Cade had finally decided to head to bed when he heard Cliona crying in her bedroom. His heart sank, with the television as loud as he had it she could have been crying for hours. He kicked himself for not thinking she could possibly be emotional tonight after accidentally hurting him again today. She was such a sweet little girl and the most recent one he had adopted out of the foster system. He often took the troubled children, the children nobody else would keep since he felt they needed saving from the system the most. He opened her door but she didnât notice she was so upset. âClionaâ he said gently as he sat on her bed. He wanted to hold her but she had been horribly physically abused by her birth parents and was easily scared. He knew it wouldnât bring her the comfort he would be intending to give. âIâm sorryâ
âYou donât have to be sorry for crying. Whatâs the matterâ she clung to a stuffed rabbit he had given her âYouâre going to send me backâ
âNow what would make you say that?â
âNobody ever keeps me. I get scared and I accidentally hurt people and Iâve hurt you more times than anybody else whichâ she couldnât talk through the tears for a few moments âwhich really sucks because I like this home more than any Iâve had before. I donât want you to send me back to the orphanageâŚI donât want to hurt you. I donât mean toâ
âI know you donât mean to. Iâm a demon, Iâm pretty resilient. Iâm already healed from earlier.â
âThat doesnât mean you wont get frustrated with me and decide Iâm too much troubleâŚall I am is troubleâŚitsâŚits probably why my parents hated me so muchâ He remained gentle but took a firmer tone than he normally did with her âdonât ever rationalize the despicable things they did to you Cliona. You didnât deserve any of it. No child deserves your scars. You are a sweet, amazing little girl and itâs normal for demons to struggle to control their abilities when they are young, adding what youâve been through of course sometimes you do things without meaning to. I understand and Iâm never sending you back. Youâre my daughter now and youâll always be my daughter. Youâre going to grow up and when you do youâll have full control of yourself and I still want to be your dad to see the amazing woman you become after that. Your parentsâŚyour parents were horrible people who I hope never get their hands on a child againâ
She continued to cry so he asked âwill you let me hold you Cliona? It might make you feel betterâ she looked at him a few moments before agreeing so he lifted her into his lap, holding her gently âI promise, youâre here to stay. Thereâs nothing you can do, especially on accident that would make me give up on youâ He held her until she settled down then he asked âdo you want me to turn on your tv so you have something else to think about while you try to sleepâ
âif itâs really okayâ He tucked her in then switched on her television âlet me grab you some water. Iâll be right backâ She didnât say anything as he walked out and into the kitchen. He made her a small glass then returned âIf you need me come knock on my door okayâ
âare you really healed?â He lifted his shirt âsee?â
âOkayâŚI really am sorryâ
âyou have nothing to apologize for. Just try to rest. The weekend starts tomorrow and I plan to take you all outâ
Cade pulled her door part way closed as he left, leaving it cracked open so she wouldnât feel locked in. âSheâs okay.â He said as he turned and saw his adopted son Eugene standing in the hall. He was the oldest at sixteen and incredibly protective of his siblings.
âSheâs still upset.â
âI know.â He tussled his sonâs hair. âWeâll have to make tomorrow extra fun.â
Eugene nodded. âIâll help anyway I can.â He looked down the hall. âShould I go to her?â
âIf she needs one of us, but let her make that choice, she needs to make that choice.â
âAnd donât stay up all night, sheâs going to be okay, she just needs time.â
âWould it be alright if I stayed up for an hour at least?â
âOf course, good night Eugene.â
Cade went into his room and shut the door behind him so he could change without risk of the children seeing him. He put on some loose pajamas then settled in for the night, using the time he spent trying to fall asleep thinking about what heâd do with them tomorrow. The next morning he woke to the smell of breakfast and knew the twins must be cooking again. They were thirteen now, had been eleven when he took them in and they seemed to have a natural talent with food. He had been nervous to let them cook at first but after awhile he became excited whenever they wanted to do it.
