His Brother's Mate

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Chapter 8

As I opened the door, Baron’s large frame filled its entirety. “Dag nabbit!” I tilted my head back, letting the air out of my lungs slowly before looking back at Baron. “You know, by now, this kind of thing should not surprise me.”

Baron gave me a tight smile, flicking his eyes over my head to the man behind me. Looking back to me, he said, “I’ll be the one to take you to see Evan.”

For whatever reason, I thought it would be a good idea to turn around to Gavin, and blurt out, “I guess that makes two people who don’t mind my company.” Why did I sound so immature at that moment? The only thing missing was me sticking my tongue out.

The man’s eyes glowered at me, and Baron’s grumble was nearly as compelling to make me want to take those words back. And yet, there I stood as if this was a proud moment for me.

No matter the embarrassment that might have come over me, it was completely overshadowed by the utter elation I was feeling of being able to see my son. No other emotion could compete, and nothing else mattered. The moment Baron’s words sunk in, I could feel the tightness threatening to constrict my throat. The kind that made it nearly impossible to speak, but came with a burn to let you know what the price would be if you did. Even the imposing figure of Gavin as he stood before his desk could not distract me from the emotions that were swelling within me.

When I stalked away from the office, my instincts were my guide. I had no clue where I was heading, and was thankful when Baron’s long gait surpassed my own. Without missing a beat, I started following him.

Each step vibrated up my leg, and I could feel it as it climbed up my legs. My senses had never been so keen...so sharp. Every breath I took was filled with the clean scent of pine and the coming winter. The entire surface of my skin felt alive. The air surrounding me nuzzled against every exposed part of me as I worked at reigning in my pace to stay beside Baron instead of completely outpacing him and leaving him behind. All my senses seemed to be on high alert, anticipating this very moment. All but my taste.

My throat clenched even more as Baron led me to the front door. At this rate, I was worried that even air would find it difficult to find its way in and out of my chest. As determined as I was to see my son, even the lack of oxygen could not stop me. However, the anticipation was nearly bringing me to my knees.

Kids! I heard kids playing, and my heart thundered loudly in my chest. Baron cast a quick glance at me, the usual frown on his face, but this time he wore it a little more deep across his brow. I shook my head vigorously, he wasn’t going to stop me. I forbid it. I would have to be dead before I would let anyone prevent me from seeing my son.

When we headed out the door, he guided us swiftly to our right. We passed more than one miniature versions of the huge house we just left before I finally found what I was looking for.

My stomach flipped as a thousand butterflies swarmed to be in the small space all at once. The heart beats in my chest were rapid, its litany a near maddening pace. The constriction in my throat increased as I noticed all the small children playing on the huge playground devoted to them.

I froze. I had anticipated this moment for too long, and now I couldn’t move a muscle. Every part of my brain screamed for me to move, to run to my little boy, and yet my body would not yield. Staring dazedly, I watched the small frame of my son playing among the others. The giggles and laughter filled the air, and it gave my heart a little peace from the agony it had endured. He looked happy.

When he finally saw me, his smile spread over his face faster than lightning could strike. A sob caught in my throat as he started to run towards me. “Mommy!”

That broke the spell. It was all I needed to move forward, to let my legs function once more as I ran to the little guy that called to me. I ran, God but I ran. My legs could not carry me fast enough as I felt energy continue to thrum through me, my very being beyond craving for him to be wrapped in my arms and cradled against me.

When he was close enough that I could see the small dusting of freckles across his nose, I collapsed. My legs had no more to give, but I didn’t care. Crashing to my knees, my son flung himself into my arms, and I swear the whole world ceased to exist. Nothing else mattered but the little body I held in my arms as I crushed him against me.

Jumbled words tumbled from my mouth as I tried to convey how very much I missed him, but even I could not understand what I was saying. The heavy panting and sobs buried them in their wake, and the tears streamed past any inhibitions I might have had.

