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  • Sherry Foster

Gabby Added Chapters

Chapter Twenty-nine

Gabby


The last few weeks had been a whirl-wind of activity. First I found a place I felt safe just to find out that safety can be an illusion when you are a female in a dying species. Learning about our kind and getting to know my family had been an experience. I thought I knew Poppy, but there was so much about him I didn’t know. So much he had kept hidden because of the promise he made my dad. Getting to know Mia, and hearing stories of my mom was the highlight of my days.

Depression weighed on me heavily most days. I talked often with Willow, one of the therapists in the pack. She said it was partly due to leaving Trey behind in Colorado and partly because of something called survivor guilt. According to her I was feeling more guilt because I was safe and my twin’s safety was unknown. When I questioned her about why I was only now feeling this amount of guilt she said I had not been safe in years. Any guilt I had felt before was because of the uncertainty of what had happened and the blame I had assigned myself. The fear and uncertainty of my life before meant the guilt hadn’t fully sunk in, not while I was on the run.

I guess she was right. I blamed myself, I always would. I had been an outgoing, adventurous person before everything happened. She didn’t know if I would bounce back to the person I was before, or if events had shaped my personality to the person I was now.

I stayed with Mia and Gammon. Poppy on the other hand stayed in a small cabin near the office. Initially I had protested, but after seeing the cabin and seeing Mia’s house I understood. The cabin was set up to accommodate a wheelchair and Gammon’s house wasn’t. I learned so much in the last few weeks. I couldn’t speak to the pack telepathically, I wasn’t part of the pack and my wolf hadn’t risen. But I learned a pack is one huge family where everyone knows everyone and no one is ever completely alone. I didn’t understand that though, not really. To me the pack was a bunch of strangers who answered to one man and I wasn’t part of that pack, so I still felt alone.

Today though I was feeling none of the depression and guilt. Excitement and nervousness danced through me. My stomach did yet another somersault as I heard a vehicle coming. Gammon told me at breakfast that Trey would be coming to stay for a week. That was hours ago. They had just finished moving my things to Poppy’s cabin. Apparently he didn’t want to deal with having Trey and me in the same house for the week. He had been grumpy all day. Aunt Mia explained to me that as the Alpha of the pack Gammon’s wolf did not like having another Alpha in his territory.

Shifting from foot to foot I stood outside the office and watched the rental car pull up. Even though they knew who was in the car and was expecting him Gammon still made sure Trey knew protocol would be followed to the absolute letter. I personally thought the entire situation was idiotic, Trey was going to be family if we became mates. Trey should have been told which house was Gammon’s and allowed to park there. You don’t stand on ceremony with family and you certainly don’t make them follow the same rules you would a stranger. Shivering I rubbed my hands together. Alaska was too freaking cold in October to be standing outside.

I watched Trey step out of the car and glance around. I watched the smile on his face grow as he saw me standing in the doorway. I was trying to stay out of the wind as much as possible. I saw his head tilt to the side as he looked around before shrugging and jogging over to me. I won the bet. I danced in place for a minute as I waited for him to reach me. I laughed as he grabbed me and swung me around in his arms. When we came to a stop he had his back to the wall looking over my shoulders.

“Stop it. No one is coming so you can stop looking. You know I bet on you and won?”

He looked down at me, “You bet on me?”

“Yes, yes. I won too.” Laughing I wiggled out of his arms. Grabbing his hand I started pulling him along behind me. “Nikita said you would wait at the car like always and I bet him you wouldn’t.”

“Who is Nikita?” he growled. At least it sounded a lot like a growl to me. I shivered at the sound as a warm tingle filled my body. That was one sexy sound and I wondered what I could say to hear it again.

“Oh, he is one of Gammon’s Betas. He said I could call him Uncle Nikita if I wanted.”

“One of? Where are we going? What does one of mean?” Trey stopped, which caused me to stop.

“I don’t understand? One of means one of.”

