Best Friend For Hire, Entry 333

“James, dear!” exclaimed mother as she moved to embrace me.

“Don’t forget our new daughter-in-law.” stated father. He looked surprised as Alma stepped up and hugged him, but he still hugged her back.

“Of course not.” replied mother, letting go of me to hug Alma too. “How was the honeymoon? Did you two have fun?”

“Quite eventful. You’d be amazed how much we can accomplish in two weeks.” I told them.

Father laughed and said, “Not really, not with how incredibly fast you two are.”

“I’m pregnant.” stated Alma, stepping toward me.

My parents stared at her incredulously for a moment.

“Isn’t it a bit too soon to tell?” suggested mother.

“Alma’s not quite human, so things work a bit differently. I assure you that she is.” I told her.

Father hesitated a bit longer before saying, “Well, I always did want to be a grandfather.”

“Congratulations to you both!” exclaimed mother. “Do the others know yet?”

“Sorry, but your son couldn’t keep it a surprise till you got here.” claimed Alma, smiling up at me.

I shrugged and told my parents “Sorry. I’m a bit excited.” Waving them onward, I said, “Come in, please. We have something to show you.”

“Another surprise?” asked father.

I nodded.

“I’m sure it’s not as surprising as this.” claimed mother, smiling at me. “Any idea when the baby will be due with the umm… differences?”

“December, we think.” replied Alma, before winking up at me.

“Are you planning on finding out if it’s a boy or a girl? That seems pretty common these days.” suggested father.

“Probably.” I told him. “We figure that’ll give us more time to come up with a name.”

“If you have a boy, are you going to carry on the tradition?” inquired father, following us toward the ballroom.

“That seems quite likely. I like how easily the name would pass in my country too.” explained Alma.

“What if you have a girl?” questioned mother. “I’ll gladly help with names.”

“We already decided on Dani for our first girl.” teased Alma as she loudly emphasized the name.

“Oh? Is there a story behind this?” inquired mother, her eyes opening wide as Dani came running into the room.

“Mom, are these them!?” exclaimed Dani, putting her hands together and grinning like she just got the most exciting present.

“Dani, meet my parents.” I told her. Then to my parents I said, “This is our adopted daughter, Dani Lyshaa Somerset.”

“Uh… b-but…” started father, stopping as he stared at me.

I caught Cosette grinning from the ballroom doorway as Dani ran up and hugged both of my parents at the same time. Father, still looking shocked, patted her back as he looked down at mother.

Switching to her native tongue, Dani let go of them and asked “Why aren’t they happy?”

“English in front of your grandparents.” ordered Alma.

“What uh language is that?” asked father.

“Oh, that’s from Dani’s home. The circumstances were a bit unusual, but she’s part of the family now.” I told him.

“Dani, I love your hair and umm skin.” stated mother, reaching to touch Dani’s head but hesitating.

Dani pressed her head into mother’s hand as she exclaimed “It’s all natural, except the tips!”

“Is she… uh… similar to the ones in your forest?” asked father.

“No, she’s not a fey, but she does sense the emotions of those around her.” I explained.

“The fey! I forgot about them. When can I meet them!?” exclaimed Dani, staring up at me.

“Let’s plan on tonight for most of them. You’ll meet one sooner.” I promised, creating a burst of light above the forest with a spell. “Just don’t let her know how long we’ve been back, since she’ll be disappointed that I didn’t come see her first thing. For now, let’s head to the dining room. Marco’s probably done preparing dinner by now.”

“Almost, master. We’re putting the finishing touches on at the moment.” announced Mila over the speakers.

“Perfect.” I replied as I started walking to the dining room.

Alma looped her arm around mine and said, “I have missed his cooking. This will be a treat.”

“Marco’s cooking is always a treat.” agreed father as he and mother followed with Dani between them. “Dani, how old are you?” he asked.

“Almost fifteen.” she told him with a grin.

“When’s your birthday?” asked mother.

“Uh…” she mumbled, looking thoughtful.

Alma glanced back and said, “April nineteenth.”

“That’s the one!” exclaimed Dani.

“How long have you been studying English? You’re doing quite well.” stated mother.

“I’m not too sure.” she replied with a shrug.

When my little fairy friend came flying toward us, I glanced back to watch my daughter’s reaction. Her look of wonder was priceless, especially when my little friend started showing us all of her adventures in the forest.

“Daddy, she’s adorable! I want to ride on the umm… the squirrel!” she exclaimed. “I want to ride on a squirrel. I guess they’re pretty small for her to ride them like that, but wasn’t that awesome!?”

I pursed my lips as my little friend started paying more attention to my daughter. Dani was getting more and more excited as the fey talked to her. I had expected her to get a double dose of their emotions, since she’d be feeling it with her own abilities as well as in the fairy’s projections, but I hoped the forest wouldn’t overwhelm her when we visited there.

“I’m still not accustomed to feeling that. What did you think, Dani?” asked mother.

“Oh, mom’s shown me things like that before, so I’m used to it.” she replied, sounding much calmer than I would have expected.

Perhaps Alma was intervening for Dani, projecting her own calm into Dani’s mind.

“Will the others be joining us?” asked mother.

“You can count on it, the ones who are here at least.” I assured her. “A couple are out on jobs. Jemal and Kayla should return soon. He’s probably picking her up from her friend’s or on his way back with her already. The ones here are just giving us a few minutes privacy while you get to know Dani a little.”

