Ryker looked over at his mom, and Ember knew he didn’t want to bring up bad memories. However, to explain things he was going to have to, he had no other choice. Ember knew that something terrible had happened to Aunt Anna, causing her to go into labor and have Ryker early. Ember just didn’t know what that something was.
“Mom, you know how…” Ryker stopped, swallowing hard.
“What, Ryker? Just ask whatever it is,” Aunt Anna softly said as if she already knew what was coming.
“You know how you told me about being attacked by that man? How he tried to kill me in your womb, and it caused you to have me early?” Ryker asked.
Uncle Eric growled as he pulled his mate into his arms, but Anna only nodded.
“Well, it seems that because you are human, and because I came too early, the connection between my wolf side and my human side wasn’t complete. This caused a problem when it came time for me to shift. So, according to my wolf, I needed my mate to complete the connection, allowing me to shift. So, if I hadn’t found out Ember was my mate, I still would be unshifted.” Ryker shifted his eyes to his dad. “It also means I’ll never shift completely into a wolf form as you do. All I’ll ever have is a half shift. Are you disappointed in me, Dad?”
“No, son, never,” Uncle Eric softly answered. “You are my son, and I am proud of you. You have a fine-looking wolf, one to be proud of.”
The others sat quietly, taking in what Ryker had said.
“Are you saying that because I had you early, even though you were completely healthy, your wolf wasn’t?” Aunt Anna asked.
Ryker shrugged. “I guess so.”
“I think it’s kind of like… Well, say you have your baby prematurely. You’re far enough along that when the doctors do their test, everything comes back that the baby is perfectly healthy. However, later in life, as the child grows, they began showing signs of health issues that doctors realize were caused by being born too early. Ryker’s wolf was there and healthy enough for you to know he had one, Uncle Eric. However, the fact that there was a gap in the connection between wolf and human didn’t show up until it was time for him to change forms,” Ember said.
“I understand what you’re trying to say, Ember, but it makes no sense. Others have their babies early, and it’s never caused a break in the connection between human and wolf before,” Minnie said with a puzzled look on her face. “At least I’ve never heard of it happening.”
“I don’t know. I’m just telling you how my wolf explained it to me, and I would think he would know,” Ryker said.
“Your wolf told you?” Ember’s mom asked. “How exactly did he know?”
“He said he was born knowing,” Ryker answered.
“Strange, just very strange,” Ember’s mom muttered to herself.
“So, does this make him the first hybrid? Well, the first in our pack anyway?” Ember asked.
“No, he’s the second one.”
At the sound of a man’s voice, everyone turned to find Alpha Pete standing just outside the gate.
“Join us, Alpha,” Uncle Eric said.
Alpha Pete opened the gate and walked in, taking a seat in one of the lawn chairs. “Good morning, everyone.”
“You came too late for breakfast, but there’s still coffee…” Aunt Anna began.
Alpha Pete waved this hand. “It’s fine, Anna. I’ve had my coffee. No, I came by to tell you about the research I’ve been doing. Thankfully the pack has kept good records. I pulled up Eric’s ancestry and found he isn’t the first to marry a human mate. He’s the second one. The first was his great-grandfather to the third, and his name was Levi Hollington.”
“I remember Dad talking about him,” Uncle Eric admitted. “Seems he was quite a rebel and a bit wild. If I remember right, he was well up in age when he found his mate, and his wolf was already half crazy by that time.”
Alpha nodded. “That’s right, and he was thirty-two. No one expected him to survive that long without a mate, and it was no surprise when his wolf went crazy. What your dad may not have known was that because Levi’s wolf was so far gone, he tended to stay partially shifted most of the time. When he met his mate, Levi almost killed her when he mated her because he was half shifted at the time.”
The women gasp at this, and Alpha Pete nodded sadly.
“So… he mated her in his half-shift form? Was it like mine?” Ryker asked softly.
“As far as I can tell by the drawing we have of him, yes, his wolf is like yours,” Alpha agreed. “Although, you seem more… human than he was.”
“My wolf marked Ember in his form, but I didn’t….” Ryker started, red-faced. He stopped when his mom gave him a look.
Alpha Pete chuckled. “It’s alright, Ryker. Marking her that way obviously didn’t hurt her.”
“Oh, it hurt!” Ember disagreed loudly.
“Ember, honey, all markings hurt. After all, you’re being bitten,” Ember’s mom said.
