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.
Malcolm smiled despite the sadness clenching his heart as he approached his best friend Shaw. He looked so handsome in his tux and stood from the chair he was sitting in as Malcolm approached. â€śYou look tired.â€ť Malcolm said as they hugged.
â€śYeah, I finally got a moment to just breathe.â€ť
â€śI still canâ€™t believe itâ€¦married.â€ť
â€śWhereâ€™s the bride?â€ť
â€śOff with her mother talking to everyone.â€ť
Malcolm nodded, hating what he was about to do, but he had too. â€śHey, can we talk away from all of this for a minute?â€ť
Shaw gave him a concerned look. â€śEverything alright?â€ť
â€śYeah, I just have something important to tell you.â€ť
â€śOf course.â€ť Shaw lead him away from all the guests and deeper into the botanical garden he and his new wife had rented for their wedding. When they were out of sight he turned to Malcolm. â€śSo? Whatâ€™s up?â€ť
Malcolm opened his mouth then closed it again, his heart hammering in his chest, his throat threatening to close up on his words. â€śIâ€¦â€ť He took a deep breath, steeling himself. â€śShaw Iâ€¦I love you.â€ť
â€śI love you too man.â€ť
Malcolm clenched his fists, â€śNo, you donâ€™t understand, I love you, really love you. I know itâ€™s shitty to say it now, butâ€¦itâ€™s the truth.â€ť
Shawâ€™s eyes widened in shock. â€śMalcolmâ€¦â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sorry.â€ť He said quickly. â€śIâ€™m sorry, Iâ€¦â€ť Shaw reached for him and Malcolm backed away, then turned and ran. He didnâ€™t want to hear how much Shaw hated him for it or how disappointed he was, so he ran to his car and got behind the wheel, his eyes burning with tears.
â€śYou coming out with us tonight Malcolm?â€ť One of the women he worked with, Hannah asked as she leaned against the mop she had been using to clean up the restaurants floor.
â€śSure, who allâ€™s going?â€ť
â€śMe, Lawrence, and Rowan.â€ť
â€śAlright, where do you want me to meet you?â€ť
â€śSure, Iâ€™ll be there.â€ť
â€śawesome, Iâ€™ll add you to the group text we have going about it. Are you heading home now?â€ť
â€śI was but let me help you dry the floor so we both can get goingâ€ť
â€śYouâ€™re so sweet, thank you.â€ť
â€śadd me to the chat and Iâ€™ll put this away then grab the towelsâ€ť He walked away with the mop and bucket, getting a text before he even had a chance to get what they needed to dry the floors. He checked it and responded, smiling when the rest of the group was excited about him joining. He knew he should join them more but didnâ€™t dwell on that thought. He and Hannah had a floor to dry so they could lock up and leave. Their phones went off a few more times but they didnâ€™t check them again until everything was put away and the restaurant was locked for the evening.
Malcolm texted everyone that he was going to swing by his place and change real quick. They all gave him an okay and he headed home. He was surprised to find a car sitting in front of his house when he pulled up and it took him a minute to notice the person sitting on his porch. He was shocked when he realized it was Shaw. He closed his eyes, shook his head, and opened them again. He was still there. He swallowed. It was Shaw and now he was standing and dusting himself off. Malcolm knew he needed to get out, but he was frozen. Shaw just stood there, waiting for him and Malcolm took a deep breath, switched off his car and got out. â€śHey.â€ť Shaw said with a smile.
â€śUm, hey.â€ť He cleared his throat. â€śWhat are you doing here?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m not allowed to visit.â€ť
â€śOh.â€ť He nodded as he forced himself to move toward and then past Shaw to his door. â€śYeah, of course, but itâ€™sâ€¦itâ€™s kind of a bad time. I have plans with friends.â€ť His hand was shaking as he unlocked his door. He could feel Shaw step up behind him.
â€śNeed some help? At this rate weâ€™ll be old by the time you open the door.â€ť
â€śI go it.â€ť He managed to get the key in and the door open.
â€śI can come in right?â€ť
â€śYeah, but I need to get ready, my friends are waiting.â€ť He headed to his room and Shaw followed. â€śSo, how are things?â€ť
â€śTheyâ€™re fine. Itâ€™s good to see you.â€ť
Malcolm nodded again. â€śYeah, you too.â€ť He dropped his keys on his chest of drawers, as well as his phone. He didnâ€™t know how he was supposed to act around Shaw anymore. He hadnâ€™t talked to him since the wedding, far too embarrassed and ashamed.
Shaw grabbed his wrist gently â€śI wish you wouldnâ€™t be so nervousâ€¦we were once so closeâ€¦Iâ€™m divorced if youâ€™re worried about my wifeâ€ť
â€śYeah, things just didnâ€™t work out. She was always thinking I was cheating which I wasnâ€™tâ€¦I didnâ€™t even pursue youâ€¦someone who meant the world to me because it would have felt wrong knowingâ€¦wellâ€¦but Iâ€™m single againâ€¦I want more than anything to have you back in my life, even if you might not love me anymore I want to be a part of your life againâ€ť Malcolm swallowed â€śso you didnâ€™t lose all respect for me because I confessed feelings for a married manâ€ť
â€śOf course not, you canâ€™t help how you felt. Itâ€™s not like you hounded me or tried to get me to cheat, You just told me how you feltâ€ť
â€śI could have been more mature about it. Telling you on your wedding day wasâ€¦it was stupid.â€ť
â€śJust know, itâ€™s alright.â€ť
â€śOkay.â€ť Malcolm nodded and Shaw let him go so he could get changed.
Shaw sat down on the bed and Malcolmâ€™s heart jumped in his chest. Was he really going to stay there? He didnâ€™t want to tell him to leave, afraid he might come off as rude or scared and it wasnâ€™t like Shaw hadnâ€™t seen him in his underwear anyway. He pulled out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, trying to act as casual as he could. â€śSo,â€ť Shaw said, â€śgoing out with friends.â€ť
â€śYeah, just for drinks mostly.â€ť He swallowed as he started undressing. â€śUm, do you maybe want to come with me or something? I mean, itâ€™s been awhile.â€ť
Shaw looked relieved he was being invited â€śYeah, Iâ€™d love to come. Iâ€™ve really missed hanging out with youâ€ť He emphasized the word really and it had Malcolmâ€™s heart stuttering in his chest. â€śwell they are ready for us when Iâ€™m readyâ€ť Malcolm stuttered a bit which embarrassed him but it was worth the warm smile Shaw had on his face. He knew it was horrible to be happy his marriage had ended but it was now completely hitting Malcolm just how much he had missed Shaw. As nervous as all this was making him he couldnâ€™t help but be happy it was finally going to be like old times. Shaw had truly been his best friend.
Malcolm dressed as quickly as he could and let his friends know he was on the way. He also made sure to add Shaw was coming. Once they were on the road Shaw asked â€śdo I know these friends?â€ť
â€śYou only know Rowan, you know how much staff turns over in restaurants. Especially with my boss. Heâ€™ll fire someone over the smallest thingsâ€ť
â€śIs he doing alright?â€ť
â€śyeah, heâ€™s got a kid now. Things are touch and go with the mom but he adores that little boyâ€ť
â€śMust be a baby since its only been two yearsâ€ť
â€śYeah, his son is only a few months old.â€ť
â€śIs he actually helping her out with him?â€ť
â€śYeah, heâ€™s watched him a few times already for her and heâ€™s paying for diapers. Heâ€™s having some sent to her house every monthâ€ť
â€śThatâ€™s good, what should I know about the people I donâ€™t know?â€ť
â€śHannah is sweet normally but her inner tiger comes out, as she calls it when she drinks. It can be amusing but sheâ€™s gotten into some tense situations at bars. I like her a lot. Sheâ€™s worked at the restaurant for about as long as Rowan has had a kidâ€¦Lawrence is coming too. Heâ€™s a year older than me. He has a channel on youtube thatâ€™s actually pretty amazing. He plays nothing but horror games. I try to stay caught up with it.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™ll have to send me the channel name and Iâ€™ll check it out.â€ť
â€śWhen did you get into YouTube and video games?â€ť
â€śMy manager likes to put my concerts up so I sometimes do live Q and Aâ€™s for the fans and as far as video games, Iâ€™ve been asked to record some songs for a soundtrack so Iâ€™ve been playing more to get an idea of what might work.â€ť
â€śI used to watch you play sometimes.â€ť
â€śYou used to sit there with your headphones on and write music.â€ť
â€śBut I did appreciate you spending time with me, even if it wasnâ€™t your thing.â€ť
Shaw shrugged. â€śYou never missed a concert and you even wrote some beautiful pieces for me, well until what happened, it was the least I could do.â€ť
â€śTell you what, if you want to make it up to me, you can come spend time at my place and help me write the music for the soundtrack.â€ť
â€śYour opinion has always mattered the most and your music always resonates with the audience and me. I missed our time together.â€ť
â€śThat sounds really nice, I hope you enjoy my friends tonight. They are really good people. I donâ€™t go out with them as often as I probably should so I was kind of planning to make this a late nightâ€ť
â€śCould I sleep on your couch then so I donâ€™t have to drive all the way home after? I mean, hopefully things really can just go back to normalâ€ť
â€śwe used to crash at eachothers places so muchâ€¦yeah, youâ€™re welcome to.â€ť They easily kept conversation flowing between them until they pulled up to Bargarten â€śIâ€™ve heard this place is nice. Kind of like a classy barâ€ť
â€śyeah, I really like a lot of the foodâ€ť He texted the group to let him know he was parked so was greeted by Rowan when they walked in the door â€śI volunteered to show you guys where we are sitting.â€ť He smiled at Shaw â€śitâ€™s been a long timeâ€ť
â€śI plan to hang around Malcolm as much as I used to so youâ€™ll probably see a lot more of meâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m surprised you have a kid.â€ť Shaw said.
â€śHonestly, I was too. I mean can you imagine someone like me having a baby? I couldnâ€™t until he was born and now I canâ€™t imagine life without him.â€ť He slapped Shaw on the back. â€śWhat about you?â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t get the chance, things didnâ€™t work out, Iâ€™m divorced.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sorry man.â€ť He said as they sat down.
Shaw shrugged. â€śItâ€™s alright, really.â€ť
Malcolm sat down next to him and gestured to his other friends. â€śShaw this is Hannah and Lawrence.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s very nice to meet both of you. Hopefully you havenâ€™t heard anything too terrible about me.â€ť He replied with a smile that had Malcolmâ€™s heart skipping in his chest.
â€śNot at all, Malcolmâ€™s description was spot on though, youâ€™re definitely pretty.â€ť Hannah said.
â€śI didnâ€™t say pretty.â€ť Malcolm said with a blush.
â€śYou did and heâ€™s more than pretty, heâ€™s gorgeous.â€ť
Shaw chuckled. â€śWell thank you very much, itâ€™s very high praise coming from Malcolm.â€ť
Shaw fit right in but that wasnâ€™t surprising, he fit in with everyone. They talked, laughed, shared food and ordered drinks late into the evening, only leaving when Bargarten was closing. â€śdo we need to call an Uber?â€ť Malcom asked since he had consumed a few drinks. He wasnâ€™t drunk but he never risked it. â€śNo, I didnâ€™t have anything alcoholic. Just give me your keysâ€ť Malcolm handed them over and allowed Shaw to take him home. Once they arrived and entered the house Shaw asked â€śyou aren’t ready for bed yet are you?â€ť
â€śI can stay up a little longerâ€ť Shaw smiled â€śgood, lets watch something on Netflix. I hear The Haunting of Hill House is goodâ€ť
â€śYou know Iâ€™ve actually seen episode one and it does seem like itâ€™s going to be good, lets do it. Iâ€™ll watch as many as I can. Let me get out all your bedding first though. I don’t want to drag myself off to bed and forget because Iâ€™m so tired.â€ť Malcolm went to his bed and grabbed a pillow then took a blanket out of his linen closet. By the time he came back and set them on the couch Shaw had turned on Netflix, pulled up the show and gotten them drinks from the kitchen.
â€śI hope youâ€™ll be comfortable out here.â€ť Malcolm said as he handed Shaw the blanket and pillow.
â€śIâ€™m sure I will, but if youâ€™re that concerned we could always cuddle.â€ť He teased.
Malcolm blushed and Shaw started laughing. â€śYouâ€™re such a jerk.â€ť
â€śBut you love me anyway.â€ť
Malcolm gave a little laugh. â€śYeah.â€ť He cleared his throat and looked away from Shaw. He grabbed the controller and clicked on the second episode.
â€śI wasnâ€™t trying to make you uncomfortable or make it seem like your feelings were a joke.â€ť
â€śI know, sorry.â€ť He smiled. â€śItâ€™s true though, you could be the biggest jerk in the universe and Iâ€™d probably still tell you I love you while beating you up.â€ť
Shaw chuckled and nudged him. â€śI donâ€™t think you could.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m pretty tough.â€ť
They focused their attention on the show, talking every now and then about certain scenes. Malcolm found himself glancing at Shaw, still amazed he was actually there. He didnâ€™t think heâ€™d ever see him again and his feelings had only grown for him. He let out a yawn just before the next episode was about to start and Shaw suggested they go to bed. â€śWe donâ€™t have to.â€ť
â€śThat brilliant brain of yours needs rest if youâ€™re going to be helping me write music.â€ť Shaw replied as he poked him in the forehead.
â€śalright thenâ€¦youâ€™re welcome to anything in the kitchen if you get hungry or thirstyâ€ť Malcolm went to his room and Shaw sighed, settling himself on the couch. His mind played the memories of their day together as Shaw tried to sleep. He couldnâ€™t help but think how amazing these past few hours had been and almost hated the fact he had let this man slip through his fingers for so long. The next thing Shaw knew it was morning. The sun was up and Malcolm was obviously cooking in the kitchen. Shaw groaned a little as he sat up so Malcolm wasnâ€™t startled when Shaw entered the kitchen asking ‘whatâ€™re you making?”
â€śjust pancakes and scrambled eggsâ€ť
â€śdo you have to work again today?â€ť
â€śNo, thatâ€™s why I went out last night.â€ť
â€śSo, does that mean youâ€™re free?â€ť
Malcolmâ€™s heart fluttered. â€śYeah.â€ť
Shaw rested his chin in his hand. â€śI see, then you can come over, right?â€ť
â€śIf you want me to.â€ť
â€śI do, we can get started on that soundtrack.â€ť
â€śOh I see, you just want my music.â€ť Malcolm teased.
Shaw chuckled, the sound sending a thrill through Malcolm. â€śNow you know thatâ€™s not true, we can do something else if you like.â€ť At this point, the soundtrack was simply an excuse. He could finish it on his own, but he wanted the time with Malcolm. â€śPlease? Iâ€™ll pout if I have too.â€ť
â€śI know you will, Iâ€™ve seen it.â€ť
â€śIs that a definite yes then?â€ť
â€śYes, if I must.â€ť
â€śYou really must, Iâ€™ll even treat you to whatever you want. All you have to do is name it.â€ť
â€śhmm, Iâ€™ll have to think about what I wantâ€ť Shaw sat down happily waiting for Malcolm to finish making them breakfast. They soon ate and were on their way to Shaws. Malcolm was curious the entire ride as to where his old friend would be living now. Divorce was tricky, Shaw had owned his own home before her but that didnâ€™t mean she hadnâ€™t gotten the house in the separation. When they did infact pull up into a new home Malcolm asked â€śdid she get the house?â€ť
â€śYeah, Iâ€™m still making good money and I didnâ€™t want any of the memories. We fought a lot, it kind of ruined the vibe of the house for me. Plus, she had just been renting before me and would have struggled getting into something elseâ€ť
â€śthats sweet you gave it to herâ€ť
â€śI may not even like her anymore but I donâ€™t hate her. I wasnâ€™t about to keep it just out of spite since I didnâ€™t want it anymoreâ€ť As they got out Malcolm asked â€śhow did seperating stuff go?â€ť
â€śvery different tastes so that was easy too. Honestly, I couldnâ€™t have dreamed of an easier split. She was just as done with me as I was of herâ€ť Shawn really didnâ€™t want to talk about his ex wife but he wanted to be an open book with Malcolm. If he said he didnâ€™t want to talk about her Malcolm might think he wasnâ€™t over her.
â€śIâ€™m sorry, Shaw, really. I know how you felt about her.â€ť
â€śI did love her, but she accused me of things I didnâ€™t do, I couldnâ€™t even talk to or hang out with any of my male friends.â€ť
â€śDo you wish it had worked out?â€ť
The truth was, he had thought about it at the time, but now, with Malcolm here, it was different. â€śNo, it was for the best, for both of us.â€ť
â€śWell, if you ever need to vent, Iâ€™m here.â€ť
â€śI know, but Iâ€™m good, I promise.â€ť
Malcolm turned in a circle. â€śI really like your new place.â€ť
â€śYou havenâ€™t seen the most amazing part.â€ť He took Malcolmâ€™s hand, grinning when he saw him start to blush. â€śYouâ€™ll love it.â€ť He pulled Malcolm through the house to the basement door.
â€śOh I see, you turned into a serial killer while I was gone.â€ť
Shaw laughed. â€śAnd I eccentrically kill my victims with music.â€ť
â€śCome on.â€ť The light came on the moment they passed through the door way and Malcolm smiled when he saw the room had been converted into a recording studio and entertainment room.
â€śThis is actually perfect for us hanging outâ€ť Shaw chuckled and admitted â€śI sort of had you in mind when I did it Malcolm. Pretty much right when we set things in motion to divorce I planned to seek you out again.â€ť Malcolm was even redder than before which made Shaws heart dance. He was so glad to be showing Malcolm this. He hadnâ€™t known if the relationship had been mendable. People change, he could have moved on and decided they could never be friends but here Malcolm was, hanging out in the basement he designed so they could hangout and both do things they loved.
â€śshould we game first or start composing?â€ť
â€ślets game a bit so I can thinkâ€ť
â€śalright, your pick.â€ť Malcolm easily picked a game and allowed Shaw to get it set up so they could play. Hours had flown by before they even noticed and Malcolm suggested â€śokay, fill me in on this game. We should really start working on itâ€ť
â€śalright, Iâ€™ll order chinese so we can just concentrate on work. Do you still like the same thing?â€ť
â€śYepâ€ť It took about another hour to get fully set up but once they got going the only thing that stopped them at all was when they decided to eat the food they ordered. Even that was a brief distraction. Leftovers were dinner, they were far too into their work to do anything else. Malcolm looked at the time on his cellphone when they finally finished their first song for the game â€śHoly crap, that has to be wrongâ€ť Shaw chuckled â€śTime has always flown when we are togetherâ€ť
â€śYeah, I really like this song tooâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure they will all be this good. Hopefully the developer agrees with us thoughâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure they will, I mean itâ€™s you presenting it.â€ť
â€śUs, you have to come with me.â€ť
â€śYou have to because youâ€™re part of it. I can hear you in it.â€ť
Malcolm nodded. â€śAlright.â€ť He yawned. â€śI should probably get home.â€ť
Shaw reached over and grabbed his hand. â€śStay.â€ť
Malcolmâ€™s heart danced. â€śAre you sure?â€ť
â€śYeah, I have plenty of room and you know I donâ€™t mind. My home is your home. I want you to stay. Please?â€ť
â€śAlright.â€ť Of course he wanted to stay, how could he not. â€śCould I borrow some clothes?â€ť
Shaw made sure everything was off before they leaved the basement then took Malcolm up to his room and pulled his closet open. â€śHoly crap, Shaw, youâ€™re closetâ€™s the same size as my room.â€ť
Shaw chuckled. â€śItâ€™s not that big. It gets even better though.â€ť He walked to the other side of the closet and slid open another door. â€śThe bathroom.â€ť
â€śCan I just live here, I donâ€™t take up that much space, I promise.â€ť
â€śYou can do whatever you want, Malcolm. I meant it when I said this is your home too.â€ť
â€śI mean it, youâ€™re the number one in my life again and this time, that wont changeâ€ť Malcolm blushed and wanted to bring up the possibility of him falling in love again but couldnâ€™t do it, even in a teasing way. Instead Malcolm picked out something to sleep in then stepped into the bathroom to change. â€śthere, now let me show you to a room you can use. It can just be yours so feel free to bring some stuff over for when you stay the nightâ€ť
â€śalright, thank youâ€ť Shaw gave him a long hug â€śthank you for letting me just step back into your life so easily. I know you felt bad for how you confessed but still. Iâ€™m glad we can just be us againâ€ť Shaw didnâ€™t want to but he left Malcolm for the night, heading to his own room. Malcolm walked over to the bed, pulling back the covers and settling in.
Shaw was the first up the next morning and he made his way quietly downstairs to start some coffee before heading back up to the room he had given Malcolm. He pushed the door openly slowly, grinning when he saw him sprawled out, his blankets halfway off the bed and his shirt pushed up from his flopping. He had always been a restless sleeper. He crossed over to the bed and dropped down next to him, allowing himself to admire him for a moment and wonder how he had never noticed his friendâ€™s feelings for him. He let out a little sigh as he reached up and gently shook him. â€śMalcolm, wake up.â€ť
Malcolm groaned and grabbed his pillow as he turned on his side. â€śItâ€™s too early.â€ť He mumbled and buried his face in his pillow.
Shaw chuckled as he leaned down, bringing his lips close to Malcolmâ€™s ear. â€śIf you donâ€™t get up, that means Iâ€™ll have to make you.â€ť He whispered. He didnâ€™t know if Malcolm had heard the suggestion in his voice or if he thought he was simply teasing, but it had him sitting up, his face bright red. â€śGood morning.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re so mean.â€ť He said in a tired tone.
Shaw tipped his head to the side. â€śI asked nicely.â€ť He reached up and brushed some hair away from Malcolmâ€™s forehead. â€śHas anyone ever told you you look adorably unkempt when you wake up?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t.â€ť Sleepy eyes looked Shaw over. â€śWhy do you look so perfect?â€ť
â€śMagic and ponytail holders.â€ť
â€śWhat time is it?â€ť
â€śI guess it isnâ€™t that earlyâ€ť
â€śwe had a late night and youâ€™ve never had more than two days off in a row so I wanted to get you up while i had youâ€ť
â€śyeah, I have to work tomorrow. Should we work on another song today?â€ť
â€śmaybe after lunch, lets start our day with something else. We could play another video or go to Gamestop and buying something new to playâ€ť
â€śa lot of the tales games you play together. I didnâ€™t see any in your collection. Do you have one?â€ť
â€śNope, so it looks like weâ€™re going to game stop. Iâ€™ve already got coffee going. Iâ€™ll go down and start omelettes while you get changed. Just go back to my room and change in thereâ€ť Malcolm rubbed his eyes â€śOkayâ€ť Shaw left Malcolm and went to make breakfast like he said he would. It felt like it took forever for Malcolm to get into the kitchen but Shaw knew it couldnâ€™t have been that long. He was still cooking the second omelette.
â€śI donâ€™t think your clothes are quite my style and theyâ€™re so nice.â€ť Malcolm said and Shaw turned just enough to look at him. He was wearing one of his favorite sweaters, a dark red, knit turtleneck that somehow managed to still fit loosely on him.
â€śI think it looks good one you.â€ť He reached over and grabbed his phone. â€śStrike a pose.â€ť
â€śShaw, come on.â€ť
â€śDo it or Iâ€™ll take it anyway.â€ť
Malcolm rolled his eyes and posed. â€śYou look like a real tough guy.â€ť
â€śLet me see.â€ť Shaw held out his phone and Malcolm took it while he turned to finish the second omelette. â€śI look like a kid who stole his dadâ€™s sweater.â€ť He looked down at himself. â€śWhy is is so big?â€ť
Shaw shrugged. â€śIt was the last one they had and I wanted it.â€ť He transferred the omelette over. â€śWant to get the coffee?â€ť
â€śSure, but can I delete this?â€ť
â€śCome on, I look like such a dork.â€ť
â€śI happen to think you look absolutely adorable so let me keep it.â€ť
Malcolm blushed, his heart giving a little stutter. â€śWell, I mean if you really want it.â€ť He sat Shawâ€™s phone down on the counter and found the coffee cups, filling two of them.
â€śI happen to like how cute you are.â€ť Shaw said as he reached around him to the silverware drawer, the closeness causing his entire body to warm.
â€śYou do?â€ť He couldnâ€™t look at him, he was too embarrassed.
They were soon sitting at the table together, Shaw still occasionally admiring how cute Malcolm looked in his sweater. He realized over that meal that he had really always found his friend attractive but had never allowed those thoughts to flourish since they had such an amazing friendship. Few people could actually remain good friends if they tried something more and it didnâ€™t work and he guessed the friendship had always just meant too much to him. Now that Malcolm had confessed his feelings and he was single there was no denying the chemistry,
He just didnâ€™t want to spring it on him just yet. They had only just started talking again and he didnâ€™t want Malcolm to feel like a rebound. For now he decided heâ€™d wait until he had been divorced a year before outright telling Malcolm he felt the same way. For now, heâ€™d just enjoy having him back in his life because that was all he truly needed.
~ The End
â€śI think I might die waiting for season two Karen, I mean it. Itâ€™s funny I only gave it a try because my favorite voice actor dubbing for Akihito but itâ€™s seriously one of the best Iâ€™ve ever seenâ€ť Her friend Karen laughed, that familiar amused look on her face when sheâ€™d talk about her favorite anime voice actor when they translated anime to english. She guessed it was because she gushed so much about his voice. â€śwell I need to go to bed since my half brothers flight comes in so early tomorrow. Why donâ€™t you spend the night and come with me. I mean itâ€™s already almost midnight so Iâ€™d like you to stay anyway so I donâ€™t have to stress about you falling asleep at the wheel but I think youâ€™d be glad you met him as soon as he got hereâ€ť
â€śsure, any sibling of yours must be awesome. Does he like anime too? Thereâ€™s another one I want to watch with you but Iâ€™ll wait until he goes home if heâ€™ll hate us watching stuff like thatâ€ť
â€śOh, he likes animeâ€ť Karen laughed again and Adlai gave her a puzzled look â€śWhy do I feel like Iâ€™m the butt of some joke with you since you told me your brothers coming to visit? Is he like deliriously hot and you think Iâ€™ll swoon or something? Is this a set up?â€ť
â€śLets just get some rest. Just trust me, youâ€™ll really like my brotherâ€ť
â€śWhy havenâ€™t you told me anything about him then?â€ť
â€śJust trust your bestie okay? I want him to be a surprise. Before, you know me, I am not a big sharey person of personal details in general but something you ended up telling me made me want to save everything about him for when you meet himâ€ť
â€śDoes he know anything about me?â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s on my Facebook and you tag me all the time so youâ€™ve come upâ€ť
â€śwhatâ€™s his name?â€ť
â€śso you can stalk his feed? Nope, besides, he doesnâ€™t have his real name on there anywayâ€ť
â€śKaren, the suspense is going to kill me. Iâ€™m already dieing waiting for season two of this animeâ€ť Karen laughed again â€śgoodnight bestieâ€ť she repeated then went to her bedroom, knowing Adlai would make herself at home in the guest room. She had spent the night many nights before.
Adlai couldnâ€™t help but think of what might make Karen act like her brother was so mysterious? Was he a recluse or overly eccentric? Was he shy maybe? She racked her brain until she knew she needed to go to sleep then switched on the TV and put on one of her favorite shows, turning the volume down low before curling up and falling asleep. â€śRise and shine Sleeping Beauty.â€ť Karen said the next morning, rousing Adlai from her sleep.
â€śMorning.â€ť Adlai replied with a yawn as she sat up and rubbed her eyes then swept her hair away from her face. She grabbed her phone and checked the time. â€śYou werenâ€™t kidding, itâ€™s way too early.â€ť
â€śBorrow some of my clothes and get a shower while I make us something to eat real quick.â€ť
â€śOkay.â€ť She yawned again as he headed into Karenâ€™s room and went through her clothes.
Once she found something to wear she took a quick shower, not wanting her friends brother stuck at the airport too long. They ate together then rinsed off the dishâ€™s before leaving them in the sink so they could hurry off. â€śare we making good time?â€ť
â€śyeah, heâ€™s laid back like us so even if heâ€™s sat there a bit he wont be madâ€ť
â€śoh wow, actual information about himâ€ť Karen laughed â€śwell youâ€™re about to meet him so I donâ€™t have to be quite so mysterious nowâ€ť
â€śYouâ€™re killing meâ€ť
â€śand itâ€™s so much funâ€ť Adlai may have nudged her friend if she wasnâ€™t driving. They pulled up to the airport and found a spot to wait for him inside â€świll you tell me anything else?â€ť
â€śheâ€™ll be here any momentâ€ť Zephyr wore a big smile as he collected his luggage to go meet his sister and Adlai. He didnâ€™t often like attention for his work voice acting but Adlai was incredible cute and his sister didnâ€™t let people close easily so he knew she was a good person. He was actually excited and happy for the fact heâ€™d have a good opening with her. He hadnâ€™t dated in forever and while he wouldnt actually admit it forming something with Adlai had certainly crossed his mind a time or two when heâ€™d see her in pictures or when his sister would talk about her.
He just still wasnâ€™t sure how heâ€™d speak to her at first, what he should say but he was running out of time as he walked to where his sister said theyâ€™d be. â€ścome on, you can think of something goodâ€ť he said to himself but his own nerves from the fact heâ€™d actually be meeting Adlai today were getting to him.
â€śThere he is.â€ť Karen said, causing Adlaiâ€™s heart to skip in her chest. Her friend was on her feet and waving and yelling. â€śZeph.â€ť
The voice hit Adlai long before the face and she froze behind her friend, mouth hanging part way open. â€śShorty? Better shut up before I beat you up.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m terrified.â€ť They both laughed and then Karen turned, her smile widening at Adlaiâ€™s expression. â€śZephyr this is Adlai and Adlai this is my brother, Zephyr.â€ť
Zephyr smiled, holding out his hand. â€śItâ€™s nice to finally meet you.â€ť He was proud of himself for at least accomplishing a greeting.
Adlai blinked, blushed and snapped her mouth shut. â€śUhâ€¦â€ť she looked at his hand, her brain finally catching up, and quickly took it. â€śNice to meet you, youâ€™reâ€¦butâ€¦â€ť she looked at Karen. â€śHeâ€™sâ€¦heâ€™sâ€¦â€ť
Karen laughed â€śHeâ€™s your favorite voice actor and heâ€™s excited to get to know youâ€ť It made Adlai blush even more that Karen had said that out loud in front of him. She looked back at Zephyr â€śIâ€¦I promise normally I can hold real conversationsâ€ť He smiled and it was practically heart stopping â€śI knew she wasnâ€™t going to tell you who I was ahead of time. I know how surprising it must be. I meet a lot of fans and youâ€™re handling yourself well. Iâ€™ve been tackled a few times to be honestâ€ť
â€śLets get him back to my placeâ€ť Karen suggested and the two followed her as she began to walk, each taking a side. Adlais heart was racing, wondering if she was going to wake up to find this had all been a dream. Her best friends brother was her favorite voice actor? Did that stuff really happen?
â€śSo, working on anything new?â€ť Karen asked as she drove, trying to start a conversation between her friend and her brother.
â€śThatâ€™s a secret.â€ť He answered with a smile.
â€śCome on, you wonâ€™t even tell me for Adlai?â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s hardly fair.â€ť He turned in his seat to look at Adlai. â€śWould you like to know?â€ť
Adlai blushed. â€śWell, I mean if you want to tell me. I wonâ€™t make you, but um maybe a little?â€ť
He chuckled. â€śWell, the character Iâ€™m playing is a bit of a jerk with bright red hair and a reputation for being a delinquent, but he meets his match pretty quickly. Itâ€™ll be a first for me, playing someone whoâ€™s more or less a bad boy.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure youâ€™ll be able to pull it off, youâ€™re already really good. I canâ€™t wait to see it.â€ť
â€śI can always send you a play by play or if youâ€™re up to it, you could come and watch me work.â€ť
â€śYeah, Iâ€™d like for you toâ€ť Zephyr saw his sister grin and tried to ignore her silent teasing â€śso who are you on Karens Facebook then?â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll go ahead and add you, Iâ€™m Reph Retsod. Itâ€™s a mix of my name, kind of stupid I know but I like to have one thatâ€™s not over run with fans. I appreciate them all but you knowâ€ť
â€śI get itâ€ť He pulled out his cellphone and suddenly hers vibrated. She quickly accepted, her heart fluttering that she was actually Facebook friends with him. There was so much to be excited and nervous about that she barely knew what to do with herself as she waited for them to finally arrive back at Karens. â€śso if you end up staying the night again Adlai you can just sleep with me since my brother will now have the guest roomâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure you two want to catch up.â€ť Adlai said, plus she didnâ€™t want to look like some crazy fan girl.
â€śStay, Iâ€™d feel rude otherwise.â€ť Zephyr said, surprised at how fast the words came out. â€śIf you want to I mean.â€ť
â€śReally, you wouldnâ€™t mind?â€ť
â€śNot at all. We can all hang out, watch anime. Iâ€™m curious about which ones outside of my work are your favorites. Maybe I could find something similar to act in.â€ť
â€śAnd you can tell him which of his performances was the worst.â€ť Karen teased.
â€śHe hasnâ€™t had any bad ones though.â€ť Adlai blushed. â€śI mean, at least I donâ€™t think so.â€ť
Zephyr smiled which only made her embarrassment worse. â€śso what do you do besides voice actingâ€¦what do you like doing?â€ť Adlai asked, wanting to keep the conversation rolling. Karen almost irresistibly wanted to tease, saying ” Possibly you soon” but she kept it to herself. â€śwell, my friends and I get together to play board games from time to timeâ€ť
â€śHe writes poetry toâ€ť Karen added and Zephyr sighed â€śdonâ€™t say thatâ€ť
â€śI used to write poetry, forever ago, itâ€™s never been good enough to shareâ€ť
â€śI bet mom still has someâ€ť
â€śKarenâ€ť she pulled out her phone with a grin and he said â€śwould you like to watch something Adlai?â€ť
â€śsureâ€ť As they moved to the couch she could tell he was blushing too. It actually made her a little more comfortable that he was just as embarrassed as her.
She watched as Zephyr sat there writing in a notebook until he noticed he was being recorded and looked embarrassed. â€śWhat are you writing?â€ť Karenâ€™s voice came from behind the camera.
