Sparkle Like a Vampire, Bite Like a Werewolf
March 19, 2011
"We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon." -Franklin D. Roosevelt
Story Date: Saturday, August 9th
Cadence had never been so glad to see her bedroom. It was like a sanctuary after the torturous evening they'd had and even Carson's presence couldn't dilute her relief.
"Unzip me," she said to Carson, as soon as the door was closed. They had agreed it would be best for him to spend the night, just for the hell of it, while Lilith and Arthur were still there and the whole town was buzzing about this newest scandal.
The poor boy looked back at her with such a bewildered expression that she almost burst out laughing. He watched her warily for a long moment, and it was only after she'd turned around and gestured at her gown that he realized what she'd meant.
As much time as they had spent around each other lately, Carson and Cadence were not yet friends, let alone anything more than that. Regardless, their circumstances had forced them to think about things they'd never considered before. Like whether they could ever develop genuine feelings for one another. This in itself made just about everything complicated.
Carson walked over to where she was standing and didn't hesitate to tug down the zipper. Cadence figured it would have been a much bigger deal had he not been so "versed" in sex as he was.
Holding up the front of her dress, she turned around and began pulling pins out of her hair with a free hand while she stared at Carson. He was working on undoing his bowtie.
"How many women have you slept with?" she asked.
Carson snapped himself in the face with the tie as he yanked it off, apparently a little taken off-balance by her question.
"Uh, is that—well, um, why—why do you want to know?"
Cadence dropped her gown, revealing an Agent Provocateur slip, and she was surprised when Carson's cheeks blossomed in a blush. He took a couple of steps back like being too close was dangerous.
"I don't—I don't see how it's—"
"Well, obviously, I've only ever slept with Ryan. And… you. There's nothing to be ashamed of, darling."
Carson turned away from her, swallowing a lump in his throat, and then replied in a faint voice.
"T-Three, plus you."
In all honesty, Cadence had expected the number to be higher. After all, Carson had quite a reputation as a Casanova. His answer, however, settled into her stomach like a little ball of relief. She tried to convince herself she was only glad because it meant there was little chance of her having contracted some kind of disease, but that sounded stupid even in her head. If she were honest with herself, she would have admitted that she was only curious about it after having seen Magdalena Sebastian in all her glory that night.
"Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?" Cadence said, to fill the silence.
With his back still facing her, Carson shrugged. "Can—Can you please put on something more decent?"
"Whatever you say, darling," said Cadence, a lilt in her voice and a viral smirk on her lips.
Carson was already laying in Cadence's bed by the time she walked out of the bathroom, dressed in a flowery pink chemise. She'd decided to have mercy on the poor boy and thrown a matching robe over her shoulders, but as far as she was concerned, she could have dressed much worse.
Carson opened his eyes and managed to stifle a groan. "Yeah, sure."
Cadence smirked. She watched him hide his pretty eyes again, and then concentrated on the ridges of his perfect, bare chest. If he wasn't such a jerk, she would have been much less difficult about making their relationship work. And so what if she was only torturing him because of his rudeness over the past week? Could anyone really blame her?
Cadence tossed her robe to the foot of the bed, and reached over to turn out the bedside lamp. It was only after she'd situated herself on her half of the bed that Carson opened his mouth again.
"Babs, I want to talk to you," he said.
His voice came out muffled, facing as he was toward the other side of the room. Laying on her back, Cadence rolled her eyes as they adjusted to the darkness.
"You'll have to turn around if you want me to be able to hear you, darling," she said.
"Oh, um, right."
Carson flipped over, onto his back like Cadence, and stared up at the ceiling as he explained himself.
"I'm sorry," he said.
Cadence's attention, now piqued, focused on the boy beside her. She saw him shift from the corner of her eye as he waited for her to say something.
"Why? I mean… for what?"
Her green gaze was pointed at the ceiling but Cadence had never been so attentive in her life. Carson turned on his side toward her and lifted his head to rest on his hand.
"For trying to ship you off to Lilith and Arthur's," he said.
