Chapter 17 - Stone (Part 1)
Stone and Aubree got up when Gunner and Gavin mind-linked that they would both be home soon. They quickly showered and dressed before going downstairs.
Alistair heard them and poked his head out of his room before following after them, hot on their heels. He wore a pair of black workout shorts and a black muscle shirt, and a big smile with a perked eyebrow as if to say, ′Happy?′
Aubree smiled back in return.
Having taken a shower as well, he combed his wet, dark brown hair that curled at the tips back with his fingers. His hair was getting a little on the long side, but Alistair never let it get more than a couple of inches long before he had Gwen chop it off.
He wiggled his eyebrows at Aubree. “Coffee time?”
She laughed and threw him a smile. “Sure, why not?”
He rubbed his hands together. ”Wunderbar! Hope we have cream!”
She hummed. “Good question.”
“I didn’t ask a question,” Alistair said as they reached the main level.
Gavin was stepping in the front door wearing a gray T-shirt and navy blue jeans. Over-hearing them, he answered with a smile, “Yes, we have cream. I picked some up yesterday because I know how much Aubree likes her coffee.”
Aubree smiled back, showing teeth, and hurried over to give him a hug.
“Liar!” Gwen shouted from her seat on the couch. “I told you yesterday to pick up cream.”
“And I was already going to do it. If anything, you just reminded me,” Gavin said as Aubree pulled away so Stone could greet him.
[Welcome back,] he said as they clasped each other on the back.
[Glad to be home.]
Lance came into the living room from the kitchen holding a tray with a glass of milk and a plate of eggs. He stopped and narrowed his eyes at Gavin and Alistair as a growl crept up his throat.
Gwen rolled her eyes. “Lance, chill. That’s my brother, Gavin, and uncle, Alistair.”
Lance relaxed and hung his head. “Sorry, I can’t help it. I don’t mean to.”
Stone refrained from chuckling. He knew what Lance was going through. He felt it with Adelaide. It had been so strong with her, but not nearly as strong with Aubree. He could only assume that it was because they already shared a partially sealed bond.
“Yes, the matebond will do that to you,” he said to Lance. “It might be even stronger for you because you’re of the Alpha Bloodline.”
Heartbeats skipped around the room.
The color drained from Gavin’s face. “You’re of the bloodline?”
Lance nodded, while Gwen lowered her gaze to the floor.
Everyone knew what that meant.
Gavin looked to his father with knotted brows. [She can’t leave us!]
[This is out of my hands.]
Gavin stopped himself and hung his head when Stone looked him in the eye.
[I tried my best. Aubree even suggested Lance join us after completing his training and become our Alpha,] Stone told him.
[That could work...]
[On the condition Dom finds his mate before Lance finishes his training.]
Growling loudly, Alistair broke the silence and pushed past Stone. He was at Gwen’s side between her and Lance in an instant.
Being a few inches taller than the pup, he glowered down at him as he crossed his arms over his chest. “Gwen stays. I don’t care if you’re of the bloodline. She stays.”
“Alistair,” Stone barked at the same time that Gwen protested, “Uncle!”
Lance took five quick strides forward and shoved the tray against Alistair’s stomach. “Get out of my way.”
Alistair grabbed the tray with both hands as Stone moved to intervene. “Make me, pup.”
Stone gripped Alistair’s shoulder and pulled him back. “Enough. You know it’s tradition.”
Alistair and Lance continued to glare and growl at each other.
“Back off, Beta,” Stone growled. “She’s not going anywhere until she’s well.”
He tried to enter Alistair’s mind, but his shields were up.
“She’s not going anywhere, period.”
“Stop it, Uncle!” Gwen shouted. She reached up from her seat and grabbed his bicep and pulled him back.
He growled low and deep, but let her pull him back a step.
“Papa’s right. I’m not going anywhere until I’m fully healed.” Her hand still gripped his arm. “So chill out and be nice to my mate.”
Lance growled once more at Alistair before setting the tray down on the coffee table before Gwen. His eyes never left Alistair’s.
Of course, he would see Alistair as a threat to his mate, while Alistair was merely being protective. He was all fun and games most of the time, but threaten one of his pack mates—especially Gwen and Gavin—and he was merciless.
Gunner walked in the front door then and took one look around the space at everyone gathered and raised an inquisitive brow at Stone when they made eye-contact. [Dare I ask?]
Stone shook his head. [No. Simply Alistair being Alistair, and mates being mates.]
“I suppose introductions are in order now that everyone is here,” Stone announced to the pack now gathered in the living room. He motioned for them all to come closer.
