I’m tired of inking and writing and NANOWRIMO starts on Friday.  I will be working on writing text for Black Rose and Fantasy Nevermore, which is another story in the Black Rose universe that was scripted out.  I’ll never be able to get to it in comic form, so I will write it out.  It contains a couple of repeated plot points to both of my own stories, because I like them, however, the characters are NOT anywhere near the same and I’ve fleshed things out further in it.  (Ok, Kyler is kinda like Cade in his mannerisms, but he was always meant to be a southern mannered guy. 😀 He’s also subordinate to Cade and they’re old friends with similar problems.  Kyler just doesn’t dwell on it, because he’s an optimist and will show up in The Hunter in the Family, which is the next book in this series. )

October 30 – Your PDF for today

October 30th

It rained heavily that morning.
Cade shook his umbrella outside the door and propped it next to the doorframe. He stomped to get the water off his shoes then knocked. It was earlier than he usually came over.

Charise met him at the door. “Good morning, Cadeyrn.” She smiled pleasantly. “Maria is still asleep.”

“That’s okay. Can I come in?”

“Sure.” Cade stepped inside, and thunder boomed above him. He smirked, feeling like he just had ominous entry music. “If ye and Jaden aren’t busy today, I’ve got a big project I need help with at my house. I’ll take ye out to breakfast.”

“What kind of project?” Charise bounced around him. “And breakfast sounds great!” She paused and added in a whisper, “I am so sorry about yesterday, Cadeyrn.”

“It’s okay, Charise.” Cade smiled. Why don’t ye get Jaden and come over. Leave a note for Maria that we’re at my house.”

–=-=-=-=–

Maria grumbled as she walked into her kitchen an hour later. There was no sign of Jaden or Charise, and they hadn’t told her they were going anywhere. She spotted a note on the table and picked it up. It simply said: At Cade’s. Join us! Then there was a little smiling flower doodled on it. Morning people.

–=-=-=-=–

Kids were running in and out of Cade’s little western town wearing raincoats. It wasn’t raining as heavily as it had been. Maria made her way past them and blinked as she saw Cade’s porch. It was full of large, damp cardboard boxes. His front door was open. Jaden and Charise were sitting amidst piles of large cloth bags with reflective stickers on the sides.

Maria walked up the steps, unsure if she wanted to know what was going on. She stepped through the door to both Jaden and Charise, calling out, “Good morning, Maria!” simultaneously. Jaden had a scoop in one hand full of a variety of small candies. Charise had a massive box of full-sized candy bars she was dropping into bags. Maria looked from them to the other side of the room, where there were more stacked boxes. These were full of more bags.

“Good morning?” Maria whispered. She began backing toward the door, thinking she would rather go back to bed.

“Good morning, Maria!” Cade stepped into the room with a grin carrying two full glasses of chocolate milk. He gave one to Jaden and the other to Charise. “Great, ye can help me get these things moved into the hallway so we can make room for the rest of them.”

“What are you doing?” She looked down at the floor where there were huge stacks of cloth bags wrapped up into bundles. “How many kids are you expecting.”

“Hmmm.” Cade looked thoughtful. He gave a sidelong glance to Charise and chuckled. “We have a population of 5,000. Around 2,000 are under the age of 18, so I’d say around 2,000.” Cade walked past Maria to move a bundle of bags closer to Jaden and Charise.

“2,000?” Maria stepped aside and stared at Cade. “You are expecting the entire town’s kids on this street on Halloween night?” She looked flabbergasted. “Why?”

“Tradition.” Cade grinned, taking Maria’s hand. “Now, why don’t ye help me fill these bags. With all four of us, it won’t take that long. One scoop of candy. One candy bar. Put it in a box and then grab another bag.”

–=-=-=-=–

It took several hours to fill all the bags that were on the porch. They filled up the hallway and living room. Maria was still trying to figure out why an entire town would go to Cade’s house, specifically to trick or treat. She knew the town was spread out over several miles. Their neighborhood wasn’t particularly big or filled with expensive homes. Then she began doing the math. Cade had to have spent over $3,000 for all the candy and special reflective trick or treat bags. They had screen printing on them that read Happy Halloween. Each bag had a picture of jack-o-lanterns, bats, candy skulls, black cats, or howling wolves.

Maria also remembered what Cade had said about his mother cooking. She had been cooking for days. She knew her kitchen was full of pies, cakes, and loaves of bread. It occurred to her that those children would have parents with them. Zelda was baking all these things for Halloween. The thought was overwhelming. WHO did stuff like that?

–=-=-=-=–

When they finished with the bags, Cade insisted on taking them into town for breakfast. Cade made sure they knew it was his treat for their help in packing the bags with him. Maria knew what it really was and was quiet through breakfast. She knew that at some point, he was going to ask if she had been paid and if they needed groceries. Maria couldn’t lie to him, and she couldn’t tell him that it was none of his business. That answer would have immediately told him that no, she had not and wasn’t sure when she would be.

