Chapter 25 - Aubree (Part 2)
Aubree’s heart fluttered every time she looked at Stone now.
He was always sexy before, but now with shorter hair, he kept making her weak in the knees. Maybe it was because she had only known him with long hair, and seeing it short was like seeing another side of him that she wanted to get to know.
Gwen had done an amazing job cutting his hair and everyone else’s hair in the pack. Aubree had watched her work in awestruck silence as Gwen’s razor-sharp claws extending out of her nail-beds and, like scissors, snipped away the ends of their hair with practiced precision.
Gavin then cut Gwen’s hair in the same manner and gave her a cute pixie cut.
“I want it all off,” she had insisted but didn’t say why.
Gwen and Gavin offered to cut Aubree’s hair, but she declined.
“It will be better short for the next full moon,” Gavin had said, but Aubree waved his comment aside.
“Maybe then, but not now,” Aubree had replied.
She wanted to look normal to her parents. If she made a drastic change to her appearance, they might worry. She didn’t want them to worry. They’d all gone through enough as it was.
Dressed in a pair of dark-wash blue jeans and a white button-up shirt with the top two buttons open, Stone looked like a celebrity on his day off. His hair was shorter on the sides and longer on top that he combed over neatly in a sort of tamed James Dean heartthrob kind of hairdo.
Rebel without a cause...
It was so flattering on him that she couldn’t even look at him without her heart skipping a beat and catching everyone in the pack’s curiosity.
Even now, as they climbed the stairs to the porch of her parents’ house and paused at the door before entering, she had to look away from him to keep from embarrassing herself in front of her parents.
Why did he have to look so damn delicious?
He touched the corner of her mouth with his thumb, a bemused grin on his face. “You’re salivating,” he stated. [Like you were salivating the first time you saw me in the café.]
Oh, good heavens!
Keeping her thoughts under lock and key, she smacked his shoulder with a scowl. “Shut up.”
He chuckled and pushed against her mental barrier.
She shook her head. “Nope, nope. Not going to happen.” She tapped her temple. “This, this right here, is private and you’re not allowed in.”
His grin never faltered, but he tilted his head down and to the side. A few strands of hair tumbled out of place and shielded an eye.
“Oh, no,” she fired back, her hands on her hips. “I’m not falling for that, mister. Your puppy-dog eyes have no effect on my—”
He swooped in and clasped her lips with his, effectively cutting her off from both her words and train of thought.
She couldn’t fight against the wave of sensations that coursed through her. Desire pooled within, insatiable whenever he kissed her with more intensity than the tender affections of his heart and soul—his ruhi, as he called it. Moreover, he was intentionally hungry, ravaging her mouth with his. Stealing her focus, her self-control, and the essence of her soul as he poured himself into her with sensual fire that made the hairs on her scalp tingle.
She felt him slip into her mind as he pulled away, breathing hard, and pressed his forehead to hers. [You have no idea how hard it was for me to restrain myself back there. You were with Dan, and I hated it. I didn’t want him near you. You kept catching my gaze when I couldn’t steal my own away from you.]
His fingers brushed through her hair as his hot breath fanned over her face. [I wanted you then, and I hated it. You were already chipping away at the barriers I built around my heart and I wasn’t ready for it to break.]
[I know,] she said, brushing the back of her fingers across his freshly shaven cheek. [I felt the pull too and didn’t understand why. Why couldn’t I tear my eyes away from you?]
Pulling his mouth back down to hers, she kissed him fervently until their lungs begged for air.
“Are we going to stand out here and give the neighbors a show, or go inside?” he asked, his voice husky and rough as he gasped for more air.
“Do we have to?” She was stalling, she knew she was. Could he blame her after stealing her breath away and rousing a fire that couldn’t be extinguished at that moment?
He chuckled lightly. “You tell me? They’re your parents.”
A howl followed by a series of barks announced their arrival.
The sound shook her awake and she jerked away. “Shoot! I meant to call them and tell them to tie Whiskey up in the backyard first.”
[You go on ahead and grab him. I’ll go back to the car and get the luggage,] he said as he turned and trotted down the stairs to the car in the narrow driveway. [If they ask, tell your folks I’ll meet with Whiskey later after he’s settled down. He’ll be excited to see you and you don’t want to over-excite him.]
She perked a brow as she watched him return to the car. [Uh, okay.]
Turning back to the house, she cracked opened the front door as Whiskey continued barking. She opened it slowly, just enough for him to poke his head out so she could grab him by the collar and pull him back with one hand before slipping in the door and closing it behind her.
He sniffed her incessantly as she reached for the leash hanging on a hook.
“Yeah, I bet I do smell different, don’t I, boy?” she asked in a whisper as she bent forward and clipped the leash to the D-ring of his collar.
“Aubree, is that you?” her mother called from the kitchen.
Her father appeared from the living room to greet her and looked around. “Well, where is he?”
“Hold on,” she said, as she led Whiskey to the back door.
Moving as quickly as she could, she was glad that Whiskey didn’t put up much of a struggle. He continued to sniff her as if he wasn’t sure what to make of the change in her scent. His tail barely swished from side to side like usual, but as long as he wasn’t snarling, she couldn’t complain.