Zephyr sighed. â€śNothing really.â€ť
â€śAwe come on, share.â€ť
â€śDo you have to record me?â€ť
â€śOf course, I need blackmail.â€ť
â€śCome on Karen.â€ť
He ran his fingers through his hair, nodding. â€śDonâ€™t blame me if it sounds terrible.â€ť
He began to read off the poem he had been working on and Adlai smiled as Zephyr just looked more and more uncomfortable. â€śThat sounded goodâ€ť Adlai told him and he said â€śyou donâ€™t have to be so niceâ€ť
â€śNo, it was, you shouldnâ€™t have quitâ€ť
â€śdo you favor any certain poets?â€ť
â€śI really like Sara Teasdale, especially her poem I Am Not Yours. Iâ€™m not sure why, beyond that no real favorites. I just have a lot of certain poems I like. What started you writing poetry?â€ť
â€śA cousin of ours needed help with one and I ended up doing a lot on my ownâ€ť
â€śfor a girlâ€ť
â€śdid he end up winning her over?â€ť
â€śwhat girl doesnâ€™t like poetry? Especially when a guy puts special effort into one for youâ€ť Karen interjected. They awkwardly talked for a while longer, still trying to break the ice of meeting someone new then switched on some anime. Zephyr was glad for it, he could learn more about Adlai without feeling so awkward.
â€śWhatâ€™s your favorite genre?â€ť He asked as they watched.
â€śAdventure, romance type stuff, magicâ€™s a plus. You?â€ť
â€śFighting, you know man stuff.â€ť He joked.
She smiled and he felt his heart skip a beat. â€śI can see that. You seem to have a lot of fun during action sequences. Iâ€™m sometimes surprised you donâ€™t blow out your voice.â€ť
â€śI have before. I kept having to do this one scream over and over again and afterwards my throat was so raw and my voice was so raspy that I was ordered to take a break so I wouldnâ€™t hurt myself. I wanted to keep going, but they wouldnâ€™t let me.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s good they stop youâ€ť
â€śdamage that voice too much and youâ€™ll break her heartâ€ť Karen teased. Adlai looked back at the tv, feeling a little embarrassed again. After dinner that night Zephyr went to the guest room and Adlai joined Karen in her room â€śso, how was todayâ€ť
â€śyou were killing me with all that teasingâ€ť
â€śHey, I was teasing him too at times. I can tell he likes being around youâ€ť Karen laughed as her friend turned pink again â€śI wish you would have warn me who he wasâ€ť
â€śIt was so much fun surprising you though. Besides, you would have over worried and heâ€™s not much to fuss aboutâ€ť Karen winked at her friend as she finished the sentence. They changed into pajamas and settled into bed. Adlai couldnâ€™t sleep, over thinking the entire day until she finally decided that truly, this was just Karens brother and he seemed really nice. Chances were he wasnâ€™t being as over critical of her as she was being of herself.
The next morning Adlai woke a little groggy. She was surprised she had managed to fall asleep at all. Karen wasnâ€™t there so she got up and headed out of the room. She could hear Karen and Zephyr talking. The smell of food hit her nose and when she finally stepped out into the living room, she could see Karen sipping coffee from the kitchen table while Zephyr cooked. She stood there staring at him until Karen noticed her. â€śGood morning sleeping beauty.â€ť
Zephyr half turned, smiling at her, causing a blush to tint her cheeks. â€śGood morning, want some breakfast or coffee?â€ť
â€śSugar and cream?â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll get it for her silly, you just focus on not burning breakfast.â€ť Karen teased. â€śCome sit down Adlai, unless you want to eat from there.â€ť
Adlai crossed over to the table and took a seat, surprised that Zephyr was still watching her. â€śDid you sleep well?â€ť She asked.
â€śI did, you?â€ť
â€śYeahâ€¦well kind of. I must look rough.â€ť She pushed some hair away from her face.
â€śNot at all.â€ť
â€śSays the man who always wakes up looking like a supermodel.â€ť Karen said as she sat a cup of coffee in front of Adlai. â€śSeriously brother, did you get turned into a vampire or make a deal with the Devil?â€ť
He chuckled nervously and went back to cooking. Adlai took a small sip of her coffee and had to admit Karen was right. Zephyr looked perfect despite it being so early and already making an amazing smelling breakfast. â€śwhere did you learn to cook?â€ť Adlai asked and he answered â€śI live alone so I took some classes. Itâ€™s nice not having to go out to eat as much as some of my friends. I only really order out or grab something if Iâ€™m working a lot and canâ€™t find the time to cookâ€ť Adlai took a longer sip of her coffee, allowing the warmth and caffeine to wake her up a little more. She was grateful there had already been some waiting after her struggle to sleep.
The smell of cinnamon filled the kitchen and she didnâ€™t realize he had been baking something as well. His timer went off and he pulled a bundt cake pan. He flipped it over onto a plate then quickly put it in the middle of the table. â€śMonkey bread.â€ť He said as he went back dished food onto their plates, grabbed some silverware then moved everything to the table. â€śI hope you donâ€™t have any allergies or anything.â€ť
â€śNope, none and this all looks amazing.â€ť Adlai replied.
â€śTry some of the bread, it goes great with coffee.â€ť He reached over and pulled some off and took a bite, nodding. â€śI call that a win, it came out perfect.â€ť
â€śWow bro, going all out.â€ť
â€śI could have just stuck with regular old pancakes, but Adlaiâ€™s here and I think she deserves something for having to deal with being surprised.â€ť
After breakfast Karen said â€śwe should go out and really have some fun. Adlai is a pretty good bowler, used to play competitively as a child. Why donâ€™t we all go bowling Zephyr?â€ť
â€śThat sounds funâ€ť
â€śdonâ€™t let her hype me up too muchâ€¦it was just a kids league. My mom needed some place for me after school until she got off work and one of the local bowling alleys had an after school programâ€ť
â€śit must have been a lot of funâ€ť
â€śYeah, I loved itâ€ť They readied themselves to go out then headed over to the bowling alley, happy to find not many other people were there. Zephyr insisted on paying for everything, surprising Adlai again. â€śyouâ€™ll have to let me buy lunch or somethingâ€ť Adlai said as she put on her bowling shoes. Karen spoke before her brother could â€śyou and I can split the cost of getting pizza and drinks here, if we stay that long. If not weâ€™ll figure out splitting the lunch bill elsewhereâ€ť They picked their balls and they were finally ready. Adlai went first, proving how she spent her days after school by making a strike.
They bowled a few games, laughing and cheering eachother on the entire time. When they were tired of it they played in the arcade. This particular bowling alley had a fairly big one so they didnâ€™t realize how much time they had been there until hunger pains made them check the time. Since they were still there they decided to go with the pizza plan, the two girls splitting it since Zephyr had paid for their shoe rentals and the lane.
Adlais phone rang, playing the melody that told her it was one of the coffee shop employees so she took it â€śhello?â€ť both Zephyr and Karen were worried sheâ€™d have to go in as they heard her say â€śOh no itâ€™s fine, you just take care of Emma. Iâ€™ll call Carlyâ€ť she hung up â€śIâ€™m so sorry Zephyr, Iâ€™m a manager at a coffee shop. Just one more second. Would you two like me to walk outside?â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re fine Adlaiâ€ť Karen insisted. Adlai called Carly, relieved she picked up â€ścan you cover Marniâ€™s shift today? Even if you can just work until four I would greatly appreciate it. I need someone to cover her or Cory will be working by himself and heâ€™s still too new for thatâ€ť Adlai looked relieved as she said â€śjust go in as soon as you can, her shift already startedâ€ť there was a small pause before Adlai said â€śher full shift would have been until nine. You are such a blessing, thank youâ€ť Adlai had deeply not wanted to go into work.
â€śdid we dodge a bullet?â€ť Karen asked and Adlai said â€śyeah, thankfully sheâ€™ll even cover Marnis full shiftâ€ť
â€śher kid has been sick a lot latelyâ€ť
â€śYeah but the flu has been going around hard so I donâ€™t think sheâ€™s making it up to get out of work. Iâ€™ve never had problems with her until this flu seasonâ€ť
Do you like working there?â€ť Zephyr asked.
â€śYeah, itâ€™s pretty nice.â€ť
â€śWell if that ever changes, I could always use a new PA.â€ť
Karen laughed. â€śGeez Zeph.â€ť
â€śI said if, Iâ€™m not asking her to just uproot her life and move. Just if she ever wants or needs a change.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll keep it in mind.â€ť Adlai replied with a blush.
â€śAnd even if you donâ€™t, Iâ€™ll still fly you out to watch me work.â€ť He stood. â€śAlright, letâ€™s see if I can redeem myself. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever lost so hard in my life.â€ť
Adlai couldnâ€™t help but smile. â€śI could always go easy on you.â€ť
â€śYou better not.â€ť He said with a chuckle.
They played a few more rounds then returned to Karens to binge on more anime. The next morning when Adlai did have to work Zephyr felt a sad tug at his heart when she left and soon felt his sisters hand slam into the back of his head once she had driven off â€śIâ€™m still here you beaten little puppyâ€ť
â€śwhatâ€¦you were trying to set us up anyway right?â€ť
â€śYeah, Iâ€™m glad you two are actually hitting it off. Sheâ€™s my best friend though, if things get serious donâ€™t make me strangle you. Canâ€™t believe youâ€™re already trying to drag her to where you live. Iâ€™ll miss her you knowâ€ť
â€śyou could always move tooâ€ť
â€śtrue, could I mooch off you awhile if I did?â€ť
â€śOf courseâ€¦Iâ€™d owe you anyway for setting me up with heâ€ť
â€śthats right, now start paying me back by making that amazing hot chocolateâ€ť Zephyr chuckled and walked over to the kitchen, hoping time would move quickly so he could hangout with Adlai again.After her shift Adlai called Karen ‘hey, you coming back?” Karen asked and Adlai said â€śIâ€™m going to go home for a shower, some clothes and more make up. Should I eat dinner or can I eat with you guys?â€ť suddenly Zephyr called out â€śIâ€™ll cook, just come over afterâ€ť she blushed, surprised he had such amazing hearing. â€śOkay, Iâ€™ll see you two in maybe an hour. Iâ€™ll text you when Iâ€™m on the way overâ€ť
Adlai went straight home, taking a long shower then changing into something she felt particularly pretty in. Next she packed a bag then ran around, tidying up a little bit incase they all ended up over here for some reason.Last she double checked to make sure all her make up supplies were in her purse then texted Karen to let her know it wouldnâ€™t be long before she was back at her place. â€śsheâ€™s on her wayâ€ť Karen said as an answer to the hopeful look her brother wore. He got up to begin his work preparing dinner for the three of them, they had decided on something spicy.
Adlai was nervous as she headed back to Karenâ€™s. She couldnâ€™t help but wonder if she had dressed up too much. When she got there, she took a deep breath before exiting her car and heading up to the front door. Since she didnâ€™t have to knock, she just walked right in and could smell something delicious. â€śThere she is.â€ť Karen said with a big smile. â€śWell look at you.â€ť
â€śGot a hot date?â€ť Karen teased and Adlai blushed.
â€śNo, just felt like looking nice.â€ť
â€śWell come on then, letâ€™s show you off.â€ť
â€śCome on silly.â€ť She took her arm and pulled her toward the kitchen.
Zephyr was floored when he turned to greet Adlai. It was of course Karen again who began teasing â€śPick your jaw up off the floor. You two should just kiss alreadyâ€ť
â€śKarenâ€ť Adlai exclaimed, holding her face. Karen just laughed, thoroughly enjoying watching all this unfold. â€śweâ€¦weâ€™ve just met Karenâ€ť Zephyr practically stuttered. â€śwhat are we having for dinner?â€ť Adlai said, looking at the floor due to embarrassment â€śa recipe I made up myself, I hope you like spicyâ€ť
â€śyeahâ€¦I doâ€ť Karen decided to lay off a little, just enjoying the evening with her best friend and brother. They grew closer in the passing days, to the point Zephyr dreaded having to go back home soon since he didnâ€™t know if Adlai would go with him or how often he could come here to see her if she didnâ€™t come. Since time was growing near he nervously asked her again â€śsoâ€¦do you think youâ€™d like to come be my PA? Youâ€™ve thought about it a little right?â€ť
â€śwellâ€¦I talked to the owner of the coffee shop yesterday actuallyâ€ť
â€śYeahâ€¦I recommended Carly for my position since I do want to go and he wishâ€™s me all the best and shes getting a much deserved promotionâ€¦â€ť He smiled and it touched her how relieved he looked but what meant more was that he hugged her tightly. She hugged back, just enjoying being so close until he pulled back nervously â€śis hugging you okay?â€ť
â€śweâ€™re good friends now arenâ€™t we?â€ť he smiled again â€śyeahâ€ť He couldnâ€™t believe it, she was actually coming home with him and were one step closer in the way he wanted things to go. He wanted everything with her but at the same time Adlai was a woman worth waiting for and winning over. He wanted to be with her forever and that meant even as friends. Karen was over the moon and started getting her own life in order to move with them â€ścanâ€™t believe Iâ€™m going to have roomates againâ€ť Karen said happily and Zephyr just thought again that he couldnâ€™t believe things were going so right in his life.
~ The End
Crius watched nervously as Nesoi swam into the deeper water, his heart twisting in his chest as he watched for sharks or aggressive seals. She was searching for shells for a project she was working on and he had insisted on accompanying her. She dipped low and picked up another then turned and made her way back to him. “Can we go back now?” He asked as his eyes moved to her slightly rounded belly.
“Yes, of course.” She said and they surfaced. They swam back to shore, him staying close even when they shifted back to their human legs and walked through the shallows.
“How are you feeling?” He asked.
She giggled. “Fine silly, I didn’t get hurt.” She cradled the blue shells with one arm and reach up with her hand to cup his cheek. “I’m alright, you shouldn’t worry so much.”
His hand slid over hers. “I can’t help it.” He wanted her home. “May I carry you once we’re dressed?”
She smiled. “I’d like that very much.”
“So what are you doing with those?”
“It’s for the baby. It’s tradition to make something.”
“Should I help?”
“You don’t have to.”
“Are you sure?”
Nesoi was amazed at how stressed he was about her pregnancy. She had never seen him like this. “Crius, maybe we should take a little trip so you can relax. You’ve been nothing but worried lately.”
He frowned. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, it just means you love us, but I don’t want you making yourself sick. I know it scares you to see me out swimming in the ocean when I’m showing, but my mother did it and my grandmother.”
“I know, I just…if I lost you or the baby, it would kill me.”
She smiled as she pressed a kiss to his lips. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“Maybe a trip really would be good though, somewhere peaceful. Once we have the baby it will be harder to travel, at least for awhile. This is our last shot as just a couple.”
“You’d be happy with somewhere peaceful?”
“Yes, I mostly want you to relax. It’s not healthy to stress so much, even if you aren’t pregnant. I need you around forever Crius. We could even make it a family outing and involve your sister. I always enjoy spending time with her, but I’m happy either way. Just us or a family affair?”
“It couldn’t hurt to have someone else around and my sister is always fun, scary at times, but fun.”
Nesoi laughed, “I love her spirit.”
Theia was sitting on her front porch when they returned, playing with her fat cat. She smiled when she saw them coming and got up, waving at them. “Well you look like you’ve been traumatized.” She teased and Crius sighed.
“I definitely have.”
“Awe, you’re so sweet, but you know she spent most of her life in the water.”
“I know.” He lowered Nesoi’s feet to the ground.
“It’s just first time parent jitters.” Nesoi said with a loving smile. Then to Theia, “We’re planning on going on a trip, want to come?”
“I’d love to, I’ve been dying to go somewhere.”
“It has to be somewhere peaceful for the baby.” Crius said.
“And for you, Crius, you need relaxation.” Nesoi added.
“Oh yeah, relaxation.” Theia said with a wink and laughed when they both blushed. “You two are adorable, I mean you made a baby.”
“Theia.” Crius groaned.
“Well you did and I’m excited about it. I finally get to be an aunt and of a mermaid baby.”
Nesoi smiled as she asked, “Do you have any ideas on where to go?”
“Well Crius, did you find any place new that looked peaceful on your way back home from the war?”
He seemed to think for a few seconds before saying, “Yeah, come to think of it I know a really good place.”
“Then let’s get ready so we can leave tomorrow. I mean, dinner is in only two hours so unless you want her to camp unnecessarily while pregnant.”
“Yeah, if we take some horses she wont have to camp until we’re there if we wait and leave at dawn.”
“Let me go rent some horses then, you two pack and relax.”
“Yeah, I’ve just been lazing about with my cat today. I probably should do something productive. I know he probably wants you off your feet and he knows you wont be unless he’s there fussing over you.”
Crius took Nesoi’s hand and guided her into their home as his sister left. He let her set her shells down on the coffee table and then lifted her, carrying her up to their room. “You relax here, let me pack.” He said as he sat her down on their bed.
“I can help.”
“Crius, you need to stop stressing.”
He sighed. “I’m sorry. Between this being our first child and my medical training…I know I’m being ridiculous, but I can’t lose either of you.”
“I know baby, but please try to breathe. Everything’s going to be fine.” She pulled him down, pressing a kiss to his lips. “I’ll stay here for you, but if you can’t find something let me know.”
“I will, I promise.” He bent down and kiss her belly. “And you go easy on your mother okay, I love you little one.”
Nesoi smiled, her heart feeling that familiar warmth he caused in so many ways. Crius was such a sweet man and she couldn’t wait to see him as a father. She knew he would be incredible no matter the gender. If they had a boy hopefully he turned out precisely like his dad and if they had a girl she knew he would make sure she was always safe. Crius managed to pack the bag without needing her assistance, but he did double check with her everything in it. “That sounds perfect honey.”
“Good, I guess since my sister isn’t back yet I’ll start on dinner by myself. Do you feel like tacos?”
“Sure, let me make salsa so we can have chips with them too. I’ve already rested a good amount.”
“Only if you let me finish when your feet start hurting.”
“If they do I’ll tell you.”
Theia came back while Nesoi was chopping vegetables for salsa and knocked as she pushed the front door open. “That was annoying.” She said as she stepped in.
“What happened?” Nesoi asked.
“Well I got the horses and then that boy at the stable thought he should talk to me and it took forever for me to get out of there.”
Crius chuckled. “What you mean, is that you were so flustered you couldn’t get a single word in.”
“I was not.”
“Your face says otherwise.”
“Oh shut up.” Theia blushed.
“So does that mean I get to tease you now?”
“Don’t make me beat you up.”
Nesoi laughed with Crius. “Maybe you should ask him on a date.”
“He’s really cute.” she blushed harder and her brother asked “And?”
“I don’t know.”
“She’s worried about being turned down.” Nesoi answered and he said, “Dont let fear keep you from pursuing someone. I was scared to ask Nesoi and I don’t even want to think of life if I had let her pass me by”
“Maybe when we get back.”
“Maybe invite him along.” Nesoi suggested.
“Come with us…um…well he’s working.”
“Obviously he’s working or he wouldn’t have talked to me today.”
“Other people work there too you know.”
“I’m aware, but he can’t just drop work. How ridiculous would that be?”
“Either you ask him or I ask him for you.” Crius said.
“You’re impossible, you know that?”
“Are you scared?”
“No,” she crossed her arms, “absolutely not, I’ll ask him after we eat.”
Crius grinned. “Good, I’ll hold you to it.”
Nesoi couldn’t help but laugh at them and Crius brushed a kiss to her cheek. “What was that for?”
“For being so beautiful and perfect.”
“You’re so cheesy, Crius,” Theia said as she sat down at the kitchen table.
After they had their meal Crius nudged his sister out the door and she reluctantly went. She wanted to spend time with him, but if he rejected her she would still have to see him every time they wanted a horse and she wasn’t prepared for that kind of embarrassment. She wasn’t looking for him long at the stables before he showed up, that same ridiculously handsome smile on his face.
“What’re you doing back so soon?”
“I wanted to ask you something.”
“What is it Theia?” She already felt like she was drowning in his gorgeous blue eyes, but she fought through her nerves.
“I’m going on a trip with my brother and his wife and they said it was okay if you wanted to come too, but I mean, you probably have to work so.”
“I’d like to go, let me go talk to my employer. If I can I’m coming.”
“Really?” she hated how surprised she sounded and he smiled.
“I have a question for you too.”
“You really don’t notice I flirt with you all the time do you? Your nerves right now tell me it’s just as I thought, you don’t see that I think you’re a beautiful, absolutely amazing woman Theia.”
Her face became bright red and she swallowed. “Um s…so you’ll be coming then?”
He chuckled. “If you really want me too.”
“Come on Val.” She looked down at her feet in embarrassment.
“Do you want me to go?” He reached out and gently took her hand.
“Yes.” She said softly.
“Hmm? Could you look at me, I can’t hear you.”
She raised her head, giving him a little glare that had him smiling. “I said yes, now go ask.”
When he returned it was with good news. “I’m free as long as I need to be. He said there are plenty other people here.”
“Great, um, so I guess we could go to your place to pack then we can either meet in the morning because we’re planning to leave crazy early or you could come sleep on my couch.”
“Aw, why not in bed with you?”
“Be careful or I’ll uninvite you.”
He chuckled, “I was messing around. I’ll be happy to sleep on your couch if that’s really okay.”
“It is….have you really been flirting with me all this time?”
“Yep, I think you were just too nervous to notice.” They soon were at his house which was interesting to see. She had occasionally wondered what his place was like and now she wondered if he had thought of the same. “I’m ready.” Those two words broke her thoughts and she blushed again, drawing another laugh out of him.
“You’re as mean as my brother.”
“I’m just happy, I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine, we should get going.”
“Do I make you nervous?”
“No, just my brother might worry, you know if I don’t come back.”
He chuckled. “How cute.”
Crius laid next to Nesoi in bed, letting his fingers run through her beautiful pink hair as he just admired her. “God you’re beautiful.” He finally said and her smile made his heart skip a beat.
“Oh yes, it’s shocking how breathtaking you are.” He pressed a kiss to her lips.
“You’re so sweet, Crius. I’m really happy.”
“Me too.” His lips were against hers again, this time more passionate than before. He moved her onto her back, his hand sliding under her shirt to get at more of her.
He smiled briefly against her lips when he felt goosebumps start to form. He hoped his touch would always elicit such reactions so easily from her. He began to strip her, doing it slow and teasingly before tugging off his own clothes. He didn’t want anything holding them back from getting lost in one another, especially since they probably wouldn’t be able to have sex on their vacation. As they made love he couldn’t resist stopping every now and then to reign kisses all over her body. Kissing her never got old and he hoped it made her feel as loved and treasured as she was. They only made love until they both came since he didn’t want to wear her out for the morning. It was blissful just to hold her anyway and soon they were both sound asleep.
The next morning, they jumped in the shower and Crius couldn’t help but hold her for a few minutes, just basking in her warmth and beauty. It was hard not to take his time with her, but he managed to let her go so they could wash and get out before Theia came over. “I’ll cook us all a quick breakfast.” Nesoi said when they were out and dressed.
“I can do it.”
Nesoi giggled. “Crius, I can stand for more than minutes at a time.”
He sighed. “I know, sorry. I’m being annoying aren’t I?”
“Of course not, I love how sweet you are.” She kissed his cheek. “Go get your sister and ask her if…um”
“Yeah, ask her if Val is coming.”
“As long as you’re sure.”
“I am, go.”
He gave her a quick kiss and left her. He hurried over to his sister’s house and knocked on the door, surprised when Val answered. “Oh, hello.” Crius said.
“Don’t just answer the door, you don’t even…live…here…oh god.” Theia’s face turned bright red. “Don’t start.”
“Start what?” Crius asked with a laugh and Theia glared. “I was told to see if you two wanted breakfast.”
“Y…y…yeah, we’ll be over in a second.” Crius chuckled as he walked away and Theia was absolutely mortified.
“I guess typical big brother stuff?”
“Yeah, he’s been teasing me about you.”
She blushed. “Just finish getting ready.” He listened instead of teasing her more. He was simply happy she obviously returned his feelings. All this time he didn’t know if she was truly missing how he felt or if she was just trying to brush him off kindly instead of out right rejecting him. With how her brother reacted and the teasing he felt confident now that he had a chance with her, she just had to get over her own nerves and let him love her. He could be as patient as he needed to be for that and he expected this trip to be incredibly fun.
“Are they coming?” Nesoi asked when Crius returned.
“Mmhm.” Crius wrapped his arms around her as she cooked and pressed a kiss to her temple. “And guess what?”
“He stayed over there last night.”
Nesoi smiled. “Now be good, Crius.”
“Awe come on, I have to tease her a bit, I mean she does it to me all the time.” He kissed her neck, causing her to laugh.
“Alright, but only a little.”
He let his hand move over her belly. “And how are you feeling? Tired or sick or anything?”
“I’m perfect, but if you want to help you could make some coffee for me.”
“Of course, who knows, my sister might be tired from her night with him.” Nesoi laughed and he smiled. She knew she was going to hear that joke directed at his sister as soon as they got there. Theia and Val soon arrived and Crius wasted no time. She was blood red all through breakfast and Val just kept laughing.
“I thought I would like hanging out with you.” He noted to Crius who said “So in reality though did she make you sleep on the floor or the couch?”
Crius smirked. “Well, I’m glad you decided to come.”
“I’m looking forward to having some real time with her. Where are we going?”
“A place I found on my way home from the war.”
“Yeah, you were a medic right?”
“Did you like being a medic?”
“Yeah, it was a very fulfilling job, I got to help a lot of people, but it could be mentally and physically taxing at times.”
“I can only imagine. I mean I’ve worked in that stable since I was a teenager.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry if I brought up any bad memories.”
“It’s fine, really, I expect questions and I’m fine with answering them. I saw a lot of messed up stuff while I was there, but I also saved lives, not just of our troops, but also some of the enemy troops.”
“Why did you join?”
“Because I have a gift and I thought it could be put to good use on the battlefield.” He reached over and took Nesoi’s hand and brought it to his lips. “Now I can make sure Nesoi and the baby stay healthy.”
“Is everything going well with your pregnancy so far Nesoi?” Val asked, now looking at her and she answered, “Yeah, Crius has been babying me and it’s really sweet. If I seem fatigued at all he’s fussing over me.”
“Even when she doesn’t seem fatigued.” Theia added.
They finished their breakfast then set out for the stables so they could collect the horses Theia rented. Val got them set up despite the fact there were other workers there and soon they were following Crius’s lead. It worried him to have Nesoi on her own horse but she looked so happy and he knew if she needed to lean on him for support later she could get on his and they could just have her horse follow.
“How far are we going?” Val asked as they rode along the beach.
“A couple of days, but it’s worth it. There’s a lot of beautiful country between here and there.”
“Are we going to be camping?”
“No, I don’t want Nesoi sleeping on the ground. She can sleep in front of me when it gets dark.”
“I don’t mind us stopping if we have to.” Nesoi said.
“I know baby and I promise to let the horses rest if they need to, but I want to get there as quickly as possible.”
“As long as you’re sure.”
“I am, I just want you comfortable.”
“The same goes for you, Theia.” Val said. “If you get tired, you can sit in front of me and I’ll hold you.”
Her cheeks tinted, “Okay, thank you.” Her brother smirked and she tried not to notice his silent teasing.
The sea truly was gorgeous as always. It was such a beautiful color and the seagulls flew so gracefully over it. The air was amazing as well and it seemed even the horses enjoyed walking across the soft, warm sands. They passed other animals as they went along and stopped a couple times so Crius could gather any particularly beautiful shells Nesoi spotted for her project. She was putting them in a small bag she had brought specifically for this. “Whatever you’re making the baby is going to be gorgeous.” Theia said and Nesoi answered, “I can’t wait, I hope I see a few more on this beach before we move on.”
“I’m sure we will. I’ll help you look.”
They only stopped when Nesoi expressed hunger and Crius lead them away from the beach. He slid from the back of his horse then went and helped Nesoi down from hers. “Theia, would you come and help me, there are a few fruit trees near here.”
“Val, are you okay with watching over Nesoi?”
“Of course, I’ll make sure she doesn’t push herself too hard.”
“Alright, thank you.” Crius pressed a kiss to Nesoi’s lips. “We won’t be gone long.’
“I’ll be fine baby.”
Crius left with Theia, who started to tease once they were out of earshot and Val helped Nesoi sit down in the soft grass. “Is there anything you need?” Val asked.
“I’m fine, thank you. I’m really glad you came with us, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Theia show interest in anyone.”
He smiled, “She’s a hard woman to charm, but I was determined. I’ve grown to care about her quite a bit.”
“Well you seem like a good guy. Her brother feels that way too. If he didn’t like you he wouldn’t be teasing he’d be trying to get you to go away.”
“And he definitely wouldn’t have left me alone with you I don’t think.”
She smiled, “No, he wouldn’t have.” They continued talking until Crius and Theia returned with all the fruit they could carry. The skin of it was a beautiful mixture of orange and red and the inside was all white. It was delicious and they happily consumed it together as the spoke to each other about the trip so far.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and both women slept soundly in front of Crius and Val, though Theia’s heart was ready to pound out of her chest when she first took her place in front of Val. Crius turned away from the sea on the evening of their second day and lead them across a field to a wooded area. There was a path leading inside and Crius took the reigns of Nesoi’s horse as they headed in single file. “Are we close?” Nesoi asked, starting to feel a little saddle sore.
“Just a few more minutes baby then you can rest.” Crius said.
“It’s not that I’m tired, but my legs and butt are sore and the bouncing is making me have to pee.” She said with a little laugh. “I’m really excited to see where we’ll be staying.”
He hated knowing she was in pain, but they were so close she may as well recover when they arrived. Rushing water soon caught Nesoi’s ears and it excited her. What she saw next when they turned into a more open area of the wood made her forget about being saddle sore all together. The trees in this opening were either covered in yellow leaves or leaves that almost looked blue. The grass had different size circles of pure white. It wasn’t snow that covered them either, it seems the grass in those spots was simple white for one reason or another. The rushing water turned out to be a small waterfall and a gorgeous river that she couldn’t wait to investigate further.
Crius helped her off her horse as Theia and Val hopped down from theirs. “I could gut punch you for not bringing us here sooner Crius.” His sister said and he answered, “I may have, but when I got home you had such a beautiful stranger there. She kind of consumed my thoughts.”
“Absolutely not, I’m surprised I didn’t forget my own name she was so beautiful.” Nesoi blushed and he pressed a kiss to her forehead. “It’s the truth my love.”
“Why don’t you take her to use the bathroom and we’ll get everything set up.” Val said. “Are there fish in the river?”
“There should be plenty this time of year.”
“Alright, you two go on then, we can handle everything else.”
Theia turned to him as her brother and Nesoi walked away. “You’ve been very sweet and helpful.”
“Of course, it’s your brother and Nesoi is pregnant. I want him to be able to just focus on her and relaxing and besides, it gives me an excuse to spend more time with you.”
His words caused her heart to flutter again as she responded, “So, would you consider this trip our first date then?”
“I’m hoping so, honestly I’d rather skip the whole we’re just going on dates thing and be your boyfriend.”
She didn’t know what to say but he didn’t seem to require her to say anything in response. Val simply took her hand, holding it firmly in his as they walked over to the river. He had this interesting way of coming on strong but somehow not at the same time. Then again she knew she had a tendency to think too much. It was probably why she missed that her feelings were reciprocated so she forced herself to speak, no more thinking, no more being shy. “I would like you to be my boyfriend too.” He dropped the fish he had just caught and chuckled, going over to her and giving Theia a gentle kiss on the lips before going back to catching food for them.
Once Nesoi had relieved herself, Crius brought her back and helped her sit down in the soft grass. He dropped down at her feet, pulling them into his lap and removing her boots. He started to massage them and she made a little sound of relief. He then helped her turn around and started on her back. “Feeling better?”
“Yeah, thank you.” Once he was finished he lifted her and sat her on his lap, making her smile. “This place is so beautiful.”
“A beautiful location for a beautiful woman.”
She giggled. “You’re so sweet.”
He brushed his fingers through her hair, reveling in the softness. “It’s easy when it’s you my love, everything about you is so perfect.” He pressed a kiss to her lips, feeling warmth spread through him.
“You two are far too adorable.” Val said as he walked over with a fish in each hand. Theia had two as well and they sat them down in the grass. They were already cleaned and ready to cook.
“How did you catch those.” Nesoi asked.
“With his hands, he’s such a show off.” Theia said and blushed when Val grinned at her.
“You were impressed, admit it and we didn’t bring a fishing pole.”
“Thanks for taking care of that. You’ll have to show me sometime so I never have to bring a pole.”
“I wanted to be useful and now that I’m actually your sisters boyfriend I want to be invited more often.”
“Boyfriend?” Her brother asked with a playful smile, his eyes already on his sister.
She blushed. “I’m not afraid to hit you in front of him.”
Nesoi laughed along with Crius and Val. When Crius spoke he said, “Don’t worry, she threatens far more than she actually does it.”
Val chuckled again. “I figured, she’s sweet, she just doesn’t like to admit it.” He looked over at her so affectionately it was hard for Theia to keep his gaze but she did. It made her nervous but it felt amazing to be looked at like that.
It felt nice just being able to relax and Crius told himself to trust his medical training. He knew if anything happened to Nesoi or the baby, he could keep them alive and safe until they made it home. Val got a fire started and Crius cuddled Nesoi as they waited for dinner, his hand rubbing her belly which made their little one kick at him. Nesoi rested her head on his shoulder, just enjoying the beauty and the peace of the night. Once dinner was ready, they ate, washed up and then found comfortable spots on either side of the fire.
“The grass is so soft, Crius, it’s like lying on a feather bed.” Nesoi said as she snuggled into him. “I never thought a place this beautiful existed. I want to bring the baby here when it’s old enough.”
“We can come as much as you like.”
“Do you think we could build a little house here?”
“I’m sure that could be arranged.”
“I could come and help you, I’m sure my boss would let me borrow his cart and a couple of horses to haul materials.” Val said.
Soon all they could talk about was plans for a house out here. They wanted it to be big so they could have plenty of room for all the children they wanted and room for any guests wanting to stay. They conversed about the colors of each room and what sort of furniture they would want. They even discussed the most minute details like what sort of handles would be on the drawers. It made the rest of that evening truly relaxing, just as they intended this trip to be. The next day when Crius had his sister alone he teasingly said, “Maybe if things get serious with Val you two could build your home here.”
