Lenora was in the full bloom of pregnancy, and Tyrone’s attentiveness never waivered. Every day, he held and kissed his wife and spent a lot of time interacting with Lenora’s tummy. He was totally enthralled with impending fatherhood and thought Lenora pregnant was one of the most beautiful things he’d ever seen.
One day when Tyrone was feeling her stomach, Lenora grinned at him. “Do you ever wonder what they are thinking in there?”
He smiled and kissed her. “They’re thinking about how much they love you. They love you so much, Lenora.”
She looked at him wonderingly. “What?”
“Wolfish instinct, my love,” Tyrone said. “Here, give me your hand. Now, just let the bond react. You’ll feel it.”
Lenora knew well enough that Tyrone’s instincts were spot on and that her own empathic and telepathic abilities were remarkably acute. She closed her eyes and leaned into Tyrone while his hand rested atop hers over her swollen abdomen. Then, she felt it. It was a feeling of illumination, a warmth that spread from her middle and outward. “Oh!” she gasped, tightening her hold on Tyrone. She sensed pure innocence, a great inquisitiveness, and most of all, love. She could have sworn she sensed at least two little beings who were itching to see the world and yet were comfortable and snug under her heart.
“You see?” Tyrone whispered in her ear.
Lenora could only nod, feeling utterly moved. A tear trickled down her cheek as she leaned back to look into his eyes. “We’re so fortunate, sweetheart. Not everyone gets to feel such a thing. How blessed we are!”
“Blessed two times over, maybe three,” Tyrone said.
Tyrone leaned his ear down to listen to her belly and then grinned up at her. “Yep, maybe three.”
“Ariadne! What have ye done to me, Wolfman?” Lenora said, her Irish lilt thickening.
Tyrone chuckled and slid his arms around her. “What I did was impregnate my beautiful, sexy wife. We’re going to have that big family you and I want, and we’re going to have an amazing life as a happy family.”
Lenora sighed happily and leaned her head on Tyrone’s shoulder. “I’m all for that. I just never imagined having them all at once.” She snorted with amusement. “We’re going to need an assembly line to care for them.”
Tyrone grinned and ran a hand methodically down the length of Lenora’s hair. “I think we’re going to have just that. Mom’s already clambering to move in for a while after they’re born to help out, and I’m sure Mathilda has been offering her services too. Then, there’s Landon who’s been talking about how he’s looking forward to being around for his brothers and sisters. You know how Crystal feels about babies. Plus, there’s Theresa and Valerie who are tripping over themselves with excitement. Dad’s already starting preparations for trust funds, so what more can we want?”
Lenora’s laughter mingled with his. “These kids are going to be mega spoiled.”
“Definitely mega spoiled,” Tyrone grinned.
“As am I,” Lenora said. “You spoil me rotten.
Tyrone slid his arms around Lenora’s waist and leaned his forehead against hers. “That you are, and I love spoiling you. You deserve it.”
Lenora snuggled into him as close as she could get, closing her eyes as she enjoyed the feel of his arms around her. “I love you, Mr. Landgraab.”
“I love you too, Mrs. Landgraab, with every beat of my heart.”
As her pregnancy grew, Lenora and Tyrone decided to sign up for Lamaze classes although she surmised she’d probably end up having a Cesarean due to carrying multiples. Still, she wanted to be prepared for anything. Tyrone was a rock through the whole thing, and he and Lenora had fun getting to know the other couples in the class.
One day when Lenora was sorting through some baby clothes Erica had bought and brought over, a horrible feeling of foreboding assailed her, and she began to shake from head to toe. She broke out in a cold sweat, and her heart raced. “Oh, Ariadne! Oh please, no!” It wasn’t a full-fledged vision, nor could she call one forth. Try as she might to visualize the future event or events that brought on this premonition was in vain. All she felt was this terrible sense of fear.
Tyrone was at Lenora’s side in an instant, taking her by the shoulders. “Lenora! Darling, what is it?” He felt her distress immediately through the bond and knew that something was very wrong with her.
Lenora shivered more violently. “Just put your arms around me. Hold me,” she whispered desperately. “Hold me.”
Tyrone didn’t hesitate. He drew his Lenora close and held on, his heart aching each time she shivered.
“Don’t let me go,” Lenora choked out as the tears came.
