I had been leaning against Dean’s strong back for more than an hour as my eyelids became impossible to keep open. The tranquil sound of his bike’s engine sounded like a peaceful symphony to my ears and had been lulling me to sleep.
I drowsily inhaled the relaxing aroma of leather and freshly cut pine that seemed to radiate from his pores. After securing my hands around his waist tightly, I took a moment to appreciate the rock hard abs that were kissing my fingertips.
I’m in heaven
Being this close to Dean was simply intoxicating. The power and dominance that hummed through his veins would’ve been enough to singe my skin if I hadn’t been so infatuated with him. I was glad that he wasn’t the big scary Alpha that I thought he was when we first met.
We had been driving down a long stretch of road that eventually faded into worn down gravel. Dense trees and ominous thicket surrounded us from both sides as we drove directly into the heart of a forest.
Butterflies pounded against the thin lining of my stomach as we began to slow down a bit. The husky scent of Lycan blanketed the dark trees around me and I knew that we had to be close.
I had been extremely excited to see the main pack, but now that we were almost there I was beginning to feel a little uneasy.
What if they don’t accept me? I thought critically.
Even after two months of being on my best behavior, some members of the travel pack still hated me. I had nearly been killed last night by Nick’s wolf due to his deep seeded prejudice and I couldn’t help but wonder what may happen to me if there were others that felt the same.
A decrepit building came into view ahead of us. There were lengthy cracks in the cement walls of the little hut and dense greenery decorated the outside. It seemed to be some sort of communal garage as it’s large double doors opened automatically upon our arrival. Rows of shiny motorcycles were lined perfectly inside.
Dean led us to a complete stop in front of the tiny shack. He allowed his engine to idle for a bit as he watched the rest of his pack file into the tiny building. Everyone stopped their bikes and threw their belongings over their shoulders before walking out in a beaming group.
“I have a few things I need to take care of before I go in,” Dean turned to explain to me. “Why don’t you walk in with them?”
“Oh,” I murmured while climbing off of Roxy. “Uh, sure. Okay.”
He gave me a supportive smirk before repositioning himself to continue riding alone. Before driving off, he locked eyes with Embry and spoke to him firmly.
“Keep an eye on her,” he ordered. “Don’t leave her side. She’ll be staying with you until we can make other arrangements.”
“You got it boss!” Embry chimed while throwing a heavy arm around my shoulders. “Officer Embry, at your service!”
Dean rolled his eyes slightly, giving him a very youthful glow. He gave me a final once over before speeding off into the darkening night.
What a cutie, I smiled internally.
I thought it was incredibly sweet that he took the time to make sure I’d be kept safe during his absence and while I would never admit it, I was very thankful that he had ordered Embry to stay by my side.
I was an Ailuran getting ready to enter a pack of werewolves. There was no telling how everyone would react to my presence and the thought of having such a big scary guy as my own personal body guard did make me feel a bit better.
Nick, Dawn, and the omegas began their descent into the thick forest, leaving us in the dark storage area. My breathing hitched a bit as Embry slid my backpack into my arms and nudged me forward.
“Ready, doll face?” He inquired while flashing a cheesy grin.
I met his large silver orbs with my own and shrugged. I felt like I was on the verge of having a panic attack as thoughts of being torn to shreds by a pack of werewolves played through my mind on a lethal loop.
“Hey,” Sam piped in from beside me. “It’ll be fine. Nothings gonna happen.”
“You don’t know that,” I muttered. “What if they hate me?”
“Then they can go fuck themselves,” she shrugged nonchalantly.
“And if anyone tries to mess with you, I will personally kick their ass.” Embry added while fake punching the air.
I giggled and nudged him back before locking arms with Sam. With the newfound confidence of my two best friend’s flowing through me, I gathered the strength to trudge forward.
“Atta girl!” Sam chirped, bumping me with her hip playfully. “Look at you, being all brave.”
“Don’t get used to it,” I sighed. “I’m still scared shitless.”
“Don’t worry, mittens.” Embry whispered into my ear as he rested one of his burly arms around me. “Just stick with me and you’ll be safe.”
“Yeah, until your groupies show up and claw her eyes out!” Sam scoffed and rolled her shiny blue eyes.
