A Dormant Howl

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Chapter 8

Sweet 16…or is it Bittersweet 16

Bounding down the stairs, I came to a stop by the front door. Frowning, I looked around for my mother and, watching the scent of bacon and brown sugar, I made my way towards the kitchen. Weren’t we supposed to be leaving now and getting something to eat on the way out? I was surprised to just see Mama in the kitchen, breakfast laid out on the table. Catching my perplexed look, she gave me a small smile and motioned for me to sit

“Your brothers are running patrols, so it’s just you and me for breakfast.” With Jensen and RJ patrolling this morning, it was just me and Mama eating our breakfast of oatmeal, English muffins, hot cocoa for me and black tea for her.

“So, how about we get your decorations first, then get a dress, and on the way home, we will get your cake.” She said, sounded excited. For whatever reason, I just could not quite muster up much enthusiasm. It was my birthday, yet I was the one who had to do the heavy lifting and do the decorating.

“Sweet sixteen- oh, I cannot believe it! You must be so excited. I cannot wait to go out and do the shopping and pick everything up!” She breathed, sounded ecstatic. She looked at me, her smile bright and eyes big as though it was her birthday instead of mine.

I shrugged and took a hefty spoon full of oatmeal in my mouth. “Sure, Mama whatever you want.” I intoned, intimating how I was less than thrilled about being not only woken up on my birthday but also having to do all the decorating as well. Rolling her eyes, Mama stood up from the table-- grumbling something incoherent and began cleaning up the kitchen so we could get a start on our scavenger hunt.

In the car, I popped in my favorite EMO band CD and nodded my head to my favorite song on the album. As soon the the lyrics blasted over the car speaker, I began to bob my head along and sing along. I hear a loud groan of disgust and barely cover my laughter with a cough.

Gotta love My Chemical Romance- they just get teenagers and being young, something I feel my parents’ generation has forgotten. Though I love the music, I confess that I play it because Mama hates it. I love looking over to her, watching her face contort and scowl. It delights me, causing me to smile and sing along louder. Suddenly, she reaches over and lowers the volumes. Oh, great- now she wants to talk.

“What’s the theme we’re going for? Something pretty and pink? How about blue and white?” She rambles, suggesting the exact opposite of what I am interested in. I barely contain my shudder. Gosh, did she want me to vomit in my mouth?

“Ugh, no Mama, we discussed this. The only way I was going to allow you to throw me this stupid party was if I got to have my Black Parade themed party. Lucie and Leigh Anne are making most of the decorations, since they are the artists and Tameekah is handling the table decorations and tarot card displays.”

“Young lady, I told you, there will be no tarot cards in my house!” She snaps vehemently. I gape at her- she cannot be seriously still hung up on that. I know she was raised Catholic, but considering Papa’s Druid roots AND their attempts at balancing my chakras to keep Corah in check, her being worried about Tarot cards seems just a bit ridiculous. For the umpteenth time, I roll my eyes and try my best to reason with her.

“Mama, they are not bad. Tameekah’s mother reads me all the time.” I admit, and instantly regret it. She glares at me before turning back to the road.

“And you think that doesn’t have repercussions?” She demands. Goddess, she was being ridiculous. I never believed in the power of curses.

“Oh, for Goddess sake, Mama- it is just for fun anyway! Nothing bad has come from it yet, and nothing ever will come from it! Seriously, it’s just for show anyway- chill already!” I blurt out, unable to contain my teenage outburst.

Coming to a stop light, Mama stomped on the breaks and stared up at the sky. Pounding her fists on the steering wheel, she began to mutter and talk to no one. Though from all the huffing and puffing she was doing, she was likely trying to reach out to my father’s spirit-- as if he could do anything to stop me.

“Fine, fine. Have it your way. You always do.” She muttered darkly as we continued to drive. I could not stop a happy grin from breaking out over my face. When she turned to glare at me, I quickly turned to look out the window. Was it wrong to do the happy dance in my head? Corah even howled in excitement. When Mama was not looking, I pulled out my cellphone to alert my friends.

Gal Pals Group Text

Gal Pal Desi: Okay, girls we’re in the clear! :)

Gal Pal Tameekah: YAY! Alright! How did you get your mom to say yes?

