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Nelly & Peadair

Nelly woke , lifting her head up off the window she had been resting against. She was still on the this train with a terrible feeling in her stomach that nobody but her seemed to get. The first day she had woken confused but one of her fellow passengers explained they were all going home. The explanation had settled her at the time. It wasn’t until this morning, four days later that it hit her “going home from where?” She decided to ask “Where have we been?” another question hit her and she asked it right away “and where is home?” The question seemed to perplex the man she asked. read more

Reuben & Akari 2

Chapter One

Akari was sitting at her kitchen table with a large cup of coffee as she contemplated what could be going on with her son Derwin. He was acting strange lately but she didn’t know what to do. He was a teenager now, if he was younger, even her daughters age she might demand he tell her but she remembered being a teen. Akari knew it was important to them they felt like adults and he certainly deserved his privacy. He had always been such a good kid. She never got called to school, he never stayed out past curfew, he hadn’t raised his voice to her since he was a toddler or anything of the sort. She loved being a parent and normally felt it was easy now that her kids were so grown but moments like these it felt impossible to decide what to do.

He was her baby and she wanted to fix whatever was wrong but he was becoming a man as well and might get terribly upset with her if she tried to push something he obviously didn’t want to talk about. She didn’t want him to push away even more. The thought of snooping through his room and computer crossed her mind but once again he had earned his right to privacy, he was such a good kid. Even as his mother she just didn’t feel she had the right to invade him like that. The door opening startled her but she was even more surprised when her son came in, he was supposed to be in school “Derwin?”

“Mom…I need to talk to you really bad. I’m sorry for skipping class but I can’t take it any more.” Finally, he was opening up about whatever it was. Today she couldn’t care less about him skipping a few classes “sit down then”

“I can’t, we need to pick up Iona first. I can’t tell you with her at school. I’ll tell you on the way but you have to promise me you’ll pick her up and you wont send her to school anymore”

“Derwin…whats going on?” Akari was nervous now. “Mom please, just get in the car and pick her up”

“and you’ll tell me on the way? Truly?”

“yes mam” she grabbed her keys and they got in the car “start talking” she said as she turned the key in the car ignition. “you know that girl that went missing…the eleventh grader?”

“Amy Harper, of course, your father is still working on her case”

“I know…um…mom…she’s not missing”

“what?”

“she’s dead” she pulled the car over “what?”

“she’s dead and….I’m sorry mom…I’m so sorry” her heart felt like it might beat right out of her chest. He couldn’t have done anything to her, he just couldn’t have. “what’re you sorry about?” she pushed and he said “because I was there when she died and…I didn’t tell anybody…I didn’t tell dad even though he’s been wasting his time looking for her but…the boys that killed her told me if I told they’d kill Iona too. They said even if I told dad and he tried to hide her their dads have enough money to find her so we need to pick her up. If I’m going to tell you everything somebody has to be watching my sister”

“I need to call your father.”

“After we have her, please?”

“Alright baby.”

Reuben sighed as he hung up and dropped his head into his hands. Every day it was harder to talk to young Amy’s parents. They were so hopeful and checked in at the same time everyday. He did his best not to give them false hope, only promising he wouldn’t rest until she was found. He couldn’t bring himself to say alive because she may not be. “You alright?” He raised his head and gave Gerald an exhausted smile.

“No. I know I should learn to turn it off, but all I can think is what if it was my child. I would be going mad, I wouldn’t stop until I had them back.”

Gerald patted his back. “It’s hard for all of us. You wouldn’t think so, but there are nights that I go home and just sit there and cry.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it’s good to let it out. You just have to remember to keep calm in front of the family. You have to be their rock.”

“I know, thanks.”

Akari arrived at the middle school and went into the front office “Mrs Kandinsky, is everything alright?” The vice principle asked. She had been at the front desk talking to another school employee “something pretty major has come up with my family and I’d lie to pull my daughter out. How many of her absent days has she used?”

“could you check on that for me please Brenda” she asked the woman she had been talking to then looked back at Akari “it’s that serious?”

“Yes but it’s not something I’m ready to talk about” Akari didn’t want to say anything to anybody until she had talked to her husband. He was the cop and she knew he’d best know how to handle all this. “I understand, her grade has a pretty big test though in two days. Could someone drop it off or could you come get it?”

“Of course, honestly if theres any other work you or her teachers think she needs to do I’d be happy to help her with it”

“good, thank you Mrs Kandinsky” Brenda came back “she’s only missed one day this year” The vice principle spoke again “which means she has eleven days left she can be absent without a doctors excuse”

“thank you”

“No problem, I’ll walk with you to get your daughter” Akari felt nervous as they walked and was happy to see her daughter when they arrived at the class she was currently in “Hello Mrs Weirs, we need Iona Kandinsky. She’s going home for the day”

“alright Iona, have a good day” her teacher said as Iona began to gather her things, curious as to why both her mother and older brother were here. The Vice Principle walked them back to the office then said “I’ll call you when I figure out what she’ll need and we’ll figure out how we’re getting it to you”

“Thank you so much”

“Truly, I’m sorry to hear somethings wrong with your family. Iona is a good student and an absolute sweetheart”

“she is, I have two really amazing kids” They walked out and loaded into the car where Iona asked “what’s going on?”

“Your brother came home early with some bad news and I want to talk to your father before I say anything else okay” She didn’t want to scare Iona but she did know her daughter would need to know eventually. She just wanted her husband there when she spoke to her. He dealt with stuff like this all the time and she had no idea where to begin besides him.

Reuben was finishing up a report when his cell vibrated and he smiled when he saw Akari’s name. Just the thought of her made him feel better and he quickly answered and sat back in his chair. “Hey baby.”

“Reuben, I need you to come home.”

Her tone had him setting up straight, his heart giving a little leap. “What happened? Are the kids okay?”

“They’re fine, but it’s an emergency. Can you leave? It’s important.”

He stood, pulling his gun out of his desk and slipping it into its holster. She was scared and worried, he could tell. The last time her voice had shook like that was when he had saved her from her ex. “Let me tell my boss and I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Alright, I love you.”

“I love you too, baby.”

Reuben hurriedly went to his boss and said “I’m sorry but I need to go home, probably for the day. My wife just called and I haven’t heard her voice like that since she was with her abusive ex”

“what did she say? Can we help?”

“She just asked me to come home”

“hurry on then and let me know if it’s something you need help handling”

“Thank you” he walked briskly to his car. There was some sort of kidnapper on the loose, if not murderer so he had to hurry home. He had to see what was troubling his wife and make sure everyone was safe. He took every short cut he knew to get home then hurried up to the door and went inside. Akari had been pacing in the living room so he found himself in her embrace quickly “is everything okay?” She pulled out of the hug “Our kids are in the kitchen and I want your input on what to say to Iona before she knows whats going on so lets go talk in your car”

“okay” They walked back to his police cruiser, shutting the doors so they could talk without listening ears. “you know how weird our son has been lately?”

“yes, did he do something?”

“I don’t have much of the story yet but he came home from school early today and told me the girl that went missing, Amy Harper, is dead. He…he says he was there when some boys from his high school killed her and they told him if he told anybody they would kill Iona and that we couldn’t even hide her because their parents have enough money to track her down anywhere….I dont know what to think and I dont know what to do at all but she’s dead…the look in his eyes when he told me and the shame in his face for not coming to us sooner made it clear she’s not missing, she’s dead and if they’d kill her of course they’d hurt Iona” She was crying now so he hugged her “Nobody is touching my daughter Akari. Nobody will lay a finger on any of you. Call your friend Lily, her husband is a demon isn’t he and he made her one. We don’t need to hide her when we have a demon like Maruo on our side.”

“what do we tell Iona?”

“that she isn’t to go outside of the house without someone with her and she doesn’t need to be going anywhere period if it can be helped”

“But she’ll want to know why”

“I’ll talk to her okay honey, I’ll do it while you call Lily and Maruo” She nodded and he wiped the tears from her face “Hey, I promise you. I’ll make sure everything is okay and nobody hurts our daughter”

“can you protect our son from being a witness and not coming forward? In a murder doesn’t that make him a part of it?”

“He was scared for his sister but I’ll have to get the whole story out of him to know exactly what we’re dealing with legally on his part but come hell or high water I promise you baby you wont lose either of your children” she started crying a little harder so he held her a few moments “it’s going to be okay Akari. I love you three so much”

They went back inside and into the kitchen where Derwin was sitting staring at the table and Iona was eating some chips. Akari went and got her phone while Reuben sat down across from his children. “What’s wrong dad?” Iona asked.

Reuben sighed. “Iona, I want you to know that you aren’t in any trouble, that you haven’t done anything wrong, but you’re going to be staying either inside for awhile or if you have to go anywhere, you’ll have an escort.”

“But why?”

“Your brother witnessed something really bad and the boys responsible threatened to hurt you if he said anything. I know it’s unfair, but I want you to do this for me until it’s safe.”

“Alright.”

“Thank you baby. Why don’t you go ahead and find your mother. I need to talk to your brother.”

Chapter Two

“yes sir” she said, getting up and giving her dad a quick kiss on the cheek before running to find her mother. Derwin couldn’t look at his father, he was too afraid to see anger or disappointment. He had witnessed a murder because he had been too weak and outnumbered to help and then to make it worse, he had actually kept it a secret. He had grown up with a cop, he knew what letting this go unchecked had done. Evidence they could of had right away was deteriorated or gone all together, he was less credible, valuable police time and effort hunting her had been simply wasted when he could have simply told them she was dead. “Derwin” Reuben sighed, this was much harder talking to his own son. “Derwin I wish you would have trusted in mine, your mothers and your mothers friends abilities to keep Iona safe”

“I’m sorry…I really am” Reuben could hear the shame drenching his sons voice so he tried to assure him “I still love you and while I’m upset I dont think you’re some monster or anything. You kept this a secret because you were scared for your sister, I really do understand that. I need the entire story though son, beginning to end. I know it might be hard to tell me what happened but you need to tell me every detail”

“don’t you need it on the record too or something”

“I want to just talk to my son first”

“dad, I didn’t hurt her at all. I tried to help her but I couldnt”

“I never thought for a second you might have been involved in killing her.”

“well…one of my friends, Andrew, he’s been wanting to have sex with her really bad but Amy wouldn;t have sex with anybody at school. She was actually teased quite a bit for being a virgin which was dumb because I know for a fact some of the kids that teased her were virgins too, its just nobody knew it you know”

“Yeah”

“I promise I didn’t know they were going to help him rape her when Andrew and a few of his other friends invited me to meet her out at Jakes barn, they said it was some party but when she arrived things got out of hand so fast” he started to cry and Reubens fatherly instincts kicked in. He took his son into his arms and held him, letting him cry a few moments before he pushed him to tell him more “I would have never thought she was so strong or fast but she fought so hard and she wouldnt stop fighting. When I realized what they were trying to do and intervened two of them beat the hell out of me….it was when I came home and told you guys somebody had robbed me for the allowance you give me….I think her parents might would like to know they never did get to rape her. They slammed her a little too hard into the wall of the barn and there so happened to be something really sharp and pointy there. I dont know what it was but then they weren’t turned on by her anymore. One of them actually threw up. It had gone right through her head.”

The horror on his sons face only increased the anger Reuben felt in his heart “I wanted to call an ambulance which was when they threatened me. They told me to just leave while they’d still let me and not tell a soul or they’d…..they’d do what they wanted to do to Iona then kill her….I couldn’t tell mom that they threatened to rape Iona…I..” he was sobbing again.

“It’s alright, Reuben, everything’s going to be alright.” He held his son back so he could look at him. “I promise your sister and mother will be safe, that it doesn’t matter how much money those brats have, no one else will be hurt.”

“What do I do?”

“We’re going to have to talk to the police chief. I know you’re scared, but he’s a good man.”

“But doesn’t that mean I’ll have to testify?”

“Yes, but you’re the only witness and the best bet to get them put away.”

“Am I going to go to jail?”

Reuben shook his head. “No, you were scared and and beaten. I’m sure they’ll understand and we’ll hire someone that will make everyone see that.” He hugged his son again. “Please tell me when something bad happens from now on, no matter what it is.”

“I will, I’m so sorry dad.”

Akari came down with Iona “so Lily and Maruo are on their way. They were heading to grab some fast food and are bringing us all some. I just had them get you two what you order most from where they were going”

“thank you” Akari’s heart dropped as she looked at her son. He looked so sad and afraid despite what comforts she knew her husband would have given him during their talk. She hugged him “everything will be okay son. Maruo is a skilled demon and Lily has gotten pretty good too. We’re all going to be okay” When Lily and her mate arrived Reuben only stayed long enough to eat the food they brought before leaving with Derwin. Maruo locked up after them then shut all the curtains before reminding Iona “don’t post anything to Facebook or try to go outside or peek out any windows on your own. I may be a demon but you’re still a human and I don’t want anything to happen to you. You’re like a niece to my mate Iona”

“Can I go watch some anime so I don’t have to think about it”

“Of course” Akari kissed her daughters head “do you want me to make you a smoothie or something?”

“I’m stuffed already…thanks Lily and Maruo for the food”

“You’re welcome sweetie.”

Akari sighed. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Derwin is such a sweet kid, I’m surprised he was able to keep that all to himself.” Lily said.

“He was more scared than I’ve ever seen him. He really thought it was the only option, my poor boy. I wish he would have trusted us.”

“I’m sure he does, but fear can be a strong emotion and his need to protect his sister was even stronger.” Maruo said. “I promise he won’t have to worry anymore. No one can get in here without us knowing.”

“I know, thank you.”

Derwin sat silently in the passenger seat of his father’s car, his head ducked in shame, his eyes on his hands. It had been hard keeping such a horrible secret and he wished he had done more. Reuben reached over and patted his knee. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“I should have fought harder.”

“You were outnumbered and scared, just the fact that you stood up for her means more than you will ever know. They could have killed you.”

“How could I not help her? How could so many boys be in on it and not care at all about how scared she was or how badly they were hurting her” Reuben sighed “Theres mob mentality that takes over, people doing things they wouldn’t normally do on their own. Then there are simple sheep who will just go with whatever the more dominant personality wants to do, theres the fact a lot of men are desensitized to rape due to all the rape porn available. They don’t see it as something so bad sometimes after they’ve seen enough of it. You can’t necessarily blame porn because we all make choices and know right from wrong, I’m just saying that can be a factor too.”

“it doesnt give anybody an excuse…I really wish I could have saved her…I wish she didn’t have to die. There are so many girls at school that would just sleep with anybody…why couldn’t they just leave her alone”

“there is so many reasons for that too son. It’s a shame but I’m really proud of your actions and I know if something similar ever happens again you’ll tell me or some other authorities right away” Derwin nodded then looked out the window. When they got to the station they hurried to the chief and Derwin poured out his story again, this time on the record, naming all the boys and with a little less tears. “I think I can speak for the rest of the officers here when I say we’ll help you with a lawyer. He’s going to need a good one against them. You know their daddies as well as I do, Henrys and Liams in particular. They get their boys out of everything and I don’t want them to do it by pushing anything off on your boy”

His boss looked a little uncomfortable as he said “that does however mean you can’t be a part of investigating.”

“I know”

“You promise to keep your nose out so they can’t throw any of our evidence out”

“you know I wouldn’t compromise a case like this”

“It’s my job to make sure it’s clear Reuben. Anyway, I’ll make sure we get a warrant to search that barn and the surrounding area. You just worry about finding a lawyer”

Akari was relieved when they finally made it back home and hugged both of them the minute they were inside. “How did it go?” She asked.

“Good, I’m off the case, but I trust the chief and everyone else. He told me to find a good lawyer for Derwin.”

“I might have someone.” Maruo said. “This kind of thing is right up his alley.”

“You know him personally?”

“No, but his name is Jasper Bookchild and he’s supposed to be the most terrifying thing in the justice system. Having him on your side guarantees a win. I can get his number.”

“I’ve heard of him, do you think he’d come?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“I’ll call and see if it’s too late to make an appointment with him. If it is I’ll call again tomorrow” Jasper wasn’t in the office building when he called but his brother Lupin was and decided it was a case Jasper would want to get on immedietly so he called his brothers cellphone. When Jasper answered Lupin filled him in on what the dad had shared over the phone “I just thought it sounded like something you’d want to know about right away”

“thank you Lupin, if we’re dealing with a lot of money and parents that dont believe in consequences I want you to be my second chair. Is your case load light enough you can help?”

“I can” It still lit Lupin up the rare time Jasper wanted his help. He had been at the firm quiet awhile at this point but his brothers faith in him still meant a lot. “thank you, I’d come now but I’m at Reons school for his acting clubs performance. I’ll be in right after though unless you needed to go home”

“Brigid has plans with her parents tonight anyway. I’ll just call and let them know I’m not joining them”

“call the parents back and see if coming in to talk to us today is doable for them since I wont be free for atleast another hour”

“okay, I’ll see you in a little bit regardless. Tell Stella and the kids I said hi”

“I will” When Lupin called back he couldn’t believe how fast this was happening. As a cop he had known lawyers to be fairly slow about getting back with people. “Just let me know when my son and I should come”

“Like I said, expect a call in about an hour.”

Chapter Three

“Where’s Iona?” Derwin asked.

“Watching anime in her room.” Akari said.

“Can I go and sit with her?”

“Sure honey. Are you hungry or anything?”

“No thank you.”

Akari let out a little sigh and Reuben hugged her. “He’ll be alright.”

“I hope so. I can’t even imagine what he must have seen.”

“If you like, before they go to bed tonight, I can talk to him.” Lily said. “You know what happened to me, what I saw, maybe if he feels like he’s not alone…”

“Of course, thank you.”

“I just hope it helps him. Truly though it’s just going to take time. It took me awhile to get over it but as you already know I did” Maruo kissed her hand, still wishing he had been faster and more able to protect her from all of that. He had never let anything else touch her again and he still swore to himself he never would. Those little punks were going to regret it if they tried to come here and do anything to a single member of this family. “what’re you watching Iona?” Derwin said as he sat on the bean bag chair she had in the corner of her room “Haikyu, I promised Alban I’d give it a try. I told him I don’t like sports anime but he still insisted”

“I’ve seen a little of this, it’s good as far as sports anime goes”

“come here and sit on the bed with me dork” He smiled, walking over to the bed and settling beside her. They were at the head of the bed, resting their backs against the headboard. She hugged him “you looked like you needed a hug”

“I do, thank you” he tried not to get emotional again. He didn’t want her to ask more questions. She was near the end of Middle School but he still just saw her as his baby sister. If it was avoidable he didn’t want her to know everything. She sat back up, her eyes returning to her television. He stayed with her until they needed to go talk to Jasper Bookchild.

“You don’t have to be afraid, Derwin, we just want to know exactly what happened.” Jasper said and Derwin slowly raised his head, swallowing.

“It’s alright son.” Reuben said as he patted Derwin on the back.

“I…um…”

Reuben understood his son being nervous. Even as a human he could tell that Jasper and Lupin were powerful and he had heard stories about the former’s ability to intimidate even the most accomplished lawyers. He also trusted that both he and Lupin would protect his son. “It’s alright, Derwin, I know having to repeat it again and again sucks, but the more they know, the easier it will be to convict.”

Derwin nodded. “Okay dad.”

Derwin repeated everything he had told his father, making sure he didn’t leave out any details. He started tearing up again and Reuben rubbed his back, helping to keep him calm enough to get through it. Both Jasper and Lupin made notes of names and locations, where everyone was during the altercation and asked Reuben what kind of injuries Derwin had when he came home. “Do you think you can help us? Can you get them put away?”

“Absolutely.” Jasper said. “Lupin, I want you to look into who will be representing these animals, make sure you look into anything else they got away with. They sound like the type who have hurt others. Maybe we can find other victims.”

Lupin nodded then walked out, knowing his brother would give him any other important information later if anything else big came up while he was out of the room. ‘so what’re you doing in terms of keeping your daughter safe?”

“My wife is friends with two demons who are staying with us. Maruo and Lily”

“ah, Iona is in good hands then. I’m glad you’re not taking the threat lightly.”

“I couldn’t and neither could my son..I’m glad he finally told someone what he saw though”

“Me too, especially for that young girls families sake. I can’t imagine the pain they are going to feel but at least they can have closure. When it comes to Iona, even with Maruo handling it make sure you tell us if anybody does try to bother or hurt her. It can be used against them later. If possible get them on camera, even if its just a quick picture of them on your property. We’re dealing with teenagers and teenagers don’t tend to think clearly so they may help incriminate themselves” Reuben left their office with his son soon after and called home to check on everything and see if he should pick up dinner. He felt relief rush through him when his wife told him all was okay so far. Akari asked everyone there what they wanted and then let Reuben know so he could pick it up.

Over the next week Akari ended up deciding to home school her children. Getting this all cleared up was going to take awhile anyway, especially with how slow the court system worked and she had thought about home schooling them many times over the years, this was a good segue into it but she wanted to talk to her kids about it. “so, how would you two feel? I want your honest opinions.”

“I’m almost done with school anyway so why not” Derwin said and Iona seemed happy about it as she added “I wouldn’t have to get up so early right? That sounds like a dream.”

“really? I thought especially you would hate it. You’re so popular in school Iona” she shrugged “I’m only friend friends with like three people and it’s not like we have to stop being friends if I’m home schooled. I can see them on the weekends”

“I’m so glad to hear that. I wish I would have brought it up the other times I’ve thought of it”

Derwin’s relief that Iona was going to be kept safe was interrupted when his phone rang and he pulled it out of his pocket, swallowing when he saw it was Andrew. “M…mom?” He raised his phone so she could see the screen. “What do I do? Do I answer?”

“Don’t.” Maruo said. “Let it go to voicemail.”

“He’s right, just leave it alone. Your dad said we should get as much proof as possible.”

“But maybe I could just get him to admit it and turn on the others.”

Iona reached over and grabbed his arm. “I don’t want them hurting you again.” Derwin nodded and switched off his ringer. He would check his voicemail after Andrew stopped calling. He knew Andrew might text him too. “You can show dad when he gets home.”

“Alright.”

The phone stopped and though they were hoping for a voicemail it surprised them all a little when his phone alerted him to one “No way” Derwin was really starting to think that maybe his friend really would incriminate himself. His old friend anyway, he could never think of any of those boys the same again. He considered listening to it on speaker but he was still worried about what his sister might here. He couldn’t help but be protective of her. “I didn’t have to invite you that night asshole. I can’t believe you’re doing this. You’ve made a massive mistake and I’ll have you know, Ionas looking cuter these days” The message ended and the look on Derwins face made Maruo take the phone and listen to the message “Akari, why don’t you and my mate take this phone to Reuben and the police chief. I have the kids”

“even if we have to take it over to Jasper and Lupins office?”

“yeah, I wouldn’t want either of you to go alone but I can’t leave Iona and I don’t think it’s smart to take her anywhere open. Here in the house I have the advantage.” When Akari and Lily left Iona said “I really think I deserve to know everything. Please guys, what did Andrew say?”

“she has a point Derwin” Maruo said, leaving it up to Derwin since their parents weren’t here.

Derwin opened his mouth then closed it again and sighed. Iona took his hand. “It’s okay, you can tell me.”

“Iona, it’s just…it’s bad, really bad and I don’t want it to effect you.”

“But it’ll better prepare me right?”

He sighed again. “Th…they said if I told anyone that they would take you and…and rape you and then kill you. They said there wouldn’t be anyway to hide you since their dad’s have so much money. Andrew’s going to try hurting you, he…he…I’m so sorry Iona. I wish I could do something to stop them.”

Maruo could see that Derwin was still ashamed and Iona was obviously scared, but was doing an amazing job at hiding it. She was brave, they both were. “Derwin, it’s alright, I know you’ll protect me and so will everyone else, so please don’t worry. They’re a bunch of assholes.”

“Iona, language.” Derwin said with a little laugh.

“It got you to smile. Don’t tell mom and dad, okay?”

“Deal.”

That night Maruo decided not to sleep. They had told Derwin from the beginning that they would hurt Iona but now that Andrew had made that comment he wanted to be vigilant. It turned out to be a good choice around eleven at night when he caught the scent of a boy he didn’t know coming up to the house. He listend to the new heartbeat and followed it. He walked right into Ionas room and opened her window to find a teenager with a ladder. The boy went pale and Maruo couldn’t help but be baffled at how stupid teenagers were. This was either pure stupidity or just the result of growing up with rich daddies and no consequences. “what was your plan you little shit?” He heard a few other boys start to run, there had been multiple. He jumped out the window, grabbing the one on the ladder by his shirt then easily catching up with and collecting another.

