Warning: Adult language
Rae had woken up earlier to Andrei’s howls. Actually, she was wrenched out of her sleep from them. As she was trying to soothe him she heard another set, this time from somewhere below the house. She knew instantly that it was Connor.
She’d been rocking the baby and trying not to think about what those howls meant, when Caleb walked in.
“Give him to me,” he said. She would have argued, but he looked different, bigger somehow. He intimidated her tonight in a way she’d never been by him before. He didn’t look any different, not really; he just seemed to take up more space.
She handed over the baby and immediately regretted it when he started to growl at Dre. But before she could snatch the baby back, Andrei gave out a mewling sound and then just stopped screaming. Just like that. It was the most incredible thing she’d ever seen.
“How’d you do that?” She whispered.
Caleb smiled tightly. “Magic.” When she raised an eyebrow, he laughed quietly and added, “I’m an Alpha. Other wolves just naturally do what I tell them.”
“Yup. I’m that badass. But we can discuss it more in depth later; right now I need to go deal with your husband.”
A frisson of panic raced down her back. “Deal with him, how?”
“No worries, he’ll live. Mostly.” Caleb walked over and placed a sleeping Andrei back in the crib.
Caleb had such a weird sense of humor that Rae wasn’t sure if he was joking now or not. “Make sure that he does,” she responded.
Inclining his head, he started for the door he said, “You know, CJ would have been able to do the same thing if he had just come to me sooner.”
“You mean you’d have given me a growling husband in exchange for my son? No thank you.”
“Now you get both.”
When she just frowned at him, he smirked and walked out the door.
She waited until Dre was sound asleep before heading down to check on Connor. She knew she shouldn’t, in case he became agitated with her, but the howling had scared her. What if he’d already Changed. What would Caleb do to him then? As she crept down the stairs, all kinds of scary scenarios raced through her head. The most frightening was the thought of him as a monster that couldn’t control himself. What did a werewolf even look like? Would he be recognizable?
She rounded the final corner and stopped when she heard voices. Caleb was saying something to Connor about breathing through the pain. She sped up and stopped again right outside the cell door. Connor looked pale and sick and he was swaying on his feet. Even from where she was standing, she could tell he was in a lot of pain.
When he collapsed, she cried aloud and said, “What’s wrong with him? Is he dead? What’s happening?”
“Emotional overload?” Caleb said before starting to change too.
It happened in a blink of an eye but felt like years as Caleb went from being a man to this hulking beast. And Rae was suddenly very grateful for the steel bars and had to cover her mouth to keep from screaming.
He wasn’t human. Somehow throughout all of this she had still been in denial about what would really happen to her family. But seeing Caleb literally change before her very eyes erased all doubt. He was a monster from her worst nightmare. She held her breath as Caleb stalked towards Connor and sniffed him. She must have caught his attention because he turned to look at her. He made a chuffing sound and returned his attention to his brother. After a few nudges Connor started to stir.
Rae took a step back and kept stepping away until she was at the foot of the staircase. This was not something she was equipped to deal with!
She had a strong urge to run. To grab her son and get as far away, as fast as she could. What if he accidentally hurt her, or Dre? What if her baby died before he could learn what life was really about? But she couldn’t leave Connor, not after everything they’ve been through.
She sat down on the lowest step and laid her head in her hands. It was suddenly very hot down here. She pulled at the collar of her shirt. She was feeling dizzy and a little nauseous and maybe resting for a little while would help her think clearly.
It was just so hot…
She woke up, coughing. When she lifted her eyelids, she saw stars – hundreds of stars. Sitting up, she tried to take a deep breath only to cough some more.
“She’s awake!” Someone shouted. As the coughing fit subsided, she found herself surrounded by Caleb and Jackson.
“What’s going on?” She asked hoarsely. She looked over to where she could hear rushing water and gasped, causing another round of coughing. “What happened to the house?”
Jack looked at her with a mixture of awe and fear. “You burned it down…”
Rae’s eyes widen in shock and she looked to Caleb. His grim stare was all the confirmation she needed to know that the boy spoke the truth. Then she remembered. “Where’s my son!”
Jack pointed behind her and when she turned around, she saw Kaylynn cradling a crying Andrei. The relief was instant. “Oh thank the Goddess.”
