Haven Chapter 1 & 2

Haven is the ‘sequel’ to Bats and Butterflies/Texts in Read, in that it comes next. Kieran and Nadine take the center roles, dealing with life as Newlyweds. This story is also available on Kindle Vella. – TC Ross

Red rose petals covered the stone walkway from the driveway to the open front door. A job well done if Kieran didn’t say so himself. Everything was perfect, and he had… five minutes to spare.

“Is she here? Is she here?” Mouse and Pitt skidded to a stop in the doorway, stirring the petals with their massive paws.

“No. You two are supposed to be staying with Mam and Da tonight,” said Kieran, jerking a hand to the back of the house. “Get out of the house. You’re messing up my petals.”

Mouse wrinkled her muzzle, pawing at the petals, crushing them as she tried to move them back into place.

“Shoo! You don’t need to greet her.” Kieran slammed one boot down and stopped short of crushing more petals. “You can stay in the yard, but do not come back into the house until I call you.”

The hellhounds turned their pointed noses to him, their pointed ears flipping back and golden-brown eyes widening to an impressive degree. Puppies. As well-trained as they were, they were still attention-seeking puppies.

“That doesn’t work on me. Go outside,” ordered Kieran, jerking a hand to the back of the house. “Weather’s supposed to be nice tonight, and you can stay outside. Mam’ll feed ye.”

They whined in unison, their ears twitching and tails slowly wagging.

“Go!” he raised his voice, flicking his fingers at the hellhounds. They turned and walked away, their heads low and tails tucked beneath their legs. “Knock it off. Ye just saw her this morning.”

“So did you,” said Pitt, giving him a mournful look over his shoulder.

“She’s mywife.” Kieran returned to the door, careful not to step on the petals. Lycean shepherds were fantastic hellhounds. They looked and acted like dogs to an annoying degree. The fact they could talk made them particularly irritating when you wanted to be alone—worse when you wanted time alone with your wife.

He twiddled his fingers, waiting patiently. Nadine was never late, even when dealing with traffic. Right on time, her car pulled into the driveway. Kieran rushed out to meet her, taking big steps to avoid disturbing the rose petals too much.

“Don’t open the door!” He shouted as she squinted at him through the glass. Wrinkles formed over her forehead as he opened the door for her.

“I can open my own door,” she said crossly, swinging one shapely leg out of the car.

“Yes, but it’s our first night in our own house.” Kieran crouched to take her into his arms.

“I can walk,” Nadine fussed, pushing his arms away.

He stood back, nodding to the rose petals scattered on the pavement. “I want tonight to be special.”

“Oh.” She blinked as though taken off-guard, her eyes on the ground.

Kieran held out his hand, and she slid hers into it, tilting her chin up with a familiar smile gracing her lips.

“It’s been a long day, Kieran, honey.”

“All the better for you to relax and celebrate. The roofers finished this morning, so we don’t have to worry about rain. I sent the kids to Mam and Da’s.” He leaned toward her, and she went from the car into his arms. She laughed as he scooped her up, holding her with ease.

“You’re seriously going to carry me across the threshold? I’ve walked across it every day for the last month!” Nadine shouted as he pushed her door closed with his foot. “We’ve been married for months.”

“Exactly two months and fourteen days.” Kieran carried her across the rose petal carpet and inside the entry. He stopped in the living room, and she gasped, wriggling to be let down. “I told you I’d make dinner.”

“By make, you meant order out?” She giggled as her feet touched the polished wood floor. Laid out in the living room was a picnic cloth with their favorite foods from a local Chinese restaurant. A bottle of plum wine chilled in an ice bucket on one side. Candles sitting on the fireplace hearth provided the only light. They didn’t have any living or dining room furniture.

“I bought a rug and these sitting pillows, too,” he huffed playfully, gesturing to the squat round pillows around the picnic.

“It’s lovely,” said Nadine, rising onto her toes to kiss him. “How did you keep the hellhounds out of it?”

“I offered them our firstborn, but they said they’d rather have a carnivore pizza.” Kieran wrapped his arms loosely over her shoulders, dinner forgotten. “Bed came in, and I got it together and even made it with those fancy sheets ye wanted. Mam helped.”

“Stop offering them our offspring! That’s not funny!” She smiled as she plopped onto one of the cushions. “You know how I feel about hellhounds. They used those things to hunt us.”

“Ascended vampires. Not you,” Kieran corrected her, glancing over the spread. “Did I forget anything?”

“No.” Nadine picked up a black plastic container and popped the lid off. “Orange chicken with veggies, no sugar peas?”

“I know what you like.” He took the cushion next to her. It wasn’t difficult to remember what she liked when he could cheat and look up their last order. Memorizing all her likes and dislikes would take time. No sugar peas.

“A couch needs to be our next priority,” said Nadine, digging into her orange chicken. “Lamps, a kitchen table… real chairs. We can’t eat on the floor every day.”

