Misty’s hopes were crushed at Alejandro’s words.
“Don’t worry, Misty. We’ll find a way,” Alessandro, the older of the two, assured her with a squeeze of her hand.
“But if that man would block our every step…”
“Trust in Domenico, Misty.”
A reception at a nearby Lyccan function hall followed the funeral that afternoon. None had extended their condolences to Misty except for the few faces that were familiar to her like Jayme, Penny, and Matilda.
Unable to bear the stifling air inside, she excused herself from the family and went to the gardens.
After a while, she realized she was not alone.
A large grey and rather dirty dog was staring at her.
She was not going to be fooled this time and the memory of the one time that she did made her smile faintly. This was not a Lyccan for sure. It was incredibly dirty. She could not imagine any Lyccan allowing himself to be dirty like this. And those wounds!
Her heart went out to the dog. “Hey, doggie…”
She stood up carefully and took one small step closer. “Promise, I won’t hurt you…”
She took another step closer, gauging its mood but it only continued staring at her.
When she reached its side, she bent down to touch its head.
It bit her instead.
She yelped and her hand went up.
Misty was intending to check her wound, but when the dog tensed silently in front of her Misty realized that it expected her to hit back.
Somehow, the defensive stance of the dog brought tears to her eyes, reminding her of how Matteo could now only rely on Domenico and the rest of them to hit back against his cold-blooded murderers. And Kevin – what would happen to her brother if the Lyccan Council refused Domenico’s bid for his transformation?
She wiped the tears away. Glancing down at the dog, Misty said softly, “I’m not going to hurt you. I know you’re just afraid and wary. But whoever it was that did hurt you, I hope he rots in hell.”
She checked her gash and was thankful it wasn’t bleeding. Only a bit of skin had been torn away.
Somehow, she could imagine that the same man who had hurt this dog had hurt Kevin…and killed Miguel.
Without knowing it, she slid to the ground and cried.
“I can’t believe they killed Miguel. He was a good man…And my brother…he didn’t do anything…”
She covered her face and wept soundlessly.
When her tears had dried, she looked up but the dog was gone.
A few seconds later, she heard leaves rustling and then Domenico was there, crouched in front her, and she reared back in shock. She should be used to his speed by now, but he wasn’t.
“What are you doing on the ground, darling?” Domenico asked gently.
She shook her head.
He had a faint idea why but he didn’t speak of it. He simply helped her up. “Stick by me, mm?”
She nodded, silent as he dusted off her dress.
And then they walked back together inside.
Domenico kept her at his side as promised, sometimes holding her hand, other times with his arm curled around her waist, his hand resting on her hip. She could feel everyone staring at her but she did her best to stay composed. She still didn’t understand what her role in Lyccan politics would be so for now, she was simply observing.
Possibly the most intriguing thing that happened was when the Castellano pack leader went to Domenico and offered his condolences. She had expected him not to acknowledge her, maybe even treat her rudely because of what had happened to his son, but he had not. He glanced at her, so briefly that she wondered if she had just imagined it, before concentrating fully on Domenico.
The next day, Misty accompanied Domenico to a meeting with his investigators.
“We suspect the same group of assailants behind recent Lyccan murders is behind the incident four days ago.” The investigator’s name was Harlan, a barrel-chested half-Lyccan who was also a former Navy SEAL.
“There is evidence then?” Domenico asked.
“Yes. We’re confident we’ll be able to provide vital clues tomorrow at the latest. They were unusually sloppy that night. It was as if they were taking advantaging of the fact that you were gone. Their movements were not as coordinated as their other attacks, not as planned.”
Harlan sighed. “But our earlier theory appears even more credible than ever. There is a Lyccan traitor involved – even if he or she is not the one who murdered the victims.”
When they were alone in the limousine, Misty couldn’t help reflecting on how Matteo used to be the one with them in the car at all times. Tears rushed to her eyes once more, but she blinked them away rapidly. She did not want to be weak in front of Domenico. He was doing his best for her and everyone was depending on him. She wanted to be his strength rather than being just another burden to him.
“Domenico?” she said when she had recovered sufficient control over herself.
“Who do you think is behind the attacks against Lyccans?”
“Not humans, definitely.”
Her eyes widened at the implication of those words. “A new species?”
Domenico smiled briefly at her surprise. “If we existed, don’t you think other non-human races would as well?”
“And why are they targeting your species, whoever or whatever they may be?”
“How do wars start?”
He shook his head. “Insanity. There’s always this one person who’s insane enough to think he can control the whole world. When one person starts to believe that, then war starts.”
She bit her lip. “And marrying me? Are you sure marrying me didn’t hurt your chances of saving your race from war?”
Domenico turned to look at her, touching her face with gentle fingers. “Misty, you and only you are the key to my success.”
She held his hand and kissed it. “I’m scared,” she admitted in a shamed whisper. “I want to help you find the person who killed Matteo and hurt Kevin, but I don’t know how to start.”
His heart constricted at the love blazing in Misty’s eyes.
Why did her every word, her every touch and action move him so? Domenico pulled her into his lap, hugging her tightly to him, kissing her hair. “You help me just by staying at my side.”
She hugged him back just as tightly. “I’m sorry about Matteo, Domenico. I know he’s a long-time friend of yours.”
Domenico closed his eyes, the memories he had of his happier times with Matteo when they were kids going through his mind and each of them hurt. “He was more than a man who had worked for me. He was my confidant. He knew and understood what I was about to do even without saying it.”