Cheyenne welcomed her friends warmly enough, and didn’t hesitate to invite Hayden inside the house. Kenzie couldn’t believe that the last time she’d seen Mason had been about six months ago, and that was the last time she’d seen the Crowley home as well. Time seemed to go by too quickly.
Cheyenne offered them both some supper, and they both realized they hadn’t eaten all day.
“Don’t worry,” Cheyenne insisted when they began to protest, “I’ve got plenty. Besides, I always make too much for just the two of us since Mason can only eat baby food right now.”
The little charmer was already in his high chair, fingering food into his mouth, not seeming to care that other people were in the house besides his parents.
Cheyenne’s dinner turned out to be spaghetti with meatballs with light sauce, just as Kenzie liked it. She and Hayden dug in eagerly, after expressing a large amount of gratitude.
“Really,” Kenzie kept saying adamantly, “we both appreciate this, and we’re sorry if this puts you out in any way.”
“Are you kidding?” Cheyenne chortled. “It’s great to have company! I hardly see you guys anymore, since we’re all so busy. Jillian and Isaiah finally got moved into Sunlit Tides, and her career is really booming now that she’s human again. I guess she kind of lost her inspiration when she was a vampire.”
“Yeah, when you love the sun and you can’t go out in it, you’re likely to get depressed.”
“No kidding. And then Paige and her coven, well, they’re always busy helping people and tending to their own jobs. I have my sisters and my parents, but when Austin’s at work, it can get a little lonely sometimes.”
Kenzie felt a wave of sympathy for her friend. Though they all talked via texting or instant messenger online, it just wasn’t the same as seeing each other in person.
After dinner, Hayden and Kenzie insisted on cleaning up while Cheyenne gave Mason a bath. She finally acceded, but only because Mason began to put up a fuss due to getting his cute little face all dirty. After his bath and the dishes were done, they all gathered in the den to wait for Austin to return home. Mason seemed oblivious to his father’s absence, having busied himself with a toy dinosaur.
“So, what exactly is up with you?” Cheyenne wanted to know as they watched Mason entertain himself. “Austin gave me kind of a breakdown when he called earlier, but half of it was scientific mumbo jumbo that I didn’t understand.”
“Basically, it seems like the three blood types in my body are making me sick,” Kenzie explained. “And Austin took a sample tonight, put it under a microscope, and it was moving. Like, my blood was alive outside my body.”
“It’s true,” Hayden affirmed. “I don’t get creeped out that much, but this was insane.”
“Scary,” Cheyenne agreed, heaving a nonchalant shudder.
“We can get a hotel…” Kenzie began upon seeing the shudder.
“No, you won’t,” Cheyenne stated firmly. “You’re one of my best friends, and the last thing you need right now is to be in a hotel. You should be as close to Austin as you can so he can do tests faster to figure out what’s going on. In fact, he’s got some new chemistry-type table in the garage. I wouldn’t be surprised if he came home tonight and started using that to get out of the lab.”
“Wow, don’t let him work himself crazy over it,” Kenzie gasped. “I mean, yes, this sucks, and I want to know what’s going on and how to fix it, but still. He needs his sleep, and time with his wife and son.”
“I guarantee you that he won’t overwork himself. I won’t let him, trust me. Besides, you know Austin. He’s a workaholic.”
Kenzie nodded her head as she looked down and watched Mason play. She did know that about Austin, maybe more than anyone. She’d known Austin in elementary school and had dated him in high school. He’d always strived to achieve the best at everything, no matter what. It came as no surprise that he would do the same in a career.
Around 8:30, Cheyenne took Mason upstairs to put him to bed. Kenzie watched her maternal love radiating and felt a pang of envy. She’d always wanted kids, though she admitted she was afraid of the pregnancy and childbirth part. She had a very low pain tolerance, and she’d seen all that Cheyenne had gone through when she’d been pregnant with Mason.
But then when she’d thought she’d been pregnant, though she’d panicked, she’d also felt a hint of joy. And when she looked at Hayden, she knew he’d be a good father.
Which reminded her. He’d started to say something in the doctor’s office the day she’d gotten tested, and the doctor had interrupted them. Whatever he’d been about to say had been forgotten due to the confusion.
Cheyenne placed the sleepy Mason in his crib, and he began sucking his thumb contently as he dozed off into dream land.
Austin returned about an hour later to find his wife and their friends catching up. He reported that his colleagues had some theories, but he didn’t want to say anything more until he knew for sure. He still felt guilty for plunging too far ahead of himself with the vampirism cure and didn’t want to make that same mistake again. Luckily, he’d managed to act fast enough to save Isaiah’s life before he’d ingested the cure that would have killed him due to how long he’d been a vampire.
