Raice paced a trail in the carpet in his room, the minutes ticking by in a slow agonizing way. It felt like days passed before he heard a knock on his door. He jerked the door open, hoping it was Lucy. His expression fell when it was only Riven.
"Sorry I'm not the person you were expecting," Riven said, laughing a little at Raice's expense.
"Where's Lucy?" Raice growled. He wasn't in the mood for Riven's teasing.
"Lucy took the news a little rough and passed out. I took her to her room and put her down for the rest of the night. Meanwhile, you and I need to have a conversation, so sit down and listen up," Riven commanded, pushing the door closed behind him and taking a seat on the edge of the bed.
Raice growled again, but obeyed his alpha. He was already in trouble for disobeying him earlier and didn't want to get into more. "I'm sorry for earlier," he spat out hating the taste of the words on his tongue. He never said he was sorry. It went against every bone in his body, but he knew this situation called for it, or the consequences would be brutal.
"I know you acted out of turn, and that's not like you Raice," Riven responded. "Do you want to tell me exactly what happened? What made you think Lucy is your mate? How did you lose control? That's never happened to you and I'm sure everyone is shocked. I'm going to have to come up with a damn good lie to keep this under wraps. You're secret cannot get out!"
Raice thought about his response before speaking. "I'm honestly not sure what happened. When I walked into the room I felt something come over my panther. It rose to the surface and I scented the room thinking maybe it was an unknown threat. I caught a whiff of the most beautiful mouthwatering scent and knew she was mine. My panther agreed and when I tried to rein it in, I saw that she was sitting with Trent. When I saw him so close to her, I lost it. My panther is very possessive and I could smell him all over her. I didn't like it and I reacted. I'm surprised I was able to hold the change off as long as I did."
"You're telling me that her scent is what set you off? Then seeing her sitting near Trent pushed you over the edge?" Riven questioned.
Riven was shocked and unable to believe that Lucy's scent was enough to start the mating bond with Raice. Had they met before and just not remembered it? It was impossible as far as he knew to start the mating bond just by scent. It took time and a lot of interaction between the pair. Sometimes a mark would set it in motion. This was unheard of and Riven didn't know what to believe. Could it be possible and that everything he read had been wrong? It was farfetched, but he was willing to believe Raice. The man had never given him a reason not to.
"I need to know one thing…" Riven trailed off, he was unsure if he should even propose his idea. Would Lucy be a good mate for Raice? He was considered a badass and unapproachable by all the others in the house, but Riven knew why he was like that. He was hiding his panther from the rest of the pack. If they found out, things would be difficult. All that aside Riven was still worried about his niece. She deserved the best and he wanted Raice to be that for her.
"Yes?" Raice probed after Riven was silent for a good three minutes. Riven shook his head and cleared his throat to hide his embarrassment. He hadn't meant to get that distracted.
"Sorry, anyway… Where was I? Oh yes, tell me this, if you can. Are you planning on mating with Lucy?" Riven held his breath as he threw the question out there. It all depended on Raice now as to what would happen next.
Raice froze. That was the question wasn't it? Did he want to mate with Lucy and bind his life to hers for their entire lives? The bond created was a very intimate thing. Some couples could hear each other's thoughts while others could feel the other's emotions and knew at all times where the other was. Was he willing to take the chance of Lucy finding out about his hidden past? Would she even look at him the same?
"What about me being a panther? Lucy will be a wolf," Raice asked Riven nervously. His alpha overlooked that fact and allowed him into the pack, but now that he found a mate in one of the other pack members, would this be a problem for Riven? What happened if the pack found out and demanded that Raice leave? Would Lucy choose him or stay with the pack? It was risky.
"She seems the sort to not judge things like that. I doubt she'd mind. Don't worry about the pack. If and when they find out, they will still see you as you and not try to drive you out. Everything will be fine." Riven patted Raice on the shoulder and nodded his head. Raice felt a sense of peace in his heart when the alpha gave him his permission to mate with Lucy.
"It's too early for anything to happen yet, I just wanted to see if you would be willing. Lucy was raised around humans and will want the 'dating' humans go through in order to see if you're compatible. I know we don't have much time, but I want you to give her that. You guys are destined to be together, but I want you also to love each other and know each other before sharing yourselves and finishing the bond." Riven's ominous, but soft voice seemed to reverberate around the room.
"I can do that. I want to know her before I let her know anything about me. I don't think I could take her rejecting me because of it. Thank you for allowing me to mate with Lucy. I know she's new to the pack and that you could have chosen to mate with her. It means a lot and I will respect her." Raice started pacing the room.
"Well that would never happen because she is my niece. That's why she's here. She didn't know anything about this side of her and I'm here to explain things to her," Riven replied.
"Oh, my bad. I didn't know." Raice looked sheepish, and Riven smiled at him.
"When can I see her?" he asked.
"You can see her in the morning when she wakes up. She's had a hard night and she needs the sleep. You need to sleep too. Come see me before you go find Lucy in the morning. We need to get a story straight to tell the others. I'm off to talk to Trent. He has to keep his mouth shut about what he saw. Take care," Riven said, closing the door behind him as he left.