“It’s either that or the wobbly card table and the even wobblier metal chairs.”

“They wouldn’t be like that if you’d treated them like chairs and not shields.”

“It was one time.”

“One was all it took. I saw you and Aiden going at it like professional wrestlers.”

“We were kids?” Kieran grinned, coming up with a flimsy excuse.

“It was last summer.”

“Aidan was eighteen.” He picked up a pair of chopsticks and opened a box of noodles.

“When we have kids, I’m praying they’re all girls.” Nadine waved her fork at him, her voice muffled as she talked around a mouth full of food. “Boys will drive me crazy.”

“Whatever you want,” Kieran whispered.

They never had a full conversation about kids. She expressed her concerns—her very valid concerns—and he left it at that. He was almost thirty, but the rules had relaxed over the last few decades. The number of Arcane children had exploded in his generation, with more couples than ever having babies.

Enjoy your first life. Run wild and do everything you want to do. Don’t even bother getting married. Have fun.

“What are you thinking about with that smile on your face?” asked Nadine, poking his knee with her fork.

“How much I love ye,” he replied, bracing on one hand to kiss her.


He sighed, his shoulders slumping as Da’s voice came from the backyard. Da knew he had plans tonight and didn’t want to be disturbed… which meant whatever he wanted was important.

Da stopped at the back door, lowering his voice. “I’m sorry. I know ye had plans tonight, but I need your help. It’s about Carly.”

“You can come in. We’re just eating dinner,” shouted Nadine.

“I’m sorry,” whispered Kieran.

“Don’t be. It’s not your fault. If it has to do with finding Carly’s brothers, I know you have to do it.” Nadine stuffed a fork full of heavily sauced chicken into her mouth.

“Aye, just got an adoption notice of all things for tonight of a Lycean boy they’re estimating at ten years old.” Da stopped in the doorway, eying the candles. “Found him in a raid last night. I tried to get into contact with the Hunters who had him, but they already turned him over to the adoption coordinators.”

“Who’s registered to adopt?” asked Kieran, reluctantly getting to his feet. “Don’t you need a lot of money to buy into those?”

“I registered to get notices. Lyceans don’t normally show up in these events, but he’s very young. The Hunters who found him didn’t want to deal with a kid. So, I need ye to come with me to the adoption event, which opens in an hour. We’ll arrive late, but there’s a dinner first. Ye gotta get in yer suit,” said Da.

“Ooh, suit.” Nadine winked. “You’ll be back in a few hours?”

“Aye. Don’t intend to stick around. If he is Carly’s brother, we have to prove their kinship.”

Kieran grumbled, clutching his box of noodles to his chest. If some other Hunter had found Aidan, he would have ended up in one of these events. Instead of being raised in a loving family as part of one, his little brother might have ended up as something less than a hunting dog. That was more often than not the fate of a child who ended up in a Hunter Auction.

Orphaned Atlanteans were typically all that was available—and Atlanteans never had the funds required to participate. A Lycean child didn’t have any hope of being considered anything more than a pet or a wild animal.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Kieran crouched to kiss Nadine.

“Aye, this shouldn’t take too long. I just need to bring Carly with me to claim the boy if he is her brother. They won’t allow him to be adopted if we take responsibility for him.” Da turned toward the backdoor. “I’ll come get ye in a few minutes.”

“I’ll be out front as soon as I change.” Kieran headed for their bedroom, his gaze lingering on Nadine. Of course, it’d be tonight of all nights. Our first night in our own house…

He turned his head, smacking into the door frame. Stars exploded before him in a brilliant white light, followed by a stinging pain in his nose and cheek.

“Kieran! Are you okay?” Nadine was at his side, a hand on his shoulder as he braced his arm against the door frame.

“I better not have a black eye,” he moaned, grasping his nose. It ached but didn’t appear broken. Not a good way to start the evening.

Chapter 2

Guilt wrapped icy fingers around Nadine’s shoulders as she waved goodbye to Kieran. He raced down the steps in a tailored suit, a dark blue tie gripped in one hand, a duffel bag of gear in his other. It didn’t matter that Torian hadn’t asked him to bring it; it was what he did every time he left on Arcadian business.

He had spent so much time and effort to make their first night at home memorable. But as much as she loved him, it was all exhausting. She had spent the day at a local office, tying up her life and burying it in a deep, dark pit. Kieran didn’t have to change his life, but hers had to die.

She finished dinner and cleaned up. The candles went out one by one, and she locked the doors. They hadn’t stayed in the house overnight due to the work it needed. Workmen had been in and out daily, fixing up a house that had seen better days. Kieran blew through his savings on repairs that seemed to increase in cost by the minute.

Still, it was theirs—the start of a new life.

