Here's another update! Please review, I'm trying to work on my writing more and keep it clean and well done! Also, trying for another chapter before June.


Ethan parked his bike outside of the small cottage that Melinda had given him the address for. He had called Chris before making the trip down the highway and around the many switchbacks and looking around he could understand why Melinda had chosen to live here. It was peaceful, quiet, and clearly demon free. Ethan pushed open the gate and saw the little fairy that was next to it glow softly as he passed and smiled to himself.

Still using that old thing? He thought. The fairy had been an invention of Aunt Paige as she refined her home security after having children. It simply glowed if someone with magical powers or was a magical creature passed it and set off a shrieking sound if a magical person with evil intentions passed it.

Ethan moved through the short pathway up to the front door. He made a wide swing around the wolfsbane that she had planted along the fence line snarling a little as it seemed to reach for his jacket. Chris had opened the door and was leaning against it as he approached, smiling a little.

"Why does she have to plant that shit every time? She knows I hate it." Ethan reached out and grabbed Chris in a hard hug. He felt the wince that ran through Chris's body and quickly let go.

"Ok, so what the actual hell happened to you? The Great Chris Halliwell actually injured and off of firejumping I didn't that was possible."

Chris managed a weak smile and moved down the hall to the kitchen. "Well, it's a really long story that we can get into later, but the quick version…" Chris reached into the fridge and hooked two beers, gesturing Ethan to sit at the table. He settled into his chair and passed the beer to Ethan. "A demon killed and impersonated my friend and tried to kill me in the woods in the middle of a fire."

Ethan paused with the beer halfway to his mouth, "If that was the quick version, I don't think I want to know the whole story." He glanced over just before the door opened and the girls came in.

Melinda put a pot of water on to boil and started getting out her ingredients for spaghetti sauce. "Did you guys manage to catch up a little? Or do we need to go over all the details?"

"I gave him the short story," Chris said. He took the plates that Primrose handed him and started setting them around the table. He glanced over at Ethan who was helping set out silverware. "What are you doing up here?"

"Pack business." Ethan answered. He looked around at them, "Why are so many of y'all up here? If Chris killed the demon that attacked him…"

Chris cut him off before he could finish the sentence, "I didn't kill the demon. He almost killed me and got away." Chris looked down into his beer rather than admit to his friend that he hadn't vanquished the demon. He felt guilty and embarrassed when it was brought up, the last demon that had managed to get away from him had been in high school.

"So, the girls came up to find the demon?" Ethan leaned back in his chair and studied their faces. Melinda looked nervous and was staring at the vegetables as she chopped him. Primrose was picking at her nails and Pepper had resumed her nervous habit of twirling her hair. "Guys, what is going on here? I've known you almost all of my life and I can't remember the last time you acted this way."

Melinda looked at him and chewed on her lip for a minute before appearing to come to a conclusion. "The demon that attacked Chris claimed to be the same one that killed Mom."

Ethan sat forward at that statement, "Do you know if it's true?" He asked, looking between Melinda and Chris.

Chris shook his head and picked up his beer, but didn't drink it. "No, but my gut tells me he wasn't lying. He wasn't planning on letting me live, so why lie at that moment?" He glanced over at his sister who nodded her assent, and Ethan seemed to take Pepper and Primrose's silence as agreement.

Ethan nodded, and seemed to take a harder look at Chris looking over his sling and cane that was leaning against the table. "How hurt are you? Can you fight at all?"

Chris shook his head again and shifted in the chair to get the weight off his hip. "I'm pretty banged up and in physical therapy for a while. I could maybe toss some with telekinesis, but actually fighting is not going to happen."

Melinda looked at Ethan and frowned. He had seemed concerned at first, but now looked simply worried. "What's going on? What pack business brought you to Sea Haven?"

"I'm here to enforce the Law on a rogue werewolf. He's biting people without pack consent or the consent of the humans. Of the two people that we are aware of, neither has survived the bite." Ethan dragged his hand through his hair as he spoke. "I knew Melinda was living here, but she can blast anything at comes at her. But, Chris…. You being hurt changes the game. The werewolf isn't to be killed, not yet anyway, he's losing his teeth. He could come after me since I'm the enforcer and hurt you in the process. Or he could just attack you regardless."

