Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chapter 10 - Breaking Point

Kenzie was beyond shocked. Hayden looked pissed and Paige looked appalled. Bryce was terrified, his fear reflecting that of his son.

“I can assure you,” Lauren continued, “that it will be quick. I love Tristan like my own son, so it’ll be a merciful death. I won’t let him suffer.”

“You are absolutely insane,” Bryce said through gritted teeth. “You’d stoop to this level to have me, even though I’d never want you?”

“You’ll learn to. Just like I learned to deal with an abusive husband before you came along.”

Domestic abuse. No wonder Lauren was screwed in the head.


“Lauren, you don’t want to do this,” Kenzie tried to console. “If you really loved Tristan, you wouldn’t threaten him at all.”

“What would you know, Miss Snoop? And where do you get off, barging in here with your two dogs, and some other chick?”

Sage growled. Or was it Hayden? Maybe it was both. Kenzie felt like growling herself. This woman was beyond psychotic. She thanked her lucky stars she’d called the police and left her phone on so they could track it.

But Hayden wasn’t in the mood to wait for the police. He wasn’t as fast as a vampire, but he had better hunting instincts. One minute, he was calmly standing next to Kenzie, and the next, he was hurling himself toward Lauren.

The action caught her completely off-guard, forcing her to collide with the kitchen cabinets, allowing Tristan time to escape to the adjacent living room.

Unfortunately, the gun Lauren was holding had accidentally gone off in the scuffle with Hayden, firing a bullet into the ceiling, frightening the boy even more.


“Stop it!” Bryce roared. Paige waved her wand and a flurry of sparkles shot toward Lauren, causing her to drop the gun. Tristan took this opportunity to run toward his father, who embraced him with more compassion than Kenzie had ever seen Bryce express. Mariah crawled over to join her husband and son.

Hayden and Paige managed to keep Lauren subdued, and at last the police arrived. Lauren was quickly put in handcuffs and whisked away.

“How did this happen?” Mariah sobbed as she held her son. “What did she say to you?”

“Did she hurt you?” Bryce asked as well.

Tristan shook his head as he started to cry. He told his parents everything, and Kenzie and an officer took notes. It turned out that Lauren had broken the fence at the park herself in order to gain entry, and had been there the day she’d found Kenzie because she was going to fix it. She knew that Bryce and Mariah would be taking their child to the new amusement park. She’d spotted him on the spinning teacup ride, and when the ride had ended, she’d waved him over to the duck pond when she noticed that Bryce and Mariah were conversing with each other and not watching the ride. Tristan said that Lauren had stated he could come visit her at her house because she’d already talked to his parents about it, and of course he believed her because he’d known her as their friend. A simple story, easily believed by an innocent, gullible child. All it took was the right opportunity.

The only good news was that Lauren had treated Tristan great, as she’d viewed him as her own son, up until she pulled a gun. She’d given him a warm bed to sleep in, allowed him to play and watch TV and the like, and had kept him fed. As for him going to school, she either didn’t think that part through or figured Bryce would give in before the weekend was over.


Seeing the Cooper family together made Kenzie remember that she had two dear friends in Appaloosa Plains who were expecting a little bundle of joy of their own. Her mind was already spinning with what was coming, such as a baby shower, and part of her even began to wonder what it would be like to have one of her own.

She looked at Hayden and could easily see him being a father. And she’d always told herself that she wanted kids someday.

But then there was her job. Such a career wasn’t recommended for someone who desired to have a family. Their safety would always be at stake. And there would be the inevitable risk of one life taking precedence over the other – the family life and the career life.

What was more important? What did Kenzie want? She wished she knew.

**********

After Kenzie, Hayden, and Paige gave their statements to the police, they all three went back to the cabin. Paige shacked up in Hayden’s childhood bedroom in one of the bunk beds and would leave the next day, after she got some rest. It was already four in the morning now, and everyone was tired.

Hayden, still in his wolf form until morning, fell asleep instantly, and Kenzie thought that she would too. She was beyond exhausted. But instead, her mind was reeling with the events of the past few days. She and Hayden were in love; that was official. And that was one thing she was more sure of than anything.


But what she wasn’t sure of was the state of her career. She trusted Paige and was happy that she was available to help, but it made that nagging feeling she’d been fighting off for quite some time now emerge once again.

What she’d seen with Lauren and Tristan, how she held a gun to his back and threatened to kill him if Bryce didn’t leave his wife for her…it was physically and emotionally nauseating. She’d also seen the pain and agony that Bryce and Mariah had gone through, not knowing the fate of their only child.

But more than that, Kenzie, for the umpteenth time, felt completely helpless. Yes, she’d uncovered some clues, but she’d needed Paige’s magic to perform a locator spell to find Tristan. And then her magic, plus Hayden’s strength and keen senses, had kept Lauren at bay so that Tristan could be saved.