“Darling, packs have an Alpha and a, one, uno, single Beta. You said one of and I think you must be confused. What have they been telling you of how a pack operates? I thought they would have explained things to you such as pack hierarchy and such. Hell, for that matter I thought you understood that much of a pack before you left. You haven’t mentioned this Nikita person when we talked on the phone”

Warmth spread though me as the last sentence came out with a growl. He sounded a bit jealous. Nervousness replaced the warmth as I remembered Aunt Mia’s warnings. Wolves are territorial about their mates and jealousy was dangerous and could lead to fights. I did not want Trey to fight someone over me. Well, I didn’t want him to fight a friend or family member over me, I wouldn’t mind him protecting me from the bad guys.

I laughed. “Uncle Gammon says he is above such petty rules.”

“The fu-uh, the heck? No one is above the rules of pack.” Trey didn’t notice when I started pulling him again. I was trying to hide my smirk as I led him to the house.

I shrugged, “Honestly? Gammon says events can cause upheavals in a pack a person would never wish on their worst enemies. He said those same events can cause changes in a pack hierarchy that are unexpected and difficult even if they are welcome. He wouldn’t say much else about why he has two Betas. He got a sad look on his face when I asked about it. Aunt Mia asked me later to never question Gammon about his past or why he has two Betas again. She said some events are too terrible to live though more than once and every time you tell someone some horrible event from your past you are only reliving the memory again in your mind. Which kinda goes against some things Willow has been talking to me about.”

I heard Trey sigh before he asked, “And who is Willow? Wait, you told me on the phone she is the therapist you are seeing. Where are we going?”

“To Gammon’s. He gave me strict instructions to bring you straight to his house. You know he made me move my things to Poppy’s for this week? He said you would explain why. So?”

“I would? He said that? Why would I know? You know little one if you had told me where we were going I could have grabbed my bag. Now I have to go back and get it. I thought I would be met in the parking lot and then told where to go and what not.”

When he tried to turn around I dug my feet in. “No, no, I have strict instructions. Gammon said the only way I could be the one to meet you at the office is if I brought you straight to his house. No stops along the way, no visiting Poppy. No going out for ice-cream.”

“It’s freezing out, why would you want ice-cream?”

“I don’t want ice-cream, I am repeating what Gammon said. Now, unless you want me to get in trouble with Gammon, and he is scary when he gets mad, I really wish you would just come on. Please?”

This time when I pulled on his hand he followed freely. I looked back at him to see he was watching me with a smile on his face.

“So you don’t know why I have to stay at Poppy’s this week?”

He rubbed his face but not before I saw the flush of red. “Well, I can make an educated guess.”

“So make a guess and tell me what the answer is before I go crazy.”

He grinned at me and pulled me to him. When he leaned down his lips brushed the top of my ear, a shiver raced down my spine as he whispered, “My wolf wants his mate.”

A savage growl erupted from in front of us. As I yelped and jumped backwards I heard Gammon’s voice, “If your wolf wants to keep all his parts you will keep him leashed while you are here.”

I felt the smallest tremor under my hand where it rested on Trey’s arm. His voice when he answered Gammon was strong and steady, “She wanted to know why she had to stay with Jules this week instead of being allowed to stay at your house. I was merely doing what you apparently wanted and telling her why. Now Gammon, man, you can’t tell her to ask me why we can’t stay under the same roof and growl at me for telling her the truth. You needn’t worry about a lack of control on my part. I would never jeopardize my mate.”

Gammon grunted as he moved to the side so we could enter the house and I heard him mutter, “I was young once. The young have little control when it comes to the wolf. Not when your mate stands at your side.” He closed the door behind us and led the way to the living room. He sat in one of the chairs and gesturing he motioned toward one of the other chairs for Trey then growled when Trey sat on the couch and pulled me down with him.

I glared at him. “Bad wolf! bad wolf!” I felt the arm I clutched shaking and turned to look at Trey.

“Keep laughing. I can still train you on how to be a better Alpha after I break your legs.” The rumbling growl from Gammon echoed though the room.

“Aunt Mia, Uncle Gammon is being mean to me again.” I smirked at Gammon as I called out to my aunt.

I watched his chest swell as he drew in breath and his eyes closed. He pinched the bridge of his nose. Mia came rushing into the room.

Lips twitching she looked from Gammon to Trey and back to Gammon before turning her attention to me. With raised eyebrows she looked at me, “What did you do this time to set him off?”

“I didn’t do anything except sit down on the couch with Trey. He was the one being mean.” I scooted closer to Trey and watched as Mia pushed Gammon’s hand down from his face. When she started shaking her head and laughing I knew he was talking to her through their bond. She sat in his lap and looked at me.

