In the Shadows of Dryden

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CHAPTER 20 - Date day

Claire’s POV

It was finally the day to go out on a date with Cedric. After my last encounter with Caio and his reasoning for that kiss, I wanted nothing more than to forget about him. Of course, I would never say that out loud but from the day I saw him bathing in the lake, I could only think about him. Caio needed to figure out what he wanted. Either he went fully out and started dating me or he stayed the hell away from me. Doing both, was a definitive no, no!

The day after Caio kissed me, while watching the boy’s football practice, I had a surge of boldness. As soon as their practice was over, I ran to Cedric and asked him out on a date this Friday night. He beamed with a huge smile. He was so happy that he lifted me up in a bear hug.

For today’s date, I picked a pair of khaki jeans, a black polo shirt, and long dark brown boots that went almost all the way up to my knees.

I was finishing my makeup when granny came into the room.

*knock, knock, knock!*

“Deary? Cedric is here to pick you up.”

I looked at her through my mirror for a second, letting a small smile out.

“Ok, thanks, gran! I’m coming down in a second. ”

Through the mirror, I saw gran slowly walking to my bed and sitting on it.

“Are you sure about going out with him, deary?”

“Oh, yes!” I was applying my glossy lipstick as I answered her.

“What about Caio?”

“I don’t know! What about him? Last I checked, he was only interested in kissing me to make a ‘dog smell’ disappear. Well, guess I’m gonna put that ‘dog smell’ back on and I don’t care what Caio says.”

She sighed, chuckling at the same time, in a sign of amusement.

We headed downstairs, where Cedric was talking with dad about the football game on TV, yet he immediately turned to me when he heard the heels of my boots clicking on the wooden staircase. His jaw was wide open just like his eyes.

“My God! You’re gorgeous!”

I shrugged shyly, slowly walking toward him.

“Thank you! You’re not bad yourself!” I flashed him a smile, seeing my father look at me from head to toe.

“I must agree with Cedric, honey. You’re beautiful! Maybe, I should follow you two on this date to make sure nothing…” He cleared his throat, straightening his body before looking at Cedric and me. “... bad happens.”

Cedric shuffled in place, racking his blond hair with a hand.

“Dad, stop!” My hands grabbed Cedric’s wrist, pulling him along as I made my way to the door.

Poor Cedric had a disconcerted smile on his face. When we were about to cross the door, he waved goodbye to my parents. For one, mom and granny watched us go without saying anything.

“Claire! Be home for dinner!” Dad shouted to me but he was really addressing Cedric with his intense gaze.

“She will be home safe and sound, I promise!” Replied Cedric as he opened the door of his pickup truck for me to get in.

I noticed how dad lingered in the door frame while he watched us drive away.

*Sigh* “Sorry! Dad is very protective of me and my sister.” Cedric chuckled, shaking his head side to side.

“You don’t have to be sorry about having a caring father. He’s only trying to protect what is precious to him as a father. I understand.” He gave me a big smile, all the while keeping his eyes on the road ahead of us.

“So, where are you planning on taking me?”

“You will see. I think you will like what I prepared for our date.” Again, a smile showed on his face. I was just wondering what he was thinking while I looked at the many buildings go by one by one, until we left Dryden’s city limits. I made a questioning glance towards him when I realized that we were still heading northeast, toward Witche’s forest. Guess I should be relieved that the chances of meeting a certain someone in Witche’s forest were near zero but I couldn’t deny how intrigued I was.

The trees went fast by and soon enough, we got to a bridge. I could see some houses on the other side of the bridge but they weren’t like city houses. Those looked more like farmhouses. As we got to the other side of the bridge, I confirmed my theory. Those were rustic farmhouses, constructed with stones and wood and painted in red paint. They might have seemed old and unimportant to other people but to me, they were just amazing. I loved rustic buildings and furniture.

Cedric parked right in front of the farmhouse I’ve been detailing with my eyes.

“This is ‘Howling Wind’ and yes, it’s a farm as you can see it.”

I nodded, exiting the vehicle as I looked around the place.

“It’s so pretty and peaceful here.”

“CEDRIC!” We both turned toward the person yelling. An elderly man was running to meet us.

