Warning: this page contains spoilers if you have not read Outsider.
Added: May 2012
I squeezed the icing onto the cupcakes in a swirl. Over and over again. In a way it was almost hypnotizing.
If only my mind could be cleared so easily.
Instead of worrying about normal, teenage guy things, I was thinking about my pack and the slaughtered deer we had discovered last night while on patrol. This deer hadn’t been killed by anything normal. It had been killed by a shifter and viciously at that. Most shifters, being part animal themselves, respected nature. But whoever had done this… They were sick. I knew who it was. The Grimm’s. But it was against our laws to accuse another pack of doing something without solid proof.
I had howled my arrival and shown up Lucinda’s. She had been… less than helpful. Her granddaughter had arrived, who was one of us but knew nothing of us. Apparently I had frightened her but how was I supposed to know? Lucinda had kept her arrival a secret even from me despite my being Alpha. I knew I needed to speak to her about it, about her needing to communicate with me, but that was difficult. She was my elder and we were taught to be respectful. It was a delicate matter and I was new at this. My dad hadn’t been gone long. I was new at this whole Alpha thing and young at that. How was I supposed to tell people my mom’s age what to do? People my grandparents age? They were supposed to tell me. But since my dad was Alpha the responsibility had passed to me with his death. I questioned myself every day of whether or not I was ready for this. How could I live up to the kind of leader my father had been?
I finished icing the last cupcake and began to hum a House of Heroes song under my breath. Pleased with my handiwork I picked up the tray and rounded the corner, ready to head out front and display them, when a noise startled me.
I turned, my muscles tensing for a possible fight and for the change from man to wolf when everything but her disappeared.
The walls, the floors, everything, melted away. It was as if the entire world disappeared. Nothing was left except for her and me. Her presence held me to this spot, to this earth, not gravity. She stood in front of me with dark chocolate hair and brown eyes to match. She smelled like freshly baked cookies. She was perfect. She was everything. And she was mine. My wolf howled inside me. My mate.
And then, in a very unlike myself maneuver; I dropped the dang gone cupcakes on the floor. Icing arced across the floor in a spray to cover my shoes, jeans, the floor, and then her.
Graceful Caeden. I scolded myself. Letting a girl make you lose your cool.
But this wasn’t just any girl. My soul recognized her as mine. She was my mate and my wolf was howling happily and running around like a pup. Mine. Mine. Mine.
I looked at the mess I had made, a very big mess, and then back up at my mate. I felt heat flood my cheeks which made me feel like a bigger dork.
Now you’re blushing like a freakin’ school girl? Get it together Williams.
My mind seemed to clear of anything to say to the angel before me so I simply bent and began to clean up the mess. Maybe I could think of something clever to say while my hands were occupied.
“Don’t worry I’ve got it,” said the girl bending down to help. She tightened her ponytail in a movement that I was certain was unconscious. Her fresh cookie smell nearly overwhelmed my lungs. How could someone’s natural scent smell that good? It didn’t seem possible.
“It was my mistake I’ll get it,” I said. I’d say anything to stall for time now. I didn’t want to leave her. Maybe dropping the cupcakes had been a good thing.
“I can get it,” she said. “I’m sure you probably want to get out of here,” she smiled. Her smile lit the whole room. I swallowed thickly but found myself smiling back. I saw her muscles quake a bit and felt a bit smug. I wasn’t the only one affected.
“Why don’t we do it together?” I suggested and heard her heart beat a bit faster.
“Sounds like a plan,” she said and dumped several ruined cupcakes into the nearby trash can. “I’m Sophie by the way. Lucinda’s granddaughter.”
It figures. The head elder’s granddaughter. Put a silver bullet through me now.
“Caeden,” I said. “I didn’t know you were coming,” I added unnecessarily. I had known someone was coming in to the shop I just hadn’t known it would be her.
“Should you have known?” she asked and quirked a brow. It was the cutest expression I had ever seen.
I waved my hand. “I didn’t know anyone was coming and as you can see you gave me quite a fright,” I motioned to the mess I had made. I tried to act as nonchalant as possible. I didn’t want her to see my emotions so plainly on my face. She’d think I was a creeper.
But the look on her face made me think she could see how I felt.
Despite not wanting to leave her I knew I needed to get out of there as soon as possible. If I had to inhale the scent of cookies much longer I’d be proposing marriage.
We finished clearing the cupcakes off the floor. I watched her wipe up the floor and then wash her hands.
She was so beautiful and completely unaware of it.
She turned around and I tried to wipe my face of expression and failed epically.
“So,” she said in dismissal. “You can go now.”
Was she that ready to get rid of me? Did she not feel this? Was it one sided?
I shook my head to clear my thoughts and to help hide my face. Not quite ready to leave her I said, “I’ll go after I make some more cupcakes to replace the ones I dropped. You can cover the front.”
She looked like she was about to protest when the door at the front chimed.
Saved by the bell.
“Okay fine,” she said. “Showtime.”
I watched her disappear through the swinging door. Her cookie scent lingered in the kitchen. Shaking my head I started another batch of cupcakes. I drew out the process as long as I could but eventually I could no longer stall. I placed the cupcakes in the refrigerated unit in the front. Sophie was busy with a customer and paid me little attention.
Although, from the slight tick in her cheek and the way she kept looking out of the corner of her eye I knew she wasn’t quite as oblivious as she pretended to be.
“Bye Sophie,” I whispered under my breath. I knew she didn’t hear me. Louder I said, “Bye Sophie.”
“Bye,” she said and flicked me a glance. Her brown eyes, the color of nature, captivated me.
I moved into the back room, cleaning up so she wouldn’t have to, and shucked my apron and baseball cap. I ran my fingers through my hair to fluff it back up.
Once I exited the building and climbed on my motorcycle I began to doubt everything that had just happened.
Mates? Was it possible? I only knew of mates happening in the legends. Was it just my hormones going nutso over a hot girl? I didn’t think it was the last one but who knew?
Well, there was one person who would know.
* * *
I parked my motorcycle in the driveway of the little yellow house. I was lucky to catch Lucinda at home. Normally she was occupied with the council. As I pulled off my helmet she walked out the door and locked it behind her.
“Caeden? What are you doing here?”
“I have a question for you,” I breathed.
She walked towards me. “What is it? I need to leave. The council just called. Is this about the slaughtered animals?”
“No, it’s not,” I said.
“What’s the matter boy? Come on, speak up. You look ill,” she added.
“Is it possible-” I swallowed thickly before continuing. “Are mates possible?” Saying the words hurt me. I braced myself for her to scoff in my face and tell me I was being silly.
Instead she surprised me by saying, “Sophie?”
I nodded. “It was just like the legends said. I saw her and it was like- like-” I fought for words. “Like wow,” I shook my head. “I saw her and bam! It just hit me like a semi-truck. Is it possible?” I repeated.
“Yes,” she said. “It is.”
I sunk to the ground on my knees. I lay my hands flat on the asphalt driveway.
She’s yours Caeden. I told myself. Yours. __________________________________________________________________________________
Added: June 2012
I didn’t understand why Lucinda was making us work on a snow day. I mean, no one was likely to show up. But I agreed to go in and I knew Sophie was going to be there and there was no way I was going to let her go in there by herself. Any time with Sophie was better than no time. I loved her with every fiber of my being, had since I first saw her, but I knew she was frightened of that and I didn’t want to give her a reason to run from me. I needed her to say it first. I needed her to know that I wasn’t forcing her into this.
She pulled into the back of Lucinda’s and I pulled in right next to her. Perfect timing.
I stuck the baseball cap on my head, backwards, and hopped out of the car. I knew I was grinning like a fool when my gaze met hers but I couldn’t help myself. The girl made me crazy.
“Fancy meeting you here,” I said as I closed the car door.
She pretended to be shocked. “Caeden Williams are you stalking me?”
I laughed and said, “I’m not prone to stalker tendencies,” I appraised her perfect body, “but for you I might.”
She laughed as she unlocked the backdoor. Her laugh was the most precious sound in the world to me. I wondered if she knew how much I cared about her.
Together we set to making the days cupcakes. We had two hours until the store opened and my personal opinion was that we’d do all this work and no one would show up. At least I might get to spend some time getting better acquainted with her lips.
Sophie laughed and I looked up from mixing the batter to see what had caused that giggle. From the look on her face it must have been me.
Oh no, was my shirt on backwards? Inside out? What had I done?
“You have batter on your face,” she said as if she had read my mind.
I wiped manically at my face. “Did I get it?”
“Far from it,” she said with a laugh. She turned off the mixer she was using and grabbed a rag. She came towards me and her scent of freshly baked cookies assaulted me. She gently wiped my cheek. I held my breath and clenched my fists so I wouldn’t reach out and grab her body to me. I wanted to feel her pressed against me. I wanted my lips on hers. I just wanted her.
“It’s gone,” she said softly and stepped away.
I let out the breath I had been holding. “Thanks,” I said and hated the choked sound to my voice.
She went back to mixing and for a moment I allowed myself to watch her. Her chocolate brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail and stuffed into the black baseball cap. A stray piece escaped and she tucked it behind her ear in an automatic response. Her full pink lips were pouted and her coffee colored eyes were more gold, like a latte, this morning instead of their usual dark. Her cheeks were flushed a pale pink from working and flour sprinkled her shirt and arms. She was so effortlessly beautiful and completely unaware of it.
I turned away from her, in the hopes of actually accomplishing something, when I discovered that we were now out of cupcake liners and a bunch of other stuff. Great. Lucinda really thought this through.