“You can’t go around telling the males they are bad wolves when they growl. It isn’t done.” Her voice was shaky with suppressed mirth.

I watched her lean back into his embrace and wished I could tell Trey that the situation he had witnessed was concocted by Mia before he arrived. I couldn’t believe Gammon had fallen into the trap so easily. Mia knew her mate well. While Gammon had taken my stuff to Poppy’s cabin Mia had told me the things I needed to do to ease the tension when Trey arrived. She said in all their years together Gammon had never invited another Alpha into his home and his wolf was being difficult. Gammon was protective of the females but even more so with me because of Mia and her loss. I needed to be brave and difficult so the men would bond. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to pull it off, not without the scent of fear filling the house. But I had not taken into account how secure and brave having Trey by my side would make me. Even now the men were giving each other commiserating looks. A few more such statements on my part would have Gammon feeling sorry for Trey. Trey would in turn feel sorry for Gammon having to listen to such remarks. Manipulating the men was kind of fun and something I would have done when I was younger, before the catastrophic events of the past.

“Yes, well, he growled first. You are not suppose to growl at family and according to the big man himself Trey is family.”

“Not yet he isn’t.” Gammon muttered.

“If everything everyone has told me is true then he is as good as family. Nothing can change the mating bond once it is felt. So unless something happens to one of us between now and Christmas day, and if we go through with the ceremony and he will be your nephew by mating. You said so yourself.”

“If? There is no if. When your wolf rises she will want her mate.”

“That is what I said. He is family.”

I watched Mia rub his shoulders when the grumbling growl started low in his throat. I heard a slow in-drawn breath beside me and turned to look questionably at Trey. He shrugged his shoulders and I heard a low rumble come from his stomach. Leaning closer I told him, “Pot roast. Aunt Mia makes the best pot roast and now, so do I.”

All eyes turned in the direction of the front door as we heard clear sounds of someone entering the house. I giggled. Aunt Mia was right, it didn’t matter what day she cooked roast beef, Nikita and Dimitri always turned up just before the meal was served. She swore they could smell it from across the compound and I was beginning to believe she was right. Gammon didn’t bother getting up to introduce Nikita to Trey he just waved his hand our direction. Dimitri had met Trey before and needed no introduction. Soon we were all gathered around the table with plates piled high with food.


Chapter Thirty

Trey

The training wasn’t going as well as I had hoped, but Gammon seemed pleased, or at least he wasn’t snarling at me today. I didn’t get as much time with Gabby as I wanted but I was getting to know her. Today I was meeting with Willow to talk about how to help my mate. Shifters didn’t have the pesky rules humans had about therapy sessions being filled with secrecy. I didn’t see how families could help each other if they didn’t know where to start. I looked around as I followed Gammon to Willow’s house. Shaking my head I wondered yet again if the council knew what Gammon had done with the school.

Six years I had been the Alpha of my pack. And before that and even during part of that time, my sister had been installed in the school. How in the world Gammon was able to get Stormie to stay silent about how he ran the school was a miracle in itself. My sister liked to talk and I didn’t think, until recently, she was capable of keeping a secret. As far as I knew she had never told a soul that the school wasn’t really a boarding school and the girls never stayed in the building at all. Gammon and I had spent hours discussing things from how to be the best Alpha to how he kept our females safe and happy. Fostering the girls into families and giving them homes to grow up in was better than having them in a sterile environment surrounded by teachers and guards. What I couldn’t figure out was why Stormie insisted she never had anything to do with the single males. She had to have come into contact with them over the years. But I never smelled a lie on her when I questioned her about it.

Though, to be fair, I questioned her little about the school, thinking the less she had to think on being cooped up in a boarding school surrounded by strangers who didn’t love her the better for her peace of mind. I did hold one or two things against the couple who helped raise my sister. Perhaps I should not have bristled at Gammon about the dinosaur song or the lack of cooking skills before meeting the couple. I would like to thank them, but after what I said about how they raised her, Gammon refused to tell me which couple fostered her.

