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Ruby & Noxx 2

Chapter One

Noxx woke from his nap to the sound of his phone going off and he sat up from where he was resting in the grass and fished it out of his pocket. His heart jumped when he saw Ruby’s name. He quickly answered, worried she had had a panic attack or nightmare. He was generally pretty vigilant when it came to her. “Is everything alright?” He asked as he got up. read more

Diya & Romanus 2

Chapter One

He was tired, especially after tonight, after he had found something far worse than he had imagined. The lamp in the living room switching on startled him and he was surprised to see Diya yawning and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Diya?”

“You’re home.” She gave him a sleepy smile. She stood, stretching. “Are you hungry?”

“Why are you sleeping on the couch?” He asked. Had something happened?

“Hmm? Oh, just waiting up for you. I was worried.”

“Oh.”

She stopped in front of him, studying his face. “It was a hard one, wasn’t it? Harder than usual I mean.” He nodded. How could she tell? “Could I give you a hug?”

“I…I think I should shower first.”

“Alright, I’ll get you something to eat.”

“I don’t think I can eat. I will later, just not right now. Maybe we could watch something, if you’re not too tired.”

“Of course.”

Diya hated seeing such a distressed look on his face, like he was reliving everything he had ever been subjected to and she wished she knew what to say. She went into the living room and switched the TV on then clicked on Netflix. She went through the comedy section, wanting to find something to help calm him down.

Romanus wanted to hurry to Diya, to her warmth but he couldn’t do anything at first but stand under the hot spray of water. Sometimes when cases ended up this horrible he was tempted to quit, especially now that he had such a wonderful life with Diya and her now seven year old daughter. He wanted to drown himself in their warmth and forget his childhood ever happened to him. He wanted to forget such horrendous things were still going on in the worlds but he couldn’t. He remembered all too well what it felt like to be one of those helpless children, scared and willing to do anything to make them stop. He had to save them, he had to save as many children as he possibly could.

One of the best things to him about Diya was that she understood his need to do this and she was always here, ready to comfort him when he needed it. Finally his desire to be out there with her got him moving. He washed himself thoroughly, dried and put on something comfortable. Diya had settled on a movie and had made them both hot tea, knowing it helped. He sat down, taking a long swig of it before thanking her. “It’s no trouble Romanus. What else can I do for you? Want to lay your head in my lap while we watch the movie and I can rub your back?”

“Honestly…I think I feel like having you in my lap and just clinging to you”

“Okay” she crawled into his lap and he wrapped his arms tightly around her, kissing her shoulder “thank you” She had told him countless times he didn’t need to thank her so much so she just relaxed into him and pressed play on their movie.

Between the movie and Diya, he was able let go of some of the tension in his body. He never realized just how much he was holding until he was with her. “Feeling any better?” She asked as she ran her fingers through his hair.

“Yeah, thanks to you.”

She let out a soft laugh, her breath tickling over his skin. “I’m not doing anything.”

“You’re doing everything. Just being near you makes me feel better. I don’t know what I’d do without you and Melody.” He moved his head so he could press his forehead into her neck. “You’ve been such a gift, both of you have.”

“We wouldn’t trade you for the world, Romanus.” She kiss the top of his head. “I know you don’t like to, but why don’t you take a short break. It’s the weekend so Melody doesn’t have to go to school. We could all go somewhere.”

He took in her scent then breathed out “I think I really need one. Besides, you two are always so patient with how busy I am. You deserve my full attention for at least the weekend”

“You do plenty with us”

“where would you like to take her?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t think that far ahead”

“we could ask her I suppose. I’m happy anywhere as long as I’m with you two”

“are you ready to head to bed then? She gets up early, even on weekends”

“Yeah” he stood, still holding Diya. He carried her to their room and didn’t even take the time to get undressed before settling into bed with her. She didn’t mind, she preferred pajamas but she knew he had dealt with something absolutely stomach churning tonight and she was willing to do whatever he needed to heal from it. They both fell asleep fast and woke to an excited little girl “Mom! Dad! I’m hungry! Can I help you make pancakes mom?” Sleepily her mother answered “sure baby”

Romanus couldn’t help but actually feel whole and normal in these moments with Diya and Melody. He felt love and affection warm him as he followed them and still found it hard to believe how lucky he was. “I’ll make coffee.” He said as they started pulling things out of the pantry and fridge. “Orange juice for the princess?” He asked and Melody giggled.

“Yes please.”

“So what do you think baby? Chocolate chips or blueberries?”

“Can we do both?”

“Sounds perfect.”

Once Romanus had the coffee started and had a glass of juice on the table for Melody, he stepped up behind Diya and wrapped his arms around her. “I love you.” He said and pressed a kiss to her temple.

“I love you too.” She turned just enough to kiss his cheek then went back to helping make batter. “So, Melody, daddy and I want to take you out somewhere this weekend, do you have anywhere you’d like to go or something you’d really like to do?”

“I don’t know”

“Think about it over breakfast.” Romanus said and Melody nodded. Their seven year old happily made breakfast with her mother as she thought about something for them all to do. Meanwhile Romanus just enjoyed watching them, the only beings who had ever brought true happiness into his life. The two made far too many pancakes but Melody liked to have them as snacks anyway. They’d just put the leftover ones in a ziplock in the fridge. They were just eating and talking when Melody said “could we go to a beach?”

“I know the perfect one” Melody squeaked with excitement “when can we go?”

“Lets eat and then we can make a bag of things we will need” Melody began to eat just a little quicker causing her mother to laugh before she said “well we might have to stop by a store. I don’t know if she has a swim suit that fits her”

“That can just be a part of the fun. We can let her pick one” Romanus responded then Diya spoke again, an idea dawning on her “we can have a picnic there too for lunch. You can help me decide what at the store Melody”

Romanus helped Diya clean up and then gather things for the beach. Diya picked out an outfit for Melody and sent her to her room to get changed. They then went to get ready. He didn’t know why he still found himself getting nervous when they changed together. He knew she wouldn’t hurt him or force him into anything, but his heart still stuttered in his chest and he found himself looking away when she pulled her shirt off. “Romanus?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you need me to change in the bathroom?”

“No, sorry, I want to look, but I feel…guilty I guess.” And scared.

“Romanus, I’m gonna come closer, okay?”

“Okay.”

She moved over, one arm across her chest and gently lifted his head. “You don’t have to rush yourself, I’m not going anywhere, so please don’t worry.”

“Okay, I love you and you’re very beautiful Diya, truly.” She gave him a quick kiss then turned away from him and grabbed clean clothes out of her chest of drawers. He changed quickly and they left the room together, both of them smiling when they saw Melody waiting excitedly on the couch.

“can we go now?”

“Yes baby, we’re all ready”

When they arrived at the store Melody easily picked out a swim suit so picking out stuff for lunch was the only thing that took a lot of time. They ended up settling on different fruits they could keep in the small cooler they bought. “seems like we’re ready” Melody made that excited little noise again, bouncing even as they checked out. Melody put the swim suit on under her clothes in the store bathroom since there may not be a place to change at the beach Romanus was taking them to. They didn’t ask if it was in their world or another, both loving surprises.

There was one place Romanus had found after he had escaped from his father and the depraved people who had used him. It had been one of the most peaceful moments of his life until he met Diya and Melody. It was actually connected to the vortex near the actual beach and was the reason why reality sometimes seemed distorted there to the regular human. Melody gave a little squeal of delight when she saw the water, but looked at them in confusion when Romanus kept driving. “We’re not going here?” She asked.

“We’re going somewhere better.” Romanus said. “Somewhere kind of special to me.”

Diya reached over and grabbed his hand when she saw the look on his face. She could always tell when he was thinking of his childhood. Even if there had been any sort of good memory after what had happened, it always came back to his childhood. “What’s it like?” She asked.

“It’s peaceful and beautiful.” He turned onto a side road and pulled over after a few more minutes. They all got out, grabbing things and he lead them over to the center of the vortex.

He picked them both up, not wanting to risk anything happening to them as they went through. He carried them out onto the sand then carefully put them down. The two of them were amazed at the beach they were seeing. It was a thousand times prettier here than back in their world. Diya kissed him on the cheek “thank you” he gave her a small smile “I’m happy to have a family to bring here…as a child…I didn’t think I’d ever have happiness” Melody tugged on him “can I run into the water? Is it safe?”

“yes, just dont go as depe as your waste until your mother and I set up the blanket and picnic stuff”

“Yes sir” she said excitedly then ran to the water. Diya started setting things up where they stood, glancing over at her daughter every now and then to make sure she was listening to Romanus. Once their picnic was set Diya said “lets go play with her” He pulled Diya into his arms “just give me a few moments to hold you first” She glanced over at her daughter again then relaxed into the hug, wondering what he must be thinking about.

“Diya?” Romanus finally said.

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry I’m still so uncomfortable and nervous doing certain things. I don’t deserve your patience.”

“Hush, you have every right to be and you know you didn’t hurt my feelings right?”

“I know, it’s just…I mean what if you want another child or something.”

Diya pulled back enough to see his face. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but right now you need to just take your time. It just makes me happy hearing you say you might even want to try.” She gave him a kiss. “You’re making really good progress, you really are, so don’t rush. I’m perfectly happy.”

“I just want to give you everything, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to.”

“You’ve given me more than you know, you saved Melody and you’ve been so amazing to us. I love you, so don’t worry.”

“Okay.”

Diya looked back at Melody. “She looks so happy and that’s all thanks to you, baby.”

 

Chapter Two

She could see how much emotion that stirred up in him “lets go play with her” She gave Romanus another kiss and the two got up to play with Melody “Yes!” she said excitedly, instantly starting to go deeper. Diya laughed, seeing how eager her daughter had been. She went under and Diya instantly noticed how worried Romanus looked. When she popped back up Melody splashed him, he looked surprised a moment then she encouraged with a giggle “come on dad” He splashed back, taking awhile to really give her a good one. It was always sweet and sad to see him interact with her.

It showed all the time he hadn’t had any sort of a normal childhood. While playing at one point Romanus pulled Diya under, holding her against him then coming uip quickly “throw her throw her!” Melody said excitedly. Romanus looked at Diya who giggled “it’s okay” He threw her and Melody laughed. Diya came up laughing as well and Romanus smiled. He wished he could play with them more normally but he was still learning how to play.

They splashed and played until Melody asked for a snack. Romanus made sure she was out safely before following Diya over to their stuff. They sat down together and enjoyed the warm weather as they ate. “We should explore a little.” Diya said. “If that’s okay with you.” She added.

“Alright, but please stay close to me. It’s not really dangerous here, but just in case.” Romanus knew he probably sounded paranoid. “I mean feel free to explore, just don’t got to far.”

“Romanus,” Diya took his hand, “it’s okay.”

“Sorry, I know at some point I’m going to have to learn to let loose, especially as our little Melody gets older.” He didn’t want his little girl to hate him.

She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “You’re an amazing father, she won’t hold it against you.”

“You two never hold anything against me…”

“I cant think of anything we should. We’re happy with you. I mean it” The couple cleaned up their picnic then walked hand in hand as they followed little Melody. He would guide since he knew the area but he wanted them to see everything they wanted to see. Melody gasped as she drew near the water again, going in just to her ankles and collecting the shells that had grabbed her attention “these are so pretty. Can I take them home? Please” Romanus answered “yes, there are many gorgeous shells in that water”

Melody ran over to her mother “will you carry them please?”

“sure baby”

Romanus found himself able to relax near completely as they walked and watched Melody. It wasn’t until he saw his little girl freeze that the tension came back. “Melody, what’s wrong?” He asked as he moved up to stand behind her.

She pointed. “There’s a dog over there.” She said and he followed her gaze.

It wasn’t a dog, but a wolf, and he was surprised she had been able to see it with how well its fur allowed it to blend into the tall grass. He could tell it was young and skinnier than normal. He moved in front of her and it seemed to startle the young wolf who hadn’t noticed him. “Diya, take Melody please.”

Diya gently pulled her daughter closer, watching the wolf. “What does it want?”

“He and I think he’s starving.” Had the wolf been watching Melody because she was the weaker target?

“What should we do?” Diya asked. “Should we feed him?”

Romanus wasn’t so sure, but he couldn’t tell Diya no, not when he knew the creature before them was still a child, twelve at most. “I’ll do it, you two stay back.” They had plenty of snacks so he went through the bag, pulling a couple of granola bars out and and taking their wrappers off. The wolf’s eyes watched the food.

It started to shift and Melody held a little tighter to her mother. They were aware of other beings but Melody had never seen an actual wolf shifter before. The young boy then cautiously came over and took the food. Melody was embarrassed looking at the naked boy so buried her face into her mother. “why are you so thin and why are you alone?” Romanus asked and the boy looked up into Romanus’s eyes, swallowing down his food before saying softly “I’ve been alone as long as I can remember…I just…I just felt like coming to the beach today and then” he looked over at Melody again. He fell silent so Romanus gently grabbed his face, turning it back to him “Please stop staring at my daughter”

“she’s yours?”

“Her mother is my mate now so yes she is mine” The boy looked uncomfortable and Diya said “Romanus, we can’t just leave this boy alone.”

“what do you suggest we do with him?”

“well…our house is plenty big”

Romanus didn’t know how he felt about allowing a stranger into their home, but if he turned the boy away, then it would be a betrayal of everything he had worked for. Not only that, but he knew Diya would be disappointed. He turned his gaze back to the boy who had once again been looking at Melody. “Sorry.” The boy said.

“What’s your name?”

“Tormod.”

“Tormod, do you remember how you came to be alone?”

He shook his head. “I don’t, just that I was running and then it was just me.”

Romanus nodded. “My mate believes that you should come home with us, would you like that?”

Tormod glanced at Melody. “Yes.”

Romanus leaned closer to the boy, hearing his heart skip in his chest. “I am only going to ask you this once child, was it my daughter who brought you here?”

“I…I could smell her and I…I don’t want to hurt her or anything, I just found her scent and followed it from the beach. The wolf…the wolf wanted me to.”

Romanus nodded as he straightened up and released Tormod. “You do know that my mate and daughter are important to me and if anything were to happen to them…”

“I wont hurt them…I promise” the boy seemed harmless and had a healthy fear of him so Romanus decided they could take him home. Besides, he knew about wolves.It sounded as if his daughter might very well be this boys mate. If that ended up being so he knew weather she returned the feelings or not he’d be a protector for her and he still worried about Melody, about another pervert setting his sights on her. Once he got this boy healthy it would be nice to know a wolf was protecting his family and would do so even if it meant his life since he knew how serious wolves were once they found their mate.

“lets go ahead and get home home. I’ll bring you guys back here once he’s healthy” Tormond looked at Melody again “I’ll shift. I’m making her uncomfortable like this”

“alright, first thing we’ll do is get you some clothes for this form” Tormond nodded and shifted back into a wolf, following the family once they began heading back the way they came. Unsurprisingly he ended up by Melodys side but she seemed happy now. Once home Roamus mulled over how he wanted to do this trip. He couldn’t take this boy to the store naked and he couldn’t take a wolf into a store. He also wasn’t so sure he wanted to leave him alone with his family right away despite the fact Romanus was guessing Melody would come to mean to the world to this wolf.

“are you trying to think about what to do when it comes to shopping?”

“Yes”

“I can measure him and look up online what sizes he’ll need. Then you can just go. We’ll be fine alone with him. He’s a kid, a starved child who was just given a home. I don’t feel like he’s going to hurt anybody”

“could you just order him clothes online?”

“same day shipping is expensive but yeah. I really want him to be able to shifts back into a boy when he wants” He was curled up beside Melody who was petting him. Diya whispered “so scary, he totally cant be trusted if you go to the store”

 

Final Chapter

Romanus looked at Tormod and then back at Diya. She was teasing him. He let out a little sigh and she hugged him. “Diya.”

“At least get him a pair of sweats and a shirt. He needs something and it won’t take you long.”

“Alright, alright, I’ll go.” He leaned back and kissed her. “Just, if anything happens, call me.”

“I will, now go, we’ll be fine.”

“Alright.”

Diya got Melody to cover her eyes so Tormod could shift back long enough to be measured. The boy apologized and Diya did he rbest to reassure him it was alright. He shifted back quickly and went back to Melody, which caused Diya to let out a little laugh. She looked up his sizes and then gave them to Romanus so he could get something for him. Romanus left, knowing he shouldn’t be worried, but unable to keep his mind from wandering. Logically, he knew young Tormod was practically harmless. The boy was starved, but after everything he couldn’t help himself. Once he was at the store, he quickly found the right clothing and grabbed them.

He felt relieved when he finally got home and Diya gave him a hug once he was inside. “Sorry.” He said softly.

“Hush, you know it’s okay.” She took the bag from him and went to Tormod. “Here sweetie, why don’t you go put these on.”

He picked up the bag with his mouth and walked off to a room. He wasn’t going to shift infront of Melody any more unless he had to. When he came back he was a boy and seemed to fit perfectly in what Romanus had bought him “thank you”

“whatever you need will be taken care of for now on. You’re a part of this family now. Tormond walked back over to Melody who asked “do you like to color?” he seemed confused a few moments then said “create art?” Diya smiled “sort of, lets go get her coloring books” Diya quickly pulled the box she kept it all in and handed it to Tormod “I have to finish cooking dinner but she’ll show you what she means” He walked back to Melody and set the box down. She grabbed a coloring book then said “you pick one” he just grabbed the top one and she pulled out the crayons. Romanus watched them a few minuets before joining his wife in the kitchen.

“is he taking to coloring?” she asked in an amused tone and he said “he’ll probably take to anything she wants to do with him”

“why’s that?”

“he said his wolf wanted him to come to her. Most likely she’s his mate. You know about wolves right?”

“I don’t know what you mean”

“They are one of the very few beings that know when they’ve found their soulmate. The wolf inside them guides them to whomever they are meant for. I mean I might think the wolf just knew I’d take him in because they have instincts for more than just that but the way he keeps looking at her, I just feel like it’s a mate thing”

“He knows she’s seven right?” a small bit of her momma bear was peeking out. “I wouldn’t have brought him home for a second if I thought he might hurt her. He’ll protect her with his life, honestly if he does anything that hurts her it’ll crush him. Their mates are everything to them. He’ll protect her, always. I’m going to stay home awhile to be absolutely sure about him but if I’m right I’ll feel a lot better with him here to protect you two”

“is it going to be a problem though when she’s older? I mean, will he become aggressive about it?”

“No, like I said, the only thing at risk with those two if she’s his mate is her breaking his heart. He wouldn’t hurt her or anybody she loves”

“I’m really happy you’re taking a break with us” he could tell any concerns were eased. He could understand how that chat at first could be alarming since he was in his early teens and their daughter hadn’t even made it to double digits yet.

He set the table for her while she cooked, then looked in on Melody and Tormod. They were still coloring, Tormod going much slower than Melody and focusing much harder. He went back to Diya and wrapped his arms around her and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “What should we do for the rest of the weekend?”

“Get Tormod completely settled in, help him get used to living a normal life.”

“Normal, I wish I could truly give you all that.”

“You do just fine.”

“I’m sure Tormod can smell death on me, he’ll want to know why at some point.”

“Tell him when you’re ready, I’m sure he’ll understand.” She let out a little laugh as she switched off the stove. “Looks like we don’t have to worry about having a baby.”

“Diya.” She turned in his arms, smiling up at him. “I do want to give you children, I…I love you.”

“It’s okay, really and I love you too.”

He tucked some hair behind her ear “I…we should try…to at least have sex”

“but are you ready for that because I dont care. I’m happy to never have sex if you find you can’t”

“lets try tonight okay”

“Please don’t do this just for me”

“I want to, I want to experience what enjoyable…consensual sex is like”

“alright but we’re taking it slow and you need to tell me right away if you’re getting scared or uncomfortable” He held her tightly to him a few moments, both nervous and eager for the evening. They served the food then called Melody and Tormod in. They both came quickly, Melody holding a picture for each of her parents “thank you honey” Melody sat down in her normal spot, cheerful as ever and Tormod joined her. His eyes widened a bit when he saw all the food on the table and Diya felt bad for him all over again “try to take it slow Tormod” He nodded but seemed to struggle with actually following through with it as he ate.

Tormod let out a little whine after dinner and Diya realized his stomach hurt. “I’m sorry.” He said.

“It’s okay honey, but next time try to eat slow, okay? You’ll never have to go without and no one is going to take your food from you.”

“Okay.”

She patted his back. “Let’s get you to your room.” He looked back at Melody, who was taking her plate to the sink, not wanting to leave her. “Tormod, how about we give you the room next to Melody’s.”

“Really?” She could see him light up at the thought.

“Of course, that way, you know where she is.”

“Alright.”

Romanus sent Melody off to follow them and started cleaning up. As he rinsed dishes and stuck them in the dishwasher, he began to over think things. What if he hurt Diya? What if he got scared? She said it was okay, but was it? He hated he was so scared, it was ridiculous when it was Diya. He heard a cracking sound and looked down to see he had squeezed one of their glasses too hard. He took a deep breath, sighed, then threw it away.

She was still reading to Melody when he was done in the kitchen but he had heard her read this one before and knew it was nearly over so he leaned against the wall and listened. When Diya came out she smiled up at him, easing some of his nerves. She took his hand and guided him into their bedroom. Diya shut then locked the door before saying softly “theres no expectation of you Romanus. We’ll do what you can handle tonight, thats it. You can even still back out if you need to”

“I want to try”

“How do you want to start? You can undress me or I can undress myself” Roamnus nervously answered “I’m too nervous to be able to undress you…could you do it slowly”

“mhm” She took off her shirt first, happy when he didn’t turn away from her as he often did. She then took off her pants, now standing in just her bra and underwear “everything Roamnus or do you maybe want to touch me like this first” Saying Roamnus was traumatized from being a constant sex toy in his childhood was an understatement so Diya felt she needed to be incredibly careful about this, especially since this was their first attempt at doing anything sexual.

It took him awhile but he managed to finally actually touch her bare skin. He tuned his senses into her, feeling a bit of emotion tug at his heart that she obviously like him touching her. He knew she wanted him, logically anyway. All he had known this far was rapists and it made all this hard emotionally. He was mostly touching her arms, back and stomach, seeming careful to avoid her breasts so she tried to help him “Roamnus, you can touch me anywhere” He blushed, seeming a little shaky as he slowly moved his hands to her breasts. She smiled at him, her expression filled with so much love and patience he had to take a moment to hold her against him which she still viewed as progress. He was actually holding her while she was nearly naked. She wondered for a moment if he realized that.

“Are you okay?” She asked softly as she rubbed his back.

“Yeah, sorry, I just…”

“It’s alright.” He pulled back and she gently pulled him down to kiss him, her fingers running through his hair and over his neck to help calm him. “Would you like me to take my bra and underwear off?”

“I…” he took a deep breath to steady himself, “yes.”

She moved back enough to remove them, going slow, watching him as he watched her. He was scared and worried, but he wasn’t turning away. He reached out to her and she stepped into him, letting out a breathy moan when his hands moved over her. “Romanus.” She slid her arms around his neck and he pressed his lips into hers, parting them so he could deepen the kiss.

His hands slid over her warm skin, his fingers moving up her spine, causing her to shiver. He was surprised to feel desire tingling over him, slowly filling him. He wanted to be brave and made himself back her onto the bed. He pulled back and she smiled up at him, so loving and trusting, so patient as she waited for him. “You’re so beautiful.” He whispered, his voice shaking a little.

“and you’re so handsome Romanus. I love you” His heart trembled again and he kissed her. Diya tried not to look as surprised as she was when he began taking off his own clothes, worried surprise might be mistranslated by him right now and he was doing far better than she had expected this evening. They were skin to skin and while they were now not doing anything this progress meant the world to her. Not because she wanted sex, she did but what mattered to her was what this meant for him as far as healing went. On top of that she knew how much trust it took for him to be naked and exposed like this. He didn’t end up being able to do more that evening but he took her under the covers and held her skin to skin all night.

~ The End ~

 

Cade & Holly

Chapter One

Cade had finally decided to head to bed when he heard Cliona crying in her bedroom. His heart sank, with the television as loud as he had it she could have been crying for hours. He kicked himself for not thinking she could possibly be emotional tonight after accidentally hurting him again today. She was such a sweet little girl and the most recent one he had adopted out of the foster system. He often took the troubled children, the children nobody else would keep since he felt they needed saving from the system the most. He opened her door but she didn’t notice she was so upset. “Cliona” he said gently as he sat on her bed. He wanted to hold her but she had been horribly physically abused by her birth parents and was easily scared. He knew it wouldn’t bring her the comfort he would be intending to give. “I’m sorry”

“You don’t have to be sorry for crying. What’s the matter” she clung to a stuffed rabbit he had given her “You’re going to send me back”

“Now what would make you say that?”

“Nobody ever keeps me. I get scared and I accidentally hurt people and I’ve hurt you more times than anybody else which” she couldn’t talk through the tears for a few moments “which really sucks because I like this home more than any I’ve had before. I don’t want you to send me back to the orphanage…I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t mean to”

“I know you don’t mean to. I’m a demon, I’m pretty resilient. I’m already healed from earlier.”

“That doesn’t mean you wont get frustrated with me and decide I’m too much trouble…all I am is trouble…its…its probably why my parents hated me so much” He remained gentle but took a firmer tone than he normally did with her “don’t ever rationalize the despicable things they did to you Cliona. You didn’t deserve any of it. No child deserves your scars. You are a sweet, amazing little girl and it’s normal for demons to struggle to control their abilities when they are young, adding what you’ve been through of course sometimes you do things without meaning to. I understand and I’m never sending you back. You’re my daughter now and you’ll always be my daughter. You’re going to grow up and when you do you’ll have full control of yourself and I still want to be your dad to see the amazing woman you become after that. Your parents…your parents were horrible people who I hope never get their hands on a child again”

She continued to cry so he asked “will you let me hold you Cliona? It might make you feel better” she looked at him a few moments before agreeing so he lifted her into his lap, holding her gently “I promise, you’re here to stay. There’s nothing you can do, especially on accident that would make me give up on you” He held her until she settled down then he asked “do you want me to turn on your tv so you have something else to think about while you try to sleep”

“if it’s really okay” He tucked her in then switched on her television “let me grab you some water. I’ll be right back” She didn’t say anything as he walked out and into the kitchen. He made her a small glass then returned “If you need me come knock on my door okay”

“are you really healed?” He lifted his shirt “see?”

“Okay…I really am sorry”

“you have nothing to apologize for. Just try to rest. The weekend starts tomorrow and I plan to take you all out”

Cade pulled her door part way closed as he left, leaving it cracked open so she wouldn’t feel locked in. “She’s okay.” He said as he turned and saw his adopted son Eugene standing in the hall. He was the oldest at sixteen and incredibly protective of his siblings.

“She’s still upset.”

“I know.” He tussled his son’s hair. “We’ll have to make tomorrow extra fun.”

Eugene nodded. “I’ll help anyway I can.” He looked down the hall. “Should I go to her?”

“If she needs one of us, but let her make that choice, she needs to make that choice.”

“Alright.”

“And don’t stay up all night, she’s going to be okay, she just needs time.”

“Would it be alright if I stayed up for an hour at least?”

“Of course, good night Eugene.”

“Goodnight.”

Cade went into his room and shut the door behind him so he could change without risk of the children seeing him. He put on some loose pajamas then settled in for the night, using the time he spent trying to fall asleep thinking about what he’d do with them tomorrow. The next morning he woke to the smell of breakfast and knew the twins must be cooking again. They were thirteen now, had been eleven when he took them in and they seemed to have a natural talent with food. He had been nervous to let them cook at first but after awhile he became excited whenever they wanted to do it.

Their names were Kaiaka and Keola and they were fox shifters which left him with three shifters in his house currently since his eldest was a panther. Cade checked his phone once his eyes focused and saw a text from his mom wondering when they were going to visit again because she was dieing to see him and her grandchildren. He smiled, knowing they’d all be excited aside from Cliona who still struggled with anybody outside their little family, even his parents who loved every child he adopted and truly thought of them as their grandchildren. He decided he would at least ask Cliona if his parents could meet them out or if she’d be comfortable if they’d all go visit them for a few hours at some point this weekend.

