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Reverse Harem Romance

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When Stella
Met Cricket

When Stella Met Cricket

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The first thing I become aware of is the feeling of the wet, dewy grass beneath my feet. I dig my claws into the Earth—so very glad to discover I have claws this time around!—and slowly grow accustomed to my new body. It's been quite a while since I came to this realm to bond with a witchling. Just over a century, if my mortal math is correct.

Unfortunately, my last stay in this realm didn't last long. A year or two at most, before my witchling was hanged. She was strong, with an affinity for fire, but she was also very, very stupid.

I'm cautiously hopeful about my new witchling. It's been ages since I've sensed one this strong. A few centuries, at least. I finally blink and take in my surroundings. I'm so low to the ground in this form that it's difficult to get a good vantage point, but it appears I'm on a street lined with large mortal homes. It's dark this time of night, but I have no trouble seeing at all.

I turn to look at the house I'm standing in front of. It looks just like the others on this street, and I know this must be my witchling's home. But I don't feel her here. Where on Earth could she be? She must be expecting me.

I flick my tail in annoyance and dart up the front steps of my witchling's house. The windows are dark, signaling everyone inside is asleep. Incompetent fools. I pace back and forth on the porch, sniffing the area just to be sure my assumptions are correct. But yes, this is definitely where I'm supposed to be.

There's a bench-swing at the other end of the porch, and I decide it will be more comfortable to wait there. I nestle into the soft cushion, enjoying the soothing motion of the swing and the slight breeze I feel against my fur. I'm satisfied with this form so far, though I'll be happy to get a glimpse of myself at some point. I've deduced I must be some sort of small feline. Feline forms are always a favorite among demon familiars. They're quick, nimble, graceful, almost always beautiful, and they rouse the least amount of suspicion for our witchlings.

Not that I'm very happy with my witchling at the moment. I still cannot believe she isn't here to greet me! It's quite possibly the greatest insult I've ever received. Despite being comfortable upon my newfound cushion, I feel myself growing more and more agitated. A low growl rumbles from my throat, and my tail swishes back and forth.

An unfamiliar sound interrupts my thoughts, and my ears twitch as I turn my head toward the end of the street. A vehicle slowly approaches until it stops right in front of the house where I'm waiting. I don't move from my spot, but I watch the vehicle intently as two males exit. One of them speaks to the out-of-view driver, and the other pulls a young female from the back seat. My witchling!

As soon as the vehicle drives away once more, I hear my witchling's voice for the first time. "I can't believe you guys! I was supposed to be home before three. My familiar is probably here waiting, and she probably hates me already!"

One of the males shushes her, clamping a hand down over her mouth. "Keep it down, will you? Jesus, we said we were sorry! We lost track of time."

My witchling claws her way out of the male's grip and kicks him for good measure. Hmm, I suppose I might forgive her now. Males are known to be quite dim, and these two are obviously no exception. I shouldn't be surprised it was their fault my witchling was late in greeting me.

After breaking free, my witchling begins frantically scanning the front yard before spotting me on the porch swing. She gasps and runs up the front steps, falling over herself in the process. At first, I assume she's simply overwhelmed to see me, and I purr happily at the thought. But when she stumbles and crawls across the porch until she's nose to nose with me and begins giggling as though she's gone mad, I realize that my witchling is very much intoxicated.

My witchling is an idiot.

"Oh my god! A freaking kitten?" She squeals and presses her forehead against mine. I swish my tail back and forth in irritation, but I don't move away from her.

One of the males chuckles and leans over us to get a better look at me. "Guess you're not getting the bat or iguana you always wanted, baby sis."

I hiss and swipe one of my paws at him when he reaches his hand out to touch me. As if a bat or iguana were useful! And I can't say I'm exactly impressed with my witchling or her human companions just yet either.

"Shut up!" My witchling slaps the male's hand away. They must be her brothers, judging by the nickname and their knowledge of the supernatural world. My witchling suddenly picks me up under my arms and cradles me to her chest as she stands on unsteady feet. "She's adorable and perfect, and I love her!"

I find myself purring louder, even though she's squeezing me a little too tightly and her jostling movements aren't exactly pleasant. My past witchlings always greeted me with some level of caution or fear, or else with a sense of entitlement. As if a familiar-bond was equivalent to servitude for the demon familiar.

Like any contract or relationship, the familiar-bond is give-and-take. We may help our witchlings, offer them guidance and advice, and sometimes even make them stronger or amplify their powers. But in exchange, demon familiars gain power and immortality. We also have some access to our witchling's power so long as the bond is intact.

