Here it is! The penultimate chapter of this crazy, winding, bendy saga. I'll be sad to say goodbye to them all - Killian, Melody, Brian, the fictional Nulli, Doc Roberts, etc - but happy to see this one wrapped up in its own Happily Ever After. Writing with another person has been a unique experience for me. I write, read over, move stuff around, re-write, delete, move stuff around again. It's really a miracle I ever get a story finished where it makes sense, to be honest. Writing this on Google Docs, so we can both add to the story simultaneously was in equal parts very cool, very awkward, kinda awesome, and yet sometimes frustrating all at the same time. It was definitely outside my comfort zone, which meant it was an excellent experiment and exercise.
Things settled down after the attack. The heat of summer marched along with few changes to their routine. Nulli returned to the gym and reclaimed her classes in record time. Brian’s freelance work grew via word of mouth. He formed his own company with a single employee - himself - and spent more nights and weekends away from home than he liked. When the conference center faced cuts at the end of the season, he volunteered to drop to part-time in order to actually have a day off on occasion. He was rewarded by his mate’s sated purrs and his own exhausted bliss on their first full day together in months.
As the leaves began to change, Brian, Nulli, and their friends and family gathered at the Lancashire house for their wedding. It was everything he had hoped for and more. The weather cooperated, a huge relief after several days of rain, and a bright, warm sun smiled down from a cloudless sky. A faint breeze blew in from the north, bringing with it a slight chill to remind them that winter was only weeks away. The leaves were a kaleidoscope of colors, from green to orange to vivid red, and provided a beautiful backdrop for his radiant mate.
Nulli was resplendent in a lavender dress that clung to her athletic figure then flowed out from an empire waist to brush her knees. It was made of some flowy, filmy material that highlighted all the best bits while teasing him with the promise of the rest. An elbow reminded him he was in mixed company. He had started to purr.
There was a lot of laughter as the toasts began. Nulli’s dad pointedly reminded him of the consequences of making his baby girl cry. His mom commiserated with his mate, tacking on that there was a ‘no refund’ policy attached. There were tears and laughter as each had their say. Brian pulled his new wife close to his side and soaked it all up. Life was so much better as a collared kitty.
Killian stood and tapped his glass with his spoon. Brian groaned at the grin that danced over the bear’s face. This did not bode well for him. “Everyone, if I can have a bit of your time? I’m sure you’re all ready to dive into the food - I know I am - but I wanted to say a few things about my buddy, Brian, before he ran off to settle into connubial bliss.”
“I got to know this guy when he wandered into my backyard and brought with him the best thing that ever happened to me. Melody. They worked together on that monster hunting show, you know. Never did find a monster, but I sure am glad they found me. We kept in touch, did each other a few favors here and there.
“So a few months back, he called me up sounding completely off his rocker, totally batshit crazy. Said he’d done something he couldn’t talk about and needed a place to hide a body. Got all weird about it, too. Wanted to consecrate the land first with a priest to keep the guy from haunting him, or some such horseshit. In a fit of brilliance, we decided that if he held his wedding here, it would serve a dual purpose. He’d be married. The land would be blessed. It was a win-win all around."
“Killian! What the hell?” Brian covered his face with his hand. Nulli just shook her head, sharing a look with Melody that said it all.
“Just recounting the phone call, Brian. Now don’t interrupt, I’m on a roll.” Killian returned his attention to the guests, a wicked glint in his eyes. “So being the friend I am, I told him, sure, I'm here for you. I got a hundred acres and a back hoe, why the hell not? So, here we are. Witnesses to this blessed event.
“Brian. You’re a great guy. You don’t deserve your bendy, sexy wife, but she seems to want you and not me. No accounting for taste, hmm? Seriously, though, we’ve had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, I’m a better person for knowing you. I wish you all the best in the world - with your business and with your mate.”
Laughter trickled through the guests as each raised their glasses. Melody smacked him and Brian just shook his head. This was supposed to be a toast by the best man, not a roast.
“Nulli...damn, woman. I don’t know how he did it, but Brian managed to grab the second hottest woman in the country. Next to my Melody, of course, because… seriously, look at her. That woman’s hotter than a volcano. She’s got the most marvelous--” Melody punched his arm so hard, it staggered the big man. He blinked down at her in surprise while Brian gaped at him.