Mila had given me a rundown of everyone’s schedule on the way here from the airport. We had flown home in Alma’s plane just to give Dani the experience of how flight is here. Given how advanced her home planet is compared to ours, most things on this planet were going to seem pretty low tech.

“Isn’t it amazing how pretty all of daddy and mom’s friends are!?” exclaimed Dani.

Father laughed and said, “I couldn’t agree more. My wife and I would feel remiss in our apparel were we to leave home in anything too casual for a visit here.”

“You’re quite beautiful too, Dani.” insisted mother.

“Thank you, grandmother!” replied Dani with another grin.

Pursing her lips for a moment, mother said, “That will take some acclimation. I wasn’t expecting to be a grandmother this morning.”

“Son, why does she call you ‘daddy’ while calling Alma ‘mom’ and now my wife ‘grandmother’?” inquired father.

“I blame Aaliyah. She insisted that Dani go with ‘daddy’ for me. Alma wasn’t about to be called ‘mommy’ but she didn’t want to have things sound too formal when I’m ‘daddy’.” I explained.

Piping in, Dani said, “And they thought ‘grandfather’ and ‘grandmother’ seemed right for you two.”

Father nodded and said, “I suppose.”

“You three already seem so casual together. If you’ll pardon my asking, Dani, but wasn’t being adopted by someone as young as… as these two… a bit odd?” inquired mother.

Dani grinned and told her “I feel like I’ve been with them for years.”

“But they’re really not too much older than you.” stated father.

I gave Dani a warning glance and shook my head when she looked like she was going to reply.

Taking father’s hand in both of hers, Alma said, “Getting used to the idea of me dating your son took a while too, but families can come about in the strangest of ways. Please trust us on this.”

He looked surprised by her, but he nodded. “Life in this household will never be normal. I have come to terms with it. I think marriage suits you.”

She smiled and told him “It really does.”

“Let’s all take this end again.” I suggested, walking to the northern end of the table as I explained to my little friend that we were eating soon.

She excitedly projected all of her favorite foods into my head, complete with aromas, taste, textures, and her feelings on them.

Dani wistfully announced “I want some of everything.”

“She really is remarkable. I should show you some of the paintings she’s inspired if you ever visit.” suggested mother.

“Daddy’s told me that you paint! I’d love to see your work.” insisted Dani.

“You should paint together.” suggested Alma. “Dani has talent and has been well trained in the arts.”

“Really? I’d love to paint with her.” replied mother.

“Please forgive her if she cheats at times.” I warned.

“What do you mean, dear?” asked mother.

“Daddy, it’s not cheating!” insisted Dani.

“Dani has a gift for magic and uses it when painting.” explained Alma.

I smiled, feeling my wife’s explanation was a bit of an understatement, but mother would see soon enough. That conversation ended there when my friends started coming into the room, since greetings were exchanged. Still, I felt things were progressing nicely.

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Best Friend For Hire, Entry 332

As Mila drove the limo down my driveway, Dani was practically bouncing in her seat, looking around at everything with obvious excitement. I hoped she was ready for this; I hoped I was ready for this. Explaining how Alma and I went on a honeymoon for two weeks and came back with a daughter who appeared to be near our age ― a girl with taffy-colored skin and cobalt blue hair tipped in black dye ― would be a bit of a shocking tale, even in my household. We all had agreed not to give a full account though. We couldn’t, at least not yet.

“Is that really the house? It’s huge!” exclaimed Dani after Alma gave her a nod.

“Your father and I will be occupying the second and third floor of the center part. We’re letting you have your way with my old wing in the West.” explained Alma, pointing toward the wing.

Grinning, Dani asked “And the first floor is for everyone, right?”

“Sure is.” I told her, smiling.

When I left here, I wasn’t that many years older than Dani. I couldn’t even guess my age now. Aaliyah offered to tell me, but I had told her not to make me feel old. As far as most people on this planet knew, I was still nineteen, and I needed to act the part as best as I could.

Dani led the way to the doors, practically running the moment the car stopped. Alma and I followed behind her, taking things slowly. We had spent the last two weeks on our island, attempting to finish acclimating Dani to the world, since Aaliyah didn’t want to “spoil our fun” with a more efficient course. Things would work out one way or another. Our lives were guaranteed to go well for many years.

“Z-, er… daddy, what’s with all these umm…” started Dani, spinning as she looked around.

“Engravings. They’re telling a story about a wonderful woman.” I explained, almost through the door.

“Who are you?” called Emma from down the hall as she jogged toward Dani.

I was about to reply when I felt someone tug my shirt from behind me.

“D-daddy?” asked Raine, staring up at me with wide eyes.

Adjusting to her speed again would take some time. She let me grab her shoulders, lift her, and deposit her inside next to my daughter.

“You must be Emma!” exclaimed Dani as she hugged Emma and gave her a kiss. “I’ve heard so much about you!”

Emma smiled and blushed as she inquired “Good things?”

“Emma, Raine… meet Dani.” I told them, releasing Raine from my grip.

Dani turned at Raine’s name, exclaiming “You’re the fluffy one!”

Raine was shaking slightly as Dani hugged her and kissed her forehead, but that was to be expected.

“Y-you… sm-smell good.” mumbled Raine.