Gal Pal Desi: How else, guilt trip. I left the back door open, so go on in and start setting up. Jenson and RJ won’t be home until the party, so the basement is all yours.

Gal Pal Lucie: Okay, birthday girl, go and enjoy Mommy / Daughter bonding!

Gal pal Leigh Anne: Can’t wait to see the party dress!

“What are you doing? Texting your friends? On our special day? It’s bad enough we don’t have to get the decorations, but now what?” She snapped, looking more frazzled than she needed to be. Pocketing my cellphone, I left my friends behind so I could focus on the task at hand. Smiling at my mom, I knew she’d love this surprise.

“Okay, Mama you know how this is our special birthday Mother / daughter bonding, well we’re going to head into town and get a beauty pampering day, all thanks to Jerry’s mom.” I announced, pulling out a brochure from my purse. Her eyes widened as she took in the spa and beauty shop brochures. Mouth opening and closing like a fish, she could not say anything. I beamed at her- I had won another small victory. I had rendered Mama speechless, nearly on the verge of tears.

“What, are you serious? Why, that woman is going to hear it from me tonight!” She sniffed, trying to hide her excitement. I grinned, and opened up the brochures to look at what they both offered and to also show her.

“Yeah, she mind linked me this morning. Luna Beatrix set us up for pedicures, manicures, hair coloring and styles, and makeup.”

“Oh, my goodness-- that’s amazing, its...oh, my word,” She gasped, mouth agape in shock as well as awe. And the thing was, that wasn’t even the best part.

“There’s more: she’s sending us to Marjorie’s boutique for our dresses. She’s been secretly making mine for months. Jerry told me last night,” I said, barely registering what I had said when I heard Mama gasp. Shit- I didn’t want Mama to know that! Realizing my mistake, I hastily added, “And she made you one, too.”

The look on her face instantly changed from shock and initial disappointment to one of surprise and joy. Mama’s eyes were misty-- it was almost too much. It made me happy to see her like this-- not sad, but excited and young again. It had been ages since she had worn an elegant gown-- not since high school. Then, she sobered and her face took on a thoughtful air.

“It better not be something out of The Nightmare before Christmas.” She deadpanned, ruining the moment. I scoffed and rolled my eyes, unable to contain my disappointment.

“Would that be so bad?” I huffed. She glowered at me and turned back to the window as she continued driving us towards the dress shop. I heard her harrumph and mutter, “Gothic drivel...unsuitable for children, occult nonsense.”

“Oh, come off your high horse, mom - we’re Druid Catholics, for Goddess’ sake!” I sneered, “and not devout ones, at that.”

Mama pursed her lips, not totally convinced. I tried going for the artist’ argument. “And besides, it’s a great movie. Tim Burton is a cinematic genius!” I insisted passionately. Mama contemplated this statement with pursed lips. Frowning, she looked over at me and said, “Well, as long as it is not inspired by The Corpse Bride.”

“No – more like Edward Scissorhands…” I beamed triumphantly while I turned the music back up. Mama and I debated Tim Burton and his filmography all the way to our first stop, the soundtrack of the Black Parade to keep us company.

Thankfully, the beauty and spa treatments were not the first stop. Our first stop was Marjorie’s store, which she closed it off for only us, as if we were lycan royalty. Coming out of the store, she welcomed us with open arms and led us in. She and her staff greeted us with hugs, champagne, and strawberries. Of course I couldn’t have any of the champagne, but she gave me some ginger ale instead.

“Hi, birthday girl. How are you doing?” She beamed. Marjorie was a beautiful woman with long red wavy hair that was swept in a side braid. With kind, laughing eyes and a wrinkle-free face, you’d never think this tall, voluptuous, non-aging woman had a 20-year-old son, let alone the next Beta. Like most Lycans, she was tall and statuesque but she still wore 6 inch heels. Today, she was wearing a peach colored pencil skirt suit with a matching jacket and pale coral camisole underneath her jacket.

