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I stare at Hazel's wooden door, gathering courage.

"Be nice," I bite out, looking sidelong at my mate.

He looks out of place on Hazel's old porch. He's attempted to look more mortal, as he put it, which consisted of wearing plain clothing and styling his hair slightly different.

It doesn't matter how he presents himself, he looks like an Alpha, and Hazel will be able to sense his magic.

"You don't think I'll be nice?" He sounds a little hurt.

I sigh through my nose. "Just...Don't intimidate her."

Hazel wants to like Sire, for my sake. She will try her best, although I don't want her to have flashbacks to the night Sire chased me down and took me away. She had thought I had died, and I don't want her to look at Sire and be reminded of that.

"I'll try my hardest." He stares down at the salad I made him bring with us as a peace offering.

I want this lunch with Hazel to go well. I want to feel normal again.

"And don't flirt with me in front of her," I add.

Sire smirks. "Now that I don't think I can do."

I raise my first to the door, ignoring him. However, before it can make contact with the wood, it is flung open, revealing a very confused looking Hazel.

"Oh, you're just standing out here," she says, smiling a little. Could she hear us bickering?

"Sorry, we were about to knock," I tell her uncomfortably.

I glance at Sire, who has the most uncanny look on his face. It's stuck between a smile and a grimace as he senses how strange this situation is, and yet has been instructed by me to be as nice as possible.

"Well, come on in." Hazel takes the salad. "Hello Sire."

He dips his head. "Hello Hazel. I've heard all sorts of wonderful things about you."

I nudge him in the side with my elbow as he walk inside. He's examining her closely, curious about her witch blood.

This is meant to be a friendly meeting, not one that involves Sire determining what use Hazel may be to him in the future.

"I've heard a lot about you. Actually, read is probably the more appropriate term," Hazel says, setting the salad down on the table amongst all the other food she has laid out for us.

I take my seat, Sire settling in next to me. Hazel sits on the opposite, tense.

"All terrible things no doubt. I didn't have many admirers," Sire admits, rubbing the back of his neck.

Hazel blinks, nodding numbly.

Her eyes are so wide at this point that I fear they may fall from her head. Seeing Sire in person is an entirely different experience to seeing him in a book. Watching her grapple with that reality is oddly amusing.

"Especially not after you...you were cursed," she stutters, carefully trying not to offend him.

He smiles. "It's okay. Feel free to speak about it as openly as you please."

She nods again, smoothing her hair back.

Sire's smile vanishes as quickly as it appeared at the crushing reminder of what happened to him. Every book written about him, depicting his reign as Alpha would have been massively false and suited to the victor's narrative.

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