Chapter 40 - Aubree (Part 2)
As her phone rang, Aubree pulled it out from the side pocket of her backpack sitting next to her on the couch at Brooke’s parents’ house. A faint tightness suddenly constricted her chest and she unconsciously rubbed her sternum.
She hadn’t been anticipating to hear Stone’s voice as she knew he wasn’t due to wake up for another hour.
Her heart clenched at his tone—long, drawn-out, and pained.
Something was off.
She rose to her feet. “Stone? What’s wrong? Is someone hurt?”
“They’re here. The Council is here. I...” he trailed off with a groan.
Her eyes widened as her heart pounded hard against her ribs. “The Council? Why are they here? We haven’t done anything wrong.”
“They won’t see it that way,” he said in a whisper.
Shit. She looked around at the empty room as if it held some answers. “What do we do?”
“I don’t know, Love.”
His uncertainty gnawed away at her as she leaned against the arm of the couch. He sounded broken. As if all hope had been stripped away and he was about to meet his maker.
The Council had punished him for killing a rapist. Exiled him for accidentally killing an infant. What would they do if he took a human for a mate?
“Remind me again what the Council does to lycans who take humans as mates?”
“Lycans don’t take humans as mates. They have sexual relations with them until they are caught. Either the male is castrated for taking a human female against her will, or they are both killed if their actions are consensual.”
She swallowed, remembering his words from weeks ago.
The Council had come to place judgment on them. To kill them both for the Goddess’ blessings.
“They can’t kill us if we’re mates. The Goddess gave us Her blessings. They have to understand that,” she said.
“I know.” He sighed. “I feared this would happen. I prayed it would come after your first shift. There would be no doubt in their minds, then. They’re going to believe you’ll turn into a monster unless proven otherwise.”
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and called forth bravery she wasn’t sure she had. “We’ll just have to prove them otherwise.”
“A first shift is a private matter with immediate family only present,” he said. “I don’t want them near you for that.”
“I don’t want them watching either, but what else can we do? We have to prove them wrong, that I’m not going to turn into a monster. That we are mates, bound and blessed by the Goddess Herself.”
He made a sound of approval as a moment of silence filled the line.
Before she could open her mouth, he said, “I love you, Aubree.”
Warmth twisted and curled within her as a smile spread across her face. “I love you too.”
“When this is all over... When you’re fully lycan... I want you to mark me.”
Her heart skipped a beat before kicking itself into high gear. “What? Why? You already have a mark that is sensitive to my touch.”
“But it’s not yours, Love. Adelaide gave it to me, but she is no longer with me. Like a wedding ring, I cannot wear the mark she gave me when I am with you.”
She stood there blinking, her mouth opening and closing like a fish as he continued, his voice dropping a notch.
“I want you to mark me after your first shift. I want to be fully yours.”
She squeezed her eyes shut as they stung and lowered her head. Her hair fell around her like a canopy as a bittersweet ache squeezed her heart.
This was huge. A part of her understood it better than her mind did and she didn’t know what to say, except, “Okay. I will.”
“I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
“Be strong, my Luna. I will come for you on Tuesday. Even if your first shift happens there in Chicago, I will be by your side through it all. No one will be able to tear me away from you. Understood?”
Tuesday. The full moon would be that night. It was only three days away.
Carina hadn’t been found yet—she knew. Stone didn’t have to tell her because he would have come for her if he had.
Not to mention Alistair, Gwen, and Gavin had been calling her too and telling her everything. Even Gunner called her once to see how she was doing in his own awkward way.
She missed them all so much.
“Yes, Love. I’ll be waiting.”
She rubbed a stray tear from her cheek as they ended their call and hugged herself as she peered out the window to the western sky and the sun beginning to make it way slowly to kiss the tops of the trees.
They were running out of time to find Carina and now the Council was there for them.
No wonder he was stressed out.
“Hey, Luna, you ready?” Justin asked as he walked into the living room, dressed in black workout clothes and his backpack on his shoulders.
Taking a deep breath, she nodded and turned away from the window. Grabbing her own bag, she put the phone back into its pocket before following him out the front door.
They jogged to the community center in silence, her mind swirling with thoughts about Stone, her pack, the Council, and the vampires.
Brooke’s older brother, along with the female head warrior, trained half of the Lancaster warriors in the evening, but he gave her private lessons for half an hour before she joined the warriors in their evening workouts—trying her best to keep up with them even though she couldn’t. His mate, along with the male head warrior, trained the second half of the pack’s warriors in the morning.
