“I can’t stay away from you
I don’t wanna let you go
And though it’s killing me, that’s true
There’s just some things I can’t control”
Walking, while looking at her cell phone, giggling to herself, Ezzy almost didn’t see the man stepping out of the shadows, when she did, it startled her causing her to drop the phone into the grass.
With arched brows, the man bend down before she could react, picking up the phone, glancing at it before handing it back.
“You?” she said.
“Me. Happy to see I have not been replaced, at least not with a new man. Interesting though to think a baby makes you smile. Yours?” he spoke, while following her to her door just a few steps away.
“Hardly. This clearly is a newborn; my daughter is almost 7 months old now. It’s my sister’s. She gave birth to her second daughter a few days ago and whenever I go see her, I can’t help giggle about her babies, Emmy’s mommy-ness is contagious. Luckily it wears off eventually on me or I’d be in serious trouble. She and Connell just … oh …”
“Please, don’t get weird on my account. She and Connell .. what?”
“Make pretty babies. I forgot he is a red flag for you. Why are you here anyway?”
“You’re right though. Cute kid, not its fault who and what its father is. Ezzy, can we talk?”
“Talk? I literally am coming from your archenemy’s home. I am contaminated with vampire hugs and I smooched a baby vampire just now, I probably reek of them to you. Nothing has changed, Michael, and nothing will.”
“Something has changed. Can we talk inside? Please don’t look at me like that, Ezzy. I am not gonna hurt you. Come on now.”
“And why would I believe you? You didn’t believe anything I said last time we spoke.”
“If that were true, you would not be standing here right now. Not a threat, just a fact.”
“We can talk out here, doubt it will take long anyway. I am not sure how that works, but I don’t want to grant you access to my home. Your access is herewith revoked.” she told him sincerely, making him chuckle briefly.
“You got your supernaturals confused there, Ezzy, that’s vampires who have that rule. Doesn’t apply to my kind. If we want in, we’re going in, but don’t worry, most of the time we act surprisingly civilized. However, I rather avoid having Connell look out the window and see us talking out here, your house is literally in plain view from theirs. Please, let’s talk inside, just hear me out, if you want me to leave, I will leave, you have my word.”
“Your word? And that is supposed to mean something now? I don’t know. And also, this whole occult stuff is so complicated! One more reason to keep as much of it out of my life as I can.”
He chuckled, watching her dig for her keys anyway.
“If you think that now, imagine being one and not having a choice.”
“Fine, come in then. But only for a few minutes, and ONLY to talk, Michael. I mean it.”
She unlocked the door, he followed her inside, where she stood and looked at him, waiting.
“So? Tic toc …” she said, annoyed, when he didn’t speak.
“What, you’re not even gonna offer me the obligatory coffee? Is your inner Cameron broken?”
“You won’t be here long enough, Michael. I am tired, I have to get up early tomorrow for work, so make it quick. If you hoped you coming here and acting decent for a change would get us back into the old casual sex routine, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that kitchen is permanently closed for you.”
“WOW. Ouch. Okay, fine. I probably deserve all that hostility.”
“You most definitely do, but how am I hostile? You are in my house, just like you asked, you had something to say to me, so talk. You didn’t expect hugs and kisses after everything that went down between us, did you?”
He shook his head, looking guilty and miserable, tearing at Ezzy’s heartstrings.
“NOPE. No way, no how. Not him. No more.” she repeated in her mind like an anti-Michael mantra for herself, while averting her eyes, but looked at him again when he started talking in that always slightly raspy, borderline husky, deep voice that seemed to resonate deep in her soul.
“Ezzy, I am here to apologize. When you took off from that parking lot like a bat out of hell, you left with more than just a face full of dirt. You gave me a lot of food for thought. I have been weighing off my options and chose the riskiest one, because it’s the only one with a chance to bring me inner peace. You have questions, and I am here to answer them for you.”
“What makes you think I even care anymore? I am not desperate.”
“Hope dies last, isn’t that what they say? Look Ezzy, I wasn’t always the asshole you know me as. Well, maybe a little bit, but I never chose getting bitten by a werewolf, infecting me with the curse, leaving me helpless to transform at full moon, taking my life and everything I knew and cared about from me. I didn’t know werewolves existed back then either, so imagine my surprise when I started transforming for the first time, I lost hours of my life with no recollection and came to as a killer, naked in the woods, confused, scared and covered in blood – not mine, knowing I had done terrible things and couldn’t help it. And that was only the tip of the iceberg. Do you see why I tried to keep my distance?”
“Tried? That’s an understatement. I have known you for almost 9 months now, using the term ‘knowing’ loosely. I know NOTHING about you.”
“Right. That is why I am here. If you look me in the eyes and promise I can trust you, I will be an open book.”
“Why? So you can compel me to do whatever you want? Not happening.”