Their names were Kaiaka and Keola and they were fox shifters which left him with three shifters in his house currently since his eldest was a panther. Cade checked his phone once his eyes focused and saw a text from his mom wondering when they were going to visit again because she was dieing to see him and her grandchildren. He smiled, knowing theyâd all be excited aside from Cliona who still struggled with anybody outside their little family, even his parents who loved every child he adopted and truly thought of them as their grandchildren. He decided he would at least ask Cliona if his parents could meet them out or if sheâd be comfortable if theyâd all go visit them for a few hours at some point this weekend.
Cliona was sitting at the table holding her rabbit, her face still sad and worried. Eugene filled three cups with juice for the twins and Cliona then poured himself and Cade a cup of coffee, leaving his own black while he mixed sugar and creamer into Cadeâs. âMorning guys.â Cade said then breathed in. âThat smells amazing girls.â
âThank you dad.â The twins said in unison.
Eugene handed him his coffee. âThank you. Did you sleep last night?â
âYes sir, like a rock.â
Cade just nodded, knowing he probably hadnât. Anytime one of his siblings had trouble sleeping, Eugene would stay up late waiting. âHow about you baby girl?â He asked as he sat down next to Cliona.
âYeah, it took a little bit, but I did.â
âThatâs good.â He reached over and patted her head. âGrandma sent me a message, she wants to see you guys. Does that sound like something youâd like to do this weekend?â
She looked nervous so Eugene sat down on her other side and rested a hand on her shoulder. âHey Clio, we should go, I bet grandma would make some cookies for you.â
âWe could even meet them out somewhere.â Cade added.
âcouldâŚcould we meet them at that music park?â
âYeah, Iâm sure theyâd love that.â He pulled out his phone and texted them then slipped it back into his pocket. Cade almost chuckled his mom responded so fast âLet us know when to head over there! Can we bring anything for the kids?â He texted back âI think theyâd love some of your cookies. Eugene brought them up when we were talking to Cliona about itâ
âask him what kind!â He looked up from his phone and over to Eugene âwhat kind of cookies would you like grandma to bake?â
âPeanut Butter or red velvetâ Cade told his mother who said sheâd be bringing both. âsheâs bringing bothâ he announced and all the kids seemed elated besides Cliona who still looked incredibly nervous. They all finsihed their breakfast then got ready for their day out. It wasnât until they were all getting shoes on that he let his mother know they could head over to the music park but he knew they were probably ready”
His parents arrived not long after they had and they all climbed out, Cliona taking Eugeneâs hand as Cade and the twins hugged his parents, switching over to Cade when Eugene took his turn. Stella crouched down in front of her, giving her a gentle smile. âHello sweetie, how are you doing?â
âGood.â Cliona answered softly.
âThatâs good. Now if I remember correctly, you really like the red velvet cookies, right?â Cliona nodded and Stella opened up the container holding them. âDo you want one?â Cliona nodded again and took one.
âWhat do we say, Cliona?â Cade said.
âThank you.â Cliona replied.
âYou can eat as many as you want.â
She gave Stella a small smile and in turn Stella gave her a warm one, wishing she could hug her. She couldnât wait to see her blossoming into the carefree little girl she should have always been. Stella stood up straight, once again hoping her son knew how proud she was of him for spending his eternity helping children in the foster system that were either too broken to find a home or getting too old to ever be adopted. The two older girls spent most of their time talking excitedly with their grandmother, Eugene mostly stayed close to Cliona at the park, making her smile and laugh where he could and Cade took the time to talk with his father about how things were going.
