Cameron gazed down the aisle as his daughter, dressed in a fluffy white tulle gown, marched slowly toward him and dropping rose petals from a basket she clutched tightly before her. A crown of white and pink flowers adorned her dark brown hair that fell in soft ringlets around her sweet angelic face. Her smile was as bright as the sun with two missing front teeth and her eyes twinkled like stars. She had grown up so much in the last year and she continued to amaze him each day with her excitement and eagerness to live life to the fullest. He never could have imagined feeling so fulfilled as a father and Chloe brought out the best in him.
But he couldn’t have done it without Olivia.
When Chloe reached him at the altar, he picked her up, set her on his hip, and kissed her cheek before the music changed and Olivia appeared at the end of the aisle, her arm looped around her father’s.
She had managed to reach out to him last fall in hopes of rekindling some kind of relationship, no matter how strained, and invited him to their wedding. He agreed and had even come for a visit with his wife, daughter, and son at Christmas. Olivia’s sister in Japan and her husband and kids had also come for a visit to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. That was when Olivia announced her pregnancy, even though her mother knew and everyone in Cameron’s family knew.
Little Ollie came in the late spring, three weeks after Chloe’s birthday. Cameron couldn’t be more proud of his little male with his soft, wispy copper hair and pudgy little cheeks that begged to be kissed.
At first, Olivia didn’t believe Cameron when he told her she was pregnant a year ago. She had been on birth control pills but it seemed the pill was no match for the matebond and werewolf DNA. She was shocked, but happy nonetheless. Chloe was excited to have a little brother or sister too.
Being pregnant, however, meant that she wouldn’t be able to shift into a wolf and if he marked her before the delivery, she could lose the baby. They had to wait until after Oliver was born. Since Olivia had dreamed of one day getting married—an uncommon practice in the werewolf community—they decided that after Oliver was born, they would get married and seal the matebond before the moon rose in the sky.
Here they were now—a year after Oliver’s conception and Olivia’s acceptance of Cameron and who he was—getting married like she had dreamed.
And Goddess, was she stunning.
Olivia’s auburn curls were piled up on her head and tumbling down the sides between creamy white flowers woven into her hair. Her dress was an elegant, ivory gown with a sweetheart neckline that accentuated her voluptuous breasts and hugged her curves. Her smile was bright and her green eyes sparkled, holding his as she glided toward him.
When she reached him, she kissed her father’s cheek and handed over her bouquet in exchange for Oliver. He squirmed at first until he settled down on her shoulder as she cooed to him. When he sighed in contentment, she caught Cameron’s gaze and they turned to Alpha Noodin to begin the ceremony.
It was short and sweet and included the pups—just the way Olivia wanted it. Chloe loved being included too and received a kiss on her cheeks from both Olivia and Cameron after sealing their marriage vows with a kiss. Oliver received kisses as well and he yawned, half asleep on Olivia’s shoulder and drooling a little.
After the ceremony, pictures were taken and everyone gathered under a large white tent set up for the reception. Olivia wanted a small intimate wedding, so only close family and friends were invited. She knew, come nightfall, she would be welcomed by the entire pack after her first shift, but she wanted the wedding to be about them as a couple and as a family.
Cameron rubbed small circles in her lower back as they swayed slowly to the soft music of their first dance when her anxiety spiked up a bit. He could always tell she was thinking about her first shift. Even though she decided over the last few months to become a wolf like him, it still made her nervous. She had seen him shift numerous times but the only way for her to overcome her anxieties was to accept that the first shift would hurt. That was a fact no one could deny but it got easier over time.
She had to swallow that fear and tell it who’s boss.
Olivia’s mother didn’t know what they were and what her daughter would later become and it was going to stay that way. Secrecy was a way of life to them and Chloe was instructed to keep that part of her and Cameron a secret from everyone. Chloe liked being part of this “secret club” and pinkie-promised not to tell anyone—not even Olivia’s mother.
After dinner and toasts, they cut the cake and danced to a few slow songs before the reception wrapped up at sunset. A few more photos were taken with the bold colors behind them in the sky before they kissed Chloe and Oliver goodbye. They would be staying with Cameron’s parents tonight, while Olivia’s friends and family either returned home or stayed at the hotel in Aspen Beach or at the edge of the city. Had they been werewolves from another pack, they would have been invited to stay at one of the guest houses near the packhouse, but because they weren’t, the discovery of the pack’s secret wasn’t worth risking.
As everyone dispersed Cameron clasped Olivia’s hand after she kicked off her heels and headed home.
Home: where his little cabin sat at the edge of the woods that surrounded the valley with the packhouse in the middle. Home: where his children slept in the next room and his mate by his side. Home: where laughter filled each room and he was always greeted with kisses no matter how smelly or dirty he was after a long day of training and patrolling.
Within twenty yards of the front door, he scooped Olivia up off her feet and into his arms. She squealed in surprise as he carried her into the cabin. It was quiet for the first time in months. Not even a heartbeat existed beyond their own, but the scents of their family saturated every inch of it. Through the west-facing windows, the light from the setting sun bathed the living room in warmth. A few toys littered the corner of the room and one of Oliver’s blankets was draped on the arm of the couch.
Cameron carried her to their room before setting her feet down on the floor and pressing his forehead to hers. Her heart picked up speed the moment they entered and continued to beat rapidly within.
He had explained to her before what he would do after their wedding so it wouldn’t come as a shock, but he understood her nervousness nonetheless.
She would be giving up the world she knew in exchange for another. One that entailed secrets and a culture different from her own. Who wouldn’t be a little nervous to take that leap?