Lance growled again as more males pressed forward and stopped on the other side of the couch several feet away.
“Everyone, this is Laurencius, or Lance as he prefers to be called. Third son of Alpha Eramis and Luna Elena of the Rosmi Maana Pack. He is expected now to inherit the Alpha title once he completes his training with Guinevere as Luna of the Rosmi Maana Pack.”
He directed his attention to Alistair and narrowed his eyes at him. [Be nice.]
“What about Dom? He was expected to inherit the title,” Gavin asked, returning to their mental discussion moments ago before Alistair broke the peace.
Stone nodded. “There is one condition Aubree and I managed to negotiate—”
“My father hasn’t agreed to it yet,” Lance interjected.
Growls erupted around the room at the interruption. Lance didn’t even flinch.
Stone raised his hand to call for peace. “It’s true. Alpha Eramis will not negotiate. However, he said he would consider it. If Dom manages to find his mate before Lance finishes his training, then Dom will inherit the title to the Rosmi Maana Pack and Lance will come here and become Alpha of this pack.”
“What?” Gavin, Gwen, and Alistair said at once, while Gunner was silent and contemplative as his eyes shifted from Stone, to Gwen, to Lance, and back.
“You can’t do that, Papa!” Gwen declared.
“And why can’t I, Schatzi?” he asked. “I never asked for this. You know I didn’t want to become an alpha, but we had no choice. No one would take us in.”
Confusion flickered in the room. Stone looked over to see Aubree standing between Gavin and Gunner.
[What?] Aubree asked in his head, her brows knotted together.
[Later, Love. I’ll tell you later. I promise. We need to diffuse this tension right now.]
She glanced around and nodded. [Okay.]
Gwen swallowed, her eyes softening. [But you worked so hard for us to become this, and now you have Aubree by your side. I won’t let you do this.]
[Schatzi, what would you have me do? You can see how much you leaving us will upset the balance of this pack. You’ve been our luna for a century.]
“Everyone, could you please leave and give Guinevere and I a moment alone together,” Stone said, interrupting her in his head.
“No,” Lance and Alistair said at the same time.
He nodded at Lance. “I understand, and you may stay if you wish. Alistair, I need a moment alone with my daughter.”
[If he stays, I stay. She’s as much a daughter to me as she is to you,] he growled back.
Feeling threatened, Lance growled back at Alistair.
Stone narrowed his eyes at his brother-in-law. [Stand down, Beta.]
“Alistair,” Aubree spoke up, raising her voice above the growls filling the room. There was a hint of fear in her scent. No doubt she was worried someone would lose their tempers and fur would fly. “Give them some space and come have coffee with me.”
“Coffee sounds good,” Gunner agreed with a nod of his head.
Stone nodded in appreciation to him. Knowing Gunner, he wanted to diffuse the tension as well before someone—aka. Lance—got hurt. He met Aubree’s gaze then. “Yes, you must be getting hungry. Go ahead and make a pot of coffee for everyone and help yourself to something for breakfast.”
Mentally, he added to her, [And please, go to Alistair’s side and take him by the arm. Your touch might be enough to snap him out of protection-mode.]
[Okay,] she said as she came around the couch to Alistair’s side.
His arms were crossed over his chest, so she grabbed his bicep with both hands and tugged. Immediately, he relaxed and uncrossed his arms so she could loop hers around one.
“Come on,” she added with a forced smile, “I’ll make you some toast with strawberry jam on it.”
Stone’s lips twitched.
Alistair blinked. The deep creases in his forehead smoothed as the knot between his brows pulled away. He broke his death glare on Lance and looked to Gwen, then Stone, then down at Aubree by his side.
She smiled up at him, brighter this time, and gave him her best puppy-dog eyes she could muster as her mental pleas filled Stone’s head.
She had him collared and leashed and was now dangling a treat before him, knowing how much he liked strawberries.
Alistair didn’t return the smile, but he had definitely relaxed. He looked up and met Stone’s gaze and cracked a crooked grin. “Hear that? She wants to feed me. Has she fed you yet?”
Providing food and feeding your mate was part of the courtship process. He was teasing Stone now.
Maintaining a firm expression, Stone nodded. “Yes.”
Alistair turned back to Aubree and returned her smile with a genuine one of his own. He must have said something privately to her as her nose scrunched up a bit and she tried not to giggle as he rested his other hand on top of hers on his arm.
As they went into the kitchen, Gunner and Gavin followed. Gavin gave his father a lingering look.
[I’ll call you out in a few minutes,] Stone told him.
Gavin nodded before disappearing into the kitchen after everyone.