Chapter 39 - Stone (Part 1)
Stone had to sit the hunt out. His silver inflicted wounds—although partially healed—would only reopen or deepen with the shift of his body into his beast.
The rain started an hour before sunset and carried on through the night. Stone sat on the wicker chair in the sunroom, watching the rainfall and listening to it strike against the glass.
Bandages covered his flesh. Blood soaking through them more slowly now. Gwen changed them before going out for the hunt and Gavin, despite being tired, sat with him for a bit before retiring to bed, exhausted from the long day of setting traps while the neighboring werewolf packs patrolled the borders.
Stone peered more than once into Gavin’s room as he slept. Listening to his steady breathing, he remembered the days when Gavin was small with a thin brushing of soft brown fur and fit in the palm of his hand.
He was proud of his twins. Gwen always vied for her father’s attention and Gavin always trailed behind her, eager to follow her lead. Gwen was the explorer, ready to take on the world and try new things. Gavin was content to stay near his mother, help her keep the den clean, cuddle up with her and a book, and fish in a river with Gunner.
The two couldn’t be more different, but their hearts were the same. Pure and good like their mother.
He couldn’t have been more blessed.
Stirring, Gavin moaned softly and rolled over. “Papa?”
Stone stepped into the dark room and sat on the edge of the bed at Gavin’s side. Gavin’s body curled into the heat of his and sighed.
Brushing his fingers through his son’s hair, Stone watched Gavin’s eyelashes flutter as his breath hit Stone’s thigh, even and unguarded.
"Dee...” Gavin murmured as he exhaled.
Die? The feminine form of the German word for ”the" hung in the air with the steady rhythm of his heartbeat.
Stone waited for him to say more, but didn’t press as Gavin began to snore softly with a hint of a smile on his smooth face.
He watched Gavin sleep for a few minutes before retiring himself.
Whatever was on his son’s mind, if it was important, Stone knew he would bring it up in the morning.
The next two days and nights consisted of rain. Humidity clung to the earth in thick heavy blankets.
To prevent Stone’s silver inflicted cuts from reopening during a shift, he hunted in the Twin Cities in human form during the day, searching for hidden lairs while the vampires concealed themselves.
When the rain let up for a few moments, his senses stretched as far as they could go to try and detect any vampires trying to slip out in the middle of the day.
By the end of the third day, the sky was clear and his wounds healed.
He rested for a few hours before night fell and then he joined Alistair, Gunner, and Gwen out on the nightly hunt.
Hunting in pairs, Stone and Alistair slaughtered eighteen vampires, Gunner and Gwen another sixteen, before the remaining bloodsuckers retreated into the night.
Alistair got his chance to fight with the Samurai, earning several cuts and gashes to his flesh before they worked together to rip him apart.
With one of the leaders down, it was only a matter of time before Carina would show up for there were still no sightings of her yet.
When the sun came up and the straggling vampires slipped out of the territory, Stone, Alistair, Gunner, and Gwen returned to the pack house exhausted and bleeding from fresh silver-inflicted wounds.
“We need reinforcements,” Gunner said as he wrapped Stone’s right shoulder with gauze.
Running a bandaged hand down his face, Stone heaved a sigh. “I know. I’ll call Hector and Rosemary, but they can’t risk sending warriors if vampires are attacking their pack as well.”
The other packs reported no vampire activity in the last few rainy nights as well. Tonight, they might have something different to report. If the Rosenrot Pack could spare a few warriors to aid them, he would be forever in his cousin’s debt.
Someday, he would have to return the favor. He just hoped his pack was stronger and larger by then.
His thoughts flitted to Aubree, praying to the Goddess that she was well and didn’t spend the night tossing and turning while vampires shredded his flesh.
“I know you don’t want to ask for Rosmi Maana’s assistance, but we do share an alliance with them,” Gwen said as Alistair bandaged the wounds on her back.
A growl rumbled within his throat. If he asked Alpha Eramis and Luna Elena for help, would they try and take Gwen back with them?
“Have you been speaking to Lance about all this?” he asked.
“Of course,” she replied. “You think I can keep something like this from my mate?”
Heaving a sigh, he shook his head. It wasn’t unprecedented for mates to share everything and he couldn’t order her not to. The pup deserved to know, even if it did worry him. Moreover, he knew he couldn’t ask Gwen to stay home during the hunt. They needed her on the battlefield and she was stronger than Gavin. Gavin was better at tracking than her and the daylight hunts were better suited to him.
