And the final chapter!  I hope it was enjoyed.

This story starts here.  My navigation is sadly messed up.

October 31 – Your chapter download.

October 31st

Maria woke to the sound of thunder and raindrops hitting her bedroom window. The rain was falling steadily, filling her room with its comforting sound. She sighed and snuggled up to her pillow. She had been in the middle of a wonderful dream. Maria smiled, looking at her window and the dark shadows gathered in the corner. Something stirred in the darkness.

Maria felt her body seize up as a form began coming out of the shadows. Light green eyes narrowed at her beneath a perfect head of blond hair. Maria yelped and reached under her pillow for the taser.

It wasn’t there!

Maria lifted her hand, going for the silver necklace she kept wrapped around her wrist.

It wasn’t there!

She scrambled over the side of her bed, reaching for her sword. Bells jingled all around her feet.
It was NOT THERE! She opened her mouth to scream. Bryce lunged at her and grabbed her arms, forcing her flat on the floor.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Cade heard a scream coming from next door and was immediately out the door, half-dressed and in the rain. He banged on the Summers’ front door, and Jaden opened it. Without a word, Cade was gone and up the stairs to Maria’s room, ready to fight whatever it was that was in her room.

All Cade found was Maria on the floor wrapped up in her blankets and sheets. She was yelling and fighting for an opening. He sighed and grabbed one trailing end of the blanket, and pulled. Maria tumbled out of the bundle in a very awkward position. She had a look of panic on her face, then she saw Cade standing a few feet away from her holding her blanket in his hands.

Maria yelped and grabbed the closest sheet. “What are you doing here?!”

“Ye screamed?” Cade’s face was bright red. He dropped her blanket and turned away to leave. “I’m sorry.” He stopped in the doorway, still looking away. “Ye know it’s going to be today.” Then he almost slipped on a puddle. “I’ll get this cleaned up.” He groaned and realized he was soaking wet and had trailed water all the way through her house. He was barefoot and only had boxers on.

Today was going to be a long day.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Maria was beaming at Cade as she watched Steph work on him. Steph had a nice little mobile salon. It was a converted RV with two chairs in it and everything a standard salon would have. Cade was sitting in one chair with his head back. Steph was carefully shaving his beard and mustache to match a photo of John Wick she had taped to the mirror. Maria was sitting in the other chair.

Fang kept peeking in, “D’ya need anything?”

“No!” Cade was beginning to get annoyed.

“Stop moving.” Steph fussed at Cade. “Almost done.”

“It looks good.” Maria giggled.

“Going to give him a trim next to go with it. He hasn’t been in for a hair cut in months.” Steph moved around Cade with a pair of scissors shaping his facial hair.

“Oh, don’t cut off too much! I like it wavy!”

“I like it easy to manage.” Cade mumbled.

“Stop moving.”

“D’ya need anything?”

“NO!” Both Maria and Cade replied.

“Okay.” Fang moved off, looking depressed that he couldn’t do anything to help.

“Easy to manage?” Maria laughed. “I have SEEN your hair, Cade! Do you ever brush it?”

“I brush my hair.” He snorted.

“Knock it off you two.” Steph thumped Cade’s chin with her fingers.

“Ow!”

“Stop moving!”

-=-=-=-=-=-

Half an hour later, Cade looked at himself in the mirror and obviously liked how he looked. He put on his best glower, attempting to pull off the most intimidating look he could manage. Maria was amazed at how intensely threatening Cade could look. Then he grinned.

“It looks great.” Maria stepped up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist.

“Good. Now it’s yer turn.” Cade turned around and grabbed Maria by the shoulders, stepping her back into the chair. “This is for that crack about me not brushing my hair.”

“I do not need a hair cut!” Maria protested. “For one thing, I can’t pay for it.”

“My treat.” Cade grinned with one hand on her shoulder. “Do something with her, Steph. Make it incredibly cute.”

“Oh no, you don’t!” Maria tried to wriggle out of the chair.

