Nelly woke , lifting her head up off the window she had been resting against. She was still on the this train with a terrible feeling in her stomach that nobody but her seemed to get. The first day she had woken confused but one of her fellow passengers explained they were all going home. The explanation had settled her at the time. It wasnâ€™t until this morning, four days later that it hit her â€śgoing home from where?â€ť She decided to ask â€śWhere have we been?â€ť another question hit her and she asked it right away â€śand where is home?â€ť The question seemed to perplex the man she asked.
Mei smiled back at little Tod as he buckled up in her backseat then drove away from the school â€śHow was your day?â€ť
â€śGreat! Is mommy home yet?â€ť
â€śJust two more nightsâ€ť He just continued to smile as he began to look out the window so she put in one of his CDâ€™s and put her attention back on the road. Mei was his live in nanny, had been since he was four and it was the best job she had ever taken. Tod was the sweetest boy anybody could ask for and his mother paid her far more than any other live in nannies she knew, especially when she took business trips. She had grown so fond of Tod over the past five years sheâ€™d probably even watch him for free at this point. She loved him like he was her own. The nice room, comfortable life and amazing income were just perks now.
Elowen was more like her friend than employer as well. She was a wonderful, warm woman and while she worked a lot she was an amazing mother. She had never seen Elowen miss a single school event and when Todd was sick, if he wanted his mother she stayed home. Anytime Tod needed her she was there and Mei had never met such a driven working mother that was so good at balancing things like that or to put in better words, so good at telling her job to fuck off when her child needed or wanted her.
As Mei pulled into the driveway Tod gasped “Mommyâ€™s home! Her car wasnâ€™t there so she shut off the car and turned â€śIâ€™m sorry baby she isnâ€™t.â€ť
â€śBut theres someone in the house and only we live thereâ€ť
â€śwhat makes you say thatâ€ť He looked back at the house â€śOhâ€¦I thought I saw her peeking out the windowâ€ť her heart started thudding â€śTod, are you sure you saw someoneâ€ť
â€śYeahâ€¦I meanâ€¦I really think so Ms Meiâ€ť She had been running errands all day and while they lived in a nice neighborhood it didnâ€™t make it impossible for someone to have broken into their home. He was only nine, maybe he had been seeing things but it wasnâ€™t worth the risk to her â€śOkay buddy, lets go to Mr Birchâ€™s homeâ€ť
â€śYou think somethings wrong?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t know but lets be safe okayâ€ť Birch was one of Elowens close friends, someone Mei knew wouldnâ€™t mind if she came unannounced with Tod. She wanted to call Elowen through the car but Tod would be able to hear and she didnâ€™t want to upset him. There might not even be a problem and her own fear might work him up for no reason. Once there she sighed when his car wasnâ€™t in the drive way. She parked, calling Elowen who answered quickly â€śHey Mei, i canâ€™t really talk, I had to step out of a meetingâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m so sorry to bother you Elowen, I really am. I just had to check if you came home early and were trying to surprise Todâ€ť
â€śNo, why would you think thatâ€ť she sounded concerned â€śWhen I was pulling in he thought he saw somebody in the window. Iâ€™m not trying to be over dramatic, Iâ€™m really not but he seems so sure so I drove to Birchâ€™s house instead of taking him inâ€ť
â€śwhat did Birch say?â€ť
â€śHe isnâ€™t homeâ€ť
â€śwell stop apologizing to me, Iâ€™d rather you be safe than sorry when youâ€™re alone there with my son. Iâ€™ll tell everyone I need to go back to my room for now and Iâ€™ll call Birch, Iâ€™ll make it a conference callâ€ť The line was muted a few moments before Elowen was back and calling Birch who soon answered â€śHey, Iâ€™m surprised to be hearing from you. I thought you were still gone. Are you home already?â€ť
â€śyou arenâ€™t the first person to ask me that. Elowen is on the phone with us, sheâ€™s at your place.â€ť Mei explained again and he said â€śIâ€™m almost home, just wait for me alright. Iâ€™ll take care of this Elowen, donâ€™t worryâ€ť
â€śThank you Birch, thank you so much. Sometimes I donâ€™t know what Iâ€™d do without you and Mei.â€ť
â€śwell hopefully nothing is wrong, Bane is still inside isnâ€™t he? Iâ€™m sure he would have taken care of an intruder huh Todâ€ť
â€śyeahâ€ť Tod said cheerfully. Elowen felt better hearing her son in good spirits and she especially felt better that Birch was helping Mei with the situation.
They sat in the driveway until Birch and he made sure they were okay before letting them into his home. â€śIâ€™m going to go check Elowenâ€™s place.â€ť He said.
â€śJust be careful, if someoneâ€™s in there, Elowen wouldnâ€™t want you getting hurt.â€ť Mei replied.
â€śDonâ€™t worry, just lock the door and make yourself at home, Iâ€™ll be back before you know it.â€ť
â€śCan Bane come over?â€ť Tod asked.
â€śOf course, heâ€™s always welcome.â€ť
Birch left them there and climbed back into his car, calling Elowen as he pulled away. â€śAre they alright?â€ť She asked when she answered.
â€śPerfectly fine, Iâ€™m heading over to your place to check it out and get Bane.â€ť
â€śMaybe you should call the police?â€ť
â€śI will if thereâ€™s anyone there, I promise. I have my gun in the car, so donâ€™t worry.â€ť
â€śStill, stay safe and call me after.â€ť
They got off the phone, Elowen a bundle of nerves Birch readying himself to check her home. Tod was young with an active imagination so this may be nothing at all but he wanted to go in there ready for anything. He was glad Mei had come over instead of trying to go in there herself just in case. Birch decided not to pull into the driveway. He parked in front of the neighbors house, slid his gun into his jeans and approached Elownes home. He could already hear their dog Bane going nuts which could mean there was somebody there or it could be the animals frustration that he had seen Mei come home and leave.
Either way Birch went to the front door and opened it with the spare key he had. Whenever Elowen took her son on vacation somewhere he would always be the one to come feed their dog since Mei went everywhere they went. He had expected the dog but Bane still startled Birch a little when he near instantly jumped up on him â€śhey, calm down buddyâ€ť Birch whispered as he began to pet him â€śis there anybody else in there?â€ť Bane ran in and Birch followed.
Once inside everything looked alright, he walked all through the home, checking every closet and under the beds. Nothing seemed amiss until he realized Bane had stayed in Meis room the entire time â€śis there something Iâ€™m missing?â€ť he asked the dog who continued to sit. Birch stood there a few moments before asking â€śare we in here for a reason buddy?â€ť Bane moved around a little bit before sitting back down in the same spot he had been in when Birch entered. Birch decided maybe the window. He checked it, finding it unlocked.
He knew it was possible someone had tried it and found it open. Nothing seemed missing but as frequent as he came over he didnâ€™t live here so he could be missing something. In any case the house seemed safe for now. He locked the window, checked everywhere one more time then grabbed Banes leash before going back to his car with him. He started it up then called Elowen to update her.
â€śYou didnâ€™t find anyone?â€ť
â€śJust an unlocked window. Iâ€™m going to have Mei and Tod stay a couple of nights just to make sure, but I didnâ€™t see anything out of place, I mean as far as I know. Iâ€™ll be sure to go back and check again when theyâ€™re ready to go home.â€ť
â€śThank you so much Birch.â€ť
â€śYou know itâ€™s not a problem, just focus on work and Iâ€™ll hold down the fort.â€ť
She gave a little laugh and it had him smiling. â€śIâ€™ll call them a little later then, youâ€™re the best Birch.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re pretty amazing yourself, talk to you later.â€ť
Elowen smiled down at her phone a few moments before returning to the meeting that had apparently ended. She couldnâ€™t tell how her boss felt but he seemed to have gotten used to the fact that if her son needed her she was going to answer the phone or go to him and if he didnâ€™t like it sheâ€™d find another job. It wasnâ€™t likely heâ€™d fire her since sheâ€™d risen so far up in the company and always worked hard but she still knew one day it might bite her in the butt. Sheâ€™d figure it out if that ever happened though.
Tod ran to his dog when Birch returned home. â€śis everything okay at the house?â€ť Mei asked. â€śYour window was unlocked but I couldnâ€™t find anybody inside. If youâ€™d like to be sure you two are safe youâ€™re welcome to stay here with me. I already told Elowen Iâ€™d off so you donâ€™t need to check with herâ€ť
â€śI suppose for at least tonight. Hopefully Tod was simply seeing thingsâ€ť
â€śyeahâ€ť Birch walked over to the boy and his dog â€śdo you have home work?â€ť
â€śwhy donâ€™t you do it quick then maybe you and I can play some video gamesâ€ť
â€śsure!â€ť Birch looked over at Mei â€śIf youâ€™d like Mei I can handle Tod the rest of the day. You can go out and have some fun. I saw some of your friends on Facebook had wanted you to go out with them but you had to remind them Elowen isnâ€™t homeâ€ť
â€śare you sure?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t have any plansâ€ť
â€śOkay, thank you, if you decide you need me to take over though just call me. Iâ€™ll come back as quickly as I can. I will also stop back at the house to pick up things for tonight and in the morningâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure it will be fine. You already checked the houseâ€ť
â€śI donâ€™t know, Iâ€™d hate for you to go back alone so soon and something happen.â€ť
â€śwell, I guess we can sort it out when Iâ€™m on the way backâ€ť
â€śalright, have funâ€ť Mei sent a text to Elowen. She knew it was most likely okay but she still wanted to be sure Elowen wouldnâ€™t mind her taking an unscheduled afternoon off.
She got a text back immediately so messaged her friends before going and getting ready. She gave Tod a hug goodnight and thanked Birch again before heading out. â€śWant pizza tonight, Tod?â€ť Birch asked.
â€śYeah, can we have pineapples on half?â€ť
â€śOf course.â€ť Birch went ahead and ordered, getting bread sticks and cinnamon twists as well. He hung up when he had everything he wanted then locked his front door and went to quickly change out of his work clothes. Tod was still working on his homework when he came back, Bane curled up next to his chair barely glancing his way. â€śDo you need any help or anything?â€ť
â€śMaybe a little. I donâ€™t understand this math problem.â€ť
Birch pulled up a chair and began helping Tod. He took the time to make sure Tod knew what to do instead of just helping him quickly so they could play something. They finished his homework just before the pizza arrived which surprised Birch since normally it took much longer. He guessed it must be a slow evening for them. He paid the delivery man and brought the pizza to the table. He received a hug from Tod â€śIâ€™m so happy Iâ€™m hanging out with you tonight. Mei would of made something healthy againâ€ť Birch chuckled â€śMei and your mother just want to make sure youâ€™re healthy. I can spoil you because I know they take such good care of you at homeâ€ť
â€śYeahâ€¦is my mom coming back soon?â€ť
â€śHopefuly it wont be too much longerâ€ť Tod smiled â€śyou miss her a lot too huhâ€ť Birch fought down a blush â€śyeah, well, sheâ€™s my friendâ€ť Tods smile grew a little which could either be because he was now grabbing a slice of pizza or the nine year old realized the feelings he had for his mother. He wasnâ€™t sure it was appropriate to talk about with her son so he didnâ€™t try to. Hopefully it was that Tod realized and would approve if anything did finally happen between them. Birch was a straightforward guy but he still didnâ€™t know what happened with Tods father and worried she might be too wounded from her past to have any desire to be with anybody again.
As far as he knew she never dated and she was far too warm, along with beautiful for nobody to of asked. Elowen just worked, spent time with her son and the few friends she had. She never so much as mentioned a guy being attractive and given the fact nobody spoke of Tods father made him even more concerned with what may lay in her past. Weather he died or was an abusive prick or his worst fear had raped her and made her swear off dating the last thing he wanted was to let her know how much he wanted to be more in her life than a friend and have her push him away because she couldnâ€™t handle a romantic partner in her life. Sometimes he wanted to ask Mei. If anybody else knew she would but still, would Elowen get upset about him prying?
They got her settled in so late that evening he didnâ€™t ask when she returned to his house but when the next night came, his last chance to ask her without Elowen being around he took it as soon as Tod was sleeping â€śMei, care to have some wine with me and talk?â€ť
â€śsounds serious, sureâ€ť They went into his kitchen where he grabbed them each a glass then began looking through his wine â€śMy curiosity is peaked, whats up?â€ť she asked as he looked. He sighed, looking over at her â€śI justâ€¦I wanted to ask if you knew anything about Tods fatherâ€ť he couldnâ€™t tell if she was shocked, horrified or a mixture of both â€śwhy would you ask about that?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sorry, I shouldnâ€™t have askedâ€ť
â€śwhy are you asking? Someone was in Elowens home werenâ€™t they?â€ť
â€śNo there wasnâ€™t, what would that have to do with Tods father?â€ť
â€śBirch Iâ€™ve always liked you but you have to be straight with me. Why are you asking?â€ť
â€śbecause I want to be with her, thats all. I just felt I should know first if shes been through anything traumatic I mean his father has never been mentioned one time and she doesnâ€™t date, she doesnâ€™t even mention being attracted to anyone. I Iâ€™m sorry for askingâ€ť Mei sighed â€śjesus you scared me Birch.â€ť
â€śseriously, what is the deal with his father?â€ť
â€śThe deal is heâ€™s a monster, a literal monster and I never want to hear you ask about him ever again understand? Donâ€™t you dare hurt her or Tod that way. Elowen has already moved twice to keep him away from her son.â€ť Mei shook her head, lifting her hands a moment in an obvious storm of emotions â€śI canâ€™t have you asking Elowen about this so lets get on your computer. I need to show you somethingâ€ť He took her to his computer and he waited as she typed something into the search bar. What came up took him back and he asked what even he knew was a stupid question â€śwhat does this news article have to do with Tods fatherâ€ť
â€śheâ€™s the one who was doing this. Heâ€™d kill people by slowly removing their organs or simply just playing around inside them, doing everything he could to also keep them alive as long as possibleâ€ť Birch read the article then said in horror â€śbut this says he was never caughtâ€¦howâ€ť
â€śTods father is a literal monster. Elowen didnâ€™t know until she became pregnant. He finally told her, showed her what he was and she accepted that until one day she founds him hunched over a dead body, innards in hand. He confessed everything to her, begged her to stay and run off to a different world with him where they could start over but being Elowen she couldnâ€™t just act like he wasnâ€™t a murderer, even if he was claiming he would stop for her. She figures if he could have stopped for her and their son he would have before she caught himâ€ť
â€śHe didnâ€™t take that wellâ€ť
â€śHe tried to kill her Birch. She moved, changed hers and Tods names and when he found her she did it all over again. I promise you after that scare at the house if you bring up Tods father she will be gone and we will never see her againâ€¦I mean she might take me. I know all this because once we got close she told me and asked that if he ever did kill her that I do everything I can not to let him get his hands on Tod and corrupt or hurt himâ€ť
â€śHow can she even stand to be friends with meâ€¦Iâ€™m not humanâ€ť
â€śshe didnâ€™t suddenly become a racist Birch, sheâ€™s changed her name twice and she cant be completely honest about her past. Damn it Birch sheâ€™ll kill me for saying this but she loves you too. Sheâ€™s not an idiot, neither are Tod and I but she wont be with you if she cant be honest with you and the more people that know the more likely she is to be found by him again. Her mistake the first time she changed her name was getting romantically involved and telling the truth about herself. You and Elowen just cant be and you canâ€™t bring this upâ€ť
â€śBut Iâ€™ll protect herâ€ť
â€śYou canâ€™t promise that Birch. Sheâ€™s fine being single, especially because that comes at no risk of having to uproot Tod now that hes old enough to realize he has to leave his entire life behind.â€ť
â€śI can promise it, Mei, because I mean it. Iâ€™m not letting him have either of them and Iâ€™m not letting her just disappear.â€ť He sighed. â€śSheâ€™s become so important to me, itâ€™s likeâ€¦itâ€™s like finding a part of yourself you never knew you were missing.â€ť
â€śYou all know what I can do, but he doesnâ€™t. If he steps into this house, he wonâ€™t be leaving. Iâ€™ll discuss everything with Elowen once I know she and Tod are safe. Doesnâ€™t she know what it would have felt like waking up one day to find her gone? I wonâ€™t let some creature ruin their lives again.â€ť
Mei swallowed. â€śWhat are you going to do?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m a monster too, Mei, just a different kind. Iâ€™ll lure him out if I have too or hound him to the ends of the earth because if I donâ€™t then he wonâ€™t stop, heâ€™ll just keep chasing them until he has them cornered. Heâ€™s a predator and a killer and he wonâ€™t stop.â€ť He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. â€śEven if she hates me, I canâ€™t let her fight alone. I just canâ€™t.â€ť
Meis phone going off startled her. She grabbed it â€śitâ€™s Elowenâ€¦wellâ€¦I guess now I should say Nadjaâ€ť
â€śNadjaâ€ť Birch repeated. Mei nodded, a few tears streaming down her cheek â€śIâ€™m so scared sheâ€™s going to hate meâ€¦sheâ€™s like a sister to me but I do want her safeâ€¦I donâ€™t want her to have to be afraid anymoreâ€ť
â€śItâ€™s all going to be okay, Iâ€™ll make sure of it. What is she sayingâ€ť Mei wiped her face and checked her messages â€śsheâ€™s just reminding me to pick her up at 10am tomorrowâ€ť
â€śwe will all goâ€ť
â€śsheâ€™s going to know somethings up right when we get herâ€ť
â€śI know and thats why I want to come tooâ€¦Nadja thoughâ€¦that sounds Danish right?â€ť mei nodded again â€śyeah, her dad was from the Netherlandsâ€ť
â€śthey died in a car accident when she was a teenager. She doesnâ€™t really have any family since her parents werenâ€™t close to anybody they were related to. One of her friends parents allowed her to come live with them so she didnâ€™t have to go to foster care or anything.â€ť
â€śI see, so her parents did dieâ€ť
â€śshâ€™s lied to you as little as possible you know. Most everything you know about her is trueâ€ť
â€śI believe thatâ€¦whatâ€™s Tods name?â€ť
â€śwell his birth name is Cailean but even if she does get to a safe point in her life I think sheâ€™ll leave it as Tod. Itâ€™s the name he knowsâ€ť
â€śCailean and Nadjaâ€ť Mei shifted uncomfortably â€śIâ€™m going to go to bed okayâ€ť she stood and Birch said â€śHeyâ€¦even if sheâ€™s mad at firstâ€¦when I get rid of her ex I know sheâ€™ll forgive youâ€ť
â€śI hope youâ€™re rightâ€ť
When Elowen landed the next day she was elated to be home, especially knowing both Birch and Tod would be coming to the airport. She was practicly glowing with happiness until she saw Meis face â€śwhats wrong?â€ť
â€śI know that face Meiâ€ť Tod hugged his mother, taking her attention â€śMommyâ€ť
â€śHey hadnsome, I missed you so muchâ€ť
â€śI missed you too.â€ť
â€śdid you have fun with Birch and Meiâ€ť
â€śYeah!â€ť he said excitedly. â€śgoodâ€ť she stood up straight and looked over at Birch â€śYouâ€™ll have to let me thank you in some wayâ€ť she hugged him and he gently held her until she pulled away â€śLets goâ€ť Once in the car Elowen asked â€śDo you need some time off after that break in scare Mei? I understand if you do. You look so tenseâ€ť
â€śwellâ€¦we kind of need to talkâ€¦Birch and I figured we could take Tod out to buy a new toy set then weâ€™d go home and talk while he plays in his roomâ€ť
â€śyay!â€ť Tod exclaimed gleefully.
â€śBirch, is everything alright?â€ť Elowen asked as they browsed toys.
â€śI just want to wait until weâ€™re back.â€ť
She could see the determination on his face, could tell he was thinking hard about something. She was afraid of what that meant. Had she done something wrong? Had Mei? Surely it couldnâ€™t be Tod. She shook her head. He would have come out with it right away if that were the case, and Birch had never lost his temper with any of them. He was so patient and kind. She was surprised when he reached over and took her hand and gave her a small smile.
â€śDonâ€™t worry, itâ€™s just important and not something I want to discuss in public.â€ť
It felt so good to hold his hand it almost hurt. Once they were finally home with the toy open and her son shut in his room the three adults sat on her couch. Mei was sitting beside Elowen while Birch took up a seat across from her. â€śIâ€™m sorry about the tension youâ€™ve felt about this talk. Your life has apparently had enough tension in it. Please, just listen to me before you react okay?â€ť
â€śOkayâ€¦â€ť she looked at Mei again and in her heart she knew Birch knew. Hers sunk as she listened â€śI know that your ex is a murderer and that you caught him and hes one of those if I cant have you nobody will types but you donâ€™t have to be afraid anymore Nadja, you or Cailean. Iâ€™m not human either and I can protect you. I promise I can. I refuse to lose you and Tod. Iâ€™m happy to keep calling you guys whatever names you prefer but I love you and Mei says you love me tooâ€¦I get why you havenâ€™t gone out with me and I get why youâ€™ve kept stuff to yourself. I know youâ€™re really only thinking of Tod but please donâ€™t run, allow me to love and protect youâ€ť
He could tell she was processing â€śMeiâ€¦whyâ€ť Elowen finally said â€śhe started asking about Tods dad and I panickedâ€ť It about broke him when she started to softly cry â€śwe could all die. I ever make the smallest blip on the radar as myself and he finds me.â€ť
â€śI know Iâ€¦Iâ€™m sorryâ€ť
â€śIt;s okay, I donâ€™t hate you I promiseâ€ť now Mei was bawling so Elowen hugged her a few moments before wiping her face again. She looked Birch in the eyes, seeing that same determination â€śyou really want to get involved in this Birch? You should think about if weâ€™re really worth itâ€ť
â€śI dont have to think about it. I knew the second she told me I wanted to protect you guys. I love both of you and Mei has become a good friend too. I canâ€™t even picture my life without youâ€ť
â€śI just donâ€™t want anyone to get hurt. I just want him to leave me and Tod alone.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s okay, Elowen.â€ť He moved to sit next to her and wrapped his arms around her. â€śIâ€™m not letting him touch any of you. He can try, but heâ€™ll have to come through me.â€ť
â€śI love you, I really do so much.â€ť
â€śI love you too, so donâ€™t run away, itâ€™d kill me.â€ť
â€śThat means Iâ€™ll have to explain to Tod.â€ť
He shook his head. â€śYou donâ€™t have to worry about that right now. You can explain everything to him when heâ€™s a little older, I know heâ€™ll understand.â€ť He kissed her forehead. â€śYouâ€™re a wonderful mother, Elowen, you know that right?â€ť She nodded and he leaned back and wiped the tears from her cheeks. â€śEverythingâ€™s going to be alright.â€ť
â€śI really like this name by the way, Elowen. Iâ€™d just like you to keep calling us Elowen and Tod, even after Tod knowsâ€ť
â€śalright, is it okay if we draw him out on purpose? Iâ€™d rather just knock him out nowâ€ť
â€ślets wait, I promised Tod Iâ€™d let him go to summer camp. Iâ€™d rather him be nowhere near me when my ex finds me. Iâ€™ll pay in cash so he wont have any leads as to where Tod is. He of course also doesnâ€™t know his current nameâ€ť
â€śalright, Iâ€™ll take two months of bliss before I have to deal with himâ€ť
â€śand youâ€™re sure there was nobody here?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure, just a kids imagination. He always wants you home so badâ€ť
â€śI know, I hate I ever have to go but I make such good money I hate to quit.â€ť
â€śWell, if you ever feel like staying home, you two can always move in with me.â€ť She opened her mouth and he shook his head. â€śYou donâ€™t have to worry about answering now. I just want you to know you have the freedom to move in whenever you want, if you ever want to. Mei too, I have plenty of room.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re too kind, Birch.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s easy when itâ€™s you.â€ť
Even though she knew Birch wasnâ€™t far, Elowen still spent two months looking over her shoulder. She knew what her ex was capable of and she didnâ€™t want him surprising them. The only thing that kept her from going into a full panic and running was the fact she had Birch, Tod, and Mei with her. Tod was oblivious to the fact his biological father could be around and she appreciated Birch and Mei keeping it that way. She wanted him to be able to grow up happy, without having to move all the time. She knew it was unfair. Summer Camp seemed to come up far too quickly and she couldnâ€™t help but reiterate to Tod that he should never go off alone and that if anyone approached him he didnâ€™t know, he should run and get help.
â€śI promise mom, Iâ€™ll be so good. Thank you for letting me go this yearâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m sorry if Iâ€™m over protective at timesâ€ť Tod hugged her â€śyouâ€™re a good mom. I know you just love meâ€ť She watched him join the group of kids heâ€™d be there with. Birch stood beside her, waiting patiently for Elowen to be ready to walk away. â€śHeâ€™s going to have so much fun Elowenâ€ť
â€śI know, this will just be the longest weâ€™ve ever been apart and Iâ€™m nervous aboutâ€¦you know.â€ť Once she couldnâ€™t see Tod any longer she finally made herself walk away, knowing the counselors here were more than capable. When they got on the road Elowen said â€śI cant believe you even did this drive with meâ€ť
â€śIt was funâ€ť her heart trembled â€śyou knowâ€¦if we make it through my exâ€¦I think Iâ€™ll be ready to talk to Tod about us living with youâ€ť
â€śYeah, youâ€™ve been so greatâ€¦please donâ€™t let yourself get killedâ€ť
â€śYouâ€™ve never seen me in action. Iâ€™ll be fine, Iâ€™m not even worried Elowen. Weâ€™ll be great, especially if Mei got everything set up that I asked her to while we were driving Tod hereâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll text her and see how everything is goingâ€ť It took about twenty minuets for her to text them back â€śNo problems here. Just drive safe you two. Iâ€™m done and out with some friendsâ€ť
Elowen was nervous as they headed back to her house. Birch had explained the best place to lure him out was somewhere that smelled mostly of her. It would mask his scent and allow him to ambush her ex. â€śRemember the plan?â€ť He asked as he took her hand.
â€śYeah, just go out and sit in the backyard and try not to panic.â€ť
â€śYou can do it, baby, I know you can. I wonâ€™t let him touch you, I just need him out in the open.â€ť
â€śI know, I love you.â€ť
â€śI love you too.â€ť
She had to do this, especially for Tod. He was so young and he deserved a stable childhood. â€śWhere will you be again?â€ť She asked when they finally pulled into her driveway.
â€śIn the tree. Iâ€™m going to walk a block down and come in the back way.â€ť
â€śOkay.â€ť He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her lips. It helped her calm down and gave her the strength to let him leave her.
Elowen walked toward her home, trying not to shake as she entered. If he wasnâ€™t already there he would be soon. With the help of Meis friends multiple posts had been made about her and last time he had swooped in scarily fast. Elowen made a quick cup of coffee using her keurig, poured just a splash of creamer in it then went outside as though she just wanted to relax on her porch and enjoy the weather outside. â€śBirch wont let him hurt you. Itâ€™s going to be okayâ€ť she told herself, now looking at her phone. Her min wasnâ€™t really registering anything on it but she wanted to look busy.
Birch had gone through so much trouble getting her home ready for this set up. She didnâ€™t want her ex to get wise to the fact she was waiting and make Birch take bigger risks later. Elowen could still see that body, those eyes, all that blood. She was getting sick to her stomach so tried to actually look at her Facebook. She knocked over her coffee she was so startled when she heard his heavy breathing. She looked up, a scream caught in her throat she was so terrified.
Her ex was about to say something when what she guessed was Birch.ran long claws quickly across his throat, causing blood to gush. He was giant now, standing at least ten foot tall and his body, what on earth was he? His head resembled some sort of bird, maybe a rooster. As Birch wrapped his long tail around him and slammed him into the yard she could see wins and jesus how long was that tail. Her thoughts were all over the place. She was shocked when he ex was still able to shift, not quite gone yet.
Birch hissed as he attacked, claws slicing into the infuriated monster. The creature tried many times to get past him, wanting Elowen more than he wanted to save himself. He could hear Elowenâ€™s racing heart and knew this must be terrifying for her. The monsterâ€™s nails cut him and he drove forward, snapping his teeth down on its throat. The monster thrashed in his grasp, scraping at him with his claws as he tried to free himself. He squeezed harder, feeling the crunch of bone and cartilage as he crushed the monsterâ€™s throat and broke his neck. He didnâ€™t let go until his body went limp, then he let it drop to the ground.
He shifted back and turned to Elowen just as she slammed into him, her arms wrapping tightly around him. She started crying and he held her tightly, doing his best to comfort her. â€śItâ€™s okay now, baby, everythingâ€™s okay.â€ť
Elowen looked past him at her ex. His body had shifted back and it was hard to believe it was really him. For a moment, she could almost see who he had been before everything and she briefly wondered what could have made him into a monster. â€śIs he really dead?â€ť She asked. â€śIs it really over?â€ť
â€śYes, youâ€™re safe now, you and Tod and Mei.â€ť
She started crying again and he understood. He had just killed somebody in front of her and not just anybody. Somebody she had once loved, someone she shared a child with before she found out he had been the one killing people where they lived. Even though he had intended to kill her too, the shock of his death and the fact he was dead at all had to be hard. â€ślet me get you inside.â€ť He picked her up and took her to the sofa since it was nearest. â€ślet me handle calling the police. Want me to turn the tv on?â€™â€ť
â€śNo, they will come right away and Iâ€™ll have to talk to them too. I want to make sure they know everything so you dont end up in jailâ€ť
â€śI have his claw marks on me and with dna they will tie him to the murders. Heâ€™s also on your property when you havenâ€™t been together for some time. The police will believe us honeyâ€ť he hated how stressed she now looked but he was right, calling the police is what they should do. Everything only took a few days to sort out before they were completely off the hook with the police. Elowen couldnâ€™t believe she could actually have a normal life now and an amazingly happy one at that. Birch was such a good man and had more than proven his devotion to her and Tod. She knew she was lucky in so many ways. Lucky to have survived her ex and lucky to find such a brave, amazing man to share the rest of her life with.
~ The End
“Wakey, wakey my precious wolf.” Nebi said as he brushed his fingers through Nathan’s hair, pushing it away from his sleeping face. He knew he would get an earful from his mate, but he couldn’t help but come into the cage once the moon had passed. “Nathan.”
The wolf stirred, letting out a little groan, his single eye opening. “Nebi?” He looked around, remembering where he was. “What are you doing in here? When did you come in here? I…”
Nebi pressed a kiss to his lips, silencing him and causing a little whine to escape his lips. “Hush, I waited until you had shifted back. I wanted to wake you.”
“You could have done that from the other side of the cage.”
