Plain Jane

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8: Parental Plots, Disappointing Phone Calls, and Getting Caught In The Rain

The fog surrounded Jane in a cocoon, but rather than feel the fear she usually felt when she had this dream, she felt comforted. She felt safe… and loved.

Jane knew whose voice she would hear even before he spoke.

“Janet… Janet…”

Jane – now “Janet” – felt the usual grittiness between her toes and under her feet, her body weight making her sink into it a little. Normally she would feel terror that the earth was going to swallow her up… but she didn’t. She felt as though the earth was trying to encircle her in its safety, and Janet knew with absolute certainty that no matter what, her father was there and that he would save her from any dangers or perils.

A bright, white light cut though the fog, flashing its golden brilliance over Janet before disappearing into the fog once more.

“Come home, Janet… Come home with me…”

“I’m coming, father,” Janet called out, running into the fog to find him.

Janet ran swiftly, her feet flying faster than she could have thought possible. Her heart seemed to sing, and, as though the weather were lifted by her joyous mood, the fog around her cleared to the bright shining of the sun. Its shimmering rays fell upon a lighthouse of white and blue – like the lighthouse on Janet’s coverlet. The lighthouse’s brilliant light flashed at Janet again.

“Janet… Come home with us, Janet…”

Janet whirled around at the sound of a voice not her father’s.

“Mother!? What are you doing here?”

Lilith exchanged a patient smile with Convel who was standing behind her with his hands on his wife’s shoulders.

“Your father and I have made up, Janet. We are going to run The Haven together… just as we always should have. We are going to be a family, my dearest Janet. Is that not wonderful?”

Janet looked dubious, “Jane” once more. This wasn’t real – Jane knew that from the start. But she hadn’t minded pretending – at first.

What did Convel have to gain by showing her this?

“No you haven’t. Father, what is this really about?” Jane asked Convel suspiciously.

Convel took a step forward, going straight through Lilith who faded like a puff of smoke.

“This is how things should be, Janet. Ye. Yer mother. Me. All of us, side by side… as a family. One day, that is how things will be – as they should be. Until then, me love, I have given ye all the tools to find me should ye ever need to reach me.”

Convel now stood in front of Jane. He placed his hands on her shoulders and looked down into her eyes with a fatherly love that tore at Jane’s heart that things couldn’t be the way he said right then and there.

“What tools? Why can’t things be that way right now? Why can’t we be a family?” Jane asked petulantly, sounding much like a child forced to wait for her Christmas presents until Christmas morning.

Convel smiled at his daughter fondly, caressing her face and pushing her long hair out of her eyes. Jane looked down and realized that she was wearing the same dress that she had gone on the date with.

“Your dreams are the charts your mind makes while you sleep to places you’ve never visited and they will show you the way when no one will help you. And we will be a family, Janet. Soon, me bonnie Janet. I promise, soon…

And then he was gone and Jane was awake in her lovely attic-room, covered by her lighthouse coverlet.

Soon, my love. I promise, soon

Jane’s eyes roamed the darkness, her eyes falling on the desk where she had left her clutch. Jane threw the covers from her body, hardly even noticing the chill as she nearly ripped the small bag open, digging through it in a frenzy. Finally, Jane pulled out the little winged wolf pendant. She rubbed her thumb over the fine details of the silver and onyx and opal, and immediately Jane felt a calm overcome her. Jane undid the clasp and put it on around her neck.

Jane looked at the clock and sighed. 4:38.

She walked over to her new wicker-white wardrobe and opened the doors to pick out clothes for the day.

Not like I’m going to get any sleep anyway. I might as well do something, Jane thought, intending to make breakfast for her Other Parents. That should make them pretty happy

After Jane had finished her morning routine she walked down the creaky stairs. As she got closer to the end of them, Jane’s sensitive hearing began picking up noises in the kitchen. Oh my… It’s them. The vampires have come for me over McDuffie. Oh, why did Lukan have to kill him? Why?