One boy tried to shoot him and missed then shot again, hitting his shoulder. Maruo sighed “I really liked this shirt” The boy looked like he might pass out from horror as Maruo snatched his gun and knocked him out with it. He collected them all up then noticed Iona at the window, awake and obviously scared. He could hear everyone else in the house had been woken by the shots too. “I’m going to help your dad get these guys to the station. Go to my mate, she’ll make sure nobody hurts you until I get back” Iona ran from the window.

“Are you alright?” Reuben asked when he came out. He had pulled on a pair of sweats, a t-shirt, and his running shoes.

“Yeah, fine, this little shit shot me.” He dropped the unconscious boy. “Now which one of these is Andrew?”

“That one.” Reuben pointed out at one of them.

“I see, got nothing to say boy? Too afraid of the big bad demon?” Maruo asked.

“D…demon?” One of the boys said.

“That’s right, and you know what demons like to do. They love eating souls.”

Reuben would have laughed at how scared some of them looked if the situation hadn’t been so serious. These boys had fully intended to kidnap, rape, and possibly murder his daughter tonight. “Let’s get them out of here, I don’t want them anywhere near my family.” He then stuck his head into the house. “Akari, call Jasper and let him know what just happened. I know it’s late, but I have a feeling he would want to know.” He then locked and shut the door and lifted the unconscious boy up off the ground.

The boys had at least been smart enough to refuse to speak once they were at the station but even in just the first week of hiring Jasper he and his brother Lupin were building a damning case which he knew scared the parents. This would be the point the mommies and daddies would normally just pay someone off but they knew Jasper wouldn’t accept any amount of money from them to make the evidence vanish. They might not be talking about tonight but it made Jasper feel like he had this case in the bag. He had known it was coming but it still took an incredible amount of willpower not to roll his eyes when one of the parents said “well that demon still assaulted our son”

“your son shot him first. It was self defense”

“Oh he’s a demon”

“I am too and gun shots still hurt like hell. Even though we’re not likely to die from it your son shot without knowing Maruo was a demon anyway so that’s not a case at all for you.” He wanted to tell the woman she should be grateful Maruo hadn’t done worse to her son. He could see how much that family meant to him and Lily. In Jaspers opinion Maruo had shown great self control, even when dealing with the pain that wound would have caused him.

It was two months later when Jasper felt the triumph and relief that he not only got the boys convicted but had convinced the judge to have them tried as adults so they’d get a real punishment for what they had done. These boys were still technically children but they were old enough to be accountable for horrible things like this just as much as adults were. They knew and fully understood what monstrous things they were going to do and they still did them.

They all went out to celebrate after and Jasper said “you guys can call me anytime if you ever have any other problems”

“thank you so much”

“I was happy to help. Stuff like this is why I became a lawyer. My family has always been in the legal system in different capacities and they inspired me from a young age to go out there and fight for people who can’t fight this stuff for themselves.”

“I wish I had become a lawyer sooner” Lupin added. He truly loved this work too and would always regret spending so much of his life getting drunk, sleeping with everything and getting high. It had been such a colossal waste but thankfully Brigid had stumbled into his life and inspired him to finally take the help his family had always been offering. “well we’re glad you became one. Our daughter and many more daughters out there are safe because of you…plus all that other stuff you found. You helped more than just us” Things slowly went back to normal and the kids loved being home schooled. They wouldn’t let such a terrible event dampen their lives. The Kandinsky family knew they would always have eachother and together, they could face anything the world had to throw at them.

~ The End

Chua & Kristin

Chapter One

The scent of demon caught Chua’s attention as he walked through the woods and he froze, turning slowly, his nose flaring as he worked to pinpoint this new smell. There was someone here, a stranger and she was walking toward Adali and Faigi’s home. He wondered what her intent was and worried it might be malicious. He shifted, his wings carrying him up into the air and his eyes looked down, his nose searching. He would not let another demon near his loved ones, he had promised to watch over them. He spotted her and moved ahead of her then dropped down, shifting as she came closer to him. She looked surprised at first and he had a feeling she had not caught his scent.

“Hello, uh who are you?” She asked. He cocked his head to the side and she seemed to get he was asking the same question. “I’m Kristin Aponte, I’m doing a bit of traveling, I was told there was a place here I might be able to stay.” He shook his head and Kristin looked at him in confusion. “I was told there was a demoness out here that…” She watched as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small notebook and a pencil.

“I can’t let you do that, you could be dangerous.” He wrote and showed her.

“I’m not, I’m an Aponte, we would never hurt anyone.”

“I don’t know what that is.” He wrote and let her read it then, “I am their son’s godfather, I can’t just let you walk in there.”

Kristin let out a sigh, but she understood. There were plenty of bad demons out there. “What can I do to get you to trust me?”

“I have to verify it with Adali and Faigi, if they know your family name then I’ll let you inside, if you’re lying, I might eat you.””I’m being honest so I have no fear of being eaten. Go talk to them, I’ll wait right here so you don’t have to worry about me trying anything” He nodded then shifted again to fly to them. Kristin was glad Faigi and her mate had someone who obviously cared a tremendous amount watching over them. He was willing to challenge a demon just for being near where they lived. He didn’t know the powerful line she was from but he was willing to take the gamble for their sake. Now she found herself excited to get to know him aswell. She realized he knew her name but he hadn’t written out his. She hoped when he came back he’d tell her.

Kristin decided to sit down. Her legs weren’t in a lot of pain but they were tired from all the walking she had been doing. Now that she wasn’t so set on getting somewhere she took in the beauty around her. Faigi and her mate lived in such a gorgeous area and she couldn’t wait to see all their favorite spots. Chua flew to Faigis home quickly, shifting when he landed then knocking on the door. It was Adali who answered “come in” she welcomed and he entered, looking around for Faigi.

“Faigi! It’s Chua!” she yelled for him and Faigi was there mere moments later hugging him “welcome! What brings you here?” He took out his paper and pencil again. A demoness wants to see you two. She told me she was a good demon and came from the Aponte line like that meant anything. Does that mean anything to either of you?”

“The Apontes are amazing. Thank you for checking but I know an Aponte can’t mean any harm. Where is she? Take us to her”

“I’m being honest so I have no fear of being eaten. Go talk to them, I’ll wait right here so you don’t have to worry about me trying anything” He nodded then shifted again to fly to them. Kristin was glad Faigi and her mate had someone who obviously cared a tremendous amount watching over them. He was willing to challenge a demon just for being near where they lived. He didn’t know the powerful line she was from but he was willing to take the gamble for their sake. Now she found herself excited to get to know him aswell. She realized he knew her name but he hadn’t written out his. She hoped when he came back he’d tell her.

Kristin decided to sit down. Her legs weren’t in a lot of pain but they were tired from all the walking she had been doing. Now that she wasn’t so set on getting somewhere she took in the beauty around her. Faigi and her mate lived in such a gorgeous area and she couldn’t wait to see all their favorite spots. Chua flew to Faigis home quickly, shifting when he landed then knocking on the door. It was Adali who answered “come in” she welcomed and he entered, looking around for Faigi.

“Faigi! It’s Chua!” she yelled for him and Faigi was there mere moments later hugging him “welcome! What brings you here?” He took out his paper and pencil again. A demoness wants to see you two. She told me she was a good demon and came from the Aponte line like that meant anything. Does that mean anything to either of you?”

“The Apontes are amazing. Thank you for checking but I know an Aponte can’t mean any harm. Where is she? Take us to her”

Kristin had never been on a dragons back before. Excitement rushed through her at the new experience as she looked at the world below them. When Chua landed she slid off with Faigi and Adali, the later inviting her to meet their son and his best friend Bryn who were nearby. Chua followed, feeling much more at ease but still wanting to make sure Kristin wouldn’t hurt his family. She seemed sweet but he had lived long enough to know you can’t always trust first impressions. Kristin guessed their son and his friend were teenagers andd was happy to get to know them aswell. “What type of demon are you Bryn?”

“venomous, I can summon a large and in my opinion cool looking snake too”

“May I see?” Kristin asked, her curiosity peaking. “sure” Bryn called her serpent which caused Kristin to gasp “wow, he is cool.” she could see the serpent was in protective mode so Kristin asked before touching him “can I touch him?”

“Oh yeah” she said to Kristin then said “be good” to the snake.

Chua watched as the snake pushed its head into Kristin’s hand and then slid up her arm and over her shoulders. She must have felt his eyes on her because she turned that radiant smile on him and his heart jumped. “Do I look cool or what?” He felt his cheeks tint red and he quickly nodded. “Not as cool as you though, I wish I could change into a dragon.”

He pulled out his notebook and wrote. “I’m not that cool.”

“That’s not true, maybe you could take me up again. You’re the first dragon I’ve ever ridden.”

He nodded and Faigi laughed as she nudged him. “You could show her around.”

“I’d love that, I bet you know all kinds of cool places.” She let the snake go back to Bryn. “Is that okay with you or do you think I’m still dangerous?” She teased.

“Sorry.” He wrote. “I just don’t want them getting hurt again.”

“It’s alright, I really do think it’s sweet. You can’t be too careful in a world like ours. My family has certainly been through quite a bit.” He hated hearing that and was tempted to write I’m sorry again but he didn’t want to become annoying with his apologies. From what he could tell she was an incredibly happy woman despite anything the Aponte’s may have gone through. He wrote instead “Would you like to go now or rest some and I’ll take you out after breakfast tomorrow?”

“I’d hate to be rude and I have traveled a long way so we’ll hangout with these wonderful people for what remains of today then you can show me around tomorrow” He nodded, feeling both nervous and happy. Now that he was relaxing more he was noticing just how pretty this demon woman was. She had incredibly soft look brown hair that fell just beyond her shoulders and golden eyes that he was starting to struggle not to stare into. Her skin was flawless and her lips had the perfect shape. He had himself blushing again so he tried to think of other things.

“So what do you do?” She asked Valac as they started walking.

“I can control people. My gift allows me to give orders to people and they have to follow them not matter what, unless they’re immune. It can be dangerous so I only use it when I need to.”

“That’s an amazing gift.”

“Thank you.”

Kristin yawned even though she hadn’t meant to and Faigi nudged Chua again. “Chua why don’t you get her set up in one of the empty rooms while Adali and I get dinner started.”

“I can help you if you give me a moment.” Kristin said.

“You’re our guest, just relax.”

“Alright, as long as you’re sure.”

“We are, go on and Chua, be nice.”

Chua nodded and he gestured for her to follow him once they were inside. “This place is beautiful.” Kristin said as she looked around. “Do you live here?”

He nodded then took his paper out and wrote, “Adali and Faigi offered me a place here and let me help raise Valac.”

“That’s really sweet, no wonder you’re so protective” He just looked at her a long moment, deciding to give this woman his full trust. Between himself, Adali and Faigi they would have noticed if something was off and obviously Aponte had good history attached to it so he decided to just relax and enjoy this utterly beautiful creature that had come their way. Chua made sure Kristin knew where everything was and gave her a small tour. Their place wasn’t overly big but he wanted to make sure she felt comfortable. Kristin wound up laying down until dinner so Faigi pounced on the opportunity to tease Chua “she’s pretty huh?”

Chua blushed and Faigi laughed. “Stop.” He wrote.

“Oh come on, I saw the way you were looking at her. Admit it.”

He sighed. “Fine, she’s beautiful.”

Faigi grinned. “Oh so not just pretty, but beautiful and look, now you’ve written it down.”

Chua looked down at the paper and then back at her, his face shocked. “You did that on purpose.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He gave her a look of exasperation. “Now I’ll have to start a fresh page.”

“Good thing we bought you all those notebooks, you have all the fresh pages in the world.”

He still felt awkward with it being written down. He didn’t know how she would be able to get a hold of his notebook but he didn’t want Kristin to see. She was beautiful, seemingly smart, kind and obviously from a good family. He didn’t know what she would want with a damaged man like him. He didn’t get down about not being able to speak but deep down, it sometimes made Chua feel less than. It’s why he typically didn’t attempt to form romantic relationships. He always felt the woman would prefer a man who could actually speak to her, one that she wouldn’t have to wait for him to write to know what he wanted to say. Chua went ahead and turned to the next page so he could be sure Kristin wouldn’t see what he wrote then helped Adali with what she was doing.

Chapter Two

When dinner was ready, Faigi sent Chua up to get Kristin. His heart raced in his chest as he made his way to her room. He had never been this nervous about anyone before and he hesitated at her door. After taking a brief moment to calm himself, he raised his hand and knocked on her door. He tuned his ears into her, hearing only her soft breathing and steady heartbeat. He knocked again and this time he heard her wake, his heart stuttering at the shift of blankets and her soft footsteps coming closer. He couldn’t help but find her slightly disheveled appearance adorable. “Oh, hello.” She said, giving him a warm smile. “What’s up?”

He wrote. “Dinner time.”

“Thank you for waking me.” He gave her a smile as he pointed at her hair. “What?” He pointed at his hair then at hers. “Oh, is it a mess?” He nodded.

“If you have a brush and ponytail holder I can braid it for you.” He wrote quickly.

“You don’t have to.” He started to put pencil to paper when she grabbed his hand, sending a warm tingle up his arm. “But if you really want to you can.” He nodded and she smiled, hearing how excitedly his heart was beating. He had been so confident when he had stopped her, but now it seemed he was a shy mess.

Pulling the same hand she grabbed moments before Kristin lead Chua into her room where she handed him a hairbrush and ponytail holder. She could still hear his heartbeat and thought it was sweet such a big, tough looking dragons confidence had been shaken a little. It made her wonder if he was attracted to her. Dating had never really been on Kristins mind but she had also never encountered a guy this protective, loving and handsome that wasn’t related to her or taken by another family member. Her thoughts on how sweet he was only increased as he braided her hair. He was so gentle and obviously worried about tugging it even just a small amount.

When he finished she turned and smiled at him. “Look good?” He nodded, taking her in. She was really far too beautiful a person for someone like him. “Good, come on.” Her hand slid into his and he felt that warmth again, starting at his fingertips and moving through the rest of him. She had gone from half asleep to utter perfection in moments and all it had taken was braiding her hair. Everyone smiled when they came down hand in hand and he felt suddenly very nervous. He didn’t want them to get the wrong idea. He suddenly had a dilemma, keeping holding her hand and make them think something else had happened in her room or pull away and hurt her feelings. “Sit next to me, Chua.” She, her tone light and sweet. He nodded and she let go of his hand so he could take his seat.

“So, Kristin,” Faigi said as she sat down and everyone started filling their plates, “do you have a mate or anything?”

“Nope, I’ve been too busy doing other things and no one has quite captured my attention.”

“That’s a bit surprising, from Faigi says about the Aponte’s you would think someone would have tried. It’s like an honor to be with one of you right, you’re like the lords of the demon world.” Adali replied.

Kristin giggled. “Well my daddy is, he’ll deny it, but he’s the one demon that bad demons fear the most. Second is uncle Aurel. Some guys have tried, but I brushed them off because they didn’t feel right. I want someone who isn’t afraid to step into the family and who will see me as an equal like all the men in my family do. Someone caring and kind and adventurous.”

Faigi wasn’t sure if she should have gone for tactful but Chua was a really nice man and she wanted to make sure Kristin didn’t miss what a good mate he could be. ‘sounds a lot like Chua” Chua went into a deep, full bodied blush which made him glad his clothes covered most of his body. Because of that all Kristin could really see was that his face was red. If he could speak he might have said something to her but he was too embarrassed to get his paper and pencil out. Kristin giggled “He does seem wonderful, how ready he was to fight me if I had ill will towards you three made me see that from the start”

Chua needed a distraction and quickly stuck some food in his mouth, pulling his eyes away from her and down to his plate. She rested her hand on top of his, giving it a gentle squeeze and he couldn’t help but find her beautiful golden eyes with his own blue ones. She gave him another smile and his own lips pulled up in response, making her look happy. “So, may I ask how you got that scar?” He was relieved she was changing the subject and he sat his notebook on the table, being careful not to show her the page where he had called her beautiful.

“I was attacked by bandits when I was sixteen, they slit my throat so I couldn’t scream.”

Her eyes widened in shock. “I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”

He gave her a happy smile. “It doesn’t bother me so don’t worry. Everyone I meet is curious, I don’t mind.”

“You’re very strong, not everyone could have survived that.”

“That’s because he’s a bad ass.” Valac said.

“Valac, language.” Adali said.

“Sorry, but it’s true.”

Kristin laughed, the sound music to Chua’s ears. “I’ll have to agree and he’s incredibly brave.”

For the first time in his life he felt a small pang of pain at the fact he couldn’t speak. Kristin was so beautiful, she had this warm glow about her that he wanted to stay near and bask in but he was damaged and she, she was flawless in his eyes. He didn’t miss a beat as they all spoke, managing to avoid anybody noticing that brief sadness. That was much easier said than done when you were surrounded by demons but Chua was a skilled dragon. He saw Kristin to her room that night, worried she might need something but even when he asked she said she was fine and that she was excited about him showing her around in the morning.

Hearing and seeing in her face how truly excited she was Chua stayed up late thinking of the perfect places to take her. He wanted them to be close so he wouldn’t be so obviously trying to make her happy but he wanted the day to be perfect more so he’d risk showing that feelings for her were growing inside him if it would make her smile. He made sure he got a little sleep that night then woke in the morning eager to get breakfast over with so they could head out. He was up first so he took it upon himself to cook.

Kristin exited her room and the smell of something delicious hit her nose and made her stomach growl. She followed that wonderful scent, passing by Adali and Faigi’s room just as they were coming out and giving them a warm smile. If they weren’t cooking then she knew it had to be Chua. He blushed when he saw her and gestured for her to sit. “Wow, this looks fantastic.”

He took out his notebook. “I wanted to get out as soon as possible.”

She smiled and his heart did a little flip. “Then let’s eat, I’m excited.”

He sat down next to her, glancing at her as she took her first bite and was relieved when she praised him. He was also glad that no one else said anything to embarrass him, but just smiled at him and thanked him for cooking. Once they had finished eating, he started to clean up their dishes, but Faigi waved him off. “Go have fun, we can clean, you cooked.” He mouthed the words thank you and she winked at him, causing him to glance at Kristin, his entire body warming.

“come on” she said happily so he followed her outside. The fresh air started filling her lungs and she couldn’t help but take a deep, excited breath. It was a little warm out but Kristin knew if Chua flew with her the wind would make it perfect. “so where are we going? Walking or flying?” His heart danced as he looked at her radiant face, actually glowing with anticipation for a day out with him. He began to write “I thought for the sake of getting to know eachother I’d show you where I lived when I first met Adali”

“Okay, lets go” he shifted, happy when she climbed up on his back with absolute confidence. He took off easy since she wasn’t used to riding a dragon. She hadn’t had any issues the other day but he couldn’t help but worry a little. The flight was longer than it needed to be because he took her the prettiest route possible so she could enjoy a nice view along the way. When they descended he startled her when he began shifting before he even fully landed but she soon felt foolish for being afraid atall when he expertly caught her with a charming grin. He was glad that went as well as he had hoped.

He lowered her to her feet once they were inside and he took her hand, guiding her past the entryway and further back. He let her go and held up his hands to tell her to wait. He went and retrieved some dry wood from the back and brought it back and stacked it then blew fire on it. “Wow.” She said. “I’ve never seen anyone do that before.” He blushed, rubbing the back of his neck. He then pointed at the ceiling and she looked up, gasping at the firelight dancing across the crystals embedded in the stone. “Oh wow, I mean really, wow.” She smiled at him and he felt warmth blossom in his chest. He let her admire the beauty around her then gently took her hand and pulled her to another part of the cave where the hot spring bubbled. “This place is amazing, thank you for bringing me.”

He took out his notebook. “I can bring you here whenever you wish. This was my home before I met Adali and Faigi. Valac was born here.”

“Awe.” She could see how fond he was of his godson. “You’re so sweet, Chua.” She looked around. “So where did you sleep?” He pointed to another opening and gestured for her to follow. He still had a bed here and sometimes stayed here if he was going to be out for awhile. He walked over to a small chest and lifted the lid.

“If you want something out of here, you can have it.” He quickly wrote. “I don’t need it.”

Chapter Three

She gasped when she saw the beautiful treasures he had. Everyone knew dragons hoarded amazing things and she was surprised he was so willing to give her something “You’re sure?” she had to ask “please, it would make me happy if you took something. Consider it an apology for doubting you, even if it was out of concern for my family” She smiled at him “thank you” she looked through, pulling out a necklace she thought was gorgeous. She traveled a lot so she chose a necklace because it would be easy to keep up with and she could wear it every day to show him how much she appreciated it. He was writing again so she looked over at him, just in time for him to show her “It suits you perfectly Kristin”

“well I’m honored you were willing to give me something”

“Dragons only give things to people they like.” He looked at his words and decided to add. “Faigi, Adali, and Valac have bracelets made from my scales. They can call me anytime they need me.” He showed her and she smiled.

“I take it that’s really special.”

“A dragon’s scales are his most prized possession. Bracelets made from them are highly valued and tell others how important someone is to you.”

Her smile widened. “That’s really sweet.” She moved closer and pressed a kiss to his cheek, making a surprised look spread across his face. He knew that even if he could speak, he would never have found the words to say anything. She giggled, taking his hand. “Come on, I want to see more.”

Chua let her pull him out of the room, not worrying about the fire. There was nothing flammable close to it and it would go out. He shifted once they were standing outside and once she was secure, he took off. The soft press of her lips against his skin played in his head and he felt himself warm. The next place he took her was a little grove ringed by trees. Soft green grass came up to meet her as she slid from his back. Bright pink flowers dotted the area with their color and butterflies fluttered lazily by. “I like to sleep here on warm summer nights, the stars are really beautiful.” He wrote.

“I would love to do that.”

“You can’t come out here alone.”

She laughed. “Silly, I’d want you here.”

He blushed, truly not thinking for a second she was talking about coming here with him again one night. He had just been filled with worry about her, not wanting her to sleep in the open when something could come harm her. His writing was a bit sloppy as he replied “I would happily return here one night with you”

“could we just stay here today and do that tonight? We could just talk to pass them time. I mean, unless your family would worry over you” He couldn’t help but stare at her a moment, this woman just kept taking him by surprise. He was still nervous as he wrote but he regained enough composure the letters were neat once more. He didn’t want to continue to let his nerves make the writing sloppy because he didn’t want her to misunderstand anything he wanted to communicate. “They wont worry, I don’t always come home and they seem to trust you implicitly. If you’d truly like to spend the rest of our day here that is fine with me”

They spent the rest of the day exploring the grove, Chua guiding her into the woods when she got hungry to some berry bushes. They sat together, eating them, her telling him a few stories about her family until they were full. When dinner time came around, he built a fire pit then went and hunted. He was nervous to leave her alone, but she simply told him not to worry, that she wouldn’t wander off. Being alone in the woods, searching for prey, gave him some time to think about how she made him feel. She had barely been there a day and he was already wrapped around her finger. He had never felt so captivated by someone. He had had relationships, but his inability to speak often put a damper on things. Kristin obviously didn’t mind, she read him so easily anyway, and seemed like she enjoyed reading what he had to say. He felt so drawn to her. He let out a little sigh and went back to the task at hand, finding the scent of rabbit and quickly running it down, wanting to get back to her and make sure she was safe.

Kristin smiled to welcome him back when she saw Chua returning to her. “Rabbit, I can’t wait. Should I help?” Chua shook his head and began preparing it for them. “You’re amazing Chua, you really are. Thank you for today” she noticed his cheeks tint, feeling happy she could do that so easily. She found herself finally being drawn to a man in a romantic way and she wasn’t the type to keep that inside. She would however wait for a better moment to say something. She felt a good moment came that night. They were done eating and just laying there under the stars together. “Chua” she said softly, sitting up. Her golden eyes finding his. He almost sat up but those gorgeous eyes had him so captivated he could only lay there, gazing up into them.

“chua…I” she thought there probably wasn’t any better way to express what she was feeling than kissing him so she bent down, pressing her lips into his. She listened to his heart, tuning into everything about him so she’d know if this was okay. She could tell he liked it and it made her smile, breaking the kiss. She sat back up and he looked so dumb founded she couldn’t keep herself from laughing “sorry, you’re just so adorable” she said happily.