Ethan was torn about his job. He had been an enforcer for his father's pack since he was in high school. Originally, he had been keeping track of where werewolves lived and worked, making sure they kept quiet about being a werewolf, and running herd on the younger wolves. As he had grown older and stronger his father had moved him to more dangerous jobs and enforcing the Law. Sometimes, the Law came with a price.

Pepper leaned forward and touched Ethan's arm. She could feel the concern and worry pouring off him in almost visible waves.

"Hey, we have known you and your family for over a decade. We all watch out for each other and have since your dad came to our moms for help. This werewolf sounds like an ass, but whatever he does isn't your fault. We can protect ourselves."

Ethan smiled at her, but still remained worried. "Outside of a full moon, a werewolf acts and looks just like a regular person. There aren't a lot of tells that a mortal can spot. He might hurt you in human form or drug you or whatever. All of you have to promise to stay watchful and not be trustful of strangers. I need to track him tonight and tomorrow and I'm taking care of him tomorrow night at the soonest."

All the Halliwells quickly chorused their agreement, but Melinda turned after stirring the pasta sauce she had finished. "Same goes Ethan, our demon can have any face. You know from experience that demons are just as interested in werewolves as witches."

Ethan gave an exaggerated wince as he remembered his first ever run in with a demon. It had been hunting his family for their teeth and blood, apparently they could be used in dark potions and spells. It had been that series of attacks that led his father, the Alpha, to go to the Charmed Ones for help and protection.

Ethan nodded his understanding and stood to take the cups Pepper had gotten out of a cupboard. "I will be on the lookout. We might want to consider training some more as well."

Pepper and Primrose groaned in displeasure, but Melinda easily smiled. "Oh that's great," she said. "I've been working on some new moves and I needed someone to practice on." Ethan laughed and promised to work with her before leaving the next day to track his werewolf.


Brody scrapped his feet as he entered his mother's house. Joley had few rules about cleanliness with seven sons, but clean shoes had ranked at the top of the list. He could hear most of his brothers and a few cousins sitting down to dinner in their massive dining room.

He walked in and waved as the hellos rang out from his family. He kissed his mother on the cheek, clapped his father on the shoulder and sat down. The family had apparently already said the blessing as food traveled down the table and people passed rolls from multiple baskets.

"How was your shift, Brody?" His father asked looking down the table at him.

"It was fine, Sea Haven is a quiet town as always. I did see Gavin's girl out shopping with her cousins." Brody gave a quick smile to Gavin as his brothers made aaawww sounds down the table. Brody started to speak again, but was cut off by Alexi, their oldest brother.

"How is it going with Melinda? Did any of our advice help?"

Gavin frowned at his oldest brother, "You didn't give me any advice. You ran her background and found out her first name is Prudence." His brothers laughed, but his mother frowned at that.

"Alexi, did you really run her background? That's not the young men that I raised you to be!"

Alexi's ears started to turn red, a sign that he was either getting angry or embarrassed. "Well, technically I didn't actually run her. Andrei did."

That caused Andrei to throw his napkin at his brother. "I only ran her because you told me to oh saintly older brother," He growled in response. Gregory quickly raised a hand before a fight broke out over the table.

"What's done is done. We already hashed this out at the family meeting a few days ago." Gregory looked at Gavin, and raised an eyebrow. "Did you manage to talk to her at all?"

"Yeah," Gavin answered. His mother still looked angry that Melinda's background had been run, but calmed when his father placed his hand over hers. Ilya looked expectantly at his youngest son.

"She agreed to walk on Drake beach with me tomorrow afternoon before she opens the club. I think we would have talked more, or I could have gotten her to invite me in for a cup of tea or something. But, Chris and her cousin Pepper came back from his therapy appointment and Chris had apparently made Pepper cry. Pepper basically threw herself in Melinda's arms and I left to finish my patrol." He looked around at his brothers and cousins as he spoke. Gregory gave him a thumbs up, and Alexi and Andrei unbent enough to smile at him.

