Caleb sat and watched the flames dancing in the fireplace, a glass of whiskey in his hand. He heard a thud upstairs and smiled – Jack was up early today. He let his glance slide over to the pool table and his smile faded. He and Kaylynn had been standing right there when she’d told him he had to choose. Her and her son or me and mine.
Closing his eyes, he took a sip of his drink, letting the slow burn travel down his throat and settle into his gut. He was so cold, always so damn cold. The whiskey was the only thing that was able to warm him up, so he took another sip. He opened his eyes again and stared at the fire; how had he arrived at this moment?
As Kaylynn blew out her candles, she glanced up and caught his eye. He was smiling at her. She frowned and looking away, blinked, because for a moment there, she thought she’d – but no, that must have been the beer he’d snuck her early in the afternoon. She glanced up at him again and – there it was again, a slight squeezing feeling in her heart.
He caught her staring at him and his smile widened, “Make sure you give me a big piece, I’m starving.”
He walked around the table and slung his arm around her slender shoulders. She poked him in the ribs, “What have I told you about resting your massive weight on me, Caleb?”
He laughed and rubbed at the spot where her finger had dug in. “Ouch.”
Rolling her eyes, she turned back to her birthday cake. She started to remove the candles and as she placed them on the table, Caleb picked each up and licked the frosting from the bottom. “You are so greedy,” she murmured, but a smile was on her lips.
He was always hungry, but when you became a werewolf every month, it made sense you would always need to refuel. It took a lot out of him each time.
When she was done removing the candles, she cut a huge piece and passed it to him, grinning. “Here you go.”
“Thanks Calli.” He kissed her cheek and walked away to sit and eat. She felt herself start to blush and had to duck her head so no one would see. She continued to cut up pieces of the cake and hand them out to the guests. When she finally looked up, she saw her uncle Dillon staring at her.
“You want some cake Dillon?” She held out a plate with an equally large portion of cake for him.
Dillon smiled and took the plate from her, brushing her hand as he did so. “Thank you, Kaylynn.”
She smiled, “No problem.” Dillon wasn’t really her uncle. He was her second cousin, once removed or something like that. But her family lived with him and he was Caleb’s uncle, so she grew up thinking of him as her uncle too. Dillon was a little weird, but everyone had one of those in their family.
Her mom came up at that moment and took the knife from her. “Here, let me do that sweetheart. Go and enjoy your party.”
Kaylynn gave Patricia Payne a quick hug and taking a plate for herself, walked to where Caleb was still seated and sat down next to him. He was speaking to someone so she was surprised when he reached over and swiped some of the frosting from the top of her slice of cake. She started to say something but he turned back around and continued his conversation. She looked down at the trail his finger left and knew she should feel disgusted but the only emotion that seemed to be coursing through her body was a tense, giddy feeling.
She pushed her fork into the edge of the cake and took a bite, pretending not to listen to the conversation he was having. She frowned when she realized he was flirting. She glanced up at the person he was speaking to and saw that it was Bethany.
Bethany Moore was two years older than Kaylynn but still a year younger than Caleb was. Kaylynn supposed Bethany was pretty, if you went for the busty, long-legged, dumb blonde look. Okay, to be fair, Bethany wasn’t dumb, she was actually brilliant, but that didn’t make Kaylynn feel any better. Thankfully, Caleb only spoke to her for a few minutes more before he turned around to Kaylynn.
“So, Calli, did we do good?” He grinned at her and she felt herself start to blush – again. What the hell was wrong with her?
Frowning, she said, “Yeah, it was a great surprise, though I kind of guessed something was up last night. Mom is horrible at keeping secrets.”
He leaned over and smoothed out the frown lines on her forehead, “I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m heading out now, though. I’ll see you later, okay?”
“You’re leaving?” She tried not to show her disappointment.
“Yeah, we’re going to the waterfall.” He lowered his voice and leaned over, “You wanna come?”
Yes! “Who are you going with,” she asked instead.
“Bethany.” He winked at her.
Kaylynn stiffened and pulled away. “No, I can’t leave my own party. Have fun.”
He looked at her for a bit and then shrugged. “Alright, see you soon.” He tugged on her ponytail and got up, nodding to Bethany and waving bye to Kaylynn’s mom.
“I hope her hair strangles her while she’s underwater,” she mumbled.
She heard laughter and turned around to see Dillon standing behind her, whiskey in hand, laughing loudly. He took Caleb’s vacant seat and wrapped an arm around her, still laughing.
“You heard that, huh?” She smiled sheepishly.
When his mirth died down a bit, he said, “Don’t be jealous Lynn. You’re a beautiful young woman. Much prettier than Bethany. Everyone can see that.”
“Not Caleb,” she countered, sadder than she had any right to be.
“Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Soon it’ll be Caleb who’s jealous.”” He leaned down and tilting her head up, gave her a kiss on the cheek. He winked at her and got up, walking towards the dining table to grab some more food.
