“Excuse me, are you Ethan Kincaid?” The voice startled Ethan and had him spinning around and putting himself between Leto and the stranger.
“Who are you?” He asked and the man held up his hands to show Ethan he wasn’t armed nor was he looking for a fight.
“I have a message for you.”
“Ethan, calm down.” Leto said as she rested a gentle hand on his shoulder. The other laid over her rounded stomach where their baby rolled and kicked. “He’s just a messenger.”
Ethan looked the man over, noticing the bag slung across his chest for the first time. It was full of letters. “Sorry.”
“I should be the one apologizing sir, I should’ve made my presence known before coming up to you, especially when the princess is pregnant.” He reached into his bag and pulled out a letter. “I was told it was urgent.”
“Thank you.” He took it and the messenger nodded before leaving. Ethan turned back to Leto who gave him a hug. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay, you still get scared sometimes and I’m sure me being pregnant doesn’t help any.” She pulled back and pressed a kiss to his lips. “Better?”
“So who’s it from?” She asked as she let him go.
“Atticus Caitir.” His brow knitted as the familiarity of the name hit him. He tore the envelope open and pulled out the letter. “It’s from someone who says they’ve been looking for me since I went missing. The name sounds so familiar, but I don’t know.”
Leto looked at the letter. “It sounds like he’s desperate. Would you like go and see him?”
“It could be a trap and you’re pregnant. I can’t just leave.”
“Then I’ll go too and we’ll ask Hesperos to lend us some of his wolves. You know they’re always happy to watch over us.”
“Ethan, it’s okay. I’ll be extra careful.”
“I’m not trying to tell you what to do.”
“Shh, you’re such a wonderful mate. I still have a couple of months left, so let’s go see this person.”
Ethan looked at the envelope again. “It’s not even in this world. Are you sure?”
“Absolutely, we’ll get everything ready and leave tomorrow.”
“alright, I’ll prepare us a small bag for the journey then talk to Hesperos about some wolves coming to protect you and the baby” Leto smiled at him then gently kissed his cheek. Leto almost laughed when they went to talk to her brother. He got just as protective if not more so than Ethan had been “we’ll be fine, especially if you’ll lend us some of your men or women”
“alright then, you’ll have my best with you”
“obviously not all of the wolves you consider in the best category”
“No, just Kynthija, Rhys, Ximon and Zahn. I’d send more honestly but I know you probably already think four is too much”
“four is fine, thank you”
“I’ve lost you once, I can’t let that happen again, especially not pregnant”
“Between them and Ethan I’ll be fine” Hesperos hugged his sister “I know” When morning came the wolves that Hesperos wanted to join his sister and her mate joined them for breakfast. Kynthija was just as beautiful as Leto remembered her. She had always amazed Leto with both her fighting capabilities and the fact she could be so graceful and stunning at the same time. She had never met the wolf sitting to her right, Ximon before but she had heard enough about him from her brother to know she was in good hands with him too. Rhys and Zahn she was very well acquainted with so she was actually looking forward to spending time with them. She hoped along the journey it would soon feel like Kynthija and Ximon were her friends too.
“Stay close to the wolves.” Her brother said when they were ready to go. “And don’t take any risks and if someone seems to friendly, stay away from them.”
“Hesperos, Ethan’s going to be glued to me, you know that.”
“I know, but I want you home.”
“We’ll be fine. Claire, tell him to calm down.”
“Hesperos, trust your sister.” Claire said as she took his hand.
“I love you two.” Leto hugged both of them. “We’ll be back before you know it.”
Ethan was already worried as they left the castle and kept Leto as close as possible as they walked. The wolves took up their positions, one behind, one in front and one on either side of them. “It’s really nice to be traveling with you, Leto.” Zahn said with a cheerful smile.
“It’s good to have you and Rhys here. You two as well, Kynthija and Ximon.”
“It is our honor princess.” Ximon said.
“You do know that you can call me Leto, you don’t have to be so formal.”
“Ximon’s too polite.” Kynthija replied with a smile. “His father was always so serious. It rubbed off on him.”
“I see.” Leto said with a laugh. “Then princess it is.”
“Would be alright to ask to feel your belly?” Kynthija said.
