Interesting things happen, sometimes, when you write. Your characters do or say things you never expected. In the very first scene I wrote between Damian and the grown-up twins he’d helped raise I found out that he liked to bake cookies for them, and had been doing so ever since they were children. In Ashes of the Day (book four) we finally see that scene for ourselves…
“There, there, chiquita,” Damian murmured tenderly as he wiped the tears from Julie’s face with a soft cloth. The little girl sat on the counter next to the kitchen sink where Damian had put her while he washed the blood from her scraped knee. “It’s all right, little one. Dry your eyes. Does it still hurt very badly?”
Julie shook her head, but her lower lip continued to tremble and the occasional sob still wracked her slight frame. “N-no. Not too bad.”
“That’s my brave girl.” Damian saw no sense in driving home the point that the cause of her upset, the small cut she’d received while riding her bicycle, was already healed. He understood how she was feeling. He too found it difficult at times to recover his equilibrium once it had been sufficiently disturbed. His tendency to stay upset long after he ought to have recovered was something Conrad had never understood or properly appreciated.
“I told you we should have gone to the park,” Marc observed from his perch on one of the kitchen stools. “We almost never fall off when we ride our bikes there.”
Damian nodded. “Yes, Marc, you’re quite right.” The local park, with its smooth pavement and gently graded paths was much easier for beginning cyclists to navigate than the uneven terrain and brick patio in their own backyard. On the other hand, there were usually other parents at the park, too many of who might be inclined to notice cuts and scrapes that healed over too quickly. “But, as I’ve already explained to you, it gets dark very late during the summer months. It’s not practical for you two to spend much of your evenings at the park right now. Most boys and girls your age are already home in their beds and fast asleep.”
“Why can’t we go there during the day like the other children do?”
Because you’re not like the other children. Damian sighed. No. That was another point he need not mention. Marc was over-sensitive enough on the subject. “Because you’re already very lucky in that you get to stay up all night. I’m sure all those other children wish they could do the same.”
Julie frowned. “I don’t want to go to the park during the day. The sun makes my head hurt—my tummy too.”
“That’s ’cause we can’t ever eat when we’re there,” Marc said. “The other kids do. They have sandwiches and cookies and things like that. I bet that’s why the sun doesn’t bother them. They like it when it’s sunny!”
Julie’s eyes abruptly silvered. “They do not, Marc! You’re making that up. That’s stupid.”
Marc snarled back at her, his fangs dropping plainly into view. “I’m not making it up. You’re stupid.”
“Children!” Damian scowled at them both. “Enough! I will not stand for you calling each other names. You will both calm down—inmediatamente—and apologize at once.”
The twins scowled mutinously at him, their little chests heaving as they fought to regain control. Finally, their fangs safely back within their gums, their eyes returned to normal, they muttered, “Sorry,” in grudging tones. But then Marc fixed Damian with a stubborn glare. “Tell her I’m right. You know it’s true. They do like it. They said so.”
Damian nodded. “Sí. It’s very possible they did. And if it makes you feel any better, I’m sure when the two of you are older you won’t mind the sun so much either. I know it’s hard right now, but you just have to be patient, mis niños. Everything will get easier with time. When you’re older, you’ll be able to do almost anything you want.” At least he hoped that would be the case.
“But maybe if we ate the same food they eat, like cookies or something, we wouldn’t have to wait until we’re older.”
“No, Marc.” Damian shook his head. “No matter what kind of meal you ate, or when you ate it, you still would not be at your best when the sun is shining. That’s just the way things are, chico. And cookies are not even a meal—as I know I’ve told you several times already. They’re something children eat just for the fun of it.” He lifted Julie from the counter and set her on her feet. “But all this talk of cookies reminds me of something I’d almost forgotten. Are you two ready now to hear about the surprise I promised you yesterday?”
The twins both nodded.
“Bueno.” Damian smiled. “As it happens, I got up early today and went to the store while you were both still asleep and bought some supplies. Tonight I thought we would all learn how to bake cookies. And then, maybe, the next time you see the other children at the park, or perhaps if we invite them back here to play some time, you can share your snacks with them. Does that sound like something you’d enjoy, niños?
“Yes!” Marc bounced excitedly. “I would! I would!”
“What kind of cookies are we making?” Julie asked cautiously. “Are they good? Will I like them?”
“I hope so, chica. I bought enough ingredients to make several kinds, so I’m sure at least one of them will suit you. I thought we’d make chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin and peanut butter and something called Snickerdoodles—although possibly not all of them tonight.”
Julie giggled. “Snickerdoodles? That’s funny. Why’s it called that?”
