Thursday, December 23, 2010
They dressed in silence except for the sounds Ivan and Vlad made wrestling on the floor.
Rock stepped around them carefully, smiling as one went for his right boot and one went for his left. They got a good hold with their surprisingly strong teeth and he let them chew for a bit. Sure, he’d paid a lot for the custom-made, Lucchese, hand-crafted lizard skin boots with the diamond tipped spurs, but the pups had been through a harrowing experience. Besides, Lucchese were way tougher than Chastity’s Louboutins—which he’d also paid a lot for, incidentally.
“Rock, I think we need to talk.”
He turned to find Buffi—unfortunately—fully dressed. Yeah, the boys were here, but he could probably find a ball or a pound of hamburger to keep them busy for four or five more minutes…
“I have a better idea,” he crooned, reaching for her.
She sidestepped him, which was unusual, then said, “Really. We have to talk.” That was also very unusual. “Let’s go up to the house.”
“Can’t baby,” he said, fastening his appropriately large belt buckle. “I gotta stay down here while the sun’s up. Maybe I’ll just take a little nap on the dog bed…”
“No!” Buffi said firmly. “We have to talk.” She glanced at the puppies who had just shifted back to human form. “Now.”
“Oh, blast the sun!” she exclaimed. “Cover yourself up with the blanket and run. It’s not that far.”
“Will that work?” Rock asked, eyeing the blanket dubiously. It looked thin to him.
She stared at him. “How the hell should I know? Why wouldn’t it?”
“Well, I’ve never tried it. What if it doesn’t…”
He was cut off as one of the boys let out an ear-piercing wail. Not to be outdone by his brother, the other joined in. The stereo caterwauling was enough to set his fangs on edge. “Oh, for the love of Monk, make them stop.”
“They’re hungry,” she said, gathering her babies into her arms. They were getting too big, and wiggly, for her to really hold them both.
She needed someone who could help her.
Rock reached out and took one of the boys—Ivan, he was pretty sure—from her. “Okay, then let’s go.”
“What about the sun?”
He thought she sounded a little sarcastic but he pointed to the blanket. “Help me throw that over my head.” He was gonna have to risk it.
She looked concerned for a moment. “Are you really going to be okay?”
The boys had quieted, thinking that being held meant the grown ups were about to come through with some chow, but when they realized the big people were just talking they let out two identical yowls that could have just as easily come from their wolf forms.
“We have to get them to the house,” Rock said. Their cries were nearly deafening, but it clearly meant that they were truly in need. He couldn’t let them just go hungry.
As the thought occurred to him, he stared down at the boy in his arms. Ivan. He was sure of it. And the distressed eyes and huge tears pulled at his heart.
“Shh, Ivan, it’s okay,” Buffi murmured to the child she held.
“This is Ivan,” Rock said, looking up at her. “You have Vlad.”
Buffi held the boy back away from her a bit to study him. “Are you sure?”
“How do you know?”
That was the question. He shrugged. “I just do.”
“I can’t even tell them apart.”
He shrugged again. “I’m completely sure. I just don’t know how.”
“I think I might.”
She said it quietly but there was something in her voice that made his unbeating, cold, dead heart squeeze.
“What do you mean?”
“There’s something I need to tell you…”
“Let’s feed the boys first,” Rock cut in, as the crying duo took it up a notch.
They made their way to the house, each holding a boy. Ivan seemed to think running with Rock underneath the blanket was fun and squealed in delight. Rock found himself grinning at the sound.
Once they were in their booster seats at the table Buffi said, “You might want to go in the other room while I get their food.”
“It’s fine.” The twins had stopped crying and were waiting impatiently for their mother to serve their breakfast.
“It’s… meat,” Buffi said.
Rock swallowed hard. “That’s okay.”
He closed his eyes and breathed deep. You’re rock hard, you’re rock steady. Strains of We Will Rock You by Queen went through his head and he felt better. Maybe that was what he needed—a theme song. Okay, this was good. “Just do it.” The boys needed to eat and what kind of man went running whenever some beef showed up? Some raw, stinky, bloody… No. He shook his head. He could do this.
He forced his eyes open and watched the boys light up rather than watching Buffi slap steaks onto plates for them. He then focused on her and the body that could make even his cold hard body feel warm and soft. Well, not soft down there where it counted, but he definitely felt some soft feelings for her.
To cover the sound of the boys snarling and growling—even in human form—over the meat their mother had cut up for them, Rock asked, “Now what did you want to talk about darlin’?”
Buffi wiped her hands—her bloody hands (Rock had to swallow hard again) on the dishtowel and sighed. “There’s something you need to know. Let’s go in the other room.”
He glanced at the boys. They seemed happy. Bloody, but happy. He smiled—in spite of the blood—and followed Buffi into the next room.
“What’s up?” Actually, now that he mentioned it, he was. Again. Not at all soft down there. Because of her. She smelled great. Which was weird, because she’d just been handling raw meat.
“I have something to tell you. I’ve been wondering how to do this for days and… well, there isn’t really a good way to say it.” She looked as pale as Rock, and he grew concerned.
“Baby, whatever it is, you can tell me.” He put his hands on her shoulders.
She looked up at him with luminous eyes the color of a Texas sky in July. “Do you remember when we were last together?”
