Chapter 7 - Aubree (Part 1)
After the tour, Stone set off on his run, while Marina took Aubree to the stables. Dom went with Stone, no doubt to talk more privately about helping him find his soulmate.
Of course, Stone agreed to help him. He invited Dom to return to Minnesota with them and Laurencius. Perhaps he could find his mate in the neighboring packs? It was worth a shot.
After telling Mari—as Marina insisted Aubree call her—that she had never been on a horse before, Mari set her up on an old gentle mare.
Aubree was at first uncomfortable on horseback, what with her lady-bits still being tender, but she didn’t want Mari to know. This might be her only chance to ride a horse and Mari seemed easy to talk to.
With her mare tied to Mari’s gelding, they talked as the horses walked along a worn path through a sparse forest.
Mari told her how her pack bred horses so they could patrol the lands on horseback in the old days. That way, the horses grew up with them and had no reason to fear them like normal horses. With the lack of vegetation around to conceal their wolves, horseback was their only option during the day.
After half an hour or so, they paused to take a drink and give Aubree’s old mare a little rest.
“So, there’s no chance of anyone else in Blauwald being your mate?” Aubree asked.
Mari shook her head. “No. I met Gavin and Alistair thirty years ago, and there was no connection.”
“What about Gunner? I mean, yeah, he had a mate before too, but that was apparently a thousand years ago. What if you could be the reincarnation of his mate?”
Mari smiled sadly. “I don’t think so. You’re the first reincarnated mate that I’ve ever heard of. My parents still aren’t one hundred percent convinced that it’s possible. They’ve been around as long as Stone has. The concept is difficult for them to wrap their heads around. They struggle more with the fact that you’re human, though. It’s illegal and...” she swallowed and looked away, adding in a low voice, “dangerous.”
Silence followed them as they set out again, her words filling Aubree’s mind. Of course, Aubree knew all this, but she tried to put herself in Eramis’ and Elena’s shoes.
The Blauwald Pack readily accepted her (for the most part) because of the connection they all felt with her, and her with them. That pre-established connection was unusual, Stone had said. They hadn’t sealed the bond to form that kind of connection. To anyone else outside of the Blauwald Pack, that could easily be misconstrued as witchcraft.
Adding to the fact that reincarnation and human soulmates were supposedly impossible, she couldn’t blame them for being overly cautious and protective of her, while being hostile towards Stone. There was a lot at risk here—both for herself and the well-being of the Rosmi Maana Pack. If word slipped out to the Council of Eramis and Elena not reporting them or physically forcing them apart themselves, what punishment might they be faced with?
“You’re actually patrolling with me right now,” Mari said, jarring Aubree from her thoughts as she threw a grin her way. “Hope you don’t mind.”
Aubree smiled a little as she tried to push her thoughts to the back of her mind. “Really? I don’t mind at all. It’s the first lycan activity I’ve ever gotten to do, actually.”
She filled Mari in on the last few weeks of knowing Stone—omitting the parts about Dan, altogether—and how hard it had been on both of them to not only accept each other but the issues they’ve faced as a lycan-human couple and the dangers with the vampires.
Mari shook her head. “You guys have it a hundred times harder than most mates simply because you are human. But your soul is lycan, right?”
Aubree chewed on her bottom lip. “I don’t know. I guess so?”
“Well, I hope you two can seal the bond. Stone seems different now than the last time I saw him. While he is more guarded than last time, he’s not downtrodden. It would be nice to see him happy for a change.”
Aubree lowered her gaze, feeling her cheeks warm as she recalled the affectionate looks he cast her and the tenderness in his touches compared to how miserable and bipolar he was at first. “Yeah. he’s doing better now than he was. I’m seeing a new side of him these past few days—a good side. He hated me at first, you know?”
Mari gasped. “No! How cruel and painful that must have been for you!”
Aubree giggled. “I hated him too! I didn’t understand it at first, but I’m glad I gave him a chance. Not that the matebond would have let me give up on him, huh?”
Mari chuckled. “Yeah, I doubt that. It’s a stubborn thing, I’ve heard. Just being around you two makes me realize how crazy it is if mates refuse to accept each other and seal it. It’s rare, but mates usually succumb to it in the end. It’s when you get two hot-headed alphas like my parents that are both too stubborn to give each other an inch.”
Aubree raised her eyebrows at that. “Your parents fought against the bond as well?”
“Oh yeah. My uncle said they were hilarious. Always arguing over who was right, neither one letting the other in and shutting each other out.”
“Sounds like Stone and me last week.”
Mari’s eyes grew large. “Really? You two seem so... close... now.”
Mari’s face flushed as she looked away.
Trying to spare Mari the embarrassing details, Aubree tried not to giggle again. “Yeah, we’ve come a long way in a very short period of time.”
“Praise the Goddess.”
Aubree rode with Mari for an hour before she got too uncomfortable and achy in her seat.
Mari complimented her, telling her that she was a natural and did well for her first ride.
Aubree was sure Mari was just being nice because all the mare did was follow the gelding without much coaxing. Still, she enjoyed herself and spending time outside. The land was beautiful. Such a contrast from the dense city life she grew up in and the heavily wooded, secluded area that Stone lived in. The vegetation wasn’t nearly as vast and green here, but there was still enough shade to blot out the sun in the clear blue sky.
Aubree returned to the pack house and fetched her bathing suit to hop in the pool before Stone returned.
Mari apologized that she had to continue patrolling, but Aubree assured her that it was fine. She could use a few moments alone to herself to think and reflect.
Floating on her back in the crisp pool water, her eyes closed, she didn’t notice she had company until she lazily opened them and saw Laurencius sitting at the edge with his feet in the water and his head downcast.