First Choice or Second Best

Chapter 2: Doggy Princess

“You know, maybe I’d be less ashamed if I had a more erotic dream,” Michael muttered, wringing his hands and avoiding all possible eye contact.

Leanne shook her head as they continued down the streets of Lynn, Massachusetts. “Michael, you shouldn’t be ashamed about a dream where you’re surrounded by corgis. It’s okay,” she sighed, rubbing her temples.

“No! It’s not! I technically cheated on my princess! On my queen! I have betrayed her love and trust,” he cried, turning to face her. His bottom lip quivered as she continued to walk, leaving him behind.

His words stabbed her heart. Fredrik felt nothing when he hurt her but Michael was ready to beg for forgiveness. The Dane really should take notes from the American. However, hearing of this princess made her bristle. She had thought he was single. “I was unaware you had someone in your life, Michael.” She paused as looked back at him, waiting for an answer.

“Well, yea! She’s beautiful, you know? A really majestic Pomeranian princess I take care of-“

“Wait, she’s a dog?” Leanne asked, staring at him in disbelief. Millions of thoughts swarmed her mind, each one of a potential lover Michael could have.

“She is a puppy dog and what did you expect? I’m as single as a pringle and not yet ready to mingle.” He shrugged and jogged to where she was, hair bouncing and reminding Leanne of an energetic golden retriever.

“Whatever, flower boy.” She waved him off as he caught up to her and they both continued their nightly stroll. Of course, how could she think he would love anything other than a four-legged man’s best friend?

The wind breezed by, a rather welcome feeling compared to the winds in Denmark that cut through the body and coated everything in frost. Her boots clicked on the sidewalk, a sound much sharper than Michael’s padded footsteps. The trees rustled and cast shadows upon them, only for the street lights to shine on them at every odd interval.

Michael fidgeted, drumming his fingers on his thigh and biting his lip. The street lights flickered and on the left, a group of women stood, sending a seductive smile his way. He looked at her from the corner of his eye and cleared his throat.

“Are you going to rent one?” She asked, causing him to choke on his own spit and shatter whatever courage he had summoned henceforth. Her voice was threaded in steel coated in the most potent of poisons.

“N-No!” He squeaked. “I wanted to a-ask if you wanted to see Princess.” He maneuvered his body behind Leanne, attempting his hide his body behind her. It was rather difficult since she was a mere five feet to his nearly six feet self. He looked at her with a shy smile. “And um, do you mind if I hide behind you?”

That is it, Leanne thought, he is officially a puppy prince, a true cinnamon roll that must be protected at all costs. She fought the blush that threatened to coat her cheeks and nodded as he gave her another smile. Dear God, he was going to give her diabetes.

Walking past the women of the night, Michael tugged on her sleeve. “You didn’t answer my other question. Do you want to see Princess? I think she’d like to meet you.”

Her eye twitched as she thought of meeting his pet dog. Just why was he persistent in being around her? And he was a stranger she had only met a few hours earlier. She faced him and asked, “Why do you want me to meet your dog?”

“Because I think it will make you happy. I’m sure you’ll be sad as soon as I leave so why don’t I expand your circle of friends and show off Princess? Kill off two birds with one stone right? And uh- I just want to make sure you don’t do something you’d regret later.” There was a nervous ring in his laughter, as though she’d run off as soon as he finished and leave him in the dark.

“Oh, thanks for your concern.” She coughed out, shoving her hands in her pockets. “I’d um, I’d like to meet Princess. If that’s okay with you.” Though, she wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by regret. She had already drunk herself into a stupor as soon as she landed in American and cried her heart out into her pillow, which still had makeup printed upon it.

Her ears nearly fell off when he yelled in happiness and grabbed her arm. “Alright Princess! Here we come!” He dragged her towards the right of the street and pointed to the one of the many buildings standing. “Just a few more minutes and you can see my Princess! She’ll love you, I promise!”

His hazel eyes glimmered as a carefree laugh left his smiling lips. Leanne felt her own mouth curving up at the corners into a smile. His whimsical essence soothed the wounds on her heart, like aloe vera on sunburnt skin, or a parent’s kiss on a scraped knee. She joined in his laugh as he pulled her towards his apartment and his beloved dog, Princess.