When he finally regained enough of his composure, he grabbed his notebook and just asked. “Why?”

“Are you serious?” He nodded. “Because you’re sweet, gentle, and brave and even though you can’t speak, you still show how loving you are.” He tapped his throat and she smiled, leaning down to brush a kiss over the scar. His nervous swallowing had her laughing again. “You should be proud of it, it shows how strong you are.”

He felt a knot forming in his throat and he put his notebook to the side, pulling her into him and finding her lips with his. When he could make himself pull back, he mouthed the words, “I love you.”

“Really?” She asked and he nodded. “Does that mean you want me as your mate?” He nodded again, his eyes pleading.

He would give anything to be with her and he let her go, sitting up, taking his notebook and writing. “Will you please be my mate?” He was shaking when he turned it around so she could read it, his fingers gripping tightly to the pages because he was afraid of dropping it.

She leaned in and gave a gentle kiss. “Of course I will.”

Chua pulled her into his arms, needing to hold her. He wanted to say so much but he wanted to hold her more and not having a voice forced him to choose. He felt she probably knew all the sweet sentiments on his heart which gave him comfort as he enjoyed the feel of holding Kristin. She had him let her go so she could get comfortable then settled into a better position as they laid down and drifted to sleep. Morning rose but they didn’t rise with it until nearly eleven. They had been so comfortable in one anothers arms their bodies went into a deep sleep, leaving them feeling amazing when they did wake. He grabbed his pencil and paper “could we return to my family and let them know we’re together?”

“sure”

He was so excited he jumped up and shifted then lifted her into his hands and shot upwards into the sky. She let out a joyous laugh and he couldn’t help but inwardly smile at how beautiful the sound was. He landed harder than he meant too, causing the ground to shake beneath him and he quickly shifted to his human form, his finger sliding through hers. Adali, Faigi, and Valac were halfway to the front door when Chua pushed it open and stepped inside. He felt a blush creep up his neck when they all looked at him worriedly and he fumbled for his notebook, wanting to apologize for being rude.

“Sorry,” Kristin said, “he got a little excited and may not have landed as softly as he wanted.”

“Oh, thank goodness, he shook the whole house.” Adali said with a little laugh.

Chua looked extremely apologetic. “It’s okay, Chua, you look like you’re about to explode, what’s on your mind?” Faigi asked.

He quickly started writing, his hands shaking a little. “Kristin has agree to be my mate.” He handed the notebook to Faigi and both Adali and Valac looked at it, all three of them suddenly grinning.

“That’s wonderful, congratulations.” Adali said as she hugged him.

“We’re so happy for you.” Faigi said as she returned his notebook.

“It’s really about time you found someone.” Valac added.

Chua wrote. “Says the young man who hasn’t told Bryn how he feels.” Valac blushed and Chua tussled his hair. “You’ll get there.” He wrote.

“speaking of which I’m going to go see her, see you all later” Valac left and his mothers giggled. When Valac was gone Adali said “so are you going to move back out now that you have a mate? I’m sure you two will want your own space and it’s not very far away though she is welcome here if you want to stay” Chua looked at Kristin who said “we don’t have to decide just yet” Chua kissed her head, feeling a rush just from that small contact. They spent the rest of their day with Adali and Faigi then that night they returned to Chua’s cave to be alone. They laid intertwined that night just enjoying eachother warmth. Neither had a plan for their future but deciding that really didn’t matter to them. All that mattered was always being at eachothers side.

~ The End

Jubal & Delia 3

Chapter One

Delia’s head rested on his shoulder as he drove and he glanced in the review mirror at his cousin Finn who was staring at his iPad. He could sense his nervousness, his fear and worry. Delia’s family had invited them over for a week and Delia had insisted on taking Finn with them since he didn’t get out much. Jubal had had to reassure the boy time and time again that if anything went wrong, he would stop him, but Finn was still terrified. “How’s he doing?” Delia said softly.

“He’s watching something.”

“Anime?”

“Probably.”

“Probably someone he can relate too.” She sat up and turned around, the movement catching Finn’s attention so he paused his show and pulled his headphones out. “What’re you watching?”

“Tokyo Ghoul.”

“Any good?”

“Yeah, well I like it anyway.”

“You okay?”

“Not really.”

She reached back and tussled his hair. “You’ll do great, just do what Jubal used to do if things get too overwhelming, focus on my scent and mine alone.”

He nodded, his face still filled with worry even as he put his headphones back in to watch Tokyo Ghoul. Her heart was heavy for him as she turned back around in her seat “he has such a good heart. I know that’s why he worries”

“Our kind carry a great burden unless we just don’t give a damn”

“Maybe he’ll find someone soon to make things easier” Still watching the road he brought her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles “I hope so, it does help immensely, especially with the right mate.” Delia moved closer, laying her head on him again and relaxing.

Finn only put his iPad away when Jubal turned off on the road that lead up to Delia’s parent’s home. It was out in the woods, the road lined with cherry blossom trees that Finn knew should not be blooming, but were. The grass was even a beautiful shade of emerald that he had never seen. “How is that possible?” He asked.

“It’s my parents gifts. They can create any season or even mix them together. I’ve played in fall leaves and springtime grass and snow while trees bloomed.”

“That’s pretty cool and takes a lot of energy right?”

“The older we get, the more powerful we are. My parents have been around for awhile so manipulating the seasons take barely any effort.”

“Oh, so, is it just going to be your parents?”

“I have a younger cousin who has been staying with my parents to learn about magic, then there’s Regan, he’s a shifter and my father’s assistant, and the dogs. Other people might come to visit since I’m sure my parents told them we were coming.”

Hearing there would be a lot of people made him even more nervous but Jubal and Delia were right, he needed to socialize and he needed to get better at control of himself while Jubal and Delia were there to help him learn that. He had to have faith in them that they could get the situation under control if he lost it again and hurt someone. They parked in the beautiful driveway and approached the door. Finn felt the need to flee almost take full control of him but he stood his ground, refusing to be coward or to lose control of himself ever again.

Delia’s mother and father were waiting for them on the porch with a rather large wolf and a young man who didn’t look older than fourteen. There were also two dogs, a corgi and a grey hound. Delia got out, smiling as she met them halfway while Jubal and Finn grabbed the luggage. “How was the trip honey?” Her mother, Sienna asked as she hugged her tightly.

“It was wonderful.” She replied as her mother let her go and she moved to her father.

“No trouble on the road then?” Her father, Salvatore asked.

“Of course not.” She then hugged her cousin, Teague. “And you’ve grown.”

“My dad says I might never stop at this rate.”

“Let’s hope he’s wrong before you’re ten feet tall.” She then turned to the wolf. “Come on Regan, I want a hug from you too.”

The wolf huffed as he shifted and she wrapped him in a hug. “It’s good to see you again, Delia.” He turned to Jubal and Finn. “Hello Jubal, keeping my goddaughter safe I assume.”

“Not that she needs keeping safe, she’s pretty tough, but yes I’m always watching over her.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“This is my cousin Finn.” Jubal introduced. Finn was nervous under the gaze of Delia’s family, especially the wolf who seemed to tower over even Jubal. “Go easy on him for me, he’s a bit nervous.”

Sienna hugged him saying “there is no reason to be nervous” she pulled back, still speaking “welcome, it’s so good to meet you. If you’re nervous because of what you are don’t be. We can all take care of ourselves. We are far from weak beings, even young Teague is impressive. We aren’t scared so please don’t be” Her voice was so sure and yet so warm. Even if just a little bit, her words gave Finn comfort he was going to get through this visit and that he might even enjoy some of it instead of worrying every second. If they could do what was happening outside and not even look the slightest bit worked they had to be strong creatures, perfectly capable of protecting themselves if he did slip up and let the beast out unintentionally.

They were welcomed in and a wave of smells hit Finns nose. He was surprised it didn’t overwhelm the wolf, guessing Regan must have incredible control of his senses. Otherwise he didn’t think Regan could handle everything he was smelling. Finn dialed it back as best he could and thought of this as an opportunity to get better at controlling his senses.

“oh your face, I’m sorry. I should have thought about that” Sienna said and Finn shook his head “it’s okay”

“I’ll open some windows and air this place out for you and Jubal”

“You really don’t have too.”

She waved him off. “I did the same thing when Jubal first visited, he was so nervous so I let in the smell of spring.” She opened windows around the house and a breeze blew through, filling the house with the scent of the outside world.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Please call me Sienna, we’re all family here.”

“Alright, which room is mine, Sienna.”

“Just follow Jubal, he’ll show you.”

Jubal threw an arm over his cousin’s shoulders. “Come on, you’ll be in the room next to ours.”

“He does realize that if he lost control, your father and I could stop him, right?” Regan said once Jubal and Finn were upstairs.

“He’s just nervous.” Delia said with a warm smile. “He attacked someone before and it scarred him. He’s so much like Jubal you would think they were brothers. I’m hoping while we’re here you can all help me show him that he can learn to control himself and even if he does go off, he’s not some monster or a freak.”

“well all the better you came to see us then Delia.”

“I missed you guys. I know I don’t come enough” Her mother smiled “It’s easy to get caught up in life. We live so long anyways. It’s not like with humans where it really matters going months without seeing one another”When Jubal showed Finn his room he said “you aren’t staying in here the whole time.”

“I wasn’t planning to”

“Good, I was just making sure you knew. I like her family and even though you’d hide yourself because you’re worried about hurting them it’s still rude and I wont have you being rude to them” Finn nodded and Jubal left the room to return to Delia.

“Is he getting settled in?” Delia asked when Jubal scooped her up then sat down with her on his lap.

“He’s getting there, this will be good for him. Having two very powerful elves and a very powerful werewolf and a very powerful me will hopefully put his mind at ease.”

“He just needs a little time to get used to all the new smells and being so close to strangers.”

“We’ve also taken precautions to ensure he cannot easily leave our property should he have an episode.” Salvatore said. “If he should have issues, vines with spring up and create a wall around our property that way we can stop him before he escapes and hurts someone.”

“Thank you.” Jubal said. “I think that will also help keep him calm.”

“If you like I can camp in front of his bedroom door. In my wolf form it wouldn’t be a problem.” Regan offered.

“He needs trust uncle Regan, besides between you and Jubal there is no way he would be able to run far.”

“alright, well as your parents said there is no real reason to be concerned. Besides, his guilt from the accidental attack will help him keep control. Even just meeting him I see he has a good heart.” Finn came out not long after they finished speaking. Salvator stood as he asked “want to see what Regan and I do?”

“um, sure” Regan stood along with Jubal, leaving the room so it was only Delia, her mother and young Teague “so Teague, what’s going on with you?” Delia asked. She wanted to catch up with him since it had been so long she knew they would have a lot to talk about. “I’ve made new friends since we last saw eachother”

“cool, you all are getting along well?”

“Yeah, we all share pretty similar interests.”

“You’re studying how to mix magic and chemistry correct?” He nodded. “When do you think you’ll be heading to school?”

“When I’m eighteen. Mom and dad said I should study here until it’s time. Uncle Salvatore is such an amazing teacher, it’s not wonder you are so good at what you do.”

“Just remember that the older you get, the stronger your magic.”

“That’s what everyone keeps telling me. They don’t want me to get down thinking I’m not strong.”

Jubal stood next to Finn as the boy took in everything Salvatore said. Finn was intelligent and learned quickly despite what others may think of him. “Have you seen my daughter use her magic?” Salvatore asked.

“Yeah, I mean every now and then. She’s really good with animals and plants.” He looked at Jubal. “Did you guys learn about this stuff?”

“Among other things, yes. Science is important to magical studies.”

“Jubal is right, they are not that far removed. Even Regan’s ability to shift shape is both magic and genetics.”

Finn glaned at the werewolf. “And what about my kind?”

“It’s the same. You were born kage inu yokai, but that in itself was also created by magic to be passed down from generation to generation. Any children Jubal and Delia were to have would possess the same black hound, but also may inherit some of Delia’s magical abilities.”

“So they’d have the same problems as Jubal and I.”

“Not necessarily.” Salavatore placed a hand on his shoulder. “Did you know that even Regan had trouble with the wolf?”

“We all do, from the first day we learn to walk until maturity.” Regan said. “Our noses are sensitive to ever scent, our ears to every sound. The wolf wants and sometimes it gets. The point is to accept the beast and learn that it isn’t as scary as you thought. Something Jubal learned well after meeting Delia.”

“Tell you what, you can practice while you’re here. I am sure both Regan and Jubal would help you learn more about the black dog.”

Chapter Two

“Okay” Finn answered nervously. He couldn’t help but fear working with the black dog inside him but he realized there was no better place than here. If anybody could stop him it was Delia’s family and Jubal. He hoped if he would just face his fears here where it was relatively safe he wouldn’t have to be so afraid all the time when he went back home with Jubal and Delia. He let himself hope since Jubal seemed to be in such control now. Just Delia alone had done that for him and now he was here with her family.

When Jubal and Finn came back, followed by Salvatore and Regan, the smell of food hit their noses and they knew the women, along with Teague had started dinner. Jubal could feel the tingle of magic in the air as they pushed spells of joy and wellness into their food. Delia was kneading dough for bread, covered in flour up to her elbows and even had a bit on her nose and it had Jubal grinning. She was always so beautiful, even at her messiest. He wrapped his arms around her and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Looks good.” He said.

“It’ll taste better.” She replied, her face happy as she pushed her hands into the dough. “How did everything go?”

“Regan and I are going to help Finn with the hound.”

“It’s probably a bad idea.” Finn said as he sat down at the kitchen table. “But I want to be strong like Jubal. I don’t want to hurt anyone else.”

“You won’t.” Jubal said. “We’ll start out slow and build your confidence.”

Jubal continued to hold Delia while she cooked, only letting go for brief moments when she needed him to. She loved the affection and they both knew her family didn’t mind the public display of it. It just made Salvatore and Sienna happy their daughter was in a good relationship and was obviously deeply cared for. When it was almost done, as a thank you to those who prepared the meal Salvatore, Jubal, Regan and Finn set the table and served drinks for everyone. The food tasted even better than it smelled as Delia had promised and Finn found himself struggling not to gorge himself.

“So, when will I be getting grandchildren.” Sienna asked and Delia felt her cheeks warm. Being able to feel her embarrassment made Jubal chuckle and he quickly cleared his throat.

“Mom.” Delia said.

“Oh come on, you’re an adult and it’s not like anyone here is oblivious to how babies are made. It’s not like you to be shy.”

“I think you just surprised her with the question my love.” Salvatore said as he took a bite of his food. “I too would like to know when we’ll be grandparents.”

“We’ve talked about it.” Jubal replied. “If Delia is ready then we can start trying. She’s given me so much confidence, that I think I’d be a good dad and I know she’d make the perfect mother.” He reached over and took her hand and she felt his love and adoration wash over her. “Tell me when you’re really ready and I’ll give you all the children you want.”

Looking into his eyes she said “I guess soon then mom and dad’ Jubal smiled and her parents were elated. Delia didn’t know what she had truly been waiting on anyway. It just made her a little nervous to think she would create someone totally dependent on her. She hoped she would be as good of a mother as her mom was but she knew if she needed any help or pointers she could count on her parents guidance. Children seemed to take over the dinner conversation but when the sun rose the next day he woke to a knock on his door. Sleepily he slid out of bed and answered, finding Jubal on the other side “come on, breakfast is ready and right after it’s time for you to start practicing control”

“Re…really? So soon?”

“You can do it, I believe in you, so trust in me.”

Finn nodded then followed Jubal down to breakfast. Delia tussled his hair as she passed him, getting an embarrassed blush out of him that had her mother laughing. “How did you sleep, Finn?” Delia asked.

“Alright, it took me a bit.” He shifted nervously in his seat, looking guilty. “It’s just smelling your family. I had to focus on your’s and Jubal’s scents to get to sleep.”

“That’s okay, don’t look so worried.”

“I know, I’m trying.”

“Would it be rude of me to ask what it’s like being a kage inu yokai?” Teague said.

“Imagine being constantly controlled by a dark, terrifying beast.” Jubal answered. “It’s always there, it’s nose always working, searching for blood, craving the taste of it. It’s almost like a drug, addicting. If I had never met Delia, I would have feared the creature inside me, I would have let it isolate me, but I learned that it’s just a part of who I am, just like my hair or eyes, it is me. Those of the past were violent and bloodthirsty, but with Delia’s love and understanding, I have seen that I can be more, that my kind are more.”

“Delia believes as much as the rest of our family no race of beings has to be bad. With some it might take more self control than others but everyone is capable of being good.” Teague responded then Jubal spoke again “see Finn? You’re never going to hurt anybody again, I know that. You just need to trust yourself” Finn nodded and began consuming his breakfast. Delias family had prepared Ham, egg and cheese roll ups and once again Finn thought they tasted like heaven. It was a good start to what he expected was going to be a hard day. Finn tried to start cleaning his place at the table when he was done but he was shooed outside with Jubal, Salvatore and Regan “theres plenty of us in here to clean” Delia said with a hug before he went outside.

“So, what are we doing?” Finn asked nervously.

“We’re going to tap into your hound.”

“How?”

“Generally we would have you shift, but since you lack the control you need right now, we just want you to tap into the energy.” Salvatore explained.

Salvatore and Regan took up positions on either side of Finn while Jubal stood in front of him. “You have to calm down, take a deep breath.” Finn inhaled as much as he could and then let it out again. “There we go, now I want you to feel your hound, just let some of that energy trickle in.”

Finn swallowed and opened himself up to the black dog. He felt it grab onto him, causing his heart rate to spike and his pupils to dilate. He could hear and smell everything, the people around him, the women and young man in the house, even the animals in the forest. He felt panic starting to set in and Jubal grabbed his shoulders, giving him a shake. “Ju…Jubal?”

“It’s alright just pull it back a little.”

Finn breathed in and out slowly as he tried to calm his beast down. He felt both pride and solace when he was actually able to dial it down with just his will “see Finn, when you know you can control it and don’t just fear what we are you don’t have to be afraid. You’re not going to hurt anybody again”

“You don’t want me to let it take me completely yet though right?”

“Probably not today. Rushing you might only hurt the process”

“Okay” knowing he didn’t have to go that far today made him considerably less stressed. They continued little exercises like that until lunch then decided to give Finn a break so the family could spend time together. When they went inside Delia excitedly told Jubal “One of my friends is coming with her daughter! I can’t even remember the last time I saw her”

“Thats wonderful, let me go shower then” he kissed her and walked to the bathroom.

“Does your friend know about us?” Finn asked as he drank some water.

“No, but I’m sure she won’t care. She’s a lot like me, it’s one of the reasons we became friends.” Delia replied with a reassuring smile.

“That and the wolf pups.” Salvatore said.

“Wolf pups?” Finn asked.

“They brought an entire litter here once. They found them alone after a big storm blew through. Their mother wasn’t around so two little girls took it upon themselves to move a fallen tree with magic and carry them here. The mother showed up a couple of days later and we gave them back.”

“She wasn’t upset?”

“She sensed our intentions and Delia’s affinity with wild beasts helped.”

“How old is her daughter?”

“Umm, if I remember right she just turned fifteen so hopefully you two get along. She’s practically a clone of her mother from what she tells me” Delia about leaped out of her seat when her friends car pulled up and the two woman ran to one another, wrapping eachother in a tight hug while her friends daughter just smiled at the two. Jubal had come behind, bringing Finn with him so that Finn caught the daughters eye. “Oh, who is this?” She asked curiously. “Finn, Finn this is Zubeida” She held out her hand with a bright smile and he took it, nervously shaking it. When Delia quit hugging her friend she introduced Finn to her aswell “It’s nice to meet you. I’m glad Zubedia has another young man her age to hang around. Teague is here as well right?”

“Yep, inside”

“Finn why don’t you take Zubedia and get Teague, maybe you could introduce them to the shows you like, see if you have anything in common.” Jubal said.

“Alone, with them?” Finn was trying really hard to be more confident, but he worried what would happen if he was sitting in an enclosed space with the two elves.

Jubal place a hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “Just remember what we told you, if things get to overwhelming focus on mine and Delia’s scents. It helps if you learn to isolate smells. It was literally the only way I could get through classes after meeting Delia.”

“Alright, I’ll try.”

“You got this, you’re stronger than you think so go and have some fun.”

“Okay…uh…want to watch some anime with me, Zubedia?”

“I’d love too.”

Zubedia followed him cheerfully, unphased by the exchange. “I’m so glad you could come over”

“I would have canceled anything, you know that. Nobody is as fun as you. I need to visit where you live soon so we can get up to something together”

“Maybe later this week you and I could do something. I just want Finn a little more comfortable first”

“we could take the three teens with us to do something here or maybe we could just all do something since I know your parents have missed you too”

“either situation sounds great. I’ll talk to my parents” In the house Zubedia and Teague had followed Finn to his room and they were all sitting close together on his bed as they watched anime. Zubedias scent was incredibly sweet but he considered this part of learning to control himself. He wasn’t going to run away from her and he wasn’t going to try to block it out just yet, not until he actually feared for her.

That day everyone enjoyed spending time together, Finn actually started relaxing the more time he spent with Zubedia and Teague. It was strange feeling like a regular teenager for a day and he actually found himself smiling freely at Zubedia and easily answering any questions Teague had about his kind. Jubal smiled when he heard Finn let out a laugh and knew he was going to be okay. He had been a lot like Finn as a teen, wanting to isolate himself and get lost in books or wander alone rather than potentially hurt anyone. Delia’s love had had a rippling effect and he could pass on his strength to Finn who had needed it the most. Even when he and Delia were in school, her sticking to him had changed how others perceived him. He was no longer the terrifying kage inu yokai, but Delia’s “pet”. The idea had irritated him at first, but he came to realize that all that mattered was being with Delia. He wanted the say happiness for Finn, for him to grow and flourish, to be brave and love someone.

Zubedia and her mother stayed as late as they could, Venus only deciding to go because she was going to get too tired to drive if she stayed much longer. “you sure you don’t want to just stay? We can make room” Delia asked and Venus replied “With two teenage boys in the house with my daughter?” She winked with a big smile at the boys to let them know she was just teasing. Laughing she said “I dont live far so theres no reason to make things cramped at all. We can come back tomorrow” Delia hugged her while Zubedia hugged Finn and Teague goodbye. “it was amazing meeting you Finn. Make sure you text me, especially when you leave” Finn was profusely blushing. He wasn’t used to being hugged or spoken to so sweetly by such a beautiful girl.

“It was nice to meet you too”

The rest of their visit was split between training Finn and spending time with Delia’s friends and family. Finn was even excited when Venus suggested going and playing mini golf. He knew there would be people there, but spending time with Zubedia took his mind off his worry. Her scent seemed to wash out all others and he followed it like an eager puppy. Delia nudged Jubal when she noticed and he chuckled. “I wonder how long it’ll take him to figure it out.” She said with a grin.

“I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a boy moon over her like that.” Venus whispered.

“It’s his first time being so close to a female outside his family other than Delia, but he seems to be controlling himself just fine. I have a feeling, she’s going to have the same effect on him as you did me.” Jubal said as he brushed a kiss against Delia’s cheek. “And I hope you won’t worry too much, Venus, he would never touch her. He’s a good kid.”

“I trust him, he seems so shy, I couldn’t imagine him even kissing her without feeling embarrassed.”

“Maybe I should come back so that he can be near her. I miss everyone here anyways”

“Really?”

“well if Jubal and I are going to be having kids I’d rather raise them here. I want them to experience all the things I did growing up and I know my parents would adore being closer to their grandkids”

“everyone would love to have you back Delia” Later that night Jubal and Delia settled on moving back. Jubal was happy wherever his mate was and the things Delia talked about for their kids sounded amazing. Since he also got along with her family it seemed like a wonderful plan and they announced it to her parents over breakfast the next day. Delias mom helped them find a nice house and even helped them with the deposit, claiming them coming there to live was a gift to them so they wanted to do it so there’d be no obstacles in the way.

All of Delias friends and family that were around were excited about Delias return aswell so they had plenty of help moving. The whole process was incredibly easy and it made Delia emotional, prompting teasing from Venus that she could already be pregnant. Jubal knew she was just kidding around but he found himself hoping she truly was pregnant already. He was actually excited to have children with his mate, especially since he knew his kids didn’t have to be scared of what they would be. They would even have help training them since her parents were so close and even had a safe enviroment for training so they could learn to stay in control even during a shift. Things in his life had somehow gotten even more amazing and he knew he had Delia to thank for his ever better life.