Jane quietly crept down the stairs and walked over to the coat rack. Taking a large umbrella from it, she tiptoed to the kitchen, hardly daring to breathe for fear the vampires would hear her.

“Marge, were does she keep the ketchup? I can’t find anything in here.”

Jane sighed with relief at the sound of her Other Father’s voice, lowering the oversized umbrella.

Jane quickly replaced it on the coat rack, feeling decidedly sheepish for being so paranoid.

“How should I know, George? I’ve hardly ever cooked a day in my life, and you very well know it,” Mrs. Parker replied exasperatedly to her befuddled husband.

Jane couldn’t help smiling, wondering what in the world they would ever do without her there.

Jane’s smile quickly faded.

What will they do without me?

The terms of Jane’s ‘adoption’ as Jane knew them required her to be returned to Lilith on her seventeenth birthday, and as much as Jane had thought about getting away from them, she hadn’t really thought about the consequences to her Other Parents and the impact her new life would have on them.

As Jane crept toward the kitchen, she thought about how much these people relied on her. She got their dry cleaning, cooked their food, washed their dishes, did their dirty laundry, and waited on them hand and foot. Will they even manage to survive without me? Will they get a maid? Will any maid put up with them?

Jane poked her nose around the corner to see her father’s upper-half submerged in the fridge and her mother’s perfectly straight nose in a cookbook as she tried to crack an egg with one hand.

The whole situation was hilarious to say the least.

Jane had to cover her mouth with her hand to stifle a giggle as her mother became distracted with reading and crushed the egg shell in her hand.

“My manicure! Oh, George! Come and help me!” Mrs. Parker yelped trying to shake the slimy liquid from her hand, only achieving strings of the yellowish stuff flying everywhere, including on Mrs. Parker’s two-hundred dollar bathrobe.

“I’m still trying to find the ketchup. Where did that girl put it?”

“It’s in the door shelves, right side, middle shelf.”

Mr. Parker jumped a bit, his head slamming against a shelf above him, after having been startled by Jane’s voice.

Mrs. Parker was much worse off. She too had jumped when Jane had suddenly spoken, hitting the bowl half-full of raw eggs, launching the messy yellow stuff everywhere.

Fortunately, Jane’s senses were quick enough that she managed to duck around the corner before the shower of egg came her way.

Jane peeked her head around the corner again to find her parents drenched in raw egg, the floor not much better off. Jane burst into laughter at the sight before her, both of her parents giving her the dirtiest of looks.

Mr. Parker turned around to take a look at his wife but burst into laughter too at seeing his wife of twenty-three years with egg dripping off of her perfectly pinned up hair, Mrs. Parker soon following when she saw the raw egg all over her husband’s hundred-and-sixty dollar slippers.

It felt so strange to Jane – laughing with these people, the people who had raised her, had tried to make her conform, and treated her like a freak when she didn’t. These people who were always so dry and boring and who had no sense of humor. They didn’t seem like the George and Margaret Parker that Jane knew.

Once the laughter died down the silence that followed was awkward.

After a few moments of it Jane spoke quietly.

“Why don’t you guys get cleaned up while I take care of this? Then I can make breakfast.”

Jane’s parents nodded, looking incredibly relieved, and walked past her silently.

Jane cleaned up the mess and started breakfast before her parents came down again.

Mr. and Mrs. Parker sat down at the kitchen table, no one breaking the fragile silence. Jane finished breakfast quickly and sat down at the table as Jane and her parents prepared to eat. Her father picked up a fork and was about to dig in but Jane put her hand lightly on his arm. Mr. and Mrs. Parker eyed her curiously.

“We should say Grace,” Jane said.

At The Haven the food was always blessed before even a bite was taken at meal times. Doing it now just seemed right somehow. Mr. and Mrs. Parker exchanged a look before turning back to their daughter.

“Um, alright,” Mr. Parker said, putting his fork down gently. “Why don’t you do the honor?”

Jane’s eyes widened. Nobody had ever asked her to say the blessing before. Lilith had always taken care of it – or Lukan.

