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The First Step To Forever

 
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Demeter Ashton
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:39 pm    Post subject: The First Step To Forever Reply with quote

Life had settled, as lives often do, into a routine that suited both Neville and Demeter very well indeed. They had found a house to share, moving themselves in with very little fuss or bother - a home with room enough to build a life together with all their little foibles perfectly catered for. Their hours of work complimented one another most of the time, and on those occasions when it didn't, they weren't alone for long. Today was one of those days - Neville had been rehearsing for The Nutcracker at the Shanachie, the first to return home while Demi finished up with a client at work. She was later home than usual, very quiet as she opened the front door and stepped inside, shedding her coat and shoes before calling out her return. "I'm home!"

"In the kitchen!" he called, upon hearing her announce her arrival. They had slowly but surely been working on decorating the house for the holidays, but the Christmas tree was still only half-decorated and, with both their busy schedules, it was hard finding time to finish. Still, it seemed Neville had been busy since he'd arrived home from the theater as the smell of food cooking filled the house with its aroma.

Barefoot, she wandered toward the kitchen. It had taken a while to get into the habit of it, but she had finally stopped using her sensitive nose to already be in the same room by the time he announced where he was. It was a small piece of normal she could give him, and besides, on days like today, she needed that little extra time to relax her expression before she reached him. "Hello," she smiled at him, rising onto her toes to kiss his cheek affectionately. "How was rehearsal today?"

"Hello, beautiful," he replied, tilting his face into her kiss as she greeted him, his hands tied up with cutting up veggies for whatever he was throwing together for dinner. "Good! The production is a little crazy, but a lot of fun." As should be expected with all the kids running around as part of the production. "Most of the wrinkles seem to have been ironed out. It's gonna be great!" he said, beaming an enthusiastic grin.

"Hopefully you won't have a nightmare of a technical rehearsal on Sunday," she smiled. "I'll keep my fingers crossed for you." It sounded as though the moment they'd started bringing the dancers and the orchestra together for these rehearsals, all hell had broken loose, but Neville was incredibly upbeat about the whole thing. "What are we cooking, I wonder?"

"We'll probably need it!" He chuckled at her comment. As optimistic as he was about it, the theater had been a bit of a zoo lately. The Nutcracker required a large cast, including guest dancers and children, and sometimes it seemed to Neville that it was a little too much like babysitting, but everyone was so excited about the project that there had been few problems. "Stir fry?" he replied, hoping she'd find that acceptable. From the smell of things, it seemed there was going to be some chicken included in that stir fry.

"Mmm, sounds lovely," she smiled in agreement, hugging her arms about his waist lightly. Yes, she might have been in his way, but she needed that long moment of contact, hiding her face against his chest as she breathed him in.

He frowned as she buried her face in his chest and he set the knife down and wiped his hands on a towel before circling his arms around her, brows furrowed. It wasn't all that unusual for her to greet him this way, except that he'd been in the middle of cooking. "Demi, is everything all right?"

She sighed softly, raising her head to look up at him. "Sometimes it's very hard to let work go," she admitted in a quiet tone. "Especially the children. Some of them have been through so much. I have no idea if I'm helping them or not. They've lived through horrors, and they're still going. It's ... amazing and heartbreaking."

He knew better than to ask for details or expect her to divulge her clients' names or break their confidences. "You had a session with a child today, then," he said. It wasn't a difficult assumption to make, given her statement. He'd often wondered what would have happened if he hadn't gone to her for help dealing with the grief from his wife's death. She had helped him, certainly, but somehow, they had also managed to fall in love.

She nodded, leaning back. "All he wants is for his nightmares to go away," she said quietly. "It's such a simple wish. And if anything, they're getting worse. I thought we were making some headway, but his father went back into action, and the nightmares came back. All I can do is give this boy a place where he can rant and rave in perfect confidence. What do I know about recovering from torture?"

"Into action?" Neville echoed, curiously. He knew he wasn't supposed to ask too many questions, but it was hard to help her deal with these things if he didn't know what she was dealing with. "Is he a soldier?" he asked further, his expression changing as his brain registered the rest of what she was saying. "Torture?! Who the hell would torture a child?"

"Bastards, that's who," was her succinct response to his horrified response. She shook her head. "Not just him, but other children, too. They were all saved at the same time, by the same people, and it seems as though they are still in contact with each other. But this poor boy ... he was improving until his father put himself back in the firing line again. I can only assume it's some sort of paramilitary group; he doesn't know the details and I don't ask."