Cliona was sitting at the table holding her rabbit, her face still sad and worried. Eugene filled three cups with juice for the twins and Cliona then poured himself and Cade a cup of coffee, leaving his own black while he mixed sugar and creamer into Cade’s. “Morning guys.” Cade said then breathed in. “That smells amazing girls.”

“Thank you dad.” The twins said in unison.

Eugene handed him his coffee. “Thank you. Did you sleep last night?”

“Yes sir, like a rock.”

Cade just nodded, knowing he probably hadn’t. Anytime one of his siblings had trouble sleeping, Eugene would stay up late waiting. “How about you baby girl?” He asked as he sat down next to Cliona.

“Yeah, it took a little bit, but I did.”

“That’s good.” He reached over and patted her head. “Grandma sent me a message, she wants to see you guys. Does that sound like something you’d like to do this weekend?”

She looked nervous so Eugene sat down on her other side and rested a hand on her shoulder. “Hey Clio, we should go, I bet grandma would make some cookies for you.”

“We could even meet them out somewhere.” Cade added.

“could…could we meet them at that music park?”

“Yeah, I’m sure they’d love that.” He pulled out his phone and texted them then slipped it back into his pocket. Cade almost chuckled his mom responded so fast “Let us know when to head over there! Can we bring anything for the kids?” He texted back “I think they’d love some of your cookies. Eugene brought them up when we were talking to Cliona about it”

“ask him what kind!” He looked up from his phone and over to Eugene “what kind of cookies would you like grandma to bake?”

“Peanut Butter or red velvet” Cade told his mother who said she’d be bringing both. “she’s bringing both” he announced and all the kids seemed elated besides Cliona who still looked incredibly nervous. They all finsihed their breakfast then got ready for their day out. It wasn’t until they were all getting shoes on that he let his mother know they could head over to the music park but he knew they were probably ready”

His parents arrived not long after they had and they all climbed out, Cliona taking Eugene’s hand as Cade and the twins hugged his parents, switching over to Cade when Eugene took his turn. Stella crouched down in front of her, giving her a gentle smile. “Hello sweetie, how are you doing?”

“Good.” Cliona answered softly.

“That’s good. Now if I remember correctly, you really like the red velvet cookies, right?” Cliona nodded and Stella opened up the container holding them. “Do you want one?” Cliona nodded again and took one.

“What do we say, Cliona?” Cade said.

“Thank you.” Cliona replied.

“You can eat as many as you want.”

CHapter Two

She gave Stella a small smile and in turn Stella gave her a warm one, wishing she could hug her. She couldn’t wait to see her blossoming into the carefree little girl she should have always been. Stella stood up straight, once again hoping her son knew how proud she was of him for spending his eternity helping children in the foster system that were either too broken to find a home or getting too old to ever be adopted. The two older girls spent most of their time talking excitedly with their grandmother, Eugene mostly stayed close to Cliona at the park, making her smile and laugh where he could and Cade took the time to talk with his father about how things were going.

“But she is getting better dad, yesterday was my fault. I’ve had a lot of kids but I’ve never had to be quite so careful with any of them as I have had to be with Cliona.”

“what matters is she seems happy today.” Eugene was making her laugh that very moment. They both took it in, smiling themselves before Cade responded to his dads note on the situation. “Eugene is a great big brother. I swear she’s made most the progress she has because of him being so attentive to her”

“How are you though son?”

“Me? I’m good”

“Still not seeing anybody?”

“You sound like mom” Jasper chuckled at his sons word “We bring it up because we care”

“I don’t know when I’d have the time to meet someone but I’m fine, really, I’m not crying myself to sleep. I always have these kids to think about. If I meet someone I meet someone, I’m sure I wont die without a mate or anything”

“I don’t know, I’m pretty sure I would without your mother.”

Cade chuckled. “So dramatic, but I promise, I’m really fine.”

His father patted his back. “As long as you’re happy that’s all that matters.”

“I am.”

They followed Stella and the children, Eugene taking Cliona over to anything she found even a little interesting. It was nice seeing her out, smiling rather than crying and blaming herself for things she couldn’t control. He talked with his dad until the twins came running up to him, grabbing his hands. “Dad, can we go on the carousel?” Keola asked.

“Yeah, please.” Kaiaka added.

“Of course. Why don’t you see if Cliona wants to ride.”

“Okay.” They said in unison and ran ahead to Eugene and Cliona.

Cliona was a little nervous at first but her siblings promised to ride around her so she wouldn’t have to sit by many strangers. They walked over there and Jasper bought each of the kids a wrist band so they could ride it as many times as they wanted while they were there. Stella pulled out her camera and took a few pictures of the kids once they were all settled on the animals they wanted. Stella had to show her husband and son right away “look, Cliona smiled” She took a couple more here and there when they could see the kids. They watched them run around the music themed playground until the twin girls mentioned being hungry. “I’m pretty hungry too” Eugene added. Cliona nodded so they left the playground and went to a nearby Olive Garden since they had a pretty amazing family style menu at the moment.

“Jasper, Stella.” The voice pulled all of their attention away from their menus and both Jasper and Stella smiled as they waved at the young woman sitting a couple of tables away.

“Miss Graves.” Jasper said as she came over and gave them both a hug.

“Sorry, I was just so surprised to see you two.”

“How have you been?” Stella asked.

“Good, really good.” She looked around the table, her cheeks heating a little. “I’m being rude, you’re busy.”

“Oh not at all.” She gestured to Cade and the kids. “This is our son Cade and his children. Cade, kids, this is Holly Graves, she was one of your father’s clients and a zombie.”

“It’s nice to meet you all”

“Why don’t you eat with us? We ordered family style”

“I mean, I’d love to but I really don’t want to intrude on family time”

“Nonsense, please sit with us. Have you ordered yet?”

“Just my drink”

“see, it’s perfect” The only empty chair was beside Cade so she sat there and alerted the server that she had moved to their table when she passed by. Once that was taken care of Holly asked the children “so, what’s all of your names” The twins introduced themselves first, followed by Eugene. Cliona paused so Cade carefully took her hand, giving her a small, reassuring smile. “I’m…Cliona” Hollys next question was directed at all the children again “Have you been having fun with your grandparents today?” The twins filled her in on their day with small input here and there by Eugene. Cliona stayed quiet but Cade was happy that she wasn’t scared. Uncomfortable yes but not the scared little girl he had first adopted. When Cade first brought Cliona home he couldn’t take her out. She was far too jumpy and had too many accidents. She certainly couldn’t sit at the table with a stranger and have such an even heartbeat.

“Would it be alright to ask what brought you to my dad?” Cade said.

“Not at all. I was attacked on my college campus by a couple of students who found out about me being a zombie. I got away because I bit one of them, but I was arrested.”

“And I took her case after her parents asked me to.” Jasper added.

“You mean you scared the crap out of them, right grandpa?” Eugene said which had everyone cracking a smile, even getting a small one out of Cliona.

“Of course, it was ridiculous that she had been arrested because her attackers said she bit tried to hurt them first. I could smell they were lying and they crumbled pretty fast.”

“What do you do Cade?” Holly asked with a big, warm smile.

“I’m a Soil Conservationist” not many people knew what that was so he explained without prompt “I’m a scientist who monitors the condition of land and develops ways to enhance sustainability, conserve soil and counter erosion. Sometimes I work in construction where I advise builders on preventative measures regarding erosion. I even work with farmers from time to time. I pretty much suggest which crops to go and how they should rotate to get the best result. ” he could go on about his job but he stopped there, not wanting to drone on too long and bore her.

“That sounds cool”

“It is, especially since it doesn’t keep me away from my kids too much and I can often bring them with me during the rare times I am working a lot. With the help of my dad I’ve even built a work area in my home” a smile lit up her face again “Thats really sweet, so often beings are itching to get away from their kids and you try to make it so you don’t have to leave them”

“Cade loves being a dad” Stella added and was going to say more but Eugene chimed in “He actually adopted all of us and has adopted many kids before us. He keeps about four at a time” That cleared things up for Holly on how he had two fox’s, a panther and a only one full demon daughter like he was. “really?” Stella spoke again “yeah, he’s been doing it for a long time. We have so many wonderful grandchildren. He’s had over four before but four is normally how many he wants at a time. He’ll take more if there are siblings so they can stay together”

“That’s really sweet, Cade.” Holly said. “Amazing even.”

“Thank you.” Cade’s heart danced. “Um, what do you do? I mean, what are you going to school for?”

“Medical microbiology. I’ve been wanting to do research with each species genes and see which one would be best for fighting off diseases without changing the host.”

“That’s incredible.”

“Thank you.” They continued to talk even when their food came, Cade finding Holly’s future profession incredibly interesting. Holly asked him more questions about his own and he told her about a few of the projects he had been a part of.

Chapter Three

When a pause hit the conversation Jasper said “I was thinking of taking the kids out for ice cream. Would you like to join us Holly?” She looked at the kids “would you guys mind? My feelings wont be hurt if you’d rather have your grandparents and dad to yourselves”

“You can come” The twin girls said then Eugene added “yeah” he took Clionas hand “right Cliona? She can come?” Cliona nodded and Cade honestly felt grateful. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this much attraction to a woman but Cliona had been through so much. If she wasn’t able to deal with Holly being around, as much as it would pain him he wouldn’t bring her around.

“Great” Jasper said then asked the waitress for the check. They discussed where the kids would want to go until it arrived, finally settling on a family owned place nearby. On the way over Cades phone chimed so grabbed it to see what it was “Grandpa sent you her number” Cade blushed and both girls giggled.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been here.” Holly said once they were all out and heading inside.

“Really?” Cade was a little nervous now, especially having her number. “Their ice cream is really good, all hand made.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “So, I hope you don’t mind, but my dad sent me your number.”

She smiled, her cheeks tinting a little. “That’s fine, I was planning on giving it to you at some point. I mean, I’m friends with your parents so why not get to know you too.”

“Okay, cool.”

“You should send me a message so I have yours too.”

“Oh, right.” He pulled out his phone and sent her a quick message. “So, what’s your favorite?” He nodded towards the ice cream.

“I’m a sucker for chocolate, but I like trying flavors I’ve never had before.”

“Maybe we could try something new together” Jasper put in the kids orders while Cade and Holly looked over their menu. Eventually they decided to try Curry and Mint ice creme because it sounded the most interesting. The twin girls seemed horrified at the mere thought something like that existed but when they all sat down to eat both Cade and Holly found it incredibly delicious. They easily began talking again and Cade felt it all ended much too soon. The group was saying their goodbyes when the twin girls said to Holly “dads taking us out again tomorrow if you want to join us. He promised us a fun weekend but we didn’t make any set plans if you have some suggestions” Holly blushed “you’d really like me to come along again tomorrow? I’ve been so worried I took up too much of you dads time talking”

“Of course” Kaiaka said then her sister Keola added “you’re awesome”

“Alright then,” she met Cade’s gaze, “I guess I’ll message you once I think of something.”

“Alright, have a good night then.”

“You too.” He watched her walk to her car and get in, waving at her as she pulled away, his heart thundering in his chest.

“Awe, how cute.” His dad’s teasing voice had him blushing. “I haven’t seen you make that face in a long time.”

“Dad.”

Jasper slapped him on the back. “At least now your mother and I won’t have to worry about you growing old alone.”

“Dad, we’re demons.”

“Metaphorically speaking.”

“She’s sweet honey.” Stella said as she hugged him. “Love you.”

“Love you too mom.”

Cade took the kids home and decided to hop onto his computer to check his email. Holly had gotten him thinking about work again so he wanted to see if he had any current job offers. If he was working on something it would also give him more to talk about with her. He wanted to keep the comfortable vibe they currently had and he knew a good way to kill that would be too many awkward silences. He heard Cliona come in after he had gotten through about thirty emails. He turned in his computer chair to face her “Hey sweetheart”

“Hey, um…could we maybe play candy land together when you aren’t busy?” He put his desktop to sleep and got up ‘of course, lets play now. Do you already have it out?’”

“I can’t reach it” He walked with her to the board game room he had made a few years back and pulled it down “I guess I must have put it up this high absentmindedly” Cliona sat down and he brought it over to her, setting it up as he asked “so did you really have fun today Cliona?”

“Yeah…Ms Holly was nice and you seemed happy”

“I’m glad you were okay”

“Are we going to go out again?”

“Do you want to go out again?”

“Yeah.”

“Remember, you don’t have too, it’s not an obligation, grandma and grandpa will understand.”

“I know.”

Cade was proud of Cliona for wanting to try, it’s all he could ask of her. They played Candy Land for awhile, snacking on Stella’s cookies. Cade mentioned that his mother would probably love to teach Cliona how to bake and she seemed to be thinking about it. Cooking was how his mother had bonded with most of the children he had taken in and he had a feeling that once Cliona got over her nervousness, it would be the same for her. They stopped playing when his phone vibrated and he pulled it out of his pocket, seeing Holly had sent him a message with some suggestions about where they could take the kids. He couldn’t help but smile at how sweet and considerate she was, finding places they would all enjoy.

He ran them by Cliona who liked the idea of going to a painting class. Cade guessed the fact Holly had mentioned they’d be learning to paint a Pegasus was what sold Cliona on the idea. He messaged Holly back with a grin on his face then went to let the older kids know what they were doing tomorrow. Cade was relieved they all seemed so excited. As they discussed it happily Holly sent him the link to the website and the number so he could reserve spots with a note “these things fill up so if we dont buy them now we might not all be able to get in tomorrow”

“what did she say?” Keola asked. Once he explained Eugene suggested “you should buy her spot for tomorrow too dad. Its obvious you like her. It’s kind of a chance to show her you’re interested” Cade blushed and the twin girls laughed. He decided to ask if she bought hers yet. She responded by telling him she bought hers right before sending him the information “aw” Eugene said and Keola added “some girls want to pay their own way anyway” With that settled Cade bought his group spots for tomorrow then asked Holly if she wanted to come over for lunch and to hangout before since the class was at two.

She accepted the invitation so he began planning tomorrows lunch. When he went to tuck Cliona into bed that evening he asked again “are you sure you’re okay with all this?”

“Yeah, you seemed so happy talking to her and she was nice” he smiled again “do you want a bedtime story?”

“Please, read Interstellar Cinderella again” Cade fetched the book from her bookshelf then began to read. It took a few more to get her down for the night but he was always happy to stay. He checked on his other children who assured him they were fine so he went back to his in home workspace to get back to checking his emails. Cade woke with a start when he realized he had fallen asleep at his computer. It took him a few seconds to realize vacuuming had woken him.

Cade wiped his face and left his office to investigate, finding his three oldest kids cleaning “whats going on?”

“we’re getting the house ready for your date” Eugene said. Cade responded with “Guys, this is supposed to be a fun weekend for you”

“well we didn’t know if you’d know to clean. I mean you never have girls over” Cade blushed again “well, let me make some coffee and I’ll help. Is Cliona up yet?” It was Keola that answered “yeah, she’s painting in her room. She wants to practice for later. Want us to check on her?”

“No, I’m sure she’s fine. Thanks for helping her get the paint out…did she still seem alright?”

“yeah, don’t worry so much. I can’t imagine anybody being afraid of Holly”

“I just don’t want to push Cliona too hard”

“you’re not dad, its not like you’re inviting her to live with us. You’re not even having real dates with her because we’re all involved. I know even Cliona wants you to be happy too dad”

“Thank you guys” Cade said before heading to the kitchen to start coffee. He called back in there “did you guys eat anything?” They yelled back assuring him they had fed themselves too. Since they had apparently they washed their dish’s as well. He felt incredibly proud of them. It crossed his mind again what a shame it was these amazing kids may have spent their entire life in the system just because people wanted babies or at least kids under school age.

By the time Holly arrived and began touring their home you’d never know four kids and a single man lived there. They had cleaned every room as thoroughly as they could. “this place is so nice” she remarked when they were finally back in the living room and sitting down. She then added “whats that incredible smell?”

“It’s Maple Rosemary Pork Tenderloin. As far as sides going we made Summer Tortellini Pasta Salad, Sweet and Smoky Bean and Corn Dip along with oven roasted asparagus. These kids, especially Eugene are bottomless pits so we tend to make a lot. There will be chips at the table for our dip. “My mouth is watering just thinking about all that. You guys really cook, thats awesome”

“Thankfully I was raised by a mother who taught me all about cooking. She, along with myself pass it down to my children. Though Keola and Kaiaka have natural ability when it comes to cooking”

“You know what you’re doing is just amazing. I know I said it before, but it really is. Not many people would do what you’re doing.”

“They deserve a home too, even if I only get them for a couple of years, they shouldn’t have to age out of the system.”

“So,” she said as she turned her attention to the children, “what do you all want to be when you grow up?”

“We’re going to be nurses.” Kaiaka said with a big smile.

“We’ve already picked out the school we want to attend and everything.” Keola added.

“Is that what you two always wanted to be?”

“Yes, always.” They said as one and giggled which had Holly smiling.

“And what about you, Eugene?”

“I plan on working with my grandpa and uncle. Grandpa said he would give me a paid internship there and if I’m serious about it then he would write me a recommendation to whatever law school I wanted to attend.”

“Thats amazing, Jasper is a really good guy. Your Uncle is Lupin right?”

“Yeah”

“I met him and his family too when your grandfather was dealing with my case.” Holly then tried with Cliona “what would you like to be when you grow up?” she looked down and Holly softly noted “I see a little paint on your shirt. Do you want to be an artist?” Cliona looked at her shirt, finding the spot instantly and blushing. After a long silence Holly was about to talk to someone else out of concern she was just making Cliona uncomfortable when Clion said “I don’t know what I want to be” Holly smiled, happy Cliona responded to her at all. Without Cade telling her it was obvious this girl came from an abusive home so Holly could imagine how hard it was to trust other adults or even talk to them.

“well that’s okay, you have a long time to think about it” Cliona was quite still but she was looking at Holly again. There was still a pause but not quite as long as before when Cliona said “I was practicing for when we go out later”

“These paint classes are a lot of fun. They make it simple, it feels like painting is the simplest thing in the world when you’re in them”

“really?”

“yeah” Cliona stood “I’m going to change.”

“alright sweetheart” Cade said as Cliona walked toward her bedroom. Holly began talking to Cade again until he had to rush into the kitchen to finish up a few things. Things seemed to flow smoother with Cliona over lunch which Holly was happy for. Things only grew more comfortable when they were all in class together. Cade still didn’t want to move things too fast but he knew, even right then that Holly was who he wanted to spend the rest of his eternity with. She was beautiful, inside and out. The way she interacted with his kids was amazing and the way she made him feel was something he could definitely get used to.

~ The End

Ruby & Noxx

Chapter One

 Ruby thrashed in her sleep, her breathing growing heavy, sweat dotting her skin. A whimper escaped her lips as the nightmare filled her head. She could hear his voice, feel his hands on her, around her throat, him kicking and hitting her. She woke screaming, sitting bolt upright as her wail of fear filled the room. Then warmth enveloped her, arms pulling her close. “Ruby.” His voice was soft, gentle and she started crying into his chest. “It’s okay Ruby.”

“N…Noxx.” It was the only thing she could say through her tears and he hated how broken and ashamed she sounded.

“Don’t worry, I’m right here.”

He sat there holding her until she was able to get her crying under control and it was only then she realized it was raining outside and her bedroom window was open. She pulled back enough to reach over and switch on the lamp then turned her attention back to him. His hair hung around his face in wet tendrils and drops of water still dotted his skin. “Noxx, you’re soaked. How long were you out there?”

“Awhile, I walked here, I was worried.”

“You could get sick.” She pulled out of his arms and went to close her window. It wasn’t the first time he had come through there. When she had first come home and her nightmares were more frequent, he had practically lived under her window, guarding her and comforting her.

“That’s impossible, my kind don’t get sick.”

“You have to be freezing.” She headed out of her room and he followed. She grabbed a towel out of the hall closet and handed it to him. “Go shower and I’ll dry your clothes.”

“Where are your parents?”

“I told them to take a night out. I know they worry, but I think they needed a break. I didn’t expect to have a nightmare. It’s been four years and I’m still…”

“It’s understandable Ruby, they know that.”

“Go get warm, okay, and leave your clothes outside the door so I can dry them.”

“Alright, but call me if you need me.”

“Thank you Noxx.” He hugged her again then walked into the nearby bathroom to strip and shower. Once she saw him drop his clothes out Ruby gathered them and started turning on lights as she walked to the laundry room. She remembered back when she first came home her parents had had to leave every light in the house on for her because she couldn’t handle not seeing everything around her so she knew she had come far from the young girl her captor broke but she still hated being such a burden. Noxx had such a huge heart. They had grown so close and she wished she could just snap out of it and be better so he wouldn’t have to worry over her or do things to himself like sit in the rain.

His clothes were so cold and while he couldn’t get sick she knew that had to have been uncomfortable. He was always forgetting about himself in order to take care of her. Ruby was now starting the dryer, she decided to make coffee and see if there was any sort of snack she could offer Noxx when he got out of the shower. When she opened the fridge there was a touched but sad tug at her heart. Her mother had made her cheesecake brownies. There was a note on it, “Just in case you had trouble I wanted you to have comfort food.”

A few tears slipped out, she was surrounded by such love and warmth and she hoped someday soon she could be just like everyone else. After wiping at her face Ruby brought the cheesecake brownies to the table then started some water for tea. Noxx seemed to prefer hot teas over anything else to drink.

Noxx only stayed in the shower until his skin was warm. His wolf whined at him to check on Ruby and he could do nothing but listen. He got out, quickly dried, and wrapped the towel around his waist. He didn’t want to go to her half naked, but under the circumstances he was sure he would be forgiven. He followed her scent to the kitchen and could sense she was still upset. “Ruby?”

She turned to look at him, her heart stuttering and her cheeks flushing. She quickly looked away, swallowing down her nervousness. “My mom made me some cheesecake bars and…and I was making tea, if you want some.” It was the only thing she could think to say.

Noxx approached her slowly and reached out to gently turn her head so she was looking into his eyes. “I’m sorry, I’ll dress as soon as my clothes are dry, I promise.”

“I know, I was just surprised.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, thank you. So, cheesecake and tea?”

“Sounds good.”

Ruby grabbed Noxx a plate then poured him some hot tea. “That was really thoughtful of you Ruby.”

“It’s the least I could do for you and making tea isn’t hard.”

He took a long sip then said, “Let me check my clothes.”

“I’m really okay Noxx, I trust you more than anybody.”

Noxx gave her a small smile “Maybe we could grab breakfast together in the morning.”

“Sure, we could go to Ihop.”

“Do you think you can go back to sleep tonight or should we do something together? We can play cards or anything you want.”

“Cards sound nice, Do you care what card game?”

“Anything that makes you happy Ruby.” She blushed then hurried off. Noxx sighed, knowing he was too obvious at times with his feelings about her.

Ruby’s parents had bought her some table top games when she couldn’t bring herself to leave home for awhile. Even going to the doctor had been terrifying. She grabbed Gloom and went back to Noxx, finding him already sitting in the living room. “I hope Gloom is okay.”

“Of course.” He patted the couch next to him and she crossed over, her face heating as she dropped down next to him. “Are you alright Ruby?” He could hear her heart thumping quickly in her chest.

“Yeah, I promise, don’t worry.”

He reached out and gently tucked her hair behind her ear, letting his fingers brush her cheek. “You know I don’t mind fussing over you, Ruby.” Her skin heated further and he pulled his hand away. “Sorry.”

“I…it’s okay, really.” She quickly got the game set up and she did her best to calm down as they played. She never wanted him to think he effected her negatively. She was just nervous, not only with the fact he was nearly completely nude, but also because she liked him and didn’t know how to act after what had happened.

The dryer buzzed and Noxx went to grab his clothes, not wanting Ruby becoming frightened of him. His wolf whined at him, wanting him to claim her, to tell her, but he pushed the beast’s needs down. He wanted her, but he feared how she would react to the realization that she was his mate.

He tugged them on quickly in the laundry room then returned to Ruby who was picking her family cards. She handed him half the pile she had so he could pick his four as well. The game helped them both, Ruby calmed down and Noxx’s wolf found some patience again when it came to him talking to Ruby. She was seventeen, not even an adult yet and she had been through so much. She was even still having nightmares. He had to wait and give her more time. He had always told himself to at least wait until she was eighteen. Their first game of Gloom soon began and before they knew it her parents were home from their date.

Ruby’s mother hugged her as soon as she was near enough. “Hey, did you have a hard time?”

“I had another nightmare but Noxx sensed it like he almost always does and came…thanks for making me cheesecake brownies.”

Her mother kissed her head. “Anything for you my sweet girl.”

“Did you enjoy your date”

“We did but we don’t have to go out at night again if it was too hard.”

“I’m good mom, you two should go out on more dates in the future.”

Noxx jumped in when Ruby finished that sentence. “I can always come here when she needs me.”

Ruby’s mother hugged him. “You’ve been such a miracle, Noxx, truly. I don’t know what we would do without you.” She stepped back. “You’re welcome here anytime, I hope you know that.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Carli, dear, I don’t think you have to be so formal after everything.”

“Of course, thank you.”

“So are you staying the rest of the night, Noxx?” Her father asked.

“Yes, if Ruby wants me to.” There wasn’t anything that could make him truly leave. He would just sleep outside under her window.

Ruby blushed as her parents and Noxx looked at her. “Y…yes, I do, um…we’re going to breakfast in the morning if that’s okay.”

“Of course it is sweetie, just let us know when you leave and keep your phone on.” Her mother said with a warm smile. “We’re going to go to bed, if you need anything, don’t be afraid to get us up.”

“Okay, mom, dad, I love you guys.”

“We love you too sweetheart.” Her dad gave her a tight hug then followed his wife to their room. In all honesty, they were happy she had Noxx. He was the only one who had been able to get her through her panic attacks and nightmares and the only man besides her father who she felt safe with.

“Are you still fine staying up Noxx?”

“One of the perks of being a wolf is I don’t actually need very much sleep.”

“I know, I just like to be sure.”

“Want to play more Gloom or would you rather play something else?”

“Lets play this one more time.”

“Alright” The rest of that evening flew by and just as Ruby promised she woke her parents to tell her they were leaving before grabbing her phone and heading out. Noxx’s heart warmed at how happy and confident she seemed in the moment. She was getting better and better at bouncing back from nightmares. They took Ruby’s car since Noxx hadn’t brought one then went straight for Ihop. Once seated they ordered coffee then began looking over their menus, discussing what sounded good.

Ruby settled on the cupcake pancakes and Noxx on the Belgian pancakes with chocolate mousse. They ordered, both of them getting coffee for their drink. “I thought chocolate was bad for dogs.” Ruby teased and Noxx arched an eyebrow, causing her to blush.

“This coming from the girl who ordered the cutesy sprinkle pancakes.”

“They’re just so good.”

He chuckled. “So is chocolate.”

“So, how’s the pack doing? How are Eliora and Emrys?”

“Good and good, they ask about you, you should visit some time.”

“Would you come with me?” She knew they frequently had pack members and even though she was aware they would never hurt her, it still made her a little nervous.

Noxx’s wolf whined at her slight shift in emotion and he reached across the table, taking her hand. “Of course, I’ll go with you anywhere, all you have to do is say when.”

“Lets see when they are free then.”

“I can text them.” Noxx pulled his phone and searched for his group text with Eliora and Emrys. Once he found it he asked when they were free for a visit and made sure to mention Ruby wanted to come. It was Eliora who responded, “we’re just having a lazy day so if she feels like coming by today you two are welcome. I’d love to see her,” Noxx looked up at Ruby. “Do you feel like going after breakfast? I can text your parents too to update them.”

“Sure.”

“You’re really sure? There’s no pressure Ruby.”

“I’d really like to.” He looked back down at his phone. Letting Eliora know they’d be coming after their breakfast then he let Ruby’s parents know what they were doing.

 

Final Chapter

“They said to have fun and don’t worry about getting home late.” He put his phone away and started eating again.

“They’ve been giving me a lot of freedom lately. I don’t know if it’s because of my age or because they don’t want to feel like they’re locking me up after everything.”

