What have I been up to? Everything and nothing. A vicious cycle of work and hobbies and staring at a screen while trying to will the words I need for this week to just write themselves.
Henri’s story is done. He’s going to be edited this evening and posted in time for his weekly update on Friday. Prince Aldric plays an imposing character across from Henri in this Beauty and the Beast retelling. Check out this link if you want to catch up before the new episode drops: A Secret in the Thorns
Ashby is started. He has grand plans for his returned proposal to Lucy. There’s 1500 words already in his story, but it’ll likely be a little longer than usual to find the rest of this particular episode. I have a full cast to balance and every one of these complicated characters wants to shine their brightest. Get caught up on Lore here if you want to be ready for the eventual release of the next episode: Lore by Angelica Reece
When not writing or working or staring at that pile of laundry in the corner, I’ve been embroidering. My next craft show is this coming Sunday at the Bloom festival in Elk Grove. There are so many bright fabrics and tangled threads and obstinate hoops to wrestle through in the remaining evenings between now and then. It’s exciting and nerve wracking every time I have one of these events! I’ll let you all know next week how well it goes!
The world is chaotic. Time seems accelerated. February is as good a time as any for self-care, so don’t forget to take deep breaths and notice the buds growing on the tree in the backyard. Linger in the kitchen, so your beautiful wife will come looking for you and steal a kiss by the stove. Take an extra two minutes to pet the dog. Eat something full of sugar even as the green light on the microwave warns that one o’clock is around the corner. There’s a pile of books on the shelf waiting to be read and a mess around the house, but it can wait a moment more to do the things that matter.
I don’t think I’ll ever grow bored of the way Erisa Nabil murmurs every sentence. She curls up like a cat next to me, her legs crossed as she settles into the booth, her long fingers wrapped around the neck of an expensive bottle of vodka she has definitely not been sharing with the regular guests. She’s celebrating.
“We still have to make it to midnight,” I tease, her good mood already pushing away the nervous edge that has clung to me all night.
I don’t move away when she presses closer to me, our shoulders touch as she lets her head rest on the back of the tall seat. Under the table, our thighs brush, neither of us dressed in anything that covers us. Just my bare skin against hers.
I barely manage to blow out a stuttering breath. This. It’s… electric.
I mentioned it to Ashby once in the first few months here in Las Vegas. He told me it was normal. Erisa has had plenty of lifetimes to create her perfectly brittle exterior. She knows how to lure her prey in by seeming demure and wanton. It’s a piece of ancient magic very alive in her amber eyes.
It happens to everyone.
Except, I don’t think she treats me like anyone else. There’s a purr to her words that vanishes when shouting commands to our staff. She chooses her words carefully when she speaks to me. Any other time, she’s lightning fast wit that could give whiplash to our drunk and handsy regulars.
This, I think, is something else.
I’m supposed to be going back to the hotel to give Ashby his midnight kiss for the new year, but I’ve come up with a thousand excuses over the last fifteen minutes to linger here. I can still make it if I leave in the next five minutes. I can just hail down a cab and hop on over to the street and meet him outside where I know he’s probably already pacing.
I wanted to see her before I stepped out, though. See her smile. See her shimmer in the glow of success. Erisa Nabil was supposed to be a queen in her past life. I like her very much as a business owner, though.
“Even if everyone left now instead of waiting the next ten minutes, we would be up in profits for the entire year. We’ve done as much tonight as I usually do in a month.” Her eyes are open as she looks down at me, a hidden message sitting there behind her pupils just out of my reach. “You made this happen, Lucy Lore.”
She tips her slender neck back and drinks straight from the bottle before shoving it in my direction. I shouldn’t. My head is already fuzzy and I have to make it back to the hotel. At least, I think I tell her that I shouldn’t. Before I know it, however, the hot liquid is burning the back of my throat while the lingering flavor of her dragon fruit lip gloss clings to my tongue.
The bottle ends up on the table. Her fingers are cradling my face. I think she asks me a question.
I don’t know what it is, just that my answer is yes. If she’s asking, the answer will always be yes.
Leaning forward, Erisa presses her mouth to mine. She’s all demand. Her fangs pull at my bottom lip, not enough to break the skin, but hard enough to remind me that she’s more than capable of tearing me apart piece by delicate piece.
I think I would like it.
I’m not thinking.
Shaking my head, I struggle out of her grasp. “I have to go.”
Her fingers form a gentle circle around my wrist. There’s a request written across her vulnerable expression. I just shake my head.
This is getting out of hand. I have other promises to uphold. I’ll see her next time we work.
