Two sets of parental eyes looked at them as they entered the kitchen. Greg and Ben were already gone from the table.
“Good morning, Ember.”
“Good morning, Aunt Anna,” Ember said.
“I’d like to know how you managed to slip in last night without Eric hearing you,” Aunt Anna stated.
“Um… I came in the window,” Ember explained to Aunt Anna, feeling her face heat a bit.
“Ah, I see. Well, have a seat and eat,” Aunt Anna said. However, she didn’t look as if she really did see.
So, Ember and Ryker sat and ate the food piled on the plates in front of them.
“Tell me, Ember, why did you come in the middle of the night?” Uncle Eric asked.
So, Ember explained everything. How she carried her dad’s omega gene, meaning she needed the help of the full moon to find her mate.
“I had forgotten how weak the omega’s senses are,” Eric mused as he sipped his coffee.
Telling the story again reminded her of something which caused her to turn toward Ryker. “Hey Ryker, how come you don’t smell shifted? It’s been two weeks since your birthday. You did shift, right?”
Ryker looked down and fiddled with his fork. “No.”
Feeling sad for him, Ember put her arms around him and hugged him close. “Don’t worry, my baby, you will. When I slipped into your room last night, I was close enough for my wolf to feel yours.”
Ryker glanced up to meet her gaze. “She did?”
Ember smiled and nodded.
“The pack doctor says he’s repressed his wolf,” Aunt Anna explained.
“Oh. I remember hearing Mom say that a few days ago. Although I’m not sure what that means,” Ember said.
“Neither do we exactly. The doctor said something about trauma, but he hasn’t gone through any of the things the doctor mentioned,” Aunt Anna continued.
“Mom!” Greg shouted as he ran into the kitchen. “Can we go now?”
“Yes, Greg, we can go now,” Aunt Anna agreed with exasperation. Slapping at her knee, she stood and asked, “Will you be going with us, Ember?”
“I can if I’m not intruding or anything,” Ember answered nervously.
Ryker squeezed Ember’s hand. “Don’t worry; it won’t be a huge crowd.”
“It’s fine, your family now,” Aunt Anna added with a smile.
“I’ll just call…” Ember started.
“Better just text, or your dad will be wanting to know everything,” Ryker interrupted to suggest. We’re running on a limited amount of time.”
“Then mom will steal the phone, gotcha.” Ember said, giving Ryker a ‘thumb up’ before adding, “Let me grab my phone and bag, then I’ll be ready.”
So, Ember texted her parents before heading off to watch baseball with her mate’s family. When the game was over, Greg’s team won, they went for a late lunch. Then they dropped her and Ryker off at Ember’s house.
“Mom, Dad, I’m home,” Ember called out as she and Ryker walked through the door.
“Your mom just left for the store, but I’m in the kitchen Ember,” Dad called back.
Ember took Ryker’s hand, and he let her lead him there.
Tony looked up from the bowl in front of him and smiled. “Good to see you again, Ryker.”
“Good to see you too, sir,” Ryker said nervously.
“Hey, hey, no reason to call me, sir. I’m still fine with being Uncle Tony, or just Tony if you prefer,” Dad said with a bit of a laugh. “I feel as if I half raised you and your brothers; you were here so much. Now, tell me, did the two of you talk things out? Because if you’re to be good mates, you need the air cleared of disagreements first.”
“Yeah, Dad, we did,” Ember told him.
Dad nodded. “Good. Now it’s up to Ryker and Emerson to clear the air.”
Ember felt Ryker stiffen next to her at her dad’s words and squeezed his hand. She knew he was nervous about seeing her brother again, but she knew it would be alright.
Dad smiled when he glanced at Ryker once more. “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine. Emerson has mellowed a lot since he met Staci.”
“Okay…” Ryker murmured.
The front door banged open. “Dad, where you at?”
“In the kitchen, son,” Dad called.
“Is Ember home yet? I wanted to…” Emerson went quiet as he walked into the kitchen and saw Ryker.
Ryker stood up and squared his shoulders. “Hello, Emerson.” He then stood tense, waiting for fore Emerson to make his first move.
Ember squeezed his hand once more, and Uncle Tony just smiled.
“Ryker! Just the man I wanted to see. I was hoping Ember was home because I thought since she and I had mended our fences with each other, it was time to do the same with you. Wait…” Emerson cocked his head as he stared at Ryker. “Why are you here anyway? Not that I’m complaining, because I’m not. In fact, I’m thrilled because I do want to make things right, but I thought Ember was going to try and find her mate… whoa… you… she…?!”
“Yes, Emerson, Ryker is my mate.” Ember cut in and answered.
“Oh boy, seems I have a lot more to apologize for than I realized,” Emerson muttered, rubbing the back of his neck as he gave Ryker a sad look.
“Emerson, who is this?” A soft voice asked from the kitchen doorway.
Ryker saw a tiny girl with hair down to her waist and big green eyes looking at him from behind Emerson.
Emerson turned to sweep her into his arms. “This is the childhood friend I told you about, Ryker.”
“Ah… the one you need to be apologizing to?” The girl asked him in a stern voice.
“Yes, the one I need to apologize to, which I was fixing to do,” Emerson mumbled. “Ryker this is my mate Staci.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Staci,” Ryker politely said.
“Nice to meet you too,” Staci said before she looked at Ember. “Ember, you missed the fun yesterday, but I understand you were going on a hunt. Did you find what you were hunting for?”
Ember giggled, and Ryker looked down at her to find her already looking at him. “Yep, sure did. Staci, meet my mate, Ryker.”
Staci laughed and hugged Ember.
Emerson groaned as if in pain before he moved and pulled Ryker into his arms. “Ryker, dude, I am so sorry! I knew the minute the words were out of my mouth that I was wrong, but I let my pride rule me.” Emerson pulled back, keeping his hands-on Ryker’s shoulders. “You and Ember have spent two long years apart because of me. I hope you can find it in you to forgive me.” Emerson turned to Ember next, his eyes sad. “I saw you acting different toward him. If I had just left it alone and let nature take its course, you probably would have realized he was your mate sooner.”
“Yes, she would have. On the first full moon they spent together, she would have felt the mate bond, just as she did last night,” Uncle Tony calmly stated.
Ryker shrugged as Emerson looked back at him. “It’s in the past now where we need to leave it. I was too young to be a mate to her anyway, so let’s forget it, please.”
“But Ryker, you missed all this time with…” Emerson began only to be interrupted.
“Leave it in the past, please, Emerson. Ember and I will be fine, and I would like it if you and I were also,” Ryker told him softly.
Emerson nodded, giving Ryker one last hug before taking a deep breath. “Leaving it in the past and moving forward.”
“How about some cookies?” Uncle Tony asked as he held up a tray of them.
Everyone agreed and sat down to eat the cookies Tony put down on the table.