With the first year of college under their belts, Dylan and the pack return home for the summer, but their break is far from restful. Haunted by visions that start to become true, Jono has to fight to keep control of his body. With Oscar missing and two looming threats about to clash, how will Dylan bring the back back together to save Crystalshaw?
Returning home from college for the summer, Dylan settles into home life again, but both good and bad bombshells from Jono ensure it won't be such a quiet summer. Presumed missing by the rest of the pack, Oscar is surprised to see a familiar face turn up at his new home. Freddie is confused by a mysterious text.
1: Welcome Home Written by MarthaJonesFan
Shuffling around yet again, Jono just couldn’t get comfortable. He usually slept so well, but it felt like his bed was made of rocks. Flipping the pillows upside down, taking his pyjama top off, even sticking one leg out of the duvet – nothing he did was any help.
To make matters worse, it was their last night in the dorm before heading home for the summer break. This meant a day of travelling and unpacking was ahead, and Jono needed energy. Exams were done and first year was officially over. Jono had been so excited to get home and enjoy some proper winding-down time with his friends, and with Dylan.
First, though, he had to get through the night. Outside, a storm was creating chaos, thunder racketing through his eardrums while lightning brutally jolted him awake every time he was on the cusp of sleep. It was only making him more frustrated.
It didn’t help that his thoughts were hectic. They raced around his mind, like race-cars running at top speed. To make matters worse, it only seemed to be getting worse. Jono stood up. He paced back and forth. He tried to clear the fog in his mind.
Then it stopped. His thoughts jarringly transitioned from one extreme to another, slowing down to a perfect silence. Jono looked around the room. The walls had changed; usually, they were covered in photos of fond memories and posters of singers he and Dylan liked. Now, new pictures were on display. Pictures he had never seen before. Pictures of him and his friends, but not just any old pictures. They were gruesome and repulsive in ways Jono had never seen before.
They were dead.
And Jono was standing over each of their bodies.
And his eyes were glowing red.
Jono was horrified. What the hell were those photos? How did they exist? He didn’t remember that, and his eyes most certainly weren’t red like Dylan’s, so how the hell did they exist? They felt so real. Like something tucked away in the back of his mind.
Like a memory.
Jono rolled back onto the bed. There was one person missing from the photos. Dylan. He was, of course, fast asleep on his side of the bed. Jono urgently grabbed him by the shoulder, but Dylan just slumped backwards. He was bleeding too. His head had been bashed in. His eyes were wide open, but not blinking.
He was dead.
Jono gasped; a gasp like he had been holding his breath for far too long. He’d just woken up. It was the morning. The room looked just as it was supposed to, and he could hear the reassuring sound of Dylan’s breathing.
It was a bad dream, but that didn’t reassure Jono.
Why did it feel so real?
Embracing the gorgeous sight of the forest before him, Dylan was so glad to be back home. He’d visited occasionally over the college year, and Ed and Caroline had been up to visit him at the dorm, but it wasn’t the same. He was looking forward to watching television every night with his mum. Waking up in his own bed. All of the creature comforts that he could only get at home, with the benefit of Jono, Josh and Freddie around too.
Dylan was immensely proud of himself, though. He’d made it through a full year of college. It was such a huge shake-up, and he’d survived it. In fact, he’d rather enjoyed it. He’d conquered his fears about moving out, and that wasn’t something to downplay. Now, he was able to let his guard down again for the summer.
Not everything was that rosy, though. College, after the first couple of weeks were tarred by Summer and Ranulf, had proceeded as it should have, but they were a man down. Nobody had seen Oscar in months. He hadn’t been to a single lecture, and nobody on campus had seen hide nor hair of him. Strangely, though, his assignments were still being completed. No matter how hard he tried, Dylan couldn’t figure out the logic. Had something happened? Was he kidnapped? The lack of answers was the strangest part of his vanishing.
