Holiday Party Pooper

By: Betsy Granger

Writing Prompt: Yes

Date: 3rd Dec 2021

Office Holiday Party… This Can’t be too Awkward, Right? 

 

Arriving arm in arm and fashionably on time, Betsy Granger and James Raven step through the doors into the festively decorated main room of The Fifth Turnbuckle. James, as per usual, looks like the moistest of wet dreams to the most insatiable of thirst traps in black slacks and a matching suit jacket that hangs open; underneath is a black shirt with the top three buttons left casually undone. The only sign of the nights’ festivities was the lapel of the mini poinsettia she’d pinned to his jacket. He kept his arm firmly around Betsy’s waist as they swept regally into the room; if the People’s G.O.A.T. meant to look like a dark knight, the Impossible Traveler looked like a proper midnight princess. Her black A-line gown clung to every curve of her lean body, glittering like the snow against the night sky. The sleeveless bodice snaked up her torso while leaving her back bared, a rhinestone choker and belt holding the dress in place. A black lace wrap covers her shoulders for the time being; her hair is swept up like Audrey Hepburn, a crown of holly berries and poinsettia sitting upon her head. 

 

As they continue through the room, they notice that the other members of the New Status Quo hadn’t yet arrived. Betsy could feel hostility and curiosity coming from those who were there, and nobody was looking particularly friendly enough to approach. With a pinch on her hip, James guides her to where a line of well-dressed servers was waiting to pour drinks and serve hors d’oeuvres. Each of them is offered a glass of spiced holiday wine and several unidentifiable snacks on a plate; a moment later, they are sitting at one of the tables, sampling what they’d been given. Betsy allows the spiced wine to sit on her tongue, enjoying the blend of holiday flavors on her tastebuds. James nibbles on a cracker that’s spread with a particularly smelly cheese; giving it a cautious taste, he pulls a face of disgust and sets it back down onto it his plate. He allows his brown eyes to sweep the room once again, marking everyone who had arrived, before looking back at Betsy.  

 

“Feels like we’re a couple of pilgrims in an unholy land,” he says to her quietly.  

 

A smirk crosses her face as she rests a comforting hand on his thigh. “It’ll be fine once the others show up.” She says in a soothing voice, allowing her hand to run back and forth against his pant leg.  

 

“You really believe Shawn is going to show up for this thing, aren’t you?” James inquires, his hand falling over Betsy’s and moving with it.  

 

“Kasey will have him here, whether he’s surly in his hoodie or pumped himself full of holiday cheer beforehand.” Her eyes twinkle as she allows the meaning of her words to sink in. The wicked smile that crosses her face told her the message had been received.  

 

As their speculation continues, another figure enters the room, her multi-colored hair fashionably styled. The traditional Yule gown was red and gold, French-cut and stunning. Betsy watched in quiet admiration as Anne Boleyn, flanked by her usual guards, entered the room, head held regally high. They lock eyes for a moment, giving Anne time to draw a well-manicured finger against the delicate skin of her neck. Rolling her green eyes, Betsy kisses two of her own fingers and sends it over to Anne with a wave and a smile, before flipping her Silent Fight opponent the bird. Anne stalks haughtily away to the other side of the room, attracting the attention she’d clearly been seeking. Betsy shakes her head in disgust as she watches Anne bully someone out of their seat at the head of the room and taking it for herself.  

 

“I can’t wait to take her head off again… figuratively, of course.” Betsy snarls.  

 

James chuckles, slipping a finger under her chin and tenderly pulling her head so that she would face him again. “We’re here to have fun, remember? Worry about taking her head another time.” 

 

A scornful chuckle bubbles from her throat that sends a chill down his spine. “I knew Anne Boleyn… She would never allow her hair to look like that.” Betsy turns back to the false queen and tips her head. “In fact, she would have had a lot more cleavage showing as well. And she definitely wouldn’t be sitting idle to be leered at; Anne Boleyn was a lively beauty who was an accomplished musician and entertainer. That woman wouldn’t know how to live the life of a proper courtier even if I choked her with Queen Lizzie’s royal panties.” 

 

With a sigh, James sits back with his wine. After almost three years together, he knew when his woman couldn’t be deterred. “Or you can keep going.” 

