Chapter 5: Roses have Thorns
“Would you please sit down,” pined Lazarus as he watched his big brother pacing in front of him.
Isaiah’s mood was sizzling like a slow-cooker on high fire. He was ready to turn this house upside down and run to Zeiden who had taken Ronin and Adrik to eliminate the Calvary dealers. Lazarus instructed that Isaiah stay back since he was a very prominent figure that many recognized. If the paparazzi or the dealers got a whiff that he was at the Calvary’s dealership, the rumours would be very difficult to handle. Isaiah hated the idea of him staying back and he wanted to go with them. But Lazarus was even more stubborn than Isaiah.
Two hours had passed since they all left. No phone call came because it would be dangerous if one of them called during the mission.
“Why aren’t they back yet?” asked Isaiah through clenched teeth.
Lazarus looked up from his phone for the hundredth time. “Zeiden, Adrik and Ronin are very meticulous,” he said. “You know how they get during a mission. They probably wanted to be very thorough while purging the dealership.”
Isaiah crossed his tense arms. His pacing had finally stopped, but almost instantly, his foot started to tap irritably. “Zeiden could at least send a text our way,” complained Isaiah.
Lazarus looked at his brother with a defeated expression. “How is the man supposed to text you if he’s in the middle of a mission?”
“It’s not that hard,” barked Isaiah. “Those damn pups. Let them come home.”
“Take it easy, Isaiah,” said Lazarus. “They know what they’re doing, that’s why you sent them.”
Isaiah shook his head. “Zeiden is still as reckless as before,” he critiqued. “He’s too young to go on these missions.”
Lazarus raised a brow. “Father sent us on mission before we even learned to walk,” he said sarcastically, but he wasn’t far off from the truth.
“That was different,” grumbled Isaiah. “Zeiden hasn’t had the type of training, we’ve had. He’s in over his head, and he has that walk that tells me from a mile away that he’s reckless.”
Lazarus snickered. “The boy just needs time to refine his skills,” he said. “But if we don’t send him to do these missions, then he won’t learn.”
Isaiah shot a glare at Lazarus who kept arguing against him. “Why do you find it necessary to fight me on this?” he asked.
Lazarus held his hands up. “I’m just telling you to cool down,” he said.
“I can’t cool down, when those brats can’t even send me a text, just to let me know that their heads are still attached to their bodies,” Isaiah grated out each word out through the bitter taste in his mouth.
“I understand, brother,” said Lazarus. “But you don’t want to handle this situation like how our father would.”
The silence in the room festered that it suffocated Isaiah with its weight. He turned away from his brother and looked down to the hearth of the fireplace.
“I would never do what that man did to us,” Isaiah vowed firmly like he always has been.
Lazarus sighed resignedly. “I know,” he believed. “But we need to be able to handle our wolves with level heads-” A ping broke the silence between them- “There. You see, he texted that they’re back.”
The rear door opened and the three men Isaiah spent two long hours waiting for strutted inside. They all faced the alpha and the beta with no idea of what just went down.
“Why’d you take so long?” asked Lazarus.
“We had to stake out longer than we thought,” answered Zeiden. “It was hard to get through the security detail at the building too. So, Adrik and Ronin had to go through the back entrance to make an opening for me.”
Isaiah bit back all his festering rage, that he wanted to burn them with right now. “Where. Was. Your. Phone?” he asked with every ounce of power trying to calm himself down. Just so he wouldn’t do what their father used to do, if they didn’t follow orders straight.
“We turned them off,” said Ronin.
“But when we entered the building, there was a router that broke all of our signals,” answered Zeiden.
Isaiah swallowed down his exasperation. Very carefully, he looked at them. “Next time, text me so I don’t have to stand here worrying for two hours,” he ordered sternly.
Ronin, Zeiden and Adrik all nodded. They headed up to their bedrooms to freshen up and erase the clothes they went to the dealership with, so there wasn’t any evidence left of them.
“That wasn’t so bad,” commended Lazarus.
