A prince is esteemed when he is a true friend and a true enemy.— Niccolo Machiavelli
Esmée Cameron's home
Esmée walked up the windy footpath from the ferry landing to her home on the Windenburg Isle and halted when she spotted the man by her front door, tall, broad-shouldered, with the ever-disheveled hair that fell almost to his shoulders, giving him a wild, feral appearance.
She halted for a moment, sighed, then continued onward.
He had seen her already and pushed himself away up from the wall he had been leaning against.
Their eyes met as she ascended the three steps up to the landing outside her front door, she looked him over, his shredded clothing and terrible wounds. The jeans she still recognized were now more like torn, uneven shorts, the once long-sleeved shirt now a sleeveless vest, tattered and torn, with dark spots soaked with blood.
“Holy crap Michael, what happened to you?!”
“Can we talk inside?” he asked.
She nodded, then headed towards her front door, she unlocked it, slipped in but left it open, as an invite for him to follow, which he took her up on. He entered, closed the door and looked at Esmée.
“I was usurped. I am lucky to be alive. At first, my kitchen blew up in my face, when that didn’t work and I managed to get out, I was attacked and challenged for my position. Were I not as skilled a fighter and not as strong, weakening my opponent enough to be willing to accept my surrender, I wouldn’t be standing here right now – or anywhere ever again. Pack lead challenges are usually till death.”
“Oh my God, Michael!”
“Yeah, I am done. Homeless, no longer the leader of any pack, an outcast, if I set foot into Moonwood Mill again, I am a dead man. And how was your day?”
“What about your son?”
“The Werewolf equivalent of lost custody. At least I know for sure that he’ll be safe. That’s gonna have to be good enough for me.”
“Nicolette allowed that?”
“She was part of the angry mob who dethroned me. They found out I had dealings with Vampires. That is considered treason among Werewolves, unforgivable, and punishable by death. Even Nico won’t forgive me for that, she is disgusted by me. She got married a while back, and is pregnant by her husband, who ironically ended up being the man who defeated me. That’s how I know my son is safe. His new stepdad is the new Alpha. That’s the best I can hope for at this point. Me trying to go near Nathan could be dangerous for both of us.”
“Wait … I thought you and Nicolette …”
“No. I told you that to have a reason to break up with you, without telling you it was to protect you. I had a feeling someone was going to come for me, and I wanted no traces leading anyone to you. That was the only way I knew how.”
“We need to tend to your wounds.”
“I’ll be okay.”
“Michael, you are filthy, you are injured and bleeding, open wounds do not mix well with dirt. You wanna end up dying from an infection after surviving the attempt on your life?” her tone was urgent and worried.
“Okay, I’ll clean up.” he sighed and headed to the small downstairs bathroom, but Ezzy grabbed his hand and pulled him with to the stairs. He followed willingly to the bigger and nicer upstairs bathroom, where she pushed him down on the bathtub edge and with intimate familiarity, she began removing his clothing, inspecting the deep gashes caused by long talons and fangs.
“I am sorry, Ezzy. For the way I treated you, for what I said to you. I shouldn’t have acted so high and mighty.”
She looked at him, but said nothing, just continued her work. Once he was mostly cleaned up and shimmering with wound care ointment, she said.
“I still have some of your clothes. Even some shoes. You can wear all that because what you had on on is pretty much trash can fodder.”
“You kept my clothes?” genuine surprise sounded in the tone of his cracking voice.
“After the initial shock about the breakup out of the blue settled, I kinda felt that you were just trying to protect me from something. Nothing else made sense. I knew your life was complicated. That’s why I came to find you in Moonwood Mill that one day, to talk. You know I still love you. Never stopped.”
“You’re beautiful, Ezzy. I love you.” the words left his mouth before he could censor himself.
“I am glad you’re okay. Well, mostly in one piece at least.”
Then they just kissed. No hesitation, no awkwardness, just as it always had been. Just as if there never had been any breakup, fake or otherwise, no heartbreak, tears shed. Just them again.
“I am a mess.” he said with a crackling voice, leaving the intended meaning up to interpretation.
“What else is new?” she retorted in kind.
“Ezzy, will you take me back?”
She looked at him, then smiled and nodded.
“I would.” she said plainly.
“Just like that?” amazement sounded in his voice.
“Just like that. I am tired of negotiations and acting tough. As a female CEO I have to do that every day at work, probably more so than any man has to. Truth is, I missed you, Michael, it’s been so lonely without you, nights have been too long and cold. I love you; you’ve been through enough hell, no need for me to add to it. You don’t do that to people you love. You’re not homeless, Michael. Stay with me. For good. My house is small, but it is a home.” her voice was calm and sincere.
A few days later, standing by the front door refusing any offers to sit down, Connell Vatore eyed Michael with an unreadable expression, as he handed Esmee a piece of paper, then watched her unfold it.