“Groupies?” I gasped dramatically.
“I don’t have groupies,” he assured.
“Bullshit!” Sam hissed. “You let those girls fawn all over you day in and day out.”
“They just like to help me out once in a while,” he sighed. “What’s wrong with that?”
“Help you out? They practically worship the ground you walk on!” Sam teased.
“No they-!” Embry began.
“Oh Delta Fletcher, I watered your plants while you were gone!” Sam mimicked in a very high pitched voice. “Delta Fletcher, I did your laundry! Would you like me to wipe your ass for you too?”
“Shut up!” Embry chortled.
“Wait, your last name is Fletcher?” I snickered.
“It’s a family name!” He exclaimed. “I know you’re not talking Mrs. Butt-ram!”
“Hey! That is not my name!” I snapped. “You couldn’t pay me to marry that asshole.”
“I bet all of your groupies would be swarming to marry you,” Sam smirked.
“Again with the groupies! They’re just friends!” Embry argued while running a nervous hand through his lengthy dark locks.
“I didn’t know friends went down on each other,” Sam snipped.
“Wait what?!” I snorted.
“It was one time!” Embry stammered. “I was drunk! That wasn’t my fault! I was basically attacked if you really think about it.”
“Oh, you poor thing.” Sam fake pouted. “You’re right, you should file a harassment claim to Alpha and have those bitches taken care of.”
“I didn’t say that!” He groaned. “Why are you so jealous? If you want me all to yourself, all you gotta do is ask.”
“Jealous?!” Sam scoffed. “Ha! Yeah, right! Like I care who you fuck!”
“Really?” I challenged. “If you don’t care then why did you freak out when you thought we were screwing?”
“I didn’t freak out!” She denied. “I just couldn’t believe you’d be desperate enough to climb into bed with this oversized STD!”
“That’s hilarious coming from the one that used to crawl into bed with me every night,” Embry blurted.
“Fuck you!” Sam snarled.
“You already did that, sweetheart.” He winked playfully.
“Whoa, WHAT?!” I yelled, pulling both of them to a stop in the middle of the woods. “You guys slept together?!”
“Oh, yeah!” Embry smiled triumphantly. “Many times.”
“NO!” She screamed.
“She uses me every time she goes into heat and then throws me away like a cheap whore,” Embry explained while fake crying.
“Shut up!” Sam snapped as a deep blush began to light up her rosy cheeks.
“Sam!” I gasped.
“I don’t want to talk about it!” She shouted before storming forward.
“I cannot believe you!” I laughed loudly while following her. “You hussy!”
“Fuck off!” Sam snapped. “I’m not gonna stand here and get judged by the girl that had her head in Alpha’s lap all night!”
The rest of the pack that had been traveling ahead of us turned to stare directly at me with wide eyes. The omegas were stifling grins while Dawn’s mouth fell open in shock. Nick simply glared for a moment before shaking his head and curling his lip at me in disgust. My face burned as embarrassment consumed me.
“That is NOT what happened!” I hissed at Sam.
“Mhm,” she rolled her eyes. “Then what was that white stuff on your chin?”
“Drool!” I snipped.
“Wow, pussy cat!” Embry cackled. “Sleeping with the boss! That’s just low!”
“No!” I shook my head. “I didn’t-! That’s not-!”
“Explains a lot,” Nick growled before grabbing his mate’s hand and sauntering forward.
I scowled angrily at Sam who shot me a bitchy grin before walking ahead of me. Embry was still giggling and I shoved his arms off of me in annoyance.
“Oh, don’t be like that kitten.” He pouted. “We’re just messing with ya!”
“I hate both of you,” I uttered with tight lips.
“Love you too!” Sam clipped before reaching a massive metal barrier.
The shiny wall seemed to be crafted entirely out of silver and stood at about ten to fifteen feet tall. It cut across the forest in a lengthy line that had no end.
I followed the group closely as everyone made their way toward a set of giant metal doors. Nick reached the entrance way first, carefully moving some hanging brush aside to reveal an advanced touch screen that was built into the opening.
He quickly entered a code and allowed the small device to scan his thumb before moving back a bit. A loud buzzer sounded from above the wall as the creaky doors began to separate slowly, releasing a considerable amount of dust and debris as it opened.