No words pass my lips, but she lets me go. I hope she understands. I need her to understand. My heart is spoken for already and I won’t be the one to teach Ashby Carter about infidelity.
We have a good relationship. Me and Ris. We work well together. I love my job and our time together, but I can’t offer her much else. No matter how much I want to turn around and ask her to kiss me again.
A small voice in the back of my mind tries to reason that Ashby would understand. Syrens and vampires have always been bound together. Somehow my bloodline was always meant to find that of a Nabil, a creature old enough that it predates the science that created Ashby and his brothers.
The rest of my liquored brain is blaring an alarm to get out now and I listen to it, staggering out on my heels against the flux of hot bodies and confetti poppers people are setting off early for the occasion. Swiveling lights meant for the disco balls near the ceiling pierce my eyes as I make my way to the door. Out. I need to get out and everyone is in the way. My success is now my downfall as I grumble apologies to the three hundred excited participants of our little rebranding event and shove towards the exit.
Finally. I suck in a huge gulp of air as I pass the door.
And then realize that I didn’t grab my purse or my coat.
Rain splashes onto the sidewalk. I linger in the overhand of the building and stare at it. Water has never bothered me before. I used to live by the ocean and swim in its frozen waves.
I can handle a brisk walk in the rain.
I have to because there’s no way I’m heading back into that club and chancing another intimate moment with Erisa. I don’t have my phone, so I can’t call Ashby. I don’t have my wallet, so there’s no way to pay a cab. My feet work fine, though.
I can do this. I can do this. I’m pretty sure I can do this.
It’s only two blocks to the hotel.
I make it out from under the awning. The rain finds me immediately, reveling in the low cut dress that leaves my chest and most of my back open for its icy touch. Three steps into my journey and I already have my arms crossed in front of myself to ward off the cold as my jaw clenches in an attempt to stop my teeth from chattering.
This is a bad idea. I’m not going to go back, though.
Head down, I trudge along the sidewalk. A car zooms by on my right. I barely see the wave of water it splashes my way before it dunks me from head to toe.
Hot tears leak from my eyes as I pull the drenched scrunchie out of my leaking hair and brush it back from my face. It’s not even supposed to rain this much in the desert. This has to be karma. It’s what I deserve for getting carried away on the magic of Erisa Nabil.
I glance up in time to see Ashby jog across the street. He has his jacket off by the time he gets to me, throwing it over my shoulders before I can protest or tell him that I’m not worth his chivalrous behavior. He’s such a good guy and I…
I don’t know what I am.
My heart is too big. I have too many emotions. I think, given the chance in another lifetime, I could definitely love Erisa just as much as I do Ashby.
Which, if I believe the common media, makes me a whore. A cheater. A bad woman.
Ashby has me wrapped in his coat and whisked off to the hotel room in no time, his dark magic sweeping us off of the wet streets. The constant pelting of fat rain drops is replaced with numbing nothingness. It’s quiet in the room. Candles line the windowsill and rose petals cover the bedspread.
Ashby Carter is too good for me.
I’m sobbing before he has a chance to ask me what’s wrong. Too cold, too overwhelmed, I can’t feel my legs. Somehow I end up on the ground. Ashby follows, crouching next to me with a towel to dry the water from my face.
“Hey, it’s okay. Ris called. I’m not upset.”
He has to repeat himself four or five times before any of his words actually penetrate the grief building a fortress around my mind. “She told you we kissed?”
He offers a lopsided grin as I clap a hand over my traitorous lips. “She forgets her manners when she’s happy. It’s okay. You can’t guess how many times she’s kissed me or one of my brothers.”
A hiccup bubbles out from me as I try to swallow my heavy breaths and calm down. He knows. Ashby knows and he’s not mad.
Somewhere down the hall, there’s cheers from other guests. It must be midnight. Ashby glances to my lips.
“What’s your wish for the new year, Lady Lore?”
“To be enough for you,” I whisper immediately.
He shakes his head. “You are. You always will be. Promise to always come back to me?”
Forgetting my wet clothes and misery, I throw my arms around his neck as I crawl into his lap. “Of course I promise.”
He doesn’t complain about my cold body as he presses a kiss to my head. “I promise, too. Always, Lucy Lore. No matter what happens in the next year or the next ten or the next fifty if you’ll give me all that time, I will always be here and I will always love you.”
“I love you.”
My words are eclipsed by his lips. We kiss. He’s a decadent chocolate meant to be unwrapped slowly before thoroughly enjoyed. He’s the warmth of a fire when I just stumbled in from a hurricane. He’s warm and safe and mine.
He doesn’t fill me with electricity like Erisa. And that’s okay.
I think that everything will be okay. As long as we’re together and honest and true to ourselves.