Kenzie had always been intrigued by supernatural creatures. But perhaps the intrigue had been the possibility of their existence, not the reality. Now that they’d revealed themselves, they were mingling with humans in all areas, even occupations. Several supernatural creatures were now detectives like she had been, but they had special abilities to rely on.


Kenzie shifted positions slightly, which jarred Hayden awake.

“You okay?” he asked her.

Kenzie shrugged.

“What’s wrong? Can’t sleep?”

“I guess I have a lot on my mind.”

“No doubt. I don’t know how I was able to sack out so easy. Tonight was crazy.”

“Yeah. How could anyone do that to a kid?”

“How could anyone think a threesome is good marriage counseling?”

“Takes all kinds to make a world, I guess.”


Kenzie buried her face into Hayden’s strong chest, and he held her tightly. He knew something else was on Kenzie’s mind, but he also knew better than to push the issue. But he did promise that tomorrow, their last day in Aurora Skies, would have one more surprise for her.

That surprise turned out to be another high flying adventure – but this time, it wasn’t on a roller coaster. It was on a romantic hot air balloon ride, which he’d mentioned upon her arrival.

“You have to be kidding me,” Kenzie whimpered. “Didn’t the roller coaster traumatize me enough?”

“This is a lot safer, and I don’t remember you being that traumatized after you got past the loops. Besides, I wanted to celebrate this weekend.”

“What’s there to celebrate?”

“Well, for one, we’re in love.”


Kenzie smiled. “Of course.”

Hayden didn’t skip out on the romance with this hot air balloon ride. He pulled out practically all the stops. When she was sitting there, still suffering from her acrophobia, Hayden held her and comforted her. Plus, when he kissed her, it helped take her mind off things. And it made her feel like she was flying higher than the balloon was taking her.


“So that’s one thing to celebrate,” Hayden said. “The second is that you closed a major case. I mean, come on, a kidnapped five-year-old? Not everyone could keep a level head in that situation. You did, and you caught the kidnapper. And I’m very proud of you for that. In fact, both of those facts, us being in love and you solving a case, deserve a drink.”

Hayden helped Kenzie up and then withdrew a bottle of bubbly champagne she hadn’t noticed in the balloon basket before. He filled two glasses with the liquid and clinked his glass with hers.

“To us,” he said.


“To us,” Kenzie replied as she returned the clink and took a sip of the sweet nectar. She wasn’t normally much of a drinker, but she was in a very celebratory mood despite the nagging sensation in her mind.

“And third,” Hayden continued, “I got my story written on the amusement park, and now I have another one to write. Which means you’ll get more coverage, hence more clients. I know you’ve been worried about business lately.”

That was an understatement. Kenzie had been considering this all night. She still hadn’t gotten that much sleep, even after Hayden’s comforting words. And as she thought about the Cooper family, not to mention Austin and Cheyenne, she realized that some things in life were more important than others.


It had been on her mind for a long time, but now she knew without a doubt that she’d reached her limit.

Everyone has a breaking point, and Kenzie feared that she’d finally reached hers. She realized that her heart didn’t seem to be into her career anymore, and it hadn’t for a while.

Regardless of how hard she’d worked, how far she’d come, and how much she desperately wanted to keep at it, sometimes she felt like she just couldn’t do it anymore. Seeing Savannah, the youngest sister of her best friend, go through such turmoil, and her being unable to help, had given her a lot of clarity. And then there was this case, where she’d had to ask her supernatural friend for help because she couldn’t do her own damn job otherwise.

The fact that business was down and prices were up didn’t help matters, either. Plus, if one read the news, a lot of obvious criminals who were arrested got off on probation or a slap on the wrist, making the hard work of the detectives who caught them meaningless.

Kenzie had wanted to become a detective long before she knew supernatural creatures existed. Now that they were out and about, people were more willing to hire them due to their keen senses and perceptions. She didn’t hold a grudge against them; she just wished that sometimes she could be as dependable as she once was, before they revealed themselves.

Kenzie took a good long look at her life (and at Aurora Skies through the site-seeing binoculars as she plagued her brain over this subject) and realized that she was trying to create balance in an unbalanced world. She was trying to be normal in an abnormal world. But still, the thought of abandoning all that she’d worked for was as depressing as feeling helpless.


“Don’t,” she told Hayden. “Don’t write that story to get more publicity for me.”

“Well, that wouldn’t be the main point obviously; the main point is to report on what happened.”

“No, Hayden. It’s not that. It’s just...”

“What?”

“I don’t know about this anymore. I feel like I’m at my breaking point, like I can’t do this job anymore. Like my heart isn’t in it anymore.”

“Why is that?”


