Chapter 27 - Aubree
Relief flooded over Aubree when Whiskey settled down and offered his paw to Stone.
Of course, he would recognize the physical command for “shake-a-paw” without needing words. That was how she trained him, using vocal commands combined with hand gestures.
She trained him using a book Brooke recommended. Brooke’s family bred Huskies, German Shepherds, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers. It was through them that she acquired Whiskey.
She walked up to Stone, still crouched before the dog, paw in hand, and gave his shoulder a squeeze. “Ready for that walk?”
“Yes,” he said, letting Whiskey’s paw fall back to the ground and standing. “Take the lead, Luna.”
She untied Whiskey’s leash and they set out down the quiet residential streets. He trotted along at her side with Stone holding her hand on the other.
“You handled him well,” she commented as they paused and waited for Whiskey to sniff the base of a tree.
“What can I say? I am familiar with how dogs think.”
His eyes crinkled, making her smile widen, but it faded as his face reverted to a neutral expression.
[What is it?] she asked, nervousness gripping her as he glanced over his shoulder.
[We’re being followed.]
Whiskey looked up from the tree, his ears perking forward before flattening to the sides.
[Relax. It’s not a vampire. You’re scaring the dog with the shift in your body language and scent,] he told her.
He urged her to move forward. [How far is the park?]
[Just a few blocks ahead. Do you know who is following us?]
Her brows furrowed. [Werewolves?]
[Due to the size of Chicago, there are a few werewolf packs protecting it. Slayers cover the downtown core, werewolves the surrounding areas and suburbs, and lycans have the land outside the city limits.]
[So, we’re on werewolf territory,] she summarized. [Do they know we’re here?]
[Yes. Hector told all the werewolf packs that we would be floating around the city.]
[Naturally, they don’t like foreigners on their land—especially lycans—so I suspect they have detected our scents and are scoping us out.]
[What’s our cover story?]
[We’re looking for Carina.]
Aubree paused in her tracks. [You don’t think she’s here, do you?]
He stopped and looked over his shoulder to catch her gaze. [I don’t know, Love. This would be an ideal place for her to start over and rebuild her army. We’ve pretty much destroyed everything she built back in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Even then, I suspect all the good hiding places here have already been claimed.]
Aubree could feel something else nagging on his mind, but he kept it to himself.
[Stone?] she prodded. [What else are you thinking?]
He sighed, urging her to keep moving. [She’s cunning, Love. She’s been around for a thousand years or longer. I don’t doubt that she has connections here in the city. Connections that could mean strengthening her numbers faster with more skilled vampires to fight in her war.]
He rubbed his face with his hand, and she could feel his headache set in. [Why didn’t I kill her when I had the chance?]
She gave his hand a gentle squeeze. [Why didn’t you?]
While it was hard for her to wrap her head around killing anyone—even if that person was already dead in a way—Carina was responsible for killing others. She killed Adelaide, Arthur, and heavens knew who else, in addition to the humans she needed to feed on in order to exist. She tried to kill Gwen and she would have turned Aubree into a vampire had Dan not helped her escape.
She turned Dan!
Thinking about it all made her blood boil. She always wanted to see the good in people, but this bitch was too much.
Whiskey growled lowly.
Stone squeezed her hand back. [Relax, Röslein. You’re upsetting the dog again.]
She huffed before taking a deep cleansing breath to try and calm herself.
He leaned down and kissed the side of her head. [I know. I want to destroy her too. I slipped up.]
The park was coming into sight now and she pointed it out to him.
[I don’t want to alarm you, Love, but we have company there.]
[Are we still being followed?]
[Do you think we’re in any kind of danger?]
[No, but I’m surprised Whiskey isn’t getting more uncomfortable the closer we get. His sense of smell should be able to pick them up by now. Perhaps he’s used to smelling werewolves around here?]
She shrugged. [I guess it’s possible if werewolves live within the city. You should know better than me.]
[Well,] he said as he released her hand to wrap his arm around her lower back as they reached the edge of the park, [I suppose we shall see how he reacts when we meet them.]
She nodded as she leaned into him, watching Whiskey’s behavior. He seemed relaxed. She tried to stay calm, despite the knots twisting within her.
What did the werewolves want? What would they say about her not being human, but not completely lycan either? They wouldn’t cause any trouble, would they?
Just relax, she repeated in her head.
The park was almost a perfect square in shape and roughly an acre in size, surrounded by trees with plenty of shade. There was a swing set, a pair of slides, and a jungle-gym for kids to climb on in the corner. Four sets of benches surrounded the playground with a wide-open space of grass that bordered backyards of homes, where families often met to play sports, fly kites, or toss a Frisbee around.
While two mothers watched over three young children playing on the playground, there were three men and one woman huddled together in the open grassy area, with one guy’s back facing them.
