It was at a very early age that Cara Aideen DeLongpre realized her mother and father weren’t like her friends’ parents. For one thing, she never saw her mom and dad during the day, and they never ate dinner together, the way families did on TV. As far back as Cara could remember, she had eaten all her meals in the company of her nanny, Charlotte Ray, until Charlotte retired. Cara’s new nanny, Melissa Kent, had been much younger than Miss Ray, and although Cara missed her old nanny, Miss Kent quickly found a place in Cara’s affections.
Cara was homeschooled by Miss Louise Byrne until she turned twelve. On her birthday, Cara’s father informed her that she would be going to public school so that she might associate with other children. Cara wasn’t happy about that, but her father assured her that it was for her own good. She needed to learn how to get along with people her own age. To that end, Miss Byrne was dismissed and Frank Di Giorgio was hired. Mr. Di Giorgio had thick black hair going gray at the temples and gray eyes that, when he was angry, looked as cold as stone. He was built like a wrestler and had a face like a bulldog. It was his job to drive Cara to school and pick her up afterward.
Going to public school had been a trial. After spending the first twelve years of her life with adults, Cara had found it hard to relate to children her own age. It had also emphasized, once again, the differences between her parents and the parents of the other kids. Her mother and father didn’t attend parent-teacher conferences or school plays or any other functions, unless they were held at night.
Until Cara went to school, she had assumed that everybody opened their Christmas presents at night and hunted for Easter eggs after the sun went down. Thanksgiving was a holiday that was never celebrated in her home. Valentine’s Day meant a big candy heart from her daddy.
Cara’s favorite holiday was Halloween. She always dressed up as a witch, and her mother and father always went trick-or-treating with her. Her mom dressed as a witch, too. Her dad didn’t dress up, though he did wear a long black cloak that made the other kids ask if he was supposed to be a vampire.
When Cara turned sixteen, she was allowed to go out with boys, but only if they went out with a group or with another couple. To her chagrin, Mr. Di Giorgio was always nearby and Cara came to understand that he was no longer just her chauffeur, but her bodyguard as well, though she had no idea why she needed a bodyguard. Bodyguards were for presidents and rock stars, not for ordinary people.
She put the question to her mom and dad the night after it occurred to her.
Roshan DeLongpre considered his reply for several moments before he answered his daughter’s question. He wasn’t surprised by it, only amazed that it had taken her so long to ask.
“I’m a wealthy man,” he explained patiently, “and I have many enemies. Frank is there to make sure that no harm comes to you.”
“What kind of enemies?” Cara asked.
She digested that a moment, then asked, “Why don’t I ever see you or Mom during the day? Why don’t we eat together? Where do the two of you go every day, and why can’t I ever go with you?”
Roshan looked at his wife, one brow arched in a silent plea for help. He and Brenna had both known this day would come sooner or later, but how did a man tell his adopted daughter that her father and mother were vampires and, more than that, that her mother was a witch?
Brenna took her daughter’s hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. “Years ago, while traveling in Africa, your father and I contracted a rare disease. The sun is like poison to us now, so we sleep during the day.”
Cara nodded. She knew she was adopted. Her parents had told her that as soon as she was old enough to understand. It explained why she wasn’t affected by the same disease that plagued her mom and dad.
“Maybe we could eat dinner together?” Cara suggested. “Like other families. You know, like the ones on TV.”
Brenna and Roshan exchanged glances.
“Due to our ailment, your father and I are on a rather strict liquid diet,” Brenna said after a moment, “but we’ll be happy to sit at the table with you while you eat, if you like.”
“I’d like that very much,” Cara said, smiling. “At least once in a while.”
“Then that’s what we’ll do,” her father said.
“Are we very rich?” Cara asked.
“Yes,” her father replied soberly. “Very.”
“Do you think I could have a car?”
“When you’re eighteen,” her father said.
Cara sighed. “Lily got a new car for her sixteenth birthday. So did Jennifer. Why can’t I have a car now?”
Brenna looked at her husband, one brow raised as she, too, waited for his answer.
Roshan glanced from his daughter to his wife and back again. “We’ll compromise,” he said. “You can have the car of your choice when you turn seventeen.”
The car she chose was a baby blue convertible with black interior.
Cara was twenty-two years old when she finally discovered why her parents weren’t like everyone else’s.
Cara Aideen DeLongpre sipped her drink, too preoccupied with her own thoughts to pay any attention to the crowd and the noise that surrounded her. She had grown up knowing her mother and father weren’t like other parents. Once she had started going to school, she had discovered a whole new world. Other kids went on vacation with their parents when school was out. They went out to dinner and to the zoo and to Disneyland and Sea World. They had birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Other kids had brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and cousins and grandparents. When Cara asked why she didn’t have brothers or sisters or aunts and uncles, her father had explained that her mother couldn’t have children, and that he and her mother didn’t have any siblings, and that her grandparents had all passed away.
It was a perfectly logical explanation, but it didn’t make her feel any less lonely. It would have been nice to have an older brother, or a sister she could share confidences with.
What wasn’t logical was the fact that, in over twenty years, her parents hadn’t changed at all. She told herself she was being foolish, that she was overreacting, imagining things, but there was no arguing with the proof of her own eyes. They both looked exactly the way they had when Cara was a little girl. Her mother never gained or lost an ounce. Her face was as smooth and clear as it had always been. The same was true of her father. Roshan DeLongpre looked like a man in his mid-thirties, and he had looked that way for as long as Cara could remember. He had taken her to the movies one night last week and they had run into a couple of Cara’s acquaintances. Before she could introduce her father, her friend, Cindy, had taken her aside and asked how long she had been dating that “good-looking older man.”