Her face was blood red as he chuckled. “He’s a nice guy, stop fighting it. The way he’s been fawning over you I bet he’d build a house with you today if you wanted it.”
“You’re broken brother, you should be shooing men away.”
“You’re too strong of a woman to need that from me.”
They spent the next couple of days exploring, both Crius and Val scouting out the best places to put a house. They thought that tucking it back in the woods a little bit would be better since it would give them even more privacy. Nesoi enjoyed the area, but her favorite spot was the river and waterfall and she played the longest there in the water. The baby seemed to sense its mother’s joy and kicked and tumbled excitedly. Nesoi and Crius enjoyed watching the love between Val and Theia grow with each passing day and Crius periodically teased Theia. When the time came for them to leave, Nesoi found herself getting a little emotional and Crius had to hide his smile as he comforted her.
“Sorry, it’s just hormones.” She said as he wiped the tears away.
“We’ll be back baby, Val and I are going to build you a beautiful house that we can come to any time you want. He or she will be able to play and explore and fall just as in love with this place as us.”
“You’re so sweet, Crius, I really love you.”
“I love you too.”
Upon arriving home from their trip Val took the horses back to the stables and Nesoi could no longer wait to start her project for the baby. Crius helped her, throwing in a few ideas of his own for the piece of art that would hang just behind the babies crib. At first it just looked like a mess of pretty shells but slowly something gorgeous was forming, he could tell this had been something her family had been doing a long time because she had seemed confident in how it would turn out from the start. It consumed the remainder of that day but in the evening there it was and Nesoi wanted Theia to see. “I’ll see if she’s up. You just wait here beautiful.” Crius said, kissing her head then going to grab his shoes. He tugged them on and ran all the way over, grinning from ear to ear when she answered the door and he could see Val sitting at her table with a cup of coffee. “Oh, I see your busy.”
“What is it?”
“We finished Nesoi’s project. She wants you to see, Val’s welcome too.”
Val got up and soon they were back at his home. She held it up proudly and Theia gasped, “That’s so pretty.”
“Your brother helped a lot.”
“Wow, where are you putting that?”
“We decided behind the crib.”
“The baby’s going to love looking at it.”
“Mhm, I’m hoping so.”
“Let me hang it for you guys.” Val offered.
“Thank you.” Nesoi said as she gently handed it over. Crius grabbed him a hammer and nail and they all went to watch him put it up. Once it was on the wall, they all stood back and once again admired the starfish pattern made up of different colored shells. It was beautiful and they knew the baby would love it. They spent the rest of the day together and both Nesoi and Crius couldn’t contain the grins on their faces when Theia shyly insisted Val stay over so he wouldn’t have to walk home in the dark.
Crius carried Nesoi upstairs where he cuddled with her under the covers, allowing his fingers to run gently through her hair. “I’m really happy for Theia.” She said.
“Me too, she seems happy and Val’s a good guy, I know I don’t have to worry about him. It’s also amusing seeing her so flustered.”
“Crius, don’t be bad.”
“Sorry.” He said with a chuckle then kissed her forehead. “I love you, you know that? I’m so lucky to have someone as sweet and as beautiful as you and I can’t wait to help you bring our baby into the world. You’re going to be such an amazing mother.”
“You’re going to make me cry.”
“Please don’t baby, I only want you to understand how truly loved you are.”
“I feel the same about you. I love you so much Crius, thank you for being so wonderful.”
He held her a little tighter and pressed another kiss to her forehead. “You honestly make it easy love.”
Akari was sitting at her kitchen table with a large cup of coffee as she contemplated what could be going on with her son Derwin. He was acting strange lately but she didn’t know what to do. He was a teenager now, if he was younger, even her daughters age she might demand he tell her but she remembered being a teen. Akari knew it was important to them they felt like adults and he certainly deserved his privacy. He had always been such a good kid. She never got called to school, he never stayed out past curfew, he hadn’t raised his voice to her since he was a toddler or anything of the sort. She loved being a parent and normally felt it was easy now that her kids were so grown but moments like these it felt impossible to decide what to do.
He was her baby and she wanted to fix whatever was wrong but he was becoming a man as well and might get terribly upset with her if she tried to push something he obviously didn’t want to talk about. She didn’t want him to push away even more. The thought of snooping through his room and computer crossed her mind but once again he had earned his right to privacy, he was such a good kid. Even as his mother she just didn’t feel she had the right to invade him like that. The door opening startled her but she was even more surprised when her son came in, he was supposed to be in school “Derwin?”
“Mom…I need to talk to you really bad. I’m sorry for skipping class but I can’t take it any more.” Finally, he was opening up about whatever it was. Today she couldn’t care less about him skipping a few classes “sit down then”
“I can’t, we need to pick up Iona first. I can’t tell you with her at school. I’ll tell you on the way but you have to promise me you’ll pick her up and you wont send her to school anymore”
“Derwin…whats going on?” Akari was nervous now. “Mom please, just get in the car and pick her up”
“and you’ll tell me on the way? Truly?”
“yes mam” she grabbed her keys and they got in the car “start talking” she said as she turned the key in the car ignition. “you know that girl that went missing…the eleventh grader?”
“Amy Harper, of course, your father is still working on her case”
“I know…um…mom…she’s not missing”
“she’s dead” she pulled the car over “what?”
“she’s dead and….I’m sorry mom…I’m so sorry” her heart felt like it might beat right out of her chest. He couldn’t have done anything to her, he just couldn’t have. “what’re you sorry about?” she pushed and he said “because I was there when she died and…I didn’t tell anybody…I didn’t tell dad even though he’s been wasting his time looking for her but…the boys that killed her told me if I told they’d kill Iona too. They said even if I told dad and he tried to hide her their dads have enough money to find her so we need to pick her up. If I’m going to tell you everything somebody has to be watching my sister”
“I need to call your father.”
“After we have her, please?”
Reuben sighed as he hung up and dropped his head into his hands. Every day it was harder to talk to young Amy’s parents. They were so hopeful and checked in at the same time everyday. He did his best not to give them false hope, only promising he wouldn’t rest until she was found. He couldn’t bring himself to say alive because she may not be. “You alright?” He raised his head and gave Gerald an exhausted smile.
“No. I know I should learn to turn it off, but all I can think is what if it was my child. I would be going mad, I wouldn’t stop until I had them back.”
Gerald patted his back. “It’s hard for all of us. You wouldn’t think so, but there are nights that I go home and just sit there and cry.”
“Yeah, it’s good to let it out. You just have to remember to keep calm in front of the family. You have to be their rock.”
“I know, thanks.”
Akari arrived at the middle school and went into the front office “Mrs Kandinsky, is everything alright?” The vice principle asked. She had been at the front desk talking to another school employee “something pretty major has come up with my family and I’d lie to pull my daughter out. How many of her absent days has she used?”
“could you check on that for me please Brenda” she asked the woman she had been talking to then looked back at Akari “it’s that serious?”
“Yes but it’s not something I’m ready to talk about” Akari didn’t want to say anything to anybody until she had talked to her husband. He was the cop and she knew he’d best know how to handle all this. “I understand, her grade has a pretty big test though in two days. Could someone drop it off or could you come get it?”
“Of course, honestly if theres any other work you or her teachers think she needs to do I’d be happy to help her with it”
“good, thank you Mrs Kandinsky” Brenda came back “she’s only missed one day this year” The vice principle spoke again “which means she has eleven days left she can be absent without a doctors excuse”
“No problem, I’ll walk with you to get your daughter” Akari felt nervous as they walked and was happy to see her daughter when they arrived at the class she was currently in “Hello Mrs Weirs, we need Iona Kandinsky. She’s going home for the day”
“alright Iona, have a good day” her teacher said as Iona began to gather her things, curious as to why both her mother and older brother were here. The Vice Principle walked them back to the office then said “I’ll call you when I figure out what she’ll need and we’ll figure out how we’re getting it to you”
“Thank you so much”
“Truly, I’m sorry to hear somethings wrong with your family. Iona is a good student and an absolute sweetheart”
“she is, I have two really amazing kids” They walked out and loaded into the car where Iona asked “what’s going on?”
“Your brother came home early with some bad news and I want to talk to your father before I say anything else okay” She didn’t want to scare Iona but she did know her daughter would need to know eventually. She just wanted her husband there when she spoke to her. He dealt with stuff like this all the time and she had no idea where to begin besides him.
Reuben was finishing up a report when his cell vibrated and he smiled when he saw Akari’s name. Just the thought of her made him feel better and he quickly answered and sat back in his chair. “Hey baby.”
“Reuben, I need you to come home.”
Her tone had him setting up straight, his heart giving a little leap. “What happened? Are the kids okay?”
“They’re fine, but it’s an emergency. Can you leave? It’s important.”
He stood, pulling his gun out of his desk and slipping it into its holster. She was scared and worried, he could tell. The last time her voice had shook like that was when he had saved her from her ex. “Let me tell my boss and I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Alright, I love you.”
“I love you too, baby.”
Reuben hurriedly went to his boss and said “I’m sorry but I need to go home, probably for the day. My wife just called and I haven’t heard her voice like that since she was with her abusive ex”
“what did she say? Can we help?”
“She just asked me to come home”
“hurry on then and let me know if it’s something you need help handling”
“Thank you” he walked briskly to his car. There was some sort of kidnapper on the loose, if not murderer so he had to hurry home. He had to see what was troubling his wife and make sure everyone was safe. He took every short cut he knew to get home then hurried up to the door and went inside. Akari had been pacing in the living room so he found himself in her embrace quickly “is everything okay?” She pulled out of the hug “Our kids are in the kitchen and I want your input on what to say to Iona before she knows whats going on so lets go talk in your car”
“okay” They walked back to his police cruiser, shutting the doors so they could talk without listening ears. “you know how weird our son has been lately?”
“yes, did he do something?”
“I don’t have much of the story yet but he came home from school early today and told me the girl that went missing, Amy Harper, is dead. He…he says he was there when some boys from his high school killed her and they told him if he told anybody they would kill Iona and that we couldn’t even hide her because their parents have enough money to track her down anywhere….I dont know what to think and I dont know what to do at all but she’s dead…the look in his eyes when he told me and the shame in his face for not coming to us sooner made it clear she’s not missing, she’s dead and if they’d kill her of course they’d hurt Iona” She was crying now so he hugged her “Nobody is touching my daughter Akari. Nobody will lay a finger on any of you. Call your friend Lily, her husband is a demon isn’t he and he made her one. We don’t need to hide her when we have a demon like Maruo on our side.”
“what do we tell Iona?”
“that she isn’t to go outside of the house without someone with her and she doesn’t need to be going anywhere period if it can be helped”
“But she’ll want to know why”
“I’ll talk to her okay honey, I’ll do it while you call Lily and Maruo” She nodded and he wiped the tears from her face “Hey, I promise you. I’ll make sure everything is okay and nobody hurts our daughter”
“can you protect our son from being a witness and not coming forward? In a murder doesn’t that make him a part of it?”
“He was scared for his sister but I’ll have to get the whole story out of him to know exactly what we’re dealing with legally on his part but come hell or high water I promise you baby you wont lose either of your children” she started crying a little harder so he held her a few moments “it’s going to be okay Akari. I love you three so much”
They went back inside and into the kitchen where Derwin was sitting staring at the table and Iona was eating some chips. Akari went and got her phone while Reuben sat down across from his children. “What’s wrong dad?” Iona asked.
Reuben sighed. “Iona, I want you to know that you aren’t in any trouble, that you haven’t done anything wrong, but you’re going to be staying either inside for awhile or if you have to go anywhere, you’ll have an escort.”
“Your brother witnessed something really bad and the boys responsible threatened to hurt you if he said anything. I know it’s unfair, but I want you to do this for me until it’s safe.”
“Thank you baby. Why don’t you go ahead and find your mother. I need to talk to your brother.”
“yes sir” she said, getting up and giving her dad a quick kiss on the cheek before running to find her mother. Derwin couldn’t look at his father, he was too afraid to see anger or disappointment. He had witnessed a murder because he had been too weak and outnumbered to help and then to make it worse, he had actually kept it a secret. He had grown up with a cop, he knew what letting this go unchecked had done. Evidence they could of had right away was deteriorated or gone all together, he was less credible, valuable police time and effort hunting her had been simply wasted when he could have simply told them she was dead. “Derwin” Reuben sighed, this was much harder talking to his own son. “Derwin I wish you would have trusted in mine, your mothers and your mothers friends abilities to keep Iona safe”
“I’m sorry…I really am” Reuben could hear the shame drenching his sons voice so he tried to assure him “I still love you and while I’m upset I dont think you’re some monster or anything. You kept this a secret because you were scared for your sister, I really do understand that. I need the entire story though son, beginning to end. I know it might be hard to tell me what happened but you need to tell me every detail”
“don’t you need it on the record too or something”
“I want to just talk to my son first”
“dad, I didn’t hurt her at all. I tried to help her but I couldnt”
“I never thought for a second you might have been involved in killing her.”
“well…one of my friends, Andrew, he’s been wanting to have sex with her really bad but Amy wouldn;t have sex with anybody at school. She was actually teased quite a bit for being a virgin which was dumb because I know for a fact some of the kids that teased her were virgins too, its just nobody knew it you know”
“I promise I didn’t know they were going to help him rape her when Andrew and a few of his other friends invited me to meet her out at Jakes barn, they said it was some party but when she arrived things got out of hand so fast” he started to cry and Reubens fatherly instincts kicked in. He took his son into his arms and held him, letting him cry a few moments before he pushed him to tell him more “I would have never thought she was so strong or fast but she fought so hard and she wouldnt stop fighting. When I realized what they were trying to do and intervened two of them beat the hell out of me….it was when I came home and told you guys somebody had robbed me for the allowance you give me….I think her parents might would like to know they never did get to rape her. They slammed her a little too hard into the wall of the barn and there so happened to be something really sharp and pointy there. I dont know what it was but then they weren’t turned on by her anymore. One of them actually threw up. It had gone right through her head.”
The horror on his sons face only increased the anger Reuben felt in his heart “I wanted to call an ambulance which was when they threatened me. They told me to just leave while they’d still let me and not tell a soul or they’d…..they’d do what they wanted to do to Iona then kill her….I couldn’t tell mom that they threatened to rape Iona…I..” he was sobbing again.
“It’s alright, Reuben, everything’s going to be alright.” He held his son back so he could look at him. “I promise your sister and mother will be safe, that it doesn’t matter how much money those brats have, no one else will be hurt.”
“What do I do?”
“We’re going to have to talk to the police chief. I know you’re scared, but he’s a good man.”
“But doesn’t that mean I’ll have to testify?”
“Yes, but you’re the only witness and the best bet to get them put away.”
“Am I going to go to jail?”
Reuben shook his head. “No, you were scared and and beaten. I’m sure they’ll understand and we’ll hire someone that will make everyone see that.” He hugged his son again. “Please tell me when something bad happens from now on, no matter what it is.”
“I will, I’m so sorry dad.”
Akari came down with Iona “so Lily and Maruo are on their way. They were heading to grab some fast food and are bringing us all some. I just had them get you two what you order most from where they were going”
“thank you” Akari’s heart dropped as she looked at her son. He looked so sad and afraid despite what comforts she knew her husband would have given him during their talk. She hugged him “everything will be okay son. Maruo is a skilled demon and Lily has gotten pretty good too. We’re all going to be okay” When Lily and her mate arrived Reuben only stayed long enough to eat the food they brought before leaving with Derwin. Maruo locked up after them then shut all the curtains before reminding Iona “don’t post anything to Facebook or try to go outside or peek out any windows on your own. I may be a demon but you’re still a human and I don’t want anything to happen to you. You’re like a niece to my mate Iona”
“Can I go watch some anime so I don’t have to think about it”
“Of course” Akari kissed her daughters head “do you want me to make you a smoothie or something?”
“I’m stuffed already…thanks Lily and Maruo for the food”
“You’re welcome sweetie.”
Akari sighed. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
“Derwin is such a sweet kid, I’m surprised he was able to keep that all to himself.” Lily said.
“He was more scared than I’ve ever seen him. He really thought it was the only option, my poor boy. I wish he would have trusted us.”
“I’m sure he does, but fear can be a strong emotion and his need to protect his sister was even stronger.” Maruo said. “I promise he won’t have to worry anymore. No one can get in here without us knowing.”
“I know, thank you.”
Derwin sat silently in the passenger seat of his father’s car, his head ducked in shame, his eyes on his hands. It had been hard keeping such a horrible secret and he wished he had done more. Reuben reached over and patted his knee. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“I should have fought harder.”
“You were outnumbered and scared, just the fact that you stood up for her means more than you will ever know. They could have killed you.”
“How could I not help her? How could so many boys be in on it and not care at all about how scared she was or how badly they were hurting her” Reuben sighed “Theres mob mentality that takes over, people doing things they wouldn’t normally do on their own. Then there are simple sheep who will just go with whatever the more dominant personality wants to do, theres the fact a lot of men are desensitized to rape due to all the rape porn available. They don’t see it as something so bad sometimes after they’ve seen enough of it. You can’t necessarily blame porn because we all make choices and know right from wrong, I’m just saying that can be a factor too.”
“it doesnt give anybody an excuse…I really wish I could have saved her…I wish she didn’t have to die. There are so many girls at school that would just sleep with anybody…why couldn’t they just leave her alone”
“there is so many reasons for that too son. It’s a shame but I’m really proud of your actions and I know if something similar ever happens again you’ll tell me or some other authorities right away” Derwin nodded then looked out the window. When they got to the station they hurried to the chief and Derwin poured out his story again, this time on the record, naming all the boys and with a little less tears. “I think I can speak for the rest of the officers here when I say we’ll help you with a lawyer. He’s going to need a good one against them. You know their daddies as well as I do, Henrys and Liams in particular. They get their boys out of everything and I don’t want them to do it by pushing anything off on your boy”
His boss looked a little uncomfortable as he said “that does however mean you can’t be a part of investigating.”
“You promise to keep your nose out so they can’t throw any of our evidence out”
“you know I wouldn’t compromise a case like this”
“It’s my job to make sure it’s clear Reuben. Anyway, I’ll make sure we get a warrant to search that barn and the surrounding area. You just worry about finding a lawyer”
Akari was relieved when they finally made it back home and hugged both of them the minute they were inside. “How did it go?” She asked.
“Good, I’m off the case, but I trust the chief and everyone else. He told me to find a good lawyer for Derwin.”
“I might have someone.” Maruo said. “This kind of thing is right up his alley.”
“You know him personally?”
“No, but his name is Jasper Bookchild and he’s supposed to be the most terrifying thing in the justice system. Having him on your side guarantees a win. I can get his number.”
“I’ve heard of him, do you think he’d come?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“I’ll call and see if it’s too late to make an appointment with him. If it is I’ll call again tomorrow” Jasper wasn’t in the office building when he called but his brother Lupin was and decided it was a case Jasper would want to get on immedietly so he called his brothers cellphone. When Jasper answered Lupin filled him in on what the dad had shared over the phone “I just thought it sounded like something you’d want to know about right away”
“thank you Lupin, if we’re dealing with a lot of money and parents that dont believe in consequences I want you to be my second chair. Is your case load light enough you can help?”
“I can” It still lit Lupin up the rare time Jasper wanted his help. He had been at the firm quiet awhile at this point but his brothers faith in him still meant a lot. “thank you, I’d come now but I’m at Reons school for his acting clubs performance. I’ll be in right after though unless you needed to go home”
“Brigid has plans with her parents tonight anyway. I’ll just call and let them know I’m not joining them”
“call the parents back and see if coming in to talk to us today is doable for them since I wont be free for atleast another hour”
“okay, I’ll see you in a little bit regardless. Tell Stella and the kids I said hi”
“I will” When Lupin called back he couldn’t believe how fast this was happening. As a cop he had known lawyers to be fairly slow about getting back with people. “Just let me know when my son and I should come”
“Like I said, expect a call in about an hour.”
“Where’s Iona?” Derwin asked.
“Watching anime in her room.” Akari said.
“Can I go and sit with her?”
“Sure honey. Are you hungry or anything?”
“No thank you.”
Akari let out a little sigh and Reuben hugged her. “He’ll be alright.”
“I hope so. I can’t even imagine what he must have seen.”
“If you like, before they go to bed tonight, I can talk to him.” Lily said. “You know what happened to me, what I saw, maybe if he feels like he’s not alone…”
“Of course, thank you.”
“I just hope it helps him. Truly though it’s just going to take time. It took me awhile to get over it but as you already know I did” Maruo kissed her hand, still wishing he had been faster and more able to protect her from all of that. He had never let anything else touch her again and he still swore to himself he never would. Those little punks were going to regret it if they tried to come here and do anything to a single member of this family. “what’re you watching Iona?” Derwin said as he sat on the bean bag chair she had in the corner of her room “Haikyu, I promised Alban I’d give it a try. I told him I don’t like sports anime but he still insisted”
“I’ve seen a little of this, it’s good as far as sports anime goes”
“come here and sit on the bed with me dork” He smiled, walking over to the bed and settling beside her. They were at the head of the bed, resting their backs against the headboard. She hugged him “you looked like you needed a hug”
“I do, thank you” he tried not to get emotional again. He didn’t want her to ask more questions. She was near the end of Middle School but he still just saw her as his baby sister. If it was avoidable he didn’t want her to know everything. She sat back up, her eyes returning to her television. He stayed with her until they needed to go talk to Jasper Bookchild.
“You don’t have to be afraid, Derwin, we just want to know exactly what happened.” Jasper said and Derwin slowly raised his head, swallowing.
“It’s alright son.” Reuben said as he patted Derwin on the back.
Reuben understood his son being nervous. Even as a human he could tell that Jasper and Lupin were powerful and he had heard stories about the former’s ability to intimidate even the most accomplished lawyers. He also trusted that both he and Lupin would protect his son. “It’s alright, Derwin, I know having to repeat it again and again sucks, but the more they know, the easier it will be to convict.”
Derwin nodded. “Okay dad.”
Derwin repeated everything he had told his father, making sure he didn’t leave out any details. He started tearing up again and Reuben rubbed his back, helping to keep him calm enough to get through it. Both Jasper and Lupin made notes of names and locations, where everyone was during the altercation and asked Reuben what kind of injuries Derwin had when he came home. “Do you think you can help us? Can you get them put away?”
“Absolutely.” Jasper said. “Lupin, I want you to look into who will be representing these animals, make sure you look into anything else they got away with. They sound like the type who have hurt others. Maybe we can find other victims.”
Lupin nodded then walked out, knowing his brother would give him any other important information later if anything else big came up while he was out of the room. ‘so what’re you doing in terms of keeping your daughter safe?”
“My wife is friends with two demons who are staying with us. Maruo and Lily”
“ah, Iona is in good hands then. I’m glad you’re not taking the threat lightly.”
“I couldn’t and neither could my son..I’m glad he finally told someone what he saw though”
“Me too, especially for that young girls families sake. I can’t imagine the pain they are going to feel but at least they can have closure. When it comes to Iona, even with Maruo handling it make sure you tell us if anybody does try to bother or hurt her. It can be used against them later. If possible get them on camera, even if its just a quick picture of them on your property. We’re dealing with teenagers and teenagers don’t tend to think clearly so they may help incriminate themselves” Reuben left their office with his son soon after and called home to check on everything and see if he should pick up dinner. He felt relief rush through him when his wife told him all was okay so far. Akari asked everyone there what they wanted and then let Reuben know so he could pick it up.
Over the next week Akari ended up deciding to home school her children. Getting this all cleared up was going to take awhile anyway, especially with how slow the court system worked and she had thought about home schooling them many times over the years, this was a good segue into it but she wanted to talk to her kids about it. “so, how would you two feel? I want your honest opinions.”
“I’m almost done with school anyway so why not” Derwin said and Iona seemed happy about it as she added “I wouldn’t have to get up so early right? That sounds like a dream.”
“really? I thought especially you would hate it. You’re so popular in school Iona” she shrugged “I’m only friend friends with like three people and it’s not like we have to stop being friends if I’m home schooled. I can see them on the weekends”
“I’m so glad to hear that. I wish I would have brought it up the other times I’ve thought of it”
Derwin’s relief that Iona was going to be kept safe was interrupted when his phone rang and he pulled it out of his pocket, swallowing when he saw it was Andrew. “M…mom?” He raised his phone so she could see the screen. “What do I do? Do I answer?”
“Don’t.” Maruo said. “Let it go to voicemail.”
“He’s right, just leave it alone. Your dad said we should get as much proof as possible.”
“But maybe I could just get him to admit it and turn on the others.”
Iona reached over and grabbed his arm. “I don’t want them hurting you again.” Derwin nodded and switched off his ringer. He would check his voicemail after Andrew stopped calling. He knew Andrew might text him too. “You can show dad when he gets home.”
The phone stopped and though they were hoping for a voicemail it surprised them all a little when his phone alerted him to one “No way” Derwin was really starting to think that maybe his friend really would incriminate himself. His old friend anyway, he could never think of any of those boys the same again. He considered listening to it on speaker but he was still worried about what his sister might here. He couldn’t help but be protective of her. “I didn’t have to invite you that night asshole. I can’t believe you’re doing this. You’ve made a massive mistake and I’ll have you know, Ionas looking cuter these days” The message ended and the look on Derwins face made Maruo take the phone and listen to the message “Akari, why don’t you and my mate take this phone to Reuben and the police chief. I have the kids”
“even if we have to take it over to Jasper and Lupins office?”
“yeah, I wouldn’t want either of you to go alone but I can’t leave Iona and I don’t think it’s smart to take her anywhere open. Here in the house I have the advantage.” When Akari and Lily left Iona said “I really think I deserve to know everything. Please guys, what did Andrew say?”
“she has a point Derwin” Maruo said, leaving it up to Derwin since their parents weren’t here.
Derwin opened his mouth then closed it again and sighed. Iona took his hand. “It’s okay, you can tell me.”
“Iona, it’s just…it’s bad, really bad and I don’t want it to effect you.”
“But it’ll better prepare me right?”
He sighed again. “Th…they said if I told anyone that they would take you and…and rape you and then kill you. They said there wouldn’t be anyway to hide you since their dad’s have so much money. Andrew’s going to try hurting you, he…he…I’m so sorry Iona. I wish I could do something to stop them.”
Maruo could see that Derwin was still ashamed and Iona was obviously scared, but was doing an amazing job at hiding it. She was brave, they both were. “Derwin, it’s alright, I know you’ll protect me and so will everyone else, so please don’t worry. They’re a bunch of assholes.”
“Iona, language.” Derwin said with a little laugh.
“It got you to smile. Don’t tell mom and dad, okay?”
That night Maruo decided not to sleep. They had told Derwin from the beginning that they would hurt Iona but now that Andrew had made that comment he wanted to be vigilant. It turned out to be a good choice around eleven at night when he caught the scent of a boy he didn’t know coming up to the house. He listend to the new heartbeat and followed it. He walked right into Ionas room and opened her window to find a teenager with a ladder. The boy went pale and Maruo couldn’t help but be baffled at how stupid teenagers were. This was either pure stupidity or just the result of growing up with rich daddies and no consequences. “what was your plan you little shit?” He heard a few other boys start to run, there had been multiple. He jumped out the window, grabbing the one on the ladder by his shirt then easily catching up with and collecting another.
One boy tried to shoot him and missed then shot again, hitting his shoulder. Maruo sighed “I really liked this shirt” The boy looked like he might pass out from horror as Maruo snatched his gun and knocked him out with it. He collected them all up then noticed Iona at the window, awake and obviously scared. He could hear everyone else in the house had been woken by the shots too. “I’m going to help your dad get these guys to the station. Go to my mate, she’ll make sure nobody hurts you until I get back” Iona ran from the window.
“Are you alright?” Reuben asked when he came out. He had pulled on a pair of sweats, a t-shirt, and his running shoes.
“Yeah, fine, this little shit shot me.” He dropped the unconscious boy. “Now which one of these is Andrew?”
“That one.” Reuben pointed out at one of them.
“I see, got nothing to say boy? Too afraid of the big bad demon?” Maruo asked.
“D…demon?” One of the boys said.
“That’s right, and you know what demons like to do. They love eating souls.”
Reuben would have laughed at how scared some of them looked if the situation hadn’t been so serious. These boys had fully intended to kidnap, rape, and possibly murder his daughter tonight. “Let’s get them out of here, I don’t want them anywhere near my family.” He then stuck his head into the house. “Akari, call Jasper and let him know what just happened. I know it’s late, but I have a feeling he would want to know.” He then locked and shut the door and lifted the unconscious boy up off the ground.
The boys had at least been smart enough to refuse to speak once they were at the station but even in just the first week of hiring Jasper he and his brother Lupin were building a damning case which he knew scared the parents. This would be the point the mommies and daddies would normally just pay someone off but they knew Jasper wouldn’t accept any amount of money from them to make the evidence vanish. They might not be talking about tonight but it made Jasper feel like he had this case in the bag. He had known it was coming but it still took an incredible amount of willpower not to roll his eyes when one of the parents said “well that demon still assaulted our son”
“your son shot him first. It was self defense”
“Oh he’s a demon”
“I am too and gun shots still hurt like hell. Even though we’re not likely to die from it your son shot without knowing Maruo was a demon anyway so that’s not a case at all for you.” He wanted to tell the woman she should be grateful Maruo hadn’t done worse to her son. He could see how much that family meant to him and Lily. In Jaspers opinion Maruo had shown great self control, even when dealing with the pain that wound would have caused him.
It was two months later when Jasper felt the triumph and relief that he not only got the boys convicted but had convinced the judge to have them tried as adults so they’d get a real punishment for what they had done. These boys were still technically children but they were old enough to be accountable for horrible things like this just as much as adults were. They knew and fully understood what monstrous things they were going to do and they still did them.
They all went out to celebrate after and Jasper said “you guys can call me anytime if you ever have any other problems”
“thank you so much”
“I was happy to help. Stuff like this is why I became a lawyer. My family has always been in the legal system in different capacities and they inspired me from a young age to go out there and fight for people who can’t fight this stuff for themselves.”
“I wish I had become a lawyer sooner” Lupin added. He truly loved this work too and would always regret spending so much of his life getting drunk, sleeping with everything and getting high. It had been such a colossal waste but thankfully Brigid had stumbled into his life and inspired him to finally take the help his family had always been offering. “well we’re glad you became one. Our daughter and many more daughters out there are safe because of you…plus all that other stuff you found. You helped more than just us” Things slowly went back to normal and the kids loved being home schooled. They wouldn’t let such a terrible event dampen their lives. The Kandinsky family knew they would always have eachother and together, they could face anything the world had to throw at them.
~ The End
“Can I say this kind of hurts my brain?” Lewis said as he walked next to Uther. “I mean really hurts.”
Uther chuckled. “That’s why she’s taking us to another world, to show you.”
“I’m sorry if it all sounds a bit insane.” Faye added. “It’s just you’re his friend and he didn’t want to be dishonest.”
“I get it, I’m trying to believe it. I want to believe it. Nile’s never been crazy. It’s still okay to call you Nile right?”
“Of course, call me what you like. I don’t expect you to change how you act for me.” Uther patted him on the back. “Just keep an open mind.”
“I’ll try.” Faye guided them off the path they were on and further into the woods, stopping at a ring of mushrooms. “Wait,” Lewis said, “you’re telling me fairy rings are really a thing?”
“Yes.” Faye said with a small laugh. “But you have to know how to open them. They’re like doorways. You can only fall in if they’re left open.”
“Alright, I’m not going to question it, just open it.”
Faye chanted the words needed to open this particular fairy ring and soon they were back in her world, a place she hadn’t seen in years. It felt amazing to be back, especially with Uther at her side. “You two okay?” she asked, knowing traveling like that was incredibly hard for people, especially humans their first couple times. They both assured her they were just fine then she said, “Welcome to my home world, Uther’s too. This is an amazing place. Don’t let the story of how we ended ruin it for you, there are bad people everywhere, even in places like this.”
“The air is so fresh here.”
“We don’t have cars or many of the other things that ruin your world’s air.”
“Where did we live Faye?” Uther asked and she laughed happily. She was overflowing with happiness and she guessed she would be laughing a lot here.
“You know me, how I was. I don’t really have a home. I heard your old home has been taken over, but I can still take you to it.”
“What kind of city did you live in?” Lewis asked.
“It was small, at the time at least, everyone knew everyone, that kind of place.” Uther explained.
“Is that how they found out about you?” Lewis asked Faye.
“Yes, nosy people. They decided I was evil the moment they found out about my gifts and Uther payed the price.”
“I would do it again, Faye, in a heartbeat.” He brought her fingers to his lips.
“Don’t say that, I couldn’t bare to lose you again.”
“You two really are the sweetest couple I’ve ever seen. It’s crazy thinking about a relationship spanning centuries. I hope I can find something like that.”
“I’m sure you will, you’re a great guy.” Uther said with a smile.
“Thanks.” They walked until they found a few wild horses.
“Most horses, even wild are incredibly friendly here. They might give us a ride the rest of the way if you two can handle it without a saddle and reigns. It should come natural to you Uther, you did that a lot in your past life.”
“I want to try, if I suck really bad I can hop on with Nile.”
“Sounds good to me.” Uther said so they approached the horses. Even though Faye had told them the horses would be okay with it it still surprised him a little that they could just walk up and climb on without any protesting at all from the horses. They had to be a bit slow for Lewis but just as Faye had said Uther just knew what to do, his soul remembered how to guide the horse and how to sit so it wasn’t too uncomfortable without a saddle. They had passed a few houses but when one in particular came into view he recognized it.
“That was my house wasn’t it?” there were children outside it playing around so he figured what Faye had heard was true, someone else lived there now.
“Yes.” She smiled, happy that he could just naturally remember another thing. She knew it was a blessing his soul had held on to so much. She could have had a much harder time getting him back into her life and he could be struggling much more to come to terms with everything.
“Do you think they would let me see the inside?”
“I don’t see why not.” They guided the horses over to the house and hopped down, causing the children to stop playing. “Excuse me, but are your parents home?” Faye asked and they both nodded. “Could you get them?”