"Mmm," he murmured, fingers brushing her cheek as he pushed a strand of hair back from her face. "Maybe he should talk to his father about it?" he suggested, though that much seemed obvious.

"One of the reasons he's talking to me is because he doesn't want to tell his parents how much he's struggling," Demi said thoughtfully. "But you're right. The only person who can really reassure him is his father. I'll talk to him about broaching that subject next week." She managed a faint smile. "Thank you. I don't know why I didn't think of that myself."

"Because you're too busy worrying about the boy and taking his problems onto yourself to think of the obvious," he replied, leaning in to touch a kiss to her cheek, before looking her over with a smile. "You look gorgeous, but dinner is gonna be ready soon, if you wanna go get comfy first."

"I'm involved again, you mean," she mused wryly, but there was a smile on her face. Sometimes, she just couldn't help but care about her clients. Besides, if she was always detached and professional, she wouldn't be engaged to Neville, would she? His comment on her clothing made her laugh. "You're a saint, you know that? I'll go and change." She paused, rising up onto her toes to kiss him tenderly. "I love you."

He beamed a smile back at her, eyes shining with pride and happiness. Everyday, he was amazed at how much his life had changed and how happy he had become because of this woman. "Saint Neville, I know," he said, with a dimpled grin. "And I love you, too," he added, just for good measure, though she should already know that.

She purred softly, rubbing her cheek against his tenderly before breaking away, jogging up the stairs to their bedroom. Though her work look was very professional, at home she was definitely a relaxed animal. He had managed to cure her of wandering around butt naked most of the time, but that had only translated into shorts and t-shirts, even as the weather turned cold. Thus, when she came downstairs, Demi was displaying her long legs in a comfortable pair of shorts, her toes wriggling in the softness of her slippers.

And by the time she was finished getting changed, he had dinner on the table, candles lit and glasses of wine poured. He had another little surprise prepared, but it wasn't immediately obvious. He had the lights turned down, so that they were eating by candlelight, even though it wasn't a fancy meal. True to his word, they were having stir-fry.
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Demeter Ashton
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Mmm, that smells delicious," she complimented him, already abandoning her slippers by the stairs. She preferred to be barefoot, but every now and then, needed something to warm her feet up with that wasn't Neville's thighs. Her brow rose as she noted the candlelight. "Did I miss an anniversary?"

"No, I just thought we'd make it a little special tonight. Would you rather not?" he asked, as he pulled out a chair for her. It did seem a little weird to have created such a formal setting when they were just having stir-fry and neither of them was dressed up, but he had his reasons.

She paused as he pulled out her chair, her smile warm as she rose onto her toes to kiss him once again. She really was remarkably tactile for someone who had insisted on taking their time and not rushing in the early months of their relationship. "It's lovely," she assured him. "A lovely surprise."

If she was observant, she'd eventually notice that there was an envelope tucked under her napkin and stainless, but he was happy to wait for her to notice it. "You deserve it," he told her, touching a kiss to her cheek as she took her seat.

"You're going to spoil me," she warned playfully, sliding down into her seat. As hungry as she was, she waited for him to sit down before dropping her eyes to her plate, her attention caught by the envelope nestling beneath her napkin. "What's this?" she asked, slipping it out to open it.

"That's the idea," he replied, that dimpled smile still on his face. "Open it," he suggested, just as she was about to do just that. Inside the envelope was a travel brochure was Finland, as well as airfare and hotel reservations and information about destination weddings.

Her own smile was just a little suspicious as she did as he told her, sliding open the envelope to take a peek at what was inside. "Oh ... oh, my goodness," she breathed, stunned by what she found. Dark eyes rose to meet his across the table, delight glittering in her gaze. "Really? We ... we're going to get married under the Northern Lights?"

"Unless you'd rather go someplace else," he replied. He'd proposed months ago, but they'd never quite managed to set a date, until now. "I thought we'd get married in January, when the theater is closed for maintenance. Unless you'd wait," he added, tentatively, just in case he'd made one assumption too many.

"Oh, no, this is perfect," she rushed to reassure him. "We could ... we could make it a triple wedding, you know," she added, a little tentative herself. "Dorian and Seren never did follow through on their plan to get married at the end of the summer, after all. And I'm sure we could track down Kit and Delilah." It wasn't as though they were hurting for money. Nearly a decade of modeling work had left Demeter with the kind of nest egg that can only be hatched in a large valley, and even then, only if it's the only egg in the nest.

