“Alpha, Alpha, he’s back!” The little blonde-haired boy yelled as he ran to where his Alpha was standing talking to his beta.
The Alpha turned toward him, asking, “Who’s back, boy?”
For a minute, the blonde boy just stood panting, then said, “Mr. Rafferty is back, and he has a girl with him!”
The Alpha chuckled at the little blonde boy as he listened. Then, he heard the low roar of his son’s motorcycle, slowly growing louder. “Yes, boy, I believe you’re right. My pup has returned, and that girl with him is his mate,” Alpha said, looking down with a smile.
The little blonde boy smiled back at his Alpha. Then he turned and watched the red motorcycle slowly come up the street with what looked like half the pack trailing behind it.
When we rode into town on Rafferty’s motorcycle, people began to poke their heads out of homes and businesses. I couldn’t help but notice we were being followed by most of them too. So, by the time Rafferty pulled his cycle to a stop, there must have been two hundred people behind us.
“Um, Rafferty, is this our welcoming committee? If it is, I hope it’s the good kind,” I commented as Rafferty helped me get off the cycle.
Rafferty glanced around and nodded, his face breaking out in a smile. “Yes, my love, it is our welcoming committee, and yes, it is the good kind. This is about half the Wildee Pack, and the man standing behind me is my pop, the Alpha.”
I took off my helmet and began to run my fingers through my hair to fluff it a little. Then I glanced at the Alpha. My jaw dropped. He looked more like Rafferty’s twin than his father. He was tall, lean, had the same dark eyes and the same dark hair.
“Wow, Rafferty, are you sure that’s your da and not your twin? He looks just like you and looks way too young to be your da,” I said, still staring at the Alpha with awe.
“Yes, love, I’m sure he is my father,” Rafferty said, chuckling. He turned around and placed his arm around my shoulder. Then, gently, he guided me toward where the Alpha stood, waiting. “Pops, I’d like you to meet my mate, Marissa.”
“Hello, Marissa. It is good to meet you finally. My Luna is around here somewhere,” the Alpha said. Then, turning his head slightly toward the man standing next to him, he said, “Jacob, go find the Luna please, tell her our pup has returned home.”
“Yes, Alpha.” With a bow, Jacob left, walking toward the house.
The Alpha turned back to look at me. I saw him take in a deep breath, and I frowned.
“What is it with people smelling me?” I burst out before I thought about who I was speaking to. Then, clamping a hand over my mouth, I looked up at Rafferty. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled behind my hand. Even though I hadn’t grown up with an Alpha, Rafferty had explained enough about Pack protocol for me to know it was a big no-no to speak to the Alpha that way.
The Alpha chuckled, which drew both mine and Rafferty’s gaze back to him. He said, “She reminds me of your ma. You’re going to have your hands full with this one.”
About that time, a woman came running from the house, her arms out and her face lit up with a big smile. “Rafe, my baby, you’re finally home. I have missed you so much.” When she reached Rafferty, she pulled him into a big hug which he returned.
Rafferty’s ma was a tiny woman with long black hair and olive skin. When she looked at me, I saw she had light blue eyes, and she was gorgeous. I slightly frowned when she took a deep breath, just as the Alpha had done. A glance at Rafferty from under my lashes showed me he had a twinkle in his eyes at my expense. Aggravating man.
“Hello, Marissa. I’m Rafferty’s mom, Gina. So, what kind of feline are you?”
“My father is a lion, so are my two brothers,” I told her. “I want to be a lion too. So why can’t women shift forms like men? It is so unfair.” I knew I sounded like a petulant child, but I couldn’t help it.
Gina laughed. “If we could shift forms, we wouldn’t need men. So, it must have been a man that made that rule.”
“Ah, now, you know you like having me around,” the Alpha said as he pulled Gina into his arms and kissed her forehead.
Gina ran her fingers lightly over his chest as she tilted her head to look up at him. Then, licking her lips, she said, “Hm, that’s true. You do have your usefulness moments, don’t you?”
“I’ll show you useful, woman,” the Alpha growled as he pulled Gina tighter against him. Then, he leaned down to kiss her.
Rafferty cleared his throat. “Pops, you’re in public. There is a big crowd behind you and your son, who doesn’t want to watch his parents make out in front of you.”
