It had been three weeks since graduation, and today was the day of Emerson and Ember’s birthday party. Since their birthday fell on a Saturday this year, today actually is their birthday. June fourteenth, and a beautiful sunshiny day!
“A good day for a party,” Dad had said when he’d gotten Ember up.
Now here, Ember stood next to a tree watching the partygoers, all fifty-plus of them.
“Hey, Ember, why aren’t you joining the game?” Dad asked.
Ember glanced over as her dad walked up. “I’m not much for touch football. That’s Emerson’s thing.”
“Guess that explains why he started it earlier than, huh?” Dad said with a chuckle.
“Yep, guess so.”
“Anyway, why are you over here all alone? I saw Deanna looking for you earlier,” Dad said as he put an arm around Ember.
Leaning into him and breathing deeply of his cologne, Ember answered, “Deanna found me, wished me happy birthday, then went off to find her mate.”
“Oh? I didn’t know she found her mate. When did that happen?” Dad questioned in a shocked tone.
“It’s been a couple of weeks now, I suppose,” Ember answered. “That’s why I’ve staying home and doing nothing. I have nobody to hang with right now.”
“Ah, sweets, you could always hang with me. You know I love having help in the kitchen,” Dad said as he gave her a bit of a pout.
Ember giggled as she squeezed him. “I know, Dad.”
“Okay. Well, your mom wanted me to tell you that Alpha Pete’s sister came to visit. It seems she has a daughter who just turned sixteen. He’s hoping you might show her around a bit tomorrow if you have time.”
“Sure, Dad, I can do that since I have nothing but time,” Ember agreed. If nothing else, it would keep her mind occupied and off her lonely feelings. “Is she going to be here today so I can make plans with her?”
Dad looked around thoughtfully. “I thought I saw the Alpha’s daughter come in. She’s a tiny thing with reddish-blonde hair. There are so many people here, though it’s hard to find anybody.”
“Once more, you have something to thank Emerson for since he did it,” Ember teased.
Dad looked back at her and chuckled. “Yeah. He’s quite friendly, to be sure.”
They stood there for long moments, watching the football game silently.
Mom walked out the door and waved at Dad.
“I think that’s my signal to bring out the cake,” Dad commented as he waved back, letting Mom know he’d seen her.
Mom walked back inside as Ember said, “Better get moving, Dad.”
Smiling, she watched her dad walk toward the house. Mom may be a born alpha and Dad omega, but their love for each other was indeed the forever kind. It was the kind of love she hoped to have one day with her own mate.
“Alright, everyone, gather round and let’s have some cake,” Mom called as she and Dad walked back outside with a giant cake.
Emerson reached the cake first and frowned as he looked around him. Then he yelled, “Ember!”
“Don’t yell, brother. I’m right here,” Ember softly mentioned from behind him even as she jumped a bit at his yelling.
Emerson growled low but said no more as he began cutting the cake.
Everyone sang happy birthday.
Then, Emerson handed her the first piece before cutting a piece for himself.
Next, dad stepped forward to finish and pass out pieces to everyone else.
Ember watched as her brother stepped back to stand next to her and took a big bite of his cake. Suddenly he froze, fork halfway to his mouth with his second bite. She stopped eating to watch him, wondering what was wrong. About to ask, but she didn’t get the chance because he put his plate on the table and took off through the crowd.
Emerson almost knocked people out of his way to reach a tiny slip of a girl with strawberry blonde hair. Everyone watched as the two of them stood staring at each other. Then Emerson picked her up and took off with her through the trees.
“Well, I believe the birthday boy found his mate,” Dad commented as he once more began cutting the cake.
“Good, maybe he’ll leave me alone now,” Ember muttered, though it saddened her a bit. She wouldn’t have company for even one day now. “and I guess I won’t be showing the new girl around after all. At least… that was the new girl, wasn’t it?”
“Yep, that was her,” Dad agreed.
Ember nodded and continued to eat her cake.
Ember watched Emerson as he laughed and smiled for two weeks straight. She was tired of watching him. Yes, she was glad Mr. Grumpypants was gone, but it also made her long for her mate.
Finally, having seen enough of her brother’s sweetness to his mate, she retreated to her room to stare at Ryker’s picture. Yesterday was his birthday, and she wondered if he’d had a good one. She also wondered what his wolf looked like and if he’d found his mate. Her parents had sent gifts over, but they hadn’t said anything, knowing Ryker was a sore subject with her.
Picking up her tablet, she pushed Ryker from her mind and concentrated on an e-book she was in the middle of reading. She’d barely glanced at it when her mom called out that dinner was ready.
Sighing, Ember lay her tablet down before heading downstairs. Sitting down at the table, she was soon joined by her brother and Staci, his mate.
“So, what have you kids been up to today?” Dad asked as he put plates in front of them.
“We went to that new ice cream place in town after playing goofy golf,” Staci replied.
“I didn’t even know kids played goofy golf anymore,” Mom said.
“Well, Emerson didn’t want to go,” Staci admitted.
Mom nodded before turning her attention to Ember. “What did you do, Ember.”
Ember shrugged. “Not much. Deanna and I were going to go to the mall, but her mate called. They said I was welcome, but who wants to be a third wheel.” She glanced up just in time to catch her parents sharing a look. “What?”
“Nothing, just… well, we worry about you sometimes, Ember. Maybe you should think about getting a part-time job. It will get you out so you can meet more people,” Mom suggested.
“I put in a couple of applications yesterday, so who knows,” Ember said, “May I be excused? I’m not very hungry.”
Ember felt her throat clogging with emotion and just needed to get out of the kitchen. Everyone was pair now, everyone but her, and yes, it hurt. She wanted her mate too. She wanted someone to love and hold and… just everything mates had.
“Yes, Ember, you may go,” Dad softly agreed.
Ember quickly got up and almost ran for the stairs before the tears fell. What was wrong with her? Why was she so emotional?
“Okay, I know I’m an omega, and we feel things more strongly, but this is ridiculous,” Ember muttered as she wiped at her face. “Maybe Mom’s right. Maybe I have too much time on my hands!”
Ember picked up her tablet with a sigh and once more began to read until her stomach growled. Looking at the clock, she saw it was now almost nine-thirty. So, getting up, she made her way down the stairs, only to stop at the bottom when she heard her parents talking.
“I saw Anna in the store today,” Mom was saying.
“Oh, what did she have to say?” Dad asked.
“She said Ryker liked his gift, but then she said they’re a bit worried about him. It seems he still hasn’t shifted into his wolf. Eric can smell the wolf in him, so they know he has one, but he isn’t shifting.”
“Do they have any idea why?”
“Something about him is emotionally suppressing his wolf,” Mom answered.
Ember wondered what that meant precisely, but to go in and ask was admitting to eves dropping. So, instead, she slipped back up the stairs and went to bed hungry.