“Are they feeling better?”

“They’re on the mend but they scared me to death the night after these two were born. Both of them were making this weird sound when they were breathing. I called Dr. Knight and she rushed over. Turns out it was just croup. We took them outside in the cool air and it cleared right up.” Chansey shakes her head. “I’ve never seen Curry so scared.”

I don’t have to imagine his alarm because the worry I experienced over Sadie and Sophie’s delivery was still fresh on my mind.

Chansey stands over our new editions. “They seem so tiny. I can’t believe mine were this small only a few months ago.” She touches Sadie’s cheek and then Sophie’s. “My goodness. Curry told me they didn’t look a thing alike.” She looks up at us. “I thought he was exaggerating but I see now he wasn’t.”

Thank the gods they aren’t anything alike.

Curry takes another look at the babies. “They’ll never mix these two up. That’s for sure.”

“So, who is who?” Chansey asks.

Sadie stirs in her carrier and cries as if on cue to be the first one introduced. So far, she has insisted on doing everything first. “This little darling is Sadie.” Avery unbuckles our crying daughter and lifts her. “She’s the one with the robust appetite but I’ve learned I have about thirty minutes before Sophie will start in wanting to eat too.”

“Mine do me the same way but it’s better to keep them on a close schedule. James Grady got mixed up once and I felt like I was constantly feeding one of them. It took two days to get him back to his normal routine. It was exhausting.”

We definitely didn’t need that because it already seemed like Avery spent half of her time nursing. “We’ll be sure to remember that and please feel free to pass along any other tips you may have.”

I look at my watch and note that it’ll be two more hours until their feeding time. “Want me to take them for a little while so you can catch a quick nap before time to nurse?” Avery’s body has been through a lot recently. I offer to care for the babies often because I want her to have as much rest as possible. Although I’ve become incredibly human over the last few months, I’m still able to tolerate lack of sleep much better than her. Plus, I love the bonding time I get with my daughters.

Her eyes dance. “Oh, that would be lovely. Thank you, baby.”

Avery manages to get two hours of rest before feeding time. She’s already awake and smiles as she rises to a sitting position when I enter our newly finished quarters with the babies. “My body is on their schedule as well. It knows it’s time to nurse because I feel like I could burst.” She scoots until her back is against the headboard and gets into position before I pass Sadie to her. “Chansey’s going to help me learn how to nurse them at the same time.”

“That would save so much time.” I watch my wife nurse our daughter and I’m still amazed by this new experience. I can’t believe this is my life. It’s too good to be true.

Evening comes and the occupants of the house rise from their slumber. Everyone is present in the living room to see our babies and I realize for the first time how much our family has grown over the last year. Eight new members have been added to our previous count of six but there’s a new face standing in the crowd and it’s one I don’t recognize.

He’s a tall man with broad shoulders and flaxen hair. His eyes are golden–and captivating. I’ve never seen irises that color. I make the connection and realize why. He isn’t human.

“I have someone I’d like to introduce,” Sebastian says. “This is Anteros.”

The room is hushed but he breaks the silence. “Good evening.” His voice is soft, yet authoritative. The way it commands attention leaves no room for doubt. It’s reminiscent of a different time–and place–but I can’t identify either. “I’m sure my presence at your compound is a surprise but I’ve come because I wish to meet my daughters and their mates and children.”

Agápes are called daughters of Anteros because he is their creator but I wonder if his words imply something more.

He walks toward Chansey and hugs her. “Chansey. You are my daughter because I’m your creator.” He releases her from his embrace but continues holding her attention. “I chose your family because of your grandmother’s history as a blood swan. I knew you’d be raised in a loving environment that would nourish and prepare you to love and accept Curry as your mate. And I couldn’t be happier with the way you have embraced your life as an agápe. You are a wonderful wife and mother and you make me a proud maker.”

She’s mesmerized by him. “Thank you.”

Curry appears lost but extends his hand. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

He spends a little time speaking with Chansey and Curry while looking at the babies and then moves on to us. “Avery. I’ve watched you from afar for so long, my child. It’s so delightful to finally meet you.” He takes her into a tight embrace. “And hold you in my arms.”