Cade noticed how quiet Maria was, but wasn’t sure what to do about it. He felt awkward, trying to talk to her with Jaden and Charise across the table from them. They were almost done with breakfast, and Cade had just put his arm around Maria. She had not spoken much, but she had finished a massive plate of pancakes and a glass of chocolate milk. Cade wasn’t too worried.

Then he felt Maria lean back against his arm and go stiff. She began trembling, and Cade looked at her, then in the direction she was looking. Bryce had walked into the restaurant and was heading toward them. He was dressed like anyone else in the diner, a dark green sweater with gold trim and black pants. His hair was styled, and his eyes were fixed on Maria and Cade. He had a smirk on his face that Cade would have loved to wipe off with his fist.

But they were in a diner packed full of people. There were families nearby with small children. This was not where a fight would be held.

“Good Morning, Butter Cup.” Bryce grinned, leaning on the back of the booth where Jaden and Charise were sitting. Jaden immediately shifted to push Charise a little closer to the wall. He turned in his seat and glared at Bryce. “I know you’re enjoyin’ your breakfast there, but I wanted ta have a word with ya in private.”

“No.” Cade snapped before Maria could answer. She was trying to breathe normally and get herself under control. She needed a minute more. “Ye need to leave.” Cade gestured to the door. “Ye are not welcome here.”

“You stay out of this, ‘Neighbor.’” Bryce growled, glaring at Cade. “I am here to speak to Maria.”

“Go away, Bryce. I have nothing to say to you.” Maria leaned over the table and focused on him.

“Please. Maria. I need you.” Bryce actually dropped to his knees next to the table and clasped his hands together.

Cade made sure he was positioned in case Bryce tried anything. He was between him and Maria. Cade said nothing, fixing his eyes on Bryce.

“I don’t care what you need. You are not in my life.” Maria turned and slid her arms around Cade, leaning her head against his shoulder. “I found someone who loves me, so why don’t you go back to wherever it is you crawled out from.” Maria smiled at Bryce. She wanted to punch him so bad, but Cade was in the way. There was also that second lawsuit possibility hanging over her head. She couldn’t afford another one of those.

“Ye know he’s a monster, right?” Bryce sneered and gestured at Cade with his head.

“He is not.” Maria scowled. There was no way. She got what Bryce was saying, but she had seen Cade handle pure silver. He was a normal human, and Bryce was trying to mess with her head. “Leave me alone, Bryce. I will never go back to you.”

“Ye heard her,” grunted Cade. “Leave. She has no interest in ye, and I swear, if ye touch her or harm her in any way, I will make sure ye pay for it out of yer hide.”

“I would be more concerned about yourself.” Bryce rose to his feet, scowling at Cade and Maria. “Maria. I need to speak with you.”
“No.” Both Cade and Maria retorted.

“Maria.” Bryce gave her a stern look. “Does he know what you are?”

Cade glanced at Maria. What? What did that mean? He looked back to Bryce, prepared to get up to escort him out in as rough of a way as possible. Maria had other ideas and scrambled over his left leg and got on her knees in front of him. She hit the table in the process rattling every dish on it and drawing all eyes on them. Even the ones who were trying so hard to ignore what was going on.

Maria grabbed his head and pressed her lips to his. She began kissing him in a way that made Cade immediately start squirming. He was trying to keep his eyes on Bryce, but her hands began traveling in overwhelming ways. Cade knew what she was doing as Bryce’s face contorted with disgust. He couldn’t mentally enjoy it. That and all eyes were on them. Maria stopped with a nip on Cade’s lower lip then turned to face Bryce with a look that could melt steel.

“You touch him, and I will do more than break your leg, Bryce. I have someone actually good for me in my life.” She growled.

“I see you’ve made your choice.” Bryce took a step back, his face flushing red with anger and jealousy. He had NEVER gotten anything remotely that heated out of Maria. “For however long he survives.” He turned and stormed out of the diner, slamming the glass doors as he went.

Cade stared at Maria, then at Bryce’s retreating form, then at the other diners. They immediately looked away in silence. The entire restaurant was silent.

“He’s really scary.” Charise whimpered in Jaden’s arms. The pair of them were squished up against the wall. They had moved further and further that direction as the conversation had gone.

“And dangerous.” Jaden added.

“Ye do know we would have made less of a scene if I got up, punched him, and dragged him out the front doors then beat him up in the parking lot?” Cade grabbed Maria around the waist. He attempted to shift her back to where she was sitting. It was an awkward move with the table in front of them. “Are ye okay, Maria?” She slid down on the seat next to him and lowered her head.

“I’m okay.” She whispered back.

“Maria, you are going to have to teach me that one!” Charise suddenly giggled, trying to break the silence. Jaden turned bright red beside her.