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Astrid’s blue violet eyes contained worry as she gazed into Egil’s deep purple eyes. He rubbed his thumb over her knuckles and smiled at her. “Don’t worry, litla systir1, we’re doing this for Leanne’s sake. Fredrik can’t stop us from helping her and, you know as well as I, that she needs us,” he said, reaching over to push a strand of silvery blonde hair out of her face.

“Yes, but storebror2, will Leanne want our help? What if we accidentally mess up? What if we lead him to her?” She bit her trembling lip, staring deep into his eyes.

“It is alright, Astrid. He can’t hurt us if we do. Father won’t allow it, you are his only daughter after all.” Egil chuckled as he thought of their father. The man treated women as though they were nothing but he doted on his daughter. Ah, how Egil adored the irony. Even more hilarious was how their father wanted a child from all Nordic countries; Fredrik from Denmark, Arnstein from Norway, Anders from Sweden, Aasta from Finland, Egil from Iceland, Astrid from Greenland, and Atli from Faroe Islands. He was only missing the Åland Islands in Finland’s territory.

Their poor mothers were nothing more than babymakers for their father to gather heirs for his name. Ha, bless his mother’s ambitious heart. She’d tried to get him to the alter more times than the other women had combined, yet she won’t be anything other than a mistress for Father to scratch an itch if he had one.

“Storebror? Do you think Leanne is safe, wherever she is?” Astrid asked, her eyes large and watery as she imaged Leanne chained in a basement somewhere in America, begging for help. Her small body shuddered. “What if she was taken by Aidan? He does not like our storebror.”

“He wouldn’t involve himself with in an affair with someone who was a civilian. Give him credit, he won’t break the rules.” Egil scooted over to his sister and pulled her into a hug. “That fool Fredrik is who we should worry about. He’s risking everything for a woman he hurt.” Astrid nodded and wrapped her thin arms around his broad back.

From the doorway, Tait barked from its place as padded over to its mistress. “You should go to her, Astrid. Leanne probably trusts you more than any of our brothers at the moment.” Egil pulled back and grinned at the Greenland dog. “Plus you have a vicious warrior doggy to fend off unwanted suitors and overly obsessed Danes.”

“Storebror, please.” Astrid shook her head. Reaching out her right hand, she petted the dog, a sweet smile on her face. “Leanne hasn’t met anyone other than the three of us and Tait is a harmless overgrown baby. Isn’t that right, eskling3?” The dog woofed and rubbed itself on her hand.

“You love that dog more than half of our family don’t you?” Egil asked.

Astrid averted her eyes and uttered, “Lying is a sin, storebror.” She coughed as he burst into laughter. “W-Well now, how will we protect Leanne from her not so charming former prince?”

Egil wiped a tear from his eye as he shifted his body into a more comfortable position on the couch. “We’ll hide her away and get Freddy boy hooked on that woman he had an affair with! Or, something like that. I haven’t thought that far other than to sabotage his plan in getting Leanne back with utmost vigor.” His lips turned into a frown as he remembered his conversation with his older brother. “His mental state is starting to worry me. He might do something to that other woman in order to get Leanne back.”

“Should we protect that one as well?” Astrid asked, her brows scrunched up in thought. “We have no connection to her and storebror must view her as a disposable toy. She probably doesn’t know about his “work” or how dangerous he is. I personally feel no need to protect her. She’s like an ambiguous figure in this fight between Leanne and storebror. Is she aware of what’s going on? Is she a civilian or is she a member of another family?”

“We might have a war on our hands if the woman is related to gang or mafia. I’ll have her investigated. Well, there goes Freddy’s reputation of being the model heir for all the mobsters in the world.” Egil’s eyes flashed as his train of thought sped up. “Why did Fredrik have an affair in the first place? He’s always struck me of a monogamous man. Was he drunk or blackmailed?”

“Or is he turning into Father?” Astrid bit her lip. Getting up, she moved towards the window and glanced at the blizzard screaming outside of the well heated house they were in. “He inherited his looks from Father. What if he’s inherited Father’s personality?”

“We need to put him in therapy that’s what we need to do.” Egil waved off her concerns. “And I’m sure even Freddy doesn’t want to turn out like Father. One of him is enough.”