Dylan knew he was never going to give up on finding Oscar, but for the time being, he had to trust that Ed was on the case. After rigorous searches around the campus, tracking Oscar’s scent, they still hadn’t found anything. The last time person to see him was Alex, before Ranulf’s attack, but after that was a complete mystery. Dylan couldn’t help fearing the worst – it felt like the Lunar Sanctum all over again.
“Freddie!” an excited voice squealed from inside. The front door flung open before Dylan could make use of the key in his hand. Sammi breezed straight past Dylan, Jono and Josh, and headed straight for Freddie, planting a gigantic kiss on his lips.
“Hi Sammi,” Josh sarcastically yelled while they kissed. Sammi held a finger up, directing Josh to wait. Dylan chuckled – her sass was second-to-none.
“Someone’s feeling single,” Dylan joked.
“At least you two aren’t giving me a front row seat,” Josh sighed, glancing at Dylan and Jono.
Stepping into the house, Dylan immediately felt like he’d never been away. Home brought him so much comfort. He remembered the day he moved in as if it were yesterday. The apprehension of a new house in a new town. The absence of his dad. It was insane how quickly things changed. He now had a step-dad. A brother. A boyfriend. A whole chosen family that he’d never dreamed of. He never took it for granted.
“Welcome home,” Caroline greeted from the living room. She had the biggest smile on her face. Together, she and Ed had decorated the room with balloons and “welcome home” banners. It was the cutest thing ever.
“What’s all this for?” Dylan was impressed. He wasn’t expecting such a fanfare.
“We’ve been celebrating the end of our peace and quiet,” Ed laughed, “Party’s just finished.
“So funny,” a bemused Josh murmured, “I need a drink. Looking this good is thirsty work.” Dylan rolled his eyes, but he loved Josh’s dry humour. He looked at Jono, hoping to share the joke, but his face told a different story. He looked glum, or even miserable. In fact, he’d been quiet for most of the day.
“Hey,” Dylan pulled him away, back into the corridor, “What’s up?”
“Nothing, I’m just tired,” Josh shrugged it off, avoiding eye contact.
“No, don’t do this,” Dylan refused to accept his answer, “The last time you weren’t yourself, you literally weren’t yourself, and I vowed from then on to protect your life with my own. Talk to me, Jon.”
“I’m sorry,” Jono looked up, meeting eyes with Dylan, “I had the worst night’s sleep. You know those dreams that feel real?”
“Yeah, vivid dreams” Dylan empathised.
“No, it was more than that. Not just vivid, but it felt like I wasn’t dreaming at all,” Jono continued, “I felt every emotion. It felt familiar, even though it wasn’t.”
“What happened?” Dylan listened intently.
“We were in bed, and I couldn’t sleep. I saw a load of new pictures on the wall. Pictures of everyone, the whole pack, that I’d never seen before,” Jono relayed, “And they were dead, Dylan. I had killed them. I was stood over their dead bodies with glowing red eyes.”
“Oh shit,” Dylan was gobsmacked.
“Then I got into bed and you were dead too, Dyl,” Jono started to cry. Dylan’s heart broke. He’d never seen Jono so vulnerable before. He was usually the calm, composed one.
“Look around you,” Dylan dug deep, trying to give Jono the best advice he could, “We’re here. Everyone’s alive. Look in that mirror, and glow your eyes.”
Jono did as instructed, walking over to the mirror beside the front door. His eyes flared their usual gorgeous fiery yellow colour, just as they were supposed to.
“All is okay,” Dylan took his hand, “And I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise.” Jono nodded, wiping away the tears from his cheeks. They could conquer anything together.
“Dylan,” Caroline poked her head around the corner from the living room, “Could I borrow you for a moment? When you’re ready.”
“Will you be okay?” Dylan checked with Jono first and foremost.
“Of course. I’ll be waiting for you,” Jono put a brave face on. As long as they had each other, Dylan knew they’d be okay.
