Selvadorada, William & Morgyn’s House
William wiped tears from his eyes, “Well, at least we know why he is so besotted.”
“He’s not besotted,” Lilith hissed, “This Alice woman is not that special.”
“Oh, but she is,” William insisted. “I’ll be the first to say it. I didn’t think Vladislaus would find someone else willing to navigate his bizarre idiosyncratic opinions. Not to mention the violent outbursts, inflated ego, perverse enjoyment out of the sound of breaking bones—”
“Well, she don’t quite know all of that. Vladislaus hasn’t told her the whole truth,” Latimer interrupted.
“What do you mean, he hasn’t told her? She’d have to be daft not to see that he’s 1) a creature of darkness and 2) completely unhinged.”
“Hey! She’s not stupid, she’s just…I don’t know. I like Alice. And Vladislaus has been on his best behavior, so how could she know?”
“Then she doesn’t deserve him,” Lilith frowned. “She won’t be able to handle the real him and when she gets frightened, he’ll be hurt. He needs someone like—”
“Your mother? Oh please,” William scoffed, “And Vladislaus is never hurt. Angry? Vengeful? Petty? Yes. But hurt? No. He doesn’t have access to that particular emotion.”
“You don’t know that.”
He did. His brother was willful. Always had been. “Do you think your father’s been married so many times because he is a nice creature?”
“He’s nicer than you!” Lilith shot back, “Maybe if you didn’t give him such a hard time—”
“Hard time?” William made a sound of disbelief. For centuries he’d been picking his brother up off the floor, playing the role of the perfect son because no one could bear to handle another problem on top of Vladislaus. “He’s a monster, and you think I give him a hard time?”
“Say that about him again, Aurelius Redding, I dare you.” Lilith’s eyes flashed an unnatural color.
William bared his fangs in return. “Using my birth name? To hurt me feelings? I was raised by your grannie and granda from a wee thing. If I’m not a real Straud, then some tiny waif and her troublesome brother are certainly not—”
“Enough,” Morgyn said tightly, “Lilith, your uncle is having a bad day. Please excuse him.”
“Of course,” she flashed an unmistakably false smile. “I wasn’t going to say mother, she’s seeing someone, and besides, she’s off of men forever. I meant Ethren.”
“Your former stepfather could no more tame Vladislaus than a rabbit could tame a fox.”
“And yet, after 800+ years he’s still around. Why is that, William?” her false smile widened as she affected an innocently curious look. It was as if they’d hadn’t had this same argument every 30 years or so.
He snorted. “Addiction. Stupidity. If they did not want to be divorced, they wouldn’t be.”
“But they don’t want to be. They got engaged again—”
“In 1997!” William interrupted.
“And father was happy about it because Ethren is the only one who knows the real Vladislaus and unlike this Alice woman, he won’t run.”
William rolled his eyes at his niece. When had she gotten such a sappy, misbegotten view of romance? He’d been there in 1997—
And in 1950, when Vladislaus woke from his vampiric slumber and even strong-willed Ethren, immune to his brother’s dramatics, balked at what had to be done. Lilith didn’t understand a damn thing. Her favorite step-father had already run. He was always running and Vladislaus, ever the lovesick idiot, was always chasing him.
“Alright, you’re graspin’ at straws, Lily-bear. Ain’t no half-hearted engagement twenty-some years ago got any hold on your father now. And besides, you’re being a little quick to judge,” Latimer admonished. “I think you’d probably like Alice.”
Lilith scowled “I won’t.” When William chuckled, she growled. “What do you know anyway? You’ve only ever been with Morgyn.”
William flinched involuntarily. “I know that if Vladislaus galavanting around with a mortal will give me a few decades peace then so be it. You can bother me with my brother’s love life again when she’s dead.” With that, he signed off.
He paced the room for a little bit, fuming. Lilith had no idea what she was saying. And how could she? The only creature who knew anything was Vladislaus and he might be selfish, psychotic, and rude, but he was loyal. Not that it mattered. William had nothing to feel guilty about.
Plenty of immortal couples spend decades living other lives, he told himself again, they take lovers and keep secrets. It’s natural. It’s fine.