Make or Break

“Look at that!” Kadogan waved wildly at the new planters.  “It is unacceptable.”

The brownie looked at him wearily.  “These plants are the latest fashion and sell for a fortune.  You are getting an excellent deal.”

“Those auricula are practically Victorian,” Kadogan snapped.  “Do you not see it Freydis?”

“Indeed.  I remember seeing something like that centuries ago.”

“And these daisies.  And this aquilegia.  It is dated.” Kadogan waved an angry hand.

“It’s a concept.” Gavin said.  “You said you wanted something to encapsulate the essential ambience of the White Hart.  So you got timeless favourites in a selection of colours.”

“I never said that.” Kadogan narrowed his eyes.  “I said that it should show what the White Hart meant.  And the White Hart is a modern, thrusting, go-getting enterprise.”

“With all due respect, sir, the White Hart is a former pub named after a medieval myth and owned by someone older than York.” Gavin took a deep breath as Fiona, Steve, Adele and Callum were beckoned out of the shop and into the car park.  Mrs Tuesday followed, polishing a glass with a tea towel.  Gavin wasn’t intimidated.  “You meant you needed something to encapsulate the essential ambience of the White Hart.  And you have a wonderful display of healthy flowers and foliage that not only uses traditional blooms to their best advantage but also follows modern dictates of taste in planting style and uses only the most modern cultivars.”

“What?” Kadogan was pacing.  “What do you mean.  They are daisies.”

“They are not just daisies, your lordship.  I think you’ll find that those are Rhodanthamum ‘Casablanca’ and I was told that they received favourable mention from important people at the Chelsea Flower Show.”

“Who told you and how important were these people?” Kadogan asked, narrowing his eyes.

“If you ask me, the flowers look perfect.  They’re bright, cheerful, colourful, a great mix of old and new and resistant to all sorts of rubbish, rather like the staff of the White Hart.” Mrs Tuesday said.  “And Ian and Jeanette are taking a long time in that van.”

Everyone’s eyes snapped to the works van.  Ian normally dropped Jeanette at the front before driving around to the back to load up deliveries or off to the warehouse to pick up supplies.  He didn’t normally kiss Jeanette passionately and at length before doing so.

“Does Jeanette know about Ian being non-normal?” Fiona asked, transfixed.

“Of course not.” Mrs Tuesday said.  “Ian has the courage to face down any monster or demon, the mental and emotional strength to go beyond most people’s endurance and the determination and will to tackle any challenge except talking to a woman who he wants to… kiss.”

“He’s already done more than kiss.” Freydis said dispassionately.  “I suppose I could change my name to Aquilegia.  I’ve been named after flowers before, but it’s so long ago that the language has changed.  I’m still not sure between Macchiato and Arabica.”

“It is not appropriate for staff to cavort in public.” Kadogan said.  “Also, she will have to sort out her hair.  It has become dishevelled.”

Darren and Dave pulled into the car park and got out of Darren’s battered Range Rover.  Dave grinned as Darren marched over and rapped sharply on the window.  “You have an audience.  Either take a break or start charging.”

Ian and Jeanette shot apart, looking mortified.

Freydis sighed.  “Young love is so sweet.  I remember it well.  Gavin Brown, you should plant poppies to match the colour in Jeanette’s cheeks.”

Jeanette tried to keep her dignity as she got out of the van.  “Anything interesting happening?”

“These planters are old fashioned.” Kadogan said.  “I do not approve.”

Jeanette cast a professional eye over them.  “I saw pictures of something like this at the Chelsea Flower show.  Not all the same varieties but they were laid out very similar.”

Gavin looked pointedly at Kadogan.  “Nothing but the best for the White Hart.”

“And you were of such assistance after the fire that we are still deeply in your debt.” Kadogan said.  “I shall praise your flowers to all.”

Gavin relaxed a little.  “I’m glad we could help.  There haven’t been any more… disturbances, have there?”

“Reverend Darren King has blessed the site and crystals have been put in place.” Kadogan said.

Jeanette looked confused.  “What happened?”

“Unquiet dead.” Freydis said.  “Now that the planters are dealt with, and the display from Ian and Jeanette has been seen, I need to get back to the Coffee Machine.  I have purchased bunting for tomorrow.”