Isaiah seethed furiously. “I’m going to train Zeiden more from now on,” he barked. “That pup needs to stop being so cocky.”
Lazarus laughed. “He’s just like you when we were younger,” he remarked.
“I wasn’t careless like him,” rebuked Isaiah.
“Please, who are you trying to fool,” remarked Lazarus. “I was there with you on every mission. So, I’d have to pick up after you’d destroy the place.”
Isaiah’s frown turned into a sulking pout. He knew that during his days out in the field that he was pretty wild, but he was trained to the bone- his father made sure of that. There was never a day where Isaiah wasn’t training to be a better fighter. His father would be the one pushing him to the brink of death every day. Sometimes, Isaiah would collapse during pack fights and his father would just leave him there to recuperate. Isaiah knew that those days were rough. But because of them, he was a skilled fighter that could get through any dangerous situation with skill. Isaiah cursed his dead father, but the weapon Isaiah trained to be helped him all his life as an alpha.
“I still feel sick to my stomach when I remember him,” muttered Isaiah.
Lazarus laid his hand on Isaiah’s shoulder. “You don’t need to remember that man,” he said.
Isaiah gazed into his brother’s firm emerald eyes. He could see their past swimming between those hard eyes that saw the same trauma as Isaiah. These two had crawled out of hell together, so there was no need to share what they both already knew.
“We should probably start cooking the barbecue before your girlfriend gets here,” remarked Lazarus with a chuckle.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Isaiah pushed back.
Lazarus raised a brow. “Then why do watch her like she is?”
“I don’t know,” he tried defended himself but failed. “She’s a klutz wherever she goes. I feel like she’ll break a leg if I don’t keep an eye on her.”
“I never expected someone like her could handle our group,” said Lazarus. “We’re all pretty hardcore.”
“I know,” said Isaiah. “But it doesn’t seem to waver her spirit.”
“She’s a sweet girl though,” said Lazarus. “For some reason being around her feels right. She doesn’t make us feel like we’re abnormal or that our past is traumatic enough to give her nightmares.”
A smile crept up Isaiah’s frown. “She really knows how to keep it lively,” he said fondly.
“Isaiah, have you ever thought that-” Lazarus froze.
“What?” he urged his brother to continue. But for some reason, Isaiah had an idea what he was about to ask.
“Do you think she’s your mate?” asked Lazarus.
Isaiah shifted his eyes to the dying fire. “I don’t know,” he lied. Isaiah had a deep feeling in his gut that, Ashley was the piece that was missing from him heart, soul and his wolf- that was clawing at Isaiah to claim her all to himself.
“I think you do,” remarked Lazarus. It was clear as day to Lazarus that his brother was smitten for this young, bright woman. “Ashley calms all of our wolves down,” he said. “That’s the sigh of an alpha-female.”
“Do you really believe that someone like me could even find a mate?” he asked dourly.
Lazarus frowned deepened. “What do you mean by that, brother?”
Isaiah’s hands and body grew cold even though he was near the fire. “Why would someone like me, who killed his entire family get blessed with a mate?” he asked his brother. “And on top of that, I meet a girl as innocent as a flower. Ashley has lived her entire life in the light. Would it be fair to drag her in the darkness we’re in?”
“We ran away from our twisted path not wondering where life would take us back then. But look at us now, Isaiah. We built a home, a pack and it was all on our own,” Lazarus said. “You killed evil people to protect your brothers. I have never met a more selfless and honourable person than you-” Lazarus moved away from the fire, he turned his back to his brother- “I don’t know what we would have done if we continued to live with our father. Zeiden would have been killed off because he’s such a free spirit. Adrik would have turned into a monster. You and I would have continued to lose our brothers, sisters and pack mates. When you killed our father who was torturing us, we saw the light in you. A light that burns in all of us now-” Lazarus turned and locked eyes with Isaiah- “You’re our light, brother. Now, it’s your turn to find happiness because you fucking deserve it. I’ve never seen you more calm and peaceful than the way you are with Ashley. If she makes you happy, then cherish it and protect her, like how we protect your back.”