The new year rings in. We’re together on the floor and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy New Year to all of my favorite readers! It has been a whirlwind six months for me, going from keeping every snippet of my writing saved in a drawer in my desk to putting a little bit of different characters onto this blog to publishing whole chapters on Lore. Every view and comment and congratulations in person has made me feel validated and loved and pushed forward on this reckless attempt to be a “real” writer.
I am nervous and excited to start this new year. Nervous that this was all a fluke and I’ll suddenly fail. Excited that maybe I won’t and that I have no real idea of what success is going to look like in the coming months. I have plans to start more published series on kindle vella as well as working out a schedule to post more frequently here. No matter where the next year takes me in my writing journey, it started here at the gentle suggestion from Bridgette to actually show people my writing. I will always be grateful for that push and for the feedback I got in these first months.
You, readers, are the reason I haven’t given up. Thank you for coming back week after week.
If you enjoyed this story, please leave a like and a comment in the section down below. If you want more of Lucy and Ashby and Erisa, be sure to check out Lore on kindle vella: Lore by Angelica Reece
As always, please take an extra minute to read Bridgette’s amazing story and follow her page to see where the new year takes her as well!
We’re eating Chinese food. Again. It seems to be Ashby’s absolute favorite. Take out boxes stick out of the top of the garbage can as I shove in the last few and then return to the fridge to put away the leftovers.
“Come eat. I can take care of that.”
The silly man pops back into the kitchen from the living room, our plates of food balanced in his hands as he gives me a meaningful look that suggests saying no isn’t really an option. Sticking my tongue at him, I cross the space between us and accept my plate. We haven’t picked out a kitchen table yet. I’ve convinced him that we really should have it before the holidays, but he’s skeptical of online shopping and we haven’t decided on a day to visit the furniture warehouse.
I settle onto my spot on the couch, my laptop already set up on a chair opposite our sitting space to give us something to watch. “What are you in the mood for tonight, Mr. Carter?”
Mouth already too full of orange chicken, he gives me a shrug and motions for me to click something. Rolling my eyes at his silly expression, I turn on the documentary I was in the middle of on my lunch break at work. A complex look into numerology and astrology and the way the two sciences might be able to help each other further find answers to the biggest questions of the world.
“I didn’t know you were so interested in the stars, Lucy.”
I give him a shrug as I spin chow mein noodles around my fork. “I like to watch all sorts of things. The last one was about the ocean.”
He nods along to my words. “I remember. You didn’t like the giant squids.”
“The purpose of the video was to talk about recycling and cleaning up the ocean. They didn’t need to traumatize me with clips of the scariest aliens in the universe.”
Ashby throws his head back and chuckles like I’m the most hilarious person ever. I love his laugh. I love the way that he lets the sound vibrate from his chest to his mouth like he’s savoring every part of it. It reminds me that he hasn’t always had a happy life.
Rather than get into our crappy origin stories, I focus on the computer screen as dictionary definitions for different words flash across the video. Ashby munches next to me, the sound competing with the calm voice of the documentary. He’s an impeccable eater when anybody else is here, but an absolute gremlin when we’re alone.
He trusts me enough to be himself.
That thought settles like a brick in my stomach. It knocks the wind from my chest. I almost choke on my last bite of food.
He trusts me.
I was a mess when we met. I’m still a giant mess. Ashby Carter flaunts our relationship. He shows me off and then stands back when it’s my turn to perform. I don’t know what to say other than he’s absolutely perfect. Even my mom liked him.
I just don’t know if I’ll ever be enough.
He’s had eighty years of life before running into me. There’s no way for me to bridge that kind of experience. I’m making shit up as I go. Whether at work where I challenge my boss for more hours and to give me creative freedom or out at any of the fancy restaurants Ashby wants to try after dressing me up in all sorts of colored fabrics, I always feel a bit out of my own depth.
Everyone else has their shit figured out and I’m over here watching videos steeped in conspiracy theories.
Real sexy, Lucy. That’s what gets a guy to stay.
“Do you think any of this has real substance to it?” He asks next to me, his hand halfway raised to his mouth with a piece of broccoli while he arches an eyebrow at me.
I knew he wasn’t going to like it. “We can watch something else.”
He drops his fork and grabs my wrist before I can click the laptop mouse and put myself out of this misery. “Why? I’m enjoying it.”
I shake my head. “You think it’s silly.”
Confusion clouds his dark eyes. “It’s not silly. I think it’s interesting. You’re interesting, Lucy, and I’ve never seen this topic discussed before. I just wanted to know if you think it’s real?”