She wished she could believe that. But for Caleb to be jealous, he would have to notice that she was a girl first.
She glanced up to see her mother frowning thoughtfully at Dillon. Kaylynn got up to go help her mother clean up.
Summer break was almost over and Caleb would start college in a couple of weeks. As she finished washing her hair, she heard the bathroom door open. Opening the glass door a bit, she saw Dillon standing inside the doorframe. He seemed unsteady on his feet.
“I’m in the shower Dillon, get out!” Kaylynn said. Dillon was drinking again, and when he drank he did stupid things like walk into a bathroom that already was occupied.
She wiped water out of her eyes to see him better and tensed when she noticed that he wasn’t wearing anything but shorts. He was looking at her intensely and he seemed very sober. “Dillon? Are you alright?”
He didn’t say anything, just stared at her and she was very aware that she was naked behind the almost transparent shower door. She was about to call for her mom when he abruptly turned around and left, slamming the door behind him. She got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around herself. Quickly drying off, she checked to make sure the coast was clear before making a beeline to her bedroom. Dillon was so freaking weird!
Kaylynn was sitting in the middle of her mattress, folding socks into neat little balls and then tossing them into the suitcase. Her hair had fallen down to cover half her face and the sun streaming in from her bedroom window brought out the purple highlights in her hair. She glanced up when Caleb walked in and brushed the hair away from her face. “Sorry I didn’t make it to the park. We’re moving,” she said flatly, before he could say anything.
A brief pause, then, “Why?”
She just shrugged. She didn’t want to talk about it. It was just a stupid mistake, but her mom was adamant that they leave and her dad was no help either. She went back to folding her socks. She couldn’t look at Caleb without wanting to cry and she’d done enough of that.
The end of her bed dipped as he sat down. His hand wrapped around hers, stopping their movement and she looked up to find his eyes wide with concern. “What happened?”
Caleb’s hand tightened and he asked between clenched teeth, “What did he do?”
“Nothing, not really. He’s just creepy, you know?” He hadn’t always been like that. When she was younger, he was this funny, smart man who would let her sit on his lap and read her baby books. As she got older, he’d started drinking more and become meaner; sulkier; more unsociable.
“Calli, tell me.” He searched her face and she knew she couldn’t lie to him.
“He accidentally walked into the bathroom while I was taking a shower.” She rushed to continue, already seeing the anger start to rise in his eyes, “It was an accident, Caleb. But mom is upset and wants to move back to Bridgeport. She says these little accidents have been happening all year and she doesn’t like the way he’s been looking at me.”
She shrugged and pulled her hand out of his grip, picking up a pair of purple and blue socks. “So now we have to move. I’m being shipped away from – from everyone because my mom is imagining things. I guess it was only a matter of time before we had to leave this place anyway. It belongs to Dillon and you.”
“This is your home too. Patricia and Tom know that. I’m so sorry Calli. Maybe I can talk to them?”
She smiled sadly at him. Ever since he’d heard her singing to herself as a child, he’d called her Calli or Calliope. He called her his muse and said all his inspiration came from her. Hearing his pet name for her now was going to make her cry.
Caleb’s hand still rested on top of her sheets and glancing up at him, she started to ask him if he was okay, but that was a dumb question. So she shut her mouth. Of course he was okay, it’s not like she meant more to him than an annoying little kid who lived in his house.
“Bridgeport isn’t that far away,” he said suddenly, “we’ll just visit each other. It’ll be fun, you’ll meet a bunch of new people and it’s a huge city, better clubs! We’ll have a blast.” He got up and walked to the door. “Yeah, it’s not the end of the world. We’ll make it work, Calli.”
As he walked out, Kaylynn felt herself smiling. He would miss her enough to visit. He’d come visit.
“Hey Calli.” It had been a year since he’d seen her. He almost didn’t recognize the girl standing in front of him. She’d grown up. A lot. Caleb let his eyes rest on her breasts, her hips, her long legs before climbing back up to look into her eyes. Yeah, she’d definitely grown up.
“Hey Caleb.” Kaylynn smiled shyly up at him and he grinned back. He’d missed her, more than he thought he would. He leaned down and hugged her tight. “I’ve missed you,” she said. He leaned back a little to look at her and saw her blushing.
“I’ve missed you too Calli. More than you know.” She had always been able to calm him. He still remembered hearing her sing for the first time. She couldn’t have been more than six – a skinny little thing, she was sitting on the floor in the living room, singing a song to a ratty looking stuffed animal. Patricia and Tom had moved in that fall and he’d been having a hard time with strangers in his home. He’d been yelling and arguing with Dillon about it and had stomped into the room and there she was, this little kid who was the same age as the brother he’d left behind three years ago. She’d looked up at him and smiled, as if she hadn’t just heard all the yelling. She’d asked him if he wanted to play with her and he’d run out of the room, crying for the first time since he’d been forced to leave his parents and his baby brother.