âBut she is getting better dad, yesterday was my fault. Iâve had a lot of kids but Iâve never had to be quite so careful with any of them as I have had to be with Cliona.â
âwhat matters is she seems happy today.â Eugene was making her laugh that very moment. They both took it in, smiling themselves before Cade responded to his dads note on the situation. âEugene is a great big brother. I swear sheâs made most the progress she has because of him being so attentive to herâ
âHow are you though son?â
âMe? Iâm goodâ
âStill not seeing anybody?â
âYou sound like momâ Jasper chuckled at his sons word âWe bring it up because we careâ
âI donât know when Iâd have the time to meet someone but Iâm fine, really, Iâm not crying myself to sleep. I always have these kids to think about. If I meet someone I meet someone, Iâm sure I wont die without a mate or anythingâ
âI donât know, Iâm pretty sure I would without your mother.â
Cade chuckled. âSo dramatic, but I promise, Iâm really fine.â
His father patted his back. âAs long as youâre happy thatâs all that matters.â
They followed Stella and the children, Eugene taking Cliona over to anything she found even a little interesting. It was nice seeing her out, smiling rather than crying and blaming herself for things she couldnât control. He talked with his dad until the twins came running up to him, grabbing his hands. âDad, can we go on the carousel?â Keola asked.
âYeah, please.â Kaiaka added.
âOf course. Why donât you see if Cliona wants to ride.â
âOkay.â They said in unison and ran ahead to Eugene and Cliona.
Cliona was a little nervous at first but her siblings promised to ride around her so she wouldnât have to sit by many strangers. They walked over there and Jasper bought each of the kids a wrist band so they could ride it as many times as they wanted while they were there. Stella pulled out her camera and took a few pictures of the kids once they were all settled on the animals they wanted. Stella had to show her husband and son right away âlook, Cliona smiledâ She took a couple more here and there when they could see the kids. They watched them run around the music themed playground until the twin girls mentioned being hungry. âIâm pretty hungry tooâ Eugene added. Cliona nodded so they left the playground and went to a nearby Olive Garden since they had a pretty amazing family style menu at the moment.
âJasper, Stella.â The voice pulled all of their attention away from their menus and both Jasper and Stella smiled as they waved at the young woman sitting a couple of tables away.
âMiss Graves.â Jasper said as she came over and gave them both a hug.
âSorry, I was just so surprised to see you two.â
âHow have you been?â Stella asked.
âGood, really good.â She looked around the table, her cheeks heating a little. âIâm being rude, youâre busy.â
âOh not at all.â She gestured to Cade and the kids. âThis is our son Cade and his children. Cade, kids, this is Holly Graves, she was one of your fatherâs clients and a zombie.â
âItâs nice to meet you allâ
âWhy donât you eat with us? We ordered family styleâ
âI mean, Iâd love to but I really donât want to intrude on family timeâ
âNonsense, please sit with us. Have you ordered yet?â
âJust my drinkâ
âsee, itâs perfectâ The only empty chair was beside Cade so she sat there and alerted the server that she had moved to their table when she passed by. Once that was taken care of Holly asked the children âso, whatâs all of your namesâ The twins introduced themselves first, followed by Eugene. Cliona paused so Cade carefully took her hand, giving her a small, reassuring smile. âIâmâŚClionaâ Hollys next question was directed at all the children again âHave you been having fun with your grandparents today?â The twins filled her in on their day with small input here and there by Eugene. Cliona stayed quiet but Cade was happy that she wasnât scared. Uncomfortable yes but not the scared little girl he had first adopted. When Cade first brought Cliona home he couldnât take her out. She was far too jumpy and had too many accidents. She certainly couldnât sit at the table with a stranger and have such an even heartbeat.
âWould it be alright to ask what brought you to my dad?â Cade said.
âNot at all. I was attacked on my college campus by a couple of students who found out about me being a zombie. I got away because I bit one of them, but I was arrested.â
âAnd I took her case after her parents asked me to.â Jasper added.
âYou mean you scared the crap out of them, right grandpa?â Eugene said which had everyone cracking a smile, even getting a small one out of Cliona.
âOf course, it was ridiculous that she had been arrested because her attackers said she bit tried to hurt them first. I could smell they were lying and they crumbled pretty fast.â
âWhat do you do Cade?â Holly asked with a big, warm smile.