As the hot air balloon continued to navigate above the town, Kenzie sighed. She didn’t know how else to put it except to bluntly spit it out.

“These past few cases, with Savannah and now an innocent five-year-old, it’s made me realize that I’m not sure if I’m capable of handling it anymore. Last night, you and Paige took down Lauren and all I could do was stand around and watch. Sage was the one that sniffed out Lauren’s broken fence. You and she both heard the ruckus going on last night before we went inside. Paige found Tristan and blew the gun out of Lauren’s hand. What did I do? I called the cops, which seems to be all I’ve been doing lately, when before I’d handled situations myself. I keep telling myself that things will get better, that they’ll be okay, but it feels like they won’t. It seems there’s only one solution that might help me.”

“And what would that be?”

“I can hardly get any business because supernatural creatures are being hired, what with their keen senses of sight, smell, sound, and the like. If I were a supernatural creature, like, for instance, a werewolf…”

“No. Don’t even think that, Kenzie.” Hayden’s voice was uncharacteristically sharp.

 “Why not?”

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. You don’t want this. You have no control over your own body during the full moon, you get hair everywhere, and I don’t want to turn you into a…”

“Monster? Hayden, you’re not a monster, for the millionth time.”

“You know what I mean.”

“How does someone even become a werewolf, just out of curiosity? Like, do you have to be bitten during a full moon? With vampires, you have to be bitten three times and drink vampire blood within twenty-four hours.”

“Yes, it does have to be during a full moon, and all it takes is a bite. The person will transform during the next full moon.”

“So…you get bitten on the night of a full moon, and a month later, you turn into a werewolf. You could have bitten me that night.”

“But I don’t want to, and I won’t.”

“Why? Are you afraid I’ll look like you do when you’re transformed?”

“No…I’m worried you’ll regret the decision. Much like you’re going to regret giving up your dream if you actually quit. I mean, come on. You’ve worked so hard for this, wanted it for so long, and you’re thinking of just throwing it away because you’re a human?”

He had a good point. How could she give up her dream altogether? She did want to help people. She remembered the speech she’d given at Lucky Palms University, how she’d told the students there why she’d gone into criminology. And how in her mind she’d thought of the creep supplying drugs to college students, and creeps like that, and Lauren, were the reason she had to stick with her job. Victims needed justice, and she wanted to supply it.

But then there was the supernatural aspect. If she had some sort of special abilities, anything at all, her job would be a lot easier and she’d get more business. Plus she’d be more fearsome.

But still. Being a detective was a way of life for her. And she truly didn’t want to throw it away. But she was going to have to do something on the side to make ends meet since business was down.

Hayden hugged her reassuringly. “I have a solution for that too,” he said when she told him this.

“Like what?”

“Well, there’s something else I’ve been wanting to ask you for a while anyway.”


Kenzie’s heart skipped a beat. Surely he didn’t mean…

“Kenzie, I love you, and you love me too, as you said. I want to be able to protect you and take care of you. And I fear that I can’t do that when you’re in Riverview, no matter how safe you think the town is. Since I have a job located in only one place, and your job sends you all over, well, I think there’s only one solution here.”

“Okay…”

“Kenzie, will you move in with me?”

He asked this as the balloon bumped back down to earth. Kenzie lost her balance and nearly toppled over the side, but Hayden caught her before she plunged downward.

“What did you say?” she managed to squeak as they walked off the platform.

“You heard me. I want you to live with me, Kenzie. This long-distance thing…I can handle it, but it’s so hard having to say goodbye. And wolves don’t say goodbye to their mates once they’ve found them. I know, it’s a wolf analogy and I’m not all wolf, but you get the gist of what I’m saying.”


Kenzie was shocked. She really had no idea what to say. She thought her life was complicated before. But this…she loved Hayden. She did. But moving in with him was a big step, and they hadn’t even been dating for a year yet.

Maybe she just wasn’t used to someone liking her enough to want to live with her. Or maybe she was just afraid because the last time there was talk of living together with a man, the man in question had cheated on her.

But Hayden wasn’t like that. She knew that in her heart. But she still didn’t have an answer for him. Not yet. She’d already made one life-altering decision in keeping her career but doing something else at the same time rather than quitting. She couldn’t possibly make another in five minutes.

“I promise I’ll think about it,” she said at last.

“Fair enough. I won’t force you. But just know that the offer is always there for you. And whatever you decide, with anything, I’ll support you.”


Kenzie allowed Hayden to embrace her as she tried to fight back tears. She still had to endure the drive home to Riverview, and leaving Hayden behind to return to Moonlight Falls was crushing her. She missed him as much as he missed her. The long-distance relationship was hard on her as well. She’d managed fine with Logan, until he’d revealed his true colors.