Sure. It had been three—or five—years ago. “Yeah, sure, of course.”
“Do you remember the date?”
Ah, shit. This was the kind of thing women always did to trip men up. “It was the date my heart stopped beating, baby.”
“Your heart doesn’t beat anyway.”
“Figuratively. I was being poetic.” If you had to point it out, it didn’t count. He sighed.
“Well, I remember the date. Exactly. The boys are twenty-six months old. Which means we last saw each other thirty-five months ago.”
She paused. Rock stayed quiet. He had no idea what she was talking about—except that thirty-five months was way less than five years, so he at least had that figured out—and was afraid if he said anything he’d get himself into trouble.
“Rock, do you know what that means?”
He didn’t. “Darlin’, it doesn’t matter that it’s been so long. My feelings are as strong today as…”
“No,” she interrupted, pushing him back. “Think about it, Rock. The boys were born twenty-six months ago. You and I were last together nine months before that. Nine. Months. Get it?”
Rock pondered that. Nine months. That was about how long a cow was pregnant…
The room spun and the floor seemed to tip. Rock felt as if someone had just cut an artery in front of him—dizzy, sick and like screaming “what the fuck did you do that for?!”. Oh, God.
“Rock!” Buffi exclaimed. “You stay with me!” She shook him. “No passing out. Pay attention.”
“You were pregnant and you slept with me anyway?” he demanded, the stars clearing from before his eyes.
She stared up at him, then her eyes narrowed and a low growling came from the back of her throat. “What. Did. You. Say?”
“I can do the math, Buffi!” Rock exclaimed. What did she think—that he was an idiot?
“Yeah, you’re adding two plus two and getting three hundred and sixteen!” she shouted. “The boys are yours!”
The damned room spun and stars exploded before his eyes again. He had a son? No, that wasn’t right. He had two. And they were here. And they were werewolves.
He needed to lie down.
“Rock, so help me, if you pass out right now, you will never set foot in this house again!”
We will, we will Rock you! He repeated it a few times. If there was ever a time he needed his theme song it was now. Rock steady. Rock hard. Rock solid.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked.
“You were out of my life by the time I found out. I just…,” Her voice caught on a sob. “I just couldn’t come back and risk you breaking my heart again.”
“You should have told me the first minute you saw me again!” he exclaimed.
“I didn’t know how things were between us! You wanted the winery! You had a fiancée!” she exclaimed back.
“I did not!” he exclaimed once more. “I didn’t propose to her until after I’d seen you again!”
Buffi’s eyes narrowed, that growling sound started again and Rock backed up a step. Then another.
“How is this even possible?” he asked, grasping. “It wasn’t the right time in the lunar cycle for your lycanthrope fertility to be at its peak.”
“Yeah, well, apparently impossible things happen all the time around here. For instance, everyone knows that vampires aren’t supposed to pass out when they see blood! And they’re supposed to frickin’ sparkle in the sun!”
Rock didn’t realize she’d backed him onto the porch until she slammed the front door in his face.
# # #
The last person on earth that he wanted to see was Billy Bob Bobson. So it was good that it was Chastity sitting on the steps leading up to his porch when he reined Monk in.
She was the second to last person he wanted to see.
“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked, dropping to the ground, making sure the blanket stayed over him, blocking the sun.
“Oh, Rock, I had to come warn you!” Chastity exclaimed dramatically. “Billy Bob poisoned the wine! He was trying to kill Buffi!”
Rock’s eyes narrowed. “What wine?”
“The… I…” She stopped and frowned, her lips puckering as she thought hard. Rock knew that was painful for her, so he gave her a moment. “I don’t know. I just know that he was trying to poison her. He broke into the winery.”
Dammit. “Why are you telling me this now?”
“Because I forgive you, baby,” Chastity said, coming to her feet and adjusting her boobs, the left one more than the right.
“You forgive me?” Rock repeated.
“I wish you hadn’t slept with that bitch, but I forgive you,” Chas told him.
“You were making time with the guy trying to kill me,” Rock said. “And you kidnapped Buffi’s… my… the puppies… kids… whatever!”
“But we brought them back!”
“If you’re so concerned about me, why didn’t you come over to Buffi’s to tell me? She could still drink the wine, Chastity!”
Rock swung himself back up on Monk’s back as Chastity came running toward him. Her triple D’s bounced, her four-inch heels clicked on the sidewalk and her hairspray-laden hair barely moved.
“I couldn’t come back! I’m too scared of those demon dogs!” Chas cried, still very dramatically, reaching for Rock. “Please baby, let’s work this out.”
“Demon dogs?” Rock roared. “I’ll have you know those are my sons you’re talking about!”
Chastity stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, her eyes as wide as her face lift—the plastic surgeon had done a pretty good job on that— would allow. “What?!”
“That’s right.” Rock spun Monk back toward Buffi’s house. “Those are my demon dogs and I never want to see you again.”
He nudged Monk and raced off—he liked the way the blanket billowed out behind him like a cape.
Chastity shouted after him, “I’m keeping the earrings! And the ring! And the…”
But Rock was too far away to hear the rest.
And he didn’t give a rattlesnake’s rattle if she took everything he had when she left. As long as she left.
CONTINUED!!! Chapter Seventeen
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