“Why are you giving me this? Is that from Emmy? What is that for? A drink recipe? What in the world is Moonpetal? Never heard of that brand. Sounds like some foreign vodka or something.” she wondered.
“Moonpetal?!” Michael’s ears perked up and he came over to read the paper.
After glancing at it, he looked up at Connell, in utter disbelief, who nodded.
“You know what that is, don’t you, Michael?”
“I think I do. How did you get it?” Michael wondered, visibly flabbergasted.
Esmée just looked back and forth between the two unlike men, one a high-ranking Vampire and her brother-in-law, the other a Werewolf who lost everything. Both species were mortal enemies, but some years ago had agreed to a truce because of the women they loved.
“I didn’t. I was never here, and I know nothing about any of this. If I did know something, which I don’t, but hypothetically maybe I would have sympathized that our alliance caused your current predicament, costing you your livelihood and nearly your life, so maybe hypothetically I would have raided the vault of knowledge, also known as my father’s study, which I didn’t. And I have never seen that piece of paper before or heard anything about Moonpetals. As a man in a leading position to a crowd that can sometimes be a little unsavory and unpredictable, not to mention extremely dangerous, I know very well heavy is the head that wears the crown. Look at the silver lining, as tragic as what happened to you may be, against all odds you made it out alive and you have Ezzy and a chance for a new beginning. If I had anything to do with that piece of paper, which I do not, maybe it could be considered my gift to you for your second chance. Not many get such a chance, I once was fortunate enough at the hand of a beautiful young girl, who is now my wife and mother of my children. On that note, good luck!”
Only a black cloud dissipated where the young Vampire prince and punisher of those of his kind who had broken the laws had been. Michael looked at the recipe in his hand again, not so much reading it over, but to make sure it wasn’t just a figment of his imagination, then told Esmée.
“To answer your questions, Ezzy, Moonpetal isn’t a brand of booze, it’s a flower. A very rare and special flower, needed for an even rarer recipe Connell gave us, which is to make a potion to cure the curse of the Lycan. This piece of paper is invaluable. If this is real and works, I’d be just a normal human being again. I thought the cure was a myth. Figures that the Vampires were sitting on it all along. If this recipe isn’t just some strange prank, your vampiric brother-in-law just gave me the greatest gift of my lifetime. Not counting my son and you, of course.”
A few nights later …
“All right. Here goes nothing.” Michael sighed, looking at the strange looking drink in the glass he was holding, then inhaled deeply and started chugging it.
“I’ll keep my cell phone on standby in case this goes sideways.” Ezzy said, worried.
At first nothing happened except Michael grimacing, scraping his tongue against his teeth in hopes it would take away the bad and bitter aftertaste, then suddenly he jumped up, groaning and convulsing, until with a loud preternatural outcry he started glowing and levitating as if it were some artsy horror movie …
Esmée screamed startled, stumbling in reverse, the back of her knees hit the couch, where she fell backwards into the soft cushions – and then it was already over, Michael landed on his feet, shaking his head as if to regain clarity, then looked at her.
“You okay? Do you feel anything yet, Michael? Anything different?”
“I feel fine. A bit discombobulated from that airborne twirling thing, but other than that I feel the same. I think maybe a little weaker and the pain from my injuries seems to be getting more intense, was just a nagging discomfort and now it really hurts. That may be my imagination, wishful thinking, or an indicator that I am just a regular man again, cos Werewolves have a MUCH higher pain threshold. I just tried to force my Wolf-form and nothing. I started thinking of raw meat and it doesn’t sound mouth-watering at all anymore. Ezzy … Esmée … I think this worked. I can’t believe a Vampire of all people was the one who finally got rid of this damn curse for me!”
Few minutes later …
“I think that was is for special effects … I do definitely feel something now … completely unrelated to anything Werewolf though … happy to report that all body parts are working as intended by creator …” Michael said, grinning, as he got up out of the rocking chair to sit on the couch next to Ezzy. He slowly leaned over and kissed her, she leaned into him.
“Hmm, I feel something too, something that gives me the intense desire to go upstairs to the bedroom …” mumbled Ezzy into their kiss.
“Well, not to be pushy, but tonight was pretty life-changing and probably deserves some celebration.”
“Want me to make you another one of those terrible curse-cure drinks? I think we have enough of everything left over …” giggled Ezzy.
Smirking, Michael pulled her up, threw her over his shoulder, playfully giving her an extra-slap on the butt he was holding her by and headed up the stairs.
“Okay .. okay … this works too …” Ezzy giggled.
Author's Note: I kept Michael's loss of leadership and his cure from the curse of the Lycan purposely vague, to avoid any and all in-game spoilers, but certain ingredients can be mind-boggling to get, requiring being in a certain place at a certain time and such. All of it really did happen in my game, no cheats were applied and anything in this story only mentions what I saw was readily mentioned online anyway.
For your convenience and if you want/need a refresher, here is a list of chapters in chronological order of how the relationship between Michael and Esmée developed and Connell’s role in all that.