Pressing his head against my chest, I picked up on that ever familiar scent of his as I leaned forward to kiss his crown. It was home. It did not matter where on earth this boy was, he was home. Croaks and whines filled the space between us before I concluded that I was the one croaking, and he was the one whining.

“Mommy,” his little muffled voice came as he pushed gently against me. “I squished.”

His tiny voice was like healing balm to my very soul. I laughed through the croaking sobs, pulling him away from my chest just so I could memorize every detail of his face. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart,” I replied while brushing his bangs from his forehead.

He stepped closer to place his tiny hands on each side of my face. “Okay, mommy.” When he smiled at me, I felt like the roles of parent and child had been reversed. It was me that was crying, and he was the one trying to make it all better.

This brought another bout of tears and croaking laughter as I tried to remember who was the adult here. I missed him so much, and it took me losing him to realize how much I had come to depend on his innocence and unconditional love to get through each day of my life. My hands had minds of their own as they moved over his face, his hair, and his arms as though trying to determine if he was real.

“I’m just...so happy. I’ve missed you...so much.” My words struggled to come out, and I realized I was nearly gasping for air. Every word that struggled past my lips came with a painful awareness.

When his face pinched, I could see the uncertainty there. Of course it was there. He had never seen me like this before. I didn’t want to scare my son, but the intense reaction to seeing him was nearly crippling me. I had to pull myself together.

Grabbing his hands, I let my body relax as I sat against my feet. Smiling, I wiped the tears off my cheeks using the shoulders of my shirt. There was no way I was letting him go unless someone forced me to.

After a moment had passed, and I could feel myself breathing a little easier, I leaned forward and let my forehead rest against his little one. “I was so worried I would never see you again.” The words were there before I remembered that I was trying not to scare him.

“Home now,” he grinned at me.

His words were innocent enough, and there was no doubt he believed what he was saying. It only made an ache creep in that replaced the one that I thought I had just vanquished. He thought this was home.

“Ah, baby. This is not our home. We don’t belong here.”

While I spoke, I did a quick scan of the area. From here, I could not make out any vehicles that we might be able to borrow to get us back to civilization. Internally, I grumbled at the unfortunate find. I guess that meant we would have to hike down the mountain then. Would Evan be able to make the hike once night fell, and the temperature right along with it? Would I?

Baron stood not too far from me, wearing his usual frown. The man had yet to truly smile in my presence, and I wondered if he was even capable of it. The speculation vanished as quickly as it came. At the forefront of my mind was how I was going to get my son and I back home. Maybe Devon?

My whole body was vibrating, and my skin tingled. I raised my eyes skyward just moments before I closed them. Since I have been here, my body only seemed to react that way when a certain someone was near. And, they only got worse as he grew near.

Holding Evan tightly to me, I turned towards where I expected him to be coming from. I was not disappointed. Promptly, I turned my back to him and started marching away. I didn’t care where I was heading, just somewhere away from him.

“Unless you are here to offer a ride down the mountain, don’t bother.” My legs felt like spaghetti from moments before, and they struggled to maintain my quick pace. The man did not try to stop me, just strode behind me as I searched for anything that would help my escape. “You can’t stop me, so don’t even think about it,” I goaded.

“I won’t have to,” he replied, a smile in his voice. It both sounded amazing and inhibiting.

Whirling to face him, I put on my best scowl. “And just what does that mean?”

Evan started to squirm in my arms as he reached out an arm towards Gavin. It both shocked and disappointed me. When Gavin turned a brilliant smile on my son, I was amazed. It was stunning.

“Hey, my little pentu. How is your lessons going?” The man spoke with love and admiration for Evan, and it made me want to hurl something at him.

The normally shy Evan had no qualms opening up to the man before us. “Fun,” he spoke with delight as his blue eyes sparkled.

When Gavin reached out to ruffle his hair, I stepped away from him. There was too much of a risk that he might try to take him from me, and I was not about to let that happen. “You can’t have him. I won’t let you take him from me again,” I snarled at him.