Never has a witchling been so excited to meet me before, and without an ounce of fear or hesitation. My new witchling continues hugging me and giggling as she brings me into her house. We only make it a few steps before a light in the stairwell flicks on, and two humans I assume must be her parents make an appearance.

Her father frowns at us and sighs, focusing his gaze on one of my witchling's dim-witted brothers. "Do I even need to remind you that you guys broke curfew? At least tell me you didn't drink and drive."

"Of course not!" One of the males scoffs defensively.

My witchling giggles again and lifts me up under my arms once more. Holding me high above her head, she proudly exclaims, "Look! My familiar!"

Her father's eyes snap back to us, and he finally notices me for the first time. His eyes widen slightly, and I can physically feel the small amount of fear exuding from him. Her mother isn't much better. I feel a flash of surprise when I realize she's not a witch, but she simply flutters her hand nervously in front of her chest and hisses quietly at her daughter.

"Cricket, you shouldn't hold her like that. Your aunt and grandmother said familiars are ancient and powerful, and they demand a certain level of respect. You have to remember she is technically a demon, no matter how harmless she might look."

Cricket. An interesting name for a witchling, but it seems fitting somehow. Instead of responding or lowering me back down, Cricket sways back and forth unsteadily on her feet. The next thing I know, she leans forward slightly and vomits all over the floor. Everyone else in the room makes a noise of disgust, but I only find myself feeling badly for my Cricket.

When she finally lowers me down and cradles me to her chest again, I press my paw to her cheek hoping to send her some soothing feelings. I know it's highly unlikely she'll sense anything though, as it can take up to a year for a familiar-bond to solidify.

But she meets my eyes and smiles, whispering only to me, "Sorry. I didn't get any throw-up on your fur, did I?"

I purr loudly, hoping she'll understand that to mean no. Cricket smiles apologetically at her parents then. "I'm sorry. I'm gonna get her some milk, and then I'll come and clean that up."

A short while later, I'm settling down into Cricket's bed with a full belly. After I drank my bowl of milk, I sniffed around and explored the rest of the house while Cricket cleaned up her mess in the entryway. Her brothers had already gone to bed, but I could hear her parents scolding her. I suppose she did deserve it, but I can't help feeling defensive of my new witchling. She may be a bit dense, but she's very sweet.

"It's technically your birthday too," Cricket whispers as she lies down on her side, facing me with her head propped up on a pillow. "So, do you want to go out with me tomorrow? I was going to go to the beach with the twins, maybe hang out at the pier for a little while. Dad has to work, but mom is making a cake and everything for us so we can celebrate at dinner."

I'm taken aback that she's asking me at all. I'm not sure I've ever been asked my preference for anything by a witchling. My advice, maybe, but nothing so casual as this, or something I might be included in. I mew happily and press my nose against her hand, making her giggle.

I press my paw against her cheek, hoping she'll be able to read me. It could have just been a fluke earlier, after all. I picture a body of water and imagine the terrible feeling of being cold and wet. As much as I would love to spend the day with Cricket, that doesn't sound very pleasant.

A few seconds later, Cricket blinks at me. "Don't worry, I'll carry you. And we won't go in the water. We'll just walk along the shore. I promise I won't let anything happen to you."

The fact that she feels protective of me is very amusing, but I'm so incredibly pleased. Our bond is already strong enough for us to communicate clearly, and Cricket is quickly becoming very dear to me. I'm curious to discover what her affinity might be. I haven't seen her use any magic yet, though I can sense her potential. Things might be very different now in this day and age, but I get the impression Cricket hasn't had any proper witchling-training.

I imagine myself as a sleek, black panther walking beside Cricket on a beach and send her the image. She laughs loudly and shakes her head at me. "You're silly. What's your name, anyway?"

I flick my tail back and forth, thinking it over seriously. I have never chosen a name for myself in this realm. I've always simply been given a name by my witchling. My name of origin is too harsh, and probably impossible for Cricket to say in her tongue. But I've always liked the name one of my first witchlings gave me. I show Cricket the constellation of Cassiopeia.

Cricket furrows her eyebrows and snorts. "A star? I'm sorry. Star is kind of a dumb name." I pin my ears back and growl quietly in annoyance. I've already forgotten how dim my new witchling is. But then she smiles and asks, "What about Stella? Stella means 'star' in Latin."

Hmm, I do like the sound of that. I suppose it will do. I chirp happily and snuggle in closer to Cricket, feeling warm and loved as I fall asleep with her softly stroking my fur.