 

The edge in his tone caught her attention and she turned to face him. “I have to stay focused, even now. I’ve been slipping… You’re about to beat a woman who has gotten the best of me twice and make it look embarrassingly easy. I thought I was past this losing shit…” She trails off as her voice cracks, allowing the frustration to boil away.  

 

Leaning across his seat, he puts a warm hand on the back of her head and kisses her gently. Their foreheads touch as their lips part and he allows his thumb to caress her cheek as he quietly, so only she can hear. “You’ll kick this shit, Bets. Everyone knows what you’re capable of, and you’ll be back at it soon enough. This is just a… weird patch for you. For all of us.” He pauses, feeling her flinch. “We’ll figure this out, baby. Trust me.” Cupping her cheeks, he kisses her again.  

 

Her eyes sting with hot tears that she blinks away furiously. “I don’t know what I would do without you.” she whispers.  

 

“You’ll never have to know.” he assures her.  

 

“Well, isn’t this adorable?” a voice cuts in.  

 

James and Betsy turn to see the smiling face of Kasey Winterborn, who had commented on what she and Shawn Warstein had happened upon.  

 

“Always with their hands on one another.” Shawn says, his voice reflecting his lack of enthusiasm.  

 

“Come on, let’s get a drink while we give the lovebirds a second.” Kasey says, shooting Betsy a wink. Giving an appreciative smile, Betsy watches as Shawn follows Kasey to the long serving tables before turning back to James.  

 

“Always good to see a friendly face.” She quips, referring to Shawn’s sour expression.  

 

James studies her carefully. “Are you sure you’re okay, Bets? Nothing… else going on?” 

 

Turning her head to hide her face, Betsy attempts to deflect the conversation. “Our wine is getting low, maybe I should-“ 

 

“Betsy.” 

 

Sighing, she turns back to him, allowing the depths of her fear to reveal themselves. “He gets stronger every day. I see him more and more all the time, and not just in my dreams anymore. His presence, the weight of his evil… It’s devouring me and I can’t stop it. I barely feel like myself anymore.”  

 

“Christ… What can we do?” He asks her.  

 

Before she can reply, her eyes fall on the camera that had been watching them quietly for quite some time. Betsy’s eyes narrow, filling with raw hatred as she gets to her feet; without realizing it was happening, the white energy begins to make her skin glow gently. James gets to his feet quickly and puts an arm around her waist and his lips to her ear. “Easy, love.” 

 

With a glare towards the cameras, Betsy stomps away angrily to get some air. James casts them an angry look before following quickly. Kasey and Shawn turn from the table to find that their friends had disappeared. The exchange a confused glance before Shawn shrugs and takes up the chair that Betsy had just been sitting in.  

 

After a Few Glasses of that Spiced Wine, the Party was Turning into a Proper Rager 

 

The DJ was in his element at this point, the beats he dropped had sufficiently broken the ice among the roster for the time being. Even though New Status Quo had arrived in full and stuck together, the atmosphere of merriment had even made Dickie Watson come out of his shell a bit. He and Aiden Reynolds stayed towards the back of the room, but they seemed to be involved in a rather outlandish dance contest that was starting to draw some attention. Their antics started to draw some attention, and soon, several others were throwing their moves into the competition. Chugging the rest of her 6th glass of spiced wine, Betsy hikes her dress up and hits the center of the circle that had formed. Grabbing a pair of glowsticks from the DJ, she begins to show off some of the moves that had made her a spectacle of her college rave days.  

 

Cheers and applause fueled her as she continued to twirl the glowsticks with nimble fingers, her feet guided by the bass, body never losing its sway with the beat. Her eyes slip shut as a blissful smile crosses her lips, bittersweet memories floating through her mind. As she twirls around, she tips her head back, eyes remaining shut; it wasn’t until a pair of strong hands grab her by the wrist and spin her expertly that she’s brought abruptly from her daydreaming. Eyes flying open, emerald orbs pop from her skull as Todrick Tabor-Ramsey dances her across the room. With a gleeful little giggle, she and her new partner glide all over the dancefloor, leaving the contest quite forgotten. Betsy looks up into the immaculately made-up face of Manhattan’s favorite Ebony Queen and top Rockstar herself.  

 

“That was brilliant!” Betsy says breathlessly, taking in the elegance of Toddy’s outfit. In her excitement, she failed to notice that Toddy’s demeanor did not match her own. “You look amazing and you dance divinely; I don’t know if you know this, but you’re one of my favorite people.”  

