“You can’t be serious,” Artemis groaned, shooting her brother-in-law a glare as she slumped against the kitchen table. It was a few days after Halloween, and their little brood had only grown bigger with Tara added to the mix. Seeing as both her and Violet were her responsibilities, she’d been tasked with taking them to the mall today.

Will remained unsympathetic to her groan, flipping a pancake on the griddle. “There’s a maintenance problem at Lian’s daycare, it’ll be closed for the rest of the week.”

“They can’t have someone fix it?” Artemis muttered. “My hands are pretty full as it is.”

“And mine aren’t?” Will shot her a look from the stove. “I didn’t say anything when you offered up the house for both Violet and Tara. In fact, I think I’ve been pretty accepting about the whole thing,” he noted, taking a sip from his coffee. “I’ve already made arrangements for the rest of the week, I just need you to watch her today.”

Artemis sighed, saying nothing. She knew he had a point; he had all the points, actually. Will had taken Violet and Tara in with minimal complaint, and there were plenty to be made. She knew him pretty well by this point, well enough to know that if she didn’t start making things easier for him, sooner or later his generosity would reach a breaking point.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want to watch her niece. If it were any other day, she wouldn’t have minded in the least, and would have jumped at the idea. But watching her in addition to Violet and Tara? It certainly wouldn’t be easy.

“Say please.”

“You’re in no position to negotiate,” Will said with a smirk, turning the stove off and resting the last pancake on a plate. “But I will bring home dinner.”

“Close enough.” She finally lifted her head from the table and helped him set up for breakfast. Any minute, the girls would all be awake, and the chaotic breakfast ritual could proceed as normal. “I’ll take her to the mall with us.”

“She’d like that. But whatever you do, do not let her near the toy store. Her puppy dog eyes have gotten better. I think she may be learning from Brucely.” As if on cue, the dog barked, having finished his breakfast and wanting attention.

“Not the worst mentor to have, but point taken,” Artemis chuckled, rubbing her dog’s back.


“Can we get ice cream?” Lian asked, holding tight to Tara’s hand. As the newest member of their household, she held all of the toddler’s fascination.

“Yes, I would like ice cream as well,” Violet added. “With sprinkles!”

“Yeah, sprinkles!” Lian cheered, swinging around her and Tara’s hands in excitement. “Tara wants ice cream too, right Tara?”

Tara blinked, having to think it over for a moment before she smiled. It didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Ice cream would be nice,” she said, her voice soft.

Being the older, most mature of the group, Artemis should have said no. She should have said that they had ice cream at home, and it would spoil their appetites. After looking at Tara’s expression, she faltered. When was the last time the girl had something so simple as ice cream? “One scoop,” Artemis warned, shooting a look to both Violet and Lian.

“Two?” Lian pouted. “Pretty please?”

“One,” Artemis repeated, ruffling her niece’s hair. “Do you want Daddy to yell at me?”

The toddler shrugged, humming to herself as the thought. “Yes,” she said after a few moments. “Daddy’s yelling is funny.” Artemis had to stop herself from laughing. It was on the tip of her tongue to say something along the lines of her being exactly like her mother, but she stopped herself in time. They were trying to mention Jade as little as possible around Lian.

As they neared the ice cream stall, Artemis paused, recognizing that a member was missing from their group. “Wait, where’s Violet?”

“I dunno.”

“Tara, did you see her? She was just here.”

“No,” Tara said, turning her head to look for her but shrugging when she didn’t see her.

Artemis ran a hand down her face, trying to keep a headache from forming. “Right. Of course this would happen. Ice cream will have to wait, finding Violet is our priority.”

They searched for the better part of an hour, trying to retrace their steps and figure out where the girl could have gone. Both Tara and Lian were growing tired of searching up and down, but there was nothing to do but keep going. Artemis knew that this day would be a challenge, but she never thought that she would have to worry about losing one of them. Finally, they entered the only store they hadn’t yet been in. And lo and behold, there stood Violet, a mountain of dresses in her arms.

“Artemis!” she called out, waving her over. “I found so many nice clothes. There was a very nice one in the window and I wanted to see it and thought Brion would like it so I--”

The former archer held up a hand, trying her best to look stern. “I’m glad you found some nice things. But next time, you have to tell us before going anywhere. I was worried.”

Violet’s brow furrowed. “Oh,” she said, as if she hadn’t realized. “I am sorry.”

“Can we get ice cream now?” Lian whined.

Tara cleared her throat, tugging Lian’s hand. “I think I saw a toy store nearby. Why don’t we go there while Artemis finishes with Violet?” she suggested. Artemis shot her a look of gratitude, knowing that would keep Lian entertained while she figured out a way to pay for Violet’s clothes.

It was only once she was at the register did she falter, realizing that was exactly where Will instructed her not to take Lian. Artemis sucked in a breath, shaking her head. She just hoped that Tara didn’t have any money on her.

The Rubik's Cube seems to be an impossible puzzle but it's easy to solve using just a few algorithms.

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