Book 3 - Souls Entwine
Life is taken in strides, remembering the good times and the bad. The laughter and the tears. Supporting each other and being supported.
Pack is Life. Without Pack, there is no Life.
Life is worth celebrating, and Aubree’s was just beginning with Stone and the Blauwald Pack.
The morning was filled with celebrations. As a human, Aubree’s acceptance of their wolf forms was a big deal for them. No longer did they have to conceal themselves from her. No longer did they have to walk on eggshells. The barrier separating her from them had been lifted and they could all breathe a little easier, laugh a little louder, and be a little bolder.
Five warriors from Hector’s pack arrived a few hours after the sun rose. While Gwen stayed inside on the couch in the living room, Aubree joined everyone outside the house as Hector made introductions and orders to the newcomers.
“Most importantly, you will show the same respect to Luna Aubree as you would to Luna Rosemary,” Hector told them. “I trust that you will as you have been specifically chosen for your trustworthiness.”
Each one of them was bent forward on one knee, three men in shorts and two women in simple slip-on dresses. Their faces were angled to the ground, necks bent to the side in what Stone explained to Aubree as a sign of their submission to their alpha.
They lined up in front of the house with the forest at their backs. A warm breeze ruffled the hair on their lowered heads as birdsong trilled in the distance.
“Our hosts, in turn, will pledge their protection to each of you,” Hector said.
Stone put his hand on the small of Aubree’s back and guided her to stand next to him while Alistair, Gunner, and Gavin lined up behind them.
“Follow my lead,” he whispered to her, “and put your hand on top of mine.”
Nodding her head, she followed as he stepped forward. His hand slipped from her back and reached out to hover an inch over the first woman’s head. Aubree placed her hand on top of his.
“You have our oath,” he said
“As you have mine,” she responded, her head still bowed.
Stone slid over to the man on the woman’s side and repeated the same words to him before the cycle repeated and each one had pledged their protection and services to each other. Alistair, Gunner, and Gavin repeated the process one after another after them.
Aubree noticed that the two females standing next to two of the males all bore identical markings on their shoulders to the one Stone had. Two sets of mates tasked with taking turns patrolling the border.
They stood back once more while Hector said a few more words, and Aubree found it interesting as she watched him take on the role of Alpha. He was serious and stern like Stone was before she got to know him, but he flashed the warriors a signature smirk when he was done, and they looked up to meet his eyes for a second with smiles all their own.
A mental message, maybe a joke, as his true self stood before them with all the formalities behind them now.
They rose up from the ground and one mated pair turned and walked side-by-side to the forest to begin patrol.
The remaining three were welcome to join their party in the living room, use the workout room in the basement, or hunt if they were hungry.
The solitary male opted for the basement while the remaining mated pair said they would like to go for a short run to stretch their muscles. The drive was a long one, a trip they weren’t used to making.
Aubree watched the second mated pair exchange glances and smiles before entwining their fingers together and walking hand-in-hand to the forest.
Fingers brushed down her arm to her elbow, sending a current of delightful tingles to dance across her skin.
Looking up over her shoulder, she caught Stone’s gaze and a rush of warmth filled her from her head down to her toes. He closed his eyes and leaned down to nuzzle his nose into her hair as his strong arms slipped around hers, holding her back against his chest. Leaning into him, she closed her eyes as peace enveloped her.
“You okay?” she asked as she listened to everyone else return to the house and Alistair’s boisterous voice calling for music.
“Yes,” he said. “I am relieved to know that trusted members of Rosenrot are here to help us while you and I are gone. I hate leaving them all here with Carina still out there, and Gwen still recovering from her injuries.”
She reached up and held his arms around her. She understood his concern. She didn’t want to leave them either. She’d gotten close to everyone, and leaving Gwen like this unnerved her too.
Then, there was Dan out there. Dan was a vampire because of her, and while she couldn’t do anything about that, she worried that if she left, he could be killed without her knowledge.
He deserved a second chance as much as she did in their new lives. While she wasn’t happy with the fact that he was a vampire now, there was nothing she could do about it. He’d have to figure out how to live his life himself, and she would have to move on and let him.