“I grew an itchy beard for ye.” Cade leaned down into Maria’s face scratching at his newly trimmed mustache. “Ye can get a hair cut.”

“How about a pixie cut?” Steph suggested.

“I am NOT Tinkerbell!” Maria protested.

“How about a trim and some purple streaks?” Steph grumbled.

Cade reached into his pocket and produced a money clip. He counted out 12 twenty dollar bills and handed them to Steph.

“Fiiiine.” Maria sighed.

“I’m going to get dressed up.” Cade grinned, leaning in to kiss Maria on the forehead. “I’ll be right back.”

“It takes an hour to an hour and a half.” Steph started preparing her supplies. “What color highlights?”
“Purple and rose gold.” Cade’s grin widened as Maria shot him a dirty look. Cade scratched his beard, running his fingers the length of it from ear to ear.

“I’m good with that,” Maria grumbled, leaning back in the chair.

-=-=-=-=-=-

“Maria.” Charise bounced around her, touching her hair. Maria’s thick hair had been tamed and trimmed up into a cute pixie bob. It flowed around her head and framed her face. Beautiful streaks of rose gold and purple highlighted her brown hair. It gave off a pleasant glowing effect. “It’s so beautiful. I’ve never seen you with such a cute hairstyle!”

“Blame Cade.” Maria frowned.

“You’re not happy about it?” Charise walked around to Maria’s front, smiling as she ran her fingers through her big sister’s hair. “Why don’t you like it? It looks so good on you.”

“He paid for it.” Maria sighed. She looked at her sister sadly. “I’m tired of being broke all the time because of Bryce. I’m so tired of him continually messing up my life.”

“How much do you owe him? Jaden and I could help. You know we would.” Charise bit her lower lip, looking at Maria thoughtfully. She hated seeing her sister so sad.

“No, that money is for your future.” Maria didn’t hesitate to turn it down. “Besides, I still owe him 10 grand. You don’t have that.”

“That’s a lot of money.” Charise reached up to move a stray strand of hair out of Maria’s eyes. “You look beautiful, Maria.” She repeated, knowing her sister needed to hear it. “I hope Cade told you the same thing.”

“He did.” Maria sighed. “He’ll be over in a little bit. He told me to come get you and tell you to get Jaden and go to Steph’s van and get a haircut while she’s here. He’s paying.”

“Really?!” Charise bounced in place, clasping her hands together. Jaden!!” She ran off to find her husband.

Maria went up the stairs to get dressed. She didn’t have a lot to work with, but she figured Cade wouldn’t mind. Maria was going to wear the dress he had bought her and the sandals. Charise had a pair of small purple fairy wings she was going to borrow along with a tiara to serve as a crown. Maria was going to strap the sword Cade had given her around her waist and go as a fairy princess warrior.

-=-=-=-=-=-

People began coming into the neighborhood and stopping at Cade’s house after lunch. He told Maria that there were times set up, and the younger kids would be coming in first. Maria, Jaden, and Charise helped Cade set up tables on the porch. It was still drizzling off and. The sky was overcast. Maria was dressed up in her costume, which Cade really liked. Jaden was dressed up like Aquaman, and Charise was Mera. They had both taken advantage of Steph’s services to get the right look. Charise’s short blond hair had red highlights in it. Steph had added long red hair extensions to Charise’s hair. Jaden’s hair had similar lengthening done, so it fell behind his shoulders in a mane.

Maria watched in amazement as people parked up and down the street. Then they brought their children up to Cade’s house. The children were mostly toddlers and younger. They were all dressed up in cute outfits and brought up to Cade, where he talked to each one on their level.

This was the most bizarre thing Maria had ever seen out of him. Cade would carry on brief conversations with a genuine smile on his face and play with the kids. Mostly asking them for their scary face and snarling at them. The kids all did what he asked and then ran squealing from him. Then a bag was handed off, and they left.