“Guys, James and Alma are back, and they brought someone new!” exclaimed Brenna from the ballroom doorway.

“Sooo fluffy!” exclaimed Dani, still hugging Raine and playing with her hair.

Alma and I stepped out of the way as Mila brought our luggage inside. Portentia, Maxine, and Cosette were coming out of the ballroom behind Brenna. I spotted Jarod, Ai, and Mai coming down the hall, so Mila apparently notified them as well.

“Dani, don’t upset Raine.” cautioned Alma.

“Sorry, mom. I’m just excited!” she exclaimed as she released Raine from her embrace. “Raine’s hair is spectacular. Of course, so is yours, Emma!”

Dani couldn’t smile without it seeming flirtatious, and I would need to warn Emma before she got her hopes up too high. I didn’t care if the two had some sort of relationship eventually, but I wasn’t going to have Emma’s hopes crushed by Dani’s nature. Dani’s entire species was beautiful, empathic, capable of magic, and completely incapable of monogamy. The concept was far too alien for them to really believe. We knew quite well from our brief visits to their world and our attempts to get the idea through to Dani. Like the fey in my forest, they were a species of whim and strong emotions, though Dani’s species could show remarkable focus when passion drove them to a task.

I quickly grabbed Dani before she went around hugging every last one of them. Then I said, “Everyone, this is Dani Lyshaa Somerset. Alma and I adopted her while we were away.”

“Adopted!? Isn’t she around our age?” asked Jarod.

“Yes, but adopting her was the easiest way to get her into the country. Aaliyah assured me that all of the paperwork has been pushed through already, so she’s officially our child. Please help her as she acclimates to things around here and tell me if she gets into too much trouble.” I explained, doing my best not to smirk at the looks of shock.

If they knew how many years Alma and I spent raising Dani, they would really be in for a shock, but that was a story I would never share with everyone here, despite how much they might enjoy being regaled by our adventures.

“Can I be there when you tell your parents?” inquired Cosette with a smile.

“They’ll be here this evening, so any of you who aren’t working might be around.” I replied. “One last announcement that my parents will soon be privy to as well…”

Everyone looked at me expectantly, so I glanced at Alma to see if she wanted the honors.

“James, really… I thought we’d tell your parents first.” she stated, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. Then she sighed and said, “Fine. I suppose they might as well find out first. I’m pregnant.”

Following shouts of shock, several of them quickly congratulated us. Alma and I thanked everyone, happy to be home. The baby had certainly been a shock when Aaliyah informed us that the time was coming for us to return home. We declined letting her tell us the precise date of birth or gender, preferring the surprise, but we actually did know the month. Alma was already four months pregnant and starting to show slightly, but she had another eight and a half to go.

Dani was practically bouncing under my hand. She couldn’t be expected to contain her excitement when feeling the excitement of everyone around her. I let her go, knowing that I couldn’t contain her enthusiasm.

She hugged Brenna, kissing her cheek as Brenna turned her head. Then she looked over to Maxine for a moment before rushing her.

“Daddy, is this the criminal!?” exclaimed Dani as she hugged Maxine.

“Yes, so you should be careful around her.” warned Portentia, looking confused as Dani pulled her into the hug.

“And you’re Portentia. Your skin is sooo beautiful.” she insisted.

“Lady Pendreigh…” started Mai.

“Girls, just call me Alma. I’m married. Let’s drop titles and formalities while at home.” insisted Alma.

Ai and Mai stared at her in wide-eyed shock, glancing at one another in obvious bewilderment.

“A-Alma…” started Ai.

“Not to be rude, but…” continued Mai as she eyed Dani.

“What’s with my skin?” asked Dani, interrupting them.

“And hair.” stated the twins.

“All natural! Be jam.” replied Dani, releasing Portentia and Maxine to approach them.

“Jelly.” I corrected.

At the same time, Alma said, “Jealous.”

“Pleased to meet you all. Mom told me not to kiss you because you’re married.” explained Dani as she held out a hand to each of them while standing all too close to Jarod.

He took a step back between Ai and Mai, reaching a hand between them when Dani went to shake his hand.

Smirking, Alma said, “I actually warned you against kissing people at random, since many will find it confusing and even disturbing, married couples especially.”

“But they’re all so pretty…” complained Dani.

“Behave.” I chided. “Let’s get you set for playing that game I’ve been telling you about before my parents arrive.”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, hugging my arm as I showed her into the ballroom with several of my friends in tow.

I wasn’t certain how well she’d be able to sit still at the moment, but the others might calm down enough to help Dani calm down with a bit of gaming. Introducing my daughter to my parents was going to be interesting enough without her feeling rambunctious.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 331

With the ceremony complete, Aaliyah joyously took Alma and I to do an incredible amount of signing. When that was finally finished, we went out for pictures. The photo session took longer than I hoped, but I was sure that was all part of Aaliyah’s plan. She was on stage again, entertaining the guests while Mila took pictures with the cameras in her eyes. Alma insisted on looking at them from time to time on my phone, and I couldn’t deny her when I was curious as well.

When Alma suddenly gathered her dress and ran, I followed her without question. She seemed worried. I sprinted ahead when I spotted Adelmar doubled over near the house with Anwen looking afraid. His breathing was incredibly fast, and he seemed to be in pain. He stood, taking a swing at me the moment I stopped.