The Alpha pulled his lips from his wife’s and glanced around. Then, straightening, he spoke loudly. “Yes, Rafferty has returned, so there will be a pack meeting in two hours to officially welcome him home and introduce his mate. Now, back to what you were doing.”
The crowd dispersed, with all of them saying, “Yes, Alpha.”
“Let’s go inside the house where it’s cooler,” Gina commanded.
“I’ll be there in a moment,” the Alpha stated before walking off.
Gina nodded and kissed him before asking, “Are you hungry? I can fix something if you are.”
“You know I’m always ready for food, Ma,” Rafferty said. “We skipped lunch because we were close enough to home not to want to stop.”
“Yes, please, I’m starved,” I chimed in as we followed Gina inside.
Gina led us to the kitchen. Once we were seated, she pulled out leftover fried chicken, potato salad, green beans, and rolls. When she had it all heated up, Gina sat a plateful down in front of Rafferty and me.
“This looks wonderful. Thanks, Ma,” Rafferty said.
“Yes, thank you, um... Mrs. Luna?” I said questioningly. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to call her.
Gina laughed. “Just call me Gina. You don’t need to call me Luna even though most of the pack does out of respect.”
“Just make sure you call Pop by his title of Alpha,” Rafferty said. “At least until he says otherwise.”
“Oh, now Rafe, I’m sure your father won’t mind her calling him Jeff. She’s family now,” Gina said as she walked over to Rafferty and ran her hand lovingly down the back of his head.
“Pup, your mate’s things arrived yesterday,” the Alpha said as he walked into the kitchen. “So, I had her clothes put in your room, and everything else is in the basement for now.”
“Thanks, sir. I want to start looking for our place soon, but that works for now,” Rafferty said before returning his attention to his lunch.
“So, Marissa, do you think you’ll like it here?” Gina asked as she poured the Alpha a glass of tea. Sitting it down, she focused on Marissa. “I know it will be a lot different than Nevada.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I think so. There were so many beautiful places we rode through on our way here. I filled my phone with photos to send to Da and Ma. Da says once he gets through training James and Paul, they will be coming for a visit.” I then remembered the message I was supposed to relay to the Alpha. “Oh, Alpha, I almost forgot. Your friend Joe said he might come with them. He said he’d missed your friendship.”
Alpha nodded and grinned. “I can’t wait to meet your father, and it will be good to see my old friend Joe. Speaking of friends, Rafe, yours is most anxious to see you.
Looking away from the Alpha to Rafferty, I saw him grin. It was identical to his da’s, and I shook my head in disbelief at how alike the two men were.
“I’ll go find Jeremy now,” Rafferty said. “I want him to meet Marissa and tell him about my travels. I sure have missed him.”
Rafferty turned and looked at me as he asked, “Is it alright with you, my love, if I go find Jeremy?”
“Sure,” I agreed. “I’ll visit with your ma and finish eating. Then I wouldn’t mind washing off the road grime.”
Standing and kissing me, Rafferty said, “Thanks, love, I’ll be back in a bit.” Then he walked out, leaving me with his parents.
Draining his glass of tea, the Alpha stood and kissed Gina. “I’ll leave you two to chat. I have a pile of paperwork waiting for me in my office.”
“Don’t forget about the pack meeting you called,” Gina reminded him.
“Don’t worry, and I won’t forget,” the Alpha said as he left.
Gina turned her full attention on me, and I gulped. Oh, boy.
“So, Marissa. Tell me about yourself. I want to know all about my son’s mate,” Gina stated.
“Okay. I’m nineteen and have two brothers. James and Paul, they’re twins. My father is Irish, and he’s a lion shifter, but Ma is a human.” I paused, then added, “I worked with my ma in a little café, and Da runs a motel.”
“Both your brothers can shift, right?”
“Yeah, they can. My brothers shift into the biggest lions I’ve ever seen, not that I’ve ever seen a real lion, but you know what I mean. Anyway, James is the big-mouthed one that Rafferty rumbled with. Paul is the alpha male even though he’s younger, and he leads the Pride.”
“How big is their Pride?”
“Um... I think Paul said there are forty-something,” I answered. “Felines tend to come and go. They don’t stay like in one place all the time as wolves do, so he wasn’t sure of an exact count.”
Gina nodded, looking thoughtful. “Now tell me how you met Rafe.”
I smiled, my favorite story to tell.