I woke to the sharp screeching sounds of battle on the Yolk floor. Henry’s deep voice in my ear, have a good day, my love. The sound of wind displaced by his wings opened my eyes.
I wanted to run, to feel the exertion in my body while my muscles burned. It wasn’t difficult to convince Dagen to start his day outside. My skin still felt hot but more manageable after spending the night replenishing the missing chemicals in my blood.
“When are you meeting the real estate agent?” he panted.
“I’m supposed to call when I get into town. The local First Acquisitions rep will rent the place under one of their corporate names.”
“I wish you would let me get you a place,” Dagen coughed. After running for a half-hour, he looked winded.
“Can I explain my position as part of our no secrets agreement?” He rested his hands on his knees and held a finger in the air.
“Yes, Madam Chairperson, please continue.” I handed him a bottled water. “Christ woman, you had water all this time.”
“I want to find a place myself. I’ve considered you might not understand why.”
“You want to be independent,” he mocked, catching his breath. “I’m sitting while I try not to die. I’ve transformed and ran more in the last month than in the past fifty years.”
I snickered and patted his sweat-soaked shoulders. “Before all this happened, my life was controlled. Leo was my safety net, my protector. While busy bettering my human half, I felt confident, worthy of good things and happiness. I needed a human husband for my Clan, and I thought I found the perfect one in Henry.
“Now, my self-worth is hollow. Henry abandoned me to fulfill his ancient responsibilities. I shared every detail of my life with Leo. He would have put my life back together. He’s not just gone. He’s totally unreachable—because of me.
“I want to put my life back together, so I feel worthy of happiness again. I need you to teach me how to be a wolf, so I feel worthy in your world.”
“No, I didn’t realize you felt that way.”
“The time I spend with you takes you away from other parts of your life, and I feel guilty. When I’m close to you like this, I just want to spend our days naked and happy, but life doesn’t work that way. I can try to learn to accept your help, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I am independent.”
“Have you told Leo about us—how our wolves take over?”
“No, but in your case, he would want proof. I’m just happy I can control my gag reflex, and your sexy leprechaun accent gets me so wet.”
“Is it all about sex with us for you?”
“No. Maybe it was at first, but not for a while now.”
“I noticed you didn’t say I love you back to me last night.”
I kissed his salty lips. “I thought you might have noticed. You never explained why you can’t sleep in the Grove.” Dagen looked at me and closed his eyes. “Saying those words brought me nothing but pain and loss recently. I do love you, but I don’t want to invite tragedy into our lives.”
“If I fall asleep in the Grove, there are consequences. I was younger than you when I struck a bargain with a powerful witch, and I’ve paid for it tenfold in blood. I can’t speak of the details, no matter how badly I want to. You’ll have to pull it out of me.”
Looking in his eyes, the sparkle dimmed. I could see the murky edges of his curse cover over his emotions. “I will pencil you in for a session Mr. Bissett. Can you make it back to the house, Old man?”
“Old man! Ooh, Lass, you better run.”
The drive to Fort Drum took about an hour and a half. Not something I wanted to do every day, but it was a manageable trip. I toured three of the five apartments Chris located and found my match, a newer second story small two-bedroom with a small double stack laundry unit off the bathroom.
It was freshly painted and cleaned, but the carpet still smelled like cat pee. I negotiated for the carpet to be replaced by signing a six-month lease. This also meant I would spend a few nights in a local hotel while waiting for the repairs. I didn’t mind. The building was located ten minutes from the County buildings and a block from a quaint bakery that smelled like fresh bread and coffee grounds.
I called Chris, told her how perfect everything was, and thanked her for her work.
“You are welcome, my dear. How is your angel doing?”
“I took him back in and helped clear out a few grater demons that decided to test the portal seal.”
“Oh excellent, I will record that against your contract, of course. Has Henry communicated with you since?”
“I wake up from the Yolk and hear his voice, but I think it’s only because I miss him.” I hoped Chris couldn’t hear the tears in my voice.
“I don’t dream, but the dreams you shared with me in your blood were spectacular. Feeling the emotion you held for Henry, I was overwhelmed and changed. I pity you now. Before your gift, I envied your kind terribly. He will find a way to contact you. I would love to see for sure, but my guess is those images are not dreams at all.”
“Thank you, I live in facts and data. This magic world doesn’t make any sense to me,” I confessed, taking a deep composing breath.