“That’s no fun. Besides, I have work today and I really wanted to be a good mate and wake you. I have breakfast upstairs, I’m sure you’re hungry.”
Nathan sighed as he reached up and tucked Nebi’s hair behind his ear. What was he going to do with his leopard. He was too reckless and that scared Nathan. “Alright, I love you.”
“I love you too.” Nebi gave him another kiss then got up and grabbed the pair of sweats he had brought down for Nathan. He waited as his mate pulled them on, letting his gaze sweep over his wolf. “Damn, I almost regret bringing them to you.”
Nathan blushed. “I think you enjoy teasing me a little too much.”
They went upstairs and Nebi had him set down so he could serve him. “So, what kind of work?”
“You know what kind, the messy kind.”
“I thought Fino did that and you simply delivered information.”
“This needs a more delicate touch.”
“You know, my cute face.”
Nathan’s wolf bared its teeth in jealousy and he did his best to fight the emotion down. It wasn’t like Nebi was going there to cheat on him or anything. “I see.”
Nebi smiled as he rested his chin in his hand. “Want to come? You seem distressed.”
“Nathan, you can’t fool me, I could hear your heart and your scent changed.”
Nebi leaned over and kissed him, smiling lovingly. “It’s okay, it’s normal to feel jealous. Come with me, I’ll get us a room. It can get lonely when I have to go off alone and you can bail me out if things go south my sweet wolf. The full moon has passed and I’d love to come back to you at the end of the day instead of an empty room.”
Nathan felt relieved he could come and hoped he could control his jealousy. Nebi would just be working, he’d just have to keep reminding himself of it. “Okay, but only if you really want me to come. I trust you.”
“I know you do Nathan.”
Nathan tried not to obsess over the fact Nebi would be flirting with someone else as they ate. Breakfast was amazing and he wanted to simply enjoy it with the wonderful man who prepared it for him. After they ate and had a few cups of coffee together they headed out, Nathan reminding himself again not to be an ass and let his jealousy get to him. In the car Nebi said, “I love you.” Just as a reminder to Nathan that he was his world and nobody else could ever take his place.
“So what all are you going to be doing?”
“Being charming and sweet. From the info I was given, my target loves beautiful, blonde men.”
“Nathan, my love, I just have to get close to him.” He took Nathan’s hand, squeezing it. “I just have to be seductive enough to get him alone.”
“Will he be touching you?”
“There may be a brush here and there.” He chuckled. “How cute.”
“It doesn’t feel like it. I feel like I’m being childish. This is your job, it’s not like you weren’t doing it before me.” Even that thought made his wolf grumble. How many had he tempted and seduced before they had even met?
Nebi stopped at a red light and leaned over, pressing a kiss to Nathan’s cheek and then his lips once he turned his head. He smiled when his wolf kissed back and savored the warmth of his lips until the light turned green. “You should know I’ll be thinking about you the whole time. You’re my everything, my heart and soul. When I’m talking to him it’ll be like I’m talking to you.”
Nathan gave an uneasy smile. “I know…I’m lucky to have you Nebi.”
“I feel the same about you Nathan. I would never jeopardize what we have.” It meant a lot to Nathan just how much Nebi cared if he was comfortable or not. Nebi wasn’t mad or flustered due to the jealousy he felt, he just wanted to be sure he felt okay before starting this job. It showed how loved he was and how much he didn’t have to worry. The drive felt long at first but eventually he was able to relax and just enjoy this time with his leopard. Nebi even continued doing his best to make Nathan feel secure after they checked in by making love to him as soon as they were in their room.
“When do you have to go?” Nathan asked as he held Nebi close, their foreheads pressed together.
Nathan whined without meaning too and blushed with embarrassment. He felt so childish, but Nebi just chuckled. “Sorry.”
“You’re so adorable my wolf.”
“Oh yes you are, even when you’re all covered with fur and grumbling at me from your cage. Your wolf doesn’t even care that I’m there anymore, he likes it when I visit you at night.” He rubbed their noses together when Nathan gave him that all too familiar look of disapproval. “My puppy.”
“Be nice or I’ll make love to you until you can’t move.”
“Promise?” His lips were mere inches from Nathan’s, the anticipation of being kissed stirring the wolf up.
“Good.” He kissed him. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Nebi waited as long as he could before hugging his wolf tightly and telling him goodbye. “If you really need to text me it’s okay but try not to. He could read it over my shoulder. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t though.”
“I won’t, that’s really sweet of you but I’ll just watch something or take a soak.” Nebi gave Nathan one last smile before leaving the room. Nathan’s wolf longed to follow him but he ignored the urge. “This is his job.” Nathan said aloud. Nathan switched on the TV and found something to occupy him before tugging on a pair of sweat pants and settling under the blankets. He hoped sleep might find him since that could kill a lot of time without him even being aware of it. He knew better than to try to force it though. He’d just watch TV and hope.
Nebi hummed to himself as he sat at the bar his target frequented. He looked bored, disappointed even. He glanced at the clock hanging on the wall. He would be here soon. The bell above the door tinkled and he took a brief glance, his eyes momentarily catching those of the one he was waiting for. Raymond Hark was good looking, well built, and immaculately dressed. He was often described as charismatic and charming, easily drawing people in. In truth he was a monster. He hunted men like Nebi, often taking them home under the pretense of a fun night of drinks and sex, only to victimize them, hurting and humiliating them, dominating them without their consent. His plan was to play hard to get, to make sure he was the only one Raymond was concentrating on before allowing himself to be brought home.
“It seems you’ve taken my seat.” Raymond said as he stepped up next to Nebi.
“Oh? I hadn’t noticed.” He brought his drink to his lips, Raymond’s eyes following the motion. “I’m quite comfortable.”
“Are you now?”
Nebi smiled, resting his chin in the palm of his hand as he flicked his gaze briefly to the two men with him then made eye contact with his target. “Mmhm, do you mind if I stay?”
“Since you asked nicely.” Nebi could see buried under lust and possession in Raymond’s eyes, the want to punish him. He wasn’t used to back talk and disobedience.
He wasn’t worried in the slightest, he was confident in his abilities and the abilities of the men backing him up. His mate also wasn’t far and he was the most fearsome wolf he had ever seen. “So why do you like this seat?” Nebi thought he’d ask.
Raymond said, “You can see the rest of the bar best from there.”
Nebi glanced around as if he hadn’t already come to that conclusion before the man got there. “So you can, what type are you checking out when you sit here?”
“Yours.” Raymond cut right to the chase, obviously going for charming in the way he said it and the way he held himself but Nebi could see the monster in him far too clearly to be charmed at all. He needed to be a little more flirtatious so he started thinking of his mate, the kinds of things he would say to him, trying to picture him in his mind to soften his expression.
Raymond took the stool next to him and waved his bodyguards off. They went and stood at the end of the bar, their eyes constantly scanning for signs of trouble. “They’re like puppies.” Nebi said with a little chuckle.
“More like rottweilers.”
“Not all,” he said as he reached over and ran his fingers over the top of Nebi’s hand, “if they’re well trained.”
Raymond nodded. “Pets are easy, all you need is the right incentive.”
“I have a pet, he’s quite adorable.” He pulled out his phone and brought up one of the pictures of Nathan in wolf form. “He’s a rescue and can be quite grumpy.” He showed Raymond.
“And you’re scared of rottweilers? Look at him, is he a wolf?”
“Shepherd mix.” He took his phone back. “Maybe you could give me a few pointers.”
Raymond chuckled. “I’d love too, maybe we could go back to my place and I could show you.” He shifted a little closer, trying to take up space. Nebi saw it a lot with alpha shifters. They claimed what they wanted, letting everyone, even the one they were interested in, know that they belonged to them.
“Are you implying that I’m easy?”
“Not at all, but it might be fun.”
Nebi chuckled as he leaned in, his face close to Raymond’s. “Maybe if you take me out, I might consider it. After all, you do want me, don’t you?” Of course he did, Nebi could smell it, could see the way his pupils dilated, knew he was itching to teach him a lesson. Nebi pulled back, grabbing a napkin and pen from behind the bar and wrote down his name and number. “Call me, I’ll be waiting.”
Nathan was pacing their room, eventually deciding to get room service. It wasn’t healthy to eat for the entertainment or distraction of it, but he was a wolf and an active enough ones he could afford a meal just to keep himself busy. He ordered everything that sounded good, giving the man that brought it a nice tip before sitting down to enjoy, as much as he could anyway while he was worried about Nebi. Nebi sauntered out, hoping to tease Raymond a little more, wanting to be absolutely sure he had hooked him. He then drove in a random direction. He wasn’t sure if this man had his prey followed but he wanted to be sure not to lead Raymond or his goons back to Nathan. He’d drive around and maybe park somewhere for a bit before going back to where they were staying.
Nebi let out a sigh when he finally made it back to the hotel and made sure to lock his car before heading up. The smell of food hit his nose the moment he opened their room door, his stomach giving a little growl, but before he could even think of asking what Nathan was eating, the wolf had him pulled into a tight hug. “Well hello to you too.” He said with a laugh. “Miss me?”
“I was worried.”
“I can tell.”
“You have a strange scent on you.”
“It’s his, he touched me and we were in close proximity so my clothes probably absorbed his cologne.”
The wolf growled, but Nathan held it in, instead pressing a kiss to Nebi’s neck and then gently biting him. He wanted to mark him where that man could see it, but stopped himself. All that mattered what that he was safely back. He wouldn’t mess up his job by making it obvious Nebi was with someone. “I…I don’t like it.”
Nebi chuckled as he pulled back, smiling lovingly at him as he leaned in, letting his lips lightly brush Nathan’s, delighting in the goosebumps that covered his mate’s skin. “Maybe you could replace it with yours.”
“But, the food.”
“It does smell pretty good, I guess we could eat first if that’s what you want.”
Nathan whined. “You’re not playing fair.”
Nebi grinned, almost chuckling. Nathan had no idea how instantly he was able to lift the tension off his shoulders. He could suppress it so others wouldn’t know, but dealing with horrible men like that man at the bar wound his muscles pretty tight. Now here, messing with Nathan all he felt was happiness and lust, well, hunger from smelling the amazing food in the room was there too, but that wasn’t what he was focusing on. “Come on, it’ll still be there when you’ve taken that monster off me.” Nathan’s wolf urged him to just tear Nebi’s clothes off and take him, to mark what was his once again. He gave into the desire, tugging off his mates clothes then his own before going over to the bed with him.
His lips moved hungrily against his mate’s, his tongue diving in, tasting liquor and lust. His hand moved over him, caressing and claiming him. Nebi clung to him, urging him closer, wanting his wolf’s dominance. “Nathan.” He rolled his hips, begging him to hurry and Nathan growled as he slammed into him. Nebi had to bite down on his shoulder to muffle the loud cry that rose in his throat. Nathan sat back, lifting Nebi’s hips as he rocked into him, watching as his leopard’s back arched off the bed. He stroked Nebi’s length, watching his face as he pushed him closer to the edge. Nebi reached for him and Nathan leaned down, their lips pressing together, Nebi’s fingers gripping his back as he came. Nathan picked up the pace and as he neared his released his teeth found Nebi’s shoulder. “Nathan, my wolf, I love you.” He let his fingers stroke Nathan’s neck when the wolf dropped his head on his chest and they laid there for a moment, catching their breath and letting the air cool their damp skin.
Nathan pressed a kiss to his shoulder and then his neck and finally his lips, his fingers sliding through Nebi’s hair. “I love you too, more than you know.”
“I think I know.”
“You don’t.” He stroked Nebi’s cheek. “Nothing I do can ever fully express how much I love and need you.”
“I think you do a pretty amazing job.” He rubbed their noses together.
“At least I can’t smell him anymore.”
Nebi chuckled. “So jealous, it really is adorable. Let’s not talk about him right now, it’s just us.”
“Want to enjoy this food and watch something?” Nebi gave a small nod and the two got up to replenish their energy. Nebi had no way of knowing when that monster would call him away tomorrow so he wanted to spend all the time he could with Nathan tonight. Once they finished eating they shut the television back off, just talking and joking around with one another until they both knew it was time to get some rest so Nebi wouldn’t be yawning when he was with Raymond tomorrow. They were surprised at how late they had slept when a phone call woke them. Nebi cleared his throat and walked onto the balcony of their room to make sure Raymond didn’t hear Nathan.
“Hello Mr. Hark, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Call me Raymond, please.”
Nebi chuckled. “Okay, Raymond.”
“Did you sleep well last night?”
“I always sleep well, and you?”
Raymond huffed. “I have to confess, I didn’t.”
“Too busy thinking of you.”
Nebi rolled his eyes. What a line, he thought, and one that was far more charming and endearing when it came from Nathan’s lips. “Only good thoughts I hope.”
“Of course. Now to why I called. I want to take you out on a date tonight.”
“That eager are we?” He said in a teasing tone.
“Can you blame me? I’ve never met a man as beautiful as you, let me take you out.”
“Hmm…I wonder if I should?” He was sure Raymond was seething, but he couldn’t help himself. He was a literal cat playing with its prey. “Alright, pick the place and I’ll meet you there, Raymond and perhaps I’ll consider rewarding you for treating me.”
The sound Raymond made caused Nebi to smile, he was definitely annoyed. This was probably the most fun he had ever had pissing someone off. Raymond was the only one on this phone call about to be punished for his behavior and he couldn’t wait for Raymond to find that out. “I’ll send someone to get you, where do you live?” Raymond asked, obviously trying to hide his annoyance.
“No, I’ll drive myself.” Nebi said with a grin.
“Come on now, I invited you out. It’s courtesy to pick you up.”
“Ah but that’s one of the dating rules from long ago. I prefer to live in the now. I’ll drive myself.”
Raymond gave in. “Fine then, meet me at the bar and we’ll go from there.”
“Why the bar?” Raymond hung up, probably struggling not to yell at Nebi for how much he had resisted.
“You shouldn’t play with him Nebi.” Nathan’s tone was full of worry as he stepped out onto the balcony and wrapped his arms around his mate from behind.
“I’m just throwing him off, baby.”
“But he’s dangerous right?” He dropped his head onto Nebi’s shoulder and kissed his neck. “He could hurt you.”
“Maybe if I were human, my love,” he said as he turned to face his wolf, “but I’m the great and powerful Nebi, leopard extraordinaire.”
“Trust me, I know you’re worried, but this is what I do. I play, they let their guard down and I kill them. He’s trapped in my web and doesn’t even know it. Besides, he doesn’t even know I’m a leopard. Even if he does manage to restrain me, I can easily slip out.”
“I’m sorry I’ve been so whiny and possessive. I just don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t, I’m yours forever.”
“I love you, Nebi.”
“I love you too, now shower with me, I have to prepare for my date with that idiot.”
Nathan whined. “But you’re going to pick up his scent again.”
Nebi chuckled. “Then I guess you’ll just have to get rid of it again.”
They took a long shower, the two doing more cuddling and fooling around than actually getting clean but Nathan needed it and Nebi was just enjoying the fun before work beckoned him again. It was a long goodbye when Nebi absolutely had to leave, but Nebi wasn’t sure how long this would all take. Nathan unlocked his cellphone then went to his Kindle. He decided today instead of zoning out to TV that he’d try to get through a book or two. There were so many he wanted to read and currently, he had no excuse not to sit down and do it. He also felt it would be more successful at keeping away all his worries.
Nebi wasn’t surprised to find Raymond waiting for him when he stepped into the bar. The man looked his way and Nebi smiled as he made his way over to his prey. “You beat me here.” He said as he slipped onto the stool next to Raymond.
“You took longer than I expected.” Raymond replied.
“Well, I wanted to make sure I looked good for you.” He let his eyes move over Raymond. “I don’t feel quite as put together as you, maybe I should go back and change.”
Raymond grinned as he reached over, letting his fingers slide over Nebi’s cheek and down to grab his chin. “I doubt you have to worry about your clothes.”
“So, what do you have planned, for our date I mean?”
“If you come with me, I’ll show you.” He let his hand drop to Nebi’s and the leopard could feel the possession there. “You’ll like it, I promise.”
“Did you plan something romantic?”
Raymond shrugged. “It’s a surprise, come with me.”
“How mysterious and romantic. Alright, I’m intrigued, let’s go.”
Nebi’s leopard was ready to fight, it felt it coming. This date was going to quickly go south, but that was part of the plan. He needed to see precisely where he was taking these men, he needed to get all the evidence needed to finally convict Raymond of everything he had done. Nathan could sense the imminent danger as well even though he wasn’t even there. He wanted to run after Nebi, to protect him from harm but he was managing to make himself stay in their room. Nebi had worked a long time before him, he didn’t need nor did he desire protecting. Nathan knew he needed to respect his mate’s wishes, as hard as that was right now.
Nebi wasn’t surprised when Raymond pulled up the gate in front of his house. Of course the “surprise” would be in his home, it was the only way to ensure his victims didn’t escape. “I thought you were taking me out?”
“Trust me, this is better.” Raymond reached out the driver side window, punching in the code for the gate and then drove through when it swung open. “It’s much more intimate when it’s just us instead of a room full of people.”
He pulled into the driveway, parking his car right at the front steps and got out and went around to let Nebi out. Nebi smiled, feigning surprise that he was being so polite and allowed himself to be guided in. “So, what’s the surprise?”
“I had a meal specially prepared for you, dessert and drinks that I hope you’ll like.” He pulled Nebi close, let his fingers sliding over his cheek and tuck his hair behind his ear.
“I can’t wait.” Nebi could see how people could so easily fall for him. He knew exactly how to play his victims. He was like a viper, slowly stalking his prey, moving in close and then striking and sinking his fangs in. Nebi could see it, smell it, and feel the dark energy coming off of Raymond. It wasn’t just him, it was the bodyguards as well. They stood by and let this all happen, not caring as long as they were paid.
It took especially sick people to just sit there and watch, possibly help get a victim back under control if they managed to slip away. Nebi readied himself as he was taken to the room, pretending once more when he saw the food out and arranged by candle light. “You really are a sweet man, maybe I was the lucky one we met.” His energy was already growing darker. They sat down to eat, but Nebi’s nose told him not to consume anything. This was part of how he did it, this food was drugged, would make him less able to defend himself.
“You should try the salmon.” Raymond said as he poured Nebi some wine.
Nebi could smell that was drugged too. He really had all his bases covered. “Maybe a drink first.” He replied with a smile.
Nebi lifted his glass. “To an evening of fun.”
“To an evening of fun.”
Nebi shifted his feet as he started to bring the glass to his lips. He threw the wine in Raymond’s face, surprising him then pushed up, bringing his other fist up to connect with his chin, knocking him back, chair and all. He tossed the glass then reached into his coat and pulled out his knife. “Raymond, Raymond, Raymond, drugs?”
“You son of a bitch.”Raymond said as he pushed himself to his hands and knees. “Who are you?”
Nebi kicked him in the stomach so he fell over again then he rolled him onto his back and crouched over him. “I’m retribution, Raymond. Did you really think you could get away with hurting all those young men?”
“Wait.” Nebi grabbed his throat. “W…wa…please.”
“Where do you keep all your little toys and trophies?”
“Thank you, Raymond, I had a good time.”
Nebi drove the knife into his solar plexus and up into his heart, holding tightly to his throat until he bled out. He was almost surprised when no guards came rushing in, then he remembered they had probably heard a few people fall down in here. They were next and then he needed to take photos of everything Raymond had hidden in his room so he could send it to his boss who would give it to the authorities.
He rushed down, barely giving them time to register what was happening before they laid lifeless on the floor. He then collected the evidence he needed and rushed off, ready to be with his wolf again. The first words he uttered once his wolf wasn’t holding him too tight to speak was, “I’m done, he’s dead and I have what I need for the authorities to officially tell the families who is responsible.”
“Thank god.” Nathan said, holding him tightly again.
“I’m sorry if this was hard Nathan.”
“It’s your job, I know I should be better about being jealous.”
“Well, it’s harder for you. Wolves are notoriously the jealous type.”
“But I love and trust you implicitly.”
“Being jealous isn’t always about lack of trust baby. It’s an emotion almost impossible to control. It’s how you act when you’re jealous that matters and you were amazing.”
“When can we go?”
“I’m more comfortable there, in our bed, it’s more familiar and I can relax.”
“Tomorrow, but for now I need a shower.” He had blood on him from those men and Raymond’s scent permeated his clothing.
“Of course, sorry.”
“Hush, it’s sweet how worried you were.” He pressed a kiss to Nathan’s lips then pulled him into the bathroom. Nathan let out a little growling whine when Nebi started pulling his clothes off and got the water started. He couldn’t keep himself from pulling the leopard against him and biting the back of his neck. Nebi chuckled and turned his head to give his wolf another kiss. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” He pressed his forehead against Nebi’s.
Nathan made himself let Nebi go so he could pull his own clothes off. They climbed in together and held each other under the relaxing warmth of the water. Nathan slept with his arms wrapped tightly around Nebi that night, his nose pressed into his leopard’s hair, his body completely relaxed now that his mate was out of harm’s way. Nebi fell asleep with a smile on his face and kissed Nathan awake the next morning so they could get ready to go home.
“I don’t know how Allon stays put while Fino works.” Nathan said once they were checked out.
“You’re two different people baby, with different needs. You need the security of being close to me because of everything you’ve been through. That’s why I invited you.” He put their luggage in the trunk of his car then wrapped his arms around Nathan’s neck and rubbed their noses together. “Having you waiting here for me made me incredibly happy. You’re my home away from home, my love and I hope you’ll always come with me from now on.”
“I’d really like to”
“Then it’s settled.” Nebi said with a comforting smile. Nathan had always wanted to go and was glad he could from now on. Though at the moment he was happiest simply to be heading home with the love of his life. This case would soon be completely closed and they could go back to normalcy. Well, as much normalcy as you can have between a werewolf and leopard.
~ The End
Abigail was watching the news while her youngest two children napped and her older two boys were still in school. Being a mother she couldn’t stand complete silence any more so she liked to eat in the living room with the television on when her family wasn’t filling the house with noise. Something caught her eye and she rewound the tv and paused. There was a woman sitting in the crime scene where they had found the body of a little girl that had been kidnapped about a month ago. This woman was obviously a ghost and her face screamed of her anguish. Abigail was going to help her but she would need to call her father. That was still an active crime scene so there was no way she would be able to go to the woman without a cop. It helped her feel a little less sad about the current news. She couldn’t help that little girl now but she could help this woman move on to the afterlife.
Abel answered just when she was thinking he wasn’t going to pick up “hey sweetie, what’s up?”
“I was watching the news and I saw a ghost at a crime scene. I want to go talk to her”
“You mean that little girl Haley’s crime scene?”
“Okay, your mom is still in class right now but when she gets home I’ll take you and we’ll leave your mom to watch the Abner and Rhoslyn. I need time to talk to a few cops anyway so we know what not to bother and in general not mess up the case for the lawyers when they find the bastard who did that to that little girl” Her father still got incredibly emotional when little kids ended up dead, especially kids as young as Haley. She had only been in second grade. If she had been in the same school district as her sons she could have been a classmate of Rories and her mind couldn’t linger on that for too long.
“thank you dad, take all the time you need, even if its tomorrow or something. I don’t want to do anything either that will mess with that case”
“You know it’s not a problem, everyone around here knows about yours and your mother’s gift so if there’s an unsolved murder or anyone way to close a current case, they’ll understand.”
“Love you dad.”
“Love you too, baby girl.”
They hung up and she let out a sad sigh as she looked at the woman. She could only imagine what she was going through. She wanted to call Christian, but he was at the library, helping them with their computers and she didn’t want to interrupt. She knew he would be home soon and then she could talk to him.
Abigail quickly finished her food, ending up grateful she did. She hadn’t even brought her dish’s all the way to the kitchen when she heard Rhoslyn fussing in her crib. She rarely cried, it was mostly grunts with littles whines here and there when she woke which was nice. Her boys had all been screamers when they woke up. She walked to her room and lifted Rhoslyn out of her crib “hello there beautiful, lets see how Abner is doing” She walked to her four year olds room, finding him still wrapped in his covers and fast asleep. She smiled, pulling the door quietly shut then taking Rhosyln outside to play so she wouldn’t wake her brother. She’d still be able to hear the phone if it rang.
Christian explained how everything he had installed worked to the librarians, making sure they knew where everything was and told them to contact him if they had any questions. His wolf whined, wanting him to go back to his mate. He knew never to ignore animal’s intuition and left, calling her as soon as he was outside. He stood next to his car and was relieved when she finally answered. “Abi? Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, I was just outside with Rhoslyn. Finished with work?”
“Heading home now, want me to pick something up?”
“I ate already, but maybe you could grab something for later.”
“No and could you maybe grab some of that apple cider mix?”
“Hey, are you okay? I mean really okay?” There was a hint of sadness in her voice.
She sighed. “Well I saw something on the news, a spirit hanging around one of my dad’s crime scenes. I don’t know if they’re connected or what, but she was so upset.”
“I’ll be home soon then, okay? I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Now that he had spoken to Abigail he slid the phone in his pocket and got into his car, starting it and driving to the store. He picked up the apple cider mix first then began deciding what they should eat later. He decided to pick up the ingredients for Carbonara and some snacks for the house before making his purchases and heading back to his car. Both kids were awake by the time he got there so he took the time to hug and greet them before giving his wife a long embrace “have you spoken to your father yet?”
“Yeah, we’re going to handle it once my mom is out of class for the day. She’s going to watch our kids so you can come with us”
“Good, thats the scene some crazed person left a poor little girl. If he comes back I know your father is capable but I’d worry not being there” She kissed him then began helping him put stuff away. “can you watch them while I make the cider?”
Abner hovered over his sister, making silly faces at her so she just stared at him, awed by her older brother. Abigail wondered if she knew how safe she was with three older brothers. “Did you get any clues from what might be troubling that ghost?” Christian asked as they sat on the couch.
“Not really, other than how upset she was. If she’s haunting that area maybe she was a victim or maybe she was drawn there. I know Abi used to tell me that some spirits are drawn to tragedy or pain, kind of like how she was pulled to Leo. It’s like a homing beacon.”
“What about her clothes?”
“Jeans and a sweater I think. Maybe she was out walking or something one night.” She rested her head against his shoulder. “I hope I can help her.”
“You will, I know you will. You have the same compassion and understanding as your mother.”
By the time Able arrived it was so near time for the older children to be home from school they waited to see them for a few moments, just in case what was going on with this ghost was about to send them on something that would keep them busy for awhile. “I wish your father had told me you were waiting on me to finish class. I of course stayed late today”
“It’s alright mom, my gut tells me she’ll still be there. How’s school going by the way?”
“still good, I’m so happy I decided to go to college”
“I’m happy for you”
“How’ve my little grandbabies been?”
“all good, Lewis and Rorie are doing amazing in school and Abner is so sweet with his little sister. She’s still a pretty easy baby, probably saving all the craziness for when she’s a teenager” Abigail teased. She glanced over at her husband and lightly giggled at his worried expression. When the older boys got home they visited with them a short while then Abel, Abigail and Christian set out for the crime scene. As they parked and began walking the weight of the terrible thing that occurred her settled in. A little girl was dead and she had died such a miserable way. She truly hoped that she could help this ghost and she hoped that maybe the ghost had information on the horrible person that was out there hurting children.
Abigail spotted her right where she was when she was on tv, sitting by where the girls body once was. The ghost looked at her, knowing right away Abigail could see her “why are you here?” She asked, her voice reflecting a tortured spirit “I was watching the news and saw you…I have the gift of seeing ghosts. I got it from my mother”
The ghost looked down at the earth, almost like she was still watching over the little girl “she was…she was a sweet child. I would have given anything to be able to save her but…theres little I can do that effects the living”
“were you already here when she died?”
“Yes, I have been here a long time, watching the children, wishing to save them”
“what do you mean?”
“If I show them to you, will you help the children?”
“Yes, we are the perfect people to help. My father is here” she could tell the spirit hadn’t noticed the men. She seemed so lost to sorrow, the pain of her existence clouding her ability to take everything in around her. “Oh, a cop”
“Yes, so show me the children and he can help, I can help by telling him what you have to say” She slowly got up, floating away without another word. Abigail followed, her father and husband keeping up. Suddenly she stopped and pointed at the ground, she her father mark the spot as she questioned “are they all buried?”
“Not in one spot, I have much to show you”
“why wasn’t she buried?”
“I sent a wild animal after him. He was too scared to stay”
“was it your intention for evidence to be left”
“I’ve wanted to cause something to make him make a mistake but I only just was finally able to”
“How did you know she was sweet?”
“she was one of the few who didn’t die until they were already here. Her last words, I hate him all the more for what she said. It’s probably why I was angry enough to do something”
“what did she say?”
“She said I’m sorry, she apologized to him, to that disgusting, horrible man. Her spirit was never angry, not for a second. She was simply sad”
“Does she remember what he looked like?” Abel asked as he pulled out his phone and clicked on the note icon.
“Short, maybe brown, it was dark so I’m not sure. I’m not sure about his eyes either, but he was a little darker than him,” she pointed at Abel, “maybe a tan or maybe mixed race, I’m not sure. He was also the same height as him, but thin.”
Abel wrote down every detail. He was the picture of calm, but inside he was enraged and saddened, wanting nothing more than to stop this man. He hadn’t even been able to track the man’s scent after all the traffic that had come through. After he had everything down he continued marking the graves, feeling even more sick that so many had been left here. “I’m going to call all this in and get this man’s face out there.” He said.
“I’ll continue talking to her back where we were so we’re not in the way.” Abigail said.
“alright sweetheart, Christian, you should go with them.” Christian nodded and followed his wife, sitting when she sat with the spirit “thank you so much for your help. Have all the childrens spirits left. I haven’t sensed them”
“I’m sure all have left this world but one little girl. Her spirit stayed, I tried to comfort her to help her move on but she said she was supposed to go out with her dad. They were going to have a special day together and she never got to have that. I think she haunts her family, wanting that time she didn’t get to have”
“which grave was hers so I can figure out where the family is”
“The one near those orange flowers”
“Okay…I want to help you too”
“I dont think you can”
“why not? How did you die?”
“I don’t know”
“You know..the spirit my mother named me after didn’t know how she died an incredibly long time. When she did find out how it turned out it was just that traumatic. Maybe you could stick with me, like Abigail stuck with my mother and one day I can help you heal”
“so she’s moved on?”
“No, she’s actually human again”
A demon named Chthon and Death himself gave her her body and life back.”
“Wow, that’s crazy.” She wrapped her arms around her legs, looking even more upset. “Do you really think you can help me?”