“Killian! If you finish that sentence, so help me God, I will knock your head into the punch bowl.” Her voice held a barely perceptible growl that had the shifters squirming in their seats. She shot a reassuring smile to Nulli’s family and Brian’s human friends before lowering her voice even more. “This is not the place, you idiotic bear. Wrap. It. Up.”
“Um. Yeah. Guess I did kinda get carried away, huh?”
“Yeah. And what’s up with calling her the second hottest?” Brian poked him in the side. It wasn’t often the brash bear shifter got embarrassed. He was glad he was there to see it. “Nulli’s not second best to anyone.”
Killian leaned down so his voice wouldn’t carry farther than their table. “I’d have to test her out before I could say if she was better than my Melody. Unfortunately, she’ll kick my ass if I try. Wouldn’t even let me have a peek of all those chocolately smooth curves. Shamefully selfish, if you ask me.” Straightening up with a grin, he raised his glass one last time. “To Nulli. May she survive their marriage without killing Brian, and raise up a litter of little Arcadys to torment the world.” As the guests echoed with a “hear, hear!,” the bear tossed back his wine and set the glass down with a thud. “By the way, anyone seen Terry lately? I got a big ol’ hole out back with his name on it.”
Everyone laughed as Killian resumed his seat, spurred on by Terry’s return from inside the house with the DJ. As Melody left to help him, Nulli tugged on Brian’s jacket and leaned in close. “I won’t have an actual litter will I? I mean, I know what you said about puberty and the changes, but are multiple births common?” Her eyes were as wide as their cake plates, and she held on tight.
Brian pried her hand off his arm and brushed her knuckles with his lips. “Actually, they’re less common than in humans, sweetheart. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to kill that bear and bury him in his own backyard.”
Nulli squeezed his hand tight and shook her head. “Not yet. We’re supposed to dance, remember?”
“I’m not dancing with the bear. He mentioned your curves, mate.” The tip of a fang peeked out as he curled his lip. “That bear is in dire need of an ass-kicking.”
Nulli tilted her head up and kissed him tender and slow. “You’re not dancing with the bear. You’re dancing with Mrs. Arcady. Come on, kitty. Show me a good time.” She winked and pulled at his arm until he stood.
A low purr rumbled in his chest, just loud enough for her to hear. “I would love to show you a good time, Mrs. Arcady, but there are too many witnesses. And you have on far too many clothes.” As the music started, he pulled her close and ran his hands down her bare arms. Her skin was as smooth as satin and smelled of lilacs and her own unique scent. He nuzzled against her neck and inhaled, fighting the urge to purr. “Thank you, Mrs. Nulli Arcady, for making me the happiest bobcat on the planet.”
“I think I’m the happiest bobcat on the planet, Mr. Arcady.”
“We can share the honors,” he murmured against her neck. Skimming the soft material of her dress, he smiled at the gentle vibrations of her own soft purrs. “I thought I was going to pass out when you started down that aisle. This dress is exquisite, all those gorgeous curls pinned up and showing off your neck. I wanted to snatch you up and run away with you. I still do. I can’t believe you’re mine. I’m so damn grateful that you wanted me to be yours.”
“I like the sound of the running away bit.” She rubbed her cheek against his. “I remember the day we met. If I’d known then what I know now…” She paused and looked him in the eye. “We’d have had our first date a lot sooner. We would have had a lot of things sooner. You changed my life in so many ways and I love you for it. It doesn’t matter what time I wake up as long as I see your face. You’re my sunrise, my rock, my protector, my best friend, my smoking hot lover, and my guide. And you chose to be all that for me, even when I didn’t make it easy. I don’t know if they have a word for what you mean to me. I love you so much, Brian.”
And there she was, standing so close, tears in her eyes, holding him tight, speaking the words that reached into his chest and latched onto his soul. He stopped their slow sway until they simply stood in the middle of the dance floor. Her cheeks were smooth beneath his hands; her lips were soft beneath his. His kiss held all he couldn’t find the words to say - how she filled his heart, stirred his senses, made him a better person. The kiss was a pledge to her, more binding than any paper filed in a human court. He offered her everything.
