Chapter 38 - Aubree (Part 1)
Exhaustion ransacked Aubree when the Luna of Lancaster Pack knocked on their door. She struggled to sleep most of the night, holding Crystal close with Whiskey at her back as flashes of pain struck her for half an hour and worry held her prisoner for another few hours after that. A lingering ache stretched across her shoulders, chest, and back, and she knew that Stone had sustained injuries that weren’t going to be easy to heal.
But he was still alive. She was certain of that.
Her cell phone had no reception in the safe room, so she had to wait until later to call Stone and find out everything that happened last night.
She roused her parents, who were understandably confused as to where they were and seemed to barely take in their surroundings as they struggled up the stairs to the communal eating area. Aubree had them sit down at one of the many long cafeteria-style tables while she and Crystal went up to the serving station to pick up bowls of porridge for them all.
Dozens of eyes watched her every move as she returned to her parents with Crystal by her side. A high-collared shirt covered her mark and she couldn’t wait to put on something more comfortable once her parents were on a plane and flying east.
Let their curious eyes feast on the truth.
Both of her parents looked terrible and clutched their heads as they hunched over their bowls of porridge, poking it with spoons and idly lifting it to their lips.
Guilt gnawed on Aubree, but she knew it was the only way to get them to spend the night.
Jackson, Leanne, Brooke, and her parents joined them when they were finishing up their breakfast—a task in itself with her parents griping and making faces at the porridge. Jackson congratulated them, shaking their hands with a charmer’s smile on. He told them that they won the trip and they would have everything taken care of for them to leave later that day.
Aubree’s mother appeared ready to faint, while her father stared in a stupor.
Brooke’s mother chattered away with Sandra as the werewolves ushered them all up the stairs and out of the building and into their waiting cars to go to their house. Brooke’s parents had answers to every little question Aubree’s parents dared to ask about the trip as they arrived at the house.
A pot of coffee was put on and mugs were passed around.
Whenever the questions of “what happened last night?” or “what was that place we slept at?” popped up, Brooke’s parents tactfully changed the topic or diverted their attention on something else. The morning flew by in a flurry of discussion.
Aubree was only able to get away and call Stone by slipping to the bathroom and locking herself in right before lunch.
The phone rang a couple of times before he answered, his voice heavy and deep.
“Good morning, Love.”
“I miss you,” she whispered.
A noise, half huff, half chuckle, greeted her ears, drawing a smile as she imagined him doing the same with half-lidded sleepy eyes. She squirmed on the lid of the toilet, feeling her stomach flutter like a teenager talking to her crush.
“I miss you too.”
“What happened? I felt everything last night. Hardly slept.”
With a reluctant sigh, Stone relayed the events of the night and that Gavin and Gwen tended to his silver-inflicted wounds.
Helplessness settled into Aubree’s nerves. Everyone was fighting the hard fight and she was cowering underground hundreds of miles away.
But what could she do besides stay out of the way?
They wouldn’t be having this war if it weren’t for her. Maybe it would have happened eventually, but that wasn’t the case right now.
“We’ll be fine. Don’t worry,” Stone assured her.
She scowled. “I’ll worry all I want until this is all over.”
“It will be soon. I promise.”
She ran her fingers through her hair before telling him their plan to send her parents to Europe, confessing the guilt festering in her heart, but he assured her that it was in their best interests to keep her family safe and out of harm’s way.
“I will send Alpha Jackson a check when all of this is over to pay for all their expenses,” he said. “They have been very accommodating to our needs. Thank the Goddess.”
Aubree refrained from reminding him that Jackson was a good guy. There was no need to goad when she wanted nothing more than to hear Stone’s voice and know that he was okay.
Closing her eyes, she said a silent prayer as she grasped to his presence on the other end, imagining him next to her and holding her in his arms.
After a few more exchanges, she hung up, her heart heavy.
Just like Hector in the café a few weeks ago, she missed his voice already.
If this war kept up, how many more wounds would he acquire like this? How long would it take before one succeeded in cutting his head off or disemboweling him?
She shook her head to shake away those thoughts and the ache in her chest they brought.
She wasn’t much of a praying girl, and yet, she found herself doing so more and more. What else could she do to help them?
She said another little prayer for their protection and fast healing before exiting the bathroom.
Morning turned to afternoon and soon she and Brooke were seeing her parents off at the airport and gushing about their trip and to take and send lots of pictures.
When they were up in the air, relief lifted her shoulders. They would be safe. Jackson assured her that from the looks they exchanged earlier.
Once her parents were gone, Aubree turned to Brooke and asked, “How did things go last night? I know my pack was hit, I could feel every injury that struck my mate.”
Brooke shrugged. “Nothing out of the ordinary here.”
“That’s good, I suppose. Has Jackson heard anything from neighboring packs?”
Brooke shook her head. “Jackson wants to meet with you personally—alpha to alpha—regarding those details. I’m not allowed to know.”
Aubree scrunched her nose. “Really? Doesn’t that bother you?”
Brooke shrugged. “It’s not something I have to worry about. I know Alpha and Luna have our best interests in mind. That’s their job, after all. They will make a public announcement if they feel it is necessary.”
“Do you think they will?”