“Hello, Mrs. Wilcox,” I said happily, remembering to bow my head out of respect. Despite our clan being very forward thinking, we were taught from birth to always respect those in authority- especially Alphas and Betas. To me and my mother, she was the closest thing we had to a noblewoman.

“Desi, you know in private you don’t have to greet me that way. I would rather you look me in the eyes, than the floor.” She lovingly raised my chin, looking into my eyes. I blushed slightly at the admonition, but allowed myself to smile.

“Sorry, Mrs. Wilcox – “I began when she let out a small chuckle and pulled me into a fierce hug as she leads me and my mother into her shop.

“Desi, please you’re like my own pup. At least call me Marjorie.” She requested warmly, fingering a lock of loose hair as she urged me to sit down. I smiled and gave a nod in acknowledgment. Mama smiled at her, but conducted herself in a more businesslike tone. However, her eyes were dancing as she took in the yards of fabric and the dresses on display.

“Okay, Marjorie what’s this about that you have been designing both our dresses for months? And, just now I’m hearing about this!” Mama pretended to be upset, but like any female, she was distracted by all the sparkles.

“Well, I wanted to give our sweet little Desi something nice for her birthday and you’re only sixteen once. And it wouldn’t be right not to include her mother in the gift giving.” Without any hesitation, Mama took hold of her best friend and held her in a tight embrace.

Releasing my mother, she urged her to have a seat and drink some champagne while I sipped at my ginger ale and nibbled on a chocolate dipped strawberry. Clasping her hands, Marjorie’s demeanor changed slightly as she took on a more businesslike tone.

“Now, then, I already know that Beatrix has plans for you both today so let’s get started. While I already have the dresses designed, I did make one or two back-ups just in case- all of which can be altered with final touches immediately. I do have both your measurements on file so it was easy enough to do,” Marjorie said with a wink when she noticed the perplexed look on our faces.

“Question remains now as to which one wants to get started and try on their dress first?” She said, her smile bright. Mama reached over and took my glass and purse.

“Go try on your dress, sweetie.” Mama happily chirped, happily taking a sip of her champagne. Leaving her behind in the little sitting area, Marjorie guided me to the fitting room and pointed to three possible selections. As I ran my hands over the fabric, I felt my excitement grow.

“Do you like them?” Marjorie asked excitedly. I nodded, feeling my body lift at the excitement. But something wasn’t quite right- they were all beautiful, but not quite me.

“Look at the last one,” Marjorie urged. Frowning, I looked down the row of dresses when I saw it. I eagerly snatched it off the rack and held it up to my body. It was perfect- without a word, Marjorie left me to try it on. The dress was absolutely stunning! Black lace, off the shoulder, high in the front, long in the back. It hugged me in my midsection, enhanced my bust perfectly and showed off a bit of leg. Not like I had any boys to impress, but if I did, I’m sure I’d get heads to turn.

You’d definitely turn heads, my dear, and make blood rates rise, Corah purred. She momentarily broke through, her eyes looking out through my own. The purring in my head grew louder, turning into an almost erotic growl that sent shivers through my - our - no, my body. In a moment, I was back to myself and the exquisite dress no worse for wear, thank Goddess.

I stepped out head first and noticed how both ladies were anticipating my reveal with apparent excitement. Both women turned to look at me, all smiles. Mama looked as though she had had maybe one too many glasses of champagne, but she sobered when she saw me.

“Come on honey, let’s see . . .” My mother shrilled as I stepped out. There were ooh’s and ah’s as I stepped out, doing a turn this way and that. Mama nearly dropped her glass, but thankfully Marjorie grabbed it with her quick lycan reflexes as Mama came to stand by my side.

“Oh, my Goddess! You’re stunning, honey . . .” her voice was cracking with emotion. I gingerly took her hands into mine and gave them a squeeze. Goodness, but where did these emotions suddenly come from?

“Mama, don’t please. I can’t handle it if you start to cry.” I begged. Mama nodded her head, but continued to smile and look at me in my gown. Marjorie stood nearby, taking pictures as she and my mother squealed with delight as I floated in her creation. I couldn’t help but feel like I had extra eyes on me. I whipped my head around, to see if I could catch the perv, but nothing.