I cursed in frustration and then did it again just ‘cause I could.
“What is it?” Sophie asked from behind me. Her voice was soft like a whisper.
“We’re out of cupcake liners, cream cheese, and a load of other crap. The truck was supposed to come in last night but apparently it didn’t,” I groaned and rubbed my face with my hands.
She wiped her messy hands on her apron. I could see the wheels turning in her head, looking for a solution.
“Well,” she said and leaned against the counter, “What do we do? Can you run to the store and get the bare necessities?”
I took the baseball cap off and ran my fingers through my hair before replacing it. “I guess so,” I said roughly. “We don’t have much choice. Will you be okay?” I asked. My Alpha was howling inside me at the thought of leaving my mate. It was actually painful. I knew being separated didn’t hurt Sophie the way it hurt me. For me it was not only emotional but physical as well.
She batted her long black eye lashes at me. “I know I look like a damsel in distress but I’m really going to be okay for the fifteen minutes it’ll take you to go across the road to Food Lion.”
I laughed even though I didn’t feel like it. “Alright,” I sighed and put my hands up in defense. I pulled my car keys from my pocket and started towards the door. “I won’t be long,” I said. It sounded like an assurance for her but it was really for me.
“I’ll be fine,” she smiled and took my breath away. When I didn’t move fast enough for her she put her hand on my back and pushed.
She closed the door behind me. I didn’t hear it click and I wanted to open the door back up and lock it but I figured she’d think I was being an over protective pain in the ass. Which I was but that wasn’t the point.
I stood there for a moment, debating on whether or not to tell her to lock the door.
Stop being an idiot Williams. You’re only going across the street. You’ll be gone for ten minutes. How much trouble can one girl get into in ten minutes?
I sighed and climbed in my car and drove across the street to Food Lion. I only saw one person working and maybe three people besides myself shopping. I grabbed what I needed and hauled butt to the check out. I looked at my watch. I had already been six minutes.
I was pretty sure the guy checking me out was a sophomore from school. I guess Sophie and I weren’t the only ones that had to work on a snow day.
I handed the kid my debit card and bounced from foot to foot. He handed me back my card and I grabbed the bags and ran out to the parking lot where I then slipped on ice. The bag went flying and I began to cuss like a sailor. I don’t think I had ever cussed so much in my life as I had today. I grabbed up the bags and this time I tiptoed to the jeep to avoid another fall. I’d probably break my ankle this time. If I did, I could always change to a wolf to heal it but I don’t think anyone wanted to see my standing naked in the middle of the Food Lion parking lot. I also think the sight of a wolf might scare the few people out and about.
I reached the jeep and held onto the door handle when my feet hit another patch of ice. Once my feet were steady I threw the bags onto the passenger seat and started the engine. I drove around the bank that was across from Food Lion and stopped at the stop sign. I was about to go forward, across the street to Lucinda’s, when a truck came screeching around the corner from Lucinda’s and straight into traffic. Well, if there had been any traffic.
I watched the Chevrolet Silverado skid a bit when it hit the ice and then it was gone. The truck looked strangely familiar. I checked traffic yet again to make sure there were no more idiots speeding and then I was in back of Lucinda’s. I grabbed the bags and was almost to the door when I realized how I knew the truck.
I dropped the bags on the ground and ran into the store.
“Sophie! Sophie!” I called and looked around wildly. I hoped against hope that she would peek around a corner, say I was silly, and we’d have a big laugh. But that didn’t happen.
The place reeked of Peter and Travis. Sour lemons and vinegar. Not pleasant at all.
The kitchen was a mess and I followed it to the front of the store. I found a small pool of blood by the door. I sniffed and Sophie’s scent bombarded me.
They made her bleed!
With that thought I couldn’t control my transformation. My body morphed into a wolf right there in the little shop. My clothes exploded everywhere.
I hopped over the counter and ran out the back door. I didn’t care if anyone saw me.
Caeden? What’s going on? You’re not on duty. Bentley.
My thoughts were too scattered to answer. He could sense my distress.
What’s happened? He asked.
They took Sophie. The Grimm’s. They took her from me. She’s bleeding and she’s scared and she needs me! I stopped and howled at the sky. Even in their human form they’d know the call of their Alpha.
Charlotte and Chris hadn’t turned yet so she wouldn’t be coming.
Meet me. I said and gave them my location.
Four wolves bound towards me. I saw Bentley’s black form first. Logan’s white wolf came from the left and Bryce’s chocolate form came from the right. They skidded to a stop in the snow.
The Grimm’s have taken Sophie.
Bryce whined at this news.
Why? Asked Logan. What is she to them? They don’t know what she is and they’re forbidden to harm humans.
This is the Grimm’s. I said. They don’t follow the rules. We need to alert the others. The longer she’s with the Grimm’s the more dangerous it is for her. I already can’t sense her anymore. She’s too far away.
We’ll do whatever you need us to do. Bentley said.
Thank you. I said. I looked at each of them. Get your parents and Bryce you get mom. I’m going to the council. Meet me there.
They raced off.
Someone get Charlotte’s parents’. I added.
Don’t worry. Said Bentley. I knew his words were only for me but they did little to comfort.
* * *
I found some clothes hidden in the woods. I think they were Bryce’s. They were a bit too short and snug but now was not the time to be picky.
I walked up to the door of the small two-story brick house. The council met at the abandoned house in the woods. No one but us knew its location and for now it was still hidden from the Grimm’s. The house was in disrepair. Broken windows, rusty doors, the place looked abandoned but I guess that was the point.
I braced myself before I rang the doorbell. You never, ever, interrupted council meetings.
The door opened.
“Alpha Williams?” said Cody Mathers, Charlotte’s grandfather. I hated how he said Alpha Williams in a condescending tone. Most of the Elders were against me being Alpha. They thought I was too young. Sometimes I agreed with them but I wouldn’t let my pack go without a fight if it came to it.
“I need to speak with the council. It’s an emergency.”
“We are in the middle of council business. You can wait in the hall until we are done and then you’ll have your chance to speak.”
I pushed the door open all the way and stepped inside. “I am your Alpha, Cody, or have you forgotten? I’m speaking to the council now.” I had never forced my status as Alpha to get something I wanted but when it came to Sophie I’d do whatever it took.
“This way,” said Cody and led me down the hall.
The house was nicer on the inside than the outside. They had done a good job of cleaning it up but I could still smell the traces of mold and the animals that were the previous tenants.
He opened the door at the end of the hall and addressed the room. “Alpha Williams requests an audience with the council.” They murmured and he motioned me inside.
I looked around at the elders. How did they all fit into such a small room?
I took my place at the empty head of the table. I was supposed to attend council meetings but since I had no desire to sit in a room with a bunch of old people all day I usually skipped. Across from me, at the other head, was Lucinda. She was in charge when I didn’t show up which was often. My eyes locked on hers and I said, “The Grimm’s have taken Sophie.”
Her eyes darkened and I watched her body tense. The others began to murmur.
“We need to find her, quickly, before they do something irreparable.”
“When did this happen?” asked Cody.
“Thirty minutes ago. We were at Lucinda’s store. We were out of a bunch of stuff so I ran across the street to Food Lion. When I got back Sophie was gone.”
Cody chuckled. “Maybe the girl simply left. Do not place blame on the Grimm’s when none is do.”
“I saw Peter’s truck and the place reeks of them. Sophie’s blood is on the floor. They hit her. As far as they know she’s human.”
Cody swallowed but kept his mouth shut.
I appealed to Lucinda. “Help me find my mate.”
Lucinda looked around the room. “You old, foolish, farts. They’ve taken my granddaughter and you want to sit here and argue about whether the Grimm’s deserve blame? If they hurt her…” She didn’t finish her sentence. She simply stood and started to leave the room. “Come on Caeden. Let’s get our girl back.”
I followed her to the front door. When she opened it I was surprised to see my whole pack there. Lucinda looked back at me and smiled. “Good job, boy.”
* * *
The whole pack was squished inside Lucinda’s tiny, one-story, house taking turns sniffing Sophie’s clothes. Archie barked like a maniac at my feet.
Sitting here in the kitchen I felt like I wasn’t doing anything productive. I needed to be out there looking for her. She was alone and scared and she needed me. I should have protected her.
“Caeden,” said my mom.
“Go away,” I said. I knew it was no way for an Alpha to treat a member of their pack, mother or not.
Sophie had been gone for hours now. I felt like I was going insane. I kept imagining all kinds of different scenarios. All of them ended with Sophie dead.
I felt her fingers gently run through my hair like she used to do when I was little. “We’ll find her Caeden. I promise you.”
“I know we’ll find her,” I said, “but what state will she be in when we do?”
I stood and went out to the backyard. The cold didn’t touch me. Nothing could when I was in this state. Nothing else mattered except finding Sophie. I wrapped my arms around myself, not from the cold but from a need to hold myself together, and sunk to the ground. Tears spilled out of my eyes and sobs raked my body. My fingers dug into the ground. I pulled up icy handfuls in my frustration. I dropped my head into my hands not caring if I got dirt on myself. I tried to stop my sobs. My pack shouldn’t see their Alpha lose it like this. I needed to be the one with the level head but I just couldn’t do it. I needed Sophie and she needed me and I couldn’t get to her. I shouldn’t have left her. This. Was. My. Fault.
I continued to sit on the cold ground and cry. I hadn’t cried since my dad died and even then I hadn’t cried like this.