“Of course, everyone does it, please go ahead.” As always Ethan was amazed at how easily she made friends. All it took was a laugh or a smile from her and everyone loved her. Being pregnant only added to her beauty and the idea of a baby always seemed to warm everyone.
“I can’t wait to meet the little one.” Kynthija noted warmly. “Me too, this pregnancy has been taking so long. I’m just so excited to meet my baby”
“Have you two been thinking of names?”
“Nothing that we really like yet. We’re thinking we might wait until the baby arrives and see what names come to us then”
“That’s a sweet way to do it.” As they walked to the portal they needed Kynthija and Leto continued talking, occasionally getting little comments here and there from the others with them. Ethans nerves were up again at the thought of something happening when they went through the portal but he swallowed them down, finding relief when they were on the other side and completely okay. Now that they were here Ximon pulled out the map of this world that Hesperos had sent with them. It was made from the point they were so he knew how to read it “It’s going to be a long journey from here. Possibly a few days depending on if we meet any trouble along the way and how often we need to rest.” Ximon informed everyone. Ethan asked Leto “do you want to go ahead and rest a little? Are you hungry?”
“this would actually be a really good point to go ahead and eat. There’s a lot of food around this area” Ximon remarked so Leto said “lets go ahead and get eating out of the way then” They talked it out and decided Zahn would sit with Leto while the others hunted. It had been a hard choice because Ximon knew more about this place than any of them so Ethan had trouble deciding if he wanted that knowledge with Leto or helping find good food. When the three took off with Ximon guiding them Zahn spoke “I could massage your feet if you want. When my mother gets pregnant its always her feet that bother her the most. I figure that would be okay, your mate doesn’t seem like the jealous type”
“I’m fine, really, thank you though”
“Well the offer stands if you change your mind. Anyway, who do you think this person is that wants to see Ethan?”
“I’m hoping it’s a family member. He’s a part of my family now but I know it would mean a lot to him if it’s somebody from his family that cared enough after all these years to still be looking for him”
“Me too, he’s a good guy. I respect him a lot for taking so much abuse for you when you were kidnapped. He had already suffered so long and instead of taking relief he tried to alleviate how much you had to go through”
“Our pup and I are lucky to have him. I know he’s going to be a good father”
Kynthija pounced on the back of a large creature, killing it precisely how Ximon told her to. When it collapsed Ximon began getting it ready to cook when they returned to Leto and Zahn. This was a creature you had to do everything a specific way or the meat would be no good to them. If they had a more long term plan to stay he would take the time to teach them but since they weren’t Ximon figured it would be easier just to go through the work himself. He had only had Kynthija kill it because she was the quickest and always took direction well so he had had absolute faith she could kill it correctly and much faster than any of them could. “This is going to take forever Ximon, let me help” Kynthija said after she finished cleaning her blade “You don’t know how”
“You taught me to kill it”
“Killing it was simpler than this” she sighed “so you’d rather just sit here forever while you clean this big of a beast by yourself?”
“If there’s a single mistake this will have been for nothing. This will take a long time now but this will feed us well for multiple meals” Ximon answered, continuing to work as they spoke.
Ethan was relieved when they finally made their way back to Leto. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Zahn, but he worried with her out of his sight. Her smile instantly relieved his anxiety and he dropped down next to her and pressed a kiss to her lips. “How did it go?” She asked.
“Good, Ximon and Kynthija are amazing hunters.” He rested his hand on her stomach and their baby kicked at him. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to her abdomen. “Hello little one, were you good for your mother.” He smiled when he received a kick in response.
“You’re so sweet.” Leto said.
“It’s easy when it’s you and our baby.”
“You’ll make a good father, prince.” Ximon said as he pulled out some of the meat.
“I hope so, sometimes I wonder.”
“Hush now.” Leto said. “You’re going to be amazing.”
He pressed another kiss to her lips. “I’ll try my best. I know I can do anything with you there.”
“So, this person who sent you that letter, do you remember anything about him?” Ximon asked.
“I think we were friends before, but he moved away at some point. We must have been young. If he’s spent all this time looking for me then we must have been close. You know how the mind of a child works and after everything that happened I just pushed things to the back of my mind. I didn’t see any reason to think about my life beforehand, I thought I was going to die. I feel terrible.”