“Maybe it’s a little of both. You’re nearly of age and you were held captive. They don’t want you to feel like a prisoner.”

“Sometimes I still do though, like a prisoner in my own body.” He gave her concerned look. “Sorry, just being negative is all. I know someday I’ll be at least sort of normal.”

“Ruby, there’s nothing abnormal about you, you went through something terrible. Know that I will always be here to protect you, I promise. You’re…” he nearly called her his mate, but forced it down. “You’re very dear to me, I’ll make sure you get to live a happy life.” The wolf huffed, the animal’s instincts telling him to claim her before someone else did. He told himself it didn’t matter if someone else did, that wasn’t up to him, but the thought still made his heart twist.

“Are you alright?” Ruby asked.

“Perfect, eat up so we can get going. It seemed like Eliora was excited about seeing you.”

Ruby still felt something was wrong but decided not to over think it and enjoy her day with him. She found herself excited about seeing Eliora despite her worry about other wolves being around. Elioras ex-husband may have abused her but Eliora had saved her, almost getting herself killed in the process and that meant the world to Ruby and her parents. She also knew her new mate was kind and amazing, he’d never let anybody hurt her either. Going there she would just have to keep reminding herself of how safe she was if there were other wolves.

Once they were both full and Noxx had paid for their breakfast Ruby drove them to Eliora and Emrys’s home. They were on their porch, laughing and talking but started to walk over as they pulled in. When Ruby stepped out of the car Eliora wasted no time hugging her. “It’s good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too.”

“How are you?” She pulled back to look her in the eye.

“Fine, I mean I still have nightmares, but I’m getting better.” She glanced at Noxx and Eliora did the same.

“That’s really good.” She let Ruby go and Emrys took his turn hugging her.

“Noxx is treating you well?” He asked.

“Of course, but you should order him to not go walking through pouring rain. He came through my window soaked to the bone.”

Emrys chuckled as he let her go. “I don’t think he’d listen, his instincts just take over and he has no choice but to listen.” Noxx shot him a look that told him not to say anymore. “You don’t have to worry so much Ruby, it’s just part of who he is, he has to take care of you.”

Ruby blushed. “Alright, I guess.” She turned to Noxx. “At least remember a jacket next time.”

“I’ll try, I just don’t think about it when I feel like something’s off with you.”

Trying to change the subject Ruby asked Eliora, “So…what were your plans for your lazy day?”

“We just like to do whatever strikes us. Is there something you’d prefer to do?”

“Maybe you could show me around again. It’s been a long time since I came.”

“That sounds fun, come on. I’ll walk you around the then we’ll go inside, maybe have some tea or lemonade and decide whats next from there.” Noxx took his place at Ruby’s side as Emrys took his place beside Eliora.

“Are there any other wolves here?”

“Not today.” There had been but they had asked them to give Ruby some space. They were happy to oblige, all wanting her to get more comfortable at least being there since she was Noxx’s mate.

“Maybe next time you could invite them over?”

“Really?”

“Yeah…I mean…I need to get braver at some point and I know with you three I’m always safe.”

Eliora smiled. “I’m glad you feel that way. Maybe next time I can set something up with a few of the wolves I’m particularly fond of, start you out small and work your way to knowing the entire pack better.”

“I’d like that.”

Ruby relaxed as they toured the property, loving that the had their own little piece of nature. They lead her back along a trail that circled the house and she let herself get lost in how peaceful the woods were. She became so distracted that she nearly tripped over a tree root and Noxx grabbed her without missing a beat, steadying her. “Are you alright?” He asked.

“Yeah, sorry.”

“Could I hold your hand, just in case?”

Her face flushed, her heart stuttering. “Yeah.” She answered softly.

“Are you sure?”

“Mmhmm.”

He laced their fingers together and he delighted in the feel of her skin, his wolf becoming excited so Emrys gave him a look that said tell her. He ignored him, just focusing on making sure she didn’t trip again. It didn’t help that she actually moved closer to him, that he was wrapped in her scent, that he could feel the heat of her body. He wanted her more than he would ever be able to fully express, but he feared scaring her away.

He had even just been telling him again earlier it was her age but he knew that wasn’t really it for him, he was worried it would be too much for her and he’d lose even being her friend. Seventeen was close enough and her parents loved him. Noxx just didn’t know what he’d do if she became uncomfortable around him. He had already watched Emrys go through agony when Eliora was married to someone else. They had been friends but still, he didn’t want to experience that pain first hand. Right now he got to be with her all the time, right now she felt comfortable enough around him to hold his hand like this.

They made their way back to the house once they were finished exploring, Noxx feeling a stab of disappointment when Ruby released his hand once they were inside. “Want to help me get drinks, Ruby?” Eliora asked.

“Yeah, sure.”

“Maybe we could make some cookies if you want.”

“Sounds good. Noxx, do you want to come?”

Emrys draped an arm over Noxx’s shoulder. “I actually need his help with something outside, why don’t you two have a little girl time, we’ll be back before you know it.”

“Alright.”

“If you need me, all you have to do is yell and I’ll come running.” Noxx said.

“I know, go have fun, I’ll be fine with Eliora.”

Outside Emrys said, “Noxx, it really is time you told Ruby how you feel. She can handle it.”

“You don’t know that.”

“She’s come a long way. You know I wouldn’t suggest you telling her if I wasn’t sure. Besides, it’s good to be honest. Eliora was engaged when I met her and I still told her she was my mate.”

“I know”

“Just tell her, I really don’t think you’ll lose her friendship if she doesn’t want to be with you.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Alright.”

“How’s everything going with Noxx?” Eliora asked she mixed cookie batter.

“Good, he’s really sweet and attentive.” She sighed. “I just hate he puts himself through so much. I know he can’t get sick, but what if he got hurt or something because of me?”

“Ruby,” there was a bit of a laugh in Eliora’s voice, “he does those things because he cares about you. He can’t help himself, it’s instinct.”

“I know and honestly, I love that he’s always there when I have a bad night.”

“You like him.”

Ruby blushed. “Who… who wouldn’t. Whoever he picks for his mate is going to be really lucky.” The thought actually made her heart ache. She knew it would mean they wouldn’t see each other as much.

“I think so too.”

Eliora couldn’t wait to tell her mate Emrys. She had planned to talk to him about Rubys feelings after the two left but she decided to just tell Noxx himself when they happened to go into the kitchen at the same time later in the day. “Noxx?” Eliora whispered as she grabbed his arm. He looked down at her, a questioning look on his face so she continued to speak, “I was talking to Ruby earlier, she likes you. I mean it. Talk to her after you two leave here. I promise you she wants to be with you too.”

He knew she wouldn’t joke about something like that so he hugged her out of happiness. “Thanks for telling me.” He whispered gratefully.

That evening while he was walking Ruby to her car he swallowed down his nerves. “Ruby?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

She looked so shocked he almost wanted to back pedal, to pretend she had misheard him until she nervously said, “I…I love you too…”

Noxx gently took her hand and pulled her closer, pressing her palm against his chest, his other hand pressing into her back. “You know what that means, right?” He could hear her heart stutter and his own danced beneath her palm.

“Yeah, it…it means I’m your mate.”

“Does that scare you, Ruby?”

“No, nothing about you scares me, I’m nervous, but…but I’m actually happy. I want to be with you.”

He leaned closer, pressing their foreheads together. “Truly?”

“Yeah, you’ve been so amazing and attentive, everything I could ever ask for, even when I thought I would never want anyone. I want you.” Her entire body was burning with her blush, but she wanted him to know, she felt like he deserved to know.

“May I kiss you?”

“Yes.”

His hands came up to frame her face, his thumbs brushing her cheeks, marveling at how warm and soft she was. He leaned in slowly, giving her time to push away, to change her mind. He listened to her breathing, irregular from nerves and possibly excitement. He pressed his lips against hers, a light delicate touch so as not to frighten her. Just that small taste of her set his body tingling.

It only felt better when he could see how much she had enjoyed that too. He never wanted her to go, but now more than ever it was hard to let Ruby get in her car and drive away from him. He stuck to the more positive once her car was out of view. He could finally kiss her, he could finally express how he truly felt whenever he wanted. Things would be so much better now and all for the better. He hoped when she turned eighteen she’d be comfortable living with him but as excited as he was to have his mate he knew that was a concern for another day and he should just enjoy what was happening right now.

~ The End

Osanyin & Vale

Chapter One

Osanyin ducked into an alleyway, drops of black blood spattering on the cement as he raced for the fire escape ladder. He glanced back, seeing the group of men behind him. He ran up the wall, grabbing the bottom rung of the ladder and hauling himself up it. “Come back here you tainted bastard.” One of them screamed and hurled something at him. Osanyin didn’t bother trying to see what it was, he just kept going, racing up the fire escape to the roof. Even when he made it to the top, he kept going, jumping to the next building and then to the next. He saw a door, wrenched it open and slid inside. He leaned against the wall, his breath steadying. He looked at his arm, at the teeth marks where the dog had bitten him.

He sighed, hating that once again it had come to this, to lying low, to hiding. He wondered if the animal had smelled the taint of his black blood, if that’s why it had attacked. He was no longer pure in the eyes of the world. His blood had gone from milky white innocence to the black of the feared. None of them understood, none of them bothered to ask what crimes he had committed for it to get that way.

“You’re not supposed to be up here.” The voice startled him and his eyes were drawn down the stairs to the landing at the beginning of the next flight. Bright blue eyes stared up at him, the look on the young man’s face was one of shock and confusion.

Osanyin felt cornered and wondered if he could jump down and restrain the guy before he screamed or something. “My mistake.” He said as he readied himself. “What are you doing up here?”

The young man held up the mop in his hand. “Cleaning, I’m the complex manager.” His eyes moved to the wound on Osanyin’s arm. “You’re bleeding. What happened?”

Osanyin was taken back. Did he not notice the color of his blood. “Dog bite.” He answered truthfully.

“Are you planning on killing me?”

“No.”

He nodded. “Okay. Come with me and I’ll fix that.”

Was this man joking? Was he luring him to his home where he could more easily kill him? It didn’t make sense to Osanyin that anybody would help him but maybe this was his lucky day and the man was color blind or something. To Osanyin that was the only thing that made sense. He cautiously began to walk down the stairs towards the man who introduced himself. “I’m Vale and I really am trying to help you. You’re bleeding pretty bad so come on, don’t be afraid.” Osanyin couldn’t help but study Vale’s face. When Osanyin couldn’t find anything there that foretold of bad things to come he hurried after him.

Vale took him to an apartment on the second floor and propped the mop up against the wall so he could unlock his door. Osanyin was wary as he stepped inside, ready to run if this was some sort of trap. “This way.” Vale said, leading him to his bathroom. “Could you sit please?”

“I’d like to stand.”

Vale’s eyes met his, searching them then he responded with an, “Okay.” He pulled a first aid kit out from under his sink, sat it on the counter, and flipped it open. “So, why did it bite you?” He asked as he pulled out some gauze and wet it.

“Seriously?”

Vale nodded as he started to gently wipe the blood away, apologizing when Osanyin flinched. “Not a dog person?”

“I…” he had to be crazy. Osanyin sighed. “You can see my blood right?”

“Of course.” He pulled out an alcohol wipe and rubbed it over the wounds then wrapped it. “There we go, good as new.”

“You see the color, right?”

“It’s just blood.” He threw the used items in the garbage then put the first aid kit away. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”

“No, um…”

“So, what’s your name? I think it’s only fair that I get yours since you have mine.”

“Uh Osanyin.”

“Well, Osanyin, I need to go clean up the mess you made.”

“Just like that?” Osanyin asked, his voice portraying how baffled he was by Vale.

Vale looked him in the eyes. “I don’t know why your blood is black and I’m not the type of person who assumes the worst in people. Regardless, even if you did something bad once, it doesn’t mean you are still bad. Maybe if people were a bit more forgiving instead of holding things over peoples heads forever more people would change.”

Horrible memories started playing in Osanyin’s mind of the things he had been forced to do. It made him look away. “Could I at least help you.”

Vale smiled. “See, you are a good person who deserved help. Thank you but just rest in here a little bit. Your arm has to hurt and it’s obvious you’ve been running quite awhile.”

Osanyin wanted to insist, but Vale walked out, seriously trusting him enough to leave him there. He couldn’t even feel the pain in his arm or the exhaustion. Osanyin was still struggling to grasp Vale and once again fighting off all those terrible memories. The fact his body was tired only came back when his knees buckled and he found himself on the floor. Osanyin picked himself up and found a place to sit. This man actually trusted him and Osanyin wanted to talk to him a little more.

Vale hummed as he headed back to the stairwell. There were a few blood drops in the hallway, but he would start at the source and work his way back. He wanted to get all the blood cleaned up before someone came searching for Osanyin and he was sure someone was looking. He quickly mopped every bit up, carrying his bucket of water back with him and cleaning up the hall. One of the apartment doors opened and he smiled at one of his tenants. “Hey Caroline.” He said as he wrung his mop out. The older woman’s eyes looked at the water, seeing it was tinted black.

“Is everything okay?” She asked as her eyes moved back to his face.

“Of course, just trying to be as helpful as possible. Someone was attacked.”

She sighed. “Well if anyone bothers you, make sure to get me and I’ll chase them away.”

“Yes ma’am Miss Caroline, thank you.” He thought for a moment. “Oh, do you have one of Gary’s old shirts, the someone is going to need it, his shirt’s all stained.”

“Of course, just a moment.” Caroline went inside. She didn’t take long to bring out two shirts. “Just in case he needs another.”

“Thank you.”

“The shirts may as well see some use.”

With the blood clean and shirts in hand Vale returned to his apartment, happy to see Osanyin really stayed instead of sneaking out. “One of my neighbors loaned me shirts for you to wear and no, she doesn’t know it was your black blood I was cleaning up so don’t worry.”

“I can shower then?”

“You are welcome to use anything you need in my apartment.” Osanyin took the shirts and Vale guided him to the bathroom. “Feel confident working the water?”

“Yeah, I can figure it out.”

“If you need me just yell.”

“Okay.”

Osanyin was still incredibly confused, but he was also exhausted and wanted nothing more than to sleep. Vale went and put on a fresh pot of coffee and looked through his fridge for some for Osanyin to eat. He decided a sandwich was the easiest. Osanyin felt a little better once he got out and quickly dried. He dressed, being careful of his arm then tossed the towel in the hamper and decided to just toss out his shirt. He already knew how hard it was to get his blood out of things.

“I thought I was going to have to come in and rescue you.” Vale said when Osanyin came out, giving him a smile that made Osanyin’s heart jump.

“Sorry, was I in there that long?”

Vale chuckled. “No, I was just trying to lighten the mood. Is your arm okay?”

“Yeah and thank you for the shirt. Can I use your trash?” He held up the shirt.

“I can clean that.”

“It’s fine, I don’t need it.”

“As long as you’re sure.” Osanyin nodded and Vale showed him the trashcan under the sink. “I also made you a sandwich if you’re hungry.”

“Wow…thank you.”

“No matter the color of your blood you’re a person. You deserve help just like anybody else. I’m sure there’s a story to how your blood got this way and you don’t even owe me or anybody else that story. Just eat and then relax here as long as you need to. I live alone so you aren’t going to bother anybody.” Vale handed Osanyin the sandwich and Vale took it. He wasn’t sure what to say. They sat down together and Vale asked, “Do you live far from here?”

“I’m currently without a home again…people see my blood and…well…”

“Well that isn’t true anymore. Your home is here now.”

“I…thank you.” He wasn’t sure how long he would stay with Vale. He didn’t want to cause him any trouble. He knew how cruel people could be and if they found him in Vale’s apartment they would probably hurt him.

“You don’t have to worry, you’re safe here. No one in this building will sell you out, I promise.”

“How do you know?”

“Because they’re all good people from different walks of life who have been through their own struggles and they all love me.” He smiled. “Selling you out means selling me out and they’re more likely to toss the people out who hurt you, than tell them you’re here.”

“Alright, I guess.”

Vale reached over, grabbing his hand. “Take as much time as you need to settle in, there’s no rush, but be prepared for some of the residents to be curious.”

“I’m used to curious.”

“Well, I’m gay so I’m pretty sure eventually they will start wondering if we’re together romantically. There will be a lot to be curious about.” Osanyin smiled then felt embarrassed for doing it.

“I can handle any curiosity…it’ll be nice to have somewhere to settle again. I get so tired of having to move.”

“If we find you a good job there’s a vacancy in the building too so you can really just stay here. I’m the manager so you won’t have to worry about not being approved.”

“Thank you.”

“We’re friends now, this is the kind of things friends do.”

“Yeah, okay, thank you.” It had been years since he had had friends. Everyone of them had been horrified the moment they realized what color his blood was. He kept eating, enjoying the food and the company.

“So, do you have any family?” Vale asked.

“No, it’s just me. I lived on the streets for awhile and now I just kind of go wherever I don’t have a reputation.”

“I’m sorry, that must have been rough.”

“I did some things that I…” It was hard talking about his past. He didn’t want Vale to find a reason to hate him like everyone else.

“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to.”

“I should be honest with you, especially since you practically saved me.”

Vale waved his hand. “Tell me when you’re ready, not because you feel obligated and if anyone in the complex gets too pushy, not that I think they would, let me know.”

“I will.”

Osanyin finished his sandwich as he and Vale continued chatting, Vale avoiding questions about his past. He didn’t want him to feel forced to open up. Osanyin wasn’t surprised when Vale told him his blood was completely white. Of course it was, with as beautiful and as kind as he was, of course he would be pure. Osanyin’s heart stuttered. Had he really just thought of Vale as beautiful? He shook his head, knowing it was just his tired mind getting ahead of itself.

 

Chapter Two

The next day after breakfast Vale said, “I need to be in my office today until at least one. You can hangout there with me or just hangout here.”

“I’ll come with you, maybe I’ll be able to help today somehow. I could become a maintenance man here if you like my work. I’ve found the easiest profession to get into when you move around a lot is anything to do with your hands. Not everyone is willing to take that sort of work.”

“That would be perfect, we’re actually two maintenance men short of how many the owner prefers to have. Like you said, those positions can be hard to fill. Don’t stress about cutting yourself on the job. These are really good people in this building and they’ll listen to me.”

“Alright.”

Vale smiled. “You seem so nervous.”

“I am, a little.”

Vale couldn’t help but hug him. He just looked so troubled, like he might bolt at any moment. He wondered how long Osanyin had been running, how many people had hurt him or tried hunting him down. It took Osanyin a moment to respond he was so surprised, but he finally managed to hug Vale back, his heart stuttering in his chest. “You’ll do just fine, just breathe.”

“Okay, thank you.”

Vale hadn’t been kidding when he said people would be curious. As they passed those who were coming in or going out, they got looks. Vale just smiled, greeting each of them. Osanyin followed Vale outside and across the parking lot to the office. There was a pool next to it where a couple of families were swimming. “I hope that wasn’t too bad.” Vale said as he unlocked the front door and stepped inside.

“Hmm?”

“All of them staring at you.”

“It was fine, you warned me.” He flopped down in one of the chairs and let out a sigh. “I hope I don’t cause you any trouble.”

“I’m fine with trouble, Osanyin, trust me. I’m not worried.”

Osanyin nodded. “Sorry I’m so anxious.”

“Don’t be, you’ve went through quite a bit yesterday.” Vale wished he knew how to get him to relax. He knew being that stressed wasn’t good for him, but all he could do was give him time and comfort.

“Yeah, thanks, again. I’ll pay you back, I promise.”

Osanyin only had to help with one issue that day so he felt mostly useless, but it was nice spending time with Vale. He hadn’t really had friends that actually knew him so this was unlike any friendship he had experienced before. Once Vale could lock the office and leave he asked, “Would you like to go back to my place or can I take you somewhere?”

“We should give it more time, hopefully they will stop looking for me.”

“Alright, maybe we could watch a movie.”

“Sure.” They started walking.

“What kind of movie would you like to watch?” Vale asked and Osanyin, not wanting to be difficult blurted out the first genre he could think of. “Western.”

“Hm, Okay, I’ll look through my DVD collection. I’m sure I have a couple.”

“Alright, I have Tombstone, Pale Rider, and Open Range. I guess I’ll have to buy more now that you’re here.” He said with a smile.

“You don’t have to do that.”

“You should have something you like watching too.”

“I like other movies too.” Vale chuckled causing Osanyin’s heart to flutter and he looked away as he rubbed the back of his neck. “Um…Tombstone sounds good.”

“Want me to order pizza?”

“If you want to.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“Pizza sounds great.”

As Vale popped the movie in, he couldn’t help but think that for a big, supposedly dangerous, black blooded man, Osanyin was actually quite adorable. He didn’t like his lack of confidence or trust, but his nervousness was still cute. He went over and took Osanyin’s hand then pulled him over to the couch. “Relax, I’ll just be a few moments.”

Osanyin sat down as Vale went to call for a pizza. He hoped tomorrow he would be more needed around here so he could feel like he was doing something for Vale. Vale soon returned and started the movie before taking a seat right beside Osanyin. “I ordered two sodas with our pizza. Feel free to get some water until then if you get too thirsty.”

“I can wait.” It was easy to get into the movie. He found himself truly trusting Vale so he was going to just try and enjoy this normalcy and try not to let any attraction to him ruin this chance. They blew the rest of that day watching movies and eating pizza. The next day in Vales office they talked about other types of movies and what he should add to his collection.

Osanyin sat in the office reading and chatting with Vale except when he was called away to fix something. He was relieved to find that every resident he came across was nice. He could see they wanted to ask them questions, but none did. He was always eager to get back to Vale, his heart dancing every time he received a smile from him. “I hope I’m not working you too hard.” Vale said.

“Not at all, in fact I could do more if you need me too. Clean the pool, mow the grass?” He leaned against Vale’s desk, smiling down at him.

“You’re way too sweet, but we have people for that that come by.” He stood, stretching and moving to stand in front of him. “Want to go on a walk around the complex?”

“You’re not busy?”

“Taking an early break.”

“Are you sure your blood’s white?”

Vale laughed. “It’s nice to see you have a sense of humor.” Osanyin blushed and it had Vale grinning. “And shy?”

Osanyin looked away. “I’m not, just not used to someone being so…”

“Honest? Sincere?”

“Yeah.” He answered softly.

Vale reached out and took Osanyin’s hand. “Come on, let’s walk, it’ll be good for you.”

Osanyins heart stuttered again. It was almost overwhelming emotionally since this was far from anything he was used to. He managed to keep his composure though and was happy when Vale kept his hand as they walked. He wasn’t quite sure why Vale was doing this but Osanyin would be the last to question it. “So, what are some things you’ve never done that you really want to do?”

“Um, I don’t know.”

“Well think about it, we can start checking things off the list.”

“What if someone notices my blood? I don’t want you getting hurt somehow if it causes trouble.”

“Everything will be okay, you’re a great person. I’d hate for you to never really live because you were scared of how people will react to you. I’d really like you to make me a list of things you’ve always wanted to do and we’ll do them together.”

“I don’t really know how to live, survive sure, but…” he rubbed the back of his neck, letting out a sigh.

“Then we’ll start small, fairs, roller coasters, maybe a few hikes.”

“You’re stubborn.”

“When I have to be.”

“Vale…”

“You’re not going to be able to talk me out of taking care of you. I know you’re a big tough guy who could probably break me in half if you wanted too, but I’m not scared. You’re stuck with me now, so get used to it.” Vale nudged him, giving him a bright smile. “I like you, Osanyin, so let me help you.”

“Like me?” Why did his heart have to beating so hard? “Why?”

“Isn’t that what friends do, they like each other?”

Osanyin nodded. “Yeah.”

“Then maybe let’s start with a hike. It’s getting out without a crowd. We will pass people, but I think it’s a good first step into you getting comfortable.”

“Do you hike a lot?”

“Not really, but when I do I normally make a day of it. We can bring a picnic.”

“Alright, I’ll try to relax.”

“Then let’s talk lunch for our hike. I think peanut butter and banana sandwiches with some fruit would be good. We can also pack some jerky for snacking. Do you like those things?”

“Yeah.” They went shopping right after work then prepared a back pack that night. Then Vale began showing Osanyin different places to hike on the computer.

“I mean really we can just go to the nearest one tomorrow and work our way out over time. I can make a list so we don’t forget places we’ve already spent the day hiking.”

“Sounds good to me.”

It was hard for Osanyin to fall asleep that night as he thought about their hike. What if they ran into someone who recognized him or he accidentally cut or scraped himself? He wouldn’t let anyone hurt Vale, he’d rather have the entire world hate him. Vale was everything he had never had, beautiful and bright and incredibly kind. His heart skipped a beat at his thoughts. What was going on with him? There was something about Vale that drew him in and it both intrigued and frightened him. He sighed as he turned over and hugged his pillow to his face, Vale and his worries following him into sleep.

“Time to wake up Sleeping Beauty.” Vale’s voice roused him from sleep the next morning and he felt his heart skip a beat when he found himself looking into his eyes. “Good morning.”

“Oh, good morning.”

“I made breakfast.”

That was something else that he was going to have to get used to, waking up to breakfast and someone who was happy to see him. He found himself reaching up, his fingers brushing Vale’s cheek, feeling his skin warm beneath his touch. “You’re still real.”

Vale chuckled. “Of course I am.”

Osanyin pulled his hand away in embarrassment. “Sorry, still trying to wake up.”

“That’s okay, come on, I don’t want your breakfast getting cold before you get a chance to eat it.” Osanyin got up and followed Vale to the kitchen

“What’s this?”

“A ham, egg and cheese breakfast casserole.”

Osanyin sat down at his plate and took a bite, washing it down with coffee before saying, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, I really enjoy this and it will be breakfast more than once. You ready for hiking?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s really so much fun, especially when you go slow and take the time to truly enjoy the animals and nature around you.”

“Since I’m not used to taking things easy I’ll go at your pace today.” They finished their breakfast and Osanyin grabbed their bag, insisting he carry it at least to start with today. Vale smiled at him and it sent Osanyin’s heart racing again as they walked to the car.

They talked as Vale drove and enjoyed the route to the hiking spot they had picked. Osanyin couldn’t believe how comfortable he felt in Vale’s presence, how much his heart skipped when he received one of his smiles. He wanted to touch him again, to stay close to him. What was wrong with him? They barely knew each other and Osanyin still hadn’t been able to bring himself to talk about his past. He felt like he was being dishonest, even when Vale told him not to worry. He was relieved when they finally made it to their destination and he was able to breathe.

“You okay?” Vale asked as Osanyin shouldered the pack.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

Vale came around the car and Osanyin’s heart jumped when he grabbed his face and pulled him down, pressing their foreheads together. “You’re warm. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Y…yeah, just excited.”

Vale smiled and Osanyin found himself smiling back. “Good, come on.”

 

Final Chapter

Osanyin tried not to be in his head too much as he followed Vale. He wanted to enjoy and savor these moments and more importantly he didn’t want to absent mindedly touch him again. It was an urge that was actually hard to resist. Today and the following days of hiking were amazing. Osanyin was happy just to keep doing this when Vale said, “Want to try something besides just hiking together?”

Osanyin blushed, it becoming so easy for Vale to cause. “Like what?”

“I dont know, I just want you to experience something else.”

The only experience Osanyin could think of that he wanted was kissing Vale. “Um…you decide something.”

“Hm, maybe we could mini golf somewhere. There’s a glow in the dark one only fifteen minutes away.”

“Alright.”

“Are you sure you can handle it? I wouldn’t want you to get overwhelmed.” Vale teased.

“I’ll be fine as long as you’re there and I don’t start bleeding.”

Osanyin happily went with Vale and Vale teased him further by comparing him to a puppy. It was strange how Vale’s temperament was a complete juxtaposition to how pretty he was. “Have you ever played before?” Vale asked when they pulled up to the mini golf course.

“No, having fun wasn’t exactly my first thought.”

“I’m excited I get to introduce you to it then.” They got out and Vale took his hand, causing goosebumps to cover his skin.

Osanyin really wasn’t very good, but Vale’s encouragement kept him going and he had to admit that once the sun was all the way down, the park was amazing. He couldn’t help the smile that pulled at his lips or how carefree he actually felt. Vale turned and smiled at him and Osanyin wanted very much to kiss him in that moment. Vale must have seen the way he was watching him because he reached out and took his hand and pulled him closer. “What’s on your mind?”