As the song faded, Brian felt a sharp tap on his shoulder. He looked up and into Killian’s smirking face. “I’m cutting in.” With a chorus of gasps and giggles in the background, the large bear pulled Brian into his arms as the DJ started up the next song for the father-daughter dance. Nulli waved as her father stepped up and they began a slow waltz.
“What the hell are you doing, you crazy bear? You don’t cut in on the first dance!” His claws dug into Killian’s large hands as they two-stepped off the dance floor.
“Y’all weren’t dancing!” Killian’s accent thickened, laced with a slight growl. “You were just standing there making googly eyes at each other. Figured you’d gotten bored with it already. Besides, I wanted to talk to you.”
“Fine, but could you let go? I’m not cuddling with you at my wedding.”
“And after all we meant to each other. I’m wounded.” Killian made a show of bowing over his hand and gracing it with a loud, smacking kiss.
“You’re about to be bleeding.” Brian snatched his hand away from the crazy bear and wiped it on his jacket. “Tell me again why we’re friends?”
“Now, Melody’s already told me this isn’t the place to relive old memories. Let’s just say it’s because I saved your ass and leave it at that?”
“I truly hate you, you know that?”
“No, you don’t. You love me.” Killian eased them further away from the guests, some of whom had grabbed the nearest person of the same sex and joined Nulli and her father on the dance floor. It appeared they’d started a trend. “This won’t take long then you can go back to your bendy mate. I got a call last week from Brenda. You know, the coyote that works for the Feds? Great body, stamina from hell and a mouth like a Hoover.”
“I thought it was LeAnne, the stoat shifter who was flexible?”
“Yeah.” Killian chuckled, a goofy smile lighting up his face. “She’s bendy in all sorts of ways. Anyway, Brenda wanted to let me know that they’ve rounded up the last trace of PSI Tech - all their known records, subjects, and employees. Some of those techs are falling over themselves ratting out their superiors, giving out names, dates, and burial sites. It’ll be years before any of them is looking out a window without bars on it and some may face capital punishment charges. They even got leads on a few other labs.”
“So it’s truly over?”
“Yep. The Wardens are handling the details on the victims, but these torture chambers took a good-sized hit this time around.”
“While this is great news, did you have to dance me away from my wife to tell me?” Brian rose onto his toes in search of his mate. She was laughing and dancing with Dr. Roberts. He shook his head with a smile.
“Nope. I also wanted to give you a heads up not to be too crazy while you’re on your honeymoon. You know. No splitting her legs and spinning her like a helicopter on your dick. No taking her for pony rides on the Arcady Express. Definitely no bending her into a handstand while you nibble her--"
"What the hell is wrong with you?"
“That slinky, sexy, bendy mate of yours is in a rather delicate state, cat. You can’t be trying to knock a hole outta the top of her head right now.”
The growls started first, accompanied by the sensation of his collar being four sizes too small. By the time his claws popped out, he was ready to maul the big bastard. Something stopped him, gave him pause. “What are you talking about?” He tilted his head and tried not to shout. “No really, what the fuck are you talking about? I don’t know if you have an intent here or if you just wanna share your wet dreams.”
Killian’s eyes grew round, then a grin teased his lips. “Holy shit, you don’t know? Well, I won’t ruin the surprise then. Just take my word for it and be a bit more careful, that’s all.” He waved to Melody as the third dance started up. “Hell, yeah. I won that bet. She owes me a week of blow jobs.”
Brian scratched the back of his head and stared at the bear. Either Killian had finally lost his hormone-crazed mind, or Brian was in the Twilight Zone. He shrugged his shoulders, giving up on making sense out of anything with Killian’s name on it and headed back to his mate who was dancing rather gracefully with Dr. Roberts..
Nulli smiled when he approached and held out her arms. “Had enough guy time?”
“More than enough, I think.” He gathered her into his arms and showered tiny kisses along her neck. “That bear ties my brain in knots at the best of times. Today, I think he was going for a trifecta of fucked up.”
“So, just another Saturday then?”
His shoulders shook as he nibbled her neck. She smelled particularly delectable tonight, like spring and beginnings and female and his. “He was babbling on about not doing crazy stuff on our honeymoon. Said you’re fragile, or some such nonsense. He doesn’t know you well, does he?”