“Umm… I, uh… Sure,” Jane said, taking her father’s hand in one of hers and then her mother’s in her other, surprising both of them.

Hesitantly, Mr. and Mrs. Parker took one another’s hands, closing and lowering their eyes as Jane began the blessing.

“Dear Lord, thank you for the food before us and please bless it to the benefit of our bodies. Thank you for all of the other blessings you’ve given to us as well, such as hearth and home, and all of our wonderful friends. And most especially, thank you for my parents… all of them. Please keep us mindful of the needs of others and help us to do what is right and to always see the light in the darkness. In your holy name we pray. Amen.”

The words had flowed from Jane’s lips better than she had expected and as she looked up at her parents she could see the surprise in their faces, as well as the touched emotions her little prayer had evoked, especially in her mother.

They ate in a peaceful silence for several minutes. They were happy moments for Jane. She felt a little closer to her parents and she wanted to grow closer still, which was why she tried to strike up a conversation.

“Why are you guys up so early? Couldn’t you sleep?” Jane asked before taking a bite of her scrambled eggs.

Mr. and Mrs. Parker exchanged a confidential look between them, as though they weren’t sure what to say to Jane.

“Well… Your father and I never went to bed. We were talking about you actually… and your ‘young’ man,” Mrs. Parker said with meaning.

“Really?” Jane asked warily. Oh, boy. This is not going to be pretty… “What about me and ‘my young man?’”

“Well, Jane, your father and I have thought about how… unreasonable we’ve been about all of this and we thought to make it up to you we could invite him to Thanksgiving dinner – as sort of a way for all of us to get to know one another.”

Jane’s heart leapt before Mrs. Parker finished her sentence. They were going to give Lukan a chance. Jane didn’t know why that meant so much to her.

Jane’s thoughts whirled around Thanksgiving. I can introduce him to Todd. Oh, Todd and him will get along great and- Oh, no! Nonononono…

Jane looked at her parents and her eyes hardened.

“Will Melody be there?”

Mr. and Mrs. Parker’s eyes widened. They had been found out, and oh, so easily.

This was not the first time that they wished for a less clever daughter.

“Well, I guess that answers that question,” Jane snapped. Her eyes became soft and pleading. “Don’t do this. Please. You know what she’s like with guys.”

This is so unfair. I’m finally getting somewhere with Lukan that doesn’t involve verbally annihilating each other and now I’m going to lose him to my man-eating sister.

“We don’t know what you’re talking about, Jane. It’s not as though we couldn’t invite your sister,” Mrs. Parker said innocently.

How could things turn sour so quickly? Jane wondered. Not three minutes ago we were eating in peaceful, comfortable silence. Now we’re fighting.

“I just won’t invite him then. That way everything can be just as it always has been,” Jane said tiredly.

Yeah, Jane thought. Just as it always has been. Because that’s always worked out so great for me…

“You don’t seem to understand, Jane. When we told you to invite him it wasn’t a request. You are fifteen years old and you live under our roof. You will do as we say. Is that understood?” Mr. Parker said severely.

He didn’t speak often, but generally when he did people listened.

Jane’s hands were tied.

And in the end, isn’t it better to know the truth? To know that Lukan never felt anything beyond friendship for me and that at the first sign of a beautiful woman he’ll go running?

“Alright,” Jane said, defeated by her parents and her own lack of will to fight what she considered the inevitable. “I’ll invite him. But that doesn’t mean he’ll accept.”

Jane mumbled the last part, more to reassure herself than to get a barb in at her parents, who were smiling triumphantly.

Jane knew he would come. Lukan would take whatever chance he got to dig at Mr. and Mrs. Parker, and somehow, Jane’s normally dense parents had figured it out and how to use that to their advantage.

Why it mattered so much to them that Jane didn’t date him was completely beyond her though. It seemed unusual for Jane’s parents to be so hands-on in her life, even if she was dating. Perhaps they’re afraid of losing me. Wouldn’t that be rich?