Brutus and his brothers came up. Maria was astonished to see that all three of them came with short petite wives. They had half a dozen children between them. Brutus had a very tiny baby cradled in one of his massive tattooed arms. Maria smiled when he offered to let her hold the baby. Maria didn’t have a lot of experience with babies. After a little instruction, she was looking into the blue eyes of an adorable baby girl with a scrunched up face. All their kids were chubby and cheerful as they interacted with ‘Uncle’ Cade together.

Cade sat on the porch as the group of children mobbed him with hugs. Maria stood nearby, talking to the baby’s mother, glancing up occasionally. This was Brutus’ third child, a little girl named Grace.
“Expecting another one, Bruno?” Cade grinned as he got a hug from one of the older kids hanging over his shoulder. “Ye aren’t making yer own football team, are ye?”

One of the younger brothers laughed and looked at Maria. “You better get to work if your kids want to compete with ours.”

“Don’t.” Cade turned serious for a brief moment tilting his head in Maria’s direction. Then he went back to smiling. “Ye have cute kids.” Maria didn’t miss the comment and handed the baby back to her mother, who then brought her to Cade.

“Grace?” Cade smiled, getting to his feet to hold her. “I haven’t met ye yet.” Cade reached out to touch the baby’s cheek, and she made a gurgling sound. “First girl. May ye grow up into yer name and keep yer big brothers in line.” Then he leaned forward and kissed the baby on the forehead. Brutus and his wife grinned at each other, then took a step back and bowed.

Maria stared. Things were beginning to click, but they did not fit together at all. That looked like a blessing of some sort. She watched as the other brothers bowed, and so did their wives and children, then they turned and left.

Everyone bowed to Cade. He did not bow to anyone. It was a barely perceptible lowering of the head and shoulders, but it was a bow. Maria observed that everyone who came to Cade did it, adults and children. She wanted to ask why they were doing it, but there was a growing crowd of visitors now.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Afternoon quickly became early evening, and still, the crowds came. Maria wasn’t sure how Cade was handling all the socializing. He didn’t get a break. Cade would sit for a while in one of the porch chairs, get up and walk around, play with the kids, talk to them and their parents. He maintained a smile the entire time. This wasn’t the Cade Maria had come to know. There was never a hint of shyness in him. Everyone continued bowing to him.

Maria noticed as the sky began darkening that Cade looked for her more frequently. He was checking to see if she was there within his sight. She was supposed to keep nearby. They weren’t sure what was going to happen, but something was, and they had to be prepared for it.

Cade continued greeting families with a growing sense of unease. He was hiding it well. The presence of all the families going up and down the street was worrying him. A message had gone out days before that everyone needed to be wary and watching for strangers. He had given orders to everyone visiting his house. The children were to be taken to safety before anyone attempted to assist him. The Summers, specifically Maria, needed to be protected. Atlanteans were to get them to safety and hopefully not let them see any Lyceans in their full forms.

“I need to run over to my house and see how Jaden and Charise are doing.” Maria touched Cade’s shoulder and motioned to her home. “I’ll be right back.”

“Okay.” Cade took her in his arms and gave her a firm hug then kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll be here.”

Maria walked down the steps and through the crowd of people amassed at the porch. Children in costume were running around screaming, laughing, and having a good time. She cut through the graveyard. Kids were jumping out from behind tombstones yelling at other kids. Then she was in her yard, which was also full of kids and people talking.

Charise and Jaden were having a good time handing out candy to the children and talking to their parents. They were standing in front of the steps to their home.

“You guys doing okay?” Maria walked up to them.

“Great!” Charise giggled. “Have you ever seen so many people out on Halloween?!”

“And they have awesome costumes!” Jaden added. “I’ve seen some of the best werewolf costumes ever tonight! They look professional!”

“Glad to hear you’re enjoying it.” Maria smiled, then stepped up to grab both of them by the shoulders so she could whisper to them at the same time. “Remember what I said. If anything happens, you need to stay out of the way. If you have to do anything, please don’t let anyone see you. Most importantly, if you are in danger, please run.” Maria had told them what she and Cade were expecting. She was repeating the same instructions she had given them earlier in the day. “Don’t worry about me.”

