Chapter 61: Pressure
One Week Later
At least the morning sickness had stopped.
I was eating again, eating a LOT. Weird stuff, too; pregnancy cravings combined with the rising demands on my body to grow my FOUR babies. I just smiled at Marge as she set down another plate of pancakes and Nutella for me. I was in a bad mood, Gunny had been gone all week on various missions. Our Pack had been very busy lately.
Tom had gotten out of the bedroom long enough to buy a half-dozen more properties and get them ready for people. Taking the afternoons while his mate, Daniella Stillwater, rested and recovered from the abuse at the hands of the Zetas, he worked his magic. We needed the room; each home was purchased by dummy corporations set up back when Ella’s Pack was still in North Dakota. We were rescuing and reuniting family members who were kidnapped to ensure compliance of Cartel agents.
Now they were free from them, and almost all had volunteered to help us take them down. We put humans in some homes, shifters in others.
All over Mexico and the southern United States, the Zetas were under attack. Mexican and United States authorities were swamped with tips, leading to hundreds of successful raids… since the Cartel agents in place to warn them, didn’t. Drug warehouses and shipments in progress were intercepted by rival Cartel members, and bloody battles raged between them over territory.
We participated as well, mostly in the banking area. Josh and Carl were experts at hacking banking systems, and we hit them where they hurt. Billions of dollars in offshore accounts mysteriously disappeared.
We were feeding that money to allied Packs, and giving Tom the resources he needed to further expand our Pack boundaries here. He was already visiting our neighbors, giving them well-above-market offers for houses that weren’t on the market. He was confident we’d own the whole area, turning it into our own gated community, in the months before spring.
I was so proud of my future son-in-law, my daughter as well. Charlotte didn’t understand what he was doing or how he was doing it, but she made sure he, Carl and everyone else in that room had what they needed. She and Jane Spencer divided up the day, each taking a twelve-hour shift providing support. Food, drink, massages, messages, cleanup… it all helped, but it was their insistence on them taking regular breaks and getting enough sleep that let them stay effective as the week went on. When the boys would start to object, insisting they were all right, the girls would just raise an eyebrow and stare them down until they did what they said.
Our Pack was growing as well. On a daily basis, werecats of all kinds were showing up at our gate seeking protection. We were the only Pack in the country with a feline Alpha, the only Pack that welcomed cats and dogs living together. Most were shocked to find they could even have mates; all feline were-species were loners, filling territories between the wolf packs who would kill them on sight. One of our houses was now filled with Cougars, Panthers, Tigers, Lions and even a small family of Canadian Lynx shifters. Some wanted to join the Pack, others just wanted to be in our shadow. Tom was going to find homes for them on the edges of our territory, where they could use our land for runs, and provide an extra layer of protection for our Pack.
I was even getting used to the mountain lions.
“Good morning, Rose,” Ella said as she came downstairs and sat down. “How are you feeling?”
“Better, but you are farther along than me and have more experience at this kind of thing.”
“You’ll be fine, things just happen faster with multiples,” she said as she poured blueberries over her pancakes. “I’m glad my stomach and bladder still have room, another month and things get more difficult.” She had five children, including two sets of twins, and triplets due in March.
I tensed a little when Kelsey walked in; she was nice enough, but I was jealous of her. I felt fat and unattractive, and she had this rocking body that had all the men drooling. She had taken the warning and stayed away from Gunny, in fact she hadn’t messed around with any of the men. She politely declined all offers, stating she was waiting for her mate, and then she’d go work out again. “Alpha, Beta, can I have a word with you,” she asked meekly.
“Sure, Kelsey. Have some breakfast.” Marge dropped a bowl of fruit and yogurt on the table in front of her, along with steak and eggs. “Are you settling in all right?”
“Yes, you have been very generous with my family. Mom is happy in Tom’s room for now, although he is looking for a place of their own. Mitch and Kelly are very happy with the assignment you gave them, and May is enjoying being around other children and being able to play openly in her cat form.” Kelly was her younger sister, her husband had been human until changed, their daughter was seven years old. Craig had put them in charge of the home for the new cat shifter arrivals, about two blocks away from our house.
“I’m glad,” Ella said with a smile. “So, what’s going on?”
“I’m showing the signs, Alpha. I’m going to start my heat in the next two days.” Oh shit. As a mated panther, I’d not seen the heat yet since Gunny managed to knock me up with FOUR, yes FOUR babies before I even changed.
Ella furrowed her brow. “I’m not very familiar with that, although I’ve heard things. Apparently, I don’t get much of a heat because I get pregnant so quickly.” The ladies in the area all snickered, Ella being pregnant was her normal. “What does that mean for you?”
