Chapter 15 - Stone (Part 2)
The landing went relatively smoothly. Lance survived and did better the second time they went up. Since the second flight was much longer than the first one, he got antsy halfway through.
His eagerness to land and get off the plane was a step-up from the curled-up ball of trembling fear he had been hours ago. Stone was pleased to see the pup starting to open up and look around them more. He looked out the window in amazement to the land flying by underneath them.
He asked more questions about Gwen, eager for more. Always for more.
Had Gwen flown before? How many times? Where had she traveled before? What other languages could she speak?
Aubree was surprised to know that in addition to English, Lykostroya, and German, Gwen could also speak Spanish and Italian fluently, as well as a little bit of Hmong in response to the surge of Hmong immigrants to St. Paul in the Eighties.
While Stone couldn’t speak Spanish or Hmong, he could speak Russian, Bavarian, and French fluently, and Italian a little bit. “I’m rusty in Italian, but I’d get by fine in Italy.”
Aubree couldn’t help but gape at him.
He shrugged. “Learning languages passes the time. Since the location for Council meetings changes every time, we have to learn the language before we go.”
He held up a hand and started counting off fingers as he went. “In addition to German, English, and Lykostroya, Gunner can speak Bavarian, Yiddish, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. The latter three stemming from Old Norse that he inherited from his mother’s family. His mother and my mother were sisters. The oldest and youngest.
“Alistair can speak French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Greek.”
Aubree peaked a curious eyebrow. “Greek? The others all make sense, but Greek’s kind of random.”
Stone shrugged. “He wanted to be different. He taught me and Guinevere Italian for our trip to Rome in 1950. She picked it up faster than I did.”
He scratched his chin. “And Gawain can speak Polish, Czech, Ojibwe, and Dakota. He made sure to keep peaceful relations with the Natives when we first arrived in America.”
“Damn,” Aubree murmured. “You guys make my B+ average in Spanish seem like a joke. And I’m still not fluent!”
“Spanish is what I’ll be learning soon as part of my Alpha training,” Lance said. “Since we’re so close to the Mexican border, there’s a lot of Hispanics in our area.”
“Well, Guinevere can help you there.”
“We get all kinds of tourists. British tourists, Canadians, Germans, even Japanese ones. We have to make sure we have all the languages covered to be able to communicate with them.”
Lance sighed as he turned to look out the window, his elbow on the armrest and his chin in his hand. “I have so much to learn before I become Alpha.”
Stone felt for the pup. He matured merely a few years ago, found out his mate almost died and is on the path to recovery, and he is now expected to take on his family’s pack. When Stone thought back to the years after his first shift, the last thing he felt ready for was a mate, never mind be expected to become Alpha. Dom had been raised with the title looming over his head all his life. He grew into it. Lance was thrown into it, whether he liked it or not.
Much like yourself, Stone told himself.
He cleared his throat. “You’ll do fine.”
Lance glanced back at him and looked like he was going to say something, but pressed his lips together, hung his head, and turned back to the window instead.
The pup had a lot of growing up to do.
Stone turned his attention back to Aubree and suggested they practice projecting and shielding for the rest of the flight.
She groaned but conceded.
He could feel her barrier was there, but it was weak. She needed more practice to strengthen it so no one could penetrate it with force. He trusted no one would, but it made him feel better knowing that she could hold her own if someone tried to force their way in.
By the time they landed, it was shortly after midnight and they were all exhausted with headaches and weakened muscles.
Stone arranged to have Hector pick them up from the airport so Gavin, Alistair, and Gunner could continue the hunt.
He briefed Lance on who Hector was before they left Rosmi Maana for the airport. Lance at first opposed Stone telling Hector about him, but Stone assured him that Hector could keep a secret.
Despite the ache in Stone’s head, he sent out a quick message through the mind-link that they’d arrived. He checked in with their positions before he closed the link and massaged his forehead.
“How are you doing, Love? Does it feel like anyone’s pressing in on your mind?” he asked as they looked through the stream of cars parked along the pick-up zone for Hector.
She shook her head. “No, I don’t feel any different than I did before we got off the plane.” She turned to Lance next to her. “How about you, Lance? You okay?”
The pup looked as if he ran a marathon around the world in five hours instead of sitting on a plane. His short hair was sticking up in all directions from sweating so much, running his hands through his hair, and shifting positions in his seat.
He’d been looking around at all the people, cars, and traffic coming and going from the airport and didn’t register at first that she asked him a question. “Uh, yeah, I guess? I mean, is it normal to feel this... worn out?”
He bit his lip as he lowered his gaze. Stone knew that look. Lance was embarrassed by the weakness he felt in his body when all he’d done was sit for hours.
“For us and our heightened senses, yes,” Stone answered. “Don’t worry. We’ve all flown before. Everyone knows how much it affects us.”
Lance nodded before he returned to watching all the activity around them.
A loud whistle caught their attention and they looked to their right to see Hector climbing out of a car in the long line of idling vehicles twenty or thirty yards away.
Aubree waved before the three of them wheeled their luggage toward Stone’s cousin.
After greetings and introductions, a sly grin tugged on Hector’s lips as they gathered around the car—Hector in the driver’s seat, Lance in the front passenger seat, and Stone and Aubree in the back.
“Hey, Lance,” Hector said, “why do men get their great ideas in bed?”
Stone bristled behind him and narrowed his eyes at Hector.
Lance looked around at Stone and Aubree before he swallowed and looked back at Hector. “I-I don’t know.”
Hector winked. “Because they’re plugged into a genius. And you’re mate’s one.”
Stone’s hand met his face at the same time Aubree’s did.
“Oh my god,” she murmured.
Stone growled as Hector laughed at the blank expression on Lance’s face.
“He doesn’t get it, does he?”
Stone gripped Hector’s shoulder and pressed down. “Get in the car and don’t say another word.”
Hector threw his head back and guffawed before getting in the car.
A hint of a blush rose on Lance’s cheeks as he glanced at Stone and Aubree again. “Um, was that a sex joke?”
“Yes,” Aubree groaned, her face still in her hand.
“It won’t happen again,” Stone said before lowering his eyes to the driver and raising his voice a little. “Right, Hector?”
Narrowing his eyes as he loomed over the window, he waited for Hector to meet his gaze.
Smirking, Hector looked up. “Whatever you say, Alpha.”
Stone knew that smirk. “I mean it.”
He held his hands up in surrender before putting them on the steering wheel.
They climbed in and drove away in awkward silence.
As soon as they left the city and turned down a dark side road in the forest, Hector broke the silence.
“What does a woman and a bar have in common?”
Stone growled to shut him up.
It worked for all of a minute before he blurted out, “Liquor in the front and poker in the back!”
In the blink of an eye, Stone clamped his hand over Hector’s mouth and ordered him to pull over. He jumped out of the car before it even came to a complete stop and hauled Hector out by the collar of his shirt as he laughed his ass off.
“Aw, come on! I’m just having a little fun! You guys wouldn’t let me have any fun with Aubree!”
Stone shoved him as Hector continued to laugh.
“Thanks, but I’ll take it from here,” he growled, too tired to deal with Hector’s nonsense.
Goddess, he could be humiliating!