Finally I picked myself up off the ground. I wiped the dirt from my clothes and straightened my shoulders with a new resolve. I wouldn’t breakdown again until Sophie was home safe because she had to be safe. I couldn’t imagine the other possibilities anymore. I had to be positive. As of right now, she was still alive, I knew it and I also knew I’d know if she died. Lucinda had been over this with me. Even if I hadn’t wanted to listen to her at the time her words were now a comfort.
I opened the door and my pack glanced at me. They said nothing of my breakdown and I was thankful.
Bentley gave me a sympathetic glance and then looked at Christian. I didn’t know why those two didn’t just give it up already. They weren’t exactly hiding their feelings.
“What do we need to do to find my mate?” I said. Everyone began speaking at once. Maybe just maybe she’d be home tonight.
* * *
Sophie had been gone for five days.
The longest five days of my life.
A school week had never seemed this long and it was the same length.
I hadn’t slept in the last five days and barely eaten. Maybe a cracker or two and a sip of water. I knew my mom was right, that I needed to eat and sleep to keep my strength up, but I just couldn’t. Not until Sophie was back.
Archie barked like he had non-stop for the past five days. He scratched my leg and when I didn’t move he bit my ankle.
“What is it?” I snapped at the dog. He looked up at me with those intelligent brown eyes reminding me painfully of his master. When I didn’t make a move he whimpered and pawed at my leg. He whimpered again, turned in a circle, went to the front door and scratched. Stupid dog had to pee.
I opened the door to let him out. When I went to close it he barked. I opened the door wide and watched the dog go to my jeep. He better not pee on my tire. Instead, he pawed at the door and gave me a look more human than animal.
Holy flying monkeys! How had I not realized this before!
“Mom! Lucinda! Bryce!” I called. The rest of the pack had gone home.
“What?” they all asked as the came running to my side.
“I’ve been so stupid!” I pointed to the dog. “Archie can take us to Sophie.” The dog barked in agreement.
Bryce was standing there in a long-sleeved waffle-knit shirt, basketball shorts, and white socks pulled up to his knees. “How on earth is the dog going to take us there? Last time I checked dogs can’t drive.”
“We’ll put him in the car and he’ll tell us which way to go,” I answered.
“So, he can talk? Bella’s never talked before.” I resisted the urge to punch my infuriating younger brother. “Seems like it would be easier to just strap him to the front of the car and have him pull us there.”
“Yeah, because a ten pound dog can pull a car,” I said.
“That’s more believable than the dog talking.”
“Boys!” snapped mom. “Get it together. Sophie’s still out there.”
“We’ll need the others,” I said. “The Grimm’s aren’t going to go down without a fight.”
“Already done,” Lucinda said, hanging up the phone. I hadn’t seen her leave.
“Let’s get my mate back,” I said.
* * *
I drove and Archie sat on my lap. The rest of the pack followed behind me. In my car, was Lucinda, Bryce, and my mom. They didn’t say anything which I was thankful for.
“Are we going the right way?” I asked the dog. Under normal circumstances I might feel stupid talking to a dog but not when the dog was my answer to finding Sophie. We were getting closer. I could feel it.
Archie yipped which I took to be a good sign. Once, when I turned the wrong way, he growled and bit my hand. I still had the blood dried on my arm as evidence. Archie signaled with his head for me to turn onto a narrow dirt road. When the road ended I parked the car and climbed out. I left Archie inside. Once I changed to a wolf I’d be able to find Sophie by scent.
I turned to address my pack even though I wanted to strip my clothes and find my woman.
“Sophie’s here in these woods. I have no doubt that the Grimm’s will be guarding her. I don’t know whether it’s just Peter and Travis or their whole pack. Therefore, I think we should anticipate the worst. Are you ready?”
“We’re ready!” cried out Bentley and Bryce and the others followed.
I turned into the woods, stripped my clothes, and wrapped my jeans around my ankle. I switched forms and my senses were immediately heightened.
I sniffed the air.
Standard woodland smells invaded my lungs. Leaves, dirt, grass, birds, rabbits, and finally wolf. I recognized Peter’s scent and my feet were moving before I made a conscious decision.
As I was running a spark of something metal caught my eye and made me hesitate. I slowed myself to a walk and hesitantly approached the object. It was covered by snow and dead leaves and I began to paw it away. What I uncovered was a trap for a large animal. Like a bear or a wolf. I filed that bit of information to the back of my mind and took of running again. I was careful in case there were any more traps. I quickly warned my pack to be on the lookout.
I caught a scent in the leaves. Cookies.
Sophie. Sophie. Sophie. I knew she was near. Sophie. Sophie. Sophie. I stopped and howled towards the sky to bring my pack in this direction. Once I heard the patting of their feet I took off. They could follow my scent. I stuck my nose to the ground. I now smelled Peter, Travis, and one other wolf but I didn’t know who it belonged to. I didn’t smell Sophie but I could feel her and I couldn’t get to her fast enough.
I burst through the trees, into a clearing. A small house, more like a hut, was all that seemed to be in the clearing. Peter and Travis came bursting out of the small cabin and a woman came from a cellar. I shifted momentarily to human form. “Sophie!” I called and hoped she could hear me so she’d know I was coming.
The others followed suit and called for Sophie as well.
A noise assaulted my ears and I realized it was Archie barking. I thought I had locked the dog in the car but apparently Archie was a bit of a magician. The dog crept towards the cellar door and barked incessantly. Peter spared a quick glance at the dog and then his gaze was locked on mine.
“Caeden,” he said but the words came out funny. His teeth were already elongating. “You’re mine!” was the last thing Peter said before he fully became a wolf.
“Peter,” said the woman in a voice that I assumed was meant to calm.
“Sophie!” I called. Peter lunged at me and I feinted to the side. My pack joined the fight.
“I’m in here!” I heard her voice. She was alive! But I didn’t have time to rejoice in that fact.
Peter was about to lunge for me again so I switched to my wolf form.
I bit viciously into Peter’s side and was satisfied when I heard him yelp.
“She’s in there!” the woman that had been with Peter yelled and pointed to the cellar. Her gaze fell on me and Peter. Peter was on top of me, my shoulder in his mouth, and I scrambled to switch the position. The woman came towards us and I wondered how I would be able to fend off two of them. She kicked Peter roughly and he fell off of me.
She sunk to the ground in a predatory stance. I wondered why she didn’t change.
“You son of a bitch,” she said, staring into Peter’s bottomless eyes. I backed away slowly. “You’ve ruined my life! You’ve ruined our son! But I won’t let you ruin anyone else.” I saw her prepare for the change but not quick enough. Peter lunged at her and tore her chest viciously open with his claws. She screamed, it was a high-pitched, jarring sound. He sunk his teeth into her throat and she was silent. The whole thing was over in a matter of seconds.
I saw Travis’ wolf form pause as he watched the gory scene.
My pack descended on Peter. They clawed, howled, yipped, and tore. I did nothing to stop them. Sensing defeat he took off into the woods. Looking around, I saw Travis jump from behind a tree and tackle his father to the ground. I kept my sight trained on them until they disappeared.
This had been my first battle as Alpha and I knew it wouldn’t be the last. I felt sick to my stomach and I probably would’ve thrown up if I hadn’t had Sophie waiting for me.
Bentley, Logan, and Bryce, I want you guys to stay behind. The rest of you are free to leave. I felt like a teacher dismissing students from class.
I’m staying. The voice in my head belonged to Lucinda.
Of course. I said. I shouldn’t have forgotten. I want you all to wait by the vehicles then, except Bryce.
Can I at least get my pants? I don’t think Sophie wants to see my junk. Bryce; always trying to make us laugh.
Go get your clothes and come back here.
You got it.
I watched them all disappear before I switched to human form and lost my means of communication. I pulled on my jeans, called to Sophie to tell her I was coming, and then opened the cellar door. I looked over at the body of the woman who had saved me. I didn’t know her but in my book she was a hero.
I descended the steps and heard her choked sobs. There was little light but my eyesight was heightened even when I was human.
“Oh Sophie,” I choked when I laid my eyes on her for the first time in days. She was strapped to a table, dirty, and crying. “What have they done to you?” I asked as I ripped off the restraints.
My hair fell over my face and tears leaked from eyes and onto her skin. The woman had made me cry more in the last five days than I had in my whole life.
“Don’t cry,” she said and her hand came up to cup my cheek. Her touch was light and I could since her weakness.
Her simple words sent me to my knees as sobs coursed through me. I should be comforting her not the other way around. I lay my head on the table. I rested my hand on her stomach and felt her own hand tangle into my hair.
“I thought you were dead. I thought I had lost you,” I said.
“I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I didn’t think I’d ever find you and if I did I was sure you’d be dead. Lucinda said that I would know though, if you died, she said I’d feel it,” I said and put my hand over my heart.
Sophie began to cry as she wiped my tears away. I stood and pulled her against my chest. I was careful with her, treating her like a breakable doll, because she was so cut up and bruised. I wanted to kill Peter and Travis for doing this to her. Her small arms wrapped around my neck and she buried her face there are well. “Caeden, I love you.”
I closed my eyes and savored her words. “Oh baby, I love you too. I thought I’d never get to tell you. But I do. I love you so much. I’m never letting you leave my side again. Never.”
“I love you,” she began to whisper over and over. I could hear her say it all night.
I finally pulled away. I looked into her brown eyes, traced a cut above her brow and said, “Let’s get you out of here. It’s time to go home.”
“I am home,” she said and wrapped her arms around my middle. Her cheek pressed against my chest. “You are my home.”