"She seemed more open to going on a date and talking to me so I think that Primrose and Camille got her to calm down. She definitely didn't seem as nervous or skittish, so I feel that I'm making inroads." Gavin shrugged as he smiled like an idiot. It had never been so important to get a girl to go out with him, but he knew the minute they formed a small connection that it would grow to bone-deep soul mate love.

Brody frowned down at his plate. He could hear how happy his brother was and he knew that he was about to act like an ass, but he couldn't stop the words from coming out of his mouth. "Well, as I said. I saw her in town and while I was talking to her a stranger rode up on a motorcycle and hugged her. In fact, this guy, Ethan, apparently knows her quite well since he felt comfortable enough to kiss her on the lips. And she feels comfortable enough with him to allow him to sleep in her house while he is in town."

Silence dropped over the previously noisy table. His mother started twisting her napkin her in hands and Gavin had gone as still as a statue. "What did you just say?" Gavin asked quietly. He could feel the anger building in him at his brother. Why did he have to drop that bombshell in the middle of family dinner?

Brody pushed his chair back and stood up facing his brother, "I said, apparently there is at least one guy that she is comfortable enough with to let him kiss her. So maybe, despite what you feel, she isn't the right girl." He could hear each word coming out louder and louder until he was shouting at his brother.

Gavin stood as well and got in Brody's face. "Why are you being like this?" He gestured at his brother in frustration and anger. "Not every girl is a cheater Brody, not every girl is stringing men along and trying to get what she wants from them. Not every girl is freaking Catherine!" Gavin was seeing red and panting as he shouted back at his brother. He could feel someone's hands pulling him away from his brother and assumed it was Gregory, he tended to play peacemaker when they all fought like this.

Brody took a swing at him when he brought up Catherine, Gavin ducked it and brought his own fists up when he heard his father roar at them. "Stop this instant!"

Immediately, all seven brothers froze and turned to look at their father. He had been the rule maker and enforcer when they were growing up, no one ever defied that tone of voice.

"Sit down immediately and listen to me." All the brothers complied, though Gavin shot Brody a hot look that promised revenge later.

"I admit that I was very jealous that your mother had a romantic history before me. It was not my shining moment," he reached down and took her hand to kiss the back.

Joley rolled her eyes at him, "That's a bit of understatement, Ilya. I believe you threatened to kill anyone that touched me."

Ilya chuckled and turned her hand over to kiss the center of her palm. "I was simply consumed with love for you." Joley muttered to herself, "Consumed with something, that's for sure." He gave her a look and she subsided and he turned back to Gavin.

"Melinda has a past that we already know is riddled with questions and loss." Alexi had filled his dad in on the meeting between the cousins. "But, you cannot get enraged every time that past is brought up. Wait and see what she does about this young man. He could simply be a family friend, you are very affectionate with your cousins after all."

"I don't kiss my cousins on the lips," Gavin muttered. He wasn't really angry or jealous that Melinda had kissed someone. It didn't sound as if it had been a romantic moment. He was more just worried that she wouldn't go on the date anymore. He was already so nervous about scaring her off that he didn't know how to react to this information. At the core, Gavin was a deep romantic. He had the examples of his father and uncles who all adored their wives and would sacrifice anything for them. When he had become old enough to understand that soul mates for Prakenskii men are fated, he had dreamed of seeing his woman and suddenly knowing her. Of her falling in love with him immediately and them starting a life together. His woman being skittish and having other men sleeping in her house had not even been in a rough draft of how he thought it would go.

Gemma spoke finally, she had been quiet throughout most of the exchange. "Either way tomorrow goes it will mean a great deal. If she cancels the date because this family friend is in town, that means he is very important to her and you will need to trend lightly with how you react. If she doesn't cancel the date that means that he isn't someone that she is romantically interested in, because a girl really wouldn't go on a date with one guy if she's into a guy that is sleeping in her house." She sent a small smile to Gavin.

"Wait and see, Gav. You don't even know who this guy is."

Gavin nodded a little begrudgingly. He knew that everyone in the family was going to hear about this. He could almost hear all the unwanted advice that aunts, uncles, and cousins were going to give him.

