Connor hesitated a second before he pulled Rae into a hug. He’d suspected but didn’t want to say anything until she was ready to talk about it. Having children had never been a topic of discussion for them but coming from a family of four – no, five – he wanted to have a large family of his own.
“I take it this is good news for you?” Rae leaned away from him and smiled.
“This is fantastic news, Rosie. We’re going to have a baby!” He loosened his grip just enough to stroke her cheek, but didn’t let go.
“We’re going to have babies. There are two of them in here.” Rae looked down at her stomach and Connor felt slight dizzy. Twins? Three kids in three years. Well, guess he was going to get his big family, after all.
“Even better. I love you Mrs. London.” And didn’t that just put the icing on the cake? She’d finally changed her last name. He leaned over and kissed her, then leaned down to press his ear to her stomach.
“I think I can hear them!”
Laughing, Rae said, “That’s my stomach growling. I’m hungry.”
“Oh. Well, let me go get cleaned up and I’ll make us some dinner.” He kissed her again and headed upstairs. They were having twins!
Soon enough, another birthday came along for Eva and as Connor went upstairs to grab some music, Antonio cornered him.
“So, you’re expecting twins I hear,” Antonio said.
Connor looked at his father-in-law warily. After he and Rae separated, Antonio made it very clear what he thought of Connor and had yet to forgive him for abandoning Rae while she was pregnant. Connor thought it was a bit unfair since he hadn’t even known Rosie was pregnant, but he knew better than to mention that part. He should have known, he should have checked on her or tried to get her back. He’d known where she was but hadn’t gone after her. And he knew that was the most upsetting part for Antonio. Connor had let her walk away without putting up a fight, something Antonio would never have done with Aaliyah.
“Yes sir, two boys.”
“Yes, yes. So you and Rosie are okay now? I won’t find out tomorrow that you decided you needed some more space?” He peered at Connor with a frown.
“We’re better than okay, sir. Rosie and I are in a good place.”
“My daughter is far from being a fragile woman. She’s strong and capable of being on her own. But that’s not the life her mother and I want for her, do you understand? I’m getting too old and won’t be there to help her through the next heartache. When you came and asked me for my blessing to marry her, I had hoped you would provide that support for her. But you let me down, Connor. I want to say it will take a lot of time to gain that trust back, but we don’t have that kind of time. There cannot be any more mistakes on your part, not of that magnitude, do you hear me?”
Connor nodded and said, “Yes, sir. I understand. And I love her too much to make that mistake again.”
Antonio continued to study him before finally nodding. “Good.” Then he walked out of the room, leaving Connor to wonder what the man would say if he heard Rae and Adeya’s theory about it all being a conspiracy. Antonio would probably still think it was his fault, and Connor wouldn’t blame him. He should have been stronger.
As Rosie’s pregnancy progressed, Connor grew more in awe of his wife. There was so much that needed to get done, but she continued to work and so he cooked and convinced her to hire a maid. He took over taking care of Eva when it became apparent that Rae just couldn’t lift the toddler anymore.
But try as he might to prevent her, she got up every weekday and went to work. Eventually, he called Dr. Gates and asked him to speak to her. She was not happy.
“You cannot call my doctor – who happens to also be my boss – and complain. That is not cool!” She was furious but he didn’t care. It was his job to look out for her and she needed to slow down. Eva had been premature and with twins there was always the chance of them coming early. He would do everything he could, short of physically restraining her, to make sure she carried his sons to term – or at least as close to term as possible.
“Rae, you might have been able to work these crazy hours during your first pregnancy, but you’re carrying twins this time and we have a toddler at home. I just don’t want you to do too much. Remember how early Eva came.” He hated bringing that up, but he didn’t know how else to get her to understand the constant fear he was living with.
She just frowned and shook her head. Before she could turn away, he grabbed her gently and pulled her to him. “We need to talk about this Rosie. No more walking away from each other, okay? I’m not asking you to quit your job, although that would be ideal.” She started to say something but he cut her off. “I said I wasn’t asking. I’m just hoping that if someone else tells you to slow down, just a tiny bit, then you won’t think I’m overreacting. I just want you and my sons to be safe. That’s not asking too much, is it?”
“I guess not.” She looked up at him and smiled. He knew that smile, he liked that smile. It meant she was happy and when she was happy, he was happy.
“Let’s kiss and make up then go to bed. I’m exhausted – Eva is never allowed to have sugar again.”
She snorted, “Welcome to my world.”