Aubree asked to join Justin’s training sessions because she felt more comfortable around him than the other trainers. It also gave her something to do and she found herself to be bored most of the day.
Brooke typically slept most of the day and got up to go to Justin’s evening training sessions before heading out for the nighttime hunt.
Unfortunately, when they neared the center, Justin stopped from across the street and swore.
Following his gaze, she saw a few cars parked in front of the building and a few unfamiliar faces talking with Jackson and Leanne.
She didn’t know who these people were, but she could feel something powerful and otherworldly about them.
Not only that, but the voice in her head told her that the Council had found her as well.
And if the Council could find her, so could the vampires.
With pale blond, nearly white, hair, the most striking woman in the group was the first to notice their approach. When her pale blue eyes met Aubree’s, she clutched her chest as she panted from the run. The urge to fall to her knees made her legs wobble as all the other pairs of eyes turned to her.
This couldn’t be the woman Stone had told her about, could it? The one who raised him after his parents were killed?
“Amora and the Council are here,” Justin said in breathless awe.
Jackson lowered his head, unable to look her way as Leanne’s face grew paler and paler until Jackson slipped an arm around her waist to steady her.
Justin cursed under his breath.
“What?” Aubree asked in a low voice, her gaze returning to Amora’s emotionless face.
“They’ve come for you, Luna.”
“Yeah, I kind of figured that,” she said with a huff.
“They’ve come to take you back to your pack for judgment.”
Her muscles locked. “I can’t go back there yet. It’s not safe.”
“Doesn’t matter. We can’t question the Council.”
Scowling, she clenched her fists at her side. “What a load of...” Crap, she mentally finished to herself.
Marching across the street with Justin on her heels, she kept her eyes locked on the pale blue ones.
There was almost an ethereal glow around Amora and her eyes drew her in on their own accord. The closer she got to the group, the calmer she found herself becoming. Despite the lack of emotion in the woman’s face, her eyes held only warmth and sympathy.
Standing a few feet away from them, she paused and raised her palms up in greeting, making those pale blue eyes smile before returning the gesture.
The others followed, but when Aubree let her gaze meet theirs, she was greeted with contempt.
They towered over her, nearly seven feet in height—even Amora, although she was a few inches shorter than them. Their figures were leaner than a warrior’s, but Aubree bet they were just as strong. Amora appeared fair and elegant in a long flowing blue skirt and soft white blouse next to the dark hair, dark clothes, and tanned leathery skin of the three rugged men.
After greetings were exchanged and they lowered their hands, Aubree turned back to the ethereal lycan. “To what do we owe the honor of your visit?”
“You know why we are here,” she said, her voice soft and melodious with a heavy accent.
“It’s not safe for me to return to my pack until the threat has been eliminated,” Aubree said.
“I understand that, but to better understand your... situation, if you will, we should return to your pack for observation,” she said.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to respectfully decline this suggestion for now,” Aubree said.
“It is not a suggestion,” a gruff voice butted in. “You will return while we punish the Lancaster Pack.”
Aubree stepped back, her eyes flying to Jackson and Leanne, their heads held high, but their gazes were turned away. “Punishment for what?”
“For withholding Truth from the Council,” he said.
“A human has been claimed by a lycan,” another man added in a deep voice. “Such acts are punishable by law. Anyone who doesn’t report such atrocities must be punished.”
“I formerly lived within the borders of their territory for years. They were offering me shelter from a threat. Would you have turned away a human in danger?” she demanded.
“I don’t believe you qualify as a human anymore,” the first man said. “And as a transgressor of the Lycan Code, you must be put to trial along with the one who claimed you and the pack that accepted you as one of their own.”
Aubree gritted her teeth. “You may uphold the laws you’ve created, but you will be the ones judged by the Goddess. We have done nothing wrong. We have received Her blessings and—”
“Blessings?” he questioned. “You are an abomination!”
Amora intervened then by putting a hand on his shoulder. His bunched up muscles relaxed a bit under her touch, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides.
“She will stay with us here one night. Should their threat not be eliminated tonight, then she will leave with me in the morning. For now, she is under my watch,” Amora announced.
The Councilmen spat at Aubree’s feet before the first man said to Jackson, “You will call your pack to gather for punishment.” His eyes turned to Aubree as they narrowed. “She will bear witness to your crimes that she inflicted upon you.”