“It was not my intent to cause you any sort of pain, I simply wished to know if he was dangerous or human.”
“He’s definitely human, I didn’t have any demon friends or anything like that. I don’t think he would be dangerous, my parents wouldn’t have allowed it.”
“It’s going to be great” Leto said reassuringly as she leaned into Ethan. Zahn and Rhys started cooking while the rest relaxed. Ximon no longer had to worry, he had prepared it for cooking himself. At this point they couldn’t possibly do anything wrong. Ethan just used the time to cuddle with Leto while Kynthija just laid down, relaxing while she could. She wasn’t necessarily very tired but she knew resting when you could was important, especially when she had such an important person with her. After they had all eaten they decided to get as far as they could that night. Leto and the other wolves had amazing night vision so night travel, even in little light was no problem. The night around them was beautiful and so were the sounds of the animals around them. Leto enjoyed the new sounds mingled with the ones she was accustom to hearing in her own world. The baby even seemed to enjoy it.
“We’re going to have to discuss changing me when we get back.” Ethan said the next morning after breakfast. “I felt so useless not being able to see as well all of you in the dark.”
“If you want too, I’m sure Hesperos would do it. Our father told him how. I’ve wanted to ask you.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“It never seemed like the right time. You had already gone through enough pain.”
“Then I’ll ask him when we return. It’s the least I can do for you after all you’ve been through with me.”
“I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous of you two.” Zahn said in a teasing tone. “I haven’t found my mate yet.”
“It’s probably your immaturity.” Kynthija replied.
“Oh yes, we should strive to be as serious and polite as Ximon. Handsome, tall, scary.” Rhys started laughing and Leto hid her smile behind her hand while Ethan cleared his throat to keep from chuckling. “Even his looks of disapproval make the women melt and probably some of the men too.”
“Zahn.” Leto said with a laugh. “Be good and maybe you’ll actually find a mate.”
As serious as ever Ximon didn’t seem to be embarrassed by their talk in the slightest. He just continued eating to regain the energy he had lost traveling. Once they were all fed and ready to go they were back on their way. Still pushing on as hard as they could with Leto pregnant and Ethan still only being human. “alright, I’m going to take us a little off course for a nice, long break for the princess. There’s a really good area near here and we’re so close to our destination I think a good break is in order. After this last rest our next breaking point should be with Ethans friend” Ximon explained and none of them questioned it. The area Ximon guided them to was gorgeous. Lush grass grew vibrant along with a mix of beautiful flowers and fluttering creatures that looked almost like butterflies.
“Princess, I mean it, we’re taking a long rest. I wont even consider leaving until you’ve taken a nice long sleep” Ximon said and Leto answered “thank you”
“You never have to thank me for doing my job. I feel honored working for such a good family.”
“still, I’m glad to have gotten this time to get to know you” Kynthija laughed as Letos words made Ximon blush “Oh my god you’re capable of blushing. Look at that boys!”
“My god look at him, he’s embarrassed. It’s kind of cute.” Zahn teased and Ximon gave him a death glare, a growl rumbling in his chest. “Whoa, easy, down boy.”
“Careful Zahn, I have a feeling he bites.” Rhys chimed in, laughing.
Ethan chuckled as he helped Leto sit then dropped down next to her and pulled her back to lay down. She pillowed her head on his chest and fidgeted a little until she was comfortable. “Have you enjoyed the trip?” She asked.
“Surprisingly yes. I thought I would be more stressed, but it’s been quite peaceful and calm.”
“Are you ready to meet your friend?”
“Not really, but I’m still going to. He deserves some form of closure.”
“Don’t be scared, we’re all with you.”
“I know, now rest okay? You need it, especially with you carrying a baby.”
It didn’t take her long to fall asleep and soon after Ethan was out aswell, trusting the wolves with them to keep him and Leto safe. “why don’t the rest of you rest, I’ll keep watch” Kynthija offered and they took her up on it. Kynthija found such peace in this place, she was happy to sit by herself and just take all the beauty in while her comrades rested. They were so close and she felt she might actually miss this place. As she sat there Kynthija began to consider coming back for a vacation. She could either have Ximon teach her some more about the area or have him come along. He needed a vacation anyway, he never took one. At least not that she had noticed.