Despite it being home for most of her life, Lily still found something so uncomforting about the large Chadwick house. Once upon a time, she thought it was magical. It was so exciting for a child, with a whole load of hiding places for hide and seek, and loads of room to store all her toys.
Come high school, it had turned into a bragging right, and it made for the perfect party venue. The house gave Lily status, but it was a vapid way of building friendships. The novelty wore of, and Lily had learnt that the company was so much more important than the building. Finally, she understood why Jono spent so much time in the treehouse alone.
Now, the house was just an embodiment of the fractured relationship she had with her friends. Since being at college, she’d had very little contact with either of them, and even her visits home had been spent at the lakehouse. The only reason she was visiting now was to collect the remainder of her belongings, and she was hoping to be as inconspicuous as possible.
“Not going to say hi to them?” Yasmin probed. Thankfully, Lily didn’t have to face that place alone. She’d breezed straight through the corridor and towards the stairs.
“Another day,” Lily brushed off, swerving the subject.
“Lily,” Yasmin stopped a couple of steps up, “Talk to them, please.”
“I will,” Lily turned to face her, “I’m just not ready yet.”
“Don’t delay,” Yasmin advised, “I don’t want you to have any regrets. God knows I have so many of my own.”
“I thought things were good between you and your mom?” Lily pondered.
“They are, but it’s all relative,” Yasmin opened up, “I missed out on years of memories with my mom, and there’s always going to be some distance between us as a result. Not to mention how she still doesn’t know what happened to my dad, or what I am. You’ve got a choice, Lily.”
“Noted,” Lily smiled kindly. Yasmin had a point, but that didn’t mean it was going to be an easy battle to overcome, “Come on, I’ve got clothes to collect.” Lily enthusiastically bounced up the stairs and brushed straight into her old bedroom.
“Lily!” Jeremy called out in shock. Oops. Lily had forgotten the room had a new occupant. Jeremy was lying on top of what used to be her bed, with another boy lying next to him. Whoever he was, Lily couldn’t help noticing how close together they were.
“Oh, um, I’m sorry,” Lily felt very awkward, as if she’d interrupted something, “I, um, just wanted to pick some clothes up.”
“Sure,” Jeremy seemed just as awkward. He sat up on the bed, and the young lad next to him did the same, “Help yourself.” Lily tip-toed to the wardrobe as if she were trespassing, hoping to be as quick as possible.
“Who’s your friend?” Yasmin playfully questioned, lightening up the atmosphere.
“Oh, this is Felix,” Jeremy introduced shyly, “Felix, this is my cousin Lily and my friend Yasmin.” Lily listened in as she bundled clothes into the two large plastic bags she brought. She knew that Sammi went on a date with this Felix guy, but wasn’t aware he and Jeremy were close.
“Nice to meet you at last,” Lily grinned politely, “Come on Yasmin, time to go.” She ushered Yasmin out with the bags carrying as many clothes as they could.
“That was so awkward,” Lily quietly mentioned after the door clicked shut.
“He was cute, though,” Yasmin looked pleased with herself.
“Oh, come on, did you see how close they were?” Lily rebutted. They were just centimetres from their bodies touching.
“Darn,” Yasmin’s face sunk, “It’s always the best-looking ones, too.” Lily chuckled. She’d almost forgotten the weight of the house she was stood in. Perhaps she was making progress after all?
Slumping back down on the bed, Oscar was on such a high. Cody slumped down next to him, and they shared the exact same expression. One of pleasure, satisfaction and pure elation. Nobody else could make him feel such an intense high, particularly in a small room inside an abandoned warehouse down the road from the college.
Slotting into Cody’s pack had been surprisingly easy, for the most part anyway. He’d spent months getting to know his new pack, and while both Oscar and the other pack members were initially resistant, he’d formed strong bonds already. He’d earned their loyalty.
