Chapter Nine: We’re Off to See the Shaman, The Wonderful Shaman of…Where Are We Again?
Things changed after that day. For one, the sex was better now that the guys’ secret was out, and she knows that they’re her bears. And Mekhi stuck around. Unless she was with Park and or Paxton, Mekhi stayed either on her shoulder or hovered over her head. Avel and Nova still followed her around at her feet.
She was happier, and the boys could feel it.
Finally! Saturday was here.
When Riley and Mark arrived, Laila pulled her best friend into the living room.
“You have a lot of explaining to do.”
Riley looked at the twins. “You told her without me?”
The brothers shook their heads.
“Nope,” Park said.
“She figured it out on her own,” Paxton said with a proud smile.
“How?” Riley asked as she looked at Laila.
Laila smiled, “sit, it’s a long story.”
Riley and Mark sat, and Laila and the twins told them everything.
Riley looked at Laila with wide eyes. “So, there really was a bear when you were lost in the woods?”
Laila smiled, “I told you I hadn’t hallucinated him.”
“Oh, Laila,” Riley said excitedly as she hugged her best friend.
“So,” Mark said as he looked at the twins. “You’ve been protecting your mate all of her life without even knowing it.”
The brothers nodded.
“Seems that way,” Paxton said.
“What is all this talk about mates?” Laila asked.
Park sat on the couch beside Laila and took her hand into his. “Shifters have one mate for life.”
Laila looked between Park and Paxton then frowned. “Does that mean I’m going to lose one of you?”
Paxton moved to kneel in front of Laila. “No sweets. You’re stuck with us both.”
She sniffled, “I don’t understand.”
Paxton wiped the tears from her cheeks then he and Park explained everything to her. It all made so much sense, except for the part of her being the Mother of the future Kings.
“That’s why I had to test you,” Park said as he pulled her closer to his side. “Because only our mate can tell us apart.”
Laila chuckled, “but it’s sooooo obvious.”
Park and Paxton shook their heads. “No, it’s not,” they said at the same time.
Laila grinned at them. She loved it when they did stuff like that, especially during sex.
“How do you tell them apart?” Riley asked.
Laila looked at her. “You mean you can’t see it?”
Riley shook her head. “They look exactly the same to me.”
“But they have different hair colors,” Laila said.
“So that’s how they did it,” Mark said with a chuckle.
“Who did what?” Riley asked, looking at her mate.
“Whoever chooses our mates. They gave her a gift that allows her to see a difference in the twins that no one else can see.”
Riley stared between the identical men. “Which one is he?” She asked as she pointed to the one on his knees in front of Laila.
Laila smiled, “that’s Paxton,” she said, then leaned forward and kissed him. “And this one is Park,” she said as she leaned back and pulled Park to her.
Park smiled with a chuckle as he kissed her back.
Riley looked at Paxton for confirmation, and he nodded.
“Damn,” Riley mumbled.
“So, when are you two making her officially your mate?” Mark asked.
Park pulled back from Laila and looked at Mark. “Tomorrow. You two coming?”
“Fuck yeah, we are,” Mark said with a grin, “I’m not missing this for shit.”
The chatter and stories went on for hours after that.
Laila learned a lot about the shifters and other supernatural beings. Like the fact that there are several kinds of shifters. Bears, wolves, and hyenas are just a few. Bobcats, tigers, panthers, lions, and many more. All kinds of bears, like polar and panda. Park and Paxton, rule over them all. And so will she, after tomorrow. And then their sons will someday rule as the King of the Animal Nation. Shifters and non-shifters alike.
Now she knows why she couldn’t feel anything from those wolves and hyenas. Because they’re shifters, not a normal animal. For some reason, she can’t feel the emotions of a shifter. She supposed that was a good thing. It makes it easier to tell the difference between a shifter and a normal animal. Maybe that was the idea when whoever gave her the gift.
She understands now why she can, in her own way, understand and communicate with animals.
She figured out why her parents had died. The wolves had been shifters, and they hadn’t wanted her to save the bear and her cub.
Why that is the twins don’t know. But they’d rushed to stop the wolves and had been too late to save her parents. But they’d saved her.
Now she knows how the ambulance, fire, and police had gotten to her so fast. After discovering she was still alive, Park had shifted and called 911. Once she was out of the hospital, she had made it in time to save the bear and her cub.
Laila leaned over and hugged Park. “Thank you.”
Park sighed as he held her. “I wish I could have saved your parents too. Or smelled you through the blood and death. Then you wouldn’t have been alone for all these years.”
She smiled as she squeezed him tighter. “I had Riley.”
Park looked at Riley over Laila’s head. “Thank you.”