He wasn’t her concern anymore, as Stone put it. She asked the pack not to hurt him, unless it was in self-defense, and she had to trust them to keep their word. Everything else was out of her hands, and she had to accept that.
“When are we leaving?” she asked.
“Later this afternoon,” he said. “Originally, I wanted to drive us down there, but it’s too late now. We’ll have to fly. I have to let the Rosmi Maana Pack know that we’ll be flying into their territory instead.”
He nodded. “Lycans are territorial. We will be guests on their land until our business is done. It will be fine. Our pack hasn’t paid them a visit since the eighties. It will be good to see them again and strengthen ties. Alpha Eramis is already curious about you. I’ve asked him to keep an open mind, but it’s unsettling. You will be the first human to ever enter their pack house.”
She chewed nervously on her bottom lip. “It will be okay though, right?”
His lips smiled against her scalp. “Of course. You are human. They will be extra hospitable to you.”
His words eased her fears a little bit, but she was reminded of Vincent and the power he exerted due to his Alpha Bloodline.
“Is Alpha Eramis of the Bloodline?”
Stone nodded. “You don’t need to worry about him. If anything, he will be inclined to keep a vigilant eye on me to make sure I don’t mark you.”
He turned her around and brushed his fingers along her jaw, tipping her chin up. Her eyes met his.
“You know how much of a struggle it is for me not to do that and seal our bond. He knows that too. As much as he wants to trust that I can control myself, he feels it is his duty to protect you from me as well. He will exert his authority on me to help keep me in line.”
As he spoke, he continued to rub her jaw with his thumb. Her fingertips began to tingle and spread up her arm.
Would he stop talking and kiss her already?
“I can handle you,” she said, reaching up behind his neck and drawing him down. His breath blew in her face making her inhale and exhale shaky breaths as heat flared through his touch. “In fact, I have you right where I want you.”
His lips curled up in a grin before catching her own.
Leaning into him, she pressed her body against his as she tangled her fingers into his hair, deepening the kiss as her desire for him intensified on contact.
A growl tremored his throat, making her gut clench with need. Tearing himself away from her, he cradled her face in his hands and gazed into her eyes as his thumbs caressed her cheeks.
The windows to his soul.
If it weren’t for the connection of his eyes, the heat of his touch would have drawn her lips closer to his, but now she felt only the pull of his soul, drawing her deeper into those ocean blue depths.
Smiling, she closed her eyes and pressed her forehead to his.
“Let’s go inside,” he said. “Have some fun with everyone before we leave. They’re going to miss you.”
Her eyes pinched now as her smile widened. She’d miss them too. “We’ll only be gone for a few days.”
“Yes, but they’re still recovering from a century without you.”
“I’m not Adelaide,” she said, pulling back and brushing her nose against his.
His nose crinkled before he pulled her in for a chaste kiss on the lips. “You underestimate the strength of your soul’s connection with them,” he whispered as he tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear.
Her heart fluttered. She loved the way he touched her. He was so gentle and love emanated from the skin-on-skin contact that made her heart surge with joy. She’d never felt so beautiful with such a simple gesture.
“They will miss your presence deeply. You’ll feel it too, I think. I’m not sure,” he said, placing his hand on the small of her back and urging her to head back inside the house.
Letting him guide her back inside, a series of smiles greeted her. There was music playing from somewhere, not too loudly, but it was probably plenty loud with their sensitive hearing.
Stone excused himself to go upstairs and place that call to the Rosmi Maana Pack while Aubree went into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee.
While adding cream and sugar to her mug of steaming goodness, Gavin came up next to her and helped himself to a mug from the cupboard and poured himself a cup as well.
“Bree,” he said, almost tentatively, “I can’t thank you enough.”
Turning her gaze to him, she tilted her head in question as he pressed his lips together.
“You know,” he said, “for helping us to bring Gwen back the other night.”
His Adam’s apple rose and fell in his throat, his eyes on his mug of coffee on the counter.