The boy grabbed his sister’s hand and pulled her into the house while Faye, Uther, and Lewis waited patiently outside. A man and woman soon came out, both of them looking a little concerned. “May we help you?” The man asked.
“Yes, we’re sorry if we scared your children, but we were wondering if you wouldn’t mind letting us see this house.” Faye said then reached over and pulled Uther closer to her. “He used to live here a long time ago.”
“It’s no trouble if you don’t want us in your home, I won’t be upset. It’s just very nostalgic seeing it again.” Uther said with a smile.
The man and woman looked at each other then the woman said. “I don’t see why not, please come in. We’re sorry if we seemed defensive.”
“Not at all, those are your kids, I’d probably react the same way.” They all followed the new residents back in and Uther smiled at how the lay out of the house was still the same. He could remember every moment he had spent here with Faye.
He slowly took in his old home, staying in one room until the memories quit flooding. The family that now owned the house waited patiently, even offering them drinks and to stay for dinner if they wanted. “I have something special in mind for them for dinner, but thank you so much.” Faye responded.
“Yeah, we’re intruding on your day and you’re being really nice.” Lewis added.
The woman smiled “We weren’t doing much. It’s not really an inconvenience.”
As they left they thanked the couple again and waved bye to the kids as they passed them. “I’m glad such a nice family has it at least.” Uther said once they were riding away.
“This really is a good place and the people who caused your death are no longer in our community.”
“I still can’t believe someone would kill you.” Lewis said, sounding slightly irritated.
“They believed I had been bewitched, that Faye was controlling me or had corrupted me with her magic. They didn’t care if she was kind and generous and only trying to help. All they saw was a woman who could do magic and decided she was evil.”
“That’s in the past, love. I don’t even think anyone here even dwells on it or remembers it.” Faye said.
“I get where he’s coming from though. I mean the moment I met you, I could tell you were a good person and when I learned you could do magic, yeah I was a bit confused, but I didn’t jump to conclusions.” Lewis said. “All that mattered was what Nile thought of you. I mean they shot him. If I had been there I would have beat that guy to within an inch of his life.”
They picked up food and Faye guided them to a place she and Uther had frequently gone to eat together. “Do you remember this place?” She asked as he slid off his horse.
“I remember some of our days here. I’ve dreamed about it a few times since you found me.”
She smiled, happiness warming her heart. “What do you remember?”
“Well for starters I remember we bought food from that precise establishment a lot.”
“Yeah, that’s why I picked there.”
He could tell how much it meant to Faye when he could remember things so he was glad this was another thing he could give her. Every night when he went to sleep he hoped to remember something else of their past life and not only for her, but for him as well. They had so many amazing memories and while her telling him about them was wonderful it was nice to have the pictures in his head of old times they shared.
“So where are we staying tonight?” Lewis asked.
“Well if neither of you have any objections, I was thinking that we could camp out tonight. The weather’s so nice and Uther and I used to do it all the time, I thought it would be fun.”
“Sounds good to me as long as Lewis is comfortable.” Uther replied.
“Yeah, whatever you two want. I’m just still so amazed at all of this.”
They finished eating and just stayed there for a bit, Uther laying back and staring up at the clear blue sky while Faye talked about their time together. Lewis seemed content to listen to the stories, wanting to know more about his friend. He began to wonder if this were even his first life. “You look deep in thought.” Uther said as he sat up and Lewis nodded. “About?”
“Reincarnation. How do you know?”
“You might have dreams or just have a feeling or you may go through multiple lifetimes without ever knowing.” Faye explained.
“That’s pretty crazy to think about.”
“It is, but at the same time it’s actually kind of cool.” Uther said as he nudged his friend. “Getting to live all those different lives, learning new things, seeing the history.”
“It’s cool if you remember like you have Nile, though I may start getting used to calling you Uther. It’s a much cooler name.”
“Whatever makes you feel more comfortable, both are really my name. I agree that Uther sounds much cooler though.”
The conversation turned to possibilities of who or what Lewis would have been in his past life if he had one. Some of their ideas had them laughing as they talked through different things. Faye happily listened, adding her own things here and there. When nightfall came they made a nice fire to relax by until they were ready to rest. Faye and Uther cuddled while Lewis slept on the other side of where their fire had been.
The next morning they woke to the sound of footsteps and all froze when they saw the small herd of deer passing next to them. They all sat up slowly, watching the animals. Being in the city, neither Uther nor Lewis ever got to see anything like this so they enjoyed the moment. There were flashes of moments like this from Uther’s past, of sitting next to Faye as wild animals flocked to her. They waited until the deer had moved on then made sure the fire was completely out before getting up. “So, what’s next?” Lewis asked as he stretched.
“Breakfast.” Uther answered.
Uther laughed. “No way man, I’m on vacation.” He pressed a kiss to Faye’s forehead. “Do you know if that confectioner’s place is still open?”
“It was when I left. They just kept handing it down. I think it’s owned by the original owners grand niece.”
“Do they still make those donuts?”
“As far as I know.”
“You’re going to love it Lewis.”
“Lets go, I’m starving already. Just the mention of doughnuts has my mouth watering.” Lewis said and they all went to the confectioner Uther remembered so fondly.
The walk there was beautiful but everywhere they had been here was stunning. The chirping of the birds was such a pretty, comforting sound and the little noises of animals running and messing with one another was fun to listen to. Everything seemed to live in such harmony here. Lewis didn’t feel like he had to be afraid or uncomfortable at all despite the fact he was in a world completely new to him. Uther felt the same way but since Faye came into his life he felt like he could do anything no matter where he was.
The cry for help that came as they walked startled all of them. It was so out of place in the silent serenity of this place that at first they weren’t sure if they had heard correctly. It came again and Uther was the first to take off, leaving both Faye and Lewis to catch up. Lewis was amazed at how quick he was, considering he had never seen him even so much as run around the track back at the university. He wondered if it was due to his past self catching up with the present, if his muscles remembered every step he had taken in this place. His feet even seemed to pick their way over the land like he had never left.
“Uther, slow down.” Faye said.
“It’s this way.” Uther said as the ground began to slope up and they traveled further into the woods. They all three came to a skidding halt at the edge of a cliff and Uther looked over, seeing a teenage boy dangling a little ways down by his fingertips while his other hand held the scruff of a kitten. “Are you alright?” He asked.
“Y…yeah, help, please.”
“Just hold on.” He looked around for anything he could use then turned to Lewis. “Take off your belt.” Lewis did as he was told and handed it to Uther who looped it around his wrist then handed the other end to Lewis. “Do you think you can pull us both back up?”
“No problem, just be careful, Superman.”
Uther was fearless as he went down to the teenager, seeming like he didn’t have a doubt in his mind he could help him and get back up safely. When Uther needed Lewis to pull he did and Faye was soon helping the young man up. “Thank you all so much…I know what I did may look stupid, but this kitten means a lot to me..I couldn’t just let her fall.”
“Helping someone or a defenseless animal is never stupid. Is your kitten okay?”
The young man looked her over. “She looks fine…I’m Negan by the way.”
“I’m Uther, this is my girlfriend Faye and the man who pulled us back up and lent me his belt is my best friend Lewis.”
Lewis shook Negan’s hand. “I’m glad we heard you.”
“Let me do something to pay you three back. Have you had breakfast? I’ll buy you guys food anywhere.”
“Nonsense, you aren’t paying for anything. You may eat with us though. We were on our way to grab some doughnuts.”
“If you’re sure you don’t want me to but I’ll think of another way to thank you. You saved mine and Lystra’s lives.”
“How did she get herself in that predicament?”
“She likes to chase butterflies and never pays attention to where shes going. By the time I could catch up she was already going over.”
“I’m glad Uther is so fast.” Faye said with a warm smile.
“Uther?” Negan seemed to go into deep thought as he stroked Lystra’s head.
“Do you know me?” Uther asked.
“There was someone by that name in a book at the library. It’s one the reasons witchcraft is accepted here now, or so I was told.”
Lewis slapped Uther on the back. “You hear that, you’re an important man.”
“You’re the same man?”
“Really? That’s amazing. This must all be a surprise for you then.”
“A welcome one, yes.”
“Well, if you need anything then just ask. My family lives just a little ways out of town. We have a farm. Lystra’s a barn cat in training.”
“For now let’s go get breakfast like we talked about. We’d really like for you to join us unless you need to hurry home.”
“I have time for breakfast.” Negan followed them to the confectioner where they all ordered doughnuts. They were just as incredible as Uther had remembered and Lewis seemed to be enjoying them quite a bit too.
“How can I go home and eat sweets now?” Lewis asked which had Faye giggling.
“It wasn’t hard to bring you here so we can do this as much as you two like or can.”
“Yeah, work and all, bleh.”
“How far away do you guys live?” Negan asked and Lewis answered.
“Another world.” Faye continued explaining, “I had to find my Uther again. I’m sure you know what happened to him.”
“Thats really sweet you looked for him.”
“I could do nothing else, I love him immensely.”
They continued to chat about how things had changed in this world and told Negan stories about their world which seemed to intrigue him since he had never been outside his own. He was a little disappointed when he had to start home. “Will you come and visit when you get a chance?” He asked. “I’m sure my parents wouldn’t mind you spending time around the farm.”
“We’d love to. We can even help if you need us to.” Faye said.
“You don’t have to do that, I mean you’ve done enough already. Just drop by if you have the time, I’m sure my parents will want to thank you.”
“Alright, be careful on your way home then. Don’t let that little cutie go until you’re back.”
“I won’t and again, thank you.”
They saw him off then Faye hugged Uther. “You really are a hero baby. That was one of the most terrifying moments of my life.”
“Everything’s okay. I’m sorry you were scared, but I didn’t know what else to do.”
“I’m glad you did it.” She pulled back and lifted up his arm. His wrist was red from where the belt had tightened around his skin. She placed her hand over it and let healing energy flow over the damaged skin.
“Sorry I didn’t think to do it sooner. You haven’t seemed bothered at all.”
“I’ve always been good at dealing with pain.”
“When would you like to go see him? Today I have a few things I want to do with you, but I definitely want to see his farm and meet his parents.”
“Tomorrow after breakfast we should head his way.”
“Okay, for now come on, I have so much more to show you two.”
They followed eagerly, enjoying even the journey since there was so much to take in about this place. She spent the day showing them all sorts of different animals and places then the next day, after breakfast as planned they made their way to where Negan had told them his parents farm was.
Negan was outside feeding chickens when they walked up and he waved, a big smile on his face. “Just give me a minute.” He said as he finished tossing chicken feed on the ground. He sat the bag down, dusting his hands off on his pants as he exited the enclosure. “I’m glad you came.”
“We wouldn’t pass up a chance to visit a farm. Faye loves animals.” Uther said as he shook Negan’s hand.
“My parents are in the barn. One of our cows is pregnant and she’s been having a little trouble with her health.”
“Do you think they would let me take a look at her?” Faye asked.
“I’m sure they would.” He gestured for them to follow him.
“I’ve never even been to a farm.” Lewis said as they walked. “I mean there’s a dairy back home, but all I know is the cows go in and milk and ice cream come out.”
Uther, Faye, and Negan laughed. “I spent a lot of time with animals in my past life because Faye did, but I probably wouldn’t know the first thing to do with a farm.” Uther replied.
“It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.” Negan said. “I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
“You should consider going to school for animal husbandry or something.” Lewis said and Negan gave him a questioning look. “Oh yeah, you don’t have universities here.”
“What is animal husbandry though?”
“Basically what you do now it seems, but it would open you up to things you might not know already.”
“That sounds cool, I wish I could attend a university.”
“Truly you could, you’d just have to travel too.”
Negan seemed intrigued as they walked to the barn and went in. It was obvious the cow was ill from the moment Faye saw it and her heart when out to the poor creature. It was such a pretty, soft brown and Faye might have admired it as she often did animals if she didn’t want to help her feel better. Negan spoke “Mom, dad, these are the people who saved me. They came by to say hi. I told them about our pregnant heifer and Faye wants to see if she can help her feel better.”
“You people really are such a blessing, please, if you can help her that would be amazing.”
Uther and Lewis stood back with Negan and his parents as Faye stroked the cow and talked softly to it. She let her hands run slowly over it, her eyes falling closed until she got to one of the legs tucked under it. “Negan, can you help me roll her onto her side?” She asked.
“Yes ma’am.” Negan came over and they gently moved her onto her side so Faye could get to the leg. Negan’s eyes widened when he saw the skin between her leg and chest. It was inflamed and swollen. “What is that?”
“An abscess. She has an infection.” She looked over her shoulder at Negan’s mother. “Could you get me a candle?” And then to Lewis. “I’ll need to borrow your pocket knife.”
Negan’s mother nodded and hurried out of the barn and to the house while Negan pulled his pocket knife out and handed it to her. “What are you going to do?” Negan’s father asked.
“Lance it and then clean out the infection and close the wound.” Negan’s mother came back with a candle and matches. Faye lit it then flicked out the knife blade and heated it. “Uther, I need you and Lewis to help Negan keep her still. This is going to hurt.”
Faye did what she needed to do as quickly as possible while still making sure she let all of the infection out of this poor, pregnant cow. Faye truly hoped the distress from all this didn’t cause her to miscarry or go into early labor. When she was done Faye said, “She should get a lot better now.”
“We feel so foolish for not realizing.”
“We all miss things sometimes. It’s especially understandable with you guys, you have this entire farm to tend to.”
“In any case thank you. You saved our son’s life and now have helped out one of our cows.” Negan’s mother said.
Then his father offered, “Come inside our home with us. I’ll make us all something nice to drink and we can get to know each other.”
Negan stroked the resting cow gently. “Feel better okay?” They all left the barn and went inside where the father poured glasses of lemonade that his wife distributed.
“Just losing one cow can sometimes prove to be devastating to a farm. She’s one of our best milk cows.” Negan’s father said. “I’m glad our son met you, he couldn’t stop talking about all of you when he got home.”
“He’s a good boy.” Uther said. “Not many would risk their lives to save a kitten.”
“He loves all of our animals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a young man so dedicated.” His mother said.
“We were talking to him about possibly travelling and going to a university to learn more about taking care of farm animals. When he’s of age of course.”
“If he would like to then we’ll of course allow it. He should be able to pursue anything he wishes. We were even prepared for him to leave if he decides farming isn’t what he wishes to do for the rest of his life.”
“I would never do that.” Negan said, sounding surprised. “I love this place.”
“We know, but we never wanted to assume you wouldn’t change your mind. Your life is your own and we would never be the type of parents to try and force you into a life we planned for you.”
Negan smiled then looked at Uther and Faye. “Since my parents seem fine with it I do want to go to your world when I’m an adult and learn what I can for this farm.” Uther and Lewis began telling Negan and his parents everything about where they had grown up since Negan had an interest in being there. They seemed completely captivated, but who wouldn’t be when being told of a world not your own. There was so much to tell they wound up spending the day with Negan and his family.
The rest of the trip was spent taking Uther to more familiar places and helping him remember more of his past life. Lewis questioned them about many things and spent time at Negan’s when he thought they needed some alone time. When it was time for them to leave, they promised Negan they would visit again and to give a lot of thought about going to school. “Man, do we really have to leave?” Lewis asked as they headed back to the portal.
“We still have school.” Uther said. “And besides, we can come back anytime.”
“I know and thank you for bringing me. You two didn’t have to, but I’m glad you did. I had a lot of fun.”
“Me too.” Uther smiled. “Getting to remember all of that was amazing.” He laced his fingers through Faye’s. “We had such an amazing life.”
“Yes we did.” She said, smiling lovingly back.
“You two are sickeningly adorable, now I’m going to have to find a girlfriend.” Lewis said and Uther playfully punched his shoulder, making him laugh. It really had been amazing journey for all of them and they couldn’t wait to have others together.
“Excuse me, are you Ethan Kincaid?” The voice startled Ethan and had him spinning around and putting himself between Leto and the stranger.
“Who are you?” He asked and the man held up his hands to show Ethan he wasn’t armed nor was he looking for a fight.
“I have a message for you.”
“Ethan, calm down.” Leto said as she rested a gentle hand on his shoulder. The other laid over her rounded stomach where their baby rolled and kicked. “He’s just a messenger.”
Ethan looked the man over, noticing the bag slung across his chest for the first time. It was full of letters. “Sorry.”
“I should be the one apologizing sir, I should’ve made my presence known before coming up to you, especially when the princess is pregnant.” He reached into his bag and pulled out a letter. “I was told it was urgent.”
“Thank you.” He took it and the messenger nodded before leaving. Ethan turned back to Leto who gave him a hug. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay, you still get scared sometimes and I’m sure me being pregnant doesn’t help any.” She pulled back and pressed a kiss to his lips. “Better?”
“So who’s it from?” She asked as she let him go.
“Atticus Caitir.” His brow knitted as the familiarity of the name hit him. He tore the envelope open and pulled out the letter. “It’s from someone who says they’ve been looking for me since I went missing. The name sounds so familiar, but I don’t know.”
Leto looked at the letter. “It sounds like he’s desperate. Would you like go and see him?”
“It could be a trap and you’re pregnant. I can’t just leave.”
“Then I’ll go too and we’ll ask Hesperos to lend us some of his wolves. You know they’re always happy to watch over us.”
“Ethan, it’s okay. I’ll be extra careful.”
“I’m not trying to tell you what to do.”
“Shh, you’re such a wonderful mate. I still have a couple of months left, so let’s go see this person.”
Ethan looked at the envelope again. “It’s not even in this world. Are you sure?”
“Absolutely, we’ll get everything ready and leave tomorrow.”
“alright, I’ll prepare us a small bag for the journey then talk to Hesperos about some wolves coming to protect you and the baby” Leto smiled at him then gently kissed his cheek. Leto almost laughed when they went to talk to her brother. He got just as protective if not more so than Ethan had been “we’ll be fine, especially if you’ll lend us some of your men or women”
“alright then, you’ll have my best with you”
“obviously not all of the wolves you consider in the best category”
“No, just Kynthija, Rhys, Ximon and Zahn. I’d send more honestly but I know you probably already think four is too much”
“four is fine, thank you”
“I’ve lost you once, I can’t let that happen again, especially not pregnant”
“Between them and Ethan I’ll be fine” Hesperos hugged his sister “I know” When morning came the wolves that Hesperos wanted to join his sister and her mate joined them for breakfast. Kynthija was just as beautiful as Leto remembered her. She had always amazed Leto with both her fighting capabilities and the fact she could be so graceful and stunning at the same time. She had never met the wolf sitting to her right, Ximon before but she had heard enough about him from her brother to know she was in good hands with him too. Rhys and Zahn she was very well acquainted with so she was actually looking forward to spending time with them. She hoped along the journey it would soon feel like Kynthija and Ximon were her friends too.
“Stay close to the wolves.” Her brother said when they were ready to go. “And don’t take any risks and if someone seems to friendly, stay away from them.”
“Hesperos, Ethan’s going to be glued to me, you know that.”
“I know, but I want you home.”
“We’ll be fine. Claire, tell him to calm down.”
“Hesperos, trust your sister.” Claire said as she took his hand.
“I love you two.” Leto hugged both of them. “We’ll be back before you know it.”
Ethan was already worried as they left the castle and kept Leto as close as possible as they walked. The wolves took up their positions, one behind, one in front and one on either side of them. “It’s really nice to be traveling with you, Leto.” Zahn said with a cheerful smile.
“It’s good to have you and Rhys here. You two as well, Kynthija and Ximon.”
“It is our honor princess.” Ximon said.
“You do know that you can call me Leto, you don’t have to be so formal.”
“Ximon’s too polite.” Kynthija replied with a smile. “His father was always so serious. It rubbed off on him.”
“I see.” Leto said with a laugh. “Then princess it is.”
“Would be alright to ask to feel your belly?” Kynthija said.
“Of course, everyone does it, please go ahead.” As always Ethan was amazed at how easily she made friends. All it took was a laugh or a smile from her and everyone loved her. Being pregnant only added to her beauty and the idea of a baby always seemed to warm everyone.
“I can’t wait to meet the little one.” Kynthija noted warmly. “Me too, this pregnancy has been taking so long. I’m just so excited to meet my baby”
“Have you two been thinking of names?”
“Nothing that we really like yet. We’re thinking we might wait until the baby arrives and see what names come to us then”
“That’s a sweet way to do it.” As they walked to the portal they needed Kynthija and Leto continued talking, occasionally getting little comments here and there from the others with them. Ethans nerves were up again at the thought of something happening when they went through the portal but he swallowed them down, finding relief when they were on the other side and completely okay. Now that they were here Ximon pulled out the map of this world that Hesperos had sent with them. It was made from the point they were so he knew how to read it “It’s going to be a long journey from here. Possibly a few days depending on if we meet any trouble along the way and how often we need to rest.” Ximon informed everyone. Ethan asked Leto “do you want to go ahead and rest a little? Are you hungry?”
“this would actually be a really good point to go ahead and eat. There’s a lot of food around this area” Ximon remarked so Leto said “lets go ahead and get eating out of the way then” They talked it out and decided Zahn would sit with Leto while the others hunted. It had been a hard choice because Ximon knew more about this place than any of them so Ethan had trouble deciding if he wanted that knowledge with Leto or helping find good food. When the three took off with Ximon guiding them Zahn spoke “I could massage your feet if you want. When my mother gets pregnant its always her feet that bother her the most. I figure that would be okay, your mate doesn’t seem like the jealous type”
“I’m fine, really, thank you though”
“Well the offer stands if you change your mind. Anyway, who do you think this person is that wants to see Ethan?”
“I’m hoping it’s a family member. He’s a part of my family now but I know it would mean a lot to him if it’s somebody from his family that cared enough after all these years to still be looking for him”
“Me too, he’s a good guy. I respect him a lot for taking so much abuse for you when you were kidnapped. He had already suffered so long and instead of taking relief he tried to alleviate how much you had to go through”
“Our pup and I are lucky to have him. I know he’s going to be a good father”
Kynthija pounced on the back of a large creature, killing it precisely how Ximon told her to. When it collapsed Ximon began getting it ready to cook when they returned to Leto and Zahn. This was a creature you had to do everything a specific way or the meat would be no good to them. If they had a more long term plan to stay he would take the time to teach them but since they weren’t Ximon figured it would be easier just to go through the work himself. He had only had Kynthija kill it because she was the quickest and always took direction well so he had had absolute faith she could kill it correctly and much faster than any of them could. “This is going to take forever Ximon, let me help” Kynthija said after she finished cleaning her blade “You don’t know how”
“You taught me to kill it”
“Killing it was simpler than this” she sighed “so you’d rather just sit here forever while you clean this big of a beast by yourself?”
“If there’s a single mistake this will have been for nothing. This will take a long time now but this will feed us well for multiple meals” Ximon answered, continuing to work as they spoke.
Ethan was relieved when they finally made their way back to Leto. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Zahn, but he worried with her out of his sight. Her smile instantly relieved his anxiety and he dropped down next to her and pressed a kiss to her lips. “How did it go?” She asked.
“Good, Ximon and Kynthija are amazing hunters.” He rested his hand on her stomach and their baby kicked at him. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to her abdomen. “Hello little one, were you good for your mother.” He smiled when he received a kick in response.
“You’re so sweet.” Leto said.
“It’s easy when it’s you and our baby.”
“You’ll make a good father, prince.” Ximon said as he pulled out some of the meat.
“I hope so, sometimes I wonder.”
“Hush now.” Leto said. “You’re going to be amazing.”
He pressed another kiss to her lips. “I’ll try my best. I know I can do anything with you there.”
“So, this person who sent you that letter, do you remember anything about him?” Ximon asked.
“I think we were friends before, but he moved away at some point. We must have been young. If he’s spent all this time looking for me then we must have been close. You know how the mind of a child works and after everything that happened I just pushed things to the back of my mind. I didn’t see any reason to think about my life beforehand, I thought I was going to die. I feel terrible.”
“It was not my intent to cause you any sort of pain, I simply wished to know if he was dangerous or human.”
“He’s definitely human, I didn’t have any demon friends or anything like that. I don’t think he would be dangerous, my parents wouldn’t have allowed it.”
“It’s going to be great” Leto said reassuringly as she leaned into Ethan. Zahn and Rhys started cooking while the rest relaxed. Ximon no longer had to worry, he had prepared it for cooking himself. At this point they couldn’t possibly do anything wrong. Ethan just used the time to cuddle with Leto while Kynthija just laid down, relaxing while she could. She wasn’t necessarily very tired but she knew resting when you could was important, especially when she had such an important person with her. After they had all eaten they decided to get as far as they could that night. Leto and the other wolves had amazing night vision so night travel, even in little light was no problem. The night around them was beautiful and so were the sounds of the animals around them. Leto enjoyed the new sounds mingled with the ones she was accustom to hearing in her own world. The baby even seemed to enjoy it.
“We’re going to have to discuss changing me when we get back.” Ethan said the next morning after breakfast. “I felt so useless not being able to see as well all of you in the dark.”
“If you want too, I’m sure Hesperos would do it. Our father told him how. I’ve wanted to ask you.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“It never seemed like the right time. You had already gone through enough pain.”
“Then I’ll ask him when we return. It’s the least I can do for you after all you’ve been through with me.”
“I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous of you two.” Zahn said in a teasing tone. “I haven’t found my mate yet.”
“It’s probably your immaturity.” Kynthija replied.
“Oh yes, we should strive to be as serious and polite as Ximon. Handsome, tall, scary.” Rhys started laughing and Leto hid her smile behind her hand while Ethan cleared his throat to keep from chuckling. “Even his looks of disapproval make the women melt and probably some of the men too.”
“Zahn.” Leto said with a laugh. “Be good and maybe you’ll actually find a mate.”
As serious as ever Ximon didn’t seem to be embarrassed by their talk in the slightest. He just continued eating to regain the energy he had lost traveling. Once they were all fed and ready to go they were back on their way. Still pushing on as hard as they could with Leto pregnant and Ethan still only being human. “alright, I’m going to take us a little off course for a nice, long break for the princess. There’s a really good area near here and we’re so close to our destination I think a good break is in order. After this last rest our next breaking point should be with Ethans friend” Ximon explained and none of them questioned it. The area Ximon guided them to was gorgeous. Lush grass grew vibrant along with a mix of beautiful flowers and fluttering creatures that looked almost like butterflies.
“Princess, I mean it, we’re taking a long rest. I wont even consider leaving until you’ve taken a nice long sleep” Ximon said and Leto answered “thank you”
“You never have to thank me for doing my job. I feel honored working for such a good family.”
“still, I’m glad to have gotten this time to get to know you” Kynthija laughed as Letos words made Ximon blush “Oh my god you’re capable of blushing. Look at that boys!”
“My god look at him, he’s embarrassed. It’s kind of cute.” Zahn teased and Ximon gave him a death glare, a growl rumbling in his chest. “Whoa, easy, down boy.”
“Careful Zahn, I have a feeling he bites.” Rhys chimed in, laughing.
Ethan chuckled as he helped Leto sit then dropped down next to her and pulled her back to lay down. She pillowed her head on his chest and fidgeted a little until she was comfortable. “Have you enjoyed the trip?” She asked.
“Surprisingly yes. I thought I would be more stressed, but it’s been quite peaceful and calm.”
“Are you ready to meet your friend?”
“Not really, but I’m still going to. He deserves some form of closure.”
“Don’t be scared, we’re all with you.”
“I know, now rest okay? You need it, especially with you carrying a baby.”
It didn’t take her long to fall asleep and soon after Ethan was out aswell, trusting the wolves with them to keep him and Leto safe. “why don’t the rest of you rest, I’ll keep watch” Kynthija offered and they took her up on it. Kynthija found such peace in this place, she was happy to sit by herself and just take all the beauty in while her comrades rested. They were so close and she felt she might actually miss this place. As she sat there Kynthija began to consider coming back for a vacation. She could either have Ximon teach her some more about the area or have him come along. He needed a vacation anyway, he never took one. At least not that she had noticed.
When Leto and Ethan woke, Ximon still looked mildly irritated, but did his best to pretend nothing had happened. It didn’t help that Zahn and Rhys would grin every time they made eye contact with him. “Are you two ready?” Ximon asked.
“Yes, thank you for making us rest.” Leto said and he looked away, arms crossed over his chest.
“Of course.” He cleared his throat. “Let’s go.”
Rhys and Zahn burst out laughing as they headed out. Ethan thought of what he would say to this friend of his while Leto chatted happily with the wolves. She even managed to get Ximon to feel their baby rolling and kicking around and everyone was amazed at how much his eyes warmed. It occurred to Ethan that Ximon would kill anyone who even thought of hurting their unborn child and probably would even stop to warn them.
“Where did he say he would be?” Ximon asked once they were in town. Ethan pulled out the letter and handed it to him. The wolf’s eyes moved over the words then he handed it back and took them further into the city.
“He should be here” Ximon began as they stopped in front of a house. “I will go up at your side with Leto behind. I don’t know this person and her brother has trusted me to keep her and the baby safe.”
“Okay” he hoped it wouldn’t hurt his friends feelings but he hoped the explanation would clear up any hurt feelings if it came to that. A man about his height answered the door and recognition filled Ethans mind. All it took was seeing him again. His friend had obviously aged but still, the memories came flooding back “you…oh my god hi” Ethan said and his friend Atticus Caitir smiled “you look like you remember me. I’m glad if you do. I was so excited to finally find you again…who are all these people?” Ximon moved so Leto could come up “this is my wife, she’s pregnant with our first child. The rest of these guys were sent to keep her safe. It’s a long story, I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings”
“Not at all, please come in.” Leto and Ethan settled in the middle of the couch where Zahn and Ryhs sat on either side of them and both Ximon and Kynthija stood behind them. Atticus looked them all over then remarked, “They’re wolf demons?”
“Yes, Leto is the princess of her kingdom, these are a few of her brother’s wolves.” He introduced all of them.
“A princess? A real princess?”
“Yes.” Leto said with an amused laugh.
“Amazing. In all honesty this is not what I expected. When I heard you had gone missing, I feared the worst.”
Ethan swallowed. The worst had happened, at the time even dying had felt like the best alternative. Leto took his hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “To tell you the truth, terrible things did happen, I…” It was hard talking to anyone but Leto about these things.
Atticus held up his hand. “You don’t have to explain, just seeing you alive is all that matters now and married at that.”
“How did you find me?”
“After you went missing I had posters made up. I put them up around here and even handed them off to merchants passing through. One of them visited your world and when he came back he told me he had spotted you in the market. I wrote that letter hoping it was you. I’m incredibly happy it was.” He turned to Leto. “He and I were best friends when we were children, we did everything together until I moved.”
“I’m glad that you found him, he needs more friends. He spends most of his time with me, I’d like him to get out more. Perhaps you could visit us.”
“I would love to. I’ve never stayed in a castle.”
“So what of my home and the things my parents left me?”
“I took everything I thought was important out. Pictures, jewelry, books, things like that. The house was sold and the furniture was donated.”
“That’s fine, thank you.”
“I’m just glad that at least in the end you found a happy life Ethan. Are you guys going to stay awhile?” Ethan looked at Leto who said “yeah, of course we are” Ethan then asked “it’s all coming back to me but..could we start with you telling me everything you remember Atticus?” Atticus smile then began telling story after story, obviously going into as much detail as he could pull from memory, especially when it came to his family. Atticus knew he’d want every moment he could get when it came to them. Ethan listened closely, clinging to each word as he held his wife’s hand. Even when it came time to eat Atticus and Ethan continued discussing the past.
That evening Atticus set Leto and Ethan up in one of the guest rooms and the wolves up in the other. Ximon insisted Kynthija take the only bed and he, Zahn and Rhys set up a pallet on the floor. “I’m sorry I don’t have more space.” Atticus said when he was sure they would be comfortable.
“There’s no need, we have slept in the forest many times, most of the time without cover.” Ximon replied. “We’re wolves and warriors so thank you for accommodating us.”
“Of course, if you need anything please let me know. My room is across from Ethan’s.” Ximon nodded and Atticus left the wolves. Ethan was coming out of his and Leto’s room and gave Atticus a friendly smile. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, perfect, Leto’s just thirsty.”
“Cups are to the right of the sink.”
“Thank you um…I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind taking us out tomorrow. Leto wants to see where I grew up and I can’t really remember where everything is.”
“Of course, I would love to.”
“thank you” Ethan said before finding a cup and pouring his wife some water. He returned to Leto and let her know Atticus was happy to show them around. “I’m so happy we came baby”
“You’re amazing for pushing us to. I would have never gone if you hadn’t insisted a little”
“Never might be a bit of an exaggeration. I’m sure after I had the baby you would have been more comfortable”
“Maybe, but I’m glad I’m getting to meet him now and get more in touch with who I was before..well…you know” Leto kissed him “yeah” she finished her drink then gave it back to Ethan so he could take it to the kitchen. This was their first night and they didn’t want to make any mess they might forget to clean up in the morning. When Ethan returned again they got comfortable and quickly went to sleep. In the morning Kynthija and Rhys insisted on preparing breakfast as a thank you for Atticus’s hospitality which only made him laugh “You guys act like you slept in some lavish suite” Rhys smiled “you gave us all you had to offer. That means the same no matter how much you have. Please, let us make breakfast, we’re good at it” Atticus gave in and just sat with his old friend, his mate and the other wolves.
Once they were finished eating and out of the house, Ximon took up his position in front of the group. It surprised Ethan and Atticus that he always seemed to know which direction Atticus wanted to go. It was like he could sense his muscles moving before he even took a step or turned. Ethan had a wonderful time taking Leto around his birthplace and remembering all the things he used to do here as a child. “I didn’t realize I was so mischievous.” He said when Atticus finished another story about their childhood.
“We were kids and it was usually me egging you on.”
“I haven’t been that way in awhile. I’m afraid I’m a bit boring now.”
Atticus elbowed him. “How can you say that? You’ve been to another world, you married a princess and have wolf demon bodyguards. I don’t call that boring.”
“He’s right baby,” Leto said with a loving smile, “you’ve done a lot and come a long way.”
“Come on, let’s get something to snack on. That bakery we loved so much is still here. Same owners and everything.”
