(And then there were Weres…)
Two Weres followed Cara home. Thankfully, they were part of DesChamps’ pack.
The MoonTracker packmaster had arrived with six of his Weres while Cara was still familiarizing herself a bit with the mansion’s kitchen, and they had hit it off immediately. DesChamps was a serious older man, still in his prime but tempered by experience, and an obviously well-respected leader. He apparently didn’t have a first name as far as Cara could figure.
Elise and Mark, both appearing to be in their mid-20’s, were her guards. They were both well-armed and wore identical expressions of intelligent, alert concentration. During daylight hours, they were supposed to escort her…everywhere. Home. Estate. Grocery stores. Mall. Library. Post Office. Cara really hoped they had a high tolerance for boredom and badly off-key singing when she realized “escort” apparently meant “chauffeur”.
The other four Weres, Chad, Rio, Anderson, and some other guy whose name she immediately forgot, were almost carbon copies of each other. Except for Elise, all the Weres were tall, broad, muscular, and judging by the energy she picked up from them, lethal. Although Elise was built similar to her own petite frame, DesChamps assured them that she was lethal in her own right, as well as a skilled tracker.
Because vampires and the two-natured weren’t automatic allies in the supe world, it was a somewhat uncomfortable experience when the rest of the vampires first reappeared. They wanted to meet with the Weres and discuss procedures, but they apparently didn’t have to enjoy it.
The easy, relaxed friendliness Godric and Isabel had shown her in the past was replaced with the remote, slightly aloof “vampire facade” they’d both described to her. The change in their personality was so thorough that she’d have been absolutely mystified if they hadn’t previously discussed this tendency with her. She definitely understood why such an extreme reserve could sometimes come in handy. Survival tactics were definitely a good thing.
Godric was calmly impassive around the Weres and other vampires, his power strongly evident with just a raised brow or commanding look. Even his stance was more alert: spine straight, broad shoulders back, blue eyes straight ahead, arms crossed or hands on his hips, core balanced, feet spread. Through his reserve she could sense his sharp focus on detail and a faint disdain for Weres in general. He also refused to let more than three feet come between himself and Cara.
A peacemaker by nature, Cara did what she could to keep things running smoothly, but as usual she didn’t want to actually draw attention to herself. Since Godric seemed determined to stay so close to her, she slowly “led” him, and therefore the group, toward the seating in the huge den. It wasn’t long before most of the group was seated comfortably and chatting somewhat less cautiously. It helped that Gervaise remained on the periphery of the group. It also helped that Godric stationed himself right beside her as she sat in one of the large, well-padded chairs near the center of the group.
“I have to be honest – I really don’t want guards. But,” she hastened to add when she saw Godric start to speak, “I’d much rather have guards than to have to deal with killers any day of the week.” She shivered both at the memory of the event and at the cooler room temperature. A sweater would have been nice, she thought as she rubbed her hands up and down her arms.
A moment later a lovely soft, warm, throw settled around her shoulders. Godric barely appeared to have moved at all. Cara managed to hide her surprise as she whispered a very quiet “thank you”. She snuggled into the throw, and continued, “Y’all are going to be awfully bored, so bring a deck of cards or a wood-burning kit or something.” That earned her a few chuckles.
Elise spoke up. “What is your normal routine?”
“Well, tomorrow’s going to be an odd day. In the early afternoon I’m going shopping for groceries and odds and ends for this kitchen, then I’ll stay here until after I get everything cleaned up from supper. After that, my normal routine will be coming here around 11:00 in the morning and staying till whenever I get through with supper dishes.” Cara couldn’t stand the thought of leaving a mess in the kitchen. “I don’t usually get out and about all that much, just trips to the library, to pay bills, generic errands and stuff like that. But now that I’m working here I guess I’ll have to get used to going to the grocery store fairly often for replacement parts.”
“Replacement parts?” They all looked confused.