“I’ve never known so many ghost stories.” Jeanette said.  “When I first moved in, the neighbour down the road asked if I’d seen ‘Old Nick’?  Apparently, there’s a black dog that haunts the fields next to my house and around the local farms.”

“I’ll have a word with him, if you like, should he disturb you.” Kadogan stepped back, his mind on the planters.  “Do you think royalty have seen flowers like these?”

Fiona shook her head.  “Kadogan, could you and Callum get the marquees set up, please.  I’ll get Ian to give you a hand later.  We need to get as much done as possible before the sale tomorrow.”

“The sale is genius.” Kadogan said, still admiring the flowers.  “Will you be attending, Gavin Brown?”

“Of course.  I think every non-normal in York will turn up, and a few more besides.  I’ve got my cousins coming from Nantwich.  It’s the occasion, you know.” Gavin looked around.  “If you let me know where the marquees are going then I can perhaps provide some mobile designs.  If you let me add a discreet sign advertising our business, then I’m sure there is no need for any money to change hands.”

“That would be wonderful.” Fiona said.  “Why don’t you come inside and I can show you the plans.  Jeanette has a stall selling plants.”

“Seedlings, really.” Jeanette said.  “But I thought I would make the most of the opportunity.”

“I’d be interested to see your work.” Gavin said.  “We run a cleaning and gardening service, and I’m always interested in reliable sources for plants.”

Fiona left Jeanette and Gavin talking and followed the rest of the staff back into the shop.  It looked the same as ever.  The hardwood floor gleamed, the pristine café was fully stocked and the tasteful displays and book-stuffed bookshelves were in perfect order.  Once you got behind the scenes, however, it was mayhem.

Steve had floated the idea of the fire sale.  Some of the stock was sooty or smelled of smoke and it was normal practice.  It was also a great opportunity to shift a lot of the stuff sitting in the warehouse at a cut price just to get the space back.  “It shouldn’t be too much trouble,” Steve had said.  “Just a few extra tables in the shop and we can put a note on our website.”

Then Kadogan had told everyone, including Lord Marius, that the sale would be ‘something special’ and Lord Marius had gone the length and breadth of Britain telling any non-normal that would listen that it would be a special event.  With a week to go, Steve and Fiona had been scrabbling around to live up to this.

Fiona squeezed between a stack of boxes of paper plates and a tower of packs of spray cream and found Steve checking over a list.  “Where’s Ian?”

“He’s gone to pick up some extra stock from the warehouse.” Steve said.  “Or he’s hiding before Mrs Tuesday can speak to him.  Either explanation works.”

“It’s Jeanette that needs a conversation.” Fiona said.  “And where are we going to put anything extra?”

“We can start putting some stuff in the marquees this evening after the shop closes.” Steve double checked a box of coloured sugar.  “Kieran said he would cover the security.  He said it was the least he could do after we took in Jasmine.”

“Is she really that dangerous?” Fiona asked.

Steve shrugged.  “Potentially, she’s incredibly dangerous.  Werewolves outside a pack can break without warning.  On the bright side, Ian and Callum are practically a pack, and Mrs Tuesday is taking her under her wing, so she has a good chance.  She’s been okay this week” He ticked off another line on the list and inched his way past a stack of ‘shop soiled’ smudge sticks.  “Where is Jasmine?”

“She’s sorting out the bedrooms for the band.” Fiona said.  “I wonder if we could give away this incense?  I mean, I know it’s labelled as rose, but it smells like nothing on earth.  Where did it come from?”

“Ferdi persuaded Kadogan to take some.” Steve grabbed a box of ‘fairy themed’ windchimes in the heartbeat before they fell.  “That goblin is getting on my nerves.”

“Jasmine has been fine, I suppose.” Fiona said, checking another box.  “Have you seen how close to the sell by date these sugar flowers are?”

“I’m going to price them cheap.” Steve said.  “And dump any that are left at the end of the day.  They weren’t good sellers to start with.”

Fiona looked at the insipid purple and green rosebuds.  “I think we got them as a free sample with a bigger pack of the sugar roses.  We can’t get enough of the roses but these never seem to shift.”  She sighed.  “I am worried about Jasmine, though, and I think Mrs Tuesday is as well.  She’s so, I don’t know…” Fiona waved a vague hand.