“okay” It wasn’t long before they were walking into a bakery that smelled absolutely amazing. Just being inside made Ethan and Letos mouths water for some of their bread. Atticus ordered something for everyone then they left to go eat it where he and Ethan used to take their bread. Once they all tried it they agreed this was the best they had had in their life. They actually went back for another round of bread on Leto. She was pregnant and definitely taking the time to indulge herself when she found something really good. Her baby seemed happy too so she pulled Ethans hand to her stomach so he could feel. Ethan smiled happily, having one of those moments where he couldn’t believe how amazing his life had turned out.
Atticus made the rest of the day fun and both Zahn and Rhys constantly teased Ximon any time he would look confused or embarrassed. It was such a rarity for them to see him break character. Both Ethan and Leto were sure that if he was not on duty he would have beat them both up. Wolves being so physical was something Ethan was still getting used to, but he was getting more comfortable with it. He knew he had to since he was sure his child would be wrestling with many of the pack. “There’s a play on tonight if you would all like to go.” Atticus said. “Unless the princess is tired.”
“Please call me Leto and I want to do everything. It’s been so amazing learning more about Ethan’s life.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t been able to tell you more.” Ethan said.
“You went through a lot and you have told me plenty.”
“Ethan and I were in a play when we were really little. I think we played fairies or something.”
“Do you have any photos?” Leto asked excitedly.
“I do, his parents took plenty. I’ll find the box for you later.”
Ethan didn’t even feel embarrassed that she would see the pictures. She looked so purely happy and excited he could only feel eager for his childhood friend to find the box. It would be nice to see another memory as well, to hopefully feel another rush of things return to him as he held the pictures. They ate something light then went to the play, finding a good spot to watch since they got there a little early. Ethan was looking around, realizing this place really was familiar. He tried to remember on his own, without the pictures. He wanted to pull a memory out without any prompting or help from Atticus but nothing really was coming besides the familiar feeling of this place. He wondered how many plays he went to with his parents, if he was just in one or if they frequented here.
The play was funny and had everyone laughing, save for Ximon who cracked a smile here and there. Even that seemed to be enough for the other wolves to tease him. By the time it was over, Leto was exhausted and Ethan insisted on carrying her back. “Do you still want to see those pictures or would you like to wait?” Atticus asked once they were in his house.
“I want to see them. I’ve been curious since you told me about them.”
“Alright, just give me a minute.”
“We’re going to head up to bed, princess.” Ximon said. “Please call us if you need anything.”
“Thank you Ximon, especially for watching the play with us.”
He started to blush. “Of course, it was fun.”
“I’m glad, go get some rest then, Ethan and I will head to bed in a bit.”
The wolves went to bed, giving Leto and Ethan some time alone with Atticus. It took Atticus a little bit but he found the pictures and brought them to Ethan. Leto leaned a little to look “Oh my gosh you both are absolutely adorable!” Atticus chuckled “I wish I had more pictures to share’ Ethan just stared as memories slowly came of the two of them practicing for this and everything about being on stage. It had been scary but fun at the same time. “I remember” Ethan said and Atticus smiled “I’m glad, I really want you to have everything. I hate your trauma made you lose so much but I hear it’s common”
“It’s okay, truly, I found Leto because of all that happened to me and she really is worth it”” Those words tugged at Letos heart “Ethan” she said softly, not sure if she intended to reprimand him for being happy he went through so much hell. She wouldn’t wish that on him, even for them to end up together. She would have much rather the universe brought them together in a different way.
Leto yawned and Atticus chuckled as he put the pictures away. “I think you should take your lady love to bed.”
“I’m fine.” She said.
“He’s right, you need to get as much sleep as you can, we both do. Soon our little one will be here.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead.
“I am really glad you’re alive.” Atticus said as they both stood, Ethan cradling Leto against his chest.
“I wouldn’t be without her, she brought me back from the brink.”
“You brought yourself back silly, I was only there to help you along.”
“We’ll agree to disagree.”
Atticus smiled. “Perhaps once you decide to leave I will go with you. I would love to see you’re new home.”
“I’d like that.”
Ethan walked with Leto in his arms to their room and settled down for the night. The following days were amazing and filled with precious memories they would all hold dearly to. When it did come time to leave Atticus packed a bag and asked a friend to look after his home so he could visit Ethan and Letos world for awhile. He couldn’t wait to see a castle and meet more royalty. Just their world sounded astounding and Atticus wanted to experience it all, including being with his childhood friend more. Upon entering the castle Hesperos was the first to greet them. He had been so worried about his sister he frequently found himself near the door, just waiting for her return since it was the first time they had been separated since her kidnapping.
“Is this who sent for you Ethan?” Hesperos asked. “Yes, he’s my childhood friend and he wants to stay awhile if that’s okay”
“Of course it is, I’ll have someone find him a suitable room in the castle. Welcome…”
“A friend of Ethan’s is a friend to all of us. Feel free to explore. Our home is your home.”
“And Leto, please take it easy now that you’re home. No more traveling for awhile.”
“I will and even if I didn’t want to, I think Ethan would insist.”
“Good, I don’t want you or the baby getting hurt.”
Leto and Ethan were left to give Atticus a tour, both of them laughing at how amazed he was by everything. Leto was exhausted by the end of the day and snuggled close to Ethan once they were in bed. The baby kicked and Ethan chuckled as he rubbed her belly. “Sleep little one, your mommy’s had a long day.” He said softly.
“You’re so sweet, Ethan, really, really sweet.” Leto replied. “I’m so lucky to have you.”
“I’m the lucky one, Leto, you have no idea how many times I thought of giving up when I was locked in that cage. Even saying it to you at the time, sounded so hollow. You gave me the will to live. Thank you for loving me.”
“You’re easy to love.”
He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Goodnight my love.”
“Sweet dreams.” He held her as close as he could, his fingers stroking through her hair as he drifted off to thoughts of how incredibly fortunate he was. He had an amazing mate and soon a beautiful child, he lived in a home filled to the brim with love and acceptance and now he had his closest friend back and was piecing together his past bit by bit. He pressed another kiss to Leto’s forehead, then drifted off with a blissful smile on his face.
“I brought more blankets.” Nebi said as he entered Nathan’s safe house without knocking. “I know you destroyed the last ones.”
“You know you shouldn’t be here, it’s still the full moon.” Nathan said as he took the blankets from Nebi and headed down to the basement where the cage that had been put together for him was.
“It’s not night yet, you still have time.” He followed Nathan. “Your eye patch was damaged too?”
“Hmm?” Nathan reached up and touched the black patch covering where his eye used to be.
“You tied it in the back goofy.”
“Oh, it’s not a big deal.”
“I’ll grab you a new one later. I’m thinking red this time.”
“I like the black.”
“Alright, alright. Oh, Fino and Allon wanted to know if you wanted to go out for dinner some night after the full moon is done with its cycle.”
Nathan looked at his feet. “I guess.”
“It’s cute when you get all self conscious.” Nathan raised his head and Nebi grinned. “Come on, I need your help. I brought you food too.”
“Nebi, shouldn’t you be working or something?”
“Fino and I do get days off you know. Come on, I bought a lot, I even got your favorite snacks.”
Nathan followed, wishing Nebi wouldn’t risk himself like this. He could keep himself locked up now but he still feared hurting Nebi during one of his shifts. He had no control and Nebi was the last person in existence he would ever want to hurt. He was developing feelings for him and he didn’t think he could take hurting the man he was falling in love with. They brought all the food inside then put it away “Thanks Nebi”
“You aren’t good enough to yourself so someone has to get you the stuff you deserve and take care of you”
“I’ve hurt a lot of people
“thats not your fault though”
“So, are you staying again?”
“Of course I am silly. You’re always so disoriented afterwards and I want to be here in case you get out.”
“You could get hurt.”
Nebi chuckled. “That might be true if you were running with a pack, but since you’re alone I think my cat can handle you.” Nathan started to protest, but Nebi shaking his head stopped him. “Besides, I think your wolf actually likes it when I stay.”
“What do you mean?” He swallowed. “H…have you been coming downstairs when I turn?”
“A couple of times to check on you. I got growled at, but there was no slamming against the bars or snapping at me.”
“I didn’t get to close, I just wanted to make sure you weren’t hurting yourself.” He reached up and brushed Nathan’s hair away from his face. “You shouldn’t worry so much, I’m a big boy.”
Nathan had the sudden impression of a whine and the need to get closer to Nebi slip through his thoughts, but he held his ground, ignoring his wolf’s urges. He told himself it was because it was still the full moon, that it was because smells and sounds seemed so much more acute because of it and Nebi being this close was just overwhelming his senses and triggering the animal. “Um, I should make dinner and then get ready.”
“Let me help, four hands are better than two.”
Nathan knew better than to argue with Nebi when he wanted to help so he allowed him to enter the kitchen, it was always nice being around him anyway so he was somewhat glad Nebi gave him an excuse to be selfish. Letting anybody close to him at all always plagued him with guilt but it didn’t make him feel as bad when Nebi was over since Nebi really didn’t take no for an answer. They quickly made dinner then sat down together with their food and a beer each. “How’re things?” Nathan inquired of Nebi “My life is as fun and exciting as always. My line of work is fun”
“where did Fino and Allon want to eat?”
“They wanted it to be your choice this time’
“Things would probably be easier if they just bossed me around.”
Nebi chuckled. “I could if you want me to.”
Nathan smiling caused Nebi’s heart to dance. “I was kidding, I’ll think about it.” He sighed. “So, anyone new in your life?”
“You mean like a boyfriend?”
“No, far to busy with more important things like you and work.”
“Who else is going to bring you new blankets when you’ve had a particularly rough night?”
“Am I getting in your way?”
Nebi laughed. “Oh yes, you’re a real roadblock.” He teased.
“I mean it, if I am then maybe you shouldn’t come by so much.” The thought made his stomach sink, but he wanted Nebi to have a real life.
“How cruel.” He nudged Nathan as he brought his bottle to his lips so beer dribbled down his chin. “There, now we’re even. I’m precisely where I want to be, don’t forget that.”
Nathan got up to grab a paper towel. He felt happy that Nebi really liked being here even though he truly didn’t understand why. Nathan knew he had a tendency to brood and just in general bring the feeling in the room down. Nebi was amazing, a smart ass sometimes but amazing. He probably had a ton of people he could hangout with but instead of going to them Nebi chose him. When Nathan sat back down Nebi gave him another reassuring smile before going back to enjoying the meal they made together. They were having Spicy Shrimp With Creamy Polenta and it was something Nathan greatly relished eating.
“Nebi, are you sure you won’t leave?” Nathan asked as they cleaned up the kitchen after dinner.
Nathan glanced out the window at the setting sun. “I could break out.”
“Doubt it, I had that cage made of some incredibly strong, incredibly expensive metal. Not even Fino could bend the bars. Not that that would stop him, he’d just pick the lock.”
“I just want you safe.”
“Awe, how sweet, you sound like a husband.” He grinned. “Should we just get married?”
Nathan felt himself blush and focused on finishing up drying. His heart had nearly leaped out of his chest when Nebi had said that. He felt another compulsion, a need to press himself to Nebi, to run his scent all over the cat. “I…I should get downstairs.”
“Are you alright? Besides the obvious I mean.”
“Yeah, it’s just getting close and I would hate to get distracted and wind up hurting you.”
Nebi reached up and brushed Nathan’s hair back, causing the wolf’s heart to stutter. “I really love seeing your whole face, even this bit.” He let his fingers gently brush the eyepatch. “It’s easier to see your expression and I really wish you would stop frowning and looking all concerned. I’ll be fine. Now go on and I’ll come and collect your clothes once I’m done here.”
Nathan briefly opened his mouth to say he didn’t have to but he shut it again, knowing Nebi would do it anyway. Nebi watched Nathan go, planning on talking to him more in depth after the change. He knew there was more wrong than just when this was and this time he wasn’t leaving without talking to Nathan. There were too many moments it seemed like Nathan wanted to say more and on top of that he wanted to make sure Nathan knew he wasn’t a responsibility, he was his friend and someone he cared about deeply. He had more friends than just him as well, Fino and Allon really liked him. Nathan was valued even though he didn’t seem to think much of himself or believe they all cared about him as much as they did.
Nebi came down as Nathan was shutting and locking the cage and let his eyes move over him with a grin on his face. “Well, well, well.”
“Stop staring.” Nathan said, embarrassed.
“I mean it’s hard not to.” He teased as he picked up Nathan’s clothes. “Come, turn for me.”
“Nebi, come on.”
Nebi chuckled. “You have no choice, you’re locked in a cage and at my mercy.”
Nathan sighed as he did a slow turn. “Happy?”
Nathan tested the bars then sat down in the middle of the floor. “Remember, stay away.”
“You should probably give me your eye patch.” Nebi squatted down and reached through the bars. Nathan nervously removed it and handed it to him, a little shock of excitement moving through him when Nebi let his fingers slide over his palm. He mentally reprimanded himself. “Hey, Nathan?”
“I’ll come down later to check on you.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to and who knows, maybe I’ll bring you a doggy biscuit.”
Despite how worried he was, Nathan still cracked a smile. “I’ll be sure to practice my best puppy dog face then.”
Nebi walked up, heading toward the laundry room to drop Nathans clothes in the laundry for him. He then took Nathans eye patch and laid it on his dresser. Though he was doing these things all his mind was thinking about was Nathans naked body. He was such a sexy man and it was always a treat when he could see him naked. He hated how tortured Nathan felt on these nights though and wished he could accept himself. Especially now that they could keep him from hurting others when he turned. If he could just stop seeing himself as such a burden Nebi knew Nathan could be happy.
It wasn’t long before the howls, growls, and sound of him thrashing around came up from the basement. Nebi paused the movie he was watching and listened just in case. The growls softened and he could hear Nathan pacing back and forth. The wolf either did this or sat in the corner. He hit the play button, deciding to wait a few minutes for Nathan to calm down a little. His phone vibrated on the coffee table, causing the wolf downstairs to make a sound of annoyance which had Nebi laughing. It was adorable even under the circumstances. He answered. “Hello Allon.”
“How is Nathan doing?”
“Right now he’s downstairs grumbling because he can hear me.”
“I just wanted to check in and make sure everything was okay.”
“It’s perfect, I’m going to go and check on him in a moment.”
“Other than that how is he doing?”
Nebi sighed. “Oh you know, self conscious, scared, sexy.”
“What? I can’t help it. I really do wish he saw how wonderful he is. He still blames himself.” He let out another sigh. “He tried to get me to leave, like I would. It helps I’m so irresistible.”
Allon chuckled. “Well if you need anything call us.”
They got off the phone and Nebi sighed, wanting to go down there even though he knew Nathan didn’t like him near the cage. Nebi decided he should at least finish the movie first so clicked play again. He only half watched, Nathans noises constantly distracting him. He’d sit with him the entire time if Nathan was okay with it. When the movie was over Nebi got a snack from the kitchen to bring down. It wasn’t a doggy biscuit but he definitely planned to bake one next time just to tease Nathan later. The wolf in the cage growled then snapped at him when Nebi came into view and he chuckled “Now now, you wont scare me away. I brought you food Nathan”
The wolf bared its teeth, the hair on the back of his neck raising up as his focused on the person across from him. His nose processed the scent; male, feline, familiar and something else, something important. It tickled at that primal part of his brain as it always did and tried to urge him forward with a need for domination. He was so focused on the male it took him a moment to notice the stick of meat in his hands. No matter how angry the beast was, it still needed food and it had him salivating.
“Come on, Nathan, it’s jerky, you love jerky. I mean why wouldn’t you, I bet you’d be even happier with a nice juicy steak.” Nebi moved closer to the bars. Nathan would kill him if he knew he was nearly touching the cool metal. “Come on.” Nathan growled at him while also looking longingly at the jerky and he chuckled. “Well if you want it, come and get it.” He raised it to his lips and took a bite out of it, grinning when the wolf followed his movement. “Come here or I’ll eat all of it.” The wolf huffed in annoyance and finally stepped closer. He held the jerky through the bars and kept his eyes on Nathan. The wolf sniffed, coming closer until Nebi could feel his hot breath brush against his skin. The wolf growled and snatched it away then back up and gnawed on the tough piece of meat. “There we go, maybe I’ll swing by the butcher and see if they have any bones they can give me. I bet you’d like that, though you might kill me for it.”
Nathan seemed too wrapped in the jerky to care what he was saying so Nebi left to see if the butcher had anything for him to give Nathan. He felt bad Nathan had to spend this entire evening caged so he tried to make it better any way he could. To Nebi’s delight the butcher had just what he wanted and soon had him out the door and returning to Nathan. Nebi went straight downstairs, seeing Nathan pacing around his cage “I’m back” he announced though he knew there wasn’t any way the wolf didn’t notice him there. Nebi received another growl as he walked toward the cage but as always, it didn’t intimidate him in the least. He would be in the wrong business if a wolf in a cage could frighten him.
Once Nathan had one of the bones, Nebi sat and watched him for a bit, having a hard time not comparing him to a dog. No matter what anyone thought of him, Nebi thought he was adorable in a way. Sure he was large and the missing eye made him look sinister, but it was cute watching him gnaw on a soup bone. “Alright, I guess I should leave you alone so we can both get some sleep. How about we go out tomorrow? Maybe the carnival. They got a new Ferris wheel. Then we can decide where we want to eat with Fino and Allon.” The wold huffed and he smiled. “Good night then.”
Nebi stood and left the basement and the wolf lifted its head to watch him. Once he was gone the wolf stood, circled and then dropped back down and rested its large head on its paws. It had come to understand the cage. There was no way out, it had tried, had bit the bars, had slammed into them in an attempt to break free before and had only received pain for it. It watched and listened, hearing the male upstairs becoming still, hearing the sound of his breathing and heartbeat. The wolf huffed and closed its eye, slowly drifting off. Nathan jerked awake the next morning to the sound of the basement door being opened. He blinked his eye open and slowly sat up as Nebi came over to the cage, a smile on his face.
“Good morning handsome, breakfast is ready.”
“What time is it?” Nathan asked as he tiredly got to his feet and unlocked the door.
“Why do I taste meat?” He looked down at his hands, expecting there to be blood.
“I fed you some jerky and a soup bone.”
Nathan sighed. “Nebi.”
“I didn’t get bit or anything, actually you were a very good boy last night.” He reached up and playfully tussled Nathan’s hair, messing it up even more.
“That’s not funny.”
“It’s a little funny.” He held up a towel and Nathan’s eye patch. “Go shower then come eat.”
Nathan sighed, hating Nebi put himself at risk again but he had gone through the trouble of making breakfast for him so he decided just to hurry and shower so he could enjoy the meal. When he got out Nebi was waiting at the table, wearing the same smile he always did. “You’re so happy, even after being with me on nights like last night..”
“I’m with you, of course I’m happy”
“I wasn’t here last night”
“don’t be dramatic Nathan, that wolf is a part of you. It’s why I’m not afraid.” Nathan blushed “well…thanks for breakfast”
“you’re welcome Nathan, I need to talk to you”
“about not being so angry at yourself all the time and acting like you’re a monster. You’re not, even the things you’ve done, you didn’t do it because you had a bad heart, you just had nothing to keep you under control when you lost control. You’re a good man and you owe it to yourself to forgive yourself”
“Nebi, I’ve hurt and killed people, I changed Allon without his consent. I…I’m…”
Nebi took his hand, causing heat to move up his arm. “Stop already, it wasn’t your fault and Allon has already forgiven you. You can’t control everything.”
“No you’re not, not anymore.” He chuckled. “Damn I missed the chance to take a picture of you with that bone in your mouth, how cute would that have been. Then you would really see how very not dangerous you are.”
“Nebi, come on.”
“Nathan, I’m serious. You’re a wonderful man, you have such a big heart and are incredibly kind to everyone. So stop acting like you’re some crazed, bloodthirsty beast.” He reached across the table and brushed Nathan’s hair away from his face. “And you’re handsome so stop hiding your face.”
Nebi smiled as he went back to eating. “Now, how about we go out today, it would do you some good to stop hiding so much.”
“I guess I should” Nathan didn’t want to but Nebi was so good to him. He felt he owed it to him to try and leave his home. Nebi felt relieved Nathan hadn’t tried to fight him more about leaving “I was thinking about going to the carnival, they have a new ferris wheel”
“Okay, I think I was a kid last time I went to one so I’d enjoy it even if something wasn’t new..”
“I’m glad you’re not fighting me but please try to be more excited about tonight, I might get offended you know”
“Offended?” Nebi couldn’t help but chuckle at the hint of panic he heard in Nathans voice. “well yeah, I mean you’re going out with me”
“sorry, I didn’t mean” Nebi laughing again made Nathan blush and stop talking. He realized Nebi was just teasing him and wasn’t hurt.
After breakfast they cleaned up together then Nebi insisted they go ahead and go out. “It’s a little early for rides.” Nathan said even as he pulled his socks and shoes on.
“I just want to walk, you need it.”
“Don’t sound so down, it’s just a little walk.” He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a ponytail holder. “And keep your hair back.”
“But my eye.”
“Well one,” Nebi said as he moved behind Nathan and gathered up his hair, “you’re wearing an eye patch and two, it makes you look very sexy and mysterious.”
“I’m neither of those things.”
Nebi turned him around. “It’s not polite to lie. Besides, I’ve already seen everything, I know how amazing you look.”
Nathan had a feeling if he had a tail it would be wagging. He didn’t want to be so drawn to Nebi, he deserved someone whole, someone who could control himself, but he wanted him. Sometimes he felt like his wolf was showing and he feared he would do something Nebi would hate and drive him away. “Alright, I’ll stop talking bad about myself.”
“good, I really hate hearing you do it” Nebi finished putting Nathan’s hair up into a ponytail then they headed out the door. The two started down the sidewalk and Nathan was already glad Nebi had drug him out. The fresh air smelled so nice. It carried so many sweet smells with it. He especially loved the natural one, he could smell the trees and the grass that grew all around, he could smell the birds and the various plants on the ground. All these scents on their own were welcome but they also harmonized well with one another to bring him relief. “You look more relaxed already” Nebi pointed out “I always forget how much better I feel when I let myself go out”
“wolves weren’t built to stay indoors”
“It feels like I should be running.”
“Too bad you can’t control your shifting or we could go out to the woods together. I guess we’ll just have to go jogging in the park one of these days.”
“I think I’d like that.” The wind changed a little and Nebi’s scent wrapped around him, making his body warm and his heart stutter. The wolf wanted and he rebelled against it. He didn’t understand why it was still such a battle in human form and it soon dawned on him that he really didn’t know a thing about being a wolf. He was too scared.
“Nathan?” Nebi touched his arm, startling him so he jumped away. “Whoa easy, are you alright?”
“Fine, sorry, I got lost in thought.”
Nebi smiled. “I hope it was all about me and how amazing I am.”
Nathan gave a nervous chuckle. “Yeah.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I mean you are pretty great. I’m surprised no one has tried sweeping you off your feet and taking you away.”
“Well, some men have tried getting my attention, but…” he moved closer. “Can I tell you a secret?”
“There actually is someone, I just haven’t told him yet. I stopped dating when I found him. Do you know why?”
“Because I think he’s my mate. That means, we’re meant to be.”
“Oh, really?” He didn’t understand why he suddenly felt so jealous. He didn’t have the right to be, not when he was too much of a coward to tell Nebi how he felt. “Why haven’t you told him then?”
“I’m planning on it, I just have to find the right time. Wouldn’t want him trying to run away.”
what idiot would run away from you Nathan thought to himself. All he wanted was Nebi and if he was normal and could give Nebi a good life he would be doing anything he could to be with him. Whomever this man was, Nathan considered him the luckiest man in the world to have captured Nebi’s heart. Nebi found it adorable how Nathan tried to smoothly bring up this mystery man as they walked. Nebi answered him, doing his best not to let Nathan know just yet that it was him he was in love with. It was fun to tease and he still didn’t feel like Nathan was ready to hear that.
They headed back to Nathan’s house after awhile and only stayed long enough for Nebi to grab his keys, wallet, and phone. They headed for the carnival and Nathan knew there would be way more people there. “How do you stop smells from driving you crazy?” Nathan asked.
“You have to learn to filter through them. If I wanted to, I could easily find you in a crowd. I know your scent and the sound of your heart, I even recognize the way you walk.”
Nebi nodded. “Shifters tend to be very detail oriented. They’re predators so remembering is important. I’ll never forget anything about you.”
“You spend a lot of time trying to fight of the animal when you should be using it. Even if you can’t control the change, you can form a sort of bond with the wolf. My leopard controls my reflexes and gives me amazing night vision. I don’t fight it, there’s no reason. It’s the reason I know who my mate is, because the leopard knows. It recognizes that one person in a million, his soul, his heart, his scent. You would know too if you stopped fighting so much.”
“I just worry.”
“I know, but you don’t have to.” They sat in silence for the rest of the drive, Nebi letting Nathan contemplate things.
“So are we going straight for the Ferris wheel?” Nathan asked once they were there and out.
“Nope. We have to play games and ride other rides and eat as much junk as we can and after all that, we’ll get on the Ferris wheel.” Then he would tell him when they were at the top and Nathan had nowhere to go.
Nebi was so eager to start playing around with Nathan they began playing the first game they came to, one of those games where you try to knock the glass bottles over. Nebi was amazing at games like this, even when certain festivals tried to rig them to make it near impossible to win. They walked away with the biggest prize that game offered then went to find another one. They only played one more before beginning to ride so they wouldn’t have to take what they got on too many things. They could always go out to the car but that would take away from their evening. Plus Nathan had a tendency to want to hide away from people. He didn’t want to give Nathan the chance to suggest they go home.
Nathan inhaled, taking in every scent carried to him by the breeze. “It’s beautiful, don’t you think?” Nebi asked and Nathan turned to face him.
“Yeah, it’s amazing. There’s so much going on.”
“See? I told you you’d like it.”
“Thank you for insisting.”
Nebi chuckled. “You know me, I can’t help myself. I would have dragged you out by the scruff of your neck.”
“You know, you can only take those dog jokes so far.”
“I don’t know about that, I can think of at least a hundred more. Besides, I can see you trying not to laugh.”
“See?” The Ferris wheel stopped at the top and they both took in the view. “So, I have something important to tell you.”
“Is everything alright?”
“Well, it’s about my mate. You see, he’s completely and utterly oblivious. I just don’t understand how he doesn’t see it.”
Nathan suppressed a jealous growl. “I’m sorry, want me to smack him for you?”
Nebi started laughing and Nathan looked at him confused. “Now why would I ask you to hurt yourself?”
Nathan almost spoke but then just looked at Nebi confused which caused Nebi to chuckle “You’re my mate if what I said before wasn’t clear enough”
“dont even start with all that Nathan., You’re my mate and you’re an amazing man if you’d just forgive yourself and look at all your good qualities. If you’d stop fighting your wolf and listen to it you’d know we were meant to be together.” Nebi moved closer before continuing “Let me kiss you…if we kiss there is no way your wolf wont howl at you that I’m your mate.” Nathan was like a deer in the headlights and he didn’t want to get off this ride without a kiss. He needed his mate, he needed him to know they were meant for eachother so Nebi pressed his lips into Nathans.
Nathan’s heart did a flip as he grabbed Nebi’s shoulders. He told himself he should push him away, but he couldn’t. He could feel the wolf rejoicing and instead of running away he let out a little whine and pressed closer. His arms slipped down and around Nebi’s waist, crushing the leopard into him as he deepened the kiss. Nebi had to turn his head to break the kiss and laughed as he pushed at Nathan’s chest. “Easy, we’re still on a Ferris wheel.” He said and Nathan pulled away with a look of shock and embarrassment.
“I’m sorry, I…” he really didn’t know what had come over him. “I didn’t mean to…”
“Kiss me?” Nebi teased.
“Yes…I mean no…I…”
“It’s alright, take a breath.”
Nathan inhaled deeply then let the air out of his lungs, trying to calm his erratic heart beat. “It’s just are you sure?”
“Nathan, we shifters know, we can sense it. You felt it right?”
“Yeah, I’m just amazed and shocked. I don’t deserve a mate.”
Nebi took his hand, lacing their fingers. “Yes you do, you more than anyone. You need someone who isn’t afraid of that wolf of yours, who can show you he’s not all that bad. He likes me, I can tell and so do you. You’re both one and the same, you should be working together rather than fighting. Even if you can’t control the change, you can still learn to bond with that part of you.”
“I just don’t want to hurt you. What if I was too aggressive while…” he rubbed the back of his neck, his blush worsening. “I mean it would kill me if you hated me.”
“You do know that as a species wolves can be very dominating, that’s just the way they are. Even Allon has some habits he can’t just get rid of because of his instincts. Like biting. You probably haven’t noticed, but Fino has them on his shoulders sometimes.” He chuckled when Nathan groaned. “Sorry, too much information?”
“About them, yes.”
“He likes showing them off, it’s like a badge of honor.”
“If I did that…would you mind?”
“Not at all Nathan” they went back home after the ferris wheel, too much on Nathans mind to continue enjoying things at the fair. “Talk to me Nathan” Nebi prompted once they had set their prizes down in the living room. “I don’t know where to begin…”
“you think too much” Nebi took Nathans hands in his “Just let me love you, let me be with you. If you can do that, slowly I’m going to make you love yourself and life. I love you, wolf and all.” Nathan kissed Nebi again and this time Nebi let him take it as far as Nathan wanted it. Nathan was scared but after that first kiss he couldn’t deny himself Nebi any longer. This was his mate, he could feel it now and he didn’t think he could stay away if he tried.
He lifted Nebi and carried him to his room, falling with him onto the mattress and pushing at his clothes. He let out a whine and Nebi took his face in his hands and pulled back. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve never had sex with a man, I don’t know what to do.”
Nebi pressed kisses to his lips, a smile pulling at his lips. “It’s okay, I’ll show you.” He pushed him back. “Get undressed.”
Nathan stood and shakily removed his clothes. He had never been so nervous in his life, but he wanted this with Nebi. He reached up and touched his eye patch and Nebi smiled as he tossed his own pants on the floor. “What?”
“Leave it on if it makes you feel more secure. I don’t mind, it makes you look like a sexy pirate.”
“Come here.” Nathan crawled on top of him and Nebi flipped him onto his back and straddled him. “Stay.” Nathan let out a growl and Nebi chuckled as he bent down and kissed him. “How cute, my wolf. I love you.”
“I love you too” Nathans voice was adorable to Nebi, how it was both annoyed and nervous at the same time. “Hey, this will be amazing and if you decide it isn’t all you have to do is tell me to stop Nathan. I will and I wont be upset by it or change my mind about being with you. Some people take longer than others to be ready for sex and sex isn’t everything. It’s amazing but it’s nothing in the grande scheme of things. I have found my mate, you, and that’s all that truly matters to me” Nathan swallowed, Nebis words tugging at his heart and helping ease him. He could tell Nebi meant those words, that he didn’t need to be so nervous because Nebi would still love him even if he couldn’t have sex with him just yet so there was no pressure. Nebi began kissing, nibbling and licking Nathan, enjoying his every reaction. Nathan felt the wolf within urging him to bite Nebi back but he was enjoying this too much to fight just letting Nebi do what he wanted.
Nathan let out a little whine when Nebi moved lower and moaned when he slid his tongue over his already hardened length. Nebi grinned as he teased him and chuckled when Nathan’s fingers tangled in his hair and urged him forward. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” He panted out. Nathan took him into his mouth, gently sucking and licking at him, getting lost in his moans and the way his body quivered. He only stopped when Nathan pulled him up. “I…I need you, please Nebi.”
Nebi gave him a light kiss and guided him on how to prepare him. They both moaned loudly when Nebi finally lowered himself onto Nathan and Nathan gripped Nebi’s hips. He rode him slowly, leaning forward to kiss him and catch every little pant, moan, and whine. It tapped into that animalistic part of Nathan and he found himself rolling Nebi beneath him. He withdrew and slammed into him, causing Nebi to cry out in surprise and hold tightly to him. “Nathan.”
Nathan lost himself to his need for Nebi, slamming into him repeatedly, soaking up how much Nebi was obviously enjoying it. When they were both spent Nathan curled up with Nebi, holding him tightly “I’ve been such an idiot” Nathan said and Nebi chuckled “took you long enough to figure it out. I love you Nathan and I want many more days just like this one. I’m moving in and you can’t stop me” Nathan smiled, rubbing his face into Nebis hair “I’m happy you’re such a stubborn, insistent person”
“it was the only way to win you over and I needed you. I couldn’t let my mate pass me by” They continued talking, it being the most normal conversation the two had ever had. Nebi enjoyed it, Nathan just talking without somehow bringing into the conversation he was a monster that should be avoided. Nathan would never be a monster to him and would never hurt anybody again. Nathan was amazing and he would do everything he could to get him to a point he never brought himself down again.
~ The End
Luke looked down at the little baby as he sheathed his sword, shocked that she was even alive. Her mother’s body was curled around her, arms holding her close in a protective embrace. He had found the child’s father dead in a puddle of blood by the front door. The house was a mess, completely ransacked. The only living thing was the little girl. He bent down, gently moving her mother’s arms and lifting the wailing infant up and against his chest. “Shhh, now, now little one, it’s alright.” He said softly as he carried her out of the house and over to where he had dropped his pack. He pulled his blanket out and wrapped it around her then laid her down. He couldn’t leave her parents like they were, but he also didn’t have time to bury them.
He dragged the father inside and placed him next to his wife then went and ignited a piece of firewood. He took it back out and tossed it onto the grass roof. “I’m sorry I arrived to late, may the Gods carry your souls away to a peaceful place.” He walked away, hoisted his pack onto his back then lifted the baby. He didn’t know the first thing about children and his life was certainly no life for one, but when he found her looking curiously up at him, he couldn’t help but promise to take care of her.
“Hand over your money.” The bandit said, the tip of his sword pointing at Luke and little Morgan.
“I can’t do that, I have a child to feed and you won’t be taking her dinner.” Luke shot back, keeping Morgan behind him.
“Don’t make me tell you again.”
Luke glanced around at the other four surrounding them. “Morgan, close your eyes and cover your ears.”
“Okay.” She said, her hands pressing to her ears and her eyes scrunching closed.
“What are you doing?” The bandit asked as Luke pulled the lute out of his pack.
“Looks like he wants to play us a song before he dies.” One of the other said, getting a laugh from his friends.