Isaiah’s been trained to show no emotions. Normally, people would start to shed tears and probably hug. But Isaiah didn’t know how to show affection like normal people would. So, he put his hand on his brother’s shoulder.
Lazarus shook his head as he laughed in disbelief. “We better not start saying sappy lines,” he said as he sauntered off.
“I was concerned that you might start,” remarked Isaiah with a chuckle.
“Jerk!” Lazarus barked back from the kitchen.
Isaiah watched his brother walk off into the house, that wasn’t a war zone day-in and day-out anymore. They may have had to endure a traumatic past. But that was no more. They had escaped that reality and had shaped their lives into something better. And at the end, Isaiah believed that was all that mattered now.
Isaiah grabbed the match of the ledge and relit the fire to a tremendous height. Isaiah’s thoughts wandered back to this morning. He had gone on a mission and had finished gathering intel on the Calvary dealership. They made it out before lunch, and Isaiah headed to the car before Lazarus and the others. On his way back, through the crowd of people he had smelt that warm cinnamon sugar mixed with roses. Isaiah had frozen in his steps because he knew that Ashley was close to him. He could feel it in his bones and his wolf had stopped its pacing in order to smell the scent too. At that moment, who would have thought, that she would fall into his arms. It took both of them by surprise, especially Isaiah.
Isaiah recognized that she wore different clothes from the morning. Instead of the lavender dress and headband. She was adorned in a white knit sweater and skirt, with a baby pink wool coat. Her golden locks were tied back in a messy bun. Strands of her shiny hair had fallen free around her face, he got the greatest urge to push them behind her ear. She had held onto him for support. From under those long lashes, her sparkling blue eyes smiled up at him the moment she realized that she was in his arms.
Isaiah had shamelessly felt relieved that it was him that rescued her. The smile she had was for him because she recognized who arms she had fallen into. He didn’t understand why she was so happy that she bumped into him instead of anyone else, who’d probably be a way better choice than the iron cold alpha. Although, he would have gotten pretty irked if he saw her with another man around her.
After Isaiah had returned home, he had taken off his coat and the scarf she had gifted him. He rubbed his fingers over the cashmere and lightly smiled. She really had no clue how dangerous he was. Here she was gifting him cashmere scarves, flowers and feeding them, like she didn’t realize how brutally cold the men were, that she surrounded herself with. But deep down, Isaiah wouldn’t let anyone hurt her. He didn’t fully understand the weight of the unspoken bond they all shared. But he knew the guys felt the same about her. Everyone in this house would protect Ashley because she was the first to accept them unconditionally. Her smile towards them was genuine; it was the type they had never received before. They would protect that smile of hers, that even stopped them dead in their tracks.
The bell rang in the house. Isaiah checked the tablet on the wall that had the security footage of their gate. It was the black mustang that had pulled up to the house again. Isaiah let her in without even a moment’s hesitation. Isaiah opened the door to that smile he was thinking about earlier.
“Hi,” she greeted him warmly; her hands full of boxes again.
Isaiah turned his body to give her room. “You didn’t have to bring so much again,” said Isaiah.
Ashley walked into the house passing by him closely. He locked the door behind her. “My parents never taught me to go to someone’s house empty-handed,” she said proudly. “Where is everyone?”
“Lazarus is starting the barbecue,” he told her. “The rest of the guys are getting cleaned up.” Isaiah grabbed the pastel coloured boxes from her hands and lead her towards the kitchen.
“I brought goodies,” she said as she rummaged through the boxes to show him. “I noticed all of you enjoyed the chocolate truffles at the bakery this morning, so I brought more. Also, I noticed we didn’t buy dessert when grocery shopping, so I also brought cake.”
