Chapter 29 - Stone (Part 2)
Jackson took the punch like an alpha.
He staggered back, blood gushing from between his fingers as he clutched his nose in both hands, groaning as Stone shook the pain from his knuckles.
A cacophony of noise struck Stone as the anger-induced haze dissipated some, enough for him to gather his bearings.
The werewolves were howling and shouting, pounding against the doors in a futile attempt to break it down.
Yanking on his arm, Aubree was yelling, pleading with him to stop. Her attempts to hold him were pitiful at best, but he let her pull him a few steps back before getting into position again. Feet spread apart, hunched forward, one fist taut before him, the other reaching back to protect and keep Aubree safely behind him in case Jackson lunged.
The werewolf hissed under his breath, cursing repeatedly as blood continued to seep from his nose. With a grunt, Jackson snapped it back into place before another stream of curses tumbled from his lips.
The noise from outside the sound-proof walls lessened to inaudible murmurs.
Aubree swore up a storm at him. “I can’t believe you just did that! How could you do that, Stone? Apologize right now!”
A growl erupted from his throat. Apologize? He had it coming.
“No, Aubree—Luna—I should be apologizing to you and your mate,” Jackson said between his fingers as he continued to clutch his nose, waiting for the blood to stop with his slow healing capabilities.
She huffed. “What? No! That was completely unnecessary!”
“I deserved it and he needed to release his rage. See? He’s much calmer now, right, Alpha?”
Another growl rumbled, but Stone nodded. “A bit.”
He was calmer, but he didn’t have to let Jackson know that.
“Still,” Aubree argued, “it wasn’t necessary! If you had just left the room and given us some space, I could’ve calmed him down.”
Jackson loosened the black tie around his neck before slipping out of the jacket of his business suit and setting it down on the table. “Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I deserved it for what I did to you.”
“Oh, for the love of...” Aubree groaned, before stepping around Stone with her hands on her hips. “It happened a long time ago. I moved on from it. Heck, it was mostly my fault to begin with!”
Stone grabbed her arm to pull her back behind him, but she swatted him away.
“You’re over-reacting!” she snapped at him, which earned her a growl in response.
Jackson wiped the blood on his face with the sleeve of his white button-up shirt. “I touched you when you were off-limits.”
She rolled her eyes. “And how was any of us supposed to know that I was Stone’s mate, huh?”
He shook his head. “Even then, you were off-limits as Brooke’s friend.” He reached up to cradle his face, grimacing. “Shit, that smarts.”
“Stone, apologize,” Aubree ordered.
Jackson raised a hand. “Luna, it’s fine. He held back.”
“What do you mean, ′he held back?′ He broke your freaking nose!”
“If a lycan used his full strength, he would have killed me. Crushed my skull with one blow, right, Alpha?”
Stone nodded. Truth was, Aubree was the one who held him back. He lost control of his rage. The strength of her soul held the strength of his body back.
“Thanks for that.”
“You should thank her,” he grumbled. “She held me back using the strength of our bond.”
He left it at that. No need to elaborate.
“Thank you, Luna. Seems like you have more control over your mate than I gave credit.”
“We lived together for three hundred years before we were separated,” Stone said. “She has more strength than anyone gives her credit.”
Jackson managed a small smile before grimacing with a groan. The pain was still there and Stone bet it hurt more than the young alpha was willing to let on.
“Well, that’s good to hear. I’m happy for you, Luna. I only regret losing control of myself back then. I was weak and should have walked away.”
Aubree huffed, crossing her arms over her bosoms. “It would have happened either way. If not you, then that other guy probably.”
Stone growled before he could stop himself. He pushed himself into her mind. [What other guy?]
She turned and glared at him. [If you let me explain the whole story, this all could have been avoided!]
She pushed him out and that surprised him.
“Craig was taught a lesson,” Jackson said as he wiped his face with the clean sleeve and examined the blood that came off. While he had stopped bleeding, the lower half of his face was still smeared in red.
Aubree scrunched up her nose. “Was that his name? Jeez, I can’t even remember.”
“You had too much to drink.”