He didn’t know what it was about Calli, but something about her made him feel safe, made him feel like he had a place in the world. She was his little sister, a replacement for the family he had lost. But holding her now, hearing her say she’d missed him, he felt anything but brotherly toward her.
She smelled great, fresh and clean – like citrus and the summer air after a rainstorm. He kissed the top of her head and stepped back. “You’re getting taller, you’re all legs now.”
“Not all legs. I’ve grown in other places too!” She laughed when he made a face at her and grabbing his hand, she pulled him into the house she now lived in. He’d been here once before, when she and her parents had first moved in, but with the house fully furnished, it screamed Patricia and he felt a pang of longing. This was his family, he should be here with them, instead, they had left him. He shook his head, refusing to feel bitter about their decision to move. They’d done it for Calli’s protection and he couldn’t blame them for that. He’d have done the same thing.
Dillon was growing worse every day. He was no longer the man who’d promised Caleb’s parents that he would watch over their son. That man had died at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. The thing that was left in his place was a pathetic imitation.
“Where are Tom and your mom?” He looked into the kitchen as they passed it and started upstairs. Her parents weren’t home; he’d known that the moment he walked into the house. It was too quiet.
“They went grocery shopping; they’ll be back in a couple of hours.” She pulled him into her bedroom before releasing his hand and flopping on her bed. Her room looked like a tornado had passed by. For as long as he’d known her, Calli’s room had always been a mess. He didn’t know how she found anything among the piles of clothing, shoes and books that littered her floor.
“How can you find anything in this mess?” He looked around for a place to sit.
“What mess? I know where everything is. The only time there’s a problem is when mom comes in here to clean.”
He doubted Patricia would ever step foot in here. She was a neat freak and she was liable to have a heart attack at this mess.
He moved a stack of books from her desk chair and straddled it, facing her prone form on the bed. The hem of her shirt rose and fell with every breath she took, exposing a sliver of flesh with every inhale. He found himself matching her breathing, focused on that small bit of skin. She was wearing shorts and an old t-shirt, her normal attire, except now she filled out her clothes. When she rose up onto her elbows and looked at him askance, he realized she’d asked him a question. “I’m sorry, what?”
“I asked why you waited a year to come visit. You missed my birthday.”
“I know and I’m sorry. I tried to make it back in time, but I was out of the country. I’ll make it up to you. Promise.” He’d been sent on an errand to Spain by Dillon and hadn’t made it back until last week. “I’m hungry; let’s go get something to eat.” He had to get out of this room. She still had that ratty stuffed animal on her pink and purple bed. It was very much a young girl’s bedroom and did not reflect the young woman lying on the bed. It made him feel decidedly uncomfortable. He got up from the desk chair and headed towards the door, not checking to see if she was following him or not.
“Caleb?” Kaylynn said softly.
He turned around and saw her still leaning on the bed with her elbows supporting her upper torso. “Yeah?”
She didn’t say anything for a while, just stared at him. Suddenly she smiled and shook her head. “Nothing, forget it. Let’s get you something to eat.”
Tomorrow was Caleb’s birthday. She hadn’t seen him in months and she was anxious. She got out of the cab and grabbed her backpack from the floor and put it over her shoulder. She stood on the sidewalk and looked up at the huge imposing structure that was her old home. Three years; it had been three years since she’d moved from this place.
Caleb had missed another of her birthdays and with him at Uni, they rarely spoke. It had taken a lot of convincing, but her mother finally gave her the okay to come up to The Falls for a visit. It would be the best two weeks she’d had for a very long time. She’d be with Caleb and they would end the summer together, like they used to do as kids.
She let herself in with her old key and dropped her bag by the door. It was so quiet. One bad thing about living in a huge house? Too much space – everything echoed. “Dillon? I’m here.”
She walked into the receiving room and turned the light on. “Dillon? Are you here?”
He was supposed to be here to meet her. She was about to go check upstairs when she heard shuffling coming from the hallway. “Dillon?”
She gasped when she saw him emerge from the hall. He looked sick. His eyes were red, and his skin looked clammy. He’d also lost a lot of weight. She rushed towards him, “Oh my God, Dillon, what’s wrong? You look horrible!”
“Kaylynn?” He brushed her away when she tried to reach out to him and shuffled over to the bar. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine, you look like crap. Where’s Caleb? Maybe we should take you to the hospital.”
He poured himself a drink and sat on one of the stools, facing her. “I’m fine, just needed a drink. What time is it?”
“Almost four in the afternoon, where’s Caleb?” She’d spoken to Dillon last week and told him she was coming for a visit. She’d wanted to surprise Caleb.
“How old are you now, Lynn?” It took her a while to understand his words, he was slurring so badly.
“Seventeen. I’m a senior now. I’m thinking of going to Uni for Theater or Music.” She sat down next to him at the bar. “How are you doing?”