"Oof, Stella! That hurts!" Cricket hisses quietly.

I nuzzle her cheek apologetically and hop over to her other shoulder instead, careful not to dig my claws into her skin this time. My sweet little witchling kept her word though. I've been perched atop her shoulder for the past half hour as we slowly meander through the outdoor boutiques situated along the boardwalk. There are so many people out, and the smell of the ocean and the feel of the sunshine gleaming against my fur is glorious.

This morning has already been full of delightful surprises. I finally caught a glimpse of my beautiful new form in Cricket's mirror while she was in the shower, and I've managed to discover my Cricket's affinity. I've never had a witchling with an affinity for air. I've always been more drawn to those with an affinity for fire, and earth has always been fairly common among witches. Cricket is already so different from any other witch I've ever bonded with, so having a different affinity to work with is only making me feel more excited.

Most delightfully of all, I finally witnessed Cricket using her gifts. I'd been worried she might not have much control over her power, as it's becoming more and more apparent her witchling education is severely lacking. And then she'd casually stepped out of the shower, magically dried her body and then her hair, and all the while she was chattering mindlessly about some males from her school she thinks are cute.

I also watched her use her magic to move things around her room. Nothing big, but with absolutely perfect accuracy. I don't believe she even realizes the level of focus and control any of those tricks requires. If she had more knowledge, and if she were to apply herself, I'm confident she may very well grow up to be one of the most powerful witches ever seen.

On the other hand, there's something quite charming about her being more interested in having a fun day at the beach than in world domination, considering the amount of power and control she already possesses.

When I feel a large hand begin to stroke my fur, I spin around and swipe my paw. Killian, one of Cricket's idiot brothers, is trying to pet me for the fourth time since we left the house. The audacity! Cricket has told him several times that I do not like to be touched. That is a privilege given only to my witchling.

Killian only grins when I continue hissing and spitting at him, even when Cricket turns around to shove him. "Leave her alone! It's her first day with us. Why do you insist on messing with her?"

"I'm just curious." Killian shrugs. "I've never seen a familiar act like that before."

"Harold is a little skittish, but even he lets other people touch him," Emerson, the slightly-less-stupid twin, grumbles from Cricket's other side. Harold must be another familiar they know from a family member. Cricket’s mother isn’t a witch, but there was mention of an aunt and a grandmother. I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest Cricket’s part of a coven, which makes sense with her lack of education.

"Still, it's really cool." Killian smiles and finally drops his hand, giving up on attempting to pet me for the time being. "You know how crazy it is that you can already talk to her, right? How did you do it?"

Cricket shrugs, not interested in the hows or whys of our bond. Her gaze moves over to a small crowd of people standing around a large vehicle, and she gasps and meets my eyes with an excited grin. "That food truck has, like, the most amazing fish tacos ever. You wanna share one with me?"

I purr happily and rub my face against her temple, telling her yes through our bond. She giggles and takes a few steps toward the food truck, as she called it. Emerson reaches out and gently grabs her arm.

"Just remember," he lowers his voice and glances around to make sure nobody is close enough to hear us. "Aurora and Grandma said that you still have to feed your familiar the same diet she'd need if she really was the animal she's taken the form of. Regular human food won't hurt her in small quantities, but you're still gonna have to feed her cat food."

I pin my ears back and growl at the male. Why is he trying to ruin my fun? I've done nothing to him! Cricket pouts and crosses her arms petulantly, "I know. I was paying attention when they taught me about familiars. I just want Stella to have a good birthday!"

Emerson's expression softens, and he offers to accompany us to the food truck. Killian ruffles Cricket's hair and darts off, promising to meet up with us later.

While we're waiting in line, people keep pointing at me and talking about how unusual it is for a cat to be out in public like this, without a leash or anything. Nobody says anything outright to Cricket though, or even approaches her. I'm convinced she's oblivious to everything going on around us until she meets my eyes with a secretive smirk on her face.

"Hey, Cricket." Emerson nudges my witchling's elbow and tilts his head slightly. "That guy over there is checking you out. He's kinda hot, huh?"

Cricket turns her head and subtly looks around, but I'm too curious to worry about being obvious. I turn around on her shoulder so I can face the people behind us, and I spot the male standing closer to the end of the line. He appears to be close to Cricket's age with a tan complexion, dark hair, and dark eyes. And he is certainly checking her out, as Emerson phrased it. When Cricket finally catches his eye, the young male seems incredibly flustered. I can tell his reaction pleases Cricket.