Surprisingly Gammon and Mia never fostered one of the girls. Dimitri told me Gammon wouldn’t allow it for fear Mia would get too attached and want the girl to stay in the pack. And if Mia got attached Gammon would destroy a pack to keep the girl. Of course, it went without saying that Mia would never know how the girl’s former pack mysteriously vanished from the face of the Earth. I still didn’t understand how Gammon could have two Betas but I respected him enough not to ask. If I was honest I would admit I also feared him enough not to ask.

We came to a stop in front of a small house and I waited while he knocked on the door. Gammon wasn’t comfortable with me having free run of his compound so whenever I went somewhere he or one of his Betas accompanied me. The male who opened the door snarled at me before greeting Gammon and welcoming us into his home. I didn’t let it bother me, males hated to let another male into their home, around their female, when the male wasn’t from their pack. For that matter some of the males from my pack had a rough time letting others inside their homes.

I tried to place where I had seen the male before as we walked inside. It didn’t take long for the memory to surface. I smiled inside as I remembered causing this one to lose a bet when I couldn’t make it out of the territory before beating Donny’s ass.

“Trey, this is Willow and her mate Keith.”

“Trey, it is a pleasure to meet you. I hope I can help you help Gabby.”

I nodded my head in acknowledgment of her, wisely keeping my hands to myself, before reaching out to shake Keith’s hand. “Sorry bout losing you the bet man, no hard feelings?”

He shrugged his shoulders, “Naw, it wasn’t that much and honestly I should have known you wouldn’t make it out the territory before you put a smack down on his ass. I would have beat his ass before we got out the parking lot. Have a seat.”

“Alright, let’s get this wrapped up so you can get back to Gabby. She has a long way to go before she can heal. Now from what she has told me you already know about the things she went through these last few years right?”

I nodded my head. “She told us her story. I don’t really understand what else I need to know.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s why you are here. You think since she found you, or you found her, that everything is gonna be a bed of roses. The magic has spoken and you get to live happily ever after blaa blaa blaa.”

Keith growled.

“You hush. Just cause we are mates doesn’t mean we have happy ever after every day and you know it. If you can’t stay quiet I am gonna make Gammon make you leave. I love you but you are not threatened by another mated male and you know it.” Willow rolled her eyes at her mate before turning back to me. “Now where was I before I was so rudely interrupted?”

Keith glared at me before pulling Willow closer to him on the couch. She gave a long-suffering sigh before continuing. “Gabby feels safe around you. The nature of the magic ensures that, but Trey, you have to realize the Gabby you know now isn’t the Gabby she was before this all began. She was an outgoing, adventurous child. She would have to be to head out on her own for college without sharing where she was going. She had no fear in her, just a thirst for knowledge and a determination to live life to the fullest. That all changed in a matter of hours. Most people change over time. They grow and develop into the person they will be as an adult. Gabby didn’t have that time. What she had was a traumatic event that didn’t end. For her it still hasn’t ended. Everything she is going through is still traumatic and life altering. You look confused so let me try this another way. Stormie was kidnapped and kept for hours before you found her and rescued her. Hours Trey, not days, not weeks, certainly not years. She knew what was going on when she was kidnapped, she knew why and she knew David would be coming for her. She knew her family would be coming for her. She knew she only had to hold out and keep that ceremony from taking place long enough for her mate’s wolf to track her and she would be safe. She was beaten, she was scared, but she knew if she held on she would be rescued and she still suffered nightmares for months after wards. She lay beside her mate, in their bed, just down the road from her family, knowing her mate could find her, knowing as a mated female whose wolf had risen her pack could hear her call out and she still had nightmares. Your mate didn’t grow up understanding pack. We can tell her you will always find her, we can explain pack to her, but we can’t take away years of running scared never knowing how long before she was captured. Never knowing why they chased her or what would happen to her when they finally caught her. And don’t think for one minute she ever thought she could run forever. Every single day she believed would be her last day of freedom. For years. She is, in a way, more damaged than Trisah was when you sent her to us. You see, Trisah knew why she was captured and held captive. She bounced between despair and hope and blinding fear. She could always hope that the man who Jordan had chosen as her mate would turn out to be a good man, a kind man. She knew Jordan and his wife held her for their son. She also knew the son didn’t know about her. That gave her hope in her darkest hours. Even in her terror she knew when she turned twenty-one she would be turned loose from the chains. She knew her physical chains would be exchanged for magical bonds to a man she didn’t know, but the fact is, she knew she wouldn’t always be a prisoner in a basement. Your Gabby didn’t know anything. She didn’t know if they wanted to capture her and sell her on the black market where she would be a slave for the rest of her life. She didn’t know if they wanted to kill her when they tired of her. She didn’t know she had a wolf who would rise at twenty-one and comfort her when no one else could. She lived for years in hopeless terror and that doesn’t go away just because she met you. She feels safe around you and she doesn’t understand why, not really. She feels she could take on the world if you were at her back, but she doesn’t understand why. We can tell her why, and she can try to understand, but for her the terror is too fresh and raw for her to really believe the safely she feels isn’t an illusion. She feels guilty for getting her family in this situation. She feels guilt that her sister may be out there somewhere running scared. She worries they may have found Trina and killed her aunt and uncle. She feels guilt that she feels safe with you and when you aren’t around she is terrified that what she feels now isn’t real. When I met her a few weeks ago she would, and still does, jump at loud sounds. She shrinks away from males both mated and single. She constantly looks over her shoulder and she will not leave her backpack at home no matter what anyone says. She carries it everywhere and from what Mia told me she even sleeps with it. Gammon can and has surrounded her with guards when she leaves his house but she still looks over her shoulder and checks every room before entering it. She has to be the most observant person I have ever met and considering I am mated to a sentry that is saying something. I have seen her relax in the few days you have been here but she still looks over her shoulder and tries to keep you at her back.”

