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       Wisdom, p.21

         Part #4 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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“Okay. So I get why they were so pissed about me because they thought I was working with the ‘movement’ to put them out of a job. But why did they care about Daisy?” I asked.

  “Child vampires are unstable and volatile. Let one loose for a day, and the whole world would know about vampires,” Ezra said. “And Mae let her loose in Australia. ”

  “How did they even find about that?” I asked.

  “Word travels,” he shrugged. “The Commissioner might’ve mentioned something about the missing child, and it’s common knowledge that Mae has moved out. Vampires have a lot of time on their hands to gossip. ”

  “The hunters think she did that to attract attention,” I said as it dawned on me. “And if everyone learned about vampires that way, with the serial killer and a crazy murderous child, humans would be terrified. They’ll want to hunt us down and kill us, and that would give the ‘movement’ of vampires all the ammo they would need to round up the humans and turn them into cattle. ”

  “Exactly,” Ezra said. “The hunters are trying to stop that from happening. In this case, they are helping. ”

  “But they’re assholes!” I yelled and gestured upstairs. “They broke into our house, beat us up, threatened our lives! That’s the good guys?”

  “Alice, there are no good guys,” Ezra said, giving me a hard look. “We’re vampires, and no matter what we do or strive for, that fact doesn’t change. We aren’t the good guys. ”

  “Yeah, I’m starting to figure that out. ” I bit my lip and leaned back on the couch.

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  “You’ve been busy figuring out a lot of things lately,” Jack said, and I lifted my head to look up at him. His voice stayed even, but he had to fight to keep it that way.

  “Jack, I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you any-”

  “Really? You’re sorry?” Jack asked. “Were you sorry last week when I asked you what was going on when you said nothing? Were you sorry a few hours ago when I asked you directly what you were doing and you lied to my face? Were you sorry when I was beating myself about this distance between us because you’ve been sneaking around and lying to me? Is that when you were sorry?”

  “Jack, I had to do this! I had to help her!” I leaned forward, pleading with him.

  “She is dead, Alice! You can’t help her!” Jack shouted. “You lied to me! You lied to Milo and put yourself in danger! You put Bobby in danger! What the hell were you thinking? He’s human! He nearly died tonight! Because of you!”

  “I know that. ” Bitter tears stung my eyes and I looked toward the floor. “Believe me, I know that. But I don’t know what else I was supposed to do. ”

  “After you kissed Peter last year, I begged you, I fucking begged you not to do that again!”

  “I didn’t kiss him again!” I shouted, looking up sharply.

  “No, Alice. ” He smiled sadly and shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. I asked you never to break my trust again. ”

  “I’m sorry. ” My voice quavered, and a tear slid down my cheek. “I’m really sorry, Jack. I didn’t think I had a choice. ”

  “That’s the thing with you. You never think you have a choice, but you always do. ” He bit his lip and shook his head. “But you wish you didn’t. ” He looked away from me. “Sometimes, I think you wish you’d never met me, there had never been a choice between me and Peter. ”

  “No, Jack, that’s not true!” I stood up. “That’s not true at all! I love you!”

  “Oh, yeah, I know you do. ” He nodded, and his mouth twitched in a way that I knew he was holding back tears. “You love me so much, and that just really sucks for you. Cause if you didn’t have that, you could just do whatever you wanted. You could be human or a little vampire Nancy Drew or hook up with any of my brothers. If only you didn’t have to worry about me. ”

  “Jack, no. ” I shook my head. “This is one stupid thing. This is a mistake. I did something stupid, but it was just something stupid. I know that you’re mad because I lied, but I lied about something little. I didn’t cheat on you. I didn’t hurt anybody. ”

  “You repeatedly lied to my face and snuck around behind my back, and I believed you. You’re missing the point, Alice. I can’t trust you anymore. ”

  “No,” I insisted. “I won’t lie to you ever again. When you asked me not to break your trust, you told me it didn’t matter. You told me you would forgive me of anything, and I’m not asking you to. I’m asking you to forgive me of this one thing. This one last thing. ”

  “I did say that. ” His voice was so quiet, I barely heard it, and his blue eyes swam with tears. “But you know what? I lied too. ”

  All the strength drained me from me, and I fell to the ground on my knees. Too much had happened, and hearing him say that felt like something had ripped open inside me. I couldn’t even cry, it hurt too much.

