Chapter 8: Meeting the Family
Turning to follow Orion and Atlas back into the field, my mind was reeling with this information. Red was Jac’s sister, of course she was, the pieces now coming together in my mind.
I recalled all the times he spoke of his family, and his younger sibling, not biological, but still he looked at her as an older brother would. He would tell us about the trouble they would get in, how her temper was nothing to be trifled with, and how protective she was of the other orphans. While he was older, she did much of the adult mentoring in their relationship.
Gods, I stopped in my tracks. I recall when two summers ago, his mother had sent him pictures of the family. All the warriors had teased Jac about his hot little sister, especially Ty and Christian.
Ughhh, this was going to be difficult, I groaned internally, resuming my steps. I had never seen the pictures because I honestly had no desire to ogle some random female on a 4x6 piece of paper. I was really regretting that decision right about now.
Orion, Atlas, and I went our separate ways as I excused myself. I told them I had important matters to attend to, I would tell Orion about the discovery of my mate once I knew her whereabouts myself.
Lifting my nose to the breeze, I inhaled deeply searching for her sugar and cinnamon scent. I quickly found her trail and followed it to a sizable wood frame tent that held a makeshift art gallery near the racing track.
Forgetting myself for a moment, I stared in awe at the paintings before me. Jac did mention that his sister was an artist. There were at least a dozen canvases of different sizes, all depicting beautiful nature scenes with the various wolves of the regional Alphas and their families.
One painting in particular caught my eye. Standing before it, it was a blue tone canvas showing a windswept, icy tundra. In the landscape stood a lone white wolf, with piercing blue eyes.
“I’m sorry sir, that one’s not for sale.” I heard her voice behind me. Leaning her upper body on the edge of the wooden frame of the makeshift structure, she eyed me with a smile.
“Are you sure? I can be very convincing.” I smirked, something about her made it irresistible not to tease.
Turning back to the painting, I mused, “How did you get a picture of me?”
I could hear her sigh, “I didn’t.” She responded simply.
“I was given pictures of all the other regional leaders and their families, but not of you.”
She chuckled, “I don’t even know where you come from.”
“Haven’t you heard of ‘the Great White Wolf’ of the Arctic Circle?” I said sarcastically, my eyes lingering on the wolf in the painting.
She walked over to hug me from behind. “Ohhh that one,” she joked “I have heard of him, but I was thinking of another larger, more intimidating wolf.”
I held her arms, wrapped around my torso tightly. I pulled her to face me, her arms still wrapped around my waist.
“How is I possible to miss someone so much that I’ve just met?” I breathed.
She smiled up at me, “I must make really good first impressions.”
I laughed deeply, “That you do, but really. But really, how did you know to paint me?”
Her smile faded as if she was apprehensive, biting her lip searching for the right words. “I dreamt of you,” she whispered.
“What is this all about?” a booming irritated voice sounded behind us. Jac stood at the entrance of the gallery, his arms crossed over his chest, his face scrunched in frustration.
Not releasing my hold on her arms, we both turned to face the very angry and very confused Jac. She pushed herself out of my grasp.
“Wait, you two know each other?” she asked quizzically.
“Of course we do,” Jac stated walking forward and putting his arm protectively over Red’s shoulders.
I had to suppress a growl deep in my throat.
“He’s my Alpha.” Jac stated.
Thoughts swirled around in my head, I figured Luca was an alpha, or at least the son of one from his participation in the races and the sheer size of his wolf, but I honestly had not heard of any ‘Great White Wolf.’
Living in the literal middle of the woods didn’t help me keep my finger to the pulse on whose who when it came to drama in the wolf community. It’s not like there’s a werewolf version of social media.
I had, however, been reading Jac’s letters. His many stories about his powerful and terrifying Alpha, I did have knowledge of. I specifically remember being very cross the summer that Rose had sent him pictures of us all during a lake day. Not that Jac would look at me like that, but sending your brother and his early twenties friends pictures of his sister in a bathing suit was the definition of mortifying.
I stared into Luca’s eyes, his own boring into mine. I also remember all the stories of how Jac looked up to him, how he treated his people with fairness and kindness. About how he took Jac in when he was beaten and bloody from conflicts with rogues and how he trained him as one of his own. Now Jac was a warrior, and he had a place in a strong pack.
I couldn’t help but smile wide, a tear escaping my eye. I wiped it away quickly before Jac noticed, but Luca saw.
Luca looked VERY worried, I stepped out of Jac’s hold and asked him to give us a minute. With a huff he left to find Rose and Dan. We were silent for another moment.
“You saved him.” I began. He looked at me, confusion laced in his expression.
“Jac. You took him in after the rogue attacks.” I continued. His gaze never leaving mine, he nodded slightly.
