Chapter 26 - Stone (Part 2)
Aubree’s mother tried to be civil during dinner, but she couldn’t help grilling Stone. She asked about his career in the military and the police force, his family and upbringing, his plans for the future, and more despite the glares Aubree sent across the table.
Most of what Stone told them were lies, which made Aubree squirm in her seat. He knew she didn’t like him lying to her parents, but she’d have to get to used to the web of lies that would follow them now the more they interacted with humans.
It couldn’t be helped.
He told them that he was born and raised on a farm a few miles south of the Twin Cities with his younger twin siblings, Gwen and Gavin. He came back home when his parents died and sold the family farm. He moved to the Twin Cities with his siblings and joined the police force. He explained that Gwen and Gavin were a number of years younger than him and at the time, couldn’t manage on their own. He couldn’t leave them and he wouldn’t have wanted to, anyway.
He emphasized the importance of family. As parents with only one child, how could they argue with those sentiments?
As dinner drew to a close, he suggested they wash the dishes, but Aubree’s mother waved him off.
“No guest in my house will lift a finger.”
It was a dismissal. Not even a ‘thank you’ for offering.
Aubree was a little hurt, he could tell, but he touched her hand under the table and assured her through the mind-link that it was okay.
[She’ll come around when she’s ready to.]
She nodded despite being upset still. [She was never like this with Dan.]
[Dan didn’t steal you away from a previous boyfriend that she liked, correct?]
Grudges take time.
She gave a little sigh but told him he was right.
He kissed her forehead while her mother’s back was turned to them, rinsing dishes off in the sink and setting them in the dishwasher.
“Dinner was wonderful, but now I’m ready for a walk,” Stone said to try and take Aubree’s mind off her mother’s attitude while offering a compliment in hopes of appeasing Sandra at the same time.
“That sounds like a good idea,” Steve chimed in. “Whiskey only gets short walks around the block, but I’m sure he’d love it if you took him to the park and played fetch for a while.”
Steve scraped the leftovers into storage containers to put in the fridge and, unlike his wife, offered Stone a smile.
Aubree relaxed a little at the suggestion, but Stone could tell that she was still hesitant. He caught whispers of her thoughts, worrying about how Whiskey would react.
[We won’t know until we try,] Stone assured her. [You go ahead. Let him get reacquainted with you and when he’s calm, I’ll come out.]
She got up from the breakfast table in the kitchen and he followed her to the front door where they grabbed their shoes and carried them through the house before putting them on.
He watched her from behind the sliding glass door in the kitchen as she went out to reconnect with Whiskey.
She would be different to him. He knew the dog would be able to sense it. Stone could sense it too. There was a subtle shift in her scent, one that marked her as a lycan. A predator. A beast at the top of the food chain.
An other-worldly scent blessed by the Goddess.
Whiskey had been lying on his stomach, his head between his paws, before Aubree stepped out of the house. His head rose as she opened the door and he got to his feet, ears and nose pointed forward, as she slipped out and closed the door behind her. His tail was down, not tucked underneath, and not in an aggressive or relaxed position either.
He was wary.
She approached Whiskey with caution.
Stone frowned. [Relax. Don’t be nervous,] he told her. [Approach as you normally would. You’re still Alpha of his pack, not omega. Don’t confuse him.]
He watched her posture straighten. [Right.]
The yard was small, so she didn’t have far to go before she reached Whiskey tied up by a dog house in the back right corner.
The neighbors’ houses pressed in on them on all three sides. The perception of space was an invisible line marked by a wooden fence. It was crowded. Small yards pressed together, separating small, tightly packed houses.
A plane flew overhead, the noise from the engine hitting him despite the fact he was standing within the protection of this small house.
“Hey there, boy,” she said as he came forward and met her halfway across the yard, as far as his leash would let him. Her hands went around the back of his head, cradling it, while scratching him behind the ears at the same time. “Sorry to kick you out of the house so suddenly.”
He sniffed her a bit and soon gave in to the sensations her fingers were generating within him. Soon, he was relaxing and his tongue lolling out of the corner of his mouth as she continued to talk to him in a calm voice.
“Have you been a good boy while I was gone? You better not be giving Mom and Dad a hard time. They’re getting old you know,” she said as she got to her knees, her hands sliding down to Whiskey’s shoulders, scratching and rubbing him affectionately. “I know, I know. You’re older than them now in doggy years. They should be going easier on you. I think they are. I think you’re getting lazy. Look at this,” her hands moved back over his ribs, “you’re putting on weight here. You’re going to get fat. That’s not good. I’ll have to scold Dad for being too lenient with you.”
“Scared of dogs?”
Steve’s voice behind Stone caught him off guard. He’d been watching Aubree intently. Watching Whiskey’s body language change as he adjusted himself to the female he once knew.
Looking over his shoulders, Stone caught the curious gaze of her father and could also feel her mother watching him from the corner of her own eye.
“No,” he responded and left it at that.
“He’s a good dog. Bree trained him well,” her father asserted.
Stone gave him a nod of understanding before he turned back to the view before him.
[Is he calm now?] he asked.
Aubree looked over and Stone saw Whiskey’s tail wagging. [Yeah, I think so.]
[Okay. Step back and give him some space. His first instinct will be to protect you if you stand next to him.]