Catching his hand, I said, “Adelmar. It’s me, James. What’s wrong?”

“When did you get this strong?” he snarled, staring at his fist in my hand.

Alma arrived, stopping just behind me. “Is it time already?” she asked.

I thought he was going to attack me again, but I felt a number of his defensive spells being dropped. The anger quickly left his eyes.

“Cousin, I wasn’t aware that your husband was holding back so much during his challenges.” stated Adelmar as he casually straightened his suit.

“I did inform you that he was much faster and stronger than I originally believed.” she replied.

“YOU SHOULD HAVE SHOWN ME!” he yelled, taking a step toward her.

I put my arm out, blocking his path, and to my surprise, he hugged me.

“I’m sorry, James. I’ll be fine soon.” he told me as he stepped back.

“What’s wrong?” I asked again.

“His time’s coming soon.” replied Alma as she leaned against my arm.

“Time?” I asked.

“There’s something I haven’t told you yet.” she stated, holding my arm and looking up at me.

“I imagine there are many things you haven’t told me yet.” I teased.

“Just tell him.” ordered Adelmar.

“My family is descended from dragons, and each member of the Slayer family is destined to become a dragon. My mother didn’t die. She became a dragon and went… elsewhere.” explained Alma.

“Elsewhere?” I inquired, knowing I couldn’t reveal that I had seen her mother not too long ago.

“She doesn’t know. None of us do.” asserted Adelmar. “Welcome to the family.” he added with a smile.

“Yes. Welcome, James. We’re thrilled to have you.” agreed Anwen as she hugged Adelmar’s arm.

“Would you two care to come back for more photos?” I asked. “We were just about to send for you, so your timing is rather great.”

Smiling wryly Adelmar said, “Timing on almost turning into a dragon and disrupting your party? I think my timing needs improved. Then again, I don’t know that I could have stopped were you not here. Despite the other effects of your magic, there is a very calming effect to it.”

“I’m glad I decided to attend my wedding today then. Alma certainly would have been fired up if I had skipped out, and you apparently would have been as well.” I teased.

Alma lightly hit my arm and then said, “Sorry, Adelmar. He can’t take anything seriously at times.”

“All part of his charm, I’m sure. I still cannot believe your strength and speed.” he stated, reaching up to roughly squeeze my shoulder as we started to walk. “If you had struck Hyun-woo full force, the man would have died on the spot.”

The chipper way Adelmar talked about how I could have killed a man bothered me, but I wasn’t going to argue with him today, especially not if his change really was coming soon. The little I had seen of dragons was enough to show me that they were as dangerous as they were beautiful, and Adelina’s temper seemed quite volatile as one.

The rest of the pictures were taken without interruption, posing with various friends and family. Adelmar and Anwen seemed quite disturbed when Ariadne, Vito, Papak, and Zachary joined us for a couple shots, but they didn’t protest.

When pictures were finished, Alma and I went out to perform a little dance number we had rehearsed. Then we took to the stage and welcomed everyone to the reception, encouraging them to join us in dancing until food would be served.

The seven course meal that Marco prepared along with Carl and his staff would surely be remembered fondly by everyone, leaving them envious of my chef. He was quite superb. After the dinner was finished, a large number of speeches were given. Adelmar was certainly long-winded as ever when he took a turn. Given that the sun hadn’t set while he was still talking, I wondered if Carl was playing with time again.

When the speeches were over, there was a great deal of dancing and eventually an enormous cake. Alma and I did our best to visit the hundreds of tables to greet everyone, but missing someone would have been easy in the crowd.

After a final speech encouraging the guests to enjoy themselves in our absence and thanking them once again for attending, Alma and I departed to the limo. Having her hugging my arm and smiling so beautifully, my happiness was on a new level.

“Mila, you missed the turn. Where are you taking us?” inquired Alma a few blocks later.

“I have a surprise for you, so please forgive this little stop before we fly out.” I told her.

“Oh. Does the pilot know?” she asked.

“Yes, he was given the correct schedule rather than what you were given.” replied Mila.

“Lovely. Our marriage has already started with more secrets.” teased Alma.

“Actually, this is to be a bit of explanation.” I assured her.

“Oh?” she inquired. Her face suddenly took on a look of shock. “We just teleported.”

“You didn’t really want us to deal with traffic, did you?” I teased as I opened the door.

“I’m not allowed in there.” stated Alma as she gazed out at the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce.

“As one of the primary shareholders, I give you permission. The others have already confirmed.” I assured her, offering her a hand as she stepped out.

Alma sighed and said, “Of all the places to go first, you had to pick one of the most plain-looking buildings around.”

When we passed through the second set of doors, her expression became one of shock. The room was enormous, easily ten times the size of the building. Furthermore, there were numerous species dining here.

“What sort of illusion is this?” she asked.

“No illusion. The Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce is present on thousands of worlds, offering the best fine dining services in all of time and space.” insisted Evanna.

“You weren’t there a moment ago.” stated Alma as she looked to our host.

Smiling, Evanna said, “No, I wasn’t. Please follow me, and I’ll show you to your room.”

Taking Alma’s hand, I followed Evanna three feet to our right where we were instantly transported to a lavish room with only one table.

Motioning into the room, Evanna then told us “Please wait here for your next host to attend to you.”

“You won’t be taking us around?” I asked.