Cadence's eyes snapped over to him. She realized he was being serious and the expression on his face was one of abject guilt. Reaching out, she placed a hand on his cheek, an action much softer than either of them was used to.
"I'm glad you realize why it wouldn't be a good idea," said Cadence.
Carson covered her hand with his free one and nodded. "We'll figure something else out."
There was a long pause as Cadence dropped her hand and pondered over what he had said. They had been putting off figuring out where she was going to live for the entire week, and it would soon be time for Carson and Hayden to go back to New York.
"Can I ask you something?" she said.
Carson nodded, laying back once more. Cadence scooted over until she was close enough to rest her head on his bare shoulder. Almost unconsciously, Carson wrapped his arm around her waist.
"Do you think it would be a feasible option for me to move to New York?" Cadence asked.
Carson stiffened for an imperceptible amount of time.
"Why the sudden change of heart?"
Well, for one thing, the name "Archer" flashed through her mind. If she chose to stay in town, he'd surely make her life a living hell if for no other reason than pure amusement for himself. But if she were honest, Cadence just wanted to start over in a new place, where people couldn't pass judgments on her.
"It makes sense," she said instead.
"It does seem like the natural choice, doesn't it?"
Carson sighed. "Just—Just don't get too bogged down with technicalities right this minute. We can talk about it tomorrow and work out the kinks."
Cadence nodded against his shoulder, and dropped her hand over his stomach. There was so much to think about, and they were all so busy trying to make the right decisions that no decisions were really being made. They wouldn't be able to keep putting it off forever.
"Why did you kiss me tonight, Carson?" Cadence asked, suddenly remembering that they still needed to have this conversation.
This time, Carson actually froze, his fingers tightening around the silk fabric of Cadence's chemise. She could almost feel his heartbeat quicken as he swallowed, thinking of a good answer.
"I—I didn't know what else to do… to m-make you feel confident that we could pull off f-fooling everyone," he said.
Cadence lifted her head and found herself staring into Carson's beautiful turquoise eyes in the dark. The expression on his face denoted anxiousness, but his gaze was the ocean on a calm summer day. Without allowing herself to over-think it, Cadence dropped a small kiss on his cheek and then resumed her place on his shoulder.
"That's a cop-out, but I'll take it," she said. Her fingers flitted over his stomach like raindrops, and Carson swallowed again. In the back of her mind, Cadence wondered why he got so nervous around her now, when hours ago he'd been the one to make a move. "Tell me something…"
"We'll be alright, won't we?"
Carson reached up to cup her cheek and stared up at the dark ceiling above. "Yeah. I think we will."
With that promise in mind, and Lilith and Arthur's imminent departure on the horizon, the two of them were able to sleep a little more peacefully.
When morning came, the Marshall house was anything but a pretty portrait to behold. Ethan's parents, bags packed, were preparing to leave, as Ethan had found them an early-morning flight back to Tennessee. Lilith outdid herself by being surlier and bitterer than ever before. Every other word out of her mouth was attached to some scathing remark or other, but after a few minutes of being around her, everyone in the family (including Carson) turned on their selective hearing and tuned out her harsh ramblings.
It was only as they were walking out the door with Ethan that Arthur came over to where Cadence was standing beside Carson, and pulled her aside for a moment. Carson balked a bit, watching as they walked away to a corner of the foyer.
"What is it, Grandfather?" Cadence asked.
Arthur looked at her with that somber expression that he always wore, but there was a softness about him that morning that hadn't been there through his visit.
"Cady," he started, "whatever your grandmother and the rest of the town thinks, I want you to be strong. Don't let people or circumstances hinder you in becoming the best mother you can be."
Cadence peered up at Arthur with a bit of awe in her eyes, and then nodded. "Of course, Grandfather."
He fixed her with a hard stare, and Cadence, who didn't squirm under anyone's gaze, fidgeted.
"And let Carson help you. Don't try to do this on your own. That boy will be your biggest asset."
Cadence's eyes found their way to Carson, who was standing off speaking to Ethan. Despite the rough edges around their relationship, she couldn't deny that things were much better now than they had been in the past. She looked up at Arthur and nodded.
"I know," she said.
Arthur leaned in to give her a hug, which Cadence accepted without hesitation. It wasn't often these days that she received embraces from her family, and one from Arthur was rarer even than that.
After this, Lilith and Arthur's departure was swift. Not ten minutes later, they had headed out the door with the family driver. A sudden air of relief passed through the family as their car pulled out of the driveway, but no one was as glad as Cadence when they were finally gone.
Without the threat of Lilith overhearing or cornering them every other moment, Cadence decided it was time for her and Carson to get as many things sorted out as they could before he needed to leave for New York. The previous night's discussion had only reaffirmed that they had a lot of things to work out. As such, she phoned up Ariana after lunch to make a small get together of it.
"A hot tub party?" Ariana asked.
Cadence laid back on her bed with Shakespeare laying beside her and held up her free hand to check her manicure. Dr. Peterson had told her she wouldn't be able to get any more manicures for a while, so she needed to make this one last as long as possible. She frowned when a chip became apparent on the nail of her right middle finger.
"Mhm. I already called Uncle Stanley to make sure it's okay, and he said it's fine," she said after a few seconds.
"Well, if Dr. Peterson said it's alright… Should I bring Mitchell?"
"The more the happier, I always say."
Ariana giggled. "The more the merrier, Cadence."
"Whatever the case, can you be here around five o'clock?"
Ariana paused to think about it and Cadence could almost picture her checking her ever-present Rolex.
"I sure can," she said eventually.
As Cadence opened her mouth to reply, her bedroom door opened and Carson stuck his head in to make sure it was alright for him to come inside. She gestured him in, patting the empty spot on the bed beside her.
"Fabulous, darling. It's a date, then. I'll see you at five o'clock."
Cadence hung up after saying goodbye, and then turned to Carson who was now sitting next to her.
"We're having a party!" she said.
Carson raised an eyebrow. "What, yesterday wasn't enough for you?"
Cadence smiled, shaking her head. "It's not that sort of party, darling. Let's go! You can help me pick out the menu for dinner and snacks. We have so much to do."
Cadence made to stand up, but Carson grabbed a hold of her wrist and pulled her back. "Wait. I need to talk to you."
"What is it?" Cadence asked.
Carson dropped her hand, and leaned back on his elbows. Not for the first time, Cadence realized how much his hair had grown out since Greece. Somehow, the new messiness of it suited him much better.
"I changed my flight date back to New York," he said.
"What? Why? Can you even afford to do that with school starting?" Cadence asked.
She reclaimed her seat on the bed, setting Shakespeare on the floor. The tiny dog took off to run laps around the room.
"Well, school doesn't start for us until the end of the first week of September. Hayden and I had only planned on going back early because we had some cases to look over for Ethan and Dad. Considering the present circumstances, I would say this takes priority."
"So, when are you going back, then?"
Carson smirked, a little of his sharpness coming out for the first time in too long. Cadence was almost glad to see it, as things had been a little weird since the party.
"That weekend. I have nothing I need to do before school starts except buy textbooks, so I see no reason to go any earlier," he said. "Although… If you want us to leave so badly, I can have them switch the date back…"
Cadence ignored his jab. "Us? Hayden is staying too?"
Carson nodded, saying, "Of course. He wouldn't dare leave me here alone with his baby sister being in such a vulnerable position as you are."
"Damn right. You're the kind of guy I spent years warning Cadence to stay away from, and look what good that did."
The pair on the bed turned toward the doorway, where the subject of their conversation stood holding Shakespeare in his arms. Hayden scratched the puppy behind his ears and the dog let out a squeaky little bark.
"Aw, Hayden, I'm wounded."
Hayden bent down to let Shakespeare free, and gave Carson a mocking glare. "I'm sure you are."
"That's all well and good, but we still have a party to plan. Come on, Carson. You're to be my assistant," Cadence said. She got back to her feet, and grabbed Carson's wrist as he'd done hers only minutes before.
"Party?" Hayden asked. He leaned against the doorframe, watching as his sister struggled in vain to get Carson to his feet.
"Don't be a jerk, Carson. You shouldn't make pregnant women strain themselves," Cadence said.
Carson rolled his eyes and stood up, catching Cadence when she stumbled back a little.
"Come on," he said to Hayden. "I'm sure your sister will explain about this party on the way downstairs."
When Cadence had said "party" the boys surely hadn't expected only to be hosting Ariana and her new beau. As it were, preparing for their little shindig lasted only so long as it took Cadence to explain to the chef what they would be eating that night.
It was now four-thirty and the three of them had retired to the study. Hayden was munching on—oddly—shelled peanuts, while Cadence Googled "baby names" on her laptop. It was too soon for names, she knew, but there was no harm in doing some research.
"You know, babies kind of look like peanuts, at first," Hayden said. "Especially if they're chubby."
Cadence stared at him a moment. He held up one of the offending goobers and placed it in her hands, as if proving his point.
"See? Big, round head… chubby body… baby."
She failed to see his point and glanced up at his somber face again. Hayden picked up the peanut and stared down at it.
"Yeah, I think I'll call the baby Peanut," he said, and then added, "It seems fitting."
Cadence, not one for too much patience, rolled her eyes and looked over at Carson sitting on the couch. He was concentrating on a copy of The Prince, and had apparently missed the entire conversation.
"Oh, sure, let's call our child Peanut." She paused. "Did you hear that, Carson? My brother has found us a name for the baby. It's almost as good as the one Gwyneth Paltrow came up with for hers."
Carson looked up from the book in his lap and peeled off his horn-rimmed glasses. His eyes looked bright with absent-minded concentration.
"Peanut. He wants to call it Peanut." She turned back to Hayden. "Just you wait, Bubbles. When you have a baby of your own, I'll name it something equally deplorable like… Broccoli."
"It's revenge, Babs, that's all. Revenge for all the years you've called me Bubbles. It was one time and you've never let me forget."
"One time? I think our parents will attest that it was certainly more than one time."
Carson chuckled from the other side of the room and cut in.
"She's right. Ethan's told me stories."
Hayden rolled his hazel eyes and Cadence knew he was thinking about the stories their parents told of him as a baby in the pool. It seemed he was quite the gassy toddler back in the day, causing geysers of bubbles every time they put him in the water. Cadence had been around for a time or two of these occurrences and had never let him live it down.
"Let's just hope, for Peanut's sake, that your baby doesn't have to be called Bubbles, although I'd probably be eager enough to give up the nickname," said Hayden.
Carson grinned a bit and was about to reply when the study doors were pushed open by Ariana.
"Hello, children," she said.
Beside her in the doorway stood Mitchell Ryder, as adorable as ever, holding a beach bag of (presumably) his and Ariana's swimsuits.
"Oh, thank goodness you're here, darling. I was just in the process of trying to convince Bubbles not to call our baby 'Peanut.'"
Mitchell took an awkward step into the study and, scratching the back of his neck, addressed Cadence and Carson. "Congratulations, by the way. I didn't know you were… married."
Ariana followed him into the room and shut the double doors behind her. When Cadence raised an eyebrow, she shrugged.
"I hadn't gotten around to explaining things just yet. Why don't you catch him up, Babs? You're so much better at it than I am."
Carson, giving up his book as a lost cause, closed it and put it aside on the end table beside him. He waited to hear how Cadence would piece together the story this time.
"… And so, here we are. Pretending to be married," she finished, some ten minutes later.
Mitchell's jaw was slack and he was mute for the moment as he absorbed what he'd been told.
"And on that note," Ariana said, folding her hand into his free one, "let's get out to the hot tub and start scheming."
No one in the room objected to this suggestion, and they all separated to change into their bathing suits. Carson and Hayden adopted Mitchell and took him upstairs with them.
"He's so cute, Ari!" Cadence said. "You did well."
Ariana blushed, a rare occurrence in and of itself, and nodded. "Yeah, I think so, too. You don't mind that I invited him along, do you?"
"No, I think he'll fit right in."
By the time they had changed, the boys were already out in the pool, swimming around while the jets in the hot tub poured out warm water. One of the maids had set out a few trays of food and drinks for them, as well as fresh towels and sun block.
Mitchell was making good use of the latter as he stood off to the side of the pool applying liberal amounts of UV protection.
"Ari, your boyfriend's a regular vampire," Hayden called out. "Even Edward Cullen couldn't sparkle through that much sun block."
Ariana stuck up her middle finger at Hayden. She turned to Mitchell, who had abruptly stopped putting on sun tan lotion.
"You don't worry about him, okay, Mitch? Put on as much sun block as you want." She checked the temperature of the hot tub. "You're sure Dr. Peterson told you this was okay, right, Cadence?"
Cadence nodded, pulling her cover-up over her head and revealing a brand new La Perla bikini, navy blue in color with patterns of swirls and tropical flowers on it in white. She had decided to take advantage of her small figure before she bloated up like a blowfish, and the result was none too shabby.
"He only said to keep the temperature a bit low and to get out if I start getting overly warm," she explained.
Ariana slipped into the hot tub with Cadence following soon after, and it was only a matter of moments before the boys joined them as well. Carson sat down right beside his "fiancée," shaking a bit of cold pool water out on her dry shoulders.
"Very mature," Cadence said.
"Babs, I thought I told you not to wear that bikini around other people," Hayden said, eyeing her warily.
"Oh, don't worry, man. I don't mind it at all," Carson replied automatically. He ducked when Hayden reached for some Hershey's Kisses from one of the trays and tossed them at him.
"So, as this is a business meeting," Ariana said, taking on an authoritative tone. She gave the boys pointed glares and Hayden relented in his assault, "let's get down to business. What's our first topic of discussion?"
Cadence leaned back against the edges of the tub and replied, "My living situation… I could be homeless for all I know."
"Well," Carson started, "were you serious last night… about New York?"
Cadence lifted her head and peered over at him beside her. He wore such a hopeful expression that she couldn't have changed her mind even if she wanted to. It seemed there was really no other option.
"Yes… I was. I mean, it really does seem like the most natural choice, doesn't it?"
Carson nodded. He turned back to the others.
"We're thinking she should move up there and live with me and Hayden."
Cadence tuned out after this, as Hayden and Ariana gave their positive reassurances that it was a good idea. She closed her eyes, feeling the jets of the hot tub as they massaged her back. Then, her thoughts turned to the boy sitting beside her.
She had decided that he touched her too much these days, and it almost seemed like he didn't know he was doing it. Even now, Carson's hand was placed unconsciously, possessively, on her thigh. And Cadence—well, Cadence was just another story altogether. Even with her pregnancy as a reminder of all the reasons she hated him, she couldn't help but cover his hand with hers. They were in this together, after all, regardless of the circumstances. It was the type of unattached physical comfort that both of them needed in this situation. The little touches here and there were a sign that they'd grown more comfortable around each other, and while they weren't quite friends, Cadence could admit to herself that they weren't quite enemies anymore either.
"What's next?" Ariana asked a few minutes later.
"School," Cadence mumbled. She leaned her head against Carson's shoulder. "I think I should do my first half of this year in Florida. It would give me an opportunity to get everything together in time to move over Christmas Break."
"Do you think that maybe you could hold off on finishing the second half of your senior year until after the baby is born? You could enjoy it after that, you know? Live it the way it should be," Carson said.
"So… what? I finish the first semester here in Florida and then I move up to New York with you and Hayden and wait until the next spring to finish up?"
"Think about it, Babs. You'll be a balloon by January and you're not even due until the end of March," Hayden pointed out.
In the background, Ariana was nodding her head. "They're right. It's your best option. You could spend the gap with the baby and acclimating yourself with everything. Maybe even do summer school."
