Before I can reply, there’s a giggle from the far wall and we both snap our heads around to see Anna standing there grinning, not even a hint of a blush on her cheeks at walking in on us.
“Don’t you ever knock?” I ask, neither Maxim nor I moving to cover ourselves.
“Knock? And miss this?” She turns her hand over, gesturing toward us. “Where would be the fun in that?”
Maxim sighs, lowering his head to my shoulder. “She’s your godmother. You deal with her.”
“That I am.” Anna turns and heads toward the kitchen. “But there’ll be no ‘dealing with me’, Maxim Forsythe. Have a little respect for your elders. I’ll give you two a minute, then I have news.”
Maxim slips out of me with a sigh, reaching over and grabbing a blanket off the leather sofa and wrapping me in it as I stand.
He quickly slips on his trousers, then we make our way into the kitchen to find Anna sitting there on my phone, talking to someone.
“Yep. They’re here. Come on up, I’ll buzz the gate.” She taps the screen and puts the phone down, smiling at us like a Cheshire cat. “Do you two ever do anything else?”
Without waiting for a response, she walks over to the security panel on the wall and pushes the button for the gate at the end of the drive.
I lick my lips and snap my tongue before answering. “You should try it sometime. Maybe you’d understand.” She rolls her eyes and I point to the phone. “And, who is coming over?”
“Dimitri.” Her eyes twinkle.
“He’s early.” Maxim grouses. “He wasn’t supposed to be here for an hour. I’ll go meet him, I guess.”
He disappears through the open door to the kitchen, heading for the foyer.
Maxim is helping Dimitri with some business expansion. With his newfound powers, Maxim took the money he had and invested it in some shorts on the market. Seems he can ‘see’ things that others can’t, and he’s built his portfolio to close to eight million dollars from just under a million in less than two weeks and that doesn’t include the insurance money from his parent’s tragedy.
He’s keeping that set aside. Not sure for what, but that will be up to him and I’ll support whatever he decides when he decides.
He and Dimitri return to the kitchen a moment later, and Dimitri eyes the situation; me wrapped in the blanket and Maxim in just his trousers; then gives us a knowing look. “I’m early.” He looks between us, then at Anna his eyes suddenly stuck.
Maxim looks at him with playful annoyance. “Yeah. You are.”
He shrugs. “Sorry?”
Anna hops down from her place on the counter and extends her hand to Dimitri. “Don’t be. They need to take a break now and then, keep up their strength. I’m Anna. A friend of Seleme’s. We met at the…” She bites into her lip. “The thing a couple of weeks ago, but you fainted before we could be properly introduced. I had to go deal with a lot of angry and upset people, or we could have met properly. Sorry.”
“A friend of Seleme’s?” Dimitri looks to Maxim, and he shrugs.
We couldn’t hide things from Dimitri. For starters, he noticed the changes in Maxim the day after he turned, so he knew anyway. Add to that the things he remembered happening before he lost consciousness, and it was pointless trying to keep him in the dark.
Anyway, he’s taken to it all better than anyone could have expected. After the initial shock, he said it made a lot of sense, and he always believed in ghosts. We didn’t have the heart to tell him that ghosts don’t exist. Well, not to my knowledge, anyway. I suppose anything is possible.
“Well,” Anna licks her lips, then bites into her bottom lip. “Maybe more like family.”
Maxim comes to stand behind me, his hands on my shoulders, leaning in to kiss my cheek, then bring his lips to my ear.
I nod, leaning my head back into his chest, as Anna leads Dimitri into the living room, chattering on a million miles an hour about what she’s found out, how things are never going to be the same again. I don’t care about any of that.
“Family, forever and a day.” I reply to Maxim, feeling the first flutter of movement deep in my belly and knowing eternity will never be long enough.
THREE YEARS LATER
“Avery!” Seleme yells from the dining room. “I told you, if you are going to play with fire, you need to ask Mommy or Daddy first.”
“Awe, mom, not fair! The candles need to be lit, I’m a helper girl.” I can hear the smile in her singsong voice, and it makes me smile in turn.
“No, I’m the helper. Not girl.” Raymond’s voice echoes out from the same direction, as I wipe my hands on the towel and make my way from the kitchen to the dining room.