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Snow covered the ground as far as the eye could see. Winter had settled in and made itself at home. A fire was burning in the large hearth and little Arabella was playing quietly in the floor on a blanket spread out over the area rug. Aiden sat drinking his morning coffee as he watched his daughter play. Everyday she reminded him more and more of Ava. Everyday he was more determined to find out what had happened to her. If she was truly still alive where was she. If the unthinkable had happened...where was her final resting place?

At the urging of the old housekeeper, Aiden had finally relented and hired a nanny on a part time basis. He chose a young male vampire with impeccable references to help. The young male vampire, Seth, walked in with Arabella's pink snow suit to put on her. "Lord McDow, she will be ready to go in a few moments" Seth had told him and Aiden got up grabbing his own jacket and slipped it on. Aiden thanked the man and took his daughter leaving the house and out into the snow.

He went for his usual walk with her. Arabella loved being outside even when it was cold. He would talk to her and tell her of her mother on their walks. The same things often being repeated but he didn't care. His daughter would know of her mother one way or the other. Aiden spent a little extra time with Arabella this particular morning because he had decided today would be the day he began his search and he would not take her with him for that.

When Arabella became fussy he went back inside and sat with her in the rocking chair in the living room after taking off her snow suit. He bit into his thumb and immediately Arabella reached for it and pulled it to her little mouth and drank the droplets of blood. "It should be your mother doing this." Aiden said quietly as he pulled his thumb away and replaced it with a bottle of warmed milk. The nanny came and took Arabella from Aiden to lay her down for a nap. "I will be back later. You know how to reach me should you need to." Aiden said then left the manor.

He made the drive to Ava's place here in Zurich. After parking he waited before going inside. His emotions all over the place. His hand reached for the door knob and he opened it easily stepping inside. His eyes closed and he honed in his senses. Faint traces of her could be felt. But he knew she had not been here in a long time. Perhaps since before the war.

He made his way from room to room checking every little detail finding nothing. Finally he stepped into her bedroom first going to the closet. Nothing seemed to be missing that shouldn't have been. Everything was neatly in place. The bed was still made and her chair still had a dress hanging over the arm. He turned toward the dresser and that's when he saw it. A necklace laying over the jewelry box that he had made for her two centuries prior. Picking up the silver moon with a small blood ruby on the shape of a heart in it he stared at it for a moment. The memory of that day came flooding back like a tidal wave and he sat down on the bed and for the first time since he and Arabella had been ripped from her, Aiden cried.

The tears flowed from his now blood red eyes. His heart ached at the thought of never seeing his Ava again. He knew it was highly possible. Gavin had wanted her for some evil purpose and when he couldn't have his way.... He could have had her killed. Gavin was dead now. Aiden had seen to that. Gripping the necklace in his fist he stood up and walked from the home and out to his car. Hanging the necklace from the review mirror he stared at it for a moment. "I will find out what happened baby girl....one way or the other." he muttered out loud to no one and then started the car and headed home to his daughter.
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Christmas had come and gone and honestly it was better than he could have hoped for.  Duncan had spent not only Christmas Eve with Ava but Christmas Day as well. They had meals together and walked out in the snow and even had a snowball fight. They laughed and talked and on Christmas Eve night they had cuddled on her couch while watching sappy Christmas movies. And now...New Years Eve was upon them. He had no intention of spending it alone. He fully intended on spending it with Ava.  To him she was still his Ava. Still the one who had what was left of his heart.  If things went as he hoped tonight then he work up the nerve to tell her how he felt. And unless he was reading signals wrong  she was at least feeling something for him.  Duncan picked up the box on his bed with the red bow and headed over to Ava's.
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With the last of the decorations hung Ava stood back to admire her work. Having already spent one Christmas without Aiden and Arabella, she figured this year she would at least try to make it through. Knowing they were gone was hard. But since Duncan had been back he really had been a help.  He even had come looking for her a couple of weeks ago when she decided to trek into the hills not paying attention to the impending bad weather.  If it hadn't been for him she may have gotten stuck.  Since the war she had not been able to teleport for some reason.  The ability was there but there was something blocking it.

Ava nodded to herself as she looked at the decorations. "Now for the outside."  After giving it a moment of thought she decided to wait and ask Duncan to help her with that. She sat down with a cup of coffee. Memories swirling in her head.  Ones that she wanted to forget. She wanted to erase every memory of Aiden.

