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January 30, 2023

Good Morning? 40

By Lydia Manx

Riley finished putting the groceries in the rental and nodded as he saw all the meat I'd gotten on my trip. I didn't need a hungry werewolf with me during a blizzard, that was for sure. The howling winds had picked up and thankfully, the groaning of the semi-conscious manager sprawled over in the shopping cart a few feet from us was greatly diminished. Sighing, I said, "He's a total predator and I think the cashier will remember he walked me out." Not that he'd be doing much walking for the next day or so. Riley had stomped the snot out of him.

"So, Esmeralda? You really think he's going to report the attack? I mean, you have the man's knife here." Riley pointed to the weapon that the man had threatened me with where it had been kicked out of his fist. It was on the ground quickly being covered with snow. Dumping out one of the grocery bags into the ice chest, Riley carefully picked up the blade and tucked it in the car with a rather feral grin. "And now you have evidence with his fingerprints on it, supporting your attack." He seemed pleased with his logic.

"What about the next woman he attacks?" My conscience pinged warning, and worries flooded my mind as I watched Riley shove the bags of meat into the rapidly filling ice chest. He wasn't in any hurry but actually inspecting what I'd selected. I could have sworn I heard his stomach rumble. Feeling a bit of pity I said, "Feel free to snack on anything."

What I'd seen in the chaos of my life was more than anyone should have to see. But I didn't mind because it helped me along the way. Humans did horrible things to their own kind. It reminded me why I should never drop my guard and let humans find out what I was. That supernaturals wanted to kill me, I could accept in a way, but if humans found out what I was I'd be hunted to the ground. I could pop in and out of the supernatural traps as a rule, but humans would splay my information out in any media that would allow them to show my picture. And I knew that would be the death of me without question. I hadn't really harmed a single human in my life, but it wouldn't matter because I was different. I could talk about every supernatural creature I knew or suspected existed and it would be ignored as insanity. Looking at the store manager bleeding out in the shopping cart I worried a bit more while Riley made a happy noise.

He had taken me at my word and tore open one of the packages of lunchmeat. He bit off a chunk of turkey meat and grumbled, "Damn, I was hungry. Airplane food shouldn't even be called food. The containers probably taste better." With his mouth empty for a second he said, "Even this tastes better and it's not even real turkey." It was but I knew he meant it was lunchmeat, not on-the-bone bird.

"You're welcome," I laughed while he demolished the entire pound of meat in a few quick nips. His glee at eating lifted my mood a bit. The snow was falling harder and I shivered at the drop in temperature.

Riley swallowed and said, "He won't be able to bother anyone for a few days. Before then I'll contact one of Harry's family out here and they will put a detail on him. Next time he springs for someone he'll be taken out of the game without you nearby."

"Speaking of that, how the hell did you get here so quickly?" I was taunting him with his own words but I was curious.

"Harry paged me at the airport and told me to hustle my ass over here or he'd have me for a midnight snack." He replied without a grin so I gathered there was some truth to his story.

"Is there a car or something I need to take you to -- like a motorcycle you stole?" I didn't see a cab waiting. I didn't bother wondering how Uncle Harry had told him were to find me because the mind link we had could give some impressive details when needed. After all I had said Wal-Mart and this was the closest one to the airport. I shook my head of an image rapidly forming in my mind. It was of him running as a werewolf through the streets.

Grinning, he didn't say much but, "Yeah back to the baggage counter at the airport. I need my luggage."

Again unbidden the thought of him running stuck with me. He was such a smart ass I didn't risk asking anything more.

"Okay then." I put the vehicle in gear and began the slip-sliding drive to the airport. Riley snagged another bag of lunchmeat and a loaf of French bread I'd picked up. This time he slowly ate a thick sandwich he cobbled together while actively trying to stomp on the floor of the passenger seat in a futile effort to help me drive. After the tenth time he'd thumped down on a nonexistent brake pedal, I finally remarked, "Like, do you want to drive?"

We had come to a stop light and it turned green. My delay in accelerating in order to glare at Riley saved us from a possible accident as a huge truck slid through the intersection from the side road and spun around two or three times before crashing into a few parked cars on the opposite corner. I guess he wasn't able to stop for the red light and thought his four wheel drive would enjoy the spin.

"Nah, you're doing fine. Let's go." He completely disregarded the man tumbling out of his truck screaming and hopping up and down.

"Shouldn't we," I trailed off as the man reached into the truck and pulled out a very large can of beer and took a swig.