“I don’t see a problem with her doing that.”

“No Trey, I don’t imagine you do. But picture this, you go to work and leave her at home and someone in your pack needs you. She is your voice to the pack. She is you when you are not around. The Alpha’s mate, his other half, the head of the pack. Fear will paralyze her and her insecurity will cripple your pack. How long do you think your pack will stay strong if your other half is too weak to stand on her own?”

“So what are you saying? She won’t make a good mate for me?”

“It has nothing to do with being your mate. That ship has sailed. The magic is never wrong. I am telling you she isn’t a good fit as an Alpha’s mate. Not as she is now.”

“I can’t give up my pack. If the magic is never wrong then she is my other half and will be the perfect fit for me whether I am the Alpha of my pack or pack-less. So what am I suppose to do?”

“Find her sister. Failing that surround her with people who can support her. Let her work at the plant with Stormie. Have her trained to do something until she can realize safety is not an illusion. When her wolf rises and she returns to your pack your battle for her sanity will be an ongoing thing. She isn’t going to wake up one day and decide she is safe and become the outgoing adventurous female she once was. Host small dinner parties constantly so she can learn who her new family members are and she can learn to be part of a family again. You have sixty or seventy people in your pack, she needs to be surrounded by members of your pack constantly.”

“No. You didn’t see her when I invited people over for her to meet. You didn’t smell her fear. What you are telling me goes against everything I believe would help her.”

“And that is why you are sitting in my home listening to me tell you what you are going to do. You aren’t listening to me though. She needs to be part of a family and pack is family. She needs to know she can talk to each person, mind to mind. She needs to be familiar with what they sound like in her head. She needs to see that pack is family beyond what she sees as family. Pack meetings are boisterous and usually happy affairs and she needs that. If you let her isolate herself from the pack and gradually bring her into the pack you will have members of your pack who will never accept her because they won’t see that she accepted them. If she was mated to anyone but an Alpha letting her gradually open up to the pack might work. But her mate is the Alpha and and certain things are expected of her. She needs the responsibility of the pack on her shoulders to give her the confidence she lacks. She sees herself as a failure. She blames herself for what happened to her family and as a result she doesn’t want to ever be in a position to get anyone hurt ever again. That simply will not work for the mate of an Alpha. And if you let her take a backseat to the pack that is where the pack is going to put her. Trey, look at me. Unless something happens to one of you she will be the mate of the Alpha for hundreds of years. If you let her fade into the background now in a hundred years when she is mature and these last few years nothing but a bad memory she will still be in the background. Your pack will keep her there whether they realize it or not. The wolves will relegate her to the back of the pack and no one will defer to her.”

“And you think thrusting her into the pack is going to give her confidence?”

