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Dracula Untold: A Story of a Love and Soul Reborn

Chapter Text

Vlad walked along the busy market having just finished meeting with a potential client for his company, Delca Industries. Vlad was the CEO of a major Architecture company, and had branches in London England, another in Paris and the main and larger branch in Romania. Vlad found over the centuries that without the distraction of fighting in wars and protecting his people as their prince, that he had a love for art and architecture. He discovered a talent for drawing, occasionally people yet mostly buildings around him or the idea or two that would sometimes pop into his head when certain inspiration struck him.

He found some form of peace just sitting gazing at paintings being able to see the fine strokes of the brush the artist had used, details the human eye could never have a hope of seeing. He had also observed the changes that the structure of buildings had undergone, how though the ages buildings had gone from stone castles to two story stone, wood and brick buildings to shiny ultramodern chrome, steel, and glass high-rise buildings.

Vlad had discovered his love of art and that he had a talent for drawing back in the sixteenth century when he had found himself not only lonely and ill at ease with grief but deeply bored, not an excellent combination Vlad had discovered at the time. He had established the company twelve years ago after taking online classes along with night classes for architecture, art and design and in business back in the nineteen nineties. He had needed something to occupy his time and had earned him a degree in his chosen field of study.

Vlad took pride in the fact he had accomplished it legally and something he had earned and had not had to forge, even if it had taken him almost a decade due to doing it online and only attending night classes and not those in the daylight hours. He took pride in the fact not only did he run the company but also there was more than a few buildings out there in the world which he himself had designed.

Vlad was able to work around his issue with the sun to an extent. Many of his meetings were via video conference or phone call, and on the occasion that it was necessary for him to attend face-to-face contact with investors or potential clients he would keep track of the weather, mostly arranging appointments or meetings during cloudy rainy days. If that method of getting around his deadly reaction to the sun failed then he always sent his much-trusted CFO, Renfield in his place.

Renfield knew of his employers’ condition of being undead and being the infamous Dracula. He insisted on calling Vlad Master in private no matter how Vlad had tried to dissuade him of the habit, though they did come to a reluctant agreement on Renfields part that if he insisted giving Vlad such a formal address then he was to call him Sir in company of others. Vlad was nobodies master, and felt being or acting as such took away from someone’s freedom, and freedom for someone who was taken at a young age whipped and tortured into becoming a soldier, the much feared Vlad the Impaler, then yes freedom of choice was a big deal for Vlad.

Vlad was exhausted, not physically, no, emotionally, having spent five centuries mourning for his beloved wife and their precious son. Vlad could not help but think bitterly even after all of those centuries of loneliness and grief that hindsight really was 20/20 vision. If he could have known what would be, he surely would have revaluated his past choices more clearly and carefully. For one he would have taken Ingeras horse riding regardless of it being the Easter holidays, would have insisted Mirena and he take Ingeras away for Easter just the three of them as a family, to hell with everyone and everything else.

However, unfortunately even knowing what he now did, Vlad had loved his people and had taken his duty as prince seriously regardless that those same people had tried to burn him and forsaking his sacrifice for their safety. Even with that knowledge of his former people, still he believed and taken to heart the words ‘That actions committed without thought have far reaching and unforeseen consequences’.

Over the centuries spent thinking if only he had been quicker and had not stopped to dispose of that bastard Turk when he had landed on top of the monastery, but instead taken immediate action and grabbed hold of Mirena’s hands and pulled her up before the tile had completely given out and sending her plunging to her certain death. He had wondered countless times over the centuries whether there had been another option where he could have turned back human, Mehmed defeated, and the war ended. Yet deep down knew the possibility of returning human and Mehmed killing not only himself but also Mirena before riding off with their son after his soldiers slaughtered his people.

However, none the less no matter how he re-examined his actions how he would have done something different, anything at all different, he still came to the same and unfortunate conclusion, without Mirena’s sacrifice he would have returned human and Mehmed would have surely won and taken their son. Taken and trained him to be a violent and blood lusting solider taught how to kill without mercy, to hunger and crave for the kill. He would never regret not turning Ingeras over to Mehmed, never could he ever want or lived with himself if he had allowed his son to be taken and raised to be a killer, a monster just like his father.

Vlad sighed as he continued to walk along the large London market on the way back from a business meeting. The weather was overcast that day, naturally he had somewhat influenced it for the continued good of his health. Renfield was unavailable had been sent on a business trip to Athens scouting out a potential client. Vlad could not attend he was needed in London to make certain a deal with a more high profile client went through without a hitch, nothing would be accomplished otherwise. Besides travelling by aeroplane was ill advised when the journey took as long as it did and part of the travelling conducted during day light hours, equals scorched or worse yet a terribly burnt and permanently dead Vlad, neither option greatly appealed to the vampire.

As he continued to walk along passing though the crowded market, passing countless people, all who were oblivious to the being that currently walked among them, he made a mental note to head out to feed the very moment the sun set that day. Being surrounded by all those people and picking up the scent of their blood combined was somewhat taxing even on his centuries of hard earned control.

Just as he was passing a stall that sold truly stunning and fragrant blooms of all kinds, was when a scent caught his attention and very familiar scent, which he had not smelt in over five hundred years. However, he could not help but quickly take note as stopped to a standstill, of the fact at the same time there was a definite masculine undertone to the familiar and much missed smell, which was enough to both confuse and intrigue Vlad.

After the scent caught his attention, next it was the warm Irish tones brimming with amusement saying, "What that much for two small bunches of flowers, honestly?" Something strong compelled him to turn in the direction that the scent and the voice had come from. He turns to see a young handsome looking dark brown haired man of average height stood at the stall pointing to the flower baby’s-breath.

Vlad discreetly eyed the other man and it is, as he looks up from the large array of blooms that Vlad instantly and noticeably taken back. His breath would have surely caught in his throat had he still need of it, as he sees the other man's eyes and realises with a breathless and startling clarity that he has not seen eyes so blue and of such a shade and shape since his beloved Mirena. If the scent was not enough to remind him of his long dead beloved wife then the eyes surely were. On top of that, some of the younger man's features resembled a more masculine undertone of Mirena. Vlad wondered how such a turn of events was possible was it some kind of coincidence or was it something else, something decidedly unexpected.

Vlad continues to gaze in both longing and puzzlement at the young man, when what he heard said by the man next shocked Vlad to his very core. “Could you please write these words on the card and put it with the bunch of Lilacs and Baby’s-breath?”, ‘Why think separately of this life and the next.’ Vlad unfroze and before he can stop himself and think twice about what exactly he thought he was doing and was hoping to gain from such actions, even what possibly compelled him so strongly, Vlad finished the last of the words before the other man could, “When one is born from the last.”

Vlad inwardly cursed himself as the younger man let out a quite gasp, yet Vlad with his extra sensitive hearing heard him perfectly as he turned in his direction. Vlad for some strange and unexplained reason felt blessed once again to hear the same warm Irish tones he had first heard as the man said to him. "That is mine and my mother's favourite part of the poem Life and Death, I grew up hearing it, it had been the poem my parents had fallen in love to and my father my mother tells me used to recite it to her when he had been alive."

Vlad could not understand or able to give a reason if asked to, but he found himself walking up to the man and saying to him in an almost breathless tone, "It speaks to you of yearning of one soul pleading for another." The other man seemed to eye him very intently as if he could see through to his very soul, as blackened as Vlad believed it to be. Vlad had no idea why this man was intriguing him so, and it was not just his scent or the colour and shape of his eyes or the fact the poem Life and Death had been a favourite of Mirena. No but something else about this young handsome man called out to Vlad in a way no other had since he beloved Mirena. That alone was strange in itself, Mirena had obviously been a woman, yet for some unknown reason this man was reminding him very strongly of his wife.

Vlad observed the other man intently as he accepted the wrapped up both bunches of blooms with the card attached the Lilacs and Baby’s-breath from the woman at the stall and handed over a twenty-pound note to her before taking the very little change from the woman in return. He listened intently as he replied to his question and said, "Yes it does, to my mother also in regards to my late father." As he stepped back from the stall and Vlad did the same, the other man added without truly thinking or wondering why he felt the need to tell this dark handsome stranger his name, yet before he knew what he was doing, he was saying out aloud, "My name is Mackenzie Callaghan by the way."

Vlad held out his hand and accepted the younger mans in turn and clasped it with his own in a firm yet gentle embrace of hands, and even as he told the younger man, "Vlad, my name is Vlad Dalca" he felt a spark of attraction and pure rightness that he had not felt since his beloved Mirena. This alone was enough to both confuse and somewhat alarm Vlad, he had never taken an interest in another man, he being from a time period in history where such a concept of a man loving another man or a woman loving another woman was deeply frowned upon and not largely known nor was such matters of that nature discussed.

Mackenzie raised a brow as he returned the handshake and asked, “Dalca, as in Dalca Industries, the architecture company?” Vlad reluctantly released the other man’s hand and replied, “One in the same, I am in fact CEO and the founder of the company.” He asked in interest, “You have heard of my company?” Mackenzie let out a brief laugh and replied, “Heard of you, try more like work for you, have for the last three years, I am an architect.”

Vlad eyes widened slightly at this piece of information. The younger man was an employee of his, an architect at that. What he did for a living went a long way to intriguing Vlad even more so than he already had. This knowledge combined with all of the similarities between Mackenzie and Mirena ensured Vlad could not tare himself away from the younger man. Therefore, because of this he found himself asking the other man if he wanted to go somewhere and have coffee before he truly thought better of it.

Vlad for a moment or two inwardly cursed himself and was truly worried he had over stepped his welcome when the other man looked somewhat flustered and taken back, and yet to answer. He was especially worried that the other man was about to grab his briefcase from where he had left it at his feet, take his bunches of flowers and quickly make his escape in the opposite direction far away from him. They hardly knew each other and had just that moment met. He was merely a stranger to the man except for the fact they now knew they were employer and employee. It was hardly commonplace to ask an employee you had just met to go for coffee, to ask an employee to go have coffee with the boss period.

Just as Vlad was about to apologise for being so forward and so soon after meeting each other, Mackenzie shrugged as if coming to a decision. He said, “Okay sure, though know this it is not my usual practice to meet a stranger in the market and tell him personal things about myself along with my name, before discovering said stranger is in fact my boss. Nevertheless, what the hell what harm can it do, taking chances and making split second decisions can sometimes be fun and spontaneous, so yes I accept your invitation to have coffee.”

Vlad chuckled quietly amused and highly entertained by the other man’s brief ramble and his choice of words. He raised a brow when the other man blushed when he heard Vlad chuckle, Vlad found the blush against the other man’s pale skin appealing, a thought that inwardly had Vlad raising both brows in wonder of where such a thought had come from and for another man at that.

Vlad gestured with his right hand in the direction he knew to be a lovely and quaint coffee shop and bakery, which he in fact owned and opened five years previously as a side business on top of Dalca Industries. He said, “Shall we, I know of a coffee shop and bakery we can go to if you like?” Mackenzie nodded said as he reached down to pick up his briefcase, “Of course lead the way.”

Unbeknownst the Vlad that he and Mackenzie were being watched, that their entire encounter had been observed. Vlad immersed in his conversation with Mackenzie to the point that he managed to walk by the table that sat the last being on the entire planet he ever wanted to see or deal with again. It was also because of how occupied with his newfound interest that he failed to hear the words quietly murmured with a certain menace by the being, “Let the games begin.”

Chapter Text

Twenty-five year-old Mackenzie Callaghan set down his briefcase at his feet as he stood in front of the flower stall. It was Friday and the end of another long week of work for the young man. He had stopped at the market to pick up some flowers for his mother, who was in London visiting from Ireland where he was born and raised. It was his son’s Marius’s sixth birthday that up and coming Saturday.