He poured another drink and pushed it towards her. She shook her head, no. She didn’t drink, but Dillon was always trying to give her a little of whatever he had in his hands. Caleb gave her a beer once and she’d hated it. He made her promise she wouldn’t drink unless he was around or until she could vote. It was silly, but at the time, she’d been thrilled that he cared about her so much. But that had been before she moved and he got too busy for her. Where was he?
“Have you thought of moving back home?” Dillon emptied his glass and poured another.
“Back to The Falls, you mean?” When he nodded, she shrugged. “Every single day. I’d love to come back here, but mom won’t do it.”
Dillon slammed down his empty glass. “You’re an adult now; you can make your own decisions. Thomas was supposed to stay with me, help me raise Caleb. But he let that woman drive him away. It’s not fair, Kaylynn. Everyone abandons me.” He looked up at her and she realized he was crying.
“Dillon, we didn’t abandon you, we just moved. Look, I’m here, aren’t I?”
He glanced down at his glass and said softly, “Yes. Yes you are.” He reached for the Whiskey bottle and poured another drink, sniffling. “You’re here and you’ll take her place. It’ll be perfect.”
Kaylynn frowned. “Take whose place? My mom?”
He laughed. “No, not that bitch. Rebecca. You’ll take Rebecca’s place and everything will be okay. I won’t be alone anymore.” He poured another drink and pushed the one he’d poured for her towards her. “Let’s make a toast to our new beginning.”
Kaylynn had bristled when he’d called her mother a bitch and she was getting uncomfortable. Dillon was drinking too much. She didn’t want to have to deal with him by herself. “Listen, let me call Caleb and see where he is.”
She started to slide off the stool, but he caught her wrist and squeezed. “I said, drink.”
Kaylynn felt a moment of panic, but brushed it off. “Dillon, let go of me, that hurts.” Instead of complying, he squeezed harder. “Fine. Fine, I’ll have a drink.” He smiled and finally let go. It took her two tries, but she drank the brown liquid. “There. Can I call Caleb now?”
“No. We don’t need Caleb or Tom or Patty. It’ll be just you and me. Like it was the first time.”
“What are you talking about? It’s never been just you and me.” She was in full blown panic mode now. She needed to get to her backpack and her cell phone.
“I forgive you for leaving me. For making me take Caleb away from Jacob. You’re back now and we can finally be a family.” He reached out to touch her cheek, but she pulled away.
“Dillon, listen to me. I’m not whoever it is you think I am.” She laughed a little, “I can’t stay with you. I have to go to school, my mom would freak and this house is too big for just two people.”
“You want more people? I can get more people, no problem. Anything you want Becca.”
Who the hell was Becca? “Dillon! I’m Kaylynn, your cousin. Remember? Kay. Lynn.”
Dillon blinked and squinted at her. “I know who you are. You don’t have to talk to me like I’m stupid.”
She’d had enough of this. “Alright then. I’m just going to go visit with some friends for a while. Call me when Caleb gets here.” She slid off the stool and started to make her way to the front door. She seriously needed to get out of this house and away from Dillon.
She heard a low growl and before she could turn around, she was slammed against a wall.
“You’re not going anywhere. We are going to be a family.”
Caleb’s phone started to vibrate again. He reached down to check who was calling and frowned. It was Tom. Why would Tom be calling him? He had twenty minutes of class left, but he grabbed his bag and quietly exited, pressing the talk button as he stepped out the door.
“You bastard! How could you do this to her?”
Caleb stopped abruptly in the hall. What the hell? “Patricia? What are you talking about? Do what, to whom?”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know. I will skin you alive. All this time, I was worried about Dillon and it was you I should have had my eye on!”
“Patricia, stop screaming at me and tell me what’s going on. Is something wrong with Calli?”
“Stop it! Stop acting like you don’t know. How could you? We thought of you as a son. We loved you – she loves you! And this is what you do to her? Come near her again and I will fucking kill you.”
Caleb stared at the phone. Patricia had hung up.
He looked down the hall and hesitated for just a second before opening his phone to dial.
Five hours later, Caleb hailed a cab at Bridgeport International Airport. Obviously, something had happened to Calli but when he’d tried to call her phone, it went straight to voicemail. So, he’d purchased the next flight going to Bridgeport. If she was hurt or angry at him, he wanted to know what had happened.
As the cab speed across the William Wright Bridge, he tried her cell again and again it went to voicemail. He called Thomas and got no answer either. When the cab pulled up to the front door, he sat for a while, torturing himself with all the things that could have happened to her. He finally paid the driver and walked up to the front door.
Before he could knock, Thomas pulled the door open. “Caleb – what are you doing here?”
Caleb looked into the older man’s eyes, hoping that they would tell him something. They were guarded, but he could sense the fear and anger rolling off of Tom. “Something’s wrong with Calli. So I’m here.” He didn’t wait for Tom to let him in, he just pushed past.
“Caleb, wait. I don’t think that’s a good idea. She doesn’t want to see you.”
That stopped him dead. Calli didn’t want to see him? He turned around slowly and said, “What happened to her?”