It might be foolish of me to tell the truth, but I can’t lie to him, so I nod my head. “I hope so. I’d like to believe that there isn’t necessarily an omniscient spirit carving out our lives, but that the universe has a hand in crafting fate. How else would I have run into you and fallen in love?”
Pink colors his cheeks. “You don’t think my good looks and awkward tendencies had anything to do with falling in love?”
His hand is still on my wrist, those cool fingertips pressing against my pulse as I smile at him. “It might have done a little something. We’re basically opposite astrological signs, so I guess the universe didn’t technically set us up for success.”
Questions flit over his features. It’s not a night for questions. My scientist can’t focus on anything else until he thinks he has an entire problem solved. I tug him close and silence him with a kiss.
Ashby melts against me, his immediate reaction to deepen our intimate touch as he carefully balances his plate in his other hand. This. I could do this every day and I believe that we were destined to stay together.
Tears threaten to spill. I need a moment to myself. Just to gather my thoughts and compose myself. My emotions are sitting right under the surface of my skin. They’re pushing and pushing and going to spill over if I can’t go take a deep breath and calm down.
“Where are you going?”
I barely manage to lean back and disentangle myself from the man. Off the couch. I have to move and get space and… and I don’t know what else, but I can’t draw a full breath and there’s tears already blurring my vision.
Crap. I don’t want him to see me like this.
I don’t have a way to answer. Shaking my head at Ashby’s next words, I leave at a slight jog, taking my entire plate with me to the bathroom as I close and lock the door behind me. I let the plate sit on the edge of the sink as I settle onto the ledge of the bathtub. There’s no stopping the tears.
I bury my face in my hands, but it’ll never be enough to silence the sobs coming out of me. Ashby can hear. He can hear everything. Usually, it’s cute, but right now I don’t need him privy to my mental breakdown.
As always, he’s there anyway, his voice low on the other side of the door. “Lucy? Did I say something wrong?”
He could never say anything wrong. That’s the problem.
I’m the problem and I have no idea how to express that without him coming to the rescue like a vampire in shining armor.
“I can’t help if you don’t talk to me, Lucy.”
My chest is so tight. I stagger to my feet and stare at my red face in the mirror. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to feel better. How’s a girl like me supposed to wake up every day next to someone like him and feel like the world isn’t going to tear us apart?
He’s too good to be true.
There’s some crinkling on the other side of the door. Ashby must have brought his food, too. I listen to him rustle in the hallway as I grab a handful of toilet paper and attempt to fix the mess that is my face.
“You believe in constellations bringing people together, right?”
It’s not exactly how I would usually phrase the concept of astrology, but I don’t bother correcting him as we continue to speak through the door. “Yeah,” my voice leaves me in a croak, the traitorous vocal cords doing nothing to mask the fact that I’m upset from the caring man waiting for me.
There’s a snap and then Ashby’s voice filters through the wood once more. “So, do fortune cookies fall into the same category? Like fate has a way of making sure you get the right words at the right time?”
“I hope so, because mine says,” there’s a dramatic pause as he pulls the paper out from the cookie. “You will marry your lover.”
I let out a hiccup as I smile at myself in the mirror. “Marriage, Ashby? Is that something you’re already thinking about?”
“It’s something I would like to think about with you. You’re my everything, Lucy Lore.”
Here he goes again. Telling me that I’m amazing. He’ll confess to our empty hall that I bring magic into his life. The walls of this house have heard every way he can possibly phrase the words I love you. Ashby Carter loves loudly and on repeat.
He deserves a girl who does the same.
“What if you find someone who is better?”
“That’s impossible. I want you, Lucy. I’m not going to change my mind.”
For a genius, Ashby can be so thick sometimes. I don’t want to spell out my insecurities to him. I don’t even know if I can find the words to do so, but we’re clearly not going to continue our evening until I can, so I try my best to get it out.
“What if we get fifteen years down the line and you realize that I’m annoying or I just stop fitting into your life? You have a whole family that’s immortal. I haven’t even met your older brother. What if he hates me and you decide to take his side?”
I wish I could see him. He probably has his forehead on the door as he listens to each and every syllable of my ridiculous monologue.
“Love isn’t something that just happens to people, Lucy. It’s a choice. I’ve made it every day since you patched me up after the carnival and I’ll continue to make it every day after that. I want everything you’ll give me and I’ll never think you’re boring or annoying or not enough.”
“But how do you know?” I’m yelling the words at my reflection, the stupid girl in the mirror pressing me to get to the bottom of this before we lose our heart completely to that man out there.
“I just do, Lucy.”
Hot tears streak down my cheeks. It’s not enough. I can’t base my entire future on him just happening to think he knows something.
