Chapter 35 - Aubree (Part 2)
“What are we going to do?” Aubree asked as she and Brooke took Whiskey and the female Labrador and Husky out for a stroll—mostly to get away from everyone to talk in private. “I can probably get Dad drunk, but Mom is another matter. She doesn’t like getting drunk. A slight buzz, maybe, but never drunk.”
All three dogs stopped to sniff a bush as Aubree heaved a sigh and raked her hand down her face. “This was a bad idea.”
Brooke sighed with her. “It’s your call. They’re your parents.”
That wasn’t helpful.
If she couldn’t get her parents drunk, how could she get them to agree to spend the night here?
“Where will we be staying?” Aubree asked, hoping the information might spur some ideas.
“There are safe rooms in the lower basement of the community center, kind of like underground bunkers. That’s where the elderly, pregnant, and pups go when there’s a threat such as this. Everyone who can’t go out and hunt tonight will go down there. It’s nothing spectacular, but you’ll be safe and that’s the important thing.”
Aubree nodded in understanding. The information didn’t give her any new ideas. She’d never be able to convince her mother to go there without some kind of valid reason. If they lived in a tornado zone, they could fake a warning, but they didn’t. They lived in a safe neighborhood in Chicago as well. The only crime ever reported was the odd vandalism and theft cases. There was never any gang violence, shootings, stabbings, and the like.
Even if she used gang violence as a reason to keep them from going home, would they take it seriously to stay, or would it seem too odd since Stone left for that same reason?
“Bree,” Brooke cut off her train of thought, “my mom offered to make one of her famous cocktails that is sure to knock your mother off her feet, if you want.”
Aubree gaped at her.
Brooke carried on, “I mean, two of those make a werewolf nice and tipsy, and your mother won’t have the tolerance that we have. Coupled with that glass of wine, she’ll be out like a light before she downs the last swallow. Plus, she won’t even realize how strong it is, so we might be able to get her to try it if we say otherwise.”
A shuddering sigh left Aubree’s lips. Everything would be so much easier if she could tell them the truth. “Okay. Let’s try it. But have your mom make a really weak or non-alcoholic version for me. My mom will be more adventurous if she sees me have one.”
Brooke cracked a grin. “Sure thing. We’ll all have one, but we’ll make yours a virgin.”
Aubree elbowed her. “Well, if everyone’s going to get tipsy, might as well add a smidgen of alcohol to mine so I’m not left out.”
Brooke’s grin widened. “Only a smidgen though. You’ll have to pretend to get drunk like the rest of us.”
They hurried home, giving the dogs a bit of a run.
The cocktail was prepared and Brooke’s mother was getting ready to pass them around when they arrived. She gave Aubree hers first with a mischievous gleam in her eyes that crinkled with a smile.
Aubree’s mother naturally declined the drink because she’d already had a glass of wine, but at everyone’s insistence, she gave into peer pressure so as not to seem rude.
Aubree had never laughed so hard in her life. Her mother was a hilarious drunk and flirted openly with her father like they were a pair of college kids.
“My mom needs to get drunk more often,” she whispered to Brooke. “I can finally see now what my dad saw in her forty years ago.”
It was only a few hours ago that she discovered the truth that explained why her mother was so high-strung and she couldn’t blame her. The past was in the past, though. She needed to let go of it and move on, much like Stone needed to let go and move on with the baby that slipped through his fingers. They were both terrible for mental beatings in that regard.
She watched the sun slowly descend, feeling calmer with the slight numbness that came with drinking alcohol. Not enough to get her tipsy, but enough to relax her.
Her mother passed out with two swallows left of her glass, her head resting on her husband’s shoulder while he was still talking animatedly with Brooke’s father despite his slurred speech and struggle to string words together in a coherent sentence.
“Home. I-I dunno how we gon-gonna git home,” her father stuttered.
“Don’t worry. We have a crash pad for you,” Brooke’s father assured him. “You’re all more than welcome to spend the night.”
