Chapter 42 - Aubree (Part 1)
The sun rose to a gray and cloudy morning that cleared after breakfast.
Aubree had her things packed and ready to go around ten.
Whiskey stayed behind, tugging on his leash that Crystal held as Aubree hugged her best friend’s family goodbye before climbing in a rental car with Amora and Mero.
Mero drove while Amora joined Aubree in the backseat, asking Aubree to tell her everything that had happened since she first met Stone.
Her request came in a soothing manner without all the judgment that Aubree was used to receiving in the weeks to pass—similar to the way her grandmother used to ask her what she did over the summer before she returned to school in her childhood.
Hesitant to start, she soon grew comfortable as the story rolled off her tongue, leaving out the details about Dan turning into a vampire and skimming over the meeting with the Goddess.
But it was the meeting with the Goddess between realms that piqued Amora’s interest the most. And who could blame her?
“Perhaps, after all of this is over and you feel more comfortable with me, you can tell me what exactly the Goddess said? It is indeed the most curious thing I have heard in centuries,” Amora said before sipping on the peppermint tea they had stopped to pick up a few minutes ago.
Aubree nodded and turned the attention off herself and onto the ancient woman, whose appearance was very deceiving.
She watched the crinkles in the corners of Amora’s crystalline eyes as they danced when a radiant smile graced her lips.
Amora told her of their beginnings. How the first four pairs of lycans were sent out into the world. Their souls transferred into the bodies of young wild wolves the moment they died from unforeseen circumstances. Their souls healed the bodies before turning into their lycan forms with the ability to shift into human forms at will.
She and her mate were sent to the north, while the other three pairs were sent to the east, west, and south.
“Life was hard and cruel in the north,” Amora reflected. “The land was barren of life most months out of the year and food was scarce. But the Goddess ensured that her strongest pair would live in the north and protect the small population of humans there. And as the years passed, and the humans migrated with the herds across continents, we followed. From time to time, my mate and I would appear in our human forms and offer the humans shelter when we felt storms coming. Sometimes we led them ourselves when it appeared all traces of food had disappeared.”
She paused in reflection for a moment, her gaze slipping out to the window and the passing trees along the highway.
“It’s hard to lose something that you grow attached to. The humans were strong and hardy, but Mother Nature was a force all her own and she made sure that only the strong would survive.”
She fell silent for a few minutes. Aubree dared not to speak, giving the woman the peace she seemed to need.
“One night, during a full moon, the Goddess gave me a vision in my dreams,” she continued after she finished her tea. “The first of our kind had been killed so we had to go show our respects for our widowed brother with ten pups. All of our pups found mates with the other pups from the east, west, and south. We became divided then and scattered across the lands as our pups had pups.
“One hundred years later, my fastest son came to me and my mate and told us to come at once. Our brother, the one who lost a mate, had been killed—by his own offspring.”
Amora looked Aubree in the eyes now. “For you see, after the death of his mate, he began taking human females and mating with them. When each one died giving birth to werewolf pups, his pups saw that he was mad with rage at the Goddess for taking his mate from him and took his anger out on the humans we were supposed to protect. Building an army of werewolves with little regard for the humans he stole to bed them and imprison them until they died giving birth.”
Aubree’s eyes widened as Amora turned away and looked back out the window.
“His werewolf offspring detested him and turned against him. After that, we created the Code that no lycan could take a human as a mate.”
Silence fell as Aubree took in her words, their origins and how things came to be from Amora’s life experiences.
The scandal must have shocked them all.
“I’m sorry,” Aubree whispered, not knowing what to say to this story.
“You see the connection, don’t you?” Amora asked, her pale blues meeting Aubree’s hazels again. “I know Sten. I’ve known him his entire life. I don’t believe for a second that he would repeat Baldur’s atrocities, but we are simply making sure that isn’t the case.”
“I can assure you, our cases are different,” Aubree said. “I may have been born a human, but my soul is lycan and was reborn to be Stone’s mate. I know reincarnation is unheard of, but the Goddess confirmed it. I am the reincarnation of Adelaide and was created for him. If anyone opposes our union, they will face the consequences the Goddess has planned for them.”
Amora gave her a polite nod but said nothing to that.
A few moments of silence passed before Mero spoke up for the first time in hours.
“Don’t forget Mattu, the Merciful.”
A sad smile graced Amora’s lips. “Mattu was a sweet male and still haunts me in my dreams.”
Seeing that Aubree’s attention was already piqued, Amora sighed, brushed the wisps of hair that escaped her crown of French braids, and said, “Mattu was the fifth of us to die. His mate had died a thousand years before him but he dedicated himself to the service of the humans.”
“He took a human as a mate,” Mero said.
