Authors: Elizabeth Kelly
Bree gave her a horrified look. “That’s terrible. Why would she do that?”
“She needed money for drugs.” Sophia replied.
“That’s awful.” Bree whispered.
“Aye, it is.” Dani was quiet for a moment. “But mama always says that if her mother had not sold her to the slave house she would never have met dad. She says the gods knew what they were doing when they brought Uncle Tristan to the slave house.”
The group was quiet for a while, the only sounds were the creaking of the wagon and the soft snorts of the horses, before Dani smiled at Bree again. “So, what type of flowers do you want, Bree?”
Bree shrugged. “I don’t know. It seems silly to buy flowers when you could just pick them in the fields for free.”
“It’s too cold.” Dani reminded her.
“Aye, but do we really need flowers? It’s a waste of money.” Bree frowned.
“You don’t need to worry about money anymore, Bree.” Dani said airily. “James is rich remember?”
Bree squirmed uncomfortably on the wagon seat. She knew that James was wealthy of course, but she hadn’t really thought about what it would mean when she married him.
James, sensing her discomfort, squeezed her hand reassuringly. “If you do not want to spend money on flowers, then we won’t. You can put the money towards your dress instead.”
“I don’t want an expensive dress.” Bree said softly. “I – I don’t want to spend a lot of money on the wedding.”
James smiled at her. “You can have whatever kind of wedding you want, little one.”
Bree kissed his cheek and Dani sighed loudly from the back of the wagon. “Well, I want lots of flowers and a big party and a gorgeous dress for my wedding.”
“You don’t even have a boyfriend.” Leta pointed out.
“Not yet.” Dani smiled at Kaden who returned her smile weakly. He glanced quickly at Sophia. She was staring impassively at the road ahead, but he thought he saw a muscle twitch in her jaw.
* * *
“Well, I have good news and bad news.” Nicky stepped out of the large white building and walked down the steps towards the others.
“The good news – they have rooms available for the night. The bad news – there’s only three. We’ll have to share.”
“I want to stay with Sophia.” Leta said immediately. She took her sister’s hand and Sophia squeezed it firmly before smiling at her.
“That’s fine.” Dani said cheerfully. “James and Bree can take one room, Sophia, Nicky and Leta can share another, and Kaden and I will share the third.”
“No.” Nicky, James and Sophia all spoke at once.
Dani gave them a look of frustration. “You’re not the boss of me.”
“Aye but before we left, your father asked me to watch out for you.” Nicky said. “And if you think I’m going to let you share a room alone with the human, you’re crazy.”
“Shut up, Nicky.” Dani said furiously. “You’re embarrassing me.”
“Nicky’s right.” Sophia said. “Your father would not want you to share a room with Kaden, and you know that.”
“My father isn’t here.” Dani gave her a look that clearly told her she wanted Sophia to stay out of the conversation.
Kaden cleared his throat. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, Dani.”
She gave him a look dripping with hurt, and crossed her arms over her chest. “Fine, whatever.”
“Dani, you can stay with Sophia and Leta in their room, and Nicky and Kaden can share the other.” James said helpfully.
“No.” Kaden snapped.
“Like hell I will.” Nicholas growled.
Dani raised her eyebrows. “I’m looking like the better option now. Aren’t I, Kaden?”
He flushed and Bree rolled her eyes. “Oh for the gods sake! Nicky and Dani will share the second room, and Kaden, Sophia and Leta can share the third.”
She took James’ hand in her small one and before anyone could argue, said, “Now, are we going shopping or not?”
She glanced at the darkening sky above her. “I’d like to get some shopping done before it’s time for dinner.”
* * *
“Kaden!” He turned at the sound of Dani’s voice and waited patiently for her, as well as Sophia and Leta, to catch up to him.
“Did you find some clothes before the store closed?” Dani asked.
“Aye. I was just looking for Bree.” Kaden replied.
“James took her into that store over there.” Dani pointed across the road.
She slipped her hand into the crook of his arm. “They won’t be too much longer. They told us to go ahead to the restaurant and they would meet us there.”
She tugged on his arm and he followed her as Sophia and Leta trailed behind them. “Have you ever been in a restaurant before, Kaden?” Dani asked curiously.
“No.” He admitted.