“Again, wrong guy here. That’s vampires – again. If I had the ability to compel you, trust me, my little vixen, I already would have, and this talk would be taking place in between rounds of sex in your bedroom.”
“Dream on. Michael, I am still not going to ditch my sister. And she isn’t giving up Connell anytime soon. Say what you will about vampires, I was apprehensive too, but am eating crow now. They are so happy. If I had to describe the perfect couple, and it couldn’t be my parents or grandparents, it would be Emmy and Connell. The real deal, not fake Insta-happy. He is incredibly sweet to her, and she loves him so. He has no beating heart. He is ice-cold to the touch, but the warmest, kindest, sweetest husband imaginable. I turn green with envy each time I go over there and watch them. Everyone wants what they have. No wonder Emmy doesn’t give a shit about him being different. I wouldn’t either, nobody would.”
“Are you trying to make me jealous?”
“Jealous? Ha. Now that is funny. Mr. Absolutely-No-Strings and jealous. Now I know you are having me on.”
“I am here, aren’t I? I may not ever be the dreamy Connell, but I want to make things right between us. I am trying to explain my actions to you, yet all you have done so far is rub my face in my mistakes, followed by swooning over the fang. Is that my hint that I am too late to make amends? Cos if it is, tell me now, and I’ll quit wasting both our time and won’t bother you again.”
“Doesn’t taste so good, does it, when you go somewhere trying to fix something and the other just cracks jokes, talks right over you, ignoring your agony leaving you feeling like a complete idiot?”
“Point taken. I was a dick to you. There, I said it. I sincerely apologize, Ezzy. How’s that?”
“A good start. Okay, let’s test you. What’s your last name?”
“Shaw. Michael Shaw. No middle name.”
“How old are you?”
“33 years old. I think. Yeah, 33, that’s right, been a wolf for about ten years now. I haven’t really kept up with birthdays since that happened to me. Werewolves aren’t exactly the birthday cake, balloons and candles kinda crowd.”
“Damn, you’re old. I’ll be 24 next month. And my crowd DOES keep up with such things, balloons, candles and cake. But 33. Wow. Grade A cradle robber, you. Few more years and you could be my teen hussy dad. OOF!”
“Well, I like to think I am like old wine.”
“Nasty and bitter?”
“Good one, and ouch. Can I ask a serious question then?”
“No. Still my turn. Are – or were – you ever married? Or in a relationship of any kind?”
“I was going to be, once upon a time, in a previous life, if you so will. I was a boring guy in a boring town back east then, with a boring life, a boring mortgage pending, a fiancée and a boring future ahead. At least that’s what I thought then. As they say, you never know what you got until it’s gone, I can now confirm that. Countless times I wished my boring life back, it suddenly looked like the Garden of Eden to me, but unfortunately, THIS happened to me, cancelling those plans along with my entire life. Ahem … this reminds me. There is something I should tell you now, as I think it may be a dealbreaker later on. I have a child too, Esmée. One that doesn’t live with me, whom I rarely see. More bad choices on my part.”
“What? Then how did you dare put me on blast about my daughter?”
“Because I was jealous that you have options. I straight out fucked up and have no way to unfuck it. I don’t have options or a family to help. Either way, that was wrong, and I am sorry.”
“Little older than yours. Just turned one last month.”
“Boy or girl? Name?”
“Boy. Nathan, but doesn’t have my last name. His mother is like me, you have met her actually, she’s the one from the bathroom at the bar, who pointed you in the right direction to find me, then told me you were there, looking for me. Her name is Nicolette, my best friend, up until recently the only person besides myself I knew I could trust, and I even told her about you, mostly so she knew where I was and could cover for me whenever I came to be with you.”
“Oh no! No way! Now it’s getting messier again … so baby momma is in the picture, but you don’t wanna be a daddy?”
“Not quite. Before you take this and run with it, please know, Nic and I were never romantic, well, except once, obviously. She’s bi-sexual, but always preferred women, is actually engaged to one, also a Lycan. Nic and I got drunk together one night, both of us tired of the lives we had been forced to live. That drunk night had consequences, and the only way Nic and I could come up with to get out of the situation without ruining everyone’s life was to lie about the conception. One drunk night resulting in an unplanned pregnancy suddenly became Nic wanting to surprise her fiancée with a mutual child, casting me into the role of kind and selfless sperm donor. Somehow, shockingly, her fiancée actually bought our cockamamie tale, was overjoyed about Nicolette wanting to level up like that with her. So, we saved her relationship, and I lost my son that night. At the time I was relieved, but soon ended up regretting it deeply. Nic lets me see him, but he will grow up never knowing who I really am. Nobody does, except the two mothers. In other words, what I said to you about your child in your bathroom that night was just a reflection of my own pain. I am the leader of one of the biggest wolfpacks. It’s a rough and tough job, there are always people challenging my position and they don’t always play fair, not to mention the vampires, witches and all the others who would want us dead if they knew. Anyone knowing about the true paternity would put my son in harm’s way. So, like you, I chose my leadership position over my own child. And now you know something about me nobody except Nic and Rory know.”