Luke sighed at their idiocy and started plucking the strings. The song resonated through him and through the ground and woods on either side of the small road. Shadows swirled inward, racing towards them and twisting around each other until black skeletons with eyes of purple fire stood around Luke and Morgan. The bandits look horrified upon realizing they were dealing with a necromancer, a couple of them dropping their weapons. He tried not to use his powers for this sort of thing, but Morgan’s safety mattered the most and he would rather not carry her into town covered in the blood of these men.
Morgan kept her eyes close, waiting for Lukes signal that everything was normal again. HIs magic was amazing but at the same time some of the things he summoned up gave her nightmares if she peeked when she wasn’t supposed to. She had learned to listen and keep her eyes tightly closed when asked. When the bandits were gone Luke rubbed the top of Morgans head gently “everything’s fine now, open your eyes” she did and instantly clung to him. He lifted her up to hug her “are you okay?”
“lets get you some dinner”
Carya looked up from wiping the bar when the little bell above the front door tinkled. She was a little taken back when she saw how handsome the stranger was. His eyes swept over the room, taking in every corner, every window, and every person and when they finally settled on her, she felt a blush move up her neck. She cleared her throat. “Welcome.” She managed as she put the rag away then came around the bar. “I’m Carya, how may I help you?”
“I would like a room with two beds and something to eat for my daughter and I.” He replied as he slipped his pack off his back and rolled his shoulders as if he were working out the sore muscles.
“Morgan, will you please come out?”
Carya’s eyes were drawn to the little girl the moment she stepped out from behind her father, her face half hidden behind his cloak. She squatted down and smiled. “Well hello, it’s nice to meet you.” Morgan tried to pull back behind her father, but his hand stopped her.
“It’s alright, Morgan, she’s nice so we should be polite. Say hello.”
Morgan looked up at him then back at Carya. “Hello.” She said, her cheeks instantly tinting.
Carya stood back up and looked at him. “It’s alright, it’s nice to meet you…”
“It’s very nice to meet you. Let me take you upstairs then I’ll get you both something to eat.”
“Thank you very much.”
Her first impression of them told her they’d be good guests. Owning and working at an Inn as long as she had, had taught her to read people. Luke didn’t look like a man to be messed with, he had great power of some sort but she could tell he was a good man and it took doing something to himself or someone he cared about to cause him to hurt anyone. The little girl was obviously timid and sweet, she doubted she’d even get up to the normal kid shenanigans. Carya gave them a nice room then left them to figure out something to eat.
“How are you doing, baby?” Luke asked after he had slid his pack and cloak under the bed.
“I’m fine.” Morgan said as she sat on the edge of her bed and kicked her feet.
“Are you really?” He squatted down in front of her. “Someone looks worried.”
“Are we staying?”
He sighed as he moved to sit next to her on the bed. “I know moving around so much is hard for you, I’m sorry about that. We’ll find a place, I promise. You know how people are when they learn of my spooooky powers.” He made his hands into claws and made scary noises which had her giggling. He patted her head then hugged her.
“I love you daddy.”
“I love you too, angel.”
Carya knocked on the bedroom door and her heart skipped a beat when Luke opened it. He smiled at her and she froze for a moment. His smile widened and she blushed, causing him to chuckle. “Sorry, your food.”
He looked down at the tray in her hands. “That looks amazing, please come in.”
He stepped aside and she carried the tray in and left it on the chest of drawers. “I hope you like it.”
“I’m sure we will, thank you. Morgan, say thank you.”
Morgan stood and looking at her feet said, “Thank you, ma’am.”
Carya went over and got down to the girl’s level. “Hey, if it’s okay with your daddy would you like to help me make dessert after you eat? I bet you’re a great cook.”
“He won’t let me mess with the fire.”
“Well, I bet if we asked him really, really nicely he would say yes.” Morgan just nodded and Carya stood back up and turned to Luke. “Is that alright with you?”
Luke hadn’t realized he was staring until she said something and he quickly pulled his focus away from her. “Uh, sure…yeah, if she want to. She doesn’t get to spend a lot of time with others, we travel a lot, so if she’s up to it. As long as she promises to be very careful with anything remotely sharp or hot.”
“I’ll make sure.”
Luke was surprised at how excited Morgan looked since she was such a shy child. He was glad this kind innkeeper was giving her an opportunity to do something so fun for a child. It seemed universal that kids loved helping in the kitchen. It showed she had a good heart and that he had chosen a good place to rest with his daughter. Luke let Carya know they’d meet her where they checked in when Morgan was ready to help with dessert so she left them to enjoy their meal. “You’re going to get to use a real kitchen” Luke pointed out to start a conversation with his little girl while they ate. “Yep! I can’t wait! I really will be super careful”
“I know you will and I’m sure she’ll keep a close eye on you”
“if we stay again maybe she’ll let me help cook dinner, do you think?”
“we can ask her”
Carya chatted happily with the patrons sitting at the bar, but her mind was on her new guests. “Carya, did you hear me?” She looked up at the man in front of her.
“Gordy and his boys said they were attacked by a neromancer.”
“I’m sure they did.” She said as she leaned on the bar. “Did they leave out the part where they tried to rob the person first?”
He chuckled. “They may have.”
“I thought so.”
“Dangerous creatures though, necromancers.”
“I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt. There’s no point in judging someone until they’ve done something.”
“You’re too sweet, Carya.”
“I would say she’s just the perfect amount of sweet.” The voice startled both of them and Carya found herself blushing as she turned and looked at Luke. He was standing at the bottom of the stairs, tray in his hands, lute slung across his back, and Morgan standing slightly behind him. “Your food was delicious.”
She swallowed. “Thank you.” His smile was one of those that probably had women literally fighting each other for his attention, but it just caused her brain to go blank and she had to force herself to speak. “I can take that.” She said.
“I wasn’t sure what to do with it.” He handed the tray over and she turned and gave it to the other woman who was sweeping behind the bar. “Since you and Morgan are going to be cooking, I was wondering if I could leave her with you for a bit while I did some shopping. She needs new clothes.”
“Of course, if she wants to.” Morgan nodded and Luke gently patted her head.
“Stick to Carya, okay.”
“Okay.” Morgan said. “I won’t be too long.” He said to Carya.
“Alright, stay safe then.”
“Maya” she called and another woman appeared “yes Carya?” Morgan gasped at the woman then blushed, feeling embarrassed “You do not have to worry about me little Morgan.”
“I can be a bit startling at first, even to adults, don’t worry about it a bit” Morgan took the woman in as she spoke. She thought her long blue horns were cool and she had never seen wings that combination of colors. They were tucked tightly to Maya’s body right now but Morgan could only imagine how pretty they were when she had them out. Her eyes were interesting as well. They were as dark as they night sky, not a trace of white like she was used to seeing. The brown in her eyes was hard to catch but it was there. Morgan also really liked her hair, how it was blue with golden tips. Her fingers looked sharp but her father trusted Carya so Morgan would trust anybody Carya trusted.
“watch the bar for me while I make dessert with Morgan”
“Alright, when you two are done can I go ahead and get off? I know I haven’t been here long today but” before she could continue Carya said “it’s fine, you know you don’t have to explain.”
“Thank you” When they were in the kitchen Morgan asked “so she works here?”
“for a few years now”
“what is she?”
“a mixture of a lot. She’s really nice and a good worker when she’s here”
“would it be rude if I asked to see her wings spread out?”
“we’ll walk outside with her when she goes to leave so you can see, pretty huh?”
“what;s your favorite dessert, I’ll help you make anything you like”
“Um…I don’t know”
“do you like cakes?”
“Hm, how about strawberries?”
“then would you like to help me bake strawberry cake?”
Luke strolled at a leisurely pace through the busy village, stopping briefly at a stall to grab a couple of peaches. Morgan loved them. He smiled politely at everyone he made eye contact with and stopped once to ask for directions. He found his way to a seamstress, an elderly woman with a bright smile and dexterous fingers. “Good evening ma’am.” He said. “Please don’t get up on my account.” The woman paused for a moment then sat back down in her chair and offered her hand which he took gently in his. “May I ask your name?”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Londa. I’m Luke and I’ll just be looking around.”
“Call if you need anything.”
“Of course.” He left her to her sewing and walked along the rows of clothes. He found a couple of things in Morgan’s size then went and bought them. He also wanted to get her a good pair of shoes. She was starting to get too big for hers. He paused in front of an odds and ends store and wondered if he should get a gift for Carya. He wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate, but she was being so wonderful to Morgan and had seemed to win the shy little girl over when no one else could.
He decided to go in, she deserved something nice to be done for her. If it made her uncomfortable he would apologize later and simply explain he was trying to thank her for being kind to Morgan. He imagined someone as beautiful as her got a lot of unwanted advances which was why he worried at all. He didn’t know her well but he noticed the beads in her hair so he guessed she liked jewelry so when he found a beautiful necklace in the store he picked it up for her. It was about this time that Carya and Morgan finished with dessert so that Maya could leave “Hey, is it alright if we walk out with you Maya? Morgan wants to see your wings when you have them spread” Maya smiled “Of course, come on”
There were other workers inside so Carya didn’t worry about stepping out for a moment with Morgan and Maya. Maya was normally quick about taking off but she made a show of it for the obviously excited little girl. She stretched her wings as far as they would go, just holding them out a few moments so Morgna could take them in “would you like to feel them too?” Maya asked
“Can I really?” She looked up at Carya.
“Go ahead, I’m sure your daddy won’t mind.”
Carya moved closer and let her hand run over the dark blue feathers. “They’re soft and pretty.”
“I’m glad you like them.”
“Thank you.” Morgan said as she moved back to stand with Carya.
“You’re very welcome.” She looked at Carya. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Take as long as you need and stay safe.” Maya nodded and let her wings take her up. She did a few rolls for Morgan who watched her with her mouth hanging open, then flew away. Neither of them moved until Maya was out of sight.
“I want to fly.” Morgan finally said. “Can she take me up?”
“You’ll have to ask your dad first.”
“Ask me what?” Carya didn’t think she would ever get used to how quiet he could be and turned to him as he walked up.
“Daddy!” Morgan said and ran to him.
“Daddy, can I go flying with Maya? Please, please, please?”
“She’s a friend.” Carya answered.
“You know if you want to fly, I could always conjure something for you. Like a dragon.”
Morgan shook her head. “Some of your stuff is scary.”
“Alright, then as long as she keeps you safe and you listen to her.”
“Maya would take good care of her, she’s someone I trust a lot around here”
“she has blue and gold wings dad!” Morgan added excitedly. Luke chuckled “That’s amazing Morgan” He fished around in one of the smaller bags and pulled out Carya’s present “I just wanted to thank you for being so nice to my daughter” He had thought about giving it to her after Morgan went to sleep for the night but he was far too nervous about the gift making her uncomfortable. He figured she might better see it was a thank you if he gave it to her around his daughter. He could tell by her expression she thought it was beautiful which relieved him. He couldn’t remember the last time he bought something like that for a woman. “wow, you really didn’t have to. She’s such a sweet girl. She wasn’t any trouble at all”
“Still, you’re the only one who has managed to get close to her.”
“Well thank you, this is really sweet.” Her smile was breathtaking and he actually felt his heart stutter a little.
“So, anyway…” he cleared his throat. “Morgan, would you like to see your new clothes?”
“Can I carry them inside?”
“Sure honey.” He handed her the bag and she started for the inn with he and Carya following.
“Despite her shyness, she seems really happy.”
“It’s surprising. I travel so much, you would think she would be more sad.”
“Have you always moved around?”
He nodded as he sat down on the porch. He knew Morgan was safe inside. Carya didn’t seem like the type of woman to employ bad people and her patrons had seemed respectful. “I don’t stay in a place for too long. People tend to be a little wary of me. It didn’t used to worry me, but I don’t want Morgan being treated like a freak.”
“Are you dangerous?” She teased as she sat down next to him.
“Oh yes, real trouble, you should stay away.” He joked back. “It’s my gift. Being able to raise the dead makes people uncomfortable.”
She smiled. “So it was you that scared Gordy and his friends.”
“Gordy? You mean the bandits?” She nodded. “Well, they started it and it’s not like I killed them.” He sighed. “I try not to summon skeletons around Morgan, it scares her sometimes.”
“She doesn’t seem effected.”
“Would you like to see? I promise not to summon anything too scary.” He pulled the lute off his back. “Ever seen a butterfly’s spirit?” She shook her head. He gently plucked the strings, letting the magic flow out of him and into the notes. “They’re beautiful, I know that sounds morbid, but they really are. Like wisps of fabric and light. Nothing like the ones I summon for defense. When Morgan was a baby, I would call on them to help calm her.”
“You seem like such a good dad Luke”
“she did amazing with the cake.”
“strawberry” he smiled “I’d like to try some when we go back inside” This was nice, just sitting here and talking to another adult. He loved his daughter but he didn’t get to have normal conversations with other adults often. She acted like he was just any other guy, he didn’t see a trace of fear, anxiety or judgement for what he did and when he showed her those butterflies she looked amazed, like his skill was beautiful. “Maybe we can all sit and eat it together before you two go to bed for the night”
“That sounds nice” He was excited she suggested it. He had already been forward once today when he gave her that gift, he probably wouldn’t have asked her to stay and eat dessert with them too. “How’re things with your inn?”
“Good, I have a steady stream of business and I have managed to put together a really incredible staff”
“Anyone giving you trouble?”
“Nothing I can’t handle. I know how to fight.”
“Well if you ever need me to, I can conjure something that’ll give anyone bothering you nightmares.”
Carya laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
They headed inside and he went up to get Morgan while Carya grabbed plates and forks and set them on the little table. She then grabbed the cake and sat it in the middle. Luke came into the kitchen with Morgan on his hip and was listening with interest to her talking. Morgan was excited about flying and she expressed how much she liked the inn and even Carya. Luke’s eyes turned to Carya, his smile affectionate as he sat Morgan down. “This looks amazing.” He said as he pushed Morgan in then went around to do the same for Carya. “You two really outdid yourselves didn’t you?”
“It was so much fun.” Morgan said. “I got a lot of flour on me.”
“I managed to get it off.” Carya added.
“It’s no fun if you can’t get messy while baking.” He said as he sat down.
Luke wasted no time after the cake was served picking up his fork and sinking it into his slice of cake. He took a bite, slowly sliding his fork out of his mouth in such a way it caught Carya’s attention. She blushed, feeling like a hormonal teenager. “this is really good Morgan” his smile was warm as he turned to look at Carya ” thanks for letting her help. This is the best strawberry cake I’ve ever had” she didn’t know if he was just saying that for his daughters sake but she certainly hoped he truly liked it as much as he seemed. He was such a good father she knew there was a chance he just didn’t want to break a five year olds heart.
He let Morgan enjoy two slices before saying “more tomorrow, I want you to be able to sleep tonight. Will you go brush your teeth for me?”
“Yes sir” Morgan looked over at Carya “you wont leave while I’m brushing right?”
“I’ll be right here”
“Okay” Morgan said as she got out of her chair then hurried to their bag to pull out her toothbrush.
“This was truly amazing.” He said as he stood and picked up all of their plates.
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I want to, it’s the least I can do. Besides, you’ve been working hard all day, just relax.”
“I still have some cleaning to do.”
“Then I’ll help.” He took the plates to the sink and quickly washed and dried them while Carya put the cake away and wiped down the counters. “How stubborn.”
“It’s in my blood.”
Luke chuckled. “Well, it’s a good trait to have.” He leaned against the counter, watching her move around the kitchen. “Do you mind if I ask about those scars on your neck?”
Carya reached up and touched them. She sometimes forgot they even existed. “Mountain lion. I was protecting some children.”
“That’s very brave of you.”
“I was terrified.”
“I think that’s the point of bravery. It takes a lot to rush into danger. I’m surprised you’re not married yet.”
“What do you mean?” She turned to him, arms crossed.
“Beautiful, brave, stubborn, you would think the men around here would be fighting for your attention. They’re obviously blind. You’re perfect.”
She blushed, her heart tripping over itself. He wasn’t just messing with her, she could tell by his expression he meant every word. His smile widened when he noticed she was at a loss for words. He moved closer, his smile far too charming “earth to the gorgeous Ms Carya” His voice was gentle, almost playful. She was far too amazing to let slip through his fingers. If she wasn’t he wouldn’t be so forward so quickly. “you’re something else Luke…you’re not just being sweet are you?
“No and I promise I don’t just romance every girl I see. I don’t want to come on too quick and seem like some sort of playboy but I’d be an idiot to miss this chance..even if I risk making a fool of myself if you don’t feel the same way” her heart was thudding now “damn it you’ve turned my mind to mush” she smiled, her tone breathy. Luke chuckled out an apology “I’m sorry”
She playfully nudged him “don’t laugh at me”
“well you’re incredibly hot and sweet and..well…maybe we could go on a date”
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a date.” He took her hand, letting his thumb brush over her soft skin. “Besides,” he said as he raised her hand to his lips and pressed a kiss to her knuckles, “don’t you think going out with a necromancer is dangerous?”
He smiled. “I like that.”
“Stop looking at me like that.” She had to fight the urge to cover her face.
“I can’t help it.”
“So, a date then?”
“Absolutely. Do you think your friend would watch Morgan?”
“I’m sure she would. I’ll ask her when she comes back.”
“I can’t wait.” He pressed another kiss to her knuckles.
“Daddy, I’m done.” Morgan called. Carya tried to pull away when she heard the girl’s footsteps, but Luke held onto her hand. Morgan paused for a moment when she saw them holding hands and wrinkled her nose. “Gross, were you kissing?”
Luke laughed and Carya covered her face. “I was just telling Carya goodnight.” He looked at Carya. “Goodnight beautiful.”
“Come tell Carya goodnight then I’ll tell you a story.”
Morgan hugged Carya “goodnight Miss Carya”
“I hope you sleep well. All your father has to do is let me know if you two need anything” Luke lifted his daughter into his arms and carried her to their room. Carya’s heart was still all over the place in her chest so she decided to check things around her Inn and Bar. There was nothing like work to calm her down. As luke tucked Morgan in she asked “do you like Miss Carya? You were holding her hand. I don’t see you touch people”
“I do, a lot”
“just dont kiss her in front of me” he grinned “Okay sweetheart” he went to their bag and pulled out a book then sat beside her on her bed to begin reading.
Carya was surprised at herself the next morning when she took extra time picking out an outfit. Usually she wouldn’t wear something overly nice since she worked in the kitchen and behind the bar, but her thoughts were so full of Luke that all she wanted was to look beautiful for him. She even made sure to wear the necklace he had picked out for her. She then left her home and walked next door to the inn. Those who had come in for breakfast turned and stared at her as she walked in and even Maya who was just serving a plate of biscuits and gravy paused. “Holy crap, Carya.” She whispered as they went back behind the bar together.
“What’s the occasion?”
“There isn’t one.”
Maya laughed. “Come on, it’s him isn’t it?”
“Well…I did want to ask you if you wouldn’t mind watching Morgan for us. We…we want to go on a date.”
“Oh, a hot one I bet.”
“Maya!” A bright red blush crept up her neck.
She laughed again. “Yes, I’ll watch her.”
“thanks…Luke says you can take her flying.”
“That’ll be a fun way to pass time. You two take your time. You deserve a nice date”
“I’m not sure what we’re doing yet, I suppose since I’m the one that lives here I should think of something’
“Just let it happen, it’ll be more romantic that way.”
“I at least have to figure out what we should do first” Luke lightly chuckled, how did he always manage to get behind her so soundlessly? “it’ll be amazing no matter what we do. If you aren’t sure we can just go on a walk to start with” Blushing she said ‘okay”
“what’s for breakfast?” Morgan asked. Maya answered “I could get you biscuits and gravy if you want sweetheart”
Carya sat next to Luke, eating breakfast with him at Maya’s insistence. He had already finished and was just sitting there watching her, an amused smile playing across his face at her blush. “Stop.” She finally said.
He sighed. “I’m sorry, you’re just so beautiful. Isn’t Carya pretty Morgan?”
“Mmhmm.” Morgan replied as she took another big bite of food.
“So what kind of stuff are you into?” Carya asked, trying to change the subject.
“A little bit of everything I suppose. I travel a lot so hiking, food, books, music, anything really.” He reached over and brushed his fingers lightly over the top of her hand. “I’ll be happy no matter where you take me.”
He made her feel so nervous but in the best way. It was nice to feel butterfly wings brush against her insides. It was also nice to feel beautiful, she hadn’t felt ugly before but the way he looked at her was incredibly sweet. It wasn’t sexual, it was like she was a work of art. Carya had grown accustom to lecherous looks here and there but Luke truly did just seem to think she was gorgeous. After breakfast Luke and Carya made sure Morgan was comfortable with Maya “I mean it, stay out as long as you want. I’ll hunt you two down if Morgan decides she needs her dad but we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
“yeah, I want to fly. Go away so she’ll take me up!” Luke chuckled, making a tingling sensation rush through Carya. He truly had the best laugh. It was comforting and warm, much like who he was as a person. She knew many would laugh at her for thinking of a necromancer this way but he seemed like such a good person. “alright sweetie, be good and remember, especially when she has you in the air you need to listen”
“yes sir, I love you”
“I love you too Morgan”
Luke looked back only once as they leaved and Carya couldn’t help but let out a little laugh. “She’ll be fine.”
“I know, sorry. It’s just I’ve never been far from her since I…”
“Since you what?”
He let out a little sigh. “I need to let you in on something, it’s not really a secret from Morgan, but it’s not something I tell others. I just know I can trust you.”
“What is it? Did something happen?”
“Not recently. It’s just, Morgan is adopted. I found her when she was a baby and I took her in. I want to be honest with you.”
“I hope that doesn’t put you off.”
“Not at all. It’s amazing really, you took in a child when you didn’t have to and gave her a loving home. You really are amazing. It doesn’t make you any less her father. You made sacrifices to provide for her and she’s so happy.”
“Yeah, I feel like she’s mine. I love her so much. It’s been amazing watching her grow up.”
“she is yours, you raised her. Where did you find her?”
“In the arms of her dead mother. Her father had been dead in the doorway. I’m not sure what happened but I saw that little girl and I had to help her” she took his hand and he gave her that same sweet smile as he held hers firmly. They walked until they came upon the library “lets go in, you said you like books.” she tugged him and he happily followed her inside. “so, what section do you browse first when you walk into a library?” she asked.
Carya glanced at him as he let his fingers drift over the spine of each book. He studied each title then pulled one out and flipped it open, his eyes moving over the first page with interest. “Which one did you pick?” He showed her the title. “It’s good a…a romance.”
“It looks interesting. Dragons, knights, comedy. I’ll give it a try.”
“Are you going to be here long enough to finish it?”
He chuckled. “I would think so, I like it here.”
“Does that mean you’ll leave someday?”
He smiled as he reached out and tucked some hair behind her ear, taking the opportunity to caress her cheek. “How could I when I’ve found someone as amazing as you?”
“I’m not that amazing.”
“It’s not good to lie. You might get in trouble.”
He nodded. “Oh yes, big trouble.” He winked and her cheeks turned a deeper shade of red. “So cute.”
“You love to tease huh?”
“when I care about someone” he said gently then went to the register to purchase the book he had in his hands. They soon left and she couldn’t figure out what she wanted to say or even ask him. It was him taking her hand again that brought Carya out of her thoughts “sorry”
“You’re adorable no matter what you’re doing, it’s fine. I know I’m coming on a little strong. You’re just that amazing and I want to make my feelings clear. I know we haven’t been acquainted long but there’s something special about you and I promise it’s not just a line.”
“I can tell you mean what you say by the way you look at me when you say it” he stopped her so he could look Carya in the eyes “I’m glad, I really do want to stay here and I hope in staying here I can get you to fall in love with me”
“Does that mean you’re never going to leave?”
“Yes,” he gently pulled her closer, “I want this to grow into something more. You’re beautiful and smart, you make delicious food…” she laughed, “and you know exactly what to do to get Morgan to open up. I can tell she already adores you.” He leaned in, pressing their foreheads together. “You’ve given both of us a chance at a normal life.”
“You mean normal for a necromancer?”
He chuckled. “Yes, normal for a necromancer.” He rubbed their noses together. “You’re something else you know that? I think I’m already madly in love with you.”
“I think I’m in love with you too”
“May I kiss you then?”
“yes” Luke didn’t hesitate a second longer. He moved in and pressed their lips together. The two of them melted into it, forgetting all together they were in the middle of town. It even took Carya a few moments longer to realize where she was when they parted lips. She blushed and he smiled, caressing her face again “Now I know, I love you Carya. Please let me be with you” she hugged him and he held her tenderly “I love you too. You and Morgan should stay in my home, it’s right by the inn. That is, unless you think moving into my home would be too fast for your daughter”
“I’d like that. She needs her own space and a stable home where she can make friends.” He lowered his voice. “Does that mean I’m allowed to sleep with you?”
She was sure her skin couldn’t get any hotter, but it did. “Luke.”
He grinned and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “What? It’s just a question. Completely innocent.”
“It certainly sounds like it.”
He chuckled. “Let’s keep going before you blush yourself into a fever.” He let her lead him through town, only stopping when he found something interesting. They talked about necromancy and how each necromancer used their magic differently. He explained how he had already been good at playing the lute and decided to have one specially made to channel his magic into music. He told her that bandits often underestimated him when they saw the instrument. She pointed out his sword which he explained he knew how to use, but preferred not to unless absolutely necessary. She in turn talked to him about her business, telling him a couple of funny stories about her physically throwing people out. He remarked on how adorable she must have been forcefully tossing full grown men out of her inn which earned him another blush.
When they returned to her inn to pick up Morgan and talk to her the little girl ran happily into her fathers arms “did you two have fun?” she asked and he said “yes, in fact we had so much fun I have something I want to ask you”
“what is it?”
“would you like to move into Carya’s home instead of staying at the inn?”
“You mean live there, always?”
“yes” she lit up and it touched Carya so much she felt like crying “I’d love that!” Maya and Carya helped Luke move his and Morgans stuff into Caryas home then Carya gave them a tour so they’d know where everything was. “I love your home” Morgan said cheerfully as she continued to take everything in “I’m so happy. We’ll work on making your room really yours. I’m sure your dad would even help me paint it another color if there’s one you’d prefer”
“Thank you.” She hugged Carya and Luke couldn’t help but smile. That night when he was tucking Morgan into bed, she asked. “Is Carya going to be my mom?”
Luke chuckled because he knew Carya was standing in the doorway blushing. “I don’t know sweetie, would you like her to be your mom?”
He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “How about this, we give it a little more time. It’s a big decision.”
“Okay, I love you.”
“I love you too baby girl, get some sleep okay. I’ll be sleeping just down the hall.”
“Goodnight.” Carya was waiting in the doorway, her face bright red, her eyes full of surprise. He took her hand in his and pulled her away from Morgan’s room and into their’s. “Are you okay?” He asked with a chuckle.
“Y…yeah, it’s just I didn’t expect her to ask something like that.”
“It’s okay right?”
He pulled her into him, his arms wrapping around her waist. “Let’s not worry about that right now, I still have to make you fall hopelessly, madly in love with me.”
“You’re already doing that” she said nervously, causing him to smile. He kissed her again, this one slow and meaningful before he asked “could I sleep with you, please?”
“Okay” they went into her bedroom then slid into bed together. She was too nervous to change even though she knew that was dumb and he was just making sure he didn’t make her uncomfortable. He’d much rather sleep in all his clothes than end up without Carya on the couch. They cuddled up together and he whispered “goodnight Carya”
“Goodnight Luke” He could get used to hearing that every night, he already knew he wanted the final thing he heard every day to be the sound of her voice. Carya was amazing and he felt abundantly blessed he was already getting to live with her. She was such a good, warm person and Luke was determined to be a good boyfriend so that maybe sometime soon he could be an even more amazing husband to her.
~ The End
She slowly raised the hose up her calf, over her knee, and up her thigh. She repeated the motion with the other foot, moving mechanically, lost in thought. She focused on the way her fingers felt on her flesh and wished they were another’s. She closed her eyes and envisioned the perfect body before her. He was lean, with his skin tight over his muscles. His skin was naturally tanned, his hair course and dark. As he towered over her, slowly leaning in she could feel the heat from his body coming closer and closer. All she wanted was to feel his touch.
Beep Beep Beep!
Shit. She had lost track of time dreaming of the impossible and was now behind. She quickly pulled up her skirt and tucked her shirt in. She looked in the mirror at her plain face and her long plain hair. There was nothing special about her, she thought. Nothing for daydreams and fantasies. She pulled her hair up in a quick bun and ran out the door, hopping on one foot as she fixed her heel. She wasn’t looking forward to the wrath her boss was going to impose on her for being late. He was such a prick, but her boss nonetheless. Her mind flitted back to that hot blooded fantasy that she desperately craved which only led her to drop her keys.
“I swear Marissa, pull yourself together!” she scolded herself. It was only 7:30AM and already a hell of a day.
She pulled out into the New York traffic, already swearing at her untimeliness this morning. She was bumper to bumper and wasn’t going anywhere fast. She turned the radio up and the AC on and looked over to her right. A couple was swooning, locked in a passionate kiss that never seemed to end. Marissa watched in envy, wishing someone would grab her like that, laugh with her, look into her eyes the way the couple was looking at each other. The woman looked over and caught Marissa’s eyes. Marissa turned away, red and embarrassed at being caught witnessing their intimacy. The worse part was she couldn’t even get away from the couple, so she focused on the radio and let her mind drift off once more to Mr.Right.
This habit of daydreaming had been getting worse and worse in the past weeks but she had been single for quiet awhile at this point. She just wasn’t made for being single. She loved herself and could live a fulfilling life on her own as well as take care of herself but there just wasn’t anything like having a partner at your side to face the days with. There was just something about having a special someone to wrap you in passion that made life better. Sure she could go to a bar and pick up somebody, getting someone in bed for a night was nothing. She didn’t often do that but it’s basic knowledge that getting someone, if you’re not too picky, to sleep with you wasn’t too big of a challenge. Keeping someone meant something though, having someone choose to be at your side day in and day out was amazing, having someone who was invested in you was amazing and she hoped she’d find that soon.
After her last relationship crashed and burned so horribly she was surprised that she even wanted another so soon. Granted it had been two years already but the pain was still there. Coming home to find who you thought to be the love of you life cheating on you in your own bed was, well, to say the least, irrevocable. Not to mention it was with another man, there wasn’t even a more beautiful woman with long legs and big tits to make it feel like it wasn’t her. She sighed and brought herself back to the task at hand. She needed to get this portfolio done before 5:30 and time was running out. She worked tirelessly, as she always did, and finished it by her deadline. The only great part of the day was handing her boss the finished product as he arrived at her desk to yell at her for not finishing it. He hated it when she bested him but nothing made her day better.
Marissa’s phone rang and she saw it was her best friend Ashley. She had already text her three times today, urging her to get her homebody self out for a drink. God knew she needed it. Marissa always avoided crowds, she found people awkward and looking like bumbling idiots during their mating calls. On the other hand, maybe she could spruce herself up to the best of her ability and go home with a buzz and a couple of compliments to make her feel better. She answered the phone and solidified their plans. Ashley was ecstatic that she was finally getting her out of the house and Marissa could barely get her off the phone.
She stood there, looking through her closet, depressed at her selection. She settled for a little black dress that always made her feel confident. She slid the dress on and put on a little more makeup than usual. As she looked at herself she decided she wasn’t half bad with the right makeup on and her hair laying loose with curls around her shoulders. She wasn’t looking for anyone tonight but she still wanted to feel sexy. She knew there was no such thing as a mister right, at least not the type she has imagined in her mind. Mr.Tall Dark and Handsome didn’t exist and if he did she had no shot. “Speaking of shots” she thought to herself. She walked to the kitchen and pulled down her stash of tequila. Might as well get a head start and calm her nerves before Ashley arrives to pick her up.
Marissa took two shots before just sitting down in front of her television to wait. Thankfully Ashley didn’t keep her waiting too long so she wouldn’t have to go for the third shot to keep her nerves in check. Inside her head she reminded herself she was strong, beautiful and intelligent and she deserved love. She didn’t want to go out down on herself and end up doing something she regretted. Marissa slid into the passenger seat and hugged her friend “hey girl’ Ashley said cheerfully “Hey” they let go and Ashley started pulling out of the driveway “you ready to let loose?”
“Oh yeah, I need it”
“You look really pretty tonight”
“Thank you, don’t think less of me but I just really want to be flirted with” Ashley laughed “girl you know I’m the least judgmental person you know” It was true, part of what made things comfortable with Ashley is she loved you for you. She felt your life was your own and she didn’t have the right to judge. “Yeah, thanks for bugging me to come out”
“I knew you just needed a push or two”
Do you have to work tomorrow?”
“Nope, I’m all yours as long as you want to be out”
Ashley turned up one of their favorite songs and started singing along. Marissa could tell that she was ready to go out and didn’t have any inhibitions. No reason for her to have any. She was beautiful and full of life. People always flocked to her, brought in by her personality. Marissa always wished she was more like Ashley but there was no point in wishing for the impossible. She had to admit though, after a few drinks and hanging around Ashley, she always started to let loose more than normal and her smiles always seemed to come easier. That was another one of the reason’s that she loved her, she always found the best versions of herself around her.
Marissa smiled to herself and admitted she was really looking forward to tonight, man or no man. The next thought on her mind was the impending hangover but she quickly shoved those thoughts aside and decided to let nothing stop her from having a good time. They found a parking deck a few blocks from the bar they were planning on trying first and snapped a picture of it’s location on their phones in case they got too drunk and couldn’t remember where they parked the next day. They had already decided on a taxi home and Ashley was fine with leaving her car. Marissa’s nerves started to climb the closer they got to the bar. She felt her chest tightening and it became steadily harder to breathe. Ashley noticed and stopped.
“Hey, let it all go! There’s no reason to be nervous, we are just here for a good time, right? You’re beautiful and I’m sure you’ll get those compliments you want.” She winked at Marissa and Marissa cracked a smile. She always knew how to calm her down and make her feel better. They got to the door and Marissa took a deep breath. “Shot’s?” asked Ashley. “You know it.” replied Marissa.
They downed their first one and ordered another, Marissa now taking time to scan the crowd of people there. There were quite a few attractive faces, both men and women. That could be good and bad, good because it would feel even better being hit on by someone incredibly hot but maybe bad because the hotties might flock to fellow hotties instead of her. She mentally kicked herself for what she just did. She struggled not to put herself down after being cheated on and she needed to stop. Cheaters were cheaters and thats all there was to it. Sure some people liked to say people cheated because they werent happy in bed at home but the truth was someone who would cheat tended to cheat on most the people they ever dated, it had nothing to do with satisfaction, some just struggled to commit to one person in bed.