“I was born in 1926, Lucy Lore. Since then, I’ve survived war and been transformed into something more than human. I’ve loved one person before you and only stopped when he threw me out of his life.” There’s a short pause as he takes a shuddering breath on the other side of the door, the impact of those words rattling me to my bones. “I’m not asking you to be certain about this right now, but I’ve lived long enough to know when I want something, someone, and I will never give up on you. If you asked me to leave, Lucy, I would, but I wouldn’t stop loving you.”
That’s it. The right combination of words to thaw the icy hold my emotions have had on my heart. I leave the sink in a near sprint, fumbling with the lock and crashing out into the hall.
Later, he’s going to lecture me about how hard it is to get fried rice off of the floor. Now, though, he doesn’t say anything about the plate of food on the floor, the sweet and sour sauce exploded over both of our ankles. I wrap my arms around him and bury my face in his shoulder.
“Just tell me if you ever start to resent me.”
He chuckles into my hair, promising that my worst fears will never come.
This blog post was a special request from my number one fan and amazing spouse. She’s the entire reason behind my Lore series becoming a published sequence and I can’t so no when she begs for more Lucy and Ashby scenes.
Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed this week’s story and be sure to check out Lore on kindle vella to catch up with these two characters: Lore
A hand towel thrown over my shoulder, I look down at the list of ingredients for this recipe again while Lucy bounds in from the other room. Cooking is still difficult. Baking is impossible. She wants me to make cherry blossom cookies from some handwritten recipe her mother gave her a lifetime ago. It, however, is not going well.
Unconcerned with my baking implements or her personal safety, she hops up onto the counter. Flour coats the side of her leg. Her dazzling eyes snag on my boxers and then bare chest before meeting my gaze. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the way she devours me without any hesitation. There’s no way to describe the way my chest begins to flutter at her mere presence. Lucy is magic and that’s all I truly know in this world.
She flips her phone towards me, the bright screen jittery in her hold as I try to read the bold words: Archaeologists in Poland Just Unearthed the Remains of a 17th Century Vampire. My fingers wrapped around her wrist in order to steady the device, I read the heading twice while I try to suppress a smile. I think I already know what she’s going to say.
“Did you know her?”
Yep. That’s it. Grabbing a pinch of flour off of the counter, I flick it onto her tank top while I shake my head. “How old do you think I am again, Lady Lore?”
She laughs, scooping up flour and sprinkling it into my hair. “Just old enough, Mr. Carter. Seriously, though, I know you couldn’t have known her while she was alive, but do you know about the vampires in Poland?”
I shrug. “Ivan supposedly comes from there. He might have known her.”
Turning the phone back to herself, she scrolls further down to show me details of how the poor woman was buried. A sickle over her throat and a padlock on her left toe. It makes for a great story, but would be effectively useless against an actual creature of the night. Not that I’m volunteering to test that theory. I think being buried alive is one of the worst punishments in this world. I’ve lived through it and I won’t do it again.
“Apparently, she had large front teeth, so the community thought she was either a witch or a vampire.”
I work on putting all of my ingredients together as I shake my head at her. “You’ve likely met more than a few vampires in your life, Luc. We don’t walk around with our fangs showing.”
Waving my reply off, she continues to scroll. “This anthropologist down at the bottom says that the fear of vampirism has always been thought of as an outside issue in these old towns, but this woman seems to have been a wealthy occupant of the community. That’s so horrible! Her own people likely turned on her because she got sick.”
“People have died for less, love.”
She pushes my shoulder. “You’re so pessimistic today, Ashby!”
I pull myself away from the cookie dough long enough to give her a lopsided grin. “Death is something that has been put into artwork for centuries. Talking about it doesn’t stop it from existing. I didn’t know this woman. I just know that she’s likely not a vampire.”
The oven chimes to let me know it’s hot enough to start baking the cookies. Lucy pulls the mixing bowl closer to herself and starts spooning cookies out onto the already lined tray. She’s quiet. I don’t’ push her to say anything. Instead, I give her a moment to process what she’s read and come up with the questions I know she’ll want to ask next.
There was a time in my life that I built a metaphorical wall between me and anything else. When I met Lucy it became a chain link fence, letting good moments filter through between us. Now, there’s nothing but comfortable silence as she scoops my poorly mixed dough onto the tray.
“Do you think you’ll ever have to bury me?”
The words are so quiet, I would’ve thought they came from the back of my mind if I hadn’t seen her lips move. Panic swells through my chest. Yes. I’ve thought about death for months now. I know how it looms over the naive, more than willing to take a life before it’s ready to go. Death will not come for me. Try as I might, it seems to pull away every chance I give it, but it could definitely hurt me more by coming after this woman on the kitchen counter.