“I’ve got you, Lenora. I’m here…I’m here,” he murmured soothingly. “Shhh, love, it’s all right…it’s all right.” He knew better than to doubt her visions or premonitions, so seeing her this way truly worried him. He could feel her distress acutely as she trembled in his arms. He ran his hands down the length of her hair and then massaged her lower back where it constantly ached from the pregnancy. He gave her little kisses over her forehead, her closed eyes, her wet cheeks, and then finally her lips while soothing her with his words and telepathic messages.
When the torrent was over, Lenora was limp with fatigue. Tyrone continued to hold her while rubbing her back and murmuring soothingly. “Come on, love. I’ll help you to bed. You need to rest,” Tyrone whispered into the shell of her ear.
“In a minute. I just…”
“What is it, Lenora?”
She pulled back just enough so she could frame his face in her still trembling hands. Tyrone’s brow furrowed as she studied every plane and angle of his face. When he frowned, she reached up to smooth his forehead. “Don’t frown so at me, Wolfman. I want ye to smile at me in that special way ye always do when ye look at me. I just…I just want to look at ye for a while.” Her Irish accent was thick with emotion.
Tyrone tried to do as she asked, but it was hard to muster a genuine smile when he was so worried about her. He kept his arms around her while she traced his features with her fingers and gazed intently at him. Finally, he spoke. “Lenora, tell me. If you can’t speak it, just think it. What did you see, sweetheart?”
She shook her head, trying to make sense of everything. “It wasn’t a clear vision. It was more a feeling…a feeling that something awful is going to happen. I tried to call forth a vision but nothing came. I just felt this sensation of abject terror. I can still feel it a little and I don’t know why.”
“I’m sure the vision will come when it’s meant to. It usually does, and then you can make some sense of it,” Tyrone said.
“All I know right now is I just can’t shake this dreadful feeling.” Lenora caressed his cheek and looked at him. “Tyrone, you must promise me something.”
“Anything,” he said.
“Promise me you’ll be careful. If I lost ye, I couldn’t bear it. I can’t go through that, not again.” The thought of it caused her to shiver once again.
“Lenora, darling,” Tyrone said as he folded his arms around her once more. “I’ll be careful, I swear that to you. I have too much to live for to be careless with my life. I’m going to be around a very, very long time. We’re going to see our babies grown. We’ll sit by the fire telling stories of old times to our great-great grandkids. I’m not going anywhere, sweetheart.”
The knot of fear eased a little, and she was comforted by his words. “Good because I could never live without you.”
“I’m here and always will be,” Tyrone whispered into her hair. “Come on now. Let me tuck you into bed. This isn’t good for the babies.”
“Stay with me,” she said.
“Stay with me as the wolf. I want to lie with the wolf right now.”
He looked at her for a moment before speaking. “Lenora, are you sure? You know the wolf is physically stronger than the human side of me. I don’t want to hurt you.” He’d never made love to her in wolf form before and was reluctant to because of his strength as a werewolf. He never wanted to hurt her, especially now that she was pregnant.
“You could never hurt me,” Lenora said confidently. “It just can’t happen, not with us. Please. I need ye…all of ye.”
He couldn’t refuse her heartfelt plea nor ignore the desperate look in her eyes. Tyrone transformed to his wolf form and swooped a fatigued Lenora into his strong wolf’s arms. He kissed her intensely before laying her on the bed. Crawling in beside her, he snuggled her close. It wasn’t long before they made passionate love. Afterward, Lenora lay sleepily in his arms, her body warmed by Tyrone’s body heat. In wolf form, he felt even more protective and slung a possessive leg over her. “Mine!” he growled softly into her ear.
“All yours forever,” Lenora said drowsily.
“Sleep now.” In this form, speech came slower and was even halted sometimes. The words had to be formed differently in wolf form, and in his youth, he’d practiced long and hard so they’d be intelligible. In wolf form, Tyrone’s voice was more a growl than anything. It could be a very frightening thing for someone who didn’t know him, but for Lenora, it was exactly what she needed when she needed it.
During the full moon when a werewolf was compelled to transform, the wolf was in his full glory. In certain parts of the world and in certain lineages, wolves in their transformed state were completely wild. These werewolves did not keep their minds and were unable to transform at will. Only the full moon brought on the transformation, and this transformation was lethal to anyone unlucky enough to be nearby. Wild wolves rampaged villages, killed innocent people, and bit when in the full throes of uncontrollable urges.
