I couldn’t let the threat of Candice Fields deter me from what I wanted to do with my life. Neither Glenna nor Franklin would want me to live in fear. So despite Julian’s warnings and Keenan’s worrying, I went on with my life exactly as I did before I found out that my ‘mother’ wanted me dead.
Keenan wouldn’t leave me unprotected, though. And since I refused a police escort, he and Julian both took a leave of absence to become my body guards.
“Won’t your brother Malcolm need you to guard him?” I asked Julian over a game of chess. He was a better player than me, which I found out in our first game.
Julian just laughed. “Malcolm can take care of himself.”
“What does he think of you working for me? I mean, we’re not friends. In fact, we’re still rivals last I checked.”
“Malcolm doesn’t own me,” Julian said. “But to be honest, he’s the one who insisted that I become one of your bodyguards. He knows that if Mother succeeds in killing you, all of his efforts toward gaining vampire rights would be wasted. The people would automatically link him to your death and then they’d remember your late husband. Mother would be the only winner.”
“I see. So in a way, keeping me safe means that you’re working for him.”
“Yes.” Julian smiled. “Exactly.”
“Good to know it’s not brotherly love on your part,” I rolled my eyes. “Your brother is still not going to win if I run for office next year,” I vowed.
“We shall see. But you have to survive the year first.”
I hated the smug look that he gave me. I determined to ignore him whenever he was with me. He could be my bodyguard, but we weren’t going to be friends. And I was going to run for governor again even if my opponent was Malcolm Harold, my own brother.
But first, I was getting married. Keenan and I decided on a simple wedding. It was just the two of us (and Julian) and TJ. We went to the courthouse and spoke our vows in front of a Justice of the Peace.
We didn’t have a honeymoon, but it was still a romantic day. When we got home, Keenan carried me over the threshold and then up the stairs. He set me down outside the door to our room.
“Why are we stopping?” I asked, giggling like I had been since we’d walked in the door.
“I just want to stop and remember this moment. I never want to forget how I feel right now.”
As I gazed into Keenan’s love-filled eyes, my knees got weak. “I love you Kee.”
“I love you more Lil. I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you.”
“Nothing will. You’ll protect me.”
“Yes I will. I promise.” Keenan sealed his promise with a kiss that only ended when we both fell asleep, exhausted and satisfied.
After the wedding, we issued an announcement to the papers, and I did a private interview with a reporter from Sim People. We didn’t want to make a big deal out of our wedding or the fact that we’d been living together for such a long time.
“I’ve always loved Keenan,” I told the reporter. “I just didn’t know I was in love with him until recently.”
“What about your first husband?” the reporter asked.
“I still love Franklin. I will always love him. But he wouldn’t want me to live alone for the rest of my life. I think he’d like it that I’m marrying Keenan. He and Keenan were friends before Franklin was killed.”
“And what about your son? Will Keenan adopt him?”
“Of course not,” I said. “Franklin is TJ’s father no matter what. But Keenan loves TJ and TJ loves Kee. TJ looks up to Keenan. He gets all excited when Keenan comes home in his uniform. Keenan is TJ’s hero, but TJ knows that Franklin was his dad.”
After we were married, I began to relax about Candice. I hadn’t been followed in a long time, and I was beginning to believe that maybe Julian had exaggerated the problem.
“It’s been so long,” I told Keenan. “Do you really think she’s still out to get me? She hasn’t done anything.”
“You haven’t run for governor yet,” Keenan said.
“I know. Don’t you think she’d try something before I declare again? It would have a lot more publicity if she were to try something when I was running for office.”
I mentioned the same thing to Julian.
“Lila, you are being naive. You aren’t thinking like a vampire.”
“Of course not!”
“And so you don’t see the larger picture. Candice can strike whenever she wants. She has all the time she needs. She wants you to be complacent, to forget about her. That’s when she’ll strike. Also, she wants the publicity. You forget her agenda isn’t to keep vampires hidden. No. She wants them seen…she wants vampires to be the monsters that everyone fears.”
“Julian’s right, Love. We have to stay vigilant. Especially now.” Keenan touched my stomach. “There’s so much more to protect, now.” That’s right. I was pregnant. We were both so happy with the situation. I just wanted to have my life back to normal so that my children wouldn’t have to fear.
As it was, TJ was getting older, and he’d have to have his own bodyguard going to school. Keenan had hired Seeley Moss, a young private investigator and a relative of my assistant, Cedar Moss.
Julian continued, “Mother will be especially dangerous now that you are pregnant, too. It’s no secret that she doesn’t like children. She never wanted to be a mother. She probably hates being a grandmother even more.”
Hearing this, Keenan looked even more worried. “Maybe you should just forget about being Governor, Lil. Maybe we should give it up.”
“No. I can’t let her scare me away from this, Keenan. You know that. It’s something that I have to do.”
“What about the children?”
“You can keep them safe. You and Julian and that boy, Seeley Moss. Cedar says he’s the best.”
We had the whole nine months of my pregnancy to prepare for my campaign for governor, which was a good thing. I found out early on that we were going to have twins. Keenan and I were both excited about it, but we knew that it would mean twice as much work.
I got humongous, but I didn’t mind. Keenan was always there to help me out. I think he gave me backrubs every night. Even Julian was good to have around. He and Seeley Moss kept TJ from feeling neglected. TJ, for the most part, didn’t seem to mind that I was having more babies. He was happy to be a big brother.
“Besides, Mom,” TJ told me, “As a big brother, I get to be the boss of the babies. Just promise you won’t have girls.”