Those words were just as powerful to me as her saying she loved me.
I wrapped my arms around her back and held her close. I kissed the top of her head. “I’m so sorry, Sophie,” I said and started crying again.
“Why?” she asked and pulled away a bit. She traced my brow line. “You have nothing to be sorry for.”
“I have everything to be sorry for. I shouldn’t have left you. This is all my fault,” I sobbed. She gently wiped my tears away.
“Oh Caeden,” she breathed against me. “This isn’t your fault. They were waiting for their chance to get me and they took it. They used me to get to you. Caeden,” she began to cry anew, “they want to kill you.” She leaned her forehead against mine and our tears mingled together becoming on entity. “I’m willing to die so they can’t have you. I won’t let them hurt you.”
“Oh baby,” I said. “Please, don’t talk like that. Your life is so much more important than mine,” I pulled away and surveyed the damages caused by the Grimm’s. “Look what they’ve done to you. They’ve hurt you so badly. I promise that I will make them feel everything they’ve done to you. I will make them pay for it. They deserve to be tortured like you have, to be held prisoner, and treated like an animal.”
“Caeden, please don’t talk like that,” she begged. “Please don’t.”
I looked into her eyes for a moment and ran my fingers through her hair. “Alright,” I said. “Come on, up you go,” I lifted her into my arms.
“I can walk,” she pleaded.
“I doubt that,” I said, not about to put her down. “You’re no more than skin and bones and you’re hurt. How long have you been strapped to that table?”
“How long have I been here?” she asked softly.
“Almost a week,” I replied.
“Almost that long,” she said which gave me pause. She had been strapped to a table for nearly five days? I felt sick. “Caeden, what happened to Leslee Grimm? Is she okay?”
I swallowed. That had to be the woman that attacked Peter. Only his wife could hate him that much. “She’s dead, sweetie,” I said.
“What? What do you mean? You didn’t did you? Please, tell me you didn’t kill her? She promised to keep you safe. She said she wanted to leave her pack that she wanted to join your pack.”
“Oh, honey,” I said softly. “I didn’t kill her. She… she died protecting me. She jumped in between me and Peter. He killed her.”
“He killed her?” she repeated.
“Like it was nothing,” I said, “he didn’t even hesitate. Travis saw, he and his dad got into it and then ran off. I don’t know where the rest of their pack is. It was only the three of them.”
The hatch came open above us and for a moment I prepared to fight, assuming it was Peter and Travis that were back. Instead Bryce smiled down on us.
“Hey Sophie. Man, you look like crap,” Bryce said.
“Really?” Sophie said sarcastically from my arms, “No one told me this wasn’t a five star hotel.”
Bryce laughed. “Sorry, thought I’d try and get you to smile.”
“Bryce,” I scolded, “I don’t think she feels like smiling right now.”
Bryce said nothing but moved out of the way as I climbed up the steps with Sophie in my arms. The sunlight seemed to startle her. Her eyes opened and closed rapidly as they adjusted to the light. Her gaze focused on the body of Leslee a noise like a startled cat came from her throat. I was too late to shield her from the gruesome sight but I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “Sophie, don’t look.”
“It’s kind of too late for that,” she said. She said the words softly but I couldn’t help but flinch. I couldn’t protect her from the Grimm’s and now I couldn’t even protect her from the sight of a dead body. I was a complete and utter failure of a mate.
I started to walk away, Bryce at my side, when Sophie cried out, “Wait!”
My body tensed and I scanned the area quickly thinking that the Grimm’s had returned.
I didn’t notice anything amiss so I asked, “What is it?”
“What’s going to happen to her? It just doesn’t seem right to leave her like that. Can… Can we bury her?”
I looked over at Bryce. He nodded his head and I nodded back.
“Alright,” I said, “I can see this is important to you.”
After what Sophie had been through I’d go to the ends of the earth for her to have whatever she wanted.
“It is,” she said and her voice sounded the smallest bit stronger.
“Let’s get something in your stomach and then we’ll worry about that. Okay?” I asked. I knew I would feel ten times better once she had eaten something.
“Okay,” she agreed and seemed to brighten.
Bryce and I began to walk through the woods. We had hardly covered any ground before Sophie was complaining that she was too heavy for me to carry.
“Caeden,” she whined while she wiggled in my arms, “How much farther do you have to walk? I’m too heavy for you to carry. Put me down. I can walk.”
Up until now I had ignored her but now I said, “You’re light as a feather. Don’t worry. I won’t drop you, I promise.” I flashed her a smile.
She huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. At least she didn’t complain anymore. I knew she was too weak to walk on her own and I didn’t want to have to watch her struggle. It would only break my heart further.
We came down off the embankment where we had parked the cars. Sophie’s dog began to bark like crazy sensing that she was close.
Bentley was leaning against his large black truck with his arms crossed over his chest. “The others left. It’s just us,” he indicated Logan, Christian, and Charlotte.
Charlotte hadn’t been able to participate in the fight since she hasn’t changed yet but she had still wanted to some to be here for Sophie.
“It’s probably for the best,” I said. “They’re getting too old for this.”
“Old?” someone screeched. “Caeden Henry Williams, I better not have heard you right. If I recall, you needed our help.”
Drats, rats, and kittens! I should’ve known Lucinda wouldn’t have left. I knew she’d chew me out later over that comment.
“Gram,” Sophie breathed from my arms, oblivious to my discomfort.
“I wasn’t about to risk anything when it came to removing her safely. I may be young but I’m not stupid,” I muttered under my breath to Lucinda.
“I know that,” Lucinda said and patted my shoulder, “but you young people always seem to forget that there’s still some fight left in us older folks. And your parents’ aren’t old anyway,” she looked around at the others before her wise gaze locked on me again. “Your mom was amazing out there. If I hadn’t held her back I think she would’ve single handedly shredded Peter Grimm to pieces.”
“I believe you,” I chuckled, “she was pissed.” I hadn’t paid too much attention to the fight but I had noticed my mom tearing into Peter. I hoped he didn’t forget.
“Watch your mouth,” Lucinda said with a smile and the skin around her eyes crinkled.
“Yes ma’am,” I said and pretended to bow my hat to her.
Bryce opened the trunk of the jeep and I sat Sophie down inside it. My arms didn’t even feel tired from carrying her, contrary to what she believed. I found some crackers and handed them to her. “Sorry, it’s all I have,” I said and combed my fingers gently through her hair.
“That’s fine,” she said and nibbled hesitantly on the end of one, “I’m not sure I could stomach much else.”
Charlotte and Christian came over. I knew they were both eager to see Sophie.
“We were so worried about you,” said Christian.
“Caeden’s been beside himself with worry,” said Charlotte.
Great, everybody was going to tell Sophie what a lunatic I was. Couldn’t they just zip they’re lips?
“We all have,” said Bentley. I exchanged a look with my best friend. I wondered if what happened with me and Sophie would influence him in regards to Christian. I knew he felt like he didn’t deserve love but I didn’t think that way about my best friend. He deserved love more than anyone I knew.
I shook my head and said, “I’ve never been more scared in my entire life. I thought my soul was gone.” I climbed into the jeep beside Sophie and put my arms around her. I was afraid that if I wasn’t touching her she might disappear. I needed to reassure myself that she was here and she was finally safe. After days without her this all felt so surreal.
Bentley smiled at Sophie and said, “He was like a crazy man. I’ve known him since we were in diapers and I’ve never seen him freak out quite like that. Not even when his dad was found dead.”
“Thanks for bringing that up,” I said to my best friend.
My dad’s death was still a sore spot for me but especially for Bryce. I looked up and met my little brother’s gaze. His blue eyes were misty and he looked four years younger. He turned and disappeared into the woods.
“Sorry,” said Bentley and unlike when most people said it he actually meant it. Christian came up to him and leaned against him. Her hand gently rubbed his arm. I wasn’t sure she was aware of it. They were like magnets. One always seemed to attract the other.
Sophie was looking up at me with a question in her intelligent brown eyes. I sighed. I knew I’d have to have this conversation with her eventually. I might as well get it over with now.
“Bryce, found our dad’s body. He’s never gotten over it. Not that I can blame him,” I said.
“What happened? If you don’t mind me asking, you don’t have to tell me,” she said.
“We don’t really know. We thought it was accident but now I’m not so sure. He… He was caught in a hunter’s trap… But… while we were scanning this area for you… I saw the same kind of trap.”
“Here?” asked Bentley.
“Yes,” I whispered back. A chill went up my spine that had nothing to do with the cool air.
“You think Peter had something to do with it,” Bentley said.
“I thought it was an accident before, that he had been careless and gotten stuck, but dad never was careless. I think he was lured into it by Peter.”
“But why?” asked Bentley.
Lucinda came over to see what was going on. I looked into her eyes when I said, “Because, that meant I would become Alpha. Once he kills me, Bryce will become Alpha. Once he takes out Bryce the line ends and he can become Alpha. He’d have the control of two packs. He craves power. The power of this pack is the only thing he wants.”
Lucinda nodded her head thoughtfully. “I’ve suspected as much. It’ll only get worse if he finds out that Sophie is a true Beaumont. He still doesn’t know does he?” Lucinda asked Sophie and worry etched the lines of her face.
I held my breath as I waited for Sophie’s answer.
“No,” she said. “Leslee said she knew who I was. That I have my mom’s eyes. He made her test my blood but she lied to him. She told him that I was only a human that I really was adopted. She also said that he still believes that my mom is truly dead. She says the pack has never suspected otherwise.”