Nulli laughed, a full on, head falling back, deep belly laugh. “He actually told you not to do something crazy? Killian? The craziest mother--” She clapped a hand over her mouth and smiled in her grandmother’s direction. “He’s the most out of control shifter that ever lived and he’s telling you not to do crazy stuff?” Her voice was a whisper, and she shook her head before speaking in his ear. “That only makes me want to do it more.”
“Yeah, it was wild. Told us to be careful. He said - let’s see if I can get the phrasing right - oh, that you’re in a delicate state.” He shook his head and nibbled up to her ear. Would the guests notice if they disappeared for a little while? “I think he’s trying to talk one of your sisters into a foursome with Melody and Terry, too.”
His mate tensed, her eyes flashed amber, and she tried to push away. “I am going to kill him.”
“Melody jumped in when her eyes took on that glazed, ‘what the fuck, are you serious?’ look. Took the bear into the house and read him the riot act. There was shouting. I think I heard furniture break. They probably had sex as he’s behaved himself ever since. At least until this latest stunt of dancing me away from you.”
“I should have guessed this would happen.” Nulli lifted a hand to her forehead and rubbed the skin between her eyebrows. “Let’s hope my family didn’t hear anything.” She frowned and looked around at the other guests as they danced, laughed, and told stories. Some reminisced about her childhood, others about her funny moments as an adult. “I should probably get something to drink.”
“As long as it’s just juice or water, I agree.” Dr. Nataliia Roberts walked over with a cup of punch in her hand and a smile on her face. “Hi, Brian. Beautiful ceremony. I cried. Wanted to howl, but… humans.”
Nulli took the punch and smiled. “Thanks. I know I don’t drink, but how long can I keep this up if Killian is going to be, well, Killian?” She turned to Brian. “You’d take me to the house if I got drunk right? I’ve never been drunk before, but there’s a first time for everything.”
“Of course I would, sweetheart, but is the bear really worth an aching head tomorrow morning? Besides, I want you coherent when I ravish you tonight.”
She closed her eyes and breathed deep. “Now you sound like him.” She tilted her head toward Killian.
“Hardly, Nulli. He hasn’t invited me to join you yet,” Nataliia inserted dryly. “He’s right, though. You won’t have the joys of your first hangover just yet. You’ll be staying sober for a while. Doctor’s orders. Congratulations, by the way.”
“Damn it!” Nulli groused, and drank her punch. “You never let me do anything fun.”
Brian moved behind her, his arms around her waist as he nuzzled her neck and purred. “Oh, we’ll have lots of fun, mate. No chandeliers needed.”
“Chandeliers? What chandeliers? Wait, is this a Killian thing?” She turned in his arms and lifted an eyebrow. “I don’t think he’s a good influence on you.”
“He was talking crazy, as usual, and told us not to get too crazy with swinging on the chandeliers or anything. Remember… he has this wild-assed notion that you’ve become delicate since the last time you kicked his butt.”
“Strangely enough, the bear has a point.” Nataliia grabbed another cup of punch.
Nulli pointed at Dr. Roberts and sucked her teeth. “How come she gets to get drunk and I can’t? Anytime any of my friends are in agreement with that bear, a mind altering substance has to be involved.”
“You really don’t know, do you? You write what you write and you haven’t picked up on the clues? How have you felt lately - tired, hungry, needing more naps?”
“How the heck do you know that?”
“Know what? What’s wrong with her?” Brian’s arms tightened around his mate and a low growl rumbled behind his words. “Should we go to the hospital? Does she need tests?”
Dr. Roberts shook her head. “Nulli. When was your last period?”
“My what?” Nulli scrunched her face and then dropped her head forward. “Oh. My. God.”
“What do you mean ‘Oh my God’? Mate? What’s wrong? Really, we can work this out.”
Nulli held her hand out and Dr. Roberts handed over the punch. His mate drank it down in one gulp and took deep breaths before thrusting her hand out again.
The wolf shifter passed her another cup and rested a hand on Nulli’s shoulder. “Don’t panic, just breathe.”