"I'm one step ahead of you there," he said with a nod of his head to the envelope. If she looked a little harder, she'd see there were tickets for six. "Dorian is agreeable, but he hasn't asked Seren yet. He doesn't want us to mention Kit and Delilah. He wants it to be a surprise." He didn't say how he'd managed to come up with the money to afford such a trip, but Mataya De Luca had been very good to him this past year.

"Oh, how lovely," she declared, truly amazed not only with the plan, but the fact that he and his brother had managed to keep it from both their fiancees while putting it all together. "Please tell me you paid for it all out of the wedding fund we set aside." The look she gave him said it all; she knew what he was like when it came to money.

"It wouldn't have been much of a surprise if I'd done that," he admitted, though in his mind, it was all relative. His money was hers and vice versa, or at least, it would be once they were married, but it wasn't her money that interested him. "Are you angry?"

She chuckled a little, setting the envelope aside. "No," she promised. "How could I possibly be angry? This is a wonderful surprise. But no more paying out of your pocket, all right? Everything else that needs to be paid for comes out of the wedding fund." She waggled a teasing finger in his direction. "And no, that does not mean you can get away with choosing the cheapest suit you think you can get away with."

"I'm only marrying you once, Demi. It should be special, don't you think?" Yes, it had been expensive, but even if he'd gone into debt over it, she was worth every penny, and he knew Dorian felt the same way.

"It will be special," she promised him fondly. "But there's no need to throw yourself into deep debt over it, not when we can afford to indulge ourselves. Yes, we," she added pointedly. "What's mine is yours, remember?"

"So, you keep reminding me," he said with a small frown. The man has his pride, after all. "I just want it to be memorable," he told her, and how couldn't it be? How many people had the opportunity to get married under the Northern Lights?

"Neville." Ignoring dinner for a moment - it could always be reheated - Demi rose from her seat to plant herself firmly in his lap, filling his view with her own face. "There is nothing you can give me that could possibly be greater than the gift of your love," she told him, her words soft but certain. "Our wedding is not just about me. It's about both of us. And I want to spoil you as much as you want to spoil me. So let me do it sometimes, all right? It doesn't make you any less of a man for indulging your domesticated tiger's whimsy, you know."

"Is this where I say 'Yes, dear,' and give in without an argument?" he asked, with the hint of a teasing smirk on his face, as he wrapped his arms around her waist. "Your dinner is going to get cold, you know," he warned, though he seemed in no hurry to let her go. "I just want to make our wedding day special, Dem."

"Yes, this would be where you roll over and show your belly just to humor me," she laughed, brushing the tip of her nose to his. "It will be memorable. How many people get to share their wedding in an ice chapel, underneath the Northern Lights? It really is wonderful, Neville. Thank you."

He smirked and uttered a single, "Woof," but restrained himself from licking her cheek. "Are you sure you wouldn't prefer a beach wedding?" he asked, a little uncertainly. He knew he'd made this decision without her, but that's what surprises were all about, and he thought he knew her well enough by now to have made a pretty good guess.

She giggled, curling her arms around his neck to nuzzle to him affectionately. "I'm sure," she murmured. "Because this is something that would never have occurred to me, but appeals to me a good deal. Do you remember what I told you when you asked what you smell like to me? Moonlight on snow, my favorite scent."

"Is that a good thing?" he asked, though he already knew the answer. She loved him, after all, and though he wasn't sure why she thought of him that way, there were worse things to remind her of. "I love you, Demi," he told her softly, not for the first or the last time. Just a short year ago, he had been filled with grief, and now, because of her, not only had he fallen in love again, but he was ready to marry her.

"It's a very good thing," she promised him, touching a loving kiss to his lips as her fingers spilled through his hair. She would never tire of hearing him say those words, starved of them all her life until Neville had chosen her to be his mate. "I love you back," she murmured against his lips. "And I'm going to make your toes curl after dinner."
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not just his mate, but his best friend, his confidante, his partner, his lover, and perhaps most importantly, his wife - the woman he loved. He was only too happy to reciprocate those kisses, his body reacting in obvious ways, though dinner was getting cold. "Is that a promise or a warning? he asked, as he touched his nose to hers.

Her lips curved in a slow grin. "Let's call it a promise," she decided with playful good humor, kissing the tip of his nose. "But first, we have to eat, or my stomach will rumble in the middle again."