Furthermore, she would have fought against him if he tried to force her to stay home. That was a battle he knew he couldn’t win.
“What has Lance said in the last few days? Have you two been discussing our options?” he asked.
She raked her teeth over her bottom lip. “Kind of. He hasn’t said anything to his parents yet, and with both of his brothers gone right now, he isn’t sure how generous his parents will be.”
Stone silently swore. His thoughts hurtled against each other as he rubbed his face. He didn’t know what to do. He hated this. He hated feeling pathetic, weak, and vulnerable. This was his family, his pack, and he could hardly protect them sufficiently.
“Papa,” Gwen ground out.
His eyes met hers.
[I know that look and I’d hoped to never see it again with Aubree with us. What are you thinking now?] she demanded privately.
He heaved a sigh. He had to put pride behind him and do what was necessary to protect this pack—his family.
“Schedule a meeting with the Alpha and Luna of the Rosmi Maana,” he said.
[I must do all that I can to protect this pack,] he told her. [You are all I have.]
Her eyes softened before she gave her head a nod.
After everyone’s injuries were tended to, Gwen kissed her father’s forehead before going to her room to call Lance and Stone went to his study to call his cousin.
Hector said they had been rather quiet last night. Only a couple of vampires crossed their territory and they were taken care of.
Given the circumstances, and Hector’s love for everyone in the Blauwald Pack, he agreed to come with a couple of his trusted warriors before nightfall.
Half an hour later, he was having a video conference on his computer with Gwen and the Rosmi Maana Pack.
The body language of the Alpha and Luna spoke loud and clear. It wasn’t in their best interests to put their best warriors in harm’s way, but for the sake of Gwen, their future Luna, they agreed to send a few.
When the meeting ended, Lance remained on the screen. His gray eyes held longing as he stared back before Stone left, giving the pups privacy and retired to his room.
He lay on his bed and pulled out his phone. Heaviness pressed down on his chest, pushing him down on the mattress.
He opened the photo album on his phone and swiped through the few images he had before pausing on the one of Aubree sitting alone at a table in the cafe. Her head bent over her phone in her hand, oblivious to the fact that Gwen had been sitting nearby, watching over her and snapping the picture.
He zoomed in on the side profile of her face. He missed the curve of her cheeks, how her nose scrunched up when laughing, the furrows in her forehead when she worried, the plumpness and texture of her lips on his and the way she smiled at him, crinkling those hazel gemstones in the corners.
Time was running out. He had to find and eliminate Carina before the next full moon. Aubree needed him by her side for her first shift—to coax, comfort, and support her. He’d never forgive himself if he wasn’t there when she needed him most.
Calling her number, he closed his eyes as he lifted the phone to his ear. A smile graced his lips at the sound of her voice as butterflies danced within and curled his toes.
“What are you wearing?” he asked, wanting to picture her perfection in his mind.
“A dark green tank top and black yoga capris. I’m going out for a jog with Brooke soon.”
“Is that so?” Amusement tugged at the corners of his lips.
“Yup. I may not have the stamina of a lycan or werewolf, but I can’t just sit around here and twiddle my thumbs. What kind of a Luna would I look like if I did? Nope. Gotta keep my game face on.”
“That’s my Luna.” Still grinning.
Glad that she was in good spirits despite the rough night he gave her, he told her about their hunt and the aid they would be getting from their allies.
He had to push his pride behind him for the benefit of the pack. They’d been lucky so far, but the night ahead was going to be clear. Aside from Gavin, they all bore wounds that needed time to heal before they could fight again. They needed the reinforcements, as much as he hated to admit it. The Blauwald Pack was simply too small and weak to manage a war against Carina’s coven of vampires.
When he was done, he asked her if the conditions there had improved. She told him a few days ago that Luna Leanne was giving her a bit of a hard time. Nothing publicly demeaning, but a few comments here and there and lots of side-eying. Jackson had even called her out on it.
From what Aubree could gather, Jackson told Leanne about their one-night-stand and even though they had put the past behind them, Leanne wasn’t willing to let the past remain in the past. She hadn’t told other packmates, but she wasn’t making it any easier on Aubree either.
His head grew heavier with sleep as she continued to talk, her voice soothing the ache within until he drifted off to sleep.