Thunderous cheers and howls boomed from inside and my heart began to pound in my chest like a wild drum. I hugged my backpack tightly as I struggled to control my breathing.
Dawn ran inside excitedly while Nick stayed behind to allow all of us to enter ahead of him. He growled a bit when I passed, but a quick glare from Embry shut him up. He stuck close to me as Sam returned to my side, looping my arm with hers.
“Stay calm,” Embry soothed as we entered the pack walls. “They always do this to welcome us home. It’ll be over soon.”
“Just keep your eyes down,” Sam added while pulling me inside.
Upon entering, our group was engulfed by a tide of hooting lycans. There had to be hundreds waiting on the other side of the wall, smiling widely as they looked upon us.
Nick pulled a heavy lever to close the doors behind us before strutting forward to join his wife. Dawn was clutching her long ebony waves as she searched the crowd desperately with her dark brown eyes. After struggling for several moments to see anything with her short frame, she hopped onto her mate’s back and continued to scour the rallying horde from the air.
“My babies!” She screamed happily as she jumped off of Nick’s shoulders and bolted into the sea of people.
Two teenagers emerged with giant smiles plastered upon their faces as Dawn threw her arms around their necks, pulling them into a tight embrace.
She held a boy and a girl who seemed to be about the same age, being no older than seventeen as they nuzzled into Dawn’s neck affectionately. They both had evenly tanned skin and mocha colored eyes that were adorned with flecks of shiny gold. They also had long dark brown hair but while the girl allowed hers to hang in soft waves, the boy had pulled his into a slick man bun and shaved the sides of his head.
“Oh, my loves!” Dawn wept. “How are you? Are you hurt? Did you do your chores? Have you been training? Did either of you-?”
“They’re fine!” Nick assured her with a grin while pulling his son into a solid hug.
The girl threw her arms around Nick’s neck and he pulled her into his thick grasp, twirling her around like a little kid at a daddy daughter dance before setting her back onto the sidewalk.
“Hey dad, guess what!” She chirped, sounding a lot like Dawn. “I beat Ryder in a sparring match!”
“Is that so?” Nick asked, sounding both proud and surprised.
“It was a cheap shot!” The boy, who I assumed to be Ryder, argued. “Rayne didn’t even declare the match! She just snuck up out of nowhere!”
“Oh, I’m sure mijo.” Dawn empathized while wrapping her arm around her son’s waist. “You two can have a rematch after dinner, I’m making tamales!”
“Thank the Goddess!” Rayne declared excitedly.
“Yes!” Ryder cheered. “Thanks mom!”
I watched in amusement as the four of them faded into the crowd with their arms wrapped around each other. For some reason I never considered Nick to be the family type. He was always a snarling asshole when I was around, but seeing the way he interacted with his kids kind of reminded me of how things used to be with my dad.
Good for him, I thought cheerfully.
I let Embry and Sam continue to lead me through the crowd expertly, keeping our heads down as we walked. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a small child running toward our group at full speed. The little boy sprinted as fast as he could, being closely followed by a pale woman with long copper colored hair.
“Daddy!” The child cried as he threw himself into Shane’s waiting arms.
Bright teeth pierced through Shane’s ragged beard as he beamed widely at his son. If he had decided to shave, he and the boy could’ve been twins. They had the same long black hair and slanted eyes, while the kid had a few light beauty marks that must’ve come from his mother.
The red headed woman finally caught up to her child and slid her freckled arms around Shane’s waist as she pulled him into a passionate kiss. Once he had broken away from his mate’s alluring spell, he lifted his son onto his shoulders and weaved through the crowd with his tiny family.
An older woman with snow white hair and dark brown skin hobbled toward us, grasping her shaky cane like a lifeline. I considered running over to help her, but Bobby beat me to it.
“Mom, I done told you to stop coming out here to greet me!” He reprimanded while pulling the woman into a soft hug.
“You know I want to be the first one to see you when you get home,” the frail woman replied with a shaky smile as she pulled her son down to leave a sloppy kiss on his cheek. “Come on now, dinners waiting.”
Bobby smiled as he gripped his mother’s walking stick and carefully supported her weight as they made their way home. He skillfully navigated the streets and disappeared into the depths of the pack.
