Life returned to normal—finally. Or as normal as it can be when you love a shifter.
My business was booming. I figured it had to do with my recent notoriety after revealing that Tipton wasn't quite what he'd wanted people to believe he was.
Tipton's disappearance after the press conference—together with Farnham's apparent vanishing act—had pretty well ended the attempt by Farnham's shifter stooges to take over the city government illegally. The DA and police chief both retired, as they chose to call it. Two of the shifter city council members who were up for reelection withdrew. The other three came out publicly as shifters, admitting they had fallen for Farnham's line that it was time for shifters to run the city, and they promised to reform. One of them faced a recall election and lost. The other two are still on the council, carefully watched by their constituents for any signs of wrongdoing.
Luca hadn't been directly linked to what had occurred at the press conference—other than backing up my statement that Tipton was a shifter—or to the information revealed by The Tetrad. He went back to what he'd been doing before we brought Farnham down, creating what I, and his clients, considered fantastic designs for whatever they needed.
At one point, about a month after the press conference, over dinner at his house, Luca said, "I've been thinking."
"As compared to just reacting," I quipped.
"Shush. I'm serious. You spend half your time here. Maybe you should move in?"
I gave that some serious thought. Yes, I loved him. That was a given. But…
"I'm not ready," I told him. "Perhaps, someday. But right now I still need my freedom."
"But we spend all our time together when we aren't working," he protested. "How would living here take away from your freedom?"
"It's hard to explain. No, maybe it's not. I'm here because I want to be. If we were living together, I'd feel as if I had to be. I'm not sure that makes any sense to you, but it's how I am. You grew up with siblings—a lot of them, from what Gino said. You're used to living with other people, so for you it doesn't seem like a…an obligation I guess, though I'm not sure that's the right word. I'm an only child. I grew up being very independent and self-sufficient—and different. I relish my being able to do what I want, when I want."
"But that doesn't have to stop just because we're living together," Luca said quietly.
"I know that, up here," I replied, tapping my forehead. "But emotionally…" I took his hand. "Give me time. Please. I'm not saying it won't happen. I just need to get used to the idea first, instead of jumping in with both feet. I don't want either of us to regret it, if I say yes."
He turned his hand to squeeze mine. "I understand. I can't say I like the idea of waiting until you're sure, but I do see where you're coming from." He smiled, then. "As long as you spend all your free time here, I'm good with what we have now."
Leaning across the table, no mean feat considering there were half-empty dinner plates on it, I kissed him. Of course, the fact he leaned in, too, helped.
"I do love you," I said, straightening up again. "Never, ever doubt that."
"I never have, since we both admitted it, and I never will."