 

Toddy crosses her arms, casting a look of doubt into Betsy’s face. “Is that right?” 

 

Betsy nods eagerly, though now she’s starting to notice the visible tension in Toddy. “It… is; what’s up with you?” 

 

“If I’m one of your favorite people, why haven’t you come up to me sooner and introduce yourself?” Betsy’s mouth drops open. When she tries to reply, Toddy cuts her off. “Better yet, why would you resort to meetings with the likes of Chris Page if you think so highly of me?” 

 

“I… That…” in a rare moment of speechlessness, Betsy takes a step back and turns away. Feeling something crawling through her to take control of the situation, she clutches at the wall and shakes her head. “It’s not what you think… My association with Chris Page has nothing to do with what I think of you.” 

 

“Doesn’t it?” Toddy clearly doesn’t want excuses. “You’ve seen what he’s been doing to me recently; do you think that’s okay? Everything I’ve done to fight him has been to defend strong, independent women like us. Meeting with him on Monday, telling me you love me on Friday; who are you, Betsy Granger? What is your deal?” 

 

“Keep watching, you’ll find out my deal soon enough.” Betsy’s voice grows cold as she turns back to Toddy, her eyes flashing red for a moment. “You may be one of my favorites around here, but don’t think for a moment there isn’t a target on that glorious backside of yours. I may have been thwarted in my attempts at that nice little shiny you’ve had around your waist for a while, but the break is almost over for you, darling.”  

 

The two step closer to one another, almost nose to nose now. Toddy glares, her stance ready in case Betsy decided to strike. “So that’s how it really is, hmm? I knew you weren’t as much of a goody-two-shoes good girl as you made yourself out to be when you got here. Not with friends like yours.” 

 

“You would do well to find family like mine.” Betsy says, a sinister smile creeping across her face. “I’ve had my heart set on the Manhattan title for quite some time; never doubt that they’ll push me forward until I’ve got my hands wrapped around what I want.” 

 

“You’ll have a shot at this when I’m good and ready to give you one.” Toddy starts, her voice dangerously soft. “But you had better come ready, because no one has been able to keep me down and take this away yet.” 

 

“Perhaps they haven’t been willing to sink to the levels necessary to achieve victory.” Betsy says, her eyes turning to obsidian. “Betsy Granger isn’t the woman she used to be, and when I’ve achieved all that I planned… Neither will you.” 

 

“Okay, Crazy, whatever you say. But think again before you declare war on my house, honey; this won’t end the way you think it will.” Taking a step back, Toddy gives Betsy a disapproving once over, shaking her head in disappointment. “Pity… I thought you were one of the good ones, too.” 

 

“Huh?” In a clear voice that returned to her natural tones, Betsy looks at Toddy, her eyes returning to their normal green. The other tips her head curiously, but shrugs.  

 

“I don’t know what tricks you’re using, but you’ll have to do better than that if you want that Acadamy Award.” Toddy says, turning away to rejoin the party.  

 

“No tricks… Toddy, I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s coming over me…” Desperate, Betsy reaches out and wraps a freezing hand over Toddy’s arm.  

 

Toddy shakes off her grip with a rough shove that sends Betsy flying back. “Don’t you dare touch me again!” 

 

Gasping, Betsy struggles to her feet through the skirt of her gown. “Nothing is what you think, Toddy; I don’t know what to do anymore. I need help!” 

 

“No arguments here, Boo.” Toddy says before hurrying away to rejoin her husband, Austin.  

 

Feeling on the verge of a mental breakdown, Betsy grabs at the skirts of her dress and rushes back to where she’d parked Excellence, desperate to escape the sudden heavy feeling in the air.  

 

**** An Impossible Promo **** 

 

The scene opens on Betsy dressed in a traditional French-Cut gown that was reminiscent of something noble women would wear in the court of King Henry the 8th. In the tradition of the 12 Night Yule celebrations, the gown is bold green with silver and red lacing weaved through, her blonde hair hidden by veil, held by a cap decorated with holly. She’s mindlessly strumming a lute, an instrument that was popular among the courtiers of the time. Looking into the camera, she begins to sing in a soft, clear voice.  

