“We need a vacation, Kee. We all do. I’ve been working so hard I never see the kids. And you’ve been just as absent as a father. You’re always with me. Even Julian needs a break.”
“It won’t be safe Lila.”
I knew it wouldn’t be. As Julian and Malcolm predicted, Candice had finally made her move against me once I took office.
The first incident was an attempted robbery before we even moved into the Mansion. Julian was able to foil the robber for which I was grateful.
“That was too easy, Lila,” he told me the next day. “Candice was just testing you. Her real attack won’t be so obvious or easy to stop.”
Although I wanted to disagree, Julian’s logic was sound. Why would the head of the Vampire Mafia be content to send a petty crook to steal from me? Julian was right.
The Governor’s Mansion afforded us with more security, which was a good thing. Julian and Keenan made sure that the whole place was wired and that there were alarms on each floor. No one would be breaking in to steal from us or harm us.
I was actually able to do a lot of work from the mansion when I didn’t have to be at the Capital. Ross Trippie was still my advisor and Cedar Moss was still my assistant.
And in addition to Seeley Moss, who was the children’s bodyguard, I’d hired a live-in tutor and nanny as well, Ashleigh Shelley.
Keenan and I did our best to be there for the children, especially the toddlers, Barbara, GC, and Laura, but my job kept us busy. Keenan insisted that only he could protect me, so he’d resigned his position on the police force and had become my head of security.
Despite the dangers, I refused to drop the idea of going on vacation. As Governor, there were many things I had to do, but even I was entitled to some time off!
“We can’t travel abroad Lil. I wouldn’t be able to guarantee your safety. What if you just took a vacation but we stayed here? You could just take a week off from going to the Capital. Let Cedar and Ross manage things for a bit.”
I shook my head. “No. If we stay here, we’ll work. How can we avoid it? It’s the Governor’s Mansion. No one would leave me alone!”
“No. We can afford a trip to France. TJ has a school trip he’s been invited to go on, and I think we should let him. Even the triplets can come. They’re old enough to travel.”
“Lila. Be reasonable. There won’t be enough security.”
“Keenan. You be reasonable. There’ll be you, Julian, and Seeley. And then there’d be Miss Shelley, Cedar, of course because he needs a break, too, and you can take whomever else you think should accompany us. We’ll have an entourage!”
“But what about Candice…”
“What about her? What has she done lately? She sent a thief to rob us and some girl to try and threaten Julian.”
That vampire had the nerve to actually bypass the security gates and walk right up to the mansion doors. Julian responded to the alarm. Apparently she was a vampire he knew when he was younger and still living in Barnacle Bay.
“Don’t worry about it,” Julian told me when I asked about her. “She came to warn me that Candice would punish me if I kept protecting you.”
“How could Candice punish you? You aren’t a child anymore,” I said flippantly.
“It’s a vampire thing, Lila. There are all of these old rules left over from when we had to hide what we were from regular Sims. They’re old fashioned. Basically if a vampire reveals himself to a human, he would be punished by the head of the Vampire Family. That’s Candice now. She’s trying to twist that law to suit her needs. She’s already put that rule into effect for Malcolm. Any vampire can kill him if they can get to him. Normally we’re not supposed to harm our own kind.”
“She’d put a hit on her own sons.”
“Of course she would. She’s put a hit out on her daughter, too. Don’t forget.”
I hadn’t, but I was beginning to believe that Candice was going to find me as difficult as Malcolm to get to.
I continued to pursue the desire to travel abroad with both Keenan and Julian. I even brought it up in the bedroom.
“Nothing is going to happen while we’re gone,” I argued. “Nothing has happened for this entire year! The worst things we’ve had happen is that bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax and all that hate mail from the anti-vampire league who thinks that I’m shacking up with Julian, for goodness sake!”
“It’s out of the question Lila. It’s not safe!”
“But wouldn’t you want to make love in France? It’s the most romantic country of all! Imagine sleeping by some French river, just the two of us in a tent, no one around. No reporters or secretaries, just us.”
