Home > Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)(11)

Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)(11)
Author: Cassie Alexander

“She got it last spring when they were on sale,” Peter said, so I would know.

It was utilitarian, sure. But every single other coat I owned right now had someone else’s blood on it. I clutched it to my chest and beamed at her. “It’s perfect.”

We were all together there, having some sort of cookie-cutter Christmas, only things were really nice for once. Peter was passing the stuffing when Grandfather started up from his current location, in the kitchen next to the toaster.

“What’s that?” Peter asked.

“A gift from a patient’s family,” I lied quickly, and raced over to the bar. “I didn’t know any German.”

“Well, that’s very kind.”

“Wasn’t it, though?” Grandfather didn’t talk unless—I patted his lid in what I hoped was a pacifying manner and started edging toward my door. There was a knock, and it nearly made me jump out of my skin.

“I’ll get it, dear—” my mother began.

“No! No—no—I’ve got it.” I raced around my kitchen’s tiny bar and teetered up on my heels to look through the peephole. Someone I didn’t know stood outside. He raised his hand to knock again. I opened the door just an inch, prepared to throw my entire weight behind it to close it again if I needed to.


“And you are?” I whispered through the crack.

“You know who I am, silly.” And for a second, his eyes flared brown.

“Asher! You were not invited.”

“I just came to bring you a gift,” he explained as I opened the door wider. “I didn’t know—”

“You knew.” I planted a finger into Asher’s chest. “I told you last night.”

Asher scratched his chin in contemplation. His current chin, one I hadn’t seen before. He was normal looking, just a little on this side of average, clean-cut handsome sliding toward middle age. The Asher I was used to was chiseled-handsome with a fancy car; this version was more the man-next-door who probably knew how to use power tools. “Did you mention it?” he asked.

I gritted out in a low voice, “For a shapeshifter, you’re a really miserable liar.”

“Only when I want to be.” He leaned in and pecked me on the cheek. It was unexpected—both from him and from this new form.

“Who is it, Edie?”

“It’s—” My voice caught. I wasn’t sure what to tell them.

“I’m Kevin. Nice to meet you all.” He waved from outside while scanning around the room to include everyone in his wave.

“Well, come on in, Kevin!” my mother said.

“Oh, no, Mom—”

“It’s Christmas, Edie—”

“I was really just here to drop this off.” He handed me a box. It was tiny, but had a weight to it when I hefted. “To drop this off for my special girl.”

My eyes widened at him—in anger and panic. “Ash-er,” I said, under my breath.

“Really?” My mother’s voice reached new heights. “Did you hear that, Peter?”

“Any friend of Edie’s is a friend of ours. Come in, come in,” he said, waving Asher in.

Jake was the only one who wasn’t fooled. He’d spent a week with me recently, helping me out after I’d been stabbed. He’d had the wisdom not to ask questions—and to be honest, I’d been able to handle most of my own care—but he’d known I hadn’t had any boyfriends calling, either on the phone or in person, during all of that time. He set his shoulders and gave Asher the once-over, subtly jerking up his chin in manly acknowledgment.

Jake being protective of me? Now, that was a change.

“We didn’t bring enough chairs, I’m afraid—”

“That’s fine, because Kevin was going—” I said, trying to close the door.

“Edie! Why didn’t you ever tell us about him?” my mother pressed, unashamed to interrogate me in front of witnesses.

“We just started dating,” Asher began, taking a step inside. “It was an office romance.”

My mother’s bearing straightened. “Are you a doctor?”

Asher laughed. “No. I do computer work for County. Someone downloaded a virus onto a computer on Edie’s floor, and the rest was history.”

“A very short history.” I sighed and let him in. “Come in.”

Asher grinned at me. “I thought you’d never ask.”

* * *

What followed was fairly painless, as these things go. An extra folding chair was hauled from my hall closet. My mother’s cooking was excellent, as always, Peter pontificated on random topics, and Jake kept his head down. Jake was off the drugs—one look at him and you could see it—but while he’d been using, he’d developed an almost vampire-like ability to deflect attention from himself. No one wanted to know anything about my job—and if they did, as a nurse, losing their interest was easy. Most people didn’t want to talk about piss, blood, or shit. And besides, my mother was more interested in my nascent “relationship” with Kevin and the currently vacant status of my womb.