“She’s like a kicked puppy.” Steve said.  “She keeps waiting for the blow.  It’s heartbreaking.  But it makes her potentially extremely dangerous.  You never know is she is going to snap out of fear, even though she’s as safe as she’s going to be here.” He ticked the last line of his list.  “Right, that’s checked off.  I’m going to the warehouse to finish assembling the ‘Lucky Boxes’.  It’s as good a way as any to shift stuff and there’s some good deals in there.”

“A flint arrowhead in every box.” Fiona laughed.  “And ask Ian what’s going on.”

“About what?” Steve asked, before he realised.  “It’s none of our business.”

“I think letting Jeanette know that she’s having sex with a werewolf is sort of our business, if she doesn’t know.  I mean, we sent Ian to stay with her and we do have a duty of care to employees.”  Fiona found herself wringing her hands and shoved them in her pockets.  “I’d want to know.”

“I’ll have a word.” Steve promised, kissing her briefly before grabbing his jacket.  “I’ll check in on Armani at lunchtime and I’ll see you later.”

Jeanette was trying to look composed.  They were both adults and both single, so who was getting hurt?  The last week had been the best week of her life.  It wasn’t just the physical side.  It was the feeling that she was with someone who also had passion.  Ian had the sort of determination and energy that Jeanette envied and he was so supportive as she worked to get the house and gardens up to scratch.  They had watched a film last night, and she had felt so right sitting next to him.  They hadn’t managed to watch the end of the film as sitting cuddled together was too much temptation, and they had got carried away, but it had been amazing.  Jeanette pulled herself together.  She couldn’t risk daydreaming when surrounded by interested women.  She rushed into the first thing she could think of.  “Does Kadogan really believe in ghosts?”

“Of course,” Freydis said.  “Doesn’t everyone?”

“I’m not sure.” Jeanette said.  “I don’t believe myself.”

“But you have Old Nick in your fields.” Freydis said.  “Surely that is proof?”

“I’ve never seen it” Jeanette said, “And I’ve spent hours out there.”

“But have you spent hours out there in winter?” Freydis stepped back from the coffee machine and looked at the hessian bunting.  “Do you think that’s straight?”

“What does Ian say about the ghost?” Adele asked.

Jeanette felt her cheeks get warm.  “We haven’t discussed it.”

“I’m sure you’ve been busy with other things.” Freydis said, adjusting the bunting.  She frowned.  “It still doesn’t look right.”

Mrs Tuesday sighed.  “Jeanette, I think we need to talk.”

“About what?” Jeanette said.  “If it’s about me and Ian, then it’s private.  It’s not like anything is affecting my work, and if it is, shouldn’t it be Fiona or Steve talking to me?”

“I’d go, if I were you.” Adele said.  “And it’s either Mrs Tuesday or Freydis.”

“I’m still not sure.  One of the most expensive coffees is called Gesha.” Freydis twitched the bunting again.  “What do you think about Gesha as a name?”

“It sounds like a sneeze.” Mrs Tuesday said.  She gestured for Jeanette to precede her up the stairs.  Jeanette gave in and ran up to the office.

Fiona was relieved that the shop was quiet.  Dave had back to back Tarot readings, as he had cleared the diary for the next day.  He, Sir Ewan and Darren would be walking the streets of York to keep an eye out while Lord Ragnar’s court were at the sale.  Ian and Callum were busy at the warehouse with Steve, getting the sale goods ready to load and filling lucky boxes and mystery bags.  Adele was in the back, getting as much set up as possible for catering tomorrow.  Fiona was at the till, checking the emails and their social media.  If everyone who said they were coming turned up, they would be swamped.

Jasmine cleaned the tables as Freydis stroked the coffee machine.  Jasmine was a hard worker, like most werewolves, and she kept checking to see if Fiona was approving.  She was an odd, awkward and almost gangly contrast to Freydis, both appearing tall and blonde but the elegance of Freydis was entirely missing in Jasmine.  Fiona wondered how long it would take for Jasmine to relax.  It had taken Ian months and he was still a little wary.  Callum had settled in quicker, but he had allowed Ian to take the lead.