Amora nodded. “Rumor said he rescued a human female—much younger than yourself—from bandits and she begged to follow him. He refused, but she followed him anyway. He grew to care for her and as time passed, he fell in love with her.”
“She died giving birth to twin males,” Mero said.
“A strong lineage of werewolves came from them,” Amora added before sighing. “But Mattu was devastated. He raised the pups to maturity before going to the Council to confess and end his suffering.”
Despite the tragic love story that sounded more like her and Stone in a way, Aubree found herself smiling, the grin getting bigger as Amora tilted her head in question.
Aubree shrugged and looked out the window. “I’m always a sucker for forbidden love stories.”
That earned her a light chuckle from the woman sitting next to her.
“I’m afraid you aren’t alone in that regard.”
The remainder of the drive consisted of casual conversation, stories, and a touch of humor before they pulled up to the familiar lane that wound through the dense forest and up to the pack house.
Smiles greeted her from her pack—her family—and she jumped out of the car to give them all hugs and kisses on the cheeks.
Alistair made a bit of a fuss, but she could tell he was holding himself back in the presence of the Council members around them.
She greeted Stone last, knowing she wouldn’t be able to tear herself away from him once she was in his arms.
He cupped her face in his hands, his forehead to hers as she closed her eyes, breathing him in and feeling all of their stress and tension fall away.
[Goddess, I missed you,] he whispered into her mind.
Her heart soared.
[I missed you too.]
She wrapped her arms around his waist, her eyes closed, and basked in the warmth and joy he emanated as he held her to him.
Ignoring the onlooking stares, she focused on him, absorbing and melting into him, never wanting to be pulled away.
Their pack moved in closely around her and Stone then. The air around them shifting, heavy and daring.
She quickly filled them all in through the pack mind-link of what happened with the Council in the Lancaster Pack before asking, [Whose side is Amora on?]
She wanted to like the woman, but with all the lycans and werewolves she had met in the last few weeks, she didn’t know whom to trust.
[Amora doesn’t take sides. She is the referee between the Council and the accused. Taking in both sides, the personal and the law, and her judgment reflects the outcome, keeping the Council in line so they don’t overstep their power,] Stone explained.
[Should I trust her?] she asked
[You can trust her to have your best interest in mind, whether you like her decision or not,] he replied.
So much for a simple yes or no answer.
“Sten, I’m pleased to see that you are well,” Amora said. Despite her smile, an air of authority surrounded her and she seemed almost different than the woman Aubree had spent over six hours talking with in the car.
Stone nodded his head. “You as well, Amora-maw.”
Her face softened before a man in their group cleared his throat.
“Let’s begin, shall we?”
They went inside the pack house and the Council members performed various tests on her. They took a sample of her blood and a woman in their group left to analyze it. Checked her blood pressure, pulse, weight, reflexes, eyes, ears, teeth, nails, even a stool and urine sample, before taking her down to the basement and had her lift weights to check her strength and run on a treadmill to check her speed and endurance.
“She’s stronger, faster, and can run longer than before she left,” Gunner confirmed.
“I have been training with Beta Justin and Brooke these past two weeks,” she told him.
Gunner gave her a shadow of a smile. “If my fitness magazine subscription has taught me anything, it’s that results like these would take a normal human two or three months to achieve, not two weeks.”
She swallowed as Rumius, as she came to learn the Head of the Council’s name, watched on, his forehead creased.
[I beat two werewolves in training yesterday,] she told him as she gulped water from her bottle and dabbed her sweaty face with a towel Gunner had given her after her tests. [Mind you, they were probably the weakest females in the pack, but still... I would never have been able to do that months ago.]
His smile widened, touching his eyes. [You have improved significantly, Luna.]
Later that evening, after everyone but Stone and Gavin went out to hunt, and Gwen guarded the pack house, the Council members gathered in the living room to share the results of Aubree’s tests.
“While we can’t compare with that of a cursed beast, everything shows that she is neither lycan nor human, but her blood work shows a ninety-nine percent similarity to that of a lycan,” Rumius announced. “The last blood sample we have is seventy-six-years-old and too difficult to compare. But the data we collected today doesn’t match with the old sample.”
“Only one more day to confirm what I already know to be true,” Stone said.
While Gavin retired to his bed, and the Council members crowded into the living room and den out in the woods, Stone took Aubree up their room, barely making it inside and closing the door with their clothes intact.
They made love long into the night like they had the first time—gently, tenderly, cherishing every inch of each other’s bodies as if it were their last night together. The nearly two-week separation carried with it the need to explore again, to re-familiarize themselves with every dip and curve that graced the surface of their skins with their lips.
Another night passed with no vampires found.
With one day left before the full moon, anxiety began to consume Aubree with the knowledge that her world would be making another life-altering change under the light of the full moon.
She prayed her first shift would be quick.