“Mama’s boy,” Sam sneered quietly beside me.
“Don’t be such a bitch,” I whispered.
“Whatever,” she rolled her eyes and tugged me forward. “Hurry up, we should get out of here.”
Embry pulled me closer to his side possessively while allowing a small warning growl to vibrate through his chest. Not knowing what the hell had gotten into him, I followed his gaze to see several angry lycans staring back at me.
The scowling eyes of countless wolves were studying my every move. The previous cheering had stopped as many of them sniffed the air and sneered at my scent, likely hating the idea of a werecat infiltrating their sacred home.
“What the hell is that doing here?” I heard one woman whisper scornfully.
“Cat,” a man snarled lowly.
“Outsider,” another man hissed.
The words floated around the crowd like an offensive mist and it nearly brought tears to my eyes. I’d felt hated before, but never like this.
I sunk closer to Embry as he continued to lead us through the herd of furious wolves. He bared his canines a bit at some of the angrier faces, warning them to stay away. Most parted like the red sea as we passed while a few decided to stand their ground, forcing us to maneuver around them.
A woman toward the front spat at my feet, earning a vicious snarl from Sam. She lunged forward and raked her claws at the woman, causing her to fall back as she missed her face by mere centimeters.
“What bitch?!” Sam snapped. “You got a fucking problem?!”
The woman continued to shoot daggers at me from the ground as we passed. A small group of women were waiting at the very end of the crowd, one of which was resting a hand on her hip while tapping her foot impatiently.
“Oh no,” Sam muttered.
“Delta Fletcher,” the furious woman greeted Embry sweetly while continuing to rest a fidgeting hand on her flat hip.
“Megan,” Embry acknowledged before motioning to pass her.
The woman had long stringy brown hair that was in dire need of conditioner. She glanced at me slightly, looking me up and down with her muted hazel eyes before looking back at him.
“I watered your plants while you were away,” she smiled at Embry while doing her best to ignore Sam and I.
“I don’t have any plants,” Embry replied curtly.
“I planted some for you during your last trip,” a pudgy girl with short yellow hair chimed in from behind Megan. “Don’t you remember?”
“Oh, yeah!” Embry pretended to recall. “Thanks Judy.”
“I trimmed your grass while you were away,” another brunette with short bangs smiled.
“Thanks Abby,” Embry sighed.
“And I-!” A short woman with a purple pixie cut began but was cut off.
“Oh dear Goddess!” Sam scoffed. “Did you bring his mother back from the dead too?! Nobody gives a shit! We have things to do so get out of the fucking way!”
“You don’t own him!” Megan snarled. “He can stand here and talk to us if he wants, bitch!”
“What did you just-!” Sam snarled.
“Sam!” I exclaimed while pulling her back slightly.
“Alright, that’s enough.” Embry huffed while trying to defuse the situation. “She’s right. I have a new pack member that I need to show around so we really should be going.”
“Please tell me you’re not talking about that feline!” Megan hissed, making the word sound like it burned her mouth as she said it.
“Her name is Tessa,” Sam snapped. “And she’s staying whether you like it or not! So you can all get the fuck over it!”
Several throaty growls and displeasured barks erupted from the crowd as Embry nudged me forward. Megan stood in front of us, blocking our path.
“You’ve got to be joking!” She mocked. “That thing won’t last a week.”
"She will be just fine,” Embry rebuked. “Because she was hand chosen by your Alpha to be a part of this pack! Now you don’t have to like her, but you sure as hell better show her the proper respect she deserves or you’ll have me to deal with. Am I understood?”
“Yes Delta,” Megan replied meekly while shooting her gaze to the ground.
Without another word, Embry and Sam led me past the army of pissed off lycans. We walked down the empty streets of a quaint little town in the middle of the woods. Small cottages and motel-like buildings lined the sidewalks with a massive courtyard set directly in the heart of the sleeping city.
We cut across a large plot of freshly trimmed grass and passed a glistening lake that mirrored the light of the hanging moon above. After a brisk fifteen minute walk, we came upon a large brick house at the very edge of town.