âIâm a Soil Conservationistâ not many people knew what that was so he explained without prompt “Iâm a scientist who monitors the condition of land and develops ways to enhance sustainability, conserve soil and counter erosion. Sometimes I work in construction where I advise builders on preventative measures regarding erosion. I even work with farmers from time to time. I pretty much suggest which crops to go and how they should rotate to get the best result. ” he could go on about his job but he stopped there, not wanting to drone on too long and bore her.
âThat sounds coolâ
âIt is, especially since it doesnât keep me away from my kids too much and I can often bring them with me during the rare times I am working a lot. With the help of my dad Iâve even built a work area in my homeâ a smile lit up her face again âThats really sweet, so often beings are itching to get away from their kids and you try to make it so you donât have to leave themâ
âCade loves being a dadâ Stella added and was going to say more but Eugene chimed in âHe actually adopted all of us and has adopted many kids before us. He keeps about four at a timeâ That cleared things up for Holly on how he had two foxâs, a panther and a only one full demon daughter like he was. âreally?â Stella spoke again âyeah, heâs been doing it for a long time. We have so many wonderful grandchildren. Heâs had over four before but four is normally how many he wants at a time. Heâll take more if there are siblings so they can stay togetherâ
âThatâs really sweet, Cade.â Holly said. âAmazing even.â
âThank you.â Cadeâs heart danced. âUm, what do you do? I mean, what are you going to school for?â
âMedical microbiology. Iâve been wanting to do research with each species genes and see which one would be best for fighting off diseases without changing the host.â
âThank you.â They continued to talk even when their food came, Cade finding Hollyâs future profession incredibly interesting. Holly asked him more questions about his own and he told her about a few of the projects he had been a part of.
When a pause hit the conversation Jasper said âI was thinking of taking the kids out for ice cream. Would you like to join us Holly?â She looked at the kids âwould you guys mind? My feelings wont be hurt if youâd rather have your grandparents and dad to yourselvesâ
âYou can comeâ The twin girls said then Eugene added âyeahâ he took Clionas hand âright Cliona? She can come?â Cliona nodded and Cade honestly felt grateful. He couldnât remember the last time he felt this much attraction to a woman but Cliona had been through so much. If she wasnât able to deal with Holly being around, as much as it would pain him he wouldnât bring her around.
âGreatâ Jasper said then asked the waitress for the check. They discussed where the kids would want to go until it arrived, finally settling on a family owned place nearby. On the way over Cades phone chimed so grabbed it to see what it was âGrandpa sent you her numberâ Cade blushed and both girls giggled.
âI donât think Iâve ever been here.â Holly said once they were all out and heading inside.
âReally?â Cade was a little nervous now, especially having her number. âTheir ice cream is really good, all hand made.â He rubbed the back of his neck. âSo, I hope you donât mind, but my dad sent me your number.â
She smiled, her cheeks tinting a little. âThatâs fine, I was planning on giving it to you at some point. I mean, Iâm friends with your parents so why not get to know you too.â
âYou should send me a message so I have yours too.â
âOh, right.â He pulled out his phone and sent her a quick message. âSo, whatâs your favorite?â He nodded towards the ice cream.
âIâm a sucker for chocolate, but I like trying flavors Iâve never had before.â
âMaybe we could try something new togetherâ Jasper put in the kids orders while Cade and Holly looked over their menu. Eventually they decided to try Curry and Mint ice creme because it sounded the most interesting. The twin girls seemed horrified at the mere thought something like that existed but when they all sat down to eat both Cade and Holly found it incredibly delicious. They easily began talking again and Cade felt it all ended much too soon. The group was saying their goodbyes when the twin girls said to Holly âdads taking us out again tomorrow if you want to join us. He promised us a fun weekend but we didnât make any set plans if you have some suggestionsâ Holly blushed âyouâd really like me to come along again tomorrow? Iâve been so worried I took up too much of you dads time talkingâ
âOf courseâ Kaiaka said then her sister Keola added âyouâre awesomeâ
âAlright then,â she met Cadeâs gaze, âI guess Iâll message you once I think of something.â
âAlright, have a good night then.â
âYou too.â He watched her walk to her car and get in, waving at her as she pulled away, his heart thundering in his chest.