Damian shrugged. “I have no idea, niña. But they’re made with both sugar and cinnamon so I’m sure they must be very tasty.”
Julie giggled again. “That’s another silly word. Cinnamon. What does it mean?”
“It’s a spice,” Marc answered looking very pleased with himself. “Don’t you remember? Grandfather told us all about the spices. They’re those things that grow on islands and people want them to make their food taste better, so they come in big ships and steal the spices and make everybody slaves.”
“They used to do that, Marc,” Damian corrected. “Not so much anymore.”
Julie frowned. “Ships? I thought it was camels. Didn’t he say that they piled all the spice things up in big bundles on top of camels and then rode them across all those horrible, dry, sunny deserts?”
Damian sighed. He’d really have to have a word with Conrad about what he thought he was teaching the children. “I’m sure your grandfather wouldn’t say anything that wasn’t so, chica, but once again, nowadays most people simply buy their spices in a store. And, if they’re going to travel to remote islands or cross deserts, or travel any distance at all, they generally do so by airplane.”
“We don’t,” Marc pointed out.
“Very true.” Damian suppressed a shudder as he thought about it. Like most vampires he found the dehydrating effects of plane travel intensely uncomfortable. Then again, the same could be said for long ocean voyages, or traversing endless deserts… Most forms of travel, actually. It was not too hard to imagine how the silly rumor about vampires needing to sleep in their native soil got started, given how reluctant most of them were to stray too far from the comfort and safety of familiar surroundings.
He and Conrad were lucky in that the eastern portion of this continent held an abundance of suitably obscure communities in which to hide—most of them at a reasonable distance from either oceans or deserts. Moving every few years might be tedious, but at least it did not have to be actually painful. Assuming they could continue to avoid running into any others of their kind, they stood a good chance of raising the children with a minimum of danger, discomfort or death. Still, that was not a subject he need think about tonight. He smiled brightly at both of the children. “Now, let’s get started. Shall we?”
Damian was lifting the last tray of cookies from the oven when he heard the front door open. Soft masculine laughter reached his ears. Conrad. The sound was unmistakable. The sexy intent behind that chuckle was something else with which Damian was familiar. Too familiar. No. Not this again. His chest was suddenly so tight he could hardly breathe. His heart thudded painfully. Once, fool that he’d been, he’d believed that particular laugh—that particular intent—was reserved for him alone. Carefully, he placed the tray on the stovetop and listened harder.
Two sets of footsteps. Conrad’s of course and…a woman’s, by the sound of it. High heels, a little unsteady on the hardwood floor. Maybe too much to drink, or a touch too much venom? Had Conrad brought her home for the children’s dinner, or did he have something else in mind? The footsteps bypassed the living room and continued down the hallway. Ah. Well, that answers that question. More laughter floated back to taunt Damian. A bedroom door closed. A lock was turned. Damian bit back a snarl. “Marc, go and knock on your grandfather’s door for me, if you’d be so kind, and ask him if he intends to feed you and your sister anytime soon.”
“What?” The little boy frowned. “Why? I thought we were eating cookies tonight?”
“Sí. And so we are. But, as I keep telling you, they’re just a snack. If you’re eating your dinner very soon, we might want to save the cookies for afterward, so as not to spoil your meal.”
Marc’s eyes narrowed. The stubborn look on his face indicated another argument was about to ensue.
Damian fixed the boy with a stern glance. “Marcus, did you not hear what I said?”
For the space of a few more heartbeats, Marc stubbornly met his gaze, then he shrugged and went off to do as Damian had asked. Damian picked up the spatula and began to transfer the cookies onto a cooling rack.
“Don’t you like cookies, Uncle Damian?” Julie asked after a moment. She sidled closer until she was leaning right against him, a worried expression on her face.
Damian looked at her in surprise. “Why, yes, child. At least, I think I do. It’s been a while, and I’ve never had these particular treats, but I remember, when I was very much younger, being quite fond of such things. Why do you ask?”
“You’re frowning at them like they’ve made you angry.”
“Am I?” Damian made a conscious effort to relax his face. It was good that vampires could not get wrinkles from such things, he supposed. “Oh. Well…it’s nothing. It’s just that these cookies are still very hot and I’m wondering when they’ll be cool enough for you children to eat without burning yourselves.”
Julie’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “But the other ones are cool now, aren’t they? Can’t we eat those while we wait for these ones to cool?”
Damian sighed. “Of course. You’re quite right, chica. I was forgetting about that.”
“Grandfather says we’ll eat later,” Marc announced, running back into the room. “He and the lady he’s with are very busy right now.”
