I walk straight to Nik and Rylin follows. Koda and Rhiannon are next to him. Rhiannon has a huge grin on her face. He kept me a secret. They are all shocked to see me.
“Sorry we are late. The stitches make it a little difficult to walk.” I say as I find the eyes of Nate. He looks me up and down with a raised brown.
“Ellie..” Nik breathes out and I smile innocently.
“Well, someone pull her up a chair for heavens sake! The girl fought of a lone wolf all by herself yesterday.” Rhiannon talks animatedly. I want to laugh. She’s good. I send a silent thank you and she winks.
I sit down and Rylin fills in the seat next to me. The fact that he has shown loyalty to me above everyone is inspiring. I mentally note that I need a plan to pay him back for his kindness.
“Oh yeah, wasn’t that so cool? Chief, you should’ve seen her. She took those claws and barely flinched. When the wolf tried to get to alpha, she didn’t hesitate to put an arrow into its heart.”
“It’s not a big deal.” I say nonchalant.
“Oh yes it is! You saved my son! Elliana, thank you for fulfilling your duties before even being mated. I am grateful to have you as my sons partner.” His mother has quickly caught on. She smiles warmly and hugs me tight. She whispers quietly in my ear.
“I’m so proud of you.” I hug her back.
“Don’t go giving my mate all the credit. I finished him off and carried her to the hospital like a knight in shining armor you know.” Nik says as he looks at me with something in his eyes I don’t recognize.
“It’s true. You had it handled, but I did speed up the process.” He laughs and I smile.
“Yes you did.”
After that the people warm up to me. One by one they come to meet the alpha’s outsider mate. Some of them look at me with disapproval but most seem genuinely curious. The children especially.
I make a promise to them that tomorrow I will bring one of my books and read to them. Nik of course has to show me up and promises to give their next lesson on the ways of a warrior as well. They buzz with excited energy.
By the end of the dinner I am truly happy and feel at ease with most of them. They seem accepting as well. It’s the council members who eye me warily. Lee, the human, is kind and curious. He seems accepting of me so far. He thanks me for helping take down the wolf.
Rhiannon’s parents are a mixed bag. Her mother has her nose in the air in distaste while her father carries on conversation with me. Kodas father has nothing nice to say but I let his harsh words about my dad roll off of me. He becomes angry when I don’t give in to the bait.
After dinner Nate asks me to join them at his house. I accept his offer. When most of the people have left Winnie approaches me wanting to check my stitches. As she examines them a young girl with long, black hair and big amber eyes comes over.
I feel Rylin stiffen beside me. Winnie introduces the girl as her daughter, Juniper. The girl stares curiously at Rylin while he stares at anything but her. It finally hits me that she is his mate. Winnie looks at him in apology.
“Are you a shifter too?” She asks him. He looks at her and I see the admiration for him she has already.
“I am.” He says gently.
“Could you teach me how to fight? Momma says I should learn so I can fight off boys.” Rylin laughs and Winnie shoots him an embarrassed look.
“Maybe Ellie should teach you. She’s already a better fighter than me.” He looks at me desperately.
“Okay! Can you help me learn to use a bow like you?” I nod.
“Maybe Rylin should still teach you hand to hand combat too.” Winnie urges. I can’t believe she approves of them spending time together.
Rylin raises a thick brow as if to say ‘Are you stupid?’ Winnie glares at him.
“She’ll be fourteen next month. As long as you are only teaching her how to protect herself I have no problem with you spending time together. I’ll be there of course.” She says. Whoa. Winnie is way more relaxed about this than my dad would’ve been.
“Winnie...” Rylin warns.
“Junie, could you go get mommas bag? I need to clean these stitches up.” The girl runs to find the bag.
“Rylin, I know you won’t do anything wrong. I’ll be there the whole time but she needs to feel the bond grow. She’s been so sad since you found out what she means to you. She doesn’t understand why you won’t spend time with her. She needs her spirits lifted and you are the one who should do that.”
“You’re trying to kill me aren’t you?” She laughs.
“I made a promise to myself I wouldn’t go near her until she was eighteen. It’s too dangerous. I can’t throw her into the reality of what shifters are. She’ll hate me.”
“Rylin, didn’t we have a similar conversation about Nik and I yesterday? I can come too if it helps. You shouldn’t stay away out of fear. She’s going to figure everything out eventually.”
“I can’t help it. I want to protect her from my world.”
“I tried that with Ellie and it didn’t work did it?” Nik speaks up. I didn’t realize he was still here. He squeezes my shoulders and I lean into the touch.
“I’m sorry Ellie. Being away from you for almost a whole day was torture. Forgive me for how I acted. I just wanted what’s best for you. You really do deserve a good life with a normal human.”
“You’re what’s best for me.” I tell him. His eyes shine with love.
“And you’re best for me. What you did today was unexpected and amazing.”
He kisses my head and I smile.
“Alright love birds, time to face the in laws.” Rhiannon shouts across the room. Winnie demands Nik carries me to keep pressure off the stitches. I try to refuse but he won’t let me.
“You and Rylin seem close.” Nik says with a hint of jealousy.
“Oh, we are. She and I bonded yesterday and this morning while I carried her in the woods.” Nik growls.
“Don’t get used to it.” He snaps. Rylin and I laugh.
“Don’t worry, he’s like my little cub and I’m momma bear watching over him.”
“You know we are wolf shifters right?” Koda says and we all laugh.
“Yeah but momma bear sounds better than momma wolf don’t you think?”
“Then it’s settled, from now on you’re Momma Bear.” Rylin laughs and runs up next to Nik to kiss my cheek which earns a furious gaze from Nik.
“I swear to you when we go on patrol tonight I’ll beat some sense into you, rylin.” The fear in his eyes is evident.
“You will not!” I scold and Rylin looks at him in triumph.
“It’s your own fault. You were her favorite until you messed it up.” Rhiannon chimes in.
When we arrive at Nik’s parents house the entire council is there.
“Don’t worry. We are on the same team.” Koda reassures and the rest agree.
“You are my mate. They will accept us and that’s final.” Nik radiates power and it’s doing funny things to me.
Nik notices my reaction and his eyes are full of primal want. He grins at me smugly before he snuggles me close and sets me down. We walk hand in hand into the cabin to face them.