“No. Sorry, James. As much as I would like to give you another tour, Carl has me assigned elsewhere today.” she replied, waving before she disappeared.

“How is this possible?” asked Alma.

“Stabilized passages through space-time with radiation buffers, annoying people buffers, and other fun buffers.” explained Aaliyah as she stepped out of nowhere. “Buffers… Don’t you love buffers? Along with some other useful tech I designed, they allow the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce to simultaneously exist throughout all of space and have room for all. Pretty slick, isn’t it?”

Shaking her head, Alma said, “You’re just messing with me, aren’t you.”

“She really isn’t. Where would you like to go?” I asked with a smile.

“When and where, really. The ‘when’ is just as important. I’m calling first choice though. See ya!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

Alma and I found ourselves staring up at a very familiar dragon who was munching on a large creature I didn’t recognize.

“Mother…?” asked Alma.

“Alma!” exclaimed Adelina, jumping over to us. “You’re married?”

Alma hugged her mother’s face as she said, “Yes. Just today. Father was there. He misses you.”

“No telepathy today?’ I inquired.

Adelina snarled but didn’t attempt to attack me this time.

“Today? You two have met?” asked Alma.

Shrugging, I said, “Of course. How do you think I decided on a ring design? I forged your engagement ring in a volcano on this planet.”

“We’ve been fools, Alma. After I attacked James, the dragon queen told me a great many things that I would like to share with you. Why can I not see your thoughts?” asked Adelina.

“I was given something that protects my mind from intrusion. Adelmar approved of its use on Ai and Mai as well.” explained Alma. “There are many things I would like to share as well.”

“I’ll hang out over that way and give you two a bit of time to catch up. We’ll probably be on this planet for a while.” I told them. When Alma nodded, I jogged off to do some exploring, since I didn’t have the chance last time I was here. This would certainly be an interesting honeymoon.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 330

“Feeling nervous yet, son?” inquired father as he approached me.

“More excited, really.” I replied, stepping over to hug mother.

“I am. This is quite a gathering. We weren’t sure we’d be able to find you, but Mila called and told me where you were.” stated mother as she casually looked around.

“You should see what some of them really look like.” I teased.

“What do you mean?” she whispered.

“There’s a large series of spells in place that alter perceptions, so those on bad terms with one another won’t be inclined to cause mishaps.” I explained.

“James, dear, I recognize the prince over there. Are you sure it’s working?” she asked, looking concerned.

“Does the man behind him appear twice his height to you?” I questioned.

“No. Twice his height!? You must be joking.” she accused, staring up at me.

Papak, who was standing several feet behind the prince, gave me a grin, obviously overhearing the conversation.

“I’m really not. If you wish for proof, I’m sure he would accommodate you.” I told her, earning a wink from Papak.

“What is he then, son?” asked father.

“One of the eldest vampires in the world. He and his brothers have been around for thirteen thousand years.” I explained. “If ever you two are on Poenari Island again, I’ll gladly talk them into giving you a tour of their collection of antiquities. The stories they told me were incredible.”

Nodding while sounding a little shocked, he said, “We might have to go there specifically for it eventually.”

“We’d be quite honored by your presence.” stated Vito as he and Ariadne walked up behind my parents.

Mother jumped, but father casually wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her to him.

Holding out a hand, Vito said, “I’m Vito Sanguinem, that one’s brother.” He nodded toward Papak. After my parents each shook his hand, he motioned to Ariadne and said, “And this is Ariadne, Aaliyah’s aunt.”

“Pleasure to meet you both.” replied mother.

“Just Ariadne?” asked father.

“Surnames weren’t common if they existed anywhere when I was born, and unlike the brothers, I never bothered making one up.” she replied.

“I suppose I should have said ‘great aunt’, but only Aaliyah can say how great of an aunt she is.” teased Vito.

“He lies, of course. I can name every last one of my brother’s descendents through the years.” argued Ariadne as she pointedly ignored his joke.

Looking confused, mother asked “So… he wasn’t… um… “

“No, he never became a vampire.” she told us, projecting an image into our minds of a black-haired boy with eyes as green as hers who was probably not much older than me. The emotions that came with the image seemed incredibly strong to me, even by fey standards.

“I simply can’t grow accustomed to seeing things in that manner.” claimed mother.

“Remind me to thank Zachary later.” stated Vito as he looked over to where Zachary had intercepted Adelmar and Anwen when they started approaching us.

“He probably wanted to greet my parents.” I suggested, trying not to smirk at Adelmar’s obvious discomfort.

“Yes, that does seem likely.” agreed Vito. Turning to my parents, he said, “My condolences for the loss of your sanity if he catches you too long.”

“I’ve got one more song for everyone, but first I’d like to inform you that the ceremony will start in thirty minutes” announced Aaliyah from the stage after finishing another song. Please find your way to your seats in that time. If you need assistance, just ask any of the staff. After the wedding, the reception will begin back in this area, so you’ll be able to catch me for more music! I hope you enjoy!” The next song started with a soft, beautiful melody performed on her violin.

“How many people are here?” asked father.

“I’m not honestly certain if you count the security details and other staff, but there are twenty-three-hundred seats.” I replied.

“At least your yard is large enough to accommodate everyone, or you would have us sitting in a stadium.” teased Vito

Father laughed and said, “I did wonder why my son needed quite this much space when he purchased the place, but things are going quite well for him.”