He managed a drunken nod as he thanked Brooke’s father for his hospitality. Even though he knew his wife would oppose being a burden, he knew none of them were in any shape to go anywhere. A few minutes later, he was nodding off as they all heaved a sigh of relief.
“I don’t know how you’re going to keep everything a secret from them, Luna,” Brooke’s father said.
Frowning, she insisted they skip the formalities with her, but he shook his head.
“We know our place and we can’t be an exception, even in our own pack.”
“It will take a bit of getting used to, but we have to set an example around here,” Brooke’s mother added as she put a reassuring hand on Aubree’s shoulder. “We all know of your mate’s reputation, but the Goddess doesn’t give blessings without reason.”
Aubree gave her a grateful smile. “Thank you. Could you pass on some of that wisdom to the elders? Seems they’re a little stiff.”
Brooke’s father chuckled as he rose from his patio chair. “They can be, but they’ve lived through many battles that have hardened them. Many more battles than I have ever been involved in.”
“We’ve been spoiled in our lifetime,” Brooke’s mother agreed as her eyes drifted out to Justin lighting a sparkler that his son held tightly in his hands, his mate inside with the toddler. “I hope your generation doesn’t have to endure too many struggles.”
“We should get you all settled into your humble abode before everyone else makes their way over there,” Brooke’s father said. “It will be a little awkward carrying two passed out humans down two flights of stairs.”
They nodded as they watched the young boy wave the sparkler in the air, the sparks dancing in the looming shadows cast by an orange sky. Brooke was silent, while Crystal sat quietly in the corner with a large sketchbook on her lap as her fingers brushed a pencil across the surface.
When the sparkler was snuffed out, Justin swung the boy up into the air over his shoulder as he giggled, carried him over to his mother, and handed him to her.
“I’ll grab Steve, Brooke Sandra, and Pa and Aubree will take the luggage,” Justin said.
His mother nodded. “I’ll help Teresa with the pups and meet you all there.”
They set out with their duties. Justin huffed as he carried Aubree’s father—as he was a bit heavier than he expected—which made Brooke laugh at his expense.
“You’re lucky you’re my sister, otherwise I’d smack some respect into you,” he jeered, to which she stuck her tongue out at him like a pair of kids.
After loading her parents into the backseat of Brooke’s parents’ car with Whiskey sniffing them curiously, Aubree climbed into the front passenger seat with Brooke’s father while Brooke and her brother got in Brooke’s car with all of their luggage stashed in her trunk.
As they pulled away from the house to drive the minute-long drive to the community center, Brooke’s father cleared his throat.
“Luna, I just want you to know that whatever happens in the coming days, you have my family’s support.”
Her heart swelled. “Thank you. It means a lot to me.”
“It’s going to be rough for the first few days. You’re going to have some of the stronger werewolves try and ruffle up your fur, but just know that they’re testing you. Keep a cool head and you’ll be fine.”
She nodded. “I’ll try.”
He scratched his graying light brown hair. “I don’t know what your pack is like, but newcomers here aren’t always treated kindly. Werewolves are territorial and very protective of their families and everyone else in the pack. Stick with Brooke, Justin, and Cricket and don’t let anyone intimidate you. They won’t know what to make of you, but if they see you with any one of us, they’ll think twice about giving you a hard time.”
He pulled up to the community center, where two men guarded the entrance. “Breakfast will be served at seven until nine. Most likely porridge because it’s warm and comforting.”
“Gotcha. Don’t sleep in late,” she replied as she eyed the men.
They climbed out of the car as Justin and Brooke pulled up.
No words were exchanged as they set to work, carrying Aubree’s parents into the building and down two flights of stairs while she and Brooke’s father carried the luggage with Whiskey trailing behind on his leash.
She followed Brooke and Justin down an off-white hallway lined with doors on both sides to the end where, to Aubree’s surprise, Jackson was waiting.