Eventually, Rae had to go on maternity leave. She was just too far along and unless she wanted to give birth at work, Brian suggested she stay close to her house and a phone. Connor knew she hated it, but he was secretly pleased. He didn’t have to worry about her while he was at work and he knew where she was at all times. How on earth did she do this by herself the first time?
Coming home from work one evening, he saw her walking down the driveway. “Hey, where’re you going?”
She rolled her eyes, “To get the mail. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to escape.”
“I didn’t mean it like that, I just…”
“Yeah yeah yeah. Whatever, soon I’ll have these boys out of me and then you won’t be able to tell me what to do. So enjoy it while it lasts.”
He pulled her close. “You and I both know I could never get you to do something you didn’t want to do. So stop the moping and come inside. I’ll make you some spaghetti.”
“With those salmon meatballs,” she asked hopefully.
Laughing, he took her hand and kissed it. “With salmon meatballs.” She beamed and let him lead her back inside.
“I just want some peace and quiet. Eva and I will be outside if you need us.”
Okay, so maybe Connor was making a bit of noise, but his sons would be here any day now and their nursery looked like a bomb hit it. He wanted everything to be perfect!
An hour later he walked outside and found Eva asleep and Rae looking off into the distance. “Do you want me to take her?” He asked quietly but she just waved him away.
He walked to the garage to grab his power drill and looked back at his girls. He was so grateful that he hadn’t lost them. Now that she had so much free time, Rae had started investigating what she believed was a plot to break them apart. Granted, there were coincidences that seemed very suspicious, but he was a practical kind of guy. What you saw was what you got. But with Rae, what you saw was never what it actually was. He’d offered to help her, but she was in her element – doing research and searching for connections. She would have made a great cop.
When he started back up the driveway, he saw her get up suddenly. Eva started to cry and he practically ran up the porch steps.
“It’s time,” was all she said. All she had to say.
It was time. All thoughts about the nursery and mysteries were forgotten. He called the babysitter – who’d been on standby for just this moment and Rae’s parents who lived just a few hours away. By the time the sitter arrived, Rae was ready to go.
“Would you like to say goodnight to your brother?” He lifted Eva up so she could see Andrei.
“My baby?” Eva asked.
“Your baby brother, yes. Mommy and daddy’s baby.” He smiled at his daughter and walked over so she could say goodnight to Anthony too.
Once they had the kids down for the night, Connor and Rae went to their bedroom. There were three little souls that needed care and support and he was supposed to provide it to them. He looked over at Rae and smiled. They would provide it to them together.
“Why are you smiling?” Rae asked as she got ready for bed.
“Just thinking about how amazing you are and how blessed I am.”
She stopped and turned toward him. “I didn’t know I’d married such a sensitive man.”
Laughing he walked over to her. “A good man knows when to be tough and when to be thoughtful. There aren’t that many of us out there! Be grateful you snagged one.”
She huffed out a breath. “I didn’t so much as snag, you latched on and wouldn’t let go.”
“You wound me to the quick!” He leaned over and kissed her nose and she laughed. “And just a FYI, I’m never letting go.”
Rae was happier than she’d been in a long time, despite the lack of sleep and the constant smell of baby poop that permeated the air. She had three healthy children and a husband who bent over backwards for her. She would be completely content except for the feeling that it could be taken from her at any moment. Until she discovered who or what had caused all the trouble between her and Connor, she wouldn’t feel free to enjoy all of this.
They were trying to make it work and to be fair, there were more good days than bad, but she just couldn’t fully concede that they were happy. Not since she found out she might have forced him to love her and especially not when she found herself thinking about Caleb.
She cringed at that thought. She felt like she was being unfaithful and it had made things tense between her and Connor. But thinking about another man was not the same as cheating. Right?
Putting Anthony back in his crib, she went to pick up a crying Andrei. The last thing she needed was a love triangle. She had three small children to take care of, a ton of research about 18th century witchcraft to sort through and a marriage to fix. She didn’t have time for illicit affairs, thank you very much.
Connor had never seen a fire so persistent. He was beginning to worry that he would be too late to get the baby out of the house when the fire seemed to waver and start to diminish. If he could save the house as well as the toddler, he would, but he knew that Adeya and Noe wouldn’t care about the house if they had to choose.
With the fire completely out, he picked up Benjamin and walked out of the still smoking foyer. He immediately spotted Adeya and Noe standing in front of his truck and walked over to them with their son.
“Oh my God, is he okay? Please tell me he’s alright!” Adeya was frantic and rushed to take the baby out of his arm.
“He’s going to be fine. I don’t think he inhaled a lot of smoke.” Calling over an EMT worker, Connor gave Adeya an encouraging nod and walked over to a stunned looking Noe. “Can you tell me what happened?”