When Leto and Ethan woke, Ximon still looked mildly irritated, but did his best to pretend nothing had happened. It didn’t help that Zahn and Rhys would grin every time they made eye contact with him. “Are you two ready?” Ximon asked.
“Yes, thank you for making us rest.” Leto said and he looked away, arms crossed over his chest.
“Of course.” He cleared his throat. “Let’s go.”
Rhys and Zahn burst out laughing as they headed out. Ethan thought of what he would say to this friend of his while Leto chatted happily with the wolves. She even managed to get Ximon to feel their baby rolling and kicking around and everyone was amazed at how much his eyes warmed. It occurred to Ethan that Ximon would kill anyone who even thought of hurting their unborn child and probably would even stop to warn them.
“Where did he say he would be?” Ximon asked once they were in town. Ethan pulled out the letter and handed it to him. The wolf’s eyes moved over the words then he handed it back and took them further into the city.
“He should be here” Ximon began as they stopped in front of a house. “I will go up at your side with Leto behind. I don’t know this person and her brother has trusted me to keep her and the baby safe.”
“Okay” he hoped it wouldn’t hurt his friends feelings but he hoped the explanation would clear up any hurt feelings if it came to that. A man about his height answered the door and recognition filled Ethans mind. All it took was seeing him again. His friend had obviously aged but still, the memories came flooding back “you…oh my god hi” Ethan said and his friend Atticus Caitir smiled “you look like you remember me. I’m glad if you do. I was so excited to finally find you again…who are all these people?” Ximon moved so Leto could come up “this is my wife, she’s pregnant with our first child. The rest of these guys were sent to keep her safe. It’s a long story, I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings”
“Not at all, please come in.” Leto and Ethan settled in the middle of the couch where Zahn and Ryhs sat on either side of them and both Ximon and Kynthija stood behind them. Atticus looked them all over then remarked, “They’re wolf demons?”
“Yes, Leto is the princess of her kingdom, these are a few of her brother’s wolves.” He introduced all of them.
“A princess? A real princess?”
“Yes.” Leto said with an amused laugh.
“Amazing. In all honesty this is not what I expected. When I heard you had gone missing, I feared the worst.”
Ethan swallowed. The worst had happened, at the time even dying had felt like the best alternative. Leto took his hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “To tell you the truth, terrible things did happen, I…” It was hard talking to anyone but Leto about these things.
Atticus held up his hand. “You don’t have to explain, just seeing you alive is all that matters now and married at that.”
“How did you find me?”
“After you went missing I had posters made up. I put them up around here and even handed them off to merchants passing through. One of them visited your world and when he came back he told me he had spotted you in the market. I wrote that letter hoping it was you. I’m incredibly happy it was.” He turned to Leto. “He and I were best friends when we were children, we did everything together until I moved.”
“I’m glad that you found him, he needs more friends. He spends most of his time with me, I’d like him to get out more. Perhaps you could visit us.”
“I would love to. I’ve never stayed in a castle.”
“So what of my home and the things my parents left me?”
“I took everything I thought was important out. Pictures, jewelry, books, things like that. The house was sold and the furniture was donated.”
“That’s fine, thank you.”
“I’m just glad that at least in the end you found a happy life Ethan. Are you guys going to stay awhile?” Ethan looked at Leto who said “yeah, of course we are” Ethan then asked “it’s all coming back to me but..could we start with you telling me everything you remember Atticus?” Atticus smile then began telling story after story, obviously going into as much detail as he could pull from memory, especially when it came to his family. Atticus knew he’d want every moment he could get when it came to them. Ethan listened closely, clinging to each word as he held his wife’s hand. Even when it came time to eat Atticus and Ethan continued discussing the past.
That evening Atticus set Leto and Ethan up in one of the guest rooms and the wolves up in the other. Ximon insisted Kynthija take the only bed and he, Zahn and Rhys set up a pallet on the floor. “I’m sorry I don’t have more space.” Atticus said when he was sure they would be comfortable.
“There’s no need, we have slept in the forest many times, most of the time without cover.” Ximon replied. “We’re wolves and warriors so thank you for accommodating us.”