Mackenzie smiled gently to himself he thought of his beautiful little boy, a gorgeous little Irish Romanian bundle of never ending energy. Marius has blonde wavy hair, which he had inherited from his mother, and blue eyes, which had come from his father. He was an absolute spitting image of his father except for his mother’s nose, ears and hair.

Mackenzie was a single father after Marius’s mother Cosmina Balan died during childbirth, and seeing as Cosmina had no family Marius end up with full custody of the boy. Mackenzie had met Cosmina during his studying in Romania when he was eighteen. He had a fling with her, a sort of friends with benefits kind of relationship. They hadn’t any plans to get serious which was why it came as an inconvenient shock to the pair when it was discovered Cosmina was pregnant at eighteen after her pill had failed to work due to a antibiotic for an ear infection cancelling out the pills effects.

After Marius had been born when Mackenzie was nineteen, Mackenzie had decided leave Romania and return to England when at twenty-two his years studying as an architecture, arts and design major and a minor in Romanian history were completed. His favourite Romanian history which he mainly studied being of Vlad the Impaler AKA Vlad Tepes also known as Dracula. Something about the history of the prince said to have been a monster appealed to Mackenzie on a deeper level he could not understand nor explain.

Mackenzie scanned what flowers the woman of the stall had to offer and was pleased to note she had two of his mother’s favourites, Lilacs and baby’s-breath. He noted there was also Lucy’s favourites to yellow and white Gerber Daises, and decided to pick up some flowers for his best friend and roommate of three years. She and his mother were currently babysitting Marius while Mackenzie worked.

As soon as he finished pointing out the Baby’s-breath the last of his chosen flower selection, he had a sudden thought that his mother would love it if he had the florist write on the card both his and hers favourite verse of the poem Life and Death. His mother had told him as he grew up that it was the poem that his father recited to her when he was alive, and that they had fallen in love reciting that poem to each other.

He asked the florist, “Could you please write these words on the card and put it with the bunch of Lilacs and Baby’s-breath?” He paused as she nodded and picked up a pen and a white square card and then Mackenzie began to tell her what to write. “Why think separately of this life and the next” he never got to finish as next thing he knew a warm and rich accented voice finished it for him saying, “When one is born from the last.”

Mackenzie could not help but gasp and felt a shiver go down his spine at the sound of that rich and warm accented voice. He turned in the direction the voice had come from needing to know who it was who had spoken the last lines of the verse of his and his mother’s favourite poem. It was not every day that something like this happened, at least of all to him.

Mackenzie gasped at the incredibly dark and handsome stranger that he found standing nearby observing him. For some strange reason, something about the man gazing at him had him revealing something very personal. Before he could stop himself and realise the words were leaving his mouth, he said, "That is mine and my mother's favourite part of the poem Life and Death. I grew up hearing it, it had been the poem my parents had fallen in love and my father my mother tells me used to recite it to her when he had been alive."

Mackenzie felt struck shocked yet puzzled; he had no idea why he was telling such personal information to a stranger. A stranger who he had just seconds ago met, though he could not help but feel a part of him for some strange and unknown reason knew this man and it was almost as if a large and vital part of his very being had been waiting and was screaming out to get closer to him. Mackenzie could not think why he felt this way he did not know this man had never seen him before in his life, knew he would not forget meeting such a dark and handsome man such as this dark stranger. Mackenzie liked both men and women, so the sight of this devastatingly handsome man was a sure fine delicious treat.

Mackenzie felt his breath catch and could not help but eye the other man intently, could not help nor stop himself even if he had wanted to, especially when the dark handsome stranger commented in a tone Mackenzie would describe as being almost breathless as he said, “It speaks to you of yearning of one soul pleading for another." Mackenzie felt blown away at hearing that coming from the other man, and could not help but think in warm breathless disbelief, ‘Oh good god honestly who was this man, to say such things especially to someone who he has just met?’ Christ almighty this dark and handsome stranger was making him feel like some flustered and inexperienced teenage girl with his words and the sound of that accented voice.

Mackenzie accepted the two bunches of wrapped up blooms from the woman at the stall and handed her a twenty-pound note and inwardly scoffed at the little change he received back. Mackenzie had no idea why this man was effecting and intriguing him so much, or why he was starting up such a conversation with a stranger and not walking off in the other direction with his flowers. He replied to the dark strangers question and said, "Yes it does, to my mother also in regards to my late father." He added without truly thinking or wondering why he felt the need to tell this dark handsome stranger his name, and before he realised what he was saying and doing, he was saying out aloud, "My name is Mackenzie Callaghan by the way."

Mackenzie felt a deliciously warm shiver go down his spine as the dark and handsome stranger offered his leather glove clad hand. Mackenzie accepted the hand and inwardly marvelled at the tingling sensation he felt even through the other man’s gloves, a sense of rightness he never had felt before that moment, none of his past bed partners, not even Cosmina Marius’s mother had made him feel like this from just shaking hands.

He raised a brow when dark and handsome said, "Vlad, my name is Vlad Dalca" Dalca he knew that name and could not help but ask as he reluctantly allowed dark and handsome to remove his hand from his, “Dalca, as in Dalca Industries, the architecture company?” Now who he knew to be called Vlad replied in that delicious accent of his which he now recognised as being from somewhere in Romania, “One in the same, I am in fact CEO and the founder of the company.” He added asking with evident interest, “You have heard of my company?”

The warm shiver of attraction suddenly turned into disbelief as he realised dark and handsome was in fact the CEO of the company he worked for the last three years, dark and handsome was his boss of all fucking things for him to end up being. Mackenzie could not help the brief laugh he let loose as he replied, “Heard of you, try more like work for you, have for the last three years, I am an architect.”

He noticed how Vlad’s eyes widened in both surprise and interest of learning of Mackenzie’s apparent employment in his company. Mackenzie waited for that piece of information to sink in, but moments later felt flustered with shock and disbelief when his boss asked him if he would like to go and get some coffee. Christ almighty stuff like this did not happen to him, dark and handsome strangers who in fact turn out to be his boss did not approach him, and said boss was now asking him to go for coffee.

He felt so flustered he started to babble much to his instant horror yet could not shut his mouth as he said, “Okay sure, though know this it is not my usual practice to meet a stranger in the market and tell him personal things about myself along with my name, before discovering said stranger is in fact my boss. Nevertheless, what the hell what harm can it do, taking chances and making split second decisions can sometimes be fun and spontaneous, so yes I accept your invitation to have coffee.”

Mackenzie inwardly cringed in horror when he noticed the amusement as Vlad eyed him. Oh, fuck this was embarrassing, what hell did he think he was doing he was acting like some flustered and babbling moron in front of his boss of all people. His boss, dark and handsome, who he bet was probably straight, was just being friendly and only offering to go have a coffee with him so he could get to know one of his staff. Oh, here he was babbling like a moron, like an inexperienced teenage girl for crying out loud, Vlad was probably regretting asking him and most likely trying to find an opening where he could escape and still come off politely. But then again what sort of boss went about inviting employees who he walked up to in the market and starting reciting lines of poetry within seconds of meeting?

Vlad gestured with is right hand in front of him and said, “Shall we, I know of a coffee shop and bakery we can go to if you like?” Mackenzie bent and picked up his briefcase and secured the two bunches of flowers and said, “Of course, lead the way.”

Chapter Text

They walked side by side, as they left the market, and Mackenzie asked, “So how far is this place you know of, and is the coffee any good, as I won’t drink just any measly old coffee you know?” Vlad grinned slightly at his choice of words as he replied, “It is a five minute walk from here and the coffee in my opinion is excellent, but then again that is just my opinion and I shall allow you to be the judge.”

Mackenzie smirked as he said, “Oh good, word of warning I am very fussy about my coffee, somewhat of a snob so my mother tells me, and believe me when I say I will judge and will have no problem saying whether the brand is found wanting or not.” Vlad could not help but laugh this man’s way with words and sense of humour was greatly appealing.

Exactly five minutes later just as Vlad had said, they arrived at a quaint looking coffee shop slash bakery that strongly reminded and gave off an appearance of being somewhere located all the way in Romania. It strongly reminded him of a lovely little side place in Bucharest where he had spent five years studying to be an architect. He and Cosmina would often sit outside during the summer, especially when she had been pregnant with Marius and munch away on pastries and deep roasted coffee or in her case raspberry and summer fruits flavoured iced tea.

They entered and found a table as far from the windows as possible after Mackenzie revealed how he hated eating and drinking and having every Tom, Dick or Harry pass by the window looking in at you. (AN: I have this issue I admit it) Vlad nodded and reasonably suggested a table out of the view of the windows. To be honest not that he would admit it out loud in present company, but he was not too keen on being in the open near the windows either, due to worrying one of those days he would become distracted and lose his grip and influence on the weather without any warning and end up exposed to the sun. A scenario that was very ill advised, however you chose to look at it. It had never happened but it was a very real fear and tempting fate if not necessary was not Vlad’s idea of a good time.

Once they found a table Vlad told Mackenzie to take a seat and he would go and place their order after Mackenzie told Vlad how he liked his coffee. Mackenzie placed his briefcase on the floor down beside his chair, before he removed his long coat and leather gloves, and placed said gloves on the table, and draped his coat over the back of the chair. This left him dressed in his dark navy blue pinstripe suit, white shirt and plain scarlet red tie. He took a seat and placed the bunches of flowers on the table by his left elbow and waited for Vlad to return with their coffee.

Less than five minutes later Vlad returned to their table with their coffee and set one cup down in front of Mackenzie and the second for himself before taking the seat opposite and removed his gloves but remained in his long coat. He then watched with a barely stifled grin as Mackenzie picked up the cup and took his first sip, and waited to see his reaction and hear his opinion on the quality of the coffee.

Mackenzie first took a sniff over the rim testing the quality of the coffees aroma before taking a small cautious sip, and seconds later after allowing the flavour to sink into his taste buds, he revealed his verdict. He shrugged and said, “Not bad, half decent I suppose, though it has to be said nothing I have tasted since returning to Britain has quite beaten the dark rich roasted taste and aroma of coffee you can find in Romania. I was well and truly spoiled for any other after that, and acquired a taste for it during my five year stint there.”

Vlad let out a chuckle and shook his head as he said, “Oh I whole heartedly agree, and do at times miss the taste and aroma of coffee from my own home country. I can indeed understand and sympathise, and that nothing quite beats a good strong and dark, rich Romanian roasted coffee, trust me I know I am well travelled over the years before settling in early two thousand when I first opened Dalca Industries.”

He took a sip of coffee, for the taste seeing as it did not affect him like it did with humans. He asked once he lowered his cup back to the table and said, “So Mackenzie, tell me about you.” Mackenzie looked thoughtful as he asked, “What do you want to know?” Vlad replied, “Simply anything you wish, I just want to get a general outline of who you are, is all.”

Mackenzie nodded before beginning, “Alright I suppose I should start with the fact I was born in Ireland Dublin, Leinster to be more precise, on January 19th 1989, to parents Briana and Ciaran Callaghan. I grew up an only child so no siblings though a part of me always wanted a baby brother or sister, but after my father was killed my mother never had the heart to remarry.”

He paused before adding, “I suppose you could’ve called me very athletic growing up, for example I often took part in Fencing, Badminton, Tennis, Swimming, Basket ball and even running and Cycling, and love doing Yoga to, but I hate Football, Hockey and Horse riding. I have always been health conscious and go to the gym for two hours twice a week on Saturday and Sunday mornings without fail in less some emergency comes up.”

He revealed next after pausing to drink from his cup and said, “I can play the piano and guitar, and my mother made me take part in ballroom dancing as a kid from age four until twelve wanting me to be more cultured when I grew up. I would travel all over the place to perform in competitions, and even won several trophies during my years of competing.”