Everyone was tired by this point, so at 10:15 they were all in bed. Kenzie and Hayden snuggled up together in the guest room, which Cheyenne had brightly decorated in shades of green, her favorite color. The room also included some of the old furniture from her and Austin’s previous homes, before they’d gotten their own house as a married couple.
“Want to fool around?” Hayden whispered in a misguided attempt at a joke. Kenzie rolled her eyes. “I don’t think it would be very classy to have woohoo in someone else’s house, especially in their guest bedroom.”
“Sorry. Just trying to lighten the mood.”
“I appreciate it, but I’m afraid at this point, the only thing that will cheer me up is getting whatever is wrong with me fixed.”
Hayden held his mate tighter, feeling utterly helpless once again. He hoped beyond hope, prayed to the creator, that Austin, or someone, would be able to help Kenzie.
“By the way,” she cut into his thoughts, “what were you going to say to me at the doctor’s office?”
“Yeah, when I thought I might be pregnant, you said it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, and you started to say something else but the doctor walked in. What was it?”
Hayden stiffened a bit. He seemed nervous all of a sudden. But then he sat up and took her hand in his, all the while gazing intently into her eyes.
“I was going to say that I thought you wanted kids someday anyway,” he finally said. “So that’s why it wouldn’t be the end of the world.”
“And how did you feel about it?”
“I think you’d make a great mom.”
“Hayden, that’s not what I’m asking.”
Hayden sighed before uttering, “I was scared, and I thought we weren’t really ready, but I had confidence that everything would work out okay.”
“Do you want kids someday?”
“Yeah, I do. Just not yet.”
Kenzie chuckled as Hayden rested his head on her chest. Their eyes began to flutter closed simultaneously, and they both whispered, “I love you” to each other before dozing off.
The dream invaded her subconscious again that night. Once again, Kenzie was transformed into a seemingly bloodthirsty mongrel determined to betray those she cared about the most. She got closer and closer to them, saliva seeping from her fangs and onto her furry chin, her eyes wild with hunger and excitement of the hunt.
And then, as was the custom, right as she got to Jillian, she woke up in a cold sweat, hyperventilating.
Surprisingly, she didn’t rouse Hayden this time. He continued to sleep next to her, little snoring sounds coming from between his lips.
As she was about to lay back down and try to sleep some more, hopefully without any dreams, she felt the familiar bout of nausea that had plagued her for some time now. She bolted upright, threw open the door to the bedroom, and dashed across the hall to the bathroom. She barely made it before once again praying to the porcelain god.
When she finally finished retching, Kenzie flushed the toilet and stood up to rinse her mouth out. She’d have to go back to the guest room to retrieve her toothbrush. By this point, she should probably buy a new one.
As she was drying off her face, she heard Mason crying in the adjoining room. Great. She’d not only been startled awake by a nightmare and then overcome with sickness again, but she’d also made so much noise that she’d woken up the seven-month-old baby.
She opened the bathroom door in time to see Cheyenne heading toward her son’s room. She tried to stifle a yawn, but Kenzie saw it.
“Kenzie?” she asked sleepily, as she looked very coy having been caught in her frilly yet seductive nightgown.
“Sorry,” Kenzie said with remorse. “I, uh, woke up and had to use the bathroom, and I guess I was too loud.”
“Sometimes he sleeps like a rock, and sometimes he gets woken up by a squeaky floorboard. It’s not your fault.”
Yes it is, Kenzie thought, but she didn’t say as much. She just let Cheyenne tend to her wailing son as she traipsed back into the guest bedroom. She didn’t want to tell Cheyenne the truth; she had enough to deal with.
When she got back to the room, Hayden was now awake.
“What’s going on?” he asked groggily.
“I had another nightmare, then I had to throw up.”
“Another nightmare? One of the two you’ve been having?”
“Yep, and then I puked up green shit again.”
Kenzie sat down on the bed desolately as Hayden sat up and wiped the sleep out of his eyes.
“Kenzie, are you all right?” he asked her. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“I didn’t want to burden you with it. Besides, as soon as I woke up, I had to throw up, so I just bolted. And I woke up Mason.”
“Mason is what woke me up. And it’s a good thing it did, because I want to know whenever something’s ailing you so I can comfort you. That’s what mates do.”
“I know, I’m sorry. I’m just so…embarrassed. I feel so lost right now.”
Kenzie’s lip quivered against her will, and Hayden held her tightly. She finally surrendered and let the tears come.
Would she ever be normal again? And if not, what was she going to do?