Jeff let out an appreciative whistle as they entered the room. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Darius nodded. “They sure went all out, didn’t they?”
“I’d say. Ah! There’s the dweeb himself.”
“Rrrrrrr!” Eduardo growled at his older brother.
“Stop it!” Emeren said. “Or I’m tellin’ mom.”
Eduardo proceeded to bark at him.
“Moooooooom! Tell him to stop barking!”
Darius exchanged a look with his wife. She smiled. “Go sit down with your friends, mi corazon.”
“I wish you could sit with us.”
“It will be all right. Do not worry.”
“Mooooooooom! Make him stop! Ouch! MOM! HE BIT ME!”
“Tell you what. I’ll do you a favor.” He picked up his four-year-old son and plopped him over his shoulder as if he were a bag of cement.
“Yay!” Eduardo patted his father’s back.
“I’ll take this little troublemaker with me.”
“Are you sure?” Arabella asked.
Eduardo bit the back of Darius’ tuxedo jacket and shook his head.
Darius laughed. “Very sure.”
“If he becomes too much for you, bring him back to me.”
“Don’t worry, Ara.” He kissed her. “We’ll be fine.” He patted Eduardo’s backside. “Won’t we, my little webslinger?”
Eduardo released Darius’ jacket to announce, “Not webliner. I Batman. I Batman’s dog. Rrrrrrrruff!” His small voice went up at least three octaves, “Ruff! Ruff!”
“Stop barking, Ed!” Emeren scolded.
“It’s okay, Em. Stay with your mom. Keep your other two brothers out of trouble, okay?”
Emeren relaxed. “Okay, daddy.”
Eduardo kept barking as Darius and his friends headed towards the wedding party table. They arrived just as the photographer led the bride and the groom away. Master Shinowa, Kaneshiro, and Jim-Marie made their appearance as well. Edmund, who had disappeared to the bathroom, joined them at the table.
Darius set Eduardo on the floor and whispered a command to him. The small boy bowed along with his father and Jeff to Master Shinowa.
They obeyed, even Eduardo.
Master Shinowa smiled. “We should set in seats and wait for Mayhews.”
All four hunters chorused, “Yes, Master.” and set claim to their seats. Eduardo stayed in his father’s arms.
Everyone got to talking and laughing.
Jeff, however, slipped into a quiet study of his friends.
Alike and different.
Older and younger.
Married, single, and widowed.
Only one child.
He focused on Darius’ son — a curious blend of him and her, yet still his own self. His own personality. His own likes and dislikes. His own special destiny.
Maybe Darius will hand him over to the trainers.
Maybe he won’t.
Time alone will show and tell.
What if Tessa had never been kidnapped? Would I have had to surrender her to the trainers? Would they have seen that special spark inside of her?
He exhaled soft relief.
At least, they can’t take her now. She’s over-age. Besides, with her XQ abilities, they may not see her as a good candidate. She might be too much of a wild card.
She may be engaged to a vampire, but I don’t want her to join this life. I don’t want her to become a hunter. I want her to be able to sleep peacefully at night. I want her to have children without wondering and worrying about their future lives as hunters.
I want her to be happy.
Jeff thought about Raven and smiled.
He will make her happy.
Jeff pulled out his cell phone and called Raven’s number. “Sorry, Raven. But I need to know that she’s still there. I need to know she’s still safe.”
The phone rang.