“Nah. There was no action last night. Not around here, anyway.”
Sighing, Aubree ran her fingers through her hair, wondering how she was supposed to conduct a meeting with Alpha Jackson and Luna Leanne without Stone by her side.
She may be a Luna by title, but she had no idea what she was doing.
After this war and her first shift, she was certain Stone would have her begin her training immediately.
After dinner, she and Brooke got in the car to drop her off at the community center. Brooke assured her that her brother, Beta Justin, would be there.
“Don’t worry. Justin will have your back, just like when we were kids,” Brooke said.
Aubree rolled her eyes. When he wasn’t pulling on Aubree’s hair and teasing her like a common bully, he did always have their backs and stuck up for them growing up. Until he hit his teens and withdrew, leaving his sister and Aubree alone. However, he was never completely gone and watched over them from a distance and stepped in when bullies gave them a hard time.
Not that Brooke and Aubree couldn’t handle bullies themselves, but as an older brother, it was as if he made it his job to look out for them.
After a few moments of silence, Aubree asked, “When do werewolves shift for the first time?”
“Typically when we hit puberty, but everyone’s different.”
“When was your first shift?”
“The summer after sixth grade. I got lucky and had the entire summer to get used to it,” Brooke answered.
Aubree fell silent as she slipped back into her memories of that year.
Junior high had been rough—especially in seventh grade. Brooke had been more distant than ever those first few months, spent more time with Isabelle and her group of friends, making Aubree fear she’d lost her best friend. That Christmas, she confronted Brooke about whether she still considered Aubree her friend at all. Brooke broke down in tears and pulled Aubree into her arms. She apologized repeatedly for the way she’d been treating Aubree and begged for her forgiveness. That “stuff happened” over the summer break and she was still learning to cope.
They patched things up and the following months were still rocky but they got better. By the time they entered high school, they were like two peas in a pod again.
Brooke, however, had been more competitive, aggressive, and protective than she had been as kids.
“Makes sense now,” Aubree said as memories continued to play through her mind. “You never did tell me what happened that summer.”
“I’m sorry, but you know I couldn’t,” Brooke said.
Aubree nodded. “It’s fine. So, how does werewolf society work? So I know what I’m getting myself into until I return to my pack.”
Brooke explained that the hierarchy was the same as in lycan society. Alpha titles were usually handed down generationally to the firstborn son. They could claim their birthright on their twenty-fifth birthday, provided they had already found their mates.
“Werewolf packs need a Luna as well. The Alpha cannot claim his title until he has found his mate. Another can claim it if he hasn’t found his mate by his thirtieth birthday, but that’s not usually a problem. Alphas travel a lot to other packs, so it’s only a matter of time before he finds her.”
She went on to tell her that werewolves were able to find their mates once they reached maturity at eighteen years of age. The next few years, depending on one’s ranking in the pack, consisted of training. The higher a werewolf was ranked on the totem pole, the longer the training period was.
“So, what happens to werewolves without a wolf?” Aubree asked as they pulled up to the community center, her thoughts trailing to Crystal and her seizure last night.
Brooke’s eyes flicked to Aubree for a split second before she parked the car. “A werewolf without a wolf becomes an omega. The lowest member of the pack. Every pack has at least one. They typically look after the land within the gates, keeping it clean and tidy. They almost never have mates because they have weak genetics...”
She trailed off before sighing and running her hand through her hair. “Because they have no wolf, they don’t have the heightened senses that come with it. They don’t have the ability to communicate telepathically within the pack mind-link, so they’re at a serious disadvantage. But that doesn’t mean we kick them out or anything. It’s our job—all of us—to protect our omegas. It’s not their fault they were born without a wolf and they make us appreciate the blessings that we have.”
“Do you think she’ll get her wolf before her nineteenth birthday and find her mate?”
Brooke leaned her elbow against the window and pressed her palm to her forehead as she closed her eyes, her brows knitting together. “I don’t know. I’m trying to be optimistic, but the chances aren’t looking good.”
“What about her seizures?”
Brooke opened her eyes and lowered her hand. “They’re not seizures. They’re seizure-like panic attacks or something. There’s a difference. She’s completely conscious when they happen, whereas a person having an actual seizure isn’t and it takes time for them to come back around. Look up a few videos on the Internet and see for yourself.”
“Well, whatever you want to call these seizure-like attacks, is that normal? I mean, for wolfless werewolves?”
Brooke shook her head. “Not that I know of.” She swallowed and looked around them.
Brows pulling together, Aubree looked around their car as well, but there was no one.
Brooke leaned over closer to Aubree. “We think—and the pack doctor agrees—that she does have a wolf, and her panic attacks are her wolf trying break free, but for some reason, she can’t,” she whispered. “Every year, the attacks become more frequent, and every time she has one, we think, maybe—just maybe—this might be her first shift, but it never happens.”
She leaned back in her seat and heaved a sigh. “We keep hoping that one of these attacks will turn into a shift one of these days. It’s so difficult for her.” She looked away as she swallowed, her eyes blinking quickly.
Justin stepped out the front doors of the community center and walked up to Aubree’s side of the car. “Ready, Luna?”
Aubree nodded and climbed out, her thoughts still lingering on Crystal and her predicament.