Lenora never imagined her life taking on the direction it had. She had always wanted a big family, and she now had a very large one. She ran a busy, active household and had a full-time career and a wonderful life. Sometimes it was hard for her to believe how far she’d come since losing Landon and Linc. Life was glorious, and she had so much to be thankful for.
Her mission was never far from her mind. When she could, she practiced her laser rhythm-a-con. She wanted to have people hear and see what the instrument looked like, so she figured it was time to see about playing for some tips. Lenora was going to see that music and art survived in the future, so she was always devising ways of bringing creative enjoyment to those she knew and cared about.
As often as she could, she went to places, such as the park or the gym, to play the laser-rhythm-a-con and attempt to attract an audience. Little by little, it began to work. It was slow going because it was human nature to resist change. People needed time to adapt to new things, but Lenora wasn’t about to give up.
It seemed that even fate was cooperating. Lenora wanted to wait until the kids were older before she discussed the mission with them fully. She wanted them to enjoy their childhood without worrying about such grave matters. It was hard enough being a kid in this day and age without the added pressure of saving the future and the ramifications if the mission failed.
As in most cases, the kids, however, had other ideas. They sensed that they would be a part of something very important. It was hard not to overhear snatches of conversation between Lenora and Tyrone or Landon and Crystal. One day, Aurora was sitting in the study with her father as they read together. She put a dainty hand on his wrist and then gently closed the book. “Da, can we talk for a minute?”
“Sure, princess. What’s worrying you?” He didn’t need to see the pensive expression on her face to know that something was on her mind. He was an Alpha Wolf and could always sense when something was amiss with one of his Pack.
She heaved a sigh, not knowing how to begin. “You and Ma are keeping something from us. It’s something very important, isn’t it?”
“Princess, you need not worry about that right now,” Tyrone said.
“I will be more worried if you don’t level with me,” she said. “Is it something bad?”
Tyrone blew out a breath, feeling unprepared for this. Of all the questions she could have asked, he hadn’t expected this. He knew, however, that skirting the issue wasn’t an option. He tucked a lock of hair behind his daughter’s ear, took her hand, and studied her intently. “It’s complicated, sweetheart, but I’ll try to explain as best I can. During a very sad time in her life, your mother discovered that she was chosen to take on a mission, something she knew would be very important.”
“Oh, that was after Linc died, right?”
“Yep,” Tyrone said. The kids knew all about Linc, having heard stories of him from both Lenora and Landon. “Anyway, she didn’t know what it was about until some years back. Your Great Grandma Mathilda told her more. You see, sweetheart, it has to do with the future and making things happen so the world will be safer to live in. Do you remember when we read about the Salem Witch Trials together?”
“Sure, Da! Gosh, I’m glad we don’t have to worry about that now. I wouldn’t want me or Jonas or Ma to be burned at the stake. We have a lot of witches and wizards in this family. Having us all burn up would be a travesty.”
“Such a vocabulary you have there, my little genius,” Tyrone said, hugging his daughter tight. “Well, your mother and I saw some things in the future that were very disturbing. Books were being burned, as were people. Magic no longer existed, and people were being killed if they were caught trying to bring it back. Even wolves were extinct.”
Aurora’s eyes widened. “No way! Da, how could that happen?”
“Well, princess, magical people started marrying non-magical people, so all the magic, lycanthropy, and vampirism were being bred out. The Fae saw the danger and left the earth. What your mother and I saw were very dark times.” He went on to explain that music, art, and creativity were outlawed and punishable by death if a person was caught engaging in creative activities.
Aurora’s eyes were as round as frisbees. “But that’s barbaric! That’s so Medieval!”
“I agree, princess,” Tyrone said grimly.
“It’s like that book Brave New World where everyone looked like everyone in their class system and nobody was allowed to have any opinions. Da, that can’t happen.” She got up and started to pace.
“Exactly. This is why your mother has to try to prevent it and why I have to help her,” Tyrone said.
“I want to help too, Da. I mean, it would be awful to not be able to listen to music or play the piano or paint,” Aurora said.