“That’s good,” Lucinda said thoughtfully. “The less he knows the better for all of us. Peter Grimm is not one to be angered.”
“Gram,” said Sophie softly. She looked down at the crackers in her hand. “If all the Grimm’s are so evil why is my mom different? She’s always been nice to everybody and the best mom anyone could ask for.”
“Christine always rebelled against what her parents wanted her to be. She was always a sweet girl. She was different than them. I think that’s why they always clashed. I mean, the poor girl, had to fake her own death. When she met Garrett I worried, like any mother. She was a Grimm and I thought she was going to corrupt my son. I thought she was leading him on. Finally, your dad came to me and told me that he believed that he and Christine were mates. We started researching the legends and I was positive that he was right. I had gotten to know her better and genuinely liked her. But I still worried. If her family, or even if my husband, had found out… They would both be dead, of that I’m certain. When she got pregnant with you they had to leave, it was the only way to keep you and them safe. I sent them money every once in a while and they would send me pictures of you to a post office box. When your grandpa died they started sending you here every summer. It was the highlight of my year.”
“Gram, was my dad really in the military?” Sophie asked. I began to play with her fingers.
“No,” she said. “That was a cover for all the moving you guys had to do. Your parents feared that if they stayed in one place too long that the Grimm’s might find them.”
“They sacrificed everything for me,” Sophie said and I could hear the threat of tears in her voice.
“No,” Lucinda said softly, “they sacrificed everything for each other. You and Caeden will do the same.”
Sophie looked up at me and I met her gaze. I loved her so much and I hoped she knew that. I would tell her every day, every hour, every minute, and every second, of the rest of our lives. She was my mate and I loved her with every fiber of my being. Nothing would ever change that.
“I know,” she whispered and her brown eyes swam with emotion, “I’m already there.”
My breath caught and I licked my lips. I wanted to kiss her, right now, right here, but I didn’t want to hurt her so I restrained myself. She was looking better but I could still see how utterly exhausted she was. I was afraid that if not for my arm around her she’d fall over.
When she finished the crackers I said, “Alright guys, let’s go bury Leslee so we can get out of here.”
She squeezed my hand and said, “Thank you.” I could see how much this simple act meant to her and it made me fall more in love with her. Leslee had been a part of Sophie being tortured but Sophie still held compassion for the woman. We could all learn something from Sophie.
“I’d do anything for you,” I said and nuzzled her neck.
“I know,” she said.
I pulled away and said, “I assume you want to come.”
“Of course, you didn’t think you’d get off that easy by just leaving me behind, now did you?” she asked.
“Of course not,” I said and hopped down out of the trunk. I picked her up.
“I think I can walk now,” she said and pushed at my chest.
She could be so dang gone stubborn.
I tightened my hold on her. There was no way I was about to let her go.
“I’m going to carry you,” I said. She opened her mouth to protest so I quickly added, “Please, don’t argue about this with me. I don’t doubt that you can walk but maybe I just want to hold you close. You’ve been gone for almost a week. Holding you in my arms means that I know you’re safe.”
“I understand,” she whispered and her arms wound around my neck. Her fingers tangled in my hair and I lost my breath.
“Good,” I said to her. “Bryce!” I called over my shoulder. “Come on.”
Bryce bumbled out of the trees. He’d obviously been crying, his cocky smile and swagger now gone. Charlotte hurried to his side. I hoped she didn’t give him false hope. Bryce had had a crush on Charlotte for as long as I could remember. I hated to see my brother have his heart walked all over.
The pack and I trekked through the woods. Lucinda stayed behind. When we emerged in the clearing Leslee’s body still lay in the same spot. From a distance it seemed like her body was a natural formation in the land.
I sat Sophie down on the steps of the log house, kissed the top of her head, and went in search of shovels. Surely there were shovels around here. I didn’t really plan on digging a grave with my bare hands.
You really thought this one through, huh Williams?
Luckily there were a few shovels in the back. I grabbed three and headed back to the front of the cabin. I tossed a shovel to Bentley and Logan and kept the other for myself.
“Bryce, can you sit with Sophie?” I asked. I hoped Bryce would be able to cheer her up.
“Sure thing,” he said and hopped onto the step beside her.
Bentley, Logan, and I set to digging. Between the three of us it wouldn’t take long. I saw Bryce disappear into the woods and return with a large rock. What was he doing? As I dug I saw him pull a knife out of his pocket. Sophie flinched and my heart lurched. I started to go to her but Bryce seemed to be handling it and I didn’t want her to think that I was clingy. As I watched Bryce began to carve something into the rock. Sophie began to cry slightly and then she wrapped her arms around him. Bryce seemed surprised but hugged her back.
We finished digging the hole and I went to get Leslee’s body. One of the girls had thought to bring a blanket and had wrapped the body. I carried the woman’s body like one would a child and laid her gently in the dirt. This woman had protected me from her husband. She had befriended Sophie. There was more to Leslee Grimm than anyone had ever realized.
The guys and I picked the shovels back up and began to cover her up. At least the ground wasn’t frozen anymore or it would have made our job a lot more difficult. When the ground was covered we patted it down. I leaned against the shovel and wiped sweat from my brow. I turned to find Sophie watching me. “We’re done,” I said unnecessarily but I felt the need to fill the silence.
“Thank you,” she said and bumbled her way towards me. She hugged me and I lightly hugged her back. I was so afraid I might hurt her. She was so bruised and I knew there were many more bruises, emotional ones, that I couldn’t see and it broke my heart. No one, least of all her, deserved what she had endured.
Bryce came over with the stone and placed it at the head of the grave we had created. I read the words.
Leslee Grimm, who was not a Grimm at all.
He disappeared into the woods and came back with a handful of wildflowers. Dirt was still clinging to their roots.
“It was all I could find,” he shrugged. Who knew my annoying brother had a heart?
“You should say something,” I said to Sophie and squeezed her hand gently.
“Um…” she said nervously and bit her lip as she met everyone’s gaze. She wiggled slightly beside me. She straightened and spoke solely to Leslee’s grave. “I didn’t know you well. I know you were my mom’s best friend and I know that you saved me.” She sniffled and wiped her nose. “You saved Caeden because I asked you too. You were a good person but you were with the wrong one. You deserved to find peace and since you didn’t find it in life I hope you’ve found it in death. Thank you for your sacrifice. I will never forget what you’ve done for me.”
She swallowed, stepped back, and took a deep breath.
She looked up at me and I asked her, “Ready?”
I handed Bentley the shovels and he put them away. Once he came back we started into the woods.
“Do you want me to carry you?” I asked.
She shook her head. “I can walk, really,” she added when she saw my doubtful expression.
Despite her words I almost picked her up anyway. Almost.
Instead I comforted myself by keeping a hold on her. Sophie kept glancing around like a startled bird and I had a feeling she was looking for either Travis or Peter to return. It broke my heart.
The cars appeared through a break in the trees. The sun was almost gone and the moon was already out. A few stars glimmered above. Or maybe they were planes?
We reached the road and I dug my keys from my pocket. I tossed the keys to Bryce and said, “You drive.”
“Sweet,” Bryce drew out the word. He scurried to the driver’s side and hopped in. Lucinda was asleep in the front passenger seat. I shook my head at my brother.
I clapped Bentley on the back and said, “Thanks man.”
“I’m here for you,” Bentley said and a significant look passed between us. I knew he was remembering Sam. He climbed into his truck.
“Bye,” I said to the others as they got in. The truck left as I was opening the back door of the jeep. I waved.
I helped Sophie into the car and then pulled her head down to my lap so she could lie down.
“Home,” she said but it sounded like a plea.
“Yes,” I whispered, “I’m taking you home.”
“Not if I can’t get this stupid thing to work,” Bryce said and hit the navigation system. Was he trying to break my car?
“Hey, hey,” I scolded. “Don’t hurt it.”
“Stupid Chinese,” Bryce muttered, “can’t they make anything simple?”
“Don’t diss the Chinese just because they’re smarter than you. It’s unbecoming,” I laughed.
Bryce mimicked me in a high-pitched voice before saying, “Don’t be an ass, how about that?”
I rolled my eyes at his antics. “A simple navigation system has your panties in a bunch? What am I to do with you?”
“One: I don’t wear panties. I prefer to go commando. Two: why don’t you just feed me to the wolves? Oh right, I am one,” laughed Bryce.
I smacked him in the back of the head. If there was an award for most annoying sibling Bryce would win hands down.
“Too much information,” I said. I helped Sophie sit up so I could set the navigation system. For a math whiz Bryce could pretty dense. Seconds later I sat back and said, “Was that so difficult?”
“Very,” Bryce said and flicked on the headlights. He put the car in drive and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was finally going to take Sophie home.
“What’s all this grumbling about?” Lucinda said, coming awake. “Can’t you see an old woman trying to sleep?”
Bryce and I laughed. “You’re not old,” I said.
Lucinda turned around and scoffed at me. “What planet are you living on? The planet of the completely blind?”
“How about the planet of the completely absurd?” Bryce added. Lucinda turned around and smacked his head like I had. “Ow, what was that for?” he asked, rubbing the spot.
“For calling me old!” Lucinda said.
Sophie began to laugh but abruptly stopped. I could see the pain in her eyes. I pulled her back down to my lap and ran my fingers through her hair. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered into her ear. My breath seemed to tickle her.
“It’s not your fault,” she said. “Don’t torture yourself with something that was out of your control.”
