“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”― Chuck Palahniuk
Loud banging on her door in the middle of the night woke Ezzy from an already restless slumber. She jumped up, quickly looking into the crib where her daughter was still fast asleep, undisturbed by the sudden noise, then Ezzy quietly slipped out of the room, and ran down the stairs.
Peeking out the window briefly, she swung open the door, to allow Connell inside, carrying an unconscious Michael, whom he headed over to her couch with.
“Oh my God, Connell! What happened?” Esmee asked while watching Connell deposit Michael on her sofa.
“Relax, please. It’s not as bad as it looks. He’s just passed out, but I figured you’d be better suited to be his nurse. Emmy and the kids are asleep, I can’t leave them long, so if you have questions, ask him after he wakes. Should be soon. His vitals are good. He’ll be okay.”
“Wait, what happened? What did you do to him?!” Ezzy held on to Connell’s arm.
“Esmée, that is a talk you and he need to have. I gotta go. I cannot leave my babies unattended so long. He’ll be okay. Oh, and Ezzy … I will never like his kind but must admit he impressed me tonight. I have never heard of any Werewolf ever doing that for a woman before. I really have to go. Goodnight.”
Before Ezzy could open her mouth to ask more questions, Connell was already gone. Vampire speed, leaving her to frown.
“Agh, I will NEVER get used to this supernatural speed crap! I can only imagine what it’s like if Emmy and he ever fight.”
She looked at Michael, his frame almost too big for her small couch.
“Michael, what did you do? Oh baby, what did you do?”
Ezzy carefully stroked his cheek, kissed it, his forehead, his nose, gently running her fingers through his thick, dark hair, when she noticed a corner of his mouth pull up to a small smile.
She shot up and slapped his arm.
“You’re playing possum?! Seriously now!? I was worried about you! How could you?!” she exclaimed.
His eyes opened, grinning, as he sat up, swinging his feet to the ground.
“I wasn’t, just woke up to an angel touching me. But if I had been faking it, could you blame me? Whenever I am awake all you ever do is yell at me, tell me no or try to kick me out. This was … nice. A purring wildcat, rather than me dodging claws. A welcome change.”
“You scared me! What were you doing at Connell’s?! Don’t tell me you tried to fight him! If you did, I will punch you right back into Lala-land! You can’t fight a Vampire! That’s totally insane!”
Chuckling, Michael stood up, swaying slightly, shaking his head as if trying to shake dizziness away.
“Should you be getting up? I really don’t need you keeling over now. I can’t lift you.” Ezzy’s tone changed from angry to concerned and worried, causing another smirk in Michael.
“If you ask me that way, I’d rather be lying. In a bed. With you. Appreciating every inch of your body. Is that on the table? If not, quit worrying, I am okay. A bit woozy but getting there.”
“Down boy. My daughter is sleeping upstairs, remember? We are NOT having sex in front of my child!”
“I can be quiet. I think. If I must. Plus, I can make the couch work – even the floor. Counters, walls, not picky at all and very flexible. As are you, far as I recall. Memory’s fading, could DEFINITELY use a refresher, after having been cut off for so long.”
“All right, straight to topic then. I went to arrange a truce with the vamp, the only thing I could come up with that could work without you hating me forever. He agreed. Now I no longer have to be a dirty secret, unless you want me to be. Up to you now. Connell won’t bother us. At least not if his word is worth anything.”
“What!? I don’t believe Connell and you just had a lovely chat and bro-hugged it out. No way! There has to be more to this. He’s been in my ear relentlessly about you ever since he found out, and he is definitely not the type to just change his mind just by you saying please and thank you. And why would you be unconscious from a simple talk? WHAT did you do? He said something about no Werewolf ever having done this for a woman. Done what, Michael?”
“Oh, I just had to walk into a Vampire lair and let him have his way with me, mentally. I had to let him read my mind, everything in my head, past and present, he saw. Sounds unspectacular enough, unfortunately was the human Michael willing, but the beast not so much, so it took some effort on his part and drained me big time. He warned me that some keel over, and I was no exception there. Still feeling a bit wobbly and iffy, that was definitely not an experience I need EVER again, but at least now the fang quit shitting his pants about any ulterior motives he thought I might have about him, and in turn will keep his fanged mouth shut at the off chance you would want to ever take me to one of those events you talked about hating to have to attend alone. No pressure, just an option now.”
“No way! Is any of that true?”
“No, you caught me, it’s all a lie. The truth is that Connell and I secretly have an affair and our passion for each other just swept me off my feet so bad, he had to carry me to you, so your sister won’t see us lovebirds and be jealous. He might be pregnant by me, but I definitely want a DNA test, he looks like a hussy. I think it’s the elvish hair. Silvery locks on dead people just get me going like a bobcat with his balls stuck in an electric fence.”
“Quit joking! You did that? For me?”
“Well, I didn’t do it to be able to stare up close into Connell’s stunningly purple eyes, which by the way turn a creepy red when he does his thing. Not pretty, but then again, chicks may dig it. Your sister would be the expert on that one.”
“Oh God, Michael!” Ezzy sighed and threw herself against him, hugging him tightly, he folded his arms around her, smiling, then kissed her.
When they separated, she looked up at him.
“Michael? Do you have plans this Sunday?”
“I would have to call my personal assistant, probably have to move some meetings around and cancel my yacht but have a feeling I can make myself available for you. Why?” Michael grinned, joking, to hide how hopeful he felt about his quest having been successful.
“My family always meets for Sunday dinner at the Cameron Estate, my childhood home, just up the hill from here. Everyone will be there, my grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters … and their significant others. Including Connell. I’d like you to come. If you want to.”