Tyrone smiled. “There will be plenty of time for you to help, princess. We all have to help your mother. Our job as a family is to make sure our descendants see the value in things like music and art and even produce it if they have the talent for it. When you’re older–”
“But I want to help now, Da!” Aurora said emphatically, stopping her pacing to peer intently at her father. “You said yourself that I’m a genius. That means I’m smart and am a quick study. I’ve always wanted to learn to paint, and I’ve been practicing. One day, I’ll be very skilled and can make paintings and portraits that can be passed down. Da, could I have painting lessons?”
“Sweetheart, your mother and I want you to just enjoy being a kid. There is plenty of time to worry about that later,” Tyrone said.
Aurora sighed and folded her arms across her chest. “Oh, Da, what if there isn’t a later? I mean, you never know what can happen, right? Landon didn’t expect to die when he was a kid. Maybe I’ll die too and then won’t get a chance to help.”
Tyrone’s blood chilled at the thought of losing any of his kids at any time, especially at a young age. He pulled her into his arms again and hugged her close. “I don’t want you to think about such things as dying. You’re going to live to be a very, very old lady.” Still, she had a point. Life could always turn on a dime. “Princess, if you really want art lessons, your mother and I will arrange it. You have to promise me that you’ll stick with it. Or, if you don’t like it, you agree to tell your mother and me so we don’t waste time and money, okay?”
“Oh, I promise! Don’t worry. I’ll stick with it. Oh, thank you, Da!” Aurora squeezed Tyrone and grinned up at him. “I’ll make beautiful paintings that people will love for hundreds and hundreds of years after I’m gone.”
Tyrone smiled and kissed Aurora. Oh, she was so much like his Lenora! “I believe you will, princess. I believe in you.”
Aurora beamed. This was all the encouragement she needed. Later that week, Aurora began her art lessons and soaked up the knowledge like a sponge. She spent every waking moment at the easel her parents had gotten for her, losing herself in her work.
With Aurora being enlightened about the mission, Lenora and Tyrone thought it best to level with the rest of the children. They called a family meeting which included Landon, Crystal, and their kids. After explaining the situation, Jonas whistled. “Could something like that really happen?”
“It can and it will if we don’t do something about it,” Lenora said.
“I guess we all had better figure out what we’re good at,” Chris said. “Does cooking count? I mean, since I like to eat so much, I’m a food guru. Making up recipes is important, right?”
“Yes, of course, darling,” Lenora said.
And so, private instruction in music, art, sculpting, and the like was arranged. The children tried and failed at different things before finding something they truly enjoyed. Aurora found that she loved to sing and play the piano as much as she loved to paint. Aurora was dubbed “Princess” by her father because it fully suited her.
Jonas, too, enjoyed painting and music, and he took to the guitar like a duck to water. He was dubbed “Smiler” because he was always such a happy kid.
True to his own assessment, Chris was an eating machine but started to appreciate food in a different way. His palate grew more and more sophisticated, and Lenora and Mathilda helped him peruse recipe books so he could get the hang of how measurements worked for certain ingredients. He was nicknamed “Jaws” because he was always sampling and trying new foods.
Andrea, who was very athletic, found it quite challenging to find a creative activity that she could get into. One day while she was watching Grandda Liam do some woodworking, she wondered how she’d be at that. It was something she could get down and dirty with. With Liam’s help, she tried her hand at the sculpting station and found that she loved it. “It’s a great way to pound out your frustrations,” she said, grinning at her great-grandfather. With that statement came her nickname of “Steamroller.” Andrea didn’t like taking guff from anyone and was a true go-getter. Coupled with her athletic abilities and being a werewolf, she was someone to not be trifled with.
Landon and his family also wanted to help, so he and Crystal arranged for private instruction in different areas of interest. It was decided that all eight children should learn Alchemy when Lenora deemed them old enough. “After all, we must keep magic alive, too,” she reasoned.
School was in full swing, and neither Lenora nor Crystal could figure out where the time had gone. Both women were in floods on the kids’ first day. First, it was Lenora who fell into Tyrone’s arms, sobbing. “My babies!”