Her eyes widen as she touched his arm. His pain crept up through her and twisted around her heart.
“I couldn’t have done it without your guidance.”
He shook his head, his eyes avoiding hers. “All I had to do was help you to make the connection. Your soul knew what to do from there.”
“And what good would I have done if you hadn’t helped me to make the connection? Really, Gavin, I wouldn’t have been able to help at all if you hadn’t helped me.”
He looked about ready to cry and she could feel the tremors building within. She reached around his lower back with one arm and he quickly pulled himself into her embrace, wrapping his arms around her shoulders. Gavin towered almost a foot over her as he lowered his head to her shoulder.
“I don’t know if I could bear losing her too,” he murmured.
“It’s okay. She made it, didn’t she?”
He took a moment to gather himself. She pushed warm thoughts and feelings to him in an attempt to soothe him.
“I miss Arthur... and my mother,” he confessed after a few minutes. An ache from within him touched her. “I know your soul is the same, I can feel it... but she was my mom. She gave birth to me, raise me, taught me everything I know. I am so much like her that it scares Papa and he’s tried to toughen me up, but I can’t help it. I’m not like him. I’m just too soft...”
She rubbed his back. “It’s okay, Gavin. You’re strong in your own way.”
“I’m sorry for pushing Papa yesterday. To confront you in his wolf form. But I couldn’t stand to see him leave you like that. I’m sorry... but I don’t regret it,” he said. Pulling away from her, he added distance, his head lowered. “I knew you were ready. He was just scared. Scared that you’d be too scared to accept him.”
“I know,” she said.
He trailed a finger along the rim of his mug on the counter. “Promise that you’ll be careful out there and come back safely,” he murmured. “Biologically speaking, you’re not my mother, but I still feel connected to you. I don’t want to go through those pains again, and I don’t think Papa could endure it either.”
“It’s just for a few days, Gavin. It’ll be fine.”
“I know, I’m just saying that I—I mean, we—will...” He trailed off, rubbing the back of his neck.
She elbowed him playfully. “I’ll miss you all too.”
He coughed and cleared his throat as he picked up his mug and blew on his steaming coffee. “I hope when you come back, I will be able to speak with you in your head and not have to force my way in like last time.”
She rolled her eyes in exaggeration. “Yeah, because I totally want to lose even more privacy than I have already with your super-senses.”
His lips tugged up a little and he caught her gaze, which seemed to make what he said finally snap together in her head like two pieces of a puzzle.
“Wait, you’re hoping that we’ll be able to seal the bond, right?”
“Of course. It will mean peace between your souls instead of all the... tension,” he said, looking away as the back of his neck began to glow red.
It was her turn to blush and bury her embarrassment behind her hands.
Geez, if things couldn’t be more awkward, they were all looking forward to her and Stone having sex and biting each other.
What a bunch of weirdos.
A few moments of awkwardness later, coupled with deep breathing exercises to relax her nerves, she pulled her hands from her face and tried to pretend that that conversation never happened.
“Well,” she said, “I hope we get good news while we’re there too.”
Alistair poked his head into the kitchen and wiggled his eyebrows at Gavin.
Gavin made a sweeping gesture with his hand before taking a sip of his coffee and returning to the living room.
Alistair strolled toward her, looking everywhere but her until he was a few feet away and paused. He caught her gaze, which made her arch her brows.
“My turn,” he said before scooping her up in a big bear-hug.
She giggled as he buried his nose in her hair, sniffing like a bloodhound.
“I’m going to miss you the most, mein Schwesterherz. You’re going to leave us a human and come back...” He pulled back and looked her over with a puzzled expression on his face. “Uh... Fully mated?” He grinned as her eyes widened. “Yes. Fully mated.” He sniffed her again. “And it seems like you’re halfway there now.”
“Ew!” She pushed him away, as they both laughed.
He helped himself to some coffee—finishing the cream after filling half his mug with it.
“Pick up some more cream on your way home, ja?” he said. “I can’t drink coffee with you if there’s no cream.”
She shook her head. “You’re too much.”