“Her, maybe, your pack, yes. Because you will tell each and every member of your pack what that girl has lived through. By the time you are done they will know that every male she meets in your pack is an act of bravery on her part. Every dinner party she attends will be attended with sheer courage. They will smell her fear and they will watch her stand in the face of that fear. I am not saying hold parties and absent yourself. I am saying stand at her back when she faces down her fear and she will learn the ones she faces in fear will be willing to stand at her back also. I hate that she can’t smell a lie, it is the biggest handicap she will have as your mate.”

“How long?” I wanted to growl at her but I managed to restrain myself.

“Before she feels safe? Before she accepts your pack is her family and would kill to keep her safe? I don’t know. That isn’t something anyone can know. How long did it take Stormie to stop having nightmares? How long did it take Trisah before she felt safe enough to wander our territory? It doesn’t matter how long it takes. What matters is that you can’t let her fade into the shadows no matter how much she wants to hide. I have watched her these last few weeks. If given the choice she would lock herself in Gammon’s house and not leave unless you are here. If you give her the choice she will do the same thing when you take her home. She will never be a true part of your pack and she will never heal if you let her hide. I know that is harsh and probably sounds cruel, but she is the Alpha’s mate.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Well, I can offer you another option.”

I raised my eyebrows and waited. I didn’t care for the way her lip curled up.

“You can leave her here after her wolf rises. You can leave her here to go through therapy and learn to heal over time. Spend your time looking for her sister.”

Whatever else she might have said was drowned out by the growls of my wolf. I grunted as his claws raked at me. Doubled over in pain I snarled, “That isn’t an option we can accept.”

Gammon snorted, “Yeah, we know. I told her to offer it to you though.”

I calmed my wolf and straightened up, glaring at Gammon before turning my attention back to Willow. “So my only option is to toss her in the pack to sink or swim?”

“Oh for the love of god. Men! I swear you never listen. No not one of you.” She turned snarling to her mate who was trying to argue with her. “Oh be quiet. You suck at listening, all men do.” Turning back to me, eyes narrowed she growled, “I didn’t say toss her to the pack like some chunk of meat to be fought over. I said put her in the position of the Alpha’s mate from day one and don’t let her fall. Stand behind her as she learns the ropes and don’t let her hide from her responsibility. Surround her with people who can support her. She likes your mom. She considers Stormie to be a friend. Surely you have other females who can visit and take her around with them to meet the pack members while you work. The only people she will feel comfortable with in the beginning are females so surround her with your females. But surround those females with their males so she learns mates are a team. Be a freaking team Trey, from the beginning. Yes, you are her protector, but you are also her teammate. Act like it.”

“I don’t know.” I didn’t get any further before Willow snarled at me again.

“I don’t care if you know or don’t know. I don’t even care what you know. I am telling you for better or worse you don’t have a choice. If you want your pack to accept her you will begin as you mean to continue and your pack will be stronger for it in the end. You see Trey, what you fail to realize is each and every one of your pack members will know Gabby is your mate and their wolves will want to protect her more than she needs. They will try to smother her with protection and security and she must let them. She must give them her trust or they will never trust her. She has to stand in spite of her fear because if she will stand strong your pack will make her stronger. If she huddles and hides as she wants to do then she won’t realize the force of the pack surrounding her. She wont see them as her safety net, she will see hiding as option one when things go wrong. If you let that happen you might as well find a new Alpha for your pack. Now, you have taken up enough of my day, shoo, go find your mate and spend time with her. Every minute you spend with her makes her that much stronger when you are not around.”

I turned my head to look at Gammon but his shrug didn’t tell me anything. I shook Kieth’s hand and followed Gammon from the room. Once outside he turned to me and snarled, “If you ever growl at another female of mine again I will string you up.”

“Honestly man, I wouldn’t blame you. But it took me by surprise also.”

“Yeah, I figured as much. Come on, Mia deemed tonight movie night and so we are watching a movie.”

“Uh, Mia picked the movie?”

“Shut up Trey. Pretend you like the movie. God knows I have to pretend to like them enough.”

“Great, sounds like another chic flick.” A deep sigh escaped me and I trotted to catch up to my future Uncle by mating. I hated chick flicks.