Stone looked back and forth between Aubree and Jackson as they spoke. He growled at how casual they were with each other. He didn’t like it.
He pushed back into her mind. [You were intoxicated?]
She shot another hard look at Stone. [Yeah, that happens when you drink alcohol at a party.]
Her head snapped back to Jackson as his words flitted across her mind again. “Wait, you taught him a lesson? Don’t tell me he was a werewolf too!”
Jackson nodded. “I told them all that you were off-limits, but Craig was testing me since I gave the order. I was fine with him being friendly with you. As soon as he started kissing you, that was when he crossed the line. He was looking to score, and he thought I wouldn’t notice with you two outside. He was sorely mistaken and made an example of.”
Stone caught flashes of blurred images of a male casting predatory eyes over a cup of beer in hand, smoking with other males and females, laughing, and getting all too close to Aubree in her mind.
He withdrew with a growl.
Hanging her head, Aubree pressed a hand to her forehead. “Shit.”
“You should have been more careful, Luna,” Jackson said.
Pulling her hand away and raising her chin, Aubree set her jaw and narrowed her eyes at him. “I wanted to have fun and maybe meet someone, you know? Brooke was always scaring guys away.”
He shook his head. “She was always protecting you from the male werewolves. Why were you even there? We didn’t invite you. It was a party for werewolves to...” He looked away, leaning against the table.
She gaped at him as he trailed off. “Let me guess, you guys were looking for human girls to shack up with for the night?”
Swallowing, he nodded.
Without the rest of his pack around him, Stone could see the werewolf’s alpha-demeanor unraveling. He was just a young male now. A young male with regrets, who made mistakes. A young alpha in charge of a large pack, where there was no room for mistakes because their lives all depended on the decisions he made.
Aubree sighed. “That would explain why Brooke told me not to go. She didn’t know I went. I never told her any of it.”
Jackson ran his hand through his short hair. “I’m glad you remembered to keep it a secret, until now.”
Aubree shrugged. “I can’t keep secrets from Stone, and I don’t see any reason to. I was caught by surprise when I found out you were a werewolf—and an alpha—and he picked up on it.”
She glanced at Stone now from the corner of her eye before looking away again. She smelled of embarrassment.
Jackson, likewise, was staring at the bloodstains on the bottom of his shirt. “You’re better than I am, Luna. Not that I could tell my mate half of the females I took to bed with me. I can’t remember them all. I know she knows. Most males can’t help it and it’s been accepted that way. The stronger the male, the stronger his sex drive. I’m grateful that she hasn’t asked, so I never had to admit my weaknesses.”
He stank of guilt, humiliation, and self-loathing. He hated this weakness, and Stone understood that.
To be weakened by an appetite induced by the sight, scent, and touch of the opposite sex was an immense distraction that neither one could help. Females couldn’t help the fact that their mere presence triggered the males’ sex drives, and the males couldn’t turn it off. Wolf and human instincts collided in the most self-destructive force.
An alpha couldn’t be weak, and couldn’t show weakness in front of others. Jackson held himself stiffly in front of his pack, but once they were gone, he was dealt with a harsh punch of reality that he accepted as punishment for all of his wrongs.
A stillness hovered around them for a minute before Jackson cleared his throat. “I apologize for taking advantage of you, Luna.”
Aubree sighed as she brushed her fingers through her hair. “It’s fine. You don’t need to apologize.”
“I do. You were intoxicated. It was wrong of me. I should have just helped you to your room and left immediately and returned to the party for another female. I lost control of myself. It was wrong. It was a mistake. I’m sorry.”
From what Stone could gather from their conversation, Jackson intervened when another male made advances on Aubree, despite Jackson telling him not to. Jackson had tried to protect her, only to lose control himself. It was a mistake Jackson regretted making. Aubree wasn’t pissed off at him for what happened, only that he was a werewolf and she never knew, which meant Jackson never used force on her. She went willingly, as she kept telling him.
“We all make mistakes,” Stone said, which was as good of an acceptance to Jackson’s apology as he was going to get.
It didn’t change the fact that what Jackson did was wrong, but at least now he had received a form of punishment and an acceptance of his apology, and that would enable him to move on.