Despite this, he so desperately wanted to talk to Dylan and Jono. He missed them so much. Oscar wasn’t stupid, though. He knew seeing them would be too risky, even from across the lecture theatre. They’d find out about the deal he made, and they wouldn’t look kindly on Cody. If that happened, everything he’d given up would have been for nothing. A war would break out.
“I could go again,” Cody toyed, his fingers twirling in Oscar’s unkept blonde shaggy mane.
“Sounds good to me,” Oscar smiled like the cat that got the cream. He rolled over and climbed on top of Cody, kissing him with every droplet of passion in his body. When they were together, Oscar felt safe, and Cody had defended him at every necessary moment, just as he’d promised.
“Cody!” a voice irritatingly interrupted. Oscar froze, before sheepishly dismounting Cody and slipping back under the covers. Modesty restored. He certainly couldn’t say that was the first time they’d been caught.
“Keisha, what have I told you about not knocking?” Cody angrily scolded. Keisha was his second-in-command, and she was definitely the toughest nut to crack. Oscar still wasn’t sure she trusted him yet, despite his best efforts to prove she could.
“I’m sorry that your shag is more important,” Keisha stormed back out, but not before issuing a completely unsubtle eyeroll.
“She really doesn’t like me,” Oscar commented. He chuckled nervously. Keisha seemed to trust Cody, but Oscar really wanted to win her trust on his own.
“She’s just got her guard up,” Cody insisted, “This is our first summer together, and you are my priority.” Cody leaned in to kiss Oscar again, and it felt so good. There was nothing Oscar wanted more than to spend the day in bed with Cody, but Keisha clearly had a reason for bursting in.
“Maybe you should go talk to her,” Oscar suggested, choosing his head over his heart.
“No, because if I talk to her, I’ll have to deal with someone else’s shit. It’s not going to be a thirty second conversation, and that’s about as long as I can bear to be away from you,” Cody snuggled in closer, his body leaned directly against Oscar’s side.
“But if you deal with it now, it might save something escalating. Therefore, more time to spend with me later,” Oscar reasoned.
“I hate how sensible you are,” Cody smiled, “Okay, where did you put my underwear?”
“Oh,” Oscar was stumped. He’d thrown them somewhere around the room in the excitement of the moment, “Are they important?” He winked at Cody. He had fallen so hard for him.
Dylan always felt anxious when someone said they wanted a word with him. It was so vague and ominous, and the subject of the conversation could range from the best news ever, to the worst news ever. The uncertainty created far too much paranoia in Dylan’s mind within a few seconds.
The annoying thing was that Caroline’s face gave nothing away. Her chemo-signals didn’t offer any clues either. Perhaps that was a good thing? Dylan would definitely be able to sense sadness. Maybe he was clutching at straws, but he had to reassure himself somehow.
“I wanted to tell you this face-to-face, so I’ve kept it secret for the past week,” Caroline began as Dylan made himself comfortable at the dining table. They had enough privacy in the kitchen while the party started next door, “I’m pregnant.”
Stunned into silence, Dylan didn’t know what to say. Of all the things he expected to hear, that wasn’t one of them. In some ways, it made perfect sense. Caroline and Ed hadn’t even been married a year yet. That said, Dylan had no idea kids of their own were on the cards.
“I know it’s a lot to take in, but I’m three months down the line,” Caroline continued, “I wasn’t even sure I wanted a baby. I’ve done the mom thing already, with you, and then Josh, but I always said this marriage was a fresh start, for all of us.”
“Does Josh know?” Dylan questioned. He needed to be in-the-know as well.
“Ed’s going to tell him later. I wanted to speak to you first,” Caroline mentioned, “How do you feel about it? This affects you, too, even though you’re nineteen now.”
“Mom, it’s amazing news,” Dylan gushed. He was truly delighted for his mum. She was right – it was the fresh start they deserved.