 

“There once was a king, 

Though he was second in line, 

Who would ascend to the throne, 

And have a hell of a time, 

Though his young heart loved early, 

Besotted by the Crowned Jewel of Spain, 

There would come a common born lass,  

Who would become that fine lady’s bane.” 

 

As Betsy sings, a group of dancers comes out and begin to move around the floor in styles popularized in the 1500s. Brightly colored skirts of green, red, gold, and silver fanned out as men dressed in gold and silver doublets and white stockings spun them around gracefully.  

 

“Though she won her throne, 

Henry did once resist her, 

For when Anne arrived to court, 

He was already banging her sister, 

It was fair Mary,  

For who the King had a thirst, 

Even though Anne sat on the throne, 

Mary had the royal D first.” 

 

There’s a slight chuckle from some of the dancers, but they never break stride. Betsy grins as she continues to strum away.  

 

“But when Mary fell pregnant,  

By that most royal of seed,  

Anne jumped at the chance, 

To fulfill her ambition and greed, 

As poor Mary grew rounder,  

Unable to join the king in his bed, 

The sneaky other Boleyn girl, 

Turned the king’s head, 

Soon the king fell deeply in love, 

Though sweet Mary had given him his son, 

To Anne his heart now belonged, 

And from his wife, he wanted to run.” 

 

Betsy’s eyes narrow as she becomes lost in a memory. Images fill her head, creating the story she was telling through the music. The dancers follow her every lead, their movements matching the changing flows of the tune.  

 

“I saw it myself,  

I bore witness to all,  

I watched the lady rise, 

And I helped in her fall, 

Look into my eyes Anne, 

Surely you didn’t forget, 

The face of the sister you betrayed, 

The family you left bereft, 

You aim too high, you always have, 

It why we meet once more,  

But this time things are going to change, 

And I’m long overdue to even the score.” 

 

From behind her, several other musicians begin to follow her lead and join in, adding another level to the music. The dancers continue, adding more complicated moves to their routines. Betsy watches them with impressed eyes as she continues on.  

 

“Did you think you were the only one, 

The only Boleyn to resurrect? 

Nah sis, I’ve managed to achieve the impossible, 

And now your shits about to get wrecked, 

Who would have thought, 

Two ladies of the Queen would come so far, 

Leave it to the Boleyn Whores, 

To always set the bar, 

Anne may have made history by becoming a Queen, 

While women like me remained out of the pages, 

But the times have changed, and so have I, 

And I’m making my name one for the ages.” 

 

Betsy rises to her feet with the lute and begins to dance around among the pros. She smiles at them as she twirls endlessly around the room.  

 

“I spent so much time, angry and salty,  

But soon I started to reckon, 

You were always jealous, of all that I had, 

No wonder you wanted Sloppy Seconds, 

Still, you took all that I held dear,  

And I spent so many cold, lonely nights,  

Thinking of ways to exact my revenge, 

Which finally comes at Silent Fight,  

Season Beatings be damned,  

You’ve much more to dread,  

Start watching your neck, dear sister,  

Because I’m coming for your head, 

There’s nowhere to hide, 

 Don’t bother to run, 

There may be 12 nights of Yule, 

Destroying you will take one, 

Enjoy this side of the ground, dear Anne, 

And pray your soul to be saved, 

Because sooner than you want, 

I’m putting you back in your grave, 

The world isn’t big enough for both Boleyn Girls, 

So before I set you to burn, 

Remember that you had a chance and failed, 

Now it’s my turn, 

Unlike your reign, 

Met with contempt and disdain, 

The masses will thunderously cheer, 

When they see my name,  

And before I end your misery, 

I’ll make you listen to the horde, 

Fill your ears with rejection and jeers, 

Before I swing my sword, 

As your blood spills again, 

At the stroke of my blade, 

Anne Boleyn dies again, 

And Betsy Granger reigns.” 

 

As her voice trails off, Betsy and the musicians continue to play for another minute or so before allowing the music to fade. The dancers swirl around gracefully before dipping into respectful bows in front of one another. The camera fades out on the scene. 

 

 

Escaping the Festivities for a Heart to Heart in the Stars 

 

Reaching Excellence, Betsy bursts through the doors; her presence causes the ship to fill with light as she heads towards the control console. Bashing on the buttons, she pulls the lever that sets the engine into motion; as it chugs merrily, Betsy slumps in her pilot’s chair and closes her eyes. 