Riley smiled, “I’d do anything for my best friend.”
A little while later, Paxton offered for them to stay the night since they were all leaving for the Shaman’s cave in the morning.
“Yeah, sure,” Mark said with a nod.
“Is Mekhi really back?” Riley asked.
Laila grinned, “Yeah, and it turns out that he’d disappeared to start a family.”
“Oh, wow,” Riley said with a chuckle. “Now, we know why you never call an animal by the name their owners gave them.”
Laila grinned then called for Mekhi.
They watched as the beautiful large black and white Osprey walked into the living room, the two smaller brown Osprey waddling behind him.
“They’re beautiful,” Riley gasped.
Laila smiled when Mekhi stopped beside Paxton, who was sitting on the floor at her feet.
“It’s okay,” Laila said as she watched Mekhi, “Paxton won’t mind.”
Paxton’s eyebrows raised at her words then he chuckled when the large bird jumped onto his lap.
Laila and Riley giggled.
“You remember Riley, don’t you?” Laila asked as she ran her hand down the large bird’s feathery soft neck.
“Hey there,” Riley said as she gently touched the Osprey’s head.
“We should get to bed if we want to get an early start,” Park said as he watched the large black and white Osprey on his brother’s lap.
“You know where to go,” Laila said to Mekhi.
The Osprey jumped off Paxton’s lap and herded his children from the room.
“That is still so amazing,” Riley said with a laugh as she watched the birds leave the room.
They showed Riley and Mark to a room then retired to their own.
The twins kept Laila up most of the night, showing her how happy they were to finally have her in their life.
The following morning Laila was barely able to function as she made her way to the kitchen and sat down.
“Are you okay?” Riley asked as she sat at the table across from her.
Laila moaned, “sleep.”
Park chuckled as he entered the kitchen, then moved over to Laila and kissed her on the cheek before he looked at Riley. “We kind of wore her out last night.”
“And into the morning,” Laila said with a yawn.
“Really?” Riley said as she stared at the twin who was grinning at Laila like the Cheshire cat. Whichever twin this one was, his grin was bewitching. Of course, so was the others’... Fuck, how does Laila keep them straight? “Knowing we had to start our day early, you should have let her sleep.”
Paxton chuckled as he entered the kitchen and kissed Laila on the top of her head. “She’ll be fine. It’s Park and me who need to stay awake. That’s where caffeine comes in handy.”
Laila smiled up at him.
“Coffee should be ready,” Riley mumbled.
He smiled, then leaned down and kissed Laila’s forehead before heading to the pot on the kitchen counter.
“Which one is he again?” Riley asked as she pointed at the twin who was getting a mug from the cupboard.
Laila smiled, “that’s Paxton.”
“So then, that makes you Park,” Riley said as she looked at the twin who was sitting at the table next to Laila.
Park nodded, “yep.”
“How the fucking hell will I remember that?” Riley asked with a groan of agitation.
Laila chuckled, “that’s why you have me.”
“What about in their bear form?”
“I can still tell them apart.”
Riley grunted, “this is too much at this time of the morning. I need coffee.”
Laila chuckled as she watched her friend head to the coffee pot.
“When are we leaving?” Mark asked as he joined them in the kitchen.
“After breakfast,” Park replied.
Mark nodded then headed to the kitchen counter, where his mate was making herself a cup of coffee.
Park looked at Laila. “Are you ready for this?”
She grinned at him. “I was born ready for this.”
“Are we walking?” Laila asked an hour later as they all gathered outside.
Park smiled as he pulled her into his arms. “We are walking you are riding.”
She smiled up at him. “Do you mean on your bear’s back?” She asked happily with big, excited eyes.
Park chuckled, “not mine...” He looked over at Paxton, who had already shifted. “Come on,” he said as he took hold of her hand and walked her over to where Paxton stood waiting.
“Why not you?” She asked as she looked up at Park.
Paxton made a sound, and she looked at him then frowned.
“I didn’t mean it that way, Pax,” she said as she rubbed his side. “It’s just that I know you’re the more aggressive one. I thought maybe you’d want to be free to attack and defend us.”
Paxton turned his large head and gently nudged her.
Park smiled, “he’s also faster and can get you out of the line of danger while we keep them back.”
She looked back at Park. “I don’t like that either.”
Park smiled as he pulled her against him and kissed her. “Everything will be fine.”
She sighed as she backed away and let him lift her onto Paxton’s back.
“Hold on,” Park said, “we’ll be traveling fast.”
She nodded as she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Paxton’s neck.
Paxton shivered at the feel of his mate on his back. Park watched him, and Paxton nudged him with his head. Park nodded, then shifted.
