Lelia did not remember much about the night she met Jeremy Moore.
She remembered going to the club, Fever, in Midtown. She remembered drinking, but not that much because they were overpriced and not that awesome. She hadn’t been looking to hook up. She’d just wanted to dance and celebrate her new job, and mentally flip her parents off for their snotty attitude about her dropping out of college. She didn’t need a liberal arts education to be successful, no matter what they said.
She remembered seeing Jeremy watching her from the other end of the bar… and then she was waking up in her rumpled bed next to him. She’d totally freaked out, waking him up, and he’s gotten pissed at her for “pretending” to not remember anything. But he’d grabbed her phone and put his number in, anyway, and told her to call him if she ever decided to stop screwing around, and he’d left.
Lelia was sure, now, that she’d been drugged or something. She just wasn’t sure how. But the second his name came up with the police, the interview had ended, and she’d been rushed out the door.
All she was sure of was that he’d gotten her pregnant. He was the only guy she’d had sex with in months.
It had taken her a few months to figure out what was wrong with her. Why she was sick and tired all the time. She knew now that she didn’t want to face the truth and had procrastinated taking a pregnancy test. She’d then spent a lot of time working up the guts to call Jeremy.
His answer? “Bullshit.” And he’d hung up on her.
That had set a fire under her, and she resolved to track his ass down. But while she searched she got sicker and lost her job, and her parents wouldn’t help. She’d “made this bed so now she’d have to lie in it.”
Fuck them, too.
Finally, she’d figured out that Jeremy Moore was the son of some big investment executive or something—which explained why the police wouldn’t listen to her—and decided that if Jeremy was going to be an asshole that she would try to take this up with his father, Jonathan. Maybe he would help her?
But now… now she was at Moore Investments and it was as if the whole world had gone insane.
What had she just seen? Lelia crouched near the wall as the black tower fell, her eyes wide. The occasional car—the occasional police car—drove by, and no one else seemed to notice the battle. The knights in armor. The… monsters! A building fell! People were hurt, dead, and no one seemed to care.
She wasn’t crazy. She wasn’t crazy! Lelia felt tears pooling yet again. All she knew for certain was that she was in trouble and it was Jeremy Moore’s fault. She had come here to see his father, to tell him what Jeremy had done to her, to settle this once and for all, but there they both were, being dragged away by knights in armor. Knights in armor!
She rested her hand on her pregnant belly. She needed help but forced herself to walk away into the dark night before they dragged her away, too.
What was she going to do now?
A few weeks later, Lelia was still trying to answer that question.
Her landlord liked rent money more than he liked her and nobody would hire a pregnant chick, so now she was staying in a women’s shelter near the Waterfront. She wandered the touristy part of the docks, trying to walk off her swollen feet and looking for an answer in the dark water below.
She came to an empty bench and sat down, feeling like a swollen cow and wishing she could go back to that night at Fever and just stab Jeremy in the eye or something. Her life was in shambles and it was all his fault, and now not even the building he’d lived in remained. Both he and his father were considered missing, and she felt like she was the only one who knew the truth.
Oh god, would the monsters come for her, next?
Tears of fright startled from her eyes, and suddenly she was crying her despair into her hands, regardless of who might be passing by.
A young man with long, curly brown hair approached. He was carrying a battered guitar case and he sat at the far end of the bench. He pulled out his guitar and began to play softly, something gentle and intricate and soothing. She looked up, sniffing and wiping her face, embarrassed, and realized he looked familiar. He was one of the shelter volunteers. Steven or Stephen or something. Stephen, that was it.
He pulled a tissue packet from his pocket and handed her one. “I’ve seen you at the shelter. What’s got you so scared?”
Lelia dabbed at her nose, hesitating, but she was so lonely and needed to talk to someone. “It’s a long story.”
Stephen smiled and rested his hands on the strings of his guitar. “I have all the time in the world.”
She laid her hand on her belly, feeling the baby move. “I ran into a guy at a club named Jeremy Moore. I think he drugged me, but no one will listen to me. I finally tracked him down to Moore Investments—” she stopped. He would think she was crazy. “But they were already gone.” The disappearance and building collapse had been all over the news.
Stephen began to play, again. “I’ve heard of Jeremy and his father. They’re bad news, but Jeremy has good family still here in town. An older brother. They’ll help you, Lelia.” He gestured across the Bay to the spit of land jutting out creating a separation between it and the Pacific Ocean. “He and his family live out on the Point, at Mulcahy House.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out two twenties. “Take a cab out there and tell whoever answers the door that you are looking for Jeremy’s brother and are carrying his son.”
Lelia’s brows rose. “A boy? How do you know that? I can’t go to the doctor.”
