A glass slipped from my hand and fell to the ground, shattering in a million pieces. I stared at the shards of glass on the floor for more than a few seconds as I zoned out.
“Emma?” The sound of Krista’s voice echoed in my ear, but I didn’t register it until her hand found my shoulder. “Are you okay?” She asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “It just slipped, is all.” I bent over and picked up the large pieces before sweeping the little pieces into a dustpan.
“Hey,” Krista’s hand went back to my shoulder. “I can finish up here. We’re almost done closing anyway. You look like you could use a break.” She wasn’t wrong. I’ve been working every day at the bar for the last three months.
“Actually, you guys should head home.” I responded. “I have some paperwork I need to finish up in the office, so it’ll be a long night for me anyway.”
“Are you sure?” Krista asked.
“Positive.” I gave her a smile and not another chance to try to send me home. My dad had basically given the bar to me last month and it came with a lot of responsibility. I had to run payroll and do orders, along with expenses and schedules. I was beyond exhausted but throwing myself into the bar was a lot easier than facing reality. Than facing Nick…
I took the trash out, mopped the floors and locked the doors. Business wasn’t great on a Monday night, but there was nothing out of the ordinary about that. I retired to my office and growled at the stack of papers on my desk. I was behind on payroll and if I didn’t catch up my employees weren’t going to get paid. I should hire a manager to take care of this, I had the funds to spare to hire one. I powered up my computer and began working on an add to put out for the position. If I didn’t do something about this place quick, I was going to lose my mind.
It was close to four in the morning by the time I left the bar, but as I locked the back door on my way out, I felt uneasy. I could feel eyes on me, but I wasn’t sure on where they were coming from. I lengthened my claws and focused on my surroundings, ready for an attack. I snuck around the side of the building, trying to pick up on a sent but it was always hard to do so around the bar. The whole place smelled of alcohol and bad decisions.
As the scent of a wolf finally caught my nose, I knew someone was close to me. Just at the right moment, I swung my arm out and clothes-lined my stalker. The male fell to the ground hard and I stood over him.
“Jesus, Emma.” He coughed and I rolled my eyes at him.
“What are you doing, Alex?” I asked him ad I held my hand out to help him back to his feet.
“I wanted to walk you home, is that so bad?” He brushed the dust and dirt from his clothing.
“You mean you’re checking up on me?” I turned from him and started my walk home.
“He’s worried about you.” Alex jogged to catch up with me.
“So, he sent you to spy on me?” I asked as I kept walking.
“I’m not spying.” Alex chuckled. “I really do want to walk you home.”
“I can take care of myself, thanks.”
“You don’t have to tell me that, I’ve seen it first-hand.” I stopped and Alex nearly fell trying to stop with me. “Nick’s not the only one worried, Emma.” He took a deep breath. “I under how hard this has been for you; losing a best friend, but I lost my best friend too.” Alex had no idea Derek died by my hand. Maybe if he did, he would know he couldn’t help me.
“I appreciate the concern, Alex, I really do.” I put my hand on his arm and smiled, trying to convince him. “But I’m doing fine. I have a lot of work with the bar and I’m hiring a manager to help me. I’m not overdoing things. I’m fine. Besides, don’t you have a wedding to plan?”
“It’s a simple Mating Ceremony, not a wedding.”
“Either way, it’s much more important than anything I have going on in my life.” I began my walk again, hoping he’d take the hint and let me, but sure enough he followed me along.
“Will you be there?” He asked.
“Of course, I’ll be there.” I wouldn’t dream about missing Alex and Daniel’s Mating Ceremony no matter what I had going on in my mind.
“Emma?” I turned to him as he stopped mid-walk. “It’s this way.” He motioned with his thumb and I looked to the ground, adverting his eyes. It’s been about two months since I spent a night in Nick’s house. At first, I would stay late at the bar and crash in the office until Nick came to get me. One night, I left the bar and let my body take me wherever it wanted and ended up in my old house that was sitting vacant. Every night after that I always went back after my shift at the bar. Nick gave me space for the first few weeks, then the texts and phone calls started. He wanted to deal with things together and I tried, but every time I would sink deeper and deeper into a depression. I told him I wanted space and he was okay with it, until he wasn’t.
“I’m just gonna crash at my old place.” I finally spoke up. “It’s late and Nick’s probably sleeping already.” It was a great excuse, but Alex knew I was lying. “We’re basically here anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m training with Alan bright and early.” My training sessions with Alan was the only constant in my life. Every Tuesday morning, we met at the center and he tried to beat me in combat. And every Tuesday for the last three months, he’s failed.
I walked the rest of the way home and I paused at the stairs where Emmett used to sit and wait for me. I wondered how I could have done things differently and saved his life. I was so easy to forgive him for making a mistake that technically cost me my life, but I didn’t have him around to know if he would forgive me. I liked to hope he would, but I had to come with the terms that I would never know. As I reached my front door, I put the key in the lock, but it didn’t turn. The door was unlocked, yet I knew for a fact that I locked it before I went to the bar. A part of me wished I let Alex walk me the rest of the way home, but I very well might be putting him in danger if I let that happen. I put my hand in my back pocket, squeezing my phone with the thought of calling Nick, but I scrubbed that idea from my head and twisted the door handle anyway. I stepped into my home and breathed in deeply, trying to catch a scent of who might be in my home. I gently closed the door behind me, making sure to do so silently. I slowly made my way to the kitchen in the dark and grabbed a chef knife from the butcher block. I suddenly got a hint of fresh dirt and cloves and I instantly knew who my intruder was. I flicked on the kitchen light and it lit the dining room as well. There he was, sitting at my kitchen table like he was an invited guest into my home.
“What the hell are you doing in my house, Reginald?”