Chapter 17 - Stone (Part 2)
Once everyone was gone, Lance exhaled loudly and collapsed on the couch next to Gwen, his head in his hands. “Dammit. I’m sorry.” His voice was a barely audible whisper. “I don’t know what’s happening to me. I’m messing this all up. I’m sorry.”
Stone put his hand on Lance’s shoulder. “It’s fine. We understand. Alistair was caught by surprise. He’s very protective of Guinevere and Gawain. I suggest you try to get to know each of them one-on-one without Guinevere being nearby. You’ll be more yourself then. The pull of the matebond is a force to reckon with, we all know that.”
He turned and wrapped his arms around Gwen and buried his head in her shoulder. She winced when his arm brushed against her wounded stomach and he whimpered, “Sorry. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” she murmured.
He shook his head, still in the crook of her neck. “No, it’s not. I’m hurting you. I’m hurting this pack. I don’t even want this alpha title, but my parents won’t listen to me or Dom. My brother hates me. I hate what I’m becoming whenever other males are around you.”
Gwen closed her eyes as her brows furrowed. She tilted her head and leaned it against Lance’s. “Don’t worry about it. We have time to figure things out, right Papa?”
She looked up, her eyes pleading. [Right, Papa?]
The pain in his heart made him fall to his knees before her. He took her hands in his and stared at them, unable to lift his gaze to hers.
[I don’t know. It’s either you go with him and become Luna of the Rosmi Maana Pack, or Dom finds his mate before Lance finishes his training and then the both of you will become Alpha and Luna here.]
[What about you and Aubree? He doesn’t even want to become Alpha.]
[It was Aubree’s idea.]
[Papa, look at me.]
He did as she asked and raised his eyes to hers. Her expression was firm, that determined look he’d seen her wear since her first shift. She always got what she wanted with that look.
[I’m not leaving the pack.]
He wanted to give in but knew it would be dishonest. They had no choice in the matter... Not until Dom found his mate, anyway.
[At the moment, you don’t have a choice.]
She scowled. [But you all need me! Aubree’s not even trained! She can’t even shift yet!]
[She can learn. She has time to learn.]
She bit down on her bottom lip, hurt evident in her brown eyes. [Papa, I won’t leave you.]
He reached up and touched her face, ignoring the faint rumble that crept up Lance’s throat, but the pup didn’t move a muscle. [You will do what you have to do. You are a natural-born luna, Guinevere. I’ve always known that. And you know, as every alpha and luna knows, that you must do what’s best for the pack.]
[And my pack still needs me.]
Emotion crawled up Stone’s throat. [This won’t be your pack much longer, Schatzi.]
Her pain bit into him and he forced himself to hold her gaze.
[I’m sorry,] he interrupted. [But you will not be able to change Eramis and Elena’s minds unless Dom finds his mate. He is on his way here right now, stopping among various other pack territories along the way in hopes of finding his mate. I pray that he finds her, but if he doesn’t, then you must accept—]
She cut him off when she threw her arms around his neck and buried her face into his shoulder before allowing herself to break down.
Lance drew away with a growl, followed by a huff as he leaned on the arm of the couch and rubbed his arms. He was trying to give them space, but as he cast sideways glances at them, Stone could tell he was struggling with the fact that Gwen was getting increasingly upset.
Her breath hitched in her throat as she fought back the tears that threatened to spill. [I don’t want to leave you.]
He squeezed his eyes shut as he smoothed his hand over the back of her head. [I know. I don’t want you to go either. Both you and Lance were thrust into the hands of responsibility with no say in the matter, just like you were when Adelaide and Arthur died.]
[Papa,] she whined at the mention of them.
He pulled away and held her cheeks in his palms. [It’s true, Schatzi. I regret putting you in that position. You were mature, yes, but you were in no way prepared to handle the responsibilities and cope with their deaths at the same time.]
She shuddered in his hands, biting on her lip as tears trailed down her cheeks.
[But I’m so proud of you. You have always been so selfless, putting the needs of us before your own. I only regret that I couldn’t take better care of you myself.]
[It’s true. I failed you as a father. I didn’t take care of you when you needed me to. I knew you were hurting too, and I couldn’t do anything to help you and it only made me hate myself more.]
Her bottom lip trembled. [You tried your best, Papa. We all know that.]
He wiped the tears from her cheeks with his thumbs. [And I couldn’t have done any of it without you and the sacrifices you made for me and the pack. You put everyone else’s needs before your own like a natural-born luna. You’re so much stronger than I ever was at your age. I’m so blessed to have you as my daughter.]
She whimpered as fresh tears rolled down.
He called Gavin and Aubree into the living room, and as he wrapped his arms back around Gwen, they joined him, holding and supporting each other as he opened his mind to the three of them and said, [You will be a wonderful luna wherever you go. I can’t hold you back from what you are destined to be.]
His eyes prickled as everyone’s emotions crashed onto him. [Go with him, Guinevere. I will always be your father, and we will always be your family, but he is your future. You must make your own path with him now and follow it wherever it will take you. Do not go with resentment in your heart, but with love and joy. You are his and he is yours. That is the way it should be.]
He kissed her forehead. [I love you, my precious one, and I always will. Stretch out your paws and run free now, wherever they take you.]