Maintaining his calm demeanor, he slipped his hands into the front pockets of his dress slacks pockets as he leveled his gaze on me. “First, I don’t intend on taking Evan from you.”

I scoffed in disbelief. “You already did!”

Without moving his head, he let his gaze slide to Evan before addressing me once more. “No, what I did was to protect him.”

The anger bubbled up within me, and I knew I was about to blow a gasket. Evan was still clutched in my arms, and I really did not want him to see me lose it on this man. Closing my eyes so that I did not have to watch his expression or feel that pull that beckoned me to him, I tried to keep as much calm in my tone as I could manage. “Protect him from what, exactly?” I ground out with barely controlled anger underlying the words. “From me, his own mother?”

“From the people that my brother had been protecting you and Evan from for years.” The words were nearly whispered, with an ache there that hit me. My heart felt heavy, and was nearly as moved by his words as his tone suggested he was.

My eyes flew open to meet his gaze, and those enigmatic sapphires pierced my own. The pull intensified, and I could feel my whole body crave to be closer to him, to offer a comfort I did not have to give. The little boy in my arms came first, and it became my mantra as it rolled through my head as a constant reminder to fight the effects this man had on me. Evan comes first!

“Take us home, Gavin. My brother and I can protect Evan.”

The answer was clear before he even spoke. His jaw clenched, and I could see the muscle tighten as he glared at me. “Your brother could not even prevent you from being taken with only a fraction of my men in attendance. How do you think he can protect you and Evan from a whole pack?”

“A whole pack of what exactly? What are you all into that Evan and I are at risk?”

Gavin watched me for more than a minute, scanning my features before he finally responded. “It doesn’t matter. But, to answer your question, you won’t be able to get down the mountainside anytime soon with that storm approaching. Even if you drove, you would hit the storm head on, and be buried before morning.” He nodded his head towards my son. “You wouldn’t want to take Evan down tonight, regardless of how badly you want to get away from me.”

My mouth popped open to say something, but I never got a chance to utter a word. “Ms Phoebe Moone is here with her father to talk about your upcoming nuptials. Should we set her up in her usual room?” Baron turned uncertain eyes towards me, but he was all too attuned to the man that he now stood beside.

My jaw fell open. I could not tell you why I was shocked, hurt, and angry all at once, but those emotions together caused me to be very ill-tempered. “Phoebe? The Phoebe?”

He ignored me, and Baron only gave me another quick curious glance before he turned his attention back to Gavin. “No, send her to the guest quarters in the west wing.”

“The west wing, sir?”

His chest rumbled, and Baron turned his head as he looked to the ground, almost like he was baring his neck to Gavin. “Are you questioning me?”

“No sir.” He kept his head down and backed away to see to the arrangements of Phoebe Moon. “I will get Cordi right on that.”

“You are marrying her!” I could not prevent the shock and betrayal I felt seeping into every word I spat out.

“Would you prefer I marry you?” His tone was smooth, seductive, and full of promise. I could feel my body melting at the very words...not for what was said, but for how the dulcet tones of his words drifted over me. My body flushed as a heat spread through me.

Evan comes first!

“No,” I said with more than a little effort. “I would prefer to go home.” I swiveled on my heels. The need to put space between us was nearing urgent. Starting to march away towards the building, I tossed over my shoulder, “In the meantime, Evan stays with me!”

“Darla will fetch Evan at six a.m. sharp for his lessons. Be sure he is ready.” There was a pause behind me as I found myself huffing at his command. I continued to head towards my quarters before Gavin added, “And, Ms. Vasil?” I turned my head slightly as I stopped walking briefly. “Don’t go venturing around the manor without someone with you at all times. I would suggest staying out of the West Wing.”

Of course he would, I grumbled. He would not want me to speak to his fiance about his behavior. At any rate, I had no desire to run into the woman that set in motion those events over four years ago, though I would never regret Evan. No, until the storm passed over, it looked like I was going to be a hermit in my own quarters. Great!

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