“Parts to replace the milk and the tea and the coffee and the meats and the vegetables and the butter and the sugar and the flour…” Cara trailed off with a charming laugh.
The Weres all joined in with her humor. DesChamps asked, “Do you enjoy cooking?”
“Oh, definitely. I can’t say I’m a wonderful cook, but I’m definitely a Southern cook. To me, that means butter and bacon grease are a regular occurrence, not just a “Sunday only” thing. In deference to the local vampire population,” Cara nodded to the cooler beings in the room, “I won’t be cooking many of my Italian dishes because of the garlic component, but if y’all don’t mind, there are a few dishes I can make that taste pretty good even without the garlic.” All the Weres nodded agreement.
“Otherwise it’s going to be plain old ordinary things like fried chicken, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, potato salad, steaks, chicken strips, ham, pork chops, asparagus, beef stew, field peas, greens, corn, turkey, and a salad every now and then just to shock your systems. If y’all want, we can definitely do “breakfast for supper” once in a while, too: bacon, eggs, sausage, toast or biscuits and gravy…?” Most of the Weres immediately fell in love with her as they nodded enthusiastically. Godric was not amused.
“Just don’t expect home-made biscuits cause mine are the weirdest looking biscuits on the planet.” All the Weres, and even some of the vampires, laughed. A few of the Weres stated firmly that they didn’t mind in the least.
“If anyone has any food allergies or a pepper dysfunction, or foods they refuse to chew, now’s a great time to tell me, by the way, before I buy it, fix it, then dare you to leave it on your plate.” No one said anything. “But, don’t worry, I wouldn’t inflict Brussels’ sprouts or rye crackers on anyone.” Several Weres looked vastly relieved.
“And if y’all are good, there’ll be some cakes, pies, and cobblers fairly often, too,” she teased. The rest of the Weres fell in love with her.
“How good do we have to be?” Godric concluded that the Were Anderson needed very close supervision.
“Very.” Cara gave Anderson a level stare. “Mind your manners, stomp your boots off as you enter the house, and be nice.”
“Oh, I can be very nice,” Anderson retorted, then settled back down at DesChamps’ pointed glare.
“Whatever.” Cara rolled her eyes. “If this gets to be a bit much for me to deal with alone, Godric mentioned that y’all might have someone who could help me out?” Cara looked at DesChamps, but it was Chad who spoke up.
“My girlfriend, Sarah, said that she’d be glad to help out. She’s not working right now and she’s a damn good cook.” The Were Chad suddenly seemed less…fetid…in Godric’s estimation.
Godric surveyed the room, paying brief but particular attention to Anderson and Mark. Somehow, he knew exactly what had Cara meant. “I would like to interview her as soon as possible.” It troubled him that he could not be there with her during the daylight hours. He was having serious reservations about Anderson.
DesChamps nodded, “I’ll arrange for her to be here tomorrow right after dark.” He then turned to Cara, “This is kind of a delicate subject, ma’am, but I have to be honest with you. We’re wondering how you managed to take out two full-grown Weres in the middle of…well, you know. You’re a little bitty thing. You ain’t no match for a baby Were, much less two adults. So, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you do it?”
Godric bristled instantly. Cara felt the low vibration of his growl that the sharper-eared Weres heard quite clearly. Peacemaker to the rescue, she thought.
She gently touched his hand to redirect his attention and looked up at him. “Godric, do you mind if I tell them what happened?”
Normally, Cara would never have even considered asking someone’s “permission” for anything at all. She was certainly the type to say what she wanted, when she wanted, consequences be damned. Personal freedom was actually one of her biggest triggers. Asking advice? Fine. Asking permission? Nails on chalkboard were preferable.
But, oddly, she didn’t mind running this by Godric first. This was his territory, and these were his people, so it only made sense to check with him first. If there were other implications to seeking his approval, she decided she’d think about it later. Maybe. Plus, his fangs were starting to show and she’d hate to lose her job before she even started.