He shrugged as he added, “What next, well, I suppose I could mention that I like the colours navy blue and emerald green. I can also speak Romanian, Spanish, French, Gaelic and obviously English. I love coffee and a good strong Irish brew or ale, I like Vodka, Rum and Sambuca of almost any flavour. I am fond of Romanian, Italian, Chinese and Mexican food. I love croissants, strawberries, melon, mangos and bananas, along with Greek yogurt with granola, and any deserts with coffee in it.”

He paused before continuing, “I hate celery, onions and mushrooms and croutons. I hate any kind of fish you can eat, I absolutely hate the taste, smell, touch, texture and just in general the sight of fish. Though I do not mind the pretty tropical kind you find behind glass.” He grinned slightly as he mentioned his cat, “However, I do love cats and have a Russian blue three-month-old male kitten at home called Pippin.“

He continued to add, “I hate snow, especially when it turns to ice or disgusting dark brown slush. Though I do love to sit in front of a window to watch and listen to a good thunderstorm.” He grimaced as he said, “I admit I am no fonder of horses then they are of me, I feel terribly uncomfortable around them I suppose they are able to sense and pick up on this.”

Next, he revealed, “As for my school years, my favourite school subjects were Art and Graphics, PE, History, English, Science, Maths and IT. I hated Geography and Home economics, even though I love cooking nowadays. I also was not a fan of learning Spanish back then even though I picked it up quickly and would sooner have been taught French instead which I did later on learn but not in school.”

He paused once more to take a breath before continuing, “I first started drawing when I was six and started noticing all types of buildings and art round the age of ten going on eleven. I realised I wanted to be an architect like my father had been when I was thirteen, and it was one of the main reasons I gave up dancing and competing. I wanted to concentrate on art and my studies wanting the chance to attend university and study to be an architect. I went to Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism in Bucharest Romania for five years from the age of eighteen until twenty-two.”

He paused before concluding, “I also did a minor degree in Romania History and my main area and passion of study was based on Vlad III Dracula prince of Wallachia House of Draculesti, AKA Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler and also known as Dracula. There was just something about the man said to have been a monster that fascinated and called out to a part of me that I cannot honestly explain if asked to.”

Whilst taking a sip from his cup Mackenzie failed to notice how Vlad had gone rigid in his seat from sheer shock and part disbelief of what he had just heard. If only Mackenzie could have known the man who he had studied and admitted to having a passion for was the very same man he was sat down across from having coffee with and telling about himself, the very same man who so happened to also be his boss to.

He worried slightly when he noticed how quite Vlad had gone, and commented after a moment snapping Vlad out of his shocked stupor and said, “You know I never quite knew whether to believe if he was actually honest to gods’ a real vampire. To be honest I have no idea if I truly believe in the supernatural, though I do believe the saying seeing is believing is all I am saying here.”

He paused once more before revealing, “You know there is an supposed portrait of him looking like some sort of monster, yet something, a feeling I suppose deep down I do not how to explain makes me think and feel that the portrait is as far from being accurate as it is possible to get. I do not know why I feel and think this, but I cannot help but think it to be a lie and all out cruel mockery of the real man and prince he must have once been.”

Vlad cleared his throat and took a deep drink from his cup as he thought of what to say to all of that. Mackenzie spoke up before he could and said, “Oh here I am going on about a long dead Romanian Prince from the fourteenth century, and you must be sitting there thinking me to be some sort of weirdo.” Mackenzie truly hoped this was not the case, as it was just that when he started to talk about his passion for the history of the prince from that era, he sometimes forgot that not everyone was interested and wanted to hear about it.

Vlad lowered his cup and shook his head and said, “Not at all, I agree on some of what you said, but in a way he could be considered a monster after all he was known to impale his enemies on spikes and leave them hanging on the battle field as message to and for his enemy to find. But then again it is said that it is those who have won or survived are the ones who write history, which half of the time gets partially or fully fabricated to the point and to suit whoever is telling the supposed facts that the facts in question become somewhat fiction in some if not all aspects.”

He silently wondered why Mackenzie said something about him called to him on a deeper level that he could not explain, and that he had a feeling that the portrait of him was not accurate, and to be a lie and all out cruel mockery of the man and prince he had once been once upon a time. This knowledge paired with his scent and colour and shape of his eyes and even some of his features reminding Vlad very vividly of Mirena, and the fact he had recited Mirena’s favourite part of the poem Life and Death left Vlad feeling confused and somewhat troubled. He honestly did not understand how all of these similarities between the younger man and his late wife were possible.

Mackenzie cleared his throat and asked, “Oaky so that’s a enough and pretty much me covered for now, so what about you, what can you tell me about yourself Vlad?” Vlad fingered the rim of his cup as he replied, “I suppose I could start out as you had by mentioning that I was born as Vlad Dalca on the 15th of November 1976 in Sighiaoara Romania, and I have no living family left.

He added, “I discovered a love for art and the structures and appearance of all kinds of buildings by the time I was in my mid teens. I earned a degree in architecture, art and design and in business via online and night classes throughout the nineteen nineties.” He paused before adding, “I enjoy art, architecture and any kind of history that captures my attention, and I in my spare time I like to draw whatever captures my attention at the time. I also enjoy spending my time reading and listening to classical music. I can also speak French, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Danish, English and obviously Romanian. I like coffee and red wine and the colours red and black.”

Vlad decided to keep things about him as brief as possible until he knew he could trust Mackenzie. He decided to change the subject and take the attention from him and instead inquired, “So tell me what has Coleman have you working on in the office of late?” Mackenzie replied, “Well, I recently finished a joint project would another more senior architect who plans to do all of the leg work and travelling.” He added, “On the other hand I have been working a personal design of my own, that Coleman accidently caught wind of and insisted on having a copy of it.”

He added, “In fact I have the original copy of the designs in my briefcase now it you wish to take a look for yourself.” Vlad nodded and replied, “Of course, it is always interesting and a honest pleasure to see firsthand the talent of my staff and know that they were rightly chosen to work for Dalca Industries.” He added with a small smile as he said, “After all I only allow those with pure talent and a drive for architecture to work for me, or else without the drive and passion for the art and wonder of designing and creating I believe a individuals work to be subpar at best.”

Mackenzie nodded in agreement, reached down for his briefcase, opened it, searched its content until he found what he was looking for, and then resealed the briefcase so nothing of value fell out and was lost. He then handed Vlad his designs that he had been working on for more than three years. Vlad unrolled the paper, scanned the design, and instantly knew he had seen it the previous Monday just gone. He said to Mackenzie, "I have already seen a copy of this, along with designs from two other architects."

Mackenzie's eyes widened as he asked, "You have, but only Coleman my department’s manager has seen and has a copy of those designs?" Vlad nodded and replied, "Which he had Renfield pass on to me personally along with designs from two other architects with promising designs." He paused and then added, "Coleman on my orders passes along two or three designs each month that he feels show promise to me though Renfield my CFO. Your designs so happened to be one of the three I viewed last Monday."

Mackenzie's eyes noticeably widened further, when Vlad next said, "I currently have three major clients seeking the perfect designs for new buildings that are looking to have built in the next three years. One is a design for a restaurant in Athens which Renfield is currently dealing with that client, and one of the three designs I looked at on Monday I believe will make the perfect restaurant and the client will approve of." He paused once more before adding, "Another design I am going to show to a client is for a new multiplex cinema here in London."

He eyed Mackenzie's design before revealing, "And finally a new ultra modern university in Romania which I strongly believe your design will be perfect for. You will be informed on Monday that I had faxed a copy of your designs to the client last Friday and they have gotten back to me saying they greatly approve and would like to meet with you and discuss your design with you further." He concluded, "So us meeting in the market was indeed by chance, but still we would have met anyhow during the meeting yet to be scheduled but naturally you will receive a weeks’ notice to prepare any further designs you wish to add during the meeting."

Mackenzie was blown away as he said, "Not that I am complaining, but I am only twenty-five and been qualified and had my licence for three years and been with Dalca Industries for three years, while there are others who have been there more than five years." He added, "I have been working on this design on and off since before I got the job at Dalca Industries, in fact I have been working on it for more than three years, and there has been no rush and I only work on it in my spare time.”

He grimaced as he told Vlad, “But Coleman caught me off guard when he came to do the usual monthly inspection in the department. He passed by my desk as I was adding to my design and I did not realise he was there until he was looking over my shoulder asking me which client it was meant for as he did not remember seeing it before then. He wanted to know which account they were attached to as he swore he remembered me not having a new work project of late."

He shook his head and added, "I was worried that I would get into trouble for working on a design during work hours that had nothing to do with any clients the company currently has.” He shrugged and added with a small relieved grinned, “But it would seem luck was on my side because he took one look at my designs even if I did insist they were my own and not for a client, and apologised for working on personal designs on company time. However, Coleman insisted on having copies made, that was a week ago. I heard nothing back once he had the designs and I figured my job was secure seeing as I have had no trouble come my way."

Vlad chuckled and replied, "Indeed, the only reason you were not reprimanded and given a warning for working on designs of your own during work hours is because Coleman genuinely liked what he saw, and the fact he had Renfield pass them onto me also ensured you did not receive any reprimand." He paused and added, "I would not recommend doing as such again if you can avoid it, but still yes I agree luck was certainly on your side this one time."

Mackenzie looked sheepish and said, "I normally do not take advantage like that during work hours, but doing work projects then going home to taking care of my five year old son Marius who will be six tomorrow tends to leave very little time for me to just design something for the pleasure of it and not work related. I love my son do not get me wrong but it can be time consuming and my best friend and roommate Lucy can only do so much before I feel as if I am taking an advantage of her good nature and love for Marius."

Vlad felt his eyes widen as he asked in surprise, "You are a father, and he is almost six?" Vlad was stunned and had not expected the younger man to have a son, one nearly six years old at that and only be twenty-five himself. Mackenzie took back his designs and rolled them back up before replacing them in his briefcase before replying, "Yes, I had him young, too young in fact, when I was nineteen actually and still in architecture school.”

He sighed and continued as he explained, “I had to have my mother come over from Dublin and live with me in Bucharest to care for Marius until I finished my studies and took the exam to qualify and get my licence when I was twenty two and before moving to London and her back to Dublin." He added, "I was offered a position at Dalca Industries the Romanian branch after getting my licence, seeing as it is not required to do an internship over there. In the end I took them up on the offer as long as I could return to Britain and start a position at the London branch which was agreed and I accepted and moved myself and my then three almost four year old son to London."

Vlad asked, "If you do not mind me asking do you not have contact with his mother?" Mackenzie shook his head and said, "No, she died whilst giving birth to Marius." Vlad inwardly winced at having brought up a sensitive subject and said quietly, "I am sorry for your loss, you must miss her." Mackenzie shook his head and replied, "This may sound bad but Cosmina and I were not in a romantic relationship, no she and I had a friends with benefits arrangement. We were both eighteen and not looking for a romantic relationship and just needed someone to let off steam with due to the stress of being architecture students."

He grimaced and added, "So you can imagine the inconvenient shock she and I received when we discovered four months into our friendship and arrangement that after an ear infection her means of contraception failed due to antibiotics cancelling out the effects of the pill. Marius's conception was an accident and not planned, but never considered a mistake, not to me and never to Cosmina either." He concluded, "I was not in love with her by any means, but I miss her in the sense that she never got to meet and be a mother to Marius. It hurts the fact he will never know his mother, sure Lucy and my mother seen to it that he has a female influence in his life, but it does not begin to even replace Cosmina in his life."

Vlad felt his respect and admiration for the younger man growing by the second as he realised not only had he completed his studies and took the exam to be a fully licensed architect but had with help of his mother raised a son on top of everything else. He watched as Mackenzie took out his phone, searched through its contents for a moment before handing it to Vlad, and grinned as he said, "That gorgeous Irish Romanian hyperactive buddle is Marius two months ago."