Tom frowned. “You’re saying you don’t remember? She came home crying and battered. You hurt my little girl and your response is you don’t remember?” Thomas Payne wasn’t an aggressive guy and he never lost his temper. But when Tom spoke in the low, quiet tone he was using now, you knew he was pissed. Caleb didn’t care.
“Where the fuck is she?” He growled. Someone had hit her? He’d kill the guy. “Where is she, Tom?”
Thomas folded his arms across his chest. “You must be insane if you think I’m letting you near her.”
“I didn’t lay a hand on her. I haven’t even seen her since the last time I was here for Christmas. When did this happen to her?” Caleb knew he had to rein in his own temper. Cursing at Tom would get him nowhere.
“Four months ago.” Tom’s frown deepened.
“Four months! You’ve waited four months to tell me someone hurt her? Where is she, Tom?”
Thomas looked at Caleb for a long time before sighing. “I told Patty she must be mistaken, that you would never hurt her. But you know Patty, Kay is her everything and Kaylynn refuses to tell us who did this to her. When we mentioned calling you, she said no, so Patty just assumed…”
Caleb just nodded, the anger and worry too much for him to speak through. Tom pointed down the hall, towards the living room and Caleb practically flew to the door.
When he walked in, it took him a moment to find her. She was huddled on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket, sleeping. He gingerly sat down next to her, but the movement of the couch woke her up and she was so startled that she sat up and cried out.
“Hey, it’s just me. Sorry I woke you up, I was trying to be quiet.” He looked her over. She seemed okay, no bruising or swelling, but after four months, he didn’t expect to see any. He was tempted to make her stand up so he could examine all of her. He reached out to push a strand of hair out of her eyes and she flinched. His eyes narrowed and he slowly put his hand down. “What happened, Calli?”
She stared at him as if seeing him for the first time. She opened her mouth as if to speak but all that came out was a soft moan before she started sobbing. Great heaving sobs. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. She stiffened immediately, but after a minute or so, she relaxed and buried her face in his chest, crying. Caleb had no idea what was going on, except that something horrible had happened to her. But he was there now and he would fix it, no matter what that meant, he would fix this for her.
Patricia entered the room then and glared at him. “Get the hell away from my daughter!”
Caleb glanced up at her and started to move, but Kaylynn pressed harder into him and whispered, “Please don’t. Stay with me.”
“I can’t.” He addressed Patricia. “Patricia whatever it is you think I did. It wasn’t me. I would never hurt Calli. You know that.” Patricia had never really been fond of him; he’d always assumed it was just her being an overprotective mother. But even she should’ve known better than to think he was capable of hurting Calli. He started to stroke her hair, soothing her until her sobs quieted. Thomas walked in and put his hands on his wife’s shoulders.
Patricia stared at Kaylynn and when she saw that her daughter was indeed clinging to him, she sighed and leaned into her husband. She looked at him and frowned, confusion written all over her face.
Caleb continued to stroke Calli’s hair. “It’s going to be alright Calli. I’m here now and I’ll make sure this never happens again.” Although what had happened in the first place, he still didn’t know.
After what felt like hours of everyone waiting, Caleb finally felt Calli’s body relax and her breathing became more even. She’d fallen asleep. He started to move but she whimpered and so he slid back on the sofa and let her rest on his chest, arranging the blankets so she was covered. He shot Thomas a look and the man took his wife and headed out the door.
“I’ll be back in an hour,” Patricia said. “She never sleeps for more than an hour at a time.”
Patricia did come back in an hour and every hour after that for the next five, but Kaylynn never woke up. The last time she came into the living room, she was carrying a blanket and a pillow. Caleb smiled in gratitude and took them quietly from her. He finally dozed off around three in the morning and woke up to find Kaylynn on the other end of the sofa, staring at him.
“Morning, Calli.” He smiled at her and stretched. She didn’t take her eyes off of him, but she didn’t seem scared of him either. “Do you want some breakfast? I’m starving.”
She shook her head no but didn’t say anything. He got up and said, “I’m going to get something to eat, okay? I’ll be right back.”
He could feel her eyes on him as he walked out the room. He needed to talk to Tom and figure out what was wrong with her ASAP.
He found both Tom and Patricia in the kitchen, talking in low voices. “Morning Tom, Patricia.”
Patricia looked over at him and turned to the coffee machine, pouring herself another cup. Tom got up and walked over to him. “Morning Caleb. I’m sorry for yesterday, we’ve all been a little stressed these last few months, what with Kay the way she is.”
“What exactly happened to her? I can’t help if no one will tell me what’s going on.”
Tom sighed and sat back down. He gestured for Caleb to take a seat too. “Four months ago, Kaylynn went to Moonlight Falls to visit with you. She came back about a week later, five days earlier than we’d expected her to. She was covered up in bruises, some half healed, some fresh. She –” Tom cleared his throat. “She’d been cut up, at least we though they were cuts until she told us she was clawed. She’d been…”
Tom stopped speaking and looked away. Caleb was about to ask him to continue when a voice behind him said, “I was raped.”