"Trust her," his mother said. She smiled at him with her usual spunk. "Your dad had to chase me for nearly a year before I would even talk to him."

"What?" This was the first that Gavin was hearing this.

"Yeah, I didn't trust him at all. So, show her that you are trustworthy and you aren't trying to hurt her. Don't promise you never will because sometimes love means you hurt the people you care about most. But show her, be kind, listen, and be patient." Joley smiled again and reached over and took her husband's hand.

Gavin smiled as he saw that connection and resolved even more to not give up. He glanced at Brody and frowned. He was still very angry with his brother, but decided to handle that away from his mother where he could get a punch in at least.


Melinda crept quietly down the stairs the next morning. Primrose and Pepper were still sleeping since they had agreed to close the club for her and she knew that Ethan was sleeping on her couch. She glanced into the living room and could hear him snoring and see his feet drooping off the end of the couch. He had said that he needed to run since the full moon was coming and wanted to get a lay of the local land before tracking the rogue.

She tiptoed down the hall past Chris's room since she had no idea if he was awake yet or not and nearly ruined all that work by almost screaming when she heard him.

"Want a cup of coffee, Mellie?"

Melinda plastered a hand to her chest and gasped for air. She could feel her heart pounding under her hand and had almost peed herself.

"Why are you awake?" She hissed at her brother. Chris was calmly sitting at the kitchen table with the newspaper and breakfast.

"Since I can't actually go anywhere or do anything, I've been catching up on sleep. I woke up really early and couldn't get myself to go back to bed this morning." Chris frowned at his sister and looked at the clock. "Why are you up? It's really early for you."

Melinda finally moved away from the wall and took at seat next to Chris. "Prim and Pep closed for me, I have a date with Gavin Prakenskii and they seem to think I will need 6 hours to get ready for it."

Chris raised an eyebrow in surprise, "So you did agree to go out with him? I'm impressed, normally they have to be much shorter and less intimidating for you to agree to a date." He laughed as she made a face back at him.

"I'm not that bad," she denied hotly.

"Piglet, the last guy you agreed to a date with was the club accountant Peter. He was shorter than you, wore thick glasses and I'm pretty sure weighed less than you."

She scowled at him and got back up to grab herself a cup of coffee and something to eat. "When did Ethan get in last night?"

"Around 4am. He woke me up when he came back in so that I knew that he was back. Said he picked up a partial trail for the rouge and was going to follow it more today and tonight. He really wants to get this situation resolved before anyone else gets hurt." Chris shrugged and went back to reading the paper. "I told him again to stop freaking out about a werewolf in the area, but he still looked really worried."

Melinda frowned as she stirred cream and sugar into her coffee. "I think he probably called Wyatt when he saw you." Ethan and Wyatt had the same protective streak that ran a mile wide in both of them. She continued stirring, leading to a small whirlpool forming in her cup. "We need to talk about what to say to Wyatt when he gets here. You and I both know that he isn't going to take our excuses for why you haven't been healed yet."

Chris held the newspaper a little tighter, "Wyatt has never pushed healing on us before and we've both been hurt by demons before."

"This is different Chris, this time you almost died. With the demon still out there and now a rogue werewolf somewhere nearby, Wyatt isn't going to back down. Do we tell him the truth?"

"No!" Chris was adamant in his refusal. "That would start a war. Wyatt is good this time, really good. For Christssake he's digging wells in Somalia and saving the last of the rhinos. When people hear Wyatt Halliwell they feel safe, they know they can go to him and he will help them. We are not risking all of that over me."

Melinda got wide-eyed and looked down into her coffee. Chris could be intense, they all knew he was wound a little tight. Melinda had always wondered just how much of the old future Chris remembered. She knew that he dreamed about it since they had all heard some of his shouts and screams as children, but he never discussed it.

Chris looked down a little shamefaced, he knew that he had overreacted. He made himself unclench his fists and let go of the now crumpled newspaper. There was no reason to ever think that Wyatt would turn dark, he was simply too filled with the light. But, Chris only had to close his eyes to see his beloved brother standing over him dressed in black and holding an energy ball. To see the maniacal look in his eyes, to see the darkness that could have existed.