“Honey, I have the perfect shoes.” Majorie handed me a pair of open toed laced up suede black booties. Shrugging off the feeling of eyes on my person, I gingerly took the shoes from her hand and lifted the hem of the dress as I stepped into the shoes. Looking once again in the big mirror, I felt almost complete.

“Thank you, Marjorie. I love it all!” I gasped in total rapture. My vision briefly clouded-- I could feel my eyes threatening to seep with saline. I had to force the tears back from falling. Marjorie handed her assistant the camera and took me back in to change back into my clothes while another assistant, a pink haired Latina human, ushered Mama into another fitting room.

“The dress is amazing, Marjorie! How did you know I’d--” I began when a loud scream shattered my question into a gazillion pieces. Both Marjorie and I were up on our feet, ready to charge in when she busted out of the fitting room-- almost knocked Marjorie down to the ground. We both gasped in sheer awe at her in Marjorie’s delicate creation. Mama’s dress was vintage inspired, netting on the neck with black laced appliqué on the neckline, an A-line shape with a tea length.

“Oh, Pearl, you beautiful princess!” Marjorie cooed, squeezing my shoulders as Mama turned this way and that in front of the large three-way mirror. My face hurt so much from smiling and seeing my Mama look more like herself.

“Oh, Mama you look divine. Papa would fall in love all over again.” I said joyfully. Marjorie suddenly tensed as the words slipped from my lips. Suddenly, Mama’s mood darkened and as she gazed at her reflection in the mirror, she began to frown.

“Mama . . .” I stood with her on the podium, holding her from behind as she broke down. Marjorie came up behind her, taking her from me so she could change.

“I’ll help her get settled down. The dresses should be ready once you’re finished with your beauty appointments,” Marjorie assured me gently. After fifteen minutes, Mama returned somewhat sober and Marjorie was equally as moderate in her composure.

When we arrived at the beauty salon, both Mama and I were practically chilled to the bone. The weather had turned glacial as we departed Marjorie’s-- the sunshine barred by charcoal silver clouds and, worse yet, the shining white snow had turned into a muddy, gray sludge that sucked at our shoes. Despite this, we had managed to march through the sludge filled sidewalk to the salon for our nail and hair appointments. What would have normally been a five to ten-minute walk became a battle that lasted almost fifteen-twenty minutes.

“P-Patchett, P-P-Pearl and Des-Desdem--” I chattered, teeth clacking mechanically like a typewriter inside my head when the owner of the salon- a tall, bony person of nondescript gender cantered over to us. Pursing their lips in disdain, they tapped a manicured finger upon their Rolex watch.

“You’re late,” they said in clipped voices. The tone was meant to be abrasive, but the voice was soft and rich as velvet, tinged with a slight Eastern European accent.

“Normally, we do not accept late guests, or clients...but we understand today is a very special day for young miss, and as a friend of Marjorie’s, we will make this a one-time acceptation,” The owner and head stylist said, flashing a dazzling white toothed smile. Clapping their hands, two young women - a blonde and a brunette with blondish highlights - approached us and took off our coats before standing to attention, awaiting further instructions.

“Francoise, Ygritte- see to it that we give these ladies our very best and that we succeed in transforming these poor creatures into something as radiant as snow sprites!”

Before Mama and I knew what was happening we were spirited away to opposite ends of the salon. Before I had time to register this strange arrangement, the blonde stylist, who looked more like she belonged on a page of Cosmopolitan sat me in a chair. I took a whiff of the air - decidedly human - though her strange copper colored eyes were slightly off putting. Maybe she was a half-breed?

“Nails, first, I think-- best to get the easiest thing out of the way, no?” She reasoned, not allowing me to answer before setting about to take care of my nails. First she massaged my hands, moisturized, cleaned and trimmed my nails to make them even before asking what I wanted to do with my nails.

Though I could have gone over the top, I decided to go for the French manicure- basic, yet totally classic. However, my colors were anything but as I settled on having the tips painted red. I briefly considered having them add some flowers and rhinestones but I didn’t want to go overboard. In my mind, the dress was the showstopper and my nails the warm-up. Though no one would be seeing my toes, I still wanted them painted to match my nails. Once they were finished with my nails, they spirited me away again, this time sitting me in a stylist’s chair and nearly choking me with her Betty Boop hair cape. What do you know- even upper class women can be bougie?

