Danica “Danny” Lewis now has the exciting life she wished for, but with an entire pack of wolves on her trail and no one to turn to be her possessive mate. As her first full moon approaches and her time as a human ticks away, she finds herself torn between the grand life she always dreamed to live and the old life to which she longs to return.
"What do you think of it?" the stranger asked me, referring to the house.
"It's really nice. How long have you owned it?" I wondered. That would give me a good idea of how old was this werewolf. He coughed and muttered something. I frowned and leaned closer to him. "I didn't catch that," I told him.
He spoke in a louder and clearer voice. "It is my mother's home," he revealed.
I snorted. "Wait, you still live with your mom?" I asked him.
He sheepishly grinned at me. "It's an inexpensive-"
"-and embarrassing," I added.
"-living arrangement. Besides, my mother hasn't been in good health since my father died ten years ago." His face softened and I saw hints of good memories pass through his eyes. "They were very much in love, and his death came as quite a blow to her."
"Silver bullet?" I guessed.
He shook his head. "No, cancer."
I cringed. "I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to joke about-"
He held up his hand and gave me a small smile.
"It's all right, you didn't know and if I was in your position I would have guessed the same."
"So werewolves can die of disease?" I asked him.
He gave a nod. "Unfortunately, yes, along with injuries from car crashes, falling off buildings, and very old age."
"So no immortality?"
"Would you really want that?"
"No, but I just wanted to know how far I should make future life plans."
"More than triple the lifespan of a human, but disease generally takes us long before that time," he told me.
"Oh," I replied. That was a hell of a calendar to fill.
"Let us go inside," the stranger invited. He turned to Roger in the waiting taxi. "We won't need you anymore."
Roger smiled, bowed his head and drove off. There went an easy escape, if I needed one. My mind was torn between jumping into the pool with both feet or stepping back and running away from this new life. The stranger guided me inside and into an entrance hall that was large enough to have an echo and small enough the echo would bounce back and hit you. Old wooden furniture sat against the wall in the form of chairs and tables, and thick carpets covered the wooden floors. In front of us and slightly to the left was a wide, carpeted staircase with a landing that wound its way upstairs. The decor was expensive without looking crowded or fake. I noticed the air inside the house was much warmer than outside.
"Mother?" the man called. In a moment there was the sound of gentle footsteps on the staircase, and soon the older woman I had seen last night at the stranger's side appeared. She wore a simple and clean dress that reached to the floor, and around her neck was a beautiful diamond necklace. We met her at the bottom of the stairs, and the stranger gently pushed me forward. "Mother, I have brought her," he revealed. He gestured from me to her. "Miss Danica Lyman, this is my mother, Matilda Fuller."
The woman looked me over with the imperiousness of an empress, but there was a glitter in her eyes that bespoke mischievous and humor. "Good morning, Miss Lyman. It is a pleasure to have you staying with us," she greeted me. Her eyes flickered to her son and her lips pursed together. "I trust my son was not rude in bringing you here."
"He was a little pushy," I replied.
"It was necessary," he defended himself.
His mother's narrow eyes begged to differ. "A gentleman, particularly one who is courting a woman, is never pushy," she scolded him.
The stranger coughed and turned away. I think I was going to like this woman. He gestured to the stairs. "Would you like me to show you to your room?" he offered.
"Sure," I replied.
"It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Lyman," his mother told me.
"Um, nice meeting you, too," I answered back.
He led me up the stairs to a hallway that stretched across the entire length of the house. Doors lined the walls on either side, and he turned left toward the east wing. As we walked my mind pondered something that caught my curiosity. "How do you all know my name? Hell, how did you even find me that fast?" I asked him.
"It was no coincidence that you found Roger's taxi last night. He is in my employ and was driving around the block waiting for us when you jumped into his cab," he explained. "Seeing you were injured and most likely a werewolf, he took you home and returned to pick me up. He told me what had happened and where you lived, and it was only a matter of time before I found your name. I had Roger follow you in case you did something rash-"
"Like try to go to the police for help?" I guessed.
He smiled and gave a nod. "Yes, I'm afraid that was a rash decision on your part. The Foundation has operatives in a great many places, not least of which the police. Fortunately Roger followed you and you jumped into his cab before the lieutenant caught you."
"What would he have done to me? He wasn't big on the specifics," I wondered.
The stranger stared straight ahead and pursed his lips. "I'm not sure. The motives of the Foundation leaders aren't always clear, particularly when Morgan is involved."
"Morgan?" I repeated.
"Yes, he was the one who tried to attack you last night. The long-haired gentleman on the stage," he explained.
"Ah, the one who wanted to take make my acquaintance by ending the relationship with a bite," I mused.
The man smiled. "Precisely." We came to the end of the hall and he stopped us at an elegant wooden door on the left. He opened the portal and stepped aside. "This will be your room," he told me.
I stepped inside and would have whistled if I knew how. The room was large, about half the size of my small apartment. The walls were covered in a light wood paneling and the wood floors were covered in large oriental rugs. A small round table stood in the center with two chairs around it. Against the far wall was a large stone fireplace complete with a hearth large enough to roast a wild boar. Beside that and near the right wall was a four-poster bed with a frilly canopy. To my left against the wall lay a long, taller dresser. Everything about the place screamed ‘don't touch!'
"What do you think of it?" he wondered as I stepped inside.
"This is really mine?" I asked him.
He chuckled. "Yes, all of it."
I turned to him and raised an eyebrow. "So this whole mating thing means I don't have to sleep in your room?" I guessed.
"Not until you're ready," he promised me.
I strolled over to the bed and ran my hands along the quilt cover. "And if I'm never ready?" I wondered.
He followed me and moved to stand beside me. "I hope things will go better for us than that," he replied.
"So you hope what? That we get married and have pups?" I returned. He turned away with half lidded eyes, and I sighed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound so bitchy. It's been a long day." I sat down on the bed and admired the room, but there was something wrong. This was a beautiful home, but it wasn't my home. My home was in that dingy apartment with my noisy neighbors living a life that probably would have ended with me as a crazy cat lady. I leaned my head down and clutched it between my shaking hands. My voice was cracked and trembling. "Please tell me this is a nightmare," I begged him. "Just tell me I can go home and wake up, and everything will be just like it was before."
His soft voice broke through my terrified thoughts. "I'm sorry, but I can't lie to you." I felt him move to seat himself beside me, and his strong arms wrapped around my shoulders. I cringed and shivered. "Your life's changed, but that doesn't mean it's for the worse."
I choked out a derisive laugh. "A lot of changes are bad," I countered.
"I'll admit this one isn't going to be easy, but I'm not going to toss you out into the streets. I'm going to stay here and help you through it," he promised. My arms fell limp to my sides and I raised my head to look into his face. His bright eyes were soft and full of kindness, and he gave me a little smile. "That is, if you'll let me help you."
I shrugged. "Do I have a choice?"
"There's always a choice," he insisted.
I sighed and shook my head. "Unless it's to become the bearded lady or the wolf girl at a circus, I'm not seeing it."
A mischievous smile slipped onto his lips. "I'd rather you didn't take those choices."
"Yeah, me, too. Clowns scare me."
I got a laugh out of him with that one. "I think I chose my mate very well," he congratulated himself.