“N…Noxx.” It was the only thing she could say through her tears and he hated how broken and ashamed she sounded.
“Don’t worry, I’m right here.”
He sat there holding her until she was able to get her crying under control and it was only then she realized it was raining outside and her bedroom window was open. She pulled back enough to reach over and switch on the lamp then turned her attention back to him. His hair hung around his face in wet tendrils and drops of water still dotted his skin. “Noxx, you’re soaked. How long were you out there?”
“Awhile, I walked here, I was worried.”
“You could get sick.” She pulled out of his arms and went to close her window. It wasn’t the first time he had come through there. When she had first come home and her nightmares were more frequent, he had practically lived under her window, guarding her and comforting her.
“That’s impossible, my kind don’t get sick.”
“You have to be freezing.” She headed out of her room and he followed. She grabbed a towel out of the hall closet and handed it to him. “Go shower and I’ll dry your clothes.”
“Where are your parents?”
“I told them to take a night out. I know they worry, but I think they needed a break. I didn’t expect to have a nightmare. It’s been four years and I’m still…”
“It’s understandable Ruby, they know that.”
“Go get warm, okay, and leave your clothes outside the door so I can dry them.”
“Alright, but call me if you need me.”
“Thank you Noxx.” He hugged her again then walked into the nearby bathroom to strip and shower. Once she saw him drop his clothes out Ruby gathered them and started turning on lights as she walked to the laundry room. She remembered back when she first came home her parents had had to leave every light in the house on for her because she couldn’t handle not seeing everything around her so she knew she had come far from the young girl her captor broke but she still hated being such a burden. Noxx had such a huge heart. They had grown so close and she wished she could just snap out of it and be better so he wouldn’t have to worry over her or do things to himself like sit in the rain.
His clothes were so cold and while he couldn’t get sick she knew that had to have been uncomfortable. He was always forgetting about himself in order to take care of her. Ruby was now starting the dryer, she decided to make coffee and see if there was any sort of snack she could offer Noxx when he got out of the shower. When she opened the fridge there was a touched but sad tug at her heart. Her mother had made her cheesecake brownies. There was a note on it, “Just in case you had trouble I wanted you to have comfort food.”
A few tears slipped out, she was surrounded by such love and warmth and she hoped someday soon she could be just like everyone else. After wiping at her face Ruby brought the cheesecake brownies to the table then started some water for tea. Noxx seemed to prefer hot teas over anything else to drink.
Noxx only stayed in the shower until his skin was warm. His wolf whined at him to check on Ruby and he could do nothing but listen. He got out, quickly dried, and wrapped the towel around his waist. He didn’t want to go to her half naked, but under the circumstances he was sure he would be forgiven. He followed her scent to the kitchen and could sense she was still upset. “Ruby?”
She turned to look at him, her heart stuttering and her cheeks flushing. She quickly looked away, swallowing down her nervousness. “My mom made me some cheesecake bars and…and I was making tea, if you want some.” It was the only thing she could think to say.
Noxx approached her slowly and reached out to gently turn her head so she was looking into his eyes. “I’m sorry, I’ll dress as soon as my clothes are dry, I promise.”
“I know, I was just surprised.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, thank you. So, cheesecake and tea?”
Ruby grabbed Noxx a plate then poured him some hot tea. “That was really thoughtful of you Ruby.”
“It’s the least I could do for you and making tea isn’t hard.”
He took a long sip then said, “Let me check my clothes.”
“I’m really okay Noxx, I trust you more than anybody.”
Noxx gave her a small smile “Maybe we could grab breakfast together in the morning.”
“Sure, we could go to Ihop.”
“Do you think you can go back to sleep tonight or should we do something together? We can play cards or anything you want.”
“Cards sound nice, Do you care what card game?”
“Anything that makes you happy Ruby.” She blushed then hurried off. Noxx sighed, knowing he was too obvious at times with his feelings about her.
Ruby’s parents had bought her some table top games when she couldn’t bring herself to leave home for awhile. Even going to the doctor had been terrifying. She grabbed Gloom and went back to Noxx, finding him already sitting in the living room. “I hope Gloom is okay.”
“Of course.” He patted the couch next to him and she crossed over, her face heating as she dropped down next to him. “Are you alright Ruby?” He could hear her heart thumping quickly in her chest.
“Yeah, I promise, don’t worry.”