“Mrs Tuesday is spending a long time with Jeanette.” Freydis said.  She ran a manicured finger over the steamer switch.  “I can’t imagine what she’s saying.”

“Lots of people are scared of us.” Jasmine said.  “Jeanette may not feel safe with Ian.  I know he’s okay, but Jeanette may not understand.”

“Ian is perfectly safe for Jeanette.” Freydis opened the cupboard next to the coffee machine and sighed in pleasure at the boxes of coffee ready to go.  “In fact, I think they are a perfect match.  He should bite her.”

“I don’t think that’s going to help.” Jasmine said.  She shut up quickly as Ian came in.

“I’ve brought over the tables and table cloths ready to set up.” Ian said.  “Jasmine, did you get the clothes yesterday?”

Jasmine couldn’t meet his eyes.  “It seems silly to get new clothes.  These are clean.  I wash them every night.” She looked down at the shrunken man’s t-shirt hanging off her and the faded jeans.  “These look great,” she said despite the evidence.

“You got paid yesterday.” Ian said.  “Steve agreed that for now you can get paid in cash every week.  You were supposed to go and pick up a few things.  That t-shirt will be worn out before next week.”

“I don’t really need that much.” Jasmine took the tray of dirty plates back to the dishwasher.  “Anyway, I can pick something up at the weekend.”

“Jasmine, you know we are busy at the weekend.” Ian’s voice had a certain steel in it.  “So you know you won’t be able to go shopping.  You need more than two t-shirts and a pair of jeans.  I know Fiona has let you borrow a few tops, but you need your own things.”

Jasmine loaded the dishwasher, tension in every line.  “But what if I can’t earn money next week?  And I don’t have a lot, anyway.  The jeans in Freydis’ magazine were all over a hundred pounds.” Her voice broke a little.

“That magazine isn’t real life.” Ian took a breath.  “I’m not letting you look like a scarecrow.  It looks bad for me.  I’m going to take you to get some clothes now, while it’s quiet.”

“A man can’t take a woman shopping for clothes.” Freydis said.  “They don’t understand.”

“Watch me.” Ian said.  “Jasmine, run upstairs, get your jacket and we’ll get out while it’s quiet.  I can’t do much more until the shop closes.  Then you can help me sort out the marquees.”

“I don’t want to be any trouble…” Jasmine looked trapped.

“Don’t worry, I won’t let you.” Ian said.

There was a slam and a clatter down the stairs.  Jeanette flew into the shop, tears staining her cheeks.  She ran into the back room to grab her coat and bag and then flew out again.  She stormed up to Ian.  “You never thought to tell me.  You never thought to say that you were a…” Jeanette took an angry gulp of air.  “You never thought to mention that you were a monster?”

“I’m not a monster.” Ian said quietly, his hands hanging down by his sides and his shoulders tense.

Jeanette ignored him.  “When were you going to tell me?  After all we were doing.” She tried to catch her breath.  “I don’t want to see you again.  I don’t want to speak to you again.  I want nothing more to do with you.  Stay away from me!” She whirled around and stamped away.

Ian stared after her, his heart breaking a little more at each furious step as Jeanette raced out of the door and up the street.  For a moment he closed his eyes.  Then he took a deep breath and deliberately relaxed his shoulders.  “Jasmine, go and get your jacket.  We need to get a move on if we are going to get you anything decent.”

“Are you sure, sir?” Jasmine asked, her eyes full of empathy.

“Absolutely.  The werewolves of the White Hart are not going to look like ragbags.  Now go on, get that jacket!” And Ian walked slowly across the room to the door, his back straight and his face set.

Dean kept his walk casual and his body language relaxed.  The number of revenants had dropped drastically over the last week, but the ones that had been spotted seemed to be have been working like a pack and with some sort of purpose.  He was keeping watch this evening, like Luke, as the people from the White Hart were so busy.  As he watched the corners and the angles, the back of his mind was worrying away at what was happening with the revenants.  They didn’t seem to be feeding now but were mugging tourists and looting abandoned garages.