 

“Uh… Hey Betsy?” an unexpected female voice calls out to her tentatively.  

 

Leaping from the chair, her eyes fly open to take in the figure of Ash Cassidy, who had been sitting on the other side of the doors. Betsy stares across the cabin at her incredulously for several moments before collecting her wits.  

 

“What the heck are you doing here?” the Impossible Traveler asks, a bit more rudely than she’d intended.  

 

Ash looks a bit nervous now. “Oh, you know… Just trying to get away from all the good times to be had out there.”  

 

A chuckle escapes unbidden from Betsy who nods her head understandingly. “Yeah, I feel that to my very soul. How’d you end up in here, though?” 

 

“I thought I was in a broom closet or something.” Her eyes are still wide as she looks around, truly taking in the main cabin this time. “So all the time and space travel stuff, that’s all…” 

 

“Legit? Always was, mate.” Betsy finishes. Turning her attention to the console, she types in a few coordinates that send the ship whizzing through the time vortex.  

 

“How did you manage to make all this work?” Ash asks, waving a finger through the air to indicate the impossible size of the room they stood in.  

 

“Time Lord science and sheer determination,” Betsy replies quickly, an answer well-rehearsed.  

 

“Neat… I think.” Ashlynn walks over to where Betsy stands at the console, sitting down and stretching her arms out. “So why were you running from all the fun?” 

 

“It’s not fun when the air feels thick enough to choke you with all the self-entitlement and weakness that spreads through that place.” Betsy looks down as her face twists into a glare. “Not to mention, they hate you when you arrive because they’re better, and then you find yourself getting buried by bitches you know you can beat.” 

 

“I-uh, wow. I didn’t take you as the angry type. I kinda got the Mary Poppins vibe, honestly.” Ashlynn was trying her best to watch her words. After all, she was sort of a captive? 

 

Another chuckle escapes Betsy. “Perhaps that’s been my problem all along? I’ve allowed the nice girl to rule how I operate; maybe it’s time to take a page out of a different playbook.” Betsy’s eyes narrow as she looks back up at her unexpected guest. “What’s your story then? What brought you onto my ship?” 

 

The passenger had nodded along as she listened. She sympathized with a good chunk of her unwilling companion’s little villainous monologue. “I’m not feeling festive, I guess? Everyone can play nice, but deep down they only really care for themselves. I’m learning that though. I can adapt, too. I wanted to fit in, so I’ll follow all the selfish assholes’ lead.” 

 

Ashlynn too lost her previous match and she too was left to her own inner evil. Of course, it was some regular ole’ conscience, she wasn’t sure the same could be said for her host. Betsy absorbs the words of the other, staring towards the door of the ship. Before giving a reply, she turns Ash around and gives her a gentle push towards the doors. Disappointment fills her face, but she obediently allows herself to be led out by Betsy; a moment later, when Betsy throws open the doors, she looks in shock at the view around her.  

 

“Welcome to the edge of the Milky Way galaxy,” Betsy says simply, having a seat on the ledge. 

 

Struck mute in awe, Ash follows her lead and sits, staring in wonder at the view of stars and other galaxies spiraling out in colors and shapes she never knew existed. Her eyes reflect the bright lights and never-ending blackness of the universe before her; trembling excitement and deep fear twist through her like a heady cocktail.  

 

“This can’t be real…”  

 

“It’s as real as you and I; but very few get to see it the way you now have.” Betsy gives a sigh as she swings her feet in the vastness of space. “I like to come up here to remind myself of the bigger picture; that the disappointments we suffer back home are trivial compared to what’s happening out here.” 

 

“I suppose that perspective gets easier to maintain when you have the means to hop over to this view anytime you want,” Ash says, her voice betraying some of her bitterness. 

 

“You would think so until it feels like you have the weight of all this on your shoulders again,” Betsy replies, looking carefully at Ash. “We all have our demons to fight; it’s the strength we show in battle that determines our success. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to wave my white flag anymore. I’m sick of losing and feeling like a failure… I hate seeing these greedy, undeserving people get opportunities I know I deserve. It’s time for a change… Mary Poppins just isn’t cutting it anymore.”  

