Dear Dolly, Who Do You Love?
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Maximilian Adenhart ruled over his coven for five hundred years without any trifle stumbling on his feet. He's the greatest among the ruling class. Anyone who tells otherwise will perish under his gentle hands. For him, he lacks nothing in life. But his sister has a different opinion. That's why Max found himself having a 'vacation' inside the town of Little Maddison. Where he later on came to meet his fated mate, Dolly Cesaro. A sweet, lovely rabbit shifter who's unfortunately living with another man. It was never what Max had expected from the beginning. He imagined a smooth-sailing story of love and promises, but it looks like the heavens wanted him to experience hell instead.
Chapter 1 ✓
"I GOTTA AGREE, Uncle Max," Jefferson Duvas beamed as he lay a heavy load off the van. "This area is divine."
‘Divine, he said,' Max mused.
The place made a mockery of his vampire status. If that's what the man really means to say. Maximilian Adenhart was neither thrilled nor upset about his new home. The large two storey apartment would be considered bare and bland once compared to his house in the city. It is what he needs at the moment nonetheless. He could not complain. Maximilian was never the type of person who loves grandiose. Although this place doesn't spark an intimate feeling with him, he didn't wince. He knew he wouldn't be here for long anyway.
‘But is it really hard to consider comfort and style, sister?’ Max sighed discreetly. He can’t let his nephew see how troubled was he in this arrangement. Jeffrey will definitely tell his mom, and Janette is going to be delighted in his predicament.
They were both petty this way.
The long and narrow road ahead is clean but dusty. Compared to the city five thousand and forty meters from where he stood, the air doesn't have the abundant car emissions that he hated since he was a youngster. It was the least consolation of moving into the town of Little Maddison. The population was below two hundred houses. In which the most were approaching their retirement years.
That explains why most prefer bikes and brief walks.
Maximilian didn't pay attention to the ride that brought him here. He remembered most of the establishments that the place offers though. He asked his assistant for a brief check first when the order was released. Janette was the one who picked the location, she’s stingy like that.
The town has a small convenient center. Two bake shops and a small cafe. Some tailoring store and a day-care center that's willing to accommodate twenty small kids at best. There’s a high school nearby, but he knew that in the small community, that’s not exciting for the students. Seeing the same faces every single day.
Maximilian thought this Little Maddison is the most peaceful town in the world. He liked the way people smile through the heavily tinted window of Jeffrey's van. They recognize a newcomer and they are willing to befriend him. Even though that’s only because they thought he’s human.
It's a first experience for Max.
The image he projected is too cold and snobbish. He won’t be surprised if many would avoid him in the long run.
His colleagues never said it, but he can read the ambience in the room as well as their minds if he tried hard enough.
"Sir, you should talk more now that you're here." Jeffrey sighed noisily. "See, this is something that should be regulated every year. Your freedom! But oh, yeah, if ever you're going to appoint a regent, please— please, don't advertise my name. That will crush me."
Maximilian eyed his back. He couldn't believe that a vampire can sweat until he saw Jeffrey flinching under his stare. But then, the kid was a half mortal. It's not good to question his defective vampire characteristics.
He clicked his tongue. Straightening the lapel of his suit, he drawled, "So the reason why you chose to accompany me today was for this, huh, nephew? You want to plead for leniency?"
"I'm not saying that being the head of the Adenhart coven is not an honor but sir, I mean, Uncle Max, this is not for me. I'm just twenty-five, okay?" Jeffrey huffed. He still couldn't face Maximilian even when he's trying to disobey. Max thought of this as funny. Jeffrey's mother had always hated his guts for turning the ancient practices into more unconventional and practical habits. Seeing her son trying to reason cowardly to his Uncle Max gives him delight.
"I took over the coven when I got sixteen, kid."
"Yeah?" The guy was amazed but also horrified. Max was confused by his expression. "Well, wow! Max, you're born for the crown, while I am not. And I think you shouldn't have concentrated that much on the coven for— like, 500 years. Look where did it get you now? No wife. No son!"
Max' tiny curve at the tips of his lips vanished in an instant. Jeffrey continues to blabber about his fruitless life before finally noticing that his uncle stood quiet all the time.