[That them?] she asked Stone before shifting her gaze down to the dog. He seemed fine and was tugging at his leash, wanting to chase after the children that ran around the playground, squealing and shouting to each other.
[Yes,] Stone replied as they approached and made eye contact with the group.
Taking a deep breath, Aubree raised her chin in a confident manner, pulled her expression into a calm neutral mask, and clenched tightly to Whiskey’s leash.
Her resolve faded immediately when the only guy not facing them turned around and her eyes narrowed upon meeting his own puzzled and shocked expression.
[Who?] Stone demanded.
He looked exactly as he did the last time she saw him, maybe a year ago. Dark brown hair, blue eyes, and a reddish hue on his normally tanned skin from being in the sun too long recently. His hair was buzzed short on the sides and grew to an inch long on the top and sported a five o’clock shadow along his jaw.
No freaking way!
Ignoring his question, she gave Stone the leash and marched up to the guy, her fists clenched at her side.
That was when Whiskey started to growl and bark, but Stone held him taut.
His eyes widened, unable to mask the shock and confusion that struck him. “Bree?”
“You’re a fucking were—”
“Woah, woah, chill, Bree,” he said, raising his hands up, pleading with her to keep her voice down as his eyes darted around the park.
“How am I supposed to chill when you guys kept this from me all this time?” she accused in a snarled whisper.
“Me? What about you?” he fired right back, his eyes hardening as they looked her up and down. “What the fuck happened to you?”
Stone growled behind her and she could feel his displeasure at Justin’s tone. [Do you know these wolves?]
She ground her teeth together. [Yes. Let me introduce you.]
With a swipe of her hand, she motioned for Stone to approach.
Whiskey stopped barking but continued to growl.
Taking more cleansing breaths, she brought her anger down a little when Stone reached her side.
Whiskey huffed and tugged on his leash to put himself in front of Aubree, but Stone held him back.
“I found my mate, that’s what happened to me,” she said and gestured to Stone. “This is Stone, Alpha of the Blauwald Pack in Minnesota. Stone, this is Justin. Brooke’s older brother.”
Stone bent down to stamp his foot on Whiskey’s leash as he raised his palms up in greeting. The werewolves returned the gesture, but Aubree continued to stare Justin down.
All this time, her best friend was a werewolf and she didn’t know?
That girl owed her an apology and an explanation! As it stood, Justin would have to bear the double-edged glare of being lied to for her entire life.
Not that she could blame them for keeping the truth from her, but she still felt betrayed.
No wonder Brooke never wanted to watch any of those vampire and werewolf movies and shows growing up. She always scoffed at them and would suggest something else. What Aubree had always interpreted as revulsion must have actually been an avoidance tactic to turn her off of the subject matter so that she’d never be able to recognize the truth staring back at her, training her to think it was all garbage and a waste of time.
Now, it all made sense.
“Well, this isn’t awkward at all,” the girl behind Justin muttered as they lowered their hands.
Aubree recognized her now that she was closer. Isabelle, or Izzy, as she preferred. She was a year older than her and Brooke and was as active as Brooke had been in sports. Brooke and Izzy got along fine, but she never gave Aubree the time of day, which was fine by Aubree because Izzy’s competitive nature made her rather aggressive and bitchy at times. Aubree never bothered to make an effort to be friends with her, and Brooke never invited Izzy to join them.
Now, Izzy looked on Aubree with disgust written all over her pretty freckled face.
She recognized one of the other guys from her high school football team, while the other two were mysteries, one older than the others in the group, while the second appeared to be the youngest in his early twenties.
“Beta Justin, actually,” Justin added. “I’m going to assume you know what that means. I became Beta of the Lancaster Pack last year.”
She just continued to glare at him.
Justin was two years older than her and Brooke. Both he and Brooke had been active in sports throughout their childhood and teens, and while Justin never made Captain of the football team, he was always Jackson’s running back man.
Jackson was Justin’s best friend, the Captain of the football team and quarterback.
Aubree’s heart jumped in her throat as she shifted her gaze from one face to the next before her eyes landed back on Justin.
Lancaster? As in, Jackson Lancaster?
“Don’t tell me,” she said, unable to conceal the nervousness that now took hold of her. “Jackson’s Alpha?”
“Yes,” said a deep voice behind her.
She whirled around, her head spinning with her, and found Stone’s hands on her arms supporting her as she looked up into the dark eyes of the older man and woman who had been following them from her parents’ house.
“And he commands your presence immediately,” the man continued.
Aubree swore softly under her breath.
[What’s wrong, Love?] Stone asked. [Was this Alpha unkind to you?]
Grimacing, she avoided his gaze and instead brushed her fingers behind Whiskey’s ear.
[No... I lost my virginity to him.]