Vlad accepted the phone and could not help but grin slightly as he took in the sight of a miniature blonde curly haired version of Mackenzie. Vlad chuckled and commented, "Ah, a handsome looking boy you have there, and is his father's son if this picture is anything to judge." Mackenzie returned the chuckle and accepted the phone back and said, "Oh yes he is, the only features he inherited from Cosmina was her hair, her nose and her ears, while the rest is all me. His appearance is strongly influenced by the Callaghan and Irish side of his heritage verses his mother's Balan and Romanian heritage."

Mackenzie took a sip of his coffee before asking, "What about you if you do not mind me asking, but do you have a wife? Though I am guessing not seeing as how we just met and what was said, I cannot honestly see you being unfaithful if you did have a spouse?" Mackenzie instantly wish he had not asked when he noticed the slightly pained grimace Vlad made at the question. He replied in a somewhat subdued tone, "I was married once, in my twenties, Mirena, she was murdered during a mugging when we had lived in Romania, it was also how my brother was killed trying to defend her."

Mackenzie reached out a touched Vlad's left hand briefly and said sympathetically, "I am so sorry, I wish I had not asked I did not mean to upset or make you feel uncomfortable." Vlad shook his head and replied in a less subdued tone, "Think nothing of it, I after all asked you something equally as personal and touched on a sensitive subject to."

Mackenzie sighed, shook his head, and said, "My mother and I know what it is like to lose someone to a mugging. My father when I was three was murdered, I do not remember much of him being so young when it happened, and he of course being away a lot on business. He was an architect like I am, and was away overseeing a project in New York when he was mugged and stabbed close to the subway."

Vlad's eyes widened and he felt immense guilt for his lie, knowing how Mirena had died, but here was Mackenzie admitting to losing his father to a mugging, which had actually happened unlike with Mirena. He hated lying but how could he possibly tell Mackenzie someone who he had just met that a Turk stabbed his brother whilst he was in a forest and had been defending his nephew and sister in-law? Worse yet even the fact his wife fell to her death from the top of a tower of Cosia Monastery in Transylvania back in the fourteenth century because of the same bastard Turks that had been at war with his people at the time.

Just as Vlad had been about ask Mackenzie a question about Marius was when Mackenzie's I Phone started ringing, Mackenzie recognised it as Lucy's ringtone. He held up a finger to Vlad and said, "Sorry about this, I have to take this it is Lucy calling it might be about Marius." He paused before answering, "Oh and hold that thought." Vlad merely gestured with his hand to the phone in the younger man's hand.

Mackenzie touched the screen to accept the call and said, "Hey Luce how come you’re ringing when I said I would ring you when I was due home?" Mackenzie listened as Lucy spoke on the other end of the line after a few moments Mackenzie said, "Luce I'll collect the birthday cake early tomorrow morning." He paused before adding, "And no, under no circumstances is he allowed anywhere near the top shelf of my wardrobe that's where his gifts are hidden and you know it, I do not want the surprise spoiled. He can wait until tomorrow after breakfast, he more than knows the drill by now. Luce tell him that he does not have permission to open one of his gifts before tomorrow morning, and that I will be very displeased if he does and that is final."

Vlad could not help but chuckle quietly into his coffee cup at what he was hearing. His laughter soon turned into a stifle gasp of disbelief at how presumptuous the woman on the other end of the line was being when he heard the direction the conversation suddenly took. "So where are you right now?" Mackenzie replied, "I was in the market when I bumped into some man, who trust my luck turns out to be my boss and do not mean Coleman either, no try more like the boss whose name is on the company. I am now having coffee with said boss whilst discussing some of my designs."

Lucy on the other end all but purred, "Ooh your boss, you’re having coffee with your boss after just meeting him in the market, ooh you bad boy, are you sleeping with the big boss man to get ahead Kenzie, ooh shame on you?" Mackenzie flushed bright red and could not meet Vlad's eyes out of sheer mortification and probably would have prayed for the floor to swallow him whole had he even the smallest of inklings that Vlad could hear both sides of the conversation perfectly.

He furiously, evidently insulted and beyond mortified she dared to say such a thing where the man in question was across the table from him. "Oh my god, you did not just think that never mind actually have the sheer gore to out and say, good god woman do you have no tact or verbal filter?" He added, "That's insulting Luce, really, you make it sound as if I am not capable of working my way up the professional ladder on my own merit. And no I am not I just met the guy for crying out loud, he's my boss and it would look bad, people would talk and I would lose my job along with all of my professional integrity."

Vlad listened as Lucy whined, "Oh come on Kenzie you know I am only joking, and that I know you would not sleep with the boss just so you could get ahead in your career. Besides, you might as well join a monastery and become a monk for crying out aloud. I mean when have you last had sex? I know you have not been on one single date ever since Jonathan, even though I have offered time and again to keep an eye on Marius so you could."

Mackenzie glanced at Vlad briefly before scoffing quietly mindful of the fact he was in public with his boss of all people. "The subject of the last time I had sex I am for the umpteenth time telling you it is none of your business, and to worry about your own sex life Luce.” He added dryly, “As for the last time I dated, ha I wonder why that is, oh maybe it has everything to do with the fact he did not seem at all keen on the fact I am a father first, and that all of my attention was not solely reserved for him.”

He paused before adding bitingly, “Oh and naturally he was fucking boring Luce, a solicitor for god sake. He snubbed my profession and pretty much all but said that I earn my money by doodling on paper all day long. To added another layer of disaster to the date from hell in my opinion he went ahead and made out as if he was better than I the arrogant and snobby pompous prick, and just because his father is a Cardiologist and his mother a Judge."

He added in disgust, "Or how about the woman before Jonathan another one you and Holmwood set me up with, who by the second date was already thinking engagement rings and wondering my opinion on boarding schools for young boys." He hissed furiously as he added, "The damned women had it in her thick head that she would be the one to stick around after the second date and right after mentioning boarding schools to me. Boarding schools she probably got it into her head to send Marius off to whilst she played happy families with me and had children that were biologically hers. Christ sake Luce the woman was a raving and delusional nut and whack job to even think for one second I would be all for that shit."

Vlad was barely able to hide how incredulous he was over what he was hearing. Good god, no wonder he was reluctant to date, especially if this friend Lucy of his was the one to set up the dates. Did she truly not know anything about her friend to set him up with such people? Sure, he had not known the younger man a hour yet, but from what he had learned so far and observed of him, he could guess no one or anything allowed to come between him and his son, which is how it should be Vlad whole-heartedly approved.

Mackenzie pinched the bridge of his nose and said, "Look Luce I'll be home in a hour or so then we will finish discussing this because I refuse to go on anymore dates arranged by you and Arthur, they are disastrous, and half the time snobby and upper-class friends of his. That woman had the title of Lady; her father apparently is a Duke for crying out loud. She made it sound like I was the perfect husband material as long as I sent Marius to boarding school." He sneered, "Damned aristocrats and nobles thinking just because they have some fancy title and a crap load of money more than they could spend in any lifetime that it is their given right to call the shots and expecting us working class to be ready to ask how high when demanded to jump."

He continued in a firm tone, "I do not give a damn about wealth and titles Luce, not everyone wants to marry a Lord or Lady and hope one day they earn a similar title in return. If whomever I settle down with has money then so what and big deal, wealth is all nice and all but does not necessary equal happiness. I will not allow myself become some paid for and pampered freeloader. I love my career Luce and nothing short of issues with Marius will put a stop to that.” He finally concluded, “And finally, no Luce none of that was sly jabs at you, now goodbye and we’ll talk later."

After saying goodbye and promises to talk later Mackenzie hung up and let out a tired sigh before saying to Vlad, "I am sorry you had to hear any of that, but she just frustrates me sometimes regardless of how I honestly love her to death like a sister. Lucy is very outgoing and lacking a verbal filter and I swear it is going to have her end up in some serious hot water one of these days, especially with the family she is going to marry into, he's a Lord and soon set to take over as Duke of the Holmwood estates."

Vlad asked, "Holmwood, as in Harold Holmwood?" Mackenzie picked up his cup and said, "I think that is Arthur's father’s name." Vlad said, "Harold Holmwood has commissioned my company to expand upon Holmwood manor." Mackenzie nodded and said, "Oh trust me I already know seeing as I know the architect who has been commissioned to do it, the guy is bragging around the office that he has been commissioned to do the Holmwood manor expansion project. Trust me he is not very popular at the moment as a lot of others had wanted that gig."

Vlad grimaced and replied, "I know, he proved himself to be immensely arrogant when I met with him, unfortunately his designs were chosen from six other potential contenders and was the best of the group, and unfortunately he knows it to making him even more arrogant in the process. Holmwood asked for the best on this project and Stanford's designs were the best or else I would not have allowed him anywhere near that project."

Mackenzie drank from his cup before saying, "Originally Lucy tried to persuade Arthur to have his father choose me, but for one I wanted no part in it and secondly Holmwood senior insisted on someone more seasoned." Vlad raised a brow and asked, "But why?" Mackenzie grimaced and said, "Please try to not think any less of me for saying this, but I honestly believe my ability to remain professional would have been obliterated before even a week of working at that manor ended."

He added at Vlad's questioning glance, "Apparently the Holmwoods do not approve of the fact not only do I like both men and women, but Marius does not have a mother, and that I leave him with Lucy on a daily basis during the week. Holmwood is a spoilt pompous prat who does not like the fact Lucy's attention is on a five year-old boy, a boy who is not his child, which also means less attention and cooing over his spoilt and pompous hind."

He continued around a disgusted sounding snort as he said, "Oh and please do not seriously get me started on the purely ridiculous reason that he is worried that Lucy might one day see me as more than a friend. I assure you it’s likely to happen as me having a sudden desire to take a walk under a London double decker bus." He rolled his eyes and continued, "Do not get me wrong I adore Lucy, she is the sister I never had growing up, but it is purely beyond laughable the mere concept of us being anything but best friends and pseudo siblings. I do not nor will I ever think of her like that, truly I have to be honest when I say seriously good god I would be had for murder if I had to put up with her on a none platonic basis."

Vlad could not help but chuckle and shake his head, even as Mackenzie added, "Thankfully I do not have this issue with Lucy's parents, the Westenra's adore Marius and would spoil him positively rotten if I did not put my foot down from time to time. They also approve of her taking care of him believing it to be valuable practice for when she and Arthur provide them with grandchildren of their own."

He paused to drink from his cup before adding, "You see I was born and raised in Dublin with a mother who is a midwife and a father who had been a architect, unlike Lucy whose father owns the publishing house Westenra’s and CO. publishing’s. Her mother on the other hand is that luxury jewellery designer Hestia Westenra, you know the woman who designed the luxury pieces that are in places like Tiffany's and other such high-end and luxury jewellery retailers all over the world."

He continued after pausing, "So yes Lucy grew up never wanting for anything, not that I did either for that matter, but my family was comfortable whereas Lucy's consisted of luxury after luxury, this I knew from just meeting her parents and knowing her and sharing a town house near Kensington Gardens with her over the last three years."

He added, "Lucy does not have a career in less you include the Saturdays she works at a florist, you know that one near Kensington Gardens that sells all of those expensive flowers that you would not find on a market. The type of flower arrangements major companies have on display in the main entrance or in boardrooms, and even the type used for weddings of the upper-class."