“I suppose.” Astrid relented as her other dogs came into the room and nudged her for affection. Her eyes widened as she sniffled and her body shook. The dogs sniffed her hands and licked, causing a small gasp to fall from her lips. “I have been chosen,” she whispered, leaning down to drown in animal fur and love. Her small body disappeared as she lay on the floor and let the dogs cover her in affection.

Maybe letting Astrid protect Leanne wasn’t a good idea, Egil thought. All Fredrik had to do was give the girl a puppy and she would be distracted for weeks while Fredrik would be able to capture Leanne within seconds. Maybe he should go instead.

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Contrary to Michael’s words, Princess hated her very presence and proximity to the man. The poofy fluff ball of arrogance had glared at Leanne every chance it got and clung to Michael like super glue. Right now, Michael cradled the demon spawn in his arms, cooing sweet words in its ear. “Who’s the most beautiful girl in the world? You are. You most definitely are, Princess.” He buried his face in its tawny fur and the bloody thing looked at her with the doggy version of a smirk.

“There can only be one alpha, Princess. One. Alpha,” she whispered, crossing her arms as she sat on the bronze4 sofa. The coffee table held her cup of hot chocolate, something Michael had insisted on as he ushered her in his home and took off her coat.

Dog toys were neatly piled onto a dog bed shaped like a bed from the Palace of Versailles. God, did he use his paycheck just to pamper that little monster? He didn’t even pay attention to Leanne as soon as he lay eyes on the pompous Pomeranian, scooped it up, and proceeded to worship it. The dog was clearly the master in their relationship.

“Hey, Michael, I don’t think your dog likes me.” Leanne stated, barely able to keep herself from hissing at the dog.

“Aw, she just needs some time getting used to you. Then you’ll be the best of bosom buddies!” He set down Princess onto her own sofa and perched on the only other human sized sofa. He missed her pointed look and aimlessly chattered about the history of Princess, how she was born, and etcetera.

Leanne tuned him out and examined her nails, the words flooding out of Michael’s mouth reminded her of Fredrik’s sister, Astrid. At first, she had been paralyzed with incredulity at the mere thought of such a sweet, innocence kitten of being related to the stone faced wolf she was dating. Then she had been told that Fredrik had a different mother and that Astrid had lived in Greenland with her mother.

Thank god or else the girl would have been corrupted. Egil was a perverted serial killer –okay, she didn’t know if he was a serial killer but he gave off the vibes of one- and Fredrik was being prepared to take over his father’s seat as the head. The other brothers had not made themselves known to her but the rumors circulating around them were as bright as the Marina’s Trench.

“-and Princess’s name isn’t really Princess, you see, it’s just a nickname. Her real name is Cerberus.”

She tuned back in to Michael’s words and blinked. “Wait, what?” She asked, staring at the dog that now gazed at Michael with what seemed to be betrayal.

“Oh, Princess is really named Cerberus. Did you know that in Greek it means Spot? Cause Hades totally named his three headed dog Spot. I mean, imagine going to the Underworld with all these dead souls crying and stuff when you hear a growl coming from a gigantic puppy dog trying to look vicious when a pretty lady and her nerdy husband comes out and he just calls the puppy dog “Spot,” and suddenly all the fear you feel fades away cause this god of the Underworld legit named his guard dog a generic dog name instead of being all mysterious and terrifying.” Michael guffawed, hugging his sides as the image manifested in his mind.

Leanne stared at him, eyes flicking to Princess and back to Michael. The dog mimicked her actions and before long, they stared at each other in silent agreement. Michael peeked at them from the corner of his eye and swallowed a bark of laughter. He knew they’d get along sooner or later.

Turning to look at Leanne, he asked, “Are you going to spend the night or go home? It’s pretty late now.”

“What?”

“Well, if you want to spend the night, you’re in luck cause I have a spare bedroom and if you want to go home, I’m okay with getting you a cab or walking you home,” He clarified, and motioned to Princess. “And you’re getting real peachy with my Princess so if you girls want a sleepover I won’t bother unless you want food. I make mean Samoas cookies, as good as the ones girl scouts sell, I promise. Unless you don’t like Samoas, then I can make cupcakes. Don’t worry, my friend Charles taught me his best recipes as long as I don’t sell them. He owns a bakery in England.”

“Not only can you provide comfort as great as a puppy, you can bake?” Leanne whispered, a hint of reverence in her voice. “You’re like the whole package.”

