Chapter 1 - Aubree
Book 2 - Hearts Collide
It was never the end that terrified her the most.
It was stepping into the unknown of a new beginning.
To say that Aubree was terrified was an understatement.
She’d had boyfriends in the past, and had broken a few hearts, but she had never felt as strongly to any of them as she did with Dan. Needless to say, it hurt to think about leaving him. It would break his heart. How could she not feel guilty about stabbing him in the back after agreeing to marry him?
She knew she had to.
Huddled in his arms, she gazed up at Stone while they waited for Gwen to pack the last of her belongings into the trunk of the car.
She didn’t want to return to the city. It was a cowardly thought. She didn’t want to hurt Dan, but knew she couldn’t lead Dan on and pretend that everything was as it had been two weeks ago.
Nothing was the same and she had to face the truth.
Stone hadn’t left her side since that morning when she’d made her declaration to be with him. Not that she had wanted him to, but she hated feeling so vulnerable and clingy. With her heart aching, she knew that she needed him as her pillar of strength. His touch soothed and eased her pain, giving her comfort that she couldn’t help but grapple at, like a drug addict clutches to her daily fix.
She wasn’t going to be alone and she could call Stone whenever she wanted. Gwen was going to stay with her and protect her from the vampires that wanted to kill her.
Stone would drop them off at Aubree’s apartment and Gwen would be staying with her until she broke up with Dan, her boyfriend of three years and recent fiancé. Then, the two women would return to the pack house in the woods.
In theory, it sounded simple. Aubree knew it would be anything but.
Stone assured her to take as much time as she needed, but she worried that if she took too long, the vampires would find the apartment. In her mind, the sooner she broke up with Dan, the better.
And it filled her stomach with prickly briers and clenched her heart tightly in a vice.
Slamming the trunk of their black car, Gwen grunted. “There. All set now.”
A sudden rush of fear surged through Aubree as her arms tightened around Stone’s waist.
He brushed her hair behind her ear and tilted her chin up with the tips of his fingers. “Relax,” he told her as her eyes turned up to meet his.
Mashing her lips together, she nodded as warmth enveloped her from his touch. She still couldn’t believe everything that happened in the last twenty-four hours. She’d discovered that not only was Stone, previously believed to be this gorgeous, over-bearing, jerkwad that followed her around everywhere, her soulmate but also a powerful, eight-hundred-year-old lycan (whatever that was) with two three-hundred-year-old children from his previous lycan soulmate, of whom she was supposedly the reincarnation of. To top it off, vampires were after her because she was his soulmate even though she was a human and incapable of having lycan babies with him (although any children that she did have with Stone would be werewolves, of which were a weaker species altogether, or something like that).
Too much information and emotion to make sense of in twenty-four hours, that was for sure.
She knew she made the right decision in choosing to be with Stone instead of Dan. That didn’t mean she was unaffected by it. Breaking up with Dan would be the hardest thing she’d ever have to do but she knew she would regret it if she stayed with him.
Stone made her feel things she’d never felt before, and she couldn’t begin to fathom those feelings underneath the confliction she felt between Stone and Dan.
When she pulled away from Stone and stared into the depths of his blue eyes, the tenderness that resonated through them lifted her heart. She reached up and touched his cheek. A five o’clock shadow was beginning to form along his jaw, but she didn’t mind. She just didn’t want to pull away from him.
A ghost of a smirk tugged on his lips as his eyes smiled down at her.
The way he looked at her made her feel so vulnerable, so exposed, as though he could see right through her and know exactly what thought crossed her mind and feel every emotion that swept through her. And yet, there was affection and acceptance.
“I call shotgun!” Gwen shouted as she dashed to the front passenger seat.
Stone clicked the lock button on the remote before she could open the door. “Forget it.”
Aubree turned to see Gwen narrow her eyes at Stone. “Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be from now on, huh?”
Stone shrugged with an indifferent look on his face. “Unless you want to hold my hand?”
She squealed as her eyes lit up. “Okay! We haven’t done that since I was a pup!”
He frowned. “You weren’t supposed to agree with that.”
“Too late! Now open the door.”
“I will when you agree to let Aubree sit in the front.”
Gwen heaved an exasperated sigh and relented. “Fine.”
Despite the glare, humor winked back at Aubree from Gwen’s warm brown eyes as she stepped back and reached for the handle to the back seat.
Stone unlocked the doors as Alistair stepped up to them and ruffled Aubree’s hair like she was some kind of pet. “Don’t take too long, mein Schwesterherz, or else I’ll hunt you down and drag you back here myself.”
Aubree raised an amused eyebrow at the grinning dark haired giant while a low growl reverberated within Stone’s chest.