Caleb’s voice, when he spoke, was calm, but no one was fooled; he was upset. “Aren’t you going to ask about your husband?”
Rae closed her eyes. Connor. The last time she had seen him, he was unconscious behind bars. “Is he okay?”
“No.” The answer was curt, he even sounded disgusted with her.
“Caleb…” She began.
“Now is not a good time Rae. I have to see to my family.” Effectively shutting her out, he walked away from her and headed towards the garage.
“Jack?” She turned to the teenager.
“Yeah?” He was swaying a little, back and forth, as if now that Caleb had gone, he wasn’t sure if he should stay either.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“No one knows. Amber and I were…um, we were hanging out and then, next thing I know, Caleb is running up the stairs with you hanging off his shoulders, yelling at me to get mom and the baby out.” He shrugged. “So that’s what I did. Mom was already awake, probably heard dad yelling too, and she was stuffing some stuff into a backpack. Amber grabbed the kid and then we headed out the door. Caleb put you down, right where you are now and ran back inside. Mom was pissed! Excuse me, I mean she was upset. Then he came out with Connor over his shoulders. We’d all forgotten about him, you know, in all the commotion. But not dad. By then, the firefighters were here and we were told to just stand back and keep out of the way.”
She was speechless. How could this be her fault? Standing up she shivered. Was it snowing? She caught a snowflake in her hand. “How long have I been out?”
“A few hours. The fire just started to die down. The way the house is built makes it inaccessible and we just couldn’t contain the flames. The fact that it’s stone probably is the only reason it didn’t spread out. With all these trees, it could have been real bad. Like, the Great Fire of London, bad.”
Rae closed her eyes against his words. There was no way she could have been responsible for this. According to him, she’d been unconscious for the entire thing! “Can you take me to Connor, please?” If Caleb carried him out last, he could be hurt or worse.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
She looked at him sharply. “Why not?”
“Connor is,” he leaned in and lowered his voice before continuing, “he’s still a werewolf and he’s not happy. Caleb has him in the garage.”
He was still a werewolf. Rae was making her way towards the only structure still standing on the property. Made sense that that would be where Caleb would put him. There were no windows and only one door. The garage doors could only be opened with a remote. She slowed down when she reached the building. She could hear muttering and low growling. When the door suddenly opened, she gasped and took a step back, but it was only Caleb. Had she been scared that Connor would be the one exiting? Why would she be scared of him? Ok, yes. He was a freaking wolf, but he wouldn’t hurt her, right?
“Why are you here?” Caleb all but growled at her, which just made her stiffen in indignation, all fear forgotten.
“He’s my husband.” She said curtly and tried to walk past him.
“He’s my brother.” He stepped in front of her.
“That may be, but I’ve known him longer. He’s loved me longer. I’m sure he wants me with him.” She could see the effect her words had on him, and she felt a twinge of remorse, but it didn’t last long. He was keeping her away from Connor.
“That may be,” he mimicked her, “but I’m the one – the only one – he’ll be seeing for a while. So why don’t you go make sure you don’t burn anything else down by going somewhere far the hell away from my family?”
His words did their job and stopped her cold. She glanced at the ruined house again. All of Kaylynn’s hard work to make it look inviting, wasted. She turned back to Caleb and sighed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do this. I don’t even remember doing this. I just want to make sure Connor is okay. Please?”
“Now is not a good time. I’m not doing this to hurt you. I’m trying to protect the two of you. Until we can talk, you’re going to have to trust me about this. You cannot see him right now.” His words hadn’t softened, but the aggression in his body hadn’t lessened. She searched his face for evidence that he was lying to her but all she could see was a bone deep weariness. She relented. She would trust him in this.
With her plan to check on Connor derailed, she turned to look for Dre but hesitated when she saw him sleeping in Kaylynn’s arms. She looked calm, calmer than Rae would have been if she’d woken up to her home burning. Deciding to take Caleb’s advice, she went to find a quiet spot on the property where she could try to think about how all this happened.
Rae didn’t know how long she sat, not moving, but someone was standing in front of her, talking. She looked up to see Brian’s concerned gaze on her face.