"Yes, dear," he smirked, that smile more and more like that of his less sober brother as the days passed. He had good reason to be smiling these days and was very different from the man she had helped deal with his grief. It wasn't the first time they'd gotten distracted with each other before they'd had a chance to finish or even start dinner.

She giggled, nipping his jaw as she extricated herself from his lap. "Besides, you cooked for me," she reminded him. "I intend to enjoy it. Before I ravish you against a wall somewhere undisclosed in the house."

"You ravish me?" he echoed, laughing. "Isn't that supposed to be the other way around?" He didn't really care much either way; he was an equal opportunity ravisher.

"You can return the favor when I'm finished," she grinned, blowing him a kiss. Sitting down, her fingers stroked against the envelope for a moment before she took up her fork, making the most of her healthy appetite to enjoy what he had made for her. "Mmm ... you're getting very good at this."

"Are we talking about dinner or something else?" he asked, partly teasing and partly serious. He liked spoiling her while he could. In another few days, he'd get very busy with the shows at the theater, and it would be her turn to spoil him.

"Everything," she smiled back at him. "Although there were a few things you were already pretty exceptional at when we met, of course. I'm just the lucky cat you decided to get creative about honing those skills on."

He practically blushed at the compliment, presuming she was talking about his experience in bed, but then, she wasn't the first woman he'd ever loved. "It's easy when you have the right partner," he replied, refusing to get too puffed up with pride at her remark.

"Oh, I was very easy for the right partner," she teased him impishly. "And there's no one else right for me but you. Goodness knows how long I'd have made you wait if we hadn't been just right for each other." Though the waiting had been mutual; neither one of them had been prepared to rush into something that meant quite so much.

"How did you know?" he asked curiously. For him, it hadn't been love at first sight, though he'd certainly found her attractive. He'd been too buried in grief then, having only recently buried his wife.

"Your scent, love," she admitted almost shyly. "I tried to deny it to myself for a long time, but I knew you were the only man I could ever love from the first day we met. It's a were thing, I think."

Both brows arched upwards in astonishment. "The first day?" he echoed. He knew she'd been attracted to him at some point, but he hadn't known for how long. "How can you know, just from my ... my scent?" he asked further. Unlike her and his brother and his brother's fiance, he was not were, and though he knew some part of her had always been feline, it was not something he could fully understand.

Demi paused, trying to put it into words. "It's very difficult to explain," she told him thoughtfully. "Humans believe in love at first sight, don't they? With weres ... well, with the weres that I come from, there's a belief that somewhere out there is your perfect mate, and that you'll know them because their scent will appeal to you at every level. Your scent attracts me, pulls me in; it engages my mind and my heart. It catches the attention of the tiger in me. You have my full attention whenever I can smell you. It is almost impossible for me not to focus on you when your scent crosses my path."

"Love at first sight is really just about physical attraction," Neville reasoned. He'd certainly been attracted to Nellie, and he'd been attracted to Demi, too, though he'd been too mired in grief at the time to realize it. "They say even humans react to pheromones, even if we don't realize it."

"There are a thousand different things that tell you if someone is right for you," she agreed softly. "And barely a fraction of them are understood or even acknowledged openly. Perhaps, as a were, I had an unfair advantage. I could smell your attraction to me, as well as knowing what your scent did to my own being. I knew you liked me, but I wasn't brave enough to do anything about it."

"If you'd done anything about it when we first met, you'd probably have scared me away," he admitted with a chuckle. He hadn't been in a good place then, and the only reason they'd met was because he'd needed to deal with his wife's death, and she'd come highly recommended. "Do you believe in fate, Dem?" he asked as he finished up his stir fry.

"I'm not sure," she mused thoughtfully, toying with the last mouthful of stir fry on her plate. "I believe that some things are meant to happen, but I'm not sure I like the idea of having my life dictated before I even began to live it. That it doesn't matter what choices I make, I will always end up in the same place. It seems terribly restrictive."

"But what if we hadn't met?" he asked. He knew that, as far as he was concerned, if he'd never met her he'd still be alone. And there was the chance his brother might be dead by now, either because of a genetically-inherited disease or at the hands of a jealous were. His thoughts strayed a moment, knowing that black cloud was hanging over his head, too, but so far, he'd shown no sign of illness and all his bloodwork had come back normal.

