Windenberg was a place Patrick had not visited. He planned to bring the twins, but he was unsure the historic town would capture their interest. He wondered if tales of monsters living in the waters would inspire Daciana. He could weave in stories of noble ladies to captivate Luliana. An uneasy feeling gnawed, leaving the girls with Leticia could be disastrous. Patrick knew the twins were trouble and might scare Leticia away. Luliana had married Scarlett and Eliza and was already hoping for Leticia to play the mother. They persuaded him a girl’s night in with popcorn and movies would be a bonding experience.
Within the ruins of a castle, Juliana convinced him to meet her. Patrick sensed she was not truthful on the phone. The hesitant, cryptic conversation style reminded him of the twins when they lied. Whatever the reason behind her sudden call, Patrick was curious. When he arrived, his chest tightened, Eliza’s face was stony, lips tight, and nostrils flared. Patrick followed the line of vision to the petite blonde, Charlotte. The tension built inside. Despite her absence, he feared Charlotte was there to demand her children.
Charlotte seemed smaller, shoulders rounded, head bowed, and arms folded, hugging herself. Patrick wanted to hug her, let go of the tears of joy and welcome her back into their lives. Except he could not do that, both Eliza and Juliana mentioned he should not touch her. It seemed odd, Eliza never talked about what happened. She refused to share where Charlotte was hiding, Patrick knew something spooked her. Eliza rubbed her neck, capturing Charlotte’s attention, and both took a few steps back. Juliana broke the silence, inviting them to a neutral location to open communication. Charlotte to explain her absence, to know how her daughters were doing.
The twin’s names in Charlotte’s voice snapped Patrick back to reality. The relief of seeing his sister alive, replaced by what he feared most. Charlotte did not get to cherry-pick her life; he raised the girls, so they were his daughters. Where was she when Luliana got her first tooth? Why did Charlotte fail to comfort Daciana as her stomach twisted, making her vomit? She missed their first day at school; the excitement when they came home. Patrick was there when Luliana fell, grazing her knee and read her stories. When Daciana pushed another girl for stealing Luliana’s homework, he disciplined her. Charlotte chose to abandon the twins, but he never could.
This time it was him stepping back as Charlotte lunged forward, hissing. Juliana placed a calming hand on her shoulder, easing her back. The four of them were breaking the rules made by the Ministry of Magic. The law stated when Caleb took Charlotte as his mate, her old life was over. A human representative should have notified them of her death. They would have mourned and moved on with their lives. Juliana continued, her voice cold, monotone and rehearsed. This would have been clear-cut, except Charlotte was a mother. Her presence in Forgotten Hollow stopped Caleb from getting clean. During their relationship, Charlotte allowed him to drink from her. Vampires can revert to their old desires, Caleb was wrestling his. Charlotte chose Caleb and the life he offered.
Eliza stifled a nervous laugh. Since vampires were undead, it was weird to call their existence life. She had been holding herself steady, but the whole situation was disturbing. They were having a conversation where vampires were real.
Patrick looked confused, unclear how Juliana could be Caleb’s daughter. It implied he was much older than his appearance, and as with Charlotte, time stood still. For him and Eliza, a few hidden flecks of grey and wrinkles he wanted to hide. They were older and, in his case, less defined. His brain struggled to compute the vampire references. They were fictional stories his baby sister escaped into when life got too much for her. Patrick’s breathing grew rapid, and sweat beaded on his brow. Charlotte grew interested in his heartbeat, inching towards him. If everything said was true, then Charlotte died. She had died, and he did not keep his promise to Emilie to protect her.
Juliana distracted Charlotte, handing her a plasma pack. She snatched it, moving away from the group. Patrick choked, covering his mouth, shocked and staggering back into Eliza. She hugged him; the shock for her was months ago. Accepting Juliana’s invitation brought her reservations. The last time she saw Charlotte, she attacked, putting Eliza in the hospital. Juliana promised things were different, Charlotte had a measure of control. As for the twins, they were human. Patrick needed to relax as Charlotte would leave them in his care.
Charlotte stood near Patrick; the blood-stained lips made him shudder. He swallowed, but his dry throat made it hard. She wanted to host Harvestfest, to have him and the twins attend. There was that rightful tone, it riled Patrick. It was as though the girls were a commodity Charlotte remembered she once owned. Patrick opened his mouth, but Eliza answered. Charlotte did not force the issue, she wanted to make amends. Daciana and Luliana might find meeting their parents a frightening experience. Patrick would talk to them, as their father, and decide as a family. Charlotte nodded, allowing Juliana to guide her away.