“Don’t panic?” Brian tapped the doctor’s hand with a claw. “I’m going to do more than panic if someone doesn’t tell me what’s wrong with my wife. Is she going to be okay?”
“Of course she is, Arcady. Don’t get your fur ruffled. Everything will be just great in about, oh, seven months or so.” The doctor spoke to him, but she kept her eyes on Nulli. “Normal breaths. Do not faint at your wedding.”
“Seven months? Why se--” He moved his hands from her waist to her stomach as soft purrs replaced his panicked growls. “The naps. The utter exhaustion after your classes. The imitation of a swarm of locusts on a lush green field of veggies. No wonder you smell so damn good, mate. We’re having kittens!”
“Kittens?” Nulli swayed and covered her face. “You said…”
“Zip it, Arcady, if you’re going to talk nonsense,” Nataliia growled. “Nulli, honey, you’re not having kittens. I’m sure you’ve talked about this. If he told you that you’d have a litter of kittens, I’ll kill him. You will have a baby, a human-looking baby. Breathe for me, honey. Can you manage to get a chair without making things worse?” She glared at Brian before returning her attention back to Nulli.
Brian grabbed a chair from a nearby table along with another cup of punch. His head was reeling. Nulli was pregnant? They were going to have a baby? He helped her into the chair and placed the punch in her hands. They were going to have a baby! No matter how many times he said the words in his head, they didn’t seem real. He looked up at the doctor whose demeanor had shifted from friend to professional.
“We’re going to have a baby!”
“Quite. Now help me calm your mate before you’re carrying her out of the reception area and into the house.”
He pulled another chair over and placed it against hers. Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, he pulled her against his side and brushed his lips over her forehead. “I didn’t think this day could get any better, sweetheart, but it just did. Take a deep breath and focus on my scent. You’ll kick my ass if I have to carry you out of here.”
"Okay." She inched closer and tried to slow her breaths. She’d quieted, but her face was blank, eyes wide. “I’m okay. This is-- I’m okay.”
Natalia knelt and placed her fingers on Nulli’s pulse. “Cool it with the purrs, Arcady, unless you want to explain some things to your human guests.”
Nulli watched her friend’s face, her expression shifting to something closer to disbelief. “I never missed a pill. I know nothing is 100%... Is it bad that I kept taking it? Is it dangerous for…” Her voice cracked. “Is it bad for the baby?”
Dr. Roberts took Nulli’s hand and held it in both of hers. “Everything should be fine, but don’t take anymore pills. I have a friend who’s an OB/GYN, I’ll text you the info. You can make an appointment when you get back, okay? Don’t worry, everything’s going to work out.”
“When we get back?” Brian smoothed his hand down Nulli’s arm as he nuzzled into her hair. “Shouldn’t we get to that now? I mean, she’ll need vitamins and stuff, right?”
The wolf laughed and met his gaze. “It’s still early. Enjoy your honeymoon. There’s never been a healthier eater than our Nulli. She’ll be fine. Or should I say, they’ll be fine. Take it easy, Dad.”
“Dad?” He blinked owlishly at the amused doctor. “I can’t be someone’s father! I can barely function at an adult level as it is. The kid will end up running wild in the woods, eating squirrels for dinner, and clawing the furniture. I don’t know anything about being a dad.”
Nulli’s face dropped into a frown and she turned to face him. “You’re not ready? I thought you--you don’t want to do this right now?” She shook her head and stood up. “If you don’t know, what am I going to do? I’ve never been around little shifters.” She didn’t sound angry, but there was more than a little confusion in her voice. “I think I need to walk around.” She gulped her punch and passed the cup to the doctor.
Brian stood and wrapped her in his arms. “Nulli, sweetheart, no. That’s not what I meant at all. I’m over the moon about the baby. Ecstatic, amazed, in awe… and more than a little terrified. Just because I’ve got a severe case of diarrhea of the mouth does not mean I don’t want this baby. I do, but, yeah, I’m a little overwhelmed, too.”
Dr. Roberts made a quick retreat, and Nulli rubbed her forehead on his chin. “I don’t know what to do. How do I raise a shifter? I can’t teach them anything. You’re going to be the only one who can really be there for them on that level. I wasn’t born like this. What if I’m not--I don’t know. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say.”