“Of course, but it may take some time. If you’re willing to stick around for awhile, I promise I’ll find out what happened to you.”
“You can also count on me as well as Cora and Abel.” Christian said even though he couldn’t see her. “I’m sure Leo and Abigail will help you too.”
“Even though most of them can’t see me?” She asked.
“Of course.” Abigail answered. “Spirits are so common in our lives that we all try helping them. It’s just what we do. You’ll love it at our house, especially with the kids. You can be our eyes in the sky.”
“You have little ones?”
“Yeah, four, I’ve always wanted eight”
“That’s sweet, who is keeping them safe right now?”
“How old” it felt nice to be around such pleasant people, she wanted to keep talking, to feel semi normal “My oldest is ten, his name is Lewis. Rorie is seven and he adores stuffed animals. He has way too many but I find it so sweet I always hate to say no when he points out a new one. Then there’s Abner, he’s four, all my kids are good to my daughter, who is the youngest but he’s especially sweet with her, always wanting to help. I guess because he’s still home with me all day. The older ones have school and other things to think about. Then there’s the girl I mentioned, her name is Rhoslyn and she’s only one. So far she’s a sweet baby”
Cars soon came back to the scene, ready to document and dig up the graves. As Abigail stood she asked “so do you remember your name?”
“No but I suppose you have to call me something”
“Is there anything you’d like?” The spirit paused a long time before saying “Cerys feels good to me”
“Cerys it is then”
They all stood when Abel came over to them, shaking his head and looking ready to murder someone. Abigail could see how much finding these children like this killed him and she couldn’t help but give her dad a hug. “Well?” She asked.
“All of them, he killed all of them and…” He shook his head. “You three should go home, I’m going to get our killer’s description to Devin so he can make me a sketch and then I’m going to find this sick bastard.”
“I’ll have mom call you.” She said and he nodded. She knew it would help if he could talk to her.
“You all stay safe and give my grandbabies my love.”
“I will daddy, I love you.”
“I love you too sweetie.” He then hugged Christian and told Cerys thank you before letting them go.
When they arrived home Cerys caught everyone’s attention so Abigail gave her a proper introduction before telling her mother to call her father “It’s nice to meet you Cerys. I’ll just be a few moments” Cora said then walked outside to talk on the porch “I can’t believe they can all see me”
“It seems to run in the family”
“were you able to help my grandpa figure out what happened to that little girl?” Lewis asked and she answered “I did my best. I want more than anything for him to be caught”
“did he kill you?”
“I don’t know how I died.”
“she’s going to be living with us until one day we can help her like we helped Auntie Abigail” They had a million questions for Cerys until Cora walked back in “I think grandpa could use a pick me up when he finally gets back. Do you boys want to come to the store with me and help me figure out something nice to bake for him?”
“Is that okay mom?” Rorie asked and Abigail said “sure, go have fun with grandma”
“Rhoslyn’s sleeping honey, she ate and there’s leftovers in the fridge if you two are hungry.”
“Thanks mom, love you.”
“Love you too.”
“Should I go with them to watch over them?” Cerys asked once Cora and the children were gone. “Will they be okay?”
“We’re werewolves, my mom would tear someone to pieces if they tried anything. How about we give you a tour of the house.”
“Is she alright?” Christian asked.
“Worried about the kids.”
“You don’t have to worry, Cerys, they’re the safest people in this town.”
Cerys seemed comforted though the heavy burden of how she had spent her afterlife still showed prominently on her face. Abigail figured it would be quite awhile until she could actually look happy. Abigail gave their new ghost friend a tour of their home then went into the kitchen to heat up those leftovers her mother left “will I get to meet the Abigail you’re named after?”
“Oh of course”
“well, I’ll give you two time to yourselves. I want to go off to think”
“alright, may I ask what you are going to think about?”
“I want to try to remember more about the person who has been killing children. I also want to try to remember anything about my life when I wasn’t a ghost” Cerys flew off without another word or giving them the opportunity to say anything else. “is she alright?” Chrstian found himself asking again “Yeah, she just needs some time.”
“I can only imagine how hard that must be. To lose everything…I don’t know what I would do if I ever forgot you or the kids. I think it would be like a hole was opened up in my heart.”
Abigail kissed his cheek. “I love you, thanks for going out there with me.”
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” He wrapped her in his arms. “How about we watch a movie while we eat.”
“Sounds good, I think I need to just unwind for a few minutes. I wasn’t expecting to find what we did.”
“I know baby, but it was amazing and you gave those families some closure.”
“All I could think about were our own little monsters.”
As they settled down they both felt grateful Cora had taken the kids. They were always so happy with their grandparents and it was nice to have a moment alone to recover from how sad finding all those children had been. They didn’t envy the people who had to actually dig them up and ID them. They picked something upbeat and happy as they ate. It wasn’t until around the end of the movie that Cora returned with three incredibly happy boys “moma grandma bought us toys!” Their youngest exclaimed happily “well let me see” Abigail said as she paused their movie. Each boy excitedly showed her what they got then she hugged her mother “mom, that was sweet”
“I wanted all the men to be happy. Your mate got some time alone, your boys have toys and now I can bake something for your dad. I also want you to go sit back down and finish whatever you were watching”
“are you sure”
‘yep” She hugged her again then returned to the couch with her husband.
Abel arrived about an hour later looking exhausted, but he smiled as soon as his grandchildren greeted him. He hugged all of them and then Cora and Abigail. “How are you doing daddy?” Abigail asked.
“Not good, but we have his face out there now and my boss told me to leave, that they would handle talking to the families.” He sniffed the air. “What’s that smell?”
“I made you something.” Cora said.
“You didn’t have to do that baby.”
“Of course I did, why don’t you unwind and we can talk once the kids are asleep.”
After they all enjoyed the dessert Cora made they played with the kids until their little ones were absolutely exhausted. Abigail asked her older boys to shower and had Christian read to their youngest son to help him fall asleep. He could never make it past two books so it was an easy way to get him down for the night. Since the older boys could manage getting to bed themselves after their showers they began talking down stairs. “some of those bodies…it was disgusting and what’s even more so is how long this has been going on. The autopsies aren’t done yet but they’ve been in the ground a very long time.”
“Thank goodness for Cerys then…she finally exposed him by scaring him off before he could bury that little girl” Able nodded “how is she?”
“oh she’s fine, she’s trying to think right now. Cerys wants to help more and she wants to remember what happened to her. I expect she’s going to be my companion a long time. I offered to let her live with me like Abigail lived with you and mom”
“well if she gives you any leads on herself let me know right away.”
“I will. Do you have any leads yet on the children’s killer?”
“Not yet, but we just got everything out there.” He sighed and Cora let her fingers run over his neck, trying to ease some of the tension out of him. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so frustrated by a case.”
“You’ll catch him, I know you will.” Cora said. “You’re too stubborn not too.”
“I know, thank you.” He hugged her and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “So, how are the kids doing in school?” He wanted to steer the conversation away from the case for a little bit.
“Really well, They are never in any trouble and their report cards were all A’s and B’s. They seem to have a lot of friends too. I’m excited for little Abner to start next year. Hopefully he’ll have as smooth a time as his older brothers. I’m sure Rhoslyn will miss him though. He plays with her so much. At that point she will be two though so I was actually considering maybe starting her in swimming lessons and maybe joining a mommy and me yoga class since a few start as young as 2.”
“That sounds fun”
“Yeah, that of course hinges on if she doesn’t decide we need to go ahead and have another baby” Christian teased. Abigail smiled “I like the three year age gap we’ve managed with all of our kids. Even if we have another I’ll probably want to continue that” They talked about the kids until Cora and Able decided to go home for the night. Her father reminded her to lock the door which made Abigail laugh “I love you too dad” She locked it then went to her bedroom with Christian where he began stripping her, drawing another laugh out “after all that?”
“I want to make sure you fall asleep happy” he said with a mischievous grin.
Abigail’s loud cries were muffled by Christian’s lips, the position he held her in allowing him to press against one of her most sensitive spots. He let out a little growl as she quivered and pulsed around him, moving her onto her stomach and pushing into her a little harder, his teeth clamping down on her shoulder as he filled her. “Abigail.” He said her name softly as he kissed the mark on her shoulder. He turned her back over, his lips finding hers, his fingers running lovingly through her hair. “Good?”
“Yeah.” Her eyes were damp with tears and he kissed her again before settling under the covers. She snuggled into him and he continued running his fingers through her hair. “I’m surprised I’ve survived this long.” She teased, her voice sleepy, but her tone warm and happy.
“It wouldn’t be that bad of a way to go.”
She gave a soft laugh. “I love you.”
“I love you too, sleep baby, I’ll get up if Rhos needs us.”
She happily accepted his offer to simply let herself fade. It was a few days later but the man responsible was identified though had long since run, possibly as soon as he saw his sketch on the news. His house lay empty,his room looking like he had hastily packed before darting. Abel memorized the scent of this place, familiarizing himself just in case he had somehow gotten a new identity to run with. Abel called son in law “What’s up?” Christian said and Abel requested he come over and find everything he could out of the mans computer. “I’ll be right there” Christian hungup, explaining where he was going to Abigail before rushing out of their home.
Cerys spoke “So they really found him”
“His home at least, sadly that doesnt mean we have him just yet”
“theres a lot people can do to evade being brought to justice”
“I could always look for him. I mean, I can go anywhere. I…I feel like he’s my responsibility.”
“Cerys, it’s not your fault he did what he did. You set things in motion for him to be captured and my dad won’t stop until he’s captured.”
“I just don’t want him to hurt anyone else and if I can find him and then let your dad know where he is, he won’t.”
“You’re such an amazing person Cerys and I’m sure my dad would appreciate your help. If you want, I can ask some of the other spirits to help you.”
“Do you think they would?”
“Of course and I’m sure after his face and identity have been plastered all over the news, they’ll know what he looks like. Just let me message Christian so they know we’re at the cemetery then we’ll go.”
Abigail quickly wrote a text message to her husband then went to find Rhoslyns and Abners shoes. Abners were right where they should be but Rhoslyns was a bit more of a struggle. They were discovered under the couch, probably a result of all the playing and family over yesterday. They soon had both the kids ready and strapped into their carseats Cerys sat in the back “you can sit up here” Abigail encouraged but she said “I know, thank you, I would just like to sit with them” Cery’s felt protective of them. She wasn’t sure if she could handle ever seeing a child die again. She was a ghost, there wasn’t much she could do but she found comfort sitting between the two children, especially when Rhoslyn began trying to grab her.
Abigail was relieved when they arrived at the cemetery and there were no funerals going on. She always felt like she was being rude talking to the dead when there were mourners nearby. There were, however, a few spirits lingering around, some talking to each other, one sitting on his headstone and staring off, and even a couple just walking around, seemingly enjoying the day. Abigail had met many spirits, some happy, some depressed, some who had gone full poltergeist. It was amazing how different each of them were, how many of them retained their personalities even after death. She pulled to a stop, switched off the car then got exited the care and got Rhoslyn out while Abner unbuckled himself.
“Take my hand, Abner.” She said as she lifted Rhoslyn onto her hip. Her son did as he was told and they made their way toward a small group of spirits that had congregated near one of the trees.
“Hello, Abi.” One of the spirits said, a smile brightening his face. His name was David and he had died in a car accident. He lingered because he wanted too and often talked to the more depressed spirits, doing his best to cheer them up.
“Hey, I came to ask for help.”
“Anything, what’s wrong?”
“I’m sure you’ve heard about all those dead children and the man responsible. My friend Cerys here wants to hunt him down. We were hoping the spirits in the area could help and maybe recruit any other spirits they encounter. They can tell Cerys or myself when they find him and I can tell my dad”
“Of course Abigail. Even if the others wont help you can count on me…that kind of thing…there truly isn’t anything lower than harming an innocent child”
“Thank you so much” She introduced the two spirits then stayed long enough to hear the conversation with all the other spirits in the graveyard, wanting to know just how many were going to help. It moved her deeply that only the angry spirits refused, the ones too lost in their own rage to comprehend others problems. They dispersed and Abigail took her little ones home, rushing now that she realized how close it was to her older boys getting home. They had a key for emergencies but she still wasn’t comfortable with them being alone long since her oldest was only ten. They were responsible boys but still, a ten year old really shouldn’t have to watch a seven year old in her opinion. To Abigails relief she just barely beat the bus home. Her boys ran off excitedly, each eager to tell her about their day.
Christian was sickened by the things he found and almost walked out, wanting very badly to take a hot shower, but he couldn’t leave, not until he found everything. He searched every single file, looking for any information that could lead Abel and the other police to their killer. “You need a break?” Abel asked.
“Yeah, but I want to just get it all done in one go. Do you know the kind of people he’s been in contact with? Christ, he’s sick.”
“The chief’s going to contact the FBI and give them all the information we have so those other bastards can be caught and put away.”
“Good.” He swallowed. “If anyone ever even thought about hurting the kids, I’d…I’d kill them.”
“Me too.” He placed a hand on Christian’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “As soon as you’re finished you can go on home. I’m sorry I had to call you in to help us. I didn’t want any of you to see this stuff, but I trust you the most.”
Christian felt on the verge of vomiting once he could finally get in his car. He couldn’t wait to get home. When he arrived Abigail was helping Lewis with a school project. “Hey dad! Can you help me now while mom cooks?”
“The boys are apparently dyeing for some good tacos after the horrible ones they had at school today” Christian smiled, happier than ever to help his son with a project. All those children, many of them could have been his own kids, he was grateful to have them here, safe and alive. Abigail could tell Christian was shaken up but she wasn’t going to ask him to talk about it in front of their children. She just set about getting tacos ready, trying to keep the mood as light as possible for their kids.
Another few weeks passed before Cerys returned “did you find him?” she shook her head “so many are helping. This seems impossible”
“I’ve come to find nothing is impossible…damn it” she cursed, not at Cerys but at the situation. “I’m sorry, maybe there’s something about him I’m not remembering. I don’t know if I died due to some blow on the head but it’s always hard for me to concentrate and I tend to forget things”
“It’s okay Cerys”
“It’s not, I…I wish I knew what to do”
“Maybe he isn’t human”
“Could your fathers nose have really missed that?”
“There are all kinds of creatures. Some dont even smell like their own kind”
“That seems so unfair.”
“I know, but trust my dad and all of the other spirits. His face is out there so he won’t be able to hide for long. He’ll be on edge, he’ll make mistakes, someone will spot him. I know it’s stressful, but my dad will bring him to justice.”
“I know, I just wish it was now instead of later. What if he hurts someone else?”
“People are going to be more watchful of their little ones now, so if he does try, it’ll probably end badly.”
“I hope so, I just want everyone safe.” She rubbed her temples. “I wish I could push past this fog, I wish I could remember more.”
“Just keep thinking, but don’t strain yourself. I know sometimes when I think about things too hard, I lose focus. Maybe just take a moment to breathe and then start over.”
Later that evening Abigail was taking out the trash when someone tackled her, instantly gripping her neck so she couldn’t scream. She shifted, angry and the furthest thing from scared. Someone violent was near her home, near her babies and she wouldn’t allow him to knock her out and rush inside. Her shift caught the nose of Christian who had been surfing Imgur he shifted as he ran out, pouncing on the man as well and that was when she found enough calm to realize this was the man they had been looking for. They shifted back, he was too wounded to be going anywhere. He seemed pissed off but smart enough not to try anything else “How dare you come here’ Christian seethed then attempted to speak to Abigail softly “go inside with the kids and call your dad.”
She did and Christian lifted the man by his collar “what’re you doing here you piece of shit” He wouldn’t answer then but later Able got him to admit he went there because he was angry at the women who identified him. He wanted to kill her and then put her children through the same thing he had put the others through. His need to punish her had been their lucky break. Not only could they arrest him but they were able to shut down a mans business who was selling things to help criminals get away with what they had done.
The product this man had been using was a liquid he drank to make himself invisible so he could snatch children and run without being seen. The man had squealed on quite a few people they didn’t even know about by the time it was all over, trying to get less time for what he had done. It may have helped him but he hadn’t been smart enough to wait to be offered a deal or ask for one until after he had spilled his guts
“I can’t believe we actually stopped him.” Cerys said, sounding relieved. “It almost seems impossible.”
“He was idiotic enough to come back for us.” Abigail said.
“He didn’t hurt you did he?” Christian asked.
“No, I’m fine, really.”
“I hate that he even touched you.” Seeing him on top of her trying to kill her had scared the hell out of him. “He shouldn’t have been able to slip past me like that.”
“It’s not your fault and he’s probably going away for the rest of his life and even if he did try to get out, you know my dad won’t let him.”
“Now those families have closure and he won’t be able to hurt anymore children.”
Things were calm again but peace didn’t fill their hearts until he was finally sitting in a cell. Abigail still felt for the families, there was no getting back to normal but she would do her best not to dwell on them. She wouldn’t be able to keep helping spirits that came her way if she let herself get stuck on past cases. She would just enjoy her wonderful husband and four amazing children. She also very much looked forward to getting to know this new spirit. Cerys deserved to move on and Abigail hoped, along the way they would build the sort of friendship her mother had with her ghost companion.
~ The End
Edmonia ate dinner silently as she sat across the table from Ibrahim. You could call him many things, her owner, a man playing father or somthing else similar. She had been living with this man since she was nine years old, a man she hadn’t even seen once before the day he snatched her from her family. In her world if you wrong someone you are expected to pay with something equal if they go to the king and demand it. When she was a child her father murdered this mans son and when he went before the king the king granted him repayment in multiple ways, he could have taken her fathers life, her life or taken her for his own to raise in placement of the boy. He had chosen taking her and in that choice he had never allowed her to see her parents again.
Edmonia resented him the most for this. Not only did he decide to take her, she wasn’t even allowed to see her parents, not even once a year. She had even tried warming up to him but when her millionth request to see them was denied the bitterness within her swelled again and she went back staying as far away from him as she was allowed. She knew he had been kind to her, had gone above and beyond simply raising her. She had come from a village with no school so everyone was poorly educated and she knew she spoke such proper english now she’d have trouble understanding them if she ever went home. Ibrahim had not only given her that but she knew multiple languages, had had tutors in things she didn’t knew existed before Ibrahim. More still she could shoot a bow, make her own dishes, clothes and jewlery.
She knew he had spent outrageous sums of money educating her so she could grow up and be anything she wanted to be. She knew it was specifically to better her future because of all the times when she was little and would throw tantrums about her lessons, he’d tell her “I’m getting you ready to leave me for I know you’ll go the first chance you get. One day you’ll be a woman and even if you don’t thank me for educating you I want to do it, I want to know when you leave me you’ll be okay, that you’ll be able to make your own way”
She didn’t understand him, how he could possibly care about her when he was heartless enough to not let her see her family. Even when she learned how to write he wouldn’t allow her to send a single letter to them. Besides the education he had given her she wore the finest clothes and anytime she wanted for anything he supplied it. She had asked for a pet one day when she was eleven and on her twelfth birthday he supplied her with Niya, a feline she couldn’t live without now.
Edmonia truly had grown up with every advantage and everything she ever wanted aside from her family but still, she coudln’t get away from him fast enough, she told herself daily once she could leave she would never come back here. She would find her family and finally be with them. “Edmonia” her name brought her out of her head “yes?”
“we’re going to play chess tonight” It wasn’t a request, spending time with him never was. “Okay”
“One week” it sounded so out of place so she just looked at him confused though she knew well what it meant. He explained anyway “One week and you never have to see me again. I know my time with you draws to an end and though you wont miss me I will miss you Edmonia”
“Why?” he just smiled at her a few moments then went back to eating. Later that night she played a few rounds of chess with him then went outside for a walk, accompanied by her cat. “I can’;t wait for you to meet my family Niya” she purred and Edmonia smiled. She couldn’t see him but Ibrahim sat in the window of one of the tallest towers in his castle, watching her walk as he always did. Idella soon came behind him and nearly startled him out the window “Ibrahim” he stood in the room, clutching his chest “jesus Idella”
“I’m sorry but I hadn’t realized chess had stopped until she was already out on her walk and you watch her so intently it’s impossible to get your attention without scaring you”
“whats so urgent it couldn’t wait?” he snapped a little though that wasn’t normal for him. He had been on edge the last month and Idella knew it was because Edmonia would be leaving them and most likely never coming back “You know what”
“I don’t” Idella sighed “regardless of anything else Ibrahim you should tell her why you don’t let her see her family before she’s foolish enough to return to them”
“and break her heart? She thinks her father the best man that ever lived, her mother too, it would devastate her to know”
“Ibrahim, you know she will try to find them and when she does she might still find out what really happened to your son, what…what her father did to your boy that night, what he had done to other little boys. Ibrahim, you can’t let her go to them. You know she doesn’t remember, you know her mind as a child couldn’t handle what her parents were doing so she blocked it out. She needs to remember before she returns to those monsters. She needs to know you have been protecting her. Stop letting her hate you and wake her up to reality. I know you don’t want to hurt her, she’s probably the last person in the world you’d see hurt but I beg you, don’t let her leave at the end of the week without knowing the truth of her childhood, the truth of what her father was doing to little boys”
“who is to say she’ll find out? Her parents were chased out of town, of all towns really, nobody even knows where they are”
“Ibrahim, it’s not only time you stop fooling her it’s time you stop fooling yourself too.”
Ibrahim knew deep down in his heart that Idella was right. He was not protecting her but himself. He couldn’t stomach the thought of her hating him anymore after telling her of the true nature of her family, of her father. He shook his head, desperate to get the thoughts out of his head. Although he hated it, thoughts always came with images, images of his poor son being taken by this monster. At least Edmonia had been saved, had been able to be naive all of these years. Her heart was already filled with pain and loss. He would have to figure out a way to tell her no matter what the cost but he hoped he would be able to put it off just a little bit longer.
Dawn came and went and Ibrahim paced his room, anxiety fueling him. He knew he had to tell her and decided to do it sooner than later so that she could have some time to process the information before she was released into the world.
“Edmonia, we are to have a discussion before you depart. This will not be an easy conversation so I want you to be ready. Meet me in the foyer at dusk, and please, listen to my words before you close your mind and your heart to me. I am only trying to protect you, although I know you see yourself as a prisoner in my world.”
Edmonia listened, confused by his words, but nevertheless, there was nothing he could say that could change the way she felt about him. He was a monstrosity for stealing her away from her family. Her heart cheered a little thinking of them, it wouldn’t be long now and she would be in her parents arms. Her father will be so proud of her and all she has accomplished. She will be able to do anything that she pleased and help provide for her family.
Dusk came and Edmonia sat across from Ibrahim with her eyes down. She hated looking at him, especially when he demanded it. “Eye contact is a form of respect.” he would always say. Well that would entail her respecting him and she didn’t, she loathed him despite knowing all he had done for her.
“Edmonia, I need to talk to you about your family. I know in a few weeks time you will be free of my command and will go looking for them. They are not who you think they are.
“Do not talk ill of my family! You are the one who stole me away, there’s nothing you can say to save yourself now!” She yelled, defiant, making eye contact for once. She knew she was almost free and felt stronger now, more powerful against his wishes.
“Edmonia, I asked that you hear me out. You may be leaving soon but I will not tolerate this kind of obedience. I have raised you well and given you everything that you have asked for. Now respect me and my wishes and let me finish. This is not easy for me and I would prefer not to speak of this horror but it must be done. I am only trying to protect you and you can believe my words that I am about to speak to you or you can ignore my warnings and find out for yourself.”
Edmonia sat still, taken aback. “What was so horrible?” she thought to herself. She cast her eyes back down and listened.
“There is something about your family that you must know. They are not the people that you remember them to be. You were young and unable to grasp the sheer cruelty of your situation. I know you remember the young boys that would come and stay for a while. Did they ever return after their visit?”
“It was so long ago, I don’t remember them ever returning but why are you asking me these things?”
“It is important that you attempt to remember your time with your family. Those boys never returned for a reason Edmonia. Your mother would take in the boys from the streets, promising them food and shelter. They were never to be a part of your family. Your father had a cruel demon and he took those boys and abused them. He deflowered them and tortured them for days on end while your mother covered for him and brought him more young boys when his demon reared it’s ugly face. When your father was done with these poor children he would take their lives, murder them in the cruelest of fashions. My boy was among one of those that you remember. He was suppose to be fetching bread from the village and never returned. You will not find your family Edmonia, they have been run out of every town and outcast as monsters. It is not I that is the monster, don’t you see? I was trying to protect you from their abuse and murderous ways. I was trying to save you Edmonia. ”
She slammed her hands down on teh table as she stood “don’t lie, why…how could you say such things!” she saw his lip tremble, saw no dishonesty in his face but she still couldn’t believe it “Edmonia, it is the only thing I’ve ever not been straightforward with you about…over these years no matter how angry you were at me for being honest haven’t I continued to be so? I’m not lieing, I’ve spared you this knowledge, not wanting to hurt you but I was a fool. I just never thought of this day, the day you could leave. I don’t want you to find them, I don’t want them to hurt you or to change the wonderful woman you are. I’m so proud of you Edmonia” he was continuing to talk but she ran from the room. He sighed, knowing he should just let her go and deal with her emotions for now.
He had let her live a fantasy for so long, had let her despise him to spare her this hurt but today, today that was all over and the little girl who would soon be a woman had to go through this heartbreak. His face felt damp and as he reached up to touch his cheek he realized he was crying. The past few months had been emotional for him regardless. He loved her so much, had done his best to give her a good life but it was finally time to let her go and truly be alone again. Sure he had Idella and his other staff but he wanted a family more than anything but life wouldn’t seem to allow him that.
As if hsi mind conjured her Idelal came into the room and hugged him “cry into me, I know you need it. You’ve raised an intelligent girl. She will forgive you and she’ll come back” he didn’t believe a word but he appreciated her comfort and allowed himself to cry. When he could pull himself together he said “Please check on her. She’d turn me away but you are her friend”
“Of course” Idella said then left the room to find Edmonia.
She was sitting outside under a tree, her knees pulled up to her chest as she cried. Idella approached her slowly and Edmonia raised her head and glared at her. “Did you know?” She snapped.
“Yes dear, I did.”
“How could he lie to me? It…it can’t be true.”
“It is sweetie.” Idella sat down and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “He loves you, you know.”
“Edmonia, he did what he thought was right and he has suffered as well.”
“I…I hate him.”
Idella sighed. “You don’t mean that.”
Edmonia just looked away, too angry to tell her she was right. Despite everything that had happened, even if she wanted to throw things at him or hit him, he had raised her and taken care of her. He could have done anything else, he could have taken out his revenge by ending her life, but he hadn’t. She felt so conflicted about him. “Can you just leave me alone for awhile?”
“Sure, I’ll go make some tea.”
Idella was barely in the kitchen when Ibrahim came in “is she okay?”
“she will be and maybe now that she knows the truth you wont lose her”
“don’t get my hopes up”
“I mean it Ibrahim”
“we’ll see I guess”
“I’m making her tea now. Hopefully she’ll let me talk to her as we drink it”
“I need to finish prepping a few things incase she’s leaving anyway”
“You’re mkaing it too easy for her to run away and never look back”
“part of loving her is not trapping her here. Besides, she’s determined and a force that cannot be stopped. If I don’t give her plenty of money and supplies to start with she might get hurt because she wont come back if she doesnt want to, not even for money. She’s not like that. If she never wants to see me again she wont for anything and though it breaks my heart I’m so proud of who she is”
“she really is amazing Ibrahim, you raised her well”
“Don’t sell yourself short. You were the only one she’d spend time around willingly so she mostly grew up with you as her parent”
“You are the one who needs to stop thinking so negatively about yourself. You gave her a life some children only dream of. You may not be her father, but you’ve been wonderful to her regardless. I wish you’d stop being so cowardly about your feelings. Being honest is important, not just to her, but to yourself.”
“That’s all I’m going to say, now go on, maybe once she’s cooled off and had time to think she’ll come to you, but give her space.”
“I will, thank you.”
Edmonia felt something bump against her back and for a moment she ignored it until it pushed into her harder and she turned, receiving a very rough lick from a very big cat. Niya bumped heads with her, making her let out a little laugh as she affectionately scratched the cat’s head. “Hello sweet kitty, how are you today?” Niya purred and Edmonia wrapped her arms around its neck. “What do I do? I’m so mad and sad and…I just don’t know. What would you do?” Niya purred. “Probably just eat all the fish.”
When Idella returned outside Edmonia was still playing with her beloved pet “Niya could always make you smile. You’re taking her right?”
“Of course, I can’t imagine my life without her. I’d take you too if you’d leave but I know you would want to stay”
“I enjoy serving Ibrahim, he’s more of my friend than my employer. I’ve had many happy years here, especially when you came along” Edmonia sighed “my parents truly were bad people?”
“When I truly learned everything about them I was sick to my stomach. You were lucky Ibrahim took you away”
“He shouldn’t have lied to me”
“He wanted you to have a happy childhood.”
“I’m just so conflicted now Idella” Edmonia said as she accepted a cup of tea. “Maybe you should talk to him again”
“Maybe but how will I know he’s being completely honest with me”
“You know he’s an honest man Edmonia”
“I don’t really know him that well, I’ve spent my life wanting nothing to do with him”
“You two need to stop it and talk, would you talk to him for me Edmonia?”
“Thats not fair”
“I’m asking anyway, when you feel able talk to him for me, really talk to him. Tell him everything you feel and think and listen to what he has to say. You are so important to him, he’s always wanted what was best for you”
“I’m the daughter of the man who killed his son”
“You didn’t kill his son. He doesn’t hold you accountable for that Edmonia”
“I guess he wouldn’t have treated me so well if he did”
“You are everything to him, you’ll talk to him right?”
Ibrahim paced and paced and paced, every now and then glancing out the window to see her still sitting there talking to Idella. He hated this feeling in the pit of his stomach, the fear, the uncertainty. Even so he had made the arrangements. She would have money and a cart pulled by his best horse so she wouldn’t have to leave anything behind. He had even put in an order for a new bow and arrows. He resisted the urge to go to her, to beg her to to talk to him and stay. He would give her anything. They were selfish, childish thoughts, he knew that and she deserved to decide without him trying to guilt her. He stopped his pacing and sat down, dropping his face into his hands as he fought not to cry.
“Alright, I’m going to get inside and help with the rest of the cleaning.” Idella said as she stood and dusted herself off.
“I think I’ll stay out here for a little longer.”
Idella lifted the tray and empty cups and pot. “Don’t avoid the issue for too long, you both need to hear each other out, it’s important.”
“I know, I just need to gather the rest of my thoughts. I don’t want to yell at him if I can help it.”