"Then I would be alone, and some very lucky woman would be convincing you to spend your life with her, instead," Demi said simply. That was simply what she believed, refusing to accept any chance that there was some death sentence hanging over his head.

"I doubt that," he replied, taking up his glass of wine to take a sip. After the tragedy of Nellie's death, he never thought he'd meet anyone who captured his heart the way she had, but that was before he'd met the women before him - kind and caring and gentle as a kitten, at least so long as she kept her claws sheathed.

"I don't," she said, her voice soft but certain. "There is a lot in you to love, Neville. Any woman could have seen it. I am simply very lucky to be the woman who caught your attention, and I will always be pleased to be special in that way. I'm a cat, I was born to preen."

"I'm the lucky one, Demi," he told her in a quiet voice, as he lifted his gaze to look back at her. There were so many things to be thankful for these days. Meeting her had been a turning point in his life, and every day when he awoke with her beside him, he was surprised to find himself happy.

"Well, you're certainly getting lucky tonight," she assured him with a sweet wink as she set her fork down and lifted her own glass to toast him. "Why don't we finish putting the lights on the tree, at the very least, and see what happens afterward?"
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He smiled, already knowing what would happen afterward. "You're sure you don't mind my making plans without asking you first?" he asked, regarding the trip and, more importantly, the wedding.

"Oh, of course I don't mind," she assured him, rising to collect their plates. "We'd already set that time aside to go somewhere, so there's no worry over my clients. That would be the only thing that might mar such a lovely surprise, and you timed it perfectly so there's nothing to mar it."

Nothing to mar it, except for one teensy thing that had been worrying him for some time. It was a good thing her back was turned to him so that she didn't see his frown. "Dem, there's something else ..."

"Mm?" She glanced back at him, curiosity filling her expression. "What is it, love?" she asked, though the frown on his face was something of a clue. Their family was an eclectic mix, but everyone had something in common ... everyone but Neville.

"I know we haven't talked about it lately, but ..." He trailed off a moment, as if he wasn't quite sure how to bring the subject up. They'd talked briefly about the possibility of children, both of them wanting a family someday, but they hadn't gone much further than that. It was clear to him that if and when they did have children, they would likely inherit their mother's genes, which would once again leave him the odd man out.

Closing up the dishwasher, she turned to look at him, one hand on the counter, the other resting comfortably at her hip. Despite her small stature, she could fill a room with her presence when she felt the need, but she rarely felt that was necessary around Neville. Her eyes were warm and kind as she held his gaze. "Are those spare bedrooms playing on your mind, love?" she asked him softly. They were playing on hers, too, but probably not for exactly the same reason.

"Yes and no," he replied, quite honestly. "It's more the topic of fatherhood, but I suppose I'm putting the cart before the horse," he said with a further frown. He knew he was beating around the bush, but just how did one come out and ask if he should be turned before they tried to conceive when they weren't even married yet?

Luckily for him, Demi could smell his uncertainty, and she was insightful enough to guess at why he felt that way, even without her psychology training. She moved toward him, curling her arms about his waist. "I won't make the decision for you," she told him softly. "It's your life, and your decision to make. But our children, our cubs, will love you no matter what shape you are. Nothing will change the bond you will have with them."

He knew all that already, but somehow, it didn't comfort him much, even as her arms went around him. He frowned again, not a sad frown, but one of worry. "But I won't be able to run or ... hunt with them the way you will. I won't be able to teach them anything about being what they are. I won't be able to be a real father to them. I'll only be able to share half their life with them." He didn't even bother to mention how he could not share in those things with her either or with his brother, and he'd often wondered if Seren felt the same.

Her smile was sad for him as she drew him closer. "Neville ... I won't deny that I would be very glad to share all of myself with you," she admitted almost reluctantly, unwilling to influence his decision. It was a big change, and yet it was one he had witnessed his brother make with relative ease. "You told me once that if you got ill, you'd ask me to turn you. You don't need a death sentence hanging over your head to make that decision. So long as the reason is sound, I won't deny you that change."

"Yes, but ..." he stammered. Why was there always a but of some kind? Was it merely fear that held him back, and if so, what exactly was he afraid of? "I can't do it now. Not with Nutcracker starting soon." That much was true, but what else was it that was holding him back?