“I’m so glad to hear that,” Caroline smiled, “On another note, you know your Aunt Maria? She’s coming to visit. I’ve not told her the news, or much at all about the past few years.”
“Like your werewolf sons?” Dylan laughed.
“Exactly,” Caroline chuckled, “And I plan to keep it that way, I’m sure you understand.” Dylan nodded. He hadn’t heard from his Aunt Maria since they moved to Crystalshaw, outside of the obligatory Christmas and birthday cards. She and Caroline had an on-off relationship and a somewhat bumpy history. She didn’t need to know the full story.
“Where will she sleep?” Dylan enquired. There were no free bedrooms and the house just about accommodated six people already, before factoring in a baby and an intrusive aunt.
“On the sofa, I’ve already made that clear to her,” Caroline insisted, “I’m not asking any of you to give up your beds for her self-imposed visit.”
“Thanks,” Dylan appreciated his mum looking out for him, “It’ll be okay. Everything will be okay, mom. I’m here for whatever you need.” Caroline smiled proudly at him. Dylan was so fortunate to have her as his mum. The baby was in safe hands.
There was something so incredibly special about the Drummond house, Freddie always thought. He wasn’t family, but he was always welcomed with open arms, even after he’d been away to college. Caroline and Ed could easily have asked him to stay with George at the lakehouse, but it was quite the opposite.
The best part about being home, though, was being reunited with Sammi. They’d spent every weekend together, but that was nothing compared to what they had planned for the summer. With any luck, they’d barely spend any time apart. Even more exciting was Sammi starting college herself in September. She’d be in the same building as him, up a flight of stairs. Freddie couldn’t wait.
“Is it weird that I’ll sort-of miss school?” Sammi pondered before sipping her juice.
“Yes,” Freddie joked, “I won’t lie, I sort-of miss it. College is tough.”
“At least you live with your friends,” Sammi sighed.
“You’ve got Jeremy, and this Felix dude,” Freddie reminded. That didn’t sound like a bad thing.
“Yeah, and a bunch of randomers,” Sammi elaborated, “You know what happens around us. People will be in danger.”
“What’s brought this on?” Freddie listened. Sammi only worried when she had something big on her mind. It was one extreme or the other.
“We tried to keep Oscar safe. Where is he now?” Sammi explained. Freddie couldn’t think up a good enough response, because Sammi was right. They had tried so hard to keep Oscar out of the supernatural world. Not only had they been unsuccessful, but Oscar was now lost inside it.
“Then we do better,” Freddie suggested. He wasn’t used to being the person anyone came to for advice, but he was certain of one thing: he was always going to look out for Sammi.
“Dude, can I borrow you?” Jono nervously interrupted.
“Sure,” Freddie tentatively replied. Jono led him to the corner of the room, clearly in need of privacy, “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Jono assured, “I was planning for today to be big. I slept really badly, but I’m not going to let that ruin my plan.”
“Okay, tell me more,” Freddie was intrigued.
“It’s for Dylan. I want to…” Jono froze, “I’m a bit nervous. I know we’re young, but we’ve been dating for ages now and there’s truly nothing I want more.”
“Oh my god, you mean…” Freddie realised, “That’s huge.”
“I know. I’m jumping the gun, aren’t I? This is a terrible idea,” Jono was sceptical.
“No,” Freddie insisted, “Dylan will love it. Go for it, dude.”
Freddie’s phone buzzed, rudely taking him out of a surprisingly cute moment. Strangely, it was a text from an unknown number. As he went to delete it, as he always did with spam messages, he saw the first word. His name. It was directly addressing him. Intrigued and slightly worried, Freddie read on.
‘Freddie. See you soon. Dad.’
Taken aback, Freddie wasn’t sure what to do. Was someone playing a practical joke? He’d spoken about his dad to so few people, because he had no memories whatsoever of him. Whatever it was, it was sick.
“What’s up?” Jono checked.
“Nothing,” Freddie replied, deleting the text. It wasn’t worth his time.