  “Alice. ” Ezra came to my side, putting his arm around me. “It’s alright. ”

  “What’s going on?” Leif asked.

  I heard him, but I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t lift my head. I wrapped my arms around my stomach, trying to hold in the pain. I had to physically hold myself, or I knew I would fall apart. I gulped down air, desperate to keep back the vomit that threatened to come up.

  “What the hell did you do to her?” Leif got in Jack’s face. “Did you hit her?”

  “I would never hit her! And she’s the one-” Jack pointed at me, then shook his head. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter. You should just be happy, because now she’s free to do whatever she wants!”

  “Whatever you did to her, fix it! Apologize to her!” Leif shouted.

  “I didn’t do anything wrong!” Jack yelled back. “And what the hell is your deal? Why do you even care? If I break up with my girlfriend, why is it any of your damn business?”

  “Because I’m her father!” Leif shouted.

  21

  I will say this for Leif – he managed to shock me out of my pain. I stared up at him, momentarily forgetting the horrible rift inside me at the thought of life without Jack. Leif sheepishly looked back at me, his dark eyes meeting mine.

  “Sorry. I didn’t want to tell you that way,” Leif said, shoving his hands in his dirty pants pockets.

  “Is this some kind of sick joke?” Jack asked, but all the anger had left his voice.

  Somewhere inside me, I knew it was true. Maybe I had before he said it. Something had been there, a connection I had always felt with him but couldn’t explain.

  “You have Milo’s eyes,” I whispered. They were the same deep brown and reminded me of a puppy, the way Milo’s always had.

  “Actually, he has my eyes,” Leif smiled and shifted uneasily.

  “Wait. ” Jack looked between the two of us. “You guys aren’t serious? Are you?” He turned to Ezra. “He can’t be serious. It’s not possible. Is it?”

  “It is. ” Ezra still had his hand on my back, and he sounded reluctant to answer. “It’s rare, but it’s possible. ”

  I tried to stand up, but my legs felt rubbery underneath me. Leif moved to help me, but Ezra was already at my side, beating him to it. I walked closer to Leif, and nothing had ever felt so surreal. I reached out to touch him. I expected my hand to go through him like he was a mirage, but it didn’t.

  My fingertips brushed against his cheek, and his skin felt smooth and cool, like my own. I gaped at him, and let my hand fall, unable to do anything except try to process this.

  “You’re my father,” I breathed, and he nodded. “How old are you?”

  “I was born 54 years ago, but I was only 22 when I turned,” Leif said.

  That made it all the more unreal. I was eighteen, and my father looked like he was only four years older than me. It was strange that I hadn’t noticed how much he looked like Milo before. People meeting them together would think they were brothers.

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  “How did you find me?” I asked.

/>   “I…” He lowered his eyes, and his cheeks reddened. “I wasn’t looking for you. I didn’t find you. ”

  “What?”

  “I didn’t know you and Milo were my children until a few weeks ago,” Leif swallowed and pursed his lips.

  “How could you not know?” I took a step back, feeling betrayed by that statement.

  Ezra moved in closer to me, in case I needed his support, but Jack stood off to the side of the room, unsure with how to react to any of this.

  “You were so young the last time I saw you, and Milo wasn’t even born yet. ” His dark eyes were sad and pleading. “I didn’t even know I had a son. Your mother had just found out she was pregnant. ”

  “You left us,” I said softly and took another step back. “You left us, and I don’t even remember you. ”

  “Alice, I had to leave you. ” Tears filled his eyes. “I thought…” He rubbed his mouth and lowered his eyes. “I loved Anna very much, but we hadn’t been together that long when she got pregnant with you. I didn’t have time to think about what it would be like. And I loved you. I still love you so much, you and Milo. I left to protect you. ”

  “How could you not know I was your daughter?” I repeated, louder this time. “How could you love me so much and not know?”

  “Do you know how many girls I saw that I thought were you?” Leif asked. “Every time I saw a little girl, I’d wonder if that could be you. Every time I heard the name Alice, I wondered if it were you. Eventually, I just… I numbed myself to the idea. ”

  “I don’t even know what that means. ” I wiped at my eyes to stop tears before they fell.

