30. The approval
I turned around to see who spoke behind us and was surprised to find an elegant woman in her late sixties, the same one who helped me find my way to Callum’s cabin the previous day.
Just like when I first met her, she emitted a regal poise as she stood there, her platinum hair styled in a voluminous pixie cut and her classy, graceful look completed by the all-white outfit that she wore, together with a matching golden set of chunky sunburst necklace and dangling earrings.
Even if I didn’t know who she was, her presence commanded respect, one that I could very much see in Callum’s eyes as he looked at her. This woman seemed to have a lot of influence in the sleuth if even my mate lowered his head to her in reverence.
Yet, aside from her dominating presence, she had a certain warmth about her. Her question had taken me aback at first. Still, once I saw her and her gentle, encouraging smile, I relaxed immediately, the way you would in the presence of your favourite aunt who always knows how to make you cheer up and would secretly give you extra slices of cake.
There was also something else about this woman. A protective vibe that I was sensing, almost like a mother who was deliberating whether I was good enough for her son. But I knew she was not Callum’s parent- he had already told me that they had abandoned him at the doorstep of the community he lived in.
Community, I laughed in my head as I realised how already during our drinks in that pub he was telling me about his sleuth, even if I didn’t understand it at the time.
“Catty, you know I would never skip you,” my mate said, pulling the woman in for a hearty hug. “Noah and the rest of the little rascals kept us occupied for quite a while, so I didn’t want to bother you at this time.”
When he let her go, he grabbed my hand and squeezed it gently, his eyes shining with happiness as he continued. “Catty, this is my mate, Scarlett,” he said before he turned to me. “Flame, meet Catriona McCaskill, one of my most trusted advisors and the woman who raised me after my parents deserted me.”
Jesus, no wonder I was getting that inspecting vibe from her. She was the closest thing he had to a mother, and this was the first time that she got to meet me, aside from our brief encounter the day before. I wondered if I had already earned myself minus points for meeting her last. My mate gave me another reassuring squeeze, probably sensing my sudden nervousness.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs McCaskill.” I offered my hand to shake hers, but when she grabbed hold of it, she pulled me in and wrapped her arms around me in a big bear hug.
“Oh, please, darling- call me Catty. And I am so thrilled to meet you finally. My Callum has been deserving of a mate for so long and I’m delighted that he has such a lovely, beautiful girl by his side.”
Her embrace was so tight that any other day she would have probably choked me to death like that but I was able to withstand it somehow. Although, there was a serious risk that I was going to pass out from the overly-strong aldehydes and citrus notes of the Chanel No. 5 scent that she was covered in, even if it was a classic.
“My apologies, Scarlett,” she exclaimed when she realised what was going on and pulled back abruptly. “I sometimes forget that not everyone has bear strength like us. Are you okay, sweetheart?”
“Yes, no worries at all.”
“Oh, thank the goddess. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I hurt you accidentally. I am just so excited to meet you. I dragged Fergus out of the house to get here as quickly as possible, but he wasn’t feeling well and headed back just now.”
“Fergus?” I asked, unsure of who she was talking about.
“Catty’s son.” Callum pointed at the outline of a tall, muscular man further down the path but he was already so far away that with the darkness of the evening, I was unable to see him properly.
“Yes. Callum and Fergus grew up together, like brothers, but my son has been having a bit of a tough time lately.” There was still a big smile on her face as she talked about her son, yet something was also troubling her. Instinctively, I wanted to get to the bottom of this and understand what was upsetting this lovely woman, who already felt so familiar, but I couldn’t just ask her outright. Not now. “I am sure he will be delighted to meet you in the coming days.”
“Well, I am sticking around here for now, so I look forward to it.”
Silence settled between us suddenly and I wondered how to continue because if there was one thing that I hated, it was awkward silence. To make it more awkward, Catty moved closer to me again, inhaling deeply the air around us.
“I was not sure if I caught the scent correctly earlier,” she began, as her face brightened and her mouth twisted into a grin, “but it’s unmistakable now- you are mated! Oh, that is so wonderful. I really am so happy for the two of you and especially for you, my dear boy.”
It was surely meant to be a sweet moment but the fact that Calum’s adoptive mother knew that we had mated was not something that I wanted to happen. Of course, I wished for the whole world to know that he was mine; however, I was not prepared for Catriona to find out. And definitely not by smelling me.