But that was in the past. And so was Bryce. Hayden had proven that he was truly Kenzie’s soul mate. Never before had she known true love. Now she did, and she had no doubts. Hayden had lived up to his promise of making their first Love Day very memorable in so many ways.

All she had to do now was consider his offer, which could be one of the biggest decisions she’d ever make in her life. But she knew that when the time came, when she was ready, she’d know it. And she was prepared for it.

THE END

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chapter 9 - Ultimatum

WARNING: This chapter contains disturbing, sensitive subject matter that might be upsetting to some readers/viewers.

Paige arrived a few hours later. She was happy to help, but it wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

“Locator spells are tricky,” she explained. “I have to have something of the person’s, like an article of clothing or a toy or something. Then, I have to have a map of the town the person is in. And last, I need the blood of a direct relation.”

“Uh…not to sound bitchy,” Kenzie said, “but why didn’t you tell us you needed this stuff before you came here? We could have gotten it for you before now.”

“For one, it’s too late to ask any city hall for a map of their town. Two, it’s going to take some time to prepare for the incantation, considering it’s been a while since I’ve had to do a locator spell. And three, it’s also too late to ask the parents of this missing kid for something that belongs to him, plus for their blood. It’s almost midnight.”


Kenzie looked heavenward. Surely Bryce and Mariah wouldn’t mind being woken up at this hour if it meant a stronger chance to find their son. So while Paige prepared herself, Kenzie set out for the Cooper house on her own. Sage stayed behind, as she was worn out from the earlier encounter with Bryce. Kenzie didn’t blame her. The man was beyond exhausting.

Still, though the parents were ecstatic to hear that Kenzie was sure she knew of a way to find Tristan, when she mentioned Paige, Mariah nearly blew a gasket.

“No,” she insisted. “I can’t have a supernatural creature involved.”

“Uh…excuse me?” Kenzie replied incredulously.


Mariah looked down as she held her husband’s hand. “I hate supernatural creatures,” she confessed. “A fortune teller told me once that I’d have a successful career, one just as good as Bryce’s, and it never happened.”

“Sweetie,” Bryce said softly as Kenzie tried not to blurt out a plethora of insults at this girl’s idiocy, “I told you, that fortune teller was a human masquerading as a witch. She didn’t know anything. And besides, you know that if you want to be successful, the success doesn’t come to you; you have to go get it.”

“Oh right, so we’re right back to where we started, aren’t we, Bryce? You’re saying I’m not good enough for you because I never went to college. Because I can’t get a decent job. All I’ll ever be is a waitress.”

“Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I’m saying at all.”

Geez, with the way these two were going on, Kenzie wouldn’t have blamed Tristan for just running away. No wonder these two needed marriage counseling.

“Look,” she cut in, “whatever’s going on in your personal lives is none of my business. But I’m here to help find your son. And a real witch, not a fake one, is our only chance. So I need blood from one of you so she can do it.”

“Absolutely not,” Mariah retorted stubbornly. “We hired you to find our son, not a witch. If you let her anywhere near our son, we won’t pay you.”

“What the hell, Mariah?” Bryce snapped. “This is our son we’re talking about! I don’t give a shit if the Reaper helps us find him, so long as we get him back! What’s wrong with you?!”


Mariah’s face turned red in agitation. Kenzie was getting irritated herself. These two were acting like kindergartners…which was probably the grade Tristan was in, and the grade he should be returning to the next day considering today was Sunday.

“Stop it!” she bellowed, startling them both. “Bryce is right, Mariah. If you really care about your son, you’ll do whatever it takes to find him. And no one said Paige was going to go near him, anyway; she’s just going to help find him. Yes, you hired me, but I’m essentially hiring Paige on my own. Everyone is still doing their job here.”

Mariah sighed but acceded on the condition that she be present when Paige conducted the spell. Kenzie agreed. Bryce produced a map for Kenzie to take back to the witch, and Mariah handed over one of Tristan’s adored toys in case the shirt Sage had sniffed previously didn’t work. For good measure, she also handed over Tristan’s toothbrush in case something with DNA was needed.

Despite it being nearly two in the morning now, the three all went back to the cabin. Hayden was awake, watching as Paige prepared her spell. Sage was sitting on the nearby sofa in full guard mode.

“Mr. and Mrs. Cooper,” Paige said professionally when she saw them come inside, “I’m so sorry we have to meet under these circumstances. And I’m so sorry to hear about your son.”

“Just find him,” Mariah said coldly. Just because she’d agreed to let Paige help didn’t mean she was going to be civil to her.

She wasn’t too thrilled to see that a werewolf was also present, considering Hayden was still in his transformed state. Bryce’s eyebrows went up when he saw him as well, probably because it clicked in his mind that his ex-fiance’s new squeeze was a supernatural creature.


