Annabelle was crying. For the first time in her life, Annabelle Reed was crying.
Tears streaked down her face and dripped from her delicate chin, intermixing with blood on the floor as Zade’s wounds blistered and oozed—a direct result of the wolfsbane that was now in his bloodstream. Annabelle ran her hands through his silver pelt, her only fear that Zade would not be able to heal from this. She wasn’t frightened of his new form, but instead relief washed through her. He no longer had to hide who he was from her. Lycan or not, he was still Zade Whitlock, the only man Annabelle would ever love for the rest of time. To think that Zade had hid this from everyone—even in the old village—was just absolutely heart wrenching for Annabelle to ponder. And the fact that he couldn’t trust her with this secret made the tears fall faster from her crystalline blue eyes, now red and puffy as she stared into the familiar deep amber eyes of the wolf in front of her.
Zade felt as if his insides were slowly melting away, an agonizing sensation that made him shudder in pain. He was losing feeling in his extremities, specifically his tail, which was twitching atop Annabelle’s bare feet. He didn’t know which hurt more—the fact that the one person he had been trying to protect all along knew what a monster he was or the fact that he allowed himself to be taken advantage of by a snarky witch. Vesta could’ve harmed Annabelle, killed her; this thought infuriated him to no end. He wanted nothing more than to seek her out and feed her to wild animals in the woods. But Annabelle still didn’t know what a nasty creature Vesta was, and all things considered, old habits die hard. He wasn’t going to tell her. All Zade wanted was Annabelle to be safe—from him, from Vesta, from anything and everything in the world. And since she was so rebellious, like him, he would prefer to be by her side should she find something dangerous accidentally or purposely.
Annabelle stood up and fetched some water from the kitchen and wet a rag. She rushed back to Zade and wrung out the rag, letting the cool water drip into his bloodied mouth. He made a noise of appreciation that sounded like a small cough. But when his eyes started to close, she soon realized that water wasn’t enough, and nearly ran to the refrigerator, gripping the venison steak they were going to have for dinner tomorrow evening. She tossed it into the microwave and let it warm up, watching the meat rotate incessantly until she got so impatient and filled with worry that she burned her hands as she carried it over to Zade, the deer blood staining her pallms.
Zade could smell it in front of him. His tongue stretched out and lapped at the steak, reveling in the taste of hot blood. It ignited something in him, most likely his instincts, and he lifted his head.
“Oh Zade,” Annabelle sighed. “Here, eat.”
And he did. He was careful not to be too wild in front of Annabelle, still secretly expecting her to run from him in fear. He almost bit her hands as she was feeding him the steak and he instantly whined his apology. She shushed him and continued to feed him, and then she trusted him enough to let him lick the blood from her hands. She could see that the steak helped him a lot; he was almost able to stand on his paws. His body was shaking visibly and Annabelle raked her fingers through the fur on his abdomen, checking for external wounds. She palpitated a small laceration and went to retrieve some bandages but by the time she returned, the laceration had stitched itself together and was healing, the only remnant of it a little raised line of flesh.
In a matter of minutes, he was on his feet, a little unsteady still but Annabelle helped him stay upright until he was completely capable of standing on his own.
All Annabelle could do was stare at him in wonder. She watched his colossal chest rise and fall with each breath. She took in the details of his new body—the exact shade of his fur, the way his muscles stretched as he sauntered around her, head dropped down in shame. He retreated into the living room and plopped himself on the floor, his emotions a mixture between mortification and disgust.
Annabelle followed him and sat beside him on the ground. She smiled and hugged him, burying her face against the fur of his shoulder, ignoring the smell. She lifted his paw and gently curved it around her. Annabelle knelt next to him and crawled between his front legs, there curling up against him and closing her eyes.
“Everything will be all right Zade…” she whispered. “I’m not going anywhere.”
That night passed at an almost cruel, slow pace. It was a torturous wait for morning, and Annabelle almost didn’t believe that this was real. The hours passed, neither moved an inch. Annabelle listened to the racing heartbeat that thrummed in Zade’s chest. She absentmindedly ruffled the fur of his paw as it settled nicely on her lap. She’d come to realize that she'd never felt more safe and secure than she did while nestled in her werewolf's embrace.
Zade was entirely unsure of how to react to Annabelle’s sweet, sincere acceptance. He was stunned that she would accept him so willingly, and now that she knew the truth, he didn’t know if she would leave or not. Her touch, gently caressing his sleek hair, drove him insane. It jolted his heart every second that she was laying against his body, so peaceful, so calm, the warmth of her skin igniting his nerves.
Neither of them noticed the sun peeking over the horizon. It wasn't until the mass of hair covering Zade’s body began to thin out, and his body began to darken and reform, that she realized it was finally morning, and he was becoming human again.
Annabelle stopped breathing, unable to do anything but watch until the transformation was complete.
It was the most beautiful thing she had ever witnessed. Some might not have seen it that way; some might have closed their eyes or turned away in disgust. Bones shrank in places and grew in others, his body twisting and convulsing as it put itself back together. It wasn't exactly every little girl's dream come true. But, to her, it was the most spectacular sight she had ever seen in her life. She was seeing him, the real him, all of him.
A minute later, he was once again the boy she'd grown up with, his soft skin strikingly beautiful.
"Bella," he breathed out, unconcerned about the seemingly trivial fact that he was naked.
She sighed in relief at the sound of his voice, gorging herself on a sharp intake of breath to keep herself from getting woozy. "Oh Zade. It’s all right. You made it. You’re okay," she told him, one solitary tear beginning to leak from her eyes. He closed his own and turned his head away, moving towards his dresser. He grabbed fresh clothes and in a second he was dressed in a pair of basketball shorts.
“No I’m not,” he said disconsolately, turning to the door so quickly Annabelle barely even noticed until she heard the door slam behind him, and Zade swiftly disappeared into the dawn.