His bottom lip extended. “But I like drinking coffee with you.”
She stuck her tongue out at him before taking a sip of her coffee.
He leaned back against the counter, his eyes lowering to his mug in hand. The air around him stilled as the humor vanished from his face.
“Is it true?” he asked. “That vampire yesterday was your fiancé?”
A lump formed in her throat and she struggled to swallow it. Her eyes fell to her little cup of heaven. “Yeah.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know. That’s rough.”
She peered up at him as he took a gulp of creamy coffee.
“I won’t touch him. You have my word, sugarplum,” he said.
She watched his Adam’s apple rise and fall with another swallow of coffee.
“Thanks, Alistair,” she murmured as guilt tugged on her heart.
She couldn’t blame Dan for what he’d done. His intentions were good, but it wasn’t meant to be. She hoped he could find someone else to love someday—turn her into a vampire too if it meant being with her forever. He deserved a forever kind of love with someone special.
He set his mug down behind him on the counter and wrapped her up in a gentle embrace. “Cheer up, babygirl. Don’t make me tickle you.”
She grinned into his black T-shirt. “Anything but that.”
“Aw, there goes my fun. Guess I’ll have to settle for hugs then.”
“I like hugs.”
His chin rested on her head. “Me too, Knuddelmuddel.”
Now it was Gunner’s turn to have a moment with her and Alistair left.
He helped himself to some coffee. “Are you excited for your trip, Luna?”
Gunner, always so formal.
“Yeah. I’ve never been to Arizona before. I hope we can visit the Grand Canyon before we leave.”
His eyes were on his coffee as he lifted it to his lips. “Let him know and he will certainly take you there.”
“Have you been there?”
He gave his head a slight shake. “No. I stayed back to protect the territory. They all went together some thirty or forty years ago, but I made the sacrifice to stay so they didn’t have to worry.”
She frowned. “That was very thoughtful of you, but I hope you get to experience it someday.”
“T’is true. I wouldn’t mind, but the well-being of the pack is more important to me than seeing a canyon. I have lived over a thousand years and have seen and experienced much. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that the ones I care most about are happy and safe.”
“Yeah but it’s better when you get to be there with everyone and share their excitement and joy. Once things settle down here, Stone and I thought we should all go to Lake Harriet for a family picnic. I’d love if you came too.”
A hint of a smile crept on his face as his ears reddened. His blue eyes flicked to Aubree’s for a split second before dashing away again. “I would like that, Luna.”
“Please, called me Aubree. You don’t have to be so formal.”
He gave his head the smallest of shakes. “Forgive me, but I cannot. The Olde Ways are ingrained in me. I would feel uncomfortable calling you by name.”
She shrugged, more so to herself. “I guess, I can’t argue with that.”
He paused for a moment before saying, “Alpha has completed his business and would like to know if you want to pack your own bag, or if you wanted him to.”
She quickly gulped down the last three swallows of her coffee before setting the mug in the sink. “I’ll do it.”
“Do pack extra,” he said as she turned to leave.
She arched her brows at him. “Why?”
His face broke out in an all-knowing, embarrassed smile as his ears reddened even more.
Her mind flitted to her first sexual encounter with Stone and the way he ripped her shirt from her body before planting hot kisses along her chest. Her face immediately heated up with the memory.
Gunner may be onto something there.
“Thanks, I will,” she mumbled before she lowered her gaze and hurried out of the kitchen, into the living room, and up the stairs to her and Stone’s bedroom on the third floor.
If she and Stone did receive some good news from their visit with the Spirit Walker, she was sure there would be more than a few instances of clothing being ripped from her body. Heck, even if they couldn’t seal the matebond, their urges were sure to overcome them more than once that might result in more than one of her shirts getting ripped.
Her face was still hot with embarrassment when she entered the room and closed the door behind her. Her eyes fell to Stone’s open duffel bag on the edge of their bed as he pulled out some shirts from his dresser. It was loaded with more condoms than she’d ever seen, forming a little mountain of silver foiled packets with three empty boxes tossed on the floor behind him.
This was sure to be an interesting trip.