Chapter 35 - Aubree (Part 3)
Jackson held the door open for them, revealing a large square room with identical off-white concrete walls like the hallway.
Four long, narrow, thick pads lay in the middle of the floor, each with its own thin blanket and pillow resting on top, with a single battery-powered mock oil lamp at the other end of the room.
“Welcome, Luna,” Jackson greeted as she shuffled into the room and set her duffel bag down on the middle pad next to the one Brooke set her mother down with her father on the other one next to that. “Sorry the furnishings are so sparse, but safety is prioritized over comfort.”
“Of course, Alpha,” she said. These were temporary shelters after all.
Jabbing his thumb out the door behind him, he said, “You came down the main flight of stairs. There’s an emergency exit right next door at this end of the hallway. It goes to a one-way door outside. Please refrain from using that unless it is an emergency because it is attached to an alarm that will sound when you push the door open.”
She nodded as he continued. “Across the hallway will be my mate and pup, along with Beta Justin’s pups. She will knock on your door at seven o’clock to wake you up. All the doors lock from the inside, and only the head guard will have a set of keys to all the rooms. There will be two guards stationed at the entrance of the building and two down here. The bathrooms are marked in the middle of the hallway. Any questions?”
She hesitated, not sure what to ask in regards to their accommodations. “Um, what about tomorrow? What are the details about my parents’ trip to Europe?”
As he began explaining, she could hear voices down the hallway as pack members began to gather and disperse into the other rooms.
He told her that he got them tickets to London, England and their flight leaves tomorrow evening, giving them enough time to break the “good news,” help them get over their hangovers, and arrive at the airport with enough time to not feel rushed.
After ensuring that everything was fine, everyone set out, leaving Aubree momentarily alone with the dog, who settled himself between her snoring parents. Brooke was the last to leave, giving Aubree a hug and reassuring her that everything will be fine before Crystal slipped into the room with her backpack and sketchbook in hand.
After closing and locking the door after Brooke left, Aubree turned and leaned against it as she watched Crystal make herself comfortable on her mat with her sketchbook open on her lap. Her black hair fell around her face like a curtain as she pressed the tip of her pencil to the paper.
“Guess this will be our first official sleepover together, huh?”
Crystal hummed in reply.
This is going to be a long night, she thought with a sigh.
She settled down on her make-shift bed and dug a paperback out of her bag.
After a few minutes of reading, Crystal broke the silence.
“Do you like your mate?”
Aubree peered up from the pages of her book. “I love my mate.”
Crystal chewed on her bottom lip as she twisted the pencil between her fingers. “But isn’t he...”
Aubree waited for her to say more, but she didn’t. Heaving a sigh, Aubree set her book down. “Look, I don’t know what you’ve been told about Stone, but I’m guessing details were left out, exaggerated, or altered, never mind taking into account his personality and how hard it was for him to deal with everything.”
Crystal blinked for a moment before lowering her gaze to her sketchpad. “I-I meant he’s a lycan... An-And you’re human...”
“Oh.” Aubree flinched as her previously condescending tone, assuming Crystal knew some details about Stone’s past. Brooke knew. Maybe Crystal was still considered too young? “Well, yeah. He is a lycan.”
“Is it scary? I mean, is his wolf scary?”
Aubree gave her a small smile when those blue-green eyes looked up to meet hers. “At first, it was. I was practically shitting myself, but I’m used to it now. Watching him shift is the hard part. It looks so painful, but I know he’s slowing it down to get me used to it, even though it causes him more pain. He won’t admit to the pain, but I feel it in him.”
Why wasn’t she jumping to conclusions like everyone else?
She tried to steer the conversation onto a more positive note—one that would better reflect Stone and their unconventional relationship. “The first time he showed me his beast, he was terrified.”
Her eyes grew large. “He was?”
Aubree nodded. “He knew I would be scared of his other form, and he was afraid I would never be able to accept it.”
She went on to tell Crystal how she saw Stone’s beast, how she first closed her eyes to touch him and feel their connection until she felt brave enough to open them. She told her that she knew, at that moment, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was deeply in love with him, as he was with her.
Crystal set her sketchbook aside and lay down on her stomach next to Aubree and continued to ask her questions about Stone, the matebond, lycans, and their pack, until her eyes began to droop.
Aubree got up to turn the light off and left the dim oil lamp on at their feet. She nestled down into her bed and Whiskey came up to lie between her and her mother.
“If I find my mate, I hope he is a nice person and loves and accepts me too,” Crystal murmured.
In the pale lamplight, Aubree watched the younger girl snuggle deeper into her pillow. “I’m sure he will.”
She made a negative sound in her throat. “A werewolf... without a wolf...”
She didn’t finish.
Aubree wondered what that meant in their world. What was a werewolf without a wolf? An outcast?
Closing her eyes, she let her thoughts linger a bit more before sleep took her.
She didn’t know how much time passed before a noise awakened her.
Prying her eyes open, she saw Crystal sit upright on her bed, staring at the back wall and calling out again with more urgency.
“Ma. Mama. Mama. Mama!”
Whiskey started whining and whimpering as Aubree reached out for Crystal. Did she have a bad dream or something?
Before she could make sense of it all, Crystal started making wheezing noises.
Aubree’s eyes widened as her chest tightened. That didn’t sound normal.
She rushed to Crystal’s side as she started convulsing and caught her before she fell back.
Her body twitched and shook violently as she continued to wheeze and saliva sputtered from her lips.
Aubree rolled her onto her side and held her down as the seizure rocked through her, shaking Aubree to her very core at what was happening and she had no idea what to do or how to help. She watched on helplessly as the convulsions continued for ten, twenty, thirty seconds—she wasn’t sure. Instinct told her to hold her gently on her side as saliva continued to bubble from her mouth.
As the convulsions subsided and Crystal lay there panting, Aubree became aware of her own heart racing and lungs struggling for air. She stared at the girl, not knowing what to do, and still trying to wrap her head around what just happened.
A moan snapped her out of her dazed and confused trance as Crystal curled up into a ball.
Aubree rubbed her back. “It’s okay. I’m here.” Her throat was dry. “Can I get you anything? Water?”
She continued to rub her back as Crystal whimpered and began to cry softly. She couldn’t pull herself away.
After a few minutes, Crystal’s small voice asked for water.
As Aubree went to the door to fetch some water from the bathrooms, a sharp sting slashed across her shoulder. Reaching up, she clutched her shoulder as her thoughts flew to Stone as the stinging sensation faded.
The battle had begun.