We arrived at the Atlantis pack ahead of schedule - four days to be in fact, and planned to be out of here before our original arrival date. Instinct had warned Eros that we shouldn’t be here, but he would not share exactly what it was that plagued his thoughts.
The Atlantis pack was meant to be our first stop on our journey of discovery, but I had decided that it would be best if we laid low for a while - nowhere was really safe whilst Jeremy was so close on our heels and so we spent at least a month surviving in the wilderness, allowing our wolves to bond over the new mating that had occurred.
My panther had remained suspiciously quiet the entire time we had been with Eros. My poor mate had tried many times to coax her out of me, but she wouldn’t reply. I could see her in the far corner of my mind, turning her back on him whenever he tried to speak to her.
I had a feeling what was wrong with her. Had sensed it a year ago, but had been too scared to explore the feelings she was transmitting to me. I had enough to think about with everything that was happening without her whining and pleading.
Despite my panther, Eros and I had succeeded in bringing our wolves together - the bond made it easier for them to accept each other but initially, they were wary of one another and that only put more merit behind the tales we had heard that we were not destined for one another. Hades had messed with the order of fate, but we had won the first round. Our wolves were happy and content. Just like any other marriage that brought two beings together, our first year had been difficult. But because we loved each other, we had made it work. We were lucky that we had such a strong friendship behind us. Years of growing up together made any difficulties we faced that little bit easier. Eros knew how to make me laugh and ease my worries like no one else. He comforted me when I cried over the loss of my parents, holding me in his strong, protective arms. He whispered words of adoration to me every night before we slept. He eased my fears and made me see the world as somewhere we could belong and make a difference. I knew that I was prone to being pessimistic, but Eros was my opposite. He was the light to my darkness, just like his parents before him. Violet had saved Khaos from the worst in himself, and Eros was doing the same with me.
I would never regret the first month we had together - yes, we were on the run and I lived in constant fear that Jeremy was going to find us, but it was perfect nonetheless. I had to appreciate the gift of time that we had been given. If we hadn’t been in this situation, Eros would have been rushed off his feet with Alpha training, (it still annoyed me that he hid that from me) and I would have been trying to forge my way in a new pack that may or may not have accepted me. We would have been ships passing in the night, stealing odd moments together whenever we could find time in our busy schedules.
We had been given time to run, to hunt, to eat and sleep as one unit, united together against all the odds and I would never forget those moments. I had time to tell Eros all about my life and the horrors I had lived, and he told me all about the training he had received, adequately soothing the fears of my wolf and assuring her that he was more than capable of protecting her and any pups we may have - if I was even capable of having pups at this stage. No one knew enough about hybrids, especially a mixed one like me, to know if we were capable of breeding.
“We would if…” I tuned my panther out before she could finish that sentence. Of course she would choose now to give her input.
I pulled myself back into the present just in time to see a stunning young man run down the steps of the packhouse. Eros broke into a grin and headed towards him, the pair of them breaking out into a scrap the minute they saw each other.
I rolled my eyes and focused on the older lady as she shook her head and laughed,
“Boys!” she scolded playfully, “you know how this ends! It’s the same every time and I’m not consoling you this time Kyle!” She directed towards her son, and true to her word it looked as though he needed some consoling as Eros easily trapped him in a headlock and began punching him in the gut.
She turned to me with gentle eyes, “boys will be boys! Ignore them my love, there’s no getting through their thick skulls when they’re together. There are many ways to prove your strength in this world, but men will always choose violence. However, I’m sure you know all about showing strength in the face of danger.” She looked at me then, a wisdom beyond her years sparkling in her eyes. “I’m Jenny,” she held out her hand to me and I shook it with a gentle chuckle at what was apparently a familiar situation.
“Lovely to meet you, sweet Sophia. They will be at this for a while. Why don’t you come on inside and get settled with me and Dean? He’s nowhere near as boisterous as his older brother, fortunately!”
I smiled back at her, turning to see Eros now pinning Kyle to the floor and raining punches to his head as Kyle threw his arms up to defend himself and called Eros all the names under the sun.