The war had taken him and her daughter. Why could it not have taken the memories as well?  To her it was still unfair. Still painful.  She stood up and walked outside into the cold crisp air. Taking a deep breath into her lungs she looked out over the field and something was moving toward the cabin...fast.

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The air was crisp and skies were grey and full of fluffy clouds. Duncan pulled up the collar on his jacket around his neck as he walked out the front door of his small cottage.  The talk he had with Ava went better than he expected, even if she did belt him several times. It was no less than he deserved.  Duncan ran a hand through his dark wavy hair as he sat down on the steps of his cottage drinking his coffee. Steam rose from the black ceramic mug as he brought it to his lips. As he sipped the dark brew, Duncan looked across the fields.

It wasn't until this moment that he realised how much he had missed his old highland home. A light blanket of snow covered the ground and brought a smile to his mouth. As he looked up to the sky once more Duncan's thoughts turned back to Ava. He grew concerned that she might not be prepared for the impending snow storm that Duncan knew was going to hit. With that thought he got up and headed to his truck and made his way to Ava's.  Whether she liked it or not he was going to make sure everything was ready for the impending weather.

As he pulled up in front of Ava's he didn't even bother knocking on her door. He went straight out back to start splitting wood. Even vampires could freeze to death.  Once he was done with that he set about making sure the rest of the house was buttoned down properly.  He went inside after knocking several times and got no answer. A room to room search revealed no Ava which now had Duncan worried. He turned and went back outside heading out into the fields.

"Ava!" he called out several times to no avail. Eventually he decided to just wait it out until an older man happen to be walking around the outskirts of the fields. His horse had apparently wandered off and he was tracking him down.

"If you mean that lass that headed out into the hills, she went up there a couple of hours ago. Hope she comes back before the weather turns rotten. Gets nasty up there quick."

Duncan knew that about the weather. He thanked him and headed off to the hills. Ava might be a vampire... But even vampires could get injured badly. And those hills were anything but safe in nasty weather. "Dammit woman. What are you trying to prove?"
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Music was softly playing in the background as Aiden sat reading the morning paper while sipping his coffee and watching Arabella sit and play in her playpen.  A couple of days had passed since he had heard those words in his mind. Aiden could very faintly feel her but still no clue as to where she could be. He watched as his daughter played with the little plush doll in her tiny hands and he smiled. It hadn't been that long ago that he and Arabella had been locked away in that cold cell. Who it was that had unlocked the room door was still a mystery to him but it had allowed him to take his daughter and escape.

He honestly had no clue where to begin his search except one place: Zurich. Maybe there was something he missed. Arabella was starting to fuss bringing Aiden out of his thoughts. "Yes little lady you're hungry."  He picked her up and took her into the kitchen and fixed her bottle giving it her. A smile formed on his face as he looked down at his little princess. "You look so much like your mum." His voice quiet as he walked with her upstairs and laid her in her crib.

Aiden pulled the cell phone from his back pocket and dialed a number to the manor in Zurich. When the caretaker answered Aiden spoke. "It's me. We're coming home. Have things ready."  There was a brief pause "Yes. About three or four hours. Make sure my daughter's room is prepared first." with that he hung up replacing the phone in his back pocket and turned on the monitor in Arabella's room before stepping out.

Heading downstairs, Aiden smiled to himself just a bit. It wasn't much, but It was a start. He informed the caretakers here that he and Arabella would be heading back to Zurich for a time, then went to take care of loose ends around the castle here.

When he was ready, he went up and got his daughter changed and ready to go. "Well princess, let's see how you like your first time phasing."  Holding tightly to his daughter he phased them both to the large gothic looking manor in Zurich.  "Welcome home princess." He told her as he kissed the top of her head. He walked into the large manor into the foyer and was greeted by the house housekeeper.

"Welcome home Lord McDow and little miss lady McDow." she said with a smile to Arabella. Arabella turned and buried her face in her daddy's shoulder. "She isn't used to many others. But, she will warm up to you." he said patting his daughter's back lightly. He made his way around the manor checking things out before heading out to the gardens in the back. A wave of emotions hit him and he collapsed down on the wrought iron bench with his daughter fighting back the urge to cry. She had been here. Her scent and lingering emotions were still all over the place. "One step closer." was all he mumbled as he sat with his daughter, hoping that by being here something or someone could lead him to his Ava.
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There comes a time in a man's life when he has to take a stand.  He has to make a choice. That day had come for Duncan. He had sent the flowers and knew she got them. Now it was time to approach her. Watching from afar just wasn't going to cut it anymore.  Duncan pulled up in front of the stone cottage and sat in his car for a moment before getting out.   "Well, it's now or never." He ran a hand through his hair and got out of his car and went up to the door knocking on it hoping she would answer. She would have every right to knock him flat on his ass. He was just hoping she would choose a different reaction. He truly was sorry for the things he had done. If he had them to do over again... He would do things so much differently.  One of his hands shoved into his pocket the other hand raised to knock a second time. He turned to look around hoping she would answer before he lost his nerve and left.

