Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chapter 8: Colors and Promises

The following morning, Kieran awakens to the delighted shouts of children ringing in his ears and the smell of baking bread wafting through the air. With a yawn, he glances around his distinctly medieval surroundings and absently pulls a piece of hay out of his hair, wondering what to do next. He doesn’t have to wait long, however, as a faint giggle suddenly alerts him to the presence of another person in the barn.

Kieran immediately locates the source of the noise, and with a drowsy smile he beckons her closer. “Hello there,” he calls out. “What’s your name?”

The girl’s eyes widen in surprise, and her face turns a deep shade of scarlet. “B-B-B-B-Brigid,” she stutters.

“You don’t have to hide,” he tells her as he rises to his feet. “I don’t bite.” The girl, however, refuses to budge, and Kieran can’t help but notice that she looks absolutely petrified of him.

“M-M-Mama says you n-need t-t-t-t-to come in for breakfast n-now, and she w-wanted me to t-t-t-t-tell you that she p-packed you a lunch t-to take to the vineyard.”

“Okay, I’ll be right there.” He grins at her again, hoping to talk with her some more, but Brigid stubbornly avoids his curious gaze. Mumbling something under her breath, she hands him some clothes and abruptly turns around and scampers away.

With a confused shrug, Kieran changes into his new wardrobe and follows Brigid’s path back to the small, rundown cottage at the other end of the property.

“I’m Quinn O’Hara!” a young girl with curly brown hair announces as soon as Kieran walks through the door. “What’s your name?”

Kieran smiles down at the enthusiastic child. “Kieran,” he replies. “Kieran Everard.”

“Mama says you’re gonna stay with us for a while and help us with our vineyard, and I think that’s neat. We don’t have any men ‘round here anymore since daddy left, and I miss gettin' to go fishing. Will you take me fishing?!”

Kieran rubs his head awkwardly, trying to think up an answer. “Well, I’d love to, but I don’t-”

“YAY!” Quinn screams, jumping up and down in gleeful excitement. “Did you hear that Shannon?! He promised to take me fishin’! Just me and not you!” she adds as she sticks out her tongue at the redhead on the floor.

“Now wait a minute,” Kieran tries to explain. “I never said-”

“You’re the greatest, Kieran,” Quinn tells him as she wraps her thin little arms around his waist. “And I just know that we’re going to be best friends.”

“That’s enough, Quinn,” Juno, the grandmother, barks from the corner. “Leave the poor boy alone.”

“Brigid, why don’t you take Kieran outside and show him around?” Eileen instructs her eldest daughter in a stern tone of voice. “Once I’ve fed the baby, we can head over to the vineyard and get started,” she adds as she turns to face Kieran.

Obediently following her mother’s orders, Brigid leads Kieran around their tiny farm and silently points things out to him. She still refuses to look at him, however, and every time Kieran speaks she seems to jump out of her skin. Finally, at the chicken coop, he decides to ask her about it.

“Do I frighten you, Brigid?” he says as kindly as he can.

Brigid shakes her head and picks up one of the baby chicks, stroking it gently and cooing to it in a high pitched voice.

“Then why won’t you talk to me?” he demands with a bemused frown.

“I s-s-s-s-stutter,” she whispers, her face full of shame. “I d-d-don’t want you to t-t-t-tease me.”

Shaking his head, Kieran bends down and reaches out for one of the chicks, but they hurriedly waddle away. “Do your sisters tease you about it?” he asks softly.

Brigid nods. “Everybody d-does. Mama says I’ll n-never marry b-b-because I c-can’t talk right.”

“Well, you talk fine to me,” Kieran tells her without a moment’s hesitation. “And anyway, stuttering is nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s no big deal. Really,” he adds, noticing her skeptical expression.

Brigid shrugs nonchalantly, but her pale face lights up at his words. “You don’t have t-t-t-t-to be nice to me,” she replies in a meek voice.

Kieran chuckles. “It’s true though,” he insists.

Over the next few weeks, Kieran struggles to cope with the demands of his new medieval life. Each and every day begins at the crack of dawn with the rising of the sun. As soon as he awakens, Kieran heads to the well for drinking water, feeds and grooms the horses, chops the firewood, tends to the livestock, and mucks out the stables. After breakfast and a few more chores, he walks the three mile trek down to the O’Hara’s vineyard, where he spends the rest of his day plowing, sowing, digging, hoeing, reaping, weeding, tilling, and harvesting the grapevines. By the time the sun sets each night, he can barely muster the energy to make the long hike back to the farm, where even more chores await him.

However, despite his blistering hands and aching muscles, Kieran throws himself into his duties, and soon his body starts to adjust to the backbreaking labor. Indeed, the harder he works, the easier the job becomes, and within a couple of weeks the work starts to feel like second nature to him.