“Of course, if you need anything please let me know. My room is across from Ethan’s.” Ximon nodded and Atticus left the wolves. Ethan was coming out of his and Leto’s room and gave Atticus a friendly smile. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, perfect, Leto’s just thirsty.”
“Cups are to the right of the sink.”
“Thank you um…I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind taking us out tomorrow. Leto wants to see where I grew up and I can’t really remember where everything is.”
“Of course, I would love to.”
“thank you” Ethan said before finding a cup and pouring his wife some water. He returned to Leto and let her know Atticus was happy to show them around. “I’m so happy we came baby”
“You’re amazing for pushing us to. I would have never gone if you hadn’t insisted a little”
“Never might be a bit of an exaggeration. I’m sure after I had the baby you would have been more comfortable”
“Maybe, but I’m glad I’m getting to meet him now and get more in touch with who I was before..well…you know” Leto kissed him “yeah” she finished her drink then gave it back to Ethan so he could take it to the kitchen. This was their first night and they didn’t want to make any mess they might forget to clean up in the morning. When Ethan returned again they got comfortable and quickly went to sleep. In the morning Kynthija and Rhys insisted on preparing breakfast as a thank you for Atticus’s hospitality which only made him laugh “You guys act like you slept in some lavish suite” Rhys smiled “you gave us all you had to offer. That means the same no matter how much you have. Please, let us make breakfast, we’re good at it” Atticus gave in and just sat with his old friend, his mate and the other wolves.
Once they were finished eating and out of the house, Ximon took up his position in front of the group. It surprised Ethan and Atticus that he always seemed to know which direction Atticus wanted to go. It was like he could sense his muscles moving before he even took a step or turned. Ethan had a wonderful time taking Leto around his birthplace and remembering all the things he used to do here as a child. “I didn’t realize I was so mischievous.” He said when Atticus finished another story about their childhood.
“We were kids and it was usually me egging you on.”
“I haven’t been that way in awhile. I’m afraid I’m a bit boring now.”
Atticus elbowed him. “How can you say that? You’ve been to another world, you married a princess and have wolf demon bodyguards. I don’t call that boring.”
“He’s right baby,” Leto said with a loving smile, “you’ve done a lot and come a long way.”
“Come on, let’s get something to snack on. That bakery we loved so much is still here. Same owners and everything.”
“okay” It wasn’t long before they were walking into a bakery that smelled absolutely amazing. Just being inside made Ethan and Letos mouths water for some of their bread. Atticus ordered something for everyone then they left to go eat it where he and Ethan used to take their bread. Once they all tried it they agreed this was the best they had had in their life. They actually went back for another round of bread on Leto. She was pregnant and definitely taking the time to indulge herself when she found something really good. Her baby seemed happy too so she pulled Ethans hand to her stomach so he could feel. Ethan smiled happily, having one of those moments where he couldn’t believe how amazing his life had turned out.
Atticus made the rest of the day fun and both Zahn and Rhys constantly teased Ximon any time he would look confused or embarrassed. It was such a rarity for them to see him break character. Both Ethan and Leto were sure that if he was not on duty he would have beat them both up. Wolves being so physical was something Ethan was still getting used to, but he was getting more comfortable with it. He knew he had to since he was sure his child would be wrestling with many of the pack. “There’s a play on tonight if you would all like to go.” Atticus said. “Unless the princess is tired.”
“Please call me Leto and I want to do everything. It’s been so amazing learning more about Ethan’s life.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t been able to tell you more.” Ethan said.
“You went through a lot and you have told me plenty.”
“Ethan and I were in a play when we were really little. I think we played fairies or something.”
“Do you have any photos?” Leto asked excitedly.
“I do, his parents took plenty. I’ll find the box for you later.”
Ethan didn’t even feel embarrassed that she would see the pictures. She looked so purely happy and excited he could only feel eager for his childhood friend to find the box. It would be nice to see another memory as well, to hopefully feel another rush of things return to him as he held the pictures. They ate something light then went to the play, finding a good spot to watch since they got there a little early. Ethan was looking around, realizing this place really was familiar. He tried to remember on his own, without the pictures. He wanted to pull a memory out without any prompting or help from Atticus but nothing really was coming besides the familiar feeling of this place. He wondered how many plays he went to with his parents, if he was just in one or if they frequented here.