Cade almost quipped that they didn’t need any help in that direction but held his tongue. Instead, he dropped his hand to Maria’s waist and pulled her to his side. She put her arm around him and leaned against him with a sigh. Cade could feel her trembling again, but she hadn’t completely locked up.

“Let’s go.” Cade grumbled after a few more minutes. He wanted to make sure that Bryce was gone and led the way.

–=-=-=-=–

“So, Maria, did ye get paid?” Cade didn’t want to ask as he started his car. Maria squirmed in the seat next to him, not wanting to answer. “Do ye know when ye will? I know how it is. Jerk clients are always out there.” Maria clasped her hands together and began wiggling her fingers nervously. “Okay, going to the grocery store.” Cade grumbled, putting his car into reverse. Some things were more important than pride, like making sure nobody starved in the house next to his.

Maria did not say a word the entire time they were out. She would have stayed in the car if Cade hadn’t opened the door and offered her his hand. They walked through the grocery store with Cade trying to carry on a conversation with Maria while Jaden and Charise ran around them following Cade’s instructions.

“I’m cooking dinner for ye tonight at yer house.” Cade was trying everything he could to not make this embarrassing for Maria. “That’s okay, isn’t it?” She was silent and wouldn’t look at him.

The cart was full in a short amount of time with Jaden and Charise’s help. They checked out and Maria watched as Cade handed the cashier a card to pay more for groceries than she ever had in a month since moving in. The card was swiped, and it was done.

–=-=-=-=–

Maria would not talk. She had never been so embarrassed in her life, and that was saying something considering what she had done in the diner. When they got home, she went up to her studio and shut the door to send emails and work. Cade chose not to bother her and went back to his own home to do the same. They spent the afternoon with Maria refusing to look in the direction of Cade’s house. He kept his chair turned to keep an eye on her the entire time.

There was no sign of any payments coming anytime soon. Maria kept going over her finances. She was annoyed that there were several hundred dollars in her account that was supposedly spent. Yet, the charges had never processed. The most notable were all on the day that she had taken Cade out for his birthday a week ago. She had money, but it couldn’t be spent because she knew she had spent it. Those charges would come out. That’s just how things worked.

Then she thought back to when Cade took her out. His ‘discounts’ looked suspiciously like everyone gave him what he wanted. He had paid at the grocery store. She saw the card. Or was it all some elaborate show for appearances? She had paid with her card as well, and a week had gone by, and nothing had been debited. Maria stared at her computer screen, trying to figure out what was going on.

A gentle knock came from Maria’s studio door. “Maria. Dinner’s ready if ye would like to join us.” Then she heard him walking away.

“I’m coming, wait, Cade!” Maria got up out of her chair. She couldn’t keep this up any longer. “I have a question!” She opened the door to see him smiling at her so happy to see her and completely forgot what she was going to say.

“Good evening, Love.” Cade held a hand out to her. “What did ye want to ask?”

Maria took his hand and smiled. “I don’t remember, but ah.” She sighed. “I’m sorry for ignoring you today, I had a lot to think about.” She glanced back into her studio, and the disappointing email window open on her screen. “I like that you want to take care of me, but I don’t want you to.”

“Not just ye.” Cade nodded. “Ye have two other people living in yer house, Maria. Aren’t ye taking care of them in the same way?”

“Weeelll, don’t take this the wrong way, Cade, but they’re family.” Maria stared up into his sad blue eyes. Then he smiled and lifted a hand to her cheek.

“Maria. Ye’ve already asked me to be part of yer family when ye proposed to me yesterday.”

“You said no.” Maria pouted more as show than intention. She leaned her head against his hand and laid her hand over his, sliding her fingers up his arm.

“Because I want to be the one proposing.” Cade smiled, leaning down to kiss her. “Are ye okay?”

“Other than living every moment in terror that Bryce is going to walk through a wall and try to grab me, yes, I’m okay.” Maria smirked. “I had a lot of therapy to get over what he did to me. I’m better, but I’ve been told it will never go away. But if he goes away, that’s the end of the panic attacks.”

“I am going to do that for ye.” Cade slid his arms around her and drew her closer. “Then I’ll think about this whole proposing thing. I love ye so much, ye are my Love.”

“Is that your name for me?” Maria giggled. “Just please don’t add anything to it or make it cute. I’ve had enough of that.”

“Never!” Cade threw his hands up in mock disgust. Then a sly grin passed over his face. “My lovely sweetie pie, honeybunch, cookie bear, sweet pea, sugar plum, cherry, snuggle bunny, sugar bomb.”

“How do you even KNOW that many stupid nicknames!” Maria laughed, pushing him playfully away from her. “NO! Do not call me those names!” She ran past him to the stairs.

“Jellybean, Sweetness, peach, gummy bear, cupcake!” Cade chased after her trying to dig up as many obnoxious names as he could think of. He was careful to avoid any he had heard Bryce say.