 

“What could possibly be so bad about your life? You’ve got a ship that can travel time and space, a crew that you run with that treats you like family; and even though I don’t think so, you’ve got one of wrestling’s most desirable men eating out of your hand. What’s the problem?” Ash asks, genuinely curious as to what could possibly be wrong in the seemingly perfect life of Betsy Granger.  

 

“Don’t ask any more questions; you don’t want to get sucked into this.” Betsy says as her face twists into a dark sneer. “Or maybe you do, I could always use a right hand.” she follows-up in a voice that no longer belonged to her. Grabbing at her head, Betsy leaps to her feet and hurries down the metal bridge. “No… No, not now, not her, not anyone. Get out, get out, GET OUT!” 

 

Screaming, she falls to her feet as nightmarish images fill her eyes. Ashlynn, spooked to her very core, gets up from the doors and slowly bridges the gap between her and the blonde on the floor. Excellence swings the doors shut behind her, causing Ash to jump out of her skin, grabbing at the metal rail in response. She watches as the controls begin to maneuver themselves while Betsy continued to cry out on the floor. Finally shaking herself out of shock, Ash kneels next to Betsy and places a hand on her arm.  

 

“Hey, is everything alright?” She instantly regrets the question, as it was obvious that the answer was no. “Scratch that; is there anything I can do to help you right now?” 

 

“Join us.” Betsy says, her voice overlapped with one much darker and threatening. She sits up suddenly and looks over at Ash with glowing red eyes. “Become one with our army and taste true power and success beyond comprehension.” 

 

“Um… Huh, I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but it doesn’t sound very Mary Poppins at all.” Ash slides away as Betsy reaches out a glowing hand towards her. “Woah, what’s all that?” 

 

“Ash… Get to one of the other rooms and lock it. Get yourself somewhere safe…” Betsy’s voice comes through clear, but breathless.  

 

“Did you slip me something?” Ash asks, getting to her feet and backing away as Betsy’s body becomes a blinding glow of hot white plasma. “What’s going on, Betsy?” 

 

“JUST GO!” Betsy cries in a strangled scream as pain grips her body.  

 

Ashlynn hurries away to the nearest room and slams the door shut behind her. From the main cabin, Betsy’s screams fill the room as the white light shines from the crack under the door. Electrical popping noises and loud crashes are heard for several minutes; the unmistakable smell of acrid smoke fills her nostrils.  

 

And finally, there was silence.  

 

Cautiously, Ash opens the door and peers out, noting that the smoke had somehow cleared itself considerably. The engine had stopped and despite the destructive noises, nothing about the cabin seemed to be out of place or destroyed. Ash tiptoes carefully over to Betsy, who had fallen to her hands and knees and was breathing heavily. Her dress was singed and her elegant updo had become unkempt. As she got closer, Ash realized that Betsy was whispering furiously, the same words over and over like a mantra.  

 

“Close, he’s so close now, he’ll be here soon.” 

 

“Who will be here, Betsy?” Ash asks, desperate to make the woman stop.  

 

Betsy stares up at her in surprise, as though Ash was supposed to know. “Him, of course; He who rules the In Between. The one who flows through me even now, eating his way into my soul.” 

 

At a loss for words, Ashlynn begins backing away slowly towards the doors. What had started as a pleasant exchange had quickly grown weird and she was ready to be off the ship. “Well… It’s been fun and all…” 

 

Before she could reach for the knob, the doors swung open and James waltzed inside, followed by Kasey and Shawn, who were trailed by Dickie and Aiden. Before they could question her curious company, Ash ran out, giving the group a weak little wave and disappearing around the corner. Having a moment to recover, Betsy flashes her friends her mega-watt smile, sauntering up to James and nestling herself in his arms. “What brings all my favorite people to my happy place?” 

 

“They’re out of wine; I reckon it’s about to get boring as a mother fucker soon.” Aiden says, plopping down in one of the chairs around the console. “We figured you’d know a good place to keep the festivities going.” 

 

“Or…” Betsy says, disappearing into one of the other rooms. A few minutes later, she comes out with a large bottle of liquor labeled in an alien language. “We make another bowl of punch and see how weird things can get.” 

 

Leading the way out, Betsy feels the demon attempting to claw its way back to the surface. Noticing the hesitation in her step, James pulls her closer and it puts her at ease enough to keep the creature at bay. Even still, she can feel the weight of his tempting offer weighing on her heart…