With five active daughters to care for and seven hungry mouths to feed, Eileen and Juno welcome Kieran into their home with open arms, and as the days pass by he quickly grows to feel like part of their family.

Quinn, the tomboy of the group, was disappointed to learn that Kieran can’t fish, but soon she discovers that he has another, better talent. The stories he weaves are like none she’s ever heard before.

“Kieran, will you take me fishin' tomorrow?” Quinn demands after he finishes up his nightly tale.

“I thought we went over this, squirt,” Kieran chuckles as she climbs up into his arms. “I don’t know how to fish, and anyway I’ve got to work at the vineyard all day tomorrow.”

Quinn sticks out her bottom lip. “But, Kieran,” she whines, “Mama said you should take a day off. She told me so herself.”

Kieran sighs. “You know I’d love to Quinn, but I can’t. I’ve already been here for three weeks now, and I’m nowhere close to finishing the harvest.”

“Pleeeeease?” Quinn begs, her eyes wide with hopeful anticipation.

“Remind me how I got talked into this again?” Kieran scowls as he leads their horse along the river bank the following morning.

Brigid smirks at him. “You should n-never let Quinn give you her p-puppy dog eyes. B-B-Big mistake.”

“He wouldn’t have agreed if he didn’t want to go!” Shannon, the redhead, pipes up. “You do want to go with us, right Kieran?” she adds nervously.

“Of course I do!” He smiles at her warmly, but inside he feels a twinge of guilt. The sooner he gets the vineyard harvested, the sooner he can find Atticus and figure out how to get home. Taking a day off just delays his return to the present. To Delilah, he thinks before sternly pushing her memory out of his mind.

Nevertheless, Kieran thoroughly enjoys his time with the O'Hara girls. The Arundel of a thousand years ago looks jaw-droppingly beautiful compared to the Arundel he knew in his own time, and the peace and quiet of the countryside is a welcome change from his hectic life at mage school. Admittedly, the adjustment was hard at first, but the longer he spends with the O’Haras the easier it becomes to forget about all the many, many things he left behind.

All but one.

He found the pictures in his wallet the day after he arrived. He almost wishes that he didn’t have them, that he didn’t have the chance to look at her face every night and remember the girl he so desperately yearns to forget, but each time he tries to get rid of them something holds him back. Some foolish, misguided hope that someday, somehow, she may find a way to love him too.


Layers of sumptuous white silk cascade down around Delilah’s ankles, rustling ever so faintly as she paces back and forth through the luxurious bridal suite, but with each step the once spacious room seems to grow smaller and smaller. Stopping suddenly, Delilah presses her forehead against the cold glass window and stares outside, watching as a couple of children scamper by on the beach below. They play together in the surf for a moment, splashing around in the gentle ocean waves before continuing on their way down the shoreline. The sight leaves a lump in her throat, a painful longing for the simplicity of her own childhood.

Shaking her head, Delilah brings her mind back to the present. On the surface, marrying Beau feels like the right decision. He will provide a safe and secure future for her kids, and with enough time Lila knows that she can learn to love him too. After all, what choice does she have? Raising three infants alone seems like a ridiculous and impossible alternative to her.

“You look beautiful,” Beau whispers.

Delilah jumps back, startled by his hand on her shoulder.

“Are you nervous?” he asks as he brushes his lips against her fingertips.

“No,” Lila forces herself to smile. “Are you?”

“A little bit,” he chuckles. “After all, this is the biggest day of my life.”

Delilah laughs uneasily. “You make it sound so serious!” she exclaims.

Beau nods. “It’s a promise, my darling, a lifelong commitment and nothing less. I take these vows very seriously, for a happy marriage is the foundation of a happy life. But enough chatter,” he tells her with an indulgent grin. “Let’s go and check out the wedding site now.”

“Wow!” Delilah breathes as Beau guides her to the clearing where they plan to exchange their vows. “How did you do all this?” she demands. “You only proposed three days ago…”

Beau smirks at her. “I knew you’d say yes,” he replies in an infuriatingly casual tone. “I ironed out the details before we left Jericho.”

Delilah scowls at him, feeling both pleased and put out. “I could’ve said no,” she reminds him stubbornly.

Beau laughs. “You could have, but you didn’t,” he retorts.

“How did you know that I’d agree to get married out here anyway, so far from my family? That seems like a pretty big gamble, even for you.”

“Now that I wasn’t sure about, so I came up with a backup plan.”

“A backup plan?” Delilah repeats skeptically.

And then, as if on cue…

“DELILAH!” Oona screams as she jumps up and down and waves her arms about in gleeful excitement.

“Oona?” Delilah laughs at her sister’s enthusiasm. “And Rigby and Heidi?! Beau, did you-”

“I flew them out here, just for you,” Beau whispers as he wraps his arms around her neck. “Pretty good surprise, huh?”