“He’s waiting, so when you’re ready, he’ll be there.”
Edmonia sat out there fathering courage and thinking of precisely what she wanted to say, only standing and walking in when she felt completely ready for this talk she needed to have with him. She found him easily, after all this time she knew precisely where to find him when. She thought to herself a moment, maybe I do know him better than I think. “Edmonia” she could hear the pain in his welcome “Hi”
“are you okay?”
“Why did you lie to me? Out of anything I need the honest answer for that the most. You let me despise you. I would get so angry and so mean because of it but you just kept letting me believe you had taken me from good people”
“You were a child, I didn’t think you could handle that knowledge emotionally”
“I may only just be becoming an adult legally but I haven’t been a child in some time Ibrahim. You could have told me before now”
“I could not bring myself to ruin your perspective of your parents, but I see now that that may have been far crueler than the truth. I refused to take you because I feared killing them if I came face to face with them again and letting you go alone would have only worried me more. What if they hurt you or took you back and raised you to be like them? I would rather you hate me than ruin your memories of them.”
“That wasn’t fair.”
“I know, I’m sorry. Can you ever forgive me?”
“I love you far too much to let you get hurt.”
She blushed and her heart jumped. “What?”
“It’s the truth and I wanted to tell you before you leave me.”
She wanted to ask him what kind of love, romantic love or did he really love her as a daughter. He wasn’t her father so it truly could be either but she was so overwhelmed with what she learned today she didn’t know if she was ready to ask that question. “um….should we have some leftovers for dinner? I did sort of run out without us eating much”
“we? You want to eat with me?”
“Maybe we could eat and play chess” he looked so touched “Come with me to the kitchen” Ibrahim almost didn’t know what to do with himself. Besides when she was sick and allowed him to read to her this was the first time she actually wanted anything to do with him. The staff reheated dinner and fixed them plates which they sat down with at Ibrahims chess table.
“You’ve become so good at this.” Ibrahim said as he moved a piece across the board.
“Still not as good as you.”
He smiled. “You know why I taught you right?”
“Because you wanted me to be a good tactician?”
He chuckled. “No, because I wanted to bond with you. You were so distant, you hated me and you would avoid me even as a child if you could manage it. It was the only thing we had.”
“Of course and it made me happy you would willingly play with me.” His smile widened and she felt warmth sweep through her. “Your turn.”
“so..um, may I ask why you sent your son to town by himself?”
“To keep him grounded. I raised him as I did you, I loved to spoil him but he still had to do chores and various things to keep his character intact” she made her move “I’m so sorry”
“You have nothing to be sorry for.”
“Still, losing a child has to be a wound that doesn’t close”
“He will always be in my heart as his mother is but mopeing and feeling sorry for yourself never got anybody anywhere. I’m not perfect, I do get in moods but I’m good at not throwing pitty parties. I believe in reincarnation anyway so I like to think they’ve been reborn into amazing lives”
“do you keep any picture of his mother?”
“No, I’ve never been much for picture taking”
“how did you lose her?” He took his move “it makes my spirits soar you want to talk to me and get to know me better but if it’s alright with you I’d rather not talk about it. I want to be in good spirits and the past month has been hard. It’s been killing me inside, thinking of you leaveing me. I promise you though, I will tell you”
“Ibrahim, umm I’m sorry if I ever hurt your feelings.”
He reached over and took her hand as she was about to move a piece and she felt her skin tingle. “You never have to apologize, Edmonia, it’s been hard for you.”
“Not that hard. I may have made it harder than it needed to be. You tried so hard to give me a comfortable life and you gave me so much. I guess I was a bit childish.”
“And I was selfish.”
She smiled and his heart filled with joy. He let her go and she made her move, putting him in check. “I’ve got you on the run.”
“Being pursued isn’t so bad. Besides, maybe it’s all part of my plan.”
They finished their game, Edmonia asking him questions the entire time. Now that she wasn’t so angry and focused on leaving she wanted to know everything about the man who had opened his home to her. When their game concluded it was late so she wished him goodnight and gave him him a hug. he was frozen at first, his mind struggling to come to terms with her actually hugging him. She hugged many people in his home but never him until tonight. When he finally hugged her back he struggled not to get over emotional about it.
“Maybe we could hangout after breakfast”
“That sounds amazing Edmonia”
“I..well…I don’t know if I’m leaving any more..I know youve been preparing for me to so…I just wanted to let you know”
“that makes me incredibly happy and you know, leaving doesn’t mean the end of our relationship. Nothing truly ties me down here if you ever just want to go on an adventure with me”
“You like adventures?”
“Of course, I’ll have to tell you some stories about days long ago.”
“Maybe thats the perfect way to spend our morning tomorrow. We could maybe go on a walk and you could tell me stories”
“Anything you want.”
She had never seen him look so hopeful. “Well, good night then.”
“Sweet dreams, Edmonia.”
He sat back down at the chess table once she was gone, feeling such a sense of relief that it made him feel weak. “You alright?” He raised his head at Idella’s voice. “I saw her heading up to her room and thought I’d check on you.”
“She said she might stay. I really want her to stay.”
“Did you tell her how you feel?”
“I don’t know, I guess we’ll see.”
“I’m just glad your feelings and the truth are all out in the open. I hope she stays too, even if she doesn’t love you the same way I really hope she sticks around. She;s come to mean so much to me too Ibrahim”
“she hugged me”
“You smiled as you said that, thats so sweet”
“hush” he said as his cheeks began to tint. Idella couldn’t help but laugh “well goodnight, I’m going to make sure an amazing breakfast is prepared tomorrow” He sat there awhile longer, regaining his ability to walk. When he could he went straight to bed, impatient for the next day to come. Morning felt like but moments later when he opened his eyes again. Gleefully he got himself ready and rushed to the breakfast table where Edmonia was already seated “good morning Ibrahim”
“good morning, have you waited on me long?”
“Not really, I don’t even have my orangejuice yet, they are still making it”
“good, are we still on for our walk today?”
“Yeah, I’m excited to hear about your travels”
“I plan on starting from my very first one. We have so much to talk about even just with them.”
“didn’t you meet Idella on one of your last adventures?”
“I did, she told you that?”
“Yeah, a couple years back I asked her how she came to work for you. You don’t seem to replace staff and it made me wonder how you hire people.”
“everyone here I met on an adventure. I’ve never interviewed people. If I meet someone in need of getting out of a bad situation or just in need of a job I hire them to work for me if they want.”
“Instead of just starting from the beginning want me to tell you the adventures of the people you know?”
“No, It’ll be fun treats along the way, when you get to a story and someones name pops up I know here”
Ibrahim felt a little nervous when their plates were finally set in front of them and he thought of everything he had done and everywhere he had been. He wondered if she would really want to hear it all. They chatted a little over breakfast and when they were full he stood and went over to her, holding out his hand. She felt her heart dance a little as she slid her hand into his and he placed it in the crook of his arm. “Would you like to walk around the lake?” He asked.
“I’d love too.”
“Remember how you would sneak off to go swimming without me?”
“I do, sorry.”
“It’s okay, you were a teenager and needed your space.”
She smiled. “You’re supposed to be talking about you, not about me.”
“Sorry, I just can’t help myself, there are a lot of memories here.
“I was so young when you brought me here” They walked outside into the warmth of summer and ambled toward the lake. There wasn’t a summer growing up she hadn’t come out here, she had already come a few times this year, mostly without him which she now truly did regret. All he had wanted was to save her, was to give her an amazing life and she had taken that for granted. He began his first story “so, when I was sixteen my father and I had a particularly bad fight. I to this day don’t know what my mother sees in him but it is what it is. Anyway, my first adventure started because I decided to run away from home.”
“yep, I didn’t see them again until I was ninteen but that’s getting ahead of myself in the story” Edmonia listened intently, finding herself completely wrapped up in his story, He went from that one and had himself back home at ninteen by the time lunch rolled around and they were setting up for a picnic “he did not” Edmonia said and Ibrahim chuckled “he did, I know you think some of your behavior was childish over the years but you really need to see my father. I swear that man is still ten years old within. My mother was worth coming back for though so I did. I missed her and despite how much my father urked me it was worth tolerating him for her.”
“and she’s still with him?”
“crazy” They now had their food and were eating as they talked “so I need to hear more, please Ibrahim, tell me of your next adventure unless you just want to tell me about being home for awhile”
“another adventure would be better. Just imagine a lot more moments of my father being a child and me going off with my mother and having a good time in town”
“so, how did your next adventure come to unfold?” his heart stuttered again as he gazed into her amazing brown eyes. They were so light, so eager. He talked non stop that day, amazed and touched she didn’t grow tired of his stories. It was incredibly late when he said “we should go to bed Edmonia, there is always tomorrow”
“I’m supposed to go to bed when you’re laying in a forest, left for dead? I don’t think so” she blushed “sorry, um..you can go.” he chuckled “I can tell you a bit more”
“No, no, after all these years the last thing I have the right to be is demanding of your time. You’ve been right here, rooms away from me and it’s my fault I’m just now hearing this” It was a bold suggestion but he made it anyway “I could go with you to your room and lay with you, continuing the story until you’re sound asleep”
“You have to be tired”
“I’m wide awake”
“Okay then, as long as you’re sure.”
“I’m very sure.”
He followed her to her room and waited while she changed into her nightgown before going in. He gave her a soft smile and she blushed as she got in bed and he settled in next to her, pulling her into his arms. He was happy when she relaxed into him, her head resting on his shoulder and her hand on his chest. He was sure she could feel his quickening heart. “So, what happened?”
“That’s how I met Jace.”
“He wasn’t always a horse trainer?”
“No, he used to live out in the wilds, almost like a lord of the forest. I was laying there, thinking that was it, this was how I was going to die. I had never been so cold or terrified in my life. He just came out of nowhere, almost like a ghost, I even thought I was hallucinating, but he was real and he saved my life. If it hadn’t been for him, I might not be here.”
“I’ll have to thank him.”
He felt his heart dance. “So he took me to his home, this cabin he had built with his own two hands, he bandaged me up, fed me and gave me clothes. He didn’t talk much then, but he really didn’t have to. We communicated just fine.”
“How did you get him to open up and be more talkative?”
“I just think at first he wasn’t used to having someone to talk to. Since coming here with me there’s always people around and you know how talkative Idella is”
“Yeah, it’s how she became my best friend though. I wouldn’t talk to anybody at first but she wasn’t having that. Sometimes she’d just sort of talk at me and I learned I needed to talk to her a bit to make her go away. I’m happy she sort of pushed things between us though. I’ve grown so fond of her”
“she’s stubborn, but you wouldn’t know anything about being stubborn would you?” he chuckled and Edmonia blushed. “I’m happy you’ve grown up with such a spirit Edmonia” her heart began ti beat a little faster at his words. He spoke so warmly and it felt incredible to be laying with him like this “Ibrahim..um…” she wanted to ask him to just stay in there tonight but she felt so nervous that she couldn’t.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah, just, what happened after you were better?”
“I found the guys who left me there, Jace followed me, and we had a little talk.”
“A fist fight you mean.”
He chuckled. “Jace and I have very different fighting syles, I’m a bit more on the graceful side where he fights like an animal. I’ve never seen men run so fast. He managed to catch one of them and forced him to tell us where the things they had stolen from were. He squealed on his friends like that.” He snapped his fingers. “We went to their hideout after and reclaimed what was mine.” He laughed. “If there is anyone I would want watching my back in a fight, it’s him.”
“How long did you two travel together?”
“A couple of years, he went where I went, and though he probably won’t admit it, he worried about me going off on my own.” He ran his fingers lovingly through her hair. “You should get to sleep or you’ll be too tired in the morning.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“You alright?” He pulled back so he could look into her eyes.
“Yeah, just…well…could you maybe stay? I know it’s asking a lot, but…um…would it be too much trouble?”
His voice almost caught in his throat ‘I’m so comfortable like this I was hoping you’d ask. I truly do love you Edmonia, with all of my soul” She had gotten through the awkwardness of asking him to stay the night in her room and it gave her the confidence to ask “love as in romantically or love as in a daughter?”
“Romantically…if that makes you uncomfortable and you want me to leave I will”
“I..I still want you to stay…I..I was just curious” He held her a little tighter “goodnight beautiful”
“Goodnight Ibrahim” He struggled to fall asleep, to him he had a goddess in his arms and he wanted to savor this contact while he could. She could still very well leave and crush his heart into a million pieces. He honestly didn’t know if his heart could handle yet another tremendous loss and hers would compare to loseing his wife and son. She meant that much to him. When morning came he hadn’t gotten all that much sleep but the energy he felt surging through him from happiness of getting to spend the night holding her had him feeling like he could do anything. There wasn’t any limit to his spirits and vitality today.
They decided to return to the lake today to simply enjoy the feel of the water while he continued telling her of his life before settling down to be a parent to his son. He had so much to tell her he still wasn’t done the morning of her eighteenth birthday. Today the topic would be her final answer, would she stay, would she leave his side or would she allow him to travel with her if adventure was something she craved. He was getting up to find clothes and change when she sat up, he had thought she was sleeping “I wont keep you waiting”
“with my answer…I decided last night I would make myself tell you what I want this very morning”
“please then, what are you planning to do?”
“you’d really come with me on an adventure?”
“Of course I would”
“Then I’d really like to experience the world if thats okay. I’d like you to come with me to anywhere. I don’t care as long as I get to see whats out there”
“everything is already set. I’ll call a meeting to let my staff know. This is your home right? You plan for the both of us to return one day”
“come back here please” he obeyed, sitting on the bed. She pulled him into a kiss. When their lips parted she said in a hushed voice “I love you too” a few tears escaped his eyes and he kissed her again, his fingers tangling in her hair.It took them much longer to stop this time but when they did she said “this is my home and I’m finally grateful for that. I want to go on an adventure but I will always return here with you Ibrahim”
“I’m going to make you so happy Edmonia, I swear it”
“You’ve shown me all these years your character Ibrahim. Thats why I love you too” the two wound up kissing again, this time only stopping when a servant came to check on them “your breakfast is getting cold guys” she called on the other side of the door.
Edmonia couldn’t help but laugh at the look of disappointment on his face and he would have kissed her senseless if it wasn’t for breakfast. Once they were dressed and at the table, he asked Idella to call everyone together and asked that they join them for breakfast. When everyone was seated, Ibrahim said, “Edmonia and I have decided to go adventuring for a time and we’re not sure when we’ll be back. This house belongs to all of you, so feel free to stay or if you like please take some time off.”
“You two are going alone?” Jace asked.
“We’ll be safe my friend.” Jace opened his mouth to say something else, but closed it again. Ibrahim could tell he didn’t want to be a nag. “We’ll have weapons and we’ll write so you know we’re safe.”
“I want a letter sent out from a every village you stop at.” Idella said. “I don’t care if they’re only a few miles apart.”
“I’ll make sure we do.” Edmonia replied, trying to ease the worries of everyone in the room. She knew how much they loved Ibrahim and even how much they had come to love her.
“You’ll both be missed and I can’t wait for your return. Are there any other announcements? You two seem a little extra happy” Edmonia blushed and Ibrahim answered happily “she loves me too. we are together now”
“I was hoping it was that. Be safe and mindful on your journey. I can take time off happily knowing you two are together as you should be” Edmonia rose from her seat and walked over to hug Idella “Thank you for pushing me to talk to him”
“I just wanted what would make you both happiest. You two are more meant to be than you realize.” It wasn’t long after breakfast that their carriage was loaded and they were ready to set off down the road. Idella reminded them a few more times to write home and Edmonia could have sworn she was crying as the cart began to move “they are all such good people Ibrahim”
“They are but I can’t wait for this time of it just being the two of us. It’s going to be amazing. I’ve missed being on the road” and so they went, no particular destination in sight and no plans of when they would return to Ibrahims home. It was the start of a tremendous relationship and life changing experiences they would treasure forever.
~ The End
Darryl looked down at the young man seated in the cushioned chair, his wide green eyes, the splatter of blood staining his shirt and jeans. He looked traumatized, pale like he had see a ghost. He inhaled the air, taking in his scent. The boy was a fairy. Darryl looked back at his boss who was sitting behind his desk, waiting for Darryl to respond. “You want me to watch him?”
“Not want, Darryl, need. You’re the only one here who isn’t completely human, you have gifts, and he’s the only one who has seen this guys face and lived.”
“Oh don’t I feel special.” It was the first thing the boy had said and his voice shook.
“Officer Hawkins is going to protect you, he’s the best we have.”
The young man turned his gaze up to Darryl, those green eyes were far too trusting. Didn’t the kid know what he was? Couldn’t he see it in his eyes, the red orbs that he had inherited from his grandfather. “Are you really going to help me?”
Darryl sighed. “I need to talk to my boss alone for a moment.” He reached into his back pocket, pulling out his wallet and giving him some money. “Go to the vending machines, get yourself something to eat and drink, I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
He slowly took the money and stood, the top of his head barely coming to Darryl’s shoulder. “Alright.”
When the boy was gone Darryl turned to his boss. “Are you insane? The boy’s a damn fairy.”
“Don’t play dumb, you know what I was.”
His boss sighed. “An addict, I know, but the killer isn’t human, we’ve determined that and you are the only one on the force with preternatural blood. You’re nose, your ears, your speed and strength are all better than ours. I trust you to watch over him, to keep him safe even from yourself. He’s not going to want to leave that boy alive.”
Darryl sighed. “What’s his name?”
“Garret, nineteen, college student. He was on his way to the dorms when he happened upon the Ripper. As you could see, he’s more than a little traumatized so go easy on him.”
Darryl sighed in frustration. He didn’t like being anywhere near fairies due to his past addiction but his boss was right. He was the best man on the force for this job and if he didn’t take it it might cost this young man his life. It wouldn’t be fair to Garret for him to pass it up out of fear. This would just have to be the ultimate test and he would have to pass it. He refused to hurt this already traumatized man. “Fine, but if I get too worried about myself I’m going to tell you and you’re going to replace me.”
“You won’t hurt him and you know it”
“still, you understand that right?”
“who is whose boss Darryl?”
“Look, just promise me if anything happens, you get him somewhere safe.”
Darryl nodded as he stood up and left the office. He saw Garret sitting on the bench next to the vending machine, an unopened soda in one hand and a bear claw with one bite taken out of it. He was just spacing out and Darryl knew he was still lost in that moment. He walked over and Garret snapped out of it, raising his head. “Come on, you’re coming home with me.”
“Really? I don’t have any clothes.”
“I have some stuff you can borrow tonight, we’ll pick you up a few things tomorrow.”
Garret nodded as he got to his feet. “How long will I be with you?” He asked as he followed him out.
“Until we catch the Ripper.”
“So a long time then?”
“Hopefully with your description we’ll catch him faster. It was very detailed by the way for being in the dark.”
“I’m a night fairy, good night vision. Not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse now.”
Darryl opened the passenger door of his car for Garret. “Right now let’s say blessing.” Garret got in and buckled up as Darryl went around to the driver side and climbed in.
“You can call me Darryl.”
“Okay, Darryl, am I going to die? Am I going to wind up like that woman?”
“No, I promise.”
Garret swallowed as he started to nod. Darryl was too tense over the whole situation for silence. He needed to keep his mind busy even if it meant talking about somthing as simple as the weather. “so, college, what’re you going for?”
“Um” Garret started with, having trouble thinking about anything else besides what he saw. Darryl waited patiently through the pause for Garret to say “I want to be an architect”
“are you doing well?” It was the next logical question to keep a conversation going. “yeah, I’m not having any trouble at all thankfully but I’m not incredibly far into my studies”
“Did you always want to be an architect?”
“No, according to my mom I wanted to be a top frog expert until I was about eight but since about nine or ten maybe I’ve wanted to be an architect”
“What made you change your mind?”
“When I was a kid I would explore this old building near my home. It had the most beautiful detailing.”
“How are you doing?”
“Fine I guess, I can’t stop seeing it.” He swallowed. “The blood and…and the body. His eyes and how they looked at me They said I was next.”
“I don’t feel lucky.” He looked down at his hands. “I just ran.”
“Trust me when I say, she was already dead, there was nothing you could have done. If you had stayed, he would have killed you like all his victims.”
“That poor woman…all those people he’s killed…”
“We’ll catch him. Thanks to you we actually know who we’re looking for”
“If he comes after me I promise I wont be a coward again. I’ll fight him with you”
“I’m protecting you so you will do no such thing. Run if he comes, let me do my job” Garret shook his head gently and Darryl sighed “I’m sure you can tell I have vampire blood in me. I am extremely strong. I will be fine fighting him on my own. I bet this guy seems more powerful than he is because he always targets weaker beings. Even if he is strong enough to really fight someone like me he hasn’t been practicing.”
“I could tell”
He glanced at Garret. “And that doesn’t bother you?”
Darryly huffed in response and went back to focusing on the road. He knew the kid had at least a little self preservation, he had escaped a serial killer, but it was like he didn’t get what even someone with a drop of vampire blood was capable of when it came to fairy blood. “Do you mind if I listen to music?”
“It’s your car.”
Darryl switched on the radio and tried not to focus too much on Garret’s scent or heart beat or the warmth radiating off his skin. It was almost a relief when they made it to his house and he was able to get out of the car and breathe in the fresh air. Garret gave him a confused, questioning look, but didn’t ask. He just followed Darryl inside, looking a bit lost. “You can have my room, I’ll take the couch to watch the door. There’s some leftovers in the fridge, I’ll go food shopping tomorrow, feel free to shower.”
Garret looked down at his clothes. “I forgot I had blood on me.” He swallowed, wanting them off.
Darryl good see the panic in his eyes and against his better judgement he grabbed his shoulders, giving him a slight shake. “Hey, look at me.” Garret tipped his head back. “You’re okay, you’re going to make it through this and get back to school.”
“It’s just I’ve never seen anything like that. I…I can’t stop seeing it and…and feeling the blood as it hit my face when he raised the knife. I keep thinking any minute I’ll wake up wondering what terrible food I ate to give me such a messed up nightmare.”
“Get in the shower, I’ll find you something that fits.”
“You’re such a giant, I just noticed.”
“It’s better clothes are too big than too small. I’m hoping theres something in my closet that’s too small for me so it fits you better. You know those well meaning people who buy you clothes as a gift and get the wrong size”
“Thank you for doing this”
“Protect and serve, it’s my job. I’ll guide you to the shower. When I get the clothes I’ll come in after knocking twice and just set them on the toilet for you if that’s okay”
“That’s fine” Darryl guided Garret to the bathroom then showed him how to adjust the water before walking out and heading to his room to see what he could find for Garret to wear. He slowly pushed through his shirts and was glad to find one that was a little small on him. One particularly interested guy had tried to woo him with gifts for awhile and this gift would finally come in handy. He decided to just give it to Garret since it was only in his closet because he didn’t throw anything away unless he had to. He didn’t like to feel wasteful.
There was no such luck with pants so he’d let him borrow shorts since that would be less noticeable than jeans.
Even though Garret knew he was coming back, he still jumped when Darryl tapped on the bathroom door. “Sorry.” Darryl said as he stepped in and Garret stuck his head out, smiling at him.
“It’s alright, I guess I’m just a twitchy guy.”
“You don’t have to cover up your fear you know, I understand.”
“It’s fine, thank you for the clothes.”
Garret smiled again and Darryl felt his heart skip a beat. “I’m going to go call my boss, let him know we made it here safe, take your time.”
Garret pulled his head back in the shower and Darryl left, pulling out his cell when he was in the living room. His boss picked up after a couple of rings and he let him know Garret was safe. “Listen, I don’t know if this is a good idea.” He said.
“I’ve never known you to give up in the middle of a case, Darryl, I’m not changing my mind. We both know this is good for you, so watch him like a hawk and keep me posted.” His boss hung up before he could further protest and Darryl found himself staring at his phone wishing his boss would spontaneously combust.
He eventually sat down on his couch and sighed. He thought about that smile, how it had effected him. It wasn’t a hunger like he expected but something else, something that felt good. Hearing the water stop is what eventually pulled Darryl out of his head “damn it, I should have been figuring out food for him” Darryl reprimanded himself as he stood to go into his kitchen. He had some fruits so he chopped them up and made a mini fruit platter for his guest. It was fast and he’d have a lot to choose from in case Garret was a picky eater. Darryl wasn’t normally the catering type but Garret had been through real, significant trauma and Darryl sympathized with that.
He is his best to act normal when Garret finally came into the living room, but a smile pulled at his face when he saw how long his shorts were on him. “Do they look bad?” Garret asked.
“No just, you’re kind of small.”
“Just now noticing? Here I was thinking I was making it obvious.”
“Sorry, you hungry?”
“Not really, my stomach’s been in knots since…”
“Would you at least try? It might make you feel better.”
Garret gave him a little smile. “You’re actually really nice, the way you acted at the police station I thought I’d be a burden.”
“It was just the way my boss sprung it on me. He never really asks.”
“I won’t be any trouble, I promise.”
“I know, come eat.”
Garret immedietly started looking around Darryls kitchen as he sat down at the small, wooden table in the center of it. Half curious, half wanting to know his way around this place if anything should attack them in the night. It wasn’t tidy but it wasn’t disgusting either. He guessed Darryl would have cleaned for company if he would have known it was coming but otherwise lived in a lived in house, not a museum. He didn’t much mind either way if a house was clean or not, just as long as it wasn’t a complete dump. Though in this situation he probably would have stayed in a house with a hoarder to avoid being alone.
Garret knew he was only calm at all because Darryl was here and would help him if that thing returned for him. He knew it wasn’t really an if, it was when if the police didn’t get him before he got the chance. Darryl ate as Garret looked around, guessing he just wanted to know where he was. He’d give him a few more moments before pushing him to eat.
Just as Darryl was deciding to say somthing Garrets attention finally went to the fruit before him. He took his fork and stabbed through two pieces of kiwi and Darryl couldn’t help but watch him bring it to his mouth. There was something about Garret, somthing that scared Darryl since he knew he shouldn’t be close to a fairy.
“Aren’t you going to eat?” Garret asked after he swallowed.
Darryl’s eyes jumped to his face. Did he realize how innocent and fragile he looked? “I’m not hungry.”
“Shouldn’t you eat too? I mean you are my bodyguard and I’m pretty sure bodyguards are supposed to always be at the top of their game.”
“You don’t have to worry about me.”
Darryl held up his hand. “Please, it’s alright. Would it be alright if I asked you a few more questions? It might help to get your mind off of things.”
“Good luck, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight.” Fear made his chest feel tight. How could he close his eyes ever again?
“Hey, would you look at me?” Garret raised those beautiful green orbs and Darryl wished he didn’t look so trusting. “If you get scared, you can always come and get me. I don’t care how late it is.”
Garret nodded and took another bite of his food. He knew he could trust Darryl, there was something about him, something that said he meant every word. “So what did you want to know?”
“Just more about you.”
“Can I ask questions too then?”
It was hard for Darryl to say no to him and he wanted him to be comfortable, even if he himself was uncomfortable with delving into his past. He wondered what the odds were of addiction coming up and considered it probable since there were plenty of junkies in the world. “Sure, whatever you want. We can trade questions.”
“Okay, then for starters what’s your favorite kind of pie” Darryl almost smiled. The question just made him seem more innocent. Though Darryl did consider maybe he wanted an innocent question because of what they were going through. Maybe it was like watching a kids cartoon after a horror flick if you were too disturbed to sleep. “Peach Cobbler and I choose to ask you the same question”
“Pumpkin, does being that tall run in your family?”
“Yes, from what I know”
“So your kids will be tall too then. Cool, much better than being small like me”
“a second question? Cheater”
“It was more of a statement”
“well anyway, for the sake of things being out in the open, kids, biological ones anyway aren’t in my future since I’m gay.”
“Oh? Does that surprise you?”
“A little to be honest”
“What’s your orientation?”
“Gay” it was almost cute how shy Garret seemed about it.
“I bet your boyfriend feels lucky.”
Garret blushed. “I’ve never had one.”
Darryl couldn’t help but grin. “You? How is that even possible?”
“Hey you’re ahead now, that’s way not fair.” He pushed a piece of fruit around with his fork. “And to answer you, I’ve been focusing on school so I’ve never given anyone the time of day, even in high school. Some people think it’s weird, but no one caught my interest.” He glanced at Darryl. “What about you?”
“Not at the moment, but I’ve had a few.” He had been with some he wasn’t even interested in, but that was another part of his rather checkered past.
“Oh, I imagine, you’re good looking and you kind of have this whole mysterious energy about you. I bet it draws people in pretty quickly.” He gave a nervous laugh.
Darryl smiled, enjoying Garrets nervousness, his compliments. “well I guess I’m ahead and that isn’t fair so ask me another question” He was tempted to flirt with Garret, far too tempted and they needed to get away from the subject of dating. “Um…do you like reading?”
“I take a book sometimes if I know I’ll be sitting somewhere awhile but I wouldn’t say I read very frequently”
“another question for me then to make us even. Since becoming an officer have people been sent home with you often?”
“Nope, you’re the first. Back to me right?”
“well I mean, technically that was your question” Darryl chuckled, truly enjoying Garret.
They continued to trade questions until Garret had eaten everything and then Darryl insisted he get some rest. “You look exhausted.”
“I’m not, I’m…” he yawned. “I’m wide awake.”
“You’re not fooling anyone, come on.”
Garret stood and Darryl sat his dishes in the sink. He followed Garret down the hall to the bedroom and checked the windows while he climbed into bed. “Remember, if you need me come and get me.”
“Do you think he’ll come for me tonight?”
“He has to follow your scent, assuming that’s how he hunts.” He turned to look at Garret who looked ready to bolt. He sighed as he moved to sit on the edge of the bed. “Just one yell and I’ll come running.”
“I’m going to sleep with my door open. Please rest, you’re safe here” Darryl walked out. He wished his house guest were more comfortable and he knew he might be if he slept on the floor in there or something but Garret was a fairy and he just couldn’t put him in more danger by getting too close to him. He’d enter that room if Garret called out to him but only if he did. Darryl readied for the night in his bathroom, brushing his teeth and changing into pajama pants then settled into his own bed.
Garret was exhausted when he got up the next morning. He had tossed and turned all night, startling at every sound. He sighed as he got out of bed, yawning as he headed for the kitchen. He needed coffee if he was going to function. He looked through the kitchen until he found a half full container then he put some in and switched it on. “Are you going to put water in that?” Darryl’s voice startled him and he looked between his guardian and the coffee pot then back.
“Uh…oh…yes.” He quickly switched it off, feeling embarrassed as he put water in the back of the coffee machine. “Sorry, I’m just so tired.”
