“Helen, Emma, hurry up, the fight's about to start!” Sam yelled through to the kitchen, where Emma and I were busy gossiping.
Emma rolled her eyes and sighed. “I’ll carry the chips’n’dips, you grab the beers.”
We’d volunteered to play hostesses while the boys talked boisterously in the sitting room. Sam, Luke, and their two cat shifter friends, Raul and Andreas, were dominating the L-shaped leather sofa, waiting in angst. All four men sat on the edge of the seat cushions as the two cage fighters on the screen completed the stare off.
“Whoa, that Beast guy is one scary looking bastard.” Raul scrubbed a hand over his handsome Latino features.
“And that’s not all...” Luke cut in. “You wanna know how he got the name, Beast?”
Both Raul and Andreas paused with anticipation. From what Sam told me about them, they were cat shifters from Ridgeland. They lived in an old prison building known as the commune. The palisade fencing around the perimeter of the grounds had been re-enforced with corrugated metal paneling. It was the smallest town in Forest Lake, if you could even call it a town. The way he described it to me, it reminded me of something out of the movie 'Mad Max' but just less barbaric.
Needless to say, the residents of Ridgeland were dirt poor. They didn’t have much in the name of luxuries, let alone something as extravagant as a television set. Luke reached for a handful of Doritos, from the bowl on the coffee table. “He tore some guys throat clean out,” he finished, scooping up guacamole on a chip, then crammed it into his mouth, whole.
Both Emma and I gulped as we exchanged shocked glances. “Really?” I asked, finding the whole thing nauseating.
Sam and Luke nodded with enthusiasm. “Anything goes in the ring, babe,” Sam explained, much to our horror. “Shifter fighting is a blood sport,” Luke added. “And the Beast man is a rough ass biker from the Blood Moon Bears motorcycle gang. Those guys are not to be fucked with.”
“I knew a cat shifter once, called Esteban. He used to take part in fights like these.” Andreas spoke out. Raul turned to him scrunching his brows. “Who?” He shrugged. “Esteban Suarez?” Raul mentioned a name as if checking it was the same guy.
Andreas nodded. “That’s him... Why?”
Raul huffed. “Because he was full of shit, that’s why. Esteban couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag. You got played, amigo...” The words rolled off his tongue in his strong Spanish accent.
“Hijo de puta,” Andreas muttered under his breath. I could tell by the way he scowled that it didn’t mean anything nice. “He scammed free drinks in Leather ‘n’ Lace with that bullshit story of his. And he got a private lap dance thrown in.” He threw his hand in the air, frustrated.
Raul almost choked on a mouthful of beer. “That seedy back street tittie bar, here in Hawcroft? Andreas...” He gave his friend a look of up most disgust. “What’re you doing going in a place like that for? You desperate, hombre?”
A reddened tinge stained Andreas’s cheeks as he looked between the three of his friends. “Like none of you were ever curious.” He shot back, accusingly.
Emma folded her arms over her huge baby bump as she scowled at Luke. “Well, were you ever curious?” Her hormones completely took over, giving her the look of a deranged woman.
Sam chewed his Dorito slowly, flicking his eyes back and forth between the TV screen and myself. A humored smirk curved my lips as I watched him squirm uncomfortably. “We all have a sordid little past, Emma.” I playfully reminded her that we were not exactly Angels ourselves. Luke winced as she sat on his lap and snuggled in, balancing the bowl of Doritos on her protruding stomach.
The atmosphere in the room grew tense as the bell rang to start the fight. “Urgh, cage fighting.” I scrunched my nose unimpressed. The boy's favorite shifter fighter was defending his title. These fights were being broadcasted on a channel exclusive only to Forest Lake. It wasn’t like outsiders could pick up the signal, which was lucky. Humans would freak out if they saw men partially shift during a fight.
We all held our breath as the tattooed bear shifter sprouted fur, delivering a single knock out punch in the first ten seconds. After the referee slammed his palm down against the ground, it was all over. I stuffed my fingers in my ears as the sound of jubilant cheers filled the room. Beer sloshed over my red twist pile rug and my jaw tensed. I raced into the kitchen to grab a roll of kitchen towel, hearing the boys chanting their victory song in the sitting room.
Moments later, I returned to clean up the spillages. “My cubs make less mess than you,” I complained.
Emma followed me into the kitchen where it was much more relaxed and less rowdy. “It’s a good job your mom has the cubs tonight. Those guys are loud.” She muttered irritably.
I pulled out a chair from around the table and sank down into it. “Nah, we’re just getting old.” I joked, breaking out into laughter.
Three years later...