I told him that I wouldn’t know until the babies were born, but if I had girls, he could still be the boss. “You’ll be able to protect both of your sisters.”
“Ok, Mom. I will. But I’d rather have a brother.”
It turned out that TJ got his wish for a little brother. We ended up having triplets, two girls and a boy, so TJ would have a brother to boss around and two sisters to protect.
Keenan and I decided to follow TJ’s name and give the babies names of presidents and their first ladies. I also liked calling my sons by initials, so the boy we named George Calvin after George Washington and Calvin Coolidge, but we called him GC—hopefully he grew into the name like TJ did. The two girls were named Laura and Barbara after the wives of both Bush presidents.
Only a few weeks after I gave birth, I declared my intent to run for Governor. Cedric Goth had announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election, so it would be an open race. Of course the public was concerned that I, a new mother of three, wouldn’t have time to govern, but I did my best to ensure that I could be both a mother and a politician.
“My grandmother, Jeri Fields, always said that a woman can be successful both as a mother and in her career. I agree with her philosophy. If a new father could do it, so can a new mother. In fact, I will treat the state like I am its mother, too. And what is more fierce and protective than a mother?”
I smiled for all of the cameras clicking away at the press conference we held to announce my candidacy. I knew that my words were the perfect sound bite to be printed in all of the papers and repeated on all of the news casts. What I didn’t say was that I’d probably hire a live-in nanny/tutor for the kids. I’m not stupid. I know I will be busy and I want the best upbringing for my kids. Luckily I have the means to hire someone to ensure that their needs are met when I can’t be there.
A few months later, Malcolm Harold also declared his candidacy. I was not surprised by this. I knew he was going to run.
“Are you sure this isn’t a conflict of interest?” I asked Julian. “I mean, people will probably ask about why you aren’t supporting your brother.”
“As many people will ask why you employ a vampire when you don’t support vampire rights.” That hated eyebrow went up and he smirked at me.
“You won’t let me fire you, you ass.”
“Right. I bet Malcolm wouldn’t let it be known that he and I are related. No more than I would.”
“So why stay with me, Jules?” He hated that nickname.
“I don’t want you to die. I also don’t want Malcolm to be blamed. And I definitely don’t want Mother to win.”
Of course both of the questions were asked about Julian’s employment. He went around saying, “No comment” but both Malcolm and I didn’t have that luxury.
Malcolm’s reply was, “I don’t tell my brother what to do. He’s a grown man. His job is to keep people safe, and I support him in that as I would any other officer of the law. Right now he feels that Ms. Fields is in danger. I can’t disagree. Julian and Ms. Fields’ husband have been friends since they were in the Academy. He and Julian have taken it upon themselves to provide Ms. Fields’ security.”
As for me, I said, “I am not against vampires, contrary to what people might think. Yes, some terrible things have happened to me because of vampires, but I don’t believe that they are less than the people they were in life before they became vampires. I employ Officer Harold because he was recommended as the best person for the job. I value the safety of my family, and Officer Harold ensures it for me. If he were human, I’d still employ him.”
“But you don’t believe that vampires and humans are equal?”
“Not true,” I stated firmly. “I simply don’t think we can afford to ignore that vampires may be more of a threat to humans than humans are toward vampires. I believe that vampires should eschew drinking human plasma in favor of plasma fruit. They no longer have to be barbaric to survive. I think we need to provide laws and regulations that not only help vampires maintain their health, but also protect humans from being food.”
“Mr. Harold says that he supports a vampire and human’s right to choose.”
“I don’t disagree,” I stated, shocking the reporters asking the question. “However, if we do give the right to choose, then there should be laws in place to punish those who don’t abide by the choices made. Currently there are none. My position is clear: We must put legislation in place to maintain a healthy relationship between humans and vampires. If Mr. Harold had his way, things would remain exactly as they are.”
Of course Malcolm refuted my position.
“Ms. Fields and I are really speaking of the same thing. I simply believe that government should not be involved. Vampires should be able to govern themselves in this as we have been doing for thousands of years. Human laws should apply to all, but there should be no laws specific to vampires. That’s just prejudice at work.”
And during the election, Candice Fields never once surfaced. The only people who made a threatening move against me were those who hated me because I didn’t hate all vampires. In the end, I won the election only by a narrow margin.
I think more people were in favor of Malcolm’s position. Ironically, what cinched it for me were those who simply hated vampires. They didn’t like my moderate stance, but they’d rather have me as governor than have a vampire in the position. I was the lesser of two evils.
“Congratulations Lila,” Malcolm told me over the phone. We’d only spoken a few times outside of the debates we’d participated in together.
“Thank you Malcolm.”
“Maybe next time I will come out on top.”
“Don’t go anywhere without your husband or Julian. Mother knows that you won. She’ll come for you now.”
I got a chill, but I said, “You guys keep saying that. But she hasn’t even made one move since Julian came here.”
“Julian always was her favorite.” Malcolm’s tone of voice was a pout and I almost laughed. I never had to compete for a parent’s affection. I’d certainly never wanted Candice’s, that’s for sure. Malcolm continued, “Believe me, she’s planning something. All she needs is to get him away from you.”
“I’ll have even more security as Governor,” I said.
“Good. Don’t mess up or you won’t stand a chance when I run against you for re-election.”
“No problem. No one will even think of you because I’m going to be such a great governor!”
He chuckled, “Good luck, Lila.” I hung up, smiling. Malcolm and I were not ever going to be friends, but I had to admire his ambition and dedication to his cause. If I thought of him as a brother, I’d be a proud big sister.