Paige said nothing in response to Mariah’s insolence. She just took the toy and the toothbrush and pricked Bryce’s finger, since Mariah looked like she was about to pass out at the idea (though Kenzie didn’t blame her for that, being terrified of needles herself). Then, Paige let the blood drip onto the map of Aurora Skies that Bryce had supplied. They would try that first; if there was no response, they’d have to wait until tomorrow to obtain an Isla Paradiso map.


Paige spread her arms out and began to recite a chant. Everyone watched closely as the crimson puddle began to shift. As Paige got further into the chant, it moved more. It was drawing a line that weaved through the streets of Aurora Skies, much like someone draws on a map when planning a route. Eventually, it stopped on the outskirts of town and remained there until Paige stopped her chant.

“He’s here,” she said confidently as she pointed to the spot on the map. “Whoever has him is holding him there.”

Kenzie was on the phone instantly with the police department. They assured her a unit was on the way.

Mariah didn’t even thank Paige, though Bryce did. But both were heading toward the door.

“Where are you going?” Hayden asked.

“To find our son,” Bryce replied, as though nothing else were even a possibility.

“It’s too dangerous,” Kenzie said. “The police are on their way.”

“I’m not waiting for them!” Mariah shrieked. “Who knows what that bitch is doing to him?! Bryce, I told you not to bring her into our lives!”


Bryce held up his hands. “What are you talking about?”

“We could have had marriage counseling without the woo! Face it – it didn’t work! It backfired.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Oh, don’t I? Then explain why the PI we hired found her in the same place Tristan was kidnapped at, and why she hasn’t asked for ransom! She doesn’t want money – she wants you!”

Wow. Mariah could be a total imbecile when it came to supernatural creatures and other things, but her theory seemed to be dead-on. Of course Lauren didn’t want Bryce’s money; she’d met him in marriage counseling, but that hadn’t saved her marriage. Then she’d engaged in some frivolous activity with Bryce and his wife, and when he didn’t leave his wife for her…

“You’re right,” she concluded. “She took your son to get to Bryce. Which means she won’t hurt him. She doesn’t want to. If she does, she’ll have nothing left to bargain with.”


Mariah turned her head to the side and crossed her arms. She seemed to be pondering this, but then she surprised everyone by whirling on her heel and tearing off into the night.

“What the shit?” Hayden asked.

“She’s going after her,” Bryce replied. “We have to go get her.”

“I knew we should have carpooled,” Kenzie muttered under her breath. Bryce and Mariah had insisted on returning to the cabin with her, and they’d also insisted on bringing their own car.

“Let’s go,” Hayden declared. “If she shows up and Lauren’s there with the kid, it could get ugly.”

So everyone, including Sage, piled into Hayden’s car and sped toward the location that was revealed on Paige’s map. Kenzie was going because it was somewhat her job, Hayden was going to protect her, and Paige was going in case some witchcraft was needed.

When they arrived at last, they saw Mariah’s car already parked out front of the seemingly normal cottage. But Hayden’s and Sage’s ears both perked up in alarm.

“That’s not good,” the former declared.

“What?” Kenzie asked.

Bryce didn’t even give Hayden a chance to reply. He barreled out of the car and shot toward the house surprisingly fast for a human.

“What is going on?” Kenzie hissed.

“Lauren’s in there all right, and there’s a hell of a fight.”

“Let’s move,” Paige said as she grabbed her wand and ran to the door. Kenzie called 911 on her cell phone and then left it on the seat so the police could track it, since they wouldn’t need to go to the house to look at the map now. She had no time to look at the address of this deserted house.


Bryce was already at the door – or rather, inside it, as he’d shoved it open, revealing a long streak of light that spread across the lawn from the kitchen area.

“Bryce!” a familiar voice exclaimed. But it wasn’t Mariah’s voice – it was a much more chipper version of the rude voice of Lauren that Kenzie had heard at the park.

“Let them go,” Bryce demanded.

“Hey, she came here and tried to attack me.” Lauren gestured to Mariah, who was sitting on the ground, holding her head and moaning. From the looks of it, Lauren had shoved her into the front of the stove, causing her to bang her head on the handle. How she was even still conscious was unfathomable. “She was trespassing and breaking and entering. I’m a law student, remember? I know my rights, and the law.”

“Kidnapping is illegal.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb. You took our son!”


Lauren held her hand up to halt Bryce’s accusations. “I didn’t do anything.”

“Then how do you explain me finding you at the kidnapping scene,” Kenzie interrupted, “and the fact that no ransom has been asked for Tristan? You don’t want money, do you? You want Bryce.”

“Who are all you people?” Lauren demanded, as though she were seeing Kenzie, Hayden, and Paige for the first time. “All of you are trespassing and breaking and entering.”