Nodding, Vito told him “After admiring your son’s house, I feel that I might need to look into modernizing more rooms. Mila explained that she can be hired to assist me at any time. James’ business is most intriguing.”

“I completely agree. When he first pitched the idea to me, I never believed he’d come this far, especially so quickly.” replied father. Turning to me, he said, “I’m very proud of you son. I don’t know if the staff mentions it ever, but I highly approve of the changes you’ve made to Somerset Suites. I must say you’re doing an excellent job.”

I leaned down and hugged my parents as I said, “I’m glad you approve. Ready to see me take my next big step?”

Father nodded and mother hugged me tighter.

“Well, then. Ariadne and I best find our seats. I hope we may speak again soon.” stated Vito after Ariadne gestured for him to move.

As they walked away, I stood, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Then I told my parents “I don’t know how much I’ll be able to visit during the reception with all the mingling I’ll need to do. Mila will help you get in touch if you need anything.”

“How long will your honeymoon be?” asked mother.

“Two weeks is what’s scheduled, but I have trouble imagining Alma keeping away from work that long. She typically works throughout most days and into the night.” I explained.

“Marriage can change people. I don’t feel I know her well enough to even guess how things will be for a while, but I imagine she’ll take more time off if you two end up having kids eventually.” suggested father.

“I doubt we’ll have children too soon, but I actually did ask her. She seemed shocked that I needed to ask and promptly explained that heirs are expected from someone in her position. You two should expect grandchildren eventually.” I assured them.

We headed to our places and the wait began. As I looked over the crowd, I was amused by the reactions my friends from high school were having. They obviously recognized some of my guests with how they were attempting to snap photos with their phones. No one else was likely to notice though, not with how the illusions were masking sections.

My head ached slightly as the memory of casting the spell came to mind. The spell was simply too massive for me to really consider well without using that room to enhance my abilities. I felt for my other friends who were acting as part of the staff today. I didn’t really want to make them stand through the ceremony, but I agreed that having them participate in that function would help things run smoothly. All of them were so skilled these days.

Alma had been quick to approve of Aaliyah’s plans for there to be no groomsmen or bridesmaids. Apparently, having others stand with us would be frowned upon by some parts of her family given her station. Jarod had taken the news that I wouldn’t be having a best man fine. The twins had warned him before I even found out. We still had a little bachelor’s party last week, hogging the theater and snacking like maniacs.

I looked over to Aaliyah as she waited to perform the ceremony. Adelmar had apparently felt miffed over the decision for Aaliyah to preside over the wedding, but he had ordered Alma not to try bringing Aaliyah around, making me wonder what she had said to him.

Music started at Alma’s approach ― another part of the spell I had cast ― and my eyes instantly found her. I wondered how Aaliyah’s wedding present to her was going over. I had mixed feelings myself, since temporary sanity for Duke Gruffydd Aiden Pendreigh seemed almost cruel to me. I trusted my little friend though, so things would work out. I could see Alma smiling through her veil as her father walked her down the aisle. My heart was racing. Well, racing by my current standards.

Throughout the ceremony, I probably smiled more than I should have, but I felt an unending happiness every time I looked at her. When we kissed to a tumultuous applause, I felt her heart racing through the spell on my wedding ring and knew she was every bit as happy as I felt.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 329

I should have expected that more vampires would be attending my wedding than just the brothers, Ariadne, and Cosette, but their presence worried me. I feared that the large number of vampires would encourage the Slayers and family to act out. Then again, Carl and Aaliyah could handle the lot if necessary without anyone getting hurt. The ability to manipulate time was an incredible advantage, which was surely being done for the arrangement with the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce to help Marco for the reception.

Introducing Jarod, Ai, and Mai to the assembled vampires was entertaining. Ai and Mai were on their best behavior, though they were obviously uncomfortable. They had strong opinions about the bride not being seen on her wedding day. Even with so many hours to go, they protested Alma’s presence and escorted her away. Jarod was equally quick to ask questions about the vampire’s lives as soon as the twins were gone. Not all of the vampires were forthcoming, but Vito, Papak, and Zachary seemed happy to sate his curiosity.

The moment Portentia approached us ― apparently home from her nightly patrol, Ariadne called to her. “Portentia! James mentioned that you’ll be tending to our needs if we find the sun too inhospitable after a time.”

Smiling and nodding, Portentia said, “Of course! If any of you would like to get your fill in preparation, a room has already been set aside for your needs. Mila will ensure our privacy.”

“Mila?” asked David.

“Yes?” replied Mila, her voice emanating from the speakers hidden throughout the walls in a loud whisper.

“Mila is the artificially constructed daughter of Aaliyah, my secretary.” I explained. “She has complete control of the house and four bodies now. Sorry that I didn’t introduce her sooner, but I was waiting till one of her bodies happened by.”

“Oh, master, you need only have called.” she cooed. “I’ll be there shortly.”

“No need, Mila. I’m sure you’re already engaged in something important.” I told her.

“Nothing’s more important than you, master.” she teased.

“And how is she supposed to ensure privacy?” asked David.

The wall opened behind him and a gun was deployed at his back. “I’m fully armed for minor inconveniences, and Raine is on call for anything major.” she explained.

“R-” started David, jumping back into the gun as Raine appeared in front of him.