“You raise a shifter just like you raise any other child - with love and discipline, good times and bad, and even a few mistakes thrown in to give us all gray hairs.” He eased her back into her chair and sat beside her holding her hands. “You have so much to teach our child. You’ll remember far better than me how that first shift feels. You’ll remember your first thunderstorm, your first growl, your first purr. These are things I tend to take for granted, but you remember.” He kissed each of her hands and pulled her a little closer. “You’ll teach them so much, mate, just like you taught me.”
A small smile spread her lips, and she lowered her gaze. “We have been through a lot, haven’t we?”
“And I wouldn’t trade a minute of it because it got us here, to this point. We’re mated, married, and starting a family. If you have anymore good news, I’m all ears.”
“I think I’m all out of news for the moment, at least until we get the first ultrasound.” She tensed, her gaze snapping to his. “Oh my God. My life is over.” She pulled one of her hands from his and pinched the bridge of her nose. “You are going to be the worst when we get back, aren’t you?”
“Who, me? I’m perfectly calm and relaxed about all this. I’ll contact the Wardens when we return from our honeymoon about a round-the-clock security detail. While that’s being arranged, I’ll start on placing the alarm system on the property.”
“And you’ll call me every minute to see if I ate something, or drank something, or to see if I’ve slept. This is a nightmare. I’ll be living with the bobcat version of a parole officer.”
His shoulders shook at the look of abject horror crossing her face. “I think I can hold off and just call every five minutes. Is that a deal?”
“Riiiight.” Nulli rolled her eyes and sighed. “Guess we’ll have to use all the toys while we can. We won’t be able to do too much after the baby. You told me how much I remember about changing, I remember how acute my hearing became. I’m going to miss that swing.” She stared off in the distance and pouted.
“Remember when we had the Wardens clean up the house after the attack?” Brian eased her from her chair and onto his lap. He nibbled along her bare shoulder and neck with a soft purr. “I asked them to include some soundproofing in hopes of one day starting a family. It’s pretty standard in shifter houses.”
“Don’t joke with me about this. We’re talking serious business here.” She started out with a hardened expression, but soon burst into laughter. “You really did that?”
“As the bear would say… hell, yeah. Trust me, no one wants to hear their parents doing it. Especially not when your hearing is better than normal. Soundproofing is the only way to go unless you want to hear your mom riding the bucking bronco yelling out ‘give it up, you pot-bellied stallion!’” He shuddered and held her closer.
“I--I think I want a divorce.”
He muffled his laughter in her neck, his entire body shaking from the effort not to alert their guests. “Sorry, kitten. You’re mine now - soundproofed house and all.”
“In that case, I’ll keep ordering special items.” She gave his ear a pinch and grinned when he growled. “Easy. Not yet.”
“Are you sure we can’t just disappear? I mean, the guests look happy enough without us.” He nudged at the strap of her dress. “We could get an early start on the honeymoon.”
Her purrs moved through him as she wrapped an arm around his shoulders. “Don’t tempt me, Mr. Arcady. I think people would notice if the bride and groom disappeared from the reception. Just a hunch.” She looked over at the crowd and smiled. “Your mother is going to freak.”
“If she doesn’t know already. I swear that woman is psychic. What about your family? Your grandmother has just become a great-grandmother. I hope she’s prepared for that. She’s a bit feisty.” He stood up as the DJ played a slow song, and pulled her into his arms for a dance. It was little more than swaying, but to him, it was perfect. It was also slightly better than cartwheeling down the aisles and roaring, which he didn’t think she’d be too keen on.
“Let’s wait to tell them. We can see the doctor first, have a few weeks of privacy before every relative we’ve ever known starts calling us with advice and cautions we don’t need.” She nuzzled into his neck, placing small kisses against his skin. “But, if I have a litter, I will kill you.”
He shivered and pulled her closer. The song needed to be a long one if he was to return to their guests without embarrassing himself. “If you have a litter, sweetheart, you won’t have to. I’ll just have a heart attack and be done with it.”
“Mm-hmm.” Another kiss, another soft purr. “I love you… Dad.” She chuckled and kissed his jaw.