“What was that?” Park asked.
Paxton shook his head. “Never had anyone on my back before, let alone our mate. I got a bunch of sexy vibes when she wrapped her arms around my neck.”
Park chuckled, “just keep in mind that she’s human.”
Paxton snorted, “I’m not that big of a perv.”
“Are we ready?” Mark asked as he joined them, Riley secured on his back.
They could tell that Riley had ridden on Mark’s bear before by the way she held herself and how comfortable she looked sitting up there.
They nodded then took off towards the Shaman’s cave.
“Is she okay?” Park asked as he ran beside his brother.
They’ve been running for hours, and it was almost noon. They should be stopping for lunch soon.
“She’s asleep,” Paxton said.
Park sighed, “maybe we shouldn’t have kept her up all night.”
Paxton grumbled, “maybe, but boy was it worth it.”
Park thought of last night and had to agree with his brother.
“Besides. She’s safe up there. I’ll stop if I feel her slipping.”
Park nodded his large head. “We’ll be stopping for lunch soon.”
An hour later, they stopped at a river for lunch. Park shifted and pulled a still sleeping Laila off his brother’s back.
“Is she okay?” Riley asked as she walked up to them.
Park nodded, “she’s fine, she’s just asleep. I’ll hold her until lunch is ready, then I’ll wake her to eat.”
Riley nodded, “okay, I’m going to go help, Mark.”
Paxton shifted and looked at the woman in his brother’s arms.
Talk about, déjà vu. He thought as he smiled at their mate.
“We are two lucky sons of bitches,” Paxton said with a grin.
Park smiled, “that we are Brother that we are.”
They walked to the campfire Riley had built and sat on the ground. Park held Laila close as he watched her sleep. He loves her so much, he couldn’t imagine his life without her.
“What would we have done if we hadn’t been there those times she had needed us, and she was no longer there for us to find?” Paxton asked as he watched their mate sleep in his brother’s arms.
Park sighed, “I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Right,” Paxton said with a nod.
“Look at these,” Riley said excitedly as she and Mark joined them at the fire with three large fish.
Paxton looked at Mark with a smile. “Still got the touch, I see.”
Mark grinned, “you get to cook one.”
Paxton chuckled as he got to his feet.
They found a few sticks thick enough to hold the fish and started cooking them over the open fire.
The smell of cooking fish had Laila’s eyes opening. She looked up at Park, who was smiling down at her and smiled back. She then turned her head and looked at the fire where the others were cooking lunch.
“How long was I asleep for?” She asked.
“All morning,” Paxton said with a smile, “you fell asleep shortly after we left the cabin.”
She chuckled, “I hope I didn’t drool on you.”
Paxton grinned, “a little, but the sun dried it.”
Her face flushed, and she looked away from him. She had said it as a joke she hadn’t expected him to answer.
Paxton frowned, and Riley nudged him. He handed his stick to Mark, then moved over to his brother and sat down next to him. With a sigh, he reached over and pulled Laila onto his lap.
She refused to look at him.
“Laila,” he whispered.
She reluctantly turned her head to him.
“I’m not your boyfriend...”
Tears streamed down her cheeks at his words, and Riley cursed.
Paxton grumbled, “let me finish, would you,” he said with a touch of annoyance. He looked into her beautiful eyes as he wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Park and I are not your boyfriends. We are so much more than that. You are our life, mate. Once we do the ceremony, it will be the equivalency of a human marriage.”
“Only better,” Park whispered.
Laila stared at Paxton with wide eyes.
Paxton smiled. At least she doesn’t look so forlorn anymore.
“So, you see. You don’t have to be embarrassed about anything. Or worry about what we will think of you. You won’t scare us off,” Paxton said as he rubbed the pads of his thumbs against her cheeks.
She blushed again, and Paxton chuckled as he moved his hands and kissed the rosy hue on each of her cheeks.
“You could fart, and we wouldn’t be offended,” Park said with a playful grin.
Laila giggled, and Riley snorted.
“But we’re together because I’m your fated mate,” she whispered.
Paxton smiled. “Do you know how much Park and I prayed you would pass the test? Because we had each fallen head over heels for you.”
She shook her head.
“Put it this way,” Park said as he pulled her from Paxton’s arms and back onto his lap. “If you had failed. I know we would have found a way to be with you, anyways.”
She chuckled as she clung to Park. He smiled, then kissed her sweetly on the lips.
“Fish is ready,” Mark announced.
Paxton got to his feet and returned to them with their fish. He knows his brother had been telling the truth. If Laila hadn’t passed the test, they would have found a way to keep her with them.
Fated Mate be damned.