Raice let a sigh pass out his dry lips before licking them and jumping on his bed. He lay there on his back, staring at the ceiling for what felt like hours before finally drifting off into sleep.
Riven sighed as he leaned against the wall. Bringing his niece here was supposed to be easy. Why did everything that could go wrong actually go wrong? He was about to pull out his hair. No one was supposed to find out about Raice, especially not Trent, and of all the people to be Lucy's mate, he was a difficult choice. Yes he told Raice that he was okay with them mating, but he wasn't really. Raice was still a mystery when it came to his past. Riven only knew what the man had told him. He didn't know whether Raice was really a great choice for her. He would have to trust Lucy's judgment if she chose to pursue the relationship.
Lifting his weary form from the wall and walking down the hallway, Riven thought about what he could say to keep Trent quiet. He hoped he hadn't run his mouth to his mother or brothers yet. He didn't need a fight on his hands, especially not tonight.
Slipping on some shoes, Riven opened the door, welcoming the cool night air on his skin. It was only a few hours until dawn and he could make out traces of the sun peaking over the surrounding mountain tops. The display was almost the perfect painting and he took a mental picture of it. After closing the door behind him, Riven raced off down the path to the left of his house. It was a well-worn path and led straight to the back door of Trent's mother's house.
Riven could smell the creatures still awake at this hour of the night. He heard them take off as their instincts told them a predator was near. He smiled to himself and continued to trudge down the half mile trail. He could see the house through the scant coverings of the trees. Summer was ending and some of the leaves were beginning to change. Fall would be upon them soon.
Knocking on the backdoor, he held his breath in anticipation of what was to come. When the door flew open a few seconds later, the person staring at him with questioning eyes was just the person he was seeking.
"Trent, we need to talk," Riven commanded, leaving no way for Trent to get out of it.
Trent rolled his eyes.
"Let's go a little ways back down the path. My family's asleep," Trent grabbed the door knob and pulled the door shut behind him.
Riven studied the man he once considered a child. He was all grown up and was filling out well. He was more muscle than anything. He had a five o'clock shadow that needed attention, but Trent pulled it off well. His eyes had taken the same dark emerald shade as his father's. He thought Trent needed a haircut, but some women liked their mate's hair longer. He didn't agree with it, but it was a matter of opinion.
Trent was a great asset to the pack. He was graceful, but ever the predator when need be. He was a good hunter and abided by most of the rules of the pack. He had never been in serious trouble and Riven trusted him. He only hoped the man could keep his mouth shut.
"Let's not beat around the bush. I know you want to know why Raice is a part of the pack and why I let him join us in the first place," Riven acknowledged, meeting Trent's gaze. Trent nodded, but said nothing.
"I'm not allowed to go into all the details, but Raice is with us for good reason. I need you to trust me. He doesn't need the trouble that would come with you telling everyone. He has lived with us for a while now with no one the wiser. I want to keep it that way and I expect you to do the same. Do I make myself clear?" Riven asked.
Trent wanted to explode. How could Riven just accept a feline into their pack? The man was a fucking panther. He wasn't even part of the wolf family. How was he disguising his scent? Riven had to be helping him.
"How do you expect me to live around him? He could turn on us in an instant! My family will have to know. I won't let them live as if nothing is wrong. I won't risk their lives," Trent argued. His wolf was growling in his mind, demanding that he chase the panther away. He was a threat and needed to be dealt with.
"Trent, you've lived with the guy for months now. What makes you think that he's going to turn on us?" Riven asked calmly.
"Look at what happened today. You expect me to sit around and let him attack our pack for no apparent reason?" Trent growled. His wolf was pushing against the mental cage Trent kept him in. It seemed every day his wolf grew stronger. At times it was hard to hold him back. He'd been running more, trying to get his wolf to remain calm.
"The only reason he attacked you was because you were so close to Lucy. They've started the mating bond. Before she goes through her transformation they will probably announce to the pack they're together. He was acting out of instinct and couldn't focus on staying human. Accidents happen."
Trent saw red. "You are going to let that fucking cat mate with one of our females? What is wrong with you? That will taint the blood line. Who knows what their children would be like! Give her to me, let me mate with her." Trent started shaking, the wolf trying to take over.
He was restless having gotten only a few hours of sleep these past few days. He had been tracking down Lucy and had only slept when he could catch a few moments. He was acting out of aggression and exhaustion. He might regret some of this night, but for now he was angry and ready for a fight.
"If you wish to pursue my niece, then I can't really stop you. The choice is up to her. If Lucy decides to have you instead of Raice, then so be it. You have to make her choose you. You can't just take her and expect her to be your mate. I also can't give her to you, as you asked. You know the choice is up to the female. Where is your head?" Riven's gaze burned into Trent. Something was off about the man, but Riven couldn't place it. He could see his wolf just under the surface and knew Trent was close to shifting.
Trent considered Riven's words. That was the way of things. Lucy had the reins in this situation. Trent had to find a way to make her see that he was the right mate for her. He'd do whatever it took. He'd have to start with getting her to forgive him for kidnapping her. Maybe now that Riven had explained things to her it'd be easier. He ran his fingers through his hair and then sighed. There was no way he was letting Raice have Lucy. That panther was dead meat. He was a liar and obviously hiding something.