Fighting back tears, Delilah can merely nod and kiss him in gratitude. It’s been ages since she’s gotten to hang out with her brother and his wife (Delilah’s closest friend), and longer still since she’s even seen her little sister. To Lila, calling it a “pretty good surprise” seems like the understatement of the century.

After spending the rest of the afternoon catching up with her siblings, Delilah forgets all about her previous apprehensions, and as the last light of day fades from the sky in a glorious blaze of pink sunlight she and Beau exchange their vows.

…And seal their union with a kiss.

While she thoroughly enjoyed her vacation, Lila is grateful to be back at home with her kids.

With the triplet’s first birthday just around the corner, the newlyweds discuss the possibility of Delilah going back to work now, but at Beau’s urging she decides to postpone it for a while longer. Not hiding the disdain in his voice, Beau insists that she can practice her music by singing lullabies to the babies, and as he absolutely refuses to even consider hiring a nanny what other options are there? Delilah halfheartedly tries to explain to him that her job is quite a bit more complicated than that, pointing out that there is no way she can write music or promote the band if she’s stuck at home all the time, but eventually, however, she relents. Surely her fans will still be waiting for her whenever she’s ready to come back, right?

In what seems like no time, it’s the day of the triplet’s birthday. Beau is out of town this week shooting some scenes for a fancy new crime drama he’s starring in, so in place of a big party Delilah invites Rigby and Heidi over to celebrate.

Lila realizes that helping her daughter blow out the candles on her first birthday cake should be a happy occasion, but she struggles to feel anything but empty inside. Kieran has been gone from her life for over a year now, but his absence still stings, especially at moments like these.

The triplets age into toddlers.



And Fable.

Rigby and Heidi are expecting their first child soon, too, so while Delilah coos over her best friend’s belly…

Rigby spends some time practicing his child rearing skills on his nephews.

For Delilah, the following weeks seem to drag by. With Beau’s shoot running woefully behind schedule right now, she is left to care for the triplets all by herself, and after a while the loneliness and boredom really begin to grate on her.

It’s not that Lila doesn’t love her kids; indeed, she loves them very much. But with three rambunctious toddlers to look after, she rarely gets a minute to herself anymore.

Only three more days until Beau gets back, Delilah patiently reminds herself as she puts an unusually fussy Phoenix to bed for the third time tonight. And then he and I are going to have a long conversation about me going back to work, and this time I won’t take no for an answer.

Phoenix cries a bit as Delilah shuts the door behind her, so she dutifully waits outside his bedroom to see if he quiets down, and sure enough within minutes his tearful wails begin to subside. With a grateful sigh, Lila peaks her head inside the room to check that he’s asleep, before turning and stumbling down the dimly lit hallway to her own bedroom.

She never quite makes it there, however.

The man smiles at her, his wild blue eyes agleam with triumph, and for a split second Delilah swears she can literally smell the insanity oozing out of his skin like festering maggots on a dying man’s last breath.

“Are you going to be a good little girl tonight, Delilah?” the man whispers as he viciously slams her head against the wall. “Or are you going to scream and cry and plead for mercy like your mother did?”

Challenge Notes:

So now you guys know for sure who the triplet’s daddy is! *cheers and claps like a sim at a birthday party* On some level, Delilah probably already suspected that they were Kieran’s kids by this point as well, as I kind of picture the babies growing wisps of hair before they age into toddlers and I’m sure she immediately recognized that particular shade of blonde, but the question is, will Beau? ;)

It does bring up an interesting argument, however, one that I have not exactly figured out an answer to yet. As a player, I know that a sim will either inherit his mother’s exact hair color or his father’s exact hair color (or perhaps one of the grandparents’ hair colors), but do sims know that? Because, if Beau and Delilah had a child with Fable’s coloring in the real world, nobody would think twice about it. His golden blonde and her deep brunette could easily produce a kid with that medium blonde shade. It definitely requires some thinking on my part, but as always I'd welcome opinions!

Those pictures that Kieran “found in his wallet” were supposed to be the ones that he and Lila took waaaay back when she was still pregnant with the triplets, here and here. In my mind, Kieran nailed them to that piece of wood after he arrived at the O’Hara’s farm, but I couldn’t find any other way to display them so I did the best I could with what the game had to offer. I hope it was still somewhat believable. :/

Soooo, anyone recognize the psycho sim at the end? =D (Not that I expect you too, of course, but if someone does I will be beyond impressed.)

Thanks for reading guys! *hugs*

P.S. If the title seems kind of random, well, it is. No, not really, but sort of. It's the second line from the song "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri. If you want a really big spoiler, listen to it sometime (here's a link to the "official" music video on YouTube... Don't actually watch the video though, cause it's some Twilight crap, just listen to the words in the song). It's eerily similar to my story in a lot of ways.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Chapter 7: Back and Forth

Back and forth, back and forth. Forever back and forth. As the mother of five children, Eileen O’Hara knows the creaking sounds of her old rocker as well as she knows the voices of her slumbering daughters. The one in her arms curls closer to her chest, finally lulled to sleep by the rhythmic motion of the chair, and Eileen sighs in relief. The little girl was restless tonight, and it took ages to calm her down.