"No, you can't," she agreed. "Though the bite would do its work overnight, the next full moon is on Wednesday. It's too late to arrange for that night off." Her fingers stroked against his cheek, knowing he was afraid of something, but not sure what that was. "January's full moon is in the second week," she murmured thoughtfully. "A full nine days after the wedding date. We ... we could do it around then, if you decide this is what you want."

"But ..." he started. There was that but again. What if it didn't work? What if he didn't survive? What if he hated it or regretted the decision to change? Once it was done, there was no going back, and yet, the change seemed to have agreed with his brother. He'd noticed no ill effects, and if anything, he seemed at the peak of good health. In the end, it was mostly the fear of the unknown that was holding Neville back, more than anything else.

"I think you need to talk to your brother," she told him gently. "Ask him about the experience. I can't answer questions about what the change is like, or how different life will be for you. I only know the world from my perspective, love, and I can't help you with what neither of us know."

"I want it, Demi," he told her, with a sigh. "I just ... I'm not ready," he admitted, though when would he be ready? After they were married? When they had children? There was no time like the present, but it would have to wait at least until after the holidays, anyway. That would give him a little time to talk to his brother and think it over. "Do you think Seren feels left out sometimes?" he asked, out of the blue.

"To be honest, love, it's probably worse for her," she sighed with him, nuzzling tenderly to his cheek. "She'll never change her shape, never know what it is to run on four legs and experience the world the way her brother and her mate do. But every time they do change their shape, she knows there is something wrong with her. Even her children, when they're born, will be able to shift. But because of her family's foolishness, there is no cure for what ails her."

"But Emrys didn't think he could ever change either and he did. Couldn't the same thing happen to Seren?" he asked curiously, unsure how it all worked. He only knew that he always felt a little like an oddball, and wondered if Seren did, too.

She shook her head. "Emrys always had the pull of the moon on his mind," she reminded him gently. "There was always some part of him that shifted; it is a small step to a full shift from there. Seren has never felt the pull of the moon. She is a wolf, but a wolf in human form. The moon exerts no influence on her; she has no instinct to change her shape."

"And if I change, she'll be the only one who's left out," he pointed out further, though he knew he couldn't base his decision solely on that. "I want to be a real father to our children, Demi. I want to share in every aspect of their lives and yours." It seemed his decision, then, had already been made. It was just a matter of when.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"She's been the odd one out all her life," Demi told him, sympathy in her tone for Seren's distressing position. "Among wolves, she is human; among humans, she is wolf. She'll never fit in with either world. But she has a mate who loves her, and who accepts that oddity about her without judgment or criticism. That is worth more than you can possibly imagine." As he seemed to make his decision, her lips curved in a soft smile, rewarding him with a pleased purr as her cheek brushed his. "Whenever you decide to do it, I will oblige you, love."

And perhaps more importantly, Seren had a family and friends who loved her, just as Dorian did. It was strange sometimes to think how Neville had become part of this little group of weres when his entire life had been so very ordinary. He smiled, that purr always doing something to him somehow, putting him at ease and making him feel loved. "Right now, there's only one thing I'd like to do, and it doesn't involve Christmas lights," he teased, eyes bright with teasing.

"Really?" she asked innocent. "Not even if I decorated myself with them?" Her hands gestured not so innocently to the assets that had made her lingerie modeling career so lucrative in the first place as she smiled sweetly up at him. "We could cycle the setting so you have a clue about how fast or slow you should be going."

"Mmm, a tempting thought, but they'd only get in the way," he said, his eyes following the movement of her hands as his own hands found her hips to steer her toward the bedroom or the closest flat surface really.

Laughing, she reached up, curling her arms about his neck as he steered her anywhere he chose. And somewhere in that laughter was a lightness that hadn't been there before. For the first time, she knew he had made his decision; that soon, he would be like her, another tiger to run with in the moonlight on the snow. She would be able to cease worrying about the little accidents and illnesses that plagued humans having any effect on him. And wasn't that a liberating thought?

As it so happened, the closest and most convenient flat surface was the couch, the two of them giggling like children as he pulled her down with him, the Christmas tree only half decorated beside them and the stars twinkling like Christmas lights in the window. Whatever worries had been plaguing him were forgotten in the moments ahead, safe and happy in her arms. Soon, she'd keep her promise to be his wife and soon after that, he'd keep his promise to become like her in every way possible.

And who knew how soon after that they would hear the patter of little feet, and the peal of little laughter, echoing through the wide spaces of their home? Whether you called it a pride or a pack, what they had now was family, and neither one was prepared to give it up.
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