He drawled blandly as he concluded, "Or even more annoying in my opinion, the less savoury older men who buy flowers to keep their young and gold digger mistresses all sweet and buttered up before heading home to the tiered and pissed off wives. Wives who could careless that their husbands are making a full out mockery out of their wedding vows, just as long as his fat check book or Amex Platinum or Gold credit card does not dry up or bounce. Oh dear me what a tragedy that would be when they have plastic surgery or go on multi thousand pound shopping sprees or to the salon to have their grey hairs covered up, or Botox to cover up their wrinkles they are desperately trying to conceal."

Vlad let out a low and warm chuckle and commented, "You seem to have a very cynical edge to your personality, particularly when it comes to the rich and upper-class of society." Mackenzie shrugged after taking a sip of coffee and replied, "I honestly cannot help it, or stand it when these rich people go to restaurants and pay for a stick of celery and some lettuce with croutons when it costs more than I spend on Marius's pack lunches for elementary school. It especially costs more than I will spend on a pair of shoes or a shirt for work."

He snorted, "Another example spending an arm and leg on flowers when you could buy just as beautiful ones on the market at least in my opinion." He gestured to the two bunches of flowers resting on the table near his left arm. He shrugged and added, "I am content to eat at places like this or even grab my lunch and something for dinner to take home for me and Marius from Marks and Spencers."

He concluded, "I am even content to buy my clothes and shoes from there to, and yes I could afford designer but I will not. I also have a savings account for emergencies and any other necessities I or Marius require, though most of my money goes on my half of the utility bills, food and petrol for my car, or into a college or university savings fund for Marius later on down the line should something ever happen to me. He comes first, his needs always come first, always, I love my son he is my entire world."

Vlad nodded knowingly, he had felt the same for Ingeras, he had always put his son and wife first as he had proven when he had not allowed Ingeras to be took and turned into a child soldier. The way Mackenzie loved Marius reminded Vlad very much of how Mirena had loved Ingeras. Mirena had sacrificed herself to save their people, but mostly Ingeras, and from what he had heard, he could honestly see Mackenzie doing the same for Marius without a seconds pause or doubt.

They talked for another fifteen minutes before Mackenzie apologised for his earlier rant, and that he had to go home and make sure Marius did not decide to get overly clever and discard his warning and go and search for his presents anyway. Vlad chuckled at hearing this, and could imagine the entertainment the boy would provide, right along with a serious side order of frustration, the wanting to pull your hair out kind.

Vlad did not know what possessed him say and asked what he did next, and said, “Would it be possible to see you again, and not as your boss?” Mackenzie’s eyes widened before he asked, “Is that wise, I mean you are my boss and I was not joking when I said what I did to Lucy when she made some crack about me sleeping with you to get to top.” He paused and added, “Then there is the fact I like both men and women, but can you honestly say you have any interest in men?”

Vlad sighed and said firmly, “No I have never had any interest in men before and still do not for that matter, but you on the other hand there is something about you that caught my attention from the moment I met you. I have no idea what it is but something about you, you personality and your appearance in general just seems to greatly appeal. Do not ask me to explain for I have no idea myself or able to provide an answer.”

He paused before adding, “You are not the only one who does not walk up to strangers in the market and start telling them personal things about themselves, I too am usually more private and reserved then this.” He paused once again before revealing in a firm tone, “As for I being your boss and it looking bad, well, your fellow architects do not need to find out, and what we do outside of work is our business. I am the boss, and that means if anything was to be said I am in a position to nip it in the bud immediately before it can start and get out of control.”

Naturally he was not about to admit his scent and the colour and shape of his eyes had caught his attention and that he reminded him of his late wife. Oh yes he could well imagine very vividly how badly that would be received, and Mackenzie would surely run in the opposite direction as fast as his legs could carry him away from Vlad. He hated being dishonest with the younger man but felt until they knew each other better and Mackenzie was not likely to run in the opposite direct when he learned that not only was Vlad a vampire but Vlad the Impaler AKA Dracula.

Mackenzie placed his hands in a prayer position in front of his mouth as he thought on what the other man had said. He knew this could end in disaster, either with him getting his heart broken or losing his dream job. Was the risk worth it he wondered as he glanced intently at the older man? Yes, Vlad was handsome in a dark and mysterious sort of way, and yes, he had an incredible sexy and warm voice and accent. He also seemed to take a genuine interest in Mackenzie and not just acting as if he was interested in what he had to say just so he could get into his pants. He could not help it but he really liked the other man was scarily attracted to him in such a short period, it was madness.

In the end he could not avoid or ignore how he felt, Mackenzie had never felt such attraction or a sense of rightness from being in another’s presence until Vlad. The fact Vlad admitted to never having interest in other men and still did not, but then again maybe this was the scenario where a person could be another’s one true exception to the rule, or at least he hoped it was and not some sort of experimentation on Vlad’s part.

With that decided he cleared his throat and took out his I Phone again and said, “Do not make me regret this Vlad, but seriously give me your number.” Vlad let out a sigh of relief, smiled warmly, and said, “I promise to try not to, as it is the last thing I wish to do Mackenzie.” He then quietly told Mackenzie his number, and once he had it, he sent a text message with his landline number to Vlad’s phone.

Vlad took out his own I Phone, opened the text, and saved the information to his phone under the contact information Mackenzie. He looked up as Mackenzie held up his phone and asked, “Do you mind if I get a picture so I know who is calling?” Vlad shook his head and smiled a small and warm smile as Mackenzie took his photo. He returned the favour, took a picture of the younger man, and saved it as the caller Id wallpaper under Mackenzie’s details.

Once done Mackenzie took out his wallet to pay for his own coffee when Vlad waved him off and said, “Keep your money it’s on the house.” Mackenzie blinked and asked, “What really, do you know the owner of this place?” Vlad chuckled and replied, “Oh yes indeed you could say that seeing as I am the owner.” Mackenzie looked incredulous as he asked, “What really, but why and how do you find the time, when I imagine being CEO of Dalca Industries must take up a lot of your time?”

Vlad chuckled as he stood and gathered his gloves, slipped them on, and said, “Yes it can be, but I bought the original owner out when he was due to retire but had no children or other family to pass this fine establishment onto. I purchased it and hired a young married couple to manage it along with one other establishment like this one.” Mackenzie put his own coat and gloves back on and picked up his briefcase and the bunches of flowers and chuckled, “Quite the business empire you have built for yourself.” Vlad chuckled and replied, “Indeed and it’s all worth it and do not just mean on a profitable scale either.”

When they left the coffee slash bakery shop, Vlad asked how Mackenzie was getting home, not quite ready to part from him just yet. Mackenzie shrugged and replied, “Taxi I guess, my car is in the garage due to some idiot who needs to retake his driving test apparently forgot to place on the breaks and slammed into my car from behind scratching the paintwork and partially removing the bumper. Luckily, both he and I have car insurance, otherwise I do not want to imagine how much the damages would have cost me. I am due to collect it Monday evening, so until then I have had to rely on public transport since Wednesday afternoon.”

Vlad shook his head and said, “Well, there is nothing for it, except to accept my offer of a lift home, why bother paying for a taxi when you could receive a lift home free of charge.” Mackenzie smirked, raised a brow, and commented jokingly, “Hmm, more like you just want to be nosey and see where I live admit it.” Vlad laughed and replied warmly, “Oh you have caught me, forgive me good sir.” Mackenzie returned the laugh and said, “Oh alright lead the way and it is not fair I just cannot seem to say no to you.” Vlad grinned widely in delight and said, “Good as it should be far as I am concerned.” Mackenzie let out a snort and rolled his eyes as he playfully shoved Vlad in the arm, whose eyes were overflowing with warmth and amusement that Mackenzie practically melted at the sight of.

Mackenzie asked as they walked side-by-side back the way they had come, “So where are you parked?” Vlad replied, “Ten minutes down the road from the market. I parked after a meeting with a client and decided to have a walk around see if anything caught my attention or not.” Mackenzie nodded as they continued to stroll at a sedate pace, and asked, “So what car do you drive?” Vlad replied, “I have a certain likening for Aston Martin actually.” Mackenzie grinned and asked, “Oh really, which one, and what colour did you go for, black or red?” Vlad returned the grin and said, “A black V12 Vanquish, red seemed to verge on the wrong side of drawing attention for my tastes.”

 

He asked, “What about you what do you drive?” Mackenzie looked sheepish as he replied, “Here is how it is, I do not splurge on clothing or other material possession, but I did on my car. The car needed to have certain features I deemed necessary, such as being road safe and child friendly, but also it needed to look attractive at the same time.” He paused before adding, “In short I drive a glacier silver BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, BMW’s answer to the people carrier.”

Vlad nodded around a grin just as they reached where he had parked his car earlier on that day, and having no idea the events that were waiting to unfold and to change his life for both the better and for the worse. He took out his fancy high tech looking keys and pressed the fob opening the doors and deactivating the alarm. Mackenzie let out a low whistle when he saw the car, yet was puzzled when he saw the blackened out windows. He asked, “Vlad what’s with the darkened windows, and don’t you need permission to do that or else get a huge fine?”

Vlad looked uncomfortable as he opened the passenger side door and waited until Mackenzie was inside and settled before closing the door. He walked around to the driver’s side and got in before closing the door. Mackenzie looked truly worried as he asked, “Vlad was it something I said?” Vlad sighed and as he placed his hands on the steering wheel wondering how to explain without giving himself away.

He leaned back in his seat before saying, “Mackenzie the reason why I have blackened out windows, which I had to pay a fair amount for and indeed had to have permission to do so, well, that’s because I have a very rare skin disorder when it comes to being exposed to full direct sunlight.” He paused to let out a tiered sigh, pinched the bridge of his nose, and said, “I do not burn like someone with sunburn, and sun lotion will not offer me any protection. No Mackenzie I have it serve that if I stay in direct contract with the sun it can kill me, my skin blisters and will peel and I do not just mean minor peeling from a sunburn, the sun’s rays can be poisonous to me.”

Mackenzie looked stunned and said, “Jesus, but how do you manage day to day life, hell running Dalca Industries for that matter?” Vlad shrugged elegantly and replied, “I watch and listen to the weather forecast and try to arrange meetings on days that are overcast like today or expected to have rain if I am required to meet face to face with clients.” He paused and fingered the key fob in his hands before continuing, “Other methods of communication without leaving the safety of my home are telephone or video conference, or I’ll send my CFO Renfield in place for example he is currently in Athens in my place.” He reminded Mackenzie, “Remember I did mention that I got my degrees and licence online and via night classes, which took me almost ten years because of the method I had to use to learn.”

He continued as Mackenzie silently nodded, “I have known Renfield my CFO since I was sixteen, and my father was originally going to open the company but died before he could. Renfield named me his heir and he opened Dalca Industries in my name 12 years ago after I got my degrees and licence at twenty five, he being the more seasoned and older architect. He allowed me to get used to the role and gave me the chance to just be an architect and just design, whilst teaching me what it meant to be CEO and run a company.”

He finally concluded after pausing to chose his words carefully, “When I reached thirty-five three years ago, we announced to the company that I was now taking over as CEO. Renfield was taking on the duties of CFO, but due to my issues with the sun, he would still take on some minor CEO duties and would attend meetings in my place when the weather stopped me from travelling and leaving my home. Other times they accepted that I held meetings via telephone and video conference, which was fine with the partners of the company seeing as they know how hard working I am and always get the job done.”

Mackenzie had not expected any of that, but understood and accepted it, and saw no reason to continue the line of conversation and simply nodded. Vlad seeing his nod let out an inward sigh of relief, reached forward, and placed the key in a slot on the console and the engine started up. He asked Mackenzie, “What is your address?” Mackenzie told him and Vlad pulled out of the parking space and drove forward into the early evening traffic.

Within half an hour, they arrived at a beautiful but typical looking row of luxury London terraced town houses near Kensington Gardens. Mackenzie told Vlad he would text him tomorrow afternoon once Marius’s party was over, and arrange to have dinner at Vlad’s town house near Westminster. After saying goodnight to each other, Mackenzie exited the car and Vlad waited until he was inside before leaving and heading home so he could go out and feed.