"We cross the bridge when we get there. Wyatt, as far as we know, is still in Africa. We can't create more problems for ourselves." Chris looked back at the paper and tried to eat more of his breakfast.

Melinda nodded and sat back down at the table. An awkward silence held over them until nearly an hour later as Primrose wandered in.

"Morning," she mumbled as she went straight to the tea kettle. She placed it on the burner and stared at it as if she could make it boil faster. Pepper stumbled in a few minutes later and reached around her sister to tap the outside of the kettle. A few minutes later it whistled as the water boiled.

The two sisters sat down and started eating, it was when they were both on their second cup of tea they realized how quiet Chris and Melinda were.

"Did something happen?" Pepper asked, she looked between her cousins with a worried look.

"We had a little argument over something, that's all," Chris said. His tone made it clear that he wasn't answering anymore questions. Melinda shrugged when they looked at her and continued to crumble her toast into thousands of pieces on her plate.

Primrose and Pepper exchanged a long look, and came to a decision together.

"Well, let's get this cleaned up and changed into workout clothes," Primrose said cheerfully. Melinda looked at her questionably. "You were the one that said we needed to train with Ethan, Melllie. So, let's get up and get that happening."

Melinda nodded and gave a small smile even that little attempt dropped when she looked at her brother. Primrose just kept talking and moving, a trick she had learned from her mother. "Well, someone needs to wake Ethan up. He can lay back down for a nap while Mellie is on her date before we all go to the club."

"I will!" Pepper excitedly said and rushed out of the room to poke Ethan awake. She was mostly interested in poking his bare chest and admiring his six pack. Ethan had stated last night that he normally slept naked, but would be a gentleman and keep his underwear on while he was staying with them.

"She does realize that he has to marry another werewolf, right?" Primrose asked with a hint of worry in her voice.

Melinda looked up from the dishes and shook her head a little. "It's not that he has to, it's that his father wants him too. With a non-werewolf, but still magical partner he has like an 85% chance of werewolf babies. It could be even higher since he's a member of the Alpha family."

Primrose pursed her lips and shook her head, "I still think this crush she has on him is a bad idea. She's too immature and he's too…." Primrose waved her hands around searching for the word. "Earthy, sexy, manly is all that I'm coming up with."

Chris choked back a laugh as Primrose continued to throw words out that she thought could apply to the situation. "Prim, let it go unless he actually starts acting interested in her. I think Ethan mostly sees her a slightly annoying younger sibling."

She started to reply, but snapped her mouth shut as Ethan walked into the room.

"Please god, let there be coffee before I start kicking asses back into shape," was all he said as he came in.


After getting her ass kicked and taking a shower, Melinda found herself standing in her closet with the realization she had nothing to wear. She had demon hunting clothes, work clothes, gardening clothes, but no date clothes. She screamed in frustration and threw herself into the pile of clothes she had created on her floor. She contemplated canceling the date, but she didn't have Gavin's number. An idea that had been created on the premise that she couldn't cancel the date if she couldn't text him and cancel without speaking to him. That of course had been before she realized she had nothing to wear.

Primrose and Pepper stuck their heads into her closet and stared at her. They had never in their entire lives seen Melinda's room so messy, as children even her dolls had been organized and kept neat and tidy.

"Mellie?" Primrose sounded like she was holding back laughing.

"I have nothing to wear! I can't go on a date on the beach in September in leather or stained cotton!" Melinda shrieked as she held up random articles of clothing. "Call him and cancel! You're cupids! It'll be nicer from you!"

Pepper was now openly laughing at her and holding onto the door frame to keep herself from falling to the pit of clothes.

"Oh, stop," Primrose said. She was also smiling and holding back a laugh. "There are totally options in here for a casual afternoon walk on the beach. Where are your jeans?"

Melinda rolled onto her knees and dug through one of the closet drawers. "I have these?" She held them up with the question mark all but coming out of her mouth.

"Oh hell no, you are not wearing saggy mom jeans on a date with one of the hottest men you have ever met." Primrose snatched those out of her hands. "We are burning these jeans later in a sacrifice for a good date. Where are the skinny jeans that I bought your for your birthday? You have a great figure, let's show it off."