âAwe, how cute.â His dadâs teasing voice had him blushing. âI havenât seen you make that face in a long time.â
Jasper slapped him on the back. âAt least now your mother and I wonât have to worry about you growing old alone.â
âDad, weâre demons.â
âSheâs sweet honey.â Stella said as she hugged him. âLove you.â
âLove you too mom.â
Cade took the kids home and decided to hop onto his computer to check his email. Holly had gotten him thinking about work again so he wanted to see if he had any current job offers. If he was working on something it would also give him more to talk about with her. He wanted to keep the comfortable vibe they currently had and he knew a good way to kill that would be too many awkward silences. He heard Cliona come in after he had gotten through about thirty emails. He turned in his computer chair to face her âHey sweetheartâ
âHey, umâŚcould we maybe play candy land together when you arenât busy?â He put his desktop to sleep and got up âof course, lets play now. Do you already have it out?â”
âI canât reach itâ He walked with her to the board game room he had made a few years back and pulled it down âI guess I must have put it up this high absentmindedlyâ Cliona sat down and he brought it over to her, setting it up as he asked âso did you really have fun today Cliona?â
âYeahâŚMs Holly was nice and you seemed happyâ
âIâm glad you were okayâ
âAre we going to go out again?â
âDo you want to go out again?â
âRemember, you donât have too, itâs not an obligation, grandma and grandpa will understand.â
Cade was proud of Cliona for wanting to try, itâs all he could ask of her. They played Candy Land for awhile, snacking on Stellaâs cookies. Cade mentioned that his mother would probably love to teach Cliona how to bake and she seemed to be thinking about it. Cooking was how his mother had bonded with most of the children he had taken in and he had a feeling that once Cliona got over her nervousness, it would be the same for her. They stopped playing when his phone vibrated and he pulled it out of his pocket, seeing Holly had sent him a message with some suggestions about where they could take the kids. He couldnât help but smile at how sweet and considerate she was, finding places they would all enjoy.
He ran them by Cliona who liked the idea of going to a painting class. Cade guessed the fact Holly had mentioned theyâd be learning to paint a Pegasus was what sold Cliona on the idea. He messaged Holly back with a grin on his face then went to let the older kids know what they were doing tomorrow. Cade was relieved they all seemed so excited. As they discussed it happily Holly sent him the link to the website and the number so he could reserve spots with a note âthese things fill up so if we dont buy them now we might not all be able to get in tomorrowâ
âwhat did she say?â Keola asked. Once he explained Eugene suggested âyou should buy her spot for tomorrow too dad. Its obvious you like her. Itâs kind of a chance to show her youâre interestedâ Cade blushed and the twin girls laughed. He decided to ask if she bought hers yet. She responded by telling him she bought hers right before sending him the information âawâ Eugene said and Keola added âsome girls want to pay their own way anywayâ With that settled Cade bought his group spots for tomorrow then asked Holly if she wanted to come over for lunch and to hangout before since the class was at two.
She accepted the invitation so he began planning tomorrows lunch. When he went to tuck Cliona into bed that evening he asked again âare you sure youâre okay with all this?â
âYeah, you seemed so happy talking to her and she was niceâ he smiled again âdo you want a bedtime story?â
âPlease, read Interstellar Cinderella againâ Cade fetched the book from her bookshelf then began to read. It took a few more to get her down for the night but he was always happy to stay. He checked on his other children who assured him they were fine so he went back to his in home workspace to get back to checking his emails. Cade woke with a start when he realized he had fallen asleep at his computer. It took him a few seconds to realize vacuuming had woken him.