Looking over to me, Raine, barely speaking above a whisper, asked “M-mila said I w-was… n-needed. Is… s-something wrong?”

“No. Sorry, Raine. Mila merely wanted a demonstration to assuage David here of his worries.” I assured her.

She nodded and ran off quicker than I could see. Papak started laughing, a deep rumbling sound filled with glee.

“I can also help with minor inconveniences.” announced Portentia, waving her hand as if to volunteer.

“As the brothers can assure you, I have a formidable staff, perfectly capable of helping my guests from disrupting one another.” I stated, hoping to enforce David’s feeling of security here.

“You forget, David. Death herself has sworn to claim anyone who would disrupt James and Alma’s wedding. There will be no problems here.” insisted Zachary.

I frowned. Aaliyah failed to mention that to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if she sent out contracts to everyone attending, having them swear their good will.

“Unlike you, I haven’t met her.” muttered David.

“What’s she like? James doesn’t like speaking of her.” commented Jarod.

Zachary shrugged.

“You really want to know?” asked Papak with a grin.

“Sure!” exclaimed Jarod.

Ariadne rolled her eyes while shaking her head.

Papak looked around, the grin diminishing on his face into a somber expression. Then he said, “Imagine feeling nearly invincible in a time when the wheel was rare, new tech for humanity. You’re exploring the world, drunk on your own power, when you come across an incredibly large monster that makes me seem beautiful in comparison. You, in your arrogance, try to fight the beast just to test your strength, certain that you can escape. To your horror, the creature not only proves faster and stronger than you, but its touch sucks the energy out of you, allowing you no means of escape. For the first time in years, you understand stark terror, realizing the futility of your situation. Your dying and there’s nothing you can do to survive. As you fail to scream due to lack of strength in mind and body, your entire body manages to seize up as you’re suddenly very aware that something far more terrifying exists. The nightmarish terror which easily vanquished you is brushed aside as insignificant dust in a summer’s breeze. Hours later, you might still be on the ground where you dropped, shaking uncontrollably while knowing in your heart that you certainly would have died of fear were you merely human. That is what Death is like, an absolute fear that strips you of all rationale with her presence while somehow instilling inside you the idea that your existence is very mortal.”

As he spoke, Papak had slowly crept toward Jarod till he was towering over him at the end, blocking out the light with his massive wings. He quickly backed off after he finished, grinning widely again.

Jarod nodded and smiled, though I could tell he looked nervous. “She must make a fortune at Halloween events.” he teased.

“Oh, yes. Screams to die for.” wryly replied Vito.

“Personally, I find she just needs a firm rebuke when she just goes too far.” claimed Ariadne.

“For you, that might work. In over thirteen thousand years, my arguments have ceased to change her mind.” insisted Vito.

“She listens to James just fine.” argued Ariadne.

Everyone listens to James.” teased Jarod.

I sighed and said, “They might listen, but not everyone agrees with me. I am rather young, after all, so there’s much to learn.”

Azizah, who had been quietly watching the exchange with the other vampires, spoke up, asking “What sort of magic are you using on us? I know why I’m here, the significance of your marriage, and next to nothing about you, but I am inordinately attracted to you.”

“Azizah, did I not say James was charming?” teased Zachary.

“Sorry, but my body emanates a magical field of sorts, compelling people to like me. I can’t stop it without completely depriving myself of energy.” I explained. “I can show you the spell Alma uses to help reduce the effect if you like.”

“Unfortunately, I lack any magical gifts outside what’s in my blood.” she replied. “That being said, I accept the brother’s judgement about you, affected as they may be.”

“Awesome.” mumbled Cosette, who had been watching the brothers with starry-eyed glee since their arrival.

“I think I’ll take you up on that snack if you truly don’t mind.” stated David to Portentia.

“Very, very small sips.” warned Ariadne. “Vito and I will accompany you, just in case. Her blood is… potent.”

Vito nodded and followed Portentia and David out with a couple of the other vampires in tow. The strange relationship between Vito and Ariadne still amused me, given their appearances and actual age difference, but the brothers were obviously quite fond of Ariadne.

“When do you expect Adelmar to be arriving?” inquired Zachary.

“Given the plane’s current velocity, Adelmar and Anwen will be landing in just over three hours.” stated Mila before I could admit my ignorance. “Numerous relatives of his will be arriving sooner, so the pre-wedding entertainment will begin around eleven if you wish to socialize.”

“Lovely. Let’s hope Adelmar does not wish to speak with us before the wedding. With only hours to spare, his grand speeches might delay the wedding if he does.” he teased, earning a few laughs from those assembled.

I smiled as well, not particularly fond of Adelmar’s speeches. Still, the current company was excellent, and this seemed like a fine start to my day.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 328

“I was putting in place the enchantment to help you three and others blend in with my guests. Sorry if I startled you.” I replied to Papak.

“And what are you insinuating?” asked Alma as she stepped around me to glare at Papak.

He grinned.

“You can come out, Raine. They’re fine.” I called, having felt her presence in the bushes.

Papak moved to grab the tiny kitten from the bushes, but found himself clutching air. “Illusion?” he asked.

“No. Half-demon. She’s that fast.” I replied.

“Half-demon?” inquired Vito, finally joining us. “Yes. I remember Ariadne mentioning her.”

“My brother didn’t mean to startle you, Raine. Would you mind joining us?” asked Zachary.