Caleb turned around in his seat to look at Kaylynn. Her words sinking into his flesh like some disgusting disease. Settling into his pores and making its way into his lungs, making it hard for him to draw breath. She’d been raped because she’d wanted to come see him. They stared at each other for a while and then she removed the blanket that was still wrapped around her shoulders and placed a hand on her stomach. Her slightly round stomach.
“And now I’m pregnant.” She said this flatly, as if remarking on the weather. He took all that in, glancing at her stomach and then back up to her face. What man would do that to her? She was the most beautiful, giving person he’d ever met. What kind of monster would want to hurt her like that?
“Who did this to you, Calli? What sonofabitch dared touch you?” He was so angry, he could hear himself growling. It wasn’t until she took a step back did he realize he was scaring her. He locked down his emotions immediately. No way was he causing her any more pain.
Kaylynn rubbed her hand over her belly, staring at Caleb, waiting for his reaction. When he started to growl, her skin prickled, her mind trying to bring up memories that she would prefer stay locked away.
She glanced over at her parents and shuddered, taking a step back, physically rejecting the notion that she would have to tell her mother she was right. That moving hundreds of miles away hadn’t helped. She couldn’t tell her dad that his family had done this to her.
The growling stopped abruptly and she looked at Caleb again. She couldn’t tell him, it would be worse. The man was like a father to him. She couldn’t tell anyone.
Her mother shifted and started to rise from her seat. But Caleb put his palm out, quietly asking her to come to him. She didn’t hesitate. He was safety; he was the brick and mortar that would keep out all danger. He wrapped his arms around her and she sagged into his body. If he had been there, if she had just been able to call him –
“Please don’t leave.” She hated the weakness in her voice and this need she had to be near him. She hated that she was becoming this victim, scared of her own shadow, jumping at every sound. She hated it, but couldn’t stop. “Please.”
“I’ll never leave you again, Calli. I swear.” He pressed her closer and she believed him.
Caleb kept his promise. He moved in with the Paynes and aside from finishing his degree at the local college, he spent all his time with Kaylynn. By May, she was huge and nearing her due date.
“Do you have a name for him yet?” He was sitting at the end of the couch, massaging her swollen feet.
He looked over at her and raised an eyebrow. “Why Jackson?”
“After Captain Jack Sparrow.”
He stopped rubbing her insole and laughed. “You’re naming him after a pirate? Not even a real one, but one from a movie?” He laughed again.
“Johnny Depp is hot and badass in that movie. Don’t judge me.” She wiggled her toes at him and he started rubbing her feet again.
“Jackson Romajin. It has a nice ring to it.” He was startled when she pulled her foot away from him and looked up at her. “What?”
She was trembling. “Payne. His last name’s going to be Payne, not Romajin.”
He moved over to her and put his arm around her shaking shoulders. “I meant to talk to you about that. I want to give him my last name. If we’re going to raise him then he should – ”
“No. He’s my son, his name will be Payne and I can raise him on my own.” She shrugged out of his hold and got up. “Never – never Romajin. He’s mine. Not h-his. He has no claim over…no.” She said the last part in a hoarse whisper and sank back down onto the couch. She placed her head in her hands and started to cry.
Caleb sat there for a while, too stunned to think of anything to say. He replayed what she said in his head and narrowed his eyes. For the past five months, he’d tried to get her to talk about what happened to her, but she’d refused. Not wanting to agitate her, he hadn’t pushed. This however, confirmed a suspicion he’d been nursing since he first came to Bridgeport.
He got up off the couch and kissing her forehead, said, “I’ll be right back, I need to talk to Tom real quick.”
He found Tom and said, “I think you were right. I think Dillon did this to her. She just broke down at the mention of giving the baby my last name. She said he would have no claim on the baby. She wasn’t talking about me and who else has that last name? Just Dillon.”
Tom shook his head, “Dillon has become unstable lately. He used to be this sweet kid and when he said he was going to adopt you and help you, I was thrilled that he’d have someone in his life. Then he changed, became this mean drunk. But to rape Kaylynn? He used to read with her when she was a baby. Why would he do something like that?”
“Because he doesn’t value his life.” Caleb wouldn’t put it past Dillon, not these days. “I have to get back to Calli. She was a bit upset.”
He turned to go, but Thomas stopped him, saying, “Caleb, thank you for this. Patty and I, we don’t know what we would have done if you hadn’t come along. She wouldn’t eat, she barely slept – you’ve saved her life by being here. And I know this is an inconvenience for you, having to switch schools and everything, but, thank you. Thank you so much.”
Caleb shook his head, “This is anything but an inconvenience. I would do more for her if I could. I love her – she’s like a sister to me.” Thomas looked at him intently for a minute, as if searching for the truth behind his words. He smiled a little and giving Caleb’s shoulder a pat, walked into the study.