“I don’t want to make things awkward.”

“Tell me, come on, things won’t be awkward.”

It took Osanyin a few moments but he found the courage to say “I want to kiss you…The more we go out and do things together the more I just want to hold and touch you…I…I’m sorry.” Vale pulled Osanyin closer and met their lips. He gave him a long, gentle kiss before saying softly “You don’t have to be sorry about that. You want to go home and have a talk?”

“Could I kiss you one more time first?”

Vale smiled before answering, “Yeah.” They began kissing again as Osanyin moved his hands through Vales hair and played with it.

“Come on.” Vale said once they pulled apart. They walked back to the car and on the drive home Osanyin had no clue what to do with himself.

They soon pulled back up to the complex and walked back up to Vales home. “So um…it’s okay to touch you or just kiss you?”

“My hair would say its okay to touch me.” Vale said with a grin. He had tried to fix it but it was still a little messy.

“I’m sorry.”

“Quit apologizing to me, please.”

“I’m…I mean, I’m not trying to. It’s just…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ve never had someone I could trust or…”

“Love?” Vale finished as he stepped closer to Osanyin and smiled up at him.

“Yeah, I…I’ve never wanted anyone or anything more than you.” He reached up and let his fingers brush Vale’s cheek. “I know I shouldn’t, but I love you.”

Vale’s cheeks reddened much to Osanyin’s surprise. “Say it again.”

“I love you.” Vale pulled him down into another kiss and Osanyin’s heart stuttered in his chest. Osanyin tangled his fingers in his hair, his lips moving hungrily against Vale’s. Vale slipped his hands under his shirt, pushing it up and off, letting his fingers slide over his skin. “Vale.”

“I want to touch you too.”

Osanyin quit holding himself back and soon they were both naked and all over one another. It almost seemed like a dream to Osanyin. Vale was such a good person but still, how could he want a man with black blood. He didn’t let the question ruin the moment, he couldn’t with one this good. The two didn’t stop until they were breathless. “I’m so happy that happened Osanyin.”

Osanyin moved onto his side, placing a hand gently on Vale’s cheek. “I’m so happy it did too.”

“I’ve wanted you as well but since I’m giving you a place to stay and a job I worried…well…I’m sure you can guess how I was worried that would come off.”

“This happening means the world to me…meeting you was such a gift.”

“Please just stay in this apartment with me…I don’t want you moving into another one.”

“I don’t think I could stay away from you now, even for a night.”

Vale smiled, rubbing their noses together. “I promise to make you the happiest man in the world. We’re going to do everything together.”

“I’m still scared about you being hurt, but…”

Vale gave him a gentle kiss then pulled back, smiling at him. “Hush, no more of that. No matter what happens, I’m not going anywhere.” He snuggled closer and Osanyin wrapped his arms around him. “Get used to being happy.”

Osanyin pressed their foreheads together, feeling for the first time in his life like he belonged. He knew he would still worry, especially since Vale was so pure and gentle. He would hate for something to happen to him, but for now he would let that go and be happy. “Thank you Vale, for saving me and loving me.” And he would do everything in his power to show Vale how thankful he truly was.

THE END

 

Actaeon & Semele

Chapter One

The journey to the crypt had been a long one. Desert sand clung to her eyelashes and dusted her clothing, making them look like ruddy copper rather than the bright red and gold they had been. She reached out a hand, her fingers splaying over the smooth stone of the entrance, her eyes closing as pale blue light traveled from her to the locked door. “Bats’yek.” Open. She said and heard the sound of creaking gears and straining ropes. There was a thunk and then the doors slid open, grinding against the floor before sticking. Darkness greeted her and she slipped through and whispered a command so an orb appeared before her then floated slowly down the shadowed hallway. Dust had long settled here on the coffins set in alcoves along the walls and the subtle scent of long dried up oils permeated the air. This crypt housed many a long dead warrior, buried with their most prized possessions, but the thing she sought was in the room at the end, the thing they supposedly guarded even in death, the one she needed.

The crypt went down, down, down into more darkness and the air grew cooler with each step, causing goosebumps to rise on her flesh. It was almost frighteningly silent, yet she persisted, undeterred. She only paused when she came across bones and upon examination realized that they belonged to others who had come here and died after springing traps. She said a small prayer over them then moved on. The orb paused at the ornately decorated door, the light causing the silver emblems to shimmer. This was the place, his prison. She took a deep breath and placed both hands against it, feeling a shiver run up her spine at how cold the metal was. She commanded it to open and then pushed with all her might, relieved when it gave way and freezing on the threshold at the sleeping warrior. He was bound and gagged on his knees, his head ducked down so dark hair obscured his features. It wasn’t the fact that he was so well preserved that astounded her, but the fact that he had two sharp spikes driven through his back, that crossed and exited at his ribs, holding him there. Here was the one who could save her people from the undead horde coming their way. Some called him the Betrayer, others the Wraith King, but she knew him as Actaeon the Immortal. He had been imprisoned here so long ago that he was nearly a myth, but she had dared to hope he was real.

He began to stir, bringing his head slowly up as though it took tremendous effort. His intense, grey eyes met hers but she couldn’t pin an emotion in them. He had been here so long by himself, an absolutely cruel amount of time to be alone and in the dark. She just hoped he hadn’t lost his mind and therefore, his ability to help her. She spoke before she moved, “I’m going to take that gag out alright?” His eyes stayed locked with hers, not giving any indication that he even heard, but when she took it out she finally saw some emotion. Unsurprisingly he seemed relieved, working his jaw so that it popped a few times.

“Am I finally to be free?”

“Yes…and I’d beg of you to help me.”

“Are you the only one asking?”

“Not truly, I’ll explain everything and while I know you can’t be controlled once you’re let go I’d feel too badly making you stay like that much longer while we spoke. Please, if I let you go listen to me.”

“It’s the least I could do…thank you…” she could tell he wanted her name.

“Semele.”

“Semele, I presume you know who I am?”

“Yes.”

“I am sure the stories about me are less than favorable.”

“Some, yes.”

He nodded. “Only some, that is surprising.”

She swallowed. “So, how do I get these out?” She pointed at the metal rods.

“They’re enchanted, the spell is old.”

“I can reverse it…at least I can try.”

She saw amusement fill his eyes and it amazed her how he could even think to laugh when he had been locked away for so long. She knew if it had been her, rage and madness would have taken her. “Then release me.”

She stood, letting her fingers slide over the rods, feeling the magic dance against her skin. She closed her eyes, finding the path to reversing the spell. She began to speak, her voice commanding and confident as she erased the magic that held him. Actaeon could feel the binding unravel and he couldn’t help but turn his head so he could watch her. Sweat dotted her brow, sand dusted her skin and clothes, and she was both powerful and beautiful. She stepped back, her hands moving away. “What now?”

“Untie my hands and I will do the rest.”

She made quick work of the knots then watched in amazement as he got himself free and began mending his wounds. “Let me help with that.”

“Thank you.” As she began healing him he urged, “Please tell me why you came here.”

“My people are in danger of being wiped out. My father and the emperor didn’t think it was wise to come here for you but…something has always told me the bad stories about you aren’t true, that you were noble until the end. It just doesn’t make sense after a lifetime of being nothing but noble and honest that you’d turn on the man you served.”

“I was put in here to make sure I never told my side of the tale. Thank you for believing in me. Even without further explanation I’ll help. I owe you my life now.”

“Just help us protect ourselves and I wont ask you anything again.”

“I have no reason to hide anything from you. Ask what you wish, I’ll answer honestly.”

“Alright, thank you. Is there anything else you need before we leave?”

“No, my sword is not here, the emperor in my time locked it up in his armory as a trophy. I want it back, it was a gift.”

“I’m sure it won’t be hard to get it back if I ask.”

He nodded. “Then we should go.” Actaeon had to shield his eyes upon exiting, the sun was so bright, brighter than he remembered, but beautiful all the same. He closed his eyes, inhaling the fresh air, feeling the warmth on his skin. “This, I remember. It’s still just as hot and dusty, still just as wild.” He let out a chuckle as he opened his eyes and Semele thought she saw a flicker of sadness there for just a moment.

“Some things have changed, the city for one. My emperor is an elf so some of the architecture is more…”

“Elegant?” She nodded. “I remember the desert clans, I never thought they would take over an empire though. They kept to themselves for the most part. I must have been here longer than I thought, but then again it all becomes one long day when you’re locked in darkness.”

“How did you manage to stay so sane? I mean, you hardly seem like someone who has been locked up with nobody to talk to and in utter darkness.”

“I lived a long time before I became the betrayer. I had many memories to fall back on to keep me going. I also held on to hope someone would finally free me. I’d imagine different ways it might happen. Someone needing my help actually was one. For all the bad stories I knew there still had to be stories of my abilities in battle.”

“What actually happened all that time ago?”

“I discovered how the prisoners of war were being treated. There are certain things you shouldn’t do, even to an enemy. He was cruel and callous under that mask of civility. Then there were his slaves…its still hard to think about the things I discovered he was doing.” She truly believed him, every word. Her father and the current emperor might find her naive but she hoped when he told his story to them they would be able to look into his eyes and see he was telling the truth.

Semele was amazed at how easily he moved over the sand. It was as if he hadn’t just been locked away, like even though his muscles and joints were stiff from lack of use, they still remembered. He didn’t even pause when sweat began to dot his brow, simply removed the coat he wore and slung it over his shoulder. She studied him as they walked, his face set in a mask of determination, his too old eyes that had seen much more than she could begin to imagine. Dark hair hung messily down his back, having grown long after years of not being trimmed. “I know I need a haircut.” He said as he looked at her and she felt a blush of embarrassment heat her cheeks.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.”

“You’re a mage, it’s what you do. You study and I must be quite the specimen.” His eyes seemed to see right through her, cutting straight to the heart of things like a sharpened blade. “I admit, you are intriguing as well.”

“I am?”

“You follow your convictions even if they lead you nowhere. What if I had been nothing but a myth? What if you had found only bones?”

“I would have found another way to save everyone.”

“You are as admirable as you are beautiful. Men must not know what to make of you. I bet you surprise them with the power you wield.”

She couldn’t help but smile. “Perhaps.”

He chuckled. “I think I may like you.”

“Good because I already like you. It’s admirable that you’re truly coming with me, that bitterness didn’t consume you and make you utterly selfish.”

“All that time didn’t break me of the fact that you hurt yourself more being angry than you do anybody else. I’m not saying there wasn’t times it was hard not to be bitter but I never let it take me.”

“Well, I can cut your hair for you when we get to where we are going.”

“Are you sure?”

“I know you feel indebted to me for releasing you from the bounds of your prison, but I feel a debt too that can’t be repaid simply by righting a wrong that was done to you. Besides, cutting hair is a simple task, I’m good at it.”

“Thank you then, I like it about here.” He held his hand about halfway down his face.

“Short for safety?”

He smiled. “Absolutely. Short hair is harder to grab, something some of my opponents learned the hard way.”

“A legend using underhanded methods? How surprising.”

“It’s not always bad to be a little underhanded.”

They ate as they walked, Semele asking more questions about him and trying to avoid the circumstances of his imprisonment. He seemed alright talking about them, but she felt rude bringing it up too much. Instead she asked about his childhood and why he had decided to become a soldier. He explained that warriors ran in his family and that he had been trained from a young age how to use a sword, how to move with speed and efficiency almost like an acrobat. He told her how immortality had granted him the time to further perfect his technique and learn some new ones. He had even learned a few languages along the way.

She enjoyed hearing about all of it so time flew as they traveled. She was surprised by how fast they made it back to her people when the trip to find him had felt so long. It made sense though, she had been stressed and worried the whole way there and Actaeon was a better travel companion than she could have ever imagined. “Before we find my father and the emperor lets get you cleaned up and your hair cut. We might all get right to work and you deserve to be comfortable first. I’m sure you’d even like a nice bath.”

“I’m that smelly?” He asked with a grin, causing her to lightly laugh as she blushed.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, I know you’re just trying to be kind. Please, all that sounds wonderful.”

 

Chapter Two

Semele took him to her living quarters and through to the adjoining bathroom. “This is new.” He said as he looked around.

“Yeah, the previous emperor preferred copper tubs, but the one now liked the bathhouse look so he had everything torn out and replaced the tubs with stone pools.”

“Hot spring water?”

“Yes and filters out to let clean water in.”

“Amazing, thank you.” He pulled his shirt off and her eyes were drawn to his torso. He was well lean of build and surprisingly well muscled for a man who had been locked away for so long. She noticed a few scars here and there, some across his back, one up high that looked like a sword had pierced him. He also had a few on his arms. “From training.” His voice startled her and a blush crawled up her neck as she met his gaze. “The ones on my arms are from training.”

“Oh, I see.” She swallowed.

“It happens when you’re first learning how to block.” He smiled. “So, ready to cut my hair?”

“Yeah.” He took a seat on the lid of her toilet as she looked in a drawer for Scissors, taking the time to calm herself down. As she grabbed a pair she promised to herself that she would quit being rude. Staring at him and bringing up what he just went through was out of the question, even if she was dying to know how he still looked so good. Was his magic truly that powerful? Her ever curious mind was begging to know, to learn from such an obviously skilled man. She began cutting, silence hanging between them until she finished. “Take your time getting cleaned up.”

He walked over to the mirror, a smile adorning his face yet again. “Thank you so much Semele.”

Semele left him alone and he quickly stripped off his remaining clothes and stepped into the hot water and sank down into its waiting heat. He let out a sigh of relief as aching muscles began to relax. He had not realized how sore he really was until now. He allowed his head to rest back on the edge of the pool and closed his eyes, enjoying this moment, knowing it may not last if they tried to lock him up again.

Semele was surprised by her father as she left her room, running right into him, her heart stuttering in her chest. “Daddy, you scared me.”

“I was informed you returned with a guest.”

“Yes, I did.” She finally said, feeling suddenly nervous.

“Is it him?” She nodded. “Is he in there?” He nodded at her door.

“Yes.” He started past her and she quickly stopped him. He arched an eyebrow at her, looking slightly amused. “Sorry, it’s just he’s bathing. I was going to get him clothes.” Her face felt suddenly very hot.

“I see.” He sighed. “Come then, he can borrow some of mine.”

“Really?”

“He must be here to help if he came all this way. I’m still unsure but he obviously hasn’t hurt you and as you said when you left, we need all the help we can get.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re a smart girl Semele. Just because we are unsure about how you want to help doesn’t make it fair to discount it. Don’t thank me, you’ve earned the right to have your ideas and opinions heard and given a fair chance. How does he seem so far by the way?”

“You’d never know now that I’ve cut his hair he had been locked away so long. He could walk here just fine and is still fit somehow. He told me his side of the story too and I believe it. He truly wasn’t in the wrong. The emperor in his time was doing bad things, torturing people. Actaeon stood up for what was right. I feel it in my heart now more than ever. You know the stories of him before he betrayed his emperor. It never made sense to me how he could change for no reason.” Her father nodded and soon they entered his room, collected some clothes then brought them back to her room. “I’m leaving the clothes on my bed. I wont be in here, I’m going with my dad to talk to the emperor.”

“Okay.”

Actaeon washed his skin and scrubbed his hair, letting out a sigh of relief as he rinsed. He got out and dried then wrapped the towel around his waist just in case. The clothes Semele had brought for him were comfortable, made for easy movement and the hot weather. He would have to consider having some tailored for his stay. He opted out wearing his boots. Even though he wanted to look proper, he knew they needed to be cleaned. He headed out, not wanting to leave Semele, her father, and the emperor waiting.

“You are sure he doesn’t hold any bitterness towards us?” Emperor Sgaire asked.

“I am, he traveled here willingly and didn’t so much as raise his voice at me. I know you’re worried, especially with everything that’s happening, but he wants to help us.”

“And you are sure you can trust him?”

“I do owe her my life.” Actaeon’s voice startled her and she turned as he stepped fully into the throne room and crossed over to them. “If it makes you feel any better, I shall swear fealty to her.”

Sgaire actually cracked a smile. “But not to me?”

“If you can prove you are better than the one before you then I may consider it, but Semele came for me on her own, she rescued me, and I owe her everything.”

His smile rose again. “I suppose swearing to her is just as good since I know I can trust Semele every bit as much as I trust her father. We have much to talk about. I’m sure she wasn’t able to go over everything with you on the way here. I have the plans and a few maps I want to show you in my study. I think a few things have changed since your time.”Actaeon followed Sgaire, Semele and her father, paying close attention as the emperor brought him up to speed on their situation.

“No wonder you were desperate you’d let her come to find me. When did the Ettins and Hybrid Sentinel’s get so close and when did they become so volatile?”

“They first became close when an Ettin female and male Sentinel mated about fifty years back. We aren’t sure precisely when they started becoming so hateful though. We’ve tried speaking with them but they aren’t interested in much discussion.”

“I know how they got the flying wolves on board though, do you?”

“No.”

“The emperor of my time was also involved in the trade of selling their paws and wings.” The three of them looked horrified.

“No.” Semele half gasped.

Actaeon nodded “I can’t imagine there will ever be any bringing them back to peace with us. Wolves don’t often forgive such heinous crimes against their packs.”

“What do we do? How do we stop them without completely wiping them out?”

Actaeon pulled one of the maps over. “You say they are here, but the Sentinels and the wolves have wings. If you can get enough mages, we can put a magical net in the air. It should be invisible of course. Once they fall to earth, they can all be restrained. As for the Ettins, we dig a pit fall deep enough to catch them, but shallow enough they won’t come to any real harm.”

“How are we going to draw them in?”

“We’ll start the battle here, get the Ettins invested in attacking then we retreat. If we dig a trench here and place planks across for bridges, then your men can escape without falling in.” He looked to Semele. “I want you to hold the net up against those in the air once it’s in place.”

“Me? Why?”

“Because you are the most powerful person magically in this room and I believe you can do it.”

She was surprised at his words, giving a smile and nod. Her father nor the emperor were shocked, it was something they had already felt too. “I’ll gather the ones bravely going into battle with us and inform them of the new plan. Thank you Actaeon. If you truly stay on our side through this I will make sure something is done to thank you and apologize for the wrongs of the previous emperor.” Sgaire said then walked out of the room.

“I should go with him, get some rest before this all starts Actaeon. You seem in good condition but I can’t imagine you’re truly completely alright.”

“Yeah, do you want something to eat?” Semele asked and that charming smile about stopped her heart.

“Please, something light though.”

“Of course. Oh, I almost forgot, your sword. Come with me.” Her fingers wrapped gently around his wrist and his heart skipped a beat at her touch. She took him to the old armory where the previous emperor had kept his most prized possessions. There were swords and bows, books, and even enchanted jewelry. Actaeon’s sword rested in the center of the room, proudly displayed as a trophy.

Semele released him and he stepped up to it, reaching shakily out, letting his fingers wrap around the sheathe. He swallowed as he pulled the blade free. “I never thought to see it again.”

“Actaeon.”

She touched his shoulder and he quickly sheathed his weapon and wiped at his face. “Forgive me. It was a gift from my father.” He chuckled. “Such a stupid thing to get so emotional over.”

“You getting emotional is anything but stupid…would you like a hug?” He gently took her in his arms, surprised at how good it felt to hold her and have her hold him back. She held him until he let go. She couldn’t imagine all the emotional pain he had gone through. Semele was happy he had finally let a little of it out instead of keeping it inside. Semele knew he might not even realize how much pain he was holding back, for anybody that would have been a tortured existence, essentially being buried alive when you had done no wrong. “Better?” she asked softly.

“Yes, I needed that.”

“Let’s get you some food now.” She had salad and soup prepared then walked him back to her bedroom. “Lay down for a bit aright?”

“Sleep laying down would be welcome. Please don’t hesitate to wake me when I’m needed Semele.”

“As long as you relax until then we have a deal.” He nodded then hugged her again, hoping it was alright to hug her without asking. She instantly hugged back so he relaxed, happy to know he could do this anytime he needed. Once in the room he settled underneath her blanket, laying his sword at his side. Half to protect himself in case the enemy forces surprised them and half because he worried about losing it again.

Semele found her father and Sgaire out in the courtyard talking to a group of five mages. They were telling them to gather those with combat experience and a high affinity for magic. They wanted them to not only be able to cast such a large spell as the net, but also to defend the city if anyone should break through. The mages headed out and both her father and the emperor turned to her. “How is our guest?” Sgaire asked.

“Sleeping, I think he was more exhausted than he was letting on.”

“Good, your father and I were about to head over to the barracks and speak to the soldiers. Would you like to join us? Actaeon has given you a huge responsibility and you should know the men and women you will be working with.”

“Alright.”

They started walking across the courtyard and Sgaire said. “I would like you to stick with him, Semele since he seems to trust you the most.”

She blushed. “I planned on it.”

“He does seem quite attached to you.” He chuckled. “To swear his loyalty to you alone, such a bold move.”

“I almost feel like he was testing you.” Semele’s father said.

“More than likely.”

 

Chapter Three

They arrived at the barracks where introduction after introduction took place. Semele made special effort to remember them all and hoped they didn’t lose a single one of them though she knew that was high hopes. Problems like this seldom ended without someone loseing their life. She listened as Her father and the emperor spoke of their plans and precisely what they would be expected to do. They all seemed enthused, completely confident in the strategy they were going with. She thought to herself, “good, confident soldiers always do better”. Once Semele found herself alone with her father she asked, “Do you think Sgaire plans to clear Actaeon’s name after this?”

“He’s already mentioned it.”

“When?”

“When you were tending to Actaeon.”

“He deserves it more than anyone. It’s unfair and cruel how quickly his reputation was tarnished.”

Her father chuckled. “You really like him don’t you?”

She blushed. “Well…I mean he’s so fascinating and kind and he’s helping us when he doesn’t have too. He’s so honorable.”

He nodded. “Alright, you have my blessing.”

“Daddy.”

He hugged her, laughing. “I’m so proud of you, Semele. Proud of you for sticking to your convictions and proving us wrong.” He pulled back to look at her. “You should go to him, see if he’s still sleeping and prepare yourself. We don’t know how long this fight is going to take and I need to get the mages to help dig the trench. Magic is faster.”

“Alright.” She honestly felt happy to have a reason to check on him. Actaeon walked back to her room then quietly entered, smiling when she saw him resting still, he deserved to. She couldn’t help but walk closer, standing there a few moments until she felt like a creeper and began to exit her room.

“Semele?” She suddenly heard him say softly.

“I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

“Is everything alright?”

“I was just checking on you.”

He sat up. “Let me get up.”

“No, it’s okay, really.” She felt bad he felt so compelled but he gave her such a reassuring smile.

“I feel much better, I’m glad you came in here so I didn’t sleep all our peaceful time away.”

“Did you have any dreams?” She inquired, still curious about him in general.

He blushed. “No.” It felt like the first time he lied to her but she didn’t push it. He could have countless reasons not to bring up whatever his dream was about.

“You really can go back to sleep.”

He shook his head as he stretched his arms above his head then got up. “Has anything happened?”

“No, daddy and the other mages are going out to dig the trench and the soldiers are ready to help.”

“Good, how are you feeling?”

“Ready to get this over with, maybe a little nervous.”

He nodded as he lifted his sword from the covers and her eyes followed it. He gave a sheepish smile, rubbing the back of his neck. “I wanted to keep it close.”

She had to admit his unexpected embarrassment was adorable. “That’s okay, I understand. Would you like to go on a walk with me or something since you’re up? We could get some tea if you don’t want to.”

“I’d love to, we can talk. I’m sure you have many questions and I want to get to know you better.”

Semele waited for Actaeon to put his boots back on then they headed for a path Semele knew was safe and had taken many times. She told Actaeon as much, not wanting him to worry about an ambush of any sort. “Regardless, I have my sword back on my hip, I wouldn’t let anything happen to either of us. We’re quite the pair, you with your magic and me with my sword. She blushed again though she could see he wasn’t trying to flirt. He truly had that much faith in their abilities.

“So, when this is all over, what’s the first thing you want to do?” She wanted to have a positive conversation with him.

“To continue spending time with you like this.” He answered honestly.

“Really?”

“As I’ve said, I find you very intriguing. I very much like being around you Semele.”

Her face heated. “I very much like being around you too.”

His smile, the smile that made him look years younger, that lit up his eyes and chased away the shadows lurking there, had her heart racing. “An old man like me?”

“You’re not that old.”

“I have centuries on you.”

“I…I don’t mind.” He looked at her questioningly. “I mean…” she cleared her throat. “So what do you think of the changes?”

He stared into her eyes for a moment, searching her gaze with his. She forced herself not to look away. “They’re welcome.” He finally answered. “I should thank your emperor. If he had not taken the throne, I would have never met you, I would have never been saved.” He let his hand slip gently over hers and pulled her to a stop. “I am truly lucky.” He brought her fingers to his lips. “You are an amazing woman, Semele.”

She was frozen, her whole body seeming to react to him. She had been so eager to find him, to learn about him but he was so much more captivating than she could have ever imagined he’d be. He had this pull and she wondered if he had it with everyone. He smiled again, letting her hand go just as slowly and carefully as he had taken it. They spent all the time they had until the battle at eachothers side, neither wanting to part. There was so much determination from everyone to finish this and while Semele thought she’d be more nervous about going into battle she was ready, calm, cool and collected. Every one had faith that she could do her part so she’d honor them by having faith in herself.

Semele asked him a few questions about his past, about the different people he knew and how many wars he had been in. She was amazed to find he had served more than one emperor in his time and he admired most of them. He talked about his childhood, about how hard his father had trained him, and about how wonderful both of his parents were. They walked in silence for a few moments until they came to a stop next to a tree. They stared out at the moonlit sand. “Would you like to know about my time in my prison, about why I still look like this?” He suddenly asked and her heart stuttered.

“I do, but…”

He looked into her eyes, smiling. “You’re afraid you’ll upset me?”

“Yeah.”

“I want to tell you.”

“If you’re sure you want to, you truly don’t owe me any kind of explanation.” His smile only grew more amused, still shocking her he could be so jovial. “Rest assured Semele I know you, you are an amazing, incredibly giving woman. I’m sure no matter what you do for others you expect nothing in return but I find myself wanting to know everything about you so it’s only fair you know everything about me. So I will tell you about my time down there.” He took her hand, finding it harder and harder not to touch her, especially since she never rested or seemed like it bothered her. “Pain has never been a big problem to me so I moved as much as I could. Even before being put down there I knew I couldn’t starve to death so while I didn’t know how long I’d be there I knew that one day, somehow I’d be free so I needed to keep my muscle mass.”

“Does not needing to eat run in your family?”

“Yeah, I mean, its uncomfortable to be hungry but for whatever reason we don’t actually have to eat anything. Thankfully I discovered down there that even the discomfort eventually goes away. I do enjoy food though so I’m happy to have it again.”

“Did the previous emperor know you wouldn’t die?”

“I don’t think so, that was so long ago I’m not sure what all he knew about me though. I retreated to my memories frequently but I chose ones that made me happy, he obviously wasn’t someone I wanted to think about.”

“Did you do anything else to keep sane?”

“Bugs would come in and sometimes underground animals would tunnel their way down there and mess around. I’d just listen to them, sometimes create my own little story of their lives to amuse myself.”

Semele felt her chest grow tight and a lump form in her throat. “Wow, I can’t imagine.” She swallowed. “How cruel, to leave you there.”

Actaeon could hear the sadness and anger in her voice and he once again pulled her gently to a stop, only this time he drew her into his arms. “Don’t be sad for me, Semele, I wallowed enough the first few days I was locked away and I made peace with it.”

“Still.”

He leaned back and lifted her head. “Besides, I may never have met you, so please don’t be sad.”

She let out a little laugh and he smiled. “If I had been there, there would have been no way they would have locked you up. I’d have made the emperor apologize and step down.”

“I bet you would have.” He chuckled. “No more tears. Smile for me, it’s makes every single moment locked in that place worth it.”

