C H A P T E R T W E N T Y - O N E
My blood is thundering through my veins so hard, all I can hear is the thumping of it in my ears. I feel lightheaded. I also feel like a million thoughts are swirling around in my brain.
I’m sorry. What did I just hear? Surely I must of heard wrong, but I know I didn’t. Carla spoke clear as day. I heard every word without fail.
She is my aunt.
Carla’s my biological aunt.
My father’s sisters.
My father’s name was Dillion and he was the son of the alpha.
My mother’s name was Stella and she was the daughter of the beta.
My parents were the alpha couple of the Rocky Mountain Pack of Wyoming.
It all makes sense why Ryker and I are mates now. I have alpha blood running through my veins and we are from neighboring packs.
My family’s pack.
I have biological family.
They will be close to my new home and pack.
I can finally meet my bio family!
My heart pounds with joy and pride. Seconds later, my good feelings are blown to smithereens.
My parents were murdered.
I might be in danger.
After all these years.
Why, and who? Who would want to hurt us? Why would they still be after me after all these years, if I was ever a target at all, that is?
I always figured that my parents were the wolves I was found with. Well, at least since I found out I was a werewolf, but it never crossed my mind that their deaths were intentional, planned. That they might have been targeted….
…. or that I could be in danger as well. All those times going for runs through the woods by myself. I could have been risking my safety. I never smelt another scent there though. Not until I took Ryker there…
I blink rapidly a few times from being pulled from my thoughts back into the present with Carla and Ryker.
Carla is still holding my hands, and they are extremely sweaty from the adrenaline pumping through me.
I look over at Ryker, and he is looking at me as if he’s asking if I am ok. I give him the tiniest nod I can muster and a tight smile before turning my attention back to Carla.
“I’m sorry sweetie. I didn’t mean to yell, but you were lost in your own little world. Are you ok? I know this must all be a lot to take in.” Carla speaks to me in that tender motherly way she has always spoken to me. Now I know it’s because she is my aunt. She loves me probably as if I was her own daughter.
I squeeze her hands and give her a little smile.
“I’m ok. Thank you for telling me and trying to protect me all these years.”
I swallow my emotions back roughly. I don’t want to cry any more. Everything is in the past. There is nothing I can do to change it, but I can take what I have learned and turn it into a positive. I will get to know my family I never thought I would ever meet. That right there makes me feel a lot better.
Carla nods. A tear escapes the corner of her right eye, and slowly trails down her cheek until it dangles from the underside of her chin. It eventually drops and lands on the denim shorts covering the top of her thigh. The spot is now a few shades darker than the rest of her jean shorts.
“Rylee, there is one more important thing I must tell you right now.”
My eyes trail back up to Carla’s. What I see makes my breath hitch. She’s nervous and unsure about what she is about to tell me. Her hands tremble slightly in mine and her heart is beating faster.
I don’t look over at Ryker, but I can feel his penetrating gaze on me like he’s shooting lasers into my skull. He’s there if I need him, but letting Carla and I have our moment. I appreciate him tremendously for taking the back seat in this conversation but still be present.
Carla licks her lip nervously and glances over at Ryker. I’m not sure if she’s looking at him for reassurance or strength to help her continue with what she wants to say, but whatever look he provides is enough to make her stiffen and drop her gaze.
“Go on” I say, squeezing her hands and hoping it gives her the strength she needs searching for.
Carla licks her lips again and gives me a tiny nod. Her eyes find mine and hold my gaze.
“Ok. Rylee, I’m not sure how you’re going to take this. I’m honestly a little afraid to tell you.”
She takes a deep breath and releases it slowly trying to calm herself.
I can tell she’s extremely nervous just by her actions.
Ryker shifts in his seat and leans closer towards us. Almost like he is getting ready to pounce if need be. Gosh, I love how protective he is of me. It’s fierce and natural.
“Ok. So you know how I told you everything I did and our family did for you was for your safety and protection?”
I nod. “Yes.” I say it slowly, drawling it out, wondering where this is going. I’m getting nervous now. What does she have to tell me?
“Please don’t be mad at us.” She scrunches her eyes closed and takes another deep breath, releasing it shakily. “Your dad, Mike, knows.”
“He knows what?” I ask, uncertain what she is trying to say, concern evident in my voice.
Ryker shifts again. He is now sitting on the edge of his seat.
Carla takes in another deep breath, and releases the air from her lungs with a shudder. Her hand are trembling. She opens her eyes with tears welling up in them, gives me a sad smile, and squeezes my hands again.
“Mike knows that you are a werewolf.”
Carla rushes those words out, cringing painfully, and my heart stops. Legit stops for at least for a couple seconds.
“What?” I squeak out and look over at Ryker. He is glaring at Carla now, probably wondering the same questions I am.
“Why would Mike know about werewolves?” Ryker asks Carla, tilting his head in a way that is both inquisitive and menacing. His voice is all business that says don’t bullshit me. His fierce eyes not once straying from Carla.
I pull my hands from hers, placing them in my lap, and turn my attention back to Carla.
“Carla, why would my dad know about werewolves? Did you tell him about me? About you? Us?”
Her breaths are coming out fast and shallow. She’s scared. She’s scared of….Ryker