As Vlad pulled away from the curb and Mackenzie made his way towards the front door of his house, neither had realised that someone had followed them ever since the market. They had no idea of the danger that sinisterly lurked in the shadows watching them, waiting for the opportunity to strike and planning how and what his first move would be. The being waited patiently biding his time. He had waited centuries in order to make his move; he could wait a little longer. The being smirked malevolently from the shadows, whilst thinking, ‘Let the games begin indeed.’

Chapter Text

Vlad spent the 22-minute car journey back home to his Regency Georgian terraced town house in Westminster thinking of that days turn of events, namely his young and appealing employee Mackenzie. He stopped and waited for the early evening traffic to start moving again, and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he waited for the red light to turn green. As the light finally turned green Vlad, put the car into gear and drove onward.

He thought about how he wanted to see Mackenzie again and not just during work hours. He wondered whether he wanting to see Mackenzie again was for all of the right reasons. He had no idea whether it was Mackenzie’s scent and eye colour and shape and the other similarities the younger man and his late wife shared that had caught his attention, or if it were Mackenzie himself that was holding his interest. What he did know however was that he needed to find out and come to a decision concerning the younger man and fast before anyone could be hurt.

As he drove home, he continued to think and consider the situation, and knew if he kept in contact with the younger man outside of work and none professional basis, then he had to see the man as himself and not as who he reminded him of. Doing otherwise would not only be dishonest, unfair and insulting to Mackenzie, but also truly and horrendously dishonouring his beloved Mirena’s memory. He would be serving both Mirena and Mackenzie a gross injustice.

Fifteen minutes later Vlad parked his car and switched off the engine. He removed his keys from the ignition and grabbed his briefcase before opening the door, gracefully climbing out, and closing it behind him. He pressed a button on the key ring, the doors automatically locked, and the state of the art alarm activated. He then made his way up to the door of his home and let himself inside.

Once inside he placed his keys on the side table, removed his gloves, and placed them on the table alongside his keys, before removing his coat and placing it on the coat and hat stand. He did not bother with putting any lights on as being a vampire gave him perfect night vision. He made his way down the hallway and into his office; he had some paperwork to take care of. He figured he would do it before going out to feed and get it out of the way.

When he returned home, he could relax in front of a lit fire with a book and a glass of red wine with an Italian opera playing in the background, the perfect evening in Vlad’s opinion. He found no appeal in nightlife such as clubs, pubs and the like, the smell of cheap booze, sprits, and cigarette smoke, accompanied by the smell of their blood rushing through their veins. The constant thick sickly overpowering, repugnant scent of sweat, perfume and aftershave, those humans practically bathed themselves in it. All of this combined lacked any such appeal for the more than five-century-old vampire’s taste.

He would wait an hour or so until it was pitch black out before he left to go and feed. It had been two days since his last meal combined with going to the business meetings, walking around the market place on top of being in constant contract with humans all day long the scent of their blood strong in his nostrils. To say the very least it had all taken somewhat of a toll on him, and he needed to feed and soon.

Meanwhile Mackenzie opened the front door to the town house he shared with his son and Lucy. Within moments of closing the door, the first sound he heard was his son’s delighted squeals of laughter followed soon by the sound of tiny running feet fast approaching. Seconds later Marius appeared and threw himself at his father, and wrapped his little arms around his father’s legs in a hug.

Mackenzie beamed lovingly down at his son before putting his briefcase down on the floor and his keys and the two bunches of flowers on the side table. He then bent over, removed the little arms from around his legs, picked up the little boy, and cuddled him to his chest. Marius wrapped his arms around his father’s neck and his legs around his waist. Mackenzie playfully rained kisses over his son’s cheeks and forehead causing the little boy to let out squeals and giggles of delight as his father’s five o clock shadow tickled his baby soft skin.

Two women observed father and son from the other end of the hallway, one in her early forties and blond haired and green eyed and the other younger in her mid twenties, red haired and blue eyed. Brianna Callaghan chuckled and said warmly, “Oh thank heavens your home, a certain little mischievous monster is trying to give Aunt Lucy and I the slip so he can go hunting for his birthday presents a day early.”

Mackenzie narrowed his eyes at his son playfully and commented somewhat mildly, “Indeed so Aunt Lucy has informed me.” He paused to bop his son gently on his nose as he asked him in a gentle yet chiding tone, “Now Marius we have already discussed this, so tell me what I said last year when you attempted to do this on your fifth birthday?” Marius pouted cutely as he answered in a somewhat sheepish tone, “That I had to be a good boy and wait until my birthday, that waiting was a part of the fun, and that naughty boys and girls do not get presents.”

Mackenzie nodded even as he saw his own mothers all too knowing grin, and Lucy was stifling the urge to giggle behind the palm of her hand. Thankfully, Marius had his back to his Grandmother and his Aunt, which meant thankfully he would not take their reactions as a sign of encouragement. Just because he was, gentle whilst reprimanding his son did not mean he did not mean the reprimand, and would insist that his son learnt the difference between right and wrong and considered the proper way to behave. At the age he currently was Mackenzie knew it meant the lesson was liable to stick as it had for himself at that age.

He kissed his son on the forehead before lowering him to the floor. He said, “My answer is still the same as last year, and that is no you do not have permission to open any of your birthday presents early, do not do it I will be disappointed in you if you disobey me Marius.” Even as his son silently pouted, he was relieved and somewhat amused that he did not protest out aloud. His son knew doing this would not get him anywhere fast with him and that he would just end up further reprimanding him.

Mackenzie decided to let his son have a moment to think about what he had said, and knew it would sink in at some point. He removed his gloves, put them with his keys and the flowers on the side table, before removing his long coat, and placed it on the coat and hat stand. He then picked up his briefcase followed by the two bunches of flowers. He handed the lilacs and baby’s breath to his son and said, “Now be a good boy and go and give those to your Gran.”

Marius made his way to his grandmother and beamed sweetly up at her as he held up the flowers to her. Brianna grinned gently down at her precious grandson, before lowering herself to kneel in front of the little boy and accepted the flowers from him. She leaned forward, kissed him gently upon the forehead, and said in her lovely warm Irish accent, “Oh they are beautiful, thank you sweetheart.”

Mackenzie grinned in gentle amusement at his son, even as his mother looked up at him and winked and mouthed her thanks to her son. Mackenzie just shrugged before making his way over to his best friend. He handed the remaining bunch of flowers to his beautiful red haired friend and asked in a somewhat amused yet cool tone, “I got you these before you had your lack of tact episode over the phone, still think you deserve these Luce?”

Lucy pouted around a playful frown before kissing him on the cheek and said, “Oh you love me do not deny it.” He smirked, raised a single brow, even as she brought the yellow and white Gerbera Daisies up to her nose, and took in their scent appreciatively. She murmured, “My favourites, thank you Kenzie, you are far too good and sweet for your own good my friend.”

Mackenzie said around a bland and knowing drawl, “Oh and don’t I know it.” He added in a more serious tone, “Though Luce I meant what I said earlier we need to finish that conversation it is not over by a long shot. There are things I have to discuss with you so we can go on and avoid another annoying and awkward conversation like the one we are definitely going to be having once I have put Marius to bed.” Lucy grimaced but still nodded in agreement.

Meanwhile Vlad left his home as it finally darkened to give him enough cover to come and go without anyone really paying attention to him. He walked for the next fifteen minutes until he came to a deserted alley and then transformed into bats and flew off into the night sky in search of his meal. Vlad preferred to feed on criminals and even then, he did not drain them and only left them passed out from minor blood loss. He drank enough partially sating his hunger before moving onto the next, and he would do this twice before he was satisfied.

He flew for at least fifteen minutes before his keen senses noticed a disturbance in an alleyway. He discovered some man was in the process of mugging a teenage girl. Vlad figured the man would not stop at robbing her but might sexually assault her. Vlad hated and felt nothing short of repulsed by rapists and men who preyed on innocent and defenceless women. Vlad was not about to take that chance.

He quickly swooped down in a shower of bats, and as expected the man and girl startled as the bats come pelting down towards them. The girl screamed in terror, and because the man was no better off and distracted by the bats, she managed to run away and escape from the alleyway. Whilst the man’s back was turned and he continued to fend off the bats, Vlad chose that moment to change back and move so quickly behind of the man that he never stood a chance.

Before he knew what was happening he grabbed the man from behind and quickly sank his fangs into the man’s neck and started to feed, drawing the blood from the man in quick rapid pulls. As soon as the man stopped fighting against him and screaming and seem to noticeably weaken, Vlad let him go and lowered him onto the dirty alleyway floor where he passed out cold. He was still alive and would soon come around feeling weak and sickly but he would live. Vlad quickly turned back into bats and let the alleyway before the man could come around and see him.

He flew off in search of the second criminal and soon found them less than twenty minutes later. He made certain to place several miles between the man from the alleyway and the man he was about to feed from. It did not pay to have them both be so close and draw any sort of suspicion towards himself. He could not afford to expose himself to the world at large he had no desire to find himself hunted.

After feeding from the second man, he left again in shower of bats and headed back home. He was looking forward to his glass of red wine and the latest history book he was reading. Of course, there was the new Italian opera he wanted to listen to that Renfield had purchased as a gift for him when he had been away in Rome on business. A male and female sang on the CD that Vlad had not yet heard.

Later on that evening, a soaking wet Mackenzie towel dried Marius after lifting him from the bathtub. Marius had absolutely drenched not only the bathroom floor but his father also. The boy did it without fail each bath time whether it is his father or his Aunt Lucy, not even his Gran managed to escape unscathed when it came to the young hyperactive mischievous Irish Romanian little boy’s bath time.

Mackenzie inwardly growled in pure exasperation, truly looking forward to when Marius was old enough to take a bath on his own safely. Mackenzie loved his son dearly but he surely would not miss the splashing, which always led to a soaking wet floor and him soaked right through, and his water-saturated clothing clinging uncomfortably to his skin. Marius loved bath time, he loved water in general was a true water baby. Getting him out of the tub was always a minor wrestling match due to him not wanting to get out of the water.

Five minutes later Mackenzie managed to wrestle his wriggling and resisting son into his pyjamas. Marius disliked going to bed as much as he loved water, and the fact the following day was his birthday meant the little boy was overexcited to open his presents and eat birthday cake the next day. Thus in turn meant it was more of a struggle to get him to settle down. Marius in general was a good natured and well-behaved boy, but like most young children, he was a terror to get to bed and to make sure he stayed there once in the bed.

In the end, it took his Gran bribing him with not one but two bedtime stories as long as he agreed to go to sleep once the second was finished. What sealed the deal in the end was Lucy telling him the sooner he went to sleep the quicker his birthday would come and he could open his presents and eat cake. However, if he was not a good boy and went to sleep then his birthday would take longer to come.

After that, Mackenzie and Lucy kissed Marius goodnight and left Brianna to read to Marius. Mackenzie went off to dry himself and change into his sleepwear, whilst Lucy said she would go downstairs and grab an expensive bottle of fruity medium dry white wine and a few nibbles for them to snack on whilst they talked. Mackenzie agreed to meet her in his office in ten minutes, and told her to grab his favourite chocolate.

AN: Okay this is chapter four chapter five next and will be from Mackenzie and Lucy’s point of view. Vlad will return in chapter six.

Chapter Text

Ten minutes later as promised Lucy entered Mackenzie’s office. Her hair up in a messy curled bun on top of her head, and she was dressed in a pair of matching ivory coloured silk and lace pyjamas. She went over to and sat down on the black leather three-seat couch, and placed her red velvet slipper clad feet underneath her as she settled to wait for her friend to arrive. She was not looking forward to the up and coming conversation it promised to be as annoying and awkward as Mackenzie promised.