Dean turned the corner and, keeping his head down, strolled down the back street.  The evenings were long and golden, and some tourists still lingered around the walls and along the narrow streets near the Minster.  He could hear laughter spilling out from the bars and felt regret.  He had squandered so much time there but at least he had belonged.  Now he felt rootless.  Miss Patience seemed to be getting weirder as the revenants increased so he avoided her as much as he dared, but he wasn’t part of the White Hart either.  He was almost sure that Fiona could work with him, but Steve really couldn’t.  He didn’t blame him.  He started to head towards the river.  The nixies had talked about dead bones being dumped in the water so there may be something going on down there.

Someone was keeping step with him.  Dean kept his composure but who the hell could creep up on a vampire?  The paces were almost exactly matching him, the presence next to him almost invisible.

“You’re not feeding properly.”

Dean looked at the man next to him.  He looked in his thirties. “I’m doing okay.”

“No, you’re barely staving off the demons inside you.  Just a few more mouthfuls and some regular food and it will make all the difference.  I’m Martin, by the way.”

“Dean Mackenzie.” Dean held out his hand to shake the hand of the vampire walking next to him.

“So young and so proud.” Martin said.  They carried down towards the river.  In silence.  Dean broke first.

“I haven’t seen you at Miss Patience’ house.”

“No, I’ve not much time for Patience.  I’ve always found her too emotional.” Martin said, his eyes flicking into the alleys and side roads just like Dean.

Dean turned and stared at him.  “You’re not scared of Miss Patience?”

Martin shrugged.  “I’m more worried about what is going on with the dark influence.  What do you know?”

Dean wondered what was safe to tell.  “There was an issue with a vampire last year.  He was destroyed but a lot of dark energy lingered.  He’d put a lot into Lord Ragnar’s domain and it’s still in some quarters.  Then revenants started appearing.”

Martin walked next to him in silence for a while.  They reached the river and strolled along the path before Martin indicated a bench.  He watched Dean sit down before joining him.  “This vampire that was destroyed.  Did he create you?”

Dean kept his eyes fixed on the river.  “Yes.”

“And you didn’t ask for it?” Martin said, his voice calm but inescapable.

“No.  I think he planned to kill me, but I turned instead.” Dean didn’t dare look at Martin.  A chill ran through him as he realised that he had never yet met a vampire as powerful as the creature sitting next to him.  He didn’t know what to do.

“So your creator didn’t teach you.” Martin sounded thoughtful.  “Did Patience show you how to feed?”

“Yes, and she took me to a farm just outside Thirsk.  I get a good feed there every week and sometimes I feed at her court.” Dean kept his eyes fixed on the river.  “But I don’t like leaving marks.”

“Did your creator leave marks on you?” Martin asked.  Dean nodded, not able to speak.  Martin continued in the same even tone.  “Did Patience show you how to avoid marks and to make your feeding companion comfortable?”

Dean turned and stared at him.  “Is that possible?”

Martin grimaced.  “Not only is it possible, it’s desirable.” He sighed.  “I will show you how to feed.  It is not safe for you to stay so close to the edge of your sanity.  Then we can talk a little more about this dark power.”

It was Luke’s turn to cook.  He had made the rice salad beforehand and now he just had to cook the chicken.  He pulled out an oven dish.  The chicken could be baked with tomatoes and olives.  It wouldn’t need much attention and he could grab a quick shower.  Jeanette slammed into the kitchen.

“Ian won’t be here for dinner,” she announced.

“That’s a shame.” Luke said, completely missing any undertones.  “I was wondering about trying a new Bible study course with him.  I’ll ask him when I see him next.”

“He’s not coming here.” Jeanette hung up her coat with venom.

Luke turned around and looked her properly.  She was flushed and her eyes were bright.  He had absolutely no idea what to say.  “I’ll just get this chicken in and then I’ll get a quick shower as I’m out tonight.  There’s rice salad in the fridge.”

Jeanette watched him leave before filling the kettle, her hand shaking.  It wasn’t fair.  She had been falling for Ian in a big way.  She thought she had finally met someone that was right for her, someone that she could believe in.  She watched the kettle as it boiled before realising she hadn’t got a mug out.  Her mind whirled as she made a strong cuppa.  What was she supposed to think?  Ian had been so gentle at exactly the right times and so passionate when she needed it.  He had been perfect.  He had been kind and thoughtful and she had always had a sense that she could rely on him to the end of the world.  She started laying the table on autopilot.  Why was he a werewolf?  Why couldn’t he be just a man that she met at work?