I turn back around so I'm facing the truck, already bored and feeling impatient for the treat my witchling promised me. She may be stupid and poorly-trained, but my Cricket can do much better than some insipid human male. Still, it is her sixteenth birthday, and I suppose she deserves to have her fun.

We don't have to wait in line much longer, luckily. After receiving our food, we step off to the side. Cricket lets me have the first bite of our fish taco, and it's even more delicious than I expected. I start to feel full after only a few bites, so I spend a few minutes cleaning my face and paws while Cricket and her brother finish eating.

"Hey!" I look up to see the dark haired-male standing just a few feet in front of us now, shuffling his feet awkwardly as he smiles at Cricket. "I'm Carlos."

"Hi, Carlos." Cricket giggles and brushes some of her messy hair over her opposite shoulder. She bites her lip as she looks the male over in an obvious manner, holds up the remainder of her taco and quips, "These are amazing, right?"

The dim-witted male looks down at his own taco and blinks stupidly. "Uh, yeah. Really good."

He doesn't say anything else after that. He just looks at Cricket like he's waiting for her to say something. Which is absolutely ridiculous. He's doing a terrible job of courting my witchling. I make a low growling noise in my throat, clearly conveying my irritation. Emerson snorts impatiently beside us too. Perhaps he isn't so bad, after all.

Cricket raises one eyebrow at the brainless male, and then seemingly shrugs him off as she walks away to throw away the trash left from her meal. "See you around!"

Carlos visibly deflates, and his entire expression crumbles. He looks devastated, and keeps darting his eyes between me, Emerson, and Cricket. He lifts his hand in a half-hearted wave and stutters, "Oh-okay. Right, see you"

Emerson rolls his eyes and scoffs as we walk past the bumbling fool. "Come on, let's head down to the beach."

Cricket follows after him, and I accidentally bury my claws in her skin to keep steady before I can think better of it. My witchling hisses quietly in pain, but she doesn't reprimand me this time. I still rub my head against her temple in a quick apology, and cast one last glance behind us. Carlos is staring after us with a heartbroken look on his stupid, mortal face.

I don't feel bad for him. My Cricket is sweet, loving, and powerful. She shouldn't waste her time with such peasants. If she insists on taking lovers, she deserves only the strongest of suitors.

Cricket sighs happily as soon as we reach the beach, and she buries her feet in the sand. I wrinkle my nose distastefully, but she doesn't seem to notice. She glances back at the boardwalk behind us and asks her brother, "Should I go back and get his number? I feel kinda bad for leaving him hanging like that."

"Fuck no. That dude had literally zero balls. He didn't even ask for your name."

I agree wholeheartedly with Emerson. I'm almost tempted to let him pet me, but he doesn't seem nearly as interested in that endeavor as his twin.

Cricket kicks some sand up and huffs, "Well, maybe he was just shy. He did seem kinda nervous."

Emerson and Cricket walk along the shore side by side, careful to step around all of the other beach-goers. I'm so glad Cricket convinced me to come. The breeze coming from the water feels spectacular, and the smell of the salt and sea is wonderfully nostalgic. It's been centuries since I've seen the ocean, and I hadn't realized just how much I missed it.

"Dude, no." Emerson shakes his head in amusement. "He was cocky enough to approach you, and then he just fucking choked. Even for just a casual hook-up, you can do better."

Cricket laughs, neither agreeing or disagreeing with her older brother. Before we can head any further down the shore, someone calls my witchling's name. I turn my head to see Killian and another male heading toward us from the direction we just came. Cricket smiles and waves, tilting her head slightly to whisper to me.

"That's Austin, the twins' best friend since like forever."

Emerson turns to face them as well, shielding his eyes against the sun. Unlike Cricket, he doesn't smile. But he does some strange sort of handshake with the new male, Austin, once he's close enough.

"That was fast," Emerson grunts at his brother. "I thought for sure you'd get distracted by a new conquest before we met back up."

Killian chuckles and wraps his arm around Cricket's neck, simultaneously ruffling up her hair and stroking his hand against my fur without my consent. I barely get a hiss out before he steps away, safe from my claws for the time being. "No way, bro! Not on our baby sister's birthday."

Austin squints his eyes and grins, splitting his focus between me and my witchling. "Happy birthday, little bug. I see your parents finally let you get a pet."

"Thanks!" Cricket giggles and reaches her hand up to scratch my head lightly. "This is Stella. Isn't she adorable?"