“I – I don’t know. We were coming back from dinner and all of a sudden we hear the smoke detector come on from inside. Adeya tried to run into the house but I held her back. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son, but if Ade had walked into that house and never came back out, my life would be over.”
Connor nodded. He knew exactly how Noe felt. If anything ever happened to Rae, his life would cease to matter.
Noe shook his head. “The next thing we know, you’re running in there and the rest of the firefighters won’t let us anywhere near the place.”
“Wait, so you didn’t call this in?”
“No, man, and the babysitter is nowhere to be found.” He looked over at Adeya, who was waving her free arm around and speaking to the paramedic. “I have to go to my family. Thanks for saving Benjamin’s life. Ade and I are grateful beyond words.”
Connor almost gave a blithe response, but this was his family – he’d have done whatever it took to save that boy’s life. “Any time. You know I think of your son as one of my own.”
Noe nodded once and walked towards Adeya, who was quietly crying on the phone. No doubt she was speaking to Rae.
After filing his report and checking the engine of the truck, Connor glanced at his watch and debated whether he should just sleep in the fire station. It was almost four in the morning. If it had been a fire at anyone else’s house, he would have stayed, but Rae would want to get to her sister as soon as possible and someone would have to stay with the children.
Rubbing the back of his neck to try to relieve some of the tension, he headed for his car.
And just as he’d suspected, the moment he walked in, she was heading out.
“Good, you’re home. I have to get to Ade. I called – ” He cut her off, pulling her toward him and hugging her. God, it felt good to just hold her and know she was safe. She relaxed and hugged him back and he felt her sigh. “I’m glad you’re home, safe and sound. How are you doing?”
He didn’t respond, just held her tighter, breathing in the smell of her white peach shampoo. He felt a sudden need to drag her upstairs to bed and to wrap his body around hers so she couldn’t leave, ever. Then she would be safe and he could breathe easy again.
She leaned back and looked at him. “Hey, I’m right here, I’m safe and I’m not going anywhere. Been there, done that, never again.”
“I don’t know what I would do without you.” He felt that stirring in his gut that only seemed to happen around her. He wanted her to stay home, at least today. But she had to go to her sister.
“You won’t ever have to find out. And I’ll come back home as soon as I can, I promise.” She leaned up and kissed him.
“What are you doing here?” Connor had woken up to the doorbell ringing. He’d managed to get two hours of sleep before the twins had woken up and wasn’t in a very good mood.
“And here I thought you’d be glad to see me.” Caleb gave him a look of hurt. Connor snorted.
“There is never a time when I’d be glad to see you.”
“Respect your elders, little brother.” He seemed calm, but his voice was flinty. He looked up at the house, “Nice home you have here, aren’t you going to invite me in? I came all this way just to meet your boys.”
Connor felt a sense of dread, his brother did not make social visits and if he wanted to meet his children, then it was in Connor’s best interests to keep him as far away from them as possible. “What do you want, Caleb?”
Caleb gave him a long look before sighing, “I have information you need and you have someone I want to see. It’s as simple as that.”
Rae was staring. She couldn’t help it. She had come home to find the two men standing on the porch, staring daggers at each other. Well, no, Connor was staring – Caleb was eyeing the house, waiting patiently for Connor to let him in. When she saw who it was, she’d almost tripped she stopped so suddenly.
Before she could say anything, Connor had noticed her and made the introductions. She wondered now if she should have told him they already knew each other. But Caleb hadn’t corrected him and neither had she.
Caleb Romajin. Moonlight Falls seemed like a dream and she had started to believe she’d imagined all the things she’d felt while living there – the pain of losing her husband, the joy of growing a new life, the curiosity that was Caleb.
Caleb looked up and smiled, “You’re growing out your hair. I liked it short.” He started to reach out to touch the ends of it.
“Don’t even think about touching my wife.” Connor said this softly, calmly, and Rae knew she needed to pull herself together and stop making eyes at Caleb. He continued eating his breakfast, his hair still damp from the quick shower he’d taken.
She had used those few minutes to ask Caleb why he was at her house. He’d just smiled and commented on the décor. She’d wanted to know how he knew Connor, but he’d just shrugged and asked about Eva and the boys. Something was up and the tension was so thick she felt like she was suffocating.
Once Caleb’s hand was safely back on his lap, Connor asked, “What information do you have that I could possibly want?”
“Aren’t you going to ask how my flight was?”