“Why would you ask?” I finally make myself say, depositing the first tray of cookies into the oven and leaning against its warm front to give myself a way to stay grounded in this tumultuous conversation.
She shrugs, eyes down as she starts dishing cookies onto the next tray. “I’m a syren. I have magic and I’m pretty cool, but I don’t know what my expected life span is supposed to be. My mom left so early, you know?”
I nod and cross the space between us. She spreads her legs to allow me to slip between them until I’m close enough to hold her warm body to mine. Her head on my shoulder, I hear her sniffle and my heart breaks.
“I’m going to find a way to never have to leave you, Lucy Lore. I’ll do whatever it takes, okay? Vampires have been taking on mortal companions since the beginning of time. I’m different since I’m a man-made vampire rather than a naturally occurring phenomenon, but I know there’s an answer out there.”
It’s the best I can give her. Research on this subject hasn’t been the easiest to find. There’s too many unaccounted variables for me to make any positive assumptions. All I know is that it’s possible and I’m the scientist that can figure it out.
Nothing is going to take me from Lucy.
She sniffs again and then leans back, giving me a chance to wipe the tears from her face. “Do you promise?”
My chest aches at the way her voice cracks and I immediately nod as I press my forehead to hers. “Yes. I promise that nothing will part us, Lucy Lore. Death can try, but I will always find my way back to you.”
She presses a kiss to my nose. “I promise, too.”
This week is just a short and sweet scene between Ashby and Lucy since they’ve been on my mind. I completely stumbled across the article detailing the recently discovered vampire and thought it would be a fun conversation between these two. Obsessed with vampires, it was a fun week to dig into some different myths and legends surrounding the death and captures of these infamous creatures.
If you have been following these two in my Lore series on Kindle Vella, you’ll be excited to know that episode eleven will be available this afternoon!
If you haven’t check it out yet, use this link to follow Ashby and Lucy through the beginning of their romance: Lore by A. D. Reece
As always, Bridgette has a story for this week’s prompt and it would mean the world to us if you read that as well:
Lucy moved in three weeks ago. Between her boss being an ass and me having extra space, there was no reason for her to not. She showed up with two boxes and a handful of garments draped over her arms. I carried in the rest of her possessions from the taxi and set them down on the couch while she settled into my arms to make the official announcement.
We live together.
I don’t regret a single moment of it.
There’s a thud in the other room. Scratch that other comment.
I don’t regret Lucy being here. I could never get tired of her company and positive energy and the way her things have started to fill up my shelves and closet even though I gave her dedicated areas for it. We look together. My vintage records are interspersed with figurines she adores and little pictures from her time at various burlesque clubs. She’s managed to make the kitchen a more functional room and turned the guest room into a changing area for her costumes. Our toothbrushes share a cup in the bathroom and we share a bed. It’s really the best of everything I could wish.
Another thud. Okay. I’m up.
Lucy is sprawled across the mattress, somehow taking more than half of it as her arms and legs spread in opposite directions, my green comforter tucked around her while I’ve been freezing for most of the night. I could get a new blanket from the other room, but then I wouldn’t be sharing the one she’s under. I don’t mind being cold. I don’t think I’d be able to sleep if I couldn’t constantly feel the warmth of her sleeping body and listen to the light snores she would never admit to having.
A rip sounds through the otherwise silent house.
There’s one problem with Lucy moving in.
I listen to paws scamper across the tiled floor of the kitchen, the damn thing moving like a rhinoceros on a rampage. I’m on my way. Coming. One slipper on my right foot, I slide my foot around the floor as I blindly search for the other. There’s another rip.
Forget the other slipper. I can’t rush into this battle fully prepared. I just have to get out there and tear the tiny puppy teeth out of whatever he has managed to destroy now.
“Dorian,” I whisper yell into the air, using the name we decided on because I’ve always been an Oscar Wilde fan and Lucy enjoys a more contemporary fantasy series with a prince who shares the same name.
There’s more pitter pattering of tiny paws as the little monster realizes somebody else is in the house for him to terrorize. His head pops out from behind the corner of the wall that leads to the kitchen. A piece of my black slipper dangles from his mouth.
The puppy lets out a grumbling yap and then takes off as I step towards him. I stumble into a mess in the kitchen that would make an active werewolf proud. Feathers from one of the couch pillows are strewn through the room, some still floating in the air as the little dog bounces away from me. He’s managed to bump the table hard enough to spill the latest bouquet of flowers I brought home to Lucy, decorating the disaster in splashes of green and pink and yellow from the stems and petals. I don’t even want to think about the creature managing to get into a cupboard just to chew up apples and lemons. He didn’t eat the fruit. Just gnawed on it and left it on the floor for me to pick up.