She couldn’t imagine how that could be true, how knowing her could possibly make all that misery worth it, but she could tell he meant those words. She gave him the best smile she could and it warmed his heart. “As I understand it war will be upon us in the morning. We should rest. I have absolute faith in you tomorrow, have faith in me too.” He didn’t want her laying her head down tonight with any anxieties. She already meant too much to him to let anything in the world happen to her or the people she cared most about. She wasn’t sure she wanted to rest but tomorrow was possibly one of the most important days of their life. How well they performed would mean everything.

Final Chapter

Actaeon walked her back to her room and lifted her knuckles to his lips again. “Sweet dreams, Semele. I know tomorrow is a big day, but I want you to sleep well.”

“You too and if you need me for anything, please come get me. I don’t know if you have nightmares, but…”

He chuckled. “Only a brief moment of confusion waking up here. I’m sure it will take a little while for me to get used to being free. Go rest now, I’ll see you in the morning.”

He left her there in front of her door, finding himself wanting to stay, but knowing it would be inappropriate. They hardly knew each other, but she had stolen his heart anyway. Semele went to bed that night thinking about Actaeon. She planned to make everyday new and exciting for him, hoping his time spent in that place would fade to a distant memory after awhile. She closed her eyes, making herself go to sleep so she wouldn’t be exhausted in the morning.

Everyone was up with the sun and on their way as quickly as possible. Actaeon walked at her side, looking a little different than the previous days. She knew most warriors, especially as skilled as he was often were like completely different people when they were in battle. His amused, soft features were now serious, determined. He was obviously ready to do whatever needed to be done. She almost wanted to admire him but this wasn’t the time. She needed to stay focused as well, she needed to do her job correctly to spare as many lives as possible. The day was particularly warm but it did nothing to slow or distract anybody, they were used to the heat and the people her father and Sgaire picked were better than letting elements get to them.

Actaeon stood at the head of the soldiers, the emperor by his side. He found his respect for Sgaire growing. Sgaire called the charge forward and their enemy rushed at them, growling and bellowing their hate. Soldiers and Ettins slammed into each other, but Actaeon kept it brief, calling a retreat so every soldier spun around and raced away, the creatures giving chase as planned. Actaeon glanced up at the sky, seeing the Sentinels and wolves drawing closer, readying to dive. He had complete faith in Semele, knew that she could hold the net and keep the creatures out of the sky once they hit it. He felt his feet hit one of the wood planks and turned his gaze forward. The moment he felt sand again, the planks were pulled away and the Ettins in their rage fell into the pit before they could stop.

Semele was amazed at how easily Actaeon carried out his plan and she barely felt the exhaustion of her magic being drained as she watched him. The Sentinels and wolves hit the net the mages had cast and many fell as if shocked. Those that managed to stay low enough were taken down by her father and the other mages. She held the net in place until the last of the winged creatures fell to earth and collapsed back onto the ground when she finally released her hold on it. She laid there for a moment staring up at the sky, panting and sweating.

She knew this wasn’t over quite yet. They had gotten this under control but their anger would forever hold if they didn’t talk sense into them. The wolves had indeed been wronged and maybe that was irreversible but they had to try and maybe if the other beings would just talk this out with them they could work out whatever had made them so angry as well. Emperor Sgaire ordered the Sentinel that was obviously their leader be released to stand on his own. “What do you expect?” He snapped bitterly.

“To talk, please, you and your people keep refusing but I want to end this peacefully.”

“Your kind can’t be peaceful.”

“We can, I swear it, I am not like the emperors of the past…I know why the wolves hate us but please, tell me why you and the Ettins do.”

“We were driven out of our homes, treated like unintelligent animals, many of us were killed. We did nothing wrong, we hurt no one, yet we were treated as lesser.”

“Do you believe you are the only one who has ever been wronged?” Actaeon asked before Sgaire could voice anything further. “Do you think you’re the only one who has felt the cruel sting of betrayal? I spent centuries locked in a tomb, my name and reputation slandered because I stood up and revolted against the emperor I served at the time, but these people,” Actaeon waved his hand to encompass the soldiers and mages and Sgaire, “these are good people, this emperor is a good and honorable man. Let him make amends.”

The Sentinel studied him. “You are familiar.”

“I am Actaeon the Immortal and this is my home. We can all work together if you will speak to Sgaire.”

“Actaeon,” the Sentinel nodded, “I see. I will speak to him then, without bloodshed.”

Sgaire wasn’t even shocked Actaeons name carried such weight, not every race had been foolish enough to believe that Actaeon had been turned. He was embarrassed himself he once believed the slanderous stories that were spread. Sgaire was soon sitting and talking with the leader Sentinel and a few others from the group. They found reconciliation out on that field and began the journey back to the palace to make some changes official, to begin righting past wrongs. The wolves even tagged along though they seemed the most untrusting of this truce. Sgaire, Semele and her father were simply grateful they too were willing to bring this war to an end. Sgaire didn’t rest until all the paperwork was done and stamped, ready to put into motion the next day.

“I thought I’d find you here.” Semele’s voice brought Actaeon out of his thoughts and he turned, smiling at her and holding out his hand. She took it and he pulled her to stand next to them under the tree.

“Just thinking and waiting. Sgaire makes everything official tomorrow and the wolves are still incredibly restless.”

“Do you think they’ll attack?”

“I don’t know, but there’s no harm in making sure. What about you, what are you doing wandering around?”

She blushed. “Looking for you.”

He smiled. “Well I’m glad you did.” He lifted her hand and kissed her fingers, making her heart stutter.

“Really? Why?”

“Who wouldn’t want to spend time with the goddess who rescued them?”

“Goddess?”

He sighed out a laugh and ran his fingers nervously through his hair. “I…Semele, I’ve grown quite attached to you, you are so amazing and beautiful. You probably think I’m crazy, but I really like you, adore you even.”

She wasn’t going to play coy and ask him if he was serious. She knew he wouldn’t say something like that unless he absolutely meant it. “It’s not so crazy…I adore you too. You’re so handsome and strong willed. I’ve never met such an unbreakable spirit.”

He tucked her hair behind her left ear. “Does that mean we could be more than just friends?” She could feel her face heating, her pulse picking up. She moved to kiss him and he smiled briefly before kissing her back. It was short and said everything she needed to say. Actaeon pulled her into him, feeling lucky and brimming with hope of a peaceful, happy future.

~ The End

Lachlan, Teague, & Kennedy 2

Chapter One

“Are you sure?” Teague asked as he read the letter Lachlan had received. The message was short, simple: I know who you are, please come see me. “I mean it could be a trick and what if they don’t mean what you think they mean?”

“I’ve thought about that, but what if we have a chance to learn how we happened, to get a better grasp of what we are.”

Teague sighed. “You’re sure you want to go?”

“We have too, even if it’s nothing.” Teague whined and it was Lachlan’s turn to sigh. “I don’t want to leave him either.”

“Who knows how long we’ll be, Lachlan. I want to bring him.”

“Me too.”

“You’re afraid it’ll be dangerous, so am I, but we…”

“Need him.” Lachlan finished. “I know.” Teague nodded. “We’ll discuss it with him in the morning, I don’t want to wake him.”

“Agreed.”

Lachlan put the letter away and he and Teague headed back up to the room they shared with Kennedy. He was still sound asleep when they entered and they both couldn’t help but pause and admire him. Even in sleep he was beautiful and they felt the stirrings of desire for him. He moved in his sleep, grabbing and burying his face in one of the pillows. “No…tired…bad…you’re bad.” He mumbled and they both chuckled as they both climbed in and wrapped an arm protectively around him.

Kennedy woke with a gentle smile when he noticed he was in Lachlan and Teague’s arms. It was his favorite way to wake up. He would have just enjoyed the closeness, but as always, him waking woke the two of them. They set to talking to him right away, Lachlan starting, “We got a letter.”

“A letter? From who?”

“We don’t know them, but they claim to know who we are, how we came to be and we want to check it out. Since we don’t know how long it will take we want you to come. ”

“Of course, you two know I’ll go anywhere you go.” They both smiled, one kissing the top of his head and the other kissing his forehead.

“Then let’s eat something, pack small bags and head out.”

Kennedy made sure they had his sketch book and pencils, getting chuckles from both of them. He insisted on making breakfast for them, blushing when they sat at the table and watched him. They flirted with him while they ate so he was bright red by the time they left. “So…so how far are we going?” He asked as he climbed into the passenger seat, Lachlan taking the driver seat and Teague shifted into a wolf and sat on the floorboard between Kennedy’s feet with his head resting on his lap.

“One state over.” Lachlan answered as he pulled away from their home.

“That’s not so bad.”

Lachlan smiled as he took Kennedy’s hand and brought it to his lips. “It’s the reason we’re taking the car, otherwise we would take turns carrying you.”

Teague huffed and nudged Kennedy’s free hand until he stroked the top of his head. “Don’t be upset, I love when you two carry me, but what if it rains or something.” Kennedy said. He was getting a lot better at reading them.

Teague relaxed, happy just to be close to Kennedy. It may not be holding him, but it felt amazing when Kennedy would stroke his fur like this. They were also on their way to finding out everything about themselves. Beyond Kennedy, there was nothing either of them wanted more than to know how they came to be what they were, two people sharing one soul. Traffic was especially annoying today. Not that it was worse than normal, they just wanted to arrive sooner rather than later. Kennedy was a bit more patient, taking in the scenery as his mind went through all the possibilities.

“We may have to stop at a hotel at this rate.” Lachlan glared at the cars in front of him, willing them to spontaneously combust or move faster. Teague huffed and they both knew he was laughing.

“You shouldn’t drive all through the day and night anyway, it’s bad to sit for so long.” Kennedy replied, his concern warming his mates’ hearts.

“You know we don’t mind as far as we go, it’s you we’re worried about. Neither of us would force you to sleep in the car.”

“Then if we have to, we should stop.”

Lachlan reached over and stroked Kennedy’s cheek and Teague pushed his head against Kennedy’s stomach. “We will, I promise.”

They wound up stopping at a rest stop after awhile so they could all use the restroom and Teague took the time to shift back and stretch. He climbed into the backseat, laying down and reaching between the front seats to make contact with Kennedy. Both he and Lachlan’s thoughts went between their mate and the person who had sent them the letter. They were both already planning an exit strategy in case it was a trap, ready to protect Kennedy and kill anyone who tried to stop them. “What do you think we are?” Teague asked.

Lachlan shrugged. “Perhaps we did something terrible in a past life and this was our punishment.”

Teague chuckled. “Oh yes, what a punishment. It backfired if that’s the case.”

Lachlan smiled. “Yes it did, after all we have everything we could ever dream of wanting.”

“I don’t think you two could have possible come from someone evil or bad.” Kennedy interjected. “You’re both too sweet and gentle.”

“With you.” They both said.

Kennedy smiled, his heart warming. “You two are incredibly good men. I’ve been with you long enough to know.” They drove on as far as they could, but the weather also started making the trip harder so they checked into a hotel with good reviews for the night, planning to leave as soon as they woke in the morning. “Thank goodness we didn’t walk.” Kennedy stated as he sat down on their bed.

“Why don’t we shower? It’ll make us feel better after all that time in the car. I hate we made such terrible time.” Lachlan said and Kennedy answered, “I’m eager to meet this person, but it’s alright. We’re together, that’s what matters.” He was irresistibly cute saying something like that and both men took a turn kissing him.

Kennedy stood between his mates under the warm spray of the water, thankful the heat of the water masked his blush. Lachlan and Teague let their hands move over him, unable to keep themselves from teasing and seducing him. “You…you two should get clean too.”

“But we want you.” Teague said and bit down on his shoulder, getting a soft moan in response. “You want us too.”

“Yeah, but…the shower…”

“Please?” Lachlan gently grabbed his chin and turned his head, his lips lightly brushing Kennedy’s.

“I do…want both of you very much.” How could he tell them no, especially knowing they would stop if he asked them to. They made him feel so safe and loved and he gave them his absolute trust. They moved from the shower to the bed, their bodies tangling together, hands and lips exploring.

It was mind blowing just how incredible they could make him feel. They were so lustful, seemingly endlessly hungry for him, but at the same time they made him feel like the most treasured thing in the universe. Once they were spent they cuddled up to one another, Kennedy in the middle as always and got some much needed rest to finish their trip come morning. The traffic wound up being much better and they made it to their destination in good time. Teague spoke as he parked, “Lachlan, just as a precaution why don’t you stay in the car with Kennedy while I check this out. Once I’m sure this isn’t some ambush you two can come.”

Lachlan nodded. “Know that I will come running if you should need me.”

“I know.”

“Why don’t we all go in together?” Kennedy asked worriedly.

Both Lachlan and Teague chuckled. “Because we refuse to risk your safety.” Teague answered.

“You are the most important thing to us so if anything happens, we want you to stay here and keep the doors locked.” Lachlan added.

“I’ll be back before you know it, I promise.” Teague unbuckled and leaned over, giving Kennedy a reassuring kiss. He was out of the car before Kennedy could further protest.

“Come sit back here with me.” Lachlan’s tone was gentle and Kennedy unbuckled and climbed back into the back seat, letting Lachlan hold him. He didn’t like when Teague and Lachlan separated. He had seen them fight side by side and it worried him that alone one of them may become overwhelmed.

Teague let his senses flare out as he cautiously approached the house. He took in every small sound, every subtle scent, searching for any signs of a trap. He felt a slight tingle move over his skin and his wolf alerted him to the magical circle surrounding the property. It didn’t feel dangerous, but he would make sure Lachlan and Kennedy were careful as they crossed that invisible line.

He wasn’t fully up to the door yet when it opened, but that wasn’t surprising, obviously the person was waiting on them. He came out, allowing Teague to take him in. “You came.” He stated then looked over at the car. “Good, you both came. I’m surprised you trust me enough to bring your mate.”

“We couldn’t leave him behind and know with certainty, nothing, no matter what it or you has up its sleeve is ever going to harm Kennedy.”

“Would you like to come in before they come out?”

Teague was silent a few moments, reading the being as best he could. He couldn’t find a trace of threat so he said, “I will bring them now, I want them to be careful of your magic line so I’ll walk back to the car.”

“If you’d feel more comfortable we can talk out here. I want you two open to what I have to say.”

 

Chapter Two

“We’ll decide together.” Teague backed towards the car, ready to spring out of the way should this man try anything. He didn’t turn until he was to the car and pulling the door open. “It’s safe as far as I can tell.”

“Alright, are you ready Kennedy?” Lachlan asked.

“Yeah.”

“Stay close to us.”

They got out and both Lachlan and Teague positioned themselves in front and to each side of Kennedy. “So, would you like to come inside?” Their host asked.

They both looked at each other and something seemed to pass between them as they nodded to each other. “Alright, but if you try anything, we will not hesitate to kill you.” Lachlan answered.

“Kennedy means the world to us and we won’t have you hurting him.” Teague added.

Kennedy took their hands. “It’s okay you two, let’s hear him out.”

They followed him in, both Lachlan and Teague scenting and listening, feeling the magic in this house. “Please make yourselves at home.”

Kennedy kept both their hands, stroking his mates with his thumbs to try to get them to relax a little. He knew it was just out of care for him, but he didn’t want them to come across as rude and have this man change his mind about helping them. He really wanted to know how their souls became split and he knew they would always regret missing this opportunity if they bungled this chance. “I guess we’ll get right down to it.” The man said as he sat down across from them. He settled in a bit then continued, “I hear things now and again, that’s how I came to find you two. It’s honestly exciting to see what happened with Merrik’s split soul, to think it could actually be reborn. It’s astounding really, Drake thought he was going to completely destroy Merrik, make him incapable of even being reborn into a new life but here you two sit, a testament to the souls resilience.”

“I don’t want to be rude but I’m still just as confused as when I opened the letter you sent.”

“Ah yes, I’m sorry, I’m letting how star struck I am get in the way. I’m sorry.”

“Who is Merrik?” Lachlan asked.

“He is who you are, well were, before his soul was torn apart. Merrik was intelligent, charismatic, he had a good sense of humor, yet a resolve of steel. He was a brilliant tactician and a lover of both books and nature. He was a curious young man and he and Drake got along very well. They were incredibly fond of each other, they studied magic together, Merrik helped him with the day to day of his hold, using spells to improve things. He was loyal to Drake until he came across a book of dark spells and incantations. He showed it to Drake, wanted his help in using them, telling him it would give them more power than they could possibly imagine, that their world would benefit from it in the end.”

“He was corrupted.” Lachlan said.

“Not at first. It happened over time. He studied the book on his own, started using the spells inside. He summoned demons and evil spirits and then he started sacrificing people and then he betrayed Drake. The only way Drake could stop him, was to kill him. Merrik died with Drake’s sword in his chest and Drake used magic to tear his soul apart. The fact the he was reborn in you two is amazing.”

Lachlan and Teague both swallowed. “Are you saying we’re evil?” Teague asked.

“Not at all. Being reborn doesn’t mean you will repeat the mistakes of your past life. Many people find redemption the second time around.”

Kennedy gave their hands a reassuring squeeze again “I’ve been with you two a really long time. I know you could never be evil.”

“I only reached out because you two seemed like good beings. I just wanted you to know who you were. Having half a soul had to raise a million questions and maybe I can take you to where you belong one day and maybe, after I talk to Drake, maybe you could meet. Merrik and Drake were so close for such a long time. It might mean a lot to him to build a relationship again.”

“We have no memories of a past life.” Lachlan said.

“That’s normal. Some people never do, they live life without even knowing who they were before. You may or may not start to remember. Even so, they have no bearing on the men you are today.”

“Do you have any stories about Merrik before he betrayed Drake?” Kennedy asked. He was curious.

“Of course. Why don’t you let me get us something to eat and drink and then we can talk.”

“I’ll help…”

“Warrick and you don’t have too.”

“Please? You’ve given Lachlan and Teague so much, I can at least give you a hand.”

Warrick smiled. “I’m guessing they’ll be joining us?” Kennedy felt a blush tint his cheeks and Warrick chuckled. “It’s alright, it’s to be expected.” He stood and they followed him into the kitchen, Lachlan and Teague sitting at the kitchen table while Kennedy helped make sandwiches and lemonade.

They all sat at the kitchen table once it was all prepared, each with a large, cold glass of lemonade and two sandwich’s a piece with a few stacked in the middle of the table. They were captivated by Warrick’s stories and while they couldn’t remember them themselves Teague and Lachlan felt they were true. Regardless, there wasn’t any reason for this man to lie that was apparent. It was adorable and sweet to them just how curious Kennedy seemed to be about their past life. He was always attentive though, caring constantly about their lives and feelings.

“So, do they look like him?” Kennedy asked.

“A bit yes. Merrik had really long hair, down to his waist and his eyes were blue rather than grey. He was also a bit shorter and he didn’t dress like them of course. The fashion in his home world isn’t exactly modern.”

“Now I’m going to have to draw him.” Teague let out a little growl and Lachlan sighed, the sounds drawing Kennedy’s attention. “What?”

“They’re jealous.” Warrick chuckled.

“Why?” Kennedy asked. “It’s you two.”

“Not really.” Teague answered.

“He’s who we were and…” Lachlan sighed. “How childish of us, Teague.”

“I know, but we can’t help it.”

Kennedy smiled and hugged both of them. “Don’t be silly, I love who you are now, it’s just the past you sounds so interesting and the more Warrick describes him, the more I can see him in you two. I can’t wait to meet Drake, I bet he has even more stories.”

“I suppose we could go if you’d guide us Warrick.”

“Of course,when?”

“Do you have any books on the world you’d be taking us to?”

“You’d like to read up on everything there first?”

“Yes.”

“Understandable, just a moment.” Warrick got up, coming back some time later with two books. “That’s all you really need to know. You’re welcome to read them here, but I can give you directions to a good hotel if you’d like. I can’t imagine you three are going to drive all the way home just to drive back when you finish two books.”

“Would we be an imposition here?” Kennedy asked.

“Not at all.”

Kennedy looked at his mates who seemed to speak wordlessly to each other before saying, “We will stay here, it seems Kennedy would be more comfortable. Besides, we can each read one so most likely we’ll rip through these two books before tomorrow even comes.”

Kennedy asked for some paper and a pencil and got to sketching a picture of Merrik. He did his best to capture both Lachlan and Teague’s temperaments in his face, giving him an air of authority, but making his eyes twinkle with mischievousness. “Warrick, can you describe the kind of clothes Merrik wore?” He asked as he drew in a long braid.

“Think fantasy mage.”

Kennedy nodded, drawing everything from his boots and pants to a loose shirt and even a cloak. He wanted to give the picture more life so drew magic swirling around him. Just looking at his picture, it was hard to believe the man he had created could have turned on his best friend. “So, what do you think?” He gave the picture to Warrick.

“Amazing, you’re incredibly talented and you’ve captured him perfectly.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, you’re an amazing artist.”

“Well you described him well and I just put aspects of both of my mates in him.” At breakfast the next morning Lachlan and Teague announced they had read up on the place and felt prepared to take Kennedy there.

“Wonderful.” Warrick answered then Lachlan added, “Do we need to warn anybody we’re coming?”

“Let’s keep it a surprise. I assure you I can handle the situation when we get there. I think he’ll honestly be happy. The only reason he tried to destroy his soul is he didn’t know the extent his old friend had dabbled into dark magic and didn’t want him coming back to life still corrupted.” Teague nodded and soon they were locking up Warrick’s home and following him. “We don’t have to walk far. I’ve made a special portal.”

“A portal?” Kennedy looked between his two mates. “There are portals?”

“It would seem so.” Lachlan replied and both he and Teague tightened their grips on his hands.

“You two have nothing to fear.” Warrick said. “It’s perfectly stable and safe. I wouldn’t ask you to go through anything I wouldn’t go through first.”

“I hope we’re not coming off as rude.” Teague replied.

“Not at all, I understand your need to protect him.” They followed him down a path behind his home and into a little wooded area. It was beautiful, everything was strangely in bloom and it took Kennedy a moment to realize it must be Warrick’s magic at work. His eyes were then drawn to the circle of white stones. Warrick stepped in first to show them it was safe and they soon followed, Lachlan and Teague moving so he was pressed between them. “Remember to breathe you three and since this is your first time traveling between worlds, you might throw up on the other side.”

Lachlan and Teague nodded and soon they were all pulled through. They managed not to spill their stomachs but Kennedy had to admit to himself he was certainly nauseous. Lachlan lifted him, Teague whining that he missed the chance to carry him first. Kennedy smiled, the adorable look on his face causing the wolf’s heart to dance, mostly forgetting his brief moment of jealously. Sharing was sometimes hard but Kennedy was worth it, he was worth anything. Both Lachlan and Teague felt confident in this place, feeling like they could take on anything they had read about should trouble arise.

“Everything’s so beautiful.” Kennedy itched to draw the environment. It was so wild and untamed, alive in a different way than the city. “Did Merrik ever visit these woods?”

“All the time, he and Drake collected ingredients, hunted, and hiked together. You would swear they were brothers. In a way, I believe they were soulmates.” He chuckled when they all three gave him questioning looks. “Not like you three. There are different kinds of soulmates. You three are lovers, but he and Drake were like siblings born to different mothers.”

“How do you know so much about souls?” Lachlan asked.

“Believe it or not I’ve spent centuries researching souls. I became curious about what happens when people die. I met Drake and Merrik before their falling out and afterwards, when Drake was sure he had destroyed Merrik, I kept my eyes and ears open, wanting to see if the soul could truly be wiped off the face of the universe. I was amazed that he survived, not just in one person, but two. Not only were you reborn, but you’ve managed to retain that part of Merrik that was kind and generous, that was curious and intelligent and mischievous. It’s fascinating.”

They continued admiring their surroundings, stopping when Kennedy wanted a closer look at something and letting Teague take his turn carrying him. He rubbed his nose against Kennedy’s making him laugh. “I know it’s stupid to be jealous of myself, but I can’t help it sometimes.”

“It’s not stupid.” Lachlan said. “I’ve felt that way when I have to go out and do things and you two get to spend most of the day together. I know logically that Kennedy would never put one of us over the other, but for just a moment I feel left out. Then I come home and he’s so happy to see me it wipes away all of those doubts.”

“You three are irrevocably bound, bodies, souls, and hearts. I can tell that there is nothing that will be able to separate you three.”

When they arrived at Drake’s home Lachlan and Teague finally felt the first stirring from their soul that they knew this place. They still had no memories, but this all felt so much more real now. “What is it?” Warrick asked and Lachlan answered, ” I suppose a soul never forgets a best friend. While I still hold no memories my half of our soul is stirring.”

“Yeah.” Teague said, taking in the outside of Drake’s home.

“Well lets knock and see what meeting Drake does, perhaps you will remember a thing or two.” Warrick knocked and Teague set Kennedy down so he could take both their hands again.

Drake answered, seeming surprised. “It’s been awhile.”

“It has, I’m sorry, I brought some people I feel you’d like to get to know once I explain them.”

 

Final Chapter

“Oh?” He smiled until his eyes rested on Lachlan and Teague, shock and confusion playing across his face as he reached for a sword that wasn’t there. He realized he was unarmed and started to backpedal when Warrick grabbed his arm.

“Easy my friend.” Warrick said.

“They…he…”

Both Lachlan and Teague’s hands tightened around Kennedy’s and he looked at them both. They both looked just as surprised as Drake, their eyes wide as they studied his face. “Guys?” He said gently and they blinked, that moment of revelation gone. They both looked at him, eyes warming, both of them apologizing.

“Drake, let’s go in and sit before you fall down, you’re pale.” Warrick said as he gently pushed Drake back into his own home and gestured for the three of them to follow.

They did, all still feeling the confusion that had settled in when their souls recognized one another. Warrick explained everything, how he found them and what they were. A tense silence filled the room until Lachlan spoke. “We don’t remember anything…we’re sorry for what happened though.”

Drake sighed. “He wouldn’t have brought you here if you still had a darkness in your heart…I am glad you’re on a good path…I pray you stick to it this time.”

“I don’t think we could ever go down a dark path, not with a mate like Kennedy.”

Drake nodded. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to be rude to people who don’t deserve it, but I need a little space to think. I’m going to go on a walk…make yourselves at home…Warrick should remember where everything is.”

Drake walked out and Warrick apologized, explaining, “This has to be really hard.”

“We get it, it’s alright.” Teague answered.

“Killing Merrik was probably the hardest thing he’s ever done. Imagine looking into the face of the person you trusted the most and no longer seeing them there.”

“I don’t think either of us could handle it.” Lachlan said, sighing.

“I think it would kill us.” They both rested a hand on one of Kennedy’s knees.

“You know I’d never hurt you two, not on purpose.” Kennedy rested his hands on theirs, hoping they felt reassured. He could see something in their eyes, a bit of pain beneath the shock.

“We know.” They said as one and hugged him.

“Anyway, are you three hungry or thirsty?”

“No.” Lachlan and Teague said then looked at Kennedy.

“Maybe some tea or water if he doesn’t have it?”

“Of course.” He left them in the living room and went into the kitchen.

“How does this make you feel, Kennedy?” Teague asked.

“It doesn’t worry you does it?” Lachlan added.

“Of course not, you two are amazing mates, I couldn’t ask for better. It’s just sad, the look on his face, how he almost looked like he had seen a ghost.”

“Yeah, I hope it’s good we came.”

Warrick was now re-entering the room. “It is good, I think this will be good for all of you.” He handed Kennedy a glass of sweet tea and Kennedy finally moved his hands off theirs, happy Drake actually had some. They waited patiently for their host, honestly surprised when he came back that he hadn’t stayed gone more than about an hour and a half.

“Once again, I’m sorry, you’re new…people now.” He had taken a short pause, still seeming in shock that the soul he divided hadn’t just vanished, but had gone into two beings. “It was rude to walk out, but I truly did need it to be able to deal with this…I don’t think I’ve ever completely stopped mourning my friend. I never wanted to kill him but he gave me no other choice so I did the hard thing for the sake of the many who live here.”

“We get that, truly.” Lachlan said.

Drake swallowed. “So, um, you found love in this life…Merrick never had any luck…”

“Kennedy means the world to us.”

Drake offered his hand and Kennedy shook it. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s good to meet you too.”

“The two that Merrik’s soul chose as its vessels are Lachlan and Teague. Lachlan is a vampire and Teague a werewolf. Kennedy is also a vampire.” Warrick explained.