Just as she goes to lay her in bed, however, a sound startles her out of her reverie. Voices. Angry, male voices, loud and nearby. Making sure not to wake her daughter, Eileen swiftly takes the child to the back room and heads outside to investigate.

Collapsing to the ground in a violent fit of coughing, Kieran writhes and shakes from the searing pain in his chest.

“Get up ye lazy dog!” the man beside him shouts. “We’re takin’ ye to the sheriff, and we don’ want ye covered in dirt when you’re hangin’ from that noose.”

“Noose?” Kieran gasps for air as he struggles to regain his footing. “What is my crime?”

The man snickers and kicks him to the ground again, viscously grinding the heel of his boot deep into Kieran’s already bruised stomach. “You were stealin’ from m’ lord’s private garden!” he spits.

“Yeah,” the other man nods his head vigorously. “Besides, you talk like ye ain’t from ‘round these parts, and we don’ like strangers lurkin’ near our town. Too many bad things been happenin’ lately, ye see?”

“Strange things,” the first man continues. “Ye were mighty close to them woods, boy, and there been talk of a witch livin’ out there. Wouldn’t be surprised if ye knew somethin’ ‘bout all that.”

“Twenty minutes on the rack oughta straighten ‘im out, huh Merrick?”

“Twenty minutes?” Merrick laughs heartily. “I bet he don’ last twenty seconds!”

“What is going on here?” A woman’s curt voice cuts into the conversation, and the men abruptly fall silent.

Eileen’s eyes dart back and forth between Merrick and Silas, the town bullies, to the bloody young man sprawled out in the middle of the road. With a furious snort, she strolls over to Kieran and takes his hand, determinedly pulling him to his feet.

“I should have expected to find you involved in such a situation, Merrick,” she hisses, “but I see you’ve dragged Silas down your same wicked path. Beating up a defenseless stranger? Absolutely shameful!”

“But this man’s a criminal!” Merrick retorts. “He was stealin’ from Lord Hadrian’s garden!”

“Since when do you care about Lord Hardian’s welfare?” Eileen snaps. “He’s done nothing but terrorize our town since the day he took over the fiefdom.”

“But he talks funny!” Silas chimes in. “Listen to ‘im. He talks like one ‘o them foreigners.”

“Despicable,” she snarls as she grabs Silas by the arm and drags him away from Merrick. “You of all people should know better. Or have you already forgotten the day you showed up in town, a runaway slave, half starved to death and within an inch of your life? My husband took you in, no questions asked, found you work and hid you from the bounty hunters. Why, if he could see you now-”

“Ah, leave ‘im alone Mrs. O’Hara,” Merrick calls out. “If you want a good-fer-nothin’ lout hangin’ ‘round your place, then fine. We’ll leave. We don’ want no trouble or nothin’.”

“Trouble finds those who go looking for it,” Eileen replies with a scathing glare. “Best keep your fists in your pockets, boy, else I shall be paying a visit to your Nana. And you, Silas, would do well to remember past kindnesses, for the way you’re acting now there may not be any more in your future.”

“Thank you,” Kieran mumbles as Eileen leads him into her small cottage. “I’ve been traveling for days now without food, and I was getting desperate. I- I’m sorry.”

Eileen shrugs indifferently, but her watchful eyes never leave Kieran’s face. “Lord Hadrian wastes more food than my whole family eats in a year. He won’t miss a few apples from his orchard.”

Kieran nods and rubs his aching head. “Regardless, I won’t make that mistake again,” he assures her.

“What is your name?” Eileen asks in a slightly softer tone.

“Kieran,” he grunts. “Kieran Everard.”

“What brings you to Aaron’s Dale, Kieran?”

“I’m searching for a man,” he replies vaguely. “I need his help with something.”

Eileen frowns. “Where does he live?”

Kieran glances up, meeting her gaze for the first time since she rescued him. “I- I don’t know. That’s why I’m searching for him.”

“Maybe I can help. I’ve lived in the valley my whole life, and I know most of the families around here.” She smiles at him, but her eyes remain hard and serious.

Kieran pauses for a moment, considering. “His name is Atticus Thorel,” he says at last. “He’s a mage that used to live in this area.”

Eileen begins to speak, but a woman cuts her off.

“I’ve heard of your mage,” a raspy, but determined voice announces. “When I was a child, he used to perform magic tricks for the kids in town. He moved to the other side of the pass, but I can’t imagine that he’s still alive. His grandchildren, however, might be.”

