Heart of Stone - Book 3: Souls Entwine

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Chapter 6 - Stone (Part 2)

As Stone took the seat on Eramis’ right and Aubree sat next to him, he couldn’t help but notice how pale Laurencius looked as everyone took their seats at the same time.

The pup sat on his hands, looking disheveled with his brown hair sticking up all over the place, as if he hadn’t slept all night. His heartbeat was the most erratic and his scent the most tainted with nervousness.

Marina cast sideways glances at the pup, but he was otherwise silent, seeming to withdraw into himself as he kept his gaze lowered and his head bowed.

Stone swallowed, not wanting to tread on the subject of Gwen right away. He wanted to know about Tiberius first.

Before anyone could say anything, Stone got right to business. “How would you like to start this meeting, Alpha? I see Tiberius isn’t with us. Perhaps we should start with him?”

All heartbeats in the room skipped before going off like jackhammers again.

“My son is sleeping since he was on patrol last night,” Elena said rather tersely.

Eramis sighed, running his hand through his short hair and shooting his mate a look.

Instead of catching his gaze, she looked away at the far end of the table where no one was sitting.

Eramis sighed. “We might as well begin with the subject of Tiberius and then move onto other, more pressing matters.”

Elena’s jaw muscles tightened. Everyone else lowered their gazes, while Eramis leaned forward, his elbows on the table.

“I assume you know about our other forms?” Eramis asked Aubree.

She nodded, looking confident despite the shift in her scent and the little jump of her heart. “Yeah, it would be hard not to know since Gwen is kind of stuck in that form right now.”

Stone reached for her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. He held it on his thigh, rubbing his thumb over it gently.

It didn’t go unnoticed, but he didn’t care.

“Does it frighten you?” Eramis asked.

She lifted her chin. “I’ll get used to it.”

That’s it, Love.

“Well,” Eramis stalled, trying to figure out how to begin. His gaze shifted to the middle of the table between them. “Something happened a few years ago and he won’t tell us exactly what transpired. We only know that he encountered a witch, who cast a spell on him, leaving him permanently trapped in the body of his beast, and unable to shift back into his human form. He is capable of shifting halfway, but that’s as far as it goes. We’ve tried smudging him and taking him to a healer and a shaman, but nothing has worked.”

“Smudging?” Stone repeated. “That would explain his smoked cedar scent.”

Eramis nodded before leaning back into his chair, a look of defeat crossing his face. “No one knows how to cure it, so there’s little we can do except seek out alternative forms of healing, magic, and consultations with the Council.”

Shit. Stone hoped they didn’t alert the Council of them. He had told Eramis over the phone about their dilemma with Aubree being human, but he insisted she was his mate. He didn’t bring up the Council because he didn’t want to beg. Begging was so degrading...

As he swallowed, Aubree did too, while a pained expression crossed Elena’s face and she squeezed her eyes shut. A sense of helplessness surrounded her as all eyes turned to her while she tried to regain her composure.

He knew that feeling. He knew that feeling all too well. Not being able to help your pup could be self-destructive if one wasn’t careful.

Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail today, exposing her long scar over her eye. It made her look fiercer before, but now it only revealed that even the strongest of souls had a weakness that could split them open and be their undoing. Every parent’s greatest weakness came from their offspring. Touch them and die.

Eramis changed the subject, his eyes shifting from Stone to Aubree. “Does the Council know about you, Luna?”

Aubree snapped her gaze back to Eramis as a wave of protectiveness washed over Stone. “Er, no, I don’t think so.”

Stone pushed down a growl as his thumb stopped its caresses over her hand and held it firmly. “No, they do not know, and we would appreciate it if you did not inform them about this until we receive our messages from the Spirit World.”

Eramis inclined his head. “Understood. However, if you mark her—”

“I will not,” Stone interrupted.

"If you—”

“It’s not a concern of yours,” Stone cut in again, suppressing another growl while trying to keep his voice even. “She knows how to take control if I lose mine.”

Aubree’s cheeks flared up then as unease settled in the room, broken by someone coughing.

“What will you do when the Council finds out?” Elena asked. “You know the punishments.”

“She is my mate,” Stone stated. “There is no question about it. On what authority does the Council have to rip mates apart, even if one is human?”

Dark eyes met Stone’s. “Every right if she becomes a crazed, bloodthirsty killing machine, as we know humans to become every full moon after being bitten by our kind.”

“And how many of those bitten were soulmates?” Stone challenged the luna. “None. None were. You can’t tell me that the Goddess—praise unto Her—would grant me a mate if only to tear her away from me should I mark her. What absurdity is that?”