The play was funny and had everyone laughing, save for Ximon who cracked a smile here and there. Even that seemed to be enough for the other wolves to tease him. By the time it was over, Leto was exhausted and Ethan insisted on carrying her back. “Do you still want to see those pictures or would you like to wait?” Atticus asked once they were in his house.
“I want to see them. I’ve been curious since you told me about them.”
“Alright, just give me a minute.”
“We’re going to head up to bed, princess.” Ximon said. “Please call us if you need anything.”
“Thank you Ximon, especially for watching the play with us.”
He started to blush. “Of course, it was fun.”
“I’m glad, go get some rest then, Ethan and I will head to bed in a bit.”
The wolves went to bed, giving Leto and Ethan some time alone with Atticus. It took Atticus a little bit but he found the pictures and brought them to Ethan. Leto leaned a little to look “Oh my gosh you both are absolutely adorable!” Atticus chuckled “I wish I had more pictures to share’ Ethan just stared as memories slowly came of the two of them practicing for this and everything about being on stage. It had been scary but fun at the same time. “I remember” Ethan said and Atticus smiled “I’m glad, I really want you to have everything. I hate your trauma made you lose so much but I hear it’s common”
“It’s okay, truly, I found Leto because of all that happened to me and she really is worth it”” Those words tugged at Letos heart “Ethan” she said softly, not sure if she intended to reprimand him for being happy he went through so much hell. She wouldn’t wish that on him, even for them to end up together. She would have much rather the universe brought them together in a different way.
Leto yawned and Atticus chuckled as he put the pictures away. “I think you should take your lady love to bed.”
“I’m fine.” She said.
“He’s right, you need to get as much sleep as you can, we both do. Soon our little one will be here.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead.
“I am really glad you’re alive.” Atticus said as they both stood, Ethan cradling Leto against his chest.
“I wouldn’t be without her, she brought me back from the brink.”
“You brought yourself back silly, I was only there to help you along.”
“We’ll agree to disagree.”
Atticus smiled. “Perhaps once you decide to leave I will go with you. I would love to see you’re new home.”
“I’d like that.”
Ethan walked with Leto in his arms to their room and settled down for the night. The following days were amazing and filled with precious memories they would all hold dearly to. When it did come time to leave Atticus packed a bag and asked a friend to look after his home so he could visit Ethan and Letos world for awhile. He couldn’t wait to see a castle and meet more royalty. Just their world sounded astounding and Atticus wanted to experience it all, including being with his childhood friend more. Upon entering the castle Hesperos was the first to greet them. He had been so worried about his sister he frequently found himself near the door, just waiting for her return since it was the first time they had been separated since her kidnapping.
“Is this who sent for you Ethan?” Hesperos asked. “Yes, he’s my childhood friend and he wants to stay awhile if that’s okay”
“Of course it is, I’ll have someone find him a suitable room in the castle. Welcome…”
“A friend of Ethan’s is a friend to all of us. Feel free to explore. Our home is your home.”
“And Leto, please take it easy now that you’re home. No more traveling for awhile.”
“I will and even if I didn’t want to, I think Ethan would insist.”
“Good, I don’t want you or the baby getting hurt.”
Leto and Ethan were left to give Atticus a tour, both of them laughing at how amazed he was by everything. Leto was exhausted by the end of the day and snuggled close to Ethan once they were in bed. The baby kicked and Ethan chuckled as he rubbed her belly. “Sleep little one, your mommy’s had a long day.” He said softly.
“You’re so sweet, Ethan, really, really sweet.” Leto replied. “I’m so lucky to have you.”
“I’m the lucky one, Leto, you have no idea how many times I thought of giving up when I was locked in that cage. Even saying it to you at the time, sounded so hollow. You gave me the will to live. Thank you for loving me.”
“You’re easy to love.”
He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Goodnight my love.”
“Sweet dreams.” He held her as close as he could, his fingers stroking through her hair as he drifted off to thoughts of how incredibly fortunate he was. He had an amazing mate and soon a beautiful child, he lived in a home filled to the brim with love and acceptance and now he had his closest friend back and was piecing together his past bit by bit. He pressed another kiss to Leto’s forehead, then drifted off with a blissful smile on his face.