Chapter Three: The Stupid Test
“What does she have to do to prove she is this, Mother of the future Kings?” Riley asked.
“She has to be able to tell them apart,” Mark said.
Riley looked at Paxton then over to the dance floor at Laila in Park’s arms and laughed.
“That is impossible! How the hell will she tell you two apart? You even dress in the exact same fucking clothes!”
Paxton sighed, “too many have failed. And we weren’t in the same clothes at the beginning of the night. We changed before we came here. We didn’t want to switch shirts again,” he said with an annoyed look on his face. “Easier this way.” He looked over at his brother and Laila again and sighed. “I hope she’s the one. We both really like her. More than any other woman we’ve ever come in contact with. That includes every woman we have dated or looked at in over a hundred years.”
A tear slid down Riley’s cheek. “There’s just no way.”
“Have faith,” Mark said as he kissed her temple.
She shook her head. “Which one are you again?”
Paxton laughed, “I’m Paxton.”
“Right. And I will remember that; how?”
“You’ll get used to them,” Mark said as he squeezed her to his side. “I’ve known them for a long time, and I still get them confused sometimes.”
Paxton laughed, “one time, he punched Park for something I did.”
Mark growled, “that was a cruel trick. Park laid me out flat, and I couldn’t retaliate.”
“Oookay,” Riley said as she looked between the two men who were grinning at each other.
“So, Riley. What’s your gift?” Paxton asked.
“What? Oh, I can heal. Only animals, though.”
Paxton whistled, “nice gift.”
She smiled, “I think so. Except I keep finding hurt and dying animals on my doorstep.”
Mark chuckled, “don’t let her fool you. She’s loving every minute of it.”
Riley smiled, “I really do. I just wish I could hear their thoughts. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where they’re hurting.”
Paxton nodded, “my mother had your gift. She was loved by all animals.”
Riley smiled, “I hope I can be as great as she was one day.”
Paxton nodded, but his lips formed a sad frown.
“I’m sorry about your parents,” Mark said, watching Paxton.
Paxton nodded, “thanks. Park and I both wish we could have been there.”
“No,” Mark said with a shake of his head, “you two would be dead too. And then who would lead the bears?”
Paxton laughed, “I think you would make a great Chief.”
Mark snorted, “no, thanks.”
“What happened to your parents?” Riley asked.
Paxton sighed heavily. “A couple of Dark Wizards found a spell that removed our mother’s ring, and she aged before my father’s eyes until she was nothing but dust. He shifted into his bear and attacked the wizards. They slashed him with a tainted sword, and without my mother to heal him, he bled to death before anyone found him.”
“Oh no,” Riley said as she covered her mouth with her hand. “But how do you know what happened if no one was there but your parents?”
Paxton sighed, “he shifted into his human form and recorded everything that happened. So that my brother and I would know how they died and take our revenge. But first, he ordered us to find our mate.”
“Why didn’t he go for help?” She asked.
“Because a shifter only has one mate and she is for life. That is why the Shaman made the rings. So, if our mate is human, we do not lose her. My father wanted to be with my mother.”
Riley looked at Mark. “Would you follow me if I died?”
Mark leaned his forehead against hers. “I would not, no, I could not live without you.”
Riley burst into tears as she flung her arms around his neck.
“Sheesh, I leave the table for a few dances, and you have my girl crying,” Laila said as she stood beside the table, her arms over her chest.
Riley looked up at Laila with a bright smile. “They’re happy tears,” she promised.
Park gave Paxton a shove and joined him on the bench.
“Look!” Riley said excitedly as she showed Laila her ring.
Laila took hold of Riley’s hand and stared at the ring. “How long have you two been together?”
Riley blushed, “a couple of months.”
Laila dropped Riley’s hand and looked at her with a hurt expression. “And you didn’t introduce us?”
“That would be my fault,” Mark said.
Laila turned to Mark with a glare.
“Whoa,” Mark said with a chuckle, “sorry about that. I had business out of the country we’ve been communicating through skype.”
Well, that was partly true. He had left the country a couple of times, but he had taken Riley with him.
Unseen or heard by Laila, Park leaned in towards his brother. “Mates?” He whispered, pointing at Riley and Mark.
Paxton nodded, and Park grinned.
Mark smiled at Park. “Thanks.”