“How nice.” Mindful of Julie’s narrow-eyed gaze, Damian unclenched his jaw and resisted the temptation to grind his teeth. “Well…in that case, let’s have cookies, shall we?”
A few minutes later they were all seated at the table with cookies and milk. Marc eyed his milk with a dubious eye, but gulped it down gamely.
“I think I like these ones the best,” Julie said around a mouthful of chocolate chips.
“Do you? Buenisimo.” Damian frowned sternly at her. “But wait until you’ve finished eating, please, before you tell us any more about it. You can’t expect anyone to understand you if you talk while there’s food in your mouth. Besides which, it’s rude. And you might choke.”
“The other children never choke,” Marc observed.
Damian sighed. “Just because you haven’t yet seen something, Marc, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. One thing you can count on happening, however, is that if you don’t listen to what I tell you, there will be no more cookies for either of you. And I don’t just mean tonight.”
Marc eyed him speculatively, as though calculating how seriously to take his threat. Damian braced himself for another battle of wills. But Marc’s next question took him completely by surprise. “Is that lady here to be our new mommy?”
“What? No, of course not.” Damian shook his head. “Wherever did you get that idea?”
“What lady?” Julie asked, sounding just as surprised as Damian. “The one with grandfather?”
Marc nodded. He shot a mutinous glance at Damian. “All the other kids have mommies. I thought maybe that’s why Grandfather brought her home?”
Ah, if only he were so altruistic. Damian sighed. “I know how much you want to be like other children, Marc. And it’s very sad that you two should have lost your mother before you ever had the chance to know her. But you can’t just get a new mother to replace the one that’s gone, no matter how much you might wish to do so.”
“Yes, you can, Uncle Damian,” Marc insisted. “You can too do that. I know you can. A lot of the other kids have more than one mommy. They said so.”
“But we don’t even know that lady.” Julie sounded worried. “What if we don’t like her? Besides, I’m hungry. Why does she have to be our mommy? Why can’t she just be here for dinner?”
“Because we don’t need her for dinner.” Marc pointed at the plate in the center of the table. “Eat more cookies if you’re hungry.”
“I don’t want more cookies,” Julie snapped, her fangs once more extending past her gums. “That’s not real food.”
“Children! Enough now! We’ll have no more of this talk.” Damian gazed at the twins in exasperation. If they didn’t learn to curb their tempers better than this, they would never be able to successfully socialize with human children. His annoyance quickly faded, however, when he caught sight of the wounded expression in Marc’s eyes, the faint wobble of his chin. Damian was out of his chair and crouching at Marc’s side in a flash. “Oh, pobrecito,” Damian opened his arms and the little boy crowded against him. “Don’t cry, my poor little boy, it will be all right.”
Marc hid his face against Damian’s chest and stifled a sob. “It-it-it’s not fair!”
“I know, chiquito.” Damian hugged the boy close. “And there are many things in life that will seem that way to you. Not just now, but always. I wish you could find some comfort in knowing that your mama was very special. I know she would have loved you both very much if she’d had the chance to know you, and I’m sure you would have loved her too—just as your grandfather does. But…that’s not how things worked out. I’m sorry. Your mother is gone but…please do not bring this matter up with your grandfather, niño. He knows you must miss her because he does too, but he is still not able to bring you another. You will only make him feel that he is failing you and I assure you he is doing everything within his power to be both mother and father to you children.”
“Could you maybe bring us a new mommy?” Julie asked and Damian cursed himself for not having made himself clearer. “Then we’d all be happy. Grandfather too.”
“No, chica, I’m sorry but I can’t. No one can.”
“Of course he can’t.” Marc scoffed at the suggestion. “Mommies are ladies and Uncle never brings ladies home. You know that.”
Julie nodded grudging agreement. Damian stared at them both. It really shouldn’t startle him that the children were perceptive enough to have noticed the differences in his and Conrad’s preferences, even at this age. But, ay Dios, here was yet another conversation they would have to have with the twins—years sooner than he’d thought it would become an issue. Buenisimo. Conrad would be so pleased.
“I wish you could though,” Julie murmured mournfully.
“Me too.” Marc mumbled burying his face in Damian’s shirtfront once again.
“Sí. I, too, wish there was something more I could do for you both,” Damian said. His words gave rise to a thought. Nothing could restore their mother to them, of course, and recruiting a replacement was equally impossible since letting anyone else in on the secret of the children’s true nature was far too great a risk to take, but perhaps there was a way to make them feel a little better. “Now, mis niños, you must dry your eyes and finish your cookies. I have an idea.”