“What are you doing awake, Juno?” Eileen demands, not bothering to hide the irritation in her voice. “You should be in bed right now. Asleep.”

“I’m old, not dead, Lily Pad,” Juno says with a mischievous grin. “And until I die, you live in my house, under my rules.”

Eileen scowls back at her, but Kieran doesn’t give her a chance to reply.

“You know Atticus?” he asks briskly.

Walking over to stand beside her daughter-in-law, Juno shakes her head. “Not really,” the old woman replies. “He left town when I was just a little girl, but I heard rumors that people used to see him in Alderney occasionally.”

“Alderney,” Kieran repeats. “Where is that?”

Eileen frowns and drums her fingers on the table. “The other side of the pass,” she tells him. “A good two weeks on horseback.”

Kieran feels himself deflate. He’ll never make it all that way without food or water, especially since he doesn’t even know where he’s going.

Watching the young man carefully, Eileen’s eyes suddenly light up with an idea. She glances back at Juno and mouths something to the older woman, who shrugs and nods her head. “Kieran, did you say?” Eileen asks as she turns back around.

“Yes?” Kieran looks up sharply, having been lost in his own thoughts.

“Kieran, my family owns a small plot of land near the abbey by the hillside, a vineyard that we keep for his lordship. Due to my husband’s sudden passing this last summer, we have not been able to bring in a sufficient harvest this season, and with winter looming I fear that we do not have the time or resources to gather enough crop to satisfy Lord Hadrian and pay our fealty to the king. If you will stay and help us, then I will arrange for a guide to take you to Alderney before the pass becomes snowed in for the winter.”

Kieran pauses. “How long until the pass closes?”

“Should be at least a couple of months away,” Juno replies. “And since you will be working solely in the vineyard, the harvest should take no more than six weeks to gather.”

Eileen nods. “Six weeks of labor in exchange for room, board, and transport to Alderney sounds fair to me. What do you say?”

Not seeing any other choice, Kieran reluctantly agrees. Six weeks isn’t so long, he tells himself, and although he’s eager to find Atticus and return to his time, to the present, the experience could actually prove quite interesting.


With a wide, playful grin, Beau grabs Delilah and sweeps her in for a heated kiss. 

“What was that for?” Lila giggles as she tries to break free from Beau’s firm grasp.

Beau shrugs and tries to act nonchalant, but he feels unusually nervous today, fidgety and uptight. He and Delilah have been in Sunlit Tides for one whole week now, and he has yet to pop the question. But tonight, he thinks ruefully, tonight that all changes.

“You look tense, darling,” Beau smirks as he teasingly slides his hand up under the skirt of her dress. “Why don’t you slip out of those clothes and into something a bit more comfortable? I want to give you a massage,” he adds with a wink.

Delilah is more than happy to oblige.

Beau starts out slowly, gently rubbing the warm oil into her smooth, sun-kissed skin and working his hands up and down the length of her bare back. The faint scent of coconut wafts through the air, mixing with the light tropical breeze to create an intoxicatingly rich aroma, and Beau quickly feels himself grow aroused by the sheer sensuality of the moment.

“Delilah,” he whispers, his voice a low growl against the soft hum of the island jungle.

Glancing up, Delilah looks straight into Beau’s hungry blue eyes.

“I want you,” he breathes.

Delilah smirks and pulls Beau on top of her, wrapping her legs around his waist as her hands impatiently fumble with the buttons on his shirt. She knows that expression on his face quite well by now, but she never tires of seeing it. The hold she has over him, the sexual chemistry between them, still feels absolutely electrifying to her.

“Let’s go back to the hotel room,” she suggests as he starts to undo his shorts.

Laughing at the shocked expression on her face, Beau sweeps Delilah into his arms and carries her across their lanai.

“I love you,” he murmurs.

Delilah just giggles and kisses him in response.

As soon as they reach their room, the rest of their clothes fall away, and they spend the remainder of the afternoon tangled up in each other's arms.

“The stars look beautiful tonight.” Delilah sighs and walks over to the window to get a better look. Kieran would have loved it here, she thinks as a sharp pang of regret tears through her chest.

“You look beautiful tonight,” Beau replies.

Lila forces herself to smile. This isn’t right, a small voice whispers in the back of her mind. You don’t love him, and you never will. Stop trying to fool yourself into believing this is something it isn’t.

“You seem sad,” Beau murmurs as he comes up behind her and wraps his arms around her waist. “What are you thinking about?”

Kieran, the voice says.

“Nothing,” she lies instead.

Tell him that it’s over. Tell him that you tried to make this work, that you tried to love him, but you’re not over Kieran. That you’ll never be over Kieran.

Delilah shakes her head, but Beau doesn’t seem to notice. He continues talking to her, whispering sweet words of adoration into her ear, but she isn’t listening to him.