“I would very much like to come. So we’ll go straight from almost kicking me to the curb to all the way on the other end of the scale with meeting the parents, huh? I am game. If they were able to deal with weirdo Connell, I shouldn’t be such a tough pill to swallow, especially since they will never know what I really am unless you tell them or Connell tattles. So, it’s a date.”
“Yes, I think after sneaking around with you for almost a year it’s time my family gets to meet you. Emmy has and I swore her to secrecy, but she hates having to keep secrets from our parents as much as I do. And yes, it IS a date. I think our first actual date. Do you realize we have never actually spent any quality time outside my home, not counting that night at the club when we first met? Reminds me, we need to groom the story on how we met. We can’t tell my family the truth about all that. And most definitely nothing about Werewolves. Emmy had to tell them about Connell, as being a Vampire is much harder to hide, since he can’t eat without taking some potion first and all those other things. Our dad is still not happy about that, so let’s just sweep your secret under the rug – along with the naughty bits about our first meeting. We can tell them we met at a club, the end.”
“I figured you wouldn’t want to send your grandparents to an early grave – and me probably as well at the hand of your father – by telling them our first interaction ever was screwing in a dance club bathroom and by the way mom and dad, his fangs are longer than Connell’s at full moons and when he’s really pissed. But you are wrong. We have spent time outside your home. I came to your work before, and you have come to my home turf.”
“Those weren’t dates, Michael. Those may have turned out to be defining moments, but not dates. Sunday dinner will be our first official date. I have to come up with a better story of why I haven’t mentioned you until now, too. Maybe just say we both were busy with work and personal stuff and wanted to make sure it’s the real thing first. I have never been the type for random crushes like my two sisters have been, you know, boy bands and actors and such. Wow, at that dinner it will be the first time I will introduce you as my … my … I don’t even know what I would tell everyone that you are.”
“I think it’s customarily referred to as boyfriend?” he said, briefly pausing the playful nibbling on her neck and shoulders.
“You’re not my boyfriend, are you?” Ezzy wondered, smiling.
“Do you want me to be?” he asked in a deeper than usual, husky voice.
“I thought you’re the no-strings type.”
“Straight back at ya. Odd for such a sharp-minded businesswoman as you to have not picked up on the fact that I just might have had a change of heart about that considering what I just put myself through for you.”
They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment.
“I work a lot.” she mumbled.
“I know.” he kissed her briefly.
“I have a baby, which I love, but I hate kids.”
“I know.” he kissed her again.
“I am complicated … and demanding.” Esmée listed.
“Trust me, I KNOW! Is this you trying to scare me away? I can save you the effort, I am not squeamish. My turn. I am a man with a very complex background and a lot of secrets.”
“I know!” Ezzy continued their spiel.
“So, what’s the verdict, beautiful wildcat? Did I make the cut? Am I worth it? Boyfriend material?”
“I have a few conditions.”
“Of course you do. What will it be for you? You wanna read my mind too? Maybe a colonoscopy with whatever kitchen tools you have on hand at the moment? Or just cut me open for an in-depth analytical view at my wiring?”
“I want to see where you live, your home. Invite me. I want to see you as a wolf at least once. And I want to meet your son. If we make this official, Michael, I want to be seen with you, not your dirty little secret anymore. Out and proud, everywhere.”
“I am not sure about you seeing me transformed, Ezzy. It’s not pretty and most definitely not the cool thing you may think it is. It’s gruesome and not for the faint of heart. I have to think about that one, my worry is that you may never look at me the same way if you were to witness that. So, let’s shelf that one for now, not saying no, just let’s save that one for later down the road. As for the rest, until recently you hated the idea of knowing ONE Werewolf, now you want to meet more? I may not have made that clear, but my son inherited the curse. He will be a wolf when he grows older. And you can’t come to where I live without running into a bunch of them. I am their leader, if I am there, they will show up and want something. They always do. They wouldn’t harm you, especially not if they know you are my girl, but ya know … it’s a rough crowd.”
“It’s not really a matter of wanting all that, Michael, but not like I have a choice. You are what you are, I want you, and this is part of you. If we get really serious at some point, I need to know all of you, the good, the bad and the ugly. If my sister can love a Vampire, I can most definitely love a Werewolf. Wow, that sounds crazy out loud. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I do not half-ass things I care about. And I think we both established that we care about each other a lot. If I am in, I want to be ALL in. Hook, line and sinker.”
“Okay, hook, line and sinker it will be. I am actually kind of excited for you to meet Nathan. Just remember to never refer to him as my son. Just Nathan, that part’s very important.”
“I got that. I wouldn’t endanger your kid. Just want to meet him, since you met my Aryelle.”
“Okay. Just know that my place isn’t as nice as yours. It’s a bachelor pad and it looks it. I couldn’t be bothered with decorating – or cleaning most of the time, but promise it will be in at least acceptable condition when you come over. I also cannot stress enough that most Werewolves are not the refined sophisticated type, it takes many years to be able to control the turning, and in those years, you are NOT in control, at the mercy of the moon and your heightened emotions, meaning everyone you will meet lost all they once had, forced to start over completely with a totally new life. Holding down a job with that going on is next to impossible, so don’t take it personal if some of my guys and gals come across a bit crude. Life made them that way.”
“Copy, copy. No worries about crudeness, we have a few pottymouths in the extended family, my uncle Liam, cousin Nick, not to mention Blaine, … that guy is an experience in itself. In other words, it takes a lot to shock me. So, Sunday dinner at my family’s, and I will come and spend Saturday night with you, at your home … boyfriend. Since you didn’t invite me, I’ll just do it myself.”
“I like the sound of that … so I am getting my chance. God knows I earned it.”
She turned around and walked towards the stairs up to her bedroom, one foot on the bottom step she stopped, turned half-way, and with a wink asked