Then Johnny jerked into motion again. “I know you’ve been through a crap ton of heavy emotional shit in the last few weeks, not to mention physical and mental duress.” He worked my jeans down as he spoke. This time I was too stunned to protest or resist. “I don’t expect you to say it back, I just . . . I wanted you to know.” He’d dropped into a squat and held the ankles of the jeans as I stepped out. Unsteady, I nearly lost my balance, but he rose and caught me before I could put my hand to the wall for support.

Having just demonstrated my inability to do this alone, he finished undressing me without my resistance. He even deftly twisted my hair up and clipped it before giving me his arm to steady me as I stepped into the hot, bubbly tub. I eased down into the wonderful water, letting its fragrant warmth surround me up to my neck. Glorious. I might never drink it again, but immersion was a different matter.

I lay back and relaxed while he excused himself. He hummed in my bedroom, a sweet melody, and I heard drawers opening, shutting as he gathered my pajamas.


•  •  •

A half hour later, I exited the tub. After wrapping up in my terry-cloth robe I staggered across the hall to lean in the doorway of my bedroom. Johnny had changed the sheets on my bed, turned the covers down, and fluffed my pillows. He helped me across the room—those ibuprofen had done little more than dull the pain.

I’d just sat down when I heard a knock downstairs on my front door. I heard people moving around, heard voices rise from the quiet tones they had been using.

Then a full-out commotion broke out.

Johnny went to investigate, shutting the door behind him.

I lay down on the bed. Now what? There were too many familiar voices talking all at once, and my head hurt too much to try to sort through them. I was so tired.

Johnny will take care of it.

Footsteps were soft on the stairs, then people passed my door. It seemed they went into Beverley’s room. Beverley? I wanted to rush to my foster daughter’s room, but doubted if I was physically capable of even crawling from my room. That’s why Johnny had gone.

They brought her back to me. The thought filled my weary heart with encouragement. I smiled to myself knowing I’d see her in the morning.

Long moments later, the footsteps returned to the upper hall and my door opened.


I sat up as he entered. Johnny followed right behind him and shut the door.

“Beverley’s here?”

Johnny nodded and came to sit on the edge of the bed. The vampire lingered just a few steps inside my room, however.

“She is here because I am here. When I leave, she must come with me.”

I nodded, grateful just for her being in my home. I smiled at Johnny. Something was worrying him. There were tense lines at the corners of his eyes. He has a son. There were so many questions in my mind, but now wasn’t the time. All I knew was that even though Beverley was not my flesh and blood, I cared for her. I was responsible for her. It put me at ease just knowing she was here.

He must be elated about being a father, yet fearful. A child of the Domn Lup would be in danger, just as Beverley had been because of me.

I vowed to myself that whatever the story was with his son, I would handle it.

Fate had put children into our lives. As I looked into his eyes, I knew that no matter what, we would keep fighting this fight to achieve our destiny. We both had so much to fight for.

But what about Menessos? He’s lost so much. For thousands of years, he’s lost so many loved ones, so much of himself . . .

I patted the other side of the bed. “Come and sit with us.”

Menessos obeyed. I reached for his hand, and he scooted nearer on the bed so we could touch. He’d saved Beverley’s life tonight. And Johnny had saved mine. I grasped Johnny’s hand also.

We three were alone.

The silence was, for once, a comfort and not full of tension.

Menessos and I had been through a great deal tonight that Johnny knew nothing about. And Johnny and I had endured another round of danger that Menessos had not yet been told of. As I spent a moment studying each of them, I was sure they had also suffered situations this night that I was oblivious to.

I understood their weariness. I understood the invisible weight pressing endlessly on their shoulders. I understood the pain in their eyes, pain that had nothing to do with physical aches. I understood because I bore it, too.

We were all here together. We didn’t need to speak.

I squeezed their hands.


Right after brunch late Thursday morning, Johnny showed up with a baby pterodactyl—he claimed it was just an enormous turkey, but I had my doubts.

Since my predawn soak in the tub yesterday had ended with me so sleepy that I couldn’t keep my eyes open, he had tucked me in and snuggled beside me—but he was gone when I awoke. He’d left me a note saying that he was having his son brought to Cleveland and he had to be there when the boy and his grandmother arrived. I understood that, and my heart was a bit relieved that the grandmother and not the mother was coming with the boy. But it meant that we spent a day and a night apart, and we hadn’t gotten to talk.

We had so much to talk about.

I could tell by the glint in his eyes that he wanted to talk to me now, but Nana got her granny panties in a twist over that giant bird we had to roast.

She began arguing with him about who was going to cook. I nearly left the room twice, but finally they settled their mock dispute—and then started debating whether or not it was possible to cook a partially frozen turkey. The Internet confirmed it was safe and doable, but would add 50 percent more time to the already interminable five hours the twenty-three pounder would take. Once they had gauged the seven and a half hours and decided they needed to get that thing in the oven pronto, I asked if they were going to stuff it.

Bad move on my part.

Their lighthearted fight turned into some kind of Iron Chef stuffing challenge. When they began disagreeing on whether it was “dressing” or “stuffing,” I left.

As I climbed the steps to the second floor, I was confident that no matter what, our Thanksgiving dinner was going to be a scrumptious feast. I showered, then returned to my unmade bed and lay down wrapped in my towel. My whole body remained sore and I was at my limit of ibuprofen tabs. Admittedly, when Mountain had come to patch the hole in the floor yesterday, I shouldn’t have insisted on helping. I thought it would help work my muscles out of being tight and achy.

That hadn’t been the case.

My body was taxed to its limit by my meditation incident, and by the added strain of all that Menessos had done. When my eyes shut, my thoughts swirled around Beverley. My heart fretted over that “L” word, a boy, and where his mother might be. And my soul worried that Hades wasn’t done with me yet.

•  •  •

When everything in the kitchen was under control, Johnny inspected the damage to the house. Mountain had gotten everything patched or repaired except the old rotary phone. Its place on the wall was empty, the cords duct-taped into the hole in the wall.

Demeter dug out a tablecloth and hand washed it in the sink, then threw it in the dryer. While she was waiting on it, Johnny heard her talking to Eris on the phone. It was clear that Eris was inviting herself and her son —Red’s half brother, Lance—to Thanksgiving dinner. Demeter couldn’t exactly say no, even when she heard Lance’s protests in the background.

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