Austin doesn't try to pet me, choosing simply to nod in agreement instead. I still find myself looking him over distrustfully. No matter how close he may be to the family, he clearly doesn't know that Cricket is a witchling or he would not have called me a pet. He's on the taller side, like Cricket's brothers are, and obviously close in age to the twins too. His eyes are a dull brown color, and his messy blond shoulder-length hair gives him a slightly scruffy appearance. I feign disinterest in the male, licking my paw casually while I send Cricket my disapproving feelings through our bond. This male is too weak for her.

Cricket snorts in amusement and shakes her head at me, but Austin doesn't comment on the strangeness of her actions. He just smiles and looks at me again, "She's hella chill too! I can't believe she's letting you carry her around like that. Super fucking cool."

We walk along the shore for a long time then, and I enjoy listening to Cricket talk and laugh with her brothers and their friend. When we reach an area of the beach that's not so crowded or busy, the males decide to go for a swim. I feel guilty at first, for keeping Cricket from joining in their fun. But she assures me through our bond that she's perfectly content to stay out of the water with me.

While the males splash about in the water a few dozen yards out, Cricket steps into the water just far enough that the waves are gently crashing against her ankles. I settle onto her opposite shoulder again and sniff at the air.

Cricket closes her eyes and hums happily. I feel a slight tingling sensation emitting from her entire body, and she raises her hands slightly over the water. I watch, completely fascinated, as she controls the breeze around us and lets the air slip through her fingers. She has such a unique way of channeling her gifts, and such an unusual perspective of her magic and heritage.

"You know," Cricket mumbles softly. "When I was little, I used to wish I had an affinity for water instead. But now, that just sounds so...limiting. Being connected to the air makes me feel so light and free."

She allows her breeze to blow gently against my fur, and I purr excitedly. I've somehow forgotten how intoxicating it can feel to connect to a witchling's magic, and Cricket's is wilder and more magnificent than possibly any I've ever tasted in any of my past lives before.

She cracks one eye open and smiles at me bashfully. "Does that sound stupid?"

I wish I could speak to her in words. But I press my paw against her cheek, and I do my best to communicate all of the things I'm feeling right now. Love, warmth, and absolute joy. I'm so incredibly happy and honored to be her familiar.

Two Years Later

I'm startled awake by a loud thumping noise, followed by a bark of laughter. I blink the sleep from my eyes and yawn, shaking my head as I stand up to stretch my muscles. It's the middle of the night, and Theo's loft is dark. I can hear Cricket and her wolves outside though, finally arriving home after spending their evening at a party.

Well, home for tonight, anyway. Cricket and I have been rotating which house we sleep at for the past week, ever since she returned from New York bearing the mate marks that tie her to her wolves. I don't mind house-hoping so much, and I know it won't be forever. Cricket and her mates have mentioned their plans to get a house together once they finish their schooling.

Besides, Cricket's wolves have been extremely thoughtful and sweet. Each of them has done everything possible to make sure both Cricket and I are comfortable at their respective houses.

"Shut up, Cas. Just get your ass upstairs with Hollis!" Theo's voice travels through the window, left partially open for me to come and go as I please.

"No!" Cas growls disobediently. "I want to carry Cricket. Give her to me!"

Cricket's giggling is muffled as one of them opens the door downstairs. I yawn once more, and then I sit up straight on the arm of the couch with my ears perked while I wait for the four of them.

Hollis appears first, blinking sleepily until his gaze lands on me. He smiles broadly and scratches my head as he passes, stumbling over to Theo's bed on the opposite side of the room. Cas makes it to the top of the staircase next, and there's an irritable scowl on his face.

He blinks at me and pauses beside the couch to pet me for a moment, leaning down while he attempts to whisper. "Tell Theo to stop being such a dick. Cricket is my mate too, and I want to snuggle with her!"

I nuzzle my head against his hand and purr quietly, trying to soothe him. I'm rather amused though. I assumed they were intoxicated when I first heard them downstairs, and now I can clearly smell the alcohol on Cas's breath. Cricket's wolves are usually still a bit shy when it comes to speaking with me so directly, but I definitely don't mind it.

Theo finally makes it upstairs too, holding Cricket in his arms. She's giggling like mad and rubbing her cheek against his chest with her eyes closed, gripping his tee shirt between her fingers.

Theo bares his teeth at Cas and growls dangerously. "I never said you couldn't snuggle her, you fucking baby. Go get in bed with Hollis." Even I can hear the magic laced into his authoritative words, indicating he's using his alpha voice.