“Then this will be a treat for you.” Dani smiled at him as she stopped in front of a small building with weathered and greying boards.
“Do you think they’ll have the peach pie?” Leta asked Sophia eagerly as they stepped into the building.
Sophia shook her head. “Probably not. The season for peaches has passed. They might have apple though.”
“I don’t like apple pie.” Leta sighed.
“Where’s Nicholas?” Kaden asked as Dani led them to a long wooden table. When they had split up after the flower shop, Nicholas had been with Dani, Sophia and Leta.
Dani sat on the wooden bench that ran along the wall behind the table and urged Kaden to sit beside her.
“He had a few things to pick up for Uncle Tristan.” She shrugged. “He said he would join us for dinner.”
“I’m starving.” Leta moaned.
“It won’t be much longer now.” Sophia was sitting across from him and Kaden stared briefly at her. She looked tired, but she smiled at Leta and stroked her hair affectionately as a man approached their table.
“Hello.” Dani smiled cheerfully at the man as he handed each of them a single piece of paper.
“We’ll need three more menus please.” Sophia said.
The man nodded and left the menus stacked neatly on the table. After a few minutes he returned. He was balancing a round wooden tray, filled with glasses of water, on his muscular forearm. He set a glass down in front of each of them and smiled at Leta.
“Are you ready to order or will you be waiting for the rest of your group?”
“We’ll wait.” Sophia replied.
Leta moaned and grabbed at her stomach. “I’m so hungry, Sophia. Do we have to wait?”
“Yes.” Sophia said firmly. “Drink some water.”
Dani looked up from the piece of paper she was reading. “What are you going to have to eat, Kaden?”
Kaden looked down at the paper in front of him. It was filled with meaningless scrawl and he could feel sweat breaking out on his forehead. He had never learned to read or write, but he was too embarrassed to admit it in front of Sophia.
“Kaden?” Dani prompted.
Sophia stared curiously at Kaden. His face was red and he looked both embarrassed and angry as he scanned the menu in front of him. When Dani patted him gently on the arm, he jumped a little and gave her a weirdly nervous look.
“Um, I’m not sure yet.”
He glanced quickly at Sophia and she was puzzled by the look of shame in his eyes. What was going on with him? Why was he so –
Understanding washed over her and she quickly looked down at the menu.
“Leta, what do you feel like having?” She asked loudly. “They have chicken on the menu today with potatoes and turnips. The roasted duck might be good. Or do you feel like having bear? We haven’t had bear in forever, and it comes with biscuits and gravy.”
Leta grinned happily. “I’m going to have bear. I wish when we went hunting we’d go after a bear. It’s always boring old deer.”
Sophia looked up in time to see Kaden giving her a look of gratitude mixed with embarrassment.
“I’m going to have the chicken.” Dani said. She smiled at Kaden. “Have you decided yet?”
“Aye. I think I’ll have the bear as well. I’ve never had it before.”
“Never had it before?” Leta forgot about her dislike for him and leaned closer. “Not even once?”
He shook his head. “Not even once. But I have eaten rat.”
Leta’s eyes widened. “You haven’t!”
“I have.” He grinned at her. “If you want, I’ll catch one in the barn so you can try it.”
Leta shuddered. “Gross! No way! I’m never trying rat.”
He laughed and took a drink of water as Leta hesitated and then said, “What do they taste like?”
He leaned across the table until his large head was only inches from hers. “They taste like...” Leta stared mesmerized into his eyes as he paused dramatically.
“Chicken.” He tapped her gently on the nose, and she squealed in surprise and nearly fell off her chair. She stared wide-eyed at him, and then burst into loud peals of laughter.
There was an older couple sitting a few tables away, and they frowned in disapproval at Leta’s loud laughter. Sophia squeezed Leta’s hand lightly. “Hush, Leta.”
She giggled and nodded before looking at Kaden. “Why did you eat rat?”
He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “Because the bear I was chasing didn’t feel like being dinner that night.”
She laughed again and Kaden grinned before catching a glimpse of Sophia’s face. She wasn’t smiling. In fact, she was giving him a clear look of pity that both unsettled him and made him a little ashamed. He didn’t want her pity. The Lycan had no idea what real hardship was, and he was suddenly furious with her. So what if he had eaten rat to survive. He had done worse things to keep both him and Bree alive. Their different backgrounds were yet another reason for him to ignore his attraction to her.