He reached out and gently tucked her hair behind her ear, letting his fingers brush her cheek. “You know I don’t mind fussing over you, Ruby.” Her skin heated further and he pulled his hand away. “Sorry.”
“I…it’s okay, really.” She quickly got the game set up and she did her best to calm down as they played. She never wanted him to think he effected her negatively. She was just nervous, not only with the fact he was nearly completely nude, but also because she liked him and didn’t know how to act after what had happened.
The dryer buzzed and Noxx went to grab his clothes, not wanting Ruby becoming frightened of him. His wolf whined at him, wanting him to claim her, to tell her, but he pushed the beast’s needs down. He wanted her, but he feared how she would react to the realization that she was his mate.
He tugged them on quickly in the laundry room then returned to Ruby who was picking her family cards. She handed him half the pile she had so he could pick his four as well. The game helped them both, Ruby calmed down and Noxx’s wolf found some patience again when it came to him talking to Ruby. She was seventeen, not even an adult yet and she had been through so much. She was even still having nightmares. He had to wait and give her more time. He had always told himself to at least wait until she was eighteen. Their first game of Gloom soon began and before they knew it her parents were home from their date.
Ruby’s mother hugged her as soon as she was near enough. “Hey, did you have a hard time?”
“I had another nightmare but Noxx sensed it like he almost always does and came…thanks for making me cheesecake brownies.”
Her mother kissed her head. “Anything for you my sweet girl.”
“Did you enjoy your date”
“We did but we don’t have to go out at night again if it was too hard.”
“I’m good mom, you two should go out on more dates in the future.”
Noxx jumped in when Ruby finished that sentence. “I can always come here when she needs me.”
Ruby’s mother hugged him. “You’ve been such a miracle, Noxx, truly. I don’t know what we would do without you.” She stepped back. “You’re welcome here anytime, I hope you know that.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“Carli, dear, I don’t think you have to be so formal after everything.”
“Of course, thank you.”
“So are you staying the rest of the night, Noxx?” Her father asked.
“Yes, if Ruby wants me to.” There wasn’t anything that could make him truly leave. He would just sleep outside under her window.
Ruby blushed as her parents and Noxx looked at her. “Y…yes, I do, um…we’re going to breakfast in the morning if that’s okay.”
“Of course it is sweetie, just let us know when you leave and keep your phone on.” Her mother said with a warm smile. “We’re going to go to bed, if you need anything, don’t be afraid to get us up.”
“Okay, mom, dad, I love you guys.”
“We love you too sweetheart.” Her dad gave her a tight hug then followed his wife to their room. In all honesty, they were happy she had Noxx. He was the only one who had been able to get her through her panic attacks and nightmares and the only man besides her father who she felt safe with.
“Are you still fine staying up Noxx?”
“One of the perks of being a wolf is I don’t actually need very much sleep.”
“I know, I just like to be sure.”
“Want to play more Gloom or would you rather play something else?”
“Lets play this one more time.”
“Alright” The rest of that evening flew by and just as Ruby promised she woke her parents to tell her they were leaving before grabbing her phone and heading out. Noxx’s heart warmed at how happy and confident she seemed in the moment. She was getting better and better at bouncing back from nightmares. They took Ruby’s car since Noxx hadn’t brought one then went straight for Ihop. Once seated they ordered coffee then began looking over their menus, discussing what sounded good.
Ruby settled on the cupcake pancakes and Noxx on the Belgian pancakes with chocolate mousse. They ordered, both of them getting coffee for their drink. “I thought chocolate was bad for dogs.” Ruby teased and Noxx arched an eyebrow, causing her to blush.
“This coming from the girl who ordered the cutesy sprinkle pancakes.”
“They’re just so good.”
He chuckled. “So is chocolate.”
“So, how’s the pack doing? How are Eliora and Emrys?”
“Good and good, they ask about you, you should visit some time.”
“Would you come with me?” She knew they frequently had pack members and even though she was aware they would never hurt her, it still made her a little nervous.
Noxx’s wolf whined at her slight shift in emotion and he reached across the table, taking her hand. “Of course, I’ll go with you anywhere, all you have to do is say when.”
“Lets see when they are free then.”
“I can text them.” Noxx pulled his phone and searched for his group text with Eliora and Emrys. Once he found it he asked when they were free for a visit and made sure to mention Ruby wanted to come. It was Eliora who responded, “we’re just having a lazy day so if she feels like coming by today you two are welcome. I’d love to see her,” Noxx looked up at Ruby. “Do you feel like going after breakfast? I can text your parents too to update them.”
