Chapter 30: Yellowstone
Mark took the pictures and just stared at them with me. It was almost surreal how much my life had changed in less than half a year. Heck, I hadn’t even graduated yet, and I figured I needed to get busy so I could finish before they arrived. Since they were growing faster than human babies, the pregnancy would be even more draining on me than normal.
My head was still spinning, making him sound like the Swedish chef in the Muppets- I knew he was talking, but I couldn’t understand what he was really saying. He noticed how spaced out I was as just handed me a few pamphlets and a couple bottles of prenatal vitamins. “It will all sink in, eventually. Give me a call if you have any questions.”
He left the room as we continued to just look at our babies. They were perfect.
Finally, he put them in his pocket and helped me to my feet. “What do you want to say to people?”
“I don’t want to hide this. We will tell everybody at dinner, then tonight we can call your parents. Maybe I can text them the pictures while we talk on the phone?”
He smiled. “They’ll be so happy, especially Mom. Now she can buy all the blue stuff in the store.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m not kidding, she can’t be stopped.”
“I’m in so much trouble. I don’t even have a nursery yet.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of help on that.” He squeezed my hand as we walked across to the Pack house. “You’re going to be an amazing Mom, Ella. I still hate that you picked him over me, but I can’t help but love you and our babies.”
I leaned into him a little. “You can’t fight the mate bond, Mark.” I let him think about that for a moment. “She’s not a bad person, you know. I had a lot of time to talk to her after I got her out of the hospital, and over the last few days when she was recovering. I forgave her for what she did, Mark. I don’t want you punishing her for it anyway.”
“It’s just…” He stopped walking and turned to face me. “I saw how broken you were, Ella. How betrayed. I hated them for what they did to you, and I wanted to hurt them for it. Those feelings just don’t go away, Ella. It will take time.”
“Believe me, I know.” I took his other hand in my bad left hand. “Nothing says you have to run off and get mated tonight. Just talk to her. Let her tell you what has happened and how she feels about it. Just don’t reject her right away, that wouldn’t be good for either of you.”
He let out a slow breath. “Does the mate bond work to defuse anger? Even before this talk, I was finding it hard to maintain my righteous outrage at her. Every time I close my eyes I see her face when I walked past her.”
“That’s the power of the mate, Mark. Your mate can make you feel better than anyone else, but they can also break you more than anyone. When we get in there, can you do something for me?” He nodded. “Just look at her and smile. Let her know you aren’t rejecting her, that she still has a chance with you. That’s all she wants.”
We kept walking into the Pack house and back to the large dining room. When we walked through the doors, all conversations stopped and all eyes turned towards us. I looked around in panic, relaxing when I saw Remi with her hands in a ‘what did he say?’ position. We walked to the head table and Mark helped me up the stairs to the raised platform. I looked out over the room filled with friends and family and relaxed. “TWIN BOYS, AND THEY ARE ALPHA WOLVES!”
The room erupted into cheers and I was immediately surrounded by people for hugs and congratulations. It took a few minutes for everyone to take their seats again, and immediately the servers were coming out with the food. I smiled to myself when I found Olivia at a table in the back by herself, staring at Mark, and then he smiled at her. Her mood instantly changed. “Go to her, talk it out,” I said. “You don’t need to stay up here if you don’t want to.” He said something to Doug then got up and walked to the back of the room. I leaned over to Remi, she was smiling as she watched it and I gave her a quick wink. Conversation was lively, the food was great, but I was worn out and Remi noticed. “Come on, I’ll take you to your room and get you settled in.”
I took one last look at Mark and Olivia as she helped me up. I smiled, because they were holding hands and their food had hardly been touched, so I knew they were working things out. We walked out among the well-wishers and down the hall to the Alpha wing where the guest rooms were. “I’m glad Mark and Olivia are talking. I was shocked to find out they were mates, but they will be good for each other.”
“No, not really. Once I accepted my mate, my feelings for Mark shifted back to what they were before we became involved. He’s still a good friend, he’ll be a good father, and I want him to be happy.”
She put her arm around my shoulders. “I’m proud of how you are handling everything, Ella. I think you’re learning about the difference between an Alpha and a Luna.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Alphas tend to see things in black and white terms; they define a problem and default to a violent solution. They see enemies and friends. Lunas, we see the shadows, the grey areas. We have to; our role is to keep the Pack strong and whole, and that means dealing with those things that drive Alphas crazy. Jealousy, rumors, relationships, personalities. We know we can’t solve things by killing, so we have to find the best way to deal with what we find.”
We had reached my room and she went to start filling the tub for me as I took off my clothes. She hugged me and placed her hands on my belly. “Doc said you might only go eight months, maybe less. Have you thought about what arrangements you want to make for delivery?”
“Not really. I was going to do it at a hospital near home, but Doc convinced me that with their growth rate as werewolves it isn’t a good idea.” She helped me as I got into the tub and sad down in the warm water. She took the spray nozzle and started to wet my hair down.
“Well, Ella, you’re welcome to come here. Doc could do the delivery, and you’d have us here for you.”
I thought about it, it wasn’t a bad option. Security wise, it would be the best; I would never be more vulnerable than when I was delivering the babies. “Mark and his parents want to be there for the birth, though.”
“Bring them along, they know about us already and they are welcome here.” She worked the shampoo in while I cleaned my body.
“It could be weeks, though, unless I have a C-section or he induces.”
