Chapter 7 - Aubree (Part 2)
Her heart swelled as she watched him. He looked as though he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and it was more than he could bear.
Setting her feet on the floor of the pool, she bent her knees a little so the four-foot deep water would skim over the top of her shoulders.
“Laurencius?” she asked as she took a few steps closer to him, but stopped when she was about five feet away.
He flinched—or maybe grimaced, it was hard to tell since he didn’t raise his head. “Please don’t call me that, Luna.”
He raised his head a bit, and she could see the knot of his brows as he chewed on his bottom lip, but his eyes were cast to the edge of the pool on his left.
“I hate it. While my parents thought it was cute to link up my name and my brothers’ names, Dom and Tee got cool names. And what did they give me? Laurencius?” He spat it out before heaving a sigh and running his hand through his hair. “Please Luna, please, call me Lance.”
He looked up then, his eyes begging like an adorable little puppy.
She pressed her lips together to keep from grinning from ear-to-ear. “Of course.”
He lowered his head again. “Thanks.”
She wanted to say something else to him but didn’t know what. She decided to go with something light as an ice breaker. “I’m sorry to say this, but I think it’s cute. You know, giving you guys names with the same ending. Kind of like how Stone named his kids after Arthurian characters. Arthur, Guinevere, and Gawain.”
He looked up at her with wide eyes as her nose scrunched up and a snort bubbled up and tumbled from her lips.
“Oh my god, I just realized... Lance... Lancelot and Guinevere...” She busted out into fits of laughter then. “How freaking perfect is that? Shit!”
Guffawing, she could hardly breathe as she slowly backed up away from him to the steps to climb out of the pool. “Oh my god, I have to tell Alistair that! He’ll get a kick out of it!”
Climbing out of the pool, she hurried to her towel resting on a patio chair with her cell phone sitting on top. As she reached for the phone, a strong, tanned hand grasped her arm and held it firmly.
“Please don’t tell them about me yet.”
Looking up, her eyes met his gray ones under furrowed brows.
He swallowed and looked away as he released her arm. “I just... I don’t want her to stress out any more than needed. She needs to focus on getting well right now. Let me carry this burden alone. She’ll only become more anxious if she finds out about me, right? She’ll know I’ll worry, and that will make her worry, and I just...”
His face was growing redder by the minute as he began to ramble before trailing off.
She wanted to give him a hug. Instead, she nodded and tried to contain her glee as best as she could. “Okay. Would you feel better if I called to find out how she’s doing and you can listen in? I won’t bring you up at all, I promise.”
“Would you?” he asked, bubbling with eagerness before coughing and withdrawing, all flustered again. “I mean, that would be nice if you could...”
She giggled helplessly. “Stop! You’re killing me!”
That earned her a look of alarm as he took a step away from her. “What? I’m sorry! I, um...”
Her hand met her face as a few more giggled tumbled out. “It’s okay. Forget I said that.”
Pulling her hand away, she shook her head lightly, still grinning like a fool.
Reaching for her towel, she dried her hands before wrapping it around her chest. She picked up her phone and placed the call. It rang a few times, her lips pulling down with each ring. About to hang up, someone finally picked it up with a yawn.
“Stone?” Alistair asked.
She cursed to herself. Of course, everyone would be sleeping by now. “Hey, Alistair. Sorry for waking you.”
“Ah, babygirl. It’s you. I miss you. Did you get my hugs and kisses Stone promised?”
She caught Lance’s eye as he raised an eyebrow. Smiling, she gave her head a light shake in amusement. “Yes, he did.”
“Good. Otherwise, I have to hit him when he comes back.” A husky edge rumbled his voice. “How are things over there? They treating you well? They better, or I’ll tell Stone to give them a knuckle-sandwich for me.”
She hesitated. “Well, we had a bit of an episode in our meeting earlier today, but—”
“What happened? Tell me now. Did they hurt you?”
“No, no. Of course not. They used their alpha powers—or whatever they are—on Stone, but I got them to stop. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it,” she assured him.
“Aw, I’m sorry you had to see that, babygirl. How’s he doing? Is he struggling? They wouldn’t use their Authority on him unless they felt they had to.”
Aubree didn’t want to admit it in front of Lance, but she also wanted to get back to the reason for her call. “Yeah, he is a little. He’s trying, but... you know.”
“Just one more day, sugarplum. We’re all praying to the Goddess for you both.”
“Thanks, Alistair. How’s Gwen doing?”
“Good. Every day a bit better. Speaking of which, she’s hungry again. It’s a good sign. A healthy appetite means she’ll be a healthy pup in no time. I better get up and hunt for her. You know how grumpy she gets when she’s hungry.”
Aubree chuckled lightly. “I’ve only seen her grumpy once and it was a combination of hungry and tired.”
“Yikes. A deadly combination. Well, take care of yourself, and keep that big pup out of trouble. Let him run when he’s stressed. You know how it calms him. Have fun.”
She smiled. “Thanks. I will. Happy hunting and say hi to everyone for me.”
“Will do. Bye, babygirl.”
Aubree hung up and looked to Lance for confirmation.
He sat down on the chair next to her and rested his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped together in front of his lips and his eyes looking off in the distance.
She took the seat next to him. “You okay?”
His eyes flicked to hers before dashing away. He lowered his hands. “Yeah. Just wishing I could be there with her instead of here.”
She nodded in understanding. This had to be so hard on him.
“You guys are pretty close, huh?” he asked.
She shrugged, unable to downplay Alistair’s playfulness. “I’ve only known him for a few weeks now, but already he feels like a big brother to me. I guess it can’t be helped when he’s my soul’s brother.”
He quirked his head. “That must bother him. Alpha Stone, I mean.”
Now it was Aubree’s turn to mirror his reactions. “What do you mean?”
He lowered his gaze to his feet. “Until the matebond is sealed, mates get pretty jealous, possessive, and protective of their mates—males more so than females. They don’t like other males touching their females. But once the bond is sealed, that goes away almost completely.”
Aubree mused over his words as silence fell between them.
After a few minutes, Lance broke the ice with a slight tremble in his voice. “D-Do you have a picture of her? Of my mate?”
She smiled. “Of course.”
Scrolling through her phone, she realized that she’d barely taken any photos in the last few weeks. Luckily, she did have one of Gwen, which she pulled up and handed her phone over to Lance.
His eyes widened and his mouth fell open as his face and neck grew redder and redder with each passing second. His eyes flicked up to hers before he snapped his mouth shut and looked away, blushing even more—if that were possible.
“C-Can you send me that picture? Please?”
“Sure,” she said as he handed the phone back to her.
She couldn’t help but adore the kid already. Gwen was going to love him—even though he was kind of young. Five hundred years from now, the two-hundred-year age gap wouldn’t seem so bad.
Pfft, as if anyone’s age gap could be any larger than hers and Stone’s.
Stone came up behind her then with just a pair of shorts on and asked her if she’d had lunch yet.
Aubree shook her head, and he suggested she grab a bite to eat now so they could go out to the canyon like she said she wanted to do.
Brightening, Aubree pulled on one of Stone’s T-shirts that she brought with her and headed into the pack house to find something to eat.