“That means I am too,” Bryce said, “because I threw your door open.”

“But I’d never press charges on you.”

“Because you’re crazy. Lauren, this is insane. I told you, it’s over.”

“Wait, what?” Kenzie asked stupidly.

Bryce turned to her and stated, “Mariah wasn’t into our counseling anymore, and I love her more than anything, other than Tristan. So I told Lauren that it was over.”

“And you didn’t tell the police, or think to tell me this earlier?”

“I never thought she’d do this. I didn’t think she was capable.”


Kenzie wanted to slam her palm to her face in a duh manner. Bryce and Mariah were suited for each other – both were immature and naïve. Not to mention into threesomes.

“Bryce, I’d do anything for you,” Lauren blubbered, “and I’d do anything to have you. So, your answer is really no?”

“Damn right. Your ass is going to jail.”

“I didn’t want to do this, because I love Tristan like my own son. I was hoping we could stay here in this romantic place and raise Tristan with a worthy mother, meaning me. Your wife’s too young to know what’s right for herself, let alone a husband and son. But if you don’t want that, well, I guess I’ll have to find some other way to convince you.”

With that, Lauren reached into a nearby drawer and extracted a gun. Then she backed into an adjacent room before returning with a timid-looking child. She sat down on the floor next to him and held the gun close to his back.


“I’ll give you one last chance, Bryce,” Lauren stated with malice. “If you don’t leave your wife for me, your son will die.”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chapter 8 - Nature of the Beast

WARNING: This chapter contains graphic woohoo material that isn't suitable for readers/viewers under 13.

When Kenzie returned to the cabin, she saw that Hayden had moved the furniture around and was doing push-ups and crunches on the floor without a shirt. Kenzie found this very distracting.



“What are you doing?” Kenzie inquired as she and Sage walked through the door.

Hayden looked up, his biceps dripping with sweat, and smiled in greeting.

“I’m working out,” he replied. “Taking a break from typing and keeping my muscles limber. Any new leads on the case?”

“Yeah, something I could have gone the rest of my life not knowing about, but whatever.”

“Oh?”

Kenzie briefly ran through all she’d discovered that afternoon, even including the ménage à trois she didn’t want to see spiraling around in her head.

“Damn,” Hayden said when she’d concluded. “I thought Austin was the most experimental person I’d ever met, just because he’s a scientist.”


Kenzie chuckled as Hayden reached for a towel to wipe the sweat off his chiseled body.

“Yeah,” she said at last, “it was something I didn’t need to know.”

“Well, do you think Lauren’s still a suspect?”

“Yeah, I do. It just seems weird that she was where the fence was broken, which seems to be where Tristan got kidnapped. Plus it’s on the outskirts of the park, so someone could easily sneak in and out there without being noticed. But Sage didn’t react when she saw her, except to growl at her because she was snarling at me.”

“Kenzie, as part canine, I can assure you that if Tristan’s scent had been on Lauren, Sage would have picked up on it. Unless, of course, she’d changed her clothes, which is a likely possibility because it’s been how long since this kid got taken.”


Kenzie hadn’t considered that. But it made perfect sense. Sage grunted as if to confirm Hayden’s assessment.

“I wish I knew where she lives,” she affirmed. “It would be stupid, but there’s a strong possibility that if she did take Tristan, she’d be hiding him in her house. Except she doesn’t live here; Bryce said she’s from Isla Paradiso.”

“Well,” Hayden contributed, “no ransom has been asked for, right?”

“Yeah…why kidnap a kid and not ask for ransom? It’s not money the kidnapper wants…it’s something else.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. And it’s driving me crazy.”

“Well, there’s one possibility that I should have thought of before.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, Kenzie, I know how much you prefer to do things on your own when it comes to your job. But…well, kidnappings are ticking clocks. You know that. It’s been almost three days since Tristan’s disappeared. I think you could use some help.”

“Are you offering your services? You did say you could be my bodyguard.”

“True, but I was thinking more of…Paige.”


Kenzie furrowed her brow. “Paige? Why?”

“She’s a witch, and she can do locator spells. I bet she could find him quick.”

“But…”

“I know you want to do it yourself. And I completely respect that. And I know you can do it, believe me. But you’re very worried about what could happen, aren’t you? Plus this is an innocent little kid we’re talking about here who can’t take care of himself. He’s only five. There’s no shame in asking for help. Nothing’s wrong with that. You could think of Paige as a temporary partner on this one.”

Kenzie hated to admit it, but Hayden was right. Yes, she always did want to solve her own cases, never with a partner, but time was of the essence here. And since she didn’t know where Lauren lived, she had no other choice. Surely she hadn’t taken a five-year-old child back to Isla Paradiso with her and not even asked for ransom, if only to reimburse her for the cost of gas.