Caleb stopped in the kitchen to get Kaylynn a glass of water before returning to her. She was curled up on the couch – or at least, her legs were tucked as close to her body as her stomach would allow. She looked over when he walked in and smiled tentatively. He handed her the glass without saying anything and sat down next to her. He straightened her legs one by one and stretched them over his thighs. Absently, he started massaging her calves, watching her sip her water. “Are you okay,” he finally asked.
She nodded once and placed the water on the coffee table. “I’m sorry about earlier. I don’t know what came over me.”
“Calli, I know you don’t want to talk about it, but this is important. I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important, you know that, right?”
Her eyes went wide, but she nodded. He patted her knee in encouragement and smiled.
“Can you tell me what happened to you – what Dillon did to you?”
“I never said it was Dillon,” she whispered.
“You didn’t have to.”
She looked down at her hands, “Do my parents know?”
Caleb closed his eyes and sighed. So there it was – confirmation. He opened his eyes and forced a soft smile, “Yeah. They know.”
She didn’t look up at him, but said, “I went to the house to surprise you for your birthday. Mom and dad thought you knew and would be there. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have let me go, you know?” She cleared her throat, “You weren’t there. Dillon – he was drunk and when I tried to leave, h-he slammed me against a wall – the one by the doorway to the hall, with the blue wallpaper – and he said that we would be a family.” She pulled her legs back up to her body and looked at him. “I was so scared, but I thought he would realize what he was doing and let me go. When he – when he…anyway, he kept me there for four days, said he wanted to make sure it stuck and I didn’t go ruin everything. I begged him to let me call you. I thought you’d come home and you’d stop him, but you never came. I called for you over and over again, but you…”
She didn’t sound accusatory, just sad. He, on the other hand, felt like shit. What had he been doing that he’s been gone for four days? He frowned; Dillon had sent him to Monte Vista to meet with some people. He’d waited a week for them and they never showed up. He would have gone home sooner, but he’d wanted to spend his birthday somewhere sunny for a change rather than gloomy Moonlight Falls. He’d though Dillon had made up an excuse to get him to go. And he had, hadn’t he.
“How did you get out?” Was that his voice? He sounded like he had gravel stuck in his throat.
“He let me go. On the fifth day he came into the room and woke me up. He was crying. He said he was sorry and he didn’t want me to hate him and that I had to forgive him. That he would let me go if I forgave him. I told him I did. That I never wanted to leave in the first place; that I loved him. And he let me go.” Her eyes became hard, “I would have said anything to get out of there.”
He pulled her over to him and wrapped his arms around her. “You did good, Calli. You survived. You said exactly what you should have.”…
As Caleb stroked her hair, the tension seemed to drain right out of her body. She was proud of herself for not crying while telling him what happened, but she couldn’t stop herself from shaking. She didn’t mention the bursts of rage that would leave her bruised and battered, the scars that marred her body from where he’d raked her with his claws. Having to beg and tell him she loved him just for some water. Those were the memories that she would keep to herself forever. The degradation and the things she had to do for those four days just so she could see tomorrow. And the fear and hope she’d clung to, that Caleb would come home and save her. But he had never come back, so she’d said and done what she had to in order to survive.
She wouldn’t have believed it, but just telling the story left her exhausted. She could feel herself falling asleep in his arms. She’d always felt safe in his arms. “I’m not a victim,” she heard herself say.
“I know, baby. I know.”
The baby was coming. Holy hell, the baby was coming and he seemed to be the only one freaking out. They were at Sacred Spleen Memorial Hospital and he was getting ready to go inside the delivery room. He’d gone to all the classes and read all the books and he still felt unprepared. Finally he was ready and he rushed into the room where Kaylynn lay, prepped and almost ready to push.
She grabbed his hand the moment he was close to her and he leaned down to kiss her forehead. “You got this baby. I’m right here.”
The doctor said, “Okay, Kaylynn, I want you to push for me. Big push!”
And so it began. Thirty minutes later, after watching her push without ever making a sound other than a grunt here or there, he heard a squeal and a loud cry. He wanted to look to see the child but Calli was looking up at him, still squeezing his hand, and he couldn’t look away. “You were great, Calli. We have a son.”
She smiled at him and then looked over at the nurse who was bringing the baby over. She let go of him to take the small bundle from the woman and he finally looked down at the tiny human being that was now quietly resting.
He had a son. He’d spoken to Calli about her plans for the future – about their plans for the future. He wanted to take care of her, to be there for her like he’d promised. She hadn’t liked the idea at first, saying she didn’t want him to feel obligated to take care of her, but he’d worn her down. He didn’t have any plans that would be interrupted by a family and she felt safer with him around. It was a win-win.
“I’m going to tell your parents the good news. I’ll be back.” She was so entranced by the baby that she didn’t even glance up when he left.
It took him a year, but he finally went back to Moonlight Falls. He hadn’t wanted to leave Calli alone with the baby, even though they were still living with her parents. She was done with high school and he only had two weeks left before he graduated himself. But with Jack now a year old and walking, he figured now was as a good a time as any. Giving the child his last name had been another battle with her, he was a Romajin and she didn’t want Dillon to have any link to Jack. He’d promised that Dillon would never even see the child. And he was here to carry out that promise.