“I see.” Drake replied, shaking their hands. “Do you remember me?”

“It’s more an impression.” Lachlan answered then looked to Teague. “It’s almost like…”

“A familiar scent.” Teague finished. “Like even though we don’t know you, it’s still there.”

Drake nodded as he finally took a seat. “What do you three do then?”

“We hunt down and kill beings who harm others.” Teague answered. “That’s how we met Kennedy.”

“He had been forcefully changed into a vampire.” Lachlan said as he placed a hand on Kennedy’s shoulder. “He nearly starved himself into a blood lust, unaware of what was happening to him.”

“I didn’t even know creatures like them existed until then. They saved me and fed me, gave me a home.” Kennedy smiled at him and both Lachlan and Teague felt jealousy rear its head, but managed to push it down. “I know you’re worried, but they’re both incredibly kind and loving. I hope you can get to know each other again, I hope you can learn to trust them.”

“I can, your work sounds honorable and as I said, you share a soul with my old friend but you’ve lived a different life now, obviously have made different choices and I think it will help me finally find true peace if I can form some sort of relationship with you guys. Though, any crazy could have written you three, luring you into a trap, you’d really follow a letter?”

“We were cautious, but we’ve been so curious about how we came to be.”

Drake nodded. “Yeah, I doubt you’ve met anybody like you.” There was still a hint of awkward tension in the air, but they were in a situation that would take time to get truly comfortable.

“No, we were afraid to bring our mate, but we were also afraid to leave him behind. It’s also just hard to be away from him.”

“Is your world very dangerous?”

“In our line of work you get on the bad side of some nasty people. I doubt anybody is stupid enough to try anything, but Kennedy’s life isn’t something to gamble on.”

Drake nodded. “And you Kennedy, what do you do?”

“I’m an art student, I have a couple of years left at university actually. Some people have already asked me to do commissions for them. These two want me to get my work out there, so we’ll see how things go.”

“He’s incredibly talented.” Warrick said. “He drew a perfect likeness of Merrik.”

“If you would like I can take all three of you to places he and I used to frequent, perhaps you’ll find some inspiration while we’re out.” Drake offered.

“I might have to get me another sketch book. I left mine back in our world, but we’d love too.” He looked between his mates.

“Of course love.” Lachlan said.

“Whatever you want.” Teague added.

“Besides we want to know more, maybe even trigger some memories.” Lachlan said. “And if you don’t mind, we would appreciate it if you would let us see anything of Merrik’s.”

“Yeah…I’m sure I still have some things of his. Let’s work on getting Kennedy a sketch book first. An artist shouldn’t be without his tools.” He walked into another room, coming back with one. “I thought one was left here awhile back.” He said then also handed him a pen. “I once had a noble family stay with me, one of their children left it. It’s been here at least a year so I don’t think they’ll want it back.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you four feel ready to go? Hungry, thirsty?” They established all were ready to travel around so they went out back to the horses Drake owned. He got them all situated and they started on their way. So many memories were stirring up for Drake, it was painful but he really did want to remember the good times over the bad at the end.

He took them to a place where he and Merrik would gather plants for Merrik’s experiments. Kennedy took to drawing one of the plants, a beautiful purple flower with a yellow and red center. He had never seen anything like it. He reached out to touch it and was startled when Lachlan grabbed his hand and Teague pulled him back a little. “What?”

“Are you alright? You didn’t touch it before did you?” They both looked him over, concerned.

“No, I didn’t. Hey, what’s wrong?”

His mates looked at each other and then back at him, confused. “We don’t know.” Lachlan said.

“They’re toxic.” Drake said as he crouched down to look at the flower. “There is an oil on the petals that seeps into the skin. Merrik found that out the hard way. It nearly killed him.” He stood. “You remember.”

“Not a memory as such.” Teague replied.

“More an impression.” Lachlan added.

Teague nodded. “It was like something in us was giving off a warning.”

“Well thankfully for Kennedy you did. I’d hate for his first trip here to be so miserable.”

“It would have been my fault. I’m not from here so I shouldn’t have let my curiosity get the better of me without asking.”

“I’ll try to make sure to disclose more of that sort of information. I’m not accustomed to being with people not from here.” They moved on, taking in as much as they could until night had them returning to Drake’s home. Warrick made dinner leaving Lachlan, Teague and Kennedy sitting in the living room together while Drake tried to find the photos of them he still had. When he found the album he brought it out, his heart feeling a little heavy already. He would give anything to go back in time and keep his best friend from finding that book.

“This was you two.” He handed the album to Kennedy since he was in the middle.

Kennedy smiled. “Wow, Warrick wasn’t lying. He looks so mischievous.” He let his finger brush over the picture. He then let his eyes drift to Drake who was standing next to him. “Why do you look so irritated?”

Drake sighed. “Well, it was our first outing together and he may have gotten us into a bit of trouble. All he could do was laugh. At least he go the data he wanted.”

“He really is a perfect mix of you two.” Kennedy said to Lachlan and Teague as he turned the page. “What’s this?”

“We were tanning hides.” He reached over and flipped to another page, tapping it. “He made those boots.”

“Wow, they look nice. I bet because of it my mates would be naturals if they tried.”

“The soul does keep a lot with it.” Warrick noted.

“I’ve always known the soul was amazing but this…really makes you come to terms with how much we probably don’t even know about souls.” Drake said.

They spent their days continuing to go through things, discussing the past and how they spent their lives currently. Drake found it truly helping him as he grew closer to Kennedy, Lachlan and Teague. He had to destroy his friend, but at least he knew, in the end, he really did help him. His old friend was free of the evil that over took his heart, was living a happy life and had obviously found true, meaningful love this time around. It had all turned out as good as it possibly could have and Drake looked forward to the days to come for the first time since his old friend departed from his world.

~ The End

Caine & Rajin 3

Chapter One

Caine was sitting on the couch when Rajin came in. Rajin had been over at his parents house most the day while Caine worked on one of his newest inventions. It was almost ready and when something was almost done, working on it seemed to be all Caine wanted to do. Rajin admired his mates passion so it never bothered him when Caine would go into such a deep focus but right now Caine wasn’t thinking of an invention, his face was too conflicted for that. Something was obviously wrong “what’s the matter?” Rajin asked as he sat down, worry on his own face. “one of my dads friends called me..”

“what for? Is he begging for money again?”

“He’s dead”

“are you okay?”

“I don’t know, I’m sad but not as sad as I should be…I sort of feel like a monster for not feeling worse”

“Your father abused you, he beat your mother to death. It’s only because he’s your dad your sad at all” Caine sighed “I’m angry at him too, for obvious reasons and for the fact he died drinking and driving…I looked up the accident….he took an entire family out with him….he passed out drunk at the wheel and caused a horrible wreck…even in his death he had to do something terrible. That families little ones were only four and seven”

Rajin took his husband in his arms “I’m so sorry Caine”

“I want to help all the families that got hurt. I want to pay the hospital bills and help the family of the ones that died pay for the funerals”

“Okay, where do we need to go. I’m completely on board”

“It’s back in my hometown.” He had never planned on going back, not for anything, but now he had too, he owed it to those people. He swallowed. “I hate it there, but…”

“I know and I’ll be with you every step of the way, you know that.” He gently stroked Caine’s cheek. “When do you want to leave?”

“As soon as possible, I have to get everything settled, even with my…with my father.”

There was a lot of bitterness in the last word, hatred even. Rajin didn’t even think Caine was aware of it. “Alright, how about we get everything set up tonight so we can leave in the morning?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry Caine.”

“Me too.”

Caine pulled out their laptop and booked them a place to stay while they were there. He then looked into plane tickets to see if they could fly there tomorrow. If that way would cause them to need to wait they’d just drive but it turned out they could even nab first class tickets on a plane heading that way. Since they were flying he made sure they’d have a car waiting then he shut down the computer before he was tempted to look at the devastation his father caused again. It was only as he put the computer away he finalyl smelled that Rajin was cooking.

He walked to the kitchen, seeing he was almost done “are we set up?” Rajin asked and Caine answered “Yeah, thanks for cooking”

“You should have called me home sooner Caine”

“I think I needed to be alone at first. It’s easier for me to cry by myself and my heart broke when I saw he killed two little kids. I’m just praying everyone in the hospital heals and doesn’t die as well. I don’t really know their conditions”

“Still, call me when something bad happens. It’s my job to comfort you baby and I hate knowing I couldn’t.”

“I will next time something comes up, I promise.”

Rajin finished cooking and made their plates then sat down next to his mate. They ate, Caine not seeming as invested in it, but doing it anyway so Rajin wouldn’t worry about him. “Why don’t you go ahead and get in bed, I’ll clean up.” Rajin said once their plates were clean.

“I can help.”

Rajin lovingly stroked his cheek, his touch comforting and warm. “Go on, you need it, especially after what happened and we may not get much rest once we’re there.”

Caine nodded. “Alright, I love you.”

“I love you too.” He kissed his lips, lingering for a moment before letting him leave. Rajin let out a sigh. He hated seeing Caine so upset.

The only comfort in his head being this was the very last time Caines dad could hurt him. In their entire relationship the only reason that man ever called was for money and he couldn’t even fake like it was something else. The second someone answered the phone he’d ramble off an amount that they both knew he’d blow on alcohol, prostitutes and Rajin had suspected a few drugs here and there too. Caines father had been such a rotten man and Rajin felt it a miracle Caine grew up to be so good despite the childhood abuse that he had to face alone since his father had caused his mother to die in childbirth from the many injuries she suffered.

Caine went to the bathroom to brush his teeth, staring at himself in the mirror as he continued to think about all those poor people. He truly wished he could do more to help them beyond financial means but he knew all too well money couldn’t replace a life, money could never fill the hole not having a love one caused. He knew he could help but they would all still suffer because of this. When he was done he changed into a pair of pajama pants then settled into bed, longing for Rajin to come hold him.

Caine woke the next morning to the sound of his alarm going off. He hadn’t remembered falling asleep. Rajin shifted next to him, his arms tightening around him, his nose brushing the back of his neck so Caine got goosebumps. Caine reached over and switched off his alarm then turned so he was facing Rajin. “Good morning baby.” Rajin said, smiling lovingly at him. “Ready to get up?”

“Not really, but I know I have too. Those people deserve something for their pain.”

Rajin pressed a kiss to his lips. “It’s going to be okay.”

“I hope so.”

“It will and I’ll be right there.” He kissed him again. “Come on, we don’t want to miss our flight.”

“Okay, I love you Rajin.”

“I love you too.”

They got out of bed and took a quick shower together, Caine’s mind on his father and his victims the whole time. Rajin decided to drive, not wanting him distracted, but held his hand as they headed for the airport. He brushed light kissed to his fingers, letting him know he was still there if he needed to talk and was happy when he received a small smile from his mate.

Emotional exhaustion had Caine asleep about half an hour into their flight. Rajin asked for a blanket, happy when he quickly received one so he could cover him up. Rajin didn’t disturb him until the plane was descending “baby, we’re going to land soon” he said softly and Caine was instantly up “Oh, I’m sorry”

“for what?”

“Making you sit through the entire flight alone”

“I brought my ipod, I was fine, besides, if you need rest you need rest” Soon after getting their luggage back they found the driver that would take them to where they were staying and the car Caine rented. They checked in and dropped off their bags so they could leave for the hospital. Caine didn’t want to waste any time. He would arrange with the hospital to have all the debts the survivors incurred while healing taken out of his account then he’d face them, in hopes there was anything more he could do and then, then he’d deal with the harder part of dealing with family of the ones that died.

Rajin held Caine’s hand as they waited to talk to one of the women in billing. He could heard his mate’s heart thundering in his chest, could see the anger and sorrow in his eyes even as he forced himself not to show it. He knew what must be going through Caine’s head, that this was somehow partially his fault, that he should have done more. He couldn’t help but pull him into his arms and Caine immediately rested his head on Rajin’s shoulder, still exhausted. “How am I going to look into their faces?” He asked softly. “What am I going to say?”

“I don’t baby, but we’ll give them all of our support.”

“I still have to go have his body taken care of. I have no idea what he wanted done with it.”

“Maybe bury him next to your mother?”

“How can I after what he did to her? Wouldn’t that be like spitting on her grave?”

“Caine.”

“I’m sorry, I’m just so angry, I hate him.”

“I know, but maybe he wasn’t always a bastard. Your mother married him for a reason. I’m not saying it gives him a pass, he doesn’t deserve one, but maybe it’s what she would have wanted before things took a turn.” He gave Caine a gentle squeeze. “We’ll worry about that later, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

Once they explained the situation the woman helped Caine set things up for the families so they wouldn’t see a bill then she called someone in to guide them to the families since Caine wanted to tell them how sorry he was for what his father had done. No child picked their parents and he sure hoped his mother hadn’t actually picked someone so selfish and horrible to be his father but he still felt responsible for the lump of nothing that he shared DNA with. Caine had prepared himself emotionally for if they were angry with him but all the families he saw actually thanked him for taking care of things financially and some even assured him that none of this was his fault, uttering the same thing he already knew, nobody chooses their parents.

The hospital trip took most the day and they still hadn’t eaten so Rajin insisted they stop somewhere. Caine still didn’t even feel hungry but once again he ate for Rajin, not wanting to worry the man he loved. “are we still going to see the family of the dead today?”

“Yeah, I don’t want them to stress any longer than they have to about the financial side of this”

“You look so emotionally drained already though. Are you sure you don’t want to rest with me in our room and get at this again tomorrow”

“I can’t, my father….he took precious lives, lives of probably amazing people…I need to go to them. I can rest later”

Caine sat quietly staring out the car window once they were back on the road, his mind far away as he thought of what to say and prepared himself for the family’s reaction to his presence. After this he would have to go to the morgue to claim his father’s body, not something he was looking forward too, but he wouldn’t force the city to bury him. “Tell me what’s on your mind.” Rajin said and Caine sighed.

“Everything, how much I wish it had just been him. How horrible is that…wishing someone dead? I keep thinking why couldn’t he just…and those children, how scared they must have been. It’s not fair that he cut their lives so short.”

“I know, baby, it’s cruel.”

Caine swallowed the lump forming in his throat. “Sometimes it terrifies me that he and I are related. What if I change? What if I hurt you or someone else?”

“You won’t.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Yes I do, Caine. You have lived your whole life refusing to be him, you’re intelligent and funny and you have the biggest heart. I couldn’t ask for a better mate. You are everything he wasn’t and more.”

“It doesn’t help I look like him.”

“Maybe when he was younger, but drugs and alcohol took their toll on his body and besides, who cares if you look like him, you’re hot.”

Caine was unable to stop the smile that pulled at his lips. He couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have someone like Rajin there to help him through this. He wanted so much to break down, but Rajin held him together. “You dork.”

“At least I got you to smile.”

“Yeah.”

Chapter Two

They pulled up at the address they had found for the mothers parents and knocked. A man that looked to be in his thirties answered the door, an obvious emotional wreck. Caine spoke “is this Ed and Lane Harner’s home?”

“Yes, I’m their son, brother of the deceased. I know you mean well coming to wish your condolences but I don’t know if they can see anybody else today. If you have a gift or something I’ll take it for them”

‘They don’t have to see me…I’m…well I’m Caine Okada…I know my money can’t help the hurt my father has caused your family but I’ve come to offer to pay for everything you want to bury your sister and her family. You can bury them in anything, anywhere and I’ll pay the entire bill. It’s the least I can do for what my father has done and truly…anything else I can do to help I want to…I’m…I’m so sorry he did this.”

“That…that low life was related to the famous inventor. I barely freaking believe it. He was a nuisance to this town for as long as I can remember”

“I know…as soon as I was old enough I left and never came back. I don’t even know how he could afford his drinking habit once I left. He had been using my money since I was eleven. He quit his job as soon as I became successful”

“I’m sorry you ever had to live with him. Come in, sit on the couch, I’ll get my family”

Caine was nervous as they waited and stood as soon as Ed and Lane came into the living room. “I’m sorry to intrude.”

“It’s quite alright, please sit.” Ed said as he and Lane took seats across from them. “Our son told us who you were and we’re grateful you would come by.”

“I just want to help, I know there’s nothing I can really say or do that will ease your pain, but if you would allow me to pay for any expenses you have incurred and to do anything else you need me too.”

“You really don’t have too.” Lane said.

“Please, it’s the least I can do. Sorry if I sound pushy.”

“No, not at all. If you really want to then we would love the help.”

He felt relief that they’d allow him to do something to ease the guilt and pain he had over all this. He could go to sleep tonight and forever on knowing he at least helped on the financial side of what his father had done. They spent a few hours with the family, discussing their daughters life and then what they needed financially so far to cover the costs they were looking at “well…I have to go deal with his body now…if I don’t make myself do it right away I might not have the stomach to” Caine said, mostly looking at the floor “we’re sorry for your loss too. Knowing him he couldn’t have been much of a father but the loss of a parent is still a loss. I hope he was proud of you, he should have been. You’re obviously an incredibly giving person coming here like this”

“Thank you” it was all he could think to say before he left with Rajin.

Caine felt cold when they arrived at the morgue, that all too familiar sense of unfeeling coming over him when he was standing in the room next to the covered body. When the coroner pulled back the sheet he felt a small wrenching in his chest. Why did it hurt seeing him like this? Shouldn’t this have been freeing for him? He swallowed, feeling sad and angry at the empty shell in front of him. “Yeah that’s definitely him.”

The coroner nodded and covered him back up. “Would you like me to recommend a couple of places?”

“Sure, thank you.”

“I’ll give you a few minutes while I get the information for you.”

“Thanks.”

Rajin pulled him into his arms and Caine rested his head on his mate’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know if I should cry or scream or both. I hate him so why do I feel anything at all for him.”

“Because even though he was a complete bastard, he was still your dad.” Rajin pulled back. “It’s okay to feel sad.”

“I know, thank you for being here.”

“Of course, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

While he looked through the pamphlet he thought of what Rajin suggested, burying him next to his mother but he still couldn’t get past that he was the reason she was dead. Could it ever be right to bury a murderer next to his victim. She hadn’t left him but she may have if she had more time. Who knows if he had ever beat her THAT badly before but she went into labor with him from the stress the next morning so there hadn’t been much time to make decisions. In the end he couldn’t do it, he didn’t deserve to be buried near her. Not after everything he had grown up hearing about his mom. She had been too wonderful for him in life and was too wonderful for him in death so he picked somewhere nice since this was his dad but it was nowhere near his mom.

When they headed back to their room Rajin said “let me massage you baby”

“thank you”

“I know today was a nightmare for you. I’ll keep doing it until you fall asleep okay”

“I have to ask though, you said I should bury him next to my mom” Rajin cut him off “He was a deplorable man, absolutely disgusting and selfish. I understand your decision and we can never know what she wanted so maybe she wouldn’t want the man who abused her then used and abused you near her for eternity in the ground. Don’t think I think you made a bad call, it was yours to make and I understand just how terrible of a man he was”

Caine hugged him, glad to hear that. “come on, let me massage you so you can sleep my love”

Caine slept hard that night, so exhausted from everything that he fell asleep half way through Rajin massaging him. Rajin made sure he was covered up and comfortable before snuggling up to him and slipping into sleep himself. When they woke the next morning, Rajin suggested they get breakfast. Caine took him to a diner he used to go to when he was a boy, mostly with his father, but he couldn’t deny how good the food was. He was surprised to see the familiar face of one of the waitresses as they entered and sat down. She also seemed to recognize him when she came up, her eyes widening and a smile pulling at her lips. “Caine? My goodness.”

“Hey Yvette.”

“And who is this?”

“My husband, Rajin.”

“Well it’s nice to meet you then.” She turned back to Caine, her eyes turning slightly sad. “I am so sorry about what happened sweetie. If you need anything just let me know, okay?”

“Breakfast would be great.”

“Same as always?”

“Yeah, but coffee instead of milk.”

“And what about you hon?” Yvette asked Rajin.

“Same as Caine, ma’am.”

She smiled at Rajin then walked back to the kitchen to pour their drinks. “How much longer would you like to stay my love?” Rajin asked once she was gone “at least through the funeral service. I want to be sure that family doesn’t pay a penny.”

“Well, I know we don’t come here because of all the bad memories with your father but maybe we can make some good ones at your favorite spots, like this one”

“They do have some amazing food, it’ll be better eating it with someone who will talk to me about more than women he’s sleeping with or hurrying up with another invention or criticizing something about me” Rajin took his hand, wanting to tell him how sorry he was about his childhood again but deciding not to be a broken record. His mate knew so he’d just hold his hand to give him strength. “so I guess I can start with the stuff that’s nearest here and work my way out to show you everything I liked doing”

“good, I can’t wait”

Rajin was amazed at how delicious breakfast was and it took him a moment to realize it reminded him of the way Caine cooked their’s at home. “Did you learn how to cook by spending time here?”

“Well, just the eggs. I remember sneaking off to come here alone sometimes. I would nag the cook until he told me how he made his eggs so good. He told me the secret is lots of butter and a little bacon grease, not that my dad noticed, but it was fine. Kind of felt like my little secret.”

“I should thank the cook then.”

“He’s a nice guy, a bit rough around the edges, but he took the time to show me how to do something so simple.”

When their waitress came back Caine asked if the cook could come out for a second to meet Rajin. She hurried back and soon came out with him “wow, you’ve grown so much Caine. It’s good to see you” he glanced over at Rajin “and this is your husband, it’s nice to meet you” the cook offered his hand and Rajin shook it “thanks for teaching him to cook eggs. I love them at home”

“He was persistent and a lot of us felt bad for him back then. I don’t know how that man managed to keep Caine, so many of us called protective services on him”

“You never know, the system doesn’t always work” He may have added “but I come from a family who often fix’s things the law wont take care of” if this man weren’t human. It wasn’t always wise to brag about his family work to beings that may not understand you couldn’t always just go with whatever the law did. The law was too easily swayed by money, sex and other things it shouldn’t be swayed by. No doubt after Caine finally invented something he was using Caines own money to keep the authorities from taking him away.

“Do you know when you’ll be having the service?”

“End of the week.” Caine replied. “I have to pick up a suit for him and go through his house.”

“Yvette and I will be coming.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“Sure we do, not for him, but for you and if you need help with the house, let us know. I have a truck.”

“Thank you, really, but I think I’m just going to grab any pictures he has, especially of mom.”

“Alright, but remember, it’s no trouble.”

Caine nodded and they got back to work while he and Rajin finished breakfast. “Ready for me to show you around?” Caine asked once they’d cleaned their plates. “Maybe get you in some trouble.”

“You? Trouble? I don’t even think that’s possible.”

“Hey, you met me because I liked to travel to haunted places and blog about it”

“True, you’re just so sweet”

“Maybe to unwind after this we can find another haunted place”

“anything you want Caine. Do you have a specific location in mind?”

“Not yet, I only just thought of it”

“It might feel good to help a spirit move on or rid a place of a demon after all this”

“Yeah, thats what I was thinking. I love the feeling of doing either of those things, knowing we left some place better than we found it”

“You know you’re doing that today, by helping all these people”

“It’s not the same knowing my father caused all this pain”

“I disagree. You’re helping people heal and even though they can never completely move on, after awhile they’ll find some sort of peace. I don’t think you see what your presence in this situation has done for these families. They won’t have to worry about bills or anything, they can focus on healing and grieving instead of stressing over not having enough money.”

Caine swallowed, hating that he felt like crying. “You’re really amazing.”

“I know.”

Caine let out a chuckle as they headed out. He took Rajin to an old, abandoned mill. There were warning and no trespassing signs everywhere so he pulled his car onto an unused service road behind it. Rajin smiled as they climbed the fence, loving that exploring places like this seemed to ease the worry that had been plaguing his mate.

Caine thought he’d spend the week completely miserable but Rajin managed to make all of this fun. By the time the service came he had countless good memories in a place he only thought on in despair before. Better yet, though it still tugged at his heart a little because this was his father it was all truly over. No longer would an undeserving drunk call him only because he wanted something and no longer would this town have to deal with him in general. There would always be drunks and there would always be new abusers but his father had been one of the worst. He wished deeply in his heart the families his dad hurt would heal quickly and he hoped the family of the deceased would call on him again for anything because as far as Caine was concerned he owed them for the rest of his life. If he ever saw a way to help them in the future he would make sure to do it.

~ The End

Zorion & Renato 2

Chapter One

“You want to take a week away?” Renato asked.

“Yeah, just you and me. Cam and Neith said they would watch the pack and that little group of protesters.”

“I’m sorry about them.”

“Hey, none of that.” He took Renato’s hand and drew him closer, grinning at the way his heart stuttered. “Besides, a couple of the wolves have been taking them cookies, it’s pretty amusing.”

“You shouldn’t stir the pot.”

“They started it and you asked me to not get violent if I can help it, so a couple of the wolves decided maybe baking for them would help. At least I didn’t sic Neith on them, she’d scare the daylights out of them. She practically treats you like you’re her pup.” He gently stroked Renato’s cheek. “So, how about a trip?”

“To where?”

“I was thinking another world. You could meet another god, it’d be fun.” He leaned in closer. “Plus, we’d get some alone time.” Renato blushed as Zorion rubbed their noses together. They still hadn’t taken that step in their relationship, Renato was still too shy and nervous and even a little scared. Zorion didn’t blame him, but he hoped that maybe he could get him to come further out of his shell if they went away for a few days.

Renato’s heart was going crazy at the word alone, he knew how badly his mate wanted him. it was obvious despite the fact Zorion never pressured him. He decided just to say yes. He wanted away from the protesters anyway and Renato knew he had to push himself if they were ever going to get farther in their relationship. He couldn’t stay afraid to be more intimate, Zorion, his sweet, patient wolf deserved more than that. “Let’s go.” He was surprised he could answer so clearly.

Zorion gave Renato a gentle kiss. “Lets start getting ready now then. You’re going to have an amazing time, I promise Renato.” Renato smiled, his heart warming at Zorion’s euphoric face. He was such a good man and he felt relief again that his wolf was impossible to push away.

Zorion was in high spirits as they packed everything they would need in their hiking bags. He kept stealing glances at Renato who seemed deep in thought and he couldn’t help but lean in and brush a kiss to his cheek, smiling when he received a blush in return. “You know, your face is going to get stuck that way if you don’t stop thinking so hard.” He teased and chuckled when Renato’s heart stuttered.

“I didn’t even realize I was making a face.”

“A cute one. What’s on your mind?”

“N…nothing, I mean nothing important.” Zorion knew when he was lying, Renato was just that easy to read, but he decided not to call him on it, knowing he was still getting used to things, to freedom and the ability to be open.

“Are you happy to be going somewhere?”

“Yeah and nervous. I mean what if my parents come by looking for me again? You don’t think anyone would hurt them do you? What if they find out I’m not here?”

Zorion stopped what he was doing and pulled Renato into a hug. “Hey, breathe baby, it’s okay.” He gently stroked his mate’s hair then moved to press a kiss to his lips. “Better?”

“Yeah, sorry.”

“No apologizing, not to me, ever. I’ll talk to Cam and Neith before we leave and make sure they know that they are only allowed to defend themselves and the pack if violence breaks out and they are to subdue not kill.”

“Thank you.”

“Of course, I know they will always be your parents and those people were once your friends.”

“I know you think I’m worth it Zorion, but I’m sorry it’s been so much trouble…I really am.”

“You are absolutely worth dealing with this protest and if you are talking about yourself you’re not difficult, you’ve never been. You were confused thanks to your parents and some people just take longer to be ready for sex than others. I have you and that’s all I need to be happy. You’re not being difficult.” Renato initiated another hug and Zorion held him happily a few moments before going to talk to his betas about how to handle things while he was away. When Zorion returned to their room he comforted Renato. “They understand and promise they will do their best to not harm your parents at all if they come here. All the wolves know as well and will be reminded that they aren’t to use any more force than necessary.”

“Before we leave this world do you want to go to our favorite ice cream place?”

“Of course I do.”

Renato was nervous as they left and Zorion insisted on driving them through what protesters there were. He smiled at them as they pulled up to them and when they didn’t move, his eyes glared death at them and they moved involuntarily so he could pull through. “I wish I could do that.” Renato said once they were on the road.