“Rae, are you okay?”
“Brian? What are you doing here?” She frowned and looked around. The sun had risen while she’d zoned out. The firefighters were gone and she didn’t see Caleb and his family anywhere. Where was her son?
Before she could panic, however, Brian said, “Kaylynn called me and asked if she could come over with the kids. She wanted me to look them over. She tried to get you to come with her but you were unresponsive, so I came to you after I checked them. So, do you think you can stand up for me?”
She nodded and stood up. She was stiff but she felt fine. The soreness in her throat was much better, but she let Brian check her airways anyway. When he was done she cleared her throat, “Brian?”
She paused, remembering their first conversation about werewolves. Would Caleb appreciate her saying anything to Brian about what was going on? But what if he could help Connor?
“Rae?” He was starting to look worried.
“Have you spoken to Caleb?”
When his eyes drifted to what was left of the house, she knew he had. “Caleb has explained some basic details. He said there was a fire. That no one was hurt, but that you might need to get checked out.”
She sighed then said, “I did this.”
Brian whistled under his breath, but he didn’t look surprise. Caleb must have told him that too. “All of this?”
“Well, some of the damage is from the firefighters trying to get into the house, but I started it.” She looked away, confused and ashamed that she was so out of control.
“Do you want to tell me what happened, Rae Rose?”
He was the only one who called her by her full name and didn’t make her feel like she’d done something wrong. “But that’s the problem, I don’t know what happened! The last thing I remember is feeling really, really hot. Like I was burning up. I think – I think I was having a panic attack and then I must have passed out because the next thing I know, I’m outside on the grass coughing.”
“Has this happened before? These panic attacks?” He stared at her intently.
“Never this bad. I’ve been a little stressed with Andrei, but I’ve never burned down a house before!”
“Has anything weird happened at all?”
“No. Yes. Maybe. I mean, I don’t know if it’s the same thing, but for the last couple of weeks I’ve been having these episodes…” She felt silly talking about this, but she also felt stupid for not coming to him before now. Maybe all this could have been avoided.
“Magical stuff. Whenever I get overwhelmed, my body starts to feel like it’s too full of energy, like I’m about to explode. Usually it goes away on its own, but I can also…release it.”
Brian looked startled. “Release it how?”
“I don’t know. Like, let some of it pass from my body out into, wherever. I think I even passed some of it to Connor.” When his eyes widened, she quickly added, “But he’s fine. Nothing happened to him.”
“Where is Connor now? He wasn’t with Andrei.”
Brian’s concerned look was causing her to panic. “Connor is – he’s in the garage.”
His head whipped around to look at the building and he got paler than he usually was. “Oh dear Goddess.”
Brian was quiet for a long time. He studied the burned house before saying, “Rae, this is very important, so I want you to really think before you answer. When you ‘transferred’ some of this energy, were you saying anything, thinking anything in particular?”
She frowned and turned to study the house too. “No. I was upset, and Connor was trying to calm me down. We were just breathing together. I just stood there, thinking about Andrei turning into a werewolf and I guess I was envisioning what Connor would…oh dear Goddess.”
“What? You were envisioning Connor looking like what, Rae?”
She was going to be sick. She was going to be sick and then she was going to curl into a ball and never get up again. “Like a wolf. I was thinking what he would like as a werewolf. Brian, did I do this to him? Did I make him a werewolf?” She sounded hysterical but she didn’t care.
“Calm down Rae. I don’t know. I’ve never…” He shook his head in disbelief. “I’ve never seen this happen before. We had no way of knowing…” He continued to mumble to himself.
Rae just stood there, thinking about that morning. Had she condemned her husband just because she’d been curious at the wrong time? How stupid could she be? “I think I’m going to be sick.”
She sat at Brian’s kitchen table and stared, unseeing, at the soup Kaylynn had made for her. Andrei was safely resting in an upstairs bedroom. When the door opened and Siobhan walked in, she brought a gust of cold air with her and Rae was grateful for the warmth of the soup.
“Where is she?” Siobhan saw her and made a beeline toward her. “You are a fucking idiot. I should strip you of all your power. What the hell were you thinking?”
Rae stood up, not understanding what Siobhan was so angry about but feeling the need to defend herself. “I don’t…” She shook her head in confusion.
