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Near Her

The latest installment in the For Her series, sequel to Protect Her, Love Her, Hold Her, Keep Her, From Her, With Her, and Beside Her. Quil and Claire have finally triumphed. Despite the obstacles littering thier way, they are at last happy. What happens when the darkest secret of their past comes back and threatens to seperate them forever?

I disclaim. Y'all should read the sequels first.

9. Chapter 9

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Internally, I wished Paul had never been born. Wasn’t the goal to not piss me off? And he had to realize, after who knows how many years of being able to read my thoughts, that implying that was the surefire way to get a big angry Quil wolf on your hands.

I stifled a growl. It’s just Paul, I reminded myself. He’s not accusing you of anything. And Claire needs you to be calm. “We were very good friends. She needed someone to trust. I was there for her.”

“When did you begin to pursue a romantic relationship with her?”

“When she was sixteen.” There was some mild chattering in the courtroom again. “I guess that sounds really bad. But I didn’t want her to… to end up… with someone who couldn’t… I knew I could take care of her. I knew I could never hurt her. I didn’t know that about every other guy. And she’s… I guess I’ve always loved her. Not at all in a romantic way, not when she was little, not before she was ready, but there… something about her” or being a werewolf who imprinted on her “drew me to that girl.”

“Can you tell me when you began having sexual relations with her?”

I resisted the urge to shout ‘Butt the hell out, that’s my business.’

“The night we were married. She was twenty-seven,” I replied, using as few words as possible. I could see Claire blushing purple in the front row of the pew-like seats.

“May I ask you a hypothetical question?”

“Sure.” We’d talked about this earlier. It was technically against the rules—the ‘procedure’—to ask about hypothetical cases. But if he asked my permission first, the other attorney probably wouldn’t object.

Would you kill Jack Denson if he were alive today, and he tried to abuse your wife again?”

Quite calmly, and while lying through my teeth, I answered, “No. I couldn’t do that to her. Something like… well, like this-“ I waved my hand around the whole court scene and won a laugh from the judge (was that a good thing?)- “might happen. And it’s more important that I’m with her than that I get my revenge. I sure wouldn’t let him hurt her, though. I might have to… incapacitate him. But I think murder would qualify as an overreaction.” Suddenly, I remembered what Paul had said about keeping the sarcasm to a minimum. “So, to be frank, I wouldn’t.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ateara.” I choked on my laughter again. “No more questions for this witness, your Honor.”

“Care for a cross-examination, Mr. Williams?”

So that was the lawyer’s name. I wished someone had bothered to tell me.

“No, Your Honor.”

After some more formality and the teacher’s terrifyingly incriminating testimony, Claire was called up. I held my breath and watched her walk onto the stand.

Even like this, in a black formal suit like she was going to my funeral (I tried not to think that this might be close enough to that), her hair in a bun, and the trace of tears down her face, she was so, so beautiful.

I wanted to hold her close and kiss away the trail of her weeping, to tell her that of course I wouldn’t leave, I couldn’t, nothing could keep me away. But I wouldn’t run, even though I could, probably (I was still fast). We had a son, and another child on the way, and we couldn’t do that to them.

So the only thing I could to was watch her walk up there, without me by her side, watch her delicately place the hand I loved on a book she didn’t believe in and whisper a promise she wouldn’t keep.

“The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” was something a werewolf’s wife couldn’t exactly give American justice.

I watched as she looked at me, and then at the stranger faces in the crowd. I watched as she straightened her jacket. I watched her steel herself to speak to these masses the almost-truth about the unthinkable.