“S’il te plait…”
In the end, I won the argument. I was good at getting my way, and I really wanted to go to France before I had to start thinking of my next election. The downtime would do me good.
“Do you really mean it?!” Ashleigh Shelley asked me excitedly, when I told her of our travel plans. “I get to go, too?”
“Sure. You’re the kids’ tutor. And you and Julian never get to spend time together. Don’t think I don’t know that you want to see him more. I’m just sorry that he has to be with me so much.”
No one had been more surprised than me (except maybe Julian himself) when Ashleigh took one look at him and decided that he was the man for her.
“Is he seeing anyone?” she asked me after she’d only been working for me a week.
“Um…no,” I was shocked. “I don’t know if he even dates.”
“Well he’s too fine not to. Would it be inappropriate if I ask him out?”
I was too stunned that someone even thought of my annoying bodyguard like that to do more than shake my head.
“Good. I didn’t want it to be weird since we both work for you. It’s not like there is a fraternization policy…is there?”
“Uh…I guess not. I don’t know if he’ll go for it, though. He doesn’t seem to be interested in girls.”
“Doesn’t hurt to ask,” Ashleigh said optimistically.
It took her nearly a month, but finally she wore him down an Julian agreed to go out with her. They had kept their relationship fairly low-key, but I knew that Ashleigh wanted more. A trip to France would perhaps help her accomplish that.
“I can’t come,” Seeley, said when I let him and Cedar know about the trip.
“Neither can I,” Cedar added.
“Why not?” I was genuinely puzzled that neither of them wanted a vacation even if they had to go with their employer.
“Some things have come up with my family,” Seeley said. “I’ve been meaning to tell you that I’ll be turning in my resignation. I have to devote all of my time to these issues.” I was curious as to what he was referring, but I didn’t press.
“And you’re going with him?” I asked Cedar.
“No ma’am. I just don’t like flying. I’d rather stay here if you don’t mind. I can work on the campaign while you’re gone. That’ll be one less thing you have to worry about.”
“Seeley, we’ll be sorry to see you go. I hope we find someone just as good as you are to be the children’s bodyguard. And Cedar, are you sure?”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be fine here.” I gave both Moss men a hug. Seeley I hugged extra tight. I would miss him. The children would miss him even more.
France was wonderful. I knew as soon as we touched down that taking this vacation was the right thing to do.
“Ms. Fields, isn’t it beautiful here?” Ashleigh gushed.
“Mom, can we go to the art museum first?” TJ asked. That was part of his assignment. He was supposed to go to the museum and do a report on some of the art displayed there. TJ wanted to get it over with quickly because Julian promised to take him exploring.
“Your great, great, very great grandfather Charlie Fields was an explorer and a fisherman. He used to catch frogs and other exotic fish here in France when he wasn’t exploring ancient tombs and lost catacombs,” Julian had told TJ. I was shocked that he even knew of the Fields’ family history.
“Can we go exploring, too?” The girls asked, but both Keenan and I said no.
“What about me, Mommy?” GC asked.
“You’re too young, sweethearts. Maybe uncle Julian can take you all fishing instead. Besides, don’t you want to keep mommy and daddy company?”
Keenan and I looked over the heads of our little rascals. We both wanted to find time to spend alone. We’d never really had a honeymoon. This would be the closest we’d ever get.
As we all headed into the chateau to put away our things, I looked around me somewhat anxiously. For a minute, I thought I felt someone looking at me, but when I looked around, everyone was busy talking to each other. I didn’t even see any curious locals in the street. Shaking my head, I went with the rest of my entourage into the building.
True to his word, Julian took TJ exploring the following day. Keenan and I ended up taking the other kids into town where we did some shopping and ate in the local café.
When we all got back to the chateau, TJ told the younger children all about his explorations. At first I worried that his exploits might incite them into wanting to go exploring as well, but then I listened to how he was embellishing his trip and I knew that they’d be too afraid. TJ had a flare for the dramatic.