“Wow. I think I need to sit down.” Esmée sighed.
“I don’t blame you. Mind if I join you?”
Ezzy shook her head.
They sat next to each other in silence, Esmée processing the things he said, when she noticed he was looking at her, their eyes met. She was trying not to but couldn’t help seeing sincerity in his. Was any of this real? No way, this seemed too easy and unlike him. Completely out of character.
“I guess I just don’t understand your endgame.” she told him.
“Why did you come here to tell me all that, when you would have swallowed your own tongue rather than tell me even the simplest personal detail before? I don’t get it. Makes no sense. I can’t figure out what changed.”
He chuckled briefly, then got serious again.
“You’re really gonna make me say it, aren’t you? No moving on gracefully while glossing over the obvious, you wanna see me squirm, huh?”
“I don’t even know what ‘it‘ is, Michael, I can’t make you say something or gloss over things I don’t understand. Now the squirming part though, can’t say I’d hate to see that, even though I am not clear on why.”
“Okay, I’ll be clearer then. ‘It‘ is the fact that you were wrong about something, Esmée. That night in Moonwood Mill you said that I don’t care about you at all. You’re wrong. I do. A lot, actually, maybe too much even. I didn’t want to, still think it’s a terrible idea, but I just can’t stay away from you. The urge to see you is greater than any of my werewolf instincts and against better knowledge, and that is saying something. I was intrigued by you from the first moment on …”
“Oh, please, come on now. Don’t even go there. If you think I am dumb enough to fall for some love at first sight hogwash, you are sorely mistaken! Give me a little more credit!”
“No, I wasn’t gonna say anything like that, neither one of us is the type for love at first sight, Ezzy. I was intrigued, like I said, so much so that I tracked you down, just to see if you would still pique my interest when not drunk and horny at some club. Turned out, you did. Rest is history. I wanted to toy with you a little, something casual, something we both could enjoy, but before I knew it, I was hooked. And the worst part: I started caring. Exactly what I didn’t want. I tried to get over you, forget you, but the fact that I am here now should tell you how that went for me.”
“You expect me to believe that? I’ll tell you what I think, Michael. I think you have some sort of masterplan, involving me as pawn, probably something about Connell, and you are trying to use me to get to him. I was tired and frightened at Moonwood Mill, let my guard down, and showed you my soft underbelly, making me vulnerable when I told you things you never were supposed to hear. You’re using it as leverage now. I am not falling for it. Here, I’ll put it in terms you’ll understand: I love my family, my ‘pack’, and I really like Connell, he is part of my family, for better or worse, I will always protect my own. You are not getting to him through me.” Esmée told him.
“You know, you would make an excellent werewolf if you’re ever interested in joining my crowd, my little wildcat. You’re already one of the bravest people I know, cut-throat, cunning, a master strategist and you don’t trust nobody, you have good instincts, but you are wrong this time. I have no plan. I am winging it, Esmée. No lies. No angle. No leverage. No endgame. No pawn. Just me. Me, showing you my weak spots, my underbelly, unprotected. None of this has to do with the fang, or with the pack. Just you and me. You brought real emotions back into my monotonous existence, I can’t remember the last time I felt so much and so intensely before I met you, and trust me, Ezzy, you got me feeling the full program, the good and the bad every time we meet, and I am afraid to lose that again. Yeah, that’s right, little Red Riding Hood. You managed to scare the big, bad wolf silly. Ball’s in your court now. ”
Esmée didn’t respond, not for a while, until she nodded.
“I need time, Michael. I need to think about all this, that’s the best answer I can give you right now. Your words sound great, make sense, but I am just not sure I want to get sucked into some tragic romance that shouldn’t be and can’t be, something we have to continue to keep secret from everyone. I really cannot picture us as modern-day Romeo and Juliet. I don’t know how this is supposed to work. I am so tired of being always lonely, while secretly seeing you, always alone at family events and weddings, while everyone else has their partners there. Or am I supposed to just invite you to family events, at the chance of some occult high noon happening in my parents dining room between you and Connell?”
“Fair enough. I’ll take this ‘maybe’ over a resounding ‘hell no’ any day. I don’t know how to make this work without it being awkward, dangerous or painful for at least one, if not both of us. I’ll go now, you know how to reach me when you are ready, when you have an answer for me, but whatever you decide, Ezzy, the one thing I ask is that you tell me in person, face to face, not a text or call. Can you do that for me?”
“Meet with a werewolf to tell him no? Yeah, that sounds like a great idea.”
“If you only knew how save you are, my little wildcat. Even at odds as we are right now, I’d take a bullet for you and wouldn’t even think twice. Goodnight, Esmée.”