“Master Cedric! All was arranged as ordered!” My gaze went back and forth between the two men.

“Thank you, Pommey! Could you please prepare Bella and Arrow?”

“They are ready, young master!”

“I see. Thank you, Pommey!” I watched the elderly man walk away before turning back to Cedric.

“Young master?” I chuckled as Cedric gave me a disconcerted look.

“Yeahh, I’m not sure why but Pommey always called me young master as if I was a noble or something.” He shrugged, grabbing my hand and leading the way into the farm.

We walked towards the... stables? I knitted my brows looking at a boy holding the reins of two horses, one white and one black.

“Hey, Cedric! Mister Pommey told me to get them ready for you.”

“Thank you, Peter!” Cedric turned to me, offering a hand for me to get up on the horse.

“So, that’s what you had planned, horse riding!” He flashed me a smile, nodding. “Which one is mine?”

“You will get the white horse, Bella. She’s calmer.” With a nod, I ignored his hand, walking past him to Bella. I placed a hand on the saddle and with one swift movement, I was sitting properly on the saddle. Then, I looked at him with a smirk.

“I’ve been riding horses all my life. I’ve even worked a couple of summers as an instructor for kids.”

Peter broke out laughing while Cedric’s wide eyes stared at me and Peter, just to let out a burst of good belly laughter on the next second.

“You seem to have many cards up your sleeves. I better be careful!” He chuckled for a bit longer as he made his way to his horse, Arrow, mounting it just as easy.

“Enjoy the ride!” Said Peter, waving to us as we galloped away waving back.

We rode the horses upstream, along the river bank. Apparently, Cedrick wanted to show me a waterfall and I gotta agree that I was looking forward to it.

The pathway was incredibly beautiful with autumn colored trees in red, yellow, and orange, decorating the sides of the dirt road. Sometimes, we could see some squirrels running up a tree or jumping to an adjacent tree looking for food.

I was gladly surprised by the remarkable chirping of some small rainbow-colored birds dancing in pairs in the air during this time of the year. Most birds had already migrated by now but those didn’t seem like they were going to leave. It was a sight to be seen! I’m not sure exactly how long it took to get there. We were making small talk while enjoying the calmness of the nature around us. Cedric talked a little about him and his sister growing up here. How they used to ride the horses to the waterfall just so they could play and bathe there.

By the time we got to the waterfall, it was around midday and my belly was growling, reminding me to feed it. Cedric lifted his eyebrows looking at me and let out a chuckle.

“I was planning on waiting for that till after I showed you around but I believe my guest is hungry now.”

My cheeks flared and I immediately placed my hands over it, averting my eyes from him.

“I’m not hungry!” And just to spite me, my belly growled again, getting a good chuckle from Cedric who was fiddling with his saddlebags.

He removed a couple of bags from inside it and walked to a small open area nearby, placing a blue camping double bedroll on the ground.

“Madam!” He made an exaggerated but funny gesture for me to come to sit over it, then he sat beside me and opened the other bag. “I prepared a little something for us to eat but I gotta confess that I’m not a master chef so, hope you like it!” He removed several wrapped sandwiches from the plastic bag, placing it in front of us. “Also, I brought coffee and milk. That I’m certain that you like since you drink it at school!”

I watched him place a couple of cups and two thermoses by the sandwiches, a big and a small.

He was so sweet and thoughtful. ‘Wish someone else would be like that too.’ My eyes widened with those thoughts. ‘Why was I even thinking of him when I’m out on a date with Cedric, who treats me a whole lot better than Caio does?!’ I shook my head, chasing those thoughts out of my mind and concentrating on my date.

“Those sandwiches look mean! Are you sure you’re not a sub-master?” I grabbed one of the subs, that one had an etiquette written curry chicken on it and it looked delicious! Cedric smiled, grabbing a roast beef and cheese sub.

“That’s about all I’m good at doing in the kitchen.”

I took a bite of my sub, feeling all the amazing flavors in the curry add to the perfectly marinated chicken and the salad leaves.

“My God, Cedric!” My hand went to cover my munching mouth while I stared at the sub. “This is divine! If you can make something this good you should be able to cook anything else!”

Cedric let out laughter, all the while shaking his head.