“No,” Connor said. She glared at Connor. He was being unbearably rude. He’d grumbled the whole morning, but once she’d realized that Caleb had come straight from the airport to their home, she’d been appalled at her husband’s lack of manners. She’d insisted they talk over breakfast. No one had said a word until they’d sat down to eat, no matter how hard she’d tried to start a conversation.
“Okay, so straight to the point it is. Your son is a werewolf.” He took a bite of his mushroom omelet as if he’d just made a comment on the weather.
“My son is a what?” Connor shook his head.
“A werewolf, a shapechanger, a skinwalker.” He looked at her and winked.
“You have got to be kidding me!” Connor looked over at Rae too, who raised her hands in the air.
“Don’t look at me, that is definitely not from my side of the family.” It was amazing how calm she felt. She’d decided long ago that her life wasn’t normal and she should just accept that fact, otherwise she’d have to commit herself to an asylum.
Caleb laughed, “I knew you would take this well and I knew he wouldn’t.” Catching Connor’s eyes, he said softly, “Your son is a werewolf, like me. It’s a curse that we’ve had to deal with for over 150 years. I came here because the next Witch Moon is in six months. He is in danger. If he changes and doesn’t have someone there to help him, he might die.
“My son is going to die?!” Rae sat, mouth open and in shock. She must not have heard correctly. She glanced over at Connor, wanting to see his reaction. He sat there, eating his breakfast. “Didn’t you hear what Caleb said? Our son might die!”
He looked up at her. “Our son is not going to die. You know why? Because he’s not a werewolf, he’s a normal little boy. This nutjob,” he waved in Caleb’s direction, “comes to our house and makes these ridiculous claims and we’re just supposed to believe him? Fat chance.”
Rae frowned. Why was he so aggressive toward Caleb? The man had obviously come all the way from Moonlight Falls to try and help him and he’d been nothing but rude. “Why would he travel hundreds of miles just to lie to us?”
She turned to Caleb, who’d stood up and Connor went back to eating his crepe. “What reason would you have to lie to us? I don’t think you would do something that cruel.”
Connor snorted, “You don’t even know him. But I do and he’s really good at finding the right time to ruin someone’s happiness. It’s what he does.”
“You don’t have to believe me. No, actually, you do have to believe me. Your son’s life depends on it. Now stop being an ass. There’s nothing I can do to change who I am CJ. It’s not my fault they lied to you and I – I stayed away to protect you. Do you know how hard it’s been not to be able – ” He stopped and shrugged. “Whatever, I didn’t come for this.”
Rae looked from one man to the other. What the hell were they talking about? “Listen, I don’t know what’s going on but you two need to cut it out. You just told me my child is a werewolf and might die. How do you even know this?”
“Because I’ve been through the same thing.”
At that Connor dropped his fork and stood up. “Enough. I’ve heard enough. You need to get out of my house and never come back.” He said this quietly, calmly, the way he’d spoken to Caleb all morning. He was angry, even before he heard the reason Caleb was there, he’d been angry.
“Wait, Connor, we can’t just throw him out!” Rae stood up, ready to argue.
“Rae, we are not discussing this. He leaves, now.” Then he left.
Rae was stunned. She’d never seem him like this and told Caleb as much.
“It’s me and I get it,” Caleb said. “But we don’t have time for this. You have to make him understand. I would never lie to you, not about something this important.”
She believed him, God help her, but she believed him. “So you really are a werewolf? I had heard the gossip when I was in Moonlight Falls, but I didn’t want to ask. Will you show me?”
He smiled at her sadly and shook his head. “You wouldn’t like what you see, sweetheart and I’d prefer you like me.” He looked at her hair, “I really did like it short.”
She blushed, Connor preferred long hair and she had missed the weight of it. But maybe…what was she thinking! Clearly her throat, she asked, “Where are you staying?”
“At The Lodge. Room 408.”
“Caleb, Andrei isn’t really in danger, is he?”
“I don’t know. I Changed for the first time when I was three. The earliest it’s ever happened. He needs to be with someone who can help him and that’s not you and Connor. You have to trust me.”
She wanted to – she really did. “But Connor…”
“Connor and I will sort ourselves out. You just worry about your son and making sure he’s safe.”
“He’s a twin. Is Anthony in danger too?” Dear Lord, she couldn’t deal with this kind of stress.
“No. Just the first born…always the first born.” He was sad again and she wanted to reach out to him and hold him. But that was not going to happen. What was wrong with her?
Taking a step back, she smiled. “Okay, I’ll talk to Connor and we’ll call you when we make a decision.”
“You don’t have a lot of time, Rae. Six months.”