- Epilogue -

Unlocking the front door, stomping off the snow on her boots, AJ pushed herself inside and closed it again. With a sigh, she stretched, massaging her neck. She was tired, work had dragged out, she would usually be home early on Fridays but it was almost dinner time and she felt guilty.

Shrugging her white lab coat off her shoulders with a yawn, she didn't notice her nametag hanging loose and before she could stop it, it fell to the floor. She hung up the coat and picked up the tag, reading it to herself. Alina Johanne Walker. Smiling she pinned it back on the lab coat. She yawned again. Her Ph.D. in Neuroscience had been a good choice, she loved her work in the city, enjoyed working with her fellow scientists, even the long commute from the village to the city she didn't mind. She wanted it no other way, but some days she was just so tired. Thank goodness for the weekend.

But then she realized something unusual. The house was quiet. Too quiet. Normally she would be met at the door with conflicts and shouting or laughter and giggling. This was ominous. She walked to the kitchen, she could smell food but couldn't see any, not even dirty pots and pans, no evidence of any type of cooking going on. Strange.

Walking back out again she tiptoed down the hallway, passing countless framed pictures hanging on the wall. She stopped at one of her, sitting in a gondola in Venice, with a godawful yellow umbrella in her hands, shielding her from the sun, smiling happily at whoever was taking the picture. She kept walking, pictures of her and her mate in various countries, Australia, Uruguay, Nepal, Japan, and the list went on. She felt giddy, she had been planning a trip to Peru for weeks and it was all coming together nicely in her head.

She stopped again at a final picture. It was a picture of her and Dylan at the Spring ball, her in her lavender dress, him looking handsome leading her around the dance floor in his black shirt and pants. She sighed and ran a finger down his body, studying his face. He had been so handsome, such a beautiful man.

A kiss on her neck made her jump in surprise but quickly found herself relaxing into her mate's warm embrace. "He's handsome," he commented, "Who was that?"

AJ shrugged. "Just a wolf I used to know."

"He sure was a good looking one, huh?" her mate pressed on.

She bit her lip in deep thought before answering, "Yeah, I guess."

"Good dancer?"

"Dancer?" she repeated, unable to stop her laugh. "No, horrible dancer, he kept stepping on my feet. Of course, he kept blaming my shoes but I know better." He grunted in disapproval, snorting at her words. "No, he was not a good dancer, his skills were no good on the dance floor," she continued regardless. "They were, however, in bed," she added sheepishly, "The man was a god between the sheets." Her mate purred in appreciation and kissed her neck, turning her around to capture her lips. Wasting no time he deepened the kiss, she let him, his tongue dancingly coaxed hers into play and she felt herself being pressed up against the wall. He lifted her off the floor, out of reflex she wrapped her legs around his waist. He kissed down her throat as she rolled her head back to rest on the wall, enjoying him. Coming home to him was definitely the best part of the day. But then a breath of fresh air hit her when he started to unbutton her shirt. "Dylan," she gasped and giggled like a schoolgirl, "We're in the hallway."

Dylan just chuckled. "The boys are terrorizing your parents at their house overnight. Kaya is having a sleepover with Meadow at Lily and Dave's place, I believe they're trying on dresses for the Spring Ball. We have the house to ourselves for the night, and I am going to take very good care of my hardworking mate."

"Urgh, the Spring ball," AJ said in a groan, "Is that monstrosity coming up? How did Kaya get so old? I swear she was just a baby a week ago."

"I know, we certainly haven't aged a bit," Dylan joked with a crooked smile.

AJ reached up, pulling back a long strand of his hair that had fallen on his face. It was still the same thick, long, chestnut hair, but new, gray highlights were appearing more and more frequently. He was still handsome, his sharp jaw, his deep brown eyes. The crow's feet around his eyes and the lines that deepened around his mouth when he laughed only made him more appealing. She still loved him, deeply and thoroughly. She wanted to tell him how much but didn't get a chance before he lifted her from the wall, and walked her into the living room.

The wonderful scent of the pizza he had ordered filled her nostrils and her stomach rumbled happily at the sight. The light was turned off, lit candles filled the room and fire roared in the fireplace. A bottle of wine and two glasses stood on the coffee table next to the pizza. AJ couldn't love him any more at that moment. "Dylan, this is amazing," she breathed as he let her fall down on the couch. With a content sigh, she stretched, taking in the wonderful scent of Pepperoni and cheese. "I spoke with dad today, he called me at work," she said as she watched him pop open the bottle. "He's pretending to be grumpy about all the tourism you're bringing in with your workshop, complaining about humans wandering the town after buying your sculptures, but I can tell he only called because he's proud of you."

"I know." Dylan smirked at her, giving her a wink as he poured her a glass and then handed it to her.

"This is so nice," she said with a sigh and accepted the glass, but then a nagging feeling she was missing something entered her mind, "Any particular reason?"

"It's our anniversary," he simply said.

AJ raised her eyebrow at him. "No, it isn't, we weren't mated until July?" She raked her brain for any possible meaning. She knew she had been working a lot lately but she was sure she hadn't forgotten any important dates. It was only January, her birthday wasn't until April, his birthday wasn't until September. The kids? No, they would be here if that was the case.

"I also got you something," he casually mentioned, pushing a slim box into her hands.

AJ eyed it skeptically, but placed her wine glass on the table anyway and opened it. "Oh no. Oh no, you didn't." She hid her face in her hands when the embarrassment started spreading on her face, then she started laughing. "I don't believe this." The date suddenly made sense to her when she looked down at the honey-colored underwear packed neatly in the box, Winnie the Pooh's face grinning up at her next to a smaller, pink Piglet.

"What?" he asked innocently, knowing full well she would rather forget she had ever owned underwear like this. "I thought I was being romantic. Don't I at least get points for remembering something from the night we first met, Allie?"

"You horrible old pervert," she accused him with a smile and held up the bra to get a better look at it.

He fell to his knees on the floor before her. "I know, I know." He chuckled and ran a hand up her thigh, caressing the soft skin under her work skirt and placed a tender kiss on her knee. "Now put it on, I want to enjoy taking it off you this time, and not just peel the wet underwear off an unconscious teenage wolf dumb enough to jump into a frozen lake in the middle of the night."