“The whole package of flower boy? Then yes, yes I am good lady. I can’t cook a lot of things though. My skills are in affection and baked goods.” He grinned. “And my utter devotion to Princess of course.”

“Have you ever dated, Michael? I mean, you have these great qualities. It’s kind of hard to see you not taken by now. Was it because of Princess?” Leanne’s eyes darted to the canine as Princess pawed her bed before resting and shutting her eyes.

“I have, if you count those dating sims. Plus, I’m not all that great, I have flaws you know. Mom’s told me that I’m too trusting and oblivious. Never could see the tension in the room or anything.” A nervous chuckle erupted from him as he scratched the back of his head. “I mean, you could be a serial killer posing as a heartbroken girl and I just invited you into my home with only a dog as the witness for my murder. Not that you’re really a serial killer but you know? Plus I’ve had a real boyfriend once. We kinda didn’t stay together since it was long distance and he started liking someone else.”

“I’m sorry it didn’t um, work out.”

“It’s alright. It was a few years ago and I’m over it. What about you?” He moved to her sofa and clasped her hands. It felt warm.

She paused and looked away from him. “I’m ready to settle down. Find someone I want to have a family with and stuff.” A mirthless smile made its way to her lips. “Fredrik bought a house for us to live in. He said it was perfect and I –I thought that he wanted to marry me. I had already met two of his siblings and his parents so I thought –He promised to let me meet the others and-” Her throat closed up as she began to sniffle.

“O-Oh, you don’t have to continue if you don’t want to, Leanne. I’m sorry for asking about it.” He used one hand to rub her back as she broke down into sobs. She turned and clutched his shirt, wet rivulets streaming down the cotton fabric.

They stayed like that for a while, Leanne continuing to pour out her feelings and Michael comforting her the best he could. He sung a soft Italian lullaby and hugged her tightly.

“Hey, what’s that song called?” Leanne asked, not looking up at Michael so he wouldn’t see her red and puffy eyes.

He stopped singing. “I think it’s called Ninna Nanna. I heard it when this guy came into the café. I liked it so I asked him to teach me the song.”

“You really asked a stranger to teach you a song?” Though, she didn’t really have the right to say a thing since he asked her to meet his dog and she agreed.

“Well yea, plus he had pretty pinkish red eyes. I’m sure they were contacts but who knows? I’ve seen lots of people with different eye colors but I think people aren’t very creative when they think that only blue eyes are pretty. Some blue eyes are scary and cold,” he mumbled.

Well, he was right about some eyes being scary and cold.

“Hey, are you hungry? I’ll make something to eat. It’s um, almost two in the morning but hey, food is the solution to everything and you need to rehydrate yourself,” Michael offered, a sunshine smile blooming her way.

“Okay, what about the hot chocolate you made me?” She asked, pulling back from his embrace. “It’d be a waste to throw it away.”

“Listen, it’s cold and I think you need something warm, but I’ll heat it up if you still want it.” He reached for the mug and got up, walking towards the kitchen.

“Oh, then what can you cook? And I still want the hot chocolate.” Leanne wiped off the remnants of her tears and fixed her clothes.

Michael placed the mug in the microwave and turned to face her. “Baked potato soup, lasagna, potato salad, homemade potato chips, shrimp chowder, baked macaroni and cheese, and fettuccine alfredo. That’s all I can think of the moment.”

Her stomach grumbled as she listened to him list the food. A light blush covered her face as she hoped puppy prince didn’t hear her stomach growl. “W-Which one can you make the fastest?”

“Um, the fettuccine alfredo takes ten minutes.” He replied, rummaging the pantry for ingredients. Since the kitchen was right in front of the living room, Leanne had a rather nice view of his backside. She’d rather die than admit it out loud but the back was as tantalizing as the front. “Leanne? Hello? Does that mean you want alfredo?” He called, turning his head around to look at her.

The blush reddened even more as she avoided his eyes a stammered out an affirmative. He blinked and turned back to cooking, briefly wondering about why her face was a red tomato. Oh well, he had feed to his prickly cactus after all.

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                                            killing you SOFTLY ?

no. this is going to be BLOODY,

this is going to be BRUTAL,

& most of all
THIS IS GONNA

HURT LIKE HELL.

 

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