“Demons and angels are similar in many ways. The more powerful can enter your dreams. Some witches follow the demons, some like your Malou, follow only angels. Same for the vampires, I suppose, but wolves follow angels exclusively. You are their creations. It is no wonder you feel so strongly about him. Poor wretched thing, you have no choice but to love him.”
“I’m so grateful for your help Chris. I rely on you way too much.”
“Oh, dear child. I live through the lives of others. You can never rely on me too much.” She hung up the phone, still laughing a cold shiver ran down my overly hot skin.
I called Dagen and updated him on my progress and my new address.
“The six-month lease isn’t bad. They needed to replace the carpet anyway. No reason they should put any concessions on your end of the deal. Check out the appliances before you sign for your keys. I might want to make you breakfast.”
“Why don’t you buy us a queen-sized bed with a mattress you like. The rooms are small but nice.”
“If I’m the only one you’re entertaining inside this new bed, I will be happy to send one over.”
“Entertainment? Is that all I mean to you?”
“No, not hardly, Sweetheart.”
“I’m shopping for scrubs and shoes in town before I grab a burger and drive back home. I don’t need to be back here until eight Monday morning.”
“Great, when your done shopping, head to the airport in Watertown, leave your car in spot G62 and ask the ticket counter for a four-forty-five hopper ticket to Boston. I’ll pick you up here and fly you back Sunday night.”
I thought about Bruce’s advice to let Dagen help me, so he felt like he deserved me. I knew exactly what that need felt like.
“Sounds perfect. I won’t be keeping you from anything?”
“Nope, I need to take care of boring Clan business on Friday, but you can hang out, take a car for errands. Whatever you need.”
“I could visit my storage unit. I should donate my old furniture. Not worth paying storage fees for old crap. Most of it’s too big for the new place.”
“I’ve got a guy for odd jobs. He’ll haul the stuff to a donation site for us.”
“That would be perfect. If I get my chores done maybe, we can stop by Emma’s gathering Friday night.”
“Could be fun. Would you let me hire someone to furnish the new place? I want it to be nice when you come home from a long day of playing with dead bodies.”
“Yes, I will let you,” I chuckled.
“Okay, then I’ll see you in a few hours.”
Taurus, there was no stopping his need to fix my problems, big or small. He needed to solve every one of them.
I drove around the area where I would be working and looked for local clothing shops. I found everything I needed with time to spare. I sat outside at a coffee shop with a crisp, new book and a cold coffee and watched life unfold around me. I liked the vibe of the town, the energy flowing up from the dirt felt solid.
My mother called about the time I found a moment of bliss. I decided to answer and tell her about my life and ask her about hers. She listened, then told me about my father’s bad knee and my sister’s new class of bratty little kids. The last Godzilla bride, she talked off the ledge with a cup of her special tea. It was a collection of simple moments I missed.
“I’ll let Reg know about Leo. His mother can’t enter the Grove.” Her somber voice conveying how much more she wanted to add.
“I didn’t ask Leo to stay. He made up his mind, and you know how stubborn he is.” Silence filled the air. I braced myself to have my day ruined.
“Dagen is a dead end. He’s the last of his line. I encourage you to try whatever lifestyle you want, but it won’t ever be enough for you. When you leave him,” she trailed off. “you might as well kill him in his sleep, so he dies easy.”
“Mother, that’s an awful thing to say.”
“The truth is hard to hear, but you need to listen,” she huffed. “What does Raff think about you two?”
“Rafferty, that is something else I should tell you. While I was visiting him, I was able to run free all around his property. I felt like an animal.”
“Holy shit, really? I can’t do that, but I think my great-grandmother could.”
“Hmm, did she like to play dress-up with wings and dragon costumes in the shadows?”
“No. That’s not possible, Alerie.”
“Hmm, well, you can ask Rafferty for details. I’m limited as to what I can say over the phone. Hey, maybe the Clans will ask you two for a second offspring.”
“Oh, good God, don’t be ridiculous. I may take a drive out to visit Malou have her read my tarot cards.”
“That sounds like fun. I’m sure Raff would like a growler of the beer dad drinks and maybe some cheese. You know how off the grid they are.”
“Hmm, of course. Always show up with something for your host.”
“I haven’t told you all of my adventures, but should I keep this new development quiet?”
“Most definitely, I will alert your uncle if necessary once I talk to Raff. Dagen knows?”
“He was there and participated unwillingly.”
“Oh my, that sounds unpleasant. Has he gotten you a gun yet?”
“No, he hasn’t. Have a nice day, mother. I’m off to torture Dagen for a few days before I start my new job.”
“Well, good luck, and try to stay calm.”