Chapter Thirty-One

Gabby

“But why can’t I go back with you. If we are mates and you are the Alpha of your pack then you should be able to take me with you. Trey, please, I feel safe when you are around.” I didn’t mind begging if it worked. But so far my begging hadn’t worked and I didn’t understand why.

“Would you please stop saying if? You say that like it is questionable. If we are mates you should feel safer with me than with anyone else in the entire world. You do therefore we are.” Trey looked frustrated and worried.

We were sitting on the couch at Poppy’s spending the last few hours together before Trey left. Poppy was in his bedroom laying down so we had something that resembled privacy. I was curled against him and I wanted to stay there forever. I felt if I could stay touching Trey then nothing and no one could ever hurt me again. I knew my feelings were foolish and a bit childish but his arms were safe and secure. Warmth spread through my body as I cuddled even closer to him. I didn’t care if what we had was love or magic I only cared that I felt safe and happy. Those two feelings were enough to make me want to stay but when you added the feeling of completeness I could understand why the males fought so hard to keep their true mates safe. The last week had been the sort of whirlwind courtship you read about in books or see in movies. The sort of foolishness you don’t believe can ever happen in real life. I couldn’t wait to get back to Colorado and make Trey’s home our home. I would probably need to add a few locks to the door and make a few changes to feel safe when he wasn’t home, but I would finally be able to put all my pictures up of my family.

I was a bit nervous about going to his home. Mainly because when I had asked him if he would get it ready for me he had gotten one of those deer in the headlight looks and disappeared with Gammon. I might feel safe with him but he was hiding something from me and it had me worried. Now he was refusing to take me with him and I couldn’t help but feel something was wrong. Which is why we are currently sitting at Poppy’s instead of Gammon’s. He couldn’t suddenly decide he needed to talk to Gammon if Gammon isn’t here. This cabin is the only place we can be together without Gammon or one of his Betas and without one of them Trey couldn’t leave. Although knowing how Gammon felt about Trey being in his territory he probably had a guard or two stationed outside Poppy’s.

“You aren’t answering me though. I notice when I ask to go home with you, and it is my home also right?” I narrowed my eyes at him and waited.

“Yes. Where ever I am will always be your home. Well, as long as it is also my home. I mean, we are together here but this isn’t home.”

“Yeah, I sort of noticed that. I also may have noticed you are still not telling me what I want to know. You know how to worry a female who has been on the run for years? Hide stuff from her. That will make her feel safe and secure and loved.” My voice dripped with sarcasm.

“I am not hiding things from you. Baby, sweetheart, heart of my heart, look at me. I will never lie to you and I will never hurt you. I want your happiness more than I want my own and I always will.” He tilted my chin up and gently kissed my lips. Moisture pooled as a heat swept my body. I leaned into the kiss and felt his hand stroke my back. His growl resembled a purring cat, the low rumble in his chest vibrated against me.

“You aren’t mated yet.” Jules’ voice carried down the hall and Trey pulled back from me. He leaned his forehead against mine and I felt shudders rack his body.

“And that my darling is why you will be staying here when I go home. Gammon is correct, the wolf is hard to control when the mate is near. But that isn’t the only reason. I could take you home with me and put you up at my mother’s or my sister’s but this time with your aunt is time you need to enjoy. If you haven’t realized it before she needs you. She wants time with you and once you come home you can’t just take off and come visit. Not with the way our world is now. We will have each other for hundreds of years but this time with Mia will be short. Give her time to get to know you and let her be a part of your life. Yes, I want you home with me, but I want you to have more time with your aunt, and I want you to see Willow and let her help you. I am trying not to be selfish but it is hard. I want to take you and wrap you in my arms and never let you go. But I can’t. It wouldn’t be fair to you and it wouldn’t be fair to your family. Packs don’t have much to do with each other. Visits are rare. You need to understand when you leave here, no I should say after the mating because Mia and Gammon will be there. After wards it may be years or decades before Gammon comes to my territory or I come to his. I mean other than to pick up Cara and Jennifer. We just don’t interact often and I don’t know how much that may change with you being a part of my pack. So spend the time you can with your aunt. I will be there when it is time for you to come home.”

“It is just so hard. You don’t understand what it is like to run and run for years and suddenly you find a place you feel safe and you can’t even go there. I feel like I am being punished for finding safety.”

