Authors: Toni Griffin
Tags: #gay paranormal erotic romance
The Holland Brothers, Book 3
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Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Editor: Jason Huffman
Protective Mate © 2011 Toni Griffin
ISBN # 9781920501327
This book uses Australian English.
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To my new nephew, James—May your life be filled with love and joy
for many years to come.
And to my brothers and the women that love them. Thank you for your support
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"Daddy?" Zack looked in the rear-view mirror at the most important person in his life. His daughter sat in her booster seat surrounded by everything they owned.
"Yes, Pumpkin?" Zack constantly flicked his eyes back and forth between his precious cargo and the road ahead.
"Are we there yet?" Zack sighed. The question had been constant for the last several hours. It had to be hard for Hayley. Within the space of a six month period, she lost the mother she loved, the house she grew up in and was being taken from the day care she knew and friends she loved. To top everything off, her grandparents were trying to take her away from her father, so he'd finally left with Hayley to start over in a new town with new people and hopefully new friends.
"Not yet Hayley, but soon okay? We'll find the motel and unpack the car, and then we'll find a nice park where you can play for a little while. How does that sound?" The squeals of delight from the backseat let Zack know Hayley was onboard with the park idea.
Glancing back again, Zack couldn't believe how much she looked like her mother. Her sparkling jade green eyes and the cutest little button nose you had ever seen, above a small mouth with rose pink lips, reminded him daily of the only woman he'd ever loved. But her best feature Zack thought, the only feature she got from her father, fell past her shoulders in loose, bright auburn ringlets. One of Sarah's favourite things before she passed was to brush Hayley's hair.
Zack felt momentarily overwhelmed with grief at the thought of his best friend. On their first day in high school, Zack and Sarah had both gone to sit in the same seat at lunch, neither of them paying any attention to their surroundings, and ended up best friends by the time the bell rang to signify lunch was over.
Their high school years seemed to fly past with the two sharing everything. Zack confided in Sarah when he realised the boys at their school held more appeal to him than the girls. Sarah had hugged him and kissed him on the cheek and said being gay didn't matter and she would always love him. She'd encouraged Zack to talk to his parents and let them know what was going on with him. His mum had surprised him and said she'd suspected for a while and his dad nodded and said as long as Zack was happy then that was all he cared about. Zack had hugged his parents, never more thankful for their support.
Sarah however, kept the knowledge from her parents until after they'd graduated from high school and moved into an apartment together. Her parents, being the religious, god fearing people they were, were adamant Sarah have nothing further to do with him. When she refused, they informed her God would punish her for association with
Who knows what Sarah's parents would have thought if they ever found out he was a werewolf as well as identifying as gay. They'd probably keel over in an apoplectic fit. Zack chuckled at that idea and thought back to when Sarah found out he was a werewolf. The first full moon after Zack turned sixteen he and Sarah were lying on the floor in the lounge at his place, doing their homework. Zack's entire body had heated, like his blood was boiling, then his arms started sprouting fur. He'd looked over at Sarah, saw her wide eyes staring back at him and said the only thing he could think of. "Please don't scream."
Her eyes had widened even further at his words then his bones started to reshape, his face elongated and before he knew it, he stood on all fours tangled in his jeans and shirt and staring at his best friend as she looked back at him in wide-eyed shock.
Zack's mother had come through from the kitchen clearly in the middle of asking them a question when she noticed Zack and stopped in her tracks, mouth open. She quickly looked at Sarah and regained her senses. "Sarah, honey, are you okay?"
"That is so fricken cool!" Sarah turned and quickly picked up her homework before waving it in front of Zack's face. "Come on Zack! Be a good boy and eat this for me. That way I don't have to do it and I'll have such a good excuse." She giggled as Zack took a playful bite at her hand before his mother scolded him. She sent him sent to his room until he could change back so she could talk to Sarah.
Sarah tried to get him to eat her homework several more times after that and when they moved in together, she came home one day with a collar and lead and hung them by the door. She'd laughed herself silly then ran to the toilet before she wet herself the first time Zack saw the items.
Pulling himself out of his memories, Zack once again looked into the mirror and noticed his daughter was now fast asleep, her favourite toy, a plush wolf, held close to her chest. Concentrating on the road ahead, Zack wondered what he was going to do without his best friend. Sarah had been a constant in his life for thirteen years. When Sarah received her diagnosis of cancer, the news hit the friends like a tonne of bricks. They went to sleep that night wrapped in each other's arms, both with red rimmed eyes and tear streaked faces.
Sarah woke him up the next day by asking for his sperm. After the initial shock wore off, Zack had agreed. The doctors gave her a maximum of two years to live and wanted to start treatments right way; they didn't expect to be able to prolong her life by years, only months. Sarah had wanted to be a mother more than anything else in the world. Any treatment she undertook would take that opportunity away from her.
Zack couldn't deny his best friend anything, and as he was gay he never expected to have a child, but he couldn't think of anyone he would rather have one with. Knowing a part of Sarah would live on in their daughter, helped Zack with the loss of his friend.
After long discussions and more tears, they spoke with Zack's parents. The couple were overjoyed to find out they would have a grandchild. With Zack being an only child and gay, they had resigned themselves to having no grandkids. His parents were so happy they offered to pay for Sarah's wish to come true. Zack and Sarah were extremely grateful for their help, as all Sarah's parents said, upon hearing the news of their daughter's illness, was she would be punished for her association with Zack.
They were lucky and Sarah got pregnant on the first attempt. Zack could see the strain the pregnancy put on Sarah, but she never complained. She worked as much as possible to help pay for her share of the expenses, no matter how much Zack tried to tell her to slow down and take it easy.
Sarah was about 6 months pregnant when Zack received the phone call one night to tell him his parents had been involved in a car accident. They'd been driving back from his dad's Christmas party when the driver of a semi trailer had fallen asleep at the wheel and crossed into oncoming traffic. The truck hit them head on and they both died instantly. There were some things even being a werewolf couldn't save you from. They never got to see their granddaughter being born.
His parents left him their house, which was debt free, so Sarah and Zack moved out of their apartment and into the home he'd grown up in. Zack would never have gotten through those pain-filled weeks and months if not for Sarah. She gave birth to their beautiful baby girl the following March and they named her Hayley after his mum.
Valerie and Howard Stewart, Sarah's parents, didn't want anything to do with Hayley or Sarah as long as he remained in the picture. Zack and Sarah lived happily for nearly eighteen months before Sarah's disease really took hold. Then life was a constant juggle between work, day care for Hayley and hospital visits for Sarah. Sarah passed away peacefully in her sleep less than a month before Hayley's second birthday.