Ember rolled her eyes. “I know that Mom, but it really hurt. Think about it, I was human, and he had wolf teeth… oh, never mind.” Ember crossed her arms and leaned back against Ryker.
“I’m sorry it hurt so badly, Ember,” Ryker softly apologized as he brushed her hair back to look at her mark.
Ember tilted her chin to smile at him. “It’s alright. You more than made up for it later.”
Alpha Pete cleared his throat, gaining their attention once more. “Anyway, because he mated her in a half-shifted form, it appears that his firstborn could only half shift, or at least that’s what everyone assumed at the time. The boy was only able to do that, though, after he found his mate,” Alpha said. He paused, then added, “His omega mate.”
“My wolf did tell me he needed his mate to close the gap in the connection between him and me,” Ryker said. “He said when he first shifted, he took over completely and didn’t feel me at all. But when Ember told him about being able to know what was going on even when her wolf is in the driver’s seat, he began to wonder if he could also. That’s when he talked to me.”
“It was probably the marking. The marking completed the connection between wolf and human somehow.” Ember’s dad said. “Omegas are known to be nurtures by nature, healers.”
Alpha Pete nodded. “Back at the time when Levi lived, we didn’t have clinics or pack doctors. The sick or injured were taken to an omega. They were known as the pack healers back then. That’s why our pack believes the omega should be revered, not abused.”
Ember watched her dad shift uncomfortably in his seat for a moment. She remembered when she and Emerson turned twelve, they had been sat down and told how their parents had met, how dad’s pack had abused him, almost killing him. They were told how Mom’s dad thought she was worthless because she was female, not good enough to be an alpha. Ember also knew how her dad sometimes flinched or became nervous around yelling or loud sounds.
“So, omegas tend to have natural healing abilities, and having one as a mate can bridge the gap between human and wolf?” Uncle Eric asked.
“Correct. Ryker probably ingested enough of her blood to heal the connection,” Alpha Pete agreed.
“So, since Anna is human and because my wolf was in complete control, Ryker is… what he is? Does that mean all my children might be the same way?” Uncle Eric continued.
Alpha looked thoughtful. “It’s a possibility. Were they all conceived in the same manner?”
“Well, no… at least Greg wasn’t. It was me all the way with him,” Uncle Eric said.
“It may be questionable with Ben,” Aunt Anna mentioned. “Eric had to fight for control that time because… um…” She stopped, her face red as she buried it in his chest.
Uncle Eric chuckled. “What she’s trying to say is, I wanted another baby, at least my wolf did, and he was very insistent about it. Anna wasn’t ready for another and was just as insistent about using protection. My wolf eventually won, and so did I. She had Ben nine months later.”
Aunt Anna pouted up at him. “I wanted to wait for Greg to be out of diapers. Another six months, that was all I asked for, stubborn wolf!”
Uncle Eric chuckled and kissed her cheek. “But you wouldn’t trade Ben or me for the world, now would you?”
“No,” Aunt Anna agreed.
“Wait! Ryker’s wolf said it was because of what happened that made him like he is… So, it’s possible that Ben will shift normal,” Ember reminded them, feeling confused now.
“She’s right. Eric’s great, great was that way because of how his mother was almost killed when he was conceived. Ryker is like he is because of how his mom went into labor early,” Ember’s dad said. “So, it is possible that Ben will shift fully despite the way he was conceived.”
“I agree, but we’ll just have to wait and see to know for sure,” Ember’s mom added.
Everyone was quiet, lost in their individual thoughts.
Uncle Eric broke the silence when he said, “This is a lot to take in. It truly is. Between learning a bit of my history and the fact that two of my sons may only half shift.”
Alpha stood up, nodding, and got ready to leave. “I’ll leave you all to think about it, and if you have any questions, you all know where to find me.” Then he turned and left.
“I think we’ll also be going, Ember. Come by the house later please, I’d like to talk to you,” Ember’s mom said.
Ember nodded. She was then giving her parents hugs before she watched them leave.
“Eric, I’d like to talk to you about some things also,” Aunt Anna softly said as she and Uncle Eric stood.
Ryker and Ember watched everyone leave.
Turning to look at Ryker, Ember commented, “Well, we learned a lot about you and your wolf today, didn’t we?”
Ryker chuckled. “Yeah, we did. How about another run to the pond?”
Ember smiled before standing and stripping. “Wonderful idea. The last one, there is a rotten egg!” Then she shifted into her she-wolf and took off in a run.
Ryker shifted and took off after her with a howl of joy!