Everything was not fine. New Years day had started out bad. I’d had sex with my ex-boyfriend, current boyfriend, friend-I-went-on-another-first-date-with. That was awkward. It had actually been really good, better than I remembered. Which made sense since I haven’t seen him in a decade. Then it was bad. Alex had walked into the aftermath with our scents all over the place. He’d known immediately what I’d forgotten.
I hadn’t been perfectly honest when I’d told Haven it was impossible that I was pregnant. Actually, it was entirely too possible. Yes, I’d taken the meds but it wasn’t as if they were the quickest format. I’d just have to get a test as soon as possible. Or a morning after pill.
I had Haven drop me off at the corner store and picked up one of each. I decided to wander over to the Daily Grind as I tucked the bag in my coat pocket. Sure, it was out of my way, but I wasn’t sure if I could face Aunt Peggy just then. She’d have a lot of questions and I had a sneaking suspicion she hadn’t waited for me at the park in order to force me and Haven together.
Turns out, the Daily Grind didn’t open until noon New Year’s day. Heading home with a sigh, I passed the alley the led along the kitchen side of the café to the riverfront and caught movement in my periphery. I went took a couple steps back and saw Peter with his arms crossed against the door to his shop halfway down the alley. Looming over him was a man in a Ralph Lauren suit. His hands were folded neatly in front of him but his nearness to Peter and his wide stance said he was anything but amicable.
Tucking my hands in my pockets, I slipped a brass knuckle on the middle two fingers of my right hand and fingered my lock-blade with my left. I wasn’t left handed but if it came to it I wanted it ready.
“Hey, Pete,” I said, smiling with all my teeth as I approached the two men. “I was just looking for you.” I looked between Peter and the stranger’s faces concernedly as I stopped by next to them. “Is there a problem?”
“No,” Peter said immediately, “this man was just leaving.”
“We’re not done here.” The man poked Peter with every word using a broad finger and his extra inches for intimidation. “I’ll be back. And you,” he turned toward me and sniffed, a lascivios smile spreading on his face, “can come with me. Seems I’ll be in town a little longer and could use the compa- GAH.”
So, I grabbed his hand, ducked under his arm and pulled it up behind his back while folding his index finger backwards. You would have done the same if he’d been reaching for you like a piece of property with filthy hands. Okay, so his hands were clean, technically. Metaphorically, I had my suspicions.
I couldn’t quite whisper into his ear, but as a shifter he could hear me anyway. So, I told his back that I didn’t want to see it again and if it messed with my friend again it would have to find itself a new spine. To enforce my point, I pressed my blade to his back enough to cut through the expensive suit and bite into the flesh beneath a little. He made a weird grunt growl that I took for assent and backed off, releasing him while positioning myself so he couldn’t immediately grab me.
He turned and glared at me and I raised empty hands with a small smile. He brought his hand to his lower back and came away with a couple drops of blood. He went a shade paler before trying not to appear eager to leave the narrow alley. What little slight-of-hand I’d learned was useful sometimes. In making it seem like I’d had no weapon he immediately mind automatically went to the partial-shift myth told around campfires. And one who could do this would be very dangerous indeed. I couldn’t. But he didn’t need to know that.
I turned to face Peter, but instead of praise or relief, I saw anger.
“You shouldn’t have done that.” Yep. He was mad. At me. “Now, you’ve put yourself in their crosshairs.”
I’d already secreted my knife back in my pocket and slipped in my right hand, dislodging the knuckles.
“Whose crosshairs?” I grinned. Adrenaline flooded my veins and the giddyness grew. Ignoring how he rested his fists on his hips, I turned toward the main street. “So long, Peter Pan. I’m thirsty.”
He grabbed my arm and turned me back toward the rear entrance. “This way. We can talk in my office.”
“Second star to the left?”
“The right,” he chuckled.
His office was barely big enough for a desk, two chairs and a small filing cabinet. I sat down in the worn blue chair in front of the desk while Peter got a couple cups of coffee and sat behind the desk in a slightly nicer computer chair.
I rolled the coffed cup between my hands, warming them up. “So, about that guy…”
“You shouldn’t have done that.” He leaned back in his chair and looked at his ceiling in exhasperation. “He represents some company that’s looking to franchise and wants to buy me out. That was their lawyer.”
I snort. “If that was a lawyer, I’m a fighter pilot.”
“What do you mean?”
“If he were a lawyer, you think he’d just leave? No, he would’ve spouted off violations. No, that boy was a thug, I’m sure of it.” I paused thinking about his Ralph Lauren attire. “Maybe 75% sure.”
He stood and came around the desk to stand between me and the door. “Well, to be safe you better give me the knife.”
I opened my eyes wide. “What knife?” He just held out his hand. “Oh, fine.” Whatever made him feel better. I had another one in my boot and a box cutter on the back of my belt. I pulled out the knife and the forgotten bag slipped out as well.
“What’s this?” Murphy’s law dictated that the bag tear and leave it’s contents exposed.
I reached quickly for the items and nabbed the pregnancy test as Peter picked up the morning after box containing one toxic pill.
“You know what,” I broke in, forcing a laugh, “Silly me, I should really get home before anyone really starts to wonder where I am.”
Slipping the box from his limp fingers, I slipped around him and out the door.
My thoughts soured as I walked. I couldn’t afford to be sick for a few days if I took the pill, but I didn’t know what I’d do if it turned out I was pregnant. I’d take the test as soon as possible. This one said it was accurate within a few days. Thinking of aborting Haven’s baby made my stomach queasy, but it would be safer than having me for a father. I didn’t want to think about it.
Fortunately, when I turned the corner toward the house I spotted Ryan and several neighborhood kids dodging snowballs. Snow had started falling a week prior and it had been piling on ever since. Ryan had his back to me so I snuck up, indicating to the opposing side that they were to stay quiet about me. I gathered some good packable snow as I crept closer and rolled it into a missile. I aimed point blank at the back of his head and let loose. That’s when he turned around.
It him square in the face. All the kids roared as Ryan scooped snow out of his eyes.
“Oh, you have no idea who you’re messing with,” he said with a grin.
“Hmmm,” I tapped my chin, “I seem to remember something about you losing a hot cocoa battle.”
He grinned evilly. “But this is war.” without missing a beat he dove for his stockpile and started firing. I sprinted across the field of battle and joined a red-headed girl in a green parka and a somber looking boy in blue with a couple more at the far end of the snow brick wall they’d built. The streetlights had started to come on as the skirmish ended. My face was frozen but I couldn’t help smiling as I watched the kids walk home. All but the boy in blue, however.
“Hey, kid, it’s getting late. Shouldn’t you head home too?” I gestured toward the street.
Ryan walked over, slinging an arm around the boy. “That’s right, you’ve never met Grandpa’s youngest. Samson, this is Keelan. Keelan this is Uncle Sam.” He said the last with a wink that just made Sam’s nose crinkle in distaste, but he didn’t protest no matter how much he clearly wanted to.
“Oh, uh, nice to meet you Samson. Or do you prefer Sam?”
“Samson is fine,” he said quietly.
“Why don’t we go inside and get some hot chocolate? I don’t know about you, but I’m freezing my ass off.” I covered my mouth. “I mean I’m freezing my buttocks off.”
Ryan just lauged. “Grandpa’s worse.”
We were all grinning as we stepped into the house. My day had ended up going pretty well after all.
Then came the vomit.