Maria had barely finished when she heard the sound of vehicles coming down the road. Signs had been placed on both ends of the street to block any cars, so the kids could freely roam from house to house. People began yelling.

Maria took a deep breath and informed herself she could not lock up. She could not freeze.

Two large armored vehicles stopped in front of Cade and Maria’s houses. They were going slow enough to allow people to get out of the way. But their presence brought an ominous atmosphere to the previously cheerful evening.

“Everyone, get yer kids out of here now!” Cade shouted, pushing past the people on his porch. “NOW!” People began grabbing whatever child was near them, whether it was theirs or not. The night was filled with children crying and screaming.

“Good evening, Darlin’.” Bryce stepped out of the first van running a hand through his hair. He headed for Maria, completely ignoring the people scrambling to get out of the way. He was fully geared up in Hunter armor. Black plates of heavy armor covered every inch of his body. A visible assortment of bladed weapons, pistols, and a rifle were strapped to his armor. His three most trusted men followed him out of the van.

Maria felt the need to fight or flee wrestling for control. Three more men were disembarking the vehicle in front of Cade’s house, and Cade was heading her way.

“What do ye think ye are doing?” Cade snarled, waving at the families running down the street. He had to stall them as long as he could. “There are families out here!”

“Quiet. I am talking to Maria. Stop right there.” Bryce lifted a finger and wagged it at Cade. His trio raised their rifles and aimed at Cade. Cade stopped, turning to face the three men.

“Bryce, please leave. Why can’t you leave me alone? I do not want you. I want nothing to do with you.” Maria calmed herself and spoke gently. If they shot Cade, they would kill him.

“You just need a little time and attention, Darlin’. I do love you.” Bryce took a step forward, and Cade growled. “With all my heart. I will never cheat on you again. I will not hurt you. That was a mistake I will never make again. I love you.”

Maria felt sicker with every word he said. He was repulsive, and she knew exactly what he had planned. She put her hands into the shallow pockets of her dress, her left hand on the taser, and the right on the silver necklace. “I do not love you. I never will.”

“Ye heard her. LEAVE!” Cade took a step closer, and the rifles all made a simultaneous clicking sound. Red laser lights pinpointed on Cade’s chest. He stopped.

“I have a proposition for you, Maria. You see, your neighbor and his mother are two very valuable Lyceans. Rex Regis. Aren’t you, Cade?” Bryce flashed a smile at Cade. “Tell her.”

“Stop lying!” Maria took a step forward, her face flushing with anger. She did not believe Bryce. She waved a hand behind her, trying to get Jaden and Charise to go into the house. Nobody was after them. “This is about you and me, and there is no you and me, Bryce!”

“Oh, but there can be. Y’ see, this is my offer, whether you believe me or not. You come with me willing-willingily-willingly and be my wife, or I will have Cade shot right now. Human or Lycean, he’s going to die. We are using silver-tipped rounds.”

Maria glanced at Cade worriedly. He had not moved and was looking at her with similar worry written on his face. “No, Maria. Run.” He took a step forward.

“Kill him!” Bryce gave the order, and the three men opened fire.

“NO!” Maria screamed. Cade was flung backward by the force of multiple bullets hitting him the chest. “No!” Maria turned back to Bryce. “He’s just a man! Why did you do-” Bryce grabbed Maria’s hand and jerked her toward the van.

“Time to go.” He began dragging Maria toward the van. “Get the mother too!” His men nodded and ran toward Cade’s house.

“Nobody is touching my mother!” Cade snarled, sitting up and rubbing a hand over his chest, tearing at the shredded shirt. Silvery grey material showed through it.  He hadn’t told Maria he would be be wearing any kind of protection. Cade whipped out the two guns that Maria had thought were part of his costume. He began firing, and Bryce’s men immediately sought cover to return fire. “That hurt! But not nearly as much as what I’m about to do to ye!”

There was a scream, and one of the men went down who had run up onto Cade’s porch. Maria couldn’t see what was happening. It sounded like he was dragged inside the house, where the screaming continued.

