My Arctic Mate

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Chapter 18: Meeting the Pack

Red:

Reluctantly, I sat up excusing myself to get dressed for dinner. I chose a halter neck deep blue lace sundress with an open back and skirt that flares out at my waistline, stopping at my mid-thigh. Matching it with black wedge heels, and dark metallic jewelry, I styled my hair up to show off the neckline of the dress. Spending more time on wing eyeliner than any other part of my preparation, I smiled at my reflection.

I know I’m about to meet a bunch of warriors, but I could still show off a bit. My wolf purred in contentment; she was happy with our outfit too.

Hearing voices outside, I descended the stairs to my studio. Bouncing off the last step, I met Luca’s hungry eyes waiting for me. Smiling like a fool, I gave my dress a twirl so he could appreciate the whole outfit.

Stalking towards me, he draped his arms around my waist pulling me close. “Now that’s just not fair,” he growled into my neck.

I giggled, batting my eyes innocently. “I just want to make a good first impression.”

We were interrupted by Jac’s loud knock at the door. I could hear his and another male voice outside.

“Guess it’s showtime.” I smiled, pushing out of his arms to answer the door.

Jac smiled warmly before whistling, “Geeze, sis you dress up well.”

I laughed, “I could say the same about you.” I eyed his dark faded jeans and white polo.

“Well, Jac, introduce us already.” His friend said, his deep-set eyes scanning my outfit.

“Red, this is my friend, Ty.” Ty was tall and thin, with angular hooded brown eyes, high cheekbones, full lips, and a sharp jawline. His dark hair was slicked back.

“Jac has written about you! It’s nice to finally meet you!” I smiled shaking his hand.

“And I’ve heard so much about you, but he didn’t tell me how beautiful you were!” He said smugly, leaning against the doorframe.

A growl behind me stopped all conversation, smirking I opened the door further to reveal Luca standing in my entryway. Ty’s expression dropped as he put two and two together. Suddenly he punched Jac in the arm, seething. “Dude, a little warning would have been nice!”

I giggled at Jac who was now rubbing his upper arm.

“Well, now that were all acquainted, let’s go shall we.” I said, winking at Luca. Taking his hand, I closed my door and followed the group as we piled into Jac’s Jeep.

Arriving at the edge of Orion’s camp, we were greeted with the heavenly smell of roasted meat and the sound of happy conversation. A large campfire had been set up in a clearing surrounded by tables and benches in a large semicircle.

Hopping out of the Jeep, I smoothed my dress, trying to quell the butterflies in my stomach.

Luca wrapped his arm around my waist, silently giving me the support I needed. I notice Jac and Ty eye his movement carefully.

“Luca, why does everyone keep eyeing us together?” I whispered to him.

I could feel his movement stop, letting them proceed without us.

“I –“ He stopped, turning to face me. “I’m pretty solitary…back home.”

He sighed, “Red, I’ve been with other women before, but that was a…long time ago. Before much of the pack knew me.”

“You’ve known Christian for a long time though, and he immediately took notice.”

Damn, she’s sharp. I chided myself internally.

“Yes, he knew me back then, but I was much younger and used women in much the same way they used me, to get what we both wanted then left. No emotional connection, and certainly no taking them home to meet my pack.”

I processed what he was saying as I felt him drop my hand.

“They will know something is going on between us just from my attitude towards you. I love my pack, but I have never acted this way…physically toward anyone else ever before. If we go in there hand in hand, they will immediately know what that means. If you want to enter individually, I’ll understand.”

I looked him deep in the eyes, seeing the fear held there. Standing on my tip toes I kissed his cheek, linking his arm with mine.

“Let’s go Romeo. One thing, just how many other women are we talking about?” I questioned giggling.

“Ummmm” He chuckled, purposefully not answering my question as we walked towards the crowd.

Luca:

Entering the clearing we were greeted with a least two dozen pairs of inquiring eyes and a chorus of elated shouts.

“I thought you only brought your warriors?” She whispered anxiously.

“Looks like Orion invited his pack as well.” I murmured back.

“Red!” Poppy shrieked, bounding over. Hugging us both, Orion soon followed, handing me a beer.

“You look gorgeous!” Poppy gushed at Red, causing her cheeks to redden.

“Thank you, I love your dress!” She said meekly, increasing her grip on my bicep, wordlessly indicating that I better not leave her side.

“Red, can I get you a drink? Beer? Wine?” Orion questioned politely.

“That would be great, thank you. I’ll take white wine.”

“You got it!” He smiled in turn, leading Poppy away as we progressed into the crowd.

Guiding her to a table where I spotted Jac and Ty, I began introducing her to the rest of the group.

First up was Quince. A gruff quiet man, he was one of my oldest and trusted warriors. He found his place as mentor and trainer to new warriors, which now included Ty and Jac. His specialty was close quarter combat and short-range weapons.

Christian and Leon were sitting at an adjoining table with some of our other warriors and their families. Seeing our presence, they worked their way over so Leon could meet Red.

Offering his hand, Leon boisterously introduced himself as my chief war adviser, causing Red to raise her eyebrows at me.

Returning with a glass, generously full of white wine. Jarrod accompanied Orion, both of them laughing at my dismayed expression as Leon immediately begins telling Red old battle stories.

“I can stop him, if you need me to,” I whispered to her.

She shook her head, smirking at my concern. “So, Leon tell me more about Luca in his glory days,” She said loudly, giggling at my obvious groan.

Unlinking her arm, she followed Christian and Leon to sit along one of the benches as Orion nudged my shoulder.

“She’s getting along well with the men.”

“Thankfully, Leon doesn’t appear to be scaring her off.” I replied hopefully.

Yet.” Jarrod added, his voice chuckling through mind link.