She looked down at the silver tray she had brought in with her and had placed on the nearby frosted glass top coffee table. There was a large perfectly chilled bottle of wine, along with two large and tall wine glasses, and a plate of mixed cheese cubes and some crackers. There was also a bowl of mixed strawberries, mango, melon, banana and cherries, a combination of both of his and her favourites.

There was two other bowls one with thick double whipped cream and another full of melted rich Romanian chocolate, the sort that Lucy paid to have imported over to England every couple of months for Mackenzie. She and Mackenzie both enjoyed dipping sliced fruit into thick whipped cream and gloriously melted chocolate, which combined with their choice of wine, was nothing short of simply define.

She looked up as she heard the door open less than a minute later as Mackenzie entered the room, followed in by Pippin the Russian Blue kitten right on his heels, who immediately ran and leaped up onto Lucy’s lap. She let out a quiet and a light cooing sound as the beautiful blue eyed kitten made a cute and tiny high pitch mow, and pushed his little furry head up into her hands demanding that she pet and fuss over him.

As she, pet the purring kitten in her lap Mackenzie snorted and shook his head at the antics of his beloved kitten. Lucy noted that he was dry from his earlier drenching and dressed for bed. He wore a pair of navy blue and emerald green checker pyjama pants that rested on his slim hips, and a plain white long sleeved t-shirt and white thick woollen socks.

He was carrying his I phone along with the weekly local newspaper put through the letterbox moments earlier. He placed the newspaper and his I phone onto the coffee table, before taking the bottle of wine and picking up the provided bottle opener. With practiced hands, he made quick work of popping the cork on the bottle, quickly placed the bottle opener to one side, and grabbed one of the nearby wine glasses as the wine started to overflow from the bottle.

He filled both glasses halfway with the sparkling pale straw coloured liquid and handed one glass to Lucy, while he sat down at the other end of the couch with the other glass. He took a sip of wine before saying, “I think we should eat first and have a glass of wine before we have this conversation, as it is going to be annoying and I never thought we would have to have this conversation Luce, but today unfortunately has proven otherwise.”

Lucy took a sip from her own wine before saying, “I apologise for what I said today about you sleeping with the boss to get ahead, even though it was said in fun, and I was unaware you had company and it was the actual boss in question.” She paused and took another small sip from her glass before adding, “However, even though I could have worded it better than I had I will not apologise for saying you need to meet someone as we both know I am right.”

Mackenzie let out a loud sigh through his nose caught between tiered and annoyed. He sipped from his glass and said, “Look let’s just eat and have a glass of wine before we start as I really need at least a glass and my favourite chocolate to somewhat mellow me out or else I will really go off on you and I do not want to do that Luce.” Lucy inwardly scowled but nodded in reluctant agreement.

They dug into the crackers first and sampled four different types of cheese cut into cubes. That was followed by fun using the long wooden bamboo skewers Lucy had placed on the tray to dip the fruit into the cream and chocolate. Mackenzie had taken a strawberry, Banana chunk and a cherry, speared them on the skewer, and liberally dipped it into the chocolate completely bypassing the cream. Mackenzie could not stifle a moan of deep appreciate for the taste of the stunning dark and rich Romanian chocolate combined with the banana, strawberry and cherry.

Lucy smirked knowingly at the sound of the moan Mackenzie let loose when he ate the chocolate covered fruit. Had it been anyone else besides her would have been blushing due to how obscene the moan had sounded coming deep from within his chest. She shook her head as he narrowed his eyes at her smirk. She continued to smirk as she speared some strawberry, mango and banana onto the bamboo skewer, before dipping first into the cream followed by the chocolate. She sighed appreciatively at the combined taste and went in for another around.

After consuming all the food off the tray, they emptied the last of the wine into their glasses and settled back deep into the couch. Mackenzie took a sip of wine before clearing his throat, and Lucy inwardly braced herself for the conversation ahead. She hoped the conversation did not end overly heated, as she hated it when she and Mackenzie had a disagreement to the point where certain choice words end up exchanged. It thankfully did not happen at all often, but was far from pleasant when it unfortunately did happen.

Mackenzie let out a tiered sigh before saying, “Right Luce there are several key matters we need to discuss, which have bothered me for a long while. However the opportunity and situation had never reached the point where I felt the need to say anything, unfortunately that point arrived today during our phone call.” He paused at Lucy’s worried expression, not wanting to hurt or offend her but it needing saying before it could cause any permanent damage to their four-year friendship.

“Luce the point of matter is the Holmwoods, specifically Arthur. I have to be strictly honest here when I say I cannot stand him, that regardless of him being a future Duke I do not think he is good enough for you. For one he is a pompous prat and a mama’s boy attached to her designer apron strings” he informed Lucy who looked stunned horrified as if he had slapped her.

He continued after a brief pause and added, “He is a spoilt brat and a snob, who turns his nose up at me every chance he gets whenever your back is turned, his whole family does in fact as if I was something nasty they trodden in.” He glowered as he spat, “His parents cannot stand the fact I like both men and women, yet put up with the fact Jonathan Harker is the same because he is best friends with their precious heir, and Harker’s parents are a high paid judge and Cardiologist.”

He gritted his teeth continuing quietly to rant, “Arthur and his parents despise the fact you love Marius and take care of him so often, mostly because he is my child and not Arthur’s. They sneer and disapprove of the fact not only am I bi-sexual but a single parent to motherless five-year-old son who is baby sat by you more often than not. Arthur I am certain loathes the fact you show a sweet and innocent little boy that is not of Holmwood blood attention, attention you are in turn not showing him by cooing over his spoilt and pompous hind.”

He added coldly, “I am bloody sick of him and his paranoid shit, when his parents have whispered poison into their precious boy’s ear, warning him to keep an eye on mine and your friendship in case said friendship turns into something more and decidedly not platonic. He is fool and jealous enough to believe I someday will steal you away from him and have you for myself. I actually overheard him and his parents discussing it when they came over here for dinner one evening not long after you and the prick were first engaged.”

He paused to take a deep breath and then drank deeply from his wine glass as Lucy sat there in a sort of numb horrified silence. He lowered his glass before concluding his issue filled rant over her fiancé and shocking his best friend. “Finally on the Holmwood issue from my point of view, I will tolerate him and his disgusting snobbish and judging family but only for your sake. You unfortunately love that arrogant snob of an asshole apparently enough to want to marry him. I love you and see you as the sister I never had but had wanted growing up. That alone is the only reason why I will continue to support you as you marry that prat.”

He took another swallow from his glass, and then lowered it and held up a hand when she opened her mouth to speak. He said, “Please let me finish and say what I need to then you can speak and have your say Luce.” Lucy reluctantly stayed silent and nodded for him to continue. She was horrified and felt herself reeling emotionally at the shock and mortifying impact of the words and opinions of her best friend in regards to her future husband and in-laws.

He continued to reveal more than a few hidden home truths. “As for my love life, as I said earlier on during our phone conversation, my love life is my business and mine alone, and worry about your own love life to that spoilt little snob you plan on marrying.” He paused before adding around a furious hiss, “I will get down on my hands and knees and beg at your feet if I have to, but please for the love of god and everything that is holy stop setting me up on dates especially if they are rich stuck up delusional assholes or happen to know your damn fiancé.”

He continued to rant as he ran his hand in pure frustration through his hair, and said, “For the love of god Luce, Jonathan Harker, he was boring beyond belief and a damn real estate solicitor. That arrogant son of a bitch good as said I make my living doodling on scraps of paper all day long. That cheeky bastard who the hell does he think he is and gets off saying that to me. I spent five years, five bloody years in Romania studying to be an architect whilst at the same time trying to raise Marius with only my mother to help me.”

He scowled furiously as he drank from his wine before lowering the glass and then snarling, “The jackass did not appreciate the fact all of my attention was not solely focused on him and that I had a five year old son. I mean Jesus H Christ Luce surely you and Holmwood must have informed little asshole Fauntleroy that he would be dealing with a single parent of a five year-old boy?”

He shook his head and spat furious, “I am single parent that gives more than half a shit about his son. He did not like the fact that if he had continued to see me that Marius always came first in my life that he is my number one priority and concern and my career comes second.” He shook his head firmly as he told her, “Luce besides my mother, Marius and my career were all I had until I returned to England and met you and your parents.”

He looked beyond exhausted before letting out a disgusted snort of disbelief as he spat, “Oh and do not get me started on that blasted delusional nut whack job of a Lady you set me up with, ha apparently another close family friend of the Holmwoods.” He ground his teeth as he growled out between clenched teeth, “She got it into her blond delusional mind that we would marry. Oh and once that apparently happened she would provide me with children that were hers and not some other woman’s.”

He looked positively enraged as he snarled in pure blood boiling fury, “Boarding school Luce, bloody boarding school, within less than an hour of meeting me she was talking of boarding schools on the first date thinking she would get a second date with me. For crying out loud Luce she wanted to send my son off to boarding school so she could play happy families and pretend that my beautiful innocent little boy did not exist.”

Lucy drank heavily from her wine as she eyed her furious friend over the rim of the glass. She had never seen him so furious before, it was a true and shocking revelation for her. Yes, she had been aware the dates set between Mackenzie and Jonathan and Lady Alexia Sterling had been a complete and utter bust. Though she had not been aware of just how badly they had gone, as neither Jonathan nor Alexia were willing to be so forthcoming in the fact they had failed to impress and hold onto Mackenzie’s attention for more than a single date.”

Oh and the fact of what he thought of Arthur was just truly heartbreaking for her to learn. He actually thought she was too good for someone who was going to take over the title and responsibilities of Duke soon. She loved Mackenzie, he was her best friend her brother in all but blood. For him to admit to thinking all of those awful things about her fiancé were the worst and most painful and damning proverbial slap he could have ever gave to her. So yes, she was less than thrilled about his very blunt and disgusted opinion of her future husband.

What somewhat soothed her and filled her with a certain relief and thankfulness was the fact he was agreeing to tolerate him for her sake. She honestly did not know if she could have bared it if he had up and demand it is either him or me. This in turn went a long way towards making her love her friend dearly for such a compromise. She could only hope Arthur could be as gracious and come to the same conclusion and tolerant agreement.

Deep down she knew Mackenzie was not half-wrong about Arthurs parents. Lucy did not approve of such judgemental behaviour, even though she at times did lack a certain verbal filter and tact, and without a doubt could be somewhat high maintenance, though she was no way anything like the current Mrs. Holmwood. Just because she was born into, secure and wealthy lifestyle and her parents happen to be well-established publisher and a high-end jewellery designer that did not mean they raised her to be a snob and hypocrite.

So to say, that she too had unfortunately noticed similar behaviour to what her friend had described when she had attended social functions set up by the Holmwoods, especially when first announced and she introduced as Arthur’s fiancée was a sure understatement. She had witnessed the current Duchess making cruel and snide remarks about party guests or gossip about what he or she had done to earn such scorn and ridicule. Both the Duke and Duchess would judge and make rude snobby comments when those on the receive end did not fit into a certain social mould and the standards of the rich and noble elite of sociality.

At the end of the day, she loved Arthur so very much, and for his sake, she would tolerate his judgemental and snobby parents. She had no choice in less have them along with their social friends that followed the Holmwoods like sheep ridicule her and turn her into a social outcast. She did not want to be on the wrong side of that crowd considering anything bad said about her, regardless that they would not hold it against her, it would get back to and reflex on her parents badly.