“Hmm?”

“You know, scare people like that.”

Zorion chuckled. “I prefer you continue to act the way you do.” He took Renato’s hand and brought it to his lips, kissing his fingers so he blushed and his heart danced. “Let me be the aggressive one, it’s what I’m good at.” He winked and Renato’s face flamed a deeper red.

“O…okay.”

Zorion loved the way Renato reacted to him, to his touch and kisses, to the way he constantly flirted because he couldn’t help himself. He loved the sound of his heart and how shy he could be, especially when he smelled of desire. He laughed when they pulled up to the little ice cream shop and Renato had trouble getting out of his seat belt. “Easy, slow down baby.”

“It’s your fault.”

Zorion gave another little chuckle as he clicked the button on the seat belt for him then pulled him close to kiss him. “Is that better?”

“Ye…yeah.” He stuttered, his cheeks growing redder. Feeling nervous as desire swam in Zorion’s eyes, Renato quickly got out the car and they walked inside, ordering what they normally did then sat down. There was only two other people here, but that was normal. This place was either packed or almost empty, it didn’t seem to have an in-between. The rushes would come due to groups meeting here. Sometimes it was packed because of a book club while other days it may be packed because of a school’s spirit night. It was sometimes fun to see the other families and it seemed that nobody outside Renato’s old church condemned them for being together. Zorion was always affectionate, holding his hand or caressing him so people knew that came here and nobody had said an ugly word to them.

“So where are we going?” Renato asked. “You said there would be another god.”

“There’s actually more than one, all of them control different things. They have elemental gods there as well as luck gods and those of the sun and moon.”

“That’s a lot.”

“Don’t be so nervous my love, I’ll only take you to meet one so you won’t be overwhelmed. Besides,” he said as he stroked his fingers over Renato’s hand, “most of our time will be spent alone.”

Renato blushed. “Okay.”

Zorion chuckled. “You’re so cute when you’re nervous.”

How else was he supposed to act? Renato thought. Everything Zorion did was pure seduction. His smile, the way his eyes moved over him, every brush of his fingers. It was hard to act normal when he was so affectionate. “What’s it like there?”

Zorion huffed out a laugh. “It’s beautiful. It should be fall there now, you’ll love it.”

“When do you want to get going?”

“I told our betas that we might leave right after ice cream so we can, but if you want to wait for tomorrow I’m okay with that.”

“We already made it past those protesters, we should probably go.”

“It means a lot you’re willing to do this with me.”

“It should be fun, I know it will be because you’ll be there.” Zorion’s grin grew larger and Renato blushed more intensely. When they were done they got back into Zorions car and began to drive.

“I’m sure we can’t drive there so how are we going to get there?”

“We sort of can, just wait and see. I want to see you surprised.” That made Renato a little nervous but still, he trusted Zorion. Anybody willing to go through as much to be with his as this wolf had deserved complete trust.

Renato asked, “Will we be in the car long enough for me to plug up my ipod?”

“Yeah, play whatever you want.”

Renato hummed along to his music as Zorion drove, but stopped when he pulled off onto a dirt road. “It’s out here?”

“The portal is.”

“Portal?”

“You’ll see.” Renato found himself getting lost in the woods around him and was a little surprised when Zorion stopped at a gate. He quickly got out, pulled it open, pulled through and then got back out and closed it. “We’re almost there.” Zorion said with a big smile. Another surprise came in the form of an old barn that Zorion got out to open and pulled the car into. “Come on.” He said as he switched the engine off and Renato followed him out. Zorion pulled out their backpacks and handed Renato his then he closed the big barn door and took Renato’s hand. “Ready?”

“Yes.”

“Please allow us into your realm and grant us safe passage as we walk through it.” He then said something in a language Renato didn’t understand. An odd sensation passed through him and he gripped Zorion’s hand. His stomach felt strange like it was being shaken around and his head swam a little bit. Zorion pulled him closer, his arms wrapping around him. “Breathe my love, it’ll pass.” When the feeling subsided and Renato was sure he wasn’t going to throw up, Zorion gave him a kiss and smiled lovingly at him. “Now let me show you something amazing.” He let Renato go and pulled the barn door open, smiling when he heard Renato’s gasp.

“What? How?” Renato asked as they stepped out into the crisp fall air.

“Magic, my love.”

“Wow.” Renato said in breathless wonder as he looked around.

“Let’s walk around and take everything in before we find the god I intend to introduce you to.”

“So there really are other gods…” Zorion knew Renato didn’t think him a liar, he understood that he came from a household with almost fanatical christian views and those views taught there was but one god. Everything wrong with his parents was still sinking in so he knew that was more of a note to himself than anything Zorion should take personally. “How does it feel so perfect here?”

“Their falls are amazing, it’ll be like this the entire season. It’s my favorite time to come. I would have brought you sooner, but I didn’t think it would go over well before.”

“When you met me I was pretty closed in my beliefs so I get that.”

 

Chapter Two

“So? Do you like it?” He took Renato’s hand in his, gently pulling him along.

“It’s just so beautiful, really and truly. I never imagined there could be something like this, a whole other world just a drive away.”

“There are many others, some the same, some far different, but all of them worth exploring. Some with gods, some without, and some with beings like gods.”

“I feel so foolish.”

“Don’t. The way you were taught to believe was wrong, it left you so closed off to so many wonderful things, but I hope to show you every single one of them.” He kissed his mate’s cheek, adoring the blush already tinting his skin.

“So, where will we be staying?”

“You’ll see later, you’ll love it, I promise.”

Renato didn’t push the subject, this place was too beautiful to linger on the topic. He wanted to keep taking everything in, he wanted to see what kind of animals lived here and hopefully what the flowers looked like. Even if they ended up the same as his own world he wanted to see everything this place had to offer. They soon stumbled upon little rabbits. “They wont be afraid like at home, you can touch them.” Zorion said and Renato didn’t waste a moment picking one up. He looked adorably happy so Zorion just admired his mate as he played with and stroked the rabbits. Renato was burning with a blush all over again when he noticed Zorion was just watching him.

Once Renato put down the rabbit, Zorion took his hand and they continued on. He let his mate explore when he wanted to, following him around and staying alert so Renato could just enjoy himself. He slowly guided Renato through woods until they came to a little valley. Steam rolled over the ground from a hot spring and tucked into the trees was a little cottage. “Is this where we’re staying?” Renato asked.

“I hope you like it, my love.” He pulled him gently through the soft grass and smiled when Renato admired the bright flowers dotting the ground. Even in fall, they were kept blooming, looking beautiful next to the orange and yellow leaves. “I thought we could drop our things off.”

“Did you build this place?”

“No, but I furnished it. I asked if I could have it and when I got permission, I made it my second home.”

“It’s beautiful.”

“It’s better inside.”

Renato wanted to linger outside, to explore every corner of this place, but he knew this had taken a lot of effort on Zorion’s part so he went with him. Zorion had been right when he said the interior of the cottage was even more beautiful. A lot of love had been put into the construction and even more so to make it warm and inviting. Zorion pulled him further in and into the bedroom. “Wow.” He turned to take in everything from the large bed to the full length mirror setting in the corner. Everything was perfectly set up, making this place even more charming.

“You like it.”

“I love it.” He sat his backpack at the foot of the bed.

“I’m glad.” He wrapped his arms around Renato from behind, nuzzling his neck, satisfied at how hard his mate’s heart was beating, how hot he suddenly was. “You’re blushing.”

“I’m not.”

Zorion chuckled and turned Renato’s head so he was looking in the mirror. “Completely red.”

“W…we should meet that god of yours.” He hated he was practically running, that he was so self conscious. It wasn’t just his embarrassment, but also seeing the way Zorion was looking at him, the reflection of his desire.

“Okay my love.” Zorion said, seeming alright, but Renato still worried, even if just a little. Zorion had seemed alright back when Renato didn’t realize he was gay and it turned out he had been being tortured all that time. Zorion could be miserable and would never say anything. “Stop that, it’s okay Renato.”

“I love you Zorion…I”

“You’re mine now, that’s all I need. I get to hold and kiss you all I want, I’m happy, I promise.”

“You’re such a good person.”

Zorion chuckled. “This is supposed to be a fun trip Renato, everything is okay. I’d love to finally have sex with you, but if it doesn’t happen this trip it doesn’t happen. As long as you never leave my side I am immensely happy. I don’t feel like I’m lacking anything.”

“But you would say that. You’re always so kind and considerate and…I’m…”

Zorion gently grabbed his chin, turning his head to kiss him. He felt the flames of desire lick over him and pulled back before his instincts got the best of him. “Now, no more being upset. I fall more and more in love with you every single day, so please be happy for me.”

“Okay, I love you too.”

Zorion ran his nose along Renato’s cheek. “My sweet mate, let’s go.”

They left the house hand in hand, Zorion finding relief in the cool air. He could so easily get lost in Renato, in the heat of his body, the scent of his skin. He fantasized about too many things when it came to his mate, but remained patient. Renato was incredibly inexperienced and he didn’t want to scare him. “So what kind of person is this god?” Renato asked.

“He’s an earth god and part of the reason the seasons look the way they do.”

The walk was gorgeous and incredibly peaceful. He half wondered if anybody or much else besides rabbits lived in this area until he saw a few foxes but where there were rabbits, there was undoubtedly foxes somewhere. They were cute, playing and tumbling around with each other. They looked soft, but Renato didn’t want to stop again, he was eager to meet this god. He wondered what sort of person he was. He knew he was at least decent or Zorion wouldn’t want to introduce them but this was a god. What sort of interests did a god have? What did a god like to wear? Millions of questions flew through his head so he would put off stopping for animals until after he got to meet him.

The large wolf startled Renato when they came upon it and he would have run when the beast opened its eyes if Zorion hadn’t held onto him. “Easy, that’s him.”

“You’re serious?”

“Of course and it seems he’s with his mate.”

“His mate?”

Zorion nodded toward the wolf and Renato watched as a beautiful young woman stood up from the shelter of the wolf’s body. She smiled, her striking crimson eyes lighting up. “Hello Anahita.” He said with a smile of his own.

“Damek, shift back, the man with him looks scared.” She said and the wolf stretched, yawning then shifted back. He stood next to his mate, his fingers lacing through hers. Renato’s eyes were drawn to the wolf ears a top his head.

“Zorion, it’s good to see you again.” He held out his hand and Zorion shook it.

“You as well. May I have a hug Anahita?”

“Of course.” She hugged him then went back to her mate.

“This is your mate.” Damek made it a statement.

“Yes. Renato, the earth god Damek and his mate, luck goddess Anahita.”

“Half luck goddess, you exaggerate.” She turned her eyes to Renato. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“You too, both of you.” He was nervous. “I…I’ve never met a god or goddess before.”

“Well, when you’d like Damek has siblings we can introduce you to.” She said cheerfully.

“Oh, thank you”

“My father is also the god of the underworld, my mother is merely human but my father made her immortal when he fell for her.” Before his mind would have jumped to thinking his father must be the devil. In Christianity that could be the only answer, but lately, Renato didn’t even read his bible. He wasn’t so sure he wanted to follow the religion anymore, especially coming here. All this just made what he had been taught all his life to be bogus. Zorion had a good point just in the fact why hadn’t his god ever showed himself.

Zorion spoke up, “Just you two for today, he’s new to all this stuff so I don’t want to overwhelm him.”

“Very well, but if you change your mind, Renato, I can call them.”

“Alright, thank you.”

“Why don’t we take him to that cave you created.” Anahita said.

“Would you like that, Renato?” Zorion asked.

“Yeah, it sounds fun.”

Zorion brought Renato’s hand to his lips. “Don’t be nervous, you’re safe with me.”

“I know, sorry.”

“Come on, you’ll love it.” Anahita said. “Damek created it as a gift, it’s like standing in stars.”

“That sounds amazing. Um…would you mind if I asked you two questions about being gods. Since I’ve never actually met any, I’m just a little curious.”

Anahita answered again, “Go right ahead, we don’t mind, right Damek?”

“We may as well be talking as we travel.” Renato swallowed, trying not to be nervous as he walked with actual gods. Anahita already seemed so upbeat, it was odd to have a god so approachable when even back when he was fully devoted he never really imagined his god as approachable. When you truly knew the bible his god could be blood thirsty and didn’t seem to do much else besides spread his message. He hadn’t dated, it wasn’t recorded he did anything a normal person would do, but Anahita had this comforting feel, this lightness that wrapped others in warmth even though he still couldn’t help but feel nervous.

Damek’s demeanor was a little more like he expected from a god but still, the way he looked at Anahita was also filled with such warmth, such humanness. He had a obviously deep love for her and while his god loved his children it didn’t seem the same to him as human love. His god was the kind who could kill all the first born in Egypt out of anger despite the fact those children were yet to do anything, children he would so claim to love.

 

Final Chapter

“So, what’s it like being a god or goddess?”

“Exciting.” Damek said with a smile.

“You didn’t look very excited when we met.” Anahita pointed out.

“Well, except for then. Anahita came upon after I had escaped captivity.”

“Captivity?”

“Even Gods are not immune to harm. They wanted my immortality, but they received only death. They tortured and tormented me. Anahita saved my life and I fell in love with her instantly.”

Anahita blushed. “Damek.”

“It’s true my love.” He kissed her cheek. “Anyway, I control the earth; soil, rock and stones, even earthquakes.”

Renato couldn’t help but find their relationship sweet. Anahita was so gentle and cute, complementing Damek’s seeming wildness. “How about you, Anahita?”

“Well, I didn’t even know I was part god at first. I only found out after meeting Damek. I bring good fortune to those around me. My entire village has prospered just from my presence.”

“Wow.”

“She’s such a gift.” Damek said, getting another blush from Anahita.

Renato’s questions continued until they arrived at the cave and it was only it’s beauty that silenced him. The deeper they went the more gorgeous their surroundings became and he was once again grateful to his mate for bringing him. Zorion suddenly lifted him. “I just don’t want you tripping on something.” Zorion explained in a whisper.

Renato was bright red and embarrassed, but he leaned into Zorion anyway, enjoying his warmth. He allowed himself to once again get lost in the cave, amazed at how the walls and ceiling shimmered and shined even without a direct source of light. He found himself reaching out and brushing the stones with his fingers, surprised that they were warm. “This is…I’ve never seen something so amazing. Is this your magic, Damek?” He asked.

“Yes, I put light into them so they would glitter no matter how dark it is and they keep the cave a nice temperature.”

“I’ve never seen magic before, this is just so cool.”

“Let me show you.” Damek stopped and squatted down, pressing his fingers into the soft earth beneath them. He wrapped them around something and when he pulled his hand back and opened it, a shiny stone rested in his palm. “I can make anything bound to the earth. I often do so for Anahita.”

“He spoils me too much.”

“There is no such thing.” He reached down and plucked another stone from the ground and handed them to her. “Would you make them into necklaces and put some of your luck into them for our friends?”

“Of course.”

“So, would you two like to go to the village?”

“Since Renato has never been, yes. I want him to experience everything this place has to offer. Would you like that, my love?”

“Of course, anything you want to show me, I want to see.”

“Oh?” He brushed his nose against Renato’s cheek, chuckling at his blush.

“Be good, we’re with people.”

Zorion gave an amused smile “I assure you Damek and Anahita don’t mind. He’s just as flirtatious as me.”

“It’s true.” Anahita said glancing happily over at Damek who lovingly slid his hand into her hair and kissed her cheek. As they walked out of the cave and toward the village Renato found himself feeling so normal here. It was a nice feeling after spending his life, up until now, full of shame and sadness. He felt a small tug at his heart to stay, but he knew they couldn’t. Zorion could never move away from his pack, he was the alpha and they were all so close. He knew that Zorion would take him here as much as he wanted though and that alone made him happy. Truly, it was close enough they didn’t have to live here to come frequently.

Damek and Anahita took them on a tour of the village, the latter waving at people as they walked by. They took them to the bakery, the owner having nothing but smiles for them as he gave them free pastries hot out of the oven. Renato had never had something so delicious and wound up eating it a little too fast. They continued on, stopping at a shop that sold all manner of trinkets and gifts. When Renato took interest in a little crystal wolf, Zorion insisted on getting it for him. “You don’t have too.”

“I do.” Zorion picked it up. “You were making this face, the one that says you really want something, but you’re not going to say anything.”

“But, do we even have the right currency?”

“Many places have learned to accommodate other world money.” Damek said. “I’m sure it won’t be an issue.”

“See, so let me get it for you.”

“But what if it’s too expensive?” Renato asked.

“Then I’ll settle the difference.” Anahita answered. “He’s a lot like Damek, he likes spoiling you. It’s cute. I can never talk Damek out of anything, especially if I really want something. Sometimes it’s better to just let them have their way, they’re so endearingly stubborn.”

Renato smiled as he agreed. Once they had his crystal wolf purchased they continued touring the village, Renato finding everyone to be friendly and not phased in the slightest by him and Zorion obviously being together. Zorion was so affectionate you’d have to be blind to not see they were a couple. That night Damek offered their home but Zorion said, “I’d like to take him to my place.”

“I understand, It’s nice to be alone with your mate. Meet us tomorrow?”

“Yes, how about for lunch, we could picnic somewhere.”

“Where you met us today?”

“That’s good with me.”

“Alright, so we meet tomorrow at lunch for a picnic.” They separated, Renato’s mind on having sex again since they would be alone once more. He was half thinking of just doing it, powering through his nerves and letting Zorion take him. He had always been so patient and loving, Renato truly felt he deserved more from him and he knew he could trust Zorion to stop if he needed him to.

“You’re thinking too hard again.” Zorion said as he lead him back to the valley. The sun was down and the night sky was dotted with millions of stars. It was beautiful, dazzling, like walking through a dream. “Is it about us?”

“Yeah.”

“You shouldn’t work yourself up about it so much.”

“I can’t help it.” He pulled Zorion to a stop in front of the cottage. “I…I hate that I’m so scared and insecure. I look at myself sometimes and I feel so useless and cowardly just because of what my parents did to me.”

“Renato, that’s enough.” He took his mate’s face in his hands and pressed a gentle kiss to his lips. “I can wait for as long as you need me too.”

“But I don’t want you too, I want you to make love to me, I’m just nervous about my inexperience and what if I react badly or something. I want you so maybe we could just try.”

Zorion pressed their foreheads together, letting out a little sigh. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“You have to promise me that you will tell me to stop if you need me too. I don’t want you to keep going just because you think I need sex to be satisfied.”

“I promise.”

“Alright.” He pulled Renato inside and back into the bedroom. He pressed their lips together, let his hands slip beneath his mate’s shirt to brush his skin. He felt goosebumps and smiled, loving Renato was so responsive. “Could I undress you?”

“Y…yeah.” He started to pull Renato’s shirt off and Renato stopped him. “What’s wrong?”

“Just…I don’t really think I look that good, I mean compared to you.”

“Renato.” He forced the amusement out of his voice. There was something adorable about his shyness. “Can I show you something?” Renato nodded and Zorion turned him to face the mirror. “Trust me okay?”

“Okay.”

He slowly started to remove his shirt again and once he had it off, he let his fingers trace over his skin, his eyes watching Renato’s in the mirror. “How could you think for even a moment that I would find you unattractive? I’ve never desired someone as much as I do you.”

Renato could see that hunger again, burning, undying lust in his boyfriend’s eyes. It made his heart stutter and his skin flush even more. Zorion began kissing his neck as he felt his mate. He couldn’t get enough of his warm skin and the goosebumps forming. Zorion gently bit down and Renato’s whine only excited him more. He wanted to start removing his pants but he waited, giving him more time at this stage in hopes it would help him be more comfortable when he tried for more. Zorion licked Renato’s ear then almost shakily asked due to how much control he was having to use, “Can I take your pants off, please?”

“Ye…yeah.”

Zorion slowly undid his belt then slowly pushed down his pants and boxers so he could appreciate the feel of every inch of his mates legs. Zorion knelt in front of Renato, now feeling, nibbling at and kissing all over his legs. He was hard as hard as he could possibly be, they both were but Zorion was still hesitant to ask if he could enter his mate so he asked, “Can I take you in my mouth?” Hoping sucking him off first would help Renato be more willing to let him finally fully have him. Even if Renato still refused it was another thing Zorion had been deeply wanting to do.

Renato nodded, too nervous to say anything. His entire body was shivering so Zorion placed a kiss to his abdomen just below his bellybutton then over to his hip where he lightly bit him, receiving another little whine. Renato jumped when Zorion drew him into his mouth and might have stepped back if Zorion hadn’t grabbed his hips and held him in place. Renato let out shaky breaths as Zorion swallowed him, his tongue sliding over his length as he moaned, the light vibrations causing Renato’s hips to rock into him. He burst in Zorion’s mouth with a whimpering moan, his entire body flushed, his legs threatening to give out on him. Zorion swallowed then drew back and gently pulled Renato down to straddle him.

“Good?” Zorion asked as he brushed his lips lightly over Renato’s.

“Yes.” Renato’s voice came out breathy and needy even through his embarrassment.

“Can I make love to you?”

Renato could feel him shaking as he held onto his self control and couldn’t help how loved and cherished he felt. “W…will it hurt?”

“I promise to give you nothing but pleasure my love.”

“O..okay then, I want to.” Zorion kissed him, passionately moving his tongue against his mate’s before he began working him loose, trying to find whatever spot gave Renato the most pleasure. When he felt his mate was ready he carried him over to their bags, fishing out some lube he kept with him just in case Renato ever said yes. The last thing he ever wanted to do was hurt him and since he had never been with a man before he wouldn’t be willing to try without it. Out of relief and pleasure that this was finally happening Zorion almost yelled with pleasure when he pulled Renato down on him. Renato’s moan was mixed with his and even now Zorion asked huskily, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

With further assurance Zorion thrust his hips as he worked Renato up and down. He held Renato tightly when he finally came, emotion overwhelming his heart. When he could think, Zorion cuddled up under the covers in bed with Renato and began raining kisses all over him. “Be honest, how are you feeling?”

“That was amazing…I liked it.”

“I’m glad.”

Renato teared up and covered his face. “I actually liked it, thank goodness.”

“Oh Renato, it’s okay.” He brushed his fingers through Renato’s hair as he held him, doing his best to comfort his mate. He hated Renato’s parents even more. They had made him so insecure.

“I’m sorry.” Renato finally said as he wiped his face. “How stupid.”

“No it’s not, baby. I understand and I want you to always be honest with how you’re feeling. If you have to cry then cry.”

“I feel like I ruined the moment.”

“Never.” He planted gentle kiss on his lips, his hand drifting up and down his back in a soothing massage. “You have no idea how happy I am right now, Renato, how much I need you every moment of every day. Sometimes I wake up and see you lying there and can’t help but admire you and realize how lucky I am to have you. I love you more than anything. My heart belongs to you and only you, Renato, no one will ever change that.”

Renato snuggled closer, feeling safe and loved when Zorion held him a little tighter than he had been before. “I will always love you Renato.” Zorion said softly, needing to be sure his mate understood. They laid like that even after they were both sound asleep and when morning came it was Renato’s sleepy eyes that opened first. He almost got emotional again as the memories came flooding in. He was happier than he could have ever dreamed was possible and he wasn’t going to let anything hold him back any longer. His parents had been wrong, possibly about everything they ever told him and he wasn’t going to hate himself any longer because a certain religion in one world told him too. Renato was determined to live his life without shame and he knew with Zorion by his side it would be an easy thing to do now that he knew completely his parents had been wrong all along.

~ The End

Derrick & Mae

Chapter One

Derrick groaned as he lay there in the alley, his entire being a universe of pain. He clenched his stomach, wondering if his ribs were broken. He didn’t fight the waves of agony, he let them come, he deserved it. Sorrow washed over him and he curled up there, shivering and crying like the pathetic weakling he was. He heard the sound of footsteps and wondered if the men who had attacked him had returned to further punish him. He wouldn’t resist them, between the alcohol and his shame, he wanted to hurt. “Oh my god, are you alright?” The voice was soft, the tone gentle and warm. He barely manged to turn his head, his eyes colliding with those of a woman, those hazel orbs sparkling with concern and shock. “Who did this?” She asked as she reached out to brush his hair from his face.

“Go away.” He said, his voice hoarse.

“You don’t mean that.” She gently pulled him into a sitting position. “Let me help you.”

“No, just leave me.” He couldn’t have another beautiful woman near him, not after what had happened. She would get hurt too. “Just go, I’m fine.” He pushed her hands away and then started slowly to his feet. He stumbled and she grabbed him, pulling his arm over her shoulders. “Are you stupid or something, you need to leave me here.”

“Hush, no more of that. You can’t just lay out here, it’s getting cold and it’s going to rain.”

“Who cares.”

“I do.” She pulled him out of the alley and in his half drunk, beaten state he couldn’t resist her. “I’m Mae, what’s your name?”

“It doesn’t matter.” His legs gave out and she pulled him back up.

“Hey, no passing out until I get you in my car, okay?”

Her words made him determined to get there so he managed to walk with her aid the rest of the way. He still felt no better than the garbage people tossed in the dump, but this was another kind, incredibly beautiful woman and he was going to follow a simple request, especially since she was so insistent on helping him. He was surprised when she even took the time to strap him in. “Is it comfortable?”

“It’s fine.” Sometimes her belt locked on people pretty tight so she hoped he would have told her if it was hurting him. She was beyond grateful she actually had her car today. She had only brought it because the weather threatened hail today. It hadn’t come, but it turned out she needed her car anyway. Next thing he knew she was unbuckling him. “Where are we?” He asked and she answered, “The hospital.”

“I’m half vampire, I’ll be okay.”

“I don’t care what you are. I’m going to get you sobered up and tend to you.”

“You really shouldn’t help me. I don’t deserve it.”

“Everybody deserves care when they are hurt. I firmly believe that.”

Derrick had never known someone so stubborn. Her eyes were filled with compassion and determination and he had a feeling that if he refused to cooperate, she would drag him. The security guard at the front looked a little concerned when she walked in with him and she gave him a smile that told him everything was fine. “Don’t we have to fill out paperwork first?” He asked.

“I will once I have you in a room.” She said.

“Mae?” One of the emergency doctors said when he came out and saw her with Derrick. “Whoa, what happened?”

“I have no idea, but can you get a room set up for me?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you, Reed.”

Derrick was a little surprised at how smoothly that had gone and couldn’t resist asking, “What are you some kind of super hero?”

She laughed. “I’m a nurse, I work here.”

He couldn’t understand why the world would send a nurse his way. He didn’t deserve such care at all and even as drunk as he was all he could think about was repaying her somehow for wasting her time on a man like him, a man who hadn’t been there for someone else. Reed had a room ready quickly so she took him in and helped him lay down. “Please don’t waste supplies on me.” He tried again, but she just left and came back with paperwork.

“So, what’s your full name?”

“Derrick Rankin.” He answered, deciding he may as well just give her the information she wanted. He could tell she was stubborn enough to keep him in here all evening if that’s what it took.

“Age?”

“Thirty-three.”

She smiled. “Thank you for not being mysterious. A lot of vampires like to get cute when you ask that.”

“I know my match when I’ve met it. I’ll answer you honestly.”

“Still, I appreciate it. So, since you’re a half vampire, I’m guessing no allergies?” He shook his head. “No medical conditions I should know about?”

“No.”

“Insurance?”

“Don’t have it.”

“How about your address and phone number?” He rattled them off for her and she quickly wrote it down. “Okay. Now, how about you tell me what happened.”

“I was attacked.”

“By who?”

He shrugged. “Just some guys, I didn’t catch their names or really see their faces.”

“Should I call the cops?”

“No, don’t bother, there’s no point. I’m already healing and they’re probably long gone.”

She frowned and he looked away from her. He didn’t want her pity. “How much have you had to drink?” He shrugged and she sat the clipboard down and reached over, gently grabbing his chin and turning his head so he was looking into her eyes. “It’s okay, I won’t judge. You have a reason, especially when you’re drunk, banged up and didn’t want me helping you.” She gave him a warm smile that lit up her face and made his heart stutter. “Just a few more questions okay and then I’ll let Reed look you over while I clean your wounds.”

“They’re pretty much healed.”