His response to Avery is different than the one he had for Chansey. Again, I’m struck by the notion that this means more.

“Avery. You are my daughter because of the relationship I shared with your mother. You are the living, physical proof of our love.”

Avery is bewildered by his words. “Are you saying my dad wasn’t my biological father?”

“He wasn’t. I am.” Anteros takes Avery’s hands. “The blood of a god courses through your veins and there are those that would harm you for that reason. That’s why I chose Solomon as your protector. He’s strong. Valiant. He’ll protect you and he’ll keep your children safe but there’s something you should know about them.”

I feel Avery’s growing fear and it causes mine to multiply. It’s terrifying to hear there’s something we don’t know about our newborn daughters.

“This involves all four infants.” Anteros moves to stand between us and the Brennans. “There’s a prophesy. A great battle will ensue among the vampire race. There will be a false leader to rise and she will attempt to lay claim as sovereign but there will be a group of six to lead a revolt against this diabolical fiend. Your four children are destined to save the entire vampire race from believing her deceit.”

Our hearts sink because no parent wants to hear that his children–especially daughters–are destined to go to battle. This isn’t what I would choose for them.

“They have the best of three worlds. Human blood gives them compassion. Some immortals consider this a weakness but it’s the complete opposite. Empathy is powerful. Their bodies are half vampire so this makes them fast and resilient which they’ll need for battle. But it’s the blood of a god that will make them more powerful than any enemy rising against them.”

The numbers don’t add up. Is he including future children in the count? “You said a group of six would lead the revolt.”

“Your children and two other male babes–also twins–are the only ones on earth with that genetic make up.” I’m surprised to hear that there are two more agape/vampire children out there. Three sets of twins. Three males. Three females. I’m a father of daughters so I don’t like the direction this conversation is going.

Anteros addresses Chansey and Curry, “Your son will take one of Avery and Solomon’s daughters as a mate and your daughter will pair off with one of the males born outside of this coven.” He turns to us and I can predict what he is about to say. “Your other daughter will be a mate to the other male twin.”

Anteros motions toward the entry from the foyer and a couple enters the living room, each holding an infant. “This is Abel and Jenna Bennett. And these are their sons, Judd and York. They are joining Landra and will be living with you at the compound. The children must be raised together so they can train side by side to become invincible if they are to conquer Marsala Delphine.”

Curry’s entire body jerks in a rigor when he hears her name. “Marsala is dead.”

“No. She used black magic to make you believe she is dead but she’s biding her time.” Curry rubs his chin with his hand as he always does when he’s stressed. “Something happened to Marsala when you thought you were running that stake through her heart. Her once obsession turned to something different. Something darker.”

He’s clearly shaken by the news that Marsala is still alive. “Darker? I didn’t think that was possible.”

“It is. She’s gone mad and wants to rule the vampire species so she may eradicate all agápes.” He’s speaking to all of us now. “She wants Curry to suffer the pain of losing Chansey and his children if she can’t have him. Marsala is powerful and determined. That’s two very dangerous characteristics so she’s the reason the three of you can’t remain agápes. You must be able to protect yourselves in case she gets through your mates. Once the babies are old enough, you will all need to be changed.”

Curry isn’t disturbed by this the way I am. He was planning to turn Chansey anyway but this isn’t what I want for Avery. “No. I refuse to do it.” Do I have the right to refuse Anteros?

“Solomon, I know what happened with your betrothed but it wasn’t your fault.”

How was it not my fault? I’d love to believe I wasn’t the cause of Lisette’s wrongful death. “I tried to turn her and she died. I killed her.” End of story.

“Avery wasn’t born during that time but once you were changed into a vampire, she was destined to become your intended. That means there could never be another for you. That’s why Lisette didn’t survive. Your blood couldn’t supply her body with the things she needed to transition so it wasn’t your fault.”

I feel numb. “I’ve spent the last two hundred and seventy-five years believing she died because I made a stupid mistake.”

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