“You’re really sure? There’s no pressure Ruby.”
“I’d really like to.” He looked back down at his phone. Letting Eliora know they’d be coming after their breakfast then he let Ruby’s parents know what they were doing.
“They said to have fun and don’t worry about getting home late.” He put his phone away and started eating again.
“They’ve been giving me a lot of freedom lately. I don’t know if it’s because of my age or because they don’t want to feel like they’re locking me up after everything.”
“Maybe it’s a little of both. You’re nearly of age and you were held captive. They don’t want you to feel like a prisoner.”
“Sometimes I still do though, like a prisoner in my own body.” He gave her concerned look. “Sorry, just being negative is all. I know someday I’ll be at least sort of normal.”
“Ruby, there’s nothing abnormal about you, you went through something terrible. Know that I will always be here to protect you, I promise. You’re…” he nearly called her his mate, but forced it down. “You’re very dear to me, I’ll make sure you get to live a happy life.” The wolf huffed, the animal’s instincts telling him to claim her before someone else did. He told himself it didn’t matter if someone else did, that wasn’t up to him, but the thought still made his heart twist.
“Are you alright?” Ruby asked.
“Perfect, eat up so we can get going. It seemed like Eliora was excited about seeing you.”
Ruby still felt something was wrong but decided not to over think it and enjoy her day with him. She found herself excited about seeing Eliora despite her worry about other wolves being around. Elioras ex-husband may have abused her but Eliora had saved her, almost getting herself killed in the process and that meant the world to Ruby and her parents. She also knew her new mate was kind and amazing, he’d never let anybody hurt her either. Going there she would just have to keep reminding herself of how safe she was if there were other wolves.
Once they were both full and Noxx had paid for their breakfast Ruby drove them to Eliora and Emrys’s home. They were on their porch, laughing and talking but started to walk over as they pulled in. When Ruby stepped out of the car Eliora wasted no time hugging her. “It’s good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you too.”
“How are you?” She pulled back to look her in the eye.
“Fine, I mean I still have nightmares, but I’m getting better.” She glanced at Noxx and Eliora did the same.
“That’s really good.” She let Ruby go and Emrys took his turn hugging her.
“Noxx is treating you well?” He asked.
“Of course, but you should order him to not go walking through pouring rain. He came through my window soaked to the bone.”
Emrys chuckled as he let her go. “I don’t think he’d listen, his instincts just take over and he has no choice but to listen.” Noxx shot him a look that told him not to say anymore. “You don’t have to worry so much Ruby, it’s just part of who he is, he has to take care of you.”
Ruby blushed. “Alright, I guess.” She turned to Noxx. “At least remember a jacket next time.”
“I’ll try, I just don’t think about it when I feel like something’s off with you.”
Trying to change the subject Ruby asked Eliora, “So…what were your plans for your lazy day?”
“We just like to do whatever strikes us. Is there something you’d prefer to do?”
“Maybe you could show me around again. It’s been a long time since I came.”
“That sounds fun, come on. I’ll walk you around the then we’ll go inside, maybe have some tea or lemonade and decide whats next from there.” Noxx took his place at Ruby’s side as Emrys took his place beside Eliora.
“Are there any other wolves here?”
“Not today.” There had been but they had asked them to give Ruby some space. They were happy to oblige, all wanting her to get more comfortable at least being there since she was Noxx’s mate.
“Maybe next time you could invite them over?”
“Yeah…I mean…I need to get braver at some point and I know with you three I’m always safe.”
Eliora smiled. “I’m glad you feel that way. Maybe next time I can set something up with a few of the wolves I’m particularly fond of, start you out small and work your way to knowing the entire pack better.”
“I’d like that.”
Ruby relaxed as they toured the property, loving that the had their own little piece of nature. They lead her back along a trail that circled the house and she let herself get lost in how peaceful the woods were. She became so distracted that she nearly tripped over a tree root and Noxx grabbed her without missing a beat, steadying her. “Are you alright?” He asked.
“Could I hold your hand, just in case?”
Her face flushed, her heart stuttering. “Yeah.” She answered softly.
“Are you sure?”
He laced their fingers together and he delighted in the feel of her skin, his wolf becoming excited so Emrys gave him a look that said tell her. He ignored him, just focusing on making sure she didn’t trip again. It didn’t help that she actually moved closer to him, that he was wrapped in her scent, that he could feel the heat of her body. He wanted her more than he would ever be able to fully express, but he feared scaring her away.