He let himself in with his key and knew immediately that something was wrong. As he walked through the front rooms, he sidestepped overturned sofas and chairs, broken coffee tables and doors hanging from their hinges.
In a downstairs bedroom, he found Dillon. His hair was matted and dirty and he looked like he hadn’t bathed in days. As he walked into the room, Dillon looked up at him and whimpered.
“I take it you know why I’m here.” Just looking at him had Caleb seeing red. This man was supposed to have been his father, the protector of their family. Instead he had lusted after a little girl and tortured and raped her.
“Caleb, my son. Please, you must understand. They left me, they all left me. My parents gave me up; Rebecca deserted me soon after I got you. It was her idea to foster you! She promised me she would help. And then Thomas left. I had to have something. I deserved better than this – this exile!”
When Caleb said nothing, Dillon extended a pleading hand. “Please, son.”
“She’s a fucking child! You helped raise her.” He was trembling with rage. All he could see was Calli forced beneath this man, this animal, locked away for four days; having to endure things that still had her waking up at night from the memories. Dillon shuffled closer to him, hand still outstretched – eyes begging for forgiveness.
Caleb felt a calm come over him then. This thing in front of him wasn’t a man – wasn’t even human. He was an animal that needed to be put down for his own good. When Dillon reached him, Caleb placed his hand on Dillon’s head, stroking his dirty, matted hair. “It’s over now.”
Dillon sobbed in relief, sagging against Caleb. Eyes closed, he never saw Caleb moving his hands up. It wasn’t until Caleb wrapped them around his neck that he seemed to realize what was happening. He panicked for a brief moment, Caleb could see it in his eyes – the wolf inside him wanted to live. But he knew that Caleb wouldn’t leave until he was dead.
Caleb stared into the eyes of the man who’d raised him, taught him all he knew about how to control his Change and with one horrific, terrible act, altered the life of someone he loved. His hands squeezed tighter.
In the end, Dillon tried to save himself, but he was weak and Caleb was determined.
As he climbed back up to the main floor, he heard a noise and continued up the stairs to the second story landing. In a bedroom, he found two people huddled on a mattress on the floor. One man and a woman.
“Are you okay,” he asked. The man just growled at him. Peering closer at them he realized they were like him, werewolves. “It’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to know if you’re okay.”
“Where’s Dillon?” The man asked in a rough voice. The woman huddled behind him, trying to make herself as small as possible.
“He’s dead,” Caleb said flatly. What the hell was going on?
The woman cried out and started sobbing, but the man stood up and stared at Caleb, defiant. “Are you taking his place, then?”
“I’m sorry, what? Taking whose place?” Caleb shook his head in confusion.
“Dillon’s. Are you our master now,” the man asked.
“Umm, no. I’m no one’s master.” What kind of mess had he put himself in? “Do you have a name?”
“Caleb, the master’s son?” This time the woman spoke up. She was still huddled by Sean’s body and she peaked over his shoulder at him.
“I – I guess so.” Caleb didn’t want to be associated with Dillon in any way and hearing them call the man he’d just killed master was disturbing. “Do you have a family I can call for you?”
The door hadn’t been locked, but they didn’t look too happy to be there. They were clean even if what they had on weren’t better than rags and they didn’t look abused. He was busy examining the small room when the woman stepped away from Sean and Caleb got a good look at her. She was pregnant.
“Oh dear God, no. Did Dillon do this to you?” He was shocked. What had Dillon being doing in this god-forsaken house?
“No, this is our baby,” the woman said, glancing at Sean. “We’re all the family the other has.”
Relief flooded Caleb instantly. “Were you two prisoners here?”
The woman nodded and Sean said, “He called us guests, but we weren’t allowed to leave. He told us he was expecting a child soon and it would need a friend. He wouldn’t let us leave until Marjorie conceived. But once she had, I didn’t know where else we could go, so we stayed.”
Caleb sighed. They were newly made werewolves about to give birth to a child that would need support. And since he’d just killed the person who’d provided that support, they were now his responsibility. He just wanted to sit down, have a drink and let what he’d just done sink in. But that wasn’t going to happen, apparently.
“Well, first things first – you need to get out of this room.”
Sean growled, “This is our home. We’re not leaving!”
“Whoa, calm down. I didn’t mean the house, just this room. There are other bedrooms and they have actual beds, not – whatever it is you’re sleeping on. What is that…a pallet?” Caleb shook his head, sighing again, “Are you hungry?”
Sean murmured something to Majorie, who nodded. Then said, “Yes, we are.”
“Okay, I can do food. Food is good.” What the hell was he going to do with two werewolves? He didn’t even know you could make others like him, he’d always assumed you had to be born with this curse.
He led them through the bedroom door and downstairs into the kitchen.