“Get the lights!” Cade shouted, tossing his empty pistols aside. The neighborhood was plunged into darkness as the street lights exploded. Seeing Cade’s head turned away from her, Maria growled a quick equation. Flames shot up Bryce’s arm. He yelped and let her go.

Cade had discarded the guns and was charging at Bryce, intending to tackle him to the ground. Bryce turned to meet Cade with a fist pulled back. “Paying you back for the first time we met!” Then he spoke a few barely perceptible words.

“Cade, look out!” Maria shrieked, knowing what was coming.

The blow from Bryce’s fist slammed into Cade’s chest, propelling him all the way into his yard. Cade ended up crashing into his western town.

“Kill them!” Bryce shouted. He then turned his gaze on Maria.

“No!” Maria screamed, throwing her hands up. “I’ll go with you!”

“That offer is expired.” Bryce stepped forward and grabbed for Maria. She stumbled back and dropped the taser. Then Bryce advanced on her. “Don’t even think about fighting me. You will lose.”

Maria caught a glimpse of movement in the enveloping darkness. They were not alone. People were amassing behind the vans. Points of bluish-purple light were forming in their hands as they advanced. Gleaming weapons appeared before her eyes, and more forms stepped beside the first row.

Maria gasped, realizing what she was seeing. There were a dozen Atlanteans creating weapons. They handed them off to the people behind them. People that weren’t actually people. Hybrid form Lyceans stepped forward, taking the weapons. Then came the shields. More bestial Lyceans filled in the gaps. Then they began advancing, accompanied by warning snarls. They were moving in organized lines to surround the invaders.

“Bryce.” Maria continued backing away from him. “You might want to rethink this.”

A deep guttural snarling came from Cade’s front yard. It was followed by the sound of splintering and breaking wood. Cade’s western town shook. Maria and Bryce turned to see a massive black furred form rising over the structures. Cade bared his fangs and crashed through the structures heading for Bryce.

Maria was barely able to get out of the way as Cade charged by snapping at Bryce. She staggered back in astonishment, unsure of what to do. Cade was a Lycean? He really WAS a Lycean?! And he was massive! Bryce was using his ability to dodge Cade, phasing through his jaws and then reappearing a few feet away. Cade was so fast that Bryce was having a difficult time getting in position to do anything more than evade.

Bryce managed to get a sword in hand and got in a few slashes on Cade’s legs and muzzle. Sparks flew every time the sword made contact, and smoke rose from them. Cade didn’t relent. He was determined to catch Bryce any way he could.

Maria pulled out the silver chain and ran after Cade and Bryce. Gunfire erupted behind her. Armed Lyceans and Atlanteans were closing in on Bryce’s five remaining men.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Charise and Jaden were watching from the porch. Jaden had a huge smile plastered on his face and tears running down his face. “Do you see them! DO YOU SEE THEM!”

“Yeah! We need to get out there and help!” Charise clenched her fists.

“We can’t be seen!” Jaden scowled. “No, we can. Just be careful your abilities aren’t seen!” Jaden began reciting an equation. He formed a bluish-purple curving blade, then a shield. He handed them to Charise, then made an identical set for himself. “Let’s go!”

The pair of them slipped off the porch and ran toward Cade’s yard.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Maria made sure nobody was watching as she pursued Cade and Bryce. The Lyceans and Atlanteans were concentrated around Cade’s house. But others were running along the sides of the street. She had to get the silver necklace around Bryce, or he was going to escape.

“Bryce!” Maria screamed for him as she got an idea. She ran off to the side. “Get me out of here!”
Cade hesitated when he heard those words. He lifted his head, bright blue eyes focusing on Maria in shock. Had she really said that? His ears wilted back in horror. He had shown himself, and now he was being rejected. He held back, his heart aching. Then his eyes met Maria’s. She made a motion with her hand, holding it up and gesturing for him to come closer. Cade moved.

Bryce made several leaps in that time to appear next to Maria. “About time, you came to your senses.” He reached out to take Maria’s hand, intending to transport both of them away.