He had even just been telling him again earlier it was her age but he knew that wasn’t really it for him, he was worried it would be too much for her and he’d lose even being her friend. Seventeen was close enough and her parents loved him. Noxx just didn’t know what he’d do if she became uncomfortable around him. He had already watched Emrys go through agony when Eliora was married to someone else. They had been friends but still, he didn’t want to experience that pain first hand. Right now he got to be with her all the time, right now she felt comfortable enough around him to hold his hand like this.
They made their way back to the house once they were finished exploring, Noxx feeling a stab of disappointment when Ruby released his hand once they were inside. “Want to help me get drinks, Ruby?” Eliora asked.
“Maybe we could make some cookies if you want.”
“Sounds good. Noxx, do you want to come?”
Emrys draped an arm over Noxx’s shoulder. “I actually need his help with something outside, why don’t you two have a little girl time, we’ll be back before you know it.”
“If you need me, all you have to do is yell and I’ll come running.” Noxx said.
“I know, go have fun, I’ll be fine with Eliora.”
Outside Emrys said, “Noxx, it really is time you told Ruby how you feel. She can handle it.”
“You don’t know that.”
“She’s come a long way. You know I wouldn’t suggest you telling her if I wasn’t sure. Besides, it’s good to be honest. Eliora was engaged when I met her and I still told her she was my mate.”
“Just tell her, I really don’t think you’ll lose her friendship if she doesn’t want to be with you.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“How’s everything going with Noxx?” Eliora asked she mixed cookie batter.
“Good, he’s really sweet and attentive.” She sighed. “I just hate he puts himself through so much. I know he can’t get sick, but what if he got hurt or something because of me?”
“Ruby,” there was a bit of a laugh in Eliora’s voice, “he does those things because he cares about you. He can’t help himself, it’s instinct.”
“I know and honestly, I love that he’s always there when I have a bad night.”
“You like him.”
Ruby blushed. “Who… who wouldn’t. Whoever he picks for his mate is going to be really lucky.” The thought actually made her heart ache. She knew it would mean they wouldn’t see each other as much.
“I think so too.”
Eliora couldn’t wait to tell her mate Emrys. She had planned to talk to him about Rubys feelings after the two left but she decided to just tell Noxx himself when they happened to go into the kitchen at the same time later in the day. “Noxx?” Eliora whispered as she grabbed his arm. He looked down at her, a questioning look on his face so she continued to speak, “I was talking to Ruby earlier, she likes you. I mean it. Talk to her after you two leave here. I promise you she wants to be with you too.”
He knew she wouldn’t joke about something like that so he hugged her out of happiness. “Thanks for telling me.” He whispered gratefully.
That evening while he was walking Ruby to her car he swallowed down his nerves. “Ruby?”
“I love you.”
She looked so shocked he almost wanted to back pedal, to pretend she had misheard him until she nervously said, “I…I love you too…”
Noxx gently took her hand and pulled her closer, pressing her palm against his chest, his other hand pressing into her back. “You know what that means, right?” He could hear her heart stutter and his own danced beneath her palm.
“Yeah, it…it means I’m your mate.”
“Does that scare you, Ruby?”
“No, nothing about you scares me, I’m nervous, but…but I’m actually happy. I want to be with you.”
He leaned closer, pressing their foreheads together. “Truly?”
“Yeah, you’ve been so amazing and attentive, everything I could ever ask for, even when I thought I would never want anyone. I want you.” Her entire body was burning with her blush, but she wanted him to know, she felt like he deserved to know.
“May I kiss you?”
His hands came up to frame her face, his thumbs brushing her cheeks, marveling at how warm and soft she was. He leaned in slowly, giving her time to push away, to change her mind. He listened to her breathing, irregular from nerves and possibly excitement. He pressed his lips against hers, a light delicate touch so as not to frighten her. Just that small taste of her set his body tingling.
It only felt better when he could see how much she had enjoyed that too. He never wanted her to go, but now more than ever it was hard to let Ruby get in her car and drive away from him. He stuck to the more positive once her car was out of view. He could finally kiss her, he could finally express how he truly felt whenever he wanted. Things would be so much better now and all for the better. He hoped when she turned eighteen she’d be comfortable living with him but as excited as he was to have his mate he knew that was a concern for another day and he should just enjoy what was happening right now.
~ The End