Darryl could see he was more than tired, he was absolutely beat. “Didn’t sleep?”
“No, not really.”
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
“I didn’t want to be a bother.” He looked down at his bare feet.
“Hey, it’s okay.” He wanted to comfort him, but worried about touching him. “Uh…” He let out a sigh and risked it. He gently patted Garret’s head and he looked up. Darryl’s heart danced in his chest and he let his knuckles slide over Garret’s cheek. His skin warmed as he blushed and Darryl quickly pulled away. “I know, I’ll make breakfast then we can get your things.”
Darryl concentrated on cooking, wanting to keep Garret completely out of his senses. He was so handsome and adorable, so touchable. He was far too touchable to be a fairy, the source of his once extreme addiction. Garret was obviously a good man, a man who deserved someone much better than he was. Even if he hadn’t once been addicted to fairy blood Garret was still more than a man like him deserved. He was better now, had been a long time but that didn’t change his past. Garret didn’t notice how hard Darryl was concentrating on the food. He was wondering if he was ever going to be able to sleep properly again. Even when this man was caught he could escape or he could find a lenient judge who might not punish him to the extent he deserved. What if he could hire a shark type of lawyer who could also keep this man able to harm people even if he’s caught.
Garret knew that even if you weren’t innocent a good enough lawyer could create enough doubt to let a horrible person roam free among the public. When Darryl turned around to serve the food he could see Garret was in his own head so came up slowly not wanting to scare him. “I hope it’s good” he said when Garret looked at him. Garret lifted his fork and took a bite “it is, thank you” Darryl almost frowned, his heart acheing for how small Garrets voice was right now.
“Hey, is there anything I can do to make you feel better?”
Garret sighed. “I don’t think I could ask for much more. You’ve already opened your home to me and you’ve been really nice. I don’t need anything else really.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, just keep doing what you’re doing.”
“You’ll tell me if that changes?”
They ate the rest of their breakfast and got ready to head over to the university to pick up some things for Garret. Darryl hoped with fresh clothes and maybe his sketch books he would start feeling less anxious. He could only imagine what he must be going through. When they got there, they both immediately noticed the police cruiser and the ambulance sitting in one of the side lots. It wasn’t an uncommon sight to see at a college campus, but something didn’t feel right to Darryl, especially after the most recent attack. He pulled up to the cruiser and rolled down his window, gesturing for the officer to come over. “What’s happened?”
“A young man was attacked this morning in one of the dorms. He walked in on a burglar.”
“Which room?” Garret suddenly asked.
“Th…that’s my room. I share it with a guy named Michael, is he okay?”
“He’s fine, injured, but alive. The EMTs are in there with him now.”
Garret was out of the car before Darryl could get two words out and he quickly parked and chased after him. If the attacker was the killer, then he didn’t need to be running off. “Slow down.” He reached out, grabbing Garret’s arm.
“I have to see MIchael”
“I know I know, but let me come with you. If the burglar is the killer you can’t run off like that”
“I don’t care. I put Michael’s life in danger” Darryl sighed and lifted Garret into his arms then took off running with him. Should he have asked first? Yes. Should he be holding a fairy like this? No, It wasnt safe for either of them but he couldn’t take that soul destroying look crumpling Garrets innocent face. They arrived at his room and Darryl let him go, following him in. They too men hugged despite the EMT still tending to Michael. “sorry about that” Darryl said to the man and he said “I’m almost done. It’s no problem.” Darryl knew the man was probably used to things like that.
“Are you okay?” Garret asked and Michael waved a dismissive hand.
“Perfect.” He replied, trying to sound reassuring.
“This is all my fault. That…that monster came here and you got hurt.”
“Hey, don’t talk like that.” He hissed when the EMT started bandaging him. “Christ, could you be any rougher?” The EMT apologized, not even fazed by his outburst. “He came at me like a wild animal, slashing at me, but I managed to block most of it. He jumped out the window when he heard people running down here.”
“I should have been here.”
Michael put a hand on his shoulder and Darryl felt a little stab of jealousy. It shocked him and he told himself to calm down. “I’m glad you were gone, he might have killed you. I don’t know the full details on what happened last night, but I’m glad you’re safe then and now.”
“Sir, we’re going to take you to the hospital if that’s okay. Some of your wounds need stitches and they’ll probably want to give you a tetanus shot.”
“Fine, if I must. It’s just some cuts.”
“Will he be safe?” Garret asked as he looked up at Darryl.
“The Ripper wasn’t after him, he was after you, chances are he’s already forgotten about your friend.”
Garret let out a breath of relief “I want to go with Michael to the hospital.”
“That’s fine, we’ll meet him and the EMT there.”
“He can’t ride with us?”
“It would be best to let teh EMT do his job. In the ambulance he’ll have everything he needs on hand if anything un expected happens with your friend”
“alright” Garret turned back to Michael “I’ll see you there.”
“Okay man” Though Garret wanted to rush out Darryl insisted on taking a moment to grab a few things so Garret could be more comfortable at his house. Only when a small bag was packed did they load back into the car and go to the hospital the EMT specified. Darryl sat outside the room Michael had been given and called his police station to see where they were in the investigation. They had followed up a few leads that didn’t pan out and he could hear the frustration in the chiefs voice.
“Just keep me posted, that son of a bitch was waiting for him.” He hung up, letting out a sigh. He let his eyes move to Garret who was swinging between upset and distressed. “You alright?”
“Oh yeah, walking on sunshine.” He sighed. “Sorry, you don’t deserve that. I hate he got hurt because of me, he could have died and it would have been my fault.”
Darryl had enough of him blaming himself and he wound up hugging him. Garret sat there in surprise, unable to move at first, but once his brain caught up he wrapped his arms around Darryl and sunk into his warmth. “None of this is on you, it’s the Ripper’s fault.” He stroked Garret’s hair, noticing how soft it was. He knew he should push him away, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it when he looked ready to break down.
“No more of that.” He leaned back, letting his fingers brush Garret’s hair back and slide over his cheek. “Both of you are alive and that’s all that matters.”
“I don’t know how I’d get through this without you. Thank you, thank you so much”
“I’m glad my boss didn’t let me pass it up.” Darryl meant it but he wasn’t so afraid of that anymore. He knew he wouldn’t hurt Garret, he couldn’t. He felt protective of him and apparently possessive. His mind drifted back to the jealousy he felt earlier. He was growing extremely attached to Garret and he wondered if he should tell him about his past addictions when this was all over. He was already scared enough without the information that the man protecting him was once addicted to fairy blood.
Darryl released him when a nurse came out and told them Michael wanted to see Garret. Darryl followed him in and leaned against the wall while he worried over his friend. “Are you going to be safe?” Michael asked before they left.
“Yeah, Darryl’s a cop so I’ll be okay.”
“Good because I’m pretty sure that guy’s adamant about finding you.”
“I know, but Darryl promised he wouldn’t let me get hurt.”
Michael chuckled and patted his head. “How cute, you like him.”
Garret blushed. “Hush, you’re obviously delirious because of pain meds.” He glanced at Darryl who didn’t seem to be listening, but he lowered his voice anyway. “Besides, we probably won’t see each other after this.”
“You never know.”
“Just get better and make sure to call your parents when you get the chance.”
“I will, now you go and make a good impression on that cute cop” Garrets blushing got worse and he waited for the heat to die down a but before returning to Darryl. “anywhere else you want to go?” Darryl asked and Garret shook his head “just back to your place I guess” They returned to Darryl’s car and went back to his home. Once there Garret put his stuff in the room he was staying in. He didn’t know if he should just stay in there or what. Darryl had been nice so far and it was starting to seem like he enjoyed his company so Garret decided to be brave and looked for Darryl to spend time with him.
Darryl was just hanging up his phone when Garret walked into the kitchen. He smiled, making Darryl’s heart do a little flip. “Sorry, were you busy?” Garret asked.
“I was, but I’m not now. Just talking to the chief. Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, well as alright as it can be with a crazy pursuing me.” He gave a nervous laugh then cleared his throat. “I was wondering if maybe you’d like to hang out.”
“Yeah like maybe get some popcorn and watch a movie.” His eyes looked hopeful and Darryl, despite his better judgement, did want to get closer to him.
“We’d have to run to the store, I don’t have popcorn.”
“Maybe we could get some candy and soda too? We can’t go to a theater, but we could recreate the experience.”
“I think that will be a good way to spend whats left of the day. It will keep our minds busy while we wait for this all to pass” Darryl checked his gun again to make completely sure it would be ready if he needed to protect Garret then they both got their shoes back on and headed to a nearby store. It would have been nicer to casually look but Darryl didn’t want Garret out in public too long, too much risk of the killer seeing them. After throwing some candy and a couple different kinds of popcorn in the cart Darryl said “I have Amazon Prime so instead of spending more time outside the house looking for movies you can pick and buy any of the ones you want to watch in my home. They have everything so it can be any movie that pops into your head”
On the way home, Darryl went ahead and made a quick stop for pizza in case Garret wanted more than goodies then they headed back to his place where he let Garret go through the movies while he started the popcorn. He realized he was smiling as he put the bag in the microwave. He wasn’t sure why he was so happy, this wasn’t a date, he was protecting Garret.He sighed as he went back into the living room where Garret was still staring at the TV, an adorable look of indecisiveness on his face. “Find what you want?”
His attention was immediately on Darryl, a smile pulling at his lips. “No, sorry, there’s just so much.” He held out the controller. “Maybe you should choose.”
“You’re the guest and I mostly only put stuff on for noise.”
“For a cop, you’re really not much help.”
“Protect and serve right? So protect my sanity by serving up a funny movie.”
Darryl couldn’t help the laugh that slipped past his lips. This little fairy had so many endearing qualities about him. He was cute and had a good sense of humor and tried his best not to inconvenience others. Darryl cursed his weakness. “Alright, give it here.” He let his fingers slide of Garret’s has he took the controller and smiled when he actually blushed. The fact that he was so innocent and pure only made Darryl want to get closer. “Something funny?”
“Yes, I want to laugh.”
“You can’t go wrong with Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Have you seen it?”
“I’ve seen posts about it online and know a lot about the movie from that but I haven’t gotten to see it yet” Darryl was actually happy he’d get to watch something with Garret that he really enjoyed and Garret had never experienced. With popcorn and candy out they started the movie and Darryl, though he knew he shouldn’t sat close to Garret. He did however make sure it wasn’t awkwardly close. Darryl had spent so many years being a selfish and sometimes pushy ass and he wouldn’t do any of that with Garret. Darryl enjoyed as the movie progressed seeing Garret wholly get into it, loving it every bit as much as he did.
He liked it so much Darryl then put on Life of Brian for them to watch. Between the two movies they each took a bathroom break and started the pizza since they were both getting hungry. Darryl got a call a good ways into Life of Brian and he told Garret to keep watching and he’d go into the other room to answer.
“Hey, what is it?” He said when he was out of earshot.
“Why hello Officer Darryl Hawkins.”
Darryl froze at the unfamiliar voice and pulled the phone away to look at the number. He didn’t recognize it. “Who is this?”
“Oh I think you know, Officer.” The voice was sing song and was more than demented. “I saw you with the boy, I would love to meet him.”
“Don’t fuck with me you weak pathetic addict.” The voice suddenly growled and Darryl’s heart jumped.
“Darryl you’re missing the movie.” Garret said as he came into the kitchen. He could see that there was something wrong the moment their eyes met. “Is…is that him?” He moved closer. “Darryl?”
“Is that the precious little fairy boy? How sweet he sounds. His scent as well, isn’t it enticing, but you would know.”
“How did you get this number and who in the hell have you been talking to?”
“An addict knows an addict no matter what the addiction may be and your number wasn’t hard to find. I could hear the other officers saying your name. Officer Hawkins, Darryl. All it took was a small search. I’ll be seeing you, Officer, tell the boy hello for me.”
Darryl gripped the phone, fighting the urge to crush it with all the intense emotion surging through his body. “Darryl” that sweet voice helped calm him. “It was that bastard, the serial killer” It might have been more comforting to Garret for Darryl to try to lie but he wouldn’t insult the mans intelligence and lieing was something he had sworn off all together. “wh…what did he want”
“doesn’t matter but if he has my number he can find my house. We need to go somewhere else. I have this one on DVD too. A present from sombody, maybe for my birthday or something, I don’t really remember or care. I’ll grab it. I’m sure a motel will have a DVD player I can play it in” Darryl grabbed his DVD copy of this movie, extra bullets and clothes for each of them before loading into his car and calling the chief.
“try not to stop the car. He might have waited to call until he was near you”
“I know, its why I rushed out.”
“I’ll send officers to your house just incase he was close”
“Thanks.” He hung up and glanced at Garret who looked scared all over again. He reached over, taking his hand and making him jump. “Sorry.”
“This is all my fault, maybe I should just let him have me.”
“Hey, don’t say that.”
“I mean it, Michael wouldn’t be in the hospital and you wouldn’t be in danger. So he wants to play with my insides, at least no one else gets hurt.”
“Sorry, I’m sorry, I just hate this, hate him. I don’t want you to get hurt.” He squeezed Darryl’s hand. “I…I like you so please don’t let him kill you because I’d be furious. I’d nag you in the afterlife.”
Butterflies filled Darryls insides hearing Garret liked him. He could tell by the way he said it he meant it as he was attracted to him. He had once laughed at men who claimed to feel butterflies but for the first time ever he was feeling it and he wanted more. Garret saying that almost meant he had to tell him about his past addiction. It wasn’t right to let Garret develop feelings without that type of information. Darryl still knew he could never hurt Garret but Garret had to know all the same. “Nothing will kill me, I swear it. I have a lot to talk to you about when this is all over”
“why can’t it be now. We’re just trapped in the car anyway”
“Because…” Darryl sighed “I don’t know if right now is the right time”
“theres never a precise right time for anything”
“for this there might be”
“tell me, please” Darryls heart now beat with fear. Too much fear to speak so Garret spoke again “I might die tonight. Please don’t let me not knowing what you had to say”
“I used to be addicted to fairy blood. Badly, I did…I did some things that would make you look at me different if you knew” There was only a brief silence before Garret said “That doesnt make me scared if thats what you’re worried about…you’re obviously a different man now.”
“How do you know that”
“You’ve been alone with me all this time and I had no idea. It explains the caution you seem to have. I might have even thought in a different situation you were scared of me”
“I was scared, scared of relapsing”
“But you haven’t, see? You’re a better man now”
“It doesn’t change who I was”
“I can hear the shame in your voice. That is why I’m not scared. You’d never hurt me, you’d never hurt anybody again” Darryl wanted to kiss him as relief now streamed through him. He might have if he wasn’t driving. “I’m glad…I’m glad you’re not afraid Garret”
“I’m afraid, just not of you”
When Darryl got them to a hotel, he hurried Garret inside and got them checked in then took his car and parked it out of sight. If they were being followed, he wanted to by as much time as possible and force the Ripper to search. He hurried back to their room and Garret hugged him the minute he was through the door. “You alright?”
“Yeah, just glad you came back in one piece.”
Garret looked up at him, seeming a little irritated. “It’s not about faith, that guy is nuts. I know you’re all manly and tough and have years of experience under your belt, but he has no morality, his compass points completely south.”
Darryl tucked some hair behind his ear. “I’m okay, not a scratch.” He stroked his cheek, letting himself enjoy the warmth of his skin.
Garret was now fully feeling the embarrassment of telling Darryl he liked him. “You’re really adorable” Darryl said, his voice softer than before. “You’re going to be flirty in a time like this?”
“what else do we have to do but stress about him coming through the door? I’d rather flirt or just talk about things between us”
“you don’t want to know what I’ve done” Garret shook his head “You’re past is your past. If you want to talk about anything because you need to then I’m happy to listen but you don’t need to walk me through everything you’ve done. You’re different now, you’re good and that’s all that matters to me” It touched Darryl to his core how wholly forgiving Garret was. That he didn’t even want him to lay out his crimes. He just wanted him, how he was now.
They just ended up talking and getting to know eachother instead of watching the movie right up until someone who hadn’t announced themselves started moving the door handle. It was moved gently at first then madly, obviously by someone not of sound mind. Garrets natural reaction in his fear was to move closer to Darryl who quickly texted his chief, knowing he’d be mindful of his phone.
Darryl then took the safety off his gun and approached the door. The jerking of the door handle stopped and in the next moment the Ripper flew through the door, busting it all over the entry way to the room. Garret screamed, his chest tightening in fear. Darryl shot off a few rounds, wanting to wound him but not wanting to waste all his bullets. They wouldn’t kill a creature like him but they were designed to cause him massive pain, pain enough to weaken him. Tonight he couldn’t rely solely on his bullets, he’d have to use some of his strength as a vampire too.
Darryl and the Ripper were struggling on the floor and it was about the time he saw the killer slam Darryls head against it that Garret got past his fear and was ready to fight aswell. This man was after him and he wouldn’t allow Darryl to get hurt while he sat idly by and did nothing but cower.
He picked up a lamp, ripping the cord from the wall and throwing it as hard as he could at the Ripper. It him in the temple and he released Darryl, his eyes burning with rage as he turned them of Garret. He grinned and Garret felt a shiver move up his spine. “Hello little fairy, I’ve been looking for you.”
“Then come and get me.” He let his magic flow through him as the killer approached and forced himself not to back away. His kind were not incredibly powerful when it came to offensive magic. They had come from the darkest caves where they searched for precious stones and metals, not unlike dwarves. The one thing they did have was the ability to create light and when the Ripper reached for him, he held out his hand and sent a blinding flash into his face.
The ripper howled in pain and it gave Darryl the chance to grab him by his hair, jerk him away from Garret and send a bullet through the back of his skull and through his back so it would hit his heart. He had jerked him away mostly so Garret wouldn’t be covered in gore. Darryl let go of the monsters hair and let the body hit the floor. Shortly after the police men and women he worked with came. They gave their statements, got the all clear from paramedics then were able to go back to Darryls house. “are you okay?” Darryl asked as they stood in his doorway. “I will be”
“would you..well, I could hold you tonight to comfort you” If Garret hadn’t just been through something that traumatic he might have blushed but he simply agreed. First they each took showers then they both settled into Darryl’s bed. “I’m so sorry you’ve had to see so much Garret”
“It’s not your fault. Thank you for protecting me”
“Thank you for helping me back there”
“I couldn’t let him just hurt you. I had to help” Darryl held him just a little tighter. They talked until Garret succumbed to sleep then Darryl let himself follow. Garret took only a week off school but was soon back into the motion of things. Darryl and Garret met every night for dinner after his classes, deciding to get to know eachother more and grow closer before things got too serious between them. Darryl would have loved for Garret to move in right away, to hold him every night but Garret was worth waiting for. Especially since he was much more than he deserved. He’d go as slow as Garret wanted and he was utterly happy to do it.
~ The End
Catalina woke to her daughter crying again and she rushed out of bed, followed by Shade almsot instantly. Sirabi had thrown up again “Oh baby” It was killing Catalina seeing her daughter so sick. This was the first time in her life Sirabi had been throw up sick.”Mommy, help” she cried. This time she hadn’t made it to her bathroom and was bawling. “I’ll take care of her room, you get her in the bathtub” Shade said and Catalina took her daughters hand to guide her out. As Catalina was running the bath Sirabi said “I’m sorry momma”
“why are you sorry honey?”
“I couldn’t make it to the bathroom”
“Oh Sirabi don’t worry about that. This is what parents are for okay. She set her already naked daughter in the tub then went for a clean rag. When she returned she said “You just worry about getting better”
“I want to see grandpa”
“as soon as you’re better I promise you will. We’ve already talked to him. He’s going to come right away when you aren’t sick” When she was dry, in clean pajamas Catalina went to get her medicine. As of two hours ago she was able to have more. “Damn” she cursed as she realized this was the last dose they had for her. She gave it to Sirabi then threw the bottle away before crawling back in bed with Shade. “After my morning run I’m going to go to the store for more medicine for her. We need a couple other things too so I’ll grab them and rush back.”
“was she apologizing for not making it out of her room?”
“Yeah, poor baby”
“You should buy her something while you’re out to make her feel better. Like a toy or somthing with those horses on it”
“Those horses?” she giggled. “I forgot what they are called. I’m tired”
“My little pony Shade”
“Yeah, that’s it, she likes the one with the rainbow.” Shade wrapped his arms around her and snuggled close, his nose pushing into her hair. “I love you.”
“I love you too you silly fox.”
“Don’t worry about breakfast okay, I’ll take care of it. You’ve been getting up every time Sirabi pukes.”
“I don’t mind Shade.”
“I do, let me spoil you and our little one.”
She kissed the top of his head. “Alright.” He fell back asleep almost instantly, but she knew he would be awake the moment he was needed. He was always so alert, especially when it came to their baby girl.
Catalina didn’t wake again until Shade kissed her awake. “Hm? Is Sirabi okay?”
“Yes, she’s actually eating a little breakfast. She slept the rest of the night”
“come on beautiful, you need to eat too so you can go on your run and buy our little girl more medicine. She’s eating a little but still doesn’t feel good.” Catalina sat up in bed, stretching her arms then tossing the covers off of her to get dressed. She put on a tank top and running shorts since she would be going on her run right after breakfast then brushed her hair into a ponytail. “Morning momma” Sirabi said as Catalina sat down “good morning beautiful. I’m glad to see you eating finally”
“I need to eat to help me get better so grandpa can come see me”
“why don’t we all Skype him when I get back from the store” Sirabi looked so excited and it ,made her mother smile. It was good to see Sirabi happy. After breakfast with her family Catalina put on her running shoes, kissed Shade and ran off. It was a little chilly today but she liked it that way when it came to her runs. The air smelled so fresh and amazing, it was the best part of living away from civilization. She couldn’t wait to see her dad and wondered why Sirabi being sick kept him away. Normally germs didn’t scare him, especially when it came to her. Maybe it was how old he was getting. Catalina’s mind stayed on her dad as she completed her run.
“that was short” Shade pointed out when Catalina came inside “Sirabi needs more medicine so I cut my run in half.” Shade kissed her cheek I’m going to make you a strawberry smoothie while you’re in the shower to have on the way to town.”
“Thank you” Catalina took a quick shower, grabbed her smoothie then went to her car. It was a long drive to town and she wanted to hurry and get back. Catalina pulled into the Target parking lot, happy she managed to get a space so close to the door. It was probably the first time she had gotten a space so close. She did all her grocery shopping first then went to the toy section to find something for her daughter. She decided on My Little Point Chutes and Ladders. Her daughter really liked that game and it would be somthing fun for her and her grandfather to do once he came. Catalina also decided to check out the clothes. Target always had sale children’s clothes so Catalina hoped she might see something Sirabi would like.
Catalina heard a couple fighting but did her best to ignore it. From the sounds of it the woman had just told him she was pregnant and “He wasn’t going to be trapped like that” She felt disgusted but tried not to judge. She didn’t know either of them or why he thought she was trying to trap him that way. Regardless though it was hard, children were a blessing, not a burden. Catalina was pulling a shirt off the sale shelf when she heard it. Gun shots coming from the direction of the couple. She had only just looked up when he shot her in the shoulder and ran, shooting as he went. Catalina’s first instinct was to run to the pregnant woman. Catalina was going to ask if she was okay but he had shot her directly in the face and she was obviously dead. She felt such sorrow for the baby and her mother Catalina barely felt the bleeding wound in her shoulder.
She sat with the woman anyway and called nine one one.
Shade had a very bad feeling and it froze him in place on the front porch where he was reading to his daughter. He could feel it on the wind. “Daddy?” Sirabi said, sensing his distress.
He picked her up and took her inside, sitting her on the couch with her favorite blanket then going to get his phone. Before his hand could even touch it, it rang. He snatched it up, seeing it was Catalina and answering as quickly as he could. “Catalina?”
“I…I’m in an ambulance.”
His heart gave a lurch. “What happened?”
“He just…I was shot and…I couldn’t do anything.”
He heard someone else talking and the phone was taken from Catalina. “Are you her husband?”
“Yes, please tell me what happened.”
“Your wife was shot, she’s going to be alright, but you should get to the hospital.”
“I’ll be right over.” He hung up and immediately called his father in law, needing someone to watch Sirabi while he went to Catalina.
“Hello?” He sounded tired which was surprising. Maybe in his old age he was taking naps during the day. “Hi, Catalina was shot and I need to go to the hospital. Could you hurry over to watch our daughter. As you know she’s been sick and she doesn’t need to see her mom right away anyway.”
“Okay, I’ll be over as fast as I can.” he heard his father in law getting up and gathering things. Aciano asked “Do you know what happened?”
“No, I’ll call you from the hospital once I’m told”
“Please do, I have to get off the phone but I promise I’m going to be there as fast as I can” The line went dead and Shade ran a hand through his hair, feeling scared for Catalina. She and Sirabi were everything, he couldn’t lose either of them. Aciano arrived by helicopter as he often did. They didn’t speak much, Shade was in too much of a hurry. All Shade said was that Sirabi was probably done throwing up at this point since she hadn’t since last night. Shade hurried to his car and drove off “Grandpa, why’s dad worried about mommy?”
“She got hurt but don’t worry, doctors are helping her.” Sirabi hugged her grandfather and he said “why don’t we watch one of your DVD’s and order some pizza. Hopefully you can keep it down”
“Yay!” she said then ran inside. When Shade arrived a doctor told him Catalina was still in surgery but he could watch in the viewing area. Anytime the hospital was involved He and Catalina got to do things most couldn’t because Aciano made such generous donations every year. Shade accepted that and was guided to where he could sit down. Tears slid down his face as he saw his wife being worked on. It looked like they were trying to get the bullet out still. A nurse came in and gave him the whole situation as far as they understood it. She ended with “I know you can’t tell sir but the surgery is going well. She’s not bleeding too badly and the bullet didn’t do permanent damage to anything important. As long as she lets that arm rest and takes cares of it as we instruct her to it will heal perfectly”
Shade nodded, tears still sliding down his worried face. “do you need a drink sir? Can I call anybody for you?”
“No thank you, is it safe to use a cellphone in here?”
“yes sir, if you need anything don’t hesitate to come out and let us know” The nurse said then left. Shade called home to give Aciano an update. “how’s my baby?” Aciano said as he stepped out on the porch “it’s going well they say. She’ll be okay. Apparently a couple was fighting and the man shot her and then ran out the store shooting others as he passed them. Catalina was apparently right by the couple when the man snapped.”
“Fucking psychos, it’s why sane people have such a hard time owning guns.” Aciano glanced around having cussed to make sure his granddaughter wasn’t out there. He was relieved to see she was still inside with her movie. “How’s Sirabi?”
“Fine, I ordered her some pizza. She’s keeping it down”
“Good, thank you. Is she asking you anything about Cat?”
“She accepted her mommy had gotten hurt and doctors were helping her. I don’t think she’s worried”
“I’m going to go but I’ll call you when she’s out of surgery.”
“My little girl will pull through, she’s tough.”
“I know, give Sirabi our love.”
Shade hung up and went back to watching Catalina. He didn’t want to take his eyes off of her. He wasn’t sure how long he was standing there when they finally pulled the bullet out, but he felt such relief at the triumph in the doctor’s eyes. He could see it as the man dropped the bullet into a small bowl. “Sir?” His eyes jerked away from the window.
“They’re going to sew her up now, would you like to wait in her room?” He looked back at his mate. “I promise she’ll be there soon.”
He sat down once in the room they showed him, anxious for her to get there. His phone blipped and he saw it was a picture message from Aciano. Shade smiled, it was his daughter laughing. What felt like an eternity later They wheeled Catalina in the room. They talked to Shade about the surgery then went over careing for the wound afterwards. The elderly man said “we know it rests on you to make sure she does what she needs. She is Aciano’s daughter so we know without somebody to make her she will be too hard headed to take it easy with that arm”
“I’ll make sure she takes care of herself”
“Good and if there is any sign of infection please bring her in immediately.”
“I will, thank you so much.”
The older man patted his shoulder and Shade took Catalina’s hand gently in hers and brought it to his lips. “Hurry and wake up okay, I want to hear your voice.”
Catalina was already back there, back to that moment with the young woman. She seemed so young and fragile, her life snuffed out in an instant and the life in her. Her animal instincts had sensed something there in that moment, the minute the lights went out behind that woman’s eyes. It was like some unseen force had come for her, for the child. “Don’t be afraid.” The voice startled her, but there was no one there, even the woman was gone now. “They’re okay, you should wake up now.” She gasped, the sound making Shade jump to his feet and lean over her.
“Cat?” He gently stroked her cheek. “Catalina can you hear me baby?”
Her eyes fluttered open and she could feel the aching in her shoulder. It was numbed by pain meds, but it still hurt. “Sh…Shade?”
“Thank god.” He kissed her forehead. “You’re in the hospital baby, you were shot.”
“That poor woman” Catalina said sadly and Shade took her hand in his “Your father is with our daughter”
“Oh I don’t want to stress him Shade, call him and tell him I’m awake”
“I’ll text him, I really don’t want to get on the phone again right now. I’ll call when you fall back asleep if he hasn’t answered. I’m sure he’ll understand my want just to pay attention to you” Shade pulled out his phone and sent Aciano a message. Shade comforted his wife saying “He wasn’t stressed. He knew you’d pull through”
“I think she’s better. Your father is feeding her pizza and she’s kept it down”
“Oh good” Shade pulled out his phone again to show her the picture Aciano sent him earlier. Catalina was still looking at the picture when her father texted back. She read the message then responded, letting her father know it was her on the phone.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cuss this much just texting.” She showed him the next message and Shade laughed. “He’s more than mad, he wants blood.”
“You’re his little girl, I would do the same for Sirabi, I’d chase anyone who hurt her to the ends of the earth and then pitch him into the ocean.”
“Do you know if they caught the guy?”
Shade shook his head. “They didn’t say so probably not.”
“Dad’ll be looking. How was he when he came over?”
“Same as always, very much your dad, helicopter and all. He did sound a little tired when I called, but the moment he stepped off that helicopter he looked completely alert.”
She huffed out a laugh. “I hope he’s not working himself to hard.” She told her dad she was going to rest and if he wanted he could take Sirabi to his place.
Catalina relaxed into the bed “she was pregnant. He not only killed her but he killed their baby”
“Some people don’t understand what a gift they are being given when they are expecting a child.”
“I want to hold Sirabi so bad”
“Speaking of which you are going to have to be easy using your arm and shoulder until you’re healed if you want everything to heal properly” Catalina nodded, feeling sleepy again. Seconds later she was out and Shade kissed her cheek before crawling into bed to lay with her. Aciano got into a coughing fit when he went to answer Catalina’s message and has to set his phone down, stepping away from Sirabi. Sirabi stayed watching her movie for a little bit but eventually went to see if her grandfather was okay. She stood outside the bathroom door “You okay grandpa? Did I make you sick?”