He knew he was overreacting, knew it was his own sense of shame at the things that he had done to survive that was making him so angry, but it didn’t stop him from glaring at her.
“What?” He muttered.
“Nothing.” She said quickly.
“Do you have something you want to say?” He clenched his hands into fists under the table as she gave him a confused look.
“No. Kaden, what – “
She was interrupted by the arrival of James, Bree and Nicholas. Nicholas sat down beside her and ruffled her hair affectionately. She smacked his hand away and rolled her eyes at him as Bree, nearly glowing with happiness, slid onto the bench beside her brother. Dani leaned over Kaden, letting her small hand rest on his thigh under the table.
“Why so happy?” She asked Bree.
Bree smiled at James and then held her left hand out. Kaden winced when Dani squealed shrilly into his ear before grabbing Bree’s hand.
Sophia leaned forward and admired the ring on Bree’s finger. It was a simple gold band with a large blue stone embedded into it. The stone shone in the dim light of the restaurant and Sophia traced it gently with the tip of her finger.
“It’s lovely, Bree.”
“Thanks, Sophia. James actually picked it out.” She flushed a little. “I had my eye on a smaller one, but James liked this one best.”
“It matches your eyes.” James kissed her gently on the forehead as Nicky made a gagging noise.
“You’re like a lovesick puppy, James.” He teased. “Next you’ll be spouting poetry and writing love songs for Bree.”
Bree snickered loudly and Sophia laughed as James reached across the table and punched Nicholas in the arm. Even Kaden was smiling a little and Sophia breathed a sigh of relief. He had seemed angry with her before James and the others had arrived, and she had no idea why.
He stiffened and jealousy shot through her veins when he gave Dani a strained smile. Her cousin’s hand was under the table, and Sophia would have bet her life that she was touching his leg.
Are you sure it’s just his leg? Based on the look on his face, Dani seems to be taking more than a feel of his leg.
Another sharp pang of jealousy went through her. It was ridiculous, but she couldn’t help the feeling of triumph that went through her when Kaden shifted closer to his sister and subtly dropped his hand under the table. A moment later, both of Dani’s hands were resting on the table, and she was staring at her menu with a look of disappointment.
“Can we order now?” Leta asked. “I’m starving.”
Nicholas reached around Sophia and tugged on Leta’s hair. “Let me guess – you’re having the bear.”
Nicholas stood on the sidewalk and breathed deeply of the cold air. “Come on baby brother, just one drink. The night is young and I’m handsome. There’s bound to be a human female who is curious about the size of a Lycan’s –
“Nicky!” Sophia said sharply.
She stared down at Leta who was looking at Nicky curiously. “The size of a Lycan’s what, Nicky?”
“Boots, Leta.” Sophia replied.
Leta shook her head. “Who cares about the size of a Lycan’s boots? Human females are stupid.”
She suddenly gave Bree and Dani a horrified look. “Except for you guys.”
Bree laughed and Dani snorted softly as Sophia glared at Nicky.
“Sorry!” He grinned and winked at her. “I forgot Leta was with us.”
He turned back to James. “Well, brother?”
James gave Bree a quick look. She smiled at him and squeezed his waist, and he dropped a kiss on the top of her head.
“Alright Nicky – one drink.” He glanced at Kaden. “Would you like to join us?”
Kaden hesitated. Given the choice between going back to the hotel room he was sharing with Sophia, or going drinking with two Lycan brothers who didn’t particularly like him, he would choose the safer option.
“Aye, I’ll go.” He groaned inwardly when Dani latched on to his arm.
“I’ll go as well!”
Kaden gave his sister a sideways look of desperation and Bree stepped forward. “Really, Dani? I was hoping you would come back to the hotel with me. There’s still so much planning to do for the wedding, and I really need both you and Sophia with me to go over the details.”
Dani hesitated, obviously torn between her desire to go with Kaden and her desire to help with the wedding.
“Please?” Bree gave her a pleading look and Dani relented.
“Of course.” She linked arms with Bree. “It’ll be fun. Are you sure you really want blue and cream? Because I was thinking that pink would go so nicely with our blonde hair and -”