“And what about madam’s hair?” My copper-eyed stylist asked curtly. I looked up in time to catch her disgruntled sneer, her upper lip curling disdainfully as she looked at the limp brown strands. I bit back a snarl, though I could sense Corah beneath my calm veneer just seething and wanting to be let out to remind this woman that she was being paid to do this.

“Just a wash and style, please,” I said sweetly. Francoise arched a perfectly drawn on eyebrow at my announcement. She ran her hands through my hair, pursing her lips in concentration as she contemplated something. Dropping my hair as though shocked, she flashed me a dazzlingly (fake) smile. The light bulb in her bright little head must have gone off as she remembered who was paying for all of this...might as well play nice with the ragamuffin, right? Dumb bitch, I silently huffed.

“We are offering a deal for our top clients today,” she began her speech, going on to discuss how perhaps adding some coloring or highlights would amplify or bring out my eye color. When she caught my sneer in the mirror, she clammed up about the coloring. Needless to say, I didn’t color my hair-- and seriously, even if I had wanted to, she was selling too hard and really had not earned that much of my interest or loyalty. I just had them wash and style it-- doing half up up do, where the top and sides were pinned to the crown of my head and pinned straight, while the rest flowed down in a cascade of curls.

They did a silver and black smoky eye, a plum cheek, and deep red lip. Taking one final look in the mirror, I could not help but admire myself. I had chosen well for my theme- a mashup of modern gothic with Victorian ingenuity. I looked very steampunk; in short, I looked badass.

My back was turned away from the entrance when I felt two fingers tapping me on my shoulder. Reflexes got the better of me and I spun around to see the most beautiful woman standing in front of me. Frowning, I looked over the woman from head to toe, not recognizing her then I met those eyes...I never could forget those eyes. My mother.

She looked so different and yet the same, if that makes any sense at all. She had them color her hair, concealing any trace of her true age, turning her greying hair into a dark brown; plucked and shaped her eyebrows to open her face more than it already did; and her nails were pink with little rhinestones. She looked so transformed-- refreshed, awake, young, and radiant. Ever since Papa died, she seemed to be shrouded in dullness and gloom. But, today, after so long hiding in the shadows, she had stepped into the sunshine.

“Oh, Mama you look beau –” I started to say until she cut me off.

“Thank you for today, honey. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be a mom.” She praised me. I blushed slightly, then frowned. Because of me? That made no sense.

“Come on, mom- you know that’s not true. You’d have Jensen and RJ.” I reminded her. She smiled wryly, allowing a deep throaty chuckle to escape her lips. Then she nodded, as if to agree with me.

“Yes, but I couldn’t have days like today with those wild beasts.” She snorted, earning her some looks from the staff. The proprietor and head stylist, however, shushed them with just one withering look. My god, what was it with everyone wanting to go all misty-eyed today?

Mama brought me back to the present as she stood directly in front of me. Her eyes were misty, but there were no tears- no sadness or gloom. For the moment, there was only happiness and love. Her fingers combed through my hair, twirling it as she looked off in the distance.

“Papa would be so proud of us today, dontcha think?” She said, her voice suddenly thickening. Her hand that held my curls suddenly stilled, and the gloom once again threatened to settle over the sunshine. I quickly took her hands in mine and squeezed.

“Yeah, yeah he would have,” I said softly, nodding as I contemplated all that had happened- all he had done for us, for me. How we had come so far, and still had so much to do to prepare for. I looked at Mama, watching for any signs of melancholy. Then I said tentatively, “Mama, are you okay?”

Her lips tightened, as if she was holding back. Then she smiled broadly, the gloom allowing the happiness to shine through like a ray of pure sunshine. Handing me my jacket, she admitted in a soft voice so only I could hear, “I just miss him, honey.”

At Party

When we returned home, we were rushing. The sludge and snow had not done us any favors, as we had trouble walking back to our car and picking up the dresses. Not only that, but the bakery had nearly misplaced the cake. When we got home, we only had an hour to get dressed.