Isaiah quietly listened to her, when he noticed her change of clothes again. He inwardly smiled because his prediction had been proven correct. This woman literally changed her clothes three times in one day. Instead of the white and pink tones, she had switched to darker tones for the night. She wore a tight black turtle neck with her hair clipped back. She had ditched the silk pearl skirt and went for the plaid grey one, which barely reached her knees. Those leopard print heels that exhausted her earlier were long gone. She now wore knee-high black boots that had minimum height to them, because she wanted to be more comfortable for the dinner.
Isaiah was amused that he had grown fond of this woman who changed her clothes according to her mood or time. Ashley was a kind person who had normal parents that loved her beyond anything else. This girl was leaving an impression on him and he possessed it above anything else.
“You’re awfully quiet,” she remarked. “Everything okay or do I look too pretty that you can’t find your words?”
Isaiah smiled. “I was just thinking how you got paired up with us,” he told her. “You change your clothes three times a day, go shopping to luxury stores and eat lunch at high-class restaurants. On top of all that, you live at the Plaza hotel.”
“I can’t help that I’m rich, but good fashion sense I can control,” she said. “Besides, I can’t dress poorly for my own well-being. It physically pains me if my Birkin doesn’t match my clothes.”
Isaiah laughed. “I figured as much that you’d say that,” he remarked.
Ashley laughed with him. “I even got you a vase,” she picked up the brown bag from the counter. She pulled out a crystal vase, that was curved and thin. “Now, you can finally put flowers in your house.”
“I don’t have any more flowers though,” he mumbled.
Ashley regarded him, and then, the empty vase. “I guess I’ll have to get you some flowers,” she said. “Or, we can go to the flower shop together and I can help you pick.”
“We’ll see,” he didn’t shut down her idea. He wondered if it was because even he was curious to how she’d convince him to go with her. Isaiah desired that going to buy flowers with her wasn’t such a bad idea.
“We should get some vases for the living room,” she suggested. “Hold on, you boys haven’t even bought a Christmas tree. We should head out tomorrow and get your house one.”
“I knew I heard Ashley,” Ronin entered the kitchen with Zeiden and Adrik following closely. They were fresh out of the shower because their hair was still wet.
“How are you guys doing?” she asked happily.
“It’s been awhile since we had a barbecue, so I think we’re all pretty excited,” said Zeiden.
“Is Lazarus at the back?” They nodded to answer her question. “I feel like he’ll get mad if I don’t go and say ‘hi’ to him.”
Zeiden chuckled. “He probably will,” he remarked. “What’s in the boxes?”
“I brought you truffles and candy from the bakery we went to this morning,” she told them. “It was good to see you boys enjoy them. So, I thought it was a good idea to bring you more.” Ashley grabbed two pieces of taffy before she used the back door they pointed towards to go meet Lazarus.
“She always brings something when she comes,” stated Adrik.
Isaiah sighed. “I told her not to, but she went to explain that her parents never taught her to go to someone’s house empty-handed.”
Ronin raised a brow. “She just keeps getting classier,” he said. “Shopping, eating in restaurants, the Plaza hotel. How did someone like her wind up in our odd group?”
They all wondered the same thing from the moment they met Ashley. She had entered their lives changing the whole dynamic of the house in seconds with just her presence. It was all of their wolves that told the boys, that Ashley wasn’t someone who’d leave them anytime soon.
An hour into the barbecue, they were all seated outside on the patio because it wasn’t too cold. Plus, the stone fire had been lit in front of them. Lazarus controlled the speed of how fast their food came to the table and Ashley was a great helper, like she promised. The grill was sizzling from the sausages and there was enough steak to feed a town. But this group could devour any buffet in seconds with their large appetite. From under the patio roof, they could see the light snowfall that started just when Ronin brought the beer out. A firm but sweet malty core defined Vienna-Style Lager beer. The flavours of caramel sugar amplified the steaks natural honeyed taste, it cut through the savoury fattiness to refresh the palate so each bite tasted better than the last.