“I can’t help it,” I said and began to cry again. My tears ran down my face, off my chin, and splashed onto her skin. “I’m your mate. I’m supposed to protect you.”
“Shh, can we talk about this later?” she asked and her eyes began to close.
“Of course,” I said and brushed her hair back from her forehead. I wiped my tears with my other hand.
“Thank you,” she said and her eyes closed again. I began to sing the lyrics to Your Guardian Angel by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus softly under my breath. A smile quirked her lips and my body finally relaxed for the first time in days.
The Demise of Stella (An Outsider Short)
Added: May 2012
Spring break was supposed to be fun and this was anything but. Mom had decided she didn’t want to go to the beach. She hated the beach ever since a run in with a jellyfish five years ago. I had offered to pee on it but she refused. But wasn’t that what you were supposed to do? Pee on it? Whatever, no one ever listens to me anyway.
So instead of spending my break on the beach, like I was supposed to, I was sequestered in my bedroom playing Call of Duty. Caeden, lucky duck that he is, got to go to Germany with Sophie while I suffered here. At least the rest of the pack was home too. Bentley and Chris were on duty right now. I don’t think they minded too much. If they thought they were keeping their feelings a secret they were sadly mistaken. I knew the looks on their faces all too well. I wore the same one anytime I saw Charlotte. At least she hadn’t completely blown me off at prom like I thought she would. But I knew she was still gaga over Logan. I didn’t get what she saw in him. The guy was a jerk and I had certain suspicions about him and the closet he’s currently residing in.
Frustrated with the stupid game since it wasn’t sufficiently distracting my mind I threw the control at the screen and powered it off. I ran my fingers through my hair so it stuck up wildly around my head. The movement caused me to get a wiff of myself and I nearly fell over from the smell. I knew I needed a shower but it wasn’t like I was going to leave the house so why bother?
Bella looked at me as if she could smell me too and didn’t like it one bit.
Bella looked at me as if she could smell me too and didn’t like it one bit.
I opened my bedroom door and ventured down the hall and then down the steps. I could hear my mom talking on her phone from her office. Sighing, because that meant she hadn’t made lunch, I entered the kitchen. My stomach rumbled in response. I opened the industrial sized refrigerator and poked around for something to eat. I found some shrimp fondue mom had made the night before and lifted the lid off. Not bothering to heat it up I stuck my finger in and spooned some into my mouth. A bit dropped onto my already stained shirt and I shrugged in response.
The house phone began to ring shrilly.
“Moooooom!!! Phone!” She didn’t respond. “Mom!” Still nothing. Sighing, I answered the phone. “City morgue, we love to fondle your dead, how may I help you?”
“Bryce, is that you?”
I dropped the phone upon hearing the voice. I tossed the container of fondue on the counter and it splattered, mom was going to be pissed. I scrambled on my hands and knees for the phone which had wedged itself under one of the chairs at the counter.
“Hello? Hello?” said the voice. “Bryce? Are you there?”
“Yep, I’m here,” I said grabbing up the phone.
“Oh good. Do you, I don’t know, wanna do something?”
“With you?” I asked.
She laughed nervously. “Yeah, with me. That’s why I was asking.”
“Uh- yeah. I should probably shower.” Okay, definitely shower.
“Pick me up in half an hour?”
“You betcha Charlotte.”
“Great,” she said and I could picture her smile in my mind.
I hung up the phone and danced around the kitchen.
A laugh startled me from my dance. “Don’t stop,” my mom said.
I narrow my eyes at her. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough,” she smiles. “Did I hear the phone?”
“Yes,” I said. “Thanks for answering it.” I try and act mad but I can’t help the smile that spreads across my face.
“And who was it?”
“Charlotte,” I said.
“What did she want?” She asked suspiciously.
“No clue,” I said and picked up an apple. I bit into it and the juice squirted. “I have to shower,” I said and maneuvered around her.
“Of course you do,” she said. “Have fun with Charlotte.”
Drat. Stupid mom powers. She always knows everything. It’s like she can read my mind.
I bounced up the steps and into the shower. Once I smelled like a decent human being I combed my room for some clean clothes. I finally found a pair of jeans that looked clean and a green t-shirt. I pulled the shirt over my head and looked at the clock. I grabbed my keys off my dresser and knocked off some trophies in my haste. Who cares? They’re not important compared to the cute little red head waiting for me so I left them there. Maybe mom will see them and pick them up.
I raced down the stairs, called a “Bye mom,” over my shoulder, and flew out the door. I jogged to the garage and hopped into Stella. It was hot out and a thin sheen of sweat already covered me. So much for trying to smell nice.
I reached the gate and entered the code. It swung open and I raced to the road. My heart was racing at the prospect of seeing Charlotte and I instinctively tried to smooth my hair down. I glanced in the rearview mirror to see if it helped but I still looked like I stuck my finger in an electrical outlet.
I got off the interstate and drove through the town before parking in front of the two-story Victorian home. I tapped the horn lightly and a moment later Charlotte walked out the door and literally took my breath away. Her long red hair was held back in a knot on the side of her head. She wore a billowy blue top and a jean skirt. Freckles covered her shoulders.
“Hi,” she said as she appeared at the side of Stella.
“Hi,” I said and grinned like an idiot. “Uh- hop in,” I added as I dumped the stack of plastic cups and McDonalds fry containers in the back.
“Thanks,” she said. She closed the door and turned to me. “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have called. You were probably busy.”
“No- no- I wasn’t busy. I’m glad you called.” My hands tightened on the steering wheel.
She smiled shyly. “Wanna get some lunch? I know it’s late but I’m starving.”
“Me too. I’m always hungry.”
She laughs and it sounds like tinkling chimes.
I backed out of the driveway and headed down Main Street. I turned left at the stoplight. “Where do you want to go?” I asked.
She points ahead. “Want to go to Sheetz? I’m craving a hotdog. I know they’re bad for you but they taste so good.”
“Sounds good to me,” I said and swung a right and pulled into the parking lot. I put Stella in park and jumped out. Charlotte closed the car door. I shoved my hands in my pocket so that I wouldn’t reach out and take her hand.
I opened the door for her trying to be a gentlemen just like my dad taught me. Somehow, I think Caeden paid more attention during those lessons than me.
“Thank you,” she said and I’d swear she blushed.
Doing a little dance I moseyed on over to one of the computers and punched in my order. Three hotdogs and a bucket of fries with ranch dressing and then I got a large mountain dew. Charlotte walked over to get her drink and my eyes couldn’t help but scan her legs. She was so beautiful and so completely unaware of it. Trying not to look like an idiot I grabbed her ticket from her hand.
“Wha-” she began.
“Lunch is on me,” I said and fanned the ticket through the air.
“No Bryce,” she said. “I invited you out.” She tried to grab the ticket from my hands.
I held the ticket in the air. “I don’t think so Charlotte.”
She narrowed her green eyes. I smiled back at her. “Bryce-”
“La, la, la,” I said and walked towards the register. “I can’t hear you.”
I slapped our tickets down on the counter, along with my drink, and Charlotte reluctantly placed her drink down as well.
I grinned. “See, that wasn’t so hard,” I said as I pulled out my wallet.
I paid and then waited for our numbers to be called.
“So,” I said. “Why’d you call me?”
She blushed and squirmed. I grinned in satisfaction. “I don’t know,” she shrugged. “I haven’t seen you in a few days and I guess-”
“Yes?” I prompted.
“I missed you,” she whispered.
I resisted the urge to breakout in dance like I had in the kitchen. Instead I settled with tip-taping my foot.
“Yeah,” she shrugged her delicate shoulders. “I like spending time with you. You make me laugh.”
I smiled. “I like spending time with you too.”
“321! 322!” shouted the girl that made the food.
“That’s us,” I said and took the bag from her. “Thank you, and have a nice day.”
“Well look at you,” said Charlotte and smacked my arm, “being all charming.”
“I better get you out of here before you make me think I’m a good person.”
She laughed and I followed her outside. There were tables with lime green umbrellas set up. Several were already taken but Charlotte managed to find an empty one.
I plopped down across from her and doled out the food.
She laughed at my heaping pile but said nothing, only shook her head. She bit into her hotdog and moaned. “Oh this is so good.”
I was already biting into my second. Chili coated my mouth. I grabbed a napkin and wiped my face. “Want one?” I asked her and held out the half empty bucket of fries.
“Thanks,” she said and took one. “Do you know how things are going with Caeden and Sophie? Have they found out anything?”
“No clue,” I said and shrugged. “Caeden hasn’t talked to me since they left.”
“I thought you guys were close.”
“We are,” I said.
“Then why hasn’t he called you?”
“Probably too busy being a kiss ass. I know he really wants to impress Sophie’s dad. He said something about her being the girl he’s going to marry and he needs Mr. Beaumont’s approval. Why he needs Mr. Beaumont’s approval is beyond me, I mean they’re mates, it’s not like there’s ever going to be anyone else.”
Charlotte laughed. “That’s Caeden though. He’s a gentleman.”
“And I’m not?” I feigned outrage and then burped loudly.
She smiled. “Only when you want to be.”
“That’s true,” I said. “At least you acknowledge that I can be.”
“Bryce you can be a lot of things.”
“Like what?” I asked and dipped a fry in ranch dressing.
“Annoying, a pain in the butt, infuriating,” her face softened, “sweet, kind, helpful.”
“I love that you included the bad things,” I grinned.
“But you can be annoying, a pain in the butt, and most certainly infuriating,” she said with a smile.
“I meant the sweet, kind, and helpful as my bad qualities. Thanks for clearing that up for me,” I laughed.
