Connor was aware of a presence in the room where they slept. Someone was watching them and his wolf didn’t like it. He lay on his side, Madelyn cuddled up in front of him, her back to his chest, his arm around her protectively. He kept his breathing even, as if he were still asleep, and listened for anything that might identify who was in the room with him and his mate. After a while, his patience was rewarded as he heard a soft sigh and the rustle of fabric as the person stood and walked to the door. The whispered swish of the doors opening preceded a light gasp.
“You startled me,” the woman whispered, apparently unaware Connor was eavesdropping.
“I know, Mother,” a young man responded in an equally hushed voice. “Grandfather wants to see her, though, he says it’s important we begin immediately.”
“No, we will not,” the woman’s voice had an alarmed sound to it, though she still tried to keep it quiet. “We will wait until she’s ready. It can’t happen without her cooperation.”
The voices started fading until he couldn’t hear them anymore. The doors whispered shut. It was then that he dared to open his eyes, pulling Madelyn tighter to him as he did. She sighed softly in her sleep, turning to face him, her arm slipping around his waist as she slowly woke.
“Good morning, sleepyhead,” he said, keeping his voice soft and light in tone.
“Good morning, love,” she replied in a soft whisper. “How’d you sleep?”
“Well enough,” Connor lied. In truth, he’d slept lightly, his wolf constantly aware of his surroundings, the man in him not far behind, only fully unconscious for a short time until his wolf alerted him to the presence of the woman.
“You’re a bad liar, Connor,” Madelyn said, a hint of a laugh in her voice as she spoke. Then she sighed and tried to snuggle closer to him. “What am I to do, Connor? They say I’m not safe if I return home, but I don’t feel safe here.”
“I’m here, Maddy. You’re safe with me,” he said in soft, measured words, trying to reassure her even though he wasn’t exactly certain of them himself. “Always.”
“I know I am, love, but that’s not the problem.” Madelyn rested a hand against his chest, forefinger absently outlining little shapes on his skin as she sighed and they slipped into an uncomfortable silence. Finally, taking a deep breath, she continued. “So much has happened and so fast, Connor. No more than a month ago, I was living in San Francisco, in a tiny house that I liked but it wasn’t home. I was longing to just go home. It was so hard to live there for so long and to listen to prattle from idiots such as Mr. Price and the other probate clerks who couldn’t care less about a girl such as me. The next thing I knew, I was home, I could hardly believe it and almost thought I was dreaming at first, but it was real. I was home. It had been so long.”
Connor lay listening, running a hand up and down her back in a tender caress, lips pressing to her forehead from time to time. He felt her emotions through their mating bond, his wolf whimpering in sorrow for their mate as he listened to her talk. Madelyn started to continue but paused and listened for a moment before resuming, this time speaking to him through their bond.
′They’re listening to us, Connor,′ she said silently, looking up into his eyes, hers darkening in anger. He could feel her wolf coming dangerously close to the surface. His wanted to join hers, and was bristling and begging to be let out, but after so long, he had more control over his wolf than Madelyn did.
′I know. I believe your mother was in here watching us sleep earlier,′ he responded to her, sighing audibly and continuing to caress her gently so as to appear that he was just comforting her. ’Continue speaking to me out loud as you were, love, but guard your words, don’t mention the pack or how we were mated or even when, they’re not happy about our mating.′
’No, they’re not, Connor,′ Madelyn told him. ’They want me to allow them to reverse it. You were there when my grandfather said what he did, but what I haven’t mentioned is that last night, while we were sleeping, I was somehow able to hear him speaking with my brother.
'They’re planning to try to coerce me into reversing the mating so they may mate me with one of them. They wish me to take my mother’s place, to do as she was meant to the night my brother and I were conceived, only with one of their kind, not with one of the Grauguri. They believe that the combination of my wolf and elf heritage combined with another of their kind will result in something more than what they originally intended.′
’And what is that?′ Connor asked. Madelyn was silent for a moment before she looked up at him and into his eyes to speak in his mind again.
’A new breed of elf. Their original intent was to mix two kinds of elf to elevate both above the third. Now they believe that adding a small amount of shifter will breed one capable of taking them to the next level of evolution, raising them to almost godlike levels.′ A hint of a smile played at one corner of her lips, her eyes shining as she stared into his. ’They have just one problem if that’s their plan.′
“How can I help you through this, my love?” Connor said softly, aloud, trying to break up the silence in the room, concerned that the lack of discussion between them might cause one of the elves to check on them. He wanted to be alone with his mate, or, at least, retain a bit more of the illusion of being alone with her, for a little while longer.
“You’ve done so much for me already, Connor,” she replied in a hushed tone, so as to make whomever was listening in on them have to listen especially carefully to hear their words. “Loving me as you do is so much more than anyone could ask for. It’s been a whirlwind, so many things piling on top of one another, but I wouldn’t change anything for the world, least of all our bond.”
She said the last part a bit louder, smiling happily up to him, her wolf beaming smugly at the thought of their eavesdroppers reactions to that statement, then continued speaking to him, this time privately through the connection they shared as mates.
’This one problem they have is something they cannot get around. It would be impossible for them to try,′ she said to him, eyes sparkling with mischief.
’And what, pray tell, is that, my sweet mate?′ he replied through their bond.
’I hope you’re ready for this, Connor,′ she said. ’I only realized it as I was sleeping, my wolf told me the moment she realized it herself.′
’You’re killing me with the suspense, Maddy,′ Connor responded.
’I know. Steady yourself, darling,′ she said slowly. ‘If we don’t want them having any more information than is absolutely necessary, we certainly do not want them knowing this just yet.’
Her heart skipped a beat as she steadied herself to say the words. Taking a deep breath, her eyes closed, hoping it would make him happy, as there had never been any time to really discuss this before their mating. The doors to her chamber slid open and her eyes opened to look into his as she spoke the words silently to him, alone: