“Hunt,” my Emma said from the floor where we were playing a game of checkers, “lookin’ at your computer won’t make them call any faster. And,” she pouted a little, “it’s your turn too.”
I couldn’t help but to go back to my place on the floor. My Emma had made a good move, and it took me a minute to see where I could go next to make sure she couldn’t jump any of my pieces. My daddy had taught me to always think about the move the person I was playing would make after me, and because of that, I could usually beat Emma at checkers—not that I did every time. Actually, I always tried to pass along to her all the hints Daddy gave me for playing. She was eight, and I was only seven, but her daddy, Sam, didn’t play checkers much, so I made sure Emma learned the stuff I did from my daddy.
Because of that, we were both pretty good at the game.
“You moved where I wanted to move!” she said with frustration after I lifted my finger from my piece. She glared at me, “You didn’t read my mind, did ya?”
I smiled. She always said that I musta been readin’ her mind when I made a good move, but I never read my Emma’s mind—not even the first day I met her. I’d wanted to. I really had! She’d been so pretty and so nice, and I didn’t have any kid friends back then. I didn’t have any friends at all, except for Daddy, and he was only Uncle Eric back then.
I’d never even hung out with a kid before—‘cause of my mind gift.
That’s why I had really wanted to read Emma’s mind when I met her. I wanted to know if she liked me or if she thought I was weird. But I didn’t do it. I was able to stop myself, both ‘cause something inside of me felt it wasn’t right and ‘cause she was a little harder to read than anyone else around me, except for Daddy and the other vampires. I couldn’t read them at all.
Except for maybe one time.
I was pretty sure that I heard one thing comin’ from Daddy’s head. It was the very first day I met him. That mean fairy, Claudette, had taken Aunt Sookie and my mommy away, and Daddy was still trapped outside. He was tryin’ to get out from under the silver chains. He told me not to worry and that he was gonna get free. He promised that he wasn’t gonna leave me. He said those things out loud. I’d heard them with my ears.
But then he said something else that felt different; that’s why I was pretty sure it was him thinkin’ something. He said, “I’m trying min kära. I’m trying.” He only ever called Aunt Sookie that, so that’s why I figured he musta been thinkin’ it. But that’s the only vampire thought I ever heard, so I never mentioned it to anyone—except for Daddy, of course.
He said it was okay and that I should tell him—but only him or Aunt Sookie—if I ever heard anything else from a vampire’s head. He seemed serious, so I kept that time a secret, even from Emma and Sissy.
Luckily, since my shields weren’t good when I was five, Emma had always been almost as hard for me to hear as a vampire, even when I held her hand. I’d seen colors in her head, but I’d never heard a thought, and now that I was seven and really good with my shields, I made sure that I kept myself out of her head. I liked it when Emma talked to me about stuff out loud.
I reached over and brushed some of my Emma’s soft brown curls behind her ear. It had fallen from her ponytail, and I knew she didn’t like it when that happened.
She gave me one of the smiles that she gave only to me, and my heart went a little faster. I couldn’t say why that always happened when she smiled at me, but I liked it. It was the reason why she was my Emma.
“Can I go to your prom with you one day?” I asked since it’d been on my mind ever since we decided that Daddy and Mamma—I mean Aunt Sookie—should have their own prom.
Her forehead wrinkled a little as she thought about it. “They have a prom for ninth graders. That’s six years from now, and I’ll be fourteen then.”
“Should I ask again then?” I asked, trying not to let my voice seem scared.
“No!” she said quickly, looking at me as if I was crazy.
For a moment, my heart sank right into the floor.
She shook her head at the sad look on my face. “Of course I want you to go with me, silly!” she chided me. “I just have to decide what color dress I wanna wear.”
Immediately, I felt better. I’d been holding my breath, but now I could breathe again.
After a few seconds, she looked like she had a light bulb come on over her head. “I’ll wear green!” she said excitedly.
I smiled. She knew that green was my favorite color, and it also looked pretty with her brown eyes and brown hair. Of course, she was pretty in everything, but green was the best.
Her forehead crinkled again. “But what kind of flower is green?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “But Sissy says pink goes with everything.”
Her nose crinkled.
“White?” I offered. “Or maybe there’s a green flower. Daddy would know. Or Aunt Sookie. Or Uncle Claude. They’re real smart.”
She nodded. “Okay. I’ll wear white flowers—if you can’t find green. But it’s your job to get them for me. The boy brings the flowers. The girl wears the pretty dress.”
I nodded. I’d have to write down what she said later so I wouldn’t forget.
Just as I was about ready to tell her all about the tree house my daddy and I were gonna build in the tree Emma and I first climbed together, my computer beeped. Excitedly, I stood up, and Emma was right behind me. I pushed the button that I knew would connect me to my daddy and Aunt Sookie’s call.
Emma held my hand as I let out a sigh of relief at seeing Daddy and Mamma—I mean, Aunt Sookie. They were safe and sound.
“Hey sweetie,” Aunt Sookie said, waving at me.
“Hey Aunt Sookie. Hi Daddy,” I said excitedly as I waved back.
“Good evening, Emma. Hello min son,” Daddy said with a smile on his face.