+Ava McDow
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The deafening silence was pierced by the sounds of crying. A baby crying... "Alright Arabella."  Aiden slid to the edge of the bed and scrubbed his face then ran his hands through his long dark hair. He walked into Arabella's room picking her up and patting her back trying to lull his daughter back to sleep. It was times like this he missed his Ava even more than he already did. The war had taken too high of a price....the love of his life and Arabella's mother.

Aiden bit his finger letting small trickles of blood start to drip and Arabella sucked up the rich crimson fluid and soon was back sound asleep. Placing her back down in her crib he made his way to the kitchen to grab a drink of his own. Ava had been on his mind a lot lately. An image of her flashed in his mind and his fists came slamming down on the granite countertop. "Why did I come back here? There is nothing but reminders of her all around." 

Aiden knocked back his drink and went to sit in the living room. As he sat down he got the distinct voice in his head and heard it clear as day.  Her voice like he used to hear it said only a simple phrase... But those three words were enough... 'I miss you'... Was all that was said.  "She's not fucking dead!!  God dammit she isn't fucking dead!! I would bet my life on that. But where are you?"  Aiden could only faintly hear her and could not pick up on her location. He had already tried the castle in Ireland a few months ago and the shop and old place in Zurich even though he had thought her dead at the time. He just couldn't give up on her. Aiden practically ran upstairs and quietly crept into his daughter's room whispering as he looked down at her small sleeping form "Princess... We are going to find your mummy..no matter what it takes."


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The rain outside pelted against the cold window pain as Ava looked on. Ava had been in a self imposed exile for the last several months. Those cruel bastards had taken everything from her. Her husband and her infant daughter were both gone. She would never get to see Arabella's first steps, hear her first words. She would never get to see her grow up period.

Then there was her husband. They had been on a roller coaster ride from hell for several centuries and had finally found their happiness,....then poof... just like that it was gone. No more waking up with his arm around her. No more knowing she was safe. She would never feel that way again.

Gone was the good-natured, fun loving woman she used to be. Eternity held no meaning for her anymore. She just didn't care. Losing everyone she loved taught her one thing..... don't let anyone in.... don't let them get close and above all....just don't care... or love...

The occult shop she had in Zurich was now shut down as was the home she lived in. As far as she was concerned...she was never going back. Ava was slipping into an abyss that she couldn't see her way out of and honestly wasn't sure she wanted to.
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The war was over....the aftermath was just beginning. Duncan had regrets. He had lots of regrets. But his one biggest regret... Ava. He had been given her as an assignment. A damned assignment. All he had to do was turn her into a hybrid and then get the hell out. Why was SHE different? Why did SHE get under his skin and seem to stay embedded? He stood out on the balcony in his hotel room running his hand through his long dark hair that hung loosely about his shoulders.

His thoughts went back over the events of the past year and a half. So much had happened. Through it all one thing remained the same: His love for her. Even when she had married that wretched vampire. He wanted the damn fool out of the way. He never wished harm on her daughter though. Not one time. Her husband and daughter were casualties of the war and were presumed dead. Duncan had no hand in that and honestly didn't know exactly what happened. He didn't care either.

All he wanted was a second chance to correct the mistakes he had made in the past. He sat down leaning back against the chair and huffed. Duncan had been following her, keeping an eye on her to make sure she was okay. Knowing she was in a bad spot he didn't want her to do anything stupid. She had pretty much become a recluse, keeping to herself and that was just as bad.

On a whim Duncan picked up the mobile laying on the table and dialed up a florist. He ordered two dozen roses...one dozen orange to represent his passion for her and one dozen purple...to represent the fact that he had fallen in love with her at the very first sight of her. He wanted them all mixed together and sent to her. "Yes...just put on the card.... Thinking of you always...DM Yes have them sign for it i want to know she received them. Thank you" He gave them his card information to pay for them and then hung up. "One way or another....I WILL win you back." He sat back with a renewed sense of purpose....determined to get back the only thing in his life he ever loved.
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