He gulped. Max showed him his perfunctory smile. He murmured, "Tell your mother that this is a matter of consequence. I know she sent you to me in private so you can plead for your release from the clan, something I can't afford to give. Let me ask you this, kid, do you really want to live as a mortal?"
Jeffrey is a good child. Maximilian wanted to have a kid like him someday. A fun-loving, cheerful child who knows when and where to show his fangs. The only fault he could find in Jeffrey is that the man couldn't say no to his mother.
Maximilian's older sister, Janette Adenhart, was hell-bent on the idea of turning herself into a mortal. So much that when laboratory testing wouldn't work, she decidedly married a mortal man. She wants to have a, according to her words, 'normal' kid. Max couldn't imagine her disappointment when Jeffrey started to turn at the age of sixteen. While the kid's father was happy, Janette became silent. It took a great while before Janette finally learned to love the kid. Especially when she found out that Maximilian had a liking to the boy.
Max didn't shy away from showing his favoritism among his nieces and nephews— thinking that he only had one anyways. He's the only Adenhart left with no children to call his own, next to Laura. Jeffrey was a pitiful child. Even when Janette sent Jeffrey to scurry on his side, Max gladly accepted each gifts with unseeing eyes.
But this last request is unforgivable.
Janette wants to free Jeffrey from her kind while the kid wanted to secure a stable position in the coven. When Max came to realize Jeffrey's internal conflicts, he didn't bat an eye and agreed to be send off by him and him alone.
‘Time to knock some senses in him.’
"I've always thought that you have an upright man as a father, Jeffrey." Maximilian twisted his lips in a wry smile. "What happened? How did Janette manage to make him agree?"
"You know how hard-headed mom can get sometimes, sir." Jeffrey deviated from his overly casual voice and turned to a respectful tone. "I'd… being a regent is a tad too burdensome for a person who scarcely have the experience. You thrive on the status for hundreds of years. There's no way I can copy you for even a day."
Maximilian leaned on the van. He looked to the side and saw his own pale reflection at the side mirror. He can only see his face in the morning. Maximilian doesn't know why and what happens but their reflections fade every night. Half dead and half alive. He blinked slowly. "You're not arrogant to think you're worthy enough. That's good."
"No… I don't plan to. I want to be respected and be trusted by our kind because of my own capability."
Max frowned. "You can start being an apprentice. I don't trust anyone at the coven but Cedric Mallory is a nice lad. Why don't you work under him for a month or two?"
"Make that three, sir." Jeffrey stopped worrying over the boxes and positioned at Max' side. "Wait, is he… is that Cedric specialized in paperwork?"
'Picky…' Max rolled his eyes. He struggled to think of the guy's line of work. "What's there if he's in line with the papers? That's a harmless job."
"Then make it a month only." Jeffrey didn't answer him and said, "Make it less than a week if that's possible."
'Oh,' Maximilian jeered in his mind, 'he thought he can handle Mr. Mallory's strict rules?'
There’s a reason why Max don’t want to associate himself with that hybrid if it’s not necessary. One would think the years that went by would help Cedric be more... civil and open to people. Max is incredibly wrong.
‘I seldom get his mood right. I don’t see what’s the point in trying.’
"Cedric Mallory specified in field work. He gathers intel, do major and minor hunt for the clan. You think you can handle that?"
"Of course! Make it... five months, then!" Jeffrey has quite a boasting expression. Max hid his contempt to himself.
He grinned at his nephew's enthusiasm. He looked back at the house. "Expect your appointment next day, kid."
"Oh, God!" Jeffrey whined belatedly, "Mom will kill me for this."
"Let her come at me. Tell her I forced you or something."
Jeffrey shook his head with a boot-licking grin. "You're the best uncle even if the mortals often says we look like best cousins."
Max only raised a brow. 'Who told you that?'
"Sir, how long do you plan to stay here?" The guy attempted to distract Max from his statement before. He only shrugged then seriously considered his question.
‘A vacation.’ He cannot quite wrap his mind around it. ‘What’s there left to see?’
His father left him the coven in its prosperous condition. Still, he ventured far and wide to widen his territory and connection. He saw everything.
