my own. I hope I can be a welcome addition to your family."
"I think this is going to work out just fine," Anton said, peeling Emily off of him. "Can't we go get something to eat now, Em? I'm starving!"
He left his sister in the Boardroom and waiting in the hallway. Alice joined him, coming out of Dorian's office with a slightly dazed look about her.
"Good kiss?" Anton whispered. He chuckled loudly as she blushed furiously and then nodded impishly at him.
Cullen gathered Emily into his arms and tried to kiss her soundly. She was struggling to stop grinning broadly and he growled his frustration as he couldn't kiss her the way he wanted to.
"Oh, go on," he finally laughed. "I'm not going to get to enjoy your sweet mouth until you come down from the high you're on. I told you it would be all right, love."
"I'm just so happy, Cullen," she giggled. "I promise I'll make it up to you later."
"You bet you will," he said huskily kissing the top of her head. "Go feed yourself. I'll pick you up later."
Emily laughed and went out to join her brother and her friend.
"Food," Anton groaned, theatrically.
"Oh, behave!" Emily growled with a laugh as they stepped into the elevator and headed down.
The evening was so much fun. They'd eaten quickly and then gotten ready to head out for a drink. Cullen picked them up, saying Dorian was meeting them at the bar.
Emily had opted not to take her brother to Karpathia's on his first night. It might have been a bit overwhelming for him. Liam had said he might drop by the bar they were going to later, so there was a chance Anton would get to meet him before he went to Karpathia's.
Emily was overjoyed that the visit was going so well and that Anton had given them his blessing. It meant the world to her to have her brother's approval.
Liam appeared at their table after they'd been at the bar an hour. He bowed to Anton when he was introduced.
"It is my honour to meet you," he said formally. "I hope your visit will set your mind at peace of any concerns you may have about our little Emily. She is much cherished by my kind."
"I'm beginning to notice that," Anton said with a laugh.
"I have spoken with both Emily and Cullen about a very important matter which is close to my heart," Liam continued. "As Emily's official human guardian, I would seek your approval on the matter too."
Anton looked puzzled but nodded for him to continue. He was finding Liam's archaic way of speaking to be quite strange.
"I am sure Emily has discussed her future plans with you," Liam said gravely. "When one is so special among my kind, we seek to protect that which is so dear to us. Emily will have the loving protection of her husband and her adopted brother," he continued nodding at first Cullen and then Dorian.
"Of course, she has your protection too, Anton, as her only living male relative. What she lacks is the protection of a father figure. I have asked for that honour when she joins us. Emily is willing, as is Cullen. It would gladden my heart if you would give your approval too."
Anton stared at him in surprise. "You want to adopt Emily as your daughter?" he asked, his voice confused.
Liam smiled. "It is nothing as formal as a human adoption," he smiled. "More an acknowledgement of kinship between us. To complete her family when she is one of us."
"Emily?" Anton said, looking at her for help. "Sorry, but this is quite confusing. Do you need another dad, Em?"
"Liam's offer is of protection more than being a father like dad was to us," she explained gently. "Not that I need any protection as no one would want to harm me anyway, but these men of mine take loving me and protecting me to the extreme sometimes." She smiled fondly at the vampires to take the sting out of her words.
Anton still looked confused but he guessed that what was being asked was some kind of huge honour and Emily seemed to be happy enough with it.
Liam was looking at him expectantly.
"If it's fine with Emily, it's fine with me," Anton finally said. "I'd love to see anyone try to hurt her with you three around looking after her. You have my approval and my thanks, Liam."
Liam's face broke into a beautiful smile. "Excellent," he beamed happily.
They stayed at the bar for another hour and then Anton said he needed to get some sleep. Dorian and Alice left together, with Liam following them not long afterwards.
Cullen drove Emily and Anton back to the apartment and waiting outside as Emily followed her brother into the apartment.
"I'm staying at Cullen's tonight," she said to Anton. "Will you be okay on your own?"
"I am a big boy now, Em," he laughed. "I'm looking forward to a night of uninterrupted sleep."
Emily kissed him and said she'd see him tomorrow.
Cullen kissed her hungrily all the way down in the elevator. "That's better," he smiled finally raising his head.
"I'll say," Emily laughed breathlessly. "Drive quickly, Cullen. I can't wait to get naked with you."
He threw back his head and laughed. "I know the feeling,"
To be continued....