“I adore you, Mom.” He dipped his head and captured her lips, sighing as she melted against him. “Let’s see how quickly we can cut a cake and chase everyone off.”
Nulli’s eyes flashed amber, a strong glint flashing across their surface in the sun. “Chase them off? Tu voudrais jouer?”
Brian groaned and pulled her flush against his body. Dress slacks were not made for such… indelicacies. “I love it when you talk dirty to me in a foreign language. I don’t know what the hell you just said, but you’ve got me harder than a freakin’ anvil. I don’t think Killian would mind if we disappeared into the house for an hour or six.”
Nulli grabbed his tie and pulled until their lips met. “Not an hour, we’ll have to make it fast.”
“At this rate, I won’t last five minutes,” he whispered hoarsely. “Come with me?”
She nodded and took his hand. “Second floor or first?”
“Second unless you want to risk an audience.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her towards a narrow garden path. “We’ll go in the back door. Less chance of running into someone.”
Brian’s mother intercepted them first. She popped out of the bushes like a ninja, standing directly in their path. There was no way he could pretend he didn’t see her unless he bought some sunglasses, a cane, and a dog. She gushed over the ceremony, Nulli's dress, the music, even Killian’s house. He tapped his claws impatiently along his leg as a low, annoyed growl rumbled in his throat.
“Don’t you growl at me, Brian Arcady!” His mother stood with her fists on her hips. A hint of fangs peeked through her bright lipstick. “I brought you into this world, I can take you back out and make another just like you. Where were you going, anyway? It’s almost time to cut the cake.”
“We were just going inside the house for a bit.” Brian felt the heat creep into his cheeks and cursed his inability to lie to his mother. “Too much noise and stuff.”
His mom snorted. “Yeah, right. I was a newlywed once, too, you know. Your dad and I managed to sneak away at our wedding. His mother was spitting mad when we finally reappeared.”
“Mom! I do not want to hear about you and dad sneaking off to have sex. Not now. Not ever. Please.”
“Just making sure you know that no one is going to be fooled by your ‘too much noise’ excuse.”
“We’re not having this conversation, Mother.”
“And when, exactly, were you going to tell me about the baby?” Dear Lord, she was on a roll. “That’s my first grandchild, Brian, and you had to let me sniff out the truth instead of telling me. You were such a sweet, loving boy. Where did I go wrong?”
“Mrs. Arcady, we just found out a few minutes ago.” Nulli released him and moved to his mother’s side. She put an arm around her waist, and smiled. “We weren’t keeping secrets. I’m still taking it all in.”
“Do call me Maggie, sweetie. If you have any questions about the baby, or baby shifters, give me a call. We can have a chat.” She leaned in to whisper into Nulli’s ear. “I have photo albums!”
Brian groaned. “Tell me you burned that photo of me in the pink tutu? Please? You promised!”
“Of course I did, but you didn’t say a thing about the negatives. I simply had another made.” She patted Nulli’s hand and gave each of them a knowing look. “Don’t take too long or be too loud. There are humans and children here, remember.”
Brian groaned as she disappeared into the brush. There was something inherently wrong with talking about sex with his mother. He stole a glance at Nulli and sighed at her expression. With a soft growl, he turned them around and started back for the reception area. If he didn’t get to ravish his mate soon, he was going to stab someone with the cake knife.
The rest of the reception flowed smoothly with no bloodshed, though it was a close thing. Killian was in attendance after all. Brian gaped at the many and varied ways he tried to entice Nulli’s sisters, her cousins, their friends, Dr. Roberts, and any other breathing, single person at the wedding into a menage of ludicrous proportions. When Melody threatened to cut him off for a week, he grumbled and growled, but finally settled down. It was a good thing, too. Rumors of tasers and castration floated through the guests. The bear was treading a fine line.
They cut the cake without smashing it into each other’s faces. She’d threatened and he’d wisely agreed. More pictures than should be allowed by law were taken. He smiled until his jaws hurt. Shook more hands than he knew existed in such a small space. But through it all, he had his mate, his Nulli, by his side. He’d suffer through another thousand photographs if it kept that look of utter joy on her face.
Still, he was happy when they drove away. A whole week at the cabin - just the two of them. He couldn’t have stopped his purrs if he tried.