It's been months since anyone at the Committee has had any contact from the O'Connell family or their pack members, and they are not happy. Suspicious of the activities that took place in D.C. and determined to find out what the wolves are up to, the Committee recruits one of their newest residents, Dr. Matthew Dietrich, to play the part of neighbor and infiltrate the family.
Matthew has always been a keep-to-himself kind of person. Though idealistic and optimistic, he prefers to work in solitude, at night, while he researches the findings that he hopes will one day change the world. When he's approached by the executives of the Center, he has no idea why they'd choose him. And to say he is skeptical over the concept of men that can shift into wolves would be an understatement.
"I loved this house," Randy said, looking up at the trees. "I'm going to miss it. At least I didn't have to move far." He pointed at the O'Connells' property. "That's our place. Nice and close. It worked out pretty neatly, if I do say so myself."
"That's all kinds of cool, isn't it? That you met your husband here? I hope it was a love at first blush kind of thing?" Matthew knew the whole story, of course, but Randy wouldn't know that. If Randy got suspicious that Matthew knew they'd met here in Wolf, well than Randy could blame Matthew's foreknowledge on gossip. It would be foolish to think a place this size wouldn't be gossiping over the gay couple, after all.
Randy's eyebrow ticked the tiniest bit up his forehead and, just like that, Matthew felt his previous reasoning get kicked to the curb. No. The town wouldn't gossip about these guys. Especially the ones in the know of the O'Connells' special little tricks and treats. Matthew's heart skipped a beat, and his stomach dropped. Damn ...
Instead of calling Matthew out on how he knew and why he knew and what exactly he thought he knew, Randy chuckled. "My husband -- well, fiancé, really -- has lived here forever. The truest of the true Wolf men, complete with the ingrained belief that if you aren't born in Wolf, you don't belong in Wolf. Which is my way of saying that yes, I met him here, but it was by no means a love at first sight thing. I had to work my ass off for it."
"Ah," Matthew feigned a wince of sympathy. "That sucks. But all's well that ends well, or so the saying goes."
"True enough." Randy stuck out his right hand. "My point being that when I first moved here, I was sure that I was going to be ostracized and alone forever. So I figured I'd risk his disapproval and make sure that didn't happen to you as well." He wiggled the fingers of his outstretched hand. "Consider this my official hello and welcome."
"Thank you very much," Matthew said. He turned to set the laptop down on the stairs and accepted Randy's handshake. "And before I forget, congratulations."
Randy tilted his head, seemingly confused.
"You said 'fiancé'," Matthew explained. "Congratulations on your engagement. Is it recent?"
Randy nodded. "Somewhat. A few months ago we realized that life is too short to be scared of commitment. When the Supreme Court gave the nod to same-sex marriage, we decided we'd make it official."
Randy's expression darkened with all the swift insistence of storm clouds in August skies. "Hopefully. We'll see. I'd like to do it somewhere away from the bureaucracy of Wolf, but we're not doing much traveling at the moment."
And why is that? Matthew thought it, but he kept it to himself. "Well, the two of you should come by some time. We could do dinner. Or drinks. Both, if you wanted. And of course, you could bring the kids."
The moment he said it, Matthew realized that he wasn't supposed to know that there were kids. He hadn't seen any. He hadn't even seen any school buses trundle by. He quickly tried to cover with, "The real estate lady said there were three, right? A girl and two boys?"
Randy nodded, but slowly, as if judging what his next words should be. "Yes. Although, the eldest boy would be a little perturbed to be called a kid. He turns twenty-two in a couple of months. His boyfriend lives with us as well."
Warning lights lit in Matthew's head. Was that the vampire? It could be ... it made sense. If there was only some way he could work a question like that into the conversation. Like, did the boyfriend come back with Lyle from DC? Did the boyfriend ever leave the house during daylight? Did he have freaking-fracking fangs? But even if Matthew stuck with the one question in that list that would sound sane, there was no way in Hades that Matthew should know about that particular excursion. Gossip or no gossip.
"Well, you can bring him along too," Matthew said, ignoring the part of him that was pointing out that he'd potentially just invited a vampire into his home.