She couldn’t always keep that in mind but she tried to because it was true. It really wasn’t her fault her husband cheated. She repeated that to herself a few more times as they took their next shot. “wooo!” Ashley already yelled making Marissa giggle, she really was an incredible light in her life. “Oh I’m so glad you got me out here”
“what should we do girl?”
“The only thing left to do! Let’s dance!”
Marissa grabbed Ashley’s hand and led her to the dance floor. She had enough shots in her to hardly care what anyone thought. She just wanted to let herself get caught up in the dancing bodies around her, all of them blissful and free of thought. She closed her eyes and let herself feel the music surrounding her. She started to dance to the rhythm, letting herself get carried away. She didn’t notice the man behind her at first. When she felt someone dancing with her she had assumed that it was Ashley. When she was grabbed by the waist she knew it wasn’t her friend. She spun around to see who her assailant was. He was handsome, but had that drunken smug smirk on his face that made her turn back around. She would let him dance with her for entertainment but she definitely wasn’t interested. Ashley came up from her own dancing and get in between them. She could tell Marissa wasn’t 100% in to the dance and came to save the day.
“There’s plenty of hot guys in here! No need to waste your time on him!” Ashley shouted above the music. Marissa smiled at her and started dancing again. She couldn’t care less about men anymore, she was too drunk to care. The hours passed and before they knew it, it was closing time, their feet were killing them, they couldn’t stop laughing, and they had to ask for the taxi number three times before they remembered it. The two girls walked outside to wait for their cab and enjoy the fresh air. Suddenly, two drunk men were arguing loudly at each other in front of Marissa and she strained to get a better view. One of them must have swung because before she knew it the other drunk had been knocked into the guy standing in front of Marissa. He fell backwards, barely turning in time to stop the majority of his fall, which would have seriously crushed the much smaller Marissa.
“Are you alright?” he asked, still on top of her and out of breath. Marissa opened her eyes and almost choked on her words. Mr.Tall Dark and Handsome was real and he laying right on top of her. She barely even heard the words coming out of his mouth she was so surprised. Suddenly Ashley was pulling him off of her trying desperately to make sure she wasn’t injured. “OMG Marissa! Are you ok? Are you hurt?”
“No, no I’m fine.” she responded. The man looked genuinely concerned for her well-being, which made since because he was a hell of a man who had to weigh no less than 230lbs. Marissa found herself staring and unable to look away. They both just stood there for what felt like an hour’s time, looking at each other. The man’s friend came up to him asking if he was alright about the same time that their taxi arrived and Ashley practically hauled her into the car. Marissa didn’t know if it was the booze or her imagination but she felt like she was just torn away from her soulmate, which was silly seeing as how she had never even met the man before. Now she didn’t even know if she would ever see him again and there was no way of finding him. There was only one option, she would have to come back to that bar until she saw him again, no matter how long it took.
When they arrived at Marissa’s Ashley paid the cab driver then began helping her friend out of the car “I’m going to stay the night okay?”
“yeah, that sounds good”
“You sound distant, you sure you are alright?”
“what is it?” Ashley urged, really concerned about her “Its stupid and I’m drunk” Ashley cracked a small smile “come on, lets get you in something comfortable”
“I don’t want pajamas, lets just take our clothes off and relax in our underwear: Marissa suggested so once inside they made sure the windows were closed then flopped down on Marissa’s couch in their bra and panty sets. This was another amazing thing about their friendship, they were comfortable no matter what with eachother. They didn’t stay up too much longer that night, just long enough to get some food in their system and talk about the nights events. Ashley set herself up on the fold out couch while Marissa went to her room.
In the morning Marissas head ached so she went straight for her coffee pot then began a pot of cream of white for them to eat. Ashley groaned on the couch at all the noise Marissa made getting the pot out so she yelled “come on, it’s time to get up. Coffee will be ready soon” Ashley wordlessly got off the couch but she wasn’t coming to the kitchen, she was going to get in Marissa’s bed to sleep a bit longer.
“Hey, if I have to be miserable you do too.”
“No way, too tired, just ten more minutes.”
“Fine, but if you don’t get up I’m dumping ice water on you.”
It didn’t stop her from going into Marissa’s room and flopping down on the bed though and Marissa let out a small laugh. Her mind drifted back to him as she finished making breakfast, She tried to remember what he had said, had he been surprised or was he simply apologizing. The way his eyes had stared into hers, the recognition. She shook her head. It had to have been her imagination, but it pulled at her, tugged at her entire being, drew her in like a moth to a flame. She sighed. She had been burned before. She ate slowly, her stomach grumbling the entire time in protest, but she knew it would make her feel better. She went and made Ashley get up ten minutes later and had her eat. She protested, saying she would puke if she tried, but wound up doing it anyway.
“Oh, are you sure you’re okay after last night? That guy looked heavy.” Ashley said.
“Yeah, I think he actually managed to keep some of his weight off of me so nothing broke. He was all muscle, it was like someone dropped a bunch of rocks on top of me.”
“You probably liked it” teased Ashley.
“Yeah, you’re right” Marissa laughed, “did you see him! There was something about him.” Marissa’s mind started to wander and Ashley had to snap her back to reality.
“Hellloo?” Ashley smiled “I agree there was something about him, he was smoking hot!”
Marissa laughed and decided to keep their eye contact just between them. She didn’t want Ashley to think she was crazy or love sick even though she knew she wouldn’t judge her.
“What do you want to do today? It needs to be quiet to save my head and maybe a mimosa is in order” said Ashley.
“You just said you were going to puke before you ate. How in the world can you think about drinking” Marissa laughed.
“Hair of the dog!” replied Ashley. It was going to be an interesting day.
Everything was dark. It was warm and everything seemed to feel amazing. Marissa opened her eyes and there he was, staring at her. His body was surrounded by a soft glow, making him look almost as if he was from Heaven itself. She reached her arm out, wanting nothing more than to touch him.The more she reached the farther he seemed to get. “No! Come back!” she shouted, hoping he would hear. The harder she strained to see him the more he seemed to fade away in the background. She had to find him.
Beep Beep Beep
Shit, back to Monday.
Traffic, why did traffic always have to pull her out of her fantasies? Yesterday she didn’t think her dream man was real but last night she had actually seen him, he had fallen right on top of her with that perfect, sculpted body. She was practically wet just thinking about him, just remembering their brief interaction. She sighed, wishing Ashley hadn’t rushed her away like that. She knew Ashley had only been worried but it could take months for her mystery man to return to that bar, if he ever did. With her luck he might decide to quit drinking and she’d lose her chance forever.
He was on her mind more than ever at work today but she still managed to get everything she needed to done. After work she picked up some fast food so she could go straight home and dress for returning to that bar. Looking at her disappointing wardrobe again she decided if she was going to hunt him she needed much better clothes. She was over due to spoil herself anyway so she sat down at her computer and browsed a few of her favorite online shops for some nice, new clothes. She spent a little too much, knowing she’d have to dip into her savings to get to next check but she felt her future happiness was at stake with this man, as ridiculous as she knew that sounded. She had paid for next day shipping on everything so she was less worried about finding him tonight. If she didn’t that meant he’d see her in something incredibly cute tomorrow night. She would still try the bar this evening anyway though, she wanted to see him again far more badly than she wanted to see him again in pretty clothing.
She knew her legs were her best chance at getting noticed so she pulled out a tight skirt and a long sleeve off the shoulder floral print. She decided to put more effort into her hair and makeup and even watched youtube video’s for desperate help. She wanted to look her absolute best and couldn’t imagine being caught dead by this mystery man any way else. He deserved the very best. She almost hated him for being so perfect, not even having to try. He probably just woke up and smiled and was ready to go.” Lucky sexy bastard” Marissa thought to herself. She paused a moment and remembered the way his skin felt hot against hers. He was so much warmer than she would’ve imagined. “God, those eyes. What I would give to just look into them one more time.” Marissa then began to get very nervous. “What if he has a girlfriend?” she thought. She hadn’t seen him with anyone but it was a possibility.
One that she would rather not think about. “Will he even be out on a Monday?” the chances were slim but they were chances she was willing to take. Her body started to heat up the more she thought of him and she noticed she was blushing. How was she going to talk to him if she was blushing before she even saw him? What would she even say? “Hey, so I felt we had a deep connection because you stared at me and I think we are soul mates”? Probably wouldn’t go over very well. She would sound like a nut. She could play hard to get, but if he wasn’t hunting then it would be pointless. She decided to stop thinking about it and just to do it and see what happens. She was going to go alone this time, she didn’t want to admit to Ashley why she was uncharacteristically going out on a Monday. As soon as she even told her she was going Ashley would figure it out. She is as smart as she is beautiful.
After she was done getting ready she took a mental toll of herself in the mirror. The youtube video’s on her makeup had done her justice and for once she didn’t feel so plain. She actually felt beautiful, which made her even more anxious to see him. All she wanted to do was to go up to him, grab him by the back of the neck and pull his lips to hers. She wanted to taste him so bad, to feel him against her one more time. She was getting turned on already so snapped herself back to reality. She decided to drive since she hadn’t planned on drinking that much. She wasn’t going to get drunk but just to find her mystery man. She stepped into her car and prayed he was there.
Ashley ended up calling and con-ing the information out of her anyways and stated she was coming. Even though Marissa hadn’t wanted Ashley to go, she decided it was probably better that she was going. She wouldn’t look so awkward sitting at a bar alone barely drinking. She hadn’t really thought her plan through and was thankful that, once again, Ashley had saved the day. They met in front of the bar and walked in. There was a decent crowd for it being Monday so Marissa didn’t feel so different. She decided that one shot wouldn’t hurt and ordered her usual as Ashley joined in on the festivities. Ashley was ready any night of the week and could make any night fun. At least if Mr.Right didn’t show she would still have a good time. An hour or two passed and there was still no sight of him. Marissa began to become discouraged and told herself to stop searching. It only made the night go by so much slower.
It was tormenting her at this point and she was having a hard time enjoying herself. Ashley kept noticing her less than enthusiastic mood and continued to bring her shots. Marissa hadn’t planned on getting drunk but her mood was pushing her towards the inevitable. She told Ashley she was heading to the ladies room to touch up her makeup. She was still surprised when she walked in and looked in the mirror that it was her staring back. Oh, the wonders of makeup. It was a shame that she had spent so much time on getting ready all for him not to show up. She scolded herself for getting her hopes up. It was Monday for God sake. She walked out of the bathroom and looked up just as someone knocked into her. She was so caught up in her thoughts she hadn’t even bothered to pay attention to where she was going. “Could this night get any worse?” she thought to herself. She looked up and froze. She didn’t know if it was the tequila or real life but he seemed even more beautiful than yesterday. At some point she remembered to breath in the midst of her apologies but he just looked at her and smiled. His smile was radiant and he had the perfect dimples to match. She had thought his eyes were brown but they were a dark hazel that she hadn’t noticed before. She caught herself staring again and quickly looked away.
“I’m sorry” she said again.
“It’s alright, we seemed to be meant to run into each other like this” he chuckled. “Can I buy you a drink?”
Marissa’s heart thudded in her chest, she couldn’t believe this was actually happening. For the moment she forgot how to speak. She wished Ashley was here to save her and come up with something charming and witty to say like always.
“I’d love that” was all she could muster. Her dream man was real and he was buying her a drink. She silently pinched herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. The indication of pain under her arm let her know that she was in fact about to have a drink with him. Hallelujah.
She followed him back over to the bartender where he spoke again “what would you like?”
“a happy colada” he ordered two, she wondered if he liked it or if he was just trying it because she liked it. Though she might not admit it to most others than Ashley she mostly liked it’s color. It was such a pretty drink and it of course tasted amazing. Truly anything with coconut rum was amazing to her. For a few seconds Marissa had completely forgotten Ashley was there but her thinking about the drink reminded her. Marissa blushed, feeling like an ass. She waved Ashley over “My friends here too” Marissa said bashfully and he gave her a charming smile before ordering one more for her friend. Marissa thought that was incredibly sweet, how many men bought drinks for the friend too?
“so this is Ashley, Ashley this is?”
“Nick” oh god she had just repeated his name dreamily like some sort of school girl. She wanted to die right there, especially when he obviously suppressed a chuckle. Atleast he had been kind and tried to keep it down completely. “Nice to meet you” Ashley said, offering her hand. She planned to stay just long enough to see if he was cool or not, if he was she was going to go home before she cock blocked her bestie.
“So, what do you do, Nick?” Ashley asked.
“Why don’t you guess.” He replied with a big smile. “If you can guess right within three tries, I will pay for every drink you and Marissa want.”
“Football star.” He shook his head. “Bodyguard for a mob boss.”
“As interesting as that sounds, no.”
He chuckled. “That’s three strikes.” He turned his gaze back to Marissa and she swallowed. “How about you?”
“Um…well, I mean you’re really muscular and strong, so I’m going to say cage fighting? I mean you look like you could knock someone’s head clean off.” Their drinks showed up and she picked hers up, taking a nervous sip. His eyes twinkled with amusement and she asked, “Well was I right or are you going to leave me hanging?”
He smiled at her and shook his head.
“Not a cage fighter either” he laughed “I actually own this bar, opened it up a couple of years ago. I didn’t need the income but it helps fund my interests.”
His answer only aroused more questions in Marissa. It was definitely a popular bar so his interests had to be pricey. She also wondered what he meant about not needing the income. She felt it would be too rude to pry on such things so decided to choose the topic of his interests to talk about instead.
“What exactly are your interests that have you opening bars to support it?” she smiled coyly at him. The drinks were making her feel brave and the shyness was slowly seeping away.
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you” he looked at her very solemnly, then busted out with laughter. For a moment she had believed him and hadn’t known what to say. She playfully hit him in the arm. “Actually, I collect art. This city is full of such wonderful artists, it’s practically a gold mine for collectors. It does come at it’s price though.”
Handsome, sweet, and tasteful. Marissa wondered how he could be any more perfect. Ashley lightly nudged her and she realized she was daydreaming again. There was no need to daydream when the dream was standing right in front of you.
“It’s getting late” said Ashley, “I think i’m going to head in so I’m not shot for work tomorrow.” Ashley hugged Marissa and gave her a sly smile and a wink. Marissa could’ve kicked her for being so obvious. At least she knew that Ashley approved and was giving her the go ahead. The only question left was the go ahead for what. Was he really interested or was he just being polite for their continuous run-ins? Doubts started to flood her mind so she finished off her drink to help with her nerves. She wasn’t in to random hook ups but Nick felt anything but random. She felt like she had known him for years and that this wasn’t their first official night meeting each other. She decided she would keep up the conversation and the drinks and just see where the night took her. She did look marvelous tonight and the look in his eye told her that he was interested in more than just an apology.
“I forgot to ask, but I didn’t hurt you or anything last night did I?”
“Hmm, oh no, I mean it hurt, but you didn’t break anything.”
“Good.” He looked and sounded relieved and took her hand gently in his to guide her away from the bar and to a quiet little corner where they could be alone. “May I also say that you look incredibly beautiful tonight. I mean you did last night as well, but wow.”
She giggled, a blush creeping up her neck. “Thank you, you don’t look to bad yourself.”
He smiled and her heart nearly stopped. His fingers slid up, gently running across her wrist so goosebumps formed on her skin then back down over her palm and along her ring finger. A light shiver ran up her spine and he gave her an amused, yet pleased grin. He was teasing her.
It was weird, even he acted like they knew eachother. It could be a major amount of confidence but would somebody really be this bold? “so are you here a lot of nights?” she asked, wanting to keep talking. “Yeah but if you ever want to do anything I don’t have to be here”
“maybe i want to see your art collection”
“wow, really?” he chuckled “you don’t seem like the type of woman I should waste any time wooing. I’d happily show you my art collection tonight”
“Um, I’ve had a bit to drink”
“I wont take advantage” she might be being stupid because she was so lovestruck but she allowed him to lead her out of the bar. He proved to be a gentleman when he held the car door open for her “thank you”
“You’re a lady, I’ll treat you as such” she smiled, feeling completely secure in the choice she was making. He was obviously a nice man and truly would be a gentleman this evening. It was a bit of a drive but he took her to a beautiful home that took her breath away “this is where you live?”
The house was so intricate and beautiful. It was also bold, it reminded Marissa of Nick. It fit him well. She was a little nervous but he had said he wouldn’t take advantage. To be honest, she was more worried about her taking advantage than him. It had been a while now and everything about Nick aroused her constantly. The more she talked to him and the closer they got the more heightened her senses became. With every touch she felt chills run up her spine but felt her flesh on fire at the same time, leaving her emotions smoldering. They walked inside, up the stairs and into an open room. The art was exquisite, so beautiful it took her breath away. She couldn’t believe this man collected such magnificent pieces.
“Do you like them?” he asked her.
“They are wonderful, Nick. It’s some of the most beautiful art I think I’ve ever seen!” She was being genuine and he knew that she meant it. As he watched her admire his collection he couldn’t help but feel himself getting closer to her. His arm was around her waist before either one of them realized it. She turned to him, startled.
“I am a man of my word and would never take advantage of you, but I can’t help but want to kiss you. May I?”
She nodded her head yes but couldn’t manage to make the words come out of her mouth. Her mind went blank as he bend down to her lips. While one hand held her waist the other came up softly to tilt her chin towards him. He kissed her softly, as to not alarm her. He wanted to take her furiously and madly but maintained his restraint. He wanted to keep his word to her. He wanted her to trust him more than anything, this beautiful stranger. Marissa was in complete bliss. She couldn’t imagine a better moment than the one she was having right now. His kiss was everything she thought it would be and more. He was gentle and kind and she couldn’t wait to know more of him, body and mind. She pulled away as to save her virtue and smiled at him. He smiled back at her and they once again locked eyes and stared at each other, as if looking deeper into each other’s souls. She didn’t want this moment to end but it was getting late and she knew if she stayed any longer she wouldn’t be able to control herself around him. It was already maddening keeping herself off of him. Everything about him screamed sex and it drove her crazy.
“It’s getting late, I should probably go.”
“When can I see you again?” she was pleased he had asked because she didn’t want to be the one who did.”Can I pick you up for dinner this weekend?”
“I would love that” Marissa responded. She looked down at her feet as she felt her cheeks flush, this was really happening.
He brushed his fingers over her cheek, giving her goosebumps. “Let me call you a cab then.”
“I’ll have someone drop it off if you give me your address. I promise it’ll arrive there safely.”
He smiled, leaning down to brush another kiss across her lips. It was barely a ghost of a touch, but it sent little shocks of pleasure dancing over her skin. He kept her pressed against him as he fished his cell out of his pocket and called the cab company and she rested her head against his chest, enjoying the sound of his voice and the steady beat of his heart. “Are you falling asleep on me beautiful?” He asked and she looked up at him, another blush crawling up her neck.
“No, I um…I just feel surprisingly comfortable in your arms” The smile that stretched across his face was endearing and made him all the more kissable but she knew if they kissed any more things would end up going much further tonight and she didn’t want to seem easy. When the cab came she felt the slightest tug of sadness but left with a smile. They had plans for next weekend and she could wait until then. She seemed to need a cold shower anyway with how quickly such innocent contact had heated her up. Once home she started stripping then laid on the bed to call Ashley.
“How did it go?” were the first words out of her mouth “His house is beautiful”
“ohhhhh his house” she said suggestively, causing Marissa to laugh “we didn’t have sex but we did kiss”
“is he a good kisser?”
“Oh yes, I wanted him right then and there but I didn’t want to be easy. Most men like to work for it even though they wont admit it”
“I’m really glad you found him”
“we’re going for dinner this weekend”
“did he ask or did you”
“damn girl, got him around your finger”
“still, I think it looks good for you.”
“me too, I’m going to get some sleep though”
“alright, goodnight girl”
“goodnight” They hungup and Marissa took that much needed shower before settling into bed so she could be well rested for work. The week droned by but she made it to the weekend, happy when he arrived at her house she was slightly embarrassed because his was so much nicer but he didn’t seem like the type to look down on her for it so she decided not to worry too much.
She smoothed her skirt against her body and tucked her hair behind her ear. She had bought another brand new outfit for tonight and even new jewelry. He made her feel like a new woman so she didn’t feel she had any other choice. Plus, he was always dressed so nicely. she didn’t want to feel like a slob next to him.
“You look lovely, Marissa” his voice was husky yet smooth as he said her name.
“Thank you” she looked down at her feet but he tilted her chin so her eyes would meet his.
“You don’t have to do that you know, you don’t have to look down every time I compliment you. I admit, it’s adorable but you should take more pride in yourself. You are beautiful, you have to know that, right?”
Instead of answering him she took his hand and started walking towards his car. She was eager for the night to begin, she had waited all week to see him again and it had almost been her defeat. He opened the car door for her and she slid into the passenger seat. She caught him looking at her legs once she was settled in and he quickly looked away. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks and let her hair down from behind her ear to hide it.
“Where to first?” she inquired.
“It’s a surprise” he answered with a sly smile. She loved surprises and was glad that he was taking the chance. The drove for about 20 minutes, traffic being light for the weekend in the city. They arrived at a elegant restaurant and he pulled up to the front of the building. He walked to her door and opened it, offering her his hand. He handed the keys to the valet and took her hand. The staff opened the doors for them and told them to follow. Marissa was quite confused as they walked in and instead of being seated, they were walked up a beautiful winding staircase.
“Close your eyes” he said. She laughed nervously and did as he requested.
“What could he possibly have in mind?” she wondered.
He placed his hands on her shoulders, the feel of them causing goosebumps to cover her skin as he gently guided her. She could hear a door being opened, the smell of food hitting her nose. Soft music played around her and she couldn’t help but get lost in the lilting tune. She heard him thank someone and then the door closed. “Can I look now?” She asked.
“Yeah, go ahead and open your eyes.”
She slowly opened them, gasping when she saw the beautifully decorated room. There was a lot of art on the walls, old and expensive looking that she knew she could admire for days if given the chance. All artificial light had been turned off and was replaced by the soft glow of candles positioned around the room for the best effect. A table stood in the middle, recently plated food still steaming and a bottle of champagne chilling next to it. “Wow.” She finally managed to say.
“I was hoping you would like it.” He guided her over to the table and pulled out her chair. Once she was settled he went over to the far wall and pulled back a pair of large curtains. “The view is pretty spectacular too, though it’s much better now that you’re here.”
“You’re so sweet” she said with a ridiculous smile she was trying to force down. Nobody had ever done anything remotely like this for her before so she felt incredibly happy but she definitely didn’t want to be wearing a smile so big it looked ridiculous. He sat down, grinning confidently, not seeming to have a single worry in the world. She would do anything for a life like his. So far he seemed like he had everything a man could want, good looks, money, any girl he wanted, surrounded by things he enjoyed and she thought once more about the good looks part. He opened the bottle with ease and soon poured them each a glass of wine “I have others if you hate it. This one is my favorite.”
“I’m yet to find a wine I dont like” she answered then took a sip to try it. “wow, that is really good” he smiled happily “good, I can tell you mean that.”
“worried I’d lie?”
“I take you for the type who worries about being rude. Normally people like that will say they like something just because it was served to them, to spare feeling”
“I’ll be honest, don’t worry”
“good, I’d prefer that. You’re sweet but I’d rather know if you don’t like something” she noticed the candles were scented “wow, what is that smell coming off them?”
“try and guess, I’ll give you the answer but it’s fun to have people guess”
She was surrounded by scents of lavender and spice but couldn’t quite get it right. They decided to eat and she was nervous to eat in front of him.
“Please stop looking down Marissa, I love looking into your eyes.”
Marissa looked up at him and could tell he was being sincere. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out why he was so intrigued by her. She didn’t feel exceptionally special yet he made her feel so. She giggled as she felt the champagne lift her spirits up. She felt unusually open and free to be herself.
“What is it about me that you find so interesting Nick? I cannot figure out why a man of your stature would be interested in someone as simple as me.”
Nick looked at her, he seemed troubled as clouds rumbled in his eyes. She had upset him and quickly regretted asking.
“You do not give yourself enough credit. You are a beautiful, sweet and sincere person and I need you to see that. I cannot bare you to think so little of yourself. It upsets me that you do not see why I need you.”
“Need me?” Marissa asked, becoming confused. Nick stood up from his chair and walked to her. He knelt down to eye level and wouldn’t take his gaze away.
“Marissa, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you the truth but yes. I need you. I know that you just met me but we have belonged together since the beginning of time. I’m asking you to just trust me, be with me. You are so beautiful, I cannot bare the thought of not having you in my life.”
Marissa drew in a sharp breath. Her head was spinning trying to comprehend what was happening. She had just met this man. Yes, she could agree that she instantly felt connected to him but she wondered what his words meant.
“I don’t understand Nick, but I trust you.” She felt that she had to. She had to find out more, find out everything. There was so much going on and she couldn’t wrap her head around it but she knew that she belonged here. She had never felt something so strongly. He rose up, placing his hands on her face, reaching down and kissing her. It was different than before. Before it had been soft, inviting, but now there was passion, a need for her. She couldn’t help but be sucked in and her body followed.
“Shall we take our night else where?” Nick asked.
“I would like that very much” Marissa blushed. She knew what was meant by his invitation. He wanted to take her to bed and she couldn’t deny that she wanted to go with him. Her body was already screaming at her, blood hot and rushing throughout her entire body. She knew she was wet and was embarrassed for being so ready. She couldn’t help it, there was something about him that she wanted so badly. Nick’s car was brought around and he opened the door for her, as always. He got in and kissed her once more before starting the drive to his home. As he drove his hand rested on her leg, stroking her soft skin. His fingers trailed unknown marks and she could feel the immense heat coming from him. All she wanted was for him to touch her, for his fingers to rise up her thigh slowly, feeling his way to her. She kept her desires at bay, not wanting to seem to eager. She wanted to play it right with him, she wanted everything to be perfect.
She didn’t remember the drive to his place, too focused on him, she only knew that they were there and he was getting out to come around and open her door. He handed her out and guided her through the front door. The moment it was closed his lips were against hers, his hands sliding down to her bottom and lifting her so she wrapped her legs around his waist. Her back being pressed against the wall brought her back to her senses and she gently pushed him back. “Too fast.” She managed to say. “Slower, please, just a little slower.”
He chuckled. “Sorry, I can’t help myself.” He brushed more kisses onto her lips, making her shiver. “I can go as slow as you need me too.” He teased as he turned away from the wall and carried her upstairs. His lips worked their way over her chin to her neck, his teeth nipping, his tongue caressing until a little moan slipped out of her mouth.
This only fueled his desire more. He gripped her tighter into his body, he could feel himself getting hard against her. He wanted her so badly, he had to have her, at any cost. He just couldn’t afford to let her into his secret just yet. He didn’t want to frighten her away. He knew that if he could just get her to feel the same way about him as he felt for her then his secret won’t seem so daunting. He knew he was being selfish by including her into his world but he couldn’t resist. She was the spitting image of Adeline, his one true love. He hadn’t seen or touched her in more years than he cared to count. He would make sure that the same thing that happened to Adeline wouldn’t happen to Marissa. He would protect her no matter what. She was his now and he was hers. He laid her gently on the bed, his hands running down her side, down her thigh, slowly lifting up her tight skirt.
She started to unbutton his shirt, kissing his neck and trailing her soft lips down his chest. He had the perfect body, he was lean and strong and she could feel his muscles rippling under her lips. Her skirt was off now and he was kissing her stomach as she lifted her shirt above her head. She closed her eyes and reveled in the feel of his hot kiss on her body. His kisses trailed up from her stomach to her breasts. She reached back and unclasped her bra, letting her breasts lay thick and heavy on her chest. He nuzzled between them, kissing more passionately the closer he got to her breasts. She threw her head back and let out a moan. She had been waiting for this for so long, just to feel his body against hers.
As he suckled her breasts he slid her panties down her legs, off her ankles. He lifted her up onto him, easing her as he went slow. She had never felt such bliss and pure ecstasy. He was like nothing she had ever experienced before, every nerve in her body was igniting like electricity. He filled her completely and it wasn’t long before she was exploding in pleasure, screaming out. They were completely in sync, their rhythm their breath. Everything they did, they did it together. They thrashed in passion, exploring each other’s bodies completely, Marissa had never felt so vulnerable. She shared every inch of herself with him, feeling no shame, only pure joy. They came together, clutching each other’s bodies as close as they could possibly be without becoming one. They moaned together, climaxing together at the same time. Everything in this moment was perfect. There was nothing that could ruin this breathtaking moment.
When they both were spent he held her tightly, raining kisses over her cheek and across her shoulder, hoping this wasn’t too much. Not all woman enjoyed an affectionate man, especially if they barely knew him but he just couldn’t help himself. He knew this, no matter what happened between them would be a memory he held on to for eternity.Her breath slowly returned to normal as she laid there. He was making her feel so cared about with his affectionate kisses. She felt like this was more than a hookup to him, like he felt this amazing connection she did somehow. She wanted to say something but no words could do this moment or what just happened any justice.
“are you satisfied?” He rolled his eyes inwardly “are you satisfied? what sort of stupid question was that? Now she probably really would think he was weird.
“Absolutely, that was…well it was magical. What about you?”
He smiled as he pressed another kiss to those soft lips. “More than satisfied, I’m in absolute bliss.”
Marissa felt a blush creep up her neck and into her face which she quickly hid behind her hands. “You’re so unfair, everything about you is just so, so unfair.”
He moved to lay beside her, his arms pulling her close. “Come on now, look at me.” She shook her head and he kissed her fingers. “Please?”
She slowly moved them and the way his eyes seemed to shimmer with love took her breath away. Her heart ached for him. She didn’t understand this, this intense need for him. She felt so safe in his arms, her entire body relaxing completely against the heat of his. She felt a little sadness start to creep in and he gently stroked her cheek, seeming to read her. His eyes questioned and she took a deep breath and asked, “Could I stay?”
“I would love nothing more, in fact it would make me very happy.”
She laid there, so happy. She couldn’t wait to tell Ashley everything that had happened. Marissa knew you shouldn’t kiss and tell but who could resist when the story is this good? She snuggled in tighter against him, feeling his heat started to make her throb but she didn’t want to go again quite yet. She just wanted to lay next to him and enjoy his presence. She took a deep breath in a smelled his scent, it was intoxicating. She closed her eyes and slowly drifted to sleep.
Marissa opens her eyes, not recognizing where she is. She seems to be in an old cabin somewhere. She rolls over and see’s Nick sleeping soundly, only he looks different. His hair is longer and his beard is grown out but he is still as handsome as ever. Pulling off the covers she stands up, looking around. “Everything looks so, , out of date” she thinks to herself. Peering out a window she see’s a beautiful field of lavender surrounded by dense woodlands. She had no idea where she was but for some reason she felt at peace, at home.
“Adeline, come lay with me for just a while longer. I can never have enough of your love.” Nick chuckles and pats playfully on the bed.
“Adeline?” she wonders to herself. She finds herself walking over to him but she doesn’t know why. She crawls into bed, locking eyes with her lover as he kisses her gently.
“I love you Adeline. I love you and our unborn child.” He gazes at her lovingly, full of admiration.
Marissa looks down quickly and is stunned by what she see’s. She is pregnant, carrying child and has to be at least 7 months along.
“I don’t understand” she says to him, still confused. He looks at her puzzled, and grabs her hand.
“It will be alright, I will protect you for all of eternity.”
“HEY!” Marissa’s eye’s fly open. She collects her bearings, trying to figure out where she was. She didn’t recognize the ceiling but the voice next to her set her fears to bed.
“I didn’t think you would ever wake up, I started to worry.” Nick says to her, “It’s nearly noon.”
“I’m so sorry, I was having the strangest dream.”
“Was I in it?” he plays coyly.
Marissa smiles and blushes nodding yes. She didn’t want to go into details with him, embarrassed about having family dreams with him when they only just met. Nick grabs her waist and pulls her on top of him. She leans down to kiss him, her hair cascading around his face. They stay locked in that embrace for what feels like an eternity.
“I do not want to leave you but I must be getting home.” She feels disappointed that she has to leave but knows she shouldn’t lurk around too much. She didn’t want it to get awkward and loved how things are coming together.
“I’ll call you a cab then. When will I see you again?” She notices a hint of desperation in her voice and finds it strange.
“I’d love to have you over for dinner tomorrow night, although my house is nothing compared to yours.”
“I would love to come for dinner Marissa.” She smiled, knowing that she would see him soon.
He felt sadness flowing through him as he watched her get ready to leave. When the cab came they pressed their lips into one another one more time before he let her leave. He remarked to himself again how similar he was to his Adeline. Having this woman, having Marissa was like having a second chance. He didn’t know if that was an insult to Adelines memory or if it was unfair to Marissa but he needed this, he needed her. He couldn’t be alone any longer, he couldn’t mourn the rest of his life. He had already been mourning so many years.
He didnt’ know what to do with himself while he waited to see her again so he decided to take advantage of an open invitation he always had to one of his friends houses. He didn’t get out much but Nick didn’t care. It was nice to have somewhere he could go at the drop of a hat. He called to be sure then went over to waste with a good friend. Marissa was texting Ashley all that morning, giving her what might be too much detail to most but between them nothing was really too much information.
When Marissa wasn’t working she went to the store in hopes something would inspire her. She had no idea what to cook and she often found her best inspiration for meals while walking around the store. It was a half hour later when she finally started throwing things in the buggy and walking around with purpose. She had the perfect idea and hoped he’d love it. When she made it to check out she had a huge smile, a slight tint in her cheeks since their night of passion was never far from her mind.
Nick called when she started cooking and her heart did a little flip as she answered and cradled the phone between her shoulder and head. “Hey.” She said, unable to keep the smile out of her voice.
“Hello gorgeous, I was heading over and wanted to know if I should grab anything.”
“Maybe some wine?”
“Surprise me, you have such good taste.”
He chuckled. “I’ll be there soon then.” Nick hung up before he told her he loved her. He didn’t want to push to hard, not after the wonderful night he had had with her. He didn’t even know if she felt the same in this life. He wanted to give her time to say it first.