Stephen smiled. “It’s just a hunch, but my hunches tend to be good.” He squeezed her hand. “Don’t wait, now. These are good people and they’ll help you. I promise.”
Lelia was afraid, but more afraid of having to do this alone, so she grasped at those frail straws of hope with both hands and called a cab from the shelter.
Mulcahy House was huge, covered in brick and trellises thick with what might be rose canes all the way to the roofline. Hard to tell in late November, though, even in the temperate Pacific Northwest.
The cab rolled away, leaving Lelia with only one real option. She walked down the sandy walkway and gave the ornately carved door a tentative knock.
After a few minutes, the door swung open, revealing a woman not much older than Lelia but with iridescent white hair pulled up in a matronly bun. Very cool. Lelia briefly wondered where she’d gotten it dyed like that. There was something vaguely familiar about her. The woman tilted her head just to one side, curious, and then her gaze dropped to Lelia’s belly. “Oh! Hello. Please, won’t you come in? Would you like some tea?”
Lelia felt something tense inside her release and she almost burst into tears with relief. “I would love some.”
The woman gave her a smile and opened the door further to give Lelia room to come inside. “My name is Winter Mulcahy. Let me show you the way to the kitchen and we’ll get you settled in.”
But Winter was already leading the way down the wide hallway, past the front entryway filled with a riot of pictures, past room after warmly lit room, until they arrived at last at the biggest kitchen Lelia had ever seen. It was warm and cozy, and yet the space was soaring with a massive, battered table to one side and multiple refrigerators and freezers on the other, separated by a long island bar. The space smelled like the holidays, all apple cider and pumpkin spice, and when Winter presented her with a cup of herbal tea it tasted of warmth and home and family. Nothing like her messed up life.
A beautiful young man came in through the sliding glass door with grocery bags and gave Lelia a welcoming smile. He also looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place it.
Winter put several cookies on a plate and passed it to Lelia. “Now, what can we do to help?”
Lelia opened her mouth… and then burst into tears. These people had no idea why she was here, but they were offering to help, anyway. She told her story about Jeremy drugging her and getting her pregnant, and about trying to track him down, only to find—
That was where she knew these people from. She’d seen them near the tower where Jeremy and his father were being dragged away! She jumped up from her stool as best she could and backed away. “I need to go.” If they knew she knew, they might… they might do anything to her. She had to—
She backed into a wide chest that let out a soft grunt at the impact, and she turned to see Jeremy—only not Jeremy. He had dark auburn hair and was shorter and broader, but the same gray eyes and the same face. He was also carrying groceries and looked at her with mild confusion. “You need help?”
What was with these people and offering help?
Winter came around the island and laid a gentle hand on Lelia’s shoulder. “Lelia, this is Etienne Knight, Jeremy’s brother. Etienne, Lelia is pregnant with your nephew.”
Lelia’s eyes widened. “How did you know?”
Winter gave her a gentle smile. “I have my ways. Now, come sit back down. We won’t hurt you.” Her tone was firm, like a teacher or a doctor.
The beautiful young man held out her chair for her and Lelia sat back down, not seeing much of an alternative. “Promise?” Who were these people?
Etienne was looking a bit floored, but he went down on one knee in front of her. “I swear on my life, you won’t come to harm in this house.”
Okay, that was new. “Are you, like, a real knight or something?”
“Yes.” He rose to his full height, which wasn’t all that tall, but that was okay.
Lelia laid her hand on her belly. “Do you know where Jeremy is?”
Etienne nodded. “He’s with his—what’s the word, again?”
The young man answered him. “‘Birth parents.’”
Etienne made a small noise. “Them. He’s very ill. Jonathan made him very ill, and no one knows if he’ll recover.”
Lelia’s face fell. Then there was no hope for help, after all, was there?
Winter took her hands. “Jeremy is sick and can’t help you with his child. We are not. Please, stay here with us. We will help you with everything you need. Both of you.”
Lelia broke down again, hormones and emotions making her vulnerable, and she finally spoke the truth that had been dogging her for months. “I don’t want there to be a both of us. I don’t want this.”
The three looked to each other and Winter looked back at her, determined and compassionate. “Then we will help you until you deliver, and however long you need afterwards. We’ll help you get back to your life, and we will make sure this baby is loved, cherished by family, and never wants for anything.”
Lelia shook with emotion and nodded, whispering, “Thank you. Thank you.”
Winter gave her a gentle hug. “Come upstairs and we’ll get you settled into a room. I think you have time for a nap before dinner, is that right, Cian?”
The young man nodded. “Of course. And if you oversleep, that’s fine. We’ll keep something warm for you.”
Lelia let Winter take her by the hand and lead her upstairs, turning her hope and her child over to these kind strangers.