She had no doubt that Mrs Tuesday was telling the truth.  Knowing that Freydis was a supernatural creature with issues was the only thing that made explained her behaviour.  It was amazing how things made sense – the way Callum and Jasmine deferred to Ian, the unexpected strength of Mrs Tuesday, even with a bad back, Ian’s relentless energy, Ferdi’s strange appearance, some of the stock that they were selling, Ian’s strength and physical fitness.  Jeanette looked down.  She had laid the table for three.  If she had had any tears left she would have broken down and sobbed.  As it was, she quietly put away the plate, knife and fork and sagged into a kitchen chair.

There was a quiet tap on the kitchen door.  Jeanette didn’t even look up.  She couldn’t deal with anyone at the door right now, no matter what they were collecting for.  There was another tap.  Jeanette felt that she didn’t have the strength to lift her head, let alone answer the door.

The door opened and Ian stepped in.  Jeanette refused to look up.  She clenched her hands around the mug.  “Please go.”

“Jeanette, please, listen to me.” Ian was quiet but determined.  “You have to believe that I am not a threat to you.”

“Why should I believe it?” Jeanette stared at her tea, keeping her eyes away from Ian.

“Because it’s true?” Ian walked over and sat opposite her at the table.

Jeanette looked up, and her heart half broke at the hurt in Ian’s eyes.  “You lied to me.”

“I didn’t lie to you.” Ian said.

“You didn’t tell me who you were.  When was that going to happen?”

“I don’t know.” Ian was so quiet that Jeanette could barely hear him.  “I didn’t want to say anything at first.  It never ends well.  People get the wrong idea.  Then we were just getting on, just talking.  I was grateful to work here, you know.”

“I know, you kept working even though…” Jeanette’s voice broke.  “Why?”

“I was looking for someone as a partner.  I needed to pair up with another werewolf.” Ian managed a smile.  “I didn’t think that you could be a partner.  But it was difficult.  I didn’t know what I was thinking, I felt confused.  Working here helped.”

There was a silence.  Ian broke it first.  “No more secrets.  About a year and a half ago, maybe a little more, I accidentally summoned a demon.  I didn’t mean to, but it was the wrong thing to do.  My pack would have tolerated an accident, but I was using magic to get leadership of that pack, and that wasn’t allowed.  They made me divorce my wife and leave the pack.  I was a stray.  It’s a big deal.” Ian managed another ghost of a smile.  “Being a stray is worse than summoning a demon, for werewolves.  The people at the White Hart took me in.  Traditionally strays are hunted down or driven out.  Kadogan and Fiona were kind.”

“They are kind.” Jeanette remembered all the small acts of kindness that passed around the White Hart every day, even from Freydis.

“Callum had been driven out of his pack for sniffing around the wrong lady.  He had fallen in with the wrong crowd and made some bad choices before he saved Fiona and made a deal with Lord Ragnar.  He came to stay with us as well.” Ian’s smile became slightly less strained.  “I’ve taken the place of pack leader with him and I’m keeping him in line.  He’s a good lad and deserves a break.  He keeps his fur flat and pulls his weight and has come on leaps and bounds.  He didn’t know about normal society at all, you know, but he kept his tail up and learned his lessons and now he can almost walk in York without getting panicked.” Ian’s smile became wry.  “He was kept away from towns.  He still can’t always cope with a crowd of humans.  Then he fell for Adele.  But he can’t settle down with her if the pack leader hasn’t got a mate.  The pack leader gets the first relationship.  It’s a deep, werewolf thing.  And I was still missing Ann and moping.  But if Callum wants to settle down then I had to find someone.  I didn’t want to pair up with someone who would want a stray who summoned a demon.  I wouldn’t want the sort of partner who would want me.” Ian shrugged.  “I’m a hypocrite.”

Jeanette thought she understood.  The sort of woman who would settle for someone looked down on wouldn’t do for the man sitting opposite her, driven and determined.  “Is that why Jasmine turned up?”