I am over Kieran, she tells herself sternly. And I do love Beau.

Liar, the voice snaps back. You’re only with him because you’re afraid. Afraid to be alone, afraid to grow up, afraid to take responsibility for the mess you’ve made. But it’s time to face the consequences of your actions. You’re better than this, Delilah. You know you are.

With a sickening jolt, Delilah’s mind leaps back to the present. “What are you doing?” she demands as Beau drops to one knee.

“Proposing,” he quips before reaching over and pulling a box out from under the bed. “I love you, Delilah, and I want to spend the rest of my life trying to make you as happy as you have made me. Marry me, darling?”

Challenge Notes:

I couldn’t abandon Kieran that easily, now could I? ;) So yes, this means that we will be following his story as well as Delilah’s. I just hope that it all makes sense and doesn’t confuse you guys. If you ever have any criticism/advice/feedback/tips/whatever, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment with your suggestion! I’m always looking to improve. =)

Thanks for reading! <3

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chapter 6: Like Sand in an Hourglass

All day long, Delilah refused to cry, stubbornly burying her emotions under a fake, plastic smile, but now, after hours and hours of brutal silence, she finally lets go and allows the grief to wash over her. Not wanting to wake up Beau, Lila sneaks out of bed and makes her way to the nursery, but the sight of her babies, blissfully innocent and unaware, does little to soothe her broken heart.

“Delilah?” A sleepy voice echoes down the hall, and within seconds Beau appears in the doorway.

Delilah turns away from him, hoping to hide her red, tearstained cheeks, but Beau doesn’t need to see her face to know that she’s been crying. Coming up behind her, he slides his arm around her waist and pulls her in for a close embrace.

“You’re sad,” he murmurs in a worried voice.

Delilah shivers as his hot breath grazes against her neck, but she doesn’t move away or push aside his hands. “I’m fine,” she whispers, barely loud enough for him to hear.

Beau pauses, watching her uncertainly. He knows that someone died, a close friend of hers he presumes, but she refuses to tell him anymore than that. Indeed, Delilah pointedly avoided him all day today, practically running from him whenever he tried to talk to her, and the distance between them, the lack of trust in their relationship, bothers Beau more than he would like to admit.

With a heavy sigh, Beau brushes aside her hair and begins to kiss her neck, showing her that he loves her the only way he knows how, but Delilah tenses at the touch of his lips and squirms out of his grasp.

“Are you okay?” Beau asks as she turns around to face him.

“I’m fine,” she replies. Taking a deep breath, Delilah shuts her eyes and tries to regain control of her emotions. “Fine. I couldn’t sleep, and I wanted to check on the kids.”

Beau doesn’t look convinced, however. “You can talk to me, babe,” he tells her gently. “About anything. Ever.”

“I’m going for a walk,” she announces. “I need some fresh air.”

“I’ll go with you,” Beau offers, but Delilah just shakes her head and quietly slips out the door.

The brisk autumn breeze sends chills down her spine, biting at her bare skin and blowing straight through her thin clothes, but she doesn’t even notice. All that matters right now is that Kieran is dead, gone forever. The words feel so final to her, so terrifyingly absolute. She’ll never see him again, never hear the gentle hum of his voice or smell the soft scent of his skin. She’ll never talk to him again or laugh at his goofy smile, never kiss him or run her fingers through his charmingly unkempt hair. He’ll never meet her kids, never know their names or see their faces.

And I’ll never get to tell him how much I love him, she thinks with a sharp pang of regret.

After coming all the way to Jericho to break the sad news to her, Luca, Emily, and Atticus decide to stick around for a few more days to get to know Beau and the triplets. While Emily babysits the kids, Luca decides to interrogate his daughter’s boyfriend. Fortunately for Beau, the two men hit it off quite well, and they spend the better part of the afternoon engrossed in an enthusiastic discussion about the economics of the movie industry.

Delilah quickly grows bored of the conversation, however, and silently sneaks away to join her stepmom in the nursery.

Of everyone in the family, Emily seems the most broken up about Kieran’s death. Lost in her thoughts, she barely even glances up when Delilah enters the room, and her eyes, red and swollen from shedding so many tears, appear vacant and empty when they look upon her stepdaughter’s face.

Not knowing what to say, Delilah quietly shuts the door behind her and settles down on the floor at Emily’s feet. The two women sit together in silence for a while, taking what little comfort they can from each other’s presence, before Emily finally ventures to speak.

“They boys, they look like you,” she says softly. “I think they’ve got your coloring.”

Delilah nods in agreement, surprised by Emily’s choice of topic. “Fable seems to have Beau’s eye color though,” she replies with a sigh. “They have much more blue in them than either of her brothers’.”

“I’m not so sure,” Emily furrows her brow pensively. “They seem a bit too light to me. In fact,” she continues, watching Lila out of the corner of her eye, “they remind me of a pair of eyes I used to know. A pair of eyes I miss very much.”