Cade wiped his face and left his office to investigate, finding his three oldest kids cleaning âwhats going on?â
âweâre getting the house ready for your dateâ Eugene said. Cade responded with âGuys, this is supposed to be a fun weekend for youâ
âwell we didnât know if youâd know to clean. I mean you never have girls overâ Cade blushed again âwell, let me make some coffee and Iâll help. Is Cliona up yet?â It was Keola that answered âyeah, sheâs painting in her room. She wants to practice for later. Want us to check on her?â
âNo, Iâm sure sheâs fine. Thanks for helping her get the paint outâŚdid she still seem alright?â
âyeah, donât worry so much. I canât imagine anybody being afraid of Hollyâ
âI just donât want to push Cliona too hardâ
âyouâre not dad, its not like youâre inviting her to live with us. Youâre not even having real dates with her because weâre all involved. I know even Cliona wants you to be happy too dadâ
âThank you guysâ Cade said before heading to the kitchen to start coffee. He called back in there âdid you guys eat anything?â They yelled back assuring him they had fed themselves too. Since they had apparently they washed their dishâs as well. He felt incredibly proud of them. It crossed his mind again what a shame it was these amazing kids may have spent their entire life in the system just because people wanted babies or at least kids under school age.
By the time Holly arrived and began touring their home youâd never know four kids and a single man lived there. They had cleaned every room as thoroughly as they could. âthis place is so niceâ she remarked when they were finally back in the living room and sitting down. She then added âwhats that incredible smell?â
“Itâs Maple Rosemary Pork Tenderloin. As far as sides going we made Summer Tortellini Pasta Salad, Sweet and Smoky Bean and Corn Dip along with oven roasted asparagus. These kids, especially Eugene are bottomless pits so we tend to make a lot. There will be chips at the table for our dip. âMy mouth is watering just thinking about all that. You guys really cook, thats awesomeâ
âThankfully I was raised by a mother who taught me all about cooking. She, along with myself pass it down to my children. Though Keola and Kaiaka have natural ability when it comes to cookingâ
âYou know what youâre doing is just amazing. I know I said it before, but it really is. Not many people would do what youâre doing.â
âThey deserve a home too, even if I only get them for a couple of years, they shouldnât have to age out of the system.â
âSo,â she said as she turned her attention to the children, âwhat do you all want to be when you grow up?â
âWeâre going to be nurses.â Kaiaka said with a big smile.
âWeâve already picked out the school we want to attend and everything.â Keola added.
âIs that what you two always wanted to be?â
âYes, always.â They said as one and giggled which had Holly smiling.
âAnd what about you, Eugene?â
âI plan on working with my grandpa and uncle. Grandpa said he would give me a paid internship there and if Iâm serious about it then he would write me a recommendation to whatever law school I wanted to attend.â
âThats amazing, Jasper is a really good guy. Your Uncle is Lupin right?â
âI met him and his family too when your grandfather was dealing with my case.â Holly then tried with Cliona âwhat would you like to be when you grow up?â she looked down and Holly softly noted âI see a little paint on your shirt. Do you want to be an artist?â Cliona looked at her shirt, finding the spot instantly and blushing. After a long silence Holly was about to talk to someone else out of concern she was just making Cliona uncomfortable when Clion said âI donât know what I want to beâ Holly smiled, happy Cliona responded to her at all. Without Cade telling her it was obvious this girl came from an abusive home so Holly could imagine how hard it was to trust other adults or even talk to them.
âwell thatâs okay, you have a long time to think about itâ Cliona was quite still but she was looking at Holly again. There was still a pause but not quite as long as before when Cliona said âI was practicing for when we go out laterâ
âThese paint classes are a lot of fun. They make it simple, it feels like painting is the simplest thing in the world when youâre in themâ
âyeahâ Cliona stood âIâm going to change.â
âalright sweetheartâ Cade said as Cliona walked toward her bedroom. Holly began talking to Cade again until he had to rush into the kitchen to finish up a few things. Things seemed to flow smoother with Cliona over lunch which Holly was happy for. Things only grew more comfortable when they were all in class together. Cade still didnât want to move things too fast but he knew, even right then that Holly was who he wanted to spend the rest of his eternity with. She was beautiful, inside and out. The way she interacted with his kids was amazing and the way she made him feel was something he could definitely get used to.
~ The End