In Tyrone’s case and in the case of most present day wolves, this was not so. Tyrone kept his mind even during a full moon. He had urges like any other wolf, but he’d learned self control long ago. He was destined to be a great Alpha Wolf, perhaps one of the greatest ones in existence, and Alpha Wolves lived by a strict Code of Honor to protect the innocent and watch over their Pack in all ways.
Lenora uttered a contented little sigh as her eyelids drooped. Tyrone lay beside her watching her sleep, his big hand resting on her abdomen. He was rewarded with a little kick which, to his relief, didn’t wake Lenora. //I won’t let anything happen to you, any of you,// came his telepathic message.
Tyrone wanted nothing more than to stay in bed with Lenora, but there were things to take care of. If her premonition was right, and they usually were, he had warnings to issue. Reluctantly, he eased himself carefully away from his wife so as not to wake her, transformed into human form, then went into the study to make some phone calls. As quickly as he could, he told each of his family members about Lenora’s premonition and extracted promises from them to be extra careful. He had no idea what possible danger there could be, so all he could do was speak in general terms.
Life got back to normal and things seemed to balance themselves out. Landon and Crystal were certainly living up to the title of Newlyweds. Crystal started to feel queasy and thought she was coming down with a virus. When it kept happening, Landon called Mathilda and asked her to come over straight away. Upon examination, Mathilda smiled and said, “Congrats, Mama and Papa. I’d say you have yourselves a wedding night baby.”
“You mean, we’re…we’re…” Crystal’s eyes widened.
“You’re pregnant,” Mathilda said.
Landon whooped and spun Crystal around in his arms, both of them laughing giddily. The newlyweds celebrated with a special dinner that Lenora insisted on cooking for them herself. Life was, indeed, good. There was so much love shared in their house, and their lives were going to be filled with babies and more babies.
Lenora finished the current book she’d been working on. When it was sent to her agent, she sat back in her chair, a satisfied smile on her face.
“You look like the cat who got into the cream, love,” Tyrone said, poking his head into the study.
Lenora hauled herself to her feet and waddled toward him. “It’s done. The book’s done, and Mike should have it in his hot little inbox.” After the death of Lenora’s original agent, his son, Mike Jr. took over the business.
“Hallelujah!” Tyrone yelled, pulled Lenora into his arms and plucked her right off her feet.
Lenora laughed in delighted excitement and kicked her feet. “Such exuberance, Wolfman. You’d better be careful. I’m so heavy, I might give you a hernia.”
Tyrone snorted and rolled his eyes. “You’re light as a feather, my love. I’m a big, strapping werewolf, remember?”
“Oh yeah, right,” she purred, wrapping her legs around his waist and grinding her hips against him. “You’re my big, strapping werewolf.”
Tyrone bent her back for a passionate kiss, which Lenora responded eagerly to. As it turned out, Crystal and Landon weren’t the only couple taking advantage of being newlyweds.
Mathilda stood before Gunther, needing answers. There were so many questions on her mind that she wanted to ask her mirror. Now that she’d called him forth, she didn’t know how to proceed.
“Just start from the beginning and lay it all out, Mathilda, my friend,” Gunther said in his patient voice.
Mathilda laughed a humorless laugh and scratched her head. “It all started when I caught that bouquet at Crystal and Landon’s wedding.”
“Ah, but here is the thing. If you look into your heart, you will see it began long before that,” Gunther said.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“The fact that you caught the bouquet symbolizes your being next to marry.”
“Yes,” Mathilda said. “But I don’t have any kind of relationship that would lead to marriage. I am as single as it gets, and it’s better that way.”
Ah, but there is someone you love,” Gunther persisted.
“I loved someone long ago, but he died and a piece of him resides in this mirror,” Mathilda said.
“It is not me we are speaking of,” Gunther replied.
Mathilda frowned, not knowing what Gunther was talking about. “It has to be. There was no one else.”
“But was there not, Mathilda? Think and then let your heart guide you.”
Mathilda thought of Alina, her beloved daughter who’d been lost to her now for centuries. There was never a day that went by that Mathilda didn’t miss her and yearn to reunite with her. She wanted to hold Alina once more and tell her how much she loved her. Her heart ached every day for the loss of her beautiful daughter.