“I’m fine baby, just a little nauseous. You didn’t make me sick. I’ll come out when I know I’m going to be okay.”
“I love you grandpa”
“I love you too little one”
“Should we call dad and tell him you’re sick too?”
“No sweetie, I’m going to talk to them when mommy is home”
“Okay, I’m going to play with my LeapPad. Can we color when you feel better?”
“Of course, we can color something for your mommy” Aciano sat on the cold bathroom floor hoping he wasn;t going to start hurling. He had only had one treatment for his lung cancer and he was miserable. It was so hard to tell his daughter and even though she had just been shot he knew he still had to tell her. He hadn’t told her yet because there were always reasons to hold it off but he knew he might never tell her if he kept waiting and any much longer and he knew it would hurt her feelings. He hadn’t found out long ago, had scheduled his first treatment the next day when he was told. It was hard to tell her because after his first treatment he didnt know if he wanted to keep treating it. He was old anyway and he would rather spend what time he had playing with his granddaughter and just enjoying his life. They had already been straight with him, telling him the chemo would just give him more time and there was little chance he could be cured of it given it’s late stage and how old he was. He didn’t look his age but nothing made him feel his age like his lung cancer.
He still felt it ridiculous that he had it when he hadn’t smoked a day in his life. It was probably all that second hand smoke from his friends and family. Eventually he was able to get up and he went to where Catalina kept Sirabi’s coloring books and crayons “Sirabi” he called. When Catalina was discharged she was excited to get home. They called Aciano who promised they’d be there by the time they arrived. He had taken Sirabi to his own home the second day her mother was still in the hospital. They arrived at about the same time and it was all Catalina could do to resist picking up her daughter. “Mommy” Sirabi said as she hugged Catalina. “I missed you so much. Did you and grandpa have fun?”
“Yep, he bought a bunch of new things for me” Catalina laughed. Her daughter probably had more stuff in her room at her grandparents than she did at home. “Thats so awesome”
“I brought some home. Want to see?”
“Of course I do” They ran ahead and Aciano stopped Shade “son, I need to talk to my daughter. You think she’s ready for a not so happy talk? I need to talk to her soon and I know she just got shot but it’s important”
“You know she’s tough. If somethings wrong she’d want to know right away.”
“After dinner then I guess”
“It depends on what you mean by that”
“Could I have a synopsis of what you want to talk to her about?” Shane by nature sniffed and realized somting he was surprised he hadn’t already. He had been ignoring the animal inside him too long “Oh my god Aciano….you have cancer” Aciano gave him a confused look “How did you guess? I look that bad?”
“I’m an animal Aciano”
“I swear I haven’t known long”
“well you’re sure as hell aren’t going to die from it. I have many friends who might be able to help.”
“As I can use the sun to form attacks I know people who can do even more amazing things. You go inside with your daughter and help her. She isn’t supposed to be lifting. Your cancer has gotten out of hand and I wont have my mate lose her father. Especially not because I’ve been ignoring my animal and didn’t catch it sooner. I can’t live with that guilt” Shade shifted and ran off, not giving Aciano a chance to say anything else.
The moment Aciano was inside, Catalina grabbed his arm and pulled him to the kitchen, her face worried. “Dad, Sirabi said you’ve been coughing really hard, what’s going on?”
“Don’t lie to me dad, you and I don’t have secrets. You’ve been acting strange.” He let out a sigh and pulled her into a hug and for a moment she caught a whiff of something strange, a smell that wasn’t quite right. “Dad, tell me.”
“I went to the doctor because I had not been feeling well, I was coughing a lot and I thought it was just some cold or allergy, but he told me that I have…I have cancer and it’s…”
Catalina pulled back, her eyes wide. “What?” He felt his heart wrench as her face crumbled, her eyes filling with tears. “You…you’re…why didn’t you say something, why didn’t you call me?”
“I didn’t want to worry you and then this happened. Please listen to me sweet heart.” He wiped her tears away. “Shade said he may be able to help, but if he can’t…”
She held up her hand and shook her head. “Don’t, don’t you dare give me an if. There is no if because Shade wouldn’t say something like that and not mean it. You…you can’t just up and leave us.”
He couldn’t stop his own tears from falling as he pulled his daughter back into him “I love you so much Catalina. I really hope he can..I…I don’t want to leave you and that sweet little girl. Even without cancer I know I probably wont get to see her get married but I’m not ready to leave yet. She’s so smart, she’s just like her mom. You just watch, she’ll graduate High School even earlier than you”
“Would you become a fox like me dad? I know that wont cure cancer but it will give you forever. Maybe the fox I’m descended from is on your side of the family…we don’t ever want to lose you dad..we can’t…Shade and I have been talking about a second child dad. They need to know you too”
“If Shade can make me a fox along with cure my cancer of course I will”
Shade weaved his way through the forest, determination in every step. His friend lived a ways out, his home the forest itself so he wouldn’t have to spend much time with humans. He trusted them very little and did his best to stay out of sight unless Mother herself called on him. His nose caught the scent of his friend and he followed it. His ears picked up the sound of running water, loud, a river. His friend was sitting there, his eyes closed as he lost himself in the world around him. “Ahanu.” He said when he shifted back and the coyote’s eyes snapped open, revealing blue irises.
“Shade, you’re distressed.” He said as he got to his feet, his eyes looking around. “Did something happen?”
“I need you’re help.”
Ahanu sniffed. “You smell of humans still, is it a human?”
“My mate’s father is very ill, I want you to save him for me please. Mother allowed my mate to become a fox, I believe she would want Aciano to live as well. I know you have no love for humans, but he is a good man and my mate loves him very much.”
Ahanu sighed “You are a valued friend Shade and I know how much you treasure Catalina. I will save her father for you, so you don’t have to watch her mourn” Shade hugged him “thank you so much”
“Are you going to ask mother to make him a fox too?”
“I hadn’t thought about it until now but yes” Ahanu smiled “Your mind is so hyper focused on Catalina I’m not surprised. She’s had you wrapped around her finger since the first day you encountered her. I could tell by how you spoke of the woman”
“She is my world. Lets get going, he has to be in a lot of pain” Ahanu nodded, shifting to run beside his fox friend. All Catalina’s mind was on her father living so she thought nothing of the nude man before her when Ahanu went back to human form. He may aswell have been fully clohted “You’re here to help my dad?”
“Yes” He walked over to Aciano “take off your shirt” Aciano did as he was told and Ahanu rested his palms on the mans chest and closed his eyes “don’t move or speak Aciano” Shade instructed. It took a few minuets but Aciano began to feel an odd sensation. It came close to hurting but didn’t quiet make it. Just before Ahanu opened his eyes Aciano gasped, his lungs felt new inside his chest “It’s gone” Ahanu said and looked at Catalina “I am Ahanu, has Shade spoken of me?”
“Well, I’m sure he’s mentioned my distaste of humans..I want you to know that does not include you. You make him happy and that means a great deal to me. I think of him as my brother. I’ve done this for him but I didn’t want you to think you are included in my dislike of humans” His eyes caught the little girl standing at the edge of the room they were in. He smiled at her and knelt down. He could tell she was Shade’s “Come here please” She pointed at herself and he nodded. She came over, looking confused at him. He gave her a genuine smile “Who would of thought a guy as ugly as Shade could produce such a beautiful daughter” Sirabi blushed and Shade laughed. Ahanu laughed, patted Sirabi gently on the head then stood “I’ll be going now”
“Please come back any time.” Catalina said and Ahanu gave her a smile.
“Next time the child is sick, bring her to me. My magic will take less time than what you give her.”
“Yes, of course.” Ahanu shifted back and they watched as the coyote loped away.
Aciano took another deep breath and smiled. “That feels amazing. Now I just have to figure out how to tell my doctor.”
“Miracles.” Catalina said with a wink. She hugged her father and just stood there for a moment listening to his strong heart and lungs. “Thank goodness, never get sick again, I’ll beat you up if you do.”
He hugged her tightly. “I will do my best, I promise.”
“You’ll really become a fox?”
“As long as you don’t mind having an old man like me around for eternity.”
“Shut up dad, you’re hardly old. You’ve never looked more than forty, if even that.”
He laughed and Shade said “lets get this going.” They went outside and Sirabi followed to watch. She was so happy he was going to live forever with them. To all their relief mother brought out the fox in Aciano just as she had done for Catalina. Cat had been through so much with getting shot, finding out her dad had cancer, him getting it cured and now him living forever with them she sobbed and held her father “oh sweetie” Aciano said softly. When she would let go Shade lifted his mate to put her in bed “You need rest. Your doctors said it was important”
“Dad will you please stay awhile”
“Of course baby” He answered. Shade took his mate inside and Sirabi hugged her grandfather. He held her, unable to express how grateful he was for all this. If he would have had to die he would have died a proud man. HIs daughter graduated school so early, had grown into a wonderful woman, married a great man and had a daughter that was every bit as amazing as her mother already and had completed college. Now he could see everything she would accomplish with her eternity, he would get to see Sirabi grow and get married herself, he would see his new grandchild do the same once Catalina got pregnant again. Shade had given this family so much and to think none of it would have ever happened if Aciano hadn’t bought his little girl this cabin as a graduation present.
Shade spent the next couple of days teaching Aciano how to shift while Catalina healed. His father in law was an incredibly fast learner much like Catalina and he took to it like a fish to water. Catalina could already tell her father was going to have fun being a fox. “Shade, I think I may be out of shape.” Aciano said one day after practice.
“Nonsense, it’s just using different muscles. You’ll get used to the fox’s way of travel.”
“Still, we’ll be doing more of this. I need to be able to keep up with my grandchildren if they wish to play. Lagging behind just won’t do.”
“Just give yourself time dad, you have forever now and Sirabi will be happy with you no matter what.”
He waved his hand to dismiss the idea of him staying slow. “I need to repay Ahanu by the way.”
“He won’t take anything monetary.” Shade replied.
“I’ll find something, I always do.”
In addition to getting used to being a fox Aciano stayed on top of the police department then followed the court proceedings closely to make sure that man got more than a slap on the wrist for what he had done. He had taken a life, injured innocent people, he was going to pay. Aciano was pleased when he got sentenced to twenty years. He took a life and should give up his life in prison but at least it would be twenty years. He was bipolar and his shark lawyer had managed to use that to claim he wasn’t in full control of his emotional state. Bi polar or not he knew right from wrong.He made peace with it, he had his family, his daughter was alive and before long he would have a second grandchild to spoil.
~ The End
Alezan gave a sigh of relief when he and his companions stepped through the time rift and into the high desert. “I can’t believe it still takes all that time to get here.” He said as he stretched.
“You know time travel will never be instantaneous.” Rin replied as she flipped her pocket watch closed and tucked it into her dress.
“It’s probably because you still use that watch.”
“Unlike technology run by an A.I., my pocket watch will not glitch and send us hurtling into a random dimension or tear us in half or send our particles hurtling in thousands of directions.” She adjusted her dress, frowning at how uncomfortable it felt. “Must we dress this way?”
“Last time we didn’t dress for the timeline, Zaiden was nearly burnt as a witch then they tried banishing us with holy water. Just pretend it’s Halloween or something.”
“Says the guy who sounds like Gambit when he talks, very Cajun.”
“Chicks dig the accent, just ask Zaiden.”
She rolled her eyes. “We should find the woman we came here to save.”
“Her name is Domitila Guadalupe.” Jie said softly. “The chief’s daughter is being brought in tomorrow, then the events will be set into motion.”
“then we have a lot of time to find her, plenty of time since we have a general idea of where she’ll be” They set off. As they went Rin constantly was messing with her dress. She didn’t care how ridiculous she looked fidgeting, it was annoying and she couldn’t wait to get out of it. The rest of the team withheld any more commentary though smiles that threatened laughter were near impossible to keep down. This was serious business but business they were used to and confident they would complete so laughter was somthing that could still come easily in their tight knit group.
“Willow, the men at the corner table want more to drink.” Domitila said as she crossed behind the bar on her way to the kitchen with a couple of dirty bowls. “And be careful, they are a handsy bunch.”
“I’ll get right on it Ms. Domitila.”
“If they give you any trouble, come get me.”
Domitila sighed. She always hated the men who couldn’t seem to keep their hands to themselves, but she couldn’t leave, not until she had save as many as possible. Most of the women who worked with her, were people she had saved. She wanted to protect them, keep them from the clutches of evil men. Her mother’s people were constantly being persecuted for their differences and she thought it a blessing that her father’s genes allowed her to blend in. She hated hiding who she was, but it was better that way when she could save others. She heard the door to the inn open and sat the dishes down in the back for one of the workers to clean. She hurried back to the front to greet whoever it was and froze when she saw the four strangers. It wasn’t uncommon for unknowns to pass through, but there was something strange about this bunch.
“Welcome.” She said and the man in the lead smiled at her. He was good looking, his hair a shade of red she had never seen on anyone before, his eyes almost the color of blood.
“Well hello there, my name’s Alezan and my troop and I were wondering if maybe we could get a couple of rooms.”
She blushed at his accent and had to clear her throat before speaking. “Of course.”
“The girls will be bunking together so if you could get them a room close to mine and my brother’s, I would be much obliged. I wouldn’t want some moron thinking he could do as he pleased with them.”
She smiled “gladly, just wait a moment” Domitila fetched two keys to rooms that were right beside eachother then had them follow her. “Once you’re settled you should come back down for some drinks and food. I pride myself on everything here so you wont be disappointed” She showed the women their room first so Alezan would know precisely where their calls were coming from if a brute forced his way in their room. As much as she hated it that was somthing that did happen from time to time. Finally she showed the men their room “any complaints voice right away. We’ll do our best to fix the issue”
“Thank you” Domitila loved his eyes and if she were a less courteous woman she would have just stared as he looked at her. She turned away, that dark, beautiful hair swaying a bit with the turn. Alezan as well was having trouble not staring at the woman he needed to protect. “Alezan” he heard his brother say. “yes?”
“quit gawking and come on”
Domitila carried drinks to other patrons, managing to dodge any hand that tried to grope her. When she got to the table she was taking her homemade soup, she was immediately grabbed upon putting the bowl down. She glared at the man, trying to pull away. “Come on sweetie.” He said, his eyes lustful as he grinned up at her.
“Let me go, pig.”
He got to his feet, grabbing her by her throat. “Don’t know why they let a little dark skinned whore like you run a place.”
“Probably because this dark skinned whore is smarter than you or any of them, estupido.” He raised his hand to slap her and his arm was grabbed before the decent of his palm even started.
“Now, now friend, that ain’t no way to treat a lady.” Alezan was smiling at him, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. They spit menace at the man, a death threat at its finest.
“Who in the hell are you?”
“Someone who will feed you to his snake if you don’t get the hell out of here and never look back.” They heard a sliding sound and what Domitila had previously believed to be part of a belt and shoulder holster unwound from Alezan’s body. A maroon colored head slid across his shoulder, a forked tongue darted out of its mouth. She had never seen a snake so big. “Get out.” He let the man’s arm go and he high tailed it out of the building. “Bastard.”
“I could have handled him.” Domitila said as she took a step away from Alezan. She just now noticed he was being flanked by his companions.
“I figured cher, but there ain’t nothing wrong with a little back up.” He sat down where the man had been and stroked the snakes head.
“Would that thing have really eaten him?” She asked as she pointed at the snake.
“Abra? No, she’s a real angel.” He smiled up at her as his brother and friends took a seat. “So did he touch this soup or is it safe to eat?”
“He didn’t get a chance to eat, but I can get you a new bowl.”
“It’s fine, there is no reason to waste it. Could you get the others the same, I’m sure it’s delicious.”
“Thank you cher.”
She turned away, her cheeks pink as she put in an order for three more bowls of soup. She was waiting patiently for the food when one of her contacts came into the inn looking frantic. “We need to talk.” He said and grabbed her arm, gently pulling her away.
“What’s wrong Danial?”
The young man looked around then said in a low voice. “I just got word that more natives have been taken and among them, a chief’s daughter. They’re coming in tomorrow under heavy guard.”
“we’ll save them. You know that. I wont let them be sold” she said seriously. “With how many women you have saved they are even more on guard Domitila”
“so, I will not stand by while their fate is in the hands of horny self centered men.”
“how should we do this?”
“do you know any more about it? Which way are they coming from?” Alezan, Zaiden, Rin, and Jie watched the two whisper back and forth “it’s starting” Rin said seriously and Zaiden nodded “yeah, we really can’t fuck this up. History needs her”
“we wont” Alezan said in an absolute tone. “always so confident but he’s right. We will keep her safe so she can continue her work.” The rest looked away so as to not catch their attention but Alezan’s mind had drifted. He wasn’t thinking quite like he normally did on a case. ‘Alezan” his brother whispered sharply, finally drawing his attention off “stop staring or she’ll get suspicious of us” Those who knew the snake knew Abra was laughing at Alezan “hush you” he said and stroked her. Their food was brought out by another woman since Domitila was now busy.
“Excuse me miss, I was wondering if you could tell me where Domitila went, I want to make sure she’s really okay after what that supposed man tried to do.”
“Don’t worry about her, she’s always been good at moving on. She’ll be fine, but if you like I can tell her to come and talk to you later.”
“I would really like that, thank you.” He smiled and the waitress blushed.
“You seriously have to stop doing that, we’re going to have some poor woman following you back home. Having some stranger fall into a tear would probably scare them to death.” Rin said, her arms crossing over her chest.
“I told you, it’s the accent.”
“It’s not like he wants her anyway, she’s not special, not like our hero.” Jie said and Alezan shot her a look. “Don’t deny it, you see something in her.”
“Hush, she’s just a job.”
“If that’s true then might I suggest not showing her so much concern, she might get the wrong idea.” He yawned and stretched his arms above his head. “Of course Jie has never been wrong.”
“getting defensive, it has to be true” He rolled his eyes and finished his food “I’m going to my room. See you guys later.” His brother and Rin chuckled as he got up and walked away. He took the time to really look around where he was now that he was walking alone. This place was really nice for it’s time period and it made him appreciate how spoiled his era was. Things had advanced so much but at the same time problems like these still persisted. It seemed no matter how far humanity advanced they couldn’t get rid of the assholes who felt entitled to everything they want and had no care of how badly they hurt others for their own sick pleasure. He hated to be pessimistic but he doubted they would ever get to a point where women fully didn’t have to worry about things like this.
“Domitila.” The voice of a woman named Tillie said as she came back out to stand behind the bar.
“Did something happen?”
“No, but that young man who helped you before was asking for you, said he wanted to make sure you were really okay. I told him you’d be around to talk to him.”
Domitila huffed. “Why in the world would you do that?”
“Because he seemed sincere and he’s cute. You never give yourself time to be in a real relationship so maybe you should talk to him.”
“Tillie, you know that being with someone when I do what I do is unfair. I would just neglect them or they’d try to stop me or I might die and leave them wondering why I didn’t say something sooner. It’s better to be alone.”
“Come on, just spend some time with him. He seems interested.”
“Oh you mean he wants to get me out of my dress.”
“So what, it’s not like he’s one of them. He’s so polite and his voice…I think you should give it a chance.”
She huffed. “I’ll think about it okay?”
“start by letting him know you are okay. Don’t make a liar out of me”
“fine but don’t promise my time to him again”
“I’m not sure I believe that” Tillie made a shocked, innocent face and both the girls laughed. Domitilia quickly went to Alezans room and knocked. Alezan answered with a relieved smile. It confused her “why should he actually be worried about me” she thought to herself as he moved for her to step in. “you seem nice sir but I don’t go into rooms alone with men who I’ve just met. It honestly has nothing to do with you.”
“I can understand that”
“I mean with times the way they are.”
“You don’t have to explain ma’am.”
She awkwardly played with her dress and he leaned against the door frame, looking slightly amused. “Um, so I just wanted you to know that I’m fine and that you don’t have to worry about me.”
He chuckled. “Oh I’m sure my worry has only begun, I’m sure I’ll be chasing you around and kicking the shit out of any man who tries to lay a hand on you.”
“What, you think I’m helpless or something?” She asked incredulously, her arms suddenly crossed.
“Not at all, especially not with a fiery attitude like that, I’m surprised not more men are terrified of you.”
She blushed, suddenly feeling irritated. “I’m not that bad.”
“I didn’t say it was bad, cute actually.”
Her eyes widened in shock. “Oh…well uh…I guess I shouldn’t have snapped like that.”
He reached out and patted her shoulder. “No worries, I expected nothing less from such a wonderful person.”
“How do you know I’m wonderful?”
“I have a feeling, a really good feeling. Thank you for coming by and should anyone bother you, you can count on me to put them in their place.”
“Have a good night then” she hurried off and he just smiled, watching her leave until he couldn’t see her. “you flirt” his brother said as Alezan came back in. ‘I can’t help it”
“you can too. She’s not from your time”
“I just like her okay”
“still, i just need to know you’re really thinking about this. She’s important to history, she needs to stay here”
“who says I cant stay here”
“what?” Zaidin shook his head.”look, I havent started anything like that”
“I know, you just aren’t always this interested in women. Especially not ones out of our time”
“Who cares, it’s not like anything would come of it. She has to stay here for what two, three more years?”
“Three and why does that matter?”
“I mean you could…no, you’d never go for it, forget it.” Zaiden gave him a confused look and Alezan sighed. “I’m going to go for a walk.”
“Alezan, being alone in a time that isn’t yours, is a bad idea.”
“Oh come off it, we’ve been doing this for a long time. I won’t mess with anyone important. Besides, I can listen for any information that will help us keep Domitila safe.”
This time Zaidin sighed. “Just be careful.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He grabbed his hat and placed it on his head then moved past his brother and headed out. He saw Domitila at the bar and they made eye contact for just a moment. He quickly averted his gaze and she frowned, wondering if something bad had happened. She had passed his brother on the way back to the front of the inn. She grabbed her jacket and pulled it on, following him out. She saw him crossing the street to the saloon and quickly followed. The people who owned the place were not always the kindest to newcomers.
She went in after him. She wasn’t sure how she would explain her concern but she needed to make sure nobody hurt him. One of the owners was just about to say somthing snide to Alezan when they saw Domitila “Oh, hello, do you know him?”
“Yes, he’s a good man so please be kind” the man looked Alezan over “well, if you say he’s fine alright” Alezan turned to her surprised and closed the distance between them “you followed me?” she blushed “they don’t like new people much and I..I didnt want them to drive you away I guess” He smiled, wishing she was from his own time “thank you”
“It’s nothing, I guess I’ll get back now”
“No, please stay with me”
“I have a business to run”
“I’m sure they do fine without you”
“I don’t know.”
He took her hand. “Come on, I’d like the company.”
She swallowed and let him pull her up to the bar where they both took a seat. He removed his hat and sat it down on the bar as the bartender came up to them. “What would you like?”
Alezan shrugged. “Got anything that will take your mind off of the stresses of daily life?”
“Course, how about you Domitila?”
“Nothing for me, I have to get up and work in the morning.” The bartender nodded then grabbed a glass out from under the bar and a bottle of what Alezan guessed was whiskey. He poured some into the glass and slid it forward.
“Thank you.” Alezan said as he picked up the glass and took a swig. “Much stronger than what we have back home.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Want a sip?” He asked and she shook her head. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to get you drunk or anything, wouldn’t be right on the first date.” He winked and she blushed.
He chuckled. “I’m kidding.” He sighed. “Look, tomorrow, I want you to be careful.”
Her heart jumped. “Tomorrow? Why?”
“Just be careful and if you need anything, anything at all, you come and get me. Don’t hesitate.”
“okay” she said in an unsure voice. Alezan was sure he sounded at least a little stalkerish and crazy but he didn’t care, he wanted her safe. He drank with her and got some small talk in before they returned to her establishment. He was glad he walked out because now he felt worlds better. Alezan was tempted to kiss her on the cheek when they parted ways but he settled for her hand. His lips pressed softly against the back of her hand as he kept eye contact with her “goodnight” he said in the beautiful accent “g goodnight” she hated herself for that slight stutter. He walked away with a happy smile. His beautiful Spanish rose hadn’t rejected his kiss, in fact, she seemed to like it.
“Well it’s good to see you’re in one piece.” Zaiden said when he walked into their room.
“Because I’m going to start trouble in another time.”
“You’ve been a little too interested in the woman we’re supposed to be protecting.” Alezan shrugged as he stripped down to his undies and crawled into bed. “What’s going on with you, you’re always so professional.”
“Have you ever just looked at someone and you just know? I mean you look in their eyes and it’s like you can see everything. We deal in time travel, but in that moment I swear I could see my future without moving an inch.”
Zaiden sighed. “Alezan.”
“It’s not something I can help brother, the heart wants what the heart wants.” He turned so his back was too his brother and let out a sigh of his own. “I’ll figure something out, I always do. Lets just keep her safe until then.”
“Alright, fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
In tense silence they both fell asleep. Alezans rest whisked him right back to Domitila.They were in his time, enjoying a gorgeous day outside. They seemed to be in the midst of a park. There were beautiful yellow, blue and gold flowers with a back drop of vibrant green trees and the bluest sky one could ever want. Everything was beautiful but nothing quite comparable to Domitila. She sat in front of him, her beautiful hair loose and soft looking. He reached out to touch it and she let him with a smile. “I love you” she said softly and reality kicked in. Now he knew it was a dream and jerked awake to find morning had come and Zaiden was already taking his shower.
He groaned as he got up and pulled on his pants and shirt. He looked in the small mirror and raked his fingers through his hair, knowing that was as good as it was going to get at the moment. Abra wound her way up his leg, wrapped around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. He stroked her nose and gave little sigh. “What’s wrong?” The snake asked in her soft voice.
“I think I’m falling in love with that girl, Domitila.” He answered as he sat down and tugged his boots on.
“You look like Doc Holiday.”
He chuckled. “I watch too many movies.”
“So the girl, you really love her?”
He shrugged. “I just met her, but there’s something about her, something that just screams she’s yours.”
“Then why not go for it?” The snake’s face was in front of his, her tongue darting out. “I know I’m just a snake, but if she makes you happy then tell her.”
“Abra, you know that I can’t just take her out of her own time when she has things to do. Besides, she’d probably think I’d lost my mind. She already has to deal with all of those other assholes, she doesn’t need me adding to her grief.”
“Humans are so strange, they always hide how they feel and who they are. It’s confusing and sad.” She rested her head back on his shoulder.
“I’ll figure something out Abra so let’s go eat.”
“you’ll regret it if you don’t Alezan”
“yeah yeah” Abra relaxed and quit talking, allowing Alezan to get up and leave his room. He scanned for Domitila and didn’t see her. It was more disappointing than he thought it would be. He hoped she was just in the kitchen right now and would come out soon. Alezan placed an order and was soon joined by the girls “morning”
“I was just wondering that myself”
“for different reasons than us I’m sure”
“hey, keeping her safe is top priority”
“we know” Abra laughed and Alezan said “hush”
Domitila was dressed in a green blouse and black riding pants with knee high boots instead of her typical dress. She waited in front of the inn for Danial who was supposed to be taking her to where the natives would be held. She needed to know how many there were exactly as well as the number of men guarding them. She wanted to get them out, but if she didn’t know the details, she would get caught. When she saw Danial she pushed off the building and approached him, slipping her arm into his. If anything, it would look like they were simply slipping away to spend some time together. “This is going to be more precarious than our other observations.” Danial said softly.
“I’m not sure of the number, but my contact told me that they have some pretty good gunmen so let’s try not to get shot.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Alezan was still disappointed when he didn’t see Domitila so he left after breakfast and bathed. When he came out, he could see a set of clean clothes had been left on his bed. No doubt his brother had put them there. It was easy to get the outfits they needed instantly generated from a device Zaiden carried around. He pulled the outfit on then slipped his hat on his head and let Abra take her place around his waist. “No Domitila?” He asked when he rejoined everyone in the front room.
“She’s not here.” Jie said.
“What do you mean she’s not here?”
“She was, but now she’s not. She’s moving further away. They’re here and she has to see them.”
“Damn it, she slipped away.” Alexan rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Rin track her timeline and tell me where she’s supposed to be.”
Rin did what she was asked as quickly as she could then took off. Alezan and the others followed, not needing to be told to. “she’s still fine right?” Alezan asked and Rin answered “of course”
“No of course, she’s going to die today without us. I can’t let that happen, we can’t”
“Nothing is going to happen to her, calm down” Abra gave him a small squeeze and he realized he needed to drop the attitude out of his voice. “sorry Rin”
“I know, you just really care about her” It was stupid to deny it to these people. They knew him better than anybody else did “yes and I’d like her to live so that we can work out being together. I wont ruin the timeline but eventually this timeline wont need her and she can be moved.”
“It’s a dangerous business but we’ll figure it out.” he smiled and Zaiden said “that smile better not be out of surprise. We care about you you idiot. Of course we’ll help”
Domitila crouched next to Danial as they watched the large cage being wheeled into an old warehouse. It was covered with a large blanket so no one could see inside and she guess either the occupants were gagged and bound or unconscious since there was no sound coming from inside. Danial had been right when he had said they were under heavy guard and she knew it had to do with the native princess. She would fetch the highest price. “Come on, we need to get closer.” She whispered and Danial just nodded as he followed her from their hiding place on a dusty hill. They moved quickly, but quietly, pausing behind a rock for a moment before moving again. They stopped again behind a stack of crates. They were old and covered in dust and both she and Danial had to cover their noses to keep from sneezing.
“Ten, maybe more.” Danial whispered.
“It’s the maybe more that worries me.” Domitila replied as she leaned a little further out in hopes that she would get a better count.
“It shouldn’t be.” Domitila felt a hand slip over her mouth before she could make a single noise and she was pulled back. “Shh, don’t scream.” She knew that voice and twisted her head around to see Alezan looking down at her. She then looked over at Danial and saw that Zaiden had him.
“How did you know?”
“I’ll explain later, but this was supposed to be your end.” He turned her around and her eyes widened at the lone gunman laying on the ground. “He was going to put a bullet in both of your heads.”
“I don’t understand.”
“This is where your time would have stopped, you wouldn’t have rescued the chief’s daughter, you wouldn’t have began the mending of the rift between the people of this town and the natives.”
“Just later. We have to get away from this place.”
“But the people.” She snapped under her breath.
“Listen, trying to get in now will only result in all of us dying. Lets go back to the inn and form a plan.” He took her hands in his. “Don’t let me lose you to that stubbornness.”
