Heart of Stone - Book 3: Souls Entwine

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Chapter 23 - Aubree

Watching the young mates say goodbye was painful. For everyone.

As the entire pack gathered on the main level to bid the Rosmi Maana Pack members farewell, both Gwen and Lance tried to be strong. Gwen stood tall, held her chin high, her muscles taut. Her mental barriers were equally as firm and unbreakable. Her eyes never left Lance as he held himself with quiet confidence. The knowledge that his mate had accepted and agreed to his wishes, even though it hurt them both to part, gave him the courage and strength to carry himself with a sense of dignity despite the scowl his older brother bestowed.

Dom, thankfully, didn’t speak a word of his thoughts, but he didn’t have to. The vein in his temple visibly throbbed and he clenched his teeth together so hard, Aubree thought they would crack.

Mari’s naturally sun-kissed skin was pale, despite her attempt to appear calm.

“We’ll be in touch. Blessed be,” Dom grunted to Stone and Aubree before turning and walking out the front door.

Alec and Dane followed him out, while Mari remained at Lance’s side.

With his brother gone, Lance pulled Gwen into his arms one last time. All the rigidity in her body melted away as they buried their faces into the crook of each other’s shoulders. They licked and sucked at the hickeys they’d given each other in the last hour.

The intimacy in their unofficial claims had everyone averting their gazes.

Aubree’s stomach clenched and her heart squeezed as they whispered promises to each other.

It felt wrong for them to separate. She couldn’t imagine separating from Stone now. The pain they were feeling had to be excruciating.

It’s for the best, she kept telling herself in her locked mind.

She discovered it was easier to shield her mind when she was tense. It came almost naturally and took little effort.

Stone’s emotions rolled over her as well. He was hurting for them. He knew how hard it was to say goodbye. He held Aubree, her back to his chest, and buried his nose in her hair, drawing on the comfort of her in his arms.

When the young mates drew away from each other, both of them needed assistance. Mari was stronger than she looked, and took Lance’s arm in her hands to pull him away, while Gavin stood behind Gwen and held both her arms to keep her rooted in place.

Alistair and Gunner stood nearby on Gwen’s left and right, their arms crossed and expressions grim.

Neither Gwen nor Lance put up a struggle. Mutual understanding gave them strength against the bond that didn’t want to be pulled apart. Jaws taut, fists clenched, muscles tight and strained with effort, Gwen stood firm while Lance slowly, step-by-step, backed out the front door, his arm in Mari’s grasp.

When the door closed and he was gone, Gwen’s strength left her and she slumped forward, exhaling loudly.

“I need to be alone right now,” she murmured to the floor before pulling away from Gavin and climbing up the stairs to her room.

They watched her retreating form in silence. The combined heaviness in their hearts was feather-light in comparison to hers.

Heartache was a binding, all-consuming force for which there was no cure to numb the pain.

None but time.

The next few days were quiet.

Gwen locked herself up in her room and rarely left. Everyone took turns intermittently throughout the day to spend time with her, see if she needed anything, or wanted to talk. She would ask for food and drink, but never finished her meals, leaving them half-eaten and abandoned.

She didn’t want to talk when anyone offered. No one pressed her. It was hard enough to be near her as they could feel the pain that ransacked her soul.

Gwen had always been a stable force in the pack. None of them knew what to do with themselves. They didn’t want to leave her alone too much, knowing how isolation can wreak havoc on a person’s mind and heart.

Alistair tried to tease her. She ignored him.

He’d leave, hanging his head with his tail tucked between his legs.

Gunner brought up a pair of fifty-pound dumbbells to her room.

They sat untouched on her floor.

Gavin would bring breakfast up to her room after returning from the nightly hunt and watch a movie with her before he retired to his room.

Even with her twin, she didn’t want to talk.

With Stone, she would just cry. Hold each other tightly and cry.

Aubree would spend a few hours with Gwen, watching chick flicks on the forty-inch flat-screen TV since Gwen didn’t want to talk.

On the third day after Lance left, Gwen finally opened up to Aubree and Aubree alone.

“I get it,” she said, her eyes downcast as she clutched a stuffed toy wolf to her chest.

Aubree shifted her attention from the TV to Gwen. She peaked an eyebrow in question. “Hm?”

“What you went through with Dan.”

That was all she would say. All that she could say.

Pain destroys, separates, yet also unites.

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