“I’m so sorry, Laila. Please forgive me,” Riley said as she pushed Mark out of her way, then stood and took Laila into her arms.
Laila sighed as she hugged Riley. “Okay,” she said, “you are forgiven. But we are hanging out soon, I miss you.”
Riley sighed, “I miss you too. Soon, I promise.”
Laila nodded then slid into the booth where Riley and Mark had vacated.
Riley leaned across the table and stared at Paxton then at Park. “Do the test tonight. I want my best friend back.”
Paxton nodded, and Park just stared at her.
Riley stood and took hold of Mark’s hand. “Come along, love. Let’s dance.”
Once they were gone, Paxton looked at Laila. She was more and more beautiful every time he looked at her. He truly hoped she was the one they’ve been waiting for.
“Laila, doll. Why don’t you go order us some drinks from the bar while Park and I hit the john?”
Laila shrugged her shoulders. “All right. What do you want?”
They gave her their order, and she stood.
“Oh, and some nachos,” Paxton said, and she nodded. “Thanks, doll.”
Paxton and Park stood from the table and watched her head to the bar, then turned and headed for the bathroom. Once they were in the men’s room, and Paxton made sure they were alone, Park started.
“Tell me everything.”
Paxton nodded then quickly told his brother his conversation with Mark and his mate.
Park smiled, “at least if she is the one, she’ll have someone she can talk to.”
Paxton nodded, “that’s what I was thinking.”
“What power did Riley get?”
Paxton smiled, “healing.”
Park whistled, “that’s a nice one. Wonder what our mate will get.”
“Whatever she gets even if it’s the lowest gift, she will still be the Mother of the future Kings the Queen of the Animals.”
Park grinned, “that she will be. I really like Laila she feels right none of the others ever did. I like the feel of her in my arms.”
Paxton nodded, “I like her too.”
“I think I more than like her,” Park whispered.
Paxton sighed, “fight it, brother, she may not be the one.”
Park nodded. But he couldn’t help the budding emotions in his heart.
Laila stood beside the bar as she waited for her order to be filled. She couldn’t believe two gorgeous men were interested in her. And from what she has gathered from them she won’t have to choose she can have them both!
“Hey, doll. Get the order all right?” Paxton asked as he snaked his arms around her.
Laila smiled as she let him hold her. The brothers were so much alike yet so different. This embrace seemed familiar yet different.
“You know Park got some long dances with you. I think It’s my turn.”
Laila smiled, “I think we can arrange that.”
His grip on her tightened, and she moaned.
“Paxton,” she whispered.
Park’s heart broke.
“Let me get our order to the table, then we can go to the dance floor,” she said when their tray was set on the counter in front of her filled with their drinks and a bowl of nachos.
“Let me take it for you, doll.”
Laila smiled as she turned to face him. She looked at his golden-brown hair and frowned.
“What’s wrong, doll?” Park asked as he studied her face.
“Why are you pretending to be your brother?”
Park sputtered as he tried to speak. “Wha-what do you mean, doll?”
“Don’t you fucking ‘doll’ me, Park! I know it’s you! Why. Are. You. Pretending. To. Be. Your. Brother!”
“You can tell us apart?”
“Of course, I can! Anyone can!” Laila said with a snarl. How could they play games with her like this?!
“Laila,” Park said with wide eyes.
“You know what. I don’t need this kind of bullshit! I thought you two seriously liked me. But I guess I was just a fucking game you and your brother were playing.”
“No,” he said with a shake of his head, “we weren’t...”
“Save it!” Laila yelled, then picked up a drink from the tray and threw it in his face.
As he stood there sputtering, she pushed past him and headed for the exit without looking back. How the hell could they play with her emotions like that? And to think! She had really liked them!
Park stood frozen, his body still in shock. She had known it was him.
“What the fuck just happened?!” Paxton bellowed as he Mark, and Riley stood before Park.
“She knew it was me. I-I don’t know how she just knew.”
“Holy fucking hell,” Paxton whispered.
“I knew it!” Riley shrieked excitedly.
“Why did she storm out?” Paxton asked, confused.
Park told them what she had accused them of.
Riley snorted, “well, look at it from her point of view.”
The twins groaned.
“Go!” Riley yelled at them. “Go get your girl!”
The twins ran for the door as Mark wrapped his arms around Riley.
“I get to keep my best friend,” Riley said with a huge grin.