Her heart was racing with anger, confusion and attraction for the man in front of her. He had just saved her life and found her without knowledge of where she was going so while this seemed crazy she was willing to hear him out and let him attempt to make sense of everything and form an effective plan to save these poor women.”Okay” she whispered and they snuck away until they could walk normally. “you have so much explaining to do” Domitila said and Alezan sighed ‘I know” he then proceeded to explain everything about who they were, what they did for a living and precisely why they were in her time. He wanted to tell her all she was meant to do but he worried that might be too much. She was destined to do so many amazing things and he would hate himself if he messed even one up by giving her the information. She didn’t ask anyway, she just walked in silence.
Alezan understood she was probably just trying to process. Coming from a time as far back as this it was a big thing to wrap your head around. Just before they walked in she stopped and looked Alezan dead in the face. “How else would you have known I was going to die tonight…you saved me”
“every word I’ve said tonight is true.”
“I actually think so. I think I might be mad but I believe you”
“You are the most mentally sound woman in this time no doubt.”
She laughed. “I’m talking with a bunch of people from the future, I’m sure I’m totally sane.”
“I have to agree, I feel we may have snapped.” Danial chimed in.
Alezan smiled warmly at Domitila, that action making her cheeks redden. “I swear to you that this is very real.” He too her hand and pressed her palm to his cheek. “See, I’m a living and breathing human being.”
“I guess you are. I think I need sit down.”
“I think I need a drink.” Danial said and they all gave a laugh.
“Come on then.” Alezan kept possession of her hand as they walked into the inn, causing Tillie to grin. Domitila shot her a death glare as they all sat at a table together and Tillie came to take their order.
“What can I get you guys?”
“I think we’ll all have some water, except for Danial, he needs something a little stronger. I know it’s early, but trust me when I say he needs at least one to clear his head.”
“Nothing to eat?” Everone shook their heads and Tillie quickly left to get their drinks.
“Oh great.” Domitila groaned.
“Everything alright?” Alezan asked, his hand giving hers a squeeze.
“It’s because she’s worried her friend thinks you’re dating.” Jie said and Domitila’s heart gave a leap.
“Oh really,” Alezan gave a little grin and leaned in close to Domitila, “would that really be so bad?”
“Uh, we…we need to discuss the captives.”
His grin widened “i’m only backing off because they are depending on us. I’ll have no reason to once they have been saved” his words rang with a promise of further flirtation and Domitilas heart went mad. She swallowed and Danial did his best not to look too happy about her embarrassment. He was pretty sure this was his first time seeing her this way. Their drinks came and they began seriously talking about how they could save these people from a lifetime of misery. They didn’t really worry about anybody over hearing that would interfere or warn the traders since it was always busy here so it was always too loud to hear what other people were talking about.
“I don’t want to leave them there another day if we can help it.” Domitila said as she sipped her water.
“We’ll get them out tonight mon cher, I promise.”
“What does that mean?”
“My dear, it’s French. It’s just a little something I picked up in New Orleans.”
He chuckled. “We’re getting off topic beautiful.”
She blushed and this time Danial laughed. “Beautiful?”
“That’s what I said. Now, tonight we will all go back to that warehouse and rescue those people. I think we can use Jie as a distraction, have Abra pretend to suffocate her.” Domtila’s eyes widened. “Now, now I said pretend. Abra would never actually do such a thing.”
“We used the same trick in Ireland.” Zaiden said with chuckle. “Scared the crap out of some people.”
“When the guards come out, that’s when we’ll strike. Zaiden, Danial and I will relieve them of their guns while you and Rin get the chief’s daughter and the other captives out of that cage.”
“There are a lot of guards.”
“Now don’t you worry about that sweetheart, I can be very persuasive when I need to be.”
“Could talk a nun out of her panties.” Rin said and Domitila blushed.
“I have never done anything like that.” Alezan replied.
“I’m just saying you have the ability. You and that accent.” Rin rolled her eyes.
“Hey, I can’t help that so many women hear an accent and go crazy. I didn’t make women like that or ask for my accent. It does help and I’m grateful for it though”
“I guess, I have to give you credit though. You are good at persuading anyway” he looked over at Domitila “I’ll make sure this goes well and the women are free. Don’t worry” for whatever reason she had complete faith in this man she barely knew. He was comforting, sweet and attractive. His accent definitely helped but there was much more to him than that. Domitila didn’t know how she was going to wait for tonight but if these people said it was the best plan she believed them.
“I should get to work” Domitila said as she stood from the wooden table. “but youll be working with us tonight. Wont you be tired if you work today too?” It was the best he could come up with to get her to stay with him. “It’ll seem weird if I don’t work today. Plus, I’m used to doing my job and helping people. You should know that if you know all about me”
“Then at least let me help. I can wait tables or work behind the bar.”
Zaiden laughed. “Man he’s certainly eager to stick to you.”
“Shut up before I sick Abra on you.”
“She’s about ask scary as a newborn litter of puppies.”
Domitila smiled at their banter. She had to admit that Alezan was cute when he was irritated. She grabbed his arm and his eyes jumped quickly to her face, his attention completely hers in an instant. “I think you would do well behind the bar. You’re good at talking to people.”
“I won’t let you down beautiful.” She smiled and they both got up, her going to the kitchen and him taking his place behind the bar.
“So have you thought of a way for you two to be together?” Abra whispered in his ear.
“Yeah, but it’ll only work if the others agree to it.”
“They want your happiness.”
“After we complete our mission, I want us to jump forward in time to where Domitila is no longer needed.” Abra rested her head back on his shoulder as a customer started talking to him. Neither of them wanted to send the man screaming from the inn because he had seen a talking snake. They knew it would be the talk of the town and the last thing they needed.
“So, is he interested in you or what?” Tillie asked as Domitila helped the cook.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh don’t play dumb, tell me.”
She sighed. “Yes, it would seem so.”
Tillie gave a little squeal. “How perfect.”
“You think so?”
“He’s perfect, I mean he’s attractive and charming and his smile is just heart stopping and he seems like he can keep up with you. Go for it before he leaves town.”
“I will, just need to get this job done first”
“Oh that might be too long. Just before”
“No, it’ll probably make us distracted”
“fine, after, but right after”
“right after” Business kept up a steady pace that day and Domitilia wasnt surprised to see Alezan keeping up with orders so well and laughing with customers. At the end of the day they all met outside and began walking back to where the girls had been kept captive. The team was confident this would all work. It was a sound plan and far from their first job so they were all fairly sure of themselves. Just as described earlier Abra made a show of choking Jie and as they predicted it caught all the guards attention. Jie and Abra kept things going until they received the signal the girls were free and being taken away.
“Now how about you boys drop your guns.” Alezan said, making the group of slavers spin around, guns pointed at him. He gave a chuckle. “Oh you are just scary.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“That is none of your concern. The only thing you have to worry about is the men surrounding this area. See, we caught on to your little game and freed your slaves. Now we’re just going to take you and put you in jail.”
“I think you’re bluffing.”
“Abra, would you show him we’re not playing around.” One of the men suddenly screamed as Abra ripped his feet out from under him and wrapped tightly around him, squeezing tightly. The other men were so shocked that a few of them immediately dropped their weapons. “The rest of you best do the same before my snake squeezes the life out of your friend.”
They all dropped their weapons, not a fight till I die man among the group but those rarely existed among such low lifes. The chiefs daughter proved to be the most grateful of them all, especially to Domitila “thank you so much, for this and all else you have done for our people”
“This time it was all thanks to this man beside me and his friends that you all were saved” They quickly returned the young woman to her father who had gratitude to share aswell and attempted to get them to stay but Alezan needed to talk to Domitila and get out of this time before he screwed somthing up. They stayed for a short time not to be rude then went back to the Inn where Alezan said “I know you probably just want to go to bed or clean up or somthing but I really need to talk to you. It’s important”
He looked so serious and per the norm almost too handsome to say no to so she agreed to talk to him.
He took her hand and pulled her into the kitchen, then looked around to make sure they were alone before turning his attention back to her. “We have to leave.”
“Oh, I see, so um does that mean we’ll never see each other again?” She felt herself choking up and he reached up to stroke her cheek.
“Well, that depends on you. How long are you willing to wait for me?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Would you give me three years, four at the most? I know that’s asking a lot, you hardly know me, but I want this to be more.”
“Why that long?”
He smiled. “Because you’re needed here. There is a lot of work for you to do. You help these people coexist with your mother’s people.”
“So maybe four years and then you’ll be back?”
She nodded. “Tillie’s going to have questions, she’s going to think I ran you off.”
“Not possible, I’d just keep coming back until you agreed to love me.” Her heart did a little flip and a blush tinted her cheeks.
“Then will you meet me here?”
“Well not in the kitchen.”
She smiled. “Alright, I’ll wait, but don’t keep me waiting forever or I’ll never forgive you.”
“I wont’ he gave her a long, kiss. To him it would be like no time atall but he still wanted to savor her before he jumped. “I’m sorry it has to be so long”
“If I’m needed I’m needed. I don’t want to be selfish, especially if it could cost lives” He smiled then hugged her before forcing himself to return to his friends. They all went home and made absolute sure of how long she needed to be there before jumping to bring her home with Alezan. Once they were sure they reported, Alezan already beside himself to see her again. He couldn’t imagine how hard this wait was on Domitila but he knew she had a giving heart and wouldn’t even want to leave a moment too soon. “where is she supposed to be?” He asked almost frantically when they arrived “I told you, the Inn.” He took off in a sprint and his friends just smiled, following slowly so he would have a moment alone with his love.
He burst into the Inn and asked the first woman he saw “Domitila, where is she?”
“serving drinks” he took off again, only stopping when he saw her. Domitila felt Alezan, she wasn’t sure why or how but she set her drinks down and turned his direction, already fighting back tears of happiness. They closed the distance in a tight embrace “I knew you really were coming back”
“I would have been an idiot not to”
“Tillie gave me such crap. She kept saying she couldn’t believe I’d let you just leave. I kept telling her you’d be back in a few minutes.”
He smiled and wiped at the tear that was rolling down her cheek then kissed her. “Have you made all the necessary arrangements?”
“Yeah, I signed over the inn to Tillie and her family. I told her when you came back I would be leaving and we probably wouldn’t see each other again. She just told me not to worry about it, that if I got a second chance I better run as far as I could with you.”
“Don’t say things like that, we’ll come back periodically to visit her if you want.”
“It won’t break the timeline?”
“As long as we steer clear of anyone important, it’ll be fine.” He kissed her forehead. “Tell everyone bye sweet heart so we can get out of here. I have many amazing things to show you.”
“Will I need clothes or anything?”
He shook his head. “You won’t be dressing like this in my time.”
Domitila made the rounds of telling everyone she loved and cared about bye before leaving with Alezan and meeting with everyone else. She didn’t know what to expect whereever she was going but her faith had never wavered in those years that Alezan would return to her. She was excited for her future and to learn about wherever he had come from to save her life so that she could make the world a better place. Furthermore her heart yearned to stay near him and to learn all there was to know about this handsome stranger that would have claim to her heart forever.
~ The End
Makana stood in the royal stable where she kept her horse Sarah. Just as her mother and father had been allowed, she was allowed to keep her horse there since she served the king and queen. Makana was getting her horse groomed and ready for the job she had to leave on the following day. She had been on many jobs before but this one would be the hardest of her life. It was to be the first bounty she would track without her parents by her side. They had both died a few months back, her mother of age and her father a few days after in his sleep. Makana had no doubt he only died from lack of will to live once he lost Dawn. Her mother has been his everything aside from her and she was glad they were both in a better place together.
She had so many treasured memories of them and coped well with their loss. They were at peace and her throwing herself into depression would do nothing to return them. She chose to make her mother and father proud by holding her head high and going on with life. Makana of course cried at their loss but tears were long over now. Suddenly she heard someone coming, soon realizing it was her best friend Zikmund “hey” he said and she smiled “hey, whats up?’
His mind looked busy as if he was putting a lot of thought into what he was about to say “This is going to be your first job without Dawn or Saul. Not that you can’t handle this on your own. I’ve seen you in action I know but I wanted to come with you. You’ve been admirably tough but I’m going to worry myself sick about you if you don’t let me come with you on this job. I don’t want you getting sad about the hunts you went on together and make a fatal mistake.” the small dragon that was almost always on his shoulder leapt off and onto hers. It rubbed its small head on her cheek then made a chirping sound. “The company would be nice. You guys are welcome to come with me tomorrow”
“Thank you, I promise to be ready.” She smiled and he pulled her into a hug. Even if she didn’t say it, she was still very sad. He wished he could make things better, but the loss of a parent was hard and he knew that there would be times when she would find herself crying again over their loss.
“Bright and early.” She said, her head resting against his chest.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He kissed the top of her head and pulled back to smile at her. “Get some rest tonight okay.”
“I will, I’m not some newbie.”
He chuckled. “I know, but you can’t blame me for wanting to take care of you, we’re friends.”
Her smile was wide “right, now go” Makana had suspected for a long time Zikmund had feelings for her. She honestly loved him too but regardless she could never find the right time to talk to him about it. There especially hadn’t been a good time to talk about it after her parents passed. At first she was overwhelmed and as tough as she acted she was still trying to get back to feeling normal. Makana finished grooming her horse then went walked home for the night. After checking her bag one final time she changed into pajamas and slid into bed. Her alarm clock wasn’t a welcome sound but she shut it off and hopped up right away. One of the many things she learned from her parents was never to snooze the alarm and make yourself late. She and her mother had shared a very serious job and laziness just wouldn’t cut it.
Makana ate some scrambled eggs and downed an orangejuice before grabbing her bag and heading out. She smiled when she saw Zikmund and his horse waiting for her in front of the royal stables “right on time” she said as she passed him to saddle up Sarah. When she came out on her horses back he said “I never have and never will make you late” They let their horses walk out and through town before increasing their speed to a trot. The king was still sorting out problems with bandits near the outside of their town and didn’t have time to deal with them.
Once they were safely out of the area Makana said ‘if thieves are still a problem when we get back I’m going to take care of them myself”
“I can help with that too”
She smiled. “That would be great, thank you.”
Zikmund’s heart danced excitedly in his chest and a smile tugged at his lips. He would go to the ends of the world for her, would walk through any hell. He wanted to stay close to her, especially now that her parents were gone. He knew she was strong, that Dawn and Saul had raised her to be tough, but he wanted to watch over her. He would stand at her side no matter what, protect her back for the rest of his life. They rode on until lunch and came to a stop at a river where they let their horses go after grabbing their food. Makana sat down on a boulder and Zikmund sat behind her, his back pressed to hers.
“This is my favorite sandwich.”
“I know, that’s why I had it made.”
“Thank you for thinking of me.”
She almost said she was always thinking of him, but decided against it. Instead she said, “You’re welcome.” and went back to eating.
As they finished Zikmund asked “how far are we headed?”
“he escaped two towns away so this trip wont be too bad as long as he hasn’t obtained a horse. Last time he was seen he was still shackled by the wrists and on foot”
“good” she smiled and let herself lean into him more “In a hurry to get me back?”
“Of course, when i heard you had taken a job already I got extremely worried.”
“The king really needed me”
“there are other bounty hunters”
“he probably knew you’d come too”
“I still want to get you home”
“well lets get going then. The horses have had a small break and didn’t seem very tired when we stopped so we’l go again and only rest if they show signs of needing a break. They leapt off the boulder then mounted their horses for the journey. They let Sarah pick the speed since she was the more dominate horse out of their two and simply guided them along. Zikmund talked to Makana about possible ways they could take care of the bandits for their kingdom when they got back if it ended up being somthing they needed to handle. Makana just listened and nodded her agreement from time to time, glad she had somthing to do rather than think. Zikmund had hit the nail right on the head when he worried about going on a job stirring up too many memories.
Making it too the first town seemed to take no time at all and they rode on through, nodding at the few pedestrians that were out. Most of them were afraid to venture out with a criminal on the loose even though the king had sent someone to reassure them the criminal had gone in the opposite direction. Their horses began to slow when they were an hour out and Makana and Zikmund both stopped to let them rest. They themselves sat down in the grass and drank some water. “So what kind of crimes did our escapee commit?” Zikmund asked.
“Breaking and entering, burglary and assault. The first victims were his ex wife and new husband then after that he chose people that reminded him of her.”
“From what I was told, he was pissed because she left him then remarried. He said he just went to talk to her, they started arguing, her ex husband heard the commotion and interfered then he lost his cool, beat them both and stole a bunch of jewelry.”
“at least he doesn’t sound ridiculously dangerous.”
“yeah, I doubt the king would have asked me if he was much worse. I’m sure there has been plenty of jobs he has waved off on someone else because of my parents loss” he could feel how much that hurt her to say and he reminded her “Like I said at the funeral Makana, you have every right to cry and I’m here to hold you or do whatever you need” Makana wrapped her arms around him “thank you for coming.”
“It’s my job as your best friend to make sure you’re okay. I decided to request coming because I know you and knew even if you thought you would need me you’d try to be tough and wouldn’t ask. Nobody expects you not to struggle Makana”
“I’m not even going to deny that. I wouldn’t have asked”
“so you better keep me in your life always since I can anticipate those needs” Makana laughed “what would life be if I didn’t have you?”
“horrible” he answered with a smile that brought an even bigger laugh out of Makana “You can be too much Zikmund” Solar hopped off Zikmunds shoulder and flew off “where’s he going?”
“Maybe just giving us some space. You know he’s only a whistle away when we want to leave”
Makana rested her head on his shoulder as they waited for the horses to completely regain their stamina. It felt good being with him, he made her feel so loved and protected. Before she knew it she had drifted off in the warmth of the sun and Zikmund moved her so he could wrap his arm around her. He let her stay like that for half an hour then gently shook her awake. “I’m sorry.” She said and yawned.
“Don’t be, I’ll be your pillow any day.” He replied with a warm smile as he helped her to her feet and they both called their horses back. He whistled for Solar who came flying back and dropped down on his shoulder. “Ready?”
“Always.” She replied and and he smiled lovingly at her. She felt her cheeks warm at the look he gave her. His feelings were so obvious, written on his face for her to read like an open book. Just him doing that, gave her the strength to push on.
Solar would normally just ride with Zikmund but he seemed to have endless energy, swooping and flying in circles around them “He is so different this trip. What has him like this?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe he’s trying to entertain you? He gets sad when we see you now because he knows your sad”
“Oh” she held out her arm so he’d land on it and crawl to her soulder “you don’t have to worry about me Solar” He rubbed his face against hers again and chirped like he had done the previous day. “Love you too you beautiful little thing” Solar rode with Makana up until the next town “what do you say we find dinner, get good rest in an Inn then question the bounty hunters who lost their captive?” Zikmund nodded “I’ll follow you anywhere” she smiled and guided Sarah into town to find board for their horses.
As in most places the owners insisted their horses stayed free for keeping everyone safe “thank you”
“No, we thank you brave people” As they turned away Zikmund took her hand in his. Korva was a bustling place and it simply felt good to have her hand. They found her mothers favorite place to eat and went inside “you really want to come here?”
“Of course, our memories will be celebrated. Not feared and avoided. When I have kids one day I’ll bring them here and tell them about their grandparents” Zikmund stroked her hand with his thumb and took a seat with her. When the waitress came she practicly squealed. “Makana! Zikmund! Hey! Where’s Dawn and Saul?” Zikmund went a little pale and Solar seemed annoyed. It was still just as hard to say but Makana forced out “my parents recently died…we’re it now”
“Oh” she seemed upset at herself for asking even though she couldn’t have known “forgive me”
“Theres nothing to forgive. Can we have our usual?”
“Of course sweetheart” Solar walked over to Makana and settled in her lap “It’s okay Solar” she said as she rubbed his back.
“He’s just as much a worry wart as I am.” Zikmund said and Makana gave him a warm smile.
“I’ll be fine guys, really. I have you both here to watch over me and make me smile.”
Zikmund reached across the table and grabbed her hand. “That’s all I ever want Makana, your happiness above all else.”
She just smiled back at him and they talked quietly until their food and drinks came. Solar moved back over to sit on Zikmund’s shoulder and he shared his food with his companion who chirped happily. “I wish mom and dad were here.” Makana said then sighed.
Zikmund took her hand again. “They’re always here Makana, in your heart and in your mind, guiding you, watching over you. No matter what, they’ll always be here. You are part of them, so they live in you.”
She actually felt herself tear up and she took a deep breath to keep them from spilling over. “You have no idea how happy hearing that makes me.”
“I think I do.” He patted her hand. “Alright, eat so we can get some rest.”
She nodded and finished her meal. “I want to buy a few things here before I go to my room. Are you two coming?”
“Of course” Makana walked around and purchased a few things she could only get here then walked to the Inn with Zikmund close behind. He walked her to her room then they exchanged a long, tight hug “I’ll see you bright and early Kana” he said gently. “see you, sweet dreams” Solar chirped once her door was closed and they were walking away “she’ll be okay until morning boy. It may have been a bit much to share a room with her. I’m trying to be respectful of her mourning time.”
Makana opened her bag and pulled her change of clothes out. There was never any telling how long a hunt would be so she was going to take advantage of the Inns shower. She took her time, standing in the water long after she was clean. In fact, the only reason she got out atall was because the water grew cold. She towel dried her hair, brushed it out then relaxed under the covers in her underwear. “I really miss you mom and dad, so much” she whispered to the air as she hugged a pillow.
Zikmund had trouble sleeping as he worried about Makana. Her sadness was his sadness and he wanted very much to go to her and hold her while she slept. Dawn and Saul had been amazing people and their deaths had seemed to come far too soon. He sighed, turning on his side and making Solar chirp. He closed his eyes, willing sleep to come and telling himself that if Makana needed him, she would come to him. The next morning he was woke by tapping on his door and he got up, yawning and stretching as he pulled the door open.
“Good morning Makana.” He said with a sleepy smile. “You’re up earlier than anticipated.”
“I kind of tossed and turned then fell asleep then woke up again.”
“You should have woke me up.”
“I didn’t want to bother you.”
He chuckled as he got into his bag and pulled out some clothes. “I don’t mind being bothered by you.” She blushed, her feet on the floor as he pulled his pants and shirt on then his boots. “You want to grab something to eat real quick or just get going?”
“lets eat so we don’t end up hungry because we can’t find food” When he shut his door she hugged him and his smile grew “always my favorite way to start a day” he said in a happy voice. “zikmund” she started. He waited for her to continue but when she didn’t for some time he said “yeah Makana?” she sighed “last night was just so hard”
“want me to hold you tonight if we’re still traveling?”
“please” he let a hand slide down her hair “all you had to do was ask. You should know that” she smiled into his chest ‘I know more than you think” he chuckled “do you now?” needing the comfort she swiftly took hid face in her hands and gave him a small kiss “yeah, I do” his eyes were wide “Ma..makana?” she kissed him again, not knowing what to say. He kissed her back, slow and smooth until she stopped “I’ve known you love me for awhile…I just…theres never been a good time to talk about this change in our friendship”
“tell me about it..I’m certainly glad one of us stopped with the mild flirting though.”
“It had to be done. I need you now more than ever Zikmund”
“and I’m here, in any way you could need me. I love you with my very soul Makana Coupe” she sighed happily and ran her knuckles down his cheek “lets get going”
“I guess but tonight you are getting drowned in affection. I hope you’ll be ready”
Her sweet smile made his heart dance. “I’m always ready.”
He couldn’t help but kiss her again. He had to force his lips away from hers, knowing if he over indulged, they might never leave. He slid his hand into hers and they left the inn, grabbing their horses then heading for a bakery for a quick breakfast of blueberry muffins. The next place they went was the inn where the guards who had been escorting the prisoner were staying. They got their account of the events of the day the man had escaped, thanked them then headed out to the other side of town.
“I can’t believe the fool ran into the forest with his shackles on.” Zikmund said.
“People who panic never think. He probably thought it would be easier to escape that way.” Makana replied.
“Solar you fly above and tell us if you see anything while we search for signs of him down here.”
With another one of his adorable chirps he soared up into the air. They only had to keep up the search a few more hours when they found him sitting on the ground with his head in his hands. They rode up close and Makana dismounted her horse, causing him to look up. She quickly realized he had been sitting there crying. He sighed and looked away “Cant get these damn things off”
“They are enchanted” he lifted his arms to revel a few injuries “I’ve learned that. Fought some things trying to get free. I’m obviously not going anywhere like this. Just take me in. My life is over anyways”
“Your life isn’t over”
“It’s been over since she left me. I lost my mind the day she took my heart. Now all i have is prison to look forward to and then an empty life once I do get out… you dont know what its like to love someone with all of you then find out you were dispensable to them” Makana almost felt bad for taking him but he had still committed his crimes so it had to be done. Though he was coming willingly Zikmund insisted he ride on his horse to keep him away from Makana.
“It’s pathetic for you to think that the loss of someone justifies you hurting others.” Makana said after a few minutes and the man looked at her with a glare.
“What do you know?” He snapped.
She turned her eyes on him. “My mother and father recently died, they were two of the most important people in my life and I would give anything to have them back, but you don’t see me going out and hurting others because I’m upset they’re gone. You should be ashamed of yourself.” He looked away from her. “Did you drive your wife away?”
“Yes.” He replied under his breath.
“Then you should be happy that she is with someone who can make her happy, rather than angry that she’s not with you anymore because she chose happiness over being miserable.”
“I did love her.”
“You don’t make your loved ones miserable, no matter what you should always strive to make them happy. All you can do now is serve your time and apologize for your pettiness.”
He didn’t answer, just seeming to be determined to wallow in self pity. They took him in without incident and Makana collected her fee for the work. “thank you” the man said and Makana answered ‘you’re welcome, call on us anytime” Outside Makana gave half her pay to Zikmund who knew by now fighting about taking it would do nothing but waste time. “Hey, instead of sleeping outside tonight why don’t we just buy a room again and enjoy town”
“sure, nothing is really rushing us back. Hopefully somebody has gotten a handle on those bandits”
“truly I find it sad the Knights havent gotten to it. They have grown weak and ridiculous without your grandfathers guidance”
“Oh I know, the king needs to find a good head for them again” they discussed people they thought would be good for the job as they walked their horses back to the stable and left them for what remained of the day. Zikmund took her hand as they walked to the Inn and checked in again. They went ahead and took care of that so they wouldn’t have to carry their bags around town. Makana dropped her bag and went to leave the room but Zikmund grabbed her arm and pulled her into him. He held her close as he finally gave her the kiss he had been really wanting to give her. Makana felt light headed by the time he pulled back just enough to speak “I love you, I’ll love you the way you deserve to be loved, the way your father loved your mother. I promise”
A single tear slid down her cheek “Oh Zikmund” He pulled her over to the bed and sat down, placing her on his lap “Let it out Makana. It’s impressive how strong you’ve been but I think you’re long over due for another cry. Cry and let me be here for you”
She squeezed her eyes shut and more tears slipped down her face to fall off her chin. He pulled her head down to rest on her his shoulder and she bawled her eyes out, her fingers gripping tightly to his shirt as her body shook. He stroked her back and brushed kisses onto her forehead. She missed her parents so much, it hurt waking up and not seeing them first thing in the morning. It wasn’t fair they were gone and she wished she could tell them how much she loved them one more time. “I hate this.” She said through her sobs.
“I know baby.”
“I want them back.”
He stroked her hair. “I know.” He raised her head and brushed her tears away. “I’m so sorry my love, so sorry. I love you.”
“I love you too, thank you for being here.”
“I always will be, I promise you. I’m never going to leave you.”
He held her for a little bit longer then said encouragingly “come on, lets go have some fun now. I’m sure theres plenty to enjoy around here”
“Okay” she wiped at her face again then walked out with Zikmund. What remained of their day was filled with happiness and laughter. Making their first day as a couple a much better one than either could have expected since their feelings were finally said out loud while they were on a job. Makana hoped he would become her permanent partner like her father was to her mother but that was a question for another day. Today she would just enjoy the bliss of no responsibilities and a man who was crazy about her.
~ The End
“What do you mean he escaped?” Johnny asked, his voice shaking with fear and anger.
“Some of his lackeys attacked the transport van and busted him out.” Evander explained. “He’s sworn revenge on you for ruining him.”
Johnny’s heart was beating overly fast in his chest and he felt sick to his stomach. He couldn’t let this happen again, not to Bella. “What do we do?”
“We’re going to be moving you and Bella to a safe house. The whole precinct is behind you as well as the F.B.I. I promise we’ll keep you safe.” He placed a reassuring hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “I sent a couple of guys to pick up Bella and explain to her boss what’s going on. We’re going to have one of our officers go undercover as a teacher in case Hollins sends someone there.”
“Evander, I can’t lose Bella.”
“I know and you won’t.”
The front door opened and Bella walked in followed by two police officers. She went immediately to Johnny who crushed her to him. “Shh, it’s okay baby.”
“No it’s not, this is my fault.” His voice cracked and she rubbed his back.
She kissed his cheek then pulled back far enough to look at Evander. “What about Erin and Athena?”
“Your sister’s going to be staying with me. She didn’t take to kindly to me telling her she wasn’t going to be opening the dance studio until this blows over. I thought she was going to hit me.” He rubbed the back of his neck and cleared his throat. “Our mother is already on a plane heading for Montana where our uncle lives.”
“Good then we’ll get to packing.” Johnny looked upset the whole time they were throwing what they needed into a suitcase. Bella zipped the suitcase closed and grabbed his hands. “Please stop making that face, it’s breaking my heart.”
“I won’t let him have you Bella, I’ll kill him before he touches you.”
“I mean it Bella, I love you too much to lose you, I’ll die without you. There is no way I would ever be able to get back up if something happened to you.”
She hugged him. “Okay baby, I understand. Just know I’m right here if you need me.”
“I know, I love you.”
“I love you too, lets let Evander take us to the safehouse.”
He nodded and lifted their bag, tightly, almost painfully holding Bellas hand with fear. She wished he wouldn’t be so terrified but he could hardly be blamed for having so much worry. She was scared herself despite all the protection they would have. Not that Johnny wouldn’t protect her until his final breath but she didn’t want him to have to or go through loseing a loved one yet again. There was no way one mans heart could handle a blow like that twice. In the car Johnny had one arm around Bella with the other more gently holding her hand. It was easier to feel secure in a car for whatever reason.
The safe house was out of town, a cottage made of stone with a single loft bedroom and a small pond out back. If it had not been for the two black, unmarked cars parked out front and Johnny’s fear, Bella would have been able to enjoy it. They got out of Evander’s police cruiser and he escorted them inside. One of the agents who had been waiting outside stepped in behind them and they all three looked at him questioningly. “I was ordered to give you this.” He said and held out a cell phone.