“You’ll do no such thing.”
“I might if you get too cranky.” He wiggled his eyebrows at Stone as Gwen started humming a song under her breath as she pulled open the car door.
“Hey sista, go sista, soul sista, flow sista...”
Stone mumbled something unintelligible under his breath as he loosened his arms around Aubree to massage his forehead.
She frowned at him, wondering when he last got some sleep. He dozed a bit earlier as he held her in the chair in the living room but as far as she could tell, he’d been up all night and only had a short nap yesterday in Vincent’s infirmary.
Even Gwen, for that matter, didn’t take the nap she said she would that morning. While Stone and Aubree were in the kitchen, she had gone up to her room and listened intently to the entire exchange, keeping her glee to herself until Alistair came home with breakfast.
Stone had taken a nap yesterday, Aubree had no idea when Gwen last slept.
That didn’t stop the dark-haired duo from trying to whip up the biggest breakfast bash they could muster with zero planning done—although Aubree assumed Gwen spilled the beans through their telepathy skills while Alistair was out.
Even though Stone tried to tone down their excitement levels, the playful duo would have none of it.
Gwen whipped up pancakes as quickly as she could, while she had eggs frying in another pan on the stove, and bacon and sausages sizzling in an electric skillet.
The table was laden with potato wedges, muffins, and butter croissant—and just for Aubree, Alistair brought chocolate-covered croissants and a cup of warm coffee that she had to zap in the microwave for a minute.
Gavin and Gunner even joined them from the forest after they each took a quick shower to rinse off the dirt and sweat from their bodies.
The kitchen was cramped with all of them standing around in it, eating food as it was prepared (since Gwen couldn’t keep up with the demand and refused to let Aubree help), and laughter filled the space from Alistair and Gwen’s teasing of Stone and Aubree.
It was all in good jest and Aubree couldn’t help but smile while Stone glowered at his daughter. Gwen, of course, ignored him and continued on her merry way.
This was their family. While they all lived together, fought together, and suffered together, they supported each other and laughed together. They all ranged in ages, shapes, and sizes, but it was the sense of love and family that made Aubree smile. Was this how their lives had been in the past and could it be like this in Aubree’s future?
She could live like this and she hoped she would.
Aubree couldn’t help but smile fondly at the memory as Gavin stepped up behind them and held his hand out to Stone. No words were exchanged but Stone nodded and accepted what looked like ear-plugs from him.
Feeling her gaze on him, his eyes flitted to hers before he smirked lightly and looked away. Brushing his hair behind his ears, he inserted the skin-toned plugs into the canals. “I told you I have excellent hearing. We all do. All the sounds in the city give us headaches after a while. This helps to mute it a little.”
“We will still be able to hear you breathe when we’re standing ten feet away from you,” Gavin added.
Well, damn. That was some pretty intense hearing capabilities.
Aubree glanced at Gwen settling into the back seat of the car. “Will she be okay with me for a few days?”
Smiles met her concerned inquiry.
“She’ll be fine,” Stone said. “She spends the most time in the city out of all of us. Must be a female thing. She likes the interaction.”
“And the shopping!” Gwen interjected. She waved her hand out the window. “Come on, let’s go.”
Before Aubree could protest, Alistair scooped her up into a massive bear hug and began speaking in jibberish again as she struggled for air.
“Beta,” Stone said sternly.
Alistair released her, grinning broadly and winking.
Gavin smiled and waved. Even Gunner was there to see her off. He gave her a slight nod of his head, his expression indifferent. Always the quiet one in the group, even during breakfast.
Thankfully, they were all properly clothed when they saw her off, not like when she arrived and all they had on were shorts. While she could appreciate their individual physiques from a distance, up-close and being surrounded by them made her feel like she’d stumbled into a sausage factory—and not one that she could sink her teeth into.
Except for maybe Stone, but that wasn’t somewhere she would let her mind wander to yet. She was still engaged to Dan.
With Stone’s ears plugged, he walked around the car and opened the passenger side door for her. Fighting the blush that crept to her cheeks, she followed him and climbed into the car. She buckled herself in while he went around to the driver’s side. She and Gwen waited as Stone stood outside the car for a moment, exchanging silent words with the others, before climbing in himself.
This is it, she told herself. This was the next step she had to take. While she knew it would be difficult and painful, it had to be done.
She looked at Stone as he buckled himself in and started the car. Catching her gaze, he offered her a reassuring smile as he reached for her left hand and held it in his right.
As he brushed his thumb over her knuckles, she knew she had made the right choice.
— Mein Schwesterherz: an affectionate way of saying “my sister” in German (“dearest sister of my heart and soul”)