  “I didn’t let myself think about you anymore, or worry about you or your mother or your brother,” Leif said. “I knew I would outlive you, and I couldn’t deal with that. I tried to blot you out of my mind. ”

  “It was my birthday last month! And you didn’t think, ‘I had a daughter named Alice eighteen years ago today?’ That never even occurred to you?”

  “I didn’t know you were eighteen, and I didn’t…” He shook his head. “You look nineteen, but you’re a vampire. You could’ve been a hundred for all I knew. ”

  “What about Milo? You didn’t put that together?” I asked.

  “I didn’t even know he was your real brother,” Leif admitted. “I thought he was a brother like the way Ezra and Jack are brothers. He wasn’t even born when I left, and the last time I saw you, you were living in Idaho. I had no reason to think…

  “Yes, I felt a connection with you, and with Milo,” Leif went on. “But I didn’t realize who you were until I heard you arguing with Jack a few weeks ago. And as soon as I found out, I knew I had to do everything in my power to make it up to you. I just hadn’t found a way to tell you yet. ”

  “I know you’re a vampire but… why did you leave?” I crossed my arms over my chest and wiped at my eyes again.

  “Your mother was barely nineteen when I met her, and I loved her the moment I saw her. ” Leif’s eyes stayed on me, and he never looked away as he talked. “She didn’t know I was a vampire. I meant to tell her, but she got pregnant with you right away. I couldn’t tell her then because I didn’t want her to do something drastic, like run away or have an abortion.

  “I got her an apartment, and I stayed with her most of the time. I made up stories about work, but I took care of her the best I could,” he continued. “I didn’t think I could love anything more than I loved her, until you were born. I would’ve given anything to watch you grow up. ”

  “You didn’t though,” I said pointedly, and he nodded.

  “The day before I left, Anna was standing in front of a mirror,” he said. “She had just started showing with Milo, and she had her shirt pulled up, rubbing the baby bump. I walked over to her and put my arms around and told her how beautiful she looked.

  “She said, ‘Don’t lie. I’ve gotten so fat, and you haven’t changed a bit since the day we met. ’” He closed his eyes on the memory. “She laughed when she said it, but I knew then that I only had a few more years before it would be too noticeable. She would get older, and I would be forever young. ”

  “So?” I asked. “Turn her. Or don’t. Tell her you’re a vampire. We could’ve moved before anybody noticed. ”

  “I thought of that,” he nodded. “I thought of turning her after she had Milo. I had wonderful fantasies of us running away together, living happily ever after. Anna and I young and beautiful forever, raising our children all over the world.

  “But if I raised you that way, I knew you’d want this. I never wanted this life for you. ” Leif’s smile only got more pained. “I wanted you to live. To have a real life. I couldn’t give you that if I stayed. I didn’t want you to end up like me. ”

  “Well, good thing you left, because I totally didn’t end up as a vampire,” I said. “Oh wait. Yes, I did. I just grew up without a father. ”

  “Everything I did, I did for you,” Leif said emphatically. “You don’t have to believe me, but it’s true. I left when I did because I didn’t want you to remember me or miss me. I wanted you to forget me and move on with your life. ”

  “It didn’t work, Dad!” I snapped. “I still missed you! When I was little, I used to cry myself to sleep, and Milo would ask me all these questions about you, and I would make stuff up to make him feel better. And Mom, she never got over you! She has been unhappy and bitter and… you left us alone with her!”

  “I’m sorry. ” Leif’s eyes welled with tears. “I didn’t know. I didn’t…” He looked down. “I was trying to protect you. I only wanted you to be happy.

  “It destroyed me to leave you, Alice. ” Leif pursed his lips. “That’s why I ended with the lycans. I thought they would kill me. ”

  “Was Mom your one?” I asked. “The one you were meant for?” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jack look at me when I said that.

  “Yes,” Leif said quietly. “She was. She is. ”

  I chewed my lip. I knew the ache of growing up with a father and why he didn’t love me enough to stay. And I knew the horrendous pain of losing someone I loved. My fight with Jack was so raw, I could barely speak and breathe.