~ The End

Lucy & Soter

Chapter One

She felt cold, her entire body shook, waking her. She blinked awake, her eyes resting on the open door that let snow swirl in and around her. What was happening? Where was she? She slowly sat up, her head pounding. “Hello?” She said. “Is anybody there?” Her question was met only by the wind. She groaned, blinked and there was suddenly someone standing just outside the door. She yelped, scrambling back.

“Whoa, easy.” The voice was male and a hand reached up, pulling a hood back to reveal a pale face framed by dark hair. Frosty blue eyes looked back at her, concerned.

“Wh…who are you? Where am I?”

“You’re in His home, one of them anyway.” He turned away for a moment and when he turned back he had an armful of wood. “This is for you, you’ll need it to start a fire.” He sat them down and nudged them over the threshold with the toe of his boot. “I got this for you too.” He reached over and lifted a large duffel bag. “Warm clothes, food, and water.” He sat it down and did the same with it.

“Why don’t you come in?”

“You would let me? He has brought others, but they always die, they don’t trust me. He’s always hungry and he waits for them to succumb to hunger and cold.”

“It’s cold out there, if…if you promise not to hurt me.”

“I promise.” He stepped over the threshold, lifting the items he had brought her and carrying them over to her. “I’m Soter.”

“Lucy.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Lucy.” He squatted down in front of her. “You should change into something warmer and I’ll get a fire started.”

“Okay um can I ask why no one trusts you?” He stood, holding out his hands and she took them, letting him pull her up. He was incredibly strong.

“Because…I’m his slave. Unwilling, but still, I belong to him. I’m his dog so he says.” He sighed. “I want to help you, I really do, so please just trust me. It may take time, but I won’t hurt you, I swear.”

“To be honest with you I haven’t been sure if any of this is real. I suspect I’m in a coma or something like one. Though, you do feel incredibly real for someone who I’m imagining.” He didn’t know what to say. Maybe it was comforting to her to think this wasn’t real, that she’d wake up and be home again. Who was he to push and ruin that for her? He also didn’t want to push the subject and have her reject his help like all the others. If thinking she was in a coma would allow him to help her he would be the last to argue the subject. She walked over to the clothes and took them, changing in the bathroom then coming back out. “You started that fast”

“I’ve gotten good at it with years of practice as his slave”

“How does he control you?”

“He’s cast a powerful spell that binds me to him”

“How long have you been his slave?” she was awfully inquisitive for a woman who doubted he was real but he was more than happy to answer her. It was nice talking to someone who wasn’t talking down to him or assuming all the worst things in him. “A few years, since I was a teenager. I’m twenty two now. I think he prefers teenagers. It seems to be the theme going here anyway”

She suddenly tugged his hair. It hadn’t hurt all that much but he had to ask “why did you do that?”

“Your hair feels so real. Did I hurt you?”

“No, you just confused me”

“I’m sorry, you’re trying to help me and I’m pulling your hair like some small child”

“You’re fine, you just caught me off guard”

“well, if this ends up not being all in my head I wont leave you here” He smiled, knowing she had no idea who they were up against.

They sat in silence in front of the fire for a time in companionable silence, Lucy trying to remember how she had been taken and Soter thinking of a way to get her home safe. His master was not easily fooled and would turn violent at the mere thought of disobedience. “Should I cook for us?” Lucy asked softly.

“I can do it.”

“At least let me help, I cook most of the meals in our house.”

Soter looked her questioningly in the eye. “Don’t you have a mom?”

“Yeah, but she suffers from depression and sometimes she just doesn’t feel up to it.”

“Oh, well if you really want to. I mean even though this is all a dream.”

She let out a small laugh. “Well if it’s not then don’t you think we should eat?”

He smiled as he spoke “yeah: They prepared the food he brought together as she asked him questions about his owner and about the house they were in “so he just randomly selects where to put his kidnap victims?”

“Basically, if he has any sort of process to it he hasn’t told me about it but he doesn’t give me much information. When he tells me to do something it’s because he said so, no details. If you do end up actually seeing him he’s not going to be one of those monsters or bad guys in stories that sits there and explains their entire plot. He’ll just try to capture you again or kill you”

“Morbid, If I’m imagining this I need to start reading some happier books and watching more comedys instead of all the gore I watch”

“Big horror fan?”

“Who isn’t. Maybe if you’re real, we’ll have to watch a few movies together.”

A sad smile crossed his lips. “I don’t think that will be happening, Lucy.”

“Why not?”

“Let’s just finish up here, okay, you need to eat.”

“I’m not a baby, you know?”

“I know, but you have to keep you strength up, if you don’t then you won’t be able to get away. He likes them weak and helpless, he likes them begging, so you have to be strong, physically and mentally.”

She sighed. “Okay, I understand.”

He gently patted her head. “I’m not upset at you or anything, I just want to make sure you have every advantage.”

“You seem like such a good person. You shouldn’t be someone elses slave” She stared at him and he tried to look back into her beautiful green eyes but he couldn’t. He knew he might see them darker eventually, he might see her lieing dead after his master was done with her. Seeing all he had seen made it hard to look anybody in the eye for longer than a few seconds. Lucy continued looking at Soter a few more moments after he looked away then finished her food. Her weight was on her mind again as she sat there. Another reason to hope this was all in her head is that with all this weight she wasn’t a very fast runner so she couldn’t hope to outrun much that came her way.

“So, what do you do back home besides help your parents?” Soter asked.

“I go to school, hang out with my friends, but it’s mostly school.”

“Oh, that sounds nice. I know my idea of nice sounds boring, but it does.”

“Not at all, my parents are great.” She felt a sudden lump in her throat. “I…I want to go home.”

“You will.”

“How do you know? You said he’s dangerous.”

He sat his plate down, then took hers and sat it down too. His arms were around her before she could ask him what he was doing and he cheeks warmed at the contact. “Let me worry about his punishments, I can take them, I have been for a long time.”

“You can’t do that.”

“Sure I can, I’ll heal much faster than you, so please don’t worry.”

“Just because you’ll heal faster doesn’t mean it hurts less. I don’t want you getting hurt over me. You seem to be a genuinely nice guy. I don’t want you hurt for any reason” It felt amazing to him to hug Lucy. He couldn’t remember the last time he had one and her aura was such a warm, welcoming one. He knew she was a good person too and he wouldn’t let anything happen to her. He let go and gave her the best smile he could in his worry. “I need to go to figure out how I’m going to do this. I need to check a few things and see what I’d be up against to get you home”

“Be careful at least”

“I will, I’ll come back soon.” He left and Lucy suddenly realized how safe he had made her feel. It dawned on her because of the wave of anxiety that hit the second she couldn’t see Soter any longer. Lucy sat close to the crackling fire, letting it’s warmth blanket her body to ward off the intense cold of the snow. She had never much cared for snow before but Soter had looked adorable covered in it when he first came in.

Lucy hadn’t realized she had fallen asleep until the sound of stomping woke her. Her heart thundered fearfully in her chest and she was on her feet and grabbing one of the logs Soter had brought her. Had her captor come for her? Soter said he liked to play with his victims. The front door was pushed open and she felt relief rush over her when she saw the family hoodie. He gave her an apologetic look when he pulled it back and she put the log down, letting out the breath she had been holding. “You scared me.”

“Sorry, I didn’t want to track snow in.” He took his sweater off and shook it then hung it up. “There’s another storm blowing in.”

“So? What’s going on?”

“I had to steal a couple of things from his study, it took longer than expected.” He reached into his back pocket, flinching when he did so.

“Are you alright?”

“Perfect.” He winced again as he pulled the map out and she walked over, suddenly very worried.

“Soter? What happened?”

“Nothing big, he caught me in his study, but he was so worked up he didn’t see what I took so it’s fine.”

“Oh Soter” Lucy said and asked to see. “No, I’ll heal fast. They don’t need any tending to”

“I don’t want you getting hurt for me”

“Hey now, maybe if I can free you we somehow both can be free” She still couldn’t stand the fact he was hurt. It actually truly upset her. It wasn’t like she enjoyed anybodies pain but it especially bothered her to know he had gotten hurt. Soter laid out the map on the table and she tried to keep looking at it instead of the way he was standing. He was obviously in tremendous pain. “If I was to get anything out of there I’m glad it was this. I can get you out no problem with this. I mean, he has a lot of people and traps but in knowing the way and being his servant for so long I know I can get you home”

Chapter Two

“How?”

He tapped the map. “This is where we are right here and these points here…” he tapped them, “are the doorways in and out. There are two, one leads straight to his home and the other takes us somewhere else.”

“Somewhere else?” Another world, hopefully one we can get help in.” He shifted a little in hopes of taking some of the pressure off his wounds and she let out a sigh, grabbing his shirt and lifting it. She gasped at the bruise that covered his side. It went from just under his armpit down to his hip and around his back. “Oh my god, what did he do?”

“Lucy, it was just a beating, and not even that bad of one so please calm down, I’m fine.”

“Soter.”

He pulled his shirt down and took her hands in his. “Trust me when I say I’ve had much much worse. I won’t go into detail, you don’t need those images in your head, but this is nothing compared to what he’s done to me.” He gave her a gentle smile. “Now, look here. There’s a path that leads from here to the second door. It looks like there’s a pattern that’ll get us around the traps.” He looked her in this eyes. “When we go, we have to move quickly but carefully and when he comes for us I want you to take the map and go. Don’t stop for me, don’t try and help me, don’t look back, just run.”

“But…”

“No buts, you just do it, I’ll meet you there.” He gently patted her head and she felt herself warm. She wondered how someone so sweet and gentle had come to be enslaved by an abusive monster. “Anyway, how are you feeling?”

“Fine, I napped.”

“Good.”

She looked so utterly consumed with worry so he hugged her “We can do this, YOU can do this. You are a beautiful and smart woman from what I can see. You just run like hell and I’ll make sure you’re free and I do promise, I’ll come after you and help you wherever you end up when you leave here”

“what if I can’t outrun him?”

“Fear can do amazing things to your speed and strength. Not only that but I will hold him off the second I know he’s following and close. He won’t kill me, I’m too valued as a slave and that will be his downfall.” Soter shook his head “for a monster that’s killed and tortured so many it’s weird to say not killing someone will be his downfall”

“Thats what I worry about though. He could decide to kill you, he could decide to tie you up and torture you for helping me”

“You’re worth the risk”

“You don’t know me”

“The fact you are so worried about me tells me enough”

“Maybe it’s because my dad’s a cop. He taught me you’re supposed to care about people.”

“He sounds like a great guy.” He needed to sit so he did and groaned as he did so.

“Should I get you some ice?”

He shook his head. “It’s healing.” He cleared his throat. “So we can’t leave now, he might be suspicious. You see I’ve been with him long enough to know his study is absolutely off limits. He’ll be wondering why I was there, but it’s going to take time for him to go through everything. If you’re up to it, we can leave tomorrow when the storm is at its peak. Visibility will be low, but that can work to our advantage.”

“If you think it’s best.”

“You have to be bundled up, it’s going to be freezing out there.”

“I will be. Are you going to go back to him?”

“He was pretty pissed so I’ll stay here, the sight of me would just set him off and I’ll have more than bruises.”

Lucy deeply hoped this worked so his pain wasn’t for nothing. Hurt much worse than this was broken bones and she couldn’t even let herself think about that. “he wont think it’s odd you didn’t come back?”

“No, I’m one of his favorite servants but I tend to a lot to keep him happy. He doesn’t expect to see me constantly, especially after a beating”

“what was your life like before this if I may ask”

“Honestly? It’s hard to remember. It feels like I’ve belonged to him my whole life though I know that isn’t true. He just took me young and you know how kids memories are. I need to do a bit of studying tonight. I’m bound to him by magic and I need to figure out how to break it or me running wont matter”

“Oh, I’m sorry for distracting you then. Please, read”

“You’re a welcome distraction, ask me anything, I was just letting you know”

“Really?”

“It’s been a long time sense I actually held a conversation with anyone. My master only speaks to order me around or verbally abuse me, the others he took just screamed at me to go away or wouldn’t speak at all, it’s refreshing, thank you.” Her smile had his heart tripping over itself. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen someone smile. He stood, going slow so as not to jar his ribs too much and worry her then went and reached into the inner pocket of his sweater, pulling out a small book.

“What’s that?”

“Spells, it was on his desk so it’s probably one of his favorites. It might have what I’m looking for.”

“Do you need my help?”

“You wouldn’t understand the language. Why don’t you go over the map so you remember each step, I wouldn’t want you running into one of his traps if you have to go it alone.”

“Okay.” She picked up the map and sat in front of the fire with it. He decided to join her and she looked at him with concern for his pain.

“I’m already getting better.”

Her eyes moved back to the map. “So, do you have any siblings or anything?” She asked as she counted each step on the map.

“No, well I might now, but before I didn’t. You?”

“No, just me.”

“I guess us only children will have to stick together.”

“I’d like that.”

She went over the map slowly and repetitively while he read his masters book. This was probably the most important thing she’d ever memorize and she wouldn’t waste his effort, especially not now. For a man who was obviously trying to mask his pain so she wouldn’t feel so bad he looked miserable. His biggest give away was the fact he was sweating when it was freezing in that cabin. Lucy only quit going over the map when her eyes desperately needed a break. She laid on the floor and closed them “are you going to sleep?” he asked, surprising her that he was paying any attention to what she was doing. Lucy thought he had been absorbed in the spell book.

“I was just going to rest for a bit, not long.” She heard him scoot over and opened her eyes. “What?”

“Lift your head up, I’ll be you pillow.”

“What?” She sat up, blushing. “You don’t have to do that, you’re injured and busy.”

“Come on now, no more fussing.” He patted his lap. “Seriously, I’m fine.”

“Al…alright.” She rested her head on his lap, her face bright red and her heart beating overly fast in her chest. She glanced at him and saw he had gone back to reading, still not complaining as his eyes took in every word.

“Sleep, Lucy, I’ll watch over you.”

“If you get tired, tell me okay?”

“I will.”

He only devoted all his attention to reading the spell book when he could feel her completely relax. “Oh my god, Lucy!” she had fallen asleep and was startled awake by his excitement “I’m sorry but I think this is it. I need to stand!” She got up and he stood, walking over to the small table and setting it down. He started rubbing the sides of his face in an odd way that had Lucy staring at Soter. The words he spoke made no sense but she knew they had to be words from the book. She was a little afraid but not of him. Magic wasn’t something she was accustomed to and she didn’t want him to mess up and do more harm to himself. She imagined magic had to be a tricky thing.

His scream of pain startled her and when he fell to his knees she dropped next to him. “Soter?” She said as she helped straighten him and she could see a symbol glowing red on his forehead. Sweat covered his skin and his entire body jerked so she had to pull him against her to keep him from hitting his head on the table. He clung to her, his teeth gritting against the pain, his breaths come out in pained pants.

The mark began to fade and he found himself able to fully breathe again. His head throbbed and his jaw hurt from clenching it so hard. “Fuck.” Was all he could say, was the only word that even came close to describing the agony he had just been through.

“Are you okay?” Lucy asked as he caught his breath.

“That was terrible.”

“You scared me, I thought…well I didn’t know what to think.”

“Sorry, just give me a minute. Holy shit that hurt.”

After about ten minutes of silence she asked “so you removed the magic tieing you to him?”

“Yeah, and it’s only a little over an hour from when I actually wanted to leave so I just want to head out after I rest just a bit more. I don’t know if he could feel that. Like, I’m not sure if he could feel me sever from him.”

“Are you serious? I just meant to rest my eyes”

“It was fine, I couldn’t stop reading until I found what I needed. I’m a demon so I’m okay on no sleep. Don’t worry about me” She just rubbed his hair, hoping to give him some comfort until he was ready. It wasn’t too much longer before he got up and asked her “are you ready? Once we go we can’t stop. Even if he didn’t feel that he’s coming soon”

“I’m ready” He picked up the map and handed it to her “keep it, I don’t want you getting lost”

“what about you getting lost?”

“I’ll be fine, I’ve never had to say those three words so much” he said with a smile and she blushed again. He took her hand and kept is as they walked to the door and out of it. Once there he surprised Lucy by easily sweeping her off her feet “I’m going to carry you up until he comes for us. I’m a half demon, I can manage it no problem” He took off as fast as he could. Lucy clung to him, half afraid half exhilarated. A handsome guy was holding her and the rush of the wind felt amazing despite it being so cold. If they made it out he hoped he might run with her again sometime.

Lucy wasn’t sure how far away from the cabin they were when something shot past them. “shit!” he said and he stopped, setting her down “he’s coming and he has some of his other slaves. Run, I mean it, don’t make me tell you again, please Lucy!” she didn’t want to but she wouldn’t waste all of his effort. He said he’d make it out too, he said he’d come find her wherever she was going to end up and she had to just trust him.

Trusting him had only turned out good this far so she ran with a heavy heart, near tears with worry he’d die or be hurt again. Lucy supposed the monster that had tormented and taken her cared more about his servants disobedience than catching her because nothing followed her and nothing else flew by her head. She just ran and ran even long after her legs ached and begged her to stop. She’d only slow down atall to double check she was going the right way.

When she made it to what the map said was the portal she collapsed for a second, needing a break and hoping that maybe Soter would catch up to do this with her. It was terrifying to think of going through by herself. Who knew what waited for her on the other side, who knew if she would even do it right. She didn’t know if there was a wrong way to pass through and she didn’t want to lose a limb or die by just being ignorant of how these things work.

Having no concept of time she guessed she had been sitting there a half hour and there was still no sign of Soter “come on…please” she said to the air. She waited awhile longer then decided to pass through. It was what he had wanted her to do and if he had died to help her she needed to make his death count for something. Terrified as she may be she closed her eyes tight and forced herself to walk through.

Chapter Three

Her stomach twisted and she had to slap a hand over her mouth to keep from throwing up. She took deep breaths and moved away from the portal, finding a place to hide that was still close enough she could see it. She sat huddled up against a tree, terrified of what could be living in the woods she now sat in. Her thoughts stayed on Soter and the more she thought of him the more her mind played every worst case scenario it could think of. His master could be torturing him right now and she was sitting there doing nothing. She was startled when the portal opened again and he stumbled through and jumped up just as he fell. She rushed to his side, gasping at the sight of blood soaking through his shredded sweater, at the bruises covering his face, She knew there had to be more, that there may even be internal injuries. “Soter?” She dropped down and shook him, but he didn’t move. “Soter, please.” She felt tears burning her eyes and she started sobbing, her heart breaking at the sight of him so battered.

“Excuse me, miss?” The voice startled her and she turned around, putting herself between Soter and the young man who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

“Wh…who are you?”

“Easy, I was sent to check on the portal. We keep tabs on them now, my father’s rule. He’s badly wounded, but he’s still breathing.”

“What?”

“That man, he’s still alive, but just barely. My family can help if you let me take you.”

Lucy knew there was nothing she could do for him. His best chance was with this kind looking stranger. The man bent down and lifted Soter into his arms just as easily as Soter had held her earlier. As they began walking at a brisk pace Lucy asked “Laysan River, I’m taking you to my parents, the king and queen. Their names are Suri and Hern.” Kings and queens, she knew with absolute certainty that portal hadn’t taken her home now. Another man ran up who introduced himself as Gavril. “Could you let him guide you to the castle. I need to hurry with your friend” Laysan asked and Lucy gave him permission. Soters life was in her hands and she desperately hoped she was making the right choices.

Laysan took off so fast it startled her. Gavril rested a hand on Lucy’s shoulder “My Uncle is a good man, my whole family is. We’re going to help you two with whatever happened”

“Thank you”

“what’s your name?”

“Lucy”

“welcome Lucy, just follow Negan and I”

“Negan?”

“My wolf” the large wolf rubbed it’s head against her and she rubbed his fur “Nice to meet you”

“He likes you, that’s good.”

“Will Soter be alright?”

“If anyone can help him, our healers can, but it’s also up to him.”

“He promised.”

Gavril patted her back. “Trust that he’ll wake up then.”

Lucy could only imagine what had happened in the time they were separated, what that monster and his slaves had done to Soter for his defiance. She had never seen so much blood and she knew it would take a long time to forget the sight of him like that. When they arrived at the castle, she was guided to the room they had taken Soter to. He was laying unconscious on a bed, even paler than before, his torn sweater and shirt gone so they could get to the wounds covering his torso. There were so many bruises and cuts she wondered how they had been inflicted in such a short period of time.

“May I got to him?”

“Of course.” Gavril guided her closer and she sat near the head of the bed, letting her fingers brush his forehead.

“I’ll leave you two alone but there will always be someone close if you need anything. All you have to do is call for help”

“Thank you so much”

“we’re alwasy happy to help” Lucy cried almost as soon as he pulled the large wooden door shut “Soter”It took him nearly two days to wake up but he did and he made a full recovery about a week later. It was then they finally asked about getting back to her world. Hern sighed “thats tricky, there are many human worlds he could have snatched you from Lucy”

“I know but my parents….I need to get home”

“I know, let me talk to my daughter Fallon and her husband Rain about escorting you through the worlds. We’ll just keep trying until we find the right one and get you home though I’m sorry to say just taking random guesses may take months”

She looked down, feeling a little defeated. “I understand.”

Soter pulled her into a hug as soon as they were alone, gently stroking her hair. “Hey, it’s okay, we’ll get you home.”

“But what if we can’t? What if I never see them again?”

He pulled back to look at her, smiling as he wiped away the tears running down her cheeks. “I made a promise and I’m going to keep it. I’m going to walk you right up to the front door.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, so please don’t cry, it hurts my heart.”

Hern went to see his daughter and son in law that very day and had them come to dinner to give Lucy and Soter their answer. It was a bit nerve wracking waiting that long but they had an amazing castle to explore in the meantime. Hern and Suri had both let them know they were welcome anywhere in their castle. When dinner came Lucy was grateful that Fallon let them know right away that they would guide them from world to world as long as it took to get her home. “you wont get lost?”

“Oh no, Rain and I will have no trouble getting home. My father wouldn’t have asked us to do it if he aswell knew we would not get lost in the search. He also knows we’re strong enough to protect you if we should find ourselves in any danger. Some worlds aren’t as peaceful as others and depending on where you live we might be forced to walk through some nasty ones to get you back”

“why?”

“if you can’t make portals yourself most can only be accessed at a certain spot.” This all seemed incredibly scary and overwhelming but she had to admit to herself a small part of her was growing excited thinking about walking through many different kinds of worlds. They finished dinner, made some preparations then Rain and Fallon spent the rest of the evening hanging out and saying goodbye to loved ones they wouldn’t see for awhile. Lucy couldn’t believe the sacrifice these people were making from strangers. Fallon and Rain would leave their family for an undetermined amount of time, would fight for two total strangers.

Her gratitude was immense and she hoped one day she could do something to thank them. In the morning Hern gave his daughter a long hug. Lucy could see he’d miss her but she saw no worry. He obviously really did trust in hers and Rains abilities one hundred percent. As they walked away Fallon said “hungry, thirsty or need to pee tell us right away. This could take awhile so theres no sense rushing and being uncomfortable okay?”

“okay”

“How old are you Lucy?”

“16”

“is that an adult where you’re from? Information like that will help Rain and I so I’m going to be asking a lot of questions”

“No, I’m not an adult until I’m 18”

“Okay, good” Rain suddenly spoke “yeah, that knocks out a number of worlds. Good thinking beautiful” He kissed her cheek and she smiled so radiantly. It made Lucy smile at the sweetness of it. “are men more dominate? Women or is it one that tries to be equal?”

“equal”

“Okay” Questions went back and forth like this until they reached the first portal, the start, well, second chapter of a crazy adventure she hadn’t asked for but at least got to have the company of good people on it. Hell without Soter she’d be in that cabin, starving to death and being scared senseless by that monster. A wild adventure was about to begin, a long journey home to her parents.

They passed through and continued walking, talking as they had so far. Day five of their journey Rain spoke seriously “we’ll be in a world soon that has no sun. It’s perpetual night and I need you to stay close Lucy. Soter, you’re a demon so I’m not as worried about you but still. I need you close to help keep her safe. Unless I say something is friendly there don’t bother it and I need you two to be as silent as possible. Noise will attract things you don’t want to deal with.

