When I arrived at the pack house I hesitated again, but this time it wasn't out of fear. I knew spending the day with him would be hard.
"Sasha! You're here! Jackson didn't say you were coming out today." I turned around to see Amalia walking up to the house. She embraced me with a warm, soothing hug as her healing powers radiated off of her. "But I'm glad you did. Come inside and see my new grandpup!"
I smiled, Jim had told me that Ashley had given birth to their little girl. He had shown me pictures and she was adorable.
Amalia and I walked in together and we sat down next to Ashley in the dining hall. "Sasha!" Ashley smiled to me and gave me a hug as well. I had to admit, I felt welcome here. "I'm so glad you're here."
"Ashley, you look amazing for just having had a baby." I smiled before my eyes rested on the bundle in her arms, "And this must be Penny! She is even cuter in person." I couldn't help but squish my face at her, I loved babies. We chatted for a bit about life and the happenings in the pack and such. Then Amalia turned to me with a saddened look, "Sasha..."
I knew where this was headed. Amalia had been around when I had been exiled, she had been mated to that man. I didn't know if I'd be able to get through talking about this with her. I met her eyes and I could see all of the sadness and regret.
"Sasha, I'm so sorry." She looked down at the floor and I could see the tears welling in her eyes. "Jackson's father was a cruel man. If I had known what he did... when I found out it was days later. I was so angry. But he was stronger than me and I had my boys to look out for. I'm so sorry for everything that happened because I was too weak to challenge him."
I felt horrible. I didn't even think about the cruelty she must have faced as his mate or the fear she must have had knowing he was hurting their pack and there was nothing she could do. I hugged her tightly, "Amalia, it wasn't your fault. I won't lie and say I didn't blame you a little. But I know how kind and soft you are, you wouldn't have knowingly let my family be harmed like that."
I released her and searched her face, offering a reassuring smile. She let out a sad chuckle as she wiped her tears, "How is it that you were the one hurt and yet I'm crying?"
I smiled and gave her a wink, "I did all my crying at home."
"So what are you going to do about Jackson?"
My head flipped around to Ashley. Her face was stiff as she waited for my reply.
"Honestly I don't know. I know it wasn't his fault, I mean he couldn't have been more than six years old. I can't blame him for what happened to my family. But.."
Ashley nodded, "I understand. You can't be sure."
Amalia took my hand, "But when can you ever be sure when it comes to opening yourself up to another person?"
I shrugged, "I guess I can't. But I mean, there's so much that has happened to me because of this pack. How can I trust them?"
Ashley shrugged, "You can trust them. The pack that exiled your family isn't the pack you see today. And that's all because of Jackson. He has worked so hard to make this pack a safe place." She paused and I could see she was hesitating, trying to decide if she wanted to continue. "It seems to me that you need to figure out what you know and what you want. And then act on it."
I nodded, "I know I do."
We all smiled warmly at each other, glad we had talked it out and came out the other side as friends. I didn't realize how long we had been talking until Jackson found us. I knew he was there before he spoke, I could smell that intense scent of his and it clouded my mind.
Spending the rest of the day with him was just as hard as I thought it would be. Every fiber of my wolf wanted to just jump on him and kiss him to death. But I knew I had some work to do on myself first. And when he walked me out to my car I wanted so badly for him to hold me. But he respected my wishes like he always did. I appreciated that, knowing if he had pulled me in to him I wouldn't have been able to stop it.