“First and last name.” The security guard at the gate to Dr. Braxon’s community stared down at me with a very annoyed expression.
I handed him my driver’s license. “Mae Cohan.”
“Who are you visiting?” he asked while scanning my card and typing my name into the computer in front of him.
The computer flashed a red color. He raised an eyebrow at me, then reluctantly handed back my card. After gazing into the car at Valerio, he pressed his lips together. “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
He cleared his throat and sat up straighter like he had some type of authority over me. “Well, if your kind could read the sign in front, it says this community is werewolf-free. You and your kind are not welcome here, Miss. Moon Goddess.”
This time I raised an eyebrow at him. “Well, Dr. Braxon is expecting us.”
He snorted. “Dr. Braxon is the one who suggested this neighborhood be fiend-free.”
My hand tightened on the steering wheel. I had an urge to grab the man by the neck, throw him into the car with us, and ram through the gate myself, but I thought against it. That would just get us in more trouble. I needed to set a good example, no matter how much these people got on my damn nerves.
“Can you call him?” I asked after a deep breath.
“Ma’am, I’m not going to ask you again to leave. If you do not comply, I will have to use force.”
I pressed my lips together. “This is an urgent matter.”
He removed something from his hip and stood. He pointed a gun right at me. Valerio grabbed my arm, pulling me toward him.
“Turn the car on or I’ll shoot you.”
Damn, this guy was a bit over the top.
I recognized the type of gun from our sweeps of the Challengers’ places. These guns didn’t have regular bullets; they had silver bullets laced with wolfsbane. This type of gun was the one I had been shot with after killing Brett, one that almost killed me.
“Mae, we will find another way. Let’s go,” Valerio advised, his hold on me tightening. He had taken off his seatbelt and was ready to pull me toward him to take the bullet himself if he needed to.
I stared at the gun then at the security guard. And they said we were the violent ones.
“Do it now!” the man yelled.
I pressed my lips together, deciding that Brett’s dad wasn’t worth getting shot over. After putting the car in reverse and sending the security guard a not-so-nice gesture, Valerio and I were back on the road. But we weren’t going home.
I found a dirt road and drove down it for about half a mile, then parked the car. We hopped out and began walking toward the stone walls that surrounded the community.
Valerio let out a low growl. “Mae, that wasn’t safe. He would’ve shot you.” With his brows furrowed together and his arms crossed over his chest, he looked so tense and very stressed out.
“I could’ve handled it,” I said. I had been shot with one of those before - right in the head - and look at what I’ve become. And the pain of a bullet wound wouldn’t hurt me at all. I’d been through much worse.
He grabbed my arm, causing me to stop. “And what if you couldn’t?” His eyes were filled with so much anger and worry. “Do you know how many people are counting on you? You can’t make rash decisions like that.” He paused for a moment, then ran his hand through his hair. “The last time that happened to you, I couldn’t sleep for days.”
My eyes widened slightly. Valerio was worried the last time this happened to me? We hadn’t even known each other that much, but I could see how painful the memories were for him to relive. I frowned at him and placed my hands on his chest, calming him down. “I’m sorry.”
“Just, please, think through your decisions, especially when they’re this crucial.”
“For you,” I said, but that darkness was still creeping at the edge of my mind. I would think about it, but the darkness wouldn’t.
He blushed very lightly. “For everyone.”
I smiled. “But for you too.”
He gazed down at the ground, then lifted his gaze to me. “For me too.”
My heart jumped in my chest. “Let’s go,” I said, breaking the moment between us. I led him to the stone walls, grabbed his hand, and closed my eyes.
When I was little, I visited the Braxon’s a few times but I hardly remembered it. The memories were so fuzzy. I tried to picture their living room, hoping that it was still the same. The large flatscreen TV, the chandelier, the ugly decor.
Valerio and I suddenly appeared in the middle of their living room. I wrinkled my nose. Yep, still the same ugly decor.
Pictures of Brett were scattered across the room, from childhood to last year. The TV was on, blaring the news. A glass that was half-filled with what smelled like vodka was sitting on one of the side tables.
He was here. It was either him or his wife, but there was a rumor that they split after Brett’s death.
“Mr. Braxon,” I said.
Valerio and I walked through the house, calling his name to see if he’d answer. We cleared the whole top floor. Nothing except dried up plants and a dog that wandered around aimlessly. We walked downstairs, hoping he was there.
I sighed in relief when I saw him standing near the front door.
“Mr. Braxon,” I said. The figure didn’t move. It was completely still, like stone. I approached him, my breath hitching.
His back was turned toward me, but I didn’t need to see him to know that Mother Nature had been here. Dr. Braxon was solid grey stone, and flowers bloomed from holes where his eyes and mouth once were.
I should’ve been upset, but this man actually looked oddly beautiful. This was some sick sort of revenge for being an asshole his whole life, and I was soaking in it. I bet Mother Nature thought this would hurt me.
It didn’t. I just laughed.
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