After Jane and Mr. and Mrs. Parker finished breakfast, Jane washed the dishes and straightened up the kitchen before getting ready for school.

She wanted desperately to tell someone her troubles, most specifically her brother. She wanted that old comfort and courage that she got from talking to Todd.

I’ll call him at lunch, Jane thought, comforted by knowing she might be able to talk to her big brother once more. Then she would ask his advice on Lukan and deal with things accordingly.

Until then, she would procrastinate as long as she could. She didn’t want to hear Lukan say that he’d come, knowing what would happen, even if she warned him about Melody and her parents’ evil plan to destroy their ‘relationship’.

***

Jane had waited in agony all day to make that phone call and now she had her opportunity… except that some chatty guy going on about football had been on the only payphone since the beginning of lunch.

Jane had been waiting in line since then and hadn’t even gotten to eat lunch yet. She had already asked the guy to hurry but he’d just rolled his eyes and ignored her.

Any second now, I’m going to lose it and deck you in the face, you stupid, egotistical, football-playing, good-for-nothing, puss-filled, scabby, two-bit loser-!

Jane’s thoughts were interrupted by Lukan walking up beside the guy and jerking the phone out of his hand. Lukan slammed it down on the receiver, getting the guy’s attention… as well as that of everyone else in the cafeteria.

“Do you know what consideration is? It’s not hogging the phone for half an hour to talk about a stupid sport when a lady is waiting to use it. Do you understand?” Lukan said slowly in a dangerously low voice, poking the guy in the chest - hard.

The jock had to take several steps back to balance himself and nodded profusely.

“Good. Now be a gentleman and give the lady some privacy,” Lukan said, shooing the jock away with his hands.

“Su- Sure thing, Masters. No problem.”

The jock made to leave but Lukan grabbed his sleeve, jerking him back. The guy looked at Lukan a little fearfully while everyone held their breath to see what Lukan would do. Jane was about to tell Lukan to let the guy go when Lukan spoke.

“You forgot to apologize for being rude and inconsiderate,” Lukan said, pulling the jock very close to his face.

It was an intimidation tactic, Jane knew, but it worked like a charm. The guy looked like he was going to wet himself.

“I- I’m so sorry. It won’t happen ag-“

“Not to me! To her!” Lukan said, shoving the guy in front of Jane.

“I’m really sorry. I won’t do it again. I’m really, really sorry,” the jock said, eyeing Lukan fearfully out of the corner of his eye.

Jane’s eyes softened and she took pity on him.

“It’s okay. I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in something you love and forget about things like consideration. My drug of choice is writing. Football is really cool though.”

She was trying very hard to make the poor guy at ease, and it must have worked because he seemed forget that Lukan even existed.

“Really? What do you write? I’ve dabble a bit in poetry and I really like it-“

“Yeah, that’s great,” Lukan said irritably. “Now beat it. This isn’t a tea party and my girlfriend still has to make her call.”

Lukan put his arm around Jane to emphasize the word “girlfriend.”

The jock looked between Jane and Lukan curiously. He seemed to figure that Lukan was telling the truth.

Okaybye!” the guy said all in one breath, walking away very quickly, nearly at a run by the time he made it to the lunchroom doors.

She watched Lukan smile in satisfaction before he turned to Jane to find her glaring at him.

“What?” he asked snappishly.

“Was that really necessary?” Jane asked just as snappishly.

“You’d been waiting for over half an hour! Have you even eaten yet?” he asked.

When Jane wouldn’t meet his eyes he sighed and spoke a little more gently, but firmly at the same time, in an almost mothering fashion that really irritated her.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Look, Jane, you can’t just let people push you around or walk on you. You have to be more assertive-”

“Oh, you want assertive? I’ll give you assertive!” Jane yelled, raising a fist in the air menacingly.

Jane heard a small giggle and she turned her eyes slowly to see that the whole roomful of students and teachers was watching them. Jane immediately lowered her fist and Lukan, seeing what she was looking at, got hostile… again.