Though the whole barbecue, Isaiah noticed that Ashley never once reached for the beer and explicitly stuck to water. The beer was a little heavy, but it didn’t taste bitter or bad. He wondered if she didn’t like to drink beer, and if she didn’t, then she should have told him so they could’ve prepared something else for her.
Isaiah quietly pushed his glass of beer to her. “Do you not want any?” he asked.
Ashley looked at the glass. “I would drink but I have a very low tolerance to beer,” she said scrunching up her nose.
“Oh,” Isaiah moved the glass back in front of him.
“You finally came to our house though,” said Zeiden who already downed five glasses and was still going strong. “This is a celebration for making a new friend.”
“It’ll be trouble for you if I get drunk,” Ashley warned with a chuckle.
“You can stay over tonight if you get drunk,” offered Lazarus like he was a foreman.
Isaiah frowned when he remembered that all the men here had pathetic alcohol tolerance, just like Ashley. “Stop-”
“Fine, Lazarus,” Ashley interrupted Isaiah. “You finally accepted me as your friend. So, to celebrate, I shall have one glass.”
Isaiah moved quickly, but not quick enough. His little brat of a brother handed Ashley the large mug of beer, that she only got through half of before she slumped back on the seat next to him.
Ashley blinked a couple of times. “I’m fine,” she declared and the boys hollered. The mood of the table brightened. Zeiden refilled her glass and then the drinking commenced once again.
Isaiah kept himself at a minimum because something told him that no one else was sensible enough. Although, Adrik didn’t drink more than one glass either. Isaiah noticed that his cousin’s mood had calmed down. His frown had vanished and by the end of the dinner, his chair was pulled right against Zeiden to join the circle. The gang started to slow the drinking down when the soft snowfall started to accelerate.
“It’s getting late,” said Isaiah, “we should head inside.” No one answered him since they were busy laughing between each other, like little kids he knew they all still were.
“Isaiah,” Ashley called out his name. Her cheeks had reddened from just finishing one glass. “Why won’t you go out on a date with me?” she asked.
Everyone’s heads turned and they looked at their alpha dumbfounded. Isaiah stood speechless as Ashley got out of her seat and faced him. “Ash-”
“I think you’re really sweet and I want to know more about you,” she said with a pout. “But you don’t tell me anything. Do you not like me that much? Is it because I change my clothes three times a day or that I shop a lot? I can’t help myself, because it’s the only thing that distracts me.”
Isaiah circled his arm around her waist to keep her from falling. “Distract you from what, baby?” he asked quietly.
Her blue eyes looked at his lips. “That I don’t have-” she looked at his eyes now- “a family anymore.” All the boys heard her. They all sobered up really quickly and looked at Isaiah grimly. “You guys never judged me or thought I was some bimbo. I’ve never met a group of people as extraordinary as you guys.”
Isaiah bit back his smile. “We’ve never met anyone quite like you either, Ash.” Ashley rested her head on his chest.
“You should take her upstairs for the night,” said Ronin. “It’s late, so we couldn’t let her drive home alone anyways.”
Isaiah didn’t need to be told twice because that’s exactly what he was thinking himself. He anchored his arm under Ashley’s knees and hoisted her into his arms. She idly circled her arms around his neck and snuggled closer to him. Isaiah climbed through his house and took her to his bedroom without even thinking about the repercussions.
Isaiah put her in the middle of his bed, so she wouldn’t roll over and fall in her sleep. As she positioned her, Ashley opened her eyes that were focused on him. He pushed to move back, when her arms tightened and stopped him. Isaiah used his arms to support himself so he wouldn't lay his weight on her.
“You have very beautiful eyes,” she told him. “They look like a storm to me.” Isaiah didn’t push for her to let him go. “You should take some responsibility for doing this to me.”
“And what did I do to you?” he asked softly.
“I don’t know what it is, but you’ve charmed me, Isaiah Iron,” she confessed. “I can’t seem to get you out of my head.” Ashley tightened her arms around his neck bringing him directly to her mouth.
“You shouldn’t play with me,” he warned. “I’m not one to just back off.”