Then, she thought of Lenora. She was the only person since Alina that she’d truly loved in a long, long time, and that, too, was as a daughter. Teaching Lenora her magic had been her goal. Then, she’d grown to love Lenora, and helping take care of her had been her mission. She’d been Lenora’s world and Lenora had been hers after the tragic loss of Landon and Linc in the plane crash. It was Lenora who was her purpose in life.
But then, hadn’t Lenora had a grandfather? Mathilda’s thoughts shifted to Liam, who had also been her pupil at one time. Liam Kelly, who had been so eager to learn. Liam, whose eyes sparkled with humor and a zest for life, which he’d passed on to Lenora.
“Oh, Liam, how I do miss you! I never realized how much,” Mathilda said sadly on a deep sigh.
“You see?” Gunther said.
“Liam never indicated he had feelings for me in that regard. Besides, he is dead,” Mathilda said.
“You never indicated having feelings toward him in that regard either, my friend. Both of you could never admit to the other what you were feeling. You both kept it strictly platonic,” Gunther said.
“And for good reason,” Mathilda said. “I am an immortal, therefore, I would outlive anyone I’d be involved with.”
“Ah, but you know the secret of immortality and could make your soulmate an immortal,” Gunther persisted.
“I can’t when he’s dead. And besides, who said Liam was my soulmate?”
Gunther laughed softly. “You did. You, of all people, should know there are ways of bringing a loved one back. You brought back Lenora’s son.”
“Yes, I…I did. But Liam might not want to come back, and if I opened that door and he refused, my heart would break. Besides, I am usually not allowed to interfere with such things. The Multiverse exists in a very delicate balance.”
“Better to know and face that pain than to not know and ache eternally for one you felt you could not have. Some are meant to return. They simply need a reason to. If you are so concerned with the balance of the Multiverse, consult with Ariadne. After all, you deserve something regained after losing so much in your long life,” Gunther answered
“Oh, Gunther,” Mathilda sighed. “I don’t know.”
“Think on it, my friend. Think long and hard,” Gunther said before disappearing back into the mirror.
Mathilda did think on it, and as she reflected on her life, vivid memories rushed at her like a flood. One night before Lenora became pregnant with Landon, Lincoln needed to go away for a medical conference. Lenora was getting over a virus, and Lincoln was worried about leaving her alone, so he talked Lenora into staying at Mathilda’s during his absence. Mathilda also invited Liam so the three of them could spend some rare, quality time together. During that time, Lenora was worried that she’d not conceived a child, and Liam, as always, reassured her that everything would be all right.
“Give it time, girl,” Liam said as Lenora looked grimly at him.
“That’s what Linc keeps saying, but I’m just so scared that something is wrong. I want to have Linc’s baby so much.”
“And ye will,” Liam replied, taking Lenora by the shoulders.
“Oh, Grandda!” she whispered in a choked voice.
Liam took her into his arms and held her tight. “Hush now, my beautiful Lenora. Has Grandda ever lied to ye? Ye will have that wee one, and ye and Linc will have that family ye want. It’s going to be all right.”
“I love you, Grandda. You always know what to say,” she said.
“I love ye too, Lenora. Grandda loves ye with all his heart.” He smiled at her and gave her another squeeze. “Comforting granddaughters is what granddas do. Now, Mathilda didn’t invite us over to turn into sad sacks.”
“So true,” Lenora laughed through her tears.
Lenora was devastated when Liam died. So had Mathilda been, but she had to keep her own grief at bay so she could help Lincoln take care of a very pregnant Lenora. After Landon was born, Lenora cried on Mathilda’s shoulder one day. “I wish Grandda could have seen him just once,” she sobbed.
“Oh, child, he sees him every day from Heaven. He wouldn’t want you to be so sad, not when you finally have that baby you and Lincoln wished for so fervently,” Mathilda soothed.
“I know, but it just isn’t right. He would have wanted to be here…to be with me…with us.”
“He didn’t want to leave you, darling. We both know that, but sometimes things don’t work out how we always want them to. He was always so proud of you. He loved you so dearly.”
“I know. He would have loved Landon so much,” Lenora choked out.
“He does love him. You can be certain of that,” Mathilda said, her own tears near the surface.
“I wish I could see him just once more…just once more…to show him…to hold him…just once more.”
Mathilda could only hold her and let her cry it out.