“Why don’t you take a picture?” he shouted at them. “It’ll last longer!”

Immediately everyone went back to doing what they were doing before the telephone incident started.

Jane looked at him with her eyebrow raised challengingly, her arms folded and her hip jutting out to the side.

“You’re a bully, you know that?” she said irritably.

Lukan turned and looked at her like she was crazy… and it grated on her.

“I’m a what?

“A bully,” she spat in disgust. “You intimidate people by being hostile and aggressive, using whatever intimidation tactics you have in your arsenal. It’s pathetic.”

“I can’t do anything right for you, can I?” he snapped. “I try to do something nice for you and you call me a bully and tell me I’m pathetic! What is it going to take to please you, woman?

Jane’s eyes softened a little.

“I’m sorry, you’re right,” Jane said a little more gently. She couldn’t afford to lose his friendship with as few as there were who cared about her. “Thank you, Lukan.”

Lukan’s eyes softened too.

“You’re welcome, Jane,” he said quietly.

They stood there for a moment awkwardly. Lukan’s eyes lit up in remembrance.

“I almost forgot. Lilith wanted me to ask if you wanted to come to Thanksgiving dinner next week. You’ll come, won’t you?” Lukan asked, looking hopeful.

Jane sighed. I’m not going to get a better opportunity. Might as well get it over with. I can talk to Todd about everything later.

“Actually, I can’t,” Jane said. Lukan’s face fell. “I have to have Thanksgiving with my-” Lukan’s face shot up to look at her, and he became tense. Jane hesitated. “… with my Other Family.”

This seemed to placate Lukan as he relaxed his stiff posture.

“My Other Parents wanted me to invite you, actually. I forewarn you though that it’s a vicious trap to destroy our ‘relationship’. They seem to think that my sister, Melody, is going to ensnare you with her… charms, for the decided lack of a more befitting, ‘approved for all audiences’ word,” Jane said scathingly.

Lukan raised his eyebrows at the obvious hostility in Jane’s voice. She wasn’t usually the type to despise anyone, let alone someone she considered family.

“Well… Do you want me to come?”

“Well, I…” She trailed off, not willing to say that she didn’t want to face her Other Family alone.

“It’s a simple question, Jane: do you want to spend Thanksgiving dinner with me at your table, blocking your sister’s attempts at seduction and your parents’ barbs?” he asked softly. “Do you want me there beside you?”

His dark eyes seemed to swallow her up and she felt as though she was drowning in a sea of him. His face was so solemn, so serious, those wisps of hair falling into his shining eyes.

“Yes,” Jane whispered, the words leaving her lips with a will of their own.

Jane swallowed hard and looked down, finally coming back to herself.

Good,” Lukan said softly, the faint hint of a smile around the corners of his eyes. “I’ll be there.”

They looked into each other’s eyes for a long moment, something magnetic pulling them into each other.

Lukan finally cleared his throat and looked away.

“You- You should make your call,” he said, his voice softer than Jane had ever heard it. “It’s nearly time for class and you still haven’t eaten.”

Lukan turned and walked back to The Haven Coven’s table, where Sofiya and the rest of their friends sat.

Jane looked at her friends – her family – sitting and laughing together. She belonged there, with them.

Jane looked behind her at the telephone and then back at the new and wonderful people in her life – people who called her, who were there for her when she needed them to be, and who didn’t forget about her very existence when it was convenient for them. People who would do anything for her, who would stand by her to the death.

Jane made her decision. Her brother could wait. She wanted to spend her lunch with her family. She walked toward Lukan, quickly catching up to him before he had made it to the table and slipped her hand in his.

When he looked down surprised, Jane smiled.

“My call can wait,” she said, looking up into eyes.

A slow smile spread across Lukan’s face and he laced his fingers in hers.

When they got to their table Lukan pulled Jane into his lap, his arms around her waist. They stayed like that for the rest of their lunch period, both trying to convince themselves that it was all just for show.

