A whole month. His father had been in a coma for a month now. Dr. Gates and Tony had managed to slow his body’s deterioration, but he wouldn’t come out of the coma. The doctors said it was trauma. His body was mending, but his mind was still shying away from what had been done to him. There was an ongoing investigation to find Michelle Justice, his teaching assistant. Apparently, that wasn’t her real name and she had falsified her records just to get close to his dad. No one knew why though. His father didn’t have any enemies that they knew about. Everyone at the college said he was well liked. It was frustrating not being able to do anything. Again.
Andrei was sitting in the old nursery, thinking about being a child and playing with his twin and Eva. His mind would sometimes wonder what kind of toys Kevin would have chosen to play with from this room. Would he have liked the boat, like Dre had, or would he have preferred the blocks like Tony had? Maybe the little mirror Eva had been so attached to. What toys would Maya have chosen? What toys would she fill a nursery with?
The nursery door opened and his mother leaned in. “Hey, there you are. Are you okay?”
“When did you realize that you loved dad?” He turned to look at her. She seemed taken aback by the question but then just smiled and leaned against the door.
“It was a silly moment, actually. We were going bowling. It was one of our first dates and your father, he was being…touchy.” She laughed as she remembered. “He was timing himself, kissing me every half hour or so. I thought it was the cutest thing, but of course, I didn’t want to tell him that. I guess, it was then, while we were arguing about a kiss he took too early, that I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life kissing him. We didn’t get married until a few years after that and in-between, I had my moments of doubt, but that was the first time that I realized I loved him.”
She moved further into the room, touching one of Andrei’s old toys. “If you ask your father, he’ll tell you he knew from the beginning. And I think he did. He’s always been very perceptive, very self-aware. You get that from him.” She sat down next to him and took his hand.
“Yes, my love?”
“What if he doesn’t make it?”
Rae smiled sadly. “He will. He’s too stubborn to die. We just have to find an antidote. Connor has the best doctors in the world taking care of him. Your brother and Brian are working as fast as they can to synthesize his blood. They’ll find something. I have faith in them.”
“So there’s nothing we can do but wait?”
“That’s right. Now, answer my question. How are you doing? We haven’t spoken in a while. You children don’t come and visit.”
He glanced at her before turning away. He’d never told his parents about Ariany or Cinder. He’d never been very close to either of them, always preferring Caleb’s company. “I’m doing okay.”
She squeezed his hand, forcing him to look at her. “Andy…”
The last time she’d called him Andy, he’d broken his arm falling from a tree when he was eight. He’d cried and cried and she’d soothed him, calling him by the special nickname that only she used. He felt like crying now.
“I’m mated mom. I’m mated to someone I would never have picked if I’d had a choice.” He told her the whole story, about Cinder, about Ariany’s pregnancy and about Maya. “I think I love her. I wanted the wedding on that beach to be real – for her to be my mate. But she’s sick. Real sick. And I haven’t heard from her since that weekend. I’m worried because I think she was trying to tell me goodbye. I’m worried that I may never see her again and I don’t know if I can live with that.”
Rae pulled him into a hug and they were silent for a long moment. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been hugged by his mother. Perhaps not since he became a teenager and stopped hurting himself by climbing trees. She wasn’t big on affection, although he never doubted that she loved him in her own way. It felt better than he could have ever imagined.
When she pulled away, there were tears in her eyes. “I’m so sorry you’ve dealt with this without me knowing. I’ve been so caught up in my work, I’ve missed all the important things in my kid’s lives. Andrei, you are the most compassionate person I’ve ever met. I want you to be healthy and safe but most importantly, I want you to be happy. If you need to go and find out what happened to Maya, then go. Your father is a fighter and he’ll be fine, I promise you, but Maya might not be. If there’s anything Connor has taught me, it’s to never let go of the person you love. No matter what you have to put on the sidelines. We’ll keep you updated on him, but you should go to Maya.”
She shook her head, wiping the tears from her face. “Don’t argue with your mother. Go call her and figure out where you need to be.”
He got up slowly, not sure if he should listen to her. He wanted to go, but he didn’t want to leave his family and he also didn’t know where the hell Maya was. He looked at his mother, watching her for signs that she was changing her mind. When she made shooing motions with her hands, he decided he would take her advice. He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. “I love you mom.”