“Cougars are solitary animals, you know. We have a territory, the heat drives my cat to push out, to find an acceptable male to mate with. I start to emit pheromones, strong ones, that can be scented miles away. Males will be drawn to me, hoping to be the one chosen, and they would fight each other for the opportunity to take me. The female takes the strongest one, creating the strongest offspring. At least, that’s what normally happens, but I am not that way.”
“I’m gay.” She slumped down, her face was an open book; she had faced discrimination all her life as a cat shifter, now there was another reason for most Pack members to shun her. “I cannot lie with a man, in human or cat form. I usually find and isolated location, something secure, and have my family lock me in. We use chemicals and perfumes to mask the scent, and I, um… well… I bring along some toys to bring myself relief until the heat passes.”
I reached over and took her hand. “It’s fine, it actually settles my cat knowing this. She was jealous, thought you might take my mate.”
“We can find a secure place for you to get through this,” Ella said. “I can make a phone call or two, I’m sure Alpha Renee has something remote on her territory.”
“Thank you, but that isn’t all I’m asking for. I’m getting older, I don’t have a mate, and I don’t want to wait for a family. I want to get pregnant this cycle, with the war over, now is the time for me to finally do it.”
“All right… is there a cougar out there you wish to be with during your heat?”
“Not be with, just be impregnated by. I want the strongest male I know, Rose.” No… she can’t…. “I want Gunny to father my child.”
My mind was on spin cycle, nothing made sense, I kept running that phrase through my head. My claws started extending, my cat was pushing forward. “ROSE! CALM!” Ella’s Alpha order slapped my cat down, I sat back and gained control again. “Rose, she isn’t asking Gunny to sleep with her, she knows he is mated, she would never do that, right?” Kelsey quickly nodded her assent. “She is asking for a sperm donation.”
“Yes, ideally, I would have you collect it and bring it to me, we could use a turkey baster and that would do the trick. We might have to repeat a few times, but in my heat, it should happen.”
“And Gunny would have a child with another woman.”
“Yes. I would leave it up to you as to how much you would involve yourself in my child’s life; I already have a tie to this Pack through my mother, and I won’t be far if I am welcome. As I said, I seek the strongest male, and Gunny is that. If you refuse, as is your right, you would not hurt my feelings for I know how much I ask of you.”
“What would you do then?”
“Well, the second strongest male is Lars, but that face… ugh. I’d have to shave my kid’s butt and put eyeglasses over his tail.” We all laughed a little, at least Lars was happy with Shelley, and they already had three cute girls. “I could ask Al, he’s a powerful male.” I saw Marge tense up a little at this.
“Why not another mountain lion?”
“Our numbers are small, inbreeding is getting to be a problem. Panthers are close enough to breed with us, and if we were not compatible, Tom would not be trying to get my mother pregnant right now.”
I sat back, thinking. “I can’t give you an answer right now.”
“I know. I came to you first, because if you don’t agree I would never think of asking Gunny.”
“He’s coming back tonight, I’ll ask him.” She looked a little surprised. “Really, I understand what it is like to hear that clock ticking. It is to the Pack’s benefit to have more children, to have more family ties holding us together. I just have to get past the initial jealousy to see the gift that would be for you.” With that, we all finished our meals, passing the time in small talk because we’d reached our limit on the heavy topics.
We were cleaning up when Jacob came running up from the basement. “Alpha, we’ve got a hit on Eduardo Jimenez, he’s holed up in an apartment complex downtown,” he said.
“He’s MINE,” Kelsey said. “That bastard liked to rape my mother and I.” When we debriefed the people we rescued from the safe house, we had identified Eduardo as the leader of the group; he wasn’t there when Gunny and Lars attacked. The facial recognition software must have done its thing.
“Gotta go.” He was already running for his room to gear up.
“I’ll meet you outside in five,” she said as she took off for her room.
I couldn’t believe what I saw when she came back down. She was dressed like an avenging angel; black leather pants, short black boots, a black coat open at the front, exposing her six-pack abs below a black sports bra. In her hands she carried aluminum softball bats. “Holy shit,” Jacob said, “You’re going old school on his ass, aren’t you?”
“Damn right. He’s got two balls on him, and I’m bringing the chin music. I’ll even loan you one.”
“Hey, it will look weird if you walk in there carrying baseball bats. Grab a couple of gloves and a ball from the shelves and take those with.” Jacob looked at me like I was a genius. “Hey, I carried a bat in my car for years as self-protection. As a lawyer, it’s my advice that it looks better to a jury if you have a ball and glove with it.” They went out to the garage, leaving a minute later. I felt sorry for the guy.