Checking his hair in the front camera of his phone, Jeremy felt equally excited and nervous about the party. He was excited to see his friends again, and they had a whole summer to spend together before the pressure cooker of college. Jeremy was looking forward to it, though – finally, he was out of the suffocating environment that was high school. Now, he could finally start living the life he wanted.
However, this was the first time most of the pack were meeting Felix. Other than Sammi, none of the pack knew the truth about, well, pretty much everything involving Felix. What he did. The reaction at school. How much he meant to Jeremy. The entire thing was one big secret.
After all, Jeremy didn’t truly know what he was yet. He’d spent months with Felix and he cared so much for him, but he still couldn’t find a label that fit him. How was he supposed to define himself? There wasn’t much of an answer when Felix was the only person he’d ever been particularly attracted to.
“You look amazing,” Felix reassured, “You look better than I do, and I’m the one who needs to make an impression.”
“Shut up, you look gorgeous,” Jeremy corrected, “Besides, they don’t know who you are to me. It’s less pressure.”
“I suppose if I can win Sammi’s trust back, this won’t be too difficult,” Felix pondered.
Jeremy watched Felix stare in awe at the surrounding forest as they approached Dylan’s house. The location was incredible, Jeremy always thought, and Felix seemed even more taken in by it than the huge Chadwick house he’d seen numerous times already. The natural beauty of the forest was breath-taking, and Jeremy found it so soothing. It was the only place he could ever really feel peace and quiet.
“Okay, one day, we have to live somewhere like this,” Felix blurted out, awkwardly glancing at Jeremy afterwards, “If that’s something you’d like as well, of course.”
“Yeah,” Jeremy smiled. He’d never given a great deal of thought to the future – living with his dad somewhat dulled his ambitions, and his only real aim was to find Sammi one day. Felix had opened his eyes, and now he was learning stuff about himself. Stuff he should have figured out already, but nonetheless, it was an exciting part of his life. Felix had marked a new beginning.
“It doesn’t need to be a big house, but somewhere cosy with enough space for us,” Felix thought aloud, “And a family.” Jeremy felt that strange feeling in his stomach again. Butterflies were fluttering around. He felt uncontrollably excited by the thought of a family with Felix. If that was what his future held, he’d be more than happy. After all, his dad was a pretty good indicator of what not to do as a parent.
“As long as you’re there, I’m happy,” Jeremy paused as they reached the doorstep.
“Oh, that’s so cliché,” Felix laughed, “But I love it. And I love you,” Felix kissed him, and it felt amazing. Every kiss felt just as intoxicating as the first.
“Hey,” the door swung open. Sammi quickly stopped in her tracks as Jeremy broke the kiss, “That’s not exactly subtle, guys.”
“That’s why we didn’t ring the doorbell, duh,” Jeremy playfully replied. The more he got to know Sammi, the more he understood her banter, and dishing it back never failed to be funny.
“Well, everyone’s inside, so be careful,” Sammi advised. Jeremy nodded. Though he had nothing to feel ashamed of where Felix was concerned, he wanted some answers of his own before he ended up in the hot seat.
The pure, untampered-with beauty of the lake never ceased to amaze Yasmin. She’d spent so many hours by it before, either to test her powers or just to clear her mind. Whether it was the nix part of her that found the gentle ripples of the water so calming, Yasmin wasn’t sure, but it worked a treat regardless.
Now, it was serving as the perfect location for some quiet reflection. Moving back home didn’t feel like a fulfilling move to Yasmin. She thrived in the college environment, living with her friends and putting the work in towards the career in medicine she was so keen to achieve. Summertime had applied the brakes when Yasmin wanted to keep driving forward.
If she couldn’t have that, the lakehouse was a satisfying consolation prize in the meantime. Some rest and relaxation couldn’t have done her any harm, Yasmin concluded, and college had been so full-on. Josh always said she worked too hard; Yasmin didn’t believe that was possible.