She giggled. “You’re one of the best people I know.”
“You must not know a lot of people,” I said.
“Only important ones,” she said.
We finished our lunch and then threw away the trash.
“Where to next?” I asked as I unlocked Stella.
She climbed in. “Can we play putt putt golf?” she asked. “I haven’t done that in forever.”
“Sure,” I shrugged. “But I’m going to warn you, I am awesomely-awesome at golf.”
“I know,” she said. “You’re on the golf team at school.”
“Shh,” I said and looked around the parking lot. “Someone might hear you. Don’t you know that the golf team is even dorkier than the chess club? Which I might add, I happen to be a member of as well.”
She laughed like I knew she would. I loved her laugh. It was the greatest sound in the world. I pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards the golf course that had a putt putt course.
Halfway there though we hit a bit, okay a major, snag.
“Stella, no baby!” I cried and rubbed the steering wheel while my beloved Jeep made a choking noise. “Come on baby. Be strong for me.”
“Don’t die on me Stella!”
Charlotte laughed harder.
“This is not funny!” I said as the engine began to steam. “Okay, maybe it’s a little funny,” I admitted.
Stella began to sputter. “No baby. Don’t do this to me,” I said and rubbed the dashboard. “Stay with me Stella. I’ll get you fixed up.” I pulled off the road just as the engine made a noise it should never make. “Stella?” The car cut out. I turned to Charlotte. “I think my car just died.”
“Ya think?” she smiled.
“Stella?” I coaxed. I sighed. “I better call my mom. I’m really sorry,” I said.
“Don’t be,” she said.
“But you wanted to go play putt putt golf,” I said. “Now you can’t.”
“Bryce,” she said and put her hand over mine. “I just wanted to be with you.” She leaned towards me and pressed her lips lightly against mine. It felt like the brush of a feather and my heart stuttered a beat. She pulled away and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. Her cheeks flamed red. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”
I grabbed her chin gently in my hand and forced her to look at me. “Yes, you should have,” I said and kissed her like I had wanted to kiss her for the past three years. Her small hands wrapped in my hair. I had waited so long for this and it was even better than I had imagined it.
She pulled away, breathless, with flushed cheeks. Her fingers hesitantly touched her lips.
“That was-” I expected her to say awful but instead she said, “amazing.”
I grinned and took her hand in mine. Stella chose that moment to make another sputtering noise. “Crap,” I said.
Charlotte giggled. “Was I that bad?”
I blanched. “No-no- not you. The-the car,” I stuttered. Who would’ve thought that I could be reduced to a stuttering idiot by a girl?
“I’m just kidding,” she said. “You better call someone though. As much as I like kissing you I don’t want to be stuck out here all day.”
“You’re right,” I said and pulled out my cellphone. “Stella, you’ve failed me girl,” I said and hung my head.
Charlotte laughed and I grinned. I loved being able to make her laugh. I pressed the send button to call my mom. Finally she answered.
“Bryce? What is it? I’m busy,” she snapped. I couldn’t help but feel bad for her. Lucinda had her doing a bunch of stuff for the council.
“Stella died,” I said, “and Charlotte and I need a ride.”
Her voice softened. “Oh Bryce, I’m sorry. I’ll pick you up and we’ll go to the dealership. I knew that car was going to go sometime soon.” She’d been telling me for months that Stella was on her last leg.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can you hurry it up woman? It’s getting hot in here.”
“I’m getting in my car now. Where are you?” I gave her the directions. “I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.”
“Thanks mom,” I said and hung up. “She’s on her way,” I said to Charlotte. The car was heating up quickly and a drip of sweat was forming above her lip.
“It’s not your fault,” she said. “Things happen. Maybe since-” she took a breath. “Maybe since today got messed up we could do something tomorrow?”
A grin spread across my face. “That would be freakin’ awesome.”
* * *
My mom pulled in behind Stella. Charlotte and I climbed out of Stella and mom stopped with her hands on her hips. “I called the towing company and they should be here any minute.”
I turned towards Stella and put my hand on her side. “Stella, you’ve been a great car. I’m gonna miss you.”
“Bryce,” my mom said. “It’s a car.”
“This is Stella mom. She’s more than a car.”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Come on Charlotte. Get in the car where it’s cool. He’s probably going to start crying any minute.”
“Stella, we’ve had a great time together and it’s never easy to say goodbye,” I continued as if she hadn’t said anything. She shook her head and got in her car. Charlotte followed her. “You’ve been such a trooper Stella and I’ll miss you.” I patted the car and then climbed in the back of my mom’s car beside Charlotte. The air conditioning was a welcome relief. “Do you think she can be fixed?” I asked my mom.
“Bryce, that car is almost as old as you. I’m not paying to have it fixed.”
“There will be other Stella’s,” she said.
“There’s only one Stella,” I said as the tow truck pulled up. Mom went to deal with them and Charlotte’s hand found its way into mine. The guys hooked up Stella. I squeezed Charlotte’s hand. “Stella was my dad’s car for a long time. Sometimes… sometimes I feel like I can still smell him in there.”
“That’s why you’re so attached isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I said and swallowed. “She was Caeden’s before dad died but when I got it I felt like I had something that was just my dad. He loved that Jeep. I can remember him taking me and Caeden in it and just driving through the woods with the windows down.”
“Bryce,” she said, “You don’t need Stella to remember your dad by. He lives in here,” she pointed to my heart. “That’s what’s important. As long as you remember then he can never truly be gone.”
The tow truck pulled away with Stella and mom got back in the car.
“You’re right,” I said to her.
“Charlotte?” mom said, glancing in the rearview mirror as she pulled away.
“Yeah?” responded Charlotte.
“Do you want to go home or come with us to the dealership?”
Charlotte looked at me and back at my mom. “If you don’t mind I’d like to go with you.”
“Great,” mom said and smiled. “Bryce, stop pouting about the car.”
“I’m not pouting,” I said.
“Yeah, you are,” giggled Charlotte.
“Traitor,” I said to her and she laughed again.
Mom turned up the radio to drown us out. Charlotte hadn’t let go of my hand yet and I was thankful. I ran my thumb over her knuckles. I didn’t even care if my mom saw.
She pulled into the dealership parking lot and parked the car. “Alright Bryce, take your pick. Consider it an early birthday present.”
“But all these cars are new,” I said.
“I know,” she said and climbed out of the car. “Come on.”
I slid out of the car but kept Charlotte’s hand in mine. I immediately went to a four door, dark green, soft top, Jeep Wrangler. It looked like a new and improved version of Stella. My mom walked over with a salesman in tow. He looked like a vulture.
“I like this one,” I said to my mom.
She smiled. “Bryce, you are so predictable.”
“I hate change,” I countered.
The salesman held up the keys and I snatched them from his hands before he could start a rambling speech about the car. I didn’t need to hear it. I already loved it. I pulled out my license and handed it to him. “I want to test drive it,” I said. I knew it wasn’t necessary but there was no way my mom would buy it without me driving it first.
The man looked baffled but quickly recovered. “Uh… sure. I’ll be right back.”
My mom laughed and shook her head.
“Can I really have this?” I asked, looking at the brand new car.
“Yes,” she said. “Why would I bring you here if you couldn’t have it?”
“I don’t know. To be mean,” I said.
“Am I ever mean?”
“Do you really want me to answer that question?” I said.
The salesman reappeared with dealer’s plates and my license which effectively cut off our conversation. I danced on the balls of my feet like a giddy child.
“You’re good to go,” he said.
“Great,” I said, “and while I’m gone get the paperwork together. Stella Jr. is coming home with papa.”
My mom laughed and Charlotte giggled. The man’s brows knitted together. “Sure,” he said.
I led Charlotte around to the passenger side and opened the door for her. “M’lady,” I said.
She smiled and climbed in. “Thank you sir,” she said as I closed the door.
“You coming mom?” I asked.
“Go ahead,” she said. “I’ll deal with him,” she pointed to the retreating figure of the car salesman.
“Thanks mom, really,” I said and kissed her cheek.
She looked at me surprised. “You’re welcome.”
I grinned and climbed in the car. The engine rumbled to life. I rubbed my hands around the steering wheel. The new car scent enveloped my lungs. It was nothing like the peppermint scent in the original Stella but it would have to do.
“Alright Stella Jr. show me what you’ve got,” I said and raced out of the parking lot. I rolled the windows down and the wind ruffled my hair as Charlotte’s laugh filled the car. Maybe the demise of Stella hadn’t been such a bad thing after all.
Added: September 2012
Added: September 2012
I looked over at Caeden, snoozing peacefully. He was on his stomach with his face turned towards me. His eyes flitted beneath closed lids and his freckle-covered shoulders rose and fell with each breath. A curl fell over his forehead. I wanted to brush it away but I feared I might wake him.
With a sigh I stood up from the bed and grabbed my backpack up off the floor. I was already dressed and ready for the day. I had to arrive at school early today in order to serve detention.
Detention. I’d never had detention before. This was really going to suck.
I closed the bedroom door as quietly as possible and grabbed a cereal bar from the kitchen before snatching my keys off the side table.
I marched out to the car with a determined gait. I would not let Mrs. Harding ruin my morning or my day by giving me detention.
After all, who gives someone detention because they say math makes them happy? The woman is freakin’ crazy and needs a chill pill… or three.
I ripped the paper off the breakfast bar and took a big bite before starting the car. It was still dark out, I yawned, wishing I could go back to bed and snuggle up to Caeden.