“Oh sweetie, I love you much more!” She smiled and placed her hand on her cheek. As he turned towards the door, she called out. “And Andy, I don’t know why you think you’re mated to this Ariany woman, but the mating process is more complex than what you told me happened. I would find out what she actually did to you because something is off. There are rules and it’s physically and magically impossible to alter or break them.”
“What do you mean mom?”
“I’m not 100% sure; you’ll have to check with…Caleb I guess. But with your father and me…I don’t know – something just doesn’t feel right.” She shrugged helplessly.
“Mom said that my mating to Ariany might not be on the up and up.” He’d gone immediately to his sister. If anyone could help him, it was Louey. She knew everything!
“Okay.” Rae was sitting on the floor of her bedroom. Being depressed, like she’d been for the last month.
“Would you look into it for me, please?”
She glanced at him before sighing, “Sure, but don’t be surprised if nothing comes from it.”
“I know that, that’s why I’m asking for your help.” He watched her stand up and walk to the door.
“I’m going to the hospital to be with dad. I’ll try to see what I can find.”
“Thank you Eva,” he said, but she was already gone.
Something was going on with her, he could sense it. He’d tried to get her to talk about it but she would just brush him off. He kept telling himself that when she was ready, she would come to him, but he knew he was just avoiding having to deal with her problems. It made him feel like an ass but he just couldn’t deal with one more thing. He’d reached out, she’d turned away and he’d let it go.
Andrei shook his head, trying to dislodge the little voice saying how disloyal he’d become in the last six months. He refused to acknowledge the gnawing pit of guilt his conscience seemed to want to throw him into because of Ariany and the baby. He hadn’t even known about Kevin so how could he feel anything? Why was his brain trying to make him feel guilty for the death of that boy?
He needed to stop thinking about things he couldn’t change and go say goodbye to his brother. Before he walked out of Eva’s room though, he slipped his hands into his pocket and put his ring on – the one he bought the day he and Maya got married on the beach.
He stepped into his parents’ workspace, which was being used by Tony in his search for a cure for whatever was wrong with dad. He found Riley in there, sitting and watching while Anthony worked.
“Hey man, what are you doing here?”
Riley turned around and grinned. “Nothing much. Just watching your brother do his thing. Hanging out for moral support.”
Dre narrowed his eyes, something was off with –
“So, did you need me or Tony for something?” Riley asked.
“What? Oh, I wanted to say goodbye. I have to head back to Isla Paradiso and take care of something.”
“Oh.” Riley turned back to look at Tony and said, “Dre, can I talk to you about something? It’s important.”
“Sure. Of course.”
They headed for the door but Riley turned and said, “Tony, I’m taking a bathroom break. Be right back.” When Tony ignored him, Riley sighed, and silently asking Dre for a minute, he walked back over to Tony and leaned over to whisper something in his ear.
Tony glanced up, smiled, and then leaned back to wave a little at Dre. Andrei waved back but he was more preoccupied with all the things he’d need to do if he wanted to find Maya.
Once they reached the hall, Riley said, “Listen, I was hoping you would introduce me to your uncle. I need to ask him something important.”
“Uncle Caleb? You two know each other. What do you want to ask him?”
“I need to know if he’ll let me join his pack.” Riley looked nervously at Dre.
Andrei was stunned. Riley was already part of a pack. “What happened?”
“My mother and I disagreed about something and she disowned me. I’m…” Riley shrugged and didn’t finish his sentence.
Shit, he must be Kadzait then. “Don’t even worry about it man, Uncle Caleb will definitely take you in. I’ll call him before I leave.”
“Thanks Dre. I wouldn’t have even asked, only the full moon is in a few days and I can’t run with my family anymore…”
“I get it. I’ll call now.” He patted Riley on the back, trying to give him some support.
To be excommunicated from your pack was a death sentence. A wolf like Riley, who came from a family pack – it would be next to impossible for him to stay away during the Change and his family would be forced to treat him as a hostile wolf. What the hell could be so important that he would risk his life?
Dre made the promised phone call and headed to his bedroom to pack. He didn’t have much, since he’d only packed for a week with Ariany. Damn, that was over a month ago. He looked around his bedroom and felt a sense of sadness. If his dad didn’t get better…
He should have joined Caleb’s pack. He’d wanted to, but the thought of the hurt on his mother’s face if she found out had stopped him. And now, he was susceptible to Ariany and her bullshit. Dre shook his head, touched his ring one more time and then headed for the door.
AN: The story that Rae is referring to – the moment she fell in love with Connor is here.