Three nights later…
Vanda looked up when Phineas teleported into the cabin with a box. "Oh, you brought us some food. Thank you." She'd called Connor a few hours before, asking him to please send some bottled blood.
She wasn't ready to return to the city yet. She and Marta had more than fifty years of memories to catch up on. And according to Connor, Casimir was still somewhere in America, and she was still on his hit list.
He would want Marta dead, too, so it was better for them to stay hidden at Howard's cabin. Besides, Vanda knew she wasn't ready to be seen in public. She still broke into tears at unexpected times. She still ached with loneliness for Phil.
He'd stopped calling after that first night. She could only think that he had realized he was better off without her.
"Hey, sweetness." Phineas grinned at her as he set the box down on the kitchen counter. "Hey, dudette." He nodded at Marta.
"Hi, Dr. Phang." Marta ran to look in the box. "Did you bring any Chocolood? I love that stuff."
Vanda smiled. Her sister seemed to be adapting well to synthetic blood and Vampire Fusion Cuisine.
"Here you go." Phineas handed a bottle of Chocolood to Marta. "Can you get the rest of this stuff put away? I have a top secret mission to go on."
"Really?" Marta unloaded bottles from the box. "What kind of mission?"
"The sort of mission that requires the expertise of the Love Doctor." Phineas sauntered over to Vanda. "Don't worry, dudette. I'll be right back."
"What?" Vanda started when Phineas grabbed her. "What are you doing?"
Everything went black.
Vanda stumbled, and Phineas steadied her.
"Okay, wolf-bro. Mission accomplished." Phineas gave Phil a knuckle pound, then teleported away.
"What is going on?" Vanda looked at Phil, then around them. "Where are we? In a closet?" She frowned at the shelves filled with antiseptic cleansers and dust cloths.
Phil touched her shoulder. "I had to see you, Vanda."
"In a closet?"
He grinned. "I had to tell you how much I adore you. I love you. I refuse to live one more night without you."
Her heart squeezed in her chest. "But you have a great future—"
"Yes, with you."
Vanda pressed a hand to her chest. "You're destined to be a great leader of your people."
"Maybe, in about three hundred years. My sister wasn't entirely up front about the timeline."
"Oh." Vanda's heart raced. He still loved her. He still wanted her. And he could live for hundreds of years.
He smiled. "I want to show you something."
"In a closet?"
With a chuckle, he opened the door. "I asked Phineas to teleport you to the closet so your arrival wouldn't look suspicious."
He led her down a plain white hall. Their footsteps echoed on the gleaming linoleum floor. The smell of cleansers was heavy in the air.
"Where are we?" she asked.
"Cleveland." He led her toward some double swinging doors. "This is a retirement home."
"Sheesh, Phil, I'm not that old."
He chuckled and squeezed her hand. "I missed you."
She frowned at him. "You didn't call me."
"I was waiting for the perfect day. Today, they're having a party, and I wanted you to see it." He opened the double doors. "This is the recreation room."
She noted the table with a big birthday cake and a bowl of punch. Mortals milled about, chatting and laughing. Some children pranced around the table, admiring the cake and trying to sneak tastes of the icing. An elderly woman with a cap of gray curls shooed them away, laughing.
Vanda frowned. "I don't know any of these people."
Phil dragged her forward. "I want you to meet the birthday boy. He's eighty-one years old."
Vanda spotted an old man sitting in an armchair. He was looking down at the little girl in his lap. His face was lined, his head bald on top. He held the little girl with wrinkled, age-spotted hands.
"You want a piece of cake, Pawpaw?"
"Yes, Emily, that would be lovely."
The little girl squirmed off his lap and ran to the table. The old man lifted his face to watch her, and he smiled.
Vanda gasped. Those blue eyes. Her gaze flitted over him quickly and spotted the numbers tattooed on his forearm.
She stumbled back. Her heart lurched. She covered her mouth with a shaky hand.
Phil held her shoulders, steadying her.
"Jozef," she whispered. A flood of tears came to her eyes.
"He survived the war," Phil whispered. "He immigrated here in 1949 and married a few years later. He has four children, ten grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren."
Vanda turned away and furiously wiped at the tears streaming down her face. "I can't let them see me cry. Not with my pink tears." Oh God, she was actually related to all these people.
"Do you want to meet him?" Phil asked.
Vanda pressed a hand to her racing heart. "What will I say?"
"You'll think of something." Phil escorted her to her brother.
His mouth twitched when he noticed her hair, then he looked at her face and frowned. "Do I know you? You look so familiar."
She blinked back her tears. "I–I—My name is Vanda."
His blue eyes widened. "I had a sister named Vanda. You look so much like her."
"She was…my grandmother."
Jozef stiffened suddenly and grabbed at his chest. Vanda gasped. Good Lord, she was going to kill him.
The elderly lady rushed over. "What's going on here?" She glared at Vanda. "Who are you?"
"I'm all right," Jozef insisted. "Gertie, you remember how I used to talk about my sister Vanda?"
"Yes, she was the one who raised you after your mom died. You said she died in the war."
Jozef looked at Vanda with tears in his eyes. "She lived! This is her granddaughter."
"Oh my!" Gertie grabbed Vanda's hand. "Bless you."
Jozef took Vanda's other hand. "How is she? Is she still with us?"
"She passed away," Vanda said quietly. "But she always talked about you. She loved you very much."
"I loved her, too." Jozef shook her hand. "This is the best present ever."
"Yes, it is." Vanda glanced at Phil and smiled. "Thank you."
Jozef laughed. "I like your purple hair. That's something my sister would have done."
Phil stepped forward. "Sir, my name is Phil Jones. It's an honor to meet you."
Jozef released Vanda's hand and shook hands with Phil. "Are you here with Vanda?"
"Yes, and since you're Vanda's oldest living male relative, I thought I would ask you for her hand in marriage."
Jozef blinked. "An old-fashioned sort, are you? I like that." He looked at Vanda and his blue eyes twinkled. "Do you love this man, Vanda?"
"Oh, yes." She stepped close to Phil and put her arms around him. "I love him very much."
Gertie clasped her hands together. "This is so sweet."
Jozef cleared his throat and gave Phil a stern look. "Do you have a job, young man?"
"Yes, sir. I'll take good care of her. I love her with all my heart."
Jozef chuckled. "Don't know what you need me for. You two go on and get hitched."
Vanda laughed. "We will. I promise."
Phil pulled a diamond ring from his pocket and slid it onto Vanda's finger. "To our great future together."
She slipped her arms around his neck as his mouth met hers in a long, lingering kiss.
"Oooh, Pawpaw," Emily whispered. "They're kissing."
Vanda heard her brother laugh, and her heart soared.
"How can I ever thank you for this, Phil?"
He gave her his wolfish grin. "We'll think of something."