They may have done everything backward, but today they were doing everything according to tradition... or as close to tradition as they could with Olivia being human.
They would mate and he would mark her. When humans were to become werewolves, they typically saved this for the full moon as it was during the full moon that every werewolf would shift for the first time.
It would be only a matter of time after he marked her that she would shift and be able to mark him and seal the matebond.
Then the pack would gather together for a run—running together as one to celebrate and welcome the new member.
He brushed his fingers, soft as a feather, across her arms. She shivered as the hairs stood up on end in the wake of his caress. Electricity simmered below the surface, stirring her emotions with a static charge.
With his finger under her chin, he tilted her head up. His eyes held hers. “Are you scared?”
He kissed her forehead and then her lips. “Don’t be. This is the fun part. What comes after is something we all go through. Something that unites us all in the pack. You survived childbirth—twice—you can do this.”
“I know,” she whispered, closing her eyes and pressing her lips to his.
Cupping her cheeks in his palms, he slipped his tongue between her lips, deepening the kiss as he leaned into her, stealing away her anxieties one kiss at a time.
He undressed before helping her out of her laced-up gown and trailing kisses across her shoulder and lifting her out. Her legs wrapped around his hips as he carried her to their bed, ravishing her as their room fell into darkness. Reaching their climax, he sank his teeth into her shoulder as she cried out in ecstasy. All of her memories flooded over him as his body slumped over hers. Slowly releasing her shoulder, he watched each one pass before his mind as he bathed the wound with his tongue, sealing the mark.
He saw her parents fighting as a child. Crying at the news of her father leaving. Saw her working hard in school. Graduating. Memories filled with her mother and sister until her sister went to Japan to teach. He saw her passing exams and earning her real estate license. Selling her first house and celebrating.
And saw himself in her eyes. Staring back at her from a white picket fence.
His heartbeat quickened as he pulled himself up, hovering over her on the bed. “I see me,” he uttered and the astonishment on his face from the other side of the fence probably matched the expression on his face at that moment.
Olivia didn’t understand.
[I can see your memories,] he whispered into her mind and she gasped. [This is the mind-link that I told you about. I can also see your memories and you will see mine when you mark me.]
He saw a younger version of himself casting glances her way as she showed him around the town. Saw him blush. That made him chuckle. He’d never seen himself look so vulnerable and shy. He flirted, laughed easily with her, saw the subtle signs of his attraction and arousal to her.
“Oh my god! This is embarrassing!” Olivia cried and tried to wiggle out from under him.
“No, it’s not.” He pinned her hands down over her head. “I can understand even more now what you went through, and when you mark me, you will understand everything I went through. We will see the world in each other’s shoes. I can see your instant attraction to me and how exciting it was even though it was hard for you to grasp. You didn’t know we were soulmates.”
He watched them drink and eat food together, walk along the beach, dance in the club and tumble into the hotel room. He grinned into the crook of her neck as her memories of that night played in his mind like some erotic movie. His nuzzling stopped when she woke up the next morning, alone with only a scribbled note on her bedside table. He stiffened as the following days flashed by, making calls, and staring at a blank phone screen. Pain wrapped around his heart as her heartache reflected in the actions that followed. Staring off into space listlessly. Crying. Raging. Throwing up into a toilet. A positive pregnancy test.
“Shit,” he groaned, rolling off her and pulling her tightly into his arms as he watched the memories of her pregnancy play before him. Her conflicted emotions clashing with the struggle to keep food down with morning sickness. The sonogram of Chloe’s heartbeat made him whimper and cling to her more.
She laced her fingers through his hair. “What’s wrong?”
“I wish I had been there to hear her heartbeat the first time.”
Olivia nuzzled him and kissed his lips lightly as the memories continued to play through her pregnancy. Her stomach growing larger. Clothes no longer fitting. Major mood swings. Trying to be positive when all she wanted to do was break down and cry—which she did often, but only into her pillow at night, completely alone. Buying cute little outfits for baby girls. Struggling to get up from bed in the mornings. Holding her growing stomach in her hands and talking to the baby about how much she loved her and would love her always. Feeling like it was her against the world. Feeling more hopeful and excited the closer to her due-date despite decreased energy and difficulty sleeping. Her world revolving around this little being growing inside her. Pouring all of her love into her and suppressing the heartache of being used.
His eyes welled with tears when Chloe was placed in Olivia’s arms and he looked down at her for the first time. Absolute perfection and unconditional love and admiration filled him as he pulled Olivia into a tender kiss. The memories of Chloe’s growth continuing as if he had been there, seeing it all through Olivia’s eyes.
“I love you and Chloe and Ollie so much,” he whispered as years of memories played through his mind as he held her close.
“I know. I love you too. I wish you could have been there too.”
The full moon peeked in the window and broke the darkness with its faint silver light.
She shivered when the light touched her exposed flesh and Cameron knew it was time. Her body began to flare up with heat—the first sign of her impending shift.
“It’s starting,” he whispered as he pulled her to the edge of the bed before getting up and lifting her into his arms.
She wrapped her arms around his neck as he carried her out of their room and through the cabin to the sliding doors in the kitchen that led out to the backyard. Sweat began to bead across her skin and she shivered when the cool night air touched her feverish flesh.
He set her down on the soft grass, bathed in the soft light of the moon. The beads of sweat across her body glistened and he stared, stunned, by her beauty as the first red hair grew.
He watched her shift, full of love and pride and eagerness to feel the kiss of her teeth on his shoulder and seal the claim that had once been forgotten.
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