“Believe me, I’ve tried. Didn’t work out for me but that’s alright. At least I know I won’t die of starvation.” He laughed, with me trying to giggle with food in my mouth. I must have been looking like a chipmunk with its mouth full.

After our little picnic, Cedric decided to show me around the waterfall and all the places that he liked to play with his sister.

“This place is amazing! So beautiful! I just love nature.” My eyes were going everywhere, trying to take in all the scenery around us and memorize every detail. When I finally looked back at Cedric, he looked spaced out.

“Is… everything alright?” My voice must have brought him back to earth because he looked straight back at me, a mix of emotions on his beautiful face.

“Yes, sorry. Got lost in some memories. There is one more place I want you to see.” He grabbed my hand, immediately making me blush, and pulled me along with him. We climbed the side of the waterfall all the way to its top in complete silence.

“I usually come here when I want to be left alone. It’s my outlet place where I can feel relaxed.” He looked around us, his vision anchoring on the distant horizon. The view from up here was truly beautiful. I could understand why it was his outlet place.

“Claire…”

My face turned back toward him and we locked our gazes to one another. Slowly, his face approached mine, his hands cupped my face and before I realized what was happening, his lips crashed over me.

Caio’s POV

I was in the middle of an extended patrol with Fang when I heard some voices coming from the waterfall. Usually, I wouldn’t even bother checking on those couples but one of the voices sounded very familiar to me.

Involuntarily, my legs changed direction and were about to walk toward the voices when Fang held me back, biting on my coat. His ice-blue eyes imploring me not to go.

“Fang…”

He let go of my coat with a low whimper. I continued my steps towards the voices until I could see the couple on top of the waterfall kissing and hugging each other. I’m not sure why I was doing that. Watching two people kissing was never a thing for me but that girl… I swallowed hard, contracting the muscles on my jaw, crimson slits forming on my squinted eyes while my canines elongated. My fingers began to dig into the two tree trunks I had my hands over.

The anger growing inside me was otherworldly. Never, in all my existence, have I felt this mad before.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Claire was kissing that pup. My feet moved forward as I let out a growl, successfully interrupting their kiss.

“Caio?!” She gasped my name with a total shocked expression. The pup pulled her behind him, glaring at me.

“What are you doing here? This is NOT your territory!” Hissed the pup in a threatening voice.

“I don’t care who’s territory this is pup, I’m patrolling around Dryden!” Claire’s face peeked from behind him and our eyes met. “What the hell are you doing here, Claire?” My voice came out rough and cold.

“Don’t answer him, Claire! What do you think she’s doing here?” Cedric kept on pushing her behind him as if I was a threat to her.

“Wait, Cedric…” She tried to flank him but he just moved over in front of her again. His protective actions with her increased my anger tenfold as I strode forward to them.

The pup too, came forward, puffing his chest and straightening himself. My blood boiled so much that I didn’t even notice how we ended up at each other’s throats. All I remember was me punching him in the face, him stumbling backward, the next second, he was in his wolf form, gritting his teeth menacingly at me while we exchanged bites and clawings.

“Stop! Caio, Ced... stop... now!” I wasn’t paying attention to anything around me and the little bit that I heard wasn’t enough to stop me from seeing red.

“ENOUGH!” A piercing scream reached both of our ears because we both jumped away from one another, looking in the direction of the scream.

“Enough!” She rushed to us visibly angry, staring at the pup first. “What are you? A shapeshifter? A werewolf?” She turned to stare at me for a couple of seconds before addressing the both of us. “Isn’t there any human being in this damn forsaken town?” She successfully reprimanded us in record time. “Caio, go home! I still don’t want to talk with you and right now, I’m not sure if I will ever change my mind.” She turned back to stare at the pup. “You! Change back to your human form and go get the stuff ready for us to return. I want to go home, NOW!”

I stepped forward, gaining her attention with a pair of fiery blue eyes but what made me stop wasn’t her eyes or the pup, it was Fang. He had moved in between us and was growling at me, urging me to go away. My vision darted to her anger-filled eyes and then to the light brown and black wolf shifting back to his human form.

I gave her one last look, turned my back to them, and sprinted away with Fang at my tail.

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