My heart hammers against my chest. This isn’t going to work. Lucy is amazing. She’s the love of my life, but this, this is far more than I signed up for.
Red creeps into the edges of my vision as I watch the ball of fluff roll in his mess and then go back to chewing on my shoe. I knew I should have told Lucy no. She walked home from a job interview three days ago and found him in an abandoned box. They were both wet and shivering from the late hour. There was no way for me to be heartless and tell her the pup had to go.
This is different, though. He is dry and fed and an absolute terror in the face of the kindness I’ve bestowed upon him.
Light footsteps sound behind me, the only indication that Lucy is about to sneak up on me. I flinch as her fingers skate along my spine. Breathe, Ashby. Breathe and calm down. This is an irrational reaction to uncertain circumstances.
Lucy doesn’t shy away from my red eyes and odd behavior. Instead, she loops an arm around my hips and pulls me towards her. “Hey. We can do this.”
All of my threats to throw the puppy back onto the street evaporate. Of course we can do this. She and I can do anything together.
I wrap my arms around her and kiss her forehead. “I didn’t think parenting a dog would be so difficult.”
She laughs into my shoulder. “You’re doing better than my mom. She abandoned me the second things got hard. We can stick together and help him. He doesn’t know any better, Ashby.”
Yeah. Right. I survived a world war and the transition into a vampire, but Lucy had a far more fucked up childhood. This is important to her. I’ll do anything I can to help her if this is something she needs.
“Do you want to sweep or start coffee?” I ask as the muddled colors of my vision finally clear.
She takes the broom immediately, sweeping the pieces into a pile in the center of the room, her giggle filling the space as Dorian flounces in the shifting mess. He catches the end of the broom in his sharp teeth, shaking his head from side to side with a growl. Boiling water for our coffee, I watch the exchange. Lucy and Dorian on opposite ends of the black utensil, laughter and grumbles filling the room.
This. She needs this.
I watch the two of them for a moment. Dorian wobbles on his end, unsure of his feet and round body. Lucy lets him win, though. She puts on a big show of losing control of her end of the broom before lowering it to the ground. He pulls it several feet, his short tail blurring as he celebrates his success. Lucy chases after him, tucking her arms around his chubby body and hefting him into the air.
Pure joy filters through Lucy’s green eyes. The pup yips and wriggles in her arms. The two of them together are the picture of a happy home.
My happy home.
I prepare the coffee and move to join them, tip-toeing around the mess until I’m on the other side of Lucy. I take a sip of my hot drink and then offer it to the beautiful woman in my kitchen. That’s not what she wants, though.
Grabbing me by the back of my neck, she drags me down, kissing me like the lovestruck fool I am. Dorian joins in on the action, licking our chins and grumbling about his squished position. I laugh, patting the little monster on his head.
. . .
I’ve slept less than five hours this week. Dorian is a whirlwind pup that needs to have constant supervision lest he destroy something else in my house. Most of the cupboards now have chew marks on the bottom of their doors. The couch is covered in his thick fur. There’s no correct placement for the furniture anymore. Already growing, Dorian bowls through everything in his way, a tornado ready to take out my home’s interior while I hastily put it back together.
Lucy has a plan. She squeezes my hand before hefting Dorian into her arms. We’re going on a family walk. Just two lost adults trying to figure out how other people manage to train these feral creatures.
It’s raining outside, the cold streets of the Bay filled with wind and water. My umbrella wavers in my hold as I try to keep it over Lucy and Dorian. It doesn’t matter if I’m wet. My tailor would yell at me for treating my vests this way, but I don’t care. They’re my priority.
It’s a short walk to the pet store, Dorian wriggling in Lucy’s arms the entire time as he attempts to nip the end of our black umbrella. Naughty pup. Mischievous mutt. He’s going to grow up to have Lucy’s total lack of fear in the face of the world, ready to take everything he can with his front paws and floppy ears.
As if to give into my theory, the customer service members at the front of the little store completely fall over each other to get to Lucy first, all cooing words and pleas to pet the rambunctious creature that has overturned my life. Lucy lets the two women pet Dorian for a few moments before she starts to tell them about our predicament. In a matter of minutes, Lucy and Dorian are whisked away to the back of the store to talk about training instruments and other puppy needs.
This is her thing. I let her go, her focus solely on giving this stray animal a good life as she happily takes all of the advice the team members can give her. Wandering on my own, I glance at pictures on the wall behind the service counter. There’s sketches of animals done by children: a cat in green crayon, three dogs in a rainbow selection, turtles, lizards, and several birds outlined by a thoughtful adult and then scribbled in by anxious toddlers.