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  Yet Leif had chosen that pain willingly. He’d left my mother, my unborn brother, and me knowing how much pain it would cause him, and he did it to protect us. He had been willing to sacrifice himself for our happiness.

  In the time I had known Leif, he’d been nothing but kind. He’d risked his own life more than once to help me and my friends. And until I found out that he’d abandoned me when I was an infant, I had really liked him.

  “You’re not gonna leave now, are you?” I asked.

  “No, of course not,” he shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere. ”

  “Then we’d better tell Milo,” I said.

  Even though Milo was still healing and needed his rest, I woke him up for this. The swelling and discoloration of his skin had gone, but he moved slowly. I didn’t tell him why he had to get up, but I managed to drag him downstairs. Bobby kept telling me I was being mean, so I elbowed him in the stomach, and he shut up.

  I sat on the couch next to Milo, with my arm around him. I’m not sure if he needed it, but I knew I did.   Leif pulled a chair in front of us and sat down, preparing to explain the whole thing. Ezra stayed in the room to oversee things, and that did make me feel better.

  Jack tried so sit next to me on the couch, but I wouldn’t have it.

  “No,” I told him. “You don’t get to do that. ”

  “Do what?” Jack asked.

  “Try to be all… supportive. ” I glared at him. “You broke up with me, remember?”

  “What?” Milo asked, looking at me.

  “Never mind,” I said, and Jack moved to a chair on the side of the room, muttering something about how he could be supportive of Milo. “Leif has something more important to tell you, Milo. ”

>   Leif told Milo the whole story, and it went about the same way it had gone with me. Stunned at first, then disbelief, then angry when he remembered that Leif had left us. Milo took it better than I did, though. He had less anger about the whole thing, but that tended to be the case with everything.

  “Wow,” Bobby sat on the floor by Milo’s feet and looked in awe. “You’re so Luke Skywalker right now. ”

  “Leif is not Darth Vader,” Milo said, then he cocked his head. “Do I call you Leif? Or do I call you Dad?”

  “Call me whatever you like,” Leif shrugged. “I’m just happy to be a part of your life. ”

  “I still don’t understand. ” Milo’s face scrunched up in concentration, reminding me of the way he looked when he’d still been human. “How… Well, just how?”

  “Are you asking how I fathered you?” Leif asked carefully. “I did it the same anyone fathers a child. ” He looked uncomfortable and shifted in the chair. “I’m sure you understand the mechanics of reproduction. ”

  “Yeah, I understand human reproduction,” Milo said. “But I didn’t think vampires could reproduce, not like actual offspring, fruit of their loins. ” He looked over at me. “Did you know they could do that?”

  “No. Why would I know that?” I shrugged.

  “I have seen it before. ” Ezra stepped forward from the side of the room. I think he’d been giving us space to talk over things, but his presence reassured me. “Only twice, but it’s common enough that there’s a term for it. Dhampyr. ”

  “A what now?” I asked.

  “The offspring of a vampire father and a human mother,” Ezra explained, and Leif turned to watch him. “It does explain a lot of the peculiarities that we’ve encountered with you. Your strong connection and attraction to vampires, and in turn, their affinity for you. Your ability to transform into a vampire with relative ease, and now, you’re superior strength and control. ”

  “Wait, wait,” Bobby interrupted, snapping his fingers. “I’ve heard that before. That’s like what Blade is, right? Wesley Snipes was a vampire hunter, but he was like super strong and badass from being a half-breed. ” He glanced back at Milo. “You weren’t like that when you were human, were you?”

  “No, I got my ass kicked all the time,” Milo grimaced at the memory of his human self.

  “So how come they weren’t all like Blade?”  Bobby asked, turning back to Ezra.

  “Because it’s a movie, Bobby,” I said dryly. “Movies aren’t the same as real life. ”

  “It varies, from dhampyr to dhampyr,” Ezra said. “From what I’ve heard, some are stronger than others, but the only constant is that they’re drawn to vampires. Most end up as vampires. ”

  “We’re drawn to vampires?” I asked, and something about that made my stomach queasy.

  “Yes, you are,” Ezra nodded.

  I didn’t want to look over at Jack, but I could feel him staring at me. I still had my arm around Milo, and I held onto him tighter, this time for my own support.

 
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