***

Jane pulled two quarters out of her back pocket and slipped it into the payphone slot, all the while juggling a bag of groceries, her father’s dry cleaning and her back pack slung over one shoulder. It hadn’t been until after school had let out and she had parted with her friends, saying that she had errands to run, that she remembered to call Todd. Now that they knew she was as indestructible as they were, they let her have a little more freedom, and she wasn’t constantly guarded.

She had decided to get the shopping done first, as she didn’t know how long they’d be on the phone. She now realized what a ridiculous idea it had been.

The phone rang and rang… and rang… and rang. It must have rung about seven times before a voice came on the phone.

Hello?

Jane immediately recognized the frustrated voice of her brother, Todd. She smiled, glad just to be able to hear his voice.

“Hey, big brother. Did you forget about me?” she asked, trying to keep her voice light.

“Jane?”

She could hear the surprise in his voice. It hurt. A lot.

“Um… no. No, I didn’t forget about you,” he said distractedly. “Things have been pretty hectic over here and I just haven’t had a whole lot of time on my hands. They’re really cramming us down with exams right now.”

“Oh,” Jane said, truly disappointed that her brother hadn’t even had the excuse of forgetting her for not calling. “Well, it’ll really only take a minute.”

Jane heard a female’s voice in the background, though the words were indistinguishable, even to her inhumanly-good hearing.

“Look, Janie-Girl, I gotta go. I’ll see you next week, okay? Loveyoubye!

Before Jane could even open her mouth to say “goodbye,” she heard the dial tone.

Jane swallowed hard, trying to fight tears as she put the phone back on the receiver. And, just as though the sky knew how she was feeling, it opened up and rain came pouring down on the cold, hard cement sidewalk and the muddy, black asphalt.

Jane began her trek back to the house in the rain, not even bothering to put the hood up on her sweatshirt. The brother she had relied on ever since she could remember no longer even bothered to call and make sure she was still breathing.

It hurt. It hurt like hell. More than anything her parents had ever said or done, more than when she used to cut herself, more than when she found out that she’d been lied to her whole life about who she was.

I wish Convel was here. I don’t know how, but he always seems to make everything better…

“…I have given ye all the tools to find me should ye ever need to reach me.”

What tools? When had he given them to her?

Jane sighed.

She was just glad that her Other Parents wouldn’t be there when she got to the house to fix dinner. They would be having pot roast.

Jane glared down at the grocery bag. It was a damned heavy pot roast, and her arm was getting tired on top of everything else.

Jane allowed her tears to mingle with the rain, now alone and free to let loose on her emotions.

Jane soaked up the feeling of the rain pouring over her skin, ignoring all other thoughts, sights, sounds, and feelings. It wasn’t until the black Porsche pulled up beside her that Jane even noticed it.

“Hey, beautiful. Need a ride?” Lukan asked cheekily from the driver’s seat through the open passenger side window.

Jane smiled sadly and nodded her head. When she stopped moving so did Lukan’s car. Lukan leaned over and opened the door for her from the inside. Jane hesitated.

“What’s wrong?” Lukan asked, sounding concerned.

Jane motioned to the spotless cream-colored suede interior of the Porsche.

“I’ll get it wet,” Jane managed to choke out through a sob.

Lukan’s eyes softened at seeing her so upset.

“It’s just a car, Janie,” he said gently. “Now, come on and get in. You’ll catch God only knows what out there.”

Lukan held out his hand for her. Jane gingerly placed her hand in his and stepped into the car, shutting the door behind her.

She vaguely noticed Falling In by Lifehouse playing softly on the radio. The irony wasn’t lost on her.

“Do you have another shirt underneath that one?” Lukan asked, nodding in the direction of her hoodie while taking his black leather jacket off.

“Yeah, but it’s just a tank top,” Jane murmured.

“That’s okay. You’re going to need to take the sweatshirt off. It’s soaked.”

Jane looked at Lukan as he held the jacket in his hand.