Cadence bit her lip. As much as she hated the thought of graduating a year late, what other choice did she have? And besides, whether she wanted to attend school or not, she'd have to take time off after the baby was born anyway. What was the sense in starting a semester only to have to drop out a month or two into it?
Hayden and Carson both nodded.
"You could even try being a part-time student," Hayden said. "Or have a tutor come teach you at home. You don't necessarily have to drop everything, but we'd need you to be at home sometimes, while we're at school and work."
"Between all of our schedules, we could manage to have someone at the apartment with the baby all the time. Ideally, we wouldn't even have to hire a nanny," Carson said.
"Fine. I'm content with that. I'll do some more research, then, and decide on the best option as the time for that draws nearer."
"Alright, it's settled. One semester here, moving over break and baby in the spring," Ariana said. "Next?"
Cadence groaned. "Our parents."
"What's wrong with your parents?" Mitchell asked, speaking up at last.
"They haven't spoken to each other since we told them about the baby… we need to come up with a foolproof plan to get them talking again," Carson said. He turned to Hayden. "I feel like my dad will be a harder nut to crack than Ethan."
"Why don't we just set up a dinner?" Hayden suggested. He grabbed a couple of grapes from the trays and popped them into his mouth. "You should just tell them you need to talk to them all about something to get them under one roof. Then, play intermediary to get them to sort things out."
"That's fine with me. We'll have to do it soon," Carson said. "Babs and I will set it up on our own."
Ariana nodded, satisfied. "Anything else on your mind, kiddies?"
Cadence, starting to feel the effects of the hot water, pulled her hand away from Carson's and stood up.
"I need air," she said, grabbing a towel.
"I think that's all, Ariana," Carson said, but his eyes were focused on Cadence who had begun to walk over to a lounge chair.
"Babs, you okay?" Hayden asked.
Cadence turned back to them and nodded. "I'm fine. It was just too hot. I'm better now."
But it was more than just the heat which had gotten to her. They had been putting off all the planning for so long that actually doing it had been more taxing than Cadence had thought it would be. Having discussed it all, reality was beginning to set in, and she was learning how much the dynamics of her life would be shifting.
Carson had promised her that they'd be alright. But would they really?
A/N: I apologize for all the word vomit in the second half of this chapter (and apparently in this God awful long A/N)... I really don't know what the hell my fingers were pooping out towards the end. I'm running on like... an hour of sleep right now but this chapter was harassing me, so I wanted to finish it and get it posted. I really do apologize. I wrote most of this chapter right now, in the last two hours, so I'll probably cringe a bit when I go back and read it later. Oh, well... It's only a draft. Bee tee dub (btw), I had the brilliant idea of going on the Columbia University website (I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner) to check the date of the beginning of their fall semester, which really is in the first week of September. I think I'd originally said the third week of August (which is when MY university starts fall semester), so it'll be inconsistent, but I'll fix it all later. Also, I don't know if I answered reviews. If I haven't, I'll do that sometime this week in between exams. And uhm... what was with Carson being so flipping weird in this chapter? I'm sorry... he started out so cute (which is totally OOC) and then ended up back as douchey, serious Carson. I don't know. Again, I apologize for the mutiny of my fingers against my brain. They have a mind of their own. As always, thanks for your reviews! You guys are awesome. OH! I'm not going to try to count how many chapters are left because... well... I keep changing things. As of right this minute, I have one more chapter and an epilogue left, but if the next chapter comes out as a beast like this one, I might chop it in half... so... let's just say this story is near its end and leave it at that. Okie? OKIE. Since my brain is currently sloshing around in my head like pumpkin juice, please point out in your review any mistakes, unfinished sentences, random scene jumps, etc. that you noticed because I did major surgery on parts of this baby and I don't know if I sewed it all back up correctly.
References: In case anyone is wondering, Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter Apple. Yes. Legitimately. IMDB tells me her full name is Apple Blythe Alison Martin. Ahh... Celebs.