Annie Nicholas

Writing Romances with Bite

Angler Christmas Three (The Broken Reed)

The local elementary school on our adopted Greek island of Alonissos held a yearly Christmas concert. All the music students from grade four through six would perform traditional Christmas carols tonight.

This would be Maggie’s first time performing. I squatted in front of my ten year old daughter, no easy feat in my heels. Smoothing her inky black hair, I stared in her ice blue eyes. She inherited Rurik’s colors but the rest was all me, including her temper. “Your dads are on their way and they assure me they won’t be late.” They’d better not be. I didn’t care if the vampire nation was in an up-roar. Family came first. Yes, two husbands. One human, one the vampire king. Lucky, lucky me. I owned a huge bottle of Tylenol.

Maggie shrugged and blew a test note on her oboe. The sharp noise it made scrapped my eardrums like cat claws. My daughter’s eyes grew wide with alarm.

I stuck my finger in my ear and checked for blood. “Nervous?” She usually played very well and was one of the advanced students in the band.

Pulling apart the mouth piece, Maggie examined her reed. She grasped the splintered, thin sliver of wood that should have been whole. “Mom?” Her voice held an edge of panic.

“I’m sure your teacher has an extra one.” I rose and searched the stage for said instructor. We arrived early with the other students to set the stage.

Maggie grabbed my hand and pulled. “This way.” She mobilized through the crowd of parents and children, parting them like a linebacker. “Miss Kasko!” she shouted.

An elderly woman with a beak of a nose stared over her glasses as our rushed approached.

“My reed broke.” Maggie held out her open hand to show her the evidence. She breathed hard and clutched my hand tight.

“Oh no.” The teacher met my concerned gaze. “I gave my last one to Theo. I don’t have any other spares.” With a shake of her head, she patted Maggie’s head. “I’m sorry. You can sit on the stage and pretend to play?” She turned away to scold a set of boys using their clarinets as swords.

Maggie blinked rapidly and her face flushed. “Daddy Tane’s never heard me play.” Her voice shook. Maggie spent a few weeks every summer with Tane at his Brazil home. I’d been exiled from the vampire nation for fifty years, which meant limited and secreted visits from my vampire husband. I wouldn’t let that stop him from having an active role in Maggie’s life. From what I’ve heard of their adventures, he crammed a year’s worth of fatherhood in that short amount of time. My heart ached. I wish somehow we could all be together as a family. I missed the asshole.

I clenched my jaw and cursed silently at my daughter’s broken heart. “I can fix this.”

She wiped her eyes before any tears fell. My daughter rarely cried and the sight killed me.

“We have reeds at home, right?” Now panic edged my voice.

She nodded. “In the kitchen drawer where you keep your crap.”

“Yeah, the crap drawer. Got it.” I turned to Miss Kasko. “How much time do I have?”

She glanced at her watch. “Thirty minutes.”

“Good. Daddy Rurik can pick it up on his way here.” Rurik, m y human husband and Maggie’s biological father, had gone to Patitri port on the other side of the narrow island to meet Tane’s private yacht. They should be in the car returning by now.

Maggie leaned against me, resting her head on my chest as I called Rurik. I absently stroked her soft hair as the phone rang.

“Oui, ma cher?” His tone was deep and smooth as silk. It sent a shiver down my spine. He’d started speaking French to me in hopes I’d pick up the language. I could say a lot of naughty things.

“Maggie’s reed broke. Can you stop at home for a spare?” Silence filled the air space between our cells. “Rurik?”

“There’s been an accident,” he answered.

The general noise of children and instruments being tuned faded from my attention. I grasped the phone closer to my mouth and spoke softly so Maggie wouldn’t hear the fear in my tone. “Is everyone all right?” My heart pounded. This would be the first Christmas since Maggie was born that we were all together. Ten freaking years was a long time.

Maggie lifted her chin, concern painted on her face. She was too perceptive.

“We’re fine. Can’t tell you about the goats though. The tow truck is ready to pull the goat truck out of the ditch so I think we should get to the concert in time without any pit stops. Can’t she play without it?”

I rested my forehead in my hand. “You took the back roads again?”

“They’re faster.” Sure they were if he didn’t hit a stray animal, get a flat or stuck behind another fool driving those dirt paths crisscrossing the hills of the island.

“Fine, just get here on time.” I hung up and met Maggie’s desperate stare. “I can fix this.”

Miss Kasko raised an eyebrow. “I’ll keep an eye on her. Better hurry.”

“Ok.” I kissed Maggie on the forehead and pushed my way through the on-coming crowd to my car. The night was darker due to a storm. I pulled my hood over my head and ran through the pouring rain. Thirty minutes, I could do this if I make every green light in the small town and bend the speed limit a little. We lived on the other side of the hill and I had to circle the base to reach our small villa by the sea.

Once I was out of the school zone, I pushed the old car faster. The hunk of junk belonged to Rurik who tinkered with it as an ongoing hobby. He swore one day I would love it. That day had not arrived yet. He took the good car, my car, to retrieve Tane. Leaving me with the Frankenmobile. It rattled and wheezed as I just squeezed past the first yellow light. At the next light, I had to make a sharp left. Through the headlights and windshield wipers, I spotted the green arrow change to yellow so I pushed the accelerator. As I made the turn, the car leaned far to the right and the engine hiccupped.

The Frankenmobile stalled and rolled back into the middle of the intersection. I watched the headlights draw close. Horns blared as cars weaved around mine from both directions. I was going to die if stayed here. Exiting the car, I slammed the door shut and scanned the area for help. The garages would be closed at this time of night. The cars whizzing past me wouldn’t see me in my dark jacket standing in a rain storm. I had to get out of the road.