“Oh my love, no, you’re not being punished for finding safety with me. Sweetheart, look at me, I want you. I want you in my home, in my bed, in my territory. I want to be the one to hold you when you are afraid and laugh with you when you are happy. And I will be, but I want everything to be perfect. Here you get access to Willow who can help you find your way. You can spend time with your grandfather and your aunt. You are in one of the safest territories in the world. If I take you home you won’t stay at my house and even though you feel safe in my territory how long will that last if you still have to sleep in a stranger’s home? My family is ready to welcome you home, I am ready, but you my heart are not ready. Answer me honestly, has seeing Willow helped you?”

I looked down at his chest before raising my head to gaze into his eyes, “Yes, she has helped me beyond measure. I am sorry Trey, I just—” I shrugged, “I feel safe in your territory and even though mentally I know I am safe here emotionally I feel shattered and alone when you aren’t here.”

I watched his jaw clench and his eyes close and I knew my words hurt him. In that moment I knew I had lost. I couldn’t ask him to take me with him when he was trying so hard to protect me and keep me safe and get me the help I needed. I couldn’t ask him to be selfish when keeping me here wasn’t what he wanted. I needed to grow up. Mia and Willow both had explained to me the position I would hold in the pack and though I didn’t understand, yet, how I would manage I understood in this moment that sometimes what is best isn’t always what makes you happy. If I went home with Trey I wouldn’t want him to leave me alone with anyone in his pack and I would want to stay with him. I might feel safer in his territory than anywhere else but the cold hard truth was, I only really felt safe with him. Mia had explained, in great detail, what would happen if Trey and I gave in to our desire for each other before my wolf rose. She didn’t hold anything back when it came to how much pain the wolf could cause when he or she raked at your insides. Having me around would cause Trey’s wolf to rake at him constantly in a need, or desire, to have me completely his and that claim would kill my wolf for eternity. She would never rise.

As I brushed my hand along his cheek I realized I didn’t want him to suffer. I ached at the thought of causing this man pain. I wished I could take his pain and make it my own. If he needed me to stay and continue seeing a therapist to heal the mental and emotional scars then stay I would. If he wanted to give me time with my aunt then I would use that time getting every story from her I could. I knew, deep down, that if I went back with him I could stay with my grandfather. He had a small house, with only one bedroom, but I could sleep on the couch. But I realized Trey wanted me to be safe and a cripple would not have the resources to protect me if anything did happen. But Trey loved my grandfather too much to put into words what I was now seeing. So instead of letting me and Poppy stay together in his territory he had sent us both to Gammon. He was sacrificing his happiness for my future and I couldn’t fail him by being childish.

“I will stay. I will see Willow every day if that will help me work through my issues faster. And in December, when I come home, we will have the fanciest wedding and the most delightful honeymoon.”

“When you come home. Those are beautiful words. But um sweetheart, shifters don’t have weddings we have the mating ceremony in front of the pack.”

“Not me, I am having a wedding with flowers and a wedding cake and vows.”

“Yes dear. I will tell my mother. She can call you and the two of you can plan what ever kind of ceremony you want.”

“Trey?”

“Yes my heart?”

“I am glad I found you.”

“Me too sweetheart, me too.”

The knock on the door startled me and as I turned to face it I heard Trey mutter, “Damn.” As the door opened.

“It’s time for you to leave isn’t it?”

“If I want to catch the plane and get back to our home then yes, it is time for me to leave. I will call you when I get home and let you know I arrived safely.” I saw him nod his head toward the door where Gammon waited. As he stood up he pulled me with him. Bending down he rubbed his nose against mine before kissing my lips. As he pulled away he whispered, “Call me anytime you need to talk. I will always answer your calls. I love you my little unicorn.”

“I love you too. I will count the days until we are together again. Be safe.”

“Seventy-four.”

“What?” I felt my brow wrinkle in confusion.

“Days. I already count them.” He winked at me before turning toward the door.

I giggled as the door closed behind them. Gammon had told me he would let Trey come back one more time before my birthday. I guess he hadn’t told Trey, not if the glare he sent my way when Trey said that was anything to go by. So Trey thought he wouldn’t see me again till December, he was wrong.



Epilogue

Two Months Later

This part didn't change, well, except for the change of four months to a mere 2 months.


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