She straightened and gave him a nod. [How far back should I go?]
He scratched his chin as she gave Whiskey a final scratch before stepping away from the big black dog. [Let’s try here by the house. First, I need you to rub your scent on me.]
She scrunched her nose before breaking out in a smile. [That sounds so weird.]
He opened the door and stepped out and off to the side out of view as she walked toward him and met him on the narrow patio.
Whiskey immediately began to bark. She turned to scold him, but Stone interrupted her. [Let him get it out. He’s ordering me to stay away from you.]
She sighed as he wrapped his arms around her and slipped his hands under the hem of her shirt and pressed against her lower back, absorbing her scent.
Ignoring the barks, Stone instructed her to touch his skin. [Rub your hands on my face, my neck, and my arms. With your scent on me, he will understand that I belong to you, and am not a threat.]
Eyes holding hers, he pulled away, as her hands reached up to his temples and slid down over his cheeks and jaw.
Her touches were intimate and left warm tracks of pleasure as they continued down his neck and out to his arms, rubbing them gently up and down, as if in reassurance, before continuing down his elbows to his wrists. She took his hands in hers and held them between them.
[Is that good?] she asked.
The dog’s barking had lessened a touch, broken now by growled threats and huffs. He was pulling less at his restraints, opting to scratch at the ground more.
Lifting her hands to his lips, he kissed the back of each one. [Yes, I think that will do. Wait here.]
He gave her hands a little squeeze before releasing them and turning his attention to the dog.
He knew he couldn’t approach Whiskey like he would another lycan or alpha. Introductions were always stiff and formal, everyone knowing each other’s names and positions prior to meeting. Whiskey didn’t know him, nor what he was exactly.
He had to approach him as an equal on even grounds.
Holding his palms up and out before him in the lycan greeting, a non-threatening gesture, he allowed his scent—mixed with Aubree’s—to reach Whiskey’s senses before he got too close. He looked Whiskey in the eyes, sensing the dog’s confusion.
A rumble within his throat, almost like a purr of assurance, as Stone slowly approached had Whiskey’s head tilting to the side. The growls ceased. Ears perked forward, his nose sniffed the air before him as the distance between them lessened.
“You smell her on me, and me on her,” Stone said in a calm, neutral voice as he paused a foot away from Whiskey.
Whiskey backed away at the sound of his voice, his ears folding back for a moment before flicking forward again as he stopped a few paces back. His dark brown Shepherd eyes looked at his hands before looking back up at Stone’s face.
Confusion and fear mingled in the air around the dog.
Stone understood. He looked human, but he didn’t smell human. Aubree’s scent was on him, and Aubree’s scent had changed too.
“I am a puzzle to you, I know,” Stone said to him in the same even tone.
Whiskey didn’t flinch at the sound of his voice this time, but all of his senses—sight, sound, and smell—were trained on Stone.
“You do not know me now. Do not understand what I am, or what I say, but your alpha is my luna. That makes me your alpha. That makes us pack.”
Stone took a step forward and waited.
Using his throat, he spoke low in rumbling tones, a hint of his wolf rising to the surface of human vocal cords.
“Pack watches, protects, and takes care of its own. We do not harm each other. You need not fear me. You need not accept me right now. I know my place, but I have to earn my place with you. I am a stranger in your pack and on your territory. I await your judgment, but before I leave your land, I will earn my place with your pack. I promise you this,” he said, standing tall, his hands still out before him, palms up to the sky.
Whiskey shifted his weight from side to side, his ears folding out to the sides, perking forward as he looked up at Stone’s face, before folding down again as he looked away. A faint whine twanged as if to ask Stone what he wanted from him.
Stone lowered himself to his knees, his hands still out before him. The gesture put them on more equal ground. Even though Stone was still taller than Whiskey, it reduced the domineering stance he once had.
Equals at first meeting.
Brown eyes turned curious once more as Stone repeated the throaty purr of reassurance.
Ears perked forward. Head tilted. Whiskey took a few paces forward, extending his nose and sniffing at the tips of Stone’s fingers.
Another rumble in his throat, one that was inaudible to humans, communicated Stone’s approval at Whiskey’s approach.
Whiskey took in deeper breaths of air as he sniffed more eagerly now, taking another step closer to sniff Stone’s palms. Another step closer to sniff his wrists.
He lowered his hands as Whiskey took another step closer to sniff his chest and shoulders.
Stone lowered his head and tilted it to the side to expose his neck, allowing Whiskey to smell Aubree’s scent on his skin while showing that he meant no harm and wasn’t aggressive. No traces of fear, aggression, or hostility marred his scent. Stone maintained a cool, relaxed composure.
As Whiskey continued his investigation, Stone remained still, knowing that it was Whiskey who had to make the next move.
He noticed the dog’s tail was relaxed, as was his fur and overall stance. Curiosity getting the best of him, overriding fear and the need to protect Aubree.
Pulling back a few paces, inspection complete, Whiskey regarded Stone with dark eyes and waited.
Interesting, he thought, his lips curving up.
He raised his hands up in greeting once more.
Whiskey sat down and raised a paw into Stone’s open palm. His tail wagged as his eyes smiled back as if to say, hello newcomer.