Melinda made a face and tried to get her jeans back, but Primrose bunched them up and threw them into the hall. "I think those jeans are too tight, I don't like them."

"Where are they?"

"I don't like them."

"Where are they?

"I don't like them."

"Do not make me cast a spell to find those jeans, Melinda."

Pepper was basically rolling on the floor she was laughing so hard. It was almost like their mother had just walked into the closet. Phoebe had openly stated several times that it was Chris and Wyatt's fault Melinda didn't dress more feminine or in better fitting clothes. Phoebe was convinced the boys did it on purpose to keep Melinda from dating in high school.

Melinda pouted, but dug into another drawer and unearthed the skinny jeans. The tag was still on them.

"Fantastic, take the tag off and put them on." Primrose nodded as Melinda kicked off her sweats and pulled on the jeans. They molded to her body, but still had stretch and movement in the legs, they also fit exactly as they were supposed to.

"Fine, ok I never tried them on. But what do I wear for a shirt? It's nice out up here, but the beach could be cold." Melinda turned and looked at herself in the mirror. She didn't want to admit it to her cousin, but she did actually look nice.

"Here," Primrose had dug through clothes in drawers, on hangers, and on the floor as Melinda had changed. She held out a purple top that had flowers in a small casual patter. "And you can wear this cute little oatmeal pullover, it's not a sweatshirt so it works, if you get cold. Paired with a pair of little walking sneakers and you're done. Wear your hair down, light makeup, make sure to put on some lipstick."

Pepper had sat up and was folding Melinda's clothes back into a semblance of order. "I like it," she said. "It's you, its young and fun, but not super fancy for a walk on the beach."

Melinda put it all on and turned and looked in the mirror. It was a little odd to see herself in tighter pants, but not a bad odd just different.

The cousins all sat together and helped Melinda with her hair, to curl or not to curl, and were arguing over makeup and jewelry when Ethan came in. He had gone for a run after working out with them and was still in his workout clothes.

"Melinda, can I borrow your shower? I'll probably take a nap, but I want to be clean before I get back on your couch."

Melinda absently nodded and he stopped on his way out the door to look at her. "Are you going somewhere before work?"

She blushed and continued to sort through different earrings on her table, "Uh, well, I have a date."

"A date?" Ethan stopped and looked her over. He had never been as paranoid about Melinda dating as Chris and Wyatt had been, but he also didn't have any real sisters so Melinda had become his in a way.

"Well, you look really nice and he had better treat you well," was all he could think to say. He ran back down to grab his stuff and hurried upstairs to grab the shower before someone else wanted it.

Ethan was heading back down again a little later, in just his jeans and toweling his hair dry when the doorbell rang. "I'll get it," he shouted up the stairs. He heard something from Melinda's room, but didn't catch all of it before he opened the door.

A young man was standing there and he looked just as surprised to see Ethan as Ethan was to see him. The man took a step back and narrowed his eyes at Ethan, he seemed almost a little territorial. "Is Melinda here? I'm picking her up for a date."

Ethan cocked his head and studied Gavin before responding. "Yeah, she was finishing up getting ready." He stuck out his hand, "I'm Ethan, a family friend. Who are you?"

Gavin shook his hand warily, Ethan didn't try any of those stupid games like squeezing his hand really tightly or seeing who was stronger. "Gavin Prakenskii, I think you met my brother, Brody, yesterday."

Ethan nodded and settled himself against the door frame in a casual manner, but also one that showed he was comfortable enough with Melinda to do so. "Are you also a member of the sheriff's department here?"

"Yeah," Gavin shifted his feet. He knew that he was a strong guy, but there was something about this Ethan guy that was make him nervous. It had to be the unblinking stare, or the fact that he was bare chested in Melinda's house in the middle of the day.

Ethan turned and looked into the house and then looked back at Gavin. "She's coming. Grabbing her purse from the kitchen." Ethan held out his hand again and waited for Gavin to take it before pulling him a little closer and leaning so he could whisper to him. "If you hurt one hair on her head or break her heart I will rip your throat out."