The shirt he was wearing was a black turtleneck sweater. It outlined every muscle perfectly. His hair was tied back as usual in a black satin ribbon, and the two pieces of black hair framing his upper face were in his eyes again.

He was beautiful, and just one more thing Jane wanted that she couldn’t have – just one more person who didn’t love her. It isn’t fair. It just isn’t fair!

***

Lukan watched Jane watch him before she took her sweatshirt off. She pulled it off slowly because of how wet it was. Once it was off it left behind a black spaghetti-strap cameo top that showed off Jane’s ample curvature.

Lukan had to force himself to look in her eyes as he wrapped his jacket around her shivering body, though if she shivered from the cold or her suppressed sobs he couldn’t tell. She seemed to hardly be able to keep her emotions in check, something that was very rare, and it bothered Lukan.

She put the groceries and her backpack on the floor, and Lukan reached up and unpinned her hair. As her hair fell over her shoulders, so did the barriers against her emotions, and Jane burst into uncontrollable tears, burying her face in her hands.

Lukan lifted her from her seat effortlessly and placed her in his lap, allowing her rain covered body and her tears to soak through his sweater as she sobbed inconsolably.

Lukan felt white hot anger and more compassion than he’d ever felt before. He wanted to rip the throat out of whoever had hurt Jane, but at the same time he just wanted to sit here for the rest of eternity, holding her and comforting her as she cried. The way she clung to him – as though she were begging him to never abandon her – tore at his heart in a way he hadn’t even thought possible.

Why is it so impossible to think reasonably around her? he wondered, looking down on her uniquely-colored hair. Because you’re in love with her, you idiot.

The realization didn’t shock him. He had known that it was coming – that it was only just a matter of time.

But he was still a little surprised.

Lukan looked down at the still weeping form of the young woman that had won his heart as she continued to drip all over him.

The timing for that little nugget of information could’ve been better… Lukan thought wryly.

Jane’s tears did subside… eventually. She tried to get up, obviously severely embarrassed by her outburst, but Lukan held her in his lap.

“What’s wrong, Jane?” he asked gently.

PMS. It’s hell,” Jane replied curtly, still trying to get out of his lap.

“You’re not going anywhere until you tell me what’s wrong.”

Jane looked at him and saw that his face was full of determination.

Jane sighed and relaxed back against Lukan.

“It’s… my brother. I called him.”

“He blew you off, didn’t he?” Lukan asked darkly.

“He was busy,” Jane said, looking down and fidgeting.

“So he’s been ‘busy’ for the past two months? You can’t keep making excuses for these people, Jane… no matter how much you love them,” Lukan said, lifting her chin so that their eyes met. “You don’t need them. They need you, and if they can’t see that then that’s their loss and I- we – the Coven – will have more of you to ourselves. I am going to show up at that Thanksgiving dinner and you and I are going to rub our ‘relationship’ in all their snobby, unappreciative faces, and if they don’t like it, they can go to Hell for all I care.”

Jane smiled bravely through her red, teary eyes.

“Thanks, Lukan. You’re a great friend.”

Lukan felt his gut clench in response to her use of the word ‘friend’. He wanted so much more for them. They had something, and it was a helluva lot more than the spark Lilith had said they had.

Despite his pain, he forced a smile.

“Same to you, Janie.”

“You know, you and my brother are the only ones I let call me that. I think you two would get along really well.”

Lukan rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, except the part where he’s a selfish, thoughtless asshole.”

“Actually that’s exactly why I think you would get along,” Jane said cheekily, back to her old self again as she climbed into her own seat.

Forcing himself to not to cling to her the way she had clung to him only moments ago, Lukan forced himself to play along.

“Ha-ha. You’re hilarious…”

The banter continued as they drove to Jane’s house to start the Parker’s dinner, and on until they went over to The Haven to hang out for a while.

Neither had noticed the black wolf staring out at them from between the trees with its opalescent white eyes, or the other wolves’ fierce growls that followed them all the way to the Parkers’ house and then to The Haven.

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