But if Lauren was responsible for Tristan’s abduction, what was her motive? Obviously not money. But what did that leave?

“Shit,” Hayden said suddenly, causing Kenzie to jolt out of her trance. “It’s getting dark already.”

“So?”

“You didn’t check the calendar, did you? That’s another reason I’m exercising – getting ready for later. It’s a full moon tonight.”


Kenzie looked outside and saw the sun beginning to set, though she had forgotten about the full moon. Hayden would inadvertently transform into his werewolf state in a matter of hours.

And suddenly, that gave Kenzie an idea.

“Fine,” she said, “I’ll call Paige, but only because I have a little something special planned for tonight.”

“Tonight? Kenzie, I just said…”

“I don’t care. I’ve told you countless times that it doesn’t bother me when you transform.”

“Yeah, but I hate when you see me like that.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s repressive and, quite frankly, unattractive.”

“That’s your opinion. Trust me, you’ll appreciate this.”

Kenzie didn’t let Hayden argue more. She just grabbed her cell phone and called Paige, who assured her that she’d get to Aurora Skies as soon as possible, though it would likely be very late that night even if she took her broom to save on time.

But that would give Kenzie ample opportunity to execute her plan.


As the night continued to descend, Hayden prepared for his transition and Kenzie prepared for her surprise. She didn’t know how well Hayden would take to it, but it was worth a shot.

Funny, it might have been her ex-fiance’s amorous confession that sparked her courage in even considering this.

At last, it was dark. Kenzie instructed Sage to wait at the cabin while she led Hayden outside and into the woods.

“Where are we going?” Hayden asked dubiously.

“You’ll see,” Kenzie replied. Hayden was already suspicious because Kenzie was wearing her robe again. Thankfully it was a nice spring evening so she didn’t have to worry about the temperature getting too cold.

“I’m going to be transforming soon,” Hayden continued in a worrisome tone.

“Don’t worry about that. I just had an idea and since I need to wait for Paige to get here, tonight’s perfect.”

Kenzie finally stopped walking and spread out a blanket she’d brought with her. She then lay down on it and motioned for Hayden to join her. He did skeptically, and she curled up next to him.


“Okay,” Hayden said, “what now?”

“I just thought it would be really romantic to be together on a full moon under the stars. I thought we could watch the stars and clouds, maybe see if we can find some constellations. When I was a kid, I was always able to make out shapes in clouds. Actually, I still can, somewhat.”

“Okay, so why don’t you tell me what you see up there now?”

Kenzie looked up and watched the clouds slowly drift across the sky while shimmering stars poked through them like diamonds.


“That one looks like a giant hand,” she said.

“What? Where?”

“Look,” Kenzie pointed toward the cloud. “That roundish part is the palm, and those little bits coming out of it look like the fingers.”


Hayden looked closer and then laughed. “No kidding. I can see it now. How do you do that?”

“I don’t know. It’s a gift, I guess. I’ve always been able to see things in clouds.”

“Well, that’s pretty clever. I’ve spent a lot of time outside, but I never really paid attention to the clouds.”

“What about the stars?”

“Not particularly. But I do see one really bright star.”

“Where?”

“I’m looking at it.”

Kenzie turned and found Hayden staring at her instead of the sky.


She smiled as Hayden wrapped an arm around her and held her face in his hand.

“How am I a star?” she inquired.

“You just are. You look past what I am, and you’re so beautiful. Your eyes are brighter than any star up there.”

“Oh, Hayden.”

Hayden silenced her with a kiss.


And that was when Kenzie realized she needed to clear her conscience. She couldn’t very much ask Hayden what she wanted to if she was keeping something from him.

“Hayden,” she began, “there’s something I need to tell you.”

But before she got the chance to, Hayden’s face contorted into discomfort.

“Damn it,” he groaned. It was time. The transition from man to beast was upon him. He stood up and gripped his head, not unlike he did the first time Kenzie witnessed his transformation in Moonlight Falls. Then he fell to the ground as the moon consumed him. When it was over, his claws and lower canines had elongated, his face and body were a great deal hairier, and his ears were slightly pointed.




Yet Kenzie still found him to be heart-stoppingly handsome. And since she knew this was going to happen, she wasn’t caught off-guard like before.

“Ugh, don’t look at me,” Hayden said. “I don’t like you to see me like this.”

“And I already told you, I don’t care. Hayden, sit down.”

“Kenzie…”

“Don’t make me treat you like a dog if that’s what you’re so worried about being. Sit, boy.”

Hayden had to chortle at that before finally obliging. “Okay, what did you have to tell me?”

“I haven’t been one hundred percent honest with you.”

“About?”

“Bryce.”


Hayden furrowed his eyebrow questioningly. “What do you mean?”