The next day Keenan and I took all of the kids fishing. Julian would have gone, but he couldn’t really enjoy himself on such a beautiful sunny day. It sucked being a vampire, which I told him.
“It’s not so bad,” he stated. “I’ll just stay here and find something to do.”
“I’ll stay, too. I’ll keep Julian company,” Ashleigh smiled. I caught a gleam of purpose in her eye and knew that Julian would be pleasantly occupied.
It was a wonderful day with my family. I felt blessed that I could spend this time with them. Sometimes I forgot to take time just to enjoy life because I was so focused on my political ambitions.
“Wasn’t this a wonderful idea?” I asked Keenan over the children’s head. “Aren’t you glad I talked you into coming to France?”
Keenan smiled. “It’s great, Lila. But I seem to remember you mentioning a tent.”
I blushed as his smile turned wicked. “I think this would be a great spot for a tent,” I said.
That night Keenan and I returned to the water. Julian and Ashleigh would watch out for the children in our absence.
All too soon our vacation ended and it was time to fly back to Capital City. It had been a good trip. I was pleased to see that Ashleigh had been successful in getting Julian to commit to more than a casual relationship.
“We’re not engaged or anything,” she confided in me, “but we agreed to be exclusive. And I finally got to find out what sex with a vampire was like!” In her enthusiasm she didn’t catch my wince at her expressing of way to much information about my brother.
“I’m glad things are going so well.”
“Oh they are, but now I have to convince him that we should get married. He has this crazy notion that it won’t work out because I’m not a vampire. He knows I don’t want to be Turned. He thinks that means we can’t be together.”
“You would get older and eventually die,” I said.
“Of course. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a life together.”
“I guess.” Privately I understood Julian’s reluctance. It is hard to outlive your spouse. But I also saw Ashleigh’s point. I wouldn’t have foregone my relationship with Franklin if I had known he was going to die. I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
I was happy to return home after our trip. I felt invigorated. I was ready to face the challenges of the rest of my term and my campaign for re-election. I knew that while I’d been gone, Malcolm was preparing to make another run for my position.
We arrived at the Mansion in the middle of the night. Julian disengaged the alarm and we all went inside. I had to help the younger children get ready for bed. They were worn out. GC had trouble getting his pajamas on.
“You take the girls and I’ll get GC,” I told Ashleigh. Keenan and Julian were checking the perimeter and securing the building.
Eventually, the kids were in bed and I said goodnight to Ashleigh. She marched purposefully toward Julian’s room, determined not to let him put any distance from her. I laughed to myself and headed to my own room to await Keenan.
I hoped he wasn’t tired because suddenly I had my second wind.
The next morning we all slept in. It felt wonderful to wake in my own bed. I made my way downstairs to get some breakfast. Keenan elected to take a shower first.
Ashleigh was already in the kitchen busily humming while whipping up some pancakes.
“’Morning. Are the kids up yet?”
“I haven’t heard them,” she said while stirring.
“I suppose I should let them sleep in. It was a long flight.”
But when the kids didn’t come down by the time I had finished breakfast, I decided I better go up and get them. They’d need to get used to being back home and that meant getting up before lunchtime.
I went to the boys’ room first. “TJ. GC. Time to get up,” I sang as I turned on the light.
I expected groans from TJ and an “Aw Mom!” from GC, but what greeted me was silence. I looked at their bunk bed and found it empty.
“Maybe they’re already up and getting ready.”
I crossed the hall to check on the girls.
“Barbara, Laura, rise and shine!”
This time when I turned on the light, I was looking right at the girls’ beds. Nothing. The covers were rumpled, but neither girl was in bed.
I listened for the sound of the shower, but there was nothing. I forced myself not to start panicking. They had gone downstairs while I’d been in the boys’ room.
I went back down and asked Keenan, “Have you seen the kids? Did they come down yet?”
“No. Did they eat already?”
“I don’t think so. Ashleigh was making pancakes.”
“Maybe they’re outside.”
But they weren’t. There were no sounds of laughter and playing out on the playground I’d installed at the Governor’s Mansion. My children were missing.
Candice had taken them.