“okay” She sounded scared. It hadn’t been Rains intention but if he was going to get her home safely he didn’t need to sugar coat things when they were about to enter a dangerous world. Her heart was going a million miles an hour when they were at the portal so Soter took a moment to hug her tightly to him “you’re going to be okay. We won’t let anybody or anything hurt you. Why don’t you let me carry you here?”

“You don’t have to”

“I want to if it will make you feel safer”

“Um…okay…thanks” His expression grew softer “you don’t have to thank me.” They passed through hand in hand, Soter sweeping Lucy off her feet the second they entered the darkness of the new world. She clung to him, even more frightened now. It was much harder to see than she anticipated. They seemed to have a sort of moon but it wasn’t like the one she knew. Soter whispered “it’s okay, I can see perfectly even if you can’t”

“You can?”

“Yep, one of the perks of being a demon”

“That’s really cool, I wish I could do that.”

He chuckled then whispered. “You know, the face your making right now is really cute.”

She blushed. “What do you mean?”

“You look so amazed and curious, it’s cute.”

“Thank you?”

He had to press his lips together to keep from laughing too loud. He wanted to keep her distracted, but not draw unnecessary attention to them. “So? Eighteen huh?”

“Hmm?”

“Until you’re an adult.”

“Oh, yeah, I mean I guess in my world anyway. What about yours?”

“Sixteen, but in some demon cultures you’re not fully recognized as on until you hit fifty.”

“Wow, how strange.”

“Well I suppose its a good thing things vary from place to place like that so these two can use that information to return you to your family” Rain let them talk until they were walking through an area where they especially didn’t want to attract anything “I’m sorry guys but now we need absolute silence” They instantly quit talking and Soter made sure he was staying close to Rain and his wife Fallon. He saw them both ready their weapons despite the fact nothing was on them yet. That plus how tense Rain now looked Soter knew he needed to be close and pay attention so that nothing could take them by surprise.

Chapter Four

When Rain held up his hand for them to stop, Soter came to an immediate halt, his arms tightening around Lucy, his body ready in case he had to get her to safety. He watched as Rain gestured to Fallon and they both crept forward and out of sight. Lucy gripped him tighter and Soter brushed a light kiss over the top of her head, knowing he may be overstepping, but having no other way of comforting her when they had to be silent. He was as still as a statue, even his breathing was shallow. The roar made Lucy jump and she bit back on the yelp that threatened to escape as she squeezed her eyes closed and pressed her face in Soter’s chest. It was silent again in an instant and Rain and Fallon were coming back, both of their swords covered in blood. They wiped them clean and then motioned for Soter to follow them. Once they were in a safe place again Lucy asked, “What was that thing?”

“A type of large cat, completely black. It was stalking us.” Rain explained. “It was more than likely after you.”

“Why me?”

“It could sense your fear. Predators don’t tend to single out people like Fallon, Soter, and I, they can sense our power, the fact that we’re not intimidated, but this is all new to you and you’re scared so it singled you out.”

“I’m so sorry”

“don’t be, it’s natural. I’m sure I can speak for everyone present in the fact we don’t blame you for being frightened” Fallon nodded and Soter said “he’s right.” They hurried on and got out of that world as quickly as they possibly could. It was a few days later when Rain said “I know you might not like this idea and I’m sorry Lucy but it’s not good for our bodies to do nothing but travel. Fallon and I have been to this world many times and know good people we can stay with for a few days to let our bodys heal and get them back to top shape”

“I won’t complain about stopping. You three are doing your best and deserve a break from the constant going from one portal to another”

“That too honestly, especially with you Lucy. It’s not good for your body to hop as many portals as we have been lately, not in a row”

“I understand.”

Rain and Fallon lead to a castle and even after everything she had seen, Lucy’s jaw dropped at how beautiful this place was. The elf guards only briefly stopped them long enough for Rain to explain who she and Soter were and for him to ask for an audience with their king and queen. They were given permission and they headed inside. It was Thalassa who greeted them, a child on her hip. “Rain, Fallon, good to see you again.”

“Queen Thalassa and is this the newest addition?” Rain said.

“Mimir.”

“Hello little one.”

The little boy hid his face and they all laughed. “He’s so shy.” She kissed his forehead. “So, what brings you here?”

“Would it be alright if we stayed here for a few days. We’re trying to get Lucy home to her family and we’ve been jumping from portal to portal without rest.”

“of course, I’ll show you to rooms and you can tell me what’s going on over lunch in a few hours” Rain and Fallon were given a room first. When they came to the room besides it Thalassa asked “so do you two want to share a room? She’s safe here but I thought I’d ask if she’d be more comfortable with you staying with her”

“I’ll be fine by myself. You get to take a break too Soter.”

“I wont place him in a room far then” Thalassa said then walked just a little farther down the hall with Soter. Lucy sat on her bed and cried. She wasn’t sure why but she guessed it was just from missing her family. She might have asked Soter to stay with her if she hadn’t suspected she was about to do just this. It had been so long and would be a long time still before she got home and that was assuming they’d be able to find where she was from.

There was a light tapping on her bedroom door and she quickly wiped at her face before getting up to answer it. It was Soter and he instantly pulled her into a hug, his hand stroking her hair. “I figured that’s what you were doing.”

“Am I that obvious?”

“Yeah, I wasn’t going to say anything, but I got worried and couldn’t help myself.”

“You’re sweet, thank you.”

“Want me to get you something to eat or drink?”

“I’m fine.”

“Come on, we’ve been going non stop, I smelled muffins on the way in, blueberry.”

“I didn’t.”

“My nose is more sensitive than yours, let’s go eat.”

She gave him a small smile that made his heart dance with joy. They followed his nose to the kitchen where the staff happily served them muffins and coffee. It had been a long journey so far but she was grateful to be free because of Soter and have such wonderful guides. Rain and Fallon were a sweet couple and fun to be around. When they didn’t have to be on edge they would joke and talk, it made the trip nicer. She longed for her family but she felt more at peace now that she could cry it out for a second. Traveling with these three, visiting new worlds, this was her life for the time being and she decided she would just appreciate the experience. She had seen so much beauty, so many fantastic things, things she might have never seen if all this didn’t happen. She’d get home or maybe she wouldn’t but Lucy decided to live in the now, to enjoy Soter, Rain, Fallon and the good people they’d meet on her way home.

~ The End

Ortensia & Sandro

Chapter One

Ortensia couldn’t wait for school to be over. In only two more months she was going to be a High School graduate and better yet, she’d finally have her own car. Her parents had promised her when she became a freshman that if she kept good grades and stayed reasonably on the straight and narrow she could pick any car she wanted when graduation came. At first she didn’t understand what they meant by reasonably on the straight and narrow but they explained it meant they knew she was going to be a teenager and she’d make mistakes but as long as she didn’t stab anyone or or end up in the principle office every other week they’d consider her deserving of a car.

She had always been one to stand her ground and stick up for herself and others. Though she had a good heart she was a hot head with a temper and her parents hoped if they promised her any car she wanted she might just make it through High School without turning their whole head of hair gray. She tried not to let her face show what she was feeling when a few of the popular girls approached her. School was almost over maybe not for them but it was for her, couldn’t they leave her alone? “Ortensia” The leader of the little group said with nothing following. “Um, Molly?”

“The girls and I were thinking of going to that abandoned mansion in Carner Woods.”

“and?” she said then started saying in her head “please don’t say you want me to go, please don’t say you want me to go, please don’t say you want me to go” They invited her and she said in an exasperated tone as she looked up “god damnit Ashley and Carrie! Cut it out!” she looked at the girls “No I wont go and no I wont come looking for you when you don’t return to school. Don’t go, if you go you’re an idiot. The writers put you girls up to it. You don’t have to listen to them” Anna whispered loudly to Molly “I told you we shouldn’t ask the resident crazy” Molly whispered back, continuing acting like Ortensia couldn’t hear them “well I figured someone as weird as her would be good to bring along”

Ortensia walked off, still talking to the women she knew were trying to make her a heroin in one of their novellas “I want to be normal. Why can’t you guys write more about Suri and Hern or something.” They never answered her but she knew they could hear her and she wished they’d move on to another woman. Her life was going to be normal, writers be damned.

Sandro sighed as he walked trying to find Ortensia. She was good at avoiding everything, even himself, though she didn’t actually know he existed which was the point. One of the writers characters had gone rogue and it was his job to put her back on her path. It wasn’t that they didn’t appreciate Ortensia’s stubbornness, on the contrary, their women always had a wonderful sense of self, but Ortensia didn’t seem to understand the reason she had been created. Happiness, it was their goal in the end.

“What’s so bad about being abnormal anyway?” He said to the air. “I mean here I am and I’m perfectly happy being the oddball.” He could swear he could hear them laughing. Of course they liked him, they loved all of their creations. “Maybe I should just lock her in some tower, wouldn’t that be something, then there’s no way she could escape.” He thought about it a bit more. “Actually she’d probably just climb down, she’s that determined to avoid her story.”

His eyes caught hers outside as she was walking to the schools second building for her final class of the day. He could see her recognition, she somehow knew he was here on behalf of the writers that had chosen her. She bolted toward her aunts car that she got to use during the week for school in the schools parking lot. A crazy tall, handsome man, with red eyes, they weren’t fooling her into getting anywhere near him. “That’s low making him so freaking hot Carrie! I just know that was your idea!” Sandro couldn’t help but laugh at her words as he ran after her, getting ahead and stopping in front of her as she arrived at her car. She slammed into him and he said “I think you’re beautiful too but they didn’t choose me because they thought you’d find me appealing. I help him with people like you who wont live their story”

“Liar, I bet they made you say that.” She shoved him and he laughed. “That sense of humor, it was Ashley wasn’t it?” She was ready to take a swing at him when held up his hands.

“Easy, I’m telling the truth. I’m…”

“Don’t you dare tell me your name, that’s always the start of it.”

“Sandro.”

“Asshole.” She did swing at him then and he easily caught her wrists. His skin was cold against hers and it gave her goosebumps.

“I’m just here to get you back on track, from beginning to happily ever after. I’m not here to be your mate or seduce you or be the hero of your story, that’s not my job, I’m more like a hall monitor.”

“I was fine before them and I’ll be fine now. I don’t want a story. I want to graduate, go to college, marry a guy, have kids and be a normal old lady.”

“Look at you, you’re fighting your very nature. You were born for adventure Ortensia. You are just being stubborn and you know it. You’d love the life they’d leave you down”

“Just let me go”

“come on, just give it a try. If you’re a willing participant in one story maybe you’ll like it Ortensia”

“I don’t want to be controlled”

“They don’t or you’d have long since been forced down a path. You have free will just as much as I do. We make our own choices in the scenarios they put before us”

“I guess I can’t argue with that logic”

“Come on, I’ll even go with you, it’ll be fun.”

She groaned. “this isn’t fair. I decide not to follow a plot and they just up and send a chaperone.”

He laughed, letting her go. “Let’s be friends, just friends and get you going. Of course now it might be a little off since you know I exist. We’ll work around it though.”

“But…school.”

“It’ll be fine, I promise. I wouldn’t let you miss anything important.”

“Do I really have to fall in love?”

“No, but when you do you’ll know it. It’s like a shock to the system. It’s not predetermined, every single character they’ve created could have easily walked away from their other half, but they didn’t. People know when they belong together. Just come with me, okay and we’ll see what happens.”

“I kind of wish if this was going to happen it could have happened on one of the cooler plots. I mean, I do have to give them some of the things did seem like they could go to pretty interesting places. This one is just so run of the mill. An abandoned mansion in the woods wooo” He chuckled “I think they just started throwing just anything they could think up at you. As I understand it they’ve been after you for a few years now. Since your freshman year I believe”

“Yeah, I guess it was just like something is bound to interest this woman” He smiled again, he was glad she had been stubborn enough they needed him involved. She was already fun to be around. In Sandros opinion it wouldn’t be so bad if she ended up being the woman they intended for him. He wouldn’t bring it up though, it would only scare Ortensia away.

“If you want something more exciting, I’m sure they could think something up.” They walked up to the front door and he reached out, jiggling the handle. It was locked.

“This if fine, it’s actually really pretty in that spooky sort of way.”

Sandro followed her along the wrap around porch to the back door. “Also locked.”

“Cellar door maybe?”

“I’m betting basement window.”

“I’ll take that bet.” They headed down the steps. “What do I get if I win?”

“Hmmm, I’ll buy you dinner or set with you through whatever movie you want.”

“Even if it’s incredibly sappy and lame?”

“Yes, I’ll tough it out, even if it almost kills me with mush.”

“I’m holding you to that” Sure enough the basement window is how they got in. “well damn” he said, trying to sound disappointed. She laughed “sorry, a deals a deal.” The basement was large enough to be a decent sized apartment so it took them a bit to find the stairs. Her nose was already irritated from all the dust and if she were afraid of spiders her heart would be in over drive right now. She actually liked spiders. While most girls were terrified she thought they looked cool and some she even thought were cute. When she saw them in her home she would try to get them outside as quick as possible so her mother wouldn’t kill them.

Once up the stairs she called for Molly but no answer came. “Hang on, I can listen for them. I doubt they are here yet though”

“Yeah, they said they were going after school and I’m sure they actually went to their final class”

“I didn’t think of that when we came straight here but I’m sure it doesn’t matter. You finally followed a storyline. Ashley and Carrie might just throw a party to celebrate”

“Eh, well, lets explore. This place is really cool. There are so many different kinds of spiders and I can tell this place used to be gorgeous. I wonder if I could ask for this place instead of that car for my graduation present”

“Maybe thats why they were trying to lead you here. They know you and probably knew you’d like this place. They are on your side, they really are”

“I guess.”

He grabbed her hand, making her pause. “I wouldn’t lie.”

His touch sent a tingle up her arm. “I know, I didn’t mean to imply you would.”

He smiled, releasing her. “Sorry, I shouldn’t just touch you.”

“It’s alright, you didn’t hurt me or anything. Come on, I want to know more about this place.” She could see dust dancing in the beams of light that pushed through the boarded up windows. She stepped into the kitchen and looked around. The place wasn’t in too bad of shape, nothing a little TLC couldn’t fix. “So, what do you think?” Sandro asked.

“It’s really nice.” She looked through the cabinets and the pantry then moved into the living room. “It’s huge. So, why did they send me here? Ghosts? Vampires? Renovation?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, I just know this is where they wanted you, what you do from here is all you. It does look haunted though, of course this wouldn’t be a bad place for a vampire assuming they were allergic to sunlight.”

Chapter Two

‘I would assume you’re not”

“Nope”

“Cool, so tell me a little about you. If we’re going to go on a date later I want to know more”

“well, I’m just a vampire. Not mixed with anything and I don’t have too exciting of a life outside helping Ashley and Carrie from time to time. My parents were good people, my siblings are nice” she interrupted “how many siblings? I only have one, his name is Cibor”

“I have eight, triplets run rampant in my family. My mom had two sets of triplets which is where six of them came from”

“wow, why didn’t she stop when it happened the first time?”

“well if she had done that I wouldn’t be alive”

“Oh” he chuckled “my mom loves children and my dad is happy to give them to her”

“Thats sweet, sounds like the type of people Ashley and Carrie would think up” He chuckled again “regardless of what you do after this I really want to be friends with you Ortensia”

“You too, I want to meet your family” He could practically hear the writers laughing and feel their triumph. Maybe them getting together was their point. Weather it was for him or her he whispered “thank you”

“Huh?” Ortensia asked and he said “nothing”

“you whispered something”

“did not”

“Ashley and Carrie, what’re you doing right now?” she asked as she looked up again. “Looking up doesn’t make the message go to them any clearer” Sandro pointed out.

“What are they doing then? You have a direct line right?”

“Well, yeah, but it’s not like they just tell me everything. Anyway, I…I was just thanking them for letting me hang out with you, that’s all. Sorry if that’s weird.”

“Well why didn’t you just say.”

“I was just a little embarrassed you had heard me, you have really good ears.” He rubbed the back of his head. “So, we should look upstairs, I bet it’s really cool.”

“I didn’t mean to snap.”

“It’s fine, really. After you.” She turned away and he followed, his heart beating hard in his chest. “So, why do you always wear a jacket? It’s pretty warm today.”

“I’m always cold, no matter what I do. Before you ask why don’t I ask Ashley and Carrie to change it, it doesn’t bother me, it’s perfect for summer.”

“yeah, I guess it would be nice. Especially July and August, god. Somtimes I feel like I’m going to die” They looked around and talked until Sandro let her know the girls were coming. He could hear them and guessed she probably had no interest in hanging out with them. He picked her up and silently got them back out of there and on the way back to her aunts car. When he set her down she said “I’m serious about that place. I love it. That would be better than a car”

“I hope your parents agree then. Anyway, a date. What would you like to do?” She blushed “I’d like to torture you with a chick flick”

“when?”

“Sunday?”

“Alright, Sunday it is. What movie?”

“I can’t tell you or it wouldn’t be torture.”

He chuckled. “Alright, let’s get you home then.”

“Are my classmates going to be okay?”

“Oh yeah, no worries.”

“Alright then.”

Sandro climbed into the passenger seat of the car and yawned as Ortensia drove. It had been a productive day and he was excited about seeing her again. When she pulled into her parent’s driveway he got out and walked her to the door, making her laugh. “What, I wanted you home safe. As your hall monitor it’s my job to make sure you get where you need to be.”

“well, just make sure you’re here Sunday”

“I wouldn’t even think about not coming. I’m a man of my word” She went inside and he found himself not wanting to leave. He managed to force himself though, knowing her parents might not like some random vampire coming into their home uninvited. Saturday came and Ortensia went shopping for supplies. She picked a couple movies, bought some snacks and a couple 2 liters. She didn’t know if he liked soda but it wouldn’t hurt to have some. On her way home she said “I can’t believe I’m finally doing this you two. I have sworn for so long I wouldn’t be any part of your stories but damn it he’s cute and fun to be around”

She could just imagine them smiling, knowing they had won. She was a little nervous the next day and took forever picking out an outfit. She took a deep breath as she did her hair, telling herself he would like her no matter what.

“Well look at you.” Her dad teased when she came out to wait. “This boy must be something special.”

“Yeah, I mean I guess.”

“Well, your mother and I decided to go out so you two can hangout without us hovering. You know we trust you.”

“He’ll be here soon if you want to meet him.”

“alright, we’ll try not to embarrass you” When Sandro arrived her parents stayed and talked to him for only a short while, not wanting to eat too much of their time since they weren’t sure how long he could stay. “It was nice meeting you two” Sandro said and her mother smiled “well you seem to be a sweet young man. Your contacts are cool” He looked at Ortensia for if he should tell them or not and she said “yeah yeah a lot of the kids at school are wearing them” She’d tell them he was a vampire and his eyes actually were red but this wasn’t the time to have that conversation. They left and her father locked the door behind him.

“From what I know about you you are typically honest with your parents” Sandro said and she answered “yeah, I’m going to tell them. I’ll tell them tonight after you leave. It’s going to be a big talk since you have to know it’s just humans here”

“Out in the open anyway, yeah, thats why I looked to you.”

“So before I start the first movie would you like some popcorn and soda? I also bought some candy, well a lot of candy since I wasn’t sure what you like.”

“Sounds great. I’m not really picky.” He chuckled. “You learn not to be when you have so many siblings.”

She smiled. “Just make yourself at home then.”

“I can help.”

“It’s okay, I’ll yell if I need you.”

Ortensia put a bag in the microwave then took the candy to the living room where she set it on the coffee table “what kind of soda do you want?” she asked them gave a list of what she had. “Sprite please” he said with a smile that made her blush again. She hurried out, wondering how he was so easily able to do that. He wasn’t the first attractive male she had seen but she reacted to him as if he was. By the time she had popped a bag of popcorn for each of them she was calm once more, determined to stop looking like such a dork in front of Sandro.

She put in the movie and sat with about one persons space between them. She couldn’t bring herself to get any closer. This was the first time they were spending time like this together anyway. She had went to that mansion with him but she hadn’t really wanted to do that. The night stayed perfectly innocent and ended after two movies “thank you for inviting me over Ortensia”

“It was fun”

“Being that was a date, do I get to kiss your cheek before I leave?”

“You’re so weird” She said and he chuckled “what?”

“Thats such an innocent question for a dude” He laughed again, not at all expecting this reaction but it made her all the more endearing to him. “Not all men have a one track mind you know Ortensia. I really like you and for now, all I want is to get to know you and maybe just the smallest amounts of affection. Could I kiss your cheek?”

“sure” she was blushing again and hated it because it was so obvious. His never wavering smile was still there, only briefly fading as he pressed a soft kiss to her left cheek “goodnight Ortensia”

Chapter Three

“Good night.” Her heart was fluttering as she watched him leave and she quickly ran upstairs and jumped onto her bed, burying her face in her pillow. “Damn, damn, damn.” She said. “You two, you did this, now I’m…” She turned over, her face bright red. “You win, okay. I give, I really do.” She wondered if this was it, if this was the direction she should be going in. Sandro was supposed to be her guide and she wondered if he knew Carrie and Ashley had planned this and if he did what he would do if she told him how she was starting to feel. “This has to be weird for him right?” She asked the air. “I mean it’s not like he’d make me be with him, he’s too sweet for that. Am I supposed to make a move? What should I do?” She knew they wouldn’t tell her, this was her choice as Sandro had pointed out. “I’ll wait a little while longer to see if he really feels the same and then if he does, I’ll tell him how I feel.”

Two months passed and he came to her graduation. When she saw him in the crowd she felt touched he actually came. He was also coming with her the next day to start cleaning up her home. Her parents weren’t sure at first if they could get it but the owner was anxious to get it off their hands so it had come at a steal. It made Ortensia glad Sandro had nudged her on to actually follow a storyline. She would have never seen that beautiful, abandoned place if she had kept refusing. It made Ortensia a bit nervous with how Sandro’s eyes never left her the whole ceremony though at the same time she was happy, she was growing more and more confident, almost confident enough to tell him how she felt.

After the ceremony Sandro joined them for a celebratory dinner. “Since you’re meeting us so early tomorrow anyway would you like to stay the night? Our couch is a sleeper sofa so it pulls out into a fairly nice bed.” her father offered. “That would be amazing, thank you”

“You can borrow something of mine to wear tomorrow. I have a few shirts that are a little too big on me so it might make up for the height difference” Ortensia’s fathered said. He was going to be sleeping in the same house as her and she couldn’t remember ever feeling this nervous. She chastised herself silently “god you’re acting like he’ll be sleeping in the same room as you. He’ll be in the living room, get a grip. He can probably tell you;re nervous”

She wanted to talk to him that night, but she wound up just telling him goodnight and heading to her room. It was about an hour after she was settled in that someone tapped lightly on her door. She slid out of bed and pulled the door open, a little surprised when she saw Sandro. She thought maybe her father had come to make sure she was alone.

“Do you need something?”

“I just wanted to say congratulations again and give you something before you went to sleep.”

“Oh, what?”

He leaned in and kissed her cheek, giving her goosebumps and making her heart jump in her chest. “Good night beautiful.” He gently stroked her cheek. “Sweet dreams.”

He went to walk away and she reflexively grabbed him to make him stop. He looked at her “yes Ortensia” How did he manage to make her name sound so beautiful? “Do you like me, as in romantically” He now wore a nervous smile “Honestly? Yes, yes I do”

“Good because I like you romantically too” He chuckled “then could I have a real kiss?” She blushed and he got close to her again, waiting for her okay. She eventually was able to tell him yes and he gave her a brief, soft kiss. “goodnight beautiful” he said again “goodnight Sandro” He didn’t want to leave now, it wasn’t fair she had told him this right now, where he couldn’t just hold her for awhile. He didn’t want to risk pissing her father off. He forced himself to the living room and laid down. He felt incredibly happy and urged sleep to take him so he could be with her tomorrow.

When the morning came he eagerly went up to her room to wake her. “I’ll be down soon” she said and got up to ready herself. He waited by her door, hugging her when she came out. “Good morning” he said happily and she answered “good morning”

“Can I hold your hand on the way to the kitchen? Your mom is cooking” She slid her hand into his and they walked to her kitchen where her mother smiled “well good morning you two”

“Good morning.” Sandro said with a happy smile.

“Morning mom.” Ortensia could feel her cheeks warming. “So, we’re dating now.”