“What has he told you about me?” he questioned, trying but not succeeding to hide the fear in his eyes.
Stepping closer to him, I took his hand gently in mine. Placing soft kisses on the back of his knuckles.
“He told me enough. In his letters he described you as the greatest man, and fairest leader, he has ever known.” I said, looking up into his eyes.
He closed his eyes, placing his forehead against mine. “Red,” he breathed, cool breath tickling my nose. That was all it took to make me clench my legs for fear that that would give out under me.
Someone cleared their voice at the entrance of the tent, I cursed under my breath as he eyed me with a sly smile.
Keeping my hold of his hand, I led him outside the tent to find that Jac had gathered every single member of my family for the occasion. I groaned audibly; Luca merely chuckled behind me.
Rose took us in with wide eyes, when her gaze fell on our joined hands the started gushing to Dan.
“See? I told you it wouldn’t take her long! A beauty like her was not meant to live alone in the woods!” She exclaimed giddy with excitement.
Dan tried his best to put on a hard dad glare, I giggled at his effort causing him to crack into an apologetic smile. Jac however, still had his hands crossed over his chest his eyes boring holes into the ground near his feet.
“Um, everyone,” I stammered. “This is Luca, he is my – “ I paused looking into his eyes for any hint of rejection.
He met me with a warm smile, “Her Mate.” He finished for me.
Rose squealed, causing everyone but Mara to flinch at the sound. She rushed forward and hugged him tightly.
Dan clasped his hand on Luca’s shoulder trying to regain his composure as a father figure, “So, uh, Son, what region do you come from?”
Evidently Jac had not clued them in on who Luca was. I chuckled under my breath, shooting Jac a glare, he was still avoiding all our eyes.
Luca cleared his throat, “I am the Alpha of the Arctic Circle, Jac is one of our more recent pack members.” He stated, following my train of thought.
With another wail, Rose hugged him tightly again, “You’re Jac’s Alpha? You saved our baby boy!” She said through new tears.
At this revelation, Dan completely lost his tough guy act and hugged him as well. I smiled sheepishly at my mate, shrugging at my family’s emotional outbursts.
He took it all in stride, smiling at me out of the corner of his eye.
Stepping back, Dan continued “Well, uh.”
“Call me Luca.” He smiled, gently squeezing my hand.
“Luca, you have to join us for dinner tonight, so we can begin to repay you for what you have done for this family.” Dan stammered, hugging Rose tightly to his side.
“No payment necessary, but I would be honored to join you.” He said with ease.
With that my younger siblings attacked him with questions, I occasionally met his eyes to see if he needed rescuing, but he was taking it all in with an ease that warmed my heart. I knew my family was…a lot to handle at times, but I wouldn’t trade them for the word.
Rose pulled me away to gush about how she knew I would end up with a strong and handsome mate, but him being an Alpha was even a surprise to her.
I let my younger siblings bombard him for a while longer before I shooed them away.
“Walk with me?” He asked in such a tender voice I couldn’t say no. I could already tell that this was going to be a problem if and when we ever had disagreements.
Walking towards the center of the arena, I made sure to keep my hands clasped in front of me, because as much as I wanted to reach out and touch him, any part of him, I really didn’t want it to lead into a make-out session in the middle of a crowded area. I was not that kind of girl and no matter what, absolutely sinful thoughts he brought out in me, I had to regain some sort of composure being around him.
We spent the afternoon walking around the arena chatting about all the things that made us unique. I learned that he has no siblings and lost his mother at a young age. He had no food allergies, which would make preparing dinner easier. His favorite color was red, I was wondering if he embellished this fact, but he swore he didn’t, and how his pack chose him as their Alpha, rather than him being born into the title.
With enthusiasm I told him about my upbringing with the other orphans, but my noticeable silence at my early childhood had him gently questioning. I simply explained, there’s not much to say and he let the topic drop. We found a picnic table and sat across from one another chatting over coffee from one of the small food stands.
All too soon, his eyes glazed over as they do when someone was mind linking him.
“I’m sorry but I have to meet Jarrod on an urgent matter. I’ll catch up with you later for dinner.” He relayed.
“Don’t worry, I’ll see you soon.” I smiled, reassuring his movements to leave.
In a rush, he leaned in towards me, pushing some strands of hair behind my ear, gazing deeply into my eyes.
“I miss you already.” He whispered, the closeness doing crazy things to my heart and, um, other areas.
At a loss for words, he chuckled at my surprised expression before turning to walk away.
Shaking my head, I called after him. “Wait, how do you know where I live?”
He smiled, tapping his nose with an index finger. Before turning and disappearing into the crowd.
Smiling like a fool, I thought to myself, Goddess that man drives me crazy already.