“You stupid little spoiled brat. Do you think we’ve survived this long by blowing shit up?” Siobhan made to grab her.
“ENOUGH!” Brian came down the stairs. “That is enough. What did you expect to happen when you give someone like her so much power and then abandon her?”
Siobhan whirled around and replied, “I expect her to use her damn brain. I told her about Layla, she knows Nyema. She had you, for Christ’s sake! How could she be this ignorant? How much more could I have done?!”
“Can you two stop talking about me like I’m not sitting right here?” Rae was still in shock, otherwise she was sure she’d be pissed at the way she was being described.
Brian turned to her, his eyes brighter than she’d ever seen them before. “Rae, this is really serious. I just found out that you are now considered a liability and there are people who…”
“Whoa, first of all, there are always ‘people’. There are so many of you, I can’t keep you all straight anymore. Secondly, I’m a liability? Maybe if ‘people’ would stop talking in code and secret half-coherent sentences, it would be easier to know the rules. And third, what the hell are you?”
Siobhan gave a bitter laugh, “She hasn’t even figured you out yet. Dear goddess, she’s an idiot.”
Brian came over and gave her a full smile. At first, Rae thought she was seeing things, but then she blinked and they were still there. He had fangs. Her eyes darted to his paler than pale skin, his glowing eyes and his bared fangs. “You’re a freaking vampire?”
He nodded and walked over to the living room couch. She followed him like a child, a million questions swirling in her brain. “Yes. Yes I am. For a very long time. Yes, before your parents were born. Yes, I can read minds.”
“Yes, we all have our parlor tricks, can we focus, please?” Siobhan came to sit down as well. She looked at Brian. “This is huge, Brian. She burned down Romajin Manor. I don’t know how to fix this.”
“You’re doing it again. Talking about me like I’m invisible.”
Brian sighed. “Rae, Caleb’s home is – was – an important structure. That’s why the fire was so hard to get to. It was one of the first homes built in Moonlight. It’s a cornerstone of the town.”
“We’re upset because of its architectural importance?” She frowned.
“See? Stupid.” Siobhan rolled her eyes. “No, Rae Rose. It was a cornerstone of the magic of this town. It’s very foundation was woven with spells and curses that protect this town from outsiders. And today, because you were scared, you burned it to the ground.”
When she said her name, it sounded like an insult. Rae had never felt so dumb before in her life. But how was she supposed to know if no one would tell her anything!
“And because it was such a strong magical space, we buried Rebecca there. It served as an anchor for her soul, so she couldn’t roam free.”
“Why does Rebecca need to be anchored?” What did Rebecca have to do with anything? No matter what, that ghost always seemed to be the epicenter of the chaos. “Her spirit wanders around all the time, she was with me for years.”
“Because she’s crazy.” That was from Siobhan. “She’s a psycho that needs to be put down, but Brian here has a soft spot for her. So we keep – kept – her contained.”
“She’s been through a lot. To just snuff out her life would be cruel.” He shook his head sadly.
“Her life has already been snuffed out. All she’s contributed since is pain and suffering. Why do you always see the good in people? Even those that have none left?”
“I see good in you, Siobhan.”
“Yeah, well, that’s my point exactly.” She smirked at him and turned back to Rae. “Rebecca has been roaming this town causing hell for decades. And then you came along and gave her metaphysical wings. We tried to protect you as best we could. Nyema giving you back your body was stupid. All that did was give Rebecca a place to live outside of The Falls.”
“I’ve always told you that I thought it fascinating that you and she were able to inhabit the same plane.” Brian shook his head. “Well this was why. She is here, in this town, as a semi-corporal entity. You were able to manifest an entire being from nothing but sheer will. Rebecca used that moment to gain a bit more freedom.”
“That’s my trick.”
“What?” Rae looked at Siobhan in confusion.
“That’s my trick, my power. Reanimation and death. That’s what I do – or used to do. You probably just picked that up from…” She looked over at Brian, “what does she call herself now?”
“Right. Dreadful name.” She stood up from the couch. “Well, I have to go and stare down some elder council members and get them to back down. AKA, save your asses again. See you later.”