“What about the decorations? My makeup? I--” I began to panic, only to have Leigh Anne shove me towards my room. Both Daphne and Tameekah had already gone home, having finished their part. Leigh Anne and Lucie had been adding the final touches when we had arrived home.

“You, get dressed-- Lucie and I prepared for this. We will get everything done and make sure you and your mama look like the best damn hosts! Now shoo!” She insisted, slamming my bedroom door closed. I giggled at her domineering attitude- though the quieter of the twins, she definitely had a strong personality. She would have made a great Lycan, I thought absently as I began my preparations.

Peeling off my clothes, I hastily shoved everything into my laundry hamper. Dressed in nothing but a bathrobe, I ran back and forth between the bathroom and my bedroom, as I touched up my hair and makeup, just adding a little sparkle of lip gloss over the deep red of my lips. As I left the bathroom, Mama called up.

“Honey, are you dressed? The Alpha, Luna, and Jerry are here.” She announced. I felt a small twinge of panic. They were early-- what should I do? What should I do? I looked down at myself, checked to make sure everything was in order and that my talisman was tucked away safely beneath my dress. There was nothing for it...I was set and ready to go. Might as well get the party started.

“Coming Mama . . .” I hollered as I unbecomingly began stomping down the stairs, only to nearly trip over my own feet as I see a most dashing, incredibly fit looking specimen of lycan masculinity waiting for me just at the foot of the stairs. Oh, Goddess, preserve and save us...

Holy shit, did he look good- I mean, he always looked good, but he was magnificent in his suit. Jeremiah was dressed in an all black jacquard designed suit, vest, tailored shirt, tight fitted pants, and black leather shoes. His normally wild hair was gelled in place and, though he had never really had much facial hair beyond beard stubble, he was clean shaved. The classic and kempt look suited him, and the dark suit seemed to accentuate his muscular build and magnify the cut of his cheekbones. There was no disputing his incredible jawline, and his eyes...oh, those golden orbs of freshly cut grass.

Holy shit, what is wrong with me? I internally groaned, mentally shaking myself. This is my best friend we’re thinking about. Then, I heard a soft, sleepy chuckle as Corah came up for a quick breather.

Dressed like that, there’s no way you can stay best friends for long, she cooed lazily before falling back under. Noting everyone’s eyes on me, I attempted to curb my clumsiness as I descended the stairs. Mama and Jerry’s parents all gasped in awe, telling me how radiant I looked. But Jerry just stood there, staring at me. I felt the hair on my arms rise, barely containing a shiver of delight as his eyes travelled over me. He couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off me as I slowly stepped off the stairs and approached them.

Both Alpha Josiah and Luna Beatrix both wished me happy birthday and paid me lovely compliments on how beautiful I looked. I tittered nervously in response, not really knowing or paying attention to what they said. My eyes, no matter who was in front of me, kept finding their way back to Jerry. Soon enough, our parents left us to help get more food out. I move to follow- ask him if he needs assistance or would like help -when Jerry cleared his throat

“H-hi,” he stuttered, instantly catching my attention. I look at him, noting how...uncomfortable he looks. I frown, wondering what has happened to make him suddenly so tongue tied. Is he nervous? He can’t be nervous, I decided: this is me and Jerry, we’ve known each other for years, shared a kiss. He shouldn’t be nervous, if anything I should be nervous.

“Hi. You look, handsome.” I said, gesturing to his clean cut look and exquisite suite. He smiles broadly, losing some of his nervousness and looking more like Jerry. He gently tugs at the lapels of his suit, straightening his already perfect tie.

“Thank you. And, I must say, Desi, that you look -” He begins, reaching out to touch my hair. I lean forward, my eyes lost in his - my body eager for him to touch me, all of me, a part of me. Then I heard a low growl that caused us both to jump back, from one another and into reality.

“Delicious . . .” a gruff growl was heard from behind me. I shivered, both in anticipation and in dread, as recognition bloomed inside my chest. I knew that voice...no, no, no... not here. He shouldn’t be here… he couldn’t be…?