“You look so pretty,” Emma said to Aunt Sookie. “Does Mr. N like your dress?”
I smiled. My Emma had always called my daddy Mr. N.”
“Thanks, honey,” Aunt Sookie said to my Emma as she winked at us. “Yep, he sure does.”
I grinned. Aunt Sookie did look really pretty. She was smiling, and so was my daddy. He looked happy, and his eyes were smiling too.
“What have you done today, min son,” Daddy asked.
“Well,” I answered, “Emma came over tonight, and we swam in the pool ‘cause it’s so hot. And now we’re just playin’ games. Oh,” I added, “Uncle Lala made spaghetti tonight, and I practiced my times tables with Miranda when we had school today.”
Daddy nodded at me. He was still smiling “Did you remember your practice?” he asked.
I nodded. Since Daddy and Aunt Sookie were on their play-date, we hadn’t been able to practice our swords like we usually did, but I was still able to go through the moves Daddy had already taught me. “Batanya and Breeta watched me earlier today to make sure I was doin’ my moves right, and they even taught me some cool Britlingen moves after that!”
“I look forward to learning them from you, min son,” Daddy said.
I shook my head and sighed. “Sorry, Daddy. Batanya said I couldn’t show them to you. She said they were top-secret moves only Britlingens know, so now I’m a,” I paused, trying to remember what Batanya had said, “ornery Britlingen. She said I would need them if I ever had to fight a bad vampire, right Breeta?” I asked over my shoulder.
“Correct,” Breeta said.
Daddy chuckled. “Well then—it looks like you will have to start doing some more secret training with Batanya and Breeta so that you can learn even more from them—since you are now an honorary Britlingen.”
“That’s right,” I said. “Honorary!”
“Though ornery might work too,” he said back with a wink.
I smiled. I just knew my daddy would be happy when he found out Batanya and Breeta had taught me some secret cool stuff. My daddy was pretty awesome that way!
Emma whispered into my ear and I nodded. “Emma and me think it’s time for the dancin’ to start,” I smiled.
Aunt Sookie giggled. “Me too, Hunt. Your daddy is a great dancer.”
“You’ll be home tomorrow night?” I asked Daddy as Aunt Sookie started fiddling with something on the computer.
Daddy nodded. “We will be with you before your bedtime, min son, so you may have another practice with Batanya and Breeta if you wish.”
“Cool,” I said. I liked my practices with my daddy best, but Batanya and Breeta were good warriors too.
I held Emma’s hand a little tighter as Aunt Sookie blew me a kiss and Daddy told me that they would say goodnight before they turned off the camera. Aunt Sookie did something more with the computer, and then the picture changed a little, so I figured that the camera Molly sent was what was sending us the picture now.
“It’s pretty,” Emma whispered to me.
I nodded. It was pretty. There were lots of candles around the room. Daddy told me that he’d be takin’ me with him and Aunt Sookie on their next visit to the cabin, and I was lookin’ forward to it ‘cause I knew it was a special place.”
We listened as one of Bubba’s songs—the one that Aunt Sookie said her and Daddy danced to before—came on. I smiled as Aunt Sookie and Daddy came into the picture. They both waved at me, and then they looked at each other and smiled. Aunt Sookie took my daddy’s hand and he leaned in toward her. And, then, they were dancin’.
Emma’s hand squeezed mine.
“I’ve never seen people dancin’ before,” I said quietly as we watched Daddy and Aunt Sookie move around in the picture. “Except in movies and on TV,” I corrected myself. “But it wasn’t like this.”
“I saw my mom and my dad, Sam, dance once,” Emma sighed as she leaned her head against my shoulder. Since I was tall already—like my daddy—she fit just right. And I liked it when she leaned against me.
“We’ll dance like that at your prom one day,” I said with certainty.
I felt her head nodding against my shoulder.
“Your daddy and mamma almost look like they’re floating,” Emma said quietly as we continued to watch them.
“They just might be,” I remarked. “Daddy can fly,” I grinned, “and Mamma—I mean Aunt Sookie—makes him wanna fly.”
“He was smilin’ somethin’ fierce, Hunt,” my Emma said to me as her head sunk deeper into my shoulder. I put my arm around her shoulder.
“He was,” I agreed. “He was smilin’ like I’ve never seen him smilin’ before.” I breathed in and out deeply, taking in Emma’s smell and feeling a lot of relief. I always knew my daddy was gonna be okay. He’d been sad when Aunt Sookie was gone. And he’d been nervous since she’d been back, watchin’ over her like I was watchin’ over him. But even through the video, I knew now that he was gonna be fine ‘cause his eyes were all the way happy.
“Emma?” I said as we watched Daddy and Aunt Sookie dance another dance.
“Yeah Hunt?” she asked.
“I’m gonna love you like Daddy loves Aunt Sookie one day.”
She laughed next to me. “Hunt?”
“You already do, silly,” she said.
And she was right.
A/N: I hope you liked this little look into Hunter’s head. It was actually quite the challenge to write. It’s hard to get into the head of a seven-year-old boy! I was trying to channel my nephew. To me, Hunter is kind of an old soul, and b/c of his telepathy, he’s been forced to “grow up” faster, but he’s also just a kid.