“I can see that. Your dad and I had a feeling this would happen soon.” She smiled. “The way he looks at you and how red you always are really told us all we needed to know. We really like you Sandro and we know our baby is in good hands with you.”

When breakfast was over they met some friends and a few professionals over at what would be Ortensias place. Now that she was out of school her concentration was on this home and Sandro. She was definitely going to go to college but she had just started a relationship with Sandro that seemed like one worth really investing in and she wanted to make this mansion a real home before she started because her mind would always be drifting to this project otherwise. Her future was looking pretty amazing and as begrudging as she was to admit it she had Ashley and Carrie to thank for that. Those annoying writers she had been swatting away for so long had set her on a path she’d be forever grateful for.

~ The End

Nigel & Vina 4

Chapter One

Aleece and Panya sat side by side on a Clif. They were enjoying looking over at the gorgeous land Panya wasn’t allowed into. Panya really wanted to explore but she had never disobeyed her parents and she wouldn’t start now. She knew any time her father told her she couldn’t do somthing it was always with her best interest at heart. She looked up to him and felt lucky to have such a loving father. Panya rolled her eyes when Aleece started up again “Lets just go Panya. Your parents don’t have to know. They let us stay out as late as we want. I won’t tell on you”

“Aleece no, my dad says it’s too dangerous. He promises to take me when I’m a little older”

“Panya, you’re an adult. Stop letting a man run your life” and this was why they fought when they did. Aleece and her mother were those psycho, all men are out to oppress women type of women. She loved Aleece and she was an amazing friend aside from her irrationality when it came to the male gender but somtimes it really was hard to stomach, especially when it came to her dad. “My dad keeps me safe. he loves mom and I”

“I know he loves you Panya but he’s still a man. He’s just telling you not to because he can. Men just like to control women. It’s fact”

“Aleece I wont go. He gives me hardly any rules. The rules I do have are for my own good. It has nothing to do with my gender.” Her voice was starting to raise “Yes it does, if you were a boy you’d be allowed to go”

“Thats not true!”

“Panya, you need to wake up and take charge of your life. Stand up to him and make him know you’re not less than because you’re a female” Panya groaned “God you sound so stupid. You let this extreme feminism you have going on make you and idiot. Don’t talk about my dad like he’s some asshole. My dad is the best man I know”

“Well you know what I’m going just to show you he’s only trying to control you Panya. You need to wake up and take control of your life. Men just ruin womens fun. You’ll see, I’ll be back in two hours tops”

“You’re not going down there”

“Yes I am”

“Aleece please, if” Aleece interrupted her with a hug “I’ll be right back Panya and you’ll see the light” Panya protested more but her friend still jumped off the Clif. She could push against gravity so Panya knew the fall wouldn’t hurt her. She just worried about the land below. Panya didn’t know what to do so she paced back and forth. It felt liek days when five hours passed and Aleece still wasn’t back.

Panya was scared, Aleece was a bitch sometimes but she was still her best friend. Panya decided to get her father. She knew Aleece got on his nerves but she hoped he would help her for his daughters sake.

Nigel lay with Vina in the grass just behind their home, both of them watching as the clouds passed by and enjoying one another’s company. He rubbed his nose against her cheek and she giggled, making his heart flutter.

“Love you.” He said.

“Love you too.” She snuggles closer, feeling content.

“Dad? Mom?” Panya’s voice startled them and Nigel could tell something was off.

“Backyard.” He yelled as he got to his feet and helped Vina up.

Panya rushed to the back yard and Nigels senses filled with her panic “Panya, what is it baby?”

“Aleece and I were hanging out right above that area I’m not supposed to go to because we like looking over it. You know, like you and I do when we’re having picnics sometimes. She tried to get me to go but I wouldn’t and she went on one of her rants then went just to prove to me you were being overbearing. It’s been five hours dad, please, I know you don’t like her very much but she’s my best friend. Please go get her” Nigel deeply sighed and pushed his fingers through his hair. He couldn’t stand her or her mother but his little Panya looked so heartbroken. He knew there was a good chance his daughters best friend was already dead but he couldn’t turn his back on the situation when he had to look into those sad, pleading eyes. “I will go Panya but…I need you to understand I might not be able to help her if she’s been there for that long. I wasn’t just being a jerk, I just wanted you to wait until you were a stronger demon because it is such a dangerous area.”

She hugged him as she started crying “I know dad, thats why I’m so scared. I know you were just keeping me safe. I need to go too though. She wont let you help her dad so I need to be there to slap sense into her. I’ll listen to you and stick by your side the whole time. I promise”

“I know so let me tell you a few things before we go help her. No matter how harmless a creature seems down there don’t be fooled, almost everything there is blood thirsty. Some are tricksters aswell, one second you’re letting a small, cute animal run up to you then the last thing you see is it shift into a nasty, vile looking creature. It’s a deceiving place so you can’t trust anything unless I tell you you can.”

“Yes sir”

“Should I come too?” Vina asked.

Nigel fought an internal battle. He wanted to take her, knew she was much stronger and had amazing control of her powers, but he worried he might become more distracted than he would be with Panya down there. “Vina…”

“I’ll stay, calm down okay.”

“Sorry, I do trust you, I really do.”

“I know.” She gave him a quick kiss. “I’ll go tell Aleece’s mother, you two get down there and bring her back.”

“I love you Vina.”

“I love you too and you Panya, stay safe.” Vina hugged them both then waited until they were gone before she headed to Aleece’s mother’s.”

Vina didn’t hurry due to the fact Nigel was already on his way and she didn’t like the two any more than Nigel did. They were always nice to her but their comments about men rubbed her the wrong way. She hated the way they just summed them all up together, especially because of her mate Nigel. Their nasty comments of course included him and Nigel was a truly amazing man and mate to her. In raising their daughter he had been so sweet and patient. He had such a good relationship with Panya and Aleece was always spewing her venom because of the way her mother had raised her.

“Vina?” Ada asked as she answered teh door “Your daughter has gotten herself into trouble. She was trying to get my Panya to go somewhere her father told her not to and took it as far to go herself. She’s been missing for hours. My husband and daughter are out looking now”

“she’s a strong woman, she’s fine”

“You don’t even know where she’s gone”

“where?” Vina pointed in the direction of the cliffs and Adas eyes actually got wide “she wouldn’t be that dumb” Ada said in surprise “she was, she tries so hard to make our daughter think less of her dad she made a mistake that might cost her her life”

“don’t you make it about that. Nigel does control you and your daughter too much”

“Thats crap and you have to know that”

“we can fight later. I’m going and let me guess, you’re staying here?”

“I offered Ada”

“sure you did, let a man run your life. I need to go help my strong, independent daughter” Ada ran off.

Nigel was not happy when he saw Ada running toward them and he resisted the urge to roll his eyes at her. “I’m coming.” She said.

“Pardon?”

“You heard me.”

He sighed. “Whatever, I have no time to argue and it’s your fault she’s down there anyway.”

“What did you say?”

“You heard me.” He threw her words back at her. “On my back Panya.” His tone softened as he squatted down and his daughter climbed onto his back. “Hold tight and don’t be scared, I won’t drop you.”

“I know daddy.” He dropped over the edge, not bothering to see if Ada followed. He didn’t have time for her, not when another young woman was in danger. The moment his feet touched the ground, he let Panya down then opened up his senses. He inhaled, listened, ignored Ada when she dropped down next to them.

“Anything dad?” Panya asked.

“Why ask him? You have your senses too or has he kept you undertrained.”

“My dad has had much more experience than I and I trust his nose better than mine.” Ada huffed and Panya rolled her eyes. “So, anything?”

“She headed straight on into the fog.” He took his daughter’s hand and strayed walking, staying alert. “Blood, I smell blood, not far.” He picked up his pace, coming to a quick stop when they came to a small patch of red.

“She was attacked?” Ada sounded shocked.

Nigel studied the area around the blood. “Ambushed, the blood is probably from a head wound. She was knocked unconscious then taken, probably a demon or monster of some sort.”

Ada looked scared but he offered her no comfort. If she wouldn’t tell Aleece anything any man in her life did was to try and control her because she was a woman she wouldn’t be down here. He hoped maybe she’d reconsider her parenting even just a little bit. He knew his Panya was smart but he always worried about her with Aleece for reasons like this. What if she had convinced his daughter to come here without him just because he had told her not to. It would kill both him and Vina if they ever lost their daughter. “Aleece!” Ada called as teh blood droplets began to scare her further “Hush” Nigel tried not to snap but she was going to attract something if she didn’t be quite. Ada yelled one more time and louder just because he had tried to silence her. Panya was about to scold her but she couldn’t be heard over the loud cry of what sounded like a terrifying beast “Fucking damn it Ada”

“what is that?”

Panyas heart sped up in fear as the figure came into view, fire engulfing everything around it.

“Panya, I need a storm and for you to stay back.”

“Okay, be careful.”

“You’re just going to do as he says?” Ada asked.

“It’s your fault it found us.” Panya replied in irritation as she held her hands up toward the sky. She formed storm clouds, making them heavy with rain that was soon falling on them. It put out the fires and hissed as it touched the monster Nigel faced. He watched, waited. He knew what they were capable of and as it let out a smokey breath, it formed fireballs in its hands. They were hot enough that the water did nothing to them. Nigel rushed the creature, dodging fireballs as they sailed at him with lightening speed. He could feel the heat of them as they threatened to singe his clothes and he landed a punch square in the thing’s chest so it was knocked back.

Chapter Two

Panya helped her father by launching lighting directly into the creature. She wasn’t sure it would do much but she hoped it would help. It didn’t have near the effect she wished but it did seem to help keep it down as her father jumped on the creature. Even in it’s weakened state it tried to stab her father with it’s pointy fingers but Nigel was too fast. He launched a killing blow into the monsters chest then angrily walked over to Ada “Unless you want another one of those or somthing worse shut your mouth” He emphasized the words in his fury. Ada and Aleece were putting his daughter in danger with their foolishness and he wouldn’t have this women draw things to them with her yelling.

Ada glared at Nigel who took his daughters hand and spoke in a suddenly sweet tone. “You did so well Panya. Thank you for the added electricity. It helped me quite a bit”

“really, I wasn’t sure what to do” He smiled at her warmly “You did perfect. Keep sticking to me though and be quite” Panya nodded and Nigel’s face grew serious again as he looked ahead, opening his senses to follow Aleece’s trail. Ada wasn’t yelling for her daughter any longer but it urked her not to since Nigel told her not to.

“I smell something different.” Nigel said as they found a few drops of blood. “Definitely demon, male.”

“Of course.” Ada said in a snotty tone.

“If I were you, Ada, I would change my ways. Your man hating put your daughter at risk. Instead of teaching her to see men as the enemy, you should have focused on common sense and honing her skills. Maybe if you had spent that time being a good example, she would have escaped.”

“You son of a…”

Nigel let go of Panya and clamped his hand over Ada’s mouth to keep her from screaming. “If you dare to put my daughter at risk again, I will tie you up and leave you here. Her and Vina are my world and I refuse to lose them to your idiocy.” He moved away from her and took Panya’s hand.

“Are we close daddy?” Panya asked, drawing his attention away from Ada.

“Their scent is stronger here. I don’t know how this demon will react to us so please follow my lead. If he should corner you, attack and do not stop attacking.”

“Okay” Nigel cautiously followed the scent, ready to protect his daughter from any surprises this male might throw at him. Ada he honestly wasn’t worried about in the slightest. He wished he could care about her but right now her stupidity just had him too angry at her. Nigel knew as a female demon she had probably had a hard life when it came to males due to the general attitude of them and thats normally what he wold keep telling himself as he dealt with her and Aleece for his daughter but right now nothing he could tell himself to make Ada more tolerable could make him care for her safety.

When Aleece came into view the male demon seemed to be tending a wound on her leg. That was clear to Nigel but Ada, seeing men as only villans didn’t notice it and tried to go for him. Nigel summoned his whip and flicked it, catching her around her ankle and pulling her down. She hit hard and cursed “what the fuck Nigel”

“He’s helping her” Nigel snapped. “Mom!” Aleece said with tears in her eyes and got up to help her up and hug her. “My baby”

“I don’t know what he wants but this demon is helping me”

“Jesus I said I didn’t want anything. Despite the fact you clocked me for no reason after I saved you” Panya rushed over to him “Thank you or helping my friend” The male gave a charming and a little too flirty smile for Nigels comfort as he looked at Panya “Eh, my parents taught me to help people in need if I can. I’m Luca, what’s your name?”

“Panya” Nigel walked over and tugged his daughter behind him “and I’m Nigel, her dad” Panya blushed. “Hi sir, it’s good to meet you too.”

“So, if you didn’t hurt her, who did?” Panya asked.

“Like he’d tell the truth.” Ada snapped.

Luca chuckled. “Well at least I’m used to that sort of thing.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, there are these creatures that live in the mist, they’re fast. One moment they’re there and the next gone. They like to wound, the smell of blood excited them and then they pounce, ripping their prey apart.”

“They didn’t bother us.” Panya said.

“That’s probably because of you father, he gives off a very intimidating aura.”

“Well thank you so much for saving her, even after she hit you.”

“It was nothing, though I don’t understand why she was stupid enough to come down here alone, she could have died.”

“You’re here by yourself” Aleece said indignantly. “I’m by myself because I was born and raised here. My parents are adrenaline junkies. I don’t live here anymore but they still do. I’ve been here spending time with them.” Luca answered, seeming completely frustrated with Aleece. Panya was grateful, she knew what a jerk Aleece could be to men and she thought a lot of Luca for helping her friend despite her attitude. “well I’m getting my daughter out of here” Ada scooped up Aleece and ran off without letting them protest. Luca groaned “did she really just do that? They aren’t going to get out of here on their own”

“Panya, get on my back again. Luca, would you mind helping me with damage control? Who knows what Ada will stumble into trying to get out by herself. Aleece is my daughters best friend believe it or not and it would mean a lot to Panya if you helped us” Nigel didn’t know how much Luca cared being they just met but he really didn’t want to let down his daughter. He also wasn’t blind, he knew his daughter was as beautiful as her mother. It was why he had tugged his daughter away from Luca so fast. He trusted his daughter and wanted her happy but her dating was still something he feared and hoped would still be years away.

“Of” Luca was starting to say of course I’ll help but screams already carried through the mist.

“Of course.” Nigel said with a sigh. “Hold on tightly Panya.” He took off at a sprint, Luca keeping pace.

When they came upon Ada and Aleece, the latter was holding tightly to her mother’s wrist as something long and serpent like was trying to pull Ada into a bog. “H…help.” Aleece said and Nigel let Panya down so he could grab what he thought was a tentacle and rip it in half.

“Get back.” He ordered and the two women scrambled away. “Panya, lightening.” It slammed into the bog and something bubbled under the mud before going still. Nigel glared at Ada and Aleece. “You can either stick with us or die out here. I’m not going to chase you all around this place because you are too stupid to listen.” He sighed. “Are you at least okay?”

“We’re fine.” Ada said as she stood and lifted Aleece. “Just hurry and get us out of here.”

“This way.” Luca said and Nigel lifted Panya onto his back.

“Luca, you should have dinner with us tonight as a thank you.” Panya said and he gave her a sweet smile.

“I would love to if your father says it’s okay.”

“It’s fine with me” Nigel answered as they made their way out and back up the cliffs. Once safe Panya got off her fathers back and said “wait” to Ada and Aleece. They stopped and Ada set her daughter down to talk to her friend “You need to thank my dad Aleece. As much as you hate men my dad risked his life for you and as my best friend you really should thank him” Aleece glanced back at her mother just looked away with an attitude. Aleece looked uncomfortable but Panyas friendship meant more than her pride so she walked over to Nigel and said “thank you” she didn’t look him in the face but Nigel was surprised she was even thanking him.

As Aleece rejoined her mother she asked “are we good Panya?”

“Yes” Aleece smiled then allowed her mom to take her home. When they were out of sight Nigel said “it wasn’t a big deal for me Panya. I was only worried about taking you”

“still she needed to thank you dad.”

“I’m blown back you were able to get her to”

“She’s not really a jerk dad. I know that’s easier for me to say. She’s just been raised with her mother drilling into her men are terrible and are all out to hurt her or get sex from her. She’s a good friend to me and I think she can change. Maybe not anytime soon but I think if I’m patient enough with her she can change someday when she doesn’t live with her mother.”

“I hope so or she’s going to get herself killed. Her mother has made her reckless.” He sighed. “Let’s get back to your mother, I’m sure she’s worried.”

“Come on Luca, you’ll like my mom, she’s really great.”

“Well, I’m sure, if she’s as sweet as you.” Nigel shot him a look and Luca looked apologetic. “Running at the mouth, both a gift and a curse.”

“Be nice daddy.”

“You now how it is baby girl, it’s a dads job to be protective of his children. It has nothing to do with your sex and everything to do with you being my child.”

“I know and that’s why you’re such a wonderful father.”

Vina felt a massive amount of relief when she saw her husband and daughter coming home. She hugged Panya first “Oh my baby, is your friend okay?”

“She’s safe and home” After Vina had hugged Nigel Panya introduced Luca “This is Luca, He was helping Aleece when we found her”

“Oh my, she let you help her?”

“She punched me and only let me help with her wound when she could no longer stand”

“sounds like Aleece, thank you for still helping her. She means a lot to my daughter” Luca chuckled “I didn’t do that much. I grew up there and know the easiest way to take down everything”

“wow, you grew up there?”

“Yeah, it was quite the childhood. My parents are addicted to getting their adrenaline up. My whole childhood was completely wild. I loved every second”

“You should have brought them”

“well if I find myself invited again I’ll bring them along”

“Come on in, you seem like a young man we’d love to have over again.” They went inside and Vina instantly urged Nigel and Panya to take showers. They left, leaving Vina and Luca alone “do you want a drink?”

“No thank you” Vina sat with him “do you have any siblings?”

“Yep, I’m the baby. My other siblings are considerably older”

“How was that?”

“amazing, my whole family is pretty loving”

“That’s good, we have Panya together. Panya has three half siblings from Nigels previous relationships. I love them all and thankfully they love me too”

“You adn your daughter seem really lovely” Vina giggled “did Nigel give you a hard time?”

“Oh, not really, he just kind of has I’ll kick your ass vibe going on but I understand. I’ve been a bit flirty with Panya. She’s a very pretty girl if it’s okay for me to say”

“That’s fine. It’s because she’s only thirteen and he hopes she wait for a bit before dating. You see, he has a bit of a past and he worries about her. He knows what demon males can become if raised by the wrong people.”

“I understand, really I do. If it makes you feel better, I would like to get to know Panya. I won’t make a move on her or anything until she’s older.”

“How old are you?”

“Sixteen ma’am.”

“That’s not a big gap and I’m sure it’ll make Nigel feel better.”

“Better about what?” Nigel asked as he walked into the living room still drying his hair.

“About Panya growing up.” Vina answered honestly.

“What about it?”

“Well, Luca’s sixteen and he’s promised to be good for your sake.”

Nigel nodded “Okay, you can come around if you want and Panya is comfortable. Regardless, Panya is a smart woman. She can make her own choices. I know you don’t think she hangs out with Aleece because I want her to. I just try to guide her. Though keep in mind she is my baby. I will protect her even if she hates me for it.” Luca stood and shook Nigels hand “I swear I will never do anything to harm her. Thank you for letting me in your home. I know you’ll let her do what she wants but I’d rather have your blessing. My parents taught me to be respectful, especially of my elders”

When Panya came out the two teens sat and talked while Nigel and Vina made dinner. “My dad relaxed a little around you”

“good, I’m glad, how do you feel around me?” She blushed “Um, I’m hoping you’ll be my friend and come hangout with Aleece and I” Luca smiled again “I’ll come back tomorrow with something you can summon me with when you want to hangout. I’d prefer you not try to come get me and risk yourself’

“Are you saying I’m a wuss?” She teased.

“No, but you’re not stupid.”

“True.”

He smiled. “So, your dad is pretty cool. I mean he isn’t afraid to jump into the fray.”

“Yeah, he’s pretty amazing. I want to be just like him. He trains me any time I ask so I’ll be able to defend myself. He says all his children should be strong and be able to hold their own if they must. He says sometimes the world is a cruel place and you should learn how to combat it, not only physically, but with compassion. My uncle Chthon saved him and he feels like he should try to do the same, but he says that sometimes they’ll try to kill you anyway and you should fight with all your strength.”

“Aponte?”

“yep”

“wow, he’s a bad ass himself. You come from quite the family Panya”

“I do, I’m very proud to be a part of it”

“So your half siblings, how do you get along?”

“we’re pretty close. They’ve always treated me like a full blooded sister and they love my mom quite a bit” He smiled “thats what your mom said, I’m glad to hear it. If I am going to be able to hangout with you how is Aleece going to be about it?”

“she’ll just have to get over it. I love her but she can’t be the way she is forever. I hope it doesn’t cause a rift between us but it’s a choice she’s going to have to make” Panya started asking about his family and childhood. It was a conversation that lasted all through dinner and long after. It was getting pretty late when he said “I’m sure I’m starting to over stay my welcome. Thank you for inviting me to dinner. When can I come tomorrow?”

“ten am?”

“ten it is Panya” He hugged her, keeping it short so he wouldn’t worry her father. Panya in turn hugged her parents “goodnight” she said to each of them then ran to her room in excitment for tomorrow. Vina giggled “somthing is definitely going to bloom between those two. If not a romance it will be a really strong friendship” Nigel swept his mate off her feet and carried her to their room “He does seem nice but I’m not ready to fully trust him with her yet. We’ve only just met him”

“I know Nigel” They got undressed and cuddled up in bed. Nigel drifted off in the bliss of his wife and in hope Aleece has learned a lesson today. He feared that girl around his daughter far more than he feared Luca. Luca seemed polite and intelligent. Aleece and her mother did extremely stupid things in the name of sticking it to every man they met. He just had to believe his Panya would keep making good choices.

~ The End

Dylan & Eleanor

Chapter One

Dylan kissed his mom on the cheek just before he opened the door to get out of the car. She dropped him off at school every morning after she dropped his younger brother Owen at the elementary school. He was glad, when he heard bus stories he was glad he wasn’t stuck on it every day. His mom, Catalina, even normally let him listen to what he wanted on the radio. His brother didn’t much care so he didn’t even have to worry about Owen wanting a turn. He paused when his fox ears picked up the shrill voice of Amanda Duren and a few of the other girls. He normally didn’t care what they did, they were a bunch of rich spoiled brats who were in the popular crowd with him but he liked to act as if they didn’t exist. Sometimes if only to bring Amanda down a few pegs.

Today though, he heard Eleanor. They could be bitches to anybody in the school if they wanted to but not her. He wasn’t even sure why they’d be bothering her. She wasn’t considered particularly cool by the other kids but she wasn’t in the outcast group either. She was one of those that were just sort of inbetween. She was anything but average to Dylan though. He had noticed her back in tenth grade when she was a Freshman at school. Instantly he felt butterflies and he had wanted to talk to her but when he tried for the first time in his life he actually felt shy. It had been such an out of place feeling for him he hadn’t recognized why he hadn’t been able to talk to her at first. Shy was something he was far from but she made him feel so much his mind could barely function when he approached her.

His father always talked about how you knew your mate the day you saw them. He couldn’t explain how but you knew and Dylan knew she was his but discovering that just made him even more nervous around her. When they came into view Amanda shoved Eleanor down “Don’t you ever pull that shit again bitch! Go get screwed by your boyfriend so you can lighten the fuck up!”

“She doesn’t even have a boyfriend Amanda” one of her little followers said with a higher than thou laugh. He was so pissed off his normal scatter brain around Eleanor cleared and he rushed over to her helping her up “did we break up? I sure as hell hope we didn’t. I just bought us tickets to that movie you wanted to see” Amanda stepped back, face white with shock “Dy Dylan.. you’re.. you’re dating that?”

“Do not call her that and don’t you ever talk to her that way again. She’s my girlfriend so back the hell off or I’ll tell all your boyfriends about what really happened last summer vacation. I didn’t want to get involved but I will if you ever disrespect Eleanor again. ” They coudl tell he was serious and Amanda scoffed “Fine Dylan, whatever, keep your mouth shut and we wont bother her again. We thought you were single, really” They walked off and he looked at Eleanor “Are you okay? He really couldn’t believe himself, he had managed to be somthing other than a bumbling idiot. HIs need to protect her finally got him talking to her. “Yeah, um, girlfriend?” she laughed nervously. Dylan blushed, wishful thinking had made him embarrass himself anyway while trying to find a sure fire way they’d leave her alone. He knew he was too popular even if they weren’t scared of what he knew to mess with Eleanor anymore.