“Tanner,” Jerry said almost annoyingly. My shoulders stiffened as Jerry looked beyond my shoulder at the door, confirming my suspicions. I spared a brief glance over my shoulders, groaning at his lack of adhering to the party’s dress code - tight black wife beater and torn at the knee denim jeans -while also inwardly moaning at how scrumptious he looked. I turned away, then, my face growing hot.

“I thought you weren’t coming. Is your whore with you?” He sneered, his lips curling into a nasty smile as he mentioned Merigold. I pursed my lips, praying to the Goddess and whoever else could hear me that Merigold Newton - the whore of the Silver Bullet clan and disloyal former mate -was nowhere near my party, my house, or even my family’s lands. I looked around, trying to spot her or RJ...oh, RJ- my heart began to panic when I looked at Jerry and Tanner.

“Don’t call her that,” Tanner seethed, a muscle in his jaw ticking. Jerry gently pushed me aside, standing face to face with Tanner.

“I call it like I see it, cradle snatcher,” Jerry ground out. I felt the blood drain from my face as the breath caught in my throat, morphing and expanding into an anxious ball as my heart sped up so fast I was sure both men and everyone else in the house could hear it. This could not be happening. I then heard Tanner let out a deceive snort, followed by a bark of dark, ill humored laughter.

“Ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black...hypocrite.” He sneered. I felt my body shudder, panic rising with the adrenaline. Did he know about our kiss? How did he know? No one knew, no one but me and Mama...was he bluffing? I looked at Jerry, his jaw ticking as he gently moved past me and stood directly in front of Tanner. His eyes- those beautiful molten green eyes I loved -were set to kill.

I closed my eyes, trying to block out the noise. This was my birthday, damn it- a time to be with the people I loved and cared about the most. I turned slowly as Jerry began to sling more insults at Tanner, his body straining in his crisp suit. The way his hands were shaking, I knew Crow was threatening to come out when Tanner unleashed a low, threatening snarl as his body began to curl into a defensive stance. I had to act fast-- more ghosts would be arriving soon. I did not want my two best friends starting a fight over something so trivial.

Before he could move, I turned and stood directly in front of Tanner, forcing him to look at me. The moment our eyes met, I placed my hand on his his chest, he instantly calmed down. He sighed, then moaned as I drew myself away from him and stood by Jerry. I always seemed to have that effect on him- calming, yet he always seemed to react differently. No matter how much he tried to deny it, he somehow knew I was the calming force he needed. Yet, he treated me like crap most of the time. I frowned and, without casting him or Jerry a second glance, moved around them as my brothers came in.

“Hey, Dumb and Dumber- nice to see you cleaned up for my birthday!” I said wryly, winking at them. Truly, though, my brothers - despite being almost as rowdy as wild beasts - knew how to clean up well. Though their clothing was not as crisp or fashionable as Jerry’s choices for the evening, they were at the very least clean and smelled nice.

“Hey, is that anyway to treat--” Jensen began, gently shoving my shoulder. RJ guffawed, clasping him on the shoulder before smiling and whirling towards me.

“--your big brothers and men of the house?” RJ finished, feigning hurt when he noticed Tanner. His smile fell, his eyes darkening slightly. Tanner must have felt my brother’s eyes burning into him, ’cuz he turned around and, spotting us, flashed a sheepish grin and waved.

“Let’s go help Ma in the kitchen, yeah?” Jensen asked, quickly deciding for both of them as he grabbed RJ and moved to the kitchen. Tanner watched them go, a pained look on his face. When he saw me looking, his jaw tightened and his eyes darkened. Before I could say anything, ask him about him and RJ, I heard my besties arrive.

“Heyyyyy!” All four of them screeched as they ran into the living room. All of them looked amazing in their black and white gowns-- I shrieked and danced up and down as they all dawned their matching marching band jackets, bringing the birthday theme full-circle.

I was pulled away from the boys and us girls went down to the basement. As I went down stairs, I heard Beta Wilcox and Marjorie arrive and just about throw a fit when they saw Tanner. I nearly giggled as the last words I heard Marjorie say in horror, “--son of mine dressed like a raga muffin. Your suite is in the car. Go get changed for your friend. Oh, and try to act like a gentleman for a change?”

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Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.