It appeared he was uninjured and medicating himself as needed. A drunk in an accident wasn't high on my list of people to talk with given the time I'd had already just shopping.

Riley laughed and said, "Esmeralda, you are too much."

"Gee thanks," I grumbled back and concentrated on driving. At least he'd stopped trying to hit the brakes for me.

We got to the airport without any accidents or delays. Riley told me to stay with the car and he'd be back in a minute or so. Leaving the heater on, I sat back and waited. The various people fleeing the comfort of their cars to head into the terminal surprised me. I doubted there would be any planes flying but it didn't seem to stop the cattle from trundling through the snow towards the doors.

Riley took a good twenty minutes to return. I noticed a scowl covered his face. He tossed a piece of luggage in the back and plopped into the passenger seat with a look of utter disgust.

Not really wanting to ask, I felt I had no choice, "What's wrong?"

I turned and looked at him. Even though I knew better I caught his gaze directly -- not challenging him but wanting him to know I was waiting to hear. His eyes were lit from inside with anger and animal. I could smell a wood-like scent drifting from him. He wasn't hinged tightly and I waited to drive, not wanting him to turn while I was sliding along the roads.

"I had to retrieve my luggage from a pair of thugs." Finally he spit out.

"And?" There had to be more. We were in Detroit and he'd left his bag unattended while he helped me. I didn't want to hear he'd lost something critical.

"And? These asses thought they could steal from me." A territorial feeling of possessiveness wafted off him. I already knew werewolves were very territorial and it wasn't much of a shock to hear he was possessive but he was bristling with anger and a bit of his other nature.

Waiting for the rest it didn't take long before he said, "I had to track them down in a crowded terminal. They hadn't yet opened my bag but they were laughing at how stupid I was."

I tried not to roll my eyes because it sounded like macho posturing and he wasn't calming down.

Cutting to the chase I asked, "So, are they dead?"

With huge eyes Riley snarled, "I'm not an idiot! No, but I hate having to track through crowds." He calmed down just a hair and said, "Let's get out of here before one of them comes to."

"Excuse me? Comes to?" I bit out without thinking.

"They bumped into me once I found them. It seemed natural to return the favor." I stopped asking any more questions and began negotiating out of the parking lot. The usual exit was backed up with slow paying customers and with the storm building, we were forced to idle in the lane waiting our turn.

Riley smoldered and fiddled with the stations on the radio. One station had a breaking news alert and he turned it up and we listened to the growing list of closed businesses and schools.

"Well, that sounds lovely," Riley snarled while we rolled forward towards the booth. I took out some money and finally was able to pay and leave. Riley glared at the attendant like it was his fault everyone had delayed us exiting. It was typical of any airport I'd ever gone through so I just sighed and asked, "Is there somewhere you need to go before we get back to the place I rented?"

He shook his head. I didn't know if I was supposed to be relieved or concerned. I was pretty sure he should have asked to talk to some werewolf leader by now about his visiting. He seemed to be fine with just showing up unannounced. Something of what I was thinking must have been written on my face because he glared at me and said, "Why do you want me to beg permissions? Fuck, I'm already here. It's far easier to apologize later."

From the set of his jaw, that was his story and he was sticking to it. I could see the clenched muscles and wondered if he was grinding his back teeth. Another question I figured was best kept to myself.

After a long slow drive we finally arrived at the house. The snow was blowing harder and Riley told me to get inside, he'd handle the unpacking. I wasn't going to argue; I made it to the door just as the blizzard began hitting us hard. I went in and turned the heat up a notch, noticing I could see my breath in the house.

I looked at the dial on the thermostat and it was supposedly seventy. Feeling the frost-nipped air I tapped the dial up a bit more. There wasn't a sound from the furnace. I dreaded telling Riley that the heat was off. Thankfully, I'd bought plenty of blankets and comforters, but I wasn't so sure he'd agree.

The door slammed open as Riley came in with his arms full of bags from Wal-Mart. I shut the door while he paced into the small rooms with a grunt. He dropped the bags near the kitchen and walked back to the door. I turned to see him shake himself in the doorway like a dog, and snow flew off him, landing in patches on the entryway rug, not even showing a sign of melting. Yep, it was damn cold inside. I scurried to the groceries and began putting things away, ignoring Riley for the moment. He went back outside to bring the rest of the supplies in while I did the domestic bits. I could still see my breath. Shivering, I knew I was in for a long night.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-07-01
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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