A big mahogany porch sat at the front of the mini mansion, and beautifully colored flowers grew in exquisite pots in the front yard. Embry trotted forward with his keys jingling as he unlocked the front door.
Sam led me inside and ordered me to remove my shoes before entering. Sufficiently shoeless, Embry gave me a short tour of his humble abode.
A grand staircase stood directly in front of the doorway, with a pristinely cleaned sitting area to the left of it. A small dining room stood at the right of the door, and a gorgeous white bathroom was tucked beneath the steps.
“Wow,” I breathed quietly. “This is your house?”
“Yeah,” Embry shrugged. “I didn’t pick it, but it’s okay. This is more of the business part of it though, I’m never in here.”
“The living rooms in the back,” Sam added while leading me past the dining room and kitchen.
We walked into a small hallway behind the bathroom and entered a large room full of plush furniture. A giant flat screen TV hung on the opposing wall and a fabulous in-home bar stood to my right. The room smelled like liquor and Embry, giving me the idea that he likely spent most of his time in this area while he was home.
“Welcome to my pride and joy!” Embry beamed while entering. “Feel free to make yourself at home, kitten. But just so you know, I do have two rules!”
“Um, okay.” I chuckled nervously. “What are they?”
“One, don’t smoke my cigars!” He cautioned while lightly tapping a wooden box on the bar. “And two-!”
“Don’t sit in his chair!” Sam finished while plopping down into the worn seat of a faded recliner.
“Seriously?!” Embry gasped while staring at her in shock.
“What?” She questioned. “It’s comfy!”
I giggled at their little banter and watched Embry rub his temples in annoyance. He sauntered over and lifted Sam out of his chair effortlessly before dropping her onto the faded sectional in the corner and settling into his leather throne. I took a seat next to a chortling Sam and continued to study the room before speaking.
“So am I sleeping in here or on the couch in the front room?” I asked casually, not wanting to carry my bags around like a baby all night.
“Couch?” Embry furrowed his brow in confusion. “You’re sleeping with me baby doll!”
I held his gaze for a long time before he was reduced to a puddle of laughs.
“I’m just messing with ya!” He admitted. “Here, let me show you to your room.”
“My room?” I questioned.
“Uh, yeah?” Sam rolled her eyes.
“You guys don’t need to give me a room, seriously. I can sleep on the couch!” I attempted to argue but she had already grabbed my bags and was dragging me out of the room.
“If I wouldn’t let you sleep on the floor, what the hell makes you think I’m gonna let you sleep on a crusty ass couch?” Embry asked while bounding up the stairs.
Once we had reached the top, there was a door directly to my left that revealed a small bathroom. We passed two more doors before he turned one of the golden knobs and entered.
“Here ya go!” He called from inside.
The room was painted a muted blue color, somewhat resembling Sam’s ocean eyes. There was a large queen sized bed set to the left with plush white sheets and pillows on top of it. There was a small bathroom to the right of the door with a roomy walk-in closet beside it. A massive balcony that overlooked the entire forest stood at the opposite end of the bed, giving a beautiful view of the outdoors.
“Holy shit Embry,” I gasped. “I can’t stay here.”
“Why?” He questioned curiously while looking around. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing!” I exclaimed. “It’s just way too much! I can’t accept this!”
He and Sam rolled their eyes in unison as she opened my backpack and started unpacking for me.
“It’s yours,” Sam assured me. “Get over it!”
“But I-!” I tried to argue.
“Tess, this is your home.” Embry assured. “You’re a part of our family now so stop throwing a hissy fit every time we try to help you.”
“I just don’t want to impose,” I admitted. “You guys have already done way too much for me.”
“It’s nothing,” he waved. “I told Alpha you could stay with me weeks ago. It’s really not an issue! Besides, I like having you around.”
“You’re staying bitch,” Sam chimed while hanging my clothes in the nearby closet. “Now help me unpack your stuff so we can go downstairs and get shit faced!”
Tears stung my eyes at their hospitality. I had never felt so accepted and loved in my entire life.
“Thank you,” I sniffled, reaching out to give Embry a big hug.
He enveloped me in a tight embrace and murmured something about him having my back no matter what against my hair. After taking a few minutes to pull myself together, I let him go and started unpacking with Sam so we could begin our long night of partying.