Laila grumbled as she walked down the sidewalk. In her rush to escape the twins and their horrible game, she’d forgotten her purse. Now she has no money for a cab. So, she’ll walk... Stupid idea, but she hasn’t done anything smart tonight.
Fuck, she’d fallen for a couple of creeps hook line and sinker.
She bet they were sitting around the table laughing about how they’d played her. How fucking stupid, she is.
She wiped a tear away and sniffled.
“Hello, pretty girl. You smell good.”
Laila gagged when she smelled the stench of garbage and carnage like fresh kill roasting in the sun.
Oh, God. She thought as her stomach lurched, and bile rose in her throat.
“I love the smell of fresh flowers,” the gangly man said, giving her a toothy grin.
She wished she hadn’t stormed out so recklessly. She’d be home right now.
“What’s your name?” The greasy, gangly, toothy man, asked.
Laila refused to give out her name. Maybe she can return to the club and get Riley to get her, her purse. She turned from the stinky, greasy, gangly, toothy man. Yeah, she keeps adding descriptions for the guy; it was a long list. How about disgusting and vile. Yep, a long-ass fucking list.
The man grabbed her arm, and she felt a revolting shiver run down her spine.
“Come on. Don’t be like that. You haven’t been claimed yet. So, you’re free…”
“Claimed?!” Laila screeched as she spun on him. “No ONE will EVER claim me!”
The sleazy, disgusting, vile, stinky, greasy, gangly, toothy, man had the nerve to laugh in her face.
The man sniffed her and grinned.
She is more disgusted then she’s ever been in her whole life. The crazy, sleazy, disgusting, vile, stinky, greasy, gangly, toothy, sleazeball, looked like he wanted to lick or eat her... What the fuck?
“You have been opened; you are ripe, but you haven’t been claimed. You haven’t been mated.”
“What are you talking about?” She asked as she tried to pull her arm away from him.
He pulled her closer and sniffed her hair then choked as if her scent had gagged him.
Good. She thought with a scowl.
“I thought I smelled good,” she said with a smirk.
He growled as she tried to pull away from him again.
“You smell like bear!” He screeched in her face. “But he hasn’t claimed you. Who opened your aura?!”
She stared at him, dumbfounded. What in the world was he talking about? Maybe she still has the bear smell on her from the other day when that bear had licked her. But how can he smell it? Another description popped into her head.
The scary, crazy, sleazy, disgusting, vile, stinky, greasy, gangly, toothy, man shook her arm roughly.
She cringed. He wasn’t breaking any bones, but his fingerprints will be all over her arm later. She has always bruised easily.
“Who?!” He demanded as he tightened his grip on her arm.
“I don’t know what you’re fucking talking about!” She shouted.
“Lies!” He yelled as he raised his hand to hit her.
She closed her eyes and waited for the blow.
Loud growls echoed around them, and the man paused. She opened her eyes wide and squealed when a large man jumped between them and ripped the man’s hold off her. A pair of arms wrapped around her, and she smelled chocolate chip cookies.
She knows these arms. These are safe arms. He may have tricked her, but she knows he would never hurt her. How she knows that was beyond her. And that means the one holding the evil, scary, crazy, sleazy, disgusting, vile, stinky, greasy, gangly, toothy man by his throat was Paxton.
“Park,” she whispered as she turned to him and laid her hand on his chest.
He held her tight and kissed the top of her head.
“She’s yours?!” The scrawny man squealed.
“She is,” Paxton said with a growl.
The man hackled like a hyena. “Stephaun will love this. But you haven’t mated with her yet, too good...” He gurgled as Paxton tightened his grip on his throat.
“Paxton,” Laila whispered.
“Get her out of here,” Paxton said, looking at his brother.
Park nodded and moved them away.
“No!” She cried out. “I won’t leave you!”
Paxton smiled at her.
Laila felt her cheeks turn a bright red. Even though they had tricked her, she couldn’t deny or fight her feelings for them.
The laughter of several hyenas gave her chills. When six of the creatures came out of the alley, she screamed and pressed herself against Park.
“Get her the fuck out of here NOW!” Paxton roared.
“No!” Laila cried out as Park lifted her into his arms and took off with her at a fast pace. “Please, Park,” she cried, “don’t leave him...”
“You are our first priority Laila Smithers, Mother of the future Kings.”