I forced myself to put the car into reverse and back out of the driveway. I drove the two or so minutes to school and parked. The student parking lot was empty except for my car.
I shook my head and grabbed my backpack, heading into the school, all the while I fussed under my breath about demon teachers.
The door was, of course, locked and I had to knock on it until one of the gym teachers took mercy on me and let me inside. I thanked him profusely and looked at the large clock on the wall. I had forty-five seconds to make it to Mrs. Harding’s classroom without being late.
I glanced around, checking for any teachers, when the coast was clear I sprinted down the hallway at a pace a normal human could never meet.
When I rounded the corner to the math hallway I slowed to a walk. My hair was a bit ruffled and I quickly fixed it. I knocked on Mrs. Harding’s door with twenty seconds to spare.
She opened the door, grinning, her teeth were yellow and I could smell the distinct odor of cigarettes on her breath. Ew.
She ushered me inside and I picked a desk in the front. I dropped my backpack down beside me.
A sense of dread pooled in the bottom of my stomach.
Mrs. Harding waddled over to her desk. She shuffled a large stack of papers until they were perfectly straight. She picked them up and dropped them on my desk. The papers made a loud thwacking sound.
“Using a red pen I expect you to grade every single one of these tests before the morning bell rings,” she thrust her index finger against the papers. “I suggest you get started,” she smirked.
I stared in disbelief at the stack of tests in front of me. There had to be at least sixty of them, four pages each. I shook my head and dug a red pen out of my bag. I’d probably get shot if I used a pink or purple one.
I removed the cap and tapped the pen against the desk.
“Ms. Beaumont, none of that tapping!” she yelled.
I ceased the tapping.
I grabbed the first test off the pile and scanned the first problem.
What the hell was this?
“Uh, Mrs. Harding?” I raised my hand.
“Yes?” she rolled her eyes.
“This is college level.”
“I’m aware of that.”
I gaped. “But… but… I don’t know this kind of math.”
Mrs. Harding smiled like the cat that ate the canary. I could easily picture her plucking small yellow feathers from between her teeth.
“I suggest you learn real fast then.”
I looked at the clock and hoped that Caeden was awake.
Soph? Is everything okay?
Ugh, no… this old hag expects me to grade her college level tests. There’s like sixty of them here. I fanned the tests and Mrs. Harding glared at me. Can you call Bryce? I can tell you the problem and what the answer is and you can ask him if it’s right.
Sure, I’m in the car. Let me call him. A few seconds went by before Caeden said, I’ve got him. What’s the first one?
I told him and he relayed the information to Bryce.
By the way, I’m pretty sure if I don’t get this done she’s going to make me serve detention again.
We better hurry then. I don’t like being without my snuggle buddy.
“Ms. Beaumont? Is something funny?” Mrs. Harding narrowed her eyes at me.
“That’s what I thought.” She went back to playing angry birds. Angry birds! Geez.
Snuggle buddy? I said to Caeden.
Yep, you’re my snuggle buddy. What’s the next one?
With Caeden and Bryce’s help I finished with two minutes to spare. I straightened the pile of papers, like she’d done, and handed them to her.
“Did you grade all of them?” she huffed and glanced at the clock.
“Yes,” I danced on the balls of my feet, ready to flee.
Her eyes narrowed and she flipped through the tests, scanning for red marks.
“I guess you’re free to go then.”
I turned on the charm. “I just hope I helped you Mrs. Harding. It must be so difficult having to grade all of those tests. I don’t see how you ever have time for yourself.”
“Well,” she straightened in her chair; plucking on her button down shirt that was stretched so tight I was afraid if a button flew off it might blind me. “It is certainly difficult but I do try to find the time to enjoy the occasional bingo game.”
“I sure hope so,” I patted the end of her desk. “Everyone needs a night off.” I grabbed my backpack off the floor. “I’ll see you tomorrow Mrs. Harding,” I smiled for affect and opened the door.
“Close the door behind you, Ms. Beaumont.”
I closed the door with a soft click and ran down the hall to where Caeden was waiting.
He was leaning against the wall and looked oh so delish in his jeans and pale blue polo shirt. “You’re alive!” he grinned.
“With you by my side I’ll always make it out alive,” I kissed his cheek and took his hand.
“Then I guess you better never leave me,” he squeezed me to him.
“That’s a promise I can easily make.”
Added: September 2012
Added: September 2012
I was trying to listen to what Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont were saying but it was so hard when I only had one thing on my mind and a small box burning a hole in my back pocket. Sweat beaded on my brow and I hoped no one would notice.
I swallowed and cleared my throat. “I…we,” I clarified, “need your advice on how to handle the Grimm’s.”
My hand moved up Sophie’s arm and traced the word engraved in her skin. Liar.
Just looking at it made me sick to my stomach. It was my fault she was scarred by Travis. I’d let him hurt my mate. It was my job to protect her and I had failed in the worst way possible. I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. I would protect her with my life. She was my everything.
Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont looked at each other before Mr. Beaumont shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you. They’ve always been a little strange-” Mrs. Beaumont smacked his arm. “Except for your mother of course,” he corrected, smiling at Sophie. “She’s perfectly sane.”
Mrs. Beaumont turned her gaze to Sophie. Her eyes were filled with tears and I braced myself for an all out cry-fest. Someone grab a bucket.
“I’m so sorry for what my brother did to you,” she began to choke up. Tears coursed down her cheeks. I felt bad for her. This had to be hard on her. “I’m sorry,” she ran from the room.
Sophie looked between me and her dad; no doubt weighing whether or not I’d be alive when she came back. Deciding I’d be safe she squeezed me knee, “I should go talk to her.”
I nodded and rubbed my hands together. Drats, this moment had come much sooner than I expected. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or scared to death. “That’s okay. I’d… uh… actually like to talk to your father in private.”
Sophie narrowed her eyes. That was never a good thing. “Why?”
“Nothing important,” I looked down at my shoes.
“Uh-huh sure,” she turned on her heel and headed after her mom. I knew she was going to chew me out later; she just had that look in her eye.
I looked over at Mr. Beaumont. Sweat coated my hands and I wiped them on my jeans. I thought I might throw up.
“Why don’t we head to my office?” he nodded down the hallway. “More privacy that way.”
I nodded my head in agreement before I thought it might be safer to do this out in the open. I really hoped he didn’t have a gun in there. It might not kill me but it’d be a pain in the butt to heal.
I followed Mr. Beaumont into his office with my head hung like a man about to be sent to the guillotine.
“Have a seat,” Mr. Beaumont motioned to a plush leather chair.
I sat down. My knee bounced up and down restlessly.
Mr. Beaumont ventured behind his desk and opened a cabinet. He bent down and came back up with a glass of scotch. “You want anything?” he asked.
“No,” I waved my hand. “I’m not old enough to drink.”
“Oh, right,” he nodded. He swirled the liquid around. “It doesn’t do much good anyway. Our metabolisms just burn it right up.” He took a large gulp and sat down in the chair beside me.
Thank God, I thought he might be going to sit behind the desk and if he did there’s no way I could ask him my question. I’d feel like I was making a business proposition or something.
I scooted around in the chair, the leather squeaking, and cleared my throat.
“What was it you wanted to talk about?”
“Um…” I gaped like a fish.
Dang gone it, I’m an Alpha! I can do this!
I straightened in the chair and looked into his eyes. “Mr. Beaumont-” I started.
He downed his drink and waved his glass. “Please call me Garrett. Mr. Beaumont makes me feel old.” He smiled, easing a tiny bit of my discomfort.
I took a deep breath.
Do it already!
“I wanted to ask you for permission to marry your daughter,” I let out a gust of air I hadn’t realized I was holding in.
Garrett sighed. “I knew this day would come I just didn’t think it would be so soon-”
I clenched my jaw. Was he mad?
“But how can I say no? You’re my daughter’s mate and I know you love her more than anyone else ever could. You’re a good man Caeden and I know you’ll take good care of my baby girl.” His eyes filled with tears. It was very moving seeing someone like Garrett near tears. It made me realize that it’s okay to be emotional.
“I’ll never let anything hurt her ever again.”
Garrett chuckled and rubbed his face. “You best not say that. Sophie may seem like the kind of person to stay in the background but let me tell you, she’s got fire, that one. Don’t think for a second that you’ll be able to control her and keep her away from danger.”
“I would never try to control her,” I shook my head. “But I’ll try my hardest to keep her away from anything dangerous.”
“Good luck with that,” Garrett chuckled and stared at his empty glass. “Sophie’s not going to let you go out and have all the fun. She’s not going to be one to wait behind while you go out and do the dangerous stuff. She’ll want to be in the thick of things. Right now, it may not seem like that, but she’s just learned about this life. She’s only just begun to shift. It won’t be long until she’s front and center. Trust me, my daughter’s a Beaumont, she’ll be a force to be reckoned with,” his lips quirked. “I wish you luck.”
We sat in silence for a few moments before Garrett broke the silence.
“Do you have a ring?”
“Yeah,” I pulled it out of my back pocket. I popped the case open and showed him the ring. “It was my grandma’s.”
Garrett smiled. “It’s beautiful Caeden. Sophie’s not a jewelry person but she’ll love this.”
“I hope so,” I took the ring back and stuck it in my pocket.
“When are you going to propose?” he went behind his desk to pour some more scotch.
“I don’t know. Whenever the moment feels right I guess. Until then I’ll just take it everywhere with me,” I patted my pocket.
Garrett lifted his glass in salute. “Cheers to you.”