“Hey, Yasmin,” Mia called out, jogging over to the dock, “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Yasmin assured, “Just taking in the sights.”
“It’s pretty gorgeous, right?” Mia agreed, “George and I have spent so many nights out here. Perfect place for date night.”
“It’s so calming,” Yasmin added. She loved Mia’s innocence. Somehow, George had managed to keep her out of the supernatural world entirely. Perhaps there was some benefit to not-knowing after all?
“We’ve got a spare room if you want it,” she kindly offered.
“I’d love to, but I know my mom’s been so excited to have me home,” Yasmin sighed. She’d love to live at the lakehouse, but all she could think of was her chat with Lily that morning. She wasn’t a hypocrite. It was time to start appreciating her mum.
“Well, you’re welcome here any time,” Mia smiled again.
“Hey, ready to go?” Lily called from the back door. Of course – Caroline and Ed’s ‘welcome home’ party. Yasmin had almost forgotten.
“Coming,” Yasmin called back, before checking her hair in her phone camera to make sure she looked her best. She turned back to Mia, “Are you joining us?”
“Show me a party I couldn’t make,” Mia laughed. Yasmin felt so positive just from talking to Mia. If only everyone could take a leaf out of her book.
Heart beating like crazy, Jono couldn’t believe what he was about to do. It was something he had dreamed of for a long time, and they’d even talked about it on so many occasions, but it felt unreal that the day had finally come. There was truly nothing he wanted more, and he was confident Dylan felt the same.
He was sure some people would say it’s premature, but Jono couldn’t disagree more. He’d been planning this moment for months, saving up and waiting for the perfect chance. After all, spending time inside the vision world was quite the reality check, not knowing if he’d ever see Dylan again. He needed to make sure they’d be together forever.
Furthermore, Dylan’s advice and comfort after the horrible night Jono had was enough to keep him pushing on. He knew he loved Dylan a long time ago, and his future involved Dylan every step of the way.
The anticipation was unbearable. So much could go wrong, and Jono didn’t want to make a fool of himself, nor did he want to embarrass Dylan. That’s why he thought it best to happen in private – that way, there was no pressure on Dylan. He knew him too well to put him through that.
Now, all he needed was for Dylan to arrive back from his chat with Caroline. The party was continuing around Jono. Everyone else was oblivious to his plan, and it was difficult to blend in and act like nothing was happening. His mind was too busy performing somersaults. Time had come to a standstill. It was excruciating.
Then he arrived. Quietly, Dylan slipped back into the room. He looked surprisingly chirpy, which could only mean one thing: the chat with Caroline went well. That also spelled good news for Jono – his moment had been chosen well.
“Hey, how did the chat go?” Jono quietly asked, not intending to pry. Dylan looked around, checking nobody was paying them any attention.
“Okay, promise you won’t tell anyone. Not yet, anyway,” Dylan lowered his voice.
“Promise,” Jono nodded, intrigued. Dylan looked so excited.
“Mom’s pregnant,” Dylan revealed with a huge smile on his face, “I’m getting a baby brother or sister.”
“What? Oh my god Dyl, that’s amazing,” Jono was delighted, keeping the noise down.
“I know, right?” Dylan was visibly buzzing, “Are you okay now?”
“Yeah,” Jono assured, “In fact, there was something I wanted to ask you, in private. Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad. Promise.” Jono knew Dylan would worry, but he had no need to. Jono was doing more than enough worrying for the both of them.
“Sure,” Dylan anxiously replied before leading Jono into the kitchen. Jono’s heart was racing. He still had the chance to back out, but he didn’t want to. He knew this was the moment. Now, it was in Dylan’s hands.
“Okay,” Jono gathered all the courage he could find and took a deep breath in. He could barely think straight. Anxiety was consuming him.
“Jono, are you sure everything’s alright?” Dylan was concerned, but he didn’t need to be.
