MIA AND ROMAN were assigned to the surveillance van and were just loading it with gear when Grace, Andrew, and Deidra returned to Coupler Ranch. Mia was the first to see them walking up the long driveway, Grace hand in hand with Andrew and Deidra a bit ahead of them, looking rather pasty.
“Oh, thank God,” Mia exclaimed when she saw them. She threw whatever she was carrying down at Roman’s feet and ran towards them.
“Where are Gem and Malcolm?” Mia asked concerned. The three looked at each other and finally Andrew explained that Gem hadn’t been feeling well and had wanted some time with Malcolm.
“If they’re not here within the hour, we’ll go back and find them,” Deidra said. Joined by Roman and the head of Coupler's security, they were escorted to Sire Coupler’s office. He was relieved to see Grace but was concerned that Gem was lagging behind. A little over an hour later, just before Deidra threatened to send out a search party, Gem and Malcolm walked into Kevin’s office, their clothing muddy and torn.
“What the hell happened to you two?” Roman was the first to ask.
“Nothing you need to be concerned about. We conducted a few experiments, that’s all,” Malcolm replied in a tone that meant, That’s all the explanation you’re going to get.
“Well, wash up and be back here in fifteen minutes. I have a guest here who’s anxious to see you,” Kevin said tapping his pen on the desk as if irritated.
As Malcolm and Gem turned to leave, Meghan walked into the office and gasped.
“Oh, my goodness, you’re safely back.” Meghan embraced Gem first as she was the closest.
“Mum?” Gem said surprised.
“Mum?” Grace cried out. She ran towards them and hugged Meghan, too. “What are you doing here?”
“Checking up on you guys. Where on earth—Look at you! What have you been rolling in?” Meghan asked as she saw Gem’s state.
“It’s nothing,” Gem replied, blushing with embarrassment.
“Nothing? This doesn’t look like nothing.” Concerned, Meghan pointed at Gem’s torn shirt and pants. Then she noticed the man standing next to Gem was in the same state.
“Not now, please, Mum. I’ll talk to you later,” Gem urged.
“No. You’ll come with me now; we’ll talk while you clean up.” Meghan firmly took Gem by the arm. “Please excuse us, Kevin. We’ll be back soon.” She directed her daughter out of the office and up to her room. Closing the door behind them, Meghan said, “You’re changing, aren’t you?”
Gem was surprised at her mother’s comment and was unable to reply. “Aren’t you?” Meghan raised her voice a little, not out of anger but out of fear for her daughter.
“Changing into what?” Gem asked nervously, unsure what to admit to.
Meghan noticed her daughter was taken aback by her question. She walked up to her and cupped her face in her hands. “Gemma Anne O’Sullivan, I gave birth to you, I raised you, and I watched you grow, and all that time I kept a secret. I should have spoken to you and explained things, but how could I when I didn’t understand them myself? So on the advice of your great-grandfather we all left things as they were, but I made sure we spoke every day, just in case you needed me. This was a mistake, and I realize it now. Being part human and part vampire is not something to be taken lightly, and I should have tried to find help from someone. I’m so sorry,” Meghan sobbed.
“Mum, please don’t cry. I do have help and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” Gem replied as she hugged her mother tightly. Now she understood her mother’s daily calls: it was her way of checking up on her and making sure she wasn’t changing or in need of help.
“Really? How has Mia been helping you?” Meghan asked surprised.
“It’s not Mia; it’s another hybrid.”
Meghan stood back and looked at her daughter. Gem’s eyes had lit up and her cheeks were flushed. “Oh, it’s not the gentleman who looked as if he had rolled in—Oh, Gemma Anne, what have you done?” Meghan asked with a smile.
“Nothing,” Gem said quickly.
“So who is he?’ Meghan asked, not recognizing the man her daughter had rolled in the mud with.
“He’s Lord Malcolm Murphy, a hybrid and head of security of the International Vampire Council,” Gem said proudly. She sincerely hoped her mother would approve of him.
“You’ve fallen in love with royalty now, haven’t you?” Meghan looked closely at her daughter. “I truly hope you don’t believe losing your virginity to him will make him love you back, because that would be a terrible risk,” Meghan said sadly.
“Mum, I didn’t—”
“Gemma, please don’t,” Meghan interrupted her before she could try to cover up whatever she had done with a lie; that would be insulting. So, to change the direction of the conversation, she walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower. “You can get into something of mine.” Meghan indicated toward the chest of drawers.
Gem nodded and walked to the bathroom, but before she closed the door, she asked, “Mum, how did you know?”
“I was once young and very foolish, too, and I had my heart broken many times before I met your father.”
“Did you lose your virginity with Dad?” Gem asked shyly.
Meghan smiled, “No, the man who took my virginity was my first love. He never knew this, but because of what he was, and still is, we can never be together,” she replied and walked out of the room.
Gem closed the door, undressed, and walked into the shower. As the water cascaded over her bruised body, she realized that she had learnt a lot that day. The most surprising information was about her mother. While she appreciated that her mother’s destiny was not necessary hers, she knew that she could learn certain lessons. Expecting Malcolm to feel the same as she did would be unrealistic: he was centuries old and had many experiences of life under his belt, so to speak. What was she going to do about this? Should she just take events as they came and get hurt like her mum did, or should she make sure she was busy enough not to get too involved with him? Maybe he would go back to Europe now that everyone was back safely, but that was doubtful. Sire Raymond Pitout was still out there, unscathed and un-reprimanded, and what about the information she and Andrew had gathered? Gem swore under her breath as she realized that information was still on the computers in the Vipers’ laboratory. The IVC couldn’t get hold of that information—not yet, at least—and what would they want it for, anyway? Gem rinsed off the soap and got dressed in the first thing she could find.