She had no trouble whatsoever believing what Mackenzie said the current Duke and Duchess had said about him and Marius. They had confronted her about the amount of time she spent with Mackenzie and Marius. They had asked if she thought it, wise becoming attached to a man who was not her fiancée and was unmarried with a five-year-old son, and who seemed to date both genders. In addition, did she think it wise to grow attached to a child who was not and never would be hers? They insisted she and Arthur would have their own children she could love and grow maternal attachments to.

Lucy had when asked all of this delivered a trite and expected reply, but in truth she did not intend to give up Mackenzie and Marius. She loved them both like family they are her family in all but blood. She had hoped when she and Arthur married that they would become an extension of that union and family. She knew she would not choose between Mackenzie and Arthur, she would not choose between her fiancé and her brother in all but blood, so naturally a compromise would need making and agreed up on.

She also now knew she had to accept the fact that her friend would never date or marry someone who moved in the same social circles she was about to marry into that up and coming autumn. She would not give up on her friend finding someone to be with and to give Marius another parental figure. Now she knew if she wanted to set her friend up on dates that her choices would have to be those who did not know or moved within the same social circles as the Holmwoods.

Mackenzie sipped from his glass again before asking her, “Finally Luce those comments about sleeping with the boss to get ahead in my career. Christ almighty Luce, do you think so very little of me that you would say such things even said in jest?” He snorted as he added, “Luce I would never dare to do such a disgusting and underhanded thing. I believe in working for my success, and maintaining a strong professional moral ethic standard.”

He snorted and added coldly, “I despise those who do not work for their success and do it on their own merit and with sound morels. It is truly disgusting in my opinion those robbing others of the opportunity to progress further who have worked so hard and long for their success, and not gained it by exchanging sexual favours with upper management to get ahead in their careers.”

He sneered in disgust as he concluded, “I could care less how devastatingly handsome the CEO of my workplace is, and oh believe me Luce when I say Vlad Dalca is devastatingly handsome is putting it ever so mildly. However using my body as a bargaining chip to further my career makes my skin crawl. If I cannot earn a promotion on my own then I do not deserve the job and have no business being there full stop period.”

He leaned forward and grabbed his phone from the table, putting his mostly empty glass onto the table in the process. He leaned back and unlocked his phone with his fingerprint before scrolling the menu for his pictures, and then searched until he found the photo he took that afternoon of Vlad. He turned the phone to face Lucy and said, “That Luce is Vlad Dalca, CEO of Dalca Industries, where I happen to work.”

Luce almost choked on her wine and quickly lowered the glass. She sputtered, “Holy shit Kenzie he is stunning. Forget about work, ha, ride him just for the sake of it, the fact you are employer and employee does not come into it, leave work at the office where it belongs and let him rock your world my friend.” Mackenzie choked on a laugh even as he tried to not cringe at how unbelievably blunt she was for someone with her background and upbringing.

When he calmed he finally concluded and said, “Now do you see Luce looking at that picture? He is my boss the very same man who sat across the table from me in a cafe he owns when you called me today. Not even that devastating level of dark and handsome, would I go against my morel or professional ethic. I would not be able to stomach sleeping with him if it was only so I could gain a promotion.”

Mackenzie said, “Okay I am done, you can have your say. Hit me with your worst Luce, but know this I will not, I absolutely refuse to in fact, to apologise for anything I have said to you tonight. I meant every single last word I said.” He silently leaned back against the back of the couch and waited for her reaction to all he had said and told her.

Lucy took a huge swallow from her glass and emptying it, before leaning forward to place it on the table. She then sat back and mirrored Mackenzie’s position at the other end of the couch. Lucy worried her lower lip with her teeth as she thought and chose her words carefully. A part of her was furious, whilst a surprisingly large part she realised understood and did not hold any grudge for his blunt words.

She cleared her throat and grimaced as she finally spoke, “First of all the current and senior Holmwoods, Kenzie I cannot and will not fault you for saying anything you did about them. My god I could not honestly agree more with everything you said about them. Imagine how I feel when I marry Arthur I will have to tolerate and put up with them as my in-laws for crying out loud.” Mackenzie snorted at hearing this and silently nodded in complete agreement but said nothing all the same.

Lucy shook her head and continued to a somewhat frustrated tone. “Christ Mackenzie I feel as if I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. I feel as if I have to be on my guard around Arthur’s parents constantly in less make one wrong move and have them turn on me and convince their son to not marry me.” Mackenzie frowned at hearing this and not liking what he was hearing, and honestly had no idea his friend felt this way.

Lucy closed her eyes as she continued, “Oh Kenzie, they are so disgustingly judgemental the whole godforsaken lot of them.” She paused as she opened her eyes and said, “The only member of the Holmwoods who is not like them is a cousin from the Holmwood side of the family. He was really nice during the two times I met him, which is why I have a hard time believing he and Arthur are in anyway related if it were not for the last name and a few facial features they have in common.”

She paused at Mackenzie’s interested expression and nodded as she added, “However, I heard from Arthur that he grew up outside of the upbringing that Arthur had due to being the oldest child of the Duke’s younger half brother. Apparently, they had different mothers, as the former Duke before Arthur’s father took over; he remarried after his first wife died in childbirth with their second child a little girl that was still born.

She took a deep and frustrated breath after pausing and added, “I love Arthur so much Kenzie, but sometimes even around me Arthur will show similar behaviour of his parents towards others. I suppose it is sure influence of his parents on how they raised him to think and feel. They have raised him to believe he is better than others and how to act the part of a future Duke.”

She added in saddened tone, “As for how they think and treat you and Marius, I hate it Kenzie I hate it so much. I will not let them force me to choose between you and the Holmwoods, you and Marius and even Brianna are my family in all but blood, and I love you all. This makes me realise that a compromise has to be met, everyone needs to meet half way and try to tolerate each other.”

She hissed furiously, “I do not care if his parents do not approve of how I care for and look after Marius. Marius is a sweet innocent little boy who has done nothing to earn or deserve their scorn. It is jealousy I believe on my Arthur’s part, you were not wrong about that. I do believe he feels threatened by our friendship and how much I care for and adore Marius.”

She glowered as she added, “I could keep on telling him until I am blue in the face that you are like a brother to me and being anything but friends would seem like an act of incest.” She continued bitterly, “It is his damn parents whispering poison and lies in his ears, about us and Marius not being of Holmwood blood and receiving too much of my attention and affection.”

She looked somewhat hopeless as she revealed, “Kenzie I could insist his parents are wrong and just trying to stir up the situation unfavourably in mine and your direction. However, he would not believe it he thinks the sun and moon shine brightly out of his parent’s backsides, that they are perfect and could never do wrong. That is especially after they whisper more disgusting poison into his ears.”

She went on at Mackenzie’s silent and sympathetic knowing nod, “Kenzie wedding planning with his mother is like pulling several rotten teeth or having a root cannel without being numbed beforehand.” Mackenzie snorted loudly and covered his eyes with his left hand. Lucy moaned, “No, don’t you dare laugh Kenzie, dare you dare it is not the least bit amusing. If it were not for my own mother then I believe that woman would try to take over the entire wedding and have it all be how she wants it. It is my wedding and not hers damn it.”

She ranted, “For crying out loud she had me the other week looking at bridal brochures displaying ideas for weddings with roses and calla lilies, and jade green, cream and gold themes. I have told her straight I want Gerbera daisies and a yellow and white theme and maybe a few golden accents here and there.” She let out a rude sounding snort as she added, “Oh and get this she insisted daises in any form were too common, and that yellow was a colour used for christenings or a children’s birthday parties and not the wedding of noble elite.”

She gritted out, “Damn it Kenzie she wants me to marry in white, but I am putting my foot down. I am marrying in ivory, white washes out my fair skin tone and I appear sickly. I mean surely she must have noticed this and would not want me to show her and their precious sociality friends up when I end up looking overly pale and sickly during the ceremony and in the wedding photos.”

She looked furious and close to tears as she told him, “Mackenzie I want you as my best man, I have no one I am close enough to or trust to ask to be my maid of honour. If Arthur can have Jonathan Harker as his best man then I can have you. We are living in the twenty first century not the eighteenth for crying out loud.” She clenched her fists in her lap as she added in disgust, “His mother insisted one of Arthur’s cousins could take over as maid of honour that it is improper for me to have a best man. There is no way in hell I am allowing some cousin of Arthurs to have such a role on my wedding day of all days.”

She let out a scoff as she informed her friend, “I want Marius to be a Paige boy in the wedding, but his parents and even Arthur are against it. It is jealousy I swear it is Kenzie. If they do not let up then I swear I will try to convince Arthur to elope. I will give him an ultimate, does he love his parents or me more, who is he marrying and wants to please more, me or is hell bitch of a mother. We will soon see how much he loves and values me.”

Mackenzie grimaced as he asked her, “Careful Luce, how much does he love you and how much does he want to please his parents, to keep his mother all sweet and calm?” His grimace deepened as he added, “He is a spoilt jackass Luce and a mama’s boy. You need to tread very carefully as you said it yourself that you fear his parents will whisper poison in his ear and try to convince him to marry elsewhere.” He finally concluded, “Pick your battles wisely, and as much I would love to be your best man and Marius a Paige boy, please do not push them too far for the sake of Marius and me.”

Lucy shook her head and scowled as she told him, “It is not just about you and Marius; it is about me and what I want to. I love him so much, but I have to ask myself what sort of situation I will be entering myself. Will I be marrying a man who is forever going to be siding with his parents over his own wife for crying out loud? I love him but I cannot live with and be in a marriage under those circumstances Kenzie.”

She added in an incredulous tone, “For the love of god, he is a grown man in his thirties. It is time he grew the hell up and started thinking himself, started making his own decisions and mistakes. It is fine to ask for guidance, I mean I still go to my parents for advice and guidance, but not for one single second I allow them to dictate how I live my life and overly influence the decisions I make.”

Mackenzie drawled, “I repeat, Mama’s boy attached her designer apron strings, spoilt prick and snob. Need I go on here Luce or have I made myself perfectly clear?” Lucy scowled and bit down on the inside of her cheek as she resisted the urge to let loose several F bombs or deliver a nice little one-finger salute. However, she knew that would not faze her friend and would only egg him on further and prove the less than pleasant point he had made.

She knew the majority if not on all accounts he had said about Arthur was sadly the truth. However that did not for one single second change the fact she loved him so very much. She truly hated the current Duke and Duchess for all of the judgemental, cruel and snobbish ways they had taught their son from a very young age. Arthur Holmwood never stood a chance to be anything but what he had with parents like his.

She said as much to Mackenzie, who shook his head and told her, “I am sorry Luce but until he shows me he can act like a human being around people who are less fortunate in the size of his or her bank account and socially then I am sticking to my opinion of him.” Lucy nodded and said sadly, “I know Kenzie, and thank you, I truly appreciate you tolerating him for my sake.”

After a few more moments of silence Mackenzie yawned and said, “Well we’ve said what we needed to for the time being, so I am off to bed I need to be up early in the morning to collect Marius’s birthday cake before he is aware of where I am going and for what.” Lucy nodded knowingly around an amused grin and said, “Your mother and I can keep him occupied and away from his gifts until you return with the cake. We will help set up for the party before any of Marius’s friends arrive.”

Mackenzie nodded gratefully as he and Lucy stood from the couch. He secured his phone in his hand and picked up the empty silver tray while Lucy picked up the glasses and wine bottle. They left the office and made their way towards the kitchen where Brianna was sat in her nightwear and drinking a cup of green tea before bed. Lucy placed the glasses in the dishwasher and the bottle on the counter top to deal with the next morning.

Mackenzie placed the tray onto the counter top, said his goodnights to his mother and Lucy, and that he would see them early tomorrow. He left the kitchen after the two women wished him good night. He made his way up the stairs and silently checked in on Marius to make sure he was sleeping, and thankfully, he was much to Mackenzie’s relief. He hoped he remained there until the next morning.