“Uhhhhh! It’s your turn!” I grumbled into my pillow. My eyes stung with fatigue, feeling as if someone had kicked sand into them. After managing to grab four hours of sleep, three days in a row, I was burned the fuck out, physically as well as mentally.
The sound of yelling got louder and louder until it hit that high pitched decibel that could shatter glass.
“Nooooo. So not fair!” Sam whined.
“Daddy!” Ashlyn screeched at the top of her lungs. The ear-splitting scream was enough to explode every window in the guest house. I could guarantee, every dog within a five-mile radius would’ve been going nuts with the high pitched frequency.
“She wants you, Daddy, she’s asking for you personally. Now you have to go.” I mumbled, rolling over and taking most of the duvet with me, cocooning myself up like a super cozy caterpillar. “Go on, scram, do your job,” I muttered, lazily.
Within seconds, Caleb started yelling. “Mommy! Mommy!”
I cracked one, bloodshot eye open. “For fuck's sake.” I groaned, fake whimpering.
“Haha! Go to your son Helen, do your job.” Sam mimicked, getting revenge by pulling the duvet from me as I tried to desperately cling to it, like a life-line.
“Alright, alright. I’m going!” I huffed, begrudgingly. We both stumbled clumsily across the landing, half dead and drunk on sleep. The kids always found it difficult to settle during the full moon. It was a shifter thing. I often found that it affected Sam too, but instead of giving him strange dreams it made him super horny. Which was another reason why we were both so completely exhausted.
I switched the landing light on to illuminate the kid's room with a soft glow, learning our lesson from last time. Because the last time we stumbled around in the dark, Sam stepped on a piece of Lego and yelled some colorful curse words. “What is it, guys?” Sam’s voice was gravel rough.
“Want Mommy and Daddy’s bed. I no like the dark,” Ashlyn sobbed loudly, reaching out for Sam, who scooped her up into his arms. “Ashy waked me!” Caleb rubbed his eyes, whimpering.
“Do you want to sleep in our bed, too?” I asked. Caleb nodded. “C’mon then.” I picked him up and carried him into mine and Sam's room.
It was either put them in our bed, which meant we could grab a few more hours sleep, or the day would abruptly start at three a.m. Pivoting my ass on the edge of the bed trying to get a little more shut-eye, beat watching back-to-back Mickey Mouse Club House, at that ungodly hour.
Just as we all snuggled together, Sam jumped up with a roar. “Urgh, red alert! Somebody’s wet the bed! Quick, everybody get up now!”
Sleep deprivation came part and parcel with parenthood. If you weren’t sporting dark circles under your eyes, wearing your hair scraped back into a messy ponytail, or forgetting that you still had your slippers on when you took your kids to school, then you obviously didn’t have kids.
Another two years later...
Ashlyn had been looking out through the window, watching the parking lot like a hawk. Every now and then she would glance over her shoulder to ask for the time. She suddenly let out a gasp, then bolted towards the front door. “Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa are here!” She called out with excitement.
I covered the telephone receiver with my hand so I didn’t deafen the person on the other line. “OK, honey, just tell them that I’m on the phone.”
“Sorry, what was the name again?” I asked, then paused as he answered. “OK, that’s great, bye.” I hung up and finished writing down the reservation details.
“Who was that?” Sam asked, leaning against the door frame. His tight fitted black t-shirt shown every ripple of pure muscle underneath. His biceps bulged as he crossed his arms. Even now after all this time he still had that same panty dropping effect on me as he did the first time we met.
“It was a guy called Peter Munroe from the University of Michigan. Those four wolf shifter boys out in the woods have found their shared mate. They’re sending her here and they want us not to say anything to her about any of it.” I explained.
I thought it was a bit harsh how they tricked her into coming with some fake story about researching wolves, but who was I to stand in the way of fated mates. After all, it had worked out well for me and everyone else I knew. Shifter ways weren’t human ways. I had to keep reminding myself of that throughout my time here with Sam.
“Oh well, I guess there’ll soon be more little friends running around for Ashlyn and Caleb to play with.” Sam smiled distantly as if he was lost in his thoughts.
“How do you mean?” I frowned, confused. I couldn’t see what he found so funny.
His attention snapped back to me. “Well, they’re quadruplets, aren’t they?” He shrugged with an air of innocence.
I assumed he meant that they’d each want a shot at siring pups with her and absentmindedly crossed my legs in sympathy. Twin cubs were bad enough, let alone popping out pups left, right and center.
Sam laughed at the horrified look on my face. “C’mon, Mrs. Evans. Enough talk. The kids are staying with our parents for the entire weekend and I’ve got you all to myself.” He smirked, as he caught me staring at the bulge that was developing in his jeans.
I smiled, wrapping my arms around his neck. “Gotta love that full moon,” I mumbled against my gorgeous husband’s lips.
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