Landon grinned at Tyrone over his weeping mother’s shoulder. “Major deja vu here. She cried the first day I went to school, too.”
“That’s right. I did. It’s my right as a mum, so I’ll cry if I want,” Lenora sniffed. “Och, my wee ones!”
Landon made a crack about breaking out his rowboat. However, it wasn’t long before he, too, was dealing with a sobbing wife who had the first day of school blues. Tyrone grinned at Landon and handed him a snorkel. Crystal laughed through her tears and playfully punched Tyrone in the arm. “So insensitive,” she teased lightly before dissolving into a fresh wave of sobs, her tears wetting the front of Landon’s shirt while he held her and rubbed her back.
Grandpa Amadeus and Grandma Erica gave tablets to all eight children. They were a huge hit and were constantly in use. They came in very handy during a snow day after a blizzard raged through Aurora Skies. It was too dangerous to play outside, so the kids either read or played games on their tablets. It kept them out of Lenora’s hair so she could concentrate on the book she was currently writing.
A week later, the ground was still covered in snow. Regardless, Landon was still scheduled to perform a gig at Flying V’s Coffeehouse. “The things we do for our art,” he groused as he got ready for his show. Normally, he loved performing, but he wasn’t a fan of winter.
“Maybe they’ll give you hazard pay, love,” Crystal said, then kissed him soundly. “You’ll do great. Break a leg.”
“In this weather, that’s a distinct possibility,” Landon grunted.
Crystal laughed and pushed her husband out the door. “You’ll be singing a different tune when they shower you with praise and roar for encore after encore.”
Crystal’s prediction came true. Landon performed flawlessly, and the reviews pronounced the show legendary. He was in definite higher spirits when he arrived home, much to Crystal’s satisfaction. He romanced his wife with flowers and wine, then took her to bed to show her exactly what kind of mood he was in.
The weather was much more cooperative when Crystal was due to appear at Flying V’s. She put on the new green dress she’d fallen in love with at the mall and bought, then studied herself critically. “Hmm. Do you think it’s a bit much?”
Landon whistled appreciatively. “Hey, no way, Thumbelina! You look hot in that number. Maybe I’d better hire you a bodyguard. After all, I’d have to kill any guy who tried to touch you.”
Crystal tilted her head and gave a tinkling giggle. “Oh, you! Bodyguard my ass. We’re not in the big time yet, but we’ll get there.” She kissed Landon passionately and made her way to the limo.
Just before stage time, Crystal felt the familiar butterflies fluttering in her stomach. She took a deep breath, kissed her wedding ring, then grabbed her guitar. “Here we go,” she whispered before walking onstage to an onslaught of cheers and whistles.
Crystal gave a flawless performance and was asked by the owner to keep a steady gig at the V. Her wings fluttered excitedly as she gave a resounding yes. Once they settled on Crystal’s pay, she went right home and straight into Landon’s arms. Once again, the couple celebrated, ending the evening with a passionate session of lovemaking.
Spring finally came, which brought the coming of the Spring Festival. The two couples decided to visit the festival while the kids were in school. Their favorite activity was the Love-O-Meter. First, Lenora and Tyrone took their turn and laughed uproariously at the message. “Burning! Get a room, you two!”
“Well, if the shoe fits,” Crystal grinned as she and Landon joined in the laughter.
“Oh, the shoe fits very well,” Tyrone quipped, then bent Lenora back in a passionate dip kiss.
Crystal and Landon were equally pleased with their “Passionate” message. “I love it when a machine knows what it’s talking about,” Landon said, grabbing Crystal and spinning her around to make her laugh.
Life was busy and great for this loving family. The Little League team Chris was on needed a new coach, so Tyrone applied for the job and got it. Aurora joined the Tiny Cheerleaders, which Aunt Theresa coached. Ballet was also a must. Jonas joined the Music Club, which both Lenora and Tyrone helped out with whenever they could. Andrea was on the soccer team, so the entire family went to as many games as they could. There was never a dull moment and nobody remained idle for very long.