“She was thrown out of her pack for fighting and… other reasons.” Ian reached over to take Jeanette’s hand, but she pulled away.  His mouth tightened.  “She was getting pressure to pair up with me and turned up to let me know it wasn’t happening.” Ian shook his head.  “She’s a good kid, but she’s got a lot of growing to do.  I took her shopping for clothes earlier.  I wish I could have asked you for help.”

“I walked home.” Jeanette said.  “It’s eight miles and I think I cried most of the way.  I could believe that Freydis was a supernatural pain in the neck and that Mrs Tuesday was a thingy, a boggart, but I couldn’t believe you didn’t tell me.”

Ian stood up and walked around the table.  “I didn’t know what to say.  I was scared that you would turn away from me.  And when was a good time to tell you?”

Jeanette stood up.  “Before you took me to bed.”

“You wanted that just as much as I did.” Ian said sharply.

“Yes, I did.  I’m not going to pretend that it wasn’t the best sex I had ever had.  But I didn’t know it was with a werewolf.  Did you sleep with me for Callum’s sake?”

“What?” Ian looked blank.

“I’ve seen what you’ll do for your little pack, for Callum and Jasmine.  I bet you hated the thought of shopping for clothes for Jasmine but did it because it was the right thing to do.  And I know you’ve gone out of your way for Callum time and again.  Did you decide to ‘pair up’ with me so that Callum could settle down.”

“No!” Ian tried to reach for Jeanette but she backed away.  “I didn’t think of you like that.”

“So I’m good enough for a casual encounter, but nothing serious?  Are you still looking for the perfect werewolf to settle down with, someone who could take Jasmine for clothes?”

“No, it’s not like that?”

“What is it like?” Jeanette backed up further and felt the fridge against her shoulders.

“I didn’t expect to feel like this.” Ian scrabbled for words.  “I just liked being with you.  And when things got more passionate, I didn’t know what to say or how to say it.  Jeanette, please, think about it.  We can start over, start slow, maybe just date.  It’s not about anyone else, it’s about how I feel about you.”

Jeanette swallowed.  She wanted to believe him so much.  “I don’t know you.  I thought I did, but I don’t.  I don’t understand about werewolves and boggarts and elfen.” She choked back a sob.  “And how do I know that it’s about me and not Callum and Jasmine?”

“Because if it was about them I would be looking for a werewolf.  It’s you that I’m interested in, not someone fitting a job description.” Ian reached out towards Jeanette.  “Please, listen to me.”

“I can’t deal with anymore today.” Jeanette held on to the back of her chair.  “Please leave.”

“Jeanette, please, we can talk this over.” Ian advanced as Jeanette retreated around the table.

“If she doesn’t want to talk to you, I think you should leave.” Luke was standing in the doorway, a towel around his waist and a stern expression in his eyes.

“This isn’t something you should interfere with.” Ian said coldly.  “This is entirely about Jeanette and I.”

“I think I can speak up for Jeanette when she’s wanting peace.” Luke kept his voice calm but there was an edge.  The room crackled with tension.  Ian’s fists clenched.

“Jeanette is nothing to do with you.  Stay away from her.”

“I think she can make her own decisions about who she speaks to.” Luke wasn’t backing down.

Ian took a step towards Luke.  “Jeanette is mine.”

Jeanette flew between them.  “Ian, don’t!  Luke, you need to run, you don’t understand.  Ian’s not… Ian’s a…” She stuttered to a stop as the colour drained from Ian’s face.

“You really do think I’m a monster, don’t you?” All emotion had drained from Ian’s voice.

“Ian, I don’t know, I didn’t mean…” Jeanette struggled to find the words.  “You’re a werewolf.”

“But I’m not a monster.  It’s okay.  If that’s what you think then I’ll leave.” Ian looked past her.  “I’ll see you later Luke.  Can you drop my things at the White Hart?”

“Not a problem.” Luke said, looking between Ian and Jeanette.

Ian turned on his heel and without another glance walked out of the house.  Luke turned to Jeanette.  “What’s going on?” He put a gentle hand on her shoulder.  She shook her head and sank back into the kitchen chair.

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