“I just knew it would make them leave you alone for the rest of your time in this school…um” he scratched the back of his head “but..you know…we could go see a movie together if you wanted” Oh no! I’m reverting back to an idiot! He yelled in his head. He was pausing, stammering, this wasn’t him. His fox ears could hear her heart though, she was nervous too. “Yeah, I’d like that” She said and his fox danced with joy inside him.

“Really? I mean awesome, so Friday then?”

She nodded. “Okay.”

“Alright, good um…so I’ll take you to class then?”

“That’d be nice.”

He smiled and managed to take her hand, making her blush. “You know, they should see we’re dating.”

“Oh yeah, that’s a good idea.” They were both red and too shy to talk as he walked her to her locker and then to class. He refused to leave until he saw her sit down, not wanting anyone to mess with her. He was sure word would get around that they were dating and he knew it would make any bully back off. His friends would be sure to back him up if the need arose and they wouldn’t think twice about watching over Eleanor and reporting any problems to him.

As he walked away he thought about her smell. Something as they walked to class told him it was unique. His fox wanted him to know something but she just started talking to him so he wouldn’t do anything weird like get close and smell her or ask “Hey why do you smell so weird? I’m a fox and it’s picking up somthing, That would go over real well.” He said in his head. He’d tell her soon but that wasn;t first date material. After school his mom picked him up and he proudly told her that he was finally talking to Eleanor. “That’s wonderful, do you need any money for the movies?”

“I think I have enough”

“well when we get home let me give you some anyway. I want you two to have a lot of fun. I know how bad you’ve been wanting to take her out”

“Thank you” Dylan looked in the back seat to see why there was no comments from the peanut gallery. His little brother was sleeping soundly.

He excitedly took his things up to his room once they were home, thinking of what type of movie Eleanor would want to see. He was sure horror was a no go, but she seemed like she might like action and comedy. She was so sweet and gentle, he would think maybe she liked romance more, but he really didn’t want to presume just because she was kind of timid. His mother tapped on his door frame and he turned and took the extra money from her and quickly stuck it in his wallet. “You’re so nervous sweetie.”

“I know, it’s so weird.”

She stuck her head out to look down the hall then whispered. “Let me tell you a little secret, your father was just as nervous to talk to me. When I finally found out what he was, he was so worried I would toss him out.”

“I’m usually so calm and collected, but she just makes me so…so…”

“Jittery?”

“Yeah.”

“If you’re anything like your father, you’ll do just fine. You’re such a sweetheart and I’m sure she’ll see that even if you’re too nervous to speak.”

“Is there anything you want me to do extra around here?”

“No, you’re always good about doing your chores to earn your allowance. I don’t think I’ve had to remind you since middle school. You deserve a little extra money to take her out”

“I think she’s different like us. My fox picked up somthing in her scent.”

“That would be interesting, I wonder what she is.”

“You know I’ll dish to you as soon as I know. We’ll be sitting right by eachother at the movies so I’m bound to figure it out”

“if you end up not coming straight home after the movies just text me to let me know. Also, don’t forget your key. You’ll wake up your brother if you knock in the middle of the night”

“It’s always in my wallet mom”

“well I guess I’ll leave you to your homework then. We’re having baked drumsticks and greek salad tonight” His mother left the room and Dylan pulled out his homework.

Dinner was spent with him staring off into space as he thought about Eleanor, letting her scent play around in his head. It was his father clearing his throat that made him snap to attention. “So, your mother says you finally asked her out.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah I did.” Owen laughed and he blushed. “Hush. She was being bullied and I kind of lied about us dating and then it just kind of came out.”

“Oh so you’re like her white knight then?”

“Come on dad.”

His mother laughed. “Alright you two be nice to him. Shade love, you should be more sympathetic and Owen, some day he’ll be messing with you so be nice.”

“Alright, but just remember it’s okay to act like a complete idiot when you’re in love, it happens to the best of us.” Shade said as he patted his son’s back.

“Yeah and have her think I’m an illiterate moron.”

“When you’re in love, it really doesn’t matter. Just be yourself.”

Dylan wished Sirabi had dated so he could call and ask her advice. She was hyper focused on school just as his grandfather told him his mother Catalina had been. Boys were far from Sirabi’s mind. Dylan just really didn’t want to screw this up. Somthing in his felt he would always regret it if he made an idiot of himself and Eleanor didn’t end up wanting to be with him. After dinner he went straight to bed, he couldn’t wait for Friday.

When Friday finally came he borrowed his mothers car and once again assured her he had his house key and would text if they ended up doing somthing after the movie. When the car started to pull out of the driveway Shade teased his mate “You seem just as nervous as him”

“He had a few crush’s as a little boy but this is the first one that really matters. He’s so excited and happy.” Shade kissed her head “He’ll be fine Cat, come on, lets play somthing with Owen so you aren’t thinking about Dylans date.” When Dylan pulled up to Eleanors home he went up to the door and knocked, already second guessing himself “Oh god that was too loud” he said in his head. It took her a little bit to answer the door and she immidietly apologized “I’m sorry, I couldn’t get these boots tied”

He looked at her wardrobe. She was wearing a beautiful black and purple sundress with knee high lace boots. Her left one was still untied “Um, I could help you if you want” She blushed, one of the most popular boys at school had asked her out and she was already messing up the date. “Thank you” she said softly and he bent down to fix it “there ya go”

“I’m sorry”

“Believe me, I’m glad men have a much simpler wardrobe than women. I don’t know how you guys do it somtimes” She smiled, Dylan was just as sweet as he seemed when she’d see him in school.

So, what time does the movie start?”

“Uh, eight, we should eat first. If you’re hungry I mean.” He was too nervous and tried to calm himself down as he walked with her to the car.

“Okay, sounds good.”

“Good.” He opened the passenger door for her and she thanked him as she got in and he closed the door. He was actually shaking he was so nervous. “So uh any food preference? Meat, no meat, allergies?”

“Um well I don’t really eat meat.”

“Okay so no burgers or steak.”

“Oh, no you should eat what you want. Meat doesn’t gross me out or anything, I just don’t eat it. So…um if you want steak or something you should get it.”

“well, is there anywhere you really like?”

“I really like Fiction Kitchen but I’ve never looked for meat on the menu so I don’t know if you’ll want anything”

“I’m always up for trying new things. You’ll just have to tell me how to get there” She began to direct him and they soon arrived. He got out quickly and opened her door for her again. She gave him another smile that made him feel weak in the knees. “You..You’re really sweet Dylan”

“I just have manners. Could I hold your hand as we go inside?” She was full on red again “yeah” She hated the way her voice sounded when she answered him. She seemed to be concentrating on the menu then sighed with relief. “they do have meat here” He smiled “you didn’t have to be so worried about it. I would have survived” She was red again and he did his best not to laugh. He didn’t want to chance hurting her feelings. She was just so cute. A waitress came and asked “what would you two like to drink?”

“water please” Eleanor said and Dylan had her make it two. “do you want your regular appetizer Ellie?” Eleanor asked Dylan “do you like Squash and zucchini by chance?”

“yep”

“Okay then I want it” The waitress walked off and Dylan said “so you come here a lot then?”

“It’s one of my favorites.”

“Did you grow up here Eleanor?”

“Yep, you?”

“Yep, we live far from town though”

“How long did it take you to get to me?”

“about an hour”

“Oh my gosh” He took a mental breath, he really wanted to sound like an intelligent human being when he spoke to her. “I would have driven further to have a date with you Eleanor..I know we havent really hungout but I’ve wanted to ask you out for awhile”

“why didn’t you?” She was in a dress and she still felt hot as she talked to him. “You make me nervous”

“I’m sorry” He smiled again “No, it’s because I’m attracted to you” He was kicking himself again, he hoped he wasn’t making her uncomfortable. “I can’t believe you even see a girl like me in school. I know I’m no out cast or anything but I’m sure you have your pick of the popular girls”

“Most of them are annoying or just absolute brats or just not really interesting to me”

“So I heard being really smart runs in your family”

“Yep, started with my mom and it seems to have been passed down to myself and my two siblings. I have and older sister and younger brother”

“Oh, cool, How old are they?”

“Sirabi is twenty three and Owen is seven. Do you have siblings Eleanor?” Their drinks came and the woman set them down “it’ll be out soon Ellie” The lady said then walked away. “Just me” Eleanor answered.

Chapter Two

“Do you like it?”

She shrugged. “Yeah, I have my parents so I never felt alone or anything.”

“That’s good, I don’t think I’d be happy without my siblings. They like to tease me, but they really are the best.”

“Why?”

He wished he could cool off. “Well…it’s…it’s because of you.”

“M…me?”

He sighed. “Yeah, I guess I kind of talk about you all the time.” Their food was brought to them and they both kind of sat there staring at their plates for a moment. He glanced up at her. “Sorry if that’s weird.”

“No, it’s actually sweet.”

They ate and talked awkwardly then Dylan paid and they left to see their movie. As they sat there eventually it hit him, what was special about her scent. She was a rabbit. It made him smile, that meant she was immortal like him. It made her even more perfect for him in his eyes. He knew his father and Sirabi were going to have a good laugh at him falling in love with a rabbit. After the movie when they were sitting in the car he said “so..um, You’re a rabbit aren’t you?” She looked surprised “what?”

“I’m a fox, I can show you if you want. I’m very intune with my animal and he’s telling me you’re a rabbit” She was blushing again “yeah, I am. Thats really amazing.”

“It is, because that means you’re immortal like me”

“Should I be afraid? You going to eat me fox?” She joked, she had become steadily more comfortable with him as their date progressed. Dylan laughed “Never, you’re too beautiful” He started his car “do you want to see me as a fox or should I take you home?”

“I should probably get home. My dad pretty much just passes if I’m doing anything with a boy. I don’t want him to stress himself because I come home super late. Maybe we could hangout tomorrow”

“Yeah, I could pick you up. It can be hard to find my home and I don’t want you getting lost”

“Okay, I’ll text you with a good time to get me after I talk to my parents” He happily drove her home. It was nice having someone outside the family to talk to about being a shifter. It honestly made him sad when he had to leave her. He just hoped her parents didn’t say she couldn’t go to his home tomorrow. He was so excited about it and he knew his parents were going to love her. He hadn’t even made it home yet when his cellphone went off “He says he wants to meet you first.I think the fact you live way out of town worries him. Can you and maybe your family come eat breakfast here with us? I’m so sorry, I understand if you don’t want to. I know you’d have to get up pretty early to make it here. We have breakfast at nine.”

He smiled at his phone, putting it away to respond when he wasn’t driving. As soon as the car was parked in front of his home Dylan pulled his phone back out to respond “It’s not a problem. You are worth waking up early for. I will at least come. I’m pretty sure my family will too. Hopefully they aren’t sleeping but if they are I’ll wake my mom to see if she and dad would like to come” He slid the phone back in his pocket and got out of the car. The lights were still on inside so his parents were probably up.

He unlocked the door and went in. “Mom?” he called gently so he wouldn’t wake Owen. She and Shade walked out of their room to him “how did it go baby?”

“Absolutely amazing, guess what’s different about her scent?”

“What is she?” Catalina asked eagerly and with a large smile he said “She’s a rabbit” Just as he predicted his father laughed. It was a little loud so Catalina reprimanded him “Shade, Owen”

“sorry” he said stiffling himself. “I just…she’s immortal like me”

“well I’m really happy for you son. Ignore your dad”

“Hey I’m happy for him. You have to admit that’s funny” Shade said then Dylan spoke again “I want her to come over here tomorrow but her dad isn’t comfortable unless he meets at least me first. They want us to come over for breakfast at nine am tomorrow. Will you guys come?”

“Of course, that’s understandable.” He hugged them “Im headed to bed then and to text her back” He said excitedly then ran off before they could say anything.

Morning couldn’t come fast enough and when he was finally showered and dressed, he did his best not to linger too long in front of the mirror. “Look at his face.” Owen said when his brother finally joined them.

“Be nice Owen, this is his first love, it can’t be helped.” Catalina said.

“I’m beginning to think my family’s a little nuts.” Dylan teased and Shade laughed. “Can we go now?”

They left and Dylan bounced his leg nervously in the back seat of the car. He wanted her father to like him so it would be easier to take her places. He was excited to see her waiting on her front porch when they pulled up and struggled with his seat belt for a moment before getting out and running to her. She came to her feet and he hugged her. She looked so cute in her pastel purple sun dress.

“Mom, Dylan’s going to break her.” Owen said and Dylan blushed, pulling back.

“Sorry I was just so happy to see you.”

“Oh, that’s okay, I’m happy too.”

He turned to introduce her to his parents and brother. “This is my family, well minus my sister, but hopefully you’ll get to meet her too when she’s not at school.”

“Its nice to meet you all. Thank you for coming so early in the morning. My dad just worries about me a lot” Her dad was coming out as she said it “she’s my only little girl” he said then approached the family. He offered his hand to Shade “You have a daughter, I’m sure you understand. I’m Gabel, my wife is cooking our breakfast.”

“we do” he accepted the handshake and Gabel welcomed them all in. He took over for his wife so she could meet them too “I’m Maven, thank you for coming. Eleanor is so excited to be spending time with you this weekend. When do you think she’ll be home?”

“is there a specific time you want her back?”

“Her father would say yes but she is sixteen and he’s going to start loosening his grip if he likes it or not. Just remind her to call us if she wont be home for dinner. ” Eleanor whispered “dads going to have a heart attack when he finds out you just said that”

“He’ll survive honey. Have fun and I’ll deal with over protective in there” Maven went back into the kitchen.

“Wow Eleanor, you’re really pretty.” Owen said.

“Thank you.”

“Dylan undersold you, you’re really, really pretty.”

Both she and Dylan blushed which had Shade stifling his laughter. “I didn’t undersell anything, I just described her as best as I could.”

“Do you have bunny ears?” Owen asked.

“Yeah, I…I guess I could show you.”

Dylan gently grabbed her hand. “Don’t feel obligated.”

“I want to.” She revealed her ears and Dylan’s heart nearly stopped. She was so cute.

“Wow.” Was all he could say and she looked at her feet. She was saved from her shyness by her mother calling them to come eat.

Breakfast was fun as they talked about their lives and children. Maven never brought up not giving her daughter a set time to go home but she was just planning on telling him after Eleanor left for the day. After breakfast Eleanor hugged her parents then left with Dylans family. He took her hand again as they sat beside eachother, keeping it the whole ride there. When they got there Dylan said “lets go ahead and shift, I really want to see you” Catalina and Shade shifted to make her more comfortable. “Okay but when you know I’m about to shift back don’t look until I’m dressed”

“Of course”

He covered his eyes, giving her enough to time to shift before looking down and smiling at the little rabbit. He loved her lop ears and he dropped down to stroke her soft fur. “Adorable.” He said softly, his eyes warm. “Okay, my turn then.” The rabbit closed her eyes and Dylan made quick work in shifting. When she finally looked at him she thought he was very beautiful and he got down on his belly and crawled closer to her, letting their noses touch. His tail wagged and she felt herself warm. She thought she was so plain next to him, but he seemed like he really liked her. It was so much easier in animal form to be confident and she allowed herself to get closer.

When they finally shifted back and were dressed, Dylan pulled her into a hug and kissed her forehead. “Did you really like me that much?”

“You were so cute and soft.”

She blushed and fidgeted a little. “Thank you, I really liked your fox too. I’ve never been so close to one.”

“Well I promise not to make a snack out of you, even though you were bite sized.” She smiled and it made his heart melt.

“well we’ll go in and let you two just hangout together for awhile” Dylans dad said then pushed Owen along so he wouldn’t linger with them. Catalina chuckled and followed her mate and son. “lets explore” Dylan said and she looked up at him. He couldn’t resist pressing another gentle kiss to her forehead. She blushed again and he said “it’s okay that I do that right?”

“I like it” He took her out in the woods and showed her around his parents land “so your mom really moved out here so young?”

“Yep, grandpa bought all this for her as a present for graduating High School so early. She wasn’t very social back then so giving her a place she could be secluded was the perfect gift for her. When I graduate grandpa is going to buy me whatever car I want. He said I could even customize one if I wanted”

“what did he do for Sirabi?”

“Car aswell” They started heading back around lunchtime then were off once again.

“I would love to have a place like this.”

“Well once I graduate and start working, I’ll buy a place like this. Then you can visit whenever you want.”

“Really?”

He felt his face warm as he nodded. “Yeah, well I mean if you want.” He sighed.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m just so uncool when I’m around you.” She looked confused and he gave a small laugh. “You get me all mixed up and then I can’t think or talk or anything.”

“Oh, well me too, not that I was cool.”

He stopped and took her hands, pulling her close. “Don’t say that, you’re so cool. I mean you’re smart and sweet and even when people are bullying you, you manage not to lash out. If that had been me and some guys were messing with me I would have clocked them.”

“I’m just a rabbit, I’m not strong enough to fight.”

“Maybe not physically, but your compassion makes you strong.” Her beautiful brown eyes widened slightly as if she hadn’t thought of being strong through kindness.

“Th…thank you.” She blushed.

“So um since we’re alone do you…do you think I could kiss you, on the lips I mean?” He heard her heart skip a beat. “If you don’t want to then I won’t.”

“If..if theres no..you know..tongue. Last time I kissed a boy was him running up to me in kindergarten. It was a super fast peck so really I haven’t had my first kiss..” he smiled “I swear, no tongue” He pulled her closer and moved in to kiss her. HIs arms stayed on her waist as his lips pressed into hers. When he pulled back he rested his forehead on hers “just that felt so good. This is more than just a date right? You’ll be my girlfriend?”

“Yeah” Hearing that from him made her heart flutter again. Dylan loved being able to hear it. They spent the rest of their time out there going between just holding eachother and kissing. When evening came Dylan didn’t want to take her home but he knew he had to. He walked her to her front door and gave Eleanor a long hug goodbye. He’d ask to spend time with her Sunday aswell but he knew that might be a bit smothering. “I’ll call you tomorrow”

“Call my housephone. Do you have the number? Incoming calls are free and I want to save my phone minuets incase I end up not home and I want to talk to you” He pulled out his phone, ready for her to tell him. She did and he quickly put it in then repeated it to be sure. “How late or early can I call?”

“I’ll text you after breakfast and I’ll let you know when my parents go to bed. I’d hate for you to wake my dad. He can be a real grump tired.” Dylan caressed her cheek, feeling a sad tug at his heart but he kissed her and went back to his moms car. He didn’t pull away until she went inside. It sucked being young and unable to be with her all the time like his dad got to do with their mother. Now he had some motivation to finish school and get going with his life. He wanted to be ready for a life with her when she was out of school. He’d study hard so he could take the next step and go to college like his sister. One day he was going to have a little house of his own surrounded by nature and he hoped he’d have Eleanor with him.

~ The End

Lillie & Cory

Chapter One

Lillie sat in the bleachers, glancing up then back down at the piece of paper she drew on. She loved drawing objects that were in motion, it always presented a challenge and the football team was the perfect subject. Their quarterback, Cory Lance, had noticed her a few times. She would catch him looking up at her any time the team took a break and she did her best not to notice. He hadn’t said anything to the others or pointed her out to the coach so she took it as a sign that he wasn’t bothered by her. She closed her notebook when she heard footsteps and got to her feet, keeping her head down as she started down the steps. She smelled perfume and glanced at the three girls, teenagers like her, but older. They were in the same grade as Cory and often came up here to watch the boys practice. She walked down the steps, sighing as her feet hit the bottom. She walked along the track, the slight breeze tugging at her hair so she had to keep moving it to the side to keep it out of her face. The sound of fast moving footsteps coming up behind her startled her and she looked over her shoulder to see Cory coming her way.

“Lillie right?” He asked and she nodded. “You dropped this.” He held out her pencil and she looked down at her notebook to see it had slipped out.

“Oh, thanks.” She took it from him and stuck it inside her notebook. She grabbed her hair in irritation and he smiled.

“You got a ponytail holder?” She nodded and held up her wrist. He took it off and grabbed her hair then pulled it back away from her face. “There, now you can actually see. I see you up there a lot, drawing. Can I look?”

She hugged her notebook to her chest and looked at her tennis shoes. “I don’t know.”

“Okay, no problem. Maybe some other time.”

“You should probably get back to practice, everyone’s looking this way.”

Cory looked over his shoulder. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. It was nice to finally talk to you.”

“Yeah.” He ran back to the field and she turned quickly away, heading home. She didn’t want to go home, but she had nowhere else to go. It wasn’t that home life was overly terrible, it was just her mother and brother were always arguing. He was seventeen and wanted a little freedom, their mother over worried. She had been like that since the accident that had claimed their father’s life and had left both Lillie and Jayden scarred.
She understood her mothers feelings but she couldn’t keep the two of the cooped up forever. Lillie didn’t know how her mother would handle it when it came time for she and her brother to move out. Lillie wouldn’t be shocked if she called hourly to be sure they were breathing and well. She tried not to dwell on it. She had lost a father but knew how hard it must be for her mother to have lost her life partner. They had been so happy and in love. It wasn’t like most married people who bickered and acted as if they hated one another. They had fights like all couples but theirs was the relationship she hoped she would have one day.

Lillie was such an outcast though she wasn’t sure any guy would have her. That too wasn’t somthing she dwelled on. Being with a man was far from her biggest goal in life, it was more of a side quest that she wanted to succeed at. Her biggest dream was to be successful as an artist. That you just had to work hard for so her lack of beauty or popularity wasn’t a problem.
When she made it home she could hear her mother and brother arguing again. She sighed and just as she made it to the front door Jayden pulled it open. He immediately hugged her. “Everything okay?” Lillie asked softly.

“She’s at it again. I just want to go out with my friends and she acts like I’m going to go get drunk and fall off a cliff while on fire.”

Lillie couldn’t help but giggle. “Where are you going?”

“To watch a movie and then hang out in the park with Sam and Jenny, we’re getting pizza.”

“Be safe.”

“I will sis, love you.”

“Love you too.”

Jayden let her go and she went inside where he mother was sitting crying on the couch. “I’m home.”

Faith wiped her face and smiled as best as she could. “How was your walk home?”

“Quiet.”

“No one messed with you?”

“One of the football players talked to me.”

“He didn’t do anything did he?”

Lillie resisted the urge to sigh. “No mom, he just asked about my drawings and pulled my hair back for me. He was nice. Look, I’m going to go up to my room, I’ll be down in an hour to help you make dinner.” She started up the stairs and then stopped. “Can you please take it easy on Jayden, I hate hearing you two argue and he’s almost eighteen. He’s not going to stay here forever.” She went up before her mom could reply, heading into her room and closing the door.
She liked to get her homework out of the way when she had it so she pulled out her few homework assignments and got busy. She kept glancing at the clock in her bedroom to be sure she really went down in an hour to help her mother. Her homework didn’t seem like much but looks could be deceiving, especially with math homework. She was nearly done with everything when an hour had passed. Her mother had already started on dinner so Lillie just jumped in, recognizing right away what her mother was preparing.
Lillie set the table while her mom finished up the food then grabbed the pot of rice to the table while her mom moved the stir fry. They each made their plates and sat there eating in silence. “So, how was your day?” Faith asked.

“Good, same as always.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Tired.” She pushed her food around her plate then took another small bite. “I think I’m going too go to bed.”

“You’re not going to finish dinner?”

“Not tonight, I’ll take it for lunch tomorrow.” She got up from the table and went and kissed her mom on the cheek. “Love you mom.”

“Love you too baby.”

She took her plate and raked it into a tupperware container then stuck the container in the fridge before heading upstairs. She grabbed pajamas out of her room and a towel out of the hall closet and went into the bathroom. She took a quick shower, jumped out and dried then brushed her hair. She went into her room, locked her door and flopped down on her bed with her sketchbook. She flipped to a blank page and started sketching. It wasn’t very long before she realized she was drawing Cory’s face and blushed.
She looked at the handsome face she had drawn and thought of him returning her pen. She smiled at how kind he was, especially when she was such a misfit in school. Those cheerleaders were more his league than she was. Those eyes, those beautiful violet eyes. He was the only person she had ever seen with those rare eyes. He was lucky. Everything about him was perfect and to top it off he got purple eyes that almost never happen in humans.