Rae watched her walk out the door. “What was that?”
“That was Siobhan the Stonehearted. She was always a bit dramatic but if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have been able to keep Rebecca here. I told you once, the Fae aren’t good or bad. They just are. Siobhan was one of the most powerful Fae in history. She is the only thing that keeps Rebecca contained now. She doesn’t have to help us, but she does.” Brian sighed and closed his eyes for a minute.
In the silence, Rae asked, “Where does that leave me and Andrei? He still has to go through the Change tonight.”
“Caleb told me that he’s doing fine. Now that he’s with the little one, everything should be okay.”
“That’s it? That’s what I’ve been going crazy about for the last six months?”
“As I understand it, Caleb has been trying to get the boy for about that long.”
“You told me to keep him away from Caleb!” This was unbelievable.
He at least had the decency to look embarrassed. “I spoke to Caleb a couple of weeks ago. Two months ago, I would have still agreed with my warning, but he’s changed. He’s become more manageable. You can feel it when he walks into the room. Rebecca’s grip on him isn’t as strong as it used to be.”
Before she could ask him to elaborate on his last sentence, he stood up and looked at his watch. “It’s late Rae, or early, rather. Try to get some sleep. You have a long night coming up and I want you to be prepared.” He squeezed her shoulder as he walked past.
Sleep? She wouldn’t be able to sleep, not with everything she’d just learned.
Caleb looked down at Rae as she slept. She looked so peacefully. He leaned down and shook her roughly. She didn’t get to sleep peacefully while his brother suffered and her son fought for his life.
She jumped up, eyes wild, heart beating so loud he could hear it, the scent of fear permeating the air. There, that was a much better state for her to be in.
When her eyes finally focused on him, he jerked up his chin. “Get up. It’s almost dark and we have a lot to talk about.”
“How long have I been asleep?” She sat up and tried to get the kinks out of her shoulders.
Six hours. Six hours that Kaylynn spent caring for a screaming child. She slept while her son came down with a fever that spiked to life threatening degrees thirty minutes ago. She slept while Connor suffered. “How the hell would I know; do I look like a timekeeper?”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “What the hell is your problem?” As the words left her mouth, she had the grace to blush as she remembered the small fact that she had burned down his home, freed a potentially psychotic ghost, destroyed the very foundation of the safety of the entire town and fucking turned her husband into a werewolf. She ducked her head and whispered, “I’m sorry Caleb.”
He inclined his head, pretending to give a shit about her apology. “We need to talk.”
“Okay.” She still wouldn’t look up at him.
He sat down across from her and said, “There are several things that need to happen tonight. The most important is that you need to go to Connor and accept him.” She glanced up briefly at the mention of Connor’s name. No doubt the first time she’d thought of him all day. He started to seethe again. “The second thing is we need to get Andrei to change. He’s had a fever for the last three hours and it just keeps climbing. He’s fighting the transformation and I need someone he trusts to help me convince him it’s okay. I would prefer Connor, but you’ll have to do.”
He knew he was being harsh with her, that he was not managing his temper well, but he couldn’t keep it in. Never mind that she’d destroyed his home and caused all kinds of chaos in town, but the fact that she seemed to care so very little for Connor upset him. He had sensed the fear in her when they were down in the basement of his home. She’d taken one look at Connor Changing and she’d run. If she couldn’t accept him as a werewolf, he’d be permanently stuck in that form. And he was in pain, his body was never meant to undergo that transformation. She had done that to him. And then she’d tried to kill them all when she saw her handiwork. He could have lost Kaylynn.
His heart stuttered for a second at that thought and he felt the despair and anger all over again. Thank God she was a light sleeper. Thank God she’d heard him shouting. He wouldn’t have gotten to her in time if she hadn’t woken up; he was too busy saving Rae and Connor from the flames. He wouldn’t…he couldn’t think about this right now. Focusing on the woman in front of him he said, “I’m going to take you to Connor now. He needs you to accept him in his werewolf form. There are words you need to say and then you can leave and go to your son.”
“Right now?” She finally looked at him. And what he saw in her eyes made him both hopeful and angry. She wanted to do the right thing, but she was still afraid. It was her fear that worried him, that made him mad. “Can I change first?”