“I would love that,” I told her, falling in line with her steps as she led me to the main room in the house.
“You have to ignore those two. They are both future Alphas and it’s almost like a pissing contest when they come here, each wanting to outdo the other. It pains my son that he hasn’t been able to get the best of Eros as of yet, no matter how he trains that man of yours was blessed with the unstoppable strength of his father!”
“He certainly has,” I replied with a small smile.
“Oh, you needn’t be modest with me, Sophia! That boy won the genetic lottery. Khaos gets a lot of the praise, but Violet deserves credit where credit is due. Did you know she raised that boy single-handedly? The woman used to fight wild bears to keep him safe. She would have Eros in one hand and her other hand shifted to claws to rip out their throats. And we all know Eros is much more sensitive than his dad! Violet is to thank for that.”
“I don’t know,” I chuckled. “Have you seen Khaos when Violet puts her foot down with him? He’s like a scalded puppy. She says jump, he definitely says how high. He’d do anything to make her happy and get back in her good books – or should I say back in her bed?”
She laughed once more then she guided me into a beautiful oval room, draped in sunlight. “You’re not wrong there!” Her head tipped back with laughter. “Violet is a card alright; she knows what she’s doing. Shame on the Moon Goddess for cursing me with a family of boys! I hope you are blessed with a little girl”.
“Maybe, when the time is right,” I murmured back at her, looking around at the stunning room and taking in all the knick-knacks that showed off the fact that this was a family home and not a showroom. Even after just a moment in here, I was assaulted by warmth and familiarity. Jenny had clearly gone to considerable effort to make sure that everyone who entered was at ease and comfortable.
I heard Jenny’s small gasp of breath as her eyes drifted down to my stomach before shooting back up to my face, her lips twisting in a grimace. “I don’t mean to push the matter, but… Is now not the right time?”
“I guess we can never really tell, can we?”
She scanned my figure once more and looked away awkwardly. “No, no, I guess not. What will be will be and all that. I suppose it must be the last thing on your mind with all that is happening right now?”
She sank down onto the sofa and spread her arm to indicate I should make myself comfortable. I took the armchair opposite her so that I could keep one eye trained on the door, a habit formed from all those years fearing that Jeremy would arrive at any moment.
“Exactly. It’s been draining, to say the least. Eros has been fantastic throughout it all, but even he needs a break.”
“Well then, enjoy your time here whilst you can, it’s what you’re here for after all. If I were you though, I would avoid the cabin just left of the packhouse. I’m sure you’re aware of the history between our current Betas and Eros’ parents - nasty business.”
I frowned at her, ready to question what it was she was talking about when Eros and Kyle chose that exact moment to come into the house, both of them covered in the dust from the gravel on the drive.
Jenny let out a squeal of horror, “Don’t you sit on my sofa in that state! Eros! Would your mother allow you to enter the house in this state? And Kyle, you should know better! Look at the mess you’ve dragged in!”
Eros grabbed her in a bear hug, squeezing her tightly. “Auntie Jenny, stop being such an old woman! My mother would welcome me in despite my appearance – would you really deny me a hug over a bit of dirt?” She tutted at him. “Auntie, come on now. You are aware you’re a werewolf, right? A bit of dirt won’t kill you – chocolate, maybe. But dirt? I recon you’re good.”
He set her on her feet, and she slapped at his chest. “Enough with that sarcasm, young man. You’re not too old to go over my knee.”
“Duly noted,” he winked at her. “Besides, I happen to know for a fact that this sofa was only bought a month ago and already you’re planning a new one!” He pushed her away and smirked at her, “It looks like you’re just as filthy as I am now, anyway!”
Kyle cleared his throat, and I pulled my gaze to him, “It’s nice to meet you, Sophia, I never thought I’d see the day when Eros settled down.” He pulled me in for a hug, planting a kiss on my cheek. The minute his lips connected with mine, he pushed me away, eyes growing wide with excitement.