"I won't let him have her. I will keep my mouth shut, but soon everyone will find out and they'll demand answers. You better have a good reason for lying to us."
Trent turned his back on Riven and left him standing there. It was a foolish thing, but surprisingly Riven didn't attack or try to prove his dominance. Maybe this situation had Riven more riled than anyone knew. Trent would keep that in mind.
Lucy woke to the pounding of feet running down the hallway. She groaned and covered her eyes. Sunlight streamed across her face. She rolled over to get away from the rays and gave a squeal as she fell off the edge of the bed.
Feeling like a fool, Lucy climbed to her feet and hoped no one heard her. She stood for a minute, listening to see if anyone was around before sighing and studying the room. Where was she? This wasn't her room. Last night slammed into her memory and she swayed and sat back on the bed. Riven had blown her mind, and basically told her that her life was a lie. She groaned and studied the room. She needed the distraction to get her mind off of things.
The room was similar to Candy's. The furniture was simple, light colored wood but nothing more than the bed she was sitting on, a square dresser and what she assumed was a closet. She wondered if there were any clothes in the closet or drawers. She hoped she hadn't made someone give up their room upon her arrival. She nibbled her bottom lip, feeling guilty.
Glancing toward the window, she wondered what time it was. She walked over and ran her fingers gently over the padded window seat. She smiled as she sat down and looked out the window. She could see trees swaying gently back and forth outside. The changing leaves reminded her of the season and she sighed, wondering where summer went.
Lucy glanced down at her clothes and groaned, pulling her shirt away from her body and then letting it fall back into place. "I need a shower."
Checking the dresser, she found a change of clothes. She hugged them to her chest and then headed out the door. She needed to find a bathroom and soon. She really had to pee and her bladder couldn't hold it any longer.
Passing an open door she stuck her head in to see if anyone was available to give her directions to the closest bathroom. The house was huge and she was bound to end up where she began.
Finding no one, Lucy decided to open the doors as she moved down the hall. She started with the next door to her right. She opened the door a crack and looked in. It was dark, but she could see a lump from a mattress on the floor. She didn't see anyone, but slowly backed out of the doorway. Shaking her head, she closed the door and tried the next room.
After several tries she finally found the bathroom. She closed the door and leaned against it. After setting the change of clothes on the edge of the sink, she turned to lock the door.
"What kind of person doesn't put locks on their bathroom door?" she grumbled under her breath as she kicked the door in frustration. "What if someone walks in on me?"
Closing her eyes, she forced herself to calm down. Maybe she should go find the other bathroom. She sighed, knowing she'd get lost. Screw it. She opened her eyes and studied her reflection in the mirror. What she saw made her mouth open in horror. Her hair was in disarray and she was almost positive she saw a stick poking out of it. Her makeup was smeared and she looked like she had raccoon eyes. Her lips were chapped and busted, and she was sure she needed a tooth brush.
Mentally preparing herself, she looked down at her clothes, shivered, and then quickly stripped. She dumped her dirty clothes on the floor and turned the shower on. While she waited for the water to warm up, she relieved herself and then hopped in place, hugging her arms to her sides. It's so damn cold in this house.
After what seemed like an eternity, the water was warm enough for her to get inside. Luckily the curtain was a dark brown and hid her from any nosy guests.
Lucy closed her eyes and leaned under the water. The water was a refreshing change for her sore body and helped relieve her muscles. She stood under the pulsing shower head, letting the water beat on her shoulders and back before looking around for shampoo or soap. After finding some berry scented shampoo, she poured it into her calloused hand and lathered it up.
When the strawberry scent hit her nose, her mind went back to the time she bought her sister the same kind. Mindy had asked for coconut shampoo and they were out so Lucy had bought strawberry instead. Mindy had thrown a fit.
Laughing, Lucy rinsed her hair and then washed the rest of her body. She was just putting conditioner on her hair when she thought she heard a sound. She stopped moving and remained silent. After a moment of hearing nothing, she rinsed the conditioner from her hair.
As she reached back to turn off the water, the curtain drew back and a bucket of cold water was thrown on her. She was so startled she couldn't hear as the person responsible said something. She moved backwards, but slipped on some soap. She screamed and grabbed for the shower curtain.
Strong arms encircled her waist and caught her, but the weight of her body and the slippery floor caused both of them to tumble onto the floor. Lucy ended up hitting her head. Stars popped in her vision and it took her a moment to focus and realize that arms were still holding her.
She heard a groan and turned to find the responsible person to be a shirtless male. She tried to break free, but the arms only tightened around her waist.
"Who are you? You're not Braiden," the man said, looking Lucy in the eye for the first time.
Before she could respond she watched in horror as he scanned her body. She punched him in the jaw and struggled to get free. She heard a growl as she finally broke free from his arms and tried to stand. Turning to look back at the man on the floor she screamed as fangs slid down his gums and his eyes darkened.
"What are you?" she asked, grabbing a towel and walking backwards hesitantly.
"I'm a wolf baby, and I'm going to eat you up," he growled before lunging after her.