“True, but we can’t let these babies get too big. I know how tough pregnancy was as an Alpha, but with twins and as a human, we can’t take any chances. Come down here a few weeks before your due date, I don’t mind.”
I thought about it for a while. “I should call around to allied Packs and see if there is a Pack Doctor closer than yours, just in case something happens quickly. Can I let you know in a week or so?”
“Of course.” She finished rinsing my hair and helped me up and into a towel. I put on panties and one of Craig’s T-shirts and she put me to bed. “Goodnight, Ella. I love you.”
“I love you too, Aunt Remi.” I was asleep before she got to the door.
The knock on the door woke me WAY too early in the morning. “Come in,” I yelled, too tired to get up right now.
Moe quietly entered and knelt next to my bed. “There’s news, Ella. You needed to know, sorry about waking you up.”
I sat up and turned on the bedside table light, looking at the clock I could see it wasn’t even six in the morning. “What’s so important?”
“It’s the St. Cloud pack. I got a call from John, he was going through the intercepted communications file while he was on duty last night. The data was almost a day old by the time he saw it, and when he realized what had happened he called me and woke me up.” He looked at me. “Alpha Goodwin took off. He must have seen the writing on the wall; instead of paying the tax bill, he took the money. His son Hunter and his mate April are now the Alphas, and everyone is pissed. The first thing the new Alpha did was look at the financials, and it took about ten minutes to find the scam. The whole Pack knows he embezzled their money and mortgaged their houses.”
I thought about it for a bit; I’d met the couple briefly that weekend. I wasn’t aware of any threat from him. It was his younger, unmated son Curtis who was part of the original forced mating attempt, and who had died in the attack on me last year. “Where did Marvin run to?”
“I woke up Josh on his vacation and had him do some digging. He went to Argentina.”
“Argentina?” I pinched the bridge of my nose. “There aren’t any werewolf packs in South America, just cats. They don’t like wolves, he’d have no protection. Why would he go there?”
“One thing I’ve learned in my life is that money can buy you most anything, including protection. I can see why he did it, neither his old pack nor I have assets down there. It’s a whole different world.” He stood up and started pacing by the bed as I swung my legs over the edge. “We can deal with Marvin later, it’s more important to know now how you want to handle things with Alpha Hunter. Right now you hold a mortgage that’s going to be defaulted on, and the IRS is going to confiscate everything they can when they can’t pay their tax bill. You said you don’t want the Pack hurt for what their Alpha did, but what about Hunter?”
I pushed myself up to my feet. “Right now, do nothing except gather information. We’ll be home in a week, at that time we’ll go over everything. Before I decide, I want to talk with Hunter.”
“Of course, Alpha. I’ll let everyone know.”
“Right now, this is the number one priority for us. I didn’t expect this domino to fall this quickly.”
He moved to the door. “I had hoped he wouldn’t take the coward’s way out, leaving his Pack to deal with the leavings. He was a shitty Alpha, Ella. We’ll get him.” He left and I got dressed. After breakfast Mark and I called his parents and filled them in on the news. They were thrilled, of course, but I shocked her a bit when I told her the babies would be here a lot faster than they were anticipating.
We spent another day at the Pack, relaxing and visiting, before we loaded up the RV and headed for Yellowstone. It was late in the season, and only the main roads were open and then only if the weather holds. We had good luck, it was a nice stretch and we were able to drive all the way to the visitor’s center at the Geyser Basin. The hills were steep, but the views were incredible. None of us played games, we just stared out the windows at them. I could tell their wolves were busting to get out and play. I know mine would have been.
I couldn’t handle a lot of walking, and Doc knew that, so he put a wheelchair into the luggage area before we left. It came in handy when I got tired; Mark and Olivia were more than happy to push me around. We spent most of the afternoon there, seeing Old Faithful blow several times along with one other geyser, plus we saw all the mineral springs.
There was a parking lot near a trailhead that was used mostly for snowmobiles. We parked there for the night, and we were the only ones this early in the season. As soon as the sun set and we verified no one was around (and no cameras), everyone but Mark and I shifted. We watched as they ran off into the trees, running free as a small Pack. “Come on,” I said, “We may as well get some sleep. They won’t be back until dawn, and you and I are driving in the morning.”
“I got this bed, then.” He started to convert the dining room table to a bed, pulling the bedding out from a cabinet underneath. I moved back to the master bedroom and soon was asleep.
The howls just before dawn woke me up. The doggy door opened and a parade of wet, snowy wolves pushed into the nice clean living room. “ONE SHAKE AND I’LL HIT YOU WITH A ROLLED UP NEWSPAPER,” I threatened. “All except two head back outside and wait. You two,” I pointed to Moe and Theresa, “you shift and shower.” The rest headed back out to wait in the woods until they were called. It took an hour, but we got everyone in. Olivia was last in the master bath, and I didn’t even notice that Mark had gone back with her until we started hearing the noises.
“Oh Luna,” I said as everyone pretended not to notice that the RV was bouncing slightly. “They’re…”
“I’d say they’ve worked out their problems,” Theresa said. Luckily, Natalie had practically passed out on the couch as soon as she had finished her shower, so we didn’t have to explain it to a kid. “Now leave them alone, we need to get back on the road.”
“You know what they say, right?” I looked at Melanie, who was cooking eggs and sausages in the kitchen, along with everyone else. “When the rig is a rockin’, don’t come a knockin’.”
“I’ll help you with breakfast then.” I really didn’t want to think or hear about what my ex-lover and baby daddy was doing with my mate’s sister on MY bed right now.
I already knew how good it was.