Johnny took it from him. “What’s it for?”
“My number as well as the numbers of the other three agents outside are programmed into it as well your brother’s number. It would be best if you shut off your phones until we resolve this issue.”
“You think he might try tracking my phone?”
“It’s a possibility.”
“Alright.” He took out his cell and switched it off then opened the back and pulled out the battery. Bella did the same with hers and he put both of them in one of the drawers. “Anything else?”
“All the numbers are set to speed dial. One through four are us agents, five is your brother. If you need anything please tell us.”
“Where will you all be staying?” Bella asked.
“We have an RV set up in back.”
“Good, I guess I didn’t see it.”
“Don’t worry about it and my name is Matty. Jordan and Gerald both have blonde hair, but Jordan’s eyes are blue, Paul’s the last guy. If you can’t remember our names that’s fine, just come talk to me and I’ll get you what you need or help you if you need it.”
“Thank you.” He gave Bella a polite smile then left them alone.
“If you two find that they’ve become a pain in the ass then call me.” Evander said. “I’ll only be getting an earful from Erin about ordering her to come stay with me.”
“If she gives you too much trouble tell her I said it would kill me if anything happened to her and I gave you the okay to do whatever you had to too protect her. The guilt trip alone will help her cool off.”
“thanks, hopefully she’ll enjoy time with me eventually”
“you’re sweet, I’m sure she will” Evander gave his brother a brief hug “stay safe”
“we will” They went inside, finding it to be just as cute and comfortable as it was outside. “we should stay in a cottage somtime as something fun after all this” Bella suggested. Johnny pulled her into his arms “anything you want”
“it’s going to be okay” she said softly. He stood there silently holding her until she eventually said ‘I’m sorry but I am going to pee myself if you don’t let me go to the bathroom”
“sorry sweetheart” he said then let her go so she could find the bathroom. He wanted to follow but he knew smothering her constantly wasn’t going to do anything but annoy her.
He paced back and forth worrying constantly about Bella’s safety. He didn’t care if he died as long as she was safe. “Johnny.” He froze, his eyes jumping to Bella’s face.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize you had come back.”
She crossed over to him, her arms going around his neck. “It’s going to be okay.”
“Not if the same thing happens to you, I’ll die without you.”
“Hush, I’m not going anywhere.” She pulled him into a kiss and he crushed her to him.
“I love you, I love you so much.” He said, his voice cracking a little. He buried his face in her hair, let his lips brush her neck so her pulse quickened. “I don’t think I could keep myself from following you, they have to have me committed.”
“Johnny, don’t talk like that.”
“You saw me before, saw how broken I was.” She leaned back and kissed him again.
“Come upstairs with me and lets just forget about this for awhile. I want you to focus only on me and not worry so much, you’ll run yourself into the ground.”
“okay’ he said then allowed her to guide him to their room. She wasted no time once the door was closed. Bella stripped off her clothing then started helping Johnny with his, making sure to sensually rub him as she slipped off each piece. Once done she said “lay down and let me massage you” he laid on his stomach and she carefully worked each of his tightly wound muscles. “I knew you’d be tight from all this stress” she said then kissed between his shoulder blades. “I love you” he said again “I love you too” Bella answered then allowed her hands to move to his lower back. She worked him until her arms and hands started to ache then flipped him over.
No matter what was going on Bella didn’t know a man who could think while receiving a blow job. She started letting her warm tongue slide up him and over his sensitive tip. She teased and sucked until it became almost rock hard before sliding him down into her throat. “Bella” he moaned. She felt herself grow wet, always getting excited when he moaned her name. She worked his rod until he streamed poured down her throat as he found his climax. “Oh Bella” he said softly. She started raining kisses on his stomach, traveling up to his chest.
Her lips touched his and he flipped her beneath him, his hands on her knees, pushing her legs further open. His tongue dueled with hers, his teeth bit her lower lip then nibbled at her chin so she gave a little shiver of delight. He licked and bit down her body, pausing at her breasts before moving over her abdomen and between her legs. “Johnny.” Her voice trembling as he feasted on the sweetness between her thighs, making his shaft grow hard once more. His tongue probed deep, swirling around until her legs shook and her voice came out in a whimper. Her back arched off the bed, her cry more of a scream as her insides quivered with pleasure. “I need you Johnny, please hurry.” He sometimes hated to admit that he liked when she begged, the way her voice sounded and how lustfully she looked at him made him weak.
He raised up on his knees, his fingers gripping her hips as he speared her, a loud moan slipping past his lips when she clamped down around him. He pulled her legs over his shoulders as he leaned forward and captured her lips with his, wanting to catch her every little whimper and cry as he thrust into her. She gripped his arms, his every movement driving her wild as he found the spot that gave her the most pleasure and stayed there. Her nails dug into his biceps as she felt herself being driven closer to the edge. Their equal cries of ecstasy parted their lips as her insides danced around his shaft and he spilled his seed within her confines. He dropped her legs to the bed, raining kisses over her face and letting his fingers run lovingly through her hair.
“I love you Bella.” He said softly then pressed a kiss to her lips.
“I love you too baby, so much.”
He smiled and laid next to her, his heart still going a million miles an hour as he pulled her into his arms. He suddenly chuckled and she looked up at him inquiringly. “Sorry, it’s just you probably scared those agents. You were pretty loud.”
She blushed. “It’s your fault.” She bit his chest, making him jump. “Besides you muffled most of it.”
He kissed the top of her head. “Don’t be mad, I love your sounds.”
“You’ll just have to make up for being a butt head after we’ve caught our breath.”
He smiled. “Someone’s hungry.”
“Is it a crime?”
“If it is then it’s the best kind and I don’t mind breaking the law for it.”
Bella smiled back blissfully. She was glad she could so easily distract and relax him. If she had to have sex with him multiple times every day to keep him from stressing she had no problem with that, not when he always made her experience heaven. Catching their breath they melted into eachother, soaking up the warmth and love radiating from their bodies. Round two was just as passionate and a smidge more romantic. They drew eachother over the edge until they once again needed a breather from eachother passion. It was after the fourth time they couldn’t help but fall asleep.
While sweet dreams brought on by the throws of love filled Bellas head only nightmares found Johnny. Bella woke to him sobbing, drenched in sweat. “baby” she said and held him in return. “Nightmares” was about all she could make out and that word was all she needed to understand to know why he was so upset “it’s all going to be okay Johnny”
She did her best to take his mind off his worst fear with her warm kisses and gentle touch, but it stayed there in the back of his mind, getting worse by the minute. By the time sunlight filtered through the window, he was exhausted. Bella had fallen back asleep and he felt bad for keeping her up so late. She had been such an angel, always there when he was kept awake by his nightmares. He kissed the top of her head, deciding to cook her breakfast so she could just rest. He slipped slowly out from under her and pulled the covers up to her chin. “Love you.” He whispered and pulled a pair of shorts out of their suitcase. He tugged them on the headed downstairs, rummaging through the pantry until he found coffee. He was going to need it. He put on a pot then went through the fridge, seeing that the F.B.I. had managed to stock up on the food they liked. No doubt Evander had had a hand in that since he wanted them to be as comfortable as possible.
He pulled out bacon and eggs, getting them going in separate skillets then making himself a cup of coffee. He took a sip, feeling more awake. The smell of food and being alone woke Bella. She blinked to clear her vision then slowly sat up and stretched. She smiled as she got out of bed and pulled a baggy t-shirt and shorts on. Johnny was concentrating so hard on his worry that he didn’t know Bella was there until she touched his shoulder. He jumped nearly dropping his coffee and she gave a little giggle. “Sorry baby, are you okay?” She said as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Yeah, sorry I’m so jumpy.”
“It’s okay love, I understand.” She kissed him. “You should have woke me.”
“You took care of me enough, it’s my turn now.”
He pulled out a chair for her then made her a cup of coffee before finishing with breakfast. “this is so sweet” she said with a smile as he put her plate down then took the chair nearest to her. “you have to be tired because of me.”
“not because of you. Its that monsters fault. You have nightmares for a reason”
“I know but not every woman could deal with someone as damaged as me…I just..you know I like to make sure you know I appreciate it Bella” Bella leaned over and kissed his cheek “because you’re a sweet man.” she took a bite of her food and smiled at him. He gave a tense smile in return but it was still a smile so it made her happy. She hoped that maybe she could get him to take a nap a little later. When she was done they both took care of the dishes then Bella stated “I want to try the shower here. Come on”
“Okay” he said following her to the bathroom.
Johnny couldn’t help but stare as the warm water sluiced over her. She was always so beautiful no matter what she did. She could be covered in mud and he would still think her the most gorgeous creature in the world. She gave a contented little sigh and he wrapped his arms around her waist from behind, giving her a kiss on the neck. She gave a little laugh, the sound musical and making his heart flutter. “How are you feeling?” He asked softly.
“A little sore, but other than that I’m fine, I feel amazing.”
“Don’t be, I’m happy.”
“I wish I could get over this fear for you.”
She turned in his arms and slipped her own around his neck. “Johnny, I love you scars and all. I know there will be times when you can’t help but cling to me and follow me around, I know you’re afraid I’ll disappear one day or that you’ll wake to find yourself alone, I understand and accept those worries because I love you more than anything. Just know that I’ll never leave you, that I’ll be there for you forever, that there is nothing that will keep me from you.”
He hugged her tighter, his forehead pressing against hers. “You are such a miracle.” She kissed his lips then pulled away to grab the soap, squeezing some into her hand then lovingly washing him. She talked about lighter things, engaging him in conversations from buying a place like this for camping trips to having children. Even through his worry she could see the idea of children made him happy. He took his turn washing her then they rinsed and got out. He seemed lost in his thoughts as he dried them both, his fear being pushed aside by more important things it seemed.
whats got your mind so wrapped?” She asked as she tugged up a pair of panties “Kids”
“I think four is a good number” Bella said and Johnny smiled “Me too”
“not too early to start” she said with a hint of suggestion in her tone. “really?”
“If you want, we can start right now. Truly we started last night” His smile widened “when your girlfriend has an insatiable appetite for you” he teased “uh huh” she said then hooked her bra. He stopped her as she was about to pull jeans on “let me look at how beautiful you are just a bit longer” she kissed his cheek and dropped her pants “the bra and panty set can come off again too if you like”
“see, insatiable” his smile was smug, hansome, she loved it.
After another wild love making and a quick rinse off, they both dressed and stepped outside. They both nearly jumped out of their skin when they caught an agent standing next to the door out of the corner of their eye and he apologized for startling them. “You must be Jordan.” Bella said and he nodded with a smile.
“Yes, nice to meet you.”
“You and the others were okay out here last night right?”
“Good, um I was wondering if maybe Johnny and I could go for a walk?”
“Hold on just a second.” She could see he had an earpiece and giggled as she compared him to agents you’d see on TV. He looked back at her. “Matty says he’ll accompany you if that’s okay.”
“Of course, whatever keeps us safe.” Bella would agree with anything as long as it gave Johnny peace of mind. Matty showed up a couple of minutes later, smiling warmly at them both. Both of them were glad to have gotten such good natured bodyguards.
Matty gave them all the space he could as he watched them on their walk. Johnny and Bella noticed and felt lucky yet again they had such thoughtful body guards. “the air out is so nice today isn’t it?” Bella asked after taking some in. “yeah, its good you suggested this. We probably wont be out atall by my own suggestion” Bella squeezed his hand “I know, try not to give yourself grey hairs”
“Gray hair makes men look hotter”
“well you’ll look hot even bald”
“baldness does not run in my family thank god” Bella laughed at his response. They kept talking until Matty said “I’m sorry guys but I cant let you two go further. We need to head back. You dont have to go in though. If you want to go back then start over I’m fine with that”
“Oh no, we’ll just go in. Thank you”
The walk back was just as enjoyable as the walk out and they thanked Matty as they stepped inside the cottage and closed the door. The phone Johnny had been given went off and he quickly fished it out of his pocket and slid his finger across the screen to unlock it when he saw his brother’s name. “Hello?”
“So there you are.”
He froze at the voice, his heart seeming to stop.”Baby who is it?” Bella asked, seeing his sudden fear.
“Is that your wife Jonathan? Should I do to her what I did to that other little slut?”
“Worried about the little brother? Perhaps this will comfort you.” He heard movement and then heavy breathing.
“Evander?” Johnny said in a cracked voice.
“Don’t worry, Erin’s not here, sorry I was too weak.” His brother screamed then coughed.
“I think that kick broke his ribs.”
“What do you want?” Johnny asked angrily.
“I want to destroy you Jonathan, I want you crawling on hands and knees like a dog, I want you begging for mercy, I want to drive you insane. Come to me and I might just let your brother live, refuse to comply and I’ll let my men play with him before cutting him into pieces and sending them to your mother.”
“Where it all began.” Evander’s phone hung up and Johnny stood there with his held to his ear, rage bubbling up inside him.
“Johnny?” Bella grabbed his face and he looked down at her.
“They have Evander.”
Her hands went to her mouth. “Oh my god, is Erin…?”
“Not there, he must have sent her away.”
“What are we going to do?”
“He wants me. I need to talk to Matty.”
“I can’t leave Evander, you know that love. You’d want to go if it was Erin” Bella nodded and Johnny took Bellas hand to tug her to Matty with him. Even though he knew that bastard wasn’t here he still didn’t want Bella alone. He could have easily sent someone that was just waiting on the opportunity to snatch her up. Matty could easily see the couple was upset “whats wrong? Whats happened?”
“he called the cellphone you gave me. He has Evander”
“what did he say?”
“That he wants me to go back to where this all began. He’ll kill my brother if I dont go”
“You know what will happen if you go there.”
“He’ll make me watch him kill Evander, then he’ll find my mother, Erin, and then finally Bella. That’s why I need your help.”
Matty sighed. “What do you need?”
“I want you and that Jordan guy to come with me. You can save my brother while I distract them.They’ll be so focused on me that they won’t see you coming.”
“But what about you?” Bella asked, her fingers gripping his shirt.
“I’ll be fine baby.”
“They’ll hurt you.”
He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I know, but you’ll just have to trust that I’ll come back to you. Besides, as soon as they have Evander, they can call in the cavalry.”
She gripped tightly to his shirt, terrified for his safety. “You always talk about what would happen if you lost me, but you have to know I would be lost without you. I love and need you very much.”
“I know baby and I promise not to die.”
Bella let out a shakey breath as she fought with stress and tears. She knew this had to be done and she feared for Evander but it didn’t help with her sky high stress levels. “Is there any gingerale in the fridge?’ she asked since it helped her calm down for whatever reason. “yes, Evander made sure we bought some for your nerves”
“why don’t you go grab one while we talk about whats going to happen okay” Jonathan said and Bella agreed it would be hard to listen to what danger he was about to be in and the state of Evander. She walked in, grabbed a soda can then chugged down some ginger ale “everybody’s going to be okay” she told herself. She had to keep telling herself that to cope.
When she came back Matty was helping Johnny put an ear bud in and explaining how it worked. He told him they should have a safe word so Johnny would know when they had Evander. “Make it Bella then.” Johnny said and Bella’s cheeks warmed. He always seemed to be thinking of her, even in such a dire situation.
“Are you sure about this?” Bella asked him and he pulled her into his arms.
“Very sure.” He stroked her cheek and kissed her lips. “Just don’t be surprised if I come back a little bruised.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be comforting me?”
“I would never lie to you about something so dangerous, you have the right to know what might happen to me as well as what I’m going to face.”
“Hewlin Childress is sadistic. He has no morals and will do whatever it takes to get a job done. He gets off on inflicting pain and watching his subordinates inflict pain. He’s going to have me beat up, but as soon as Evander is safe and Matty’s back up has arrived, I’ll fight back.” She hugged herself to him and he stroked her back. “I promise to come home baby, we have to get started on our family.”
She gave a little laugh. “You have such a one track mind, pervert.”
“Sorry, but it’s good to see even a little bit of a smile.”
“We should get going.” Matty said. “Jacob’s waiting in the car.”
“Okay.” He kissed her lips. “Stay here and stay safe, don’t go anywhere without one of the other agents.”
“I love you so much”
“I love you too John” She stood there until she couldn’t see the car anylonger then went inside. She asked an agent “are there any books?’
“yes, follow me” he took her to a small bookshelf then sat down in the nearby chair. Bella read the backs until she found one that she hoped would atleast semi keep her mind from worry. She sighed and sat in the rocking chair that wasn’t far atall from the agent she guessed wasn’t leaving her side. She began the thriller she had selected while Johnny both nervously and angrily headed to the source of his nightmares. He wasn’t going to have his brother or his Bella. This bastard was dieing or going back to jail where he belonged.
The warehouse where the worst trauma of his life had taken place, looked even more ominous now after being abandoned. No one had wanted to touch the place after finding out what the previous owner had done here. “This is close enough.” He said to Matty. “You two should get out and make your way around the back.”
“Why don’t you take my back up gun.” Jacob said.
Johnny shook his head. “They’ll pat me down, that’s also why I refused the vest.”
Matty sighed. “Well then don’t die in there, I would hate to have to tell that beautiful wife of yours that you went and got yourself killed.”
“She’s not my wife yet, but after this, she will be.”
Matty and Jacob got out of the car and Johnny climbed into the driver seat. He pulled up to the front of the warehouse, taking a deep breath as he switched off the ignition and got out. He left the keys in the driver seat then walked up to the front door. It opened before he could knock and two men pulled him in, pressing their guns into his back as they escorted him to the large area where they used to hang meat. There sitting in a chair, was the man who haunted his every nightmare. The icy blue eyes stared back at him, seeming to penetrate to the very core of his being. “How nice to see yo again Jonathan.”
“I can’t say the same Hewlin.”
“Search him boys, we don’t need him starting any trouble.”
“Where’s my brother?” Johnny asked as the two men patted him down.
“Oh would you like to see him. Very well. Boys, take him up to the office to see little Evander then bring him back here.” The two goons gave an obedient yes sir then forced him to the back of the warehouse and up a flight of stairs. When they opened the door, his heart slammed in his chest. Evander lay unconscious on the floor, his hands bound behind him, his face covered in blood and bruises. Johnny rushed to his side, dropping down on his knees and checking that he was still breathing and had a pulse.
“Evander, wake up.” His brother groaned and opened the eye that wasn’t swollen shut, giving Johnny a little smile.
“Knew you’d come…idiot.” He said, his voice raspy and full of pain. “Hurts to breathe…broke my ribs.”
“I know, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s nothing compared to the ass kicking I’ll give you…” he gritted his teeth as pain shot through his sides “damn…tell you later.”
“Just relax okay, everything’s going to be fine.” The two guards pulled him out of the room, slamming the door then hauling him back downstairs where his worst enemy was waiting.
“happy now?” Hewlin asked tauntingly as he wore a smug grin. “you fucking bastard” Johnny seethed. “There hasn’t been any fucking yet but who knows? Might just nab that sexy girlfriend of yours. That last woman I took from you had such a tight, amazing pussy. I bet Bellas is too. I bet she tastes amazing and has the most exciting screams. Maybe she even screams better than Lina. I’m getting hard just thinking about it” Johnnys heart raced with fury as he glared at Hewlin. It was silence until Hewlin said “what? No retorts?”
“I’ve got nothing to say to you…you sick fuck”
“really? I’d always imagined you’d have lots to say”
“you spent your prison time thinking about me?”
“you, that bitch and your new bitch”
“What waste, I never thought about you at all.” One of the men hit him in the stomach and Hewlin approached him with a little chuckle. He grabbed a handful of Johnny’s hair and made him look at him.
“I’m sure that’s not true. I could see the look in your eye when I talked about doing to Bella what I did to Lina. You thought about me every day. Did you suffer, did you wake up screaming?” He gripped Johnny’s chin. “You know, maybe I’ll have some of my men do to your brother what I did to your woman, what I’m going to do to sweet little Bella. Maybe I’ll let Evander live with the shame.”
“Fuck you.” He spit in Hewlin’s face.
Hewlin wiped his face. “Teach him a lesson.”
Hewlin went back to his seat while the two men proceeded to beat him, pulling a cell out of his pocket and calling someone. From the content of the conversation, it sounded like he was bringing more men in. Johnny curled up, protecting his head from their blows. A flash of black caught his attention and it only took him a moment to see that it was Matty and Jacob heading up to the office to save Evander. As soon as they had his brother clear of this place, he was going to beat Hewlin’s goons into the ground.
Bella got tired of her book and put it back on the bookshelf, beginning to pace as she worried. “Would you like me to get you something to drink ma’am?” Gerald asked.
“No, I’m fine, just worried.”
“It’s understandable. Maybe I could make you some tea.”
She chuckled. “Persistent aren’t you?”
“Sorry, I just know that stressing about a situation never makes it any better.”
She smiled. “Some tea would be great.”
He got up from his seat and went into the kitchen while she continued her pacing. He came out of the kitchen with two cups and just as he went to hand her one, the window shattered. He dropped the cups, tackling her to the floor and calling for Paul over his earpiece. He pulled a gun from the holster beneath his jacket then another from his ankle. “Go to the bathroom, lock the door and wait for me to come for you. Looks like that bastard sent some men after all.”
“How’d they find us?”
“Probably tracked Johnny’s phone when Hewlin called him.” He peeked over the window sill then ducked back down. “Go and hide in the bathroom.” He handed her the second gun. “Just pull back the hammer and it’s ready to fire.”
“Don’t you or Paul dare die for me, you understand.”
He smiled and winked. “We’re agents, we can handle a few gun toting morons.”
With that Bella did as she was told and bolted for the bathroom. She slammed and locked the door before sitting on the edge of the tub, nervously holding the gun. She had been to the shooting range a few times with Johnny but she didn’t feel ready for this. To use the gun or take a life to defend hers. Worry that she might misfire and end up shooting one of the men protecting her due to her lack of experience plagued her as she sat. If she survived this she wanted to be better with a gun. Bella planned on going much more frequently to the shooting range if Johnny would take her.
She heard shots fire in the cottage but since she couldnt see out there she didn’t know who shot who or if any shots actually landed. Next she heard fighting and grunts, causing her heart to go into overdrive “please don’t die” she started repeating in her heads. Those kind men undoubtedly had families, families that would never be the same without them. She heard someone approaching the door and gripped the gun tightly. It was the agents or the bastards and until she asked who was there there was no way of knowing which.
There was a tap on the door and she moved further back, pulling back on the hammer and pointed the gun at the door. “It…it’s me Bella.” She gave a sigh of relief at the familiar voice and pulled the door open. She was shocked to see him clutching his side and blood staining his shirt. “Oh my god Gerarld, are you okay?” She pulled his arm over her shoulders and helped him over to the couch. There was a man laying unconscious on top of the now broken coffee table. She helped him sit then ran to the bathroom and grabbed a rag. “Move your hand.” She ordered softly and he did so she could press the rag to his wound. “Where’s Paul?”
“Outside calling for back up.”
“Thank god. Have you heard anything back from the others?”
“No, but that’s not uncommon if they’re in the thick of things.” He grabbed the gun from her hand, making it to where it wouldn’t fire.
Johnny’s stomach, back and ribs hurt and he was glad that at least none of them felt broken. He had watched Matty and Jacob take Evander downstairs, had managed not to utter a word of joy at the fact that his brother was safe. “So Jonathan, I sent some of my men for your sweet Bella. They should be on their way back.” His heart skipped a beat.
“Johnny, whatever you’re going to do, do it now. Backup is on the way.” Matty’s voice said in his ear. He kicked one of the men in the knee then grabbed the ankle of the other. They both fell and he punched the first one in the face, grabbed his gun and took off running through the warehouse.
He heard Hewlin roar angrily as he and his men gave chase “get the fuck back here!” Hewlin cursed so loud John was sure he would damage his vocal cords. He wasn’t fully sure where he was running but he was out numbered and wanted to buy a little more time before he confronted them. He couldn’t risk dieing, not with Bella waiting him. Especially not now, not when he hadn’t told her he loved her so much he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He found a stack of boxes to hide behind and slid there. When they passed he’d shoot and aim for the kill shot.
“Here Jonathan, be a good boy and come out. Don’t make us get little Evander.” Hewlin said.
“Jokes on you, Evander’s gone.” He yelled back, knowing it wouldn’t be enough to give away his precise location. He heard Hewlin order one of his men to go check on Evander.
“No matter if he’s gone or not, we’ll still have your precious little Bella to play with.”
He had to keep his cool, he knew if he lost it and stepped out, he could die in a hail of bullets. He heard the footsteps moving closer and his hands tightened on the gun. Hewlin’s goon was the first to come into view and Johnny shot him in the back of the head then took off running as Hewlin turned and fired at him. The bullet missed him, ricocheting off the floor. He sped around a conveyor belt, another bullet whizzed past him and he stayed low.
“You little bastard, do you have any idea what I’m going to do to you?”
“Why don’t you explain in detail, help me burn some time.”
He slid under the conveyor belt and moved in a crouched position down to the other end of the assembly line. He peeked over the edge, not seeing anyone so he ran across the room to another stack of boxes. He kept his ears open, knowing he might not get anther word from Hewlin and that he still had the other guy with him. He had to keep himself from worrying about Bella, had to have faith in the abilities of the agents guarding her. He couldn’t afford to be distracted.
As hard as Johnny had been listening Hewlin still took him by surprise when he kicked over the boxes Johnny was sitting behind. With cat like reflexes he quickly got up from under them and without hesitation blew off the other goons head and pointed his gun at Hewlin. His training was paying off and he was grateful for it. Now as they stood there with guns pointed at one another John didn’t think he would get to kill Hewlin this time. He might have to settle for the ass going back to jail but jail was better than him running free, ruining more lives and plaguing his own. “I hope you’re getting ass raped in prison” John said angrily and Hewlin laughed. “Nobody would dare touch me”
“I dont know, maybe thats why you escaped”
“shut up and get on your knees”
“Like hell I am”
“do it John”
“we’re gun to gun, you cant make me do anything” sure enough the FBI agents began to pour into the house. He didn’t get his revenge but Bella was unharmed and Evander was on his way to a hospital. He would be grateful for that outcome and not sulk over not getting the kill. Hewlin cursed and promised to escape again as he was shoved in the car. A female FBI agent came over to assure him “he’s going to a much higher security prison this time Johnny. He wont be coming for your family again” Johnny nodded, silently praying Hewlin was killed whereever he was going or made to be someones bitch so he’d know what rape felt like.
They took Johnny back to the cottage with Bella. He hadn’t known he wanted to cry until he had her in his arms and the tears stater pouring “Oh Johnny” Bella said and rubbed his back. John and Bella wanted to see Evander but the hospital wouldnt let him have visitors until the next day so the FBI agents just took them home after giving Bella and Johnny the hospital name and Evanders room number so they could go first thing tomorrow. John couldn’t sleep since he hadn’t gotten to see his brother yet so he just held Bella protectively, kissing her as softly as possible so not to wake her. He was grateful beyond measure that she had been unharmed in all this.
The next morning they took a shower, dressed then headed out the door. They planned to go to Hardees and buy biscuits to avoid the mess of cooking and save time. Once they were at the hospital they went straight for Evanders room, a little disappointed he was sleeping but they were both equally happy to see him breathing and being taken care of. They sat there for a few hours before Bella asked “can we go see my sister John? We can come back later. He’s probably just really drugged up still”
“Okay” he said then pushed himself out of the chair. They spent a few hours with Erin before returning to the hospital to see if Evander was awake. To their excitement he was. Bella rushed over to hug him but paused “oh, I’ll probably hurt you” Evander smiled “No, I’d like a hug. Just be gentle” Bella gave him what symbolized a hug since she was scared then Johnny did the same “how do you feel might be a stupid question but I’m going to ask it anyway”
“Honestly I cant feel much. It hurts like hell if somthing touches my ribs too hard but they have me on a decent amount of pain killers so in general I’m not feeling much”
“Good, can we get you anything?’
“Honestly they said they need to keep me for at least two more days. I have a DVD player in here so I’d appreciate it if you’d go home and get my folder of DVDs. TV sucks”
“I could go grab it while you visit Evander if you wouldn’t be too worried John” John thought about it a few moments then said “he’s back in jail. Just please hurry” Bella kissed him then went off. “I’m so glad to see her okay.” Evander said then John answered “Me too”
“she’s really amazing, so is her sister” John smiled at Evanders comment “yeah, dont tell but I’m going to be proposing to Bella soon”
“so you do have a brain, good”
“Shut up before I smack you.”
“Come on, don’t make me tell Bella you’re threatening an injured man. Oh and speaking of injured, I should injure you for bringing your dumb ass to that warehouse.”
Johnny grabbed Evander’s ear and yanked on it so he yelped. “Well maybe if you had been better at not getting caught, I wouldn’t have had to.”
“You’re such a jerk.”
“Shouldn’t you be saying something like, thanks Johnny for pulling my ass out of the fire, I would have been dead without you.”
Evander couldn’t help but laugh, ignoring the pain it brought and grabbing his brother’s hand. “Thank you Johnny, I couldn’t have asked for a better brother.”
“Same here and thank you for keeping Erin safe, I wouldn’t want to see Bella’s heart broken. How did you manage to keep her away?”
“I sent her a text asking her to buy me something from the store that doesn’t exist, I’m sure she spent quite a bit of time searching for what I wanted. She hasn’t come to see me yet, probably going to yell at me about risking my life.” He chuckled again. “At least I’ll be getting an earful from a beautiful woman.”
Bella was back a few minutes later with Evander’s DVDs and a bag of gummy bears. “I got you something soft to chew on.”
“Thank you Bella, you’re an angel.”
“want me to put one in?”
“Sure and you two get going. Looking at me isn’t going to make me any better and I’m not much of a host at the moment” Bella looked at Johnny “yeah, lets go. See you later punk” Evander told Bella what he wanted to watch then she put it in before leaving with her boyfriend. Johnny looked for the perfect time to propose to Bella over the following weeks until one day while they were having dinner with Evander and Erin Johnny just felt the best time to do it was right there with their siblings around. He pulled her chair out from the table then got down on one knee in front of her.
“Belle, you pulled me out of a really dark place I never thought I’d get out of. You’ve supported me through my nightmares and struggles and didn’t even leave me after a mad man came after us. I love you and I want to spend forever loving you. Please marry me” Belle teared up “yes, of course yes” John slid the ring on her finger and they embraced eachother. Erin fanned her face as she teared up and Evander clapped. Johnny just smiled, everything was back to normal and they were about to start a new and amazing chapter in their lives.
~ The End ~