‘But Janette asked me so...’
In the end, Max simply said, "It depends."
‘I don’t want to stay in a lonely, empty town alone.’
DOLLY CESARO's morning wasn't as bad as yesterday's. She woke up with no headache and chest pains. As much as she would like to shift and heal her internal injuries, she wouldn't risk arising Fin's need to hunt again at let herself lose a limb or two. Her rabbit shifter side couldn't appreciate Fin's wolf instincts. She always felt like an animal on the verge of running in a split whenever he is around. That's the reason why she persevered in applying almost every part time job 'til she's sick and bone-tired.
She needs an excuse to get away from him. That’s something weird, considering that everyone knew that they were a couple. Dolly doesn’t see them dating, but it’s more easy to admit the wrong thing rather than explaining why are they together.
Fin had a problematic wolf soul. He gets violent on small issues and tends to break in a shift when he's threatened. Dolly asked him not to get out of their shared apartment. She works for the both of them.
The unsuspecting people of Little Maddison only knew that Dolly has a partner at home who can’t walk or talk. They sympathized with her, saying how unfortunate was it to marry young. She could only shrug and lie to their face.
Dolly still doesn't understand why her family joined forces to drive her away in her twenty-fifth birthday. She was contented on doing late night shifts and give them all her salary every Sunday just to help the men in the house provide food for everyone.
Dolly was the third among the ten sons and daughters of their family. All of her siblings had married when they turned to eighteen. Only her three lovely siblings, ages fifteen to seventeen, are with her parents as of now.
‘With the time that had passed, they could be married and settled by now.’ Dolly sighed.
She's hardworking, a dutiful daughter and a kind sister. Dolly wants to make them happy despite their dismay on her 'mate-less' life since she reached the age of twenty. Dolly thought no one liked her, and it's okay. She's fine living alone. A decision that her family never understood and doesn't accept.
When Fin came to their neighbourhood, Dolly's father had given the guy permission to date her. The two never worked it out since Fin was behaving abnormally. He kept on twitching and grimacing. They couldn't talk properly with each other. In all honesty, Dolly is quite afraid of him.
It was a shock for Dolly when her father ordered five rogue wolves to chase her down. Luckily, she met Fin on the way and escaped with him.
After that, she lived in Little Maddison with Fin inside a small apartment with two rooms. It was quiet and serene, yet Dolly hated not being able to see her family.
She missed her younger brothers and sisters. Why does it matter if she’s ‘mate-less’?
"Dolly!" A middle-aged woman landed a calloused hand on her shoulder. Dolly stretch her lips in a sunny bright smile and greeted, "Good morning, Pam!'
"Oh, you're full of sugar this morning, ain't you, darling?" Pam smacked her lips. The big loop of earrings in her ear moved as she turns her head to the side to whisper, "there's a new man on the curb, baby girl."
Dolly laughed. She squinted her eyes and teased the woman, "Is he handsome? Do you like him?"
"Intense! The man was Poseidon in black, Dolly. He's wearing a custom-made suit under this hot weather." She applauded. "Lean, stark and unbelievably pale!"
'Lean and… unbelievably pale?' Dolly kept her mouth but thought to herself, 'Wearing a suit in the middle of May. Was there even a man like that?'
She couldn't help but laugh. ‘It’s nice to have a new face to look at.’
Chapter 2 ✓
HE SHOULD HAVE guessed that Janette hated him so much. He stared at the junk of an apartment that the woman reserved for his small vacation from work. It was indeed bare and bland from the outside but for Lucifer's cry, the inch thick of dirt covering the living area tickled his innate demand for cleanliness. He wanted to order someone and tear the woman's prided garden now. 'Just so you wait, Janette. You towered over all demons and monsters!'
"Mr. Adenhart, you called me for help?" The landlady smiled. Her gaze went past Max with an appreciative gleam. She stepped inside the threshold and immediately grimaced. "Oh, mama... Jesus Christ, what devil resided in here on the past few months? I thought I had it all cleaned up!"
"Since when?" Max curtly asked. His voice frosty and biting.
"Uh, I had this cleaned... five months ago?" She laugh with unease. "I mean, it's
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