A Very Beary Christmas Cruise by Ellie Pond


Michele threw this week’s black and purple glossy envelope with the embossed dragon into her kitchen sink. She flicked on the oven vent and proceeded to thumb through yesterday’s mail. Bill, bill—ah, an actual letter from her overly happy best friend. She threw a plasma blast over her shoulder at the purple envelope in the sink. A puff of steam wafted out.

She settled at the kitchen table with her coffee. A handful of pictures tumbled out of the envelope. She flipped through them. Of course, most of them were of her incredibly cute “nephew.” The note accompanying them was hastily written. Lauren’s calligraphy style handwriting had turned down a notch to only immaculate handwriting.

Thought you might need some updated photos for your new fridge. Love, Lauren

It was hard to believe Ashton was almost four months old. Wolf shifter babies came fast, but then Lauren and her mate Spencer hadn’t wasted any time, either. She flipped through the photos. Ashton in a little seat that held him upright. Ashton asleep on Spencer’s chest. Okay, she had to admit that was damn cute.

Ice pellets thunked against her window. November in Ohio—you never knew what the weather was going to be other than dismal. Snow would be better than the usual rain and certainly not that “snain” out there.

The last picture was of Lauren’s new family, taken at Ashton’s naming ceremony. Michele held baby Ashton. Spencer and Lauren stood behind her, with Aurora and Duncan on the other side. And the Oracle—otherwise known as Lauren’s mother-in-law—stood behind them with her husband. About twenty other people crowded around, most of whom she couldn’t name. Other than cousin Rachel. She was hysterical. Gunnar was in the last row, but he didn’t talk to her at all that day. His. Loss.

She wasn’t going to wait for her new fridge in the new apartment; she’d remember to pack Ashton’s cute face. Michele pulled an extra few magnets off the side of her fridge and hung the photos up, then turned off the cooktop vent and grabbed her mug for a refill. The glossy envelope sat in a dry sink, not a singe on it. What the fuck? She tossed another plasma blast into the sink. The envelope hadn’t lost its shine. She’d been incinerating purple envelopes weekly since they started coming four months ago. There was no way she was going back on that ship.