My chest tightens. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch Lucy kiss the top of Dorian’s head as he melts into her hold. I’ll never be able to give her this. Children aren’t really the point of genetically altered vampires. I’m a lab experiment gone right. There’s plenty of research on syrens and vampires, but none of them are exactly like me and her.
We haven’t even had the sex talk. The woman showed up with her things, took over the spare room, and then begged to share my bed when she realized I only had a cot in the other room. I don’t regret a single moment of it, but there are hard things we’ll have to discuss if we want this to last for as long as we both live.
Shaking off the sad thoughts, I watch her find a green collar with a bow tie and fit it to the puppy. It’s my favorite shade. Green like her eyes. She marks the pup as an official member of our family, accepting a small metal tag for his identification information. The team members have nothing better to do, so they find him a matching harness and leash set that’s meant to expand as he gets bigger. One of them leaves and brings back a cart full of supplies that they assure Lucy is all necessary for our little guy.
So quickly, Lucy glances to me and bites the corner of her lip. It’s the most nervous I’ve ever seen her. For once, I get the chance to play Prince Charming and dash in to save my damsel in distress.
“We’ll take it all,” I tell them as I step over.
Lucy’s eyes widen, but she doesn’t contradict me until the two women have left for the counter. “I’m between jobs right now, Ashby. As much as I love this dog, I can’t exactly afford all of that right now.”
Resting Dorian on one hip, she puts her other hand on her opposite hip as she looks up at me with a look of absolute disbelief. “Way to rub it in my face that you’re super old and have made good investments.”
That’s not what I expected her to say. I can’t help the laugh bubbling up through my chest. “What if I actually worked for the money I have?”
“That’s so much worse. You already spoil me nonstop. I won’t let you spend your life savings on us.” She quirks an eyebrow at me, her bottom lip trembling.
Oh. This is an important conversation. I was standing in the corner dreading how I would eventually get this woman to talk to me about our future and it’s already here for us to deal with.
I reach out and pet Dorian’s nose, his chubby body gelatin in Lucy’s hold as he tries to sleep off the excitement of the last few moments. “What if I want to do that?”
She shakes her head. “I already have to replace your slippers and we both know I can’t really afford the stylist you employ. You can’t do this much for me.”
Tears glimmer in her bright eyes. I have to say the right thing. This is a big moment, a foundational conversation for us to move forward.
Gently, so scared to look at her too hard but unable to keep from touching, I caress her cheek. “I won’t do something you don’t want, Lucy, but I want to take care of you. I want to take care of him. I,” there’s no stopping the words as they tumble out of my mouth, “want a life with you, a happily ever after with some version of a family, and I want to start that sooner rather than later. Today is as good a time as any.”
She sniffs, her lips quivering. “He ate all of your couch cushions.”
“He just has expensive tastes like me,” I smirk, begging her with my eyes to let herself give into my touch and my words and walk out of this place a stronger couple than when we walked in.
That does it. She breathes out a shaky giggle, rustling the puppy who gives his own yowl of approval with a shake of his tail.
“I think I want this, too,” she says, those emerald eyes threatening to drown me if I continue to meet her gaze. “I didn’t know that when I quit my job and showed up or when I brought him home, but I feel safe with you. I like to spend time with you. I don’t know what the future really holds for me, but I might like it more if you promised to do it with me.”
There’s no reason to stop and think this through. I stopped thinking rationally when she plucked my wallet out of my pocket all of those months ago. Lucy Lore has put a beating heart back into my cold chest and I will let the world burn around us if that’s what it takes to keep her in my life.
“Me too,” she whispers, lifting on her tip-toes in order to press a kiss to the corner of my lips.
I steal the dog from her then, nuzzling my face into his thick hair and staring into his blue eyes. “Let’s go get you checked out, Dorian. We have plenty of puppy training for you to do this afternoon.”
Lucy hooks her fingers around my elbow and trails us to the counter. My heart could float from her sheer proximity. I thought this pup was a bucketful of problems. Rather, he’s the solution to so many bigger concerns.
Lucy and I are going to be parents together. Her, me, and Dorian.
It’s the best kind of family.
Guys, I completely panicked when I first read this prompt! I did not know who or what I was going to write about. My wife gave me the idea of Lucy and Ashby adopting a puppy, so I‘m incredibly excited to now incorporate a dog into the general body of my novels. Ashby is such a fun and unique character to explore through these stories as he isn’t a major POV character in my novels and is generally viewed as a “bad guy” by the others.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this cute story as much as I did writing it!