Silence fell in the room, no one daring to challenge him as none knew for sure the outcome if he did mark Aubree.

Aubree sat still, observing, and chewing on her bottom lip as her heart hammered fiercely.

“And you hope to find out if you can mark her without that happening, correct?” Eramis asked for clarification.

Stone nodded. “Among other things.”

“Such as?”

“Pups.”

Heat rushed through Aubree as she lowered her head. Her embarrassment stirred within him, but he refrained from touching her in front of the Rosmi Maana Pack.

“Reassurance that she is capable of surviving a delivery,” Stone continued, “even if it means using human techniques and modern medicine to do so. I won’t risk her life if I can help it.”

Eramis and Elena exchanged the briefest of tender glances before their cool, calm exteriors returned.

“And what of her mortality?” Eramis asked.

Another growl bubbled up his throat, but he pushed it back down.

“It is what it is.”

“That must be hard for you to accept.”

You have no idea.

“I am still grateful for her.”

A faint whimper across the table met Stone’s ears, but his eyes remained locked on Eramis’. The pup had maintained silence thus far, though his heartbeat remained the loudest, and his scent increasing in anxiety.

Eramis gave Stone a curt nod of acceptance before turning to Aubree. “And do you want him to mark you, Luna?”

A sharp sting of nervousness stung him as she hesitated. Stone’s heart clenched.

“That would seal the bond and make things calmer, right?” she asked.

“In a sense, yes. It will make sitting in a room together with you two more tolerable.”

Stone’s lips twitched as he refrained from huffing in amusement.

He wanted tolerable? He had no idea the strength it took to keep from marking Aubree in front of them all right then and there. He never had to.

Aubree chewed on her bottom lip as her heart rate increased and she lowered her gaze.

Stone gave her hand a squeeze as he tried to push loving and reassuring feelings to her.

You know I love you. And you know I won’t risk hurting you if I can help it.

Swallowing, she nodded in response to Eramis.

Stone knew she was nervous about it, but he could feel her body and soul begging for it. She wanted it, needed it, as much as he did, and it scared her.

“But you know the risks if he does so?” Eramis asked.

“Hopefully, that won’t be the case because we are soulmates,” Aubree said. “We won’t know until we see the Spirit Walker, will we?”

The tension was so thick, Stone could slice through it with one claw.

Aubree was trying to be brave and he was proud of her for that.

“Well, as long as you’re aware...”

“I am.”

Pride at the authority and confidence in her voice surged through him. He shifted his weight in his seat as his thoughts immediately dashed to indecent ones. He released her hand, but his emotions had already slipped through their touch. She immediately flushed with both heat and embarrassment.

Aubree wasn’t the only one. The pups’ faces all grew red and they leaned back in their chairs and looked away—trying to put distance between themselves and the smell of their arousal.

Eramis, Elena, and the two betas emitted low growls of warning before the cold, hard hand of Authority smacked Stone across the face and knocked the wind out of him, as if being punched in the gut.

He gripped the table in both hands, fighting against their force while trying to refill his lungs.

Aubree grasped his arm, fear lacing her as she tried to make sense of what was going on. She must have felt it because she turned to Eramis and Elena with a glare.

“Stop it.”

The pressure lifted in a blink and Stone drew back in his seat. His lungs burned as he gulped air into them. Looking up, he met the hard eyes of the alpha and luna. He understood why they used their Authority on him. He didn’t like it, but he accepted it.

“Forgive us, Luna,” Elena said. “But he needed to settle down.”

“It wasn’t necessary,” Aubree said. “I can handle him.”

“With all due respect, you underestimate the struggle within him,” Eramis said.

Stone ground his teeth together. He wanted to refute them but knew they were right. Lowering his gaze, he clenched his fists and wished they were wrong. He wanted to prove them wrong, but his control was slipping. The force of the bond was growing in strength and intensity with each passing day. He could even see it in Aubree.

A war was waging within himself and he was losing the battle.

Aubree looked to him for support, but he couldn’t meet her gaze.

Such shame...

“You see, Luna,” Eramis said, “the bond will have its way with mates. Fight it as much as you want, but it will eventually overtake you. I’m surprised you don’t feel the urge to mark him as well, but maybe that is because you are human? That is still a puzzle.”

Silence fell over them as his words sunk in.

Eramis exhaled as he rubbed his face. “Now, tell us about Guinevere’s condition. Lance keeps asking about her, and now seems as good a time as any to hear the details.”

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