“I didn’t want to tell you before because I was so scared of what you might think. I was so afraid of what might happen. But this isn’t something I should keep from you. I don’t want us to keep secrets from each other.”

“Really? And you’re choosing to make this big confession now, while I’m transformed?”

“I know you won’t hurt me.”

“Not intentionally. But it’s in my nature to hunt, Kenzie.”

“Screw your nature. You’re just trying to make me afraid of you like this because you hate looking like that in front of me. I’m going to prove to you that I don’t give a shit about it. Now listen. I told you that Bryce was an ex-boyfriend from college, remember?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, he was a little…more than that.”

“Okay…”

“Hayden, Bryce and I…we were…we were engaged.”


There. She’d said it. Her conscience was clear. But was she in the clear?

Hayden seemed to be analyzing this declaration. Kenzie said nothing, allowing him to process it in full.

When at last he spoke, he had but one question – “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I told you, because I was afraid of what you might think. That…”

“You were afraid I’d break up with you.”

Kenzie bit her lip, looked down, and nodded wordlessly. She could feel tears beginning to prick her eyes, but she forced them back into her head.

Then, to her surprise and relief, Hayden moved closer to her and held her in his arms.


“What…?” she stammered.

“Kenzie, I told you…”

“Hayden, I know wolves are monogamous, but you’re not a full-blooded wolf, okay? And I love wolves, but it’s not in my blood. I didn’t cheat on you, so yes I’m still monogamous, but I should have told you before.”

“I don’t care what happened in your past, Kenzie. The bastard hurt you and you were smart enough to get out of that instead of doing the opposite like a lot of women in your position do. But like you said, you didn’t cheat. It’s in the past.”

“But it doesn’t bother you that at one point in my life, I was engaged to someone else who’s now a major factor in my current case?”

“No, I don’t give a shit. I can tell you’re over him. Why are you trying to convince me to not trust you or to be angry?”

“That’s the last thing I want. I just figured you would be mad…”

“Because some other dick probably got pissed at you about it. Kenzie, I’m not like other guys. You know that. And do you want to know the real reason I don’t care what happened in your life before I came along, at least in the relationship department? It’s more than the wolf thing. Kenzie, I love you.”

It was the first time he’d said those words.


Kenzie slid off Hayden’s lap to look into the genuine sincerity and adoration in Hayden’s mint green eyes. Her own eyes began to swell with tears of joy as she wrapped her arms around him and said, “I love you too, Hayden. I’ve never loved anyone this way. I’ve wanted to tell you for so long, but I didn’t want to come on too strong.”

Confessing her feelings of true love was a fleeting experience. It was like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, larger than the burdensome weight that had been crushing her before she’d confessed the truth about Bryce.

“You could never come on too strong ,” Hayden broke into her thoughts. “Now, will you please tell me why you’re wearing that robe out here?”

“Oh…well, that was another part of the surprise.”

“Okay…”

Kenzie sat up and, in an attempt to be seductive, slowly pulled the top of her robe back to reveal the special attire she was wearing underneath. Hayden’s eyes bugged out as she removed the robe altogether and sat there, mute, in another risqué getup.


“Kenzie,” Hayden said, his tone somewhat different than the previous two times he’d seen her dressed like this. “Why do you keep trying to seduce me with lingerie? You don’t need to.”

“I know, but I want to. I mean, it’s not something I’ve ever done before…”

“Let me rephrase that. Why are you trying to seduce me on the night of the full moon?”

“Because I think it would be romantic to make love under the light of a full moon out in the open, in the woods…”

“I can’t. No way.”

“Why not?”

“Kenzie, look at me. Why do you possibly find me attractive like this? Besides, given my animalistic instincts, I don’t trust myself not to hurt you.”


Kenzie had somewhat anticipated this reaction. Of course Hayden was worried about hurting her. But she trusted him and she knew he wouldn’t lose control of himself. If Isaiah could maintain control with Jillian, surely Hayden could maintain control with her. And she didn’t hesitate to inform him of this.

“Thanks for the mental image of your best friend with her vampire boyfriend,” he replied, “but it’s just…”

“Hayden, you just told me you loved me. You wouldn’t have told me that if you weren’t sure you could control yourself.”

Hayden sighed. “I don’t want you to think I don’t want to…”

“Then don’t. Don’t make me think that. Just…relax.”

So Kenzie took on the role of the predator rather than the prey as she crawled toward Hayden and pushed him down onto the blanket, all while kissing him tenderly, fangs and all.


It took a little bit of convincing, but finally, Hayden succumbed and added another first to Kenzie’s list. And to add to the magic, the legendary multi-colored lights that were Aurora Skies’ namesake made their appearance. It was perfect.

Now all that was left to do was solve the case.