“She’s always been concerned with her career, Kevin,” my mother began, apologizing for me. “But I’m sure if she met a good man, she’d settle down. She could work a normal job—there are nursing jobs during the daytime, my friend Frances has one, and her hospital even provides day care, she told me a few months ago at church. Do you attend church, Kevin?”

Asher did a much better job of answering to a strange name than I would have—I wondered if the forms he took came complete with names imprinted, like those written on the back of T-shirts for summer camp—but it was nice to see that my mother’s stream-of-consciousness way of speaking could derail even him. He swallowed slowly, looking a little pained, like the piece of mashed potatoes in his throat had corners. I grinned maliciously across the table at him.

“Well, Mrs. Spence,” he began.

“Grinder,” Peter corrected, not because he was mad, but because he couldn’t help himself.

“Mrs. Grinder,” Asher continued. “I haven’t been to church in a long time. But I was raised—and this will sound odd, I admit—half Catholic, half Pentecostal.”


“Really. I spent summers with my Catholic grandmother, but my father’s family are foursquare all the way.”

Somehow I doubted that was the case. Sure, someone who’d imprinted on him had probably gone to church once upon a time, but—my mother squinted at him, taking his measure, then she glanced at two-hours-of sleep me. “Well. As long as you practice some sort of religion…” At this late stage in the baby game, as I crested twenty-five and slid down toward thirty, she apparently couldn’t afford to be too picky.

Jake’s phone rang, and he excused himself to take the call.

The whole table held their breath—at least the part of the table directly related to me. Who called someone else on Christmas Day? Family—though I knew both Jake and I would make our calls to Real Dad later—or junkies, who knew no boundaries when it came to the necessity of getting high.

My mother glared at me. If it were up to her, I’d inspect Jake’s phone bill each month, tracing calls back to their sources, making sure that each and every one was church-approved. Unfortunately for her, I didn’t have that much free time, or any inclination. Despite things I’d done in the past, I was not my brother’s keeper. As long as his minutes were under the limit, he could be calling the Dalai Lama. Then again, my Evangelical mother’d hate that even more.

“No, you should come by. Really. There’s already other people here,” we heard Jake say from inside my bedroom.

Asher looked from person to person, wondering what the rest of us were cuing on. Oh, dear God—what if he touched Jake, and after this would be able to rearrange his features to look like him? Or my mother? Whom had he passed a plate to tonight? Just when things were feeling normal—I should have known not to let my guard relax. Then again, after only two hours of sleep, what guard did I have left? I felt the blood drain from my face.

“Edie?” Asher asked.

“It’s okay,” my mother said, putting her hand out toward Asher’s to pat it, an attempt to dissipate the tension we all felt in the room.

“No it’s not!” I lunged across the table to intercept.

“Edie!” Peter reprimanded.

“I’m sorry. It’s just been a long day.” I took Asher’s far hand safely in my own and pulled him toward me. “My family just has some secrets, is all. I’m sure you understand.”

He looked down at my hand clutching his beneath the table, my knuckles white. He squeezed my hand back. “Of course I do, dear.”

“Thanks,” I said, but I didn’t feel it. For all I knew, it was already too late.

Jake returned to the table, gesturing with his phone. “Sorry, that was my ride.”

“We could drop you off, Jake,” my mother began.

“Nah, you guys need to make good time.” He said the words like he was mocking them, because he was.

“Well, at least let us make your mysterious friend a to-go plate.”

“I, for one, want to know what Edie got,” Peter announced.

I glanced over at Asher. There was a slight yet possible chance that he really had forgotten my family would be here today and had bought me something frivolous and personal. I wouldn’t put it past him to embarrass me. I looked around the table, and it was obvious I wasn’t going to get out of this.

I steeled myself, picked up the box, and shook it. Something heavy thunked inside, and I sighed with relief. The wrapping came off quickly, revealing a simple silver cuff. I had no doubt it was real silver, and the look in Asher’s eyes confirmed it.

“For just in case,” he said. In case I needed to burn anything that was allergic to silver.

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