Taking an empty spot with Quince and the others, we sat chatting, drinking and eating to our hearts content. I kept glancing at Red, who was laughing heartily with Christian as Leon physically re-enacted one of our many historical tales. I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of her, her radiant smile spreading warmth through my chest.

Orion followed my gaze and kicked me under the table. “Luca, I need your option.”

“I’m sorry, opinion about what again?” I stammered, obviously not paying attention to where the conversation had turned.

He let out a grunt, frustrated. “I was saying that if it’s a boy I need a good strong name and the best Jarrod could come up with is, well, Jarrod.”

It’s worked for me so far” he joked through mind link.

“And what if it’s a girl?” I questioned.

Jerri then.” He replied simply, taking a swig from his beer.

We all laughed heartily at the sheer ridiculousness of his suggestion.

After a while, Poppy joined us, bringing several more rounds of drinks. I felt Red slide onto the bench next to me as Poppy and Orion chattered on and on about baby preparations. Poppy was so petite that she was barely showing, but the couple’s joy was abounding at this new chapter in their lives.

Pulling my arm to drape over her shoulders, she rested her upper body against mine as we fell into comfortable conversation, both drinking deeply.

The bonfire continued long into the night until I could feel Red begin to slump against me. Looking up into my eyes, I could see the exhaustion on her features, no doubt mirroring my own.

In silent agreement, we both stood bidding our farewells. Thanking Orion and Poppy for getting all of this together, we headed back alone in Jac’s Jeep. He was going to catch a ride with Quince and stay back at our packs camp.

Red:

Thank the goddess Luca agreed to leave when we did, I was about to pass out right there at the table. Walking to the edge of camp, the combination of tiredness and the several full glasses of wine took their toll on my coordination.

Stumbling, I giggled as Luca swopped me up in his strong arms. “My Prince Charming” I smiled, snuggling into the fabric of his chest, feeling it rumble as he chuckled.

Securing me into the passenger seat, I seemed to close my eyes for a second and Luca was gently brushing hair from my face. “We’re here, Red.”

Willing myself to zombie walk to my door, Luca swept me into his arms, crossing the threshold and carrying me up to my room. Wrapping my arms around his neck, he set me down at the foot of my bed.

Stepping away from him, I slipped off my shoes, steadying myself on my feet. Turning to stumble into my bathroom I noticed a large black bag in the corner. “Luca, what’s that?”

“Hmmm?” Was all he answered, as I shifted to see him stripping off his shirt. A shot of adrenaline shot through me. I swear to the goddess, I had to physically stop my jaw from dropping open. The intricate black tattoos that decorated his arms symmetrically followed the curve of his shoulders to cross down over his chest before ending just below his collar bones.

“We both know that we can’t sleep without each other now” He said smugly. “Besides this is a much agreeable alternative to guard duty in the woods outside your cabin all night.” He smirked, hands dropping to the button on his jeans.

I yelped, shielding my eyes. “Luca! What are you doing? Don’t – don’t you have pajamas or something?!” I giggled despite myself, still shielding my eyes, I threw a blanket in his direction.

“Sure, but they’re in my bag over there.”

Peeking through my fingers, I squeaked again as I saw that he had completely removed his pants, now standing in only boxer briefs looking like a damn model. Feeling my face flush bright red, I tossed his entire bag at him as I rushed over to my dresser, pulling out the first tank top and shorts I found and disappeared into my bathroom.

I could hear him chuckle though the closed door.

Goddess this man was going to be the death of me.

Stripping out of my dress I wiped away my makeup before re-applying a more neutral base coat. Might was well make a good impression on our first night, I thought with a smirk.

Grabbing my sleepwear, I cursed under my breath.

“You ok in there?” He called.

“Mhmm!” Perfect. I breathed in frustration. In my haste I grabbed a tight-fitting crop top that left little to the imagination and a pair of boy shorts.

He started this, but two can play at this game. My wolf purred. Yes, but – she cut me off. No buts, get out there and show him who we are.

Dressing quickly, applied some perfume to my wrists and neck. Letting my hair down, tousling it for added effect, I was ready. Alright, here goes nothing.

“So you know how we talked about taking things slow?” I called through the door.

He cleared this throat. “Yeah, I think that’s a good plan. Gives us time to get to know each other better.”

Pushing the door open, I leaned against the frame, hand on my hip. “I’m glad were in agreement then.”

Laying on one side of my bed, now it was his turn to gawk. Ha! See told you it would work! My wolf yipped in my head.

“Red,” he growled.

I sauntered across the room sitting on the opposite side of the bed as I pulled my hair to one side. Pulling back the covers I laid down quickly and shut off the light.

“Night then!” I stated chuckling.

“Oh no, you’re not getting off that easy.” He purred, pulling me against his chest. I giggled as I snuggled against his bare skin. Circling me in his embrace, I traced my fingers across the his forearms.

The moon shown in through the window, illuminating the room enough that I could see the soft light accentuate the curves as contours of his muscle. I felt his chest rumble in approval, smiling I shifted to face him in the confines of his arms.

Tracing my fingers up his arm, I followed the path of ink until I reached his shoulder. Resting my hand on his cheek, he smiled against my touch, barely opening his eyes to meet mine.

“This feels right, doesn’t it?” I whispered.

“I’ve never felt so right in my entire life.” He murmured, kissing the top of my head.

“Now go to sleep before I change my mind.”

“Change your mind on what?” I questioned.

“On my promise to take things slow.” He growled, nuzzling my neck. The reverberations of his growl against my skin was too much to bear.

“Stop! That tickles!” I giggled.

He laughed against my skin. Shifting to lie on his back, pulling me onto his chest, our laughter slowly dying out.

“Goodnight Luca.”

“Goodnight mate.”

And then we were fast asleep.

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