From Bad to Worse

"How much can one woman buy in a matter of just a few hours?" Conner complained as he hauled Emily's many shopping bags into the trunk of the porsche. After relieving his arms of the bags, he shut the trunk and then turned to look at Emily, who was standing by the back right passenger door with an innocent smile plastered on her face.

"Obviously a lot," said Harper, beating Emily to the punch. The elder woman wore a small smile, her mind still distracted from the night's earlier events. "Get in, you two. We need to get home before sunrise."

Still bewildered at the shopping abilities of the younger vampire, Conner climbed into the front passenger seat, Emily seated behind him. "How did I even let you two convince me to come anyway?" he asked as he relaxed in the seat. His hand moved quickly as he turned the radio on and flipped the station. Emily visibly frowned as rock music began blaring through the speakers, but she remained quiet, knowing good and well Conner wasn't going to turn it back no matter how much she whined about it.

"Emily needed someone to carry her bags," Harper said with a grin as she pulled out of the parking lot. The sky was beginning to lighten, signalling their curfew. "Besides, you were bored. As I recall, you asked to come along." She glanced to Conner out of the corner of her eye.

Conner leaned the seat back a bit, but not enough to intrude much on Emily's personal space. His expression was as if he hadn't heard Harper's response, though she knew he had. Harper merely shook her head and returned her eyes to the road.

For the the rest of the ride back to the house, the music from the radio was the only sound in the vehicle. It wasn't until the car came to a stop in the garage did all three vampires made similar sounds of annoyance. There was one new addition to the collection of cars in the oversized garage, and it did not belong to the Callahan Clan. However, it wasn't unfamiliar to the Callahans.

"Richard," Conner said flatly as he got out of the car.

"And Vanessa," Harper added shutting the driver's side door. Emily was at her sister's side in a second wearing a frown that could also be labled as a pouting lip.

"Today is really gonna suck, isn't it?" Emily asked, her arms tight at her sides.

"Yes," came the simultaneous response from Harper and Conner.

"Let's get it over with then," Emily sighed. She grabbed a few of her bags from the trunk while Harper carried the rest into the house. Conner led the way, holding open the doors and also trying to determine where exactly their company was in the house.

"Living room," he whispered to the women as they entered the back door.

Most everyone in the house were able to tell the others had returned as soon as the door opened. However, Maxwell was somehow able to hold on to Richard and Vanessa's attention enough to keep them from greeting the returning Callahans. This was something Harper, Emily, and Conner were highly grateful for, and something they took advantage of. All three hurried up the stairs and to their own rooms. Conner said goodnight to his sisters before retreating to his bedroom. At first Emily went to her own room, but that turned out to only be for the sake of depositing her bags and changing into a nightgown. A minute later she appeared at Harper's door.

"Can I please sleep with you tonight, sis?" Emily pleaded as she skipped across her older sister's room.

Harper shut her bedroom door before moving to her closet. "Fine, but just for tonight. I know how uncomfortable Richard makes you." As she spoke, Harper changed out of her clothes and into sweatpants and a tank top. After brushing her long hair and braiding it back, the elder woman climbed into bed. Emily was already there on the left side of the queen sized bed.

"Thanks, sis," she said before kissing Harper quickly on the cheek. She then rolled over so that her back was facing Harper and proceeded to fall asleep.

Unfortunately, sleep did not come so easily for Harper. As much as she wanted to, she couldn't keep her eyes shut. Everytime she closed her eyes, the faces of Richard, Vanessa, and the rest of the members of the Collins clan flashed across her mind. Normally they didn't bother Harper this badly, but just knowing that they were purposefully risking the safety of every vampire in the area made their presence even more unnerving than usual.

Once again, Harper found herself losing track of the time. When her senses caught onto the scent of Elizabeth, Harper took the time to glance at the clock on the bedside table. After seeing the red glowing numbers reading 8:12, she sighed heavily and sat up in bed. She knew Elizabeth was coming to speak to her, so Harper decided to save her some time. Being careful not to wake Emily, Harper snuck out of her bedroom and met Elizabeth at the top of the stairs.

Elizabeth was not surprised to see Harper waiting for her at the top of the staircase. Instead, she seemed slightly concerned. "You have not slept yet, have you?" she asked in her motherly tone.

Harper leaned against the railing with her arms crossed over her chest. "Neither have you," she pointed out, her own tone light considering who was still sitting downstairs.

Elizabeth's full lips turned up into a small, gentle smile. Her smile always made her look even more beautiful. Harper and Emily both agreed that their mother figure was the most beautiful woman they'd ever seen. And of course all the men in the household agreed, too.

"No, I haven't," she admitted. "Though I'm ready to sleep." Her eyes moved, only slightly, in the direction of hers and Max's bedroom.

"But?" Harper offered.

Elizabeth's smile took on a guilty edge. "I'm sorry, dear, but Max wishes to speak with you. He had a feeling you were awake and didn't want to wait."

Harper forced a smile for Elizabeth's sake. She knew it wasn't Elizabeth's fault, so she wouldn't show her displeased expressions to her. "Thanks, Elizabeth. Now, you go to bed." She gave her mother figure a quick hug as she passed before descending the stairs.

Harper found Maxwell sitting in the living room in the exact same spot she and Emily had found him earlier after returning home from the crime scene. Something told the vampiress that Maxell hadn't moved from that spot in quite a while. More than a little curious why he wanted to speak with her, Harper came to a stop a few feet from her father figure.

"You wished to speak with me?" she asked, her arms now folded behind her back.

Maxwell looked up from the coffee table into the waiting eyes of his eldest daughter. Anyone could tell just how stressed out the vampire was. His eyes were darker than usual, and his face paler if that was possible. He needed to feed to lighten his spirits, but Harper figured feeding was the last thing on Maxwell's mind right now.

"I'm sorry to keep you from your sleep, Harper," Maxwell said as he leaned back in the cushioned seat.

"No problem, Max," Harper assured him with a shrug of her shoulders. "I wasn't asleep yet anyway, as you probably guessed."

Maxwell sighed heavily and closed his eyes for a long moment. "I wish it was indeed no problem," he muttered. As he sat there with his eyes closed, Harper moved to sit on the couch at an angle from him. She remained quiet until Maxwell opened his dark eyes again. "I'm so sorry, Harper, but there seems to be no other way around this."

Instantly Harper became worried. If this was bothering Maxwell this badly, then whatever 'it' was had to be pretty awful. Despite the half of her that didn't want to know, Harper found her voice long enough to ask, "What's wrong?"

Maxwell leaned forward and took one of Harper's hands in his. "I have agreed to allow two members of Richard's family to stay with us." There was a long pause, during which Harper's body tensed. She could almost read Maxwell's very thoughts before he formed them into words. And what she heard confirmed the fact that it was indeed awful. "Lucas and Alyssa will be staying here for a while in order to learn to control their bloodlust."

The End

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