After tying him up in the backyard, she hurried back inside just as Stone was opening the front door.
“Why did you put the dog out back?” her mother asked as she turned the gas on the stove down to give Aubree a hug and greet Stone in the doorway.
“I didn’t want to overwhelm him,” Aubree said as she gave her mother a squeeze. “He’s getting older now, and you know how excited he gets when I come home. I’ll introduce him to Stone once he’s settled down a bit.”
Whiskey barked in the backyard once before letting out another howl as Stone set the luggage in the doorway and closed the door behind him.
“We’ll take him for a walk to the park after dinner and get acquainted then,” Stone said as he straightened and turned to Aubree’s father.
[Are you sure?] Aubree mentally asked him.
[Yes,] he said as he reached out with his right hand to shake her father’s. [There’s something I’m curious to try.]
“Oh, that’s quite a grip you’ve got there!” Her father laughed as he released Stone’s hand and patted him on the shoulder.
Stone towered another six or seven inches over him, and Aubree didn’t miss the look on her father’s face as he sized Stone up. Curious, but warm.
So far, so good.
“Yes, sir. I was always taught that a handshake said a lot about a man.”
Her father grinned. “Well, no need to be formal. Just call me Steve.”
“I’ll try, sir. I was in the Marines for five years before coming back home and joining the police force two years ago,” Stone said as he looked over to catch Aubree’s eye.
That was part of their cover story. They had it all figured out as soon as they started planning the trip.
Aubree hated to lie to her parents, but she knew she couldn’t tell them the truth. She also knew her parents would be impressed and respect a former military man.
He could pull it off. She knew he could. He had the muscle, the attitude, and the discipline to match.
As she expected, both of her parents’ eyes widened in surprise.
“Oh, really? Bree failed to mention that when she first told us about you,” her father said.
“Well, you didn’t ask,” Aubree said as she hurried across the space to give her father a hug and kiss on the cheek. He had his usual salt and pepper beard, and it looked as though he had trimmed it recently.
She smiled to herself. Seemed as though Stone wasn’t the only one looking to impress the other.
That was a good sign.
Pulling away, she made the introductions. “Mom, Dad, this is Stone. He’s Gwen’s brother. You remember me telling you about my friend Gwen, right?”
Her parents nodded, and when Aubree looked over at her mother, she could see the wheels turning in her mother’s head.
[Warning. Mom’s over-analyzing,] she told Stone as she gestured to her mother and father. “Stone, this is my mother, Sandra, but you can call her Sandy, and my father, Steven.”
“Or Steve,” her father added quickly.
Her mother stepped forward with her hand extended.
Aubree caught a flicker of fear in his eyes, despite his calm expression, and felt a twinge of nervous from him.
[Just shake her hand,] she said. [You’ll make her uneasy and more judgmental if you act all European and kiss it.]
[Thank you,] he said, with a note of relief in his voice as he took her mother’s hand and gave her a gentle shake.
[Yeah, my mom’s not the ‘touchy-feely’ kind of woman.]
“It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” he said.
“Stone is an unusual name,” she said. “Is that a nickname you go by? Your last name, perhaps?”
“Nickname, actually, ma’am.”
“Don’t call me ma’am.”
“What? I’m not that old. Just call me Sandy,” she said. “Now, tell me, if Stone is your nickname, what’s your real name?”
Aubree’s hand met her forehead. “Really? Does it matter?”
“It’s just an unusual name.”
Stone shrugged, trying to be casual. [She certainly is a hard one to please.]
[I’m so sorry!]
[I’ve handled worse.]
“Sten, actually,” he said. “Named after my mother’s father. It’s an old Norse name, meaning ‘stone,’ thus the nickname. I prefer to go by Stone.”
“Blauwald,” Stone replied.
Aubree nodded. That was how he signed his paperwork. Stone Blauwald.
That was also the name she had taken for her new IDs and to co-sign the paperwork as well. Aubree Blauwald.
He had explained that pack names were used as last names for lycans.
It was as if they had already gotten married when she became Luna. While they did have a little celebratory party before she and Stone went to Arizona, it didn’t have the same feeling as a wedding reception. It was low-key with his family, and none of her friends or family had been present.
Her parents would want her to get married. A proper Christian wedding in a church with all the pomp and circumstance of a typical wedding ceremony followed by a reception with at least a hundred friends and family.
Like she would have had with Dan...
“That’s German, right?” her mother questioned. She turned to her husband with a quirked brow. “Seems we have a German Viking in our midst.”
Her father chuckled before she turned to head back to the kitchen. “Go ahead and relax. I’m sure you must be tired after that long drive. Dinner will be ready in another fifteen minutes.”
Aubree exhaled as she watched her mother leave.
Her father clapped Stone on the shoulder. “The hard part’s over. You passed her first inspection, son. Let’s go.”
Stone caught Aubree’s eye with a crooked grin as she clasped his hand with hers, needing to feel the comfort his touch brought and put both of their unease to rest.
“She’s tough,” he commented to her father. “Almost as tough as my drill sergeant. You sure she’s never been in the Marines?”
Her father laughed a full hearty laugh at that. “Her bark is worse than her bite. You’ll get used to her.”
Aubree’s hand met her face again as Stone chuckled.
If he only knew the irony of his words.