“Then I’ll clean up the blood and make sure you make it home.”

“I promise you, you shouldn’t care so much about me.”

“You can say that to me as much as you like, but I’m going to care anyway. Something terrible has obviously happened to you. I’m so sorry for whatever it is, but you’re obviously a good man to let it burden you this much. Whatever happened, you deserve forgiveness, I’m sure of it.” He somehow managed to move his face in such a way that made him look even sadder. She went back to asking him the questions on the sheet, wishing he’d talk to her about whatever was burdening his heart. When she called Reed in she left briefly to get what she needed to clean the blood off of him. His body had almost completely healed itself, but she was looking for anything to keep him there longer.

“Nothing seems broken and it looks like any bruises or abrasions you had healed up nicely, not that I’m surprised.” Reed said as he finished his examination.

“See? I told you I’d be fine.”

“Physically maybe.” Mae said as she finished cleaning his face.

Reed sighed. “Well, you can go home if you feel up to it or you can spend the night here.”

Derrick waved him off. “I’m sure there’s someone else who needs this room.” He hopped down off the table and nearly fell over, but Mae grabbed onto him, steadying him.

“Still drunk.” She said.

“You should take him home, Mae.”

“I can make it on my own.” Derrick protested. He didn’t want to further burden her.

“Hush now, let me help you, Derrick.” Her sincerity and compassion were almost too much for him to bear. Why did he have to meet her? He couldn’t help but think of what might have happened if those men had returned while she was aiding him. What if they had attacked her? What if they had done worse? “Thanks Reed, really. I’ll get him home and then I’m going to crash.”

“No problem, just be careful, give Arges my love.”

“Who is Arges?” Derrick asked as he buckled his seat belt once they were back in her car.

“My dog”

“Any kind or a mix?”

“He’s a newfoundland, poor thing only has one eye. He was like that when I adopted him.”

“You’re a nurse, you helped and you have a rescue for a dog, maybe you are a super hero.”

“I try, the world is so ugly and full of hurting people. I want to help as many as I can. Anyway, you need to tell me how to get to where you live.” He gave her directions then sat there silently. Only speaking when they pulled up and she said, “I’m going to help you in.”

“Mae.”

“I’m helping you in Derrick then I promise I’m out of your hair for the evening.”

“Just for the evening?”

Her look turned more meaningful as she said, “You’ve obviously been through something terrible or caused someone else harm that you cared about deeply. I work in a hospital, you kind of get a feel for these things. You obviously push away anybody that attempts to care for you and I’m that stubborn, annoying, pest that’s not going to stop until you open up and realize you’re worth something, regardless of whatever happened.”

He huffed. “Maybe I’ll just lock the doors.”

“You can try, but I just happen to know a few cops and I bet they’d let me in if I told them how scared I was for you.”

“You’d ask cops to break in?”

“Most definitely.”

She slipped out of her seat belt and pushed her door open, getting out and hurrying over to his side when he started to get out on his own. “I can walk.”

“Oh hush, you’re obviously still unsteady.” She helped him to his feet and pulled his arm over her shoulders. “Keys?” He reached into his left pocket and handed them to her.

He hadn’t noticed until now just how strong she was for a human and he wondered if it had to do with being a nurse. He was sure she had had to help lift at least a few heavy people. She got the front door unlocked and he pointed to the stairs. “My room’s up there.”

“Okay, take it slow.”

“Bossy.”

She laughed. “Thank you.”

She helped him to his room then fetched him a glass of water. She may not live there, but cups and the sink generally were easy to find so she went down with confidence and returned with a glass of water. “I’ll be heading home now unless you want me to get you anything else.”

“You’ve done more than you should already.”

“Get some good rest okay? I’ll be over tomorrow after work.”

“There’s really no stopping you?”

“Nope.”

“Then get home safe.” She smiled, thinking again about how sweet he obviously was. She left his home and drove to hers, worrying about him even as she fed her dog. She knew she was going to think about him all day tomorrow too but she wouldn’t let it distract her from her patients. As a nurse she couldn’t afford to have her mind elsewhere when she was in the hospital.

Derrick lay there staring at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity that night, his heart aching as he sunk into the mattress and his sorrow. As usual his mind drifted to his loss, to the pain and anguish that plagued his every waking moment. Why hadn’t it been him? Why was he still even alive? Could he even die? “Mae would probably just pull me back.” He mumbled to himself. He was surprised that his thoughts had gone straight to her. It was like her warmth and determination had seeped into his subconscious. “Why?” He whispered to himself. “Why didn’t you just leave me?”

“So, how was the patient last night?” Reed asked the next morning when Mae met him in the elevator.

“Fine, I guess. He’s suffering. Thanks for taking care of him for me.”

“It’s no problem.”

“Arges says hi, by the way.”

Reed chuckled. “What a good boy. Ezekiel wanted me to ask you if you’d like to come and have dinner with us some time this week. You can bring the big ball of fluff, I’ll even get him a bone.”

“Are you two going to make me that roast?”

“Sure.”

“Alright, assuming everything goes okay with Derrick, maybe I could bring him too?”

“Oh I see, you save a guy and now you’re in love.”

She punched Reed’s shoulder, causing him to laugh. “Oh hush, I’m just worried about him.”

“Well be careful, he was drunk when you brought him in.”

“I know, but I don’t think he’s the violent type.”

“Still, stay safe.”

 

Chapter Two

“I will.” While her thoughts did venture off to Derrick throughout her day at the hospital she stayed focused when she needed to and went about her day as normal as you could consider a day in the hospital. After work she jogged home like she always did then immediately got in her car to have dinner with Derrick. She wondered how well he looked after himself since most depressed people skipped meals far too frequently. When she arrived and knocked on his door it startled him out of a nap he had been taking. He knew who it was instantly since he hadn’t ordered anything and nobody came to visit him.

“Mae.” There was no indication from his tone if he was happy or not to see her.

“I thought I’d have dinner with you.”

“Why?”

“I said I was going to be a pest didn’t I?”

“That you did, well, I’m not sure what I have to eat.”

“Want to go out or order something then?”

“I guess we could eat somewhere.”

“Sweet Tomatoes?”

“What?”

“It’s the name of a place I was suggesting. They have incredibly good and healthy food.”

“Can’t we just get burgers or something?”

“We could, but you look like you need something healthier.” She looked him over. “That’s the shirt you wore yesterday.”

He sighed. “I know.”

“Alright, that’s it, inside.”

“What?”

“Come on, you’re taking a shower and changing clothes.” She took his hand and pulled him upstairs, leaving him too surprised to say anything until they were standing in his room and she was opening his chest of drawers.

“Hey, wait, I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”

“If that were true you would be half dead in alleys.” She pulled out underwear and socks then a clean t-shirt and a pair of jeans. She turned to him and gave him the clothes, giving him a look that said she wouldn’t be argued with. “Now, go bathe or I’ll undress and wash you myself.” She said with a smile. “Besides, a shower will make you feel better.”

He made a face, one of confusion and a hint of frustration, but he did as he was told, wondering what she’d do in his home while he was busy showering. She seemed to not be shy about going where she pleased. She waited until the water was running to try and figure out where he kept his sheets. Healthy, happy people sometimes wouldn’t change their sheets, depressed people were much worse about it and she didn’t want him laying in dead skin cells and other grossness at night. Not more than the average person at least. She found some stuffed into a closet them seemed clean so she changed his sheets and took his blanket down to the washing machine. Both the washer and dryer were empty so she just stuffed it in, threw a laundry fling into the washer and let it run.

She then went and checked his kitchen. He had a stack of dirty plates in the sink so she popped open the dish washer and put them in, found the soap under the sink and poured some in. She checked his fridge and frowned at how empty it was. She wondered what he had been surviving off of. Maybe he had just made whatever until he had run out of ingredients. There was a jug of expired milk that she disposed of and she made a mental note to take him food shopping. She went into the living room and picked up a little bit and noticed that one of the photos had been turned face down. She lifted it up, surprised to see Derrick smiling back at her and standing next to him a beautiful young woman. He looked so happy, a stark contrast to the way he was now and she was sure the woman had something to do with his depression. She let out a little sigh as she propped it up then decided to go and check on him before she cleaned his entire house. She tapped on his bathroom door and called out, “Are you okay in there?”

“I’m fine.” Derrick called back as he stood there with his forehead pressed against the shower wall and stared down at the water swirling around the drain. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

“You’ll call me if you need me right?”

“Yeah, just give me a minute. You’re not getting into trouble out there are you?”

“Probably.” She called back and he could hear the laughter in her voice. It was light and warm, something it felt like he hadn’t had in an eternity. It caused his heart to skip a beat and he suddenly felt embarrassment creeping in. He knew his house was a mess and she seemed like the type of person to clean it up.

Thinking of this he decided to stop procrastinating in the shower. He washed himself thoroughly then grabbed a towel to dry off. Once dry he dried the floor then dressed himself so they could get going. He noticed right away his blanket was gone and a new sheet was snugly on his mattress. He found her in his living room. “You didn’t have to clean.”

“I know, but you needed it. Your blanket is in the washer if you were wondering.”

“Thanks I guess, but let’s go.”

“Okay.” They went out to her car where he tried again. “Are you sure we can’t get burgers?”

“You’re eating healthy tonight. Maybe tomorrow because yes I’m coming back.”

He nodded, not wanting to argue with her. He wanted to chase her away, but he couldn’t be cruel to her. He followed her outside and into her car, finding himself staring out the passenger window once he was buckled up and she was pulling out. “So, how was worked today?” He finally asked.

“It was good, thank you for asking. How about your day?”

He shrugged. “Same as always. I just…” he sighed, “I just did nothing.”

He sounded so tired and distant and she wound up reaching over and taking his hand. “It’s okay, Derrick, one step at a time.”

“More like ten with you.”

She laughed. “Okay, ten steps at a time then. Either way, I’m going to help you, starting by getting you healthier. You aren’t eating right or sleeping right and going out and getting drunk and beaten isn’t good for you no matter what species you are.”

She let her thumb brush lightly over his skin and he hated to admit the contact felt good, that it helped ease a little of his suffering. He swallowed, still refusing to look at her. He couldn’t cry in front of her, she would just want to get closer and he was terrified of the implications.

When they had their food it proved to not be as terrible as he was expecting. If she was going to make him eat better he was glad some places could actually make that good. “We’re going shopping after this. I saw the inside of your fridge and you need food at home since I can’t come over for every meal. Plus, always eating out with you would be unrealistic.”

“Such a little snoop.” He was surprised at himself for trying to tease her and almost blushed over it. “I wont have time to snoop if you shower daily before I get there.”

“True, I guess that’s one way to make a man keep hygienic.” True to her word the next stop was the grocery store where she specifically bought certain things for recipes she knew by heart so she could cook for him on other nights.

They took the groceries back to his place and put them away, not wanting any of the cold food to spoil. Once everything was put away, Mae asked, “Want to go to the park or something?”

“Not really.”

“Come on, we can go to my place and get Arges.”

He sighed. “I…I don’t know.”

“Come on, please? For me?”

His heart stuttered at the sweet smile she gave him and he felt his face begin to warm. What was wrong with him? She was so hard to say no to. “What would we be doing?”

“Just walking and talking. It’ll be good for you to get out and breathe some fresh air.”

“Alright, of you really want me to.”

“I do. Also, Reed invited Arges and I to dinner this week, want to come?”

He chuckled. “Ten steps at a time like always…sure.” They went out to the car then drove to her place.

Arges was excited to see her and she hugged him. “I missed you buddy!” She stood, finding his leash. “Come on handsome.” Derrick blushed again despite the fact she was obviously talking to her dog. The park wasn’t far so it didn’t take them long to drive over. Mae would have just jogged with Arges, but she wasn’t sure how Derrick would have felt about that and he was already letting her push him quite a bit.

“Are you sure they want me there?” Derrick asked as they walked along a path.

“Yep, I already told them I might invite you.”

“You really seem to have everything covered.”

“Of course, I want to give you a chance to heal.”

He huffed out an unemotional laugh. “How do you know I need healing? Maybe I’m just some loser.”

“I don’t believe that. I can see it in your eyes, how sad and scared you are.”

“Maybe I deserve it.”

Mae reached over and took his hand, surprising him. “Please don’t say things like that, no one deserves to feel pain.” He started to pull away, but she tightened her hold a little.

“Mae.”

“Just let me, you need it, okay?” She smiled warmly up at him and for the first time in what seemed like forever, he felt butterflies.

“Okay, maybe just for awhile.” In truth he didn’t want to let go, he knew he needed her, even if it terrified him. It was hard to pull away from her. He began to wonder what she would think of his failure, of what he had done in retaliation, of how far he had fallen.

He knew she was eventually going to pry into that and he would tell her when that time came. There was no sense hiding it, she needed to know who she was around and maybe when she knew, she’d have the sense to move on and leave him behind. It would hurt, he was already growing attached, but he still felt like he deserved to be punished for eternity for failing his wife. She kept his hand the entire walk, not having to worry much about Arges since he was such a good dog. When Mae dropped him off she didn’t drive away until he was inside which almost made him chuckle. He was half vampire and this woman was merely a human but she was making sure he got safely in the house before she left.

Derrick moved his blanket into the dryer then went ahead and took a shower once he was inside so he wouldn’t get in trouble tomorrow. She had done far too much for him today and he wouldn’t have that again. Mae on the other hand kept thinking about that picture and wished she would have asked at the park. She guessed she was trying to give him a little more time before she tried tugging that out of him. She didn’t want him to pull away from her any harder than he already was.

 

Chapter Three

Derrick ‘s night was restless, he tossed and turned as his thoughts jumbled together. He hadn’t had a drink since meeting Mae so it was hard for him to get to sleep. His negative, depressed thoughts were countered by those of Mae, of her smile, of the warmth she offered, of her stubborness that allowed her to work her way through the wall he had erected around his heart. He knew he should run away, should lock her out, but a part of him wanted more. He let out a sigh of frustration and grabbed his pillow and placed it over his head. He needed to sleep so she wouldn’t be worried. He didn’t realize he had fallen asleep until he woke the next morning to sunlight seeping through his window.

He got up, feeling a little groggy, but at least willing to face the day. He pulled on a pair of sweats and headed into the kitchen, knowing that even if he didn’t want to, he should eat. He put on a pot of coffee then pulled out the bacon and eggs she had bought for him. Mae was helping in pediatrics today, drawing blood and changing seats or taking some of the children for x-rays or CAT scans. There were a few infants being treated for addiction that she took the time to comfort. This was one of the more heartbreaking parts of her job, but she wouldn’t change it for the world.

She wondered how Derrick was this morning, if he had gone of drinking when he was away from her or if he was still asleep. She sent a text to Reed asking him if he could get Derrick’s number for her out of his file so she could check on him. He agreed, teasing her a little by asking when they were getting married and when they would like to come over for dinner. She smiled as she thought of the park and holding his hand, knowing that if Reed had seen that, she would have never heard the end of it. She also suggested they have dinner Saturday since it would give her more time to work with Derrick.

Reed let her know they were good for that day and they quit messaging so she could check on Derrick. She’d try to text him first since she was still working. “Hey, This is Mae Stuart, the annoying nurse. I just wanted to make sure you were alright. Call me if you need to. If I can’t answer I’ll call back when I can. I’m hoping you’re giving up drinking and I know sometimes when urges come it helps to have someone to talk to so you’re not only thinking about your addiction.” She slid her phone in her pocket then went back to her duties around the hospital. There seemed to always be something to do and she didn’t want to stand idly by too long, especially if she needed to accept a call from him today.

Derrick was just watching television, his mind blank and not really consuming what his eye saw. His phone going off pulled him back out of his head. He was surprised to get a text at all but then saw it was from Mae. He liked finally knowing her last name, “Stuart”. He couldn’t help but think of the adorable little mouse Stuart Little. As much as he knew she deserved better thinking she was cute wasn’t something he had any control over. He decided to go ahead and let her know he was fine. “I’m just watching TV.” He resisted the urge to tell her she didn’t have to check in, knowing it might only annoy her and he found himself deeply caring if she was upset.

When Derrick realized Mae’s work day was drawing to an end, he made himself get up and check that he looked presentable. He brushed out his hair, realizing he needed a haircut and even shaved. He felt nervousness creeping in, his heart thumping quickly in his chest as he waited. When he saw her pull up, his heart stuttered and he had to force himself not to meet her at the door. He could see she had Arges and the dog happily followed her to the front porch. When she knocked, he took a deep, steadying breath before going and answering. “Hey, you’re up.” She said with that beautiful, warm smile.

“Yeah, I have been since this morning.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Come in.” He moved out of the way and she let laughed softly as she moved past him and Arges immediately went to investigate. “How was your day?”

“Good, hard. I had to work pediatrics today.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, the kids are always so enthusiastic even when they’re sick. How was your day?” He shrugged and she moved closer and reached up, brushing his hair away from his face. “Did you eat today?”

“Yeah, I knew you’d fuss.” She laughed again and it had his heart tripping over itself. “So what are we doing tonight?”

“I was thinking maybe pizza and a movie?”

“Okay.”

She took his hand, causing goosebumps to cover his skin. “You can say no, it won’t hurt my feelings.”

“No, you’re already here and I…I want you to stay…for dinner and a movie I mean.”

Her smile was once again gentle, even the way she looked at him. She had such a kind, nurturing nature. “Great, where do you like to order pizza from?”

“Papa Johns.”

“What do you normally get?”

“Extra cheese, pepperoni and sausage.”

“That’s perfect for me too.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I normally like mushrooms too but I can live without mushrooms.”

“We can put mushrooms on it.” She giggled and his heart stuttered again

“Okay, I’ll order one.”

“You’ve spent too much money on me already, let me.” Derrick insisted so she let him order while she browsed different streaming services on her phone.

When he was done she asked, “So how do you watch movies?”

“Netflix, Hulu, the normal stuff.”

“Want to rewatch Police Academy?”

“Police Academy?”

“Are you trying to tell me you haven’t seen it?”

“Possibly.”

“Pretty sure that’s a movie sin.”

“Sorry, do you think the god of movies will smite me?”

She cracked a smile. “I think he’ll give you a pass, but just this once.”

“I’ll try to be better about watching movies then.

Derrick switched on the TV, choosing the Netflix icon and then finding Police Academy. They went ahead and got it started and he was surprised when she sat right next to him rather than at the other end of the couch. “Arges, come boy.” She called and the dog came running and settled at her feet. His heart was beating a million miles an hour with her this close and for the first time since their meeting, he noticed just how sweet her scent really was. It was shocking the way his senses seemed to focus on her and he felt heat moving up his neck with embarrassment and shame. Did he even have the right to desire her? To want to selfishly keep her close to him?

He didn’t know those answers so he was glad she wasn’t giving him much of a choice so the guilt wouldn’t overwhelm him. He ended up enjoying the movie, along with the entire evening, but the next night when she came over Mae decided it was time to bring up the picture, to get to the bottom of his pain. “So Derrick, when I was waiting for you to shower the other day I saw that picture on your mantel…who is that?” His heart sank a little in his chest when just moments ago she had him smiling. She hated to see the pain in his face but this was something they needed to discuss.

“She…was my wife.”

“Was?”

He looked away but kept talking. He had told himself he would tell her the truth if it came up and he’d stick to that. “She died a few years ago…some man broke into our home to rob us. He hadn’t known she was still inside, her plans had gotten canceled that day so she ended up home and he killed her…”

“Oh Derrick…I…I’m so sorry.”

He sighed. “And while the topics brought up you should know the other reason why I hate myself.” She hugged him and he let her, feeling he should enjoy it before she was afraid of him. “I tracked him down and I tortured him to punish him for taking her life. I…I had so much hate in my heart. All I could think about was hurting him for taking her away. When I was done dragging him through hell I drained him….I drank his blood until he died…..”

Mae held him a little tighter and he pushed his face in her hair, too scared to look at her. She must be horrified, she must hate him. “I’m so sorry, so…so sorry.” She said softly. “I can’t even begin to imagine what you must have gone through.” She pulled back, taking his face in her hands and gently wiping away the tears he hadn’t even known were there.

“I’m a monster, Mae and a failure.” He choked out.

“Shh, no you’re not. You couldn’t have known what would happen.”

“I killed a man, I…”

She pressed her lips gently into his, making his crying worse and his arms pull her as close as he could. He knew he should push her away, but he needed her. “Hush now okay? It’s alright, no one blames you, I don’t blame you. I have no idea what I would do if the one I loved was killed. I might lose it too.”

“I hate I couldn’t protect her.”

“You can’t be at someones side every second. If you were there, you would have protected her, but you weren’t at the house and it’s nobodies fault besides the man that killed her. He deserved what you did to him. I really do feel that way Derrick, a life for a life. You tortured him, but she must have been so scared. You put him through what he put her through and there’s no shame in that. You’ve never drained anybody else right?”

“No.”

“See, you’re not a monster person or a failure. I think you’re so amazing I feel like I’m falling in love with you Derrick.”

“But…” She gave him another kiss and he hated he was being so emotional. It was so overwhelming talking about what had happened and having her here comforting him, loving him despite the darkness he knew lurked in his soul. “I don’t even know how to be a person anymore.”

“Then we’ll spend every day helping you rediscover what it’s like to live. It’s going to take time and patience, but we’ll get there. Ten steps at a time.”

He let out a little laugh as he wiped the tears from his face. It felt good to get everything out, to have that cathartic release of emotion. “Can you stay here with me tonight?”

“I have Arges at home, but if you want you can come home with me. We have dinner with Reed and Ezekiel tomorrow so it would be easier if we were in the same place.”

 

Final Chapter

“Alright.” Derrick grabbed a bag from under the sink and threw a couple shirts, pajama pants and another pair of jeans inside then they both went over to Mae’s. Feeding him, making sure he had his fill of water then giving him a long walk and treats for being so patient with her visits to Derrick’s. Once her dog was fully taken care of they went to her bedroom.

“If you think you can behave, you can share my bed. I like to go slow, as in you’re really going to upset me if you try to get in my pants.”

“I wouldn’t try anything.” The thought of holding her excited him, he wouldn’t dare ruin the chance to cuddle with her all night.

“Good.” She smiled, happy he seemed okay with that and was glad herself to have someone to sleep with. They both changed, her in the bathroom and him in the living room then joined each other in her bed. He was nervous to pull her close so was relieved when it was Mae who closed the distance between them and laid her head on his chest. “Can you sleep like this or will my head feel too heavy?”

“I’ll sleep better than I have in years like this, please stay as you are Mae.” Shyly he added a question, “May I kiss your head?”

“Mhm, I said no sex, kisses are fine.” He reverently moved to kiss her, taking in her scent as he did it.

“I…I love you Mae.”

She smiled. “I love you too.” She knew it had to be hard for him to say, but she was proud of him for taking that step. She snuggled closer then closed her eyes, allowing herself to drift off.

It took Derrick a little longer to fall asleep. He feared waking up and this being all some cruel, alcohol induced dream. He held her a little tighter, needing the reassurance as he drifted off. The next morning, Mae woke to Derrick spooning her. They had both turned in their sleep, but he had kept her locked to him, his nose pressed into the back of her neck, his warm breath causing goosebumps to crawl over her skin. She tried to move and he let out a little groan as he buried his nose in her hair. She couldn’t help but let out a little giggle and he finally opened his eyes to the sound of her laughter.

He still didn’t let go. “Let me brush my teeth and start breakfast.”

“How can you be ready to move so early?”

“I’ve been getting up early my entire life.”

He couldn’t resist asking even though he felt undeserving. “Just a little while longer.”

“My breath might stink.”

“Your scent is far too wonderful for that to matter.” He sounded so sleepy, but so sincere at the same time. He had her blushing as he tightened his hold a little.

“Alright, a little while longer.” She answered softly. He was once again showing her he wasn’t a monster at all. Just a man in tremendous pain, a man who had done something terrible but just. They laid there for quite some time before she was much more insistent on getting their day started.

Once she came out of the bathroom he asked, “Can I shower?”

“Of course, do you need me to help you figure out things?”

“I’m sure I wont have any trouble, towels under the sink?”

“Yeah.” He got up and hugged her, needing her close again to prove once more he was here.

He did take too long in the shower, wanting to get back to Mae. He blushed when she giggled at how overenthusiastic he was upon coming into the kitchen. “That was fast.” She said. “I barely even had time to start breakfast.”

“I just wanted to be with you.” He ran his fingers through his still damp hair, causing it to spike up in places. “I hope I’m not becoming too clingy.”

“Not at all, it’s actually pretty cute.” She wanted to do everything she could to build up his confidence and lessen his anxiety. Starting a new relationship was probably the biggest step he had taken and she didn’t mind his need to be close to her. “Come here.” She said and he moved closer to her. She took his arms and pulled them around her, making his heart flutter. “There, now I can cook and you can smother me in affection.”

“I’m not in the way?”

“Not at all.”

He smiled, happiness flowing through him as he enjoyed the closeness. He couldn’t get enough of her scent or how good it felt to finally feel like less of a monster. She understood his choices, another being actually understood when he thought he would receive nothing but condemnation for his choices after his wife passed. He was also blessed with a new relationship with an astounding woman way out of his league. She was perfect, he could see that plainly and he was determined to try and become worthy of her and this chance she was giving him. He held her all through making breakfast then gratefully ate with her when it was done.

Mae spent the rest of the day taking him out to different places, wanting him to get out more and breathe in the fresh air. Whatever he needed to live again, she would find a way to provide it. Whether it be a hike through the woods or a therapist, she was willing to give it all. “How are you feeling today?” She asked as they strolled hand in hand through the park.

“Better, happier.” He answered, giving her a warm smile. “I never thought I’d feel that way again. I was drowning before I met you Mae, really and truly drowning. I can never thank you enough for saving me.”

“You saved you, you chose to take those steps.”

“But that’s not true. If not for your stubborness, I think I would have finally given up.”

She stopped and pulled him into a hug when he looked ashamed and he pushed his nose into her hair, just letting her scent take him away. “It’s okay, Derrick, I’m glad I met you when I did.”

“Never leave me, Mae.”

“I won’t, I promise.”

When it came time to head over to Reed’s home she knew they were in for a ton of teasing since Reed had called the relationship before it blossomed, but it would be good natured and she told Derrick just to laugh since he would just be playing. Arges was excited when she let him in the back seat of her car, but when it began to move he laid down like the well behaved dog he was.

“Wow.” Derrick was surprised.

“Yeah, he never gives me much trouble. I can take him anywhere.”

“That’s amazing.”

When they got to Reed’s Derrick was a little surprised when he introduced Ezekiel as his husband. It got a laugh out of Mae that had a blush creeping up his neck. “Did you think he had a thing for me?” She asked as they made themselves at home.

“Well yeah, I mean I was drunk and you two seemed so friendly. I thought Ezekiel was just a friend or something.” Derrick answered, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Don’t worry, it’s not the first time. Mae and I have been good friends for awhile, we even go shopping together sometimes.” Reed said with a smile.

“Still, I apologize for assuming and also for making you take care of me. I won’t be drinking anymore, even if it can’t damage my liver or anything else, I don’t want to worry Mae.”

“A little’s fine, Derrick, just no getting drunk. What if something even worse happened to you.” Mae said.

“Man, I still can’t believe you actually fell for him. I must be some sort of magical matchmaker. Maybe I should test that out next time I’m watching TV.”

“Reed, be good.” Ezekiel said with a chuckle. “You’re going to embarrass him to death.

Dinner with them was over all light spirited and happy. Even though this was the first time he was meeting them Derrick felt like they were already good friends and he was actually looking forward to more dinners over here. They stayed late, to the point Mae was almost nodding off so Reed said, “Make sure you drive Derrick, she’s too tired.”

“I will.” He took her keys and soon they were on the way back to her place to rest for the night.

Mae smiled when he even wanted to carry her inside. “So sweet.” She kissed his cheek and he kissed her lips.

“I want to take care of you too Mae.” As he held her that night he actually felt blissful. He’d never forget his wife, but he had a new start with an amazing woman, a new place, new friends and a better outlook in general. He hoped that if his wife knew what he was still up to in this world she would be happy for him and she herself was happy where ever she had ended up.

~ The End