Ethan leaned back, gave a quick smile and slapped him on the shoulder as Melinda came to the door.

Melinda gave Ethan a narrow eyed stare, but he just smiled at her and wished her a good time on her date. Gavin waited till they were in the car and pulling away before he asked.

"So, that guy. He's a family friend?"

Melinda sighed and pushed her hair behind her ear. "Did he threaten you?" she asked.

"Well, just a little," Gavin risked a glance over and was surprised to see her laughing a little.

"Sorry," she managed to get out. "Normally Chris is the one that threatens my dates and I guess since he was in the kitchen and didn't make it to the door in time Ethan took over that role."

Gavin nodded, "So, he's like a brother to you then? If he's threatening dates and whatnot."

"Yeah," Melinda thought about it for a minute. "Ethan doesn't have any sisters and we've know each other's families for years. I suppose that Ethan would be the tough guy big brother, he would take on the bullies for you. If you needed help with school or any problem then you need Chris. He will take massive risks for you and find any information you could have ever thought to ask. And finally, if you needed someone to make you feel better or just listen and not overreact then you go to Wyatt. He's probably the calmest out of that group."

"Where is Wyatt?" Gavin asked. He liked that she was calm and seemed to be having a good time. Weirdly, it seemed that hearing Ethan had threatened him had distracted her from being nervous. Gavin still thought that Ethan had been entirely serious when he had threatened him, it was the flat tone he had delivered it in.

"Wyatt's in Africa doing good-will missions. Honestly, he's probably on his way here soon since Chris got hurt." Melinda shook her head and turned in her seat to face Gavin. "Tell me about your brothers. I've never known someone that had such a big family."

"Well, you've met most of them. Alexi is the oldest and the most responsible, Andrei is the hot head. Gregory and Nicholas are twins and very different. Gregory is the peacemaker, always stepping in and breaking up fights and Nick is a joker and plays a lot of pranks. I learned to firmly lock the shower door when we were growing up or you got ice water or shaving cream dumped on your head. Stephen is quiet and does a lot of reading and Brody is closest to me. He's been a little touchy recently so I've been ignoring him.

Gavin internally rolled his eyes as he thought about Brody. He had tried to punch him last night after dinner, but Gregory got involved and told them to leave each other alone.

As he had explained his family they had arrived at the access to the family beach. He walked around to open her door and had led her down to the beach. Gavin considered reaching for her hand, but didn't want to rush her or accidently touch their palms together and put his mark on her.

They walked on the beach talking of usual first date things and had gotten to most and least favorite foods when they rounded a corner and the Drake House became visible.

Melinda knew her mouth was hanging open, but the house was huge and dramatic over the cliffs leading to the ocean. She could also see another pathway dug into the side of the cliff that allowed the family easy access to the beach. It seemed nearly every room had a balcony that faced the sea and its churning water.

She turned and looked at Gavin, "Is that your cousins' house?"

Gavin had hooked his hands into his pockets and was leaning back at looking up at his family's home. "Yeah, there's seven bedrooms, one for each daughter. So it's a huge house and they all live there until they get married. Then the youngest daughter takes it over with her husband and their daughters."

Something dinged in the far back of Melinda's memory of Magic School history and witch family lineages. There had been a powerful family that was a series of seventh daughter of the seventh daughter.

Melinda craned her head back to get a full view. "Is your family like that?" She turned and her eyes were laughing. "Seven bedrooms for each son and all living at home until you get married?"

Gavin laughed and grabbed her hand to tug her back in the other direction. "Well, I guess. I didn't see the point in moving out since I'm saving money for my own house and my mom wanted all of us to stay if we wanted." He laughed with her when she giggled at that.

Melinda didn't tug her hand free, she liked how it felt to have her hand held so gently by a man that clearly had more strength. She pushed her hair out of her face and smiled shyly at him. Gavin smiled back and gave her hand a gentle squeeze. They walked for a little longer before coming across a bench swing that faced the ocean.

"Here," Gavin gestured for her to sit down and he joined her. "My uncle had this put in for my Aunt Abby, she loves the ocean and could sit and stare at it all day." He slide just a little closer to her and when she didn't give him a look or scoot away he dropped his arm along the back of the bench so his hand rested on her shoulder.

Melinda gave it little glance, but didn't move away or say anything. She could feel her stomach knotting up, but wanted to just see what happened.

Gavin pointed at some seals as they crested in the waves and they watched for a little. Finally, Gavin broached a topic he hadn't been able to stop thinking about.

"Why were you so nervous about going on a date with me?" He asked gently. He turned a little on the bench so he was angled toward her, but left space so she didn't feel crowded.

Melinda chewed on her bottom lip for a moment and it was all Gavin could do not to bend down and kiss her.

"My parents had a very rocky relationship," she finally said quietly. "It was the worst to deal with because they always talked about how much they loved each other, but that it wasn't enough to overcome their issues. They got divorced before Chris was born, and then got back together and had Chris and I, then split again. My dad put a lot of emphasis on working and being there for the people that depended on him and seemed to always forget that we depended on him too. He tended to forget about birthdays, recitals, and games; anything that he felt was more my mom's role or job." Melinda paused and pushed at her hair as the wind played with it. She seemed lost in memories that were a little distasteful.

"They loved each other, but both put other issues and priorities first. They also had the worst fights over money, kids, and those priorities. I just don't want that for myself or my future kids."

Gavin sat in silence for a long minute taking it all in. He didn't know what to say to that. He had never in his entire life doubted that his father deeply and truly loved his mother. Gavin had witnessed them fighting, I mean what kid hadn't seen some kind of fight between their parents. But his memories were of them resolving issues and coming together in the end. He wondered, not for the first time, how exactly his parents had met, he had never known that his mother had not immediately fallen in love with his father until last night.

"I'm sorry that you went through that," he said softly. He took her hand and held it gently, tracing the back of her hand with his thumb.

"It's not your fault," Melinda said. She bit her lip again as she felt his thumb trace gently over her skin. She felt the moment take a more serious turn as if he had wanted to say something earlier, but had waited.

"I would promise not to hurt you like that, but my mom says that's a bad promise to make in a relationship because you can almost never keep it. But I can promise to try as hard as I can to make you my priority."

Melinda looked hard at his face at that comment. It seemed a little serious for a first date, but she had never talked about her parents on a date ever. She was drawn more to this man the longer she spent with him in a way that she had never experienced before.

"You make me nervous," she blurted out. She saw surprise in his eyes before a smile took over his face. "You are the first guy that makes me really want to take a chance on a relationship." Melinda admitted that quietly, still looking at him and saw the smile fade and a more serious look settle in his eyes.

"Then take that chance with me," Gavin heard himself almost pleading. He could feel her slipping away like water through his fingers as she wavered between fear and longing. He could see both in her eyes as she looked at them and the silence and privacy of the beach wrapped around them.

Melinda heard that pleading note and was a little surprised. He had seemed so self-assured earlier and now appeared like she could be his whole world. She saw him almost come to a decision and his hands slip up to frame her face. He slowly leaned down to her, watching to see if she was against this move at any moment. Melinda held herself still, unable to bridge that remaining distance and also not wanting to move herself away, and in that move made her decision as well.

Gavin settled his lips softly on hers, kissing as if she would shatter at the wrong touch. She kissed him back and he kissed her a little harder, still holding her face so gently. Melinda felt her heart open just a little at the absolute gentleness that he was showing her, not rushing, not grabbing and demanding. She lost track of time as they continued to kiss on the swing, the wind swirling around them and wrapping them in safety.

Eventually Gavin's hands left her face and swept down her arms, one arm wrapped around her back holding her closer to him and the other took hold of her left hand and pressed it to his chest. As their kisses grew more passionate her own hands crept onto his shoulders and one swept into his hair as she shifted nearly into his lap.

Gavin could feel his magic reaching out to her, wanting to bring them together. Without conscience thought he pushed their left palms together and pushed his magic, his mark into Melinda's hand. She abruptly pulled away as the shock traveled up her arm.

"What was that?" She asked, holding her arm to her chest and staring at him in confusion and alarm.


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