My embarrassment must have been evident because her gaze moved from Callum to me and she giggled. “Don’t worry, darling- we’ve all been there. I remember what it was like to be young and newly mated. With the mate bond getting stronger every day, I am sure that your house will be full of cubs in no time. I just can’t wait for that. Callum will be such a great father.”
Talk about awkward moments…Of all the things she could have brought, this was definitely the one that I didn’t know how to react to for so many reasons.
I’ve got you, Flame, Callum whispered through our link.
“Catty,” Callum said and wrapped his arm around me, “you know how much I love you but we really had a long day, so I would like to grab some dinner with my mate and get some rest.”
“Silly me. I didn’t want to interrupt your evening, Callum. Please, go and enjoy it, and I will see you both tomorrow.” Catriona pushed herself on her toes to give my mate a peck on the cheek before she turned to me and hugged me once again. “Welcome to the family, dear.”
All I could muster was a polite smile back because her earlier comment about us having cubs and Callum being a great dad, something that I knew for a fact, was heavy on my mind. The darkness that my self-doubts brought began to slowly creep up, trying to cloud my judgement once again. But I couldn’t deny the facts- he was giving up so much just to be mated to me.
“Penny for your thoughts.” His voice pulled me out of my musings as we walked back to his cabin.
My thoughts...my thoughts were all over the place. The last few days had been such a rollercoaster. I got kidnapped several times, discovered that shifters existed, nearly died, found my mate, had a crazy-long sex marathon and was marked by the bear Alpha, meaning that I was to become his Luna. The Luna of this sleuth, this community of charming, warm and friendly bear shifters. It was fucking insane how my life had completely changed in a matter of days. And yet, all my doubts aside.….it all felt like destiny. Like this was where I was always meant to be if only I dared to believe it.
“My bears didn’t overwhelm you, I hope,” he continued, and I realised that I had left him waiting for my answer, which never came.
“No, of course not. They were wonderful—all of them, especially those adorable kids. But if you are not careful, Noah will be going after your position in a few years,” I chuckled, remembering the fun time that we spent with the kids.
It took me a second to realise that Callum had stopped, his eyes intently fixed on me before he brought our interlocked fingers to his lips, pressing a soft kiss to my knuckles.
“Let him have it.” The corners of his lips quirked into a light smile. “This sleuth is my family, my home, and I will give my life for it, but there is one thing that comes first and that is you, my love. I don’t intend to be Alpha forever, yet I have every intention to grow old and wrinkly with you. So, as long as you promise always to be my partner-in-crime, I can step down tomorrow if someone worthwhile wants to take over.”
Warmth spread through my chest while listening to every word he said; my breath caught in my throat. The intensity of our emotions, both his and mine, was flowing through my body like an electric current that was zapping my whole being with energy so strong that it was going to obliterate me. The way he loved me so unconditionally with all my flaws and quirks was so much more than I could have ever asked for, dreamt of.
My hand brushed across his cheek, my thumb tracing his lips, but his eyes never left mine. A moan escaped my throat when our lips finally entwined, the taste of him on my tongue. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed him, missed this, as we spent the whole day at our best behaviour amongst the endless crowds of people. But there was no one left now—just me and him.
“But you know what I would like?” He asked as he swung me up into his arms, causing me to squeal in surprise, and carried me over to the cabin. “You, me, a nice dinner, and then relaxing by the fireplace with my gorgeous mate in my arms and a glass of my favourite whiskey in hand.”
“That sounds pretty damn good to me.”
“And then we can call it a night.”
“Call it a night?” My face scrunched up in confusion because resting was not what I had in mind.
But his cheeky smirk told me that there was more to it than he was letting on. “Yes, Flame. Because when the night comes, the beast comes out to play and he has every plan to devour you until you are screaming with pleasure, no longer remembering your name.”
**********************Awww, looks like Scarlett won Catriona over as well. Good thing for our Flame because as sweet as Catty is, not sure that getting on the wrong side of a mama bear is ever a good idea!
This mama bear’s excitement for Callum and Scar is so sweet though.
And what happened to Fergus? He seems to be going MIA quite often lately... Is he avoiding the future Luna?
But enough of the sleuth- time to visit our favourite triad again and party a little. 🥳 Rumour has it that there will be shots there, so Riley and Scar better watch out. 😆
Let me know what you think of the chapter and don’t forget to click on Like/leave a review if you are enjoying the book and want to help others discover it.
p.s. Just a little reminder of how I see Catriona, inspired by the wonderful Ellen Burstyn.