Delilah looks up sharply. “N-No,” she stammers, suddenly feeling dizzy and out of breath. “She has Beau’s coloring. Whatever you’re suggesting, Emily, is wrong. Kieran and I- We didn’t- They’re not his! You’re wrong. That’s… That’s ridiculous.”

Emily’s lips curve into a worried frown, but her gaze remains kind and sympathetic. “You two have been in love since you were teenagers, Delilah,” she tells her bluntly. “Only a blind man could miss it. I’m not upset with you, Lila dear, if that’s what you think, but you can’t continue to string along another man like this. It’s not fair to him. It’s not fair to the kids.”

“No,” she snaps as a fresh wave of tears begins to stream down her face. “Kieran is dead, Emily. He’s gone, and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that. Just- Just leave me alone!” Then, rising to her feet, Delilah turns around and storms out of the room, desperate to escape Emily’s knowing glare.

She wanders around outside for a while, enjoying the numbing chill of the cool afternoon breeze before finally collapsing onto a rickety old bench in a fit of tears. She feels worn out, stretched and exhausted. She doesn’t even know what the point is anymore. Living seems utterly meaningless without Kieran at her side.

“You loved him?”

Delilah jumps, startled by Atticus’ sudden appearance. “How did you-”

Atticus waves his hand impatiently. “Did you love him?” he asks again.

Lila hesitates. “He was my best friend,” she replies guardedly.

“I didn’t realize that,” the old mage frowns. “I knew that the boy had feelings for you, of course, but I wasn’t aware that you felt the same way about him.”

Delilah nods.

“You’d be happy to know that he died well,” Atticus continues. “Valiantly, fighting for something he believed in.”

“But- I thought… You said there was an accident. That he was driving, and a-”

Atticus shakes his head. “I only said that to satisfy your parents,” he explains solemnly. “They aren’t mages like us, and the truth would have hurt them worse than my lie.”

Glancing up, Delilah wipes a tear off her face and sits back. “What happened, Atticus?” she asks quietly.

Atticus sighs and carefully examines his granddaughter over the top of his glasses. Then, with a curt nod, he launches into his story. “Kieran was a special mage, Delilah, far stronger and more powerful than he had any right to be, not only adept at the art of magic but possessing a keen sense of intuition as well. I believe he inherited his gifts from his father, an old acquaintance of mine who died when Kieran was just a toddler, but that, my dear, is a tale for another time. When Kieran moved to Arundel, he got involved with a bad man, a professor at the university who claimed to be Kieran’s real dad. I tried my best to save him, but Cyrus, the professor, filled the boy’s head with lies and turned him against me. Nothing I said or did could stop him.”

Delilah’s eyes grow wide. “So what happened?” she breathes.

“Cyrus brainwashed Kieran into believing that magic, our magic, has started to run dry, and he convinced him that the only way to fix it was to open a portal for him, a hole in the very fabric of time. The spell calls upon some of the most potent and volatile forces in nature, and Cyrus needed Kieran’s raw power in order to control such violent magic. By the time I found out about their scheme, it was too late. Kieran had already cast the spell and torn open the portal, and when I went to shut it he jumped in and sealed it closed behind him.”

Delilah frowns, confusion written all over her face. “So he’s not dead?”

“No, that’s not what I said,” Atticus tells her gently. “After Kieran vanished, Cyrus tried to flee the scene, but I managed to capture and subdue him. That spell requires more than a little law breaking, and he will spend the rest of his life behind bars if I have anything to say about it. Anyway, once I had the situation under control, I headed to my library and started looking through my old archives, and eventually I found some interesting information about a rogue mage that died almost a thousand years ago. It’s been so long that I had forgotten all about it, but I left myself a note at the time, a note for you actually. Kieran loved you very much, Delilah, and he died trying to return to you.”

“What?” Delilah shakes her head in disbelief. “You’re telling me that he died a thousand years ago? And you knew him back then? But-”

Atticus sighs and rubs his head. “I’m immortal, Delilah. I thought your mother told you that. I knew him very briefly at the time, yes. As I recall, he was an enemy of the king and a highly sought after criminal. He was killed for stealing some precious artifact, I believe, and was buried near the town of Alderney. I can show you his grave if you don’t believe me, Delilah.”

“I just…” Lila trails off into a stunned silence. “It’s a lot to take in,” she mumbles.

The following evening, Beau corners Luca in the kitchen with an important question to ask him about his daughter. Atticus left Jericho yesterday to return to his house in the distant forests of northern Sim Nation, and Lila and Emily are out visiting Delilah’s stepbrother (Emily’s son) Rigby right now, so they are the only two adults currently at home.

“I want to marry Delilah,” Beau blurts out, seizing upon the rare moment of quiet to bring up the sensitive subject.