Mathilda remembered all too well the devastation from the loss of Landon and Lincoln and how sick Lenora was. Mathilda almost lost her, and that scared her more than she cared to admit to anyone except Lenora. As she’d held Lenora’s unconscious form, she’d willed her to want to stay with her. Over and over, she thought of Liam and how if he’d been here, he might know the right thing to say or do to make Lenora want to stay. Then, Mathilda had watched Lenora die and come back after seeing her loved ones in the afterlife. Mathilda hadn’t taken Lenora’s presence for granted and made it her mission to see Lenora well and happy once more.
While Lenora was still recovering, Liam came to visit in spirit form and got right to the point. “She is still suffering.”
“She is still not well, Liam. It will take time. You know this.”
“I do, and this makes me wonder if my purpose in life has not been fulfilled. I left suddenly from complications of pneumonia. Before I left, I told Lenora I lived a rich, full life and that I was happy where I was going. That was not a lie, for my life was rich and full. I thought I was at peace with what was inevitable, but now, I am not so sure. I know you are taking good care of her, but our Lenora still suffers, and there is nothing I can do to help her.”
When Liam called her “Our Lenora,” it made Mathilda feel as though they were coming together as parents who were grief-ridden over a terminally ill child. Ever since Lenora’s devastating illness when she was thirteen and Mathilda saved her life, Liam was more than willing to share Lenora with her. Lenora, herself, even cooperated, and that was the beginning of the close bond she and Lenora formed over the years. “I know, Liam. I swear to you I am doing everything I can for her. I know your time is limited here and what a strain it is for you to even be here in the first place. You wouldn’t have come if you weren’t drawn here. Do you want to see her?”
“Yes, but I do not wish to frighten her.”
“She’s asleep in the upstairs bedroom. You know the one. It’s the one she always uses when she stays here. And Liam, you won’t frighten her. Above all, you’re her grandfather. How could she ever be frightened of you?”
Liam immediately went to where Lenora lay asleep and still very ill. If a spirit could have a heart, his was surely breaking at seeing the evidence of Lenora’s grief. She’d cried herself to sleep, and the evidence of many tears was still on her cheeks. Even in this form, Liam was adept at being able to keep himself from passing through an object if he wished. He leaned over Lenora to feel her fevered brow and then smoothed her hair. Liam wiped away her tears and kissed her cheek. “Grandda loves ye, Lenora. Everything will be all right. Grandda never lies. Ye are going to be all right.”
He stayed by Lenora’s side until his time was almost up. Then, he went back down to Mathilda. “Take care of her, and take care of yourself, Mathilda. I love ye both.” And then, he disappeared seemingly almost as quickly as he came.
Mathilda kept those words in her heart but not realizing the full extent of what they meant. Yes, she knew Liam loved her, but it wasn’t a romantic love. He loved her as a dear friend, as a mother figure for Lenora, and as a former teacher and pupil relationship. That was it. Besides, he hadn’t said, “I love ye, Mathilda.” It had been, “I love ye both,” which meant something entirely different.
She hadn’t had much more time to think about it due to Lenora needing her so much. Later when Lenora got up, she surprised Mathilda with her next words. “I felt him, Mathilda. Grandda was there with me. I know it. I could even smell him. He wiped tears from my cheeks, touched my forehead, and told me I’d be all right. He was there.”
That wasn’t the only time Liam came to visit. It didn’t happen often, but sometimes Liam came to visit Mathilda exclusively. Other times, he came for only Lenora. It always seemed to happen during a particularly bad day for one or both of them. His visits were comforting and sad at the same time because both Lenora and Mathilda knew Liam could have only short ones.
Once Lenora’s healing took root, the visits became less and less frequent. Liam wanted Mathilda to live her life, and he didn’t want Lenora to be held back by wanting him to stay permanently when he knew he couldn’t.
Now as Mathilda stood looking into the mirror where Gunther’s face had been, her heart gave a lurch, and the realization hit her. “I did…do love him and never told him. I couldn’t stand to let him love me. What’s more, I couldn’t allow myself to give in knowing I would lose him. I couldn’t let my heart feel that kind of pain. What’s worse is realizing I wasted so much time avoiding my feelings and never knowing what could have been if both of us hadn’t been so stubborn. Oh, Liam, now you’ll never know. You’ll never know how much I love you. I always have and always will…forever.” Tears trickled down the immortal witch’s cheeks, and she gave in to the grief she’d held back for so many years.