“I was wondering,” Jono reached into his back pocket and took out a box. It was perfectly plain; the direct contrast of what was inside. He flicked the box open, exposing its contents to Dylan, who looked on in disbelief, “Dylan Drummond, you’re the only person I’ve ever loved. You’ve literally saved my life, more than once, and I can’t imagine living without you. Would you do me the honour of becoming my husband?”
That was it. He couldn’t take it back now. Immediately, Jono examined Dylan’s face. He was stunned, but smiling as if he couldn’t restrain himself. That was a good sign. He was looking at the box. Jono had saved up to get the perfect ring for Dylan – silver, with a dash of red in the centre. The cost wouldn’t be important to Dylan, but he had to know Jono was serious.
“Of course,” Dylan replied after what felt like an hour-long wait. Jono started laughing. The anxiety had faded. All he felt was pure joy and elation, “You knew I’d prefer this in private?”
“I know you inside out, Dyl,” Jono smiled.
“You got it spot on,” Dylan chuckled, “I don’t know what to say.”
“Just kiss me then,” Jono directed. Dylan didn’t need to be asked twice. Jono had never enjoyed the feeling of Dylan’s lips so much. He was on cloud nine, and nothing was going to ruin his mood.
Adjusting his trousers as he walked, Oscar had to quickly get into the zone – mentally and physically. Keisha always had a good reason for summoning Cody, and usually, it meant that they had a visitor. In the likelihood that they did have a guest, Oscar had to look vaguely presentable. Cody had standards to maintain.
“Hair tie,” Cody demanded as they speed-walked to the communal area. The warehouse was huge, with the central communal area taking up the most room, spanning the length of the entire area. Small side-rooms acted as bedrooms, and they even had a kitchen and bathroom installed. They’d gone to great efforts to make it homely.
“Here,” Oscar twisted it off his wrist and handed it to Cody, who swept his unruly red curls into a smart bun. Oscar always kept a few spare hair ties for him on his wrist, just to be safe.
Keisha was waiting for them in the communal area, which was split into numerous small sections. A few sofas surrounded a television, but Keisha’s location spoke volumes. She was stood in the very centre, without a furnishing in sight. This was where business happened. She had her hands on her hips, and directed a stern glare straight towards Oscar. He sighed – if only she knew he was the reason Cody has even bothered to turn up.
Archie was by her side – six foot with an eight pack, Oscar was terrified of Archie when they first met. Surprisingly though, he was the first of Cody’s pack to accept him. He was a complete softy, not that he’d ever admit it.
“What’s the deal?” Cody questioned, standing in the centre of the room.
“It was nice of you to show up,” Keisha wasn’t letting it go. Oscar understood her frustrations, but she directed it at the wrong person.
“I’m here, Keisha, now are we getting on with it? Or did you just fancy wasting my time?” Cody was getting agitated. Oscar hated the tension between them – it had been there since his arrival, and months had passed since then with little change.
“We’re getting on with it,” Archie intervened, playing the peacekeeper – and not for the first time, “We caught someone trying to break in. He says he needs our help.”
“So why didn’t he use the front door?” Cody wondered. This wasn’t their first request for help. Cody’s status went a long way.
“He said he’s not from around here,” Archie continued.
“Bring him in,” Cody ordered. A door clanged from across the warehouse. Footsteps grew closer. Mariana arrived – the fourth and final member of the pack. She was the strategist, and the smartest of any of them. There was a lad with her, keeping his head down. He had a thick, messy array of curls that covered much of his face.
“Who are you?” Cody interrupted as Mariana pushed him onto the floor in the middle.
“Please, help me,” he begged. Oscar knew that voice anywhere. It was strangely comforting.
“Who are you?” Cody questioned again, more firmly that time. He looked up, exposing his face for the first time.
“Brett Sutton,” he introduced, “My boyfriend got kidnapped. I need your help, please.”