Luca eyes the boy warily. “Have you spoken with Lila about this?” he asks.

Beau shakes his head. “I feel that a man should always ask a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage first. It’s only proper.”

“It’s not my hand to give,” Luca retorts with a frown. “Have you thought about how you’re going to ask her?”

“No,” Beau sighs, “but I want to do something special. She seems so down lately, and I’d like to give her something to smile about again.”

Luca chuckles and grins at him encouragingly. Beau really seems to care for his daughter, and Luca likes the boy’s old-fashioned sense of etiquette.

“Walk with me,” Luca says as he puts his arm around Beau’s shoulder. “I think I have a wonderful idea of how you can propose.”

“Where are we?” Delilah laughs, her lips curled up into a crooked smile. The flight had been long and uneventful, but Lila was so caught up in her excitement that she barely even noticed. Beau, for his part, had stubbornly refused to tell her where they were going, saying only that she should pack “light and bring a swimsuit”.

“You’ll see in a moment,” he tells her affectionately.

Delilah gasps as they reach the overlook at the bottom of the hill.

“Wow!” she breathes. “The view… It’s stunning!”

Sweeping her into his arms, Beau twirls her around and playfully kisses her neck. “You like it then?” he whispers.

“Yes, I love it,” Delilah exclaims as she runs her fingers through his neatly trimmed hair. “I’ve never been any place so beautiful before. But… Why?”

“You seemed so sad after your friend died, and I hated to see you like that,” Beau replies, carefully skirting the true reason for their spur-of-the-moment vacation. “Besides, your parents offered to stay with the kids while they were in town, and I thought that you might enjoy some peace and quiet for a change. They’re such a handful,” he adds with a doting smile.

Delilah feels herself melt at his words. He’s so perfect, she sighs. So handsome and charming and considerate. He’s everything I should want in a guy.

Except he’s not Kieran, a small voice rips through her mind like a gunshot, and Delilah’s face falls slightly. Kieran’s dead, she reminds herself sternly, pushing his face out of her thoughts.

“I love you,” she tells Beau in an almost defiant tone of voice.

Oblivious to her internal struggles, Beau nods and gently brushes a strand of hair out of her face. “I love you too, babe.”

“I have an idea,” he whispers seductively as he traces his hand down her arm. “Why don’t we go check out our hotel room now? I booked the honeymoon suite, so we have the entire second floor to ourselves.”

For the next few days, Beau and Delilah split their time between the beach and the bedroom. Before they left, Luca and Emily emphatically assured them that they loved looking after their grandbabies, so the couple feels no rush to get back home any time soon. Indeed, Lila finds the relaxed pace of island life a welcome change from the hectic, nonstop job of mothering three newborns.

Running her toes through the silky soft white sand, Delilah’s face suddenly grows hard and serious, and her fingers tighten uneasily around Beau’s hand.

“What’s wrong, darling?” he asks as he props himself up on his elbows.

Lila sighs and crawls into his lap. “Do you love me?” she demands in a pouty voice.

“Baby, you know I do,” Beau chuckles. “Why do you even need to ask?”

“Then kiss me,” she breathes.

Beau happily obliges, but the intensity with which Lila returns his kiss alarms him. “What’s going on?” he asks when they come up for air.

Delilah hesitates, her gaze never once leaving Beau’s face. “You know my friend?” she whispers. “The one who died?”

Beau nods, his face unreadable under the bright tropical sun.

“He wasn’t just a friend,” she tells him quietly. “He was my lover, my love. I- I loved him.” The words slip from her lips like sand through her fingers, escaping her grasp and scattering into a million tiny pieces.

“You cheated on me?” His voice sounds pinched and tight.

Delilah shakes her head. “No, of course not. He left town after you found out about my pregnancy. It’s just- He meant a lot to me, Beau, and I want to be completely open with you.”

Beau shuts his eyes for a long moment before nodding and pulling her close. “I can live with that I guess,” he mumbles, more to himself than Delilah. “But no more secrets, alright babe? You’re my girl now, and if this is going to work then I need to know that I can trust you.”

“You can,” Delilah assures him with a forced smile. “I have nothing else to hide.”

Challenge Notes:

So, uh, was that clear? Cause I honestly have no idea. I’m specifically talking about the part with Atticus and Delilah, when they are discussing Kieran. It sounded alright in my head, but I realize it’s a lot of information to dump on you guys all at once and sometimes I forget to include little (big) details. If you need any clarification AT ALL, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment or whatever, and I will get back to ASAP. I’ve been trying to foreshadow that whole series of events in previous updates, but I kind of got distracted by Delilah’s love life. Anyway, there will be more about what happened to Kieran next chapter (a lot more, actually).

So, I’ve never seen this happen before…

Apparently, even Delilah’s dad doesn’t like Beau. LOL…