Cas snarls angrily and tenses his hand on my back, but even in this state, he has a mind to be gentle. He gives me one final scratch before stomping across the bedroom, stripping his clothes off to sleep more comfortably in the process. Hollis appears to already be asleep in Theo's bed.

"My stomach hurts," Cricket whines quietly, capturing my attention.

"I know, little witch," Theo says softly and kisses the top of Cricket's head. "Do you need to throw up again?"

I lean closer, trying to see if Cricket might need my comfort as well as her mate's. She may no longer be a witchling—fully grown into her magic now—but my sweet Cricket is still just as much of an idiot as the first day I met her. Though I know she's done this to herself by drinking too much, I feel awful that she's feeling so terribly.

Cricket shakes her head, no longer giggling. "No, I just want some water. And maybe to sit down for a minute before I try to sleep."

Theo quickly grabs a bottle of water from his small fridge and watches her take a few sips. After, he carefully helps her change into clothing more comfortable for sleeping, and then he settles onto the couch with Cricket cradled against his chest once more. I pad over to them gracefully, curling up near his shoulder so I'm close enough to touch Cricket too.

Theo rubs her back soothingly while I press my paws and nose against her cheek, sending feelings of comfort and warmth through our bond. It only takes a few minutes before Cricket's breathing deepens, signifying she's fallen asleep.

"Thanks, Stella," Theo whispers, bringing one of his hands up to stroke my fur softly.

Theo was the first of the wolves I formed a bond with. I cannot even begin to express how shocked I was. In all my lives with all my past witchlings, nothing like this has ever happened before. Then again, werewolves and witches typically stay distant from each other. I'm fairly certain my Cricket and her wolves are still unaware of the dark history between their species, and other supernatural beings as well.

I took a liking to the male wolf the moment I met him, especially once it became clear Cricket was smitten with him. It was the same when I met Hollis and Cas too. I'm so unbelievably happy things turned out the way they did. That my dear witch has three strong, protective, caring wolves to cherish her for the rest of her life.

A deafening snore breaks the silence in the loft a few minutes later, and Theo chuckles quietly in amusement. With a mirthful smile aimed at me, he whispers, "Cas bitched the entire way home that he wasn't tired and that he wanted to stay up to take care of Cricket. And look, it took the idiot less than five minutes to fall asleep."

Despite the teasing, there's a warmth in his words when he speaks about his pack-brother. Since Theo seems up for talking to me for a little while, I decide to show him a memory. I press my paw against his cheek and show him the first time I met Cricket. When she came home drunk with her brothers and threw up all over her parents' kitchen floor while holding me high up in the air.

Theo shakes in silent laughter as I share this memory, grinning down at Cricket in his arms. She stirs for a moment, and he goes still so as not to wake her. Once she relaxes again, he meets my gaze.

"Holy shit, that is priceless. You'll have to show that to Hollis and Cas tomorrow." He kisses the top of Cricket's head and sighs happily. "God, I love her so much."

I make a quiet chirping noise and purr happily in agreement.

Theo yawns once before continuing to pet my fur. "Cricket's still insisting on doing her yoga thing tomorrow morning, and then we've gotta go over to Hawthorne's house. My cousin Elias and his pack are coming to visit. You wanna come with us?"

I keep my paw pressed against his cheek and show him an image of Rainer, questioning whether he’ll be there too. Though he isn't one of my Cricket's mates, I still sense a strong kinship between her and the wolf. I'm curious to see if I'll be able to form a bond with him the same way I have with Theo, Hollis, and Cas.

"Yeah." Theo nods at my question. "Rainer will be there. I'm kind of nervous and excited to see what's gonna happen. I'm not sure if he's told Elias he wants to join our pack yet, and I think Cricket is still considering the possibility of making him her beta."

If I know Cricket at all, she'll make the final decision in the moment. Not beforehand. The first few months bonded to my witchling were very frustrating. It took me quite a while to realize that even though Cricket has no interest in becoming more powerful or expanding her knowledge on the affairs and history of witches, she does an excellent job of following her intuition and making difficult decisions in the heat of the moment. She's a natural leader, and her wolves are helping so much in bringing out her best qualities.

I use our bond to tell Theo that he has nothing to worry about, that we should trust Cricket. I lick his cheek affectionately, hoping to take away some of his worries.

"You're right." Theo yawns again. He moves to stand up from the couch, holding Cricket in one arm and me in the other. "Come on, let's go to bed."

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