She opened one of her drawers with her ever red cheeks and pulled out her colored pencils. She got back on the bed and colored in those eyes the color they were meant to be and sighed. Her mother would probably have a fit if she knew she was up here fantasizing about a football player. Truly her thinking about any man would probably scare her mother.
Cory sat on the couch watching Young Justice, his cat Oscar curled up in his lap sleeping. Every now and then his mind would drift to Lillie. She was beautiful, shy, her seeming awkwardness adorable. He loved her long black hair and the bright pink tips, loved the way she dressed and moved. He wanted to spend more time with her and get her to actually smile. He just knew she had a killer smile and he would do anything to see it. He sighed. “Well we better get to bed Oscar, I have school in the morning.” He switched off his playstation and TV then made sure all the lights in his apartment were off before going into his room and climbing into bed. He set the alarm on his phone then pulled the covers over himself before falling asleep.

The next morning Lillie woke to the sound of her brother knocking on her door. She sat up and rubbed her eyes then got up and pulled the door open. “Time to get up sis.”

“Thanks Jayden. Did you have fun last night?”

“Mom called me five times while I was out.” He whispered.

“She has good intentions and she’s trying.”

“I know, it’s just so frustrating.” He rubbed his neck. “I’ll let you get ready for school then.”

“Tell mom I’ll be down in a few minutes.” She closed her door and pulled clothes out of her chest of drawers. She pulled on a pair of black tights with a black bohemian top that fell a little past her thighs. She pulled on the red boots her mother had bought for her for her birthday. She loved how they stood out against the rest of her outfit. She brushed her hair into a messy bun then headed to the bathroom and brushed her teeth. She grabbed her homework and sketchbook then headed downstairs for breakfast.
One thing she did have to give her mom was that she cared enough to cook them breakfast every morning. Truly most of the reasons why she was annoying was just because she cared so much and overworried. Lillie felt sympathy for their mother but really wished she would see someone about her fear of everything now that they lost their father. She obviously wasn’t going to learn to cope with this on her own and Lillie had half a mind to actually suggest this to her mom when she returned from school today though telling her somthing like that scared Lillie. Her mother could get mad but Faith couldn’t stay like this forever and have any real relationship with Jayden or move on for even her own benefit.

With a full stomach Lillie headed off to school, mind consumed with her family. She arrived just in time to make it to her math class a little early. Lillie wasn’t horrible at math but felt there should be laws against making children take math class as their first class of the day. It was no way to start a day, especially for the kids who partied like idiots and were tired in the mornings.

Not that Lillie thought their should be exceptions for stupidity. The only girl she truly felt bad for in the morning was the seven month pregnant girl who sat in the back. She had morning sickness and Lillie doubted equations did anything to make her mornings any more pleasant.
As she worked on her equations Cory came into the classroom and Lillie found herself staring at him. He spoke quietly to the teacher and he turned to the class. “Everyone, I’m sure you all know Cory. He’s come offer tutoring to any students who might need it. Please speak with him in the office after class.”

Cory saw her and smiled, making her skin turn cherry red. His smile widened and she looked down at her paper. He left class and she lifted her head again. She glanced back at Kenna who was looking more and more frustrated with her work so Lillie moved to the empty seat in front of her. “Um, do you need any help?” She asked.

“Yeah, I just don’t get these equations. My poor brain has gone haywire.”

“I can help you today, but maybe you should ask Cory to be your tutor.”

“Are you going too?”

Lillie swallowed nervously. “Maybe, I mean if I need it.”

Kenna just nodded. “Thank you for helping me.”

“Of course.”

They finished math class together, Lillie explaining the equations and how to use them as best as she could. Afterwards Kenna went to the office to talk to Cory while she went to her locker. She wanted to ask Cory to tutor her, to maybe help her get an even better grasp on everything, but she was to shy. She sighed as she pulled her History book out of her locker. She shut it then turned and ran right into Cory, dropping her sketchbook. It fell opened to the picture she had drawn of him since her pencil was marking the page. “Sorry.” He said as they both squatted down to pick her notebook up. She snatched it away and quickly closed it, hoping he had not seen the drawing.

“It’s okay, it was an accident.”

He smiled at her shyness. “So uh I guess you don’t need a tutor.”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.

“Well if you change your mind, let me give you my number. Do you have a phone?”

“Yeah, but I left it at home.”

He plucked his pen out of his binder. “Let me see your sketchbook.” She handed it nervously over and he scribbled his number on the back. “Call me.”

“Thank you.”

Chapter Two

He smiled charmingly at her then walked to his classroom. Lillie rushed to History class. She wondered why he had mentioned him tutoring directly to her. Lillie wondered if it was going to cost anything. She was barely listening to her teacher as her mind tumbled through questions and worries about being tutored by Cory. Her shyness was overwhelming her and had her in trouble when the assignment was a quiz on her teachers lecture.

She wrote her name on it and answered what questions she knew the answer to which was so few it barely mattered that she answered any atall. At the end of class she turned in her paper shame faced and was glad he didn’t look it over right away. Next was her mythology class which was one she loved so she didn’t have so much trouble paying attention to her lesson.
After mythology class was gym so she went to her locker and put everything away and grabbed her gym clothes and tennis shoes. She hurried downstairs, bumping into Cory as he was coming out of the gym. He grabbed her shoulders to steady her and gave her a warm smile. “Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.” She said softly.

“It’s okay, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” She blushed when neither of them moved. “So you just had gym class?”

“Yeah, I never realized I had it before you.”

“Me neither.” She looked at her feet and he chuckled. “What’s so funny?” She asked.

“Nothing, so did you think about that tutoring?”

“Well, I don’t really need it.”

“Damn, and I thought I’d made up the perfect excuse to have lunch with you.”

She blushed. “You want to have lunch with me? What about the other kids you have to tutor?”

“I actually only asked your class and Kenna was the only one who wanted to be tutored so I’ll be tutoring her on Tuesdays and Thursdays during lunch.”

“Oh, how did you know my schedule?”

“I help in the office sometimes and looked up your schedule. I hope that’s okay.” The bell rang for them to get to class. “I guess I should let you go. Have lunch with me?”

“Okay I guess, but what about your friends?”

“If anyone says anything I’ll handle it, just eat with me.”

“Okay.”
He gave her another charmingly sweet smile and walked off, excited to be eating with her when she was done with gym. Lillie was a nervous wreck the entire gym period. His friends weren’t going to abide by a reject like her eating with Cory. She just knew this was going to be trouble but she wouldn’t allow her fear of them to keep her from eating with him. They wouldn’t bully her out of it, she couldn’t allow it. She just hoped it wouldn’t ruin any of Corys friendship or take from his popularity he was sinking to talking to her.

Corys leg bounced with anticipation as he waited for Lillie to sit by him. One of his male friends came up and he shook his head ‘this spot is for Lillie”

“Lillie who?”

“Lillie Crawford”

“Why are you sitting with her?” He asked almost as if that were a horrible thing. It caused Cory to glare angrily “dont you dare make her uncomfortable. She’s sweet and beautiful” His friend shrugged “well you wont catch me eating with her. I’m going outside”

“Your loss” Cory answered in his still pissed tone.
When Lillie walked into the lunch room and spotted him, she nervously approached his table. There were three other people there, but she kept her focus on Cory. He smiled when he saw her and patted the spot next to him. “I’m really glad you came.” He said once she was seated.

“Me too.”

His smiled widened. “This is Cooper, Jillian, and Jace. Cooper and Jace are on the football team with me and Jillian is one of our very charismatic cheerleaders.” They all nodded and smiled. “Everyone this is Lillie.”

“Where are all your other friends?”

“Don’t know, don’t care.”

“You mean they left because of me.”

He shrugged. “If they don’t like you that’s they’re problem.”

“Dolly was pretty ticked.” Jillian said as they ate. “She only wants you because she wants to own you. She’s the type of person that thinks she has to stake a claim on everything.”

“Well she doesn’t own me and never will. I can sit with who I like and if everyone else has a problem with it the they can stop being my friends.”

“You’d do that just to eat lunch with me?” Lillie asked.

“If they’d stop being my friends just because I like you then they weren’t really my friends at all. And I want to do more than eat lunch with you, I want to get to know you Lillie.”

“Awe.” His friends said at the same time, making Lillie blush and Cory laugh.

“Shut up or I’ll go extra hard at practice today.”

“Threaten them all you want, it’s still damn cute.” Jillian teased.
Lillie blushed profusely. She hated that humans turned red when embarrassed. How did that serve evolutionary purpose for the world to know you were embarrassed? Lillie hated looking so lame in front of Corys friends but atleast they seemed nice and didn’t mind eating with her if Cory wanted to eat with her. Lillie shyly answered questions Cory and his friends asked her, having trouble making up conversation of her own due to how nervous she’d get talking to other people. With how popular Cory was it was going to be hard being his friend with how painfully shy she felt all the time.

Cory spent lunch actively trying to get Lillie more comfortable. He knew if he just kept talking eventually she wouldn’t be shy around him or whatever real friends were left once she started hanging around him all the time like he wanted. It was sad to him that his lunch friends were now only three people but he seriously had no desire for anybody who could dislike Lillie.
“So do you want to walk with me?” He asked when they finished eating. “We have a few minutes left before class.”

“Sure, I guess.”

She followed Cory so he could drop off his tray then they went outside. She followed him around to the back of the school, wondering where he was taking her. They went down to the fairgrounds and she looked around, worrying they would be caught. “You okay?” He asked.

“I thought no one was allowed on the fairgrounds when they were closed.”

“I help keep the place maintained over the weekend so I have the keys.”

“Oh.” He took her to the bleachers next to the animal pins since they were in the shade and sat down.

“It feels nice being out here, almost like we’re not even at school.”

“I thought you liked school.” She said as she sat down next to him.

“I do, but everyone needs a break, especially with football practice and helping prepare for prom and working after football practice to pay for my apartment. This is my cool off place.” He straddled the bench and scooted closer to her. “Will you come here with me every day, I’d really enjoy the company.”

“Why don’t you bring your other friends?”

“Because I want to spend time with you. I’m with them all day, this can be our place.”

“You’ve never brought anyone else here?”

“Nope, just you.” She looked at her feet and he cupped her cheek, turning her head so she was looking at him. “Please look at me, I love your eyes.”

“They’re not nearly as amazing as yours, I’ve never seen anyone with purple eyes.” She clutched her sketchbook to her chest.

“Can I see your drawings Lillie, I bet they amazing.”

“Oh I don’t know.” The bell rang and he sighed, not wanting their time alone to end.

“Come on miss Lillie, lets get you to class.”
They stood and headed into school. Cory walked with Lillie to class and boldly asked before she entered “You’ll spend lunch time with me daily now right?”

“yeah”

“Great, i look forward to it” Lillies heart still wasn’t quite back to normal when she arrived home. Atleast today her mom and brother weren’t arguing so that was nice and very welcome while she was dealing with the feelings Cory was stirring in her. If her mother wouldn’t have a heart attack over her having interest in a boy she would have loved to talk about him with her mom but her over protective nature made most things unpleasant to talk about. Today Lillie didn’t have homework so she just studied for an upcoming test until she needed to help her mom with dinner.

When Cory got home from work he was still energized from finally getting some time with the girl who had been watching him practice so long. He had thought about her many times and her dropping that pencil had been the perfect opportunity to start somthing. When he finally went to sleep that night it was with a smile on his face about tomorrow.
“You look happy.” Jayden said as they were walking out the front door of their home.

“Do I, well I guess I am.”

“Could it have something to do with Cory?” She blushed and he draped his arm over her shoulders. “I knew it, I heard that cheerleader uh Dolly bitching about how he spent lunch with you. I was like what, my little sis is spending time with a boy, no way.”

“It’s true and I’m so confused. I mean, why does he even like me?”

“Come on now, don’t sell yourself short, that’s not who you are. You’re big, tough Lillie. Maybe he thinks you’re cute and you are pretty sweet.”

“Yeah, but I’m just so nervous when I’m around him, my heart feels like it’s going to explode.”

“That just means you like him a lot, it’s okay to like someone. Besides, he’ll do you good.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’ll pry you out of that shell you’ve put around yourself.”

She smiled. “I wish I could talk about this stuff with mom sometimes, but you’re just as good I guess.”

“I love you too sister. Mom would probably freak if she knew a football player was interested in you. I wish she would just let us be teenagers, it’s so frustrating.”

“Maybe we should say something, maybe we could ask her to go to therapy. I mean we’ve put the accident behind us, but it’s like she’s stuck in the past, like she keeps seeing us in the hospital.”

“I guess we can try.”

Chapter Three

“we need to try. This has to end. If she wont listen then atleast we did try” Cory looked for Lillie at breakfast but since her mother cooked every morning she always made it there just in time for her first class so he didn’t end up seeing her again until lunchtime rolled around. Today she was already more comfortable talking to everyone which made Cory happy. After they ate he took her outside again. This time they had a little bit more time alone since they ate faster than yesterday.

“How about today? Can I see your sketches?’ An uncomfortable look formed on her face so he gave her a reassuring smile. “please, I know they have to be beautiful” Lillie wouldn’t have cared so much if there wasn’t one of him in there. She wished she had had the sense to rip it out last night. She should have anticipated him attempting to look again. His face grew disappointed which caused her to feel guilty. He was being so nice and all he wanted was to see her work. She handed him her sketchbook. “hopefully he wont feel weird when he sees the one of him” she said in her thoughts.

He hadn’t made it to the one of him yet when the bell sounded. “can I keep this to finish looking?” He asked.
“Uh well…”

“You might want to draw? I understand. How about I give you and your brother a ride home and then I finish looking through it.”

“Not today, we have something going on today.” She didn’t want her mother to freak out on him. “Just keep it.”

He frowned. “Okay, I’ll give it back when I’m done then.”

“Just give it back tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow is Saturday.”

“Then keep it until Monday. I just need one thing from it.” She pulled her phone out and took her sketchbook and turned it over. She quickly put his number in her contacts and handed the sketchbook back. They didn’t say anymore as they walked off the fairgrounds and up to the school. They parted ways and he felt bad for making her so uncomfortable. They didn’t see each other after school and she walked quickly home with Jayden, her heart beating furiously in her chest.

They both went up to their rooms and did their homework, not ready to talk to their mother yet. They were mentally preparing themselves for an argument. When they finished their homework, Lillie helped Faith cook dinner while Jayden set the table. They set at the table, none of them saying a word as they ate. Lillie took a deep breath and finally said, “Mom we need to talk.”

“About what sweetie?”

Lillie looked at Jayden and then answered, “About you going into therapy.”

Faith just froze and stared at her daughter. Her eyes moved to Jayden. “Did you put her up to this?”

“No one was put up to anything.” Jayden said.

“Don’t lie to me Jayden, she’ll do anything you say.”

“I’m not lying.” He snapped.

“Don’t take that tone with me.”

“Stop.” Lillie slammed her hands down on the table. “Just stop it mom, what you’re doing is not okay, it’s not healthy. We’re teenagers, not babies. Dad died, we got hurt, me and Jayden have scars that remind us every day, but we’ve moved on. We’ve accepted what happened and we’ve moved past it. Why can’t you, why do you always have to scream at Jayden and treat me like I can’t do anything?” She was crying now as she yelled at her mother. “I hate all the arguing, I hate it more than anything.” She stood up so fast she almost knocked her chair over. “It’s not fair to us that you won’t let go.”

Her mom just sat their frozen, not saying anything so Lillie ran. She went right out the front door and sprinted away from the house. In that moment she didn’t care if it scared her mom, all she wanted was a place to cool off. She ran until she was at the fairgrounds, until she was at the bleachers and dropped down onto one, out of breath and upset. She cried harder than she had in a long time, needing the emotional and physical release. She wiped at her face and pulled out her phone. She couldn’t call the house or she might get an earful from her mom and she couldn’t call Jayden because he would get an earful for not telling their mom where she was. She stopped on Cory’s name and hesitated for only a minute before hitting the call button.

“Lillie?” He said when he answered. He sounded tired.

“I’m at the fairgrounds, can you come get me?”
He could hear the sadness in her voice so he jumped out of bed. “Yes, I’m coming. I’ll be there as fast as I can” he hastily threw on clothes, grabbed his keys and ran out. When he arrived he walked quickly, his speed only increasing when he saw her. Lillie had only just stood when Cory wrapped his arms tightly around her. He had seen how red her eyes were and all the wetness on her face from the tears. “whats wrong? Did you come out here and someone hurt you? If they are from school I’ll kill them”

“No, just fought with my mom. I dont want to go home.”

“The you’ll come home with me.” He didn’t care if he was eighteen and could get in trouble without parental consent taking her to his home. He prayed her mother wasnt that petty but even if she was he wouldnt leave her here or make her return home if she didn’t want to. They walked to his car where he opened the passenger door for Lillie then ran around to his side.

Lillie wiped her face “I’m sorry”

“Don’t be sorry. Call me anytime you need me.”
“Were you sleeping when I called?”

“No, just had a long day. What was the argument about?”

“My mom getting into therapy.”

“For what?” She stared out the passenger window and he grabbed her hand. “What does she need therapy for Lillie?”

“Can we talk about it when we get to your place?”

“Sure.” He kept her hand as he drove, staying silent as they drove to his apartment. He let go of her when they pulled into the parking lot and got out then lead her inside where they were immediately greeted by Oscar.

“Oh you have a cat, I wish I could have a cat.”

“His name is Oscar and he’s a real lover.” Lillie bent down and scratched Oscar on his head. “Do you want something to drink?”

“Water please.” She sat down on the couch and Oscar jumped up next to her and curled up in a ball beside her. Cory filled a glass for her and went back into the living room and handed to her then took the spot next to her. He waited patiently for her to finish drinking.

“Do you want to talk about what happened?”

She looked at her hands, hating she felt so nervous and sad. “My dad died when I was little. My brother and I were in an accident with him. It took his life and left Jayden and I scarred. After that my mother got more and more overprotective. She calls us and calls us if we don’t come home and she argues with Jayden all the time. He’s seventeen, he’s not a baby and neither am I. At first we could understand, but now she just won’t let go of the past.”

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him. “I’m sorry Lillie, sorry for your loss and for what you’re going through.” He ran his fingers up and down her back, just wanting her to relax. She rested her head against his chest, feeling exhausted from running and crying. She fell asleep against him and he smiled. “You can stay here as long as you need to Lillie.” He kissed the top of her head and gently lifted her off the couch and carried her into his room. He laid her down on his bed and covered her then grabbed his other pillow and a blanket and left the room to sleep on the couch.
When Lillie woke the next morning she had over forty missed calls from her mother and a few more from Jayden. She sighed, knowing she had to talk to her mother again eventually. Also, unlike her brother who was seventeen she was still young enough her mother could send the cops looking for her and have them force her home. Not that they would guess she was in Corys apartment but still. This would become a scene if she didn’t go back. Lillie was surprised to find herself in Corys bed and wondered where he had gone.

She got up and quietly left his room, finding him on the couch. Not used to having other people in his apartment her presence woke him. He sat up “morning”

“Thank you”

“Anytime, you’re always welcome here. Want breakfast?”

“Cereal is fine. Afterward i really need to go home and talk with my mom. She’s almost killed my cell with her calls”

“Can i take you?”

“She’ll flip out more”

“Then I’ll drop you off near your house and let you finish walking there”

“Thank you” He stood to make her a bowl of cereal. He hated how upset she still looked as they ate and he wished he knew what else to say. When they were done he drove her as he said he would “good luck, call me right back if you can spend time with me this weekend”

“I’m sorry I’m not letting you come”

“I understand. I’m always here for you. No matter for what or when you need me”
“Thank you.” He leaned over real quick and pressed a kiss into her cheek, making her blush. She hurried away and he pulled onto the street, heading home. He decided to look through the rest of her sketchbook while he waited to see what happened.

The moment Lillie walked through the door her mother flew off the couch and hugged her. “Thank god, you’re safe.” She said, sounding relieved. “Where were you last night?” She asked when she pulled back.

“At a friends house.”

“Who?”

“Just a friend. Where’s Jayden?”

Faith frowned. “He left, he said he wouldn’t come back until I got help.”

Lillie felt so sad that her brother wasn’t there. “Did he tell you where he’d be staying?”

“He made some calls, but refused to tell me where he was going.” Lillie went and sat down on the couch and her mother dropped down next to her. “Lillie, I’m sorry.”

“You can’t hold us back anymore mom, you just can’t. You need help.”

“I know.”

“If you don’t get it, I’ll leave too. I have somewhere safe I can go. I hate watching you and Jayden argue day in and day out over nothing. He’s practically an adult and I can take care of myself mom, I’m tough. I can make my own decisions.”

“I know sweetie. It’s just, it nearly killed me when your dad died and seeing you and Jayden in the hospital was a nightmare.”

“Don’t you think we know that, but we’re not living in the past anymore. We’ve accepted it as a part of our lives. We miss dad, but he’s gone and he wouldn’t want our family to be torn apart. So please, make an appointment and make all of our lives easier. Seeing you like this brings me down.”

Faith hugged her and she hugged back. “I will I promise. I’m sorry.” Faith wiped the tears off of her face.

“Thank you mom.” She kissed her mother’s cheek and decided she needed to call Cory and let him know everything was okay.

Cory flipped through the pages of her sketchbook, amazed at how talented she was. Everything she did was beautiful and perfect, even when she colored her drawings in. They looked so amazing. He flipped another stage and froze when he saw his face looking back at him, his bright violet eyes seemingly alive. He smiled, liking how she had drawn him and knowing she must have done it from memory since she had not drawn anything around him. His phone rang and he quickly picked it up. “Lillie?”
“hey, I just wanted to let you know everythings alright now”

“I’m so glad. Can i pick you up again?”

“Give me some time with my mother. I’ll see you again this weekend though, I swear” Faith got up ‘No, I need to figure out who I’m going to see about this. Please go hangout with your friend. I promise I wont bother you. I’ll only call when I have an appointment. You deserve to have fun” Lillie smiled “nevermind, she says I can hangout with you again. Come get me?”

“I’ll be there soon”

“It sounded like a boys voice” Faith said. Lillie could tell she wasn’t comfortable but she was glad her mother was atleast trying now “yeah, he’s a boy i really like”

“I’m happy for you though admittedly scared”

“I know mom, thank you for trying now though”

“Please just be careful for me.”

“I will mom” Lillie changed her clothes then brushed her hair and teeth before waiting outside for Cory. He pulled up and ran to hug her just as her mother had done when she arrived home. “hey”

“I looked through your whole sketchbook. You did so well drawing me” Lillie blushed which made his smile grow. “I loved it. Especially since you obviously drew it from memory”

“I was really nervous about you seeing it”

“Is that why you got uncomfortable when I asked to look?”

“Yeah”

“I’m glad I’m thought about so much. I’ve wanted to talk to you and get to know you a long time”

“well, now you’ve got me for the weekend. What should we do?”

“want to get a slushie from Sonic then just sit down and talk? I want to know everything there is to know about you. What makes you happy, sad, excited, your dislikes, what you love. I can’t know it all unless we talk. Hopefully you want to know more about me too”

“Slushies sound nice” They sat down in his car again and drove over. Once they ordered their slushies and sat at the outside tables they asked eachother questions and told eachother stories about their lives. They laughed and listened to one another, loving this time together. They had both found eachother so amazing for a long time but it was nothing compared to finding out how amazing they truly were now. They stayed talking so long they ended up there for lunch aswell. Time went by much too fast for the two of them when it was time to take Lillie home. “see eachother tomorrow?” she asked and he smiled ‘tomorrow for breakfast. We’ll go to Ihop”

“perfect”

“You sure you dont want to spend the night”

“I dont want to put my mother through too much all at once”

“I understand, sweet dreams”

“sweet dreams” That night the two of them fell asleep on their phones, unable to keep from calling one another even though they’d see eachother tomorrow. This was all too perfect in Lillies mind. Her mother was getting help and Cory, a man far out of her league had feelings for her. Even if this was a long dream she wouldn’t worry about. She would enjoy every second of this amazing world and wake tomorrow happier for it. You now would never know she had ever been depressed. Thanks to Cory and finally pushing her mom every bit of it was replaced with happiness nobody could take away.

~ The End ~

~ Lillie was originally created by Melinda Collins.