Maria smiled and grabbed his hand, wrapping the necklace over his hand and arm. Bryce stared at the gleaming silver. Then he looked up at Maria questioningly, only to meet a fist in the face. He staggered back. “CADE! NOW!” Maria stepped back, and Cade snarled, charging at Bryce. Cade slammed one massive paw down on Bryce, slamming him to the ground, then he stood over him snarling.

Bryce was squirming, but the silver was wrapped around his arm and snagged in his armored plates. Unfortunately, his mouth was still free. Bryce shouted out an equation, and fire exploded around him. Cade had to jump back, his feet and chest engulfed in flame.

Maria hoped nobody was watching as she uttered her own equation. She swept her hands up, dragging all the water around them up and onto Cade’s body. Cade hit the ground shoulders first, rolling to extinguish the fire. He didn’t see what Maria had done to help him.

Bryce attempted to get up, reaching for the necklace on his arm. He stopped when he felt the cold steel of a sword slide under his neck.

“Say anything or move, Bryce. I dare you.” Maria held her sword ready. She tilted it to make sure that Bryce could feel the sharp edge of the blade against his throat. He glared at her but did not move.

“Good job, Dear.” Maria had to keep her eyes on Bryce, but she saw the form of a red wolf, a little smaller than Cade, trot up next to her. She towered over Maria and bared her teeth in a wolfish smile to Cade.

Cade walked up slowly, head down. Smoke from his burned fur was rising up around him, and he was soaked. “Please take care of his memories, Mother. If any of the others survived, do the same.”

“What?!” Bryce sputtered, as a pair of Atlanteans grabbed him by the arms and lifted him up. One clamped a hand over his mouth.

“Hold him still.” The red wolf shifted. Within moments she had shrunken into Cade’s mother. She was wearing the same clothes she had been wearing earlier. There was blood spattered on her face and arms, but none on her clothes. Zelda stepped forward and laid a hand to Bryce’s head, and began uttering a long equation. A blank look appeared on Bryce’s face within moments.

Maria found herself breathing hard. She took a swaying step back with her sword tip hitting the asphalt. Cade took a few more steps, head down, thinking about what he needed to say. Atlanteans and Lyceans had gathered around them and were watching. Charise and Jaden were among them. Cade noted in passing amusement that they had managed to pick up Atlantean weapons. They had joined in to help. He approved.

Cade turned his massive head and looked at Maria, his blue eyes gleaming with worry. Maria was a different story. He took a step closer, and she took a step back. “Maria. I am the same person in this form as the one ye profess yer love to. Ye are my love.” He lowered his head in a bow until his muzzle was almost touching the ground. “I love ye. Ye are free to leave if ye want to. We’ll take care of Bryce.” He paused and took a breath. “Can ye take me as I am?” Then he shifted back to his human form with his costume as it had been before he shifted.

Maria stared at him and swallowed hard. She shakily slid her sword back into the scabbard. Maria had thought he was a human the entire time. He thought she was as well. He STILL thought she was human. Everything had happened so fast.

“Maria?” Cade held his hand out. “What do ye want?” It was now or never. He pushed aside his worries and doubts. His nervous blue eyes met Maria’s unsure brown ones. She stared at him in silence.

“Maria.” Cade sighed. “I do not have a ring.” He knelt on one knee and kept his hand out.

Maria did not hesitate. She knew what she wanted. She walked up to him and slid her hand into his, then fell against him, wrapping her arms around his neck. “I want you.” She whispered. “Yes.”

Cade wrapped his arms around Maria tightly. “That took a lot of guts.”

“I know. I have to spend my life with you now.” Maria giggled as tears began to fill her eyes. “And that wet dog smell.”

Cade smiled, pulling back so he could look into Maria’s eyes. “I meant trapping Bryce like that.” He glanced away, then back again. “I almost thought ye were going to go with him.”

“No way.” Maria stuck her tongue out and made a face of disgust.

“So impressive.” He reached up with both hands to run them through Maria’s hair and drew her close into a passionate kiss.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Dad was not going to be happy about this.

 

 

The End