Nadine stood at the kitchen window that overlooked the backyard. One of the reasons Kieran wanted the house was it backed up to both of their parents’ homes. Kieran and Torian took down the fences the day they closed, giving them a massive shared yard full of old trees.

If she wanted, she could go to either house and sleep there instead of alone.

“Get it together, Nadine. You’re a big girl. Spending the night alone isn’t going to kill you, and Kieran’ll be back in what, four or five hours? No plans tomorrow. I’ll make him breakfast in bed.” She talked to herself, opening the fridge door and peering inside. It was empty. “Okay, I’ll order breakfast, and we’ll go grocery shopping tomorrow.”

With nothing else to do, she went to her closet, choosing a comfortable nightgown instead of the lingerie that someone had laid out on the bed. Red satin and black lace. Yup that was Kieran. He hadn’t been bold enough to ask her to buy any such thing when they were living in his parents’ house. Apparently, in his house, he didn’t worry as much about his parents seeing it.

She shook her head, relieved she didn’t have to put it on tonight. The guilt tightened around her that she shouldn’t be so tired. They’d only been married a few months—two months and fourteen days. Gentle warmth seeped over her body, pushing the guilt away.

Just tired. That’s all. I love him so much. Getting used to living with him… and his quirks will take time. I love him.

Nadine slipped into bed, sighing as the soft sheets fell over her. It’s okay to be tired. I had a long day.She turned off the lamp and rolled onto her side. Unfamiliar darkness shrouded the room in strange shadows. The trees outside the bedroom windows swayed in the breeze, scraping against the house.

A creaking sound filled the air, coming from somewhere in the house. It’s the wind—the house settling. The creaking continued, followed by noises in the attic. Something thumped and… rolled.

I’m a vampire. Nadine’s heart raced as she kept her eyes on the wall, listening to the continued racket coming from the next room… the hallway… the attic. I’m a scary vampire. Prickles raced along her shoulders and up her neck.

Who am I kidding? She sat up and turned the light back on. The sounds continued as she shivered, running her hands up and down her arms.This is ridiculous. I’m an adult. It’s just the house settling. The door moved, and she screamed. There was nothing behind it to make it move, and it might have been a draft.

Nope! I’m out of here! Her knees shook so hard she could barely walk. The sounds were too much. Was this what a house sounded like when nobody else was there? It was terrifying.

Nadine grabbed her robe, put on a pair of tennis shoes, and headed out into the backyard… where it was safe… where the hellhounds were. Mouse and Pitt bounded up to her, bouncing up and down like giant puppies. They circled, their tongues lolling as she tried to ignore them.

Ignoring two long-legged dogs that weighed over a hundred pounds each was impossible. One tugged on her robe, the other bowing before her, ears pricked forward. Wolves. Lycean Shepherds looked like massive wolves. Unsettling.

“Stop that,” she hissed, grasping her robe and pulling. “It’s not playtime. I just want to get some sleep.”

“Why aren’t you sleeping in your house?” asked one, the lighter one. That was Mouse. The girl. She sounded like a girl, her voice higher and less gravely.

“Are you sleeping out here? We’ve got the perfect place!” The other, Pitt, loped in circles before her.

“No, I’m going back to Kieran’s house for the night.” Nadine stumbled. Her hands sunk into Mouse’s thick fur as the hellhound stopped in front of her. Mouse tilted her head, licking Nadine’s face.

They really were good dogs… hellhounds.

The hard part was not thinking about their true forms. The fur, wet noses, and slobbery tongues hid the smoke and darkness within. They radiated heat and wouldn’t go near water. There was no bathing hellhounds. If you tried, it turned to steam.

Nadine ruffled Mouse’s fur behind her ears, and the dog responded, wagging her tail so hard it created a breeze. Pitt shoved his head between them, whining for attention. These were Kieran’s pets, not hers, but they sought her attention just as vigorously.

“Kieran’s house is back there,” said Pitt, cocking his head to one side. His pointed ear tipped at the end, folding halfway down, giving him a comical expression.

“Kieran’s parent’s house.” Nadine sighed, rubbing his head. She was at the halfway point in the yard, where the fence had once stood. The kitchen and den lights were one, inviting her to come closer, but she didn’t.

Oh yeah, I couldn’t take one night alone in my own house. Embarrassing. She turned, eying her parents’ house. Lights were on in it as well, but she hadn’t slept in her bedroom since that night. She couldn’t. Its safety had been broken, and the grass hadn’t grown back in the spot Terrance had turned into a charred corpse.

“Want to sleep in the bed tonight?” Nadine continued turning, facing her back door. The hellhounds weren’t allowed in the bed because they took up too much room. They responded, panting and wagging their tails. “Come on. Tonight only. Until Kieran gets back.”

The house didn’t look nearly as scary as she returned to the back porch, the hellhounds heeling perfectly at each side.

They really were good dogs.

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