Eros noticed another man’s arms on me and came over to pull me into his side, his wolf giving a protective growl of warning. Kyle ignored him, slapping him on his back. “Fuck off with those noises! You know I mean her no harm, especially now! I can hardly believe it! You old dog, you! Congratulations! Imagine Khaos as a grandfather! Well, no one could imagine Khaos as a father either I suppose, am I right!” He laughed, holding his hand up waiting for the boyish high five to confirm his joke.
No one moved. Eros and I were frozen to the spot, Jenny shuffled from foot to foot, pretending she hadn’t heard the awkward exchange as she dusted down her dress.
Eros was the one to break the silence, clearing his throat before responding. “He’s got a few years yet, buddy. Despite my mother’s hopes, we’re going to wait at least a few years before we attempt to raise any pups!”
Kyle lowered his hand, glancing at us as he spluttered over what to say next. “But... but... her scent... I’ve not ruined the surprise, have I? You weren’t planning a big reveal at a later time? I promise, your parents won’t hear anything from us, right mum?” He nodded towards Jenny who was trying to escape from the room unnoticed.
She flinched when she heard her name called. “Damnit boy, why did you have to get me involved.” She muttered under her breath before slowly turning to look at us with a tight smile.
“I think the only surprise you’ve ruined today is theirs,” she said with a gritted jaw.
The dawning light of realisation clouded his eyes. “Shit...” he whispered, his cheeks colouring. “Where’s dad? I think he wanted me for something. Actually, I’m almost positive I’m late for some training or other, I’m going to go...”
“Nonsense,” Chris boomed, entering the room, oblivious to the awkward tension. I shot him a double look as I noticed his face, his likeness to Violet so clear it was obvious who he was. Violet was so beautiful and feminine, it was hard to imagine those same features working on a wolf as strong and manly as Chris, but somehow, they did. “I would never schedule training day when we have guests, you know that…” He trailed off as he sensed the nervous atmosphere, the happy smile dropping from his face. “What did you do?” He barked at his son, slapping him around the back of his head.
“I thought they knew!” He rubbed the back of his head with a scowl. “Who doesn’t know that they are pregnant for fuck’s sake? Surely she knew when her wolf wouldn’t let her shift?” His face dropped once more. “Shit, panther.” He flinched. “Wolf,” he flinched again when he looked our way. “Wolfer. Fuck my life, I’m out of here,” he scurried out of the room before he could say another word and make things even more awkward.
Eros turned to me, his eyes as round as saucers. “Are you pregnant?”
My wolf took that moment to spring to life, purring in my mind as she curled into a ball, her head against her stomach. “Pup,” she projected, her voice full of pride.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Eros said, his face drained of colour as his wolf picked up on the single word his mate had purred at him.
“We’ll leave you two alone,” Jenny said softly, grabbing her mate’s arm and pulling him from the room, “take all the time you need.”
“Leave? You’ve got to be kidding me, Jenny, this is the most entertainment I’ve had in weeks!”
“Out!” She barked, shoving at his back with huge, heaving movements.
“Out!” Eros and I shouted at the same time. Chris held his hands up in surrender and walked out of the room with a pout.
“Did you know?” Eros demanded, though I could tell that his harsh tone was not aimed at me, he was never angry at me. It was the awful situation we found ourselves in that was once again pushing him to the point of no return.
“No, we haven’t been shifting these past few days, have we? You said to remain as a human whilst we approached this pack in case there were any wolves patrolling the border. It would be best for them to see us two together before they scented the panther, remember?”
“I know what I said!” He snapped. “Did your wolf not tell you?!”
I was close to losing my own temper. “You just fucking heard her tell me, didn’t you?”
“I’m sorry, Sophia, I don’t mean to take this out on you. I just… Goddess! What are we going to do?” He breathed, running his hands through his hair.
I took control, deciding our future for the first time in a long while. “We stay here for the night, rest up and get a decent meal, and then we travel back to your parents. We give them our happy news and go from there. We’re going to need all the protection we can and the more notice they have, the more they can prepare for what’s going to happen when Jeremy finds out.”
“We may not be returning to a welcoming home, you know that, right?”
“Your parents may hate me, but they won’t refuse their grandchild. We’ll make the best of it, Eros.”