I suddenly felt her pressed behind me, shaking slightly. The poor girl was all nerves about today.

“Raine, this is Vito, Papak, and Zachary, eldest of the vampires. Gentlemen, this is Raine.” I announced, gesturing to each in turn.

“We would never try to hurt a friend of James.” stated Papak as the giant man leaned to look around me.

“Raine, please don’t cling to my fiancée on our wedding day. Rumors will spread.” suggested Alma as she gently guided Raine out from behind me.

“You’re a pretty one, aren’t you.” cooed Vito, possibly admiring Raine’s dress.

Seeing Raine out from under her hoodie was quite rare. I hoped no one attempted to get too friendly with her during the reception. The poor girl might forget herself and run. She probably was trying to work up her courage by wearing it already.

As he spoke, Aaliyah appeared behind him with Ariadne, winking and vanishing a moment later.

“Vito, are you hitting on this child?” inquired Ariadne as she stepped up behind him.

“No. I was merely acknowledging that she is pretty. I expected a demon’s spawn to be more like Papak.” he replied, gesturing to his brother for emphasis.

“What are you trying to say?” asked Papak as he lifted his brother in one hand. Then he pointed at Raine and asked “Why’s she shaking?”

“S-sorry.” mumbled Raine in a whisper. Her position suddenly shifted.

“What!? I… I… I…” started Cosette, staring around wildly.

“Gentleman, this is Cosette Bourbon. She obviously knows who you three are.” I explained.

“Cosette! Lovely to make your acquaintance.” stated Zachary as he held out his hand in greeting.

I gently took Cosette’s arm and guided her into action. She continued without me.

“I’m… I’m sorry. Mila told me you were here, and I was attempting to figure out how to greet you. I’ve heard so much about you.” she explained, sounding and looking more confident as she spoke.

“Y-your win-window was… open.” mumbled Raine.

“Well, I’m glad I was dressed.” she teased as she turned. Then she guided Raine to stand next to her, denying the girl cover once more. “I love your dress, but why are you wearing it already?”

“I… W-well…” mumbled Raine as she fidgeted and stared at the ground. “P-practice.”

Papak barked a laugh and said, “I know the feeling! Takes me ages to find something I’m comfortable wearing.”

“And he literally means ages. The man is never in touch with the times.” remarked Vito with a smug smile, despite his position.

Papak blew a raspberry at Vito, but then he finally set his brother down. I felt Papak’s suit looked surprisingly fashionable considering the man’s odd proportions.

“Thank you. Ladies, meeting you all is a pleasure, even you, Lady Pendreigh.” stated Vito with a bow.

“I’m surprised you three could attend with how rarely you get out.” she replied.

“Rarely? Aren’t you told that we devour people by the hundreds each night?’ teased Vito.

“Hundreds?” asked Papak. “That hardly sounds dramatic. You’d find hundreds in a single block these days.”

“In a single building with some of the taller ones.” corrected Zachary.

“Fine, but Vito should have said thousands!” insisted Papak.

“Yes-yes, I see your point.” snapped Vito.

“You do get out then?” inquired Alma looking at them with her typical unreadable face.

“Well, I like to go jogging each morning, personally.” replied Papak with a grin.

I smirked, picturing him out for a jog and casually waving at people. Though he was typically squatting, Papak was probably twice my height when he fully stood.

Alma, however, rolled her eyes and said, “Jogging must be a great workout for you.”

“If James isn’t opposed, I wouldn’t mind letting you try giving me some pointers for exercise. I’ve heard you’re a pretty decent fighter.” suggested Papak.

“B-be nice.” stated Raine as she looked up at him.

Papak smile as he said, “I am! I was just offering. Care to try yourself? I must admit I’m curious how strong you are.”

“Please, Raine. That would be most entertaining.” insisted Alma.

“No. Please, don’t.” pleaded Cosette as she gently grabbed Raine’s arm.

“J-James?” asked Raine, looking up at me.

“I don’t want this place devastated, so I expect you to guard everything you throw him at if you choose to accept.” I replied.

“She’s that good, huh?” asked Papak, rubbing his chin.

“No. Her technique is still terrible, but her natural aptitude is far beyond me. I doubt even you saw her fetch Cosette.” admitted Alma with a smile.

“True. She’s easily faster than me.” he replied, looking even more uncertain.

“She could toss him straight up.” suggested Vito, a slight smile playing at his lips.

“Maybe the three of us together should try? We haven’t faced a demon for many years.” suggested Papak.

“I’m not inclined to try.” replied Zachary, holding his hands aloft as if to ward him from the thought.

“I must concur. Though I do remember the spells we’ve used in the past, she seems much stronger, judging by her speed.” mused Vito. “I still think you should try, dear brother, to keep your honor intact after issuing such a challenge.”

“Children, behave.” ordered Ariadne. “James, I would like your permission to enter the forest with these three before your other guests arrive. They’ve been itching to see my family ever since I told them of the survivors.”

“Sure. Let’s head there now then.” I replied. “Sorry, Raine. No tossing Papak yet.”

She nodded. I guided everyone into the forest and let the vampires see the fey once more. A couple thousand years apart meant nothing to the fey. Their feelings were as bright and vibrant as ever, greeting the brothers warmly, though they seemed more excited by Ariadne’s return. I hoped to share such joys many more times this day when my wedding truly began.