He looked down at her for a long moment as he pondered the consequences and ramifications of her explaining to these Weres and the other vampires how she had singlehandedly slain two vicious killers. There was something tickling the back of his mind about the whole incident. That must have been why he reacted so badly an hour ago. Maybe hearing her retell the story would help solve the puzzle plaguing him. He loathed an unsolved mystery.
Finally he nodded and lightly placed his hand on her shoulder. Her slight flinch stung badly, but he hid his reaction well. He glared at everyone else in the den. “Her words do not leave this room,” he firmly commanded. “Is this understood?” Everyone nodded at his demand. He raised his brow. Everyone got the point and voiced their compliance out loud.
He nodded back to Cara and patted her shoulder before removing his hand. She exhaled a deep breath, took a sip of her flat, warm soda, shrugged out of the warm throw, then stood up. Speaking to an audience, which she deplored, seemed easier when pacing. Some ten minutes later, seven Weres and five vampires were gazing at her with varying degrees awe and amazement.
Godric noted the unconscious grace of her pacing, and the odd phrases she used to describe her actions. He noted the lilting tones of her accent and how pleasing her voice was to his ears. He noted the flush of anger on her sweetly rounded cheeks and the way her eyes sparkled with righteous fury.
He also noted the one vampire showing definite disinterest in both the woman and her story.
DesChamps cleared his throat. “Is there any way I could see that pen, please?”
“Ah…it now lives in the alley beside the store cause it’s probably still covered in eye goop.” Godric hid his smile as Cara made her adorable “gross” face. “The mace was the plain, regular kind, if that helps. It wasn’t quite as effective as I’d thought it’d be, but still, it worked.” She abruptly sat back down and took another swig of her nasty flat soda. All present saw the yawn she tried to hide.
“Mark and Elise, you will escort Cara to her home tonight so you will know where to begin your duties come first light. At no time will she be left unattended, and you will defend her at all costs.” Godric blithely ignored Cara’s glare. “The rest of you will begin your duties here at first light.” He turned to DesChamps. “I will meet with this Sarah at first dark tomorrow. Afterward I will expect an update concerning the location of the pack. That is all.”
Everyone stood and began the process of leaving. Elise and Mark made their way over to Cara to exchange phone numbers and continue with the getting-to-know-you’s. Godric, Isabel, Ryan, Scott, and the quiet Alaric held a quick conference with DesChamps. Gervaise disappeared.
About ten minutes later, Godric called an end to the conversations. He had noticed Cara’s increasing fatigue, and after the drama from earlier that evening, he was not the least bit surprised. He was still rather unsettled about the whole disaster himself; he could only imagine how she felt.
Elise and Mark waited near the front door and chatted amongst themselves as Godric quietly approached Cara. She finished folding the throw and placed it on the back of the sofa before acknowledging his presence. She wasn’t nearly as angry with him as she had been, but, as much as she hated to admit it, her trust in him was badly shaken.
She had an odd sense that he’d never actually hurt her, not physically at least, but, still. That verbal attack had to have come from somewhere. She folded her arms across her chest and waited as she refused to remember just how safe and comforted she’d felt in his arms.
Godric longed to relive the sweet comfort of having her hand in his again, but thought better of the idea when he noticed her defensive posture. He had a long way to go to regain her trust, and the need to do so was strangely urgent.
“Thank you for visiting my home this evening. I truly regret…”
Cara quietly interrupted him. “Don’t. Just…don’t.” She shook her head and took a step back. The wary sadness on her face pained him badly. “I’ll still work here, though, so don’t worry about that. I’ll see you tomorrow evening.” She tried to ignore the miserable, wounded look in his cobalt eyes and the slight tightening of his lips, and failed.
She hesitantly, softly, patted him a few times on the left side of his chest. Seeing him that miserable just felt…wrong. She tried not to notice just how firm and muscular his pecs were and instead grabbed her purse, nodded to her guards, and left.
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