He arrived with a dated Cabernet and a smile. Marissa opened the door, still slightly embarrassed by her, in comparison, much smaller home. He saw the look in her eyes.
“You have a beautiful home” he said to her, genuinely meaning every word.
“Thank you Nick, you don’t have to be so kind.”
“Of course I do” and he planted a kiss on her forehead. Their relationship felt much like months rather than days and Marissa didn’t know if she should be anxious about this fact or thankful. She thought about the last time she saw him and the blood rushed to her cheeks. He noticed her blushing and chuckled. Grabbing her waist, he playfully lifted her to wrap her legs around him.
“Thinking about this?” he teased. She kissed him long and hard with no shame and then suddenly smelled smoke.
“Shit!” she shrieked frantically. She ran to the oven and pulled out her white wine roast which was a little too crisp.
“Well, do you like Chinese?”
Nick started laughing. “You never could cook Adeline.”
They both froze. He realized what he had just done and was kicking himself as hard as he mentally could. She probably thought Adeline was his last girlfriend and he had just ruined everything. He didn’t know about the dream.
Her mind was whirling. He had called her Adeline. Something about that name sounded so familiar. “Wait!” she thought. Adeline was the name he called her in her dream. “But how could that be?” she wondered frantically.
“Why did you call me Adeline?” she asked cautiously. She was more scared than she was upset. How had he known, after all? He was at a lose for words.
“Please say something, I need you to explain to me why you called me that? H..how did you know about my dream?”
“your dream” the fact she had a dream about it made him able to speak “Isn’t that why you called me that? I had a dream…your hair was longer and your beard, we were obviously together. It was set back a long time ago though I’m not really sure when” He took a shaky inhale at the realization, at the knowing this really was Adeline. Marissa was without a doubt now her reincarnation. It explained everything to him, how he was finally able to love again, how he felt such strong emotion for her so quickly “Adeline” he said more emotionally “that may have been a dream but it was a memory”
“yes, we were together in your past life. We were married and happy. I’ve been so broken without you.” everything was just spilling out, he had no control or even a desire to stop. She had to know everything, she had to be with him again now that he knew without a doubt who she was. “You are just like you were baby, down to how adorably inept you are at cooking. I haven’t stopped loving you” He may as well say it now, now that everything else had spilled from him.
He couldn’t tell what she was thinking, especially now that she was shocked into silence, obviously mulling over everything he said and possibly the dream she had. He couldn’t be lieing, how could he have really known about her dream and she felt it too, this connection like they were meant for one another. She had a soulmate, one so meant for her that they found each other in her next life but that meant something else entirely. He looked the same age as her. If this was her second life and he was still in the previous one, how in the hell did he look so young.
” I don’t understand, if it was a memory, how are you still here? Are you reincarnated also?”
Nick thought for a moment on how to answer her without setting alarm. He started slowly, cautiously, telling her the tale of how he came to be who he is.
” It all started long ago, back in 1885. We were together, we were happy. You were with child and our lives couldn’t have been more perfect if we had planned it ourselves. We were nestled on the edge of town, away from everyone, far from harms way. It couldn’t stop it though, the plague. You went to town for toys for the baby, not knowing that would be the last trip you would ever take. You contracted the plague and grew deathly ill.”
Marissa slowly sat down, listening incredulously to everything Nick was telling her. You couldn’t make this up.
“I searched far and wide for a cure for you and was told of a witch. It was my only option to save you and the baby. I was desperate. I left you in our home to find her. When I reached her I begged her to save you. She agreed but told me there would be a price. I told her I would pay anything and everything that I had. She accepted without naming what the price exactly was and we were on our way back to you. I was overcome with joy that I was successful at finding a cure. Our family could finally be whole again. I wouldn’t have to lose you, I couldn’t bare the thought. But I was too late. When we reached the cabin you were already gone, if only just for minutes. I was distraught but pleaded with her to save the child and so she did. She held the child in her arms and I knew that I could survive this tragic lose. When she turned to go, still clutching our child, I was confused.
I shouted, demanded she explain herself. She told me there was a price and that my first born was it. I was enraged and fought her to claim our precious daughter back. She was infuriated and put a curse on me to live the rest of my life left to watch everything that I love grow old and die before me. She escaped with the child and I was left alone and broken. I never found her again, when I went to her cabin, it was bare, she stole our baby girl and disappeared. I have searched for her ever since and to this day. I have followed rumor after rumor only to be lead to dead ends. When I first saw you I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought I had finally died and passed over into your arms. You are my Adeline and I cannot bare to lose you again.”
Nick stared at Marissa, begging her to say something, to express what she was thinking or feeling. She looked up to him and was only able to mutter two words.
“Marissa, you must believe me. I know it’s a lot to take in, but it’s true.” She really looked terrified as she stood there, one hand pressed tightly to her stomach, seemingly remembering the child that had been there. “Marissa would you look at me please?” He reached for her slowly, his fingers gently tipping her head back. A myriad of emotions played across her face, fear, confusion, recognition and he couldn’t blame her, he knew how this sounded. “I’m sorry to put all of this on you, but I love you.”
“Me or Adeline?”
“You, always you, no matter where you go you are the other half of my heart.” He lifted her hand and pressed her palm against his chest. “It beats only because of you. It’s like the missing parts of my soul have been put back and I am whole once again.”
She still wasn’t saying much so he said “let me order that food. What would you like?”
“shrimp lo mein” an answer, it was so good to hear her voice again. He got on the phone and ordered two of that since food wasn’t what he cared about right now. This was a pivotal moment. How she reacted would decide his entire future. Would he have to continue suffering alone or would he get to be with her. He just wanted to hold her. He wanted to protect her this time around. They ate in relative silence but she did eventually say “I believe you”
“yes, I feel it’s true. I’m sure now that I know it will all come back to me. I mean, that dream”
“even if it doesn’t it doesn;t matter to me”
“but you want her”
“I told you sweetheart, I want you”
“would you kiss me again?” she wanted to feel that connection now that she knew. She wondered if it would help more memories flood in. He was more than happy to oblige and met their lips. They both let out a small moan and just as she hoped her mind started filling with memory after memory. Her eyes grew damp and he stopped kissing her to wipe away the tears “Marissa” he said softly “are you okay?”
“Yeah, sorry, this is just all so overwhelming.” Her hands framed his face and he closed his eyes as he relaxed into her touch. “You’re really real, you’re not just a dream.”
He smiled as he pressed their foreheads together. “You too, I’m glad I found you again. I’m going to find a way to keep you forever or break this spell. I can’t watch you grow old, I won’t.” He pulled back and smiled at her, the look in his eyes so warm and loving it nearly overwhelmed her. “Would you consider marrying me again?”
“You don’t have to answer now, just consider it. I want you to be sure. I love you immensely and if you want to keep things as they are, I won’t argue with you. Just having you here and your willingness to believe me are enough. So please think about it, about us.”
“This is all so much to take in Nick. I don’t think I can answer that right now. Please, I’m not saying no, I just need time to think. I just found out that you are immortal and I’m reincarnate of your one true love. I need to wrap my head around what that means. It explains so much about you and about our connection, even why I never felt close to anyone until I met you.”
Nick’s face grew solom but he understood. He felt foolish for asking her during all of this mess. He wanted to hold her but didn’t know if it was what she wanted. He decided it was worth the risk. He walked next to her, pushing the Chinese out of the way, and just held her. He never wanted to let go.
“Yes dear, anything.”
“Make love to me.”
Without another word he picked her up and carried her upstairs. He found her room and laid her gently on the bed. This wasn’t like before, it was softer, more compassionate. She was the one who was desperate for his touch this time. She wanted to feel their connection and know that what he told her was true.
They laid together after they made love, holding each other without a word. She took this time to take everything in, to comprehend what he had told her. Even though she knew it to be true she still had a hard time believing everything. “Witches, immortal men, curses?” she thought to herself. Everything she expected in a fairy tale was true. It was incredulous.
“Tell me the story of our love Nick, I want to hear everything.” and so he did.
As he told her everything so much emotion tore through her that it strengthened her belief this is all true, everything he said. What he was saying inspired strong feelings, the kind of feelings you’d only have if they were your own memories. She listened intently, eager for every sentence he said to her. She not only wanted to know more, her very soul begged for more knowledge of them, of their happy life before it was all torn away by illness and that wretched witch. He was still talking to her late in the night, there was so much to tell after all. He finally decided to suggest rest “you need sleep” he kissed her cheek “I’ll tell you more tomorrow’
She knew he was right and she wanted toi be fully awake so she wouldn’t miss a single detail. It was easy to fall asleep, his stories had been so comforting and uplifting. They seemed to truly have an amazing and healthy relationship last time around. Sure he could just be making it all up, how perfect it was but her could felt it was true. He wasn’t exaggerating anything, it was all really that wonderful.
She fell asleep and the last thought running through her mind were “Maybe I will marry him”.
When she woke up, Nick wasn’t by her side. She was alarmed at first but told herself that was silly, he was probably in the kitchen getting something to eat. She stood and got dressed, eager to see him. She wanted to know more about their past. She wandered downstairs and heard Nick speaking with someone on the phone. He sounded upset and she didn’t want to disturb him.
“Just find out if it’s her!” he raised his voice but she could tell he was trying to be quiet so that she wouldn’t here. He must be talking about the witch! Could he really have found her after 132 years? She didn’t want to get her hope up. He had told her that every time he found a lead it ended up being false or she was already gone. Suddenly he came around the corner and bumped right into Marissa.
“I’m sorry” she stammered “I didn’t mean to listen in. I didn’t want to interrupt you. Is it true? Do you have a lead on the witch?”
“I do, but my heart refuses to have hope. I have failed so many times before. I will look for her with this lead but I’m not expecting anything, she always seems to know when I am coming. I don’t understand how but it seems true. They say she isn’t alone, that there is a woman with her. I have heard this before but one hundred years ago. Is this the same woman or is she trapping other helpless souls. I have to admit Marissa, if this is the same woman, I wonder if it is our daughter, forced to wander the Earth with her doing her bidding.”
“Oh Nick! It can’t be! Do you really think that our daughter is still alive? Could it be?”
“It could be Marissa, she has the power. She must have spelled her the same as me, but it may not be her. We mustn’t get our hopes up.”
Marissa couldn’t help but get her hopes up. She had always wanted a child, never knowing that she had already had one in a past life. Nick’s lead was in Germany so he booked his flight right away. Marissa begged to come with but he forced her to stay. He knew it wasn’t safe and could never bear losing her again. He would go on this lead alone, in hopes of finding not only the witch but the daughter that was so cruelly taken away from him and Adeline.
Marissa paced in her home, struggling with the fact he had made her stay behind. If that witch did have their daughter what might their daughter think? How would she feel about the fact her mother didn’t come for her aswell but waited a safe distance away. She didn’t want to start their relationship out on the wrong foot and she was starting to regret allowing a man, even one she loved to force her into anything. What was being safe here if anything happened to Nick or their daughter. What was being safe here if her daughter felt Nick loved her more because he braved the witch. She was starting to feel tempted to book tickets and just follow him.
If they were going to be together he wouldn’t be her boss anyway so if he over reacted to her coming, even out of concern for her safety should she even be with him again. She sighed, hating feeling this conflicted and this unsure about her choice to allow Nick to make her stay. She ended up booking a ticket, the consequences would be the consequences. There wasn’t another flight available until the next day but at least she was going, at least she could look her daughter in the eye and say she was willing to come and risk it all too because she loved her.
Even though Marissa carried fear in her heart, she knew she was doing the right thing. She didn’t care if Nick yelled at her or hated her for it, she had to do this. She packed light, not knowing what the future held for her. She arrived at the airport early, her anxiety taking over. Even when she got there ,she had no idea where to go next. She had a few clues from evesdropping on Nick’s phone calls but that was it. It was a start though and a start was all that she needed. She had over heard Nick talking about the Hotel Torbraeu in Munich. It was pricey and almost out of her range but she scrounged up her last few dollars in her oh crap fund and hoped she could find him before having to book a room. Her thoughts were racing and her stomach felt like there was a thousand wings fluttering at the same time. At one point she thought she might get sick but she sat down and focused on her breathing to calm herself down. She had never actually been on a plane before for the sole reason of being too afraid to board one. She didn’t see any way around it this time though if she wanted to be there for her daughter, if it even was her daughter. Even though they weren’t sure, she felt as if it was true in her heart. She heard the load booming voice over the intercom calling her flight number and allowing passengers to board. She boarded her flight, buckled herself in, and closed her eyes. She hoped she could sleep the whole trip, for fear that she might not be able to keep from getting sick the next time. Before she knew it, they were landing in Munich and a flight attendant was gently nudging her shoulder to wake her. She breathed a sigh of relief for making it without any trouble. She exited the airport and went to flag a taxi. She suddenly panicked. She never considered the fact that they might not speak English and she didn’t know a single word of German. She flagged down a taxi anyways and crossed her fingers. She quickly pulled out her phone and pulled up the quickest translator. She was slightly embarrassed, knowing that she was butchering the language but she tried anyways.
“Wohin sehen sie?” the taxi driver asked.
Marissa cleared her throat and read from her phone. “Spechen sie Englisch?
The taxi driver laughed. “Yes ma’am, the majority of us do speak English.”
She sighed a breath of relief, at least things were going right so far.
“Can you take me to Hotel Torbraeu?”
“Of course Madame.”
They arrived at the hotel about 15 minutes later and she had taxi driver help her with converting the money. She had gotten Euros at the airport but couldn’t remember the conversion rate. He was a kind man though and helped her through it. She grabbed her bag and walked up to the counter.
“How can I help you Miss?” the nice attendant asked her. Marissa realized at that point that she had been holding her breath and suddenly felt light headed.
“I’m here to join Nick Abrams please.” She made sure to speak confidently so that there was no suspicion. She didn’t know the rules in Germany and wasn’t so sure they would give her the information.
“I’m sorry, Mr.Abrams didn’t mention he had another guest joining him. His room only fits two.”
“Two?” She thought to herself. “Who else is with him?”
“Can you please provide me his room number so that I can unload my things. I’ve had a long flight and would like to rest.”
The attendant looked at her apprehensively and picked up the phone.
“Excuse me Mr. Abrams, I do not mean to disturb you. There is a, ” She paused, “What was your name Miss?”
“Marissa Knowles” she responded.
“There’s a Miss Marissa Knowles at the desk stating that she is joining you? Ok, I understand. Will you be needing another bed? Ok, sir. Right away sir. ” She hung up the phone and smiled at Marissa. “He stated that he must have forgot to mention your arrival. I am truly sorry Miss. Here is your room key and the information you requested.”
Marissa was relieved but was still nervous of Nick’s reaction. She knew he must be furious with her but she didn’t care. She boarded the elevator and pushed the number 3 for their floor. She arrived at the door numbered 348 which matched her hotel key, and hesitated. She prayed that he would understand. Before she even knocked, Nick opened the door. Marissa was ready for a full on fight but the first thing he did was swoop her into his arms and kiss the side of her head. Marissa was surprised as this was not the reaction that she suspected.
“What in the world are you doing here Marissa?”
“I had to be here Nick, I wanted our daughter to know that I fought for her too and that I didn’t abandon her.”
There were tears in her eyes begging to flow over but she quickly wiped them away. Nick’s face softened and he pulled her into his arms once more. She hugged him, feeling relieved that he wasn’t going to yell at her. She caught movement out of the corner of her eye and that’s when she spotted Nick’s other guest. Marissa froze, she was absolutely beautiful. Magnificent even. Marissa was so confused. Nick noticed the sudden change in mood and followed her gaze.
“Oh, Marissa this is Natalia. She is the woman who had been helping me track the witch for the past 5 years. We met in Prague and she has been helping me ever since.”
Marissa could tell that Nick was nervous and there was a slight tint to his cheeks. What was their relationship? Marissa started to wonder if Nick was cheating on her but then remembered that there were already two beds. She quickly threw those thoughts away and shunned herself for letting past relationships affect new.
“It’s, It’s nice to meet you Natalia.” She stammered. She couldn’t help it, she was so stunning. Let the adventure begin.
“It’s nice to meet you too.” reading teh feeling in the room easily she assured Marissa “there has never been anything romantic between us and he’s been telling me about you since he arrived, I promise you that. Men are stupid as I’m sure you’ve already learned. He just didn’t have the brain to tell you I’d be here”
“Oh” came stammering out and they both blushed more. Natalia ndged him “tell her you’re sorry Nick, damn, she should have known I’d be here, especially since you insisted she not come. You look like a dog right now and I know you love her so apologize like you should”
“sorry Marissa” he said, looking worried he might have messed things up already after missing her for so long.
“It’s alright, I’m sorry I worried. How stupid of me.”
“Not stupid at all, if you like I can slap him for being inconsiderate.” Natalia said.
“No, it’s fine really.”
“I was in such a hurry to get here, I didn’t think my love.” Nick brought her fingers to his lips and pressed a gentle kiss to them.
“You should get you two your own room, we really don’t need the staff talking.” Natalia said. “Afterwards come back and we’ll explain things more thoroughly.”
“Of course, I’ll only be a moment, would you like to come with me Marissa or stay here with Natalia?”
“I’ll stay, I’d like to get to know her.”
“Alright.” He kissed her lips then left the two women alone.
Natalia sighed. “So inconsiderate. I am truly sorry, he’s nice but can be a real meat head sometimes. I’m truly happy he finally found you.”
“It’s truly a miracle” Natalia said. “Who would have thought that he would get another chance?”
Marissa smiled, looking down. She was still processing everything that was going on, even though it felt natural to her.
“Please, Natalia, tell me how you two met.”
Natalia thought about where to begin for a moment and then started.
“I was only 18 when we met. It was by chance really. My family has been tracking the witch for generations, never able to keep up. She wronged a family member of mine over one hundred years ago and my family has never let it go. It’s almost our life mission, I guess you could say. We have a gift in our family that she took from one of my ancestors for fear that it would be her undoing. She failed to know about his kin. We are able to sense magic. We know when it is near, we dream about it, premonitions if you will. If have been so close, but her magic is ancient and magnificent. She is the strongest witch in existence and we must find her. She is here, I can feel it. I have seen her in my dreams with another woman. To be honest, she looks a lot like you, I just never realized it until I saw you. This may actually be your daughter, tragically taken from you so many years ago. I’m so happy that Nick found you. I hope you can forgive him, he may be extraordinary, but in the end, he is still just a man, and men are very forgetful.”
They chuckled together and Marissa’s heart was set at ease. She knew she already loved Nick, even though it had been such a short amount of time. She was born to love him and she knew he loved her as well. Her heart was almost exploding in her chest of the realization that the woman with the witch was probably her daughter that she never knew she had. What an interesting world she lived in.
When Nick returned Marissa hugged him to make sure he knew they were okay, especially since he still looked incredibly embarrassed and worried. He relaxed in her arms, placing a gentle kiss on her head. He had wanted her safely back in her home but he had to admit to himself it was nice to have her close. He started missing her from teh second he left her home. It hadn’t been that long but it felt to him he hadn’t seen her in weeks. He knew one thing for sure now. On any future trip Marissa was coming no matter the danger, especially since she would just follow anyway, “How much have you explained?” He asked “all the basics. Want to know more Marissa?”
“anything you want to tell me but I understand how you came to work together”
“good” he couldn’t help but run his knuckles softly down her soft cheek.She smiled at him and Natalie laughed, thinking they were adorable.
They ate a great meal and rested up for the trials ahead. Marissa didn’t know what to expect and felt a little behind since Nick and Natalia had done these hunts many times.
“Natalia, we will follow your senses, you will be our guide. Marissa, please stay in the middle while we hunt. I want protection all around you. I will not let anything happen to you again. ” He stroked her cheek and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
They packed light and headed out to the last place that Natalia felt the witches magic the strongest. Natalia knew that she hadn’t been here long and left hours ago. She cursed herself for not going out at night but knew at the same time that going out alone would have been suicide.
“She was here not too long ago Nick. I can feel her. ” She felt confident that she could track her but knew she would need all of her strength. She closed her eyes and felt for the magic. It wasn’t like normal magic that Natalia could feel on occasions, it was dark, heavy and full of dismay. She opened her eyes and started walking, without saying a word. Nick and Marissa followed without disturbing her concentration. They walked for what seemed like hours and Marissa didn’t know how much longer she could keep going. She was too embarrassed to say anything so she just kept walking, keeping her eyes out for anything strange even though she didn’t even know who or what she was looking for. Suddenly Natalia stopped. She was concentrating harder than ever and almost seemed to be shaking.
“She is close Nick, I can feel her. It’s almost as if she is watching us. She knows we are here yet does nothing. I don’t understand.”
“We have to keep our eyes open and our guards up” said Nick. “She could be anywhere”
They continued to walk, but slower this time. Natalia’s face was distorted and she seemed confused as she came to a halt.
“Nick” she spoke softly, ” we are not following her”.
“What do you mean Natalia, what do you mean we are not following her? I thought that was what we have been doing for the last five hours!”
Natalia turned around and looked straight into Nick’s eyes. Marissa froze as she didn’t know what else to do.
“We are not following her. … She is following us Nick.”
Marissa’s skin covered in goosebumps from fear and she could see Nick was equally terrified. “what…how” was all he could say. Was this all just more torment, was she following them, making them feel like they were hunting her only to continue to torture and toy with him. Could this witch really be so evil? He wondered if her game all along was to wait for him to finally find Marissa again, maybe her game was to take her to hurt him further.. he wouldn’t allow that. Marissa was too precious to him to lose, no other woman could replace her.
Suddenly that evil cackle he remembered all too well filled the room. He instinctively grabbed Marissa while Natalia readied herself for her own revenge and to help her now close friend Nick. She came into view, almost making Marissa nauseous. The witch looked as ugly as she undoubtedly was inside but when she saw who came besides her, all the nausea fled. That beautiful young woman at her side, that was her daughter and nobody could tell her different now that she could see her.
Tears filled her eyes “my baby” Marissa said softly.
The young woman looked oddly at Marissa. The look on her face was confusion and hatred. She didn’t know that Nick and Marissa were her parents, she had been taken at birth and never knew anything other than the sound of her mother’s voice in the womb. Marissa suddenly worried that the evil witch had turned her evil. Her chest swelled with sorrow at the thought. She didn’t believe it was possible. The witch took a step forward towards Nick and Nick instinctively stepped backwards.
“I have been waiting for you Nicholas. You have been hunting me for many years, I grow weary of the trouble and wish to end it. I would suggest you say your goodbye’s to your precious as I order your own daughter to kill you!” She cackled and laughed with joy as she told the young woman to kill them all.
The young woman didn’t move. “Kill them now Julissa! Do not disobey me!”
Julissa looked at the group, and then back at the witch. “You just said I was their daughter. What do you mean? How can this be?” She looked lost and afraid.
Marissa knew then in her heart that her daughter was not evil. If she was she would have killed them all already. Marissa wondered how the witch expected this girl to kill three adults. “Had the evil witch taught her magic? Was that even possible?” Marissa pondered.
“Julissa, you don’t have to listen to her anymore” Marissa shouted. “You can come with us, come home. She stole you as a baby and we never got to know you. We never gave up on you Julissa, you must know that. ”
“Stop this nonsense!” yelled the witch. “If you won’t kill them, I will!”
The witch came forward and Marissa saw panic on Julissa’s face “No! NO!” Julissa yelled and moments later it became apparent the witch had taught their daughter magic. Julissa attacked the cruel woman who had raised her, feeling deep within her Marissa really was her mother. She would give anything for the chance at a loving home, even her life. Either way she would be done with the long, miserable life she had lead so far. “You little brat!” the witch practically growled out. The woman truly seemed more demon or animal than a human who ended up dabbling in magic. Evil had taken over her heart, changing her forever. Natalia and Nick went for the witch at the same time, one hungry for revenge while the other just wanted to protect his family and get his daughter back.
The witch surged what simply looked like blue energy into Julissa until Nicks weight knocked her down. Julissa fell to the floor, blood pouring from her ears and mouth. Marissa felt anger and sorrow swirl within her, her baby couldn’t be dead. She couldn’t have come all this way just to see her beloved daughter die. “Julissa!” Marissa sobbed, running to her before her mind even knew what she was doing. It was her instinct as a mother kicking in, that need to tend to her baby. “Julissa” she said weakly from the heartache. The witch’s attention was solely on Natalia and Nick now. They weren’t giving her the option to go after Marissa and Julissa again.
To Marissa’s surprise her daughter slowly began moving when just moments ago she looked like she was dead “fuck…you” Julissa said slowly, each word filled with heated anger. “Julissa” Marissa said her name again as her daughter slowly stood. Their daughter cast something back, her magic royal purple as it collided on teh witch. Natalia and Nick jumped back, not sure what Julissa was doing. When it came to magic if you weren’t sure good rule of thumb was to back away.
The witch shrieked and the whole building began to shake and crumble. Nicks heart went into panic, something could fall and hit Marissa or his daughter. He tried to get back over to Marissa but debris landed on him, sending him straight to the floor. The noise he made was a mixture of a yell and a groan as he got right back up, nothing was going to stop him from protecting them, absolutely nothing.
He stumbled to the rubble, determined to find them. He saw no sign of the witch. He felt a sharp pain in his side but paid it no mind, knowing that soon enough, he would heal. He heard soft groans and ran to the noise. There was a rock on Marissa’s leg that kept her from moving. Without even seeing the damage he knew it wasn’t good. He sighed a breath of relief though as he knew she wasn’t fatally injured. He tried to find Julissa but worried less, knowing that she would have the same healing ability as he. He used all of his might to lift the fallen debris off of Marissa’s thigh and pushed it successfully aside. It was bloody but he felt it wasn’t broken, thank God. All of a sudden to his left he saw debris start to move and he readied himself for battle with the witch again. To his surprise and joy it was Julissa that came from the rubble. Underneath her, shielded, was Natalia. He was so relieved to see her face that he ran to her and hugged her. She was stiff and of course didn’t know what to do, this was so new to her. How, after all this time, could she still have a father. He hugged Natalia next and thanked Julissa for shielding her from the fallen rocks.
“Where is the witch?” Nick said to her.
“I don’t know, it’s hard to say. She could be caught underneath the rubble or she could be gone. If we have the ability to heal I’m sure that she does too. It would take strong magic to destroy her and I have no idea if my magic was that strong. I don’t even know the spell that I cast, it just came out in my panic and rage.” Julissa looked concerned and ready to run.
“Please, help us, stay with us. We will make sure that she is gone for good. We need to start by searching through this rubble.”
“Okay but stay alert. I can’t imagine she has gone far and if she has gone away, she’ll be back. She is not capable of giving up, she’s too vindictive” Marissa’s heart sank a little, thinking again about the horrible life her daughter must have been living all this time. She almost felt guilty for being reborn, for living such an amazing, ignorant life of all this misery. It wasn’t fair, to Julissa or Nick that she had gotten to be happy while they continued on suffering. She put on a brave face and got up, standing though it was incredibly painful. She wouldn’t mope and she wouldn’t become a burden, she was going to help. Nick rushed back over to her, feeling stupid for leaving her but he had simply had to hug his daughter.
“Be careful” he said and she shook her head “I’m going to help look”
“you’re human Marissa, please, I don’t want you to over do it” Julissa came over, healing her mothers leg “there, now she’s fine”
Marissa was in awe of the magic that her daughter possessed. A month prior, she didn’t even know such things existed!. Now she was completely healed. She stood up and looked at Nick. She knew that he wanted her behind but she hated the thought of not helping. She knew that if she stayed she would just be another person they had to account for so resolved to go back to the hotel.
“Natalia, will you take me back while Nick and Julissa search for the witch. I don’t want to be a burden any more. ”
“Marissa, you are far from a burden, but I agree, you should go back with Natalia and wait for us there.” Nick responded. He grabbed her and kissed her with more love than she’d ever experienced.
Natalia gave her a nod and she followed behind. Nick and Julissa started through the ruble. Stone by stone they searched for the witch until every last stone was turned and she was no where in sight.
“How can this be?” shouted Nick angrily.
“She has her ways Nick, she is very powerful and you would be a fool to underestimate her. We have not seen the last of her yet, I can promise you that. She will be back as soon as she heals and it will be for the last time. Either we take her down or she will kill us all.”
Nick studied the somber expression on Julissa’s face and knew that what she said was true. He had no idea where to start and felt hopeless but then realized that Julissa had lived with her for a better part of 100 years. She would be quite knowledgeable in the witches patterns and behaviors.
“Tell me Julissa, where would she go? A secret lair or location?”
“She has many places and can hide in plain sight but i feel that i know where she has returned to. She has no idea that I know the location so she will never predict our appearance.”
That was it. They now had a plan but Nick knew that he would need Natalia to be with them. That meant leaving Marissa alone. Unfortunately, it was a risk he would have to take.
They went back to the room, surprising Natalia and Marissa. “what’s going on?” Marissa asked and he said “I’m sorry baby but our daughter has an idea. I need Natalia to come with us”
“and leave her alone?” Natalias question stung a bit, he could hear how confused she was and how much she didn’t understand his choices. “yeah, she could get hurt if she came with us’
“alright” she looked at Marissa “Please don’t chase after us this time. I know you want to help your daughter hands on but this is getting really dangerous okay” Marissa nodded and Nick hugged her “I love you, I can’t wait for this all to be over so we can just be a happy couple’ Julissa came over too “thank you for coming. It’s nice to know both my parents care”
“I’d come for this too if I were stronger”
“I know” They left and Natalia said “I know we have to think of her safety but you better hope you still have her when this is all over. I mean first you come here without telling her about me WHILE insisting she stay home and now you take every opportunity to leave her behind and take me. I know it’s because you want her safe but it can be taken another way. If you had started better and told her everything it would be fine now but I know what she means to you and I worry you’re screwing things up”
“I can’t let her get hurt. I know she understands”
“Okay” was the last thing Natalia said on the subject. They let Julissa guide them, staying close and clearing their minds. They couldn’t think about anything else now but this, their lives depended on that with such a hateful witch.
Julissa led them for what seemed like hours on end in no direction. Nick was growing weary but trusted in his daughters knowledge and abilities. They had abandoned the car three miles ago and where now drudging the dense forest.
“We are getting close” Natalia claimed “I can feel her presence. It is weak but it is there.”
“We are almost to our destination so if the link you feel is weak then I believe she must have been wounded in our last battle.” Julissa stopped and turned to each of them. “I need you to be prepared, in body and in mind. This is our one and only chance at ridding the world of this wicked once and for all. I’m afraid that if we are not successful and triumph today that we will have lost our chance forever. We will never again gain the upper hand. She has no idea that I am aware of this location but she is sure to feel us the closer that we get. She will be ready but we will still have a momentary advantage so we must be swift in action. ”
Julissa bent down and started tearing at the earth.
“What are you doing Julissa?” Nick asked.
“Ssshhhh.” she replied.
The then uncovered an oak chest, unearthed it and opened to reveal it’s treasures. There was a single blade and nothing more hidden inside.
“This and only this can kill her for sure. I knew in our previous battle that she would not be killed but I feared if you knew you wouldn’t have the reserve to weaken her the way that you have. We will rush her as quickly as we can and I will try to immobilize her with all of my might. That will be your one and only shot. You must go for her heart and her heart alone. Anywhere else will not be effective. This is the only blade spelled strong enough to defeat her. I hid this here years ago in the hope that one day I would be strong enough to use it but that day never came. I am thankful for your arrival for many reasons and this day will be the greatest day of my life. Are you ready?”
He was more than ready “lets go” They walked at a determined pace, all three of them wanting this over with once and for all. Nick just kept thinking of the wonderful life he could now live with Marissa and his daughter if he could just get rid of this wretched woman. Just as Julissa warned the witch was ready when they broke into the building she was in. She had long since sensed their presence drawing near and had been waiting with a weapon of her own. It gashed into Julissa, the witch was obviously angry at her for joining their side and was attacking with emotion rather than her brain. Nick jerked the witch off, slamming her to the floor. He went for her but the witch was much too fast and moved away. Julissa tried to offer her aide again but her magic wasn’t anywhere near the witch they now fought.
Nick feared for Julissa because he knew the witch was the only one who could take her immortal life. He senses his opportunity though as the wicked witch was so focused on Julissa that she barely gave him any thought. She surely didn’t realize that he alone wielded the only weapon that could be his downfall. Natalia had been knocked out cold but he could see her steady breathing so focused on his final move. At a particularly powerful spell cast at Julissa she seemed weakened by the amount of energy put forth. He knew this was the time. He lunged behind the witch and thrust the blade with all of his might into her back, praying that it hit it’s target and didn’t fail him. He knew that if this didn’t work that they were all dead and Marissa would be alone to deal with the witch herself. A piercing shriek shot through the rotting house louder than anyone could imagine. Nick knew he had been on point. He expected to watch her writhe in pain and see the fear in her eyes but before him erupted a tremendous amount of ash bursting into the air and slowly floating down to the Earth. She was gone. It was just like that, in a blink of an eye. He couldn’t believe that they had won, that they had defeated her once and for all. He suddenly felt his body tingling all over as if a spell had been cast upon him, but it was not a spell cast but a spell released. He knew in that moment that the magic that had cursed him had died with the witch and he would now live a normal, human life, and so would his daughter. He rushed to Natalia as she stirred and cradled her head.
“Are you hurt?” he spoke softly.
“No, I think I’m fine. I’m so sorry Nick.”
“It’s fine, she’s gone, we did it.” the incredulous amount of awe in his voice reassured her that it was true.
He couldn’t wait to tell Marissa it was all over. He could finally live a normal life with her without the fear of watching her grow old by his side. He suddenly felt the impatient urge to get to her as quickly as he possibly could.
The three of them returned to Marissa as quickly as they could, finding her sleeping safely in their hotel room. The fact it was over was almost too good to be true so he had been half worried he’d find Marissa in the witch’s clutches but no, there she was, beautiful as ever and all his. Julissa and Natalia were in another room. He had told his daughter she was welcome but she had felt it was best if her father checked on her alone. Nick didn’t push it, he knew it might be nerves. She didn’t know them at all and on top of that she had been raised by a truly terrible being. Nick laid down with Marissa, pulling her close and kissing her. They had a long way to go when it came to connecting to their little girl but the witch was gone, they had their daughter and they had all pulled through alive. That was all he needed, a peaceful life with his little family, the one he should have had all those years ago.
~ The End