“I wasn’t expecting you to,” she whispered.
“I’m definitely not a gentleman either,” he said looking at her lips with hunger.
The corner of Ashley’s lips slighted lifted. “I wasn’t ever looking for one in you.”
Isaiah’s defences shattered. He laid his lips against hers and he melted like ice on fire. His lips moved over hers taking control of her under him. Isaiah turned to steel at the touch of her soft lips, that felt like the roses she gifted him once. His body hardened as her delicate hands brushed against his muscular arms. Isaiah groaned when her tongue intertwined with his. He didn’t want to take it this far, but he couldn’t resist her when she was so responsive to him. Ashley’s scent heightened as he deepened the kiss. Her scent swarmed around him and the room. His body reacted to her like an ignited flame that was roaring into a wildfire, and she was the oil feeding him. But with one final resistance, he ripped himself away from her, that it physical pained him.
“Get some sleep,” he whispered sternly, his voice still rough.
“I didn’t think I could ever get you to kiss me,” she said.
Isaiah raised a brow. “I wasn’t intending on kissing you.”
“So, then why did you?” she asked.
“Because you’re the first woman that could make me do something when I clearly set out not to,” he retorted.
Ashley brushed her fingers against his jaw, then down to the tattoo that collared his neck. Her blue eyes glimmered under the low light of the golden chandelier. Her lips thoroughly kissed were plump and pink. Isaiah unclipped her hair and put the bow on the stand. He desired that her golden hair lay along his pillows. The rich gold hair spilled down, he grabbed a lock that curled around his finger; it was as soft as it looked. Isaiah kissed her lightly on her cheek before he noticed her heavy eyes close on their own, even though she tried diligently to stay awake. He took off her boots and then covered her with the duvet, that she used to snuggle in on his bed.
Isaiah shut the door behind and went back down stairs. He found that the drinking had been brought inside. Lazarus and Zeiden were sitting on the couch, with Ronin on the floor and Adrik on the side near the fire.
Lazarus found his brother coming down the stairs first. “Is she asleep?” he asked.
“Yeah,” said Isaiah. “She’s in my room.”
“Your room,” astonished Ronin.
Zeiden looked up from his glass with a grin. “You want to tell us why she’s in your room?” he asked mockingly.
Lazarus elbowed Zeiden. “Leave him alone,” he barked at the two.
Isaiah sat on the chair. “What am I going to do with her?” he asked with a sigh.
“Mate with her,” declared Ronin. “She obviously likes you despite your lacklustre personality.”
Zeiden chuckled. “And she seems to like all of us, which is strange all on its own,” he pointed out.
“I think she fits right in,” said Ronin. “And it would be good to have her around, right Adrik?”
“Yeah,” Adrik looked at Isaiah with a resolute expression telling him that Ronin spoke the truth.
“Are you all trying to convince me right now?” asked Isaiah.
“No,” said Lazarus. “We all knew from the moment you jumped out of a car to help her, that she was your mate.”
Isaiah shot his brother a glare, but he knew that Lazarus wasn’t wrong. The kiss they shared lingered on his lips. He still felt the tremor of her body pressed against him. This wasn’t something Isaiah could just erase or shake off with a brutal training session. Ashley was becoming a part of him so quickly that he had no control over the hurricane she caused inside of him. She had complimented him and said such nice things, which caught him off guard. How did she even come to the conclusion that he was good man? he wondered.
“I think this is the first time I heard someone say that we’re extraordinary,” said Zeiden.
Lazarus grinned. “Extraordinary was never the word people used to describe our group,” he said.
Isaiah looked around the room to the guys he always knew were the best fighters he had ever had by his side. He would trust his life with anyone in this room. Many wouldn’t understand the kinship they all had with one another. And Ashley barely knew them and had only talked to them for two days, yet she was able to sense the bond between them all. Isaiah admitted it to himself that Ashley was his now. She was as delicate as roses, and he resembled the thorns. But he would gladly be those thorns in order to protect this golden rose.