I’d better call Rurik and Tane. Maybe they could magic me a tow truck. I searched my purse for my phone but came up empty. I must have left it on the passenger seat in my haste. I pulled the door handle. Nothing happened.

No. I. Didn’t.

I wiped the raindrops on the window and pressed my face to it. Oh yes, I did. The keys hung in the ignition and I had locked my doors by habit. I banged my head against the window. What now? Leave the car blocking the intersection until some yahoo smashed it to bits and possibly killed themselves before Christmas? Abandon my daughter at her first concert without a reed? I could fix this. I knew I could. I just need time and a crane.

“Come, we push the car.” A man’s voice yanked me from my misery. After ten years on this island, I could grasp basic Greek. He set his hands on the slick trunk and pushed.

Hurrying to his side, I helped move the car out of traffic. Rain soaked trough my jacket and trickled down my back. We managed to move it to the side of the road next to a moped rental shop. I handed him twenty Euros for helping me and raced into the shop.

He followed me. “Do you need a phone?”

“You work here?” I pulled back my hood. When I spoke Greek, I still had a strong New York accent.

“You’re Rurik’s wife?”

I nodded. “How did you guess?”

“Not too many blondes with American accents on the island in winter.” He grinned. “I’ve fished with your husband.”

“I need to get home fast. How much paperwork do I have to get through before I can rent a moped?” I explained my desperate situation.

“You going to drive in a rain storm on a moped for your kid?” He tossed me a key. “First one on your right outside the door. Bring it back in the morning. We can settle things then.”

The door slammed behind me before he finished speaking. I jumped on the moped and it purred to life as I turned the key. I’d driven one a couple of times around the island, playing tourist. Pulling onto the road, I squinted to see through the rain. Next time, I pack goggles in my purse for these types of emergencies.

I’d lost too much time. The road meandered around the hill and I needed to be on the other side ASAP. I had no choice. I’d have to take one of Rurik’s short cuts. Turning onto a dirt—road seemed like a poor description of what I drove on—more like a wide path that one vehicle could access at time. It cut across the vineyard Rurik financed and why he knew so many of these routes.

The back wheel of the moped spun in the mud and fishtailed, sending a spray of mud against my jacket. I gritted my teeth and wrestled with the handlebars to maintain my control. Five minutes later, I pulled through the private gate onto my driveway. We owned a white villa, complete with plastered high walls surrounding an inner garden with our own olive tree. I parked by the front entrance and wiped the mud splatter off my face. I couldn’t even tell how much time I had left. My phone was in the car and I didn’t own a watch. Oh, for a tardis. I’d have to take the dirt road on the return trip to make it time. Mud be damned.

I searched my purse for my keys to unlock the house door. The bottom dropped out from my stomach as the image of my keys dangling from the ignition of my car popped into my head.

No.

I paced, pulling my wet curly hair. Stupid. I hadn’t occurred to me that I needed the keys to get inside my house until now. How was I supposed to save Maggie’s day?

A rock in the flower garden caught my attention. I could break a window and climb inside. I took a step toward the projectile.

Whoa. The alarm system would go off and I pictured explaining the situation to the police. I hung my head. I didn’t have time to deal with cops. There had to be another way. My gaze landed on smaller stone at the edge of the stairs. The rain beaded on the fake plastic surface. The key hider!

Rurik had purchased this for me, knowing one day I’d be in such a predicament. He was so going to get a long, sweaty thank you. I unlocked the house, raced to the kitchen, retrieved the reed from the drawer, and hopped back onto the muddy moped. Revving the motor, I rolled off my property and headed up the short cut over the hill toward Maggie’s school. I would make it if I had to stop time itself.

Wiping the rain from my face, I scooted past my car parked on the side of the road. The tow truck driver was attaching his chains. Rurik would kill me.

I stopped at the entrance to the school, parking illegally. Running in my water logged heels and muddy clothes, I past a group of well-groomed mothers who sneered as my appearance. I hurried into the gymnasium.

Rurik and Tane stood by the stage with Maggie. She had her little arms wrapped around Tane’s muscled leg while he stroked her hair and Rurik knelt next to them while speaking quietly to her. Maggie’s eyes went wide as her gaze met mine and recognition finally dawned in them. “Mom?” she asked.

“Here you go, sweetie.” I handed her the reed. “Knock’em dead.” I could barely speak while trying to catch my breath. I really needed to start exercising again. There was a time I could almost out run a vampire. Now, I’d be lucking to beat a fat beagle.

Both my husbands stared, Rurik rising to stand and Tane set his hands on his hips while shaking his fedora covered head. It wasn’t to hide his baldness but to keep the locals from seeing his pointed ears. Vampires were still the world’s best kept secret.

“Thanks, mom.” She skipped onto the stage to join the band, settling on her chair and trying her new reed.

Rurik thumbed my cheek, coming away with mud. “I can’t leave you alone.”

“It’s a long story.” I wanted to puddle on the ground in relief. Mission accomplished. My daughter would play with the school, my husbands were in attendance, and we’d spend Christmas together. I’d done it.

Tane wrapped an arm around my waist, pulling me against his hard body. Boy, I missed him. He entered my dream nightly from his home on the other side of the world with his special mental abilities, but that would never make up for the real deal. Bending me back, he claimed a kiss. His full lips soft and demanding. He pierced my bottom lip with his fang and sipped.

I melted in his arms, letting him use his unnatural strength to support my weight.

Rurik chuckled. “Patience you two. That can wait until later, when there are no children to witness.”

Tane pulled away enough for our gazes to lock and he plucked a leaf from my hair. “I’ve missed you so much.”