Invitation Accepted Chapter Fourteen

Image from Unsplash taken by Jannis Lucas

You can find the story from the beginning here

“And you never thought to tell me!” Gareth hissed.

Kidder edged his way towards the door of the empty mill room. “I’ll just go and get…” he said.

“I’ve never asked you about your love life,” Carli said. “What difference does it make?”

“You didn’t tell me that your last boyfriend was a werewolf,” Gareth snarled. “So when I was trying to work everything out, you just smiled and watched me struggle.”

“It wasn’t like that!” Carli snapped back. “By the time that came up I was too busy dealing with Bron.”

“Leave me out of it,” Bron said.

“But you could have said something,” Gareth said.

Kidder bumped into Rhys in the doorway. “You do not want to go in there,” Kidder said.

“They’re going to be bringing up the machinery after lunch,” Rhys said. “I thought I’d have a quick sniff around.”

“When was I supposed to say something?” Carli snapped. “One minute we’re working up to holding hands, the next minute we’re neck deep in this, this, this non-normal stuff.”

“I don’t know,” Gareth growled. “Any time you felt like it. You know, when we were looking after Kidder you could have said something.”

“But Kidder didn’t need to hear an argument then,” Carli said. “He was in a really bad way.”

“I’m not sure that I need to hear an argument now,” Kidder murmured to Rhys, who grinned.

“And I didn’t need to go looking through Sir Philip’s phone to find the map and find pictures of you,” Gareth shouted. “And looking like that!”

Kidder and Rhys’ heads snapped around to stare at Carli, who ignored them.

“You’re only after me for my looks, aren’t you?” Carli cried.

“You didn’t look like the photo when you first came into the mill,” Gareth yelled. “I hardly recognised you under that makeup.”

“I was a design student,” Carli said. “Of course I was going to experiment with my look.”

“You looked like an extra in a cheap vampire porno,” Gareth said bluntly.

Kidder and Rhys winced. “He’s never going to get back from that,” Kidder said.

“At least there’s only one of me in here,” Carli snapped back.

“And then I find, from Sir Philip and not you, that you had to leave Birmingham to get away from an abusive werewolf boyfriend,” Gareth snarled. “What happens if he follows you here? It would be great if I could have a little warning.”

“Because being ambushed by a werewolf is getting a bit run of the mill,” Bron added.

Rhys shrugged. “He’s got a point,” he said.

“You stay out of this,” Carli said. “I can look after myself, you wouldn’t need to get involved.”

“You could look after yourself so well that you needed a Knights Templar escort to get here, which is where you met Sir Philip, and if there was a werewolf problem, it would be me that had to deal with it,” Gareth yelled.

“Okay, I may have had a Knights Templar escort,” Carli said with dignity. “But I was coming up here after finishing my design degree. I’d been speaking to Uncle Luke…”

Silence rippled across the room.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Rhys murmured to Kidder.

“Luke is your uncle?” Gareth asked coldly.

“Listen, there was some sort of row between him and my mother before I was born,” Carli said. “It doesn’t matter, I just need you to hear me.”

“When were you planning on telling me?” Gareth asked.

“I don’t know!” Carli said. “It wasn’t important.”

“And knowing that I should be prepared for a potential werewolf stalker wasn’t important?” Gareth’s voice was icy. “Even if our personal relationship was unimportant to you, I would need to know as the paladin.”

“But he’s not coming,” Carli said. “Gareth, please, listen to me.”

“Are there any more surprises that I need to know as the paladin?” Gareth asked. “Because I don’t think it’s worth asking about the personal level. I can see that there’s nothing left there.”

“It’s not like that!” Carli yelled. “I was desperate, my stepfather was on the verge of war with the local pack leader and then Uncle Luke got in back in touch with mum about closing down the factory.”

“Are you sure about that?” Gareth yelled back, waving a hand around the room. “Because three industrial looms are coming out of storage and getting set up in here and that doesn’t look like the mill is closing to me.”

“No! Stop twisting my words,” Carli cried. “When Uncle Luke found out that I was graduating in clothing design, he thought he could maybe pass things on. I didn’t want anyone to treat me different, so…” She stared at Gareth. “You wouldn’t have taken me for dinner if you’d known.”

“Lass, that’s not the right thing to say,” Bron said. “What you’re saying is that you would have only gone out with Gareth as part of a lie.”

“That’s not what I meant at all!” Carli said. “And when Uncle Luke saw how Gareth was making a difference in sales…”

“No wonder he was so protective of you,” Gareth said. “And what’s that you said about your stepfather. Is he a werewolf as well?”

“He led a subpack over at Dudley,” Carli whispered. “He was good to mum, and like a proper dad to me. I won’t hear a word against him. And my ex, well, once the pack leader realised what was going on, he took action and he won’t be bothering us.”

“You,” Gareth said. “He won’t be bothering you. I don’t think that there’s an us anymore. After all, you’re the niece of a mill owner and likely to inherit the whole thing and your stepfather is important in the non-normal world. I know when I’m out of my league.”

“You’re a paladin, dammit,” Carli shouted. “And you wouldn’t treat me any different.”

“Are you sure about that?” Gareth said. “Even if I didn’t treat you different, would you always be looking out for it?”

“He has a point,” Bron said.

“Stay out of this,” Carli snarled.

There was a long pause as Kidder and Rhys inched away.

“Don’t cry,” Gareth said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”

“I know,” Carli sniffed before breaking into full sobs. “But I’m so scared to lose you.”

“I’m going nowhere,” Gareth said softly. “Come here.”

Kidder glanced back and saw Carli leaning against Gareth as he held her close, stroking her hair. “You may need to stall the looms,” he said to Rhys.

Rhys grinned. “They’ll be fine in a minute,” he said. “I can’t remember when I last saw a pair so besotted with each other. They haven’t worked it out properly yet, but they will.”

Kidder nodded, a little shyly. “She’s a really good person,” he said to Rhys. “And Gareth and Bron are decent people. They’ve all been very kind to me and Mortimer.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Rhys said. “Or I’d be having words with them.” His phone rang. “Excuse me.” He strode off to a corner near the stairs.

Kidder peeked back at the couple before ducking quickly back. “It looks like everything’s alright again,” he grinned at Rhys as he returned before seeing Rhys’ expression. “Is everything alright?”

“Claire has died,” Rhys said. “That’s Mark’s wife. I need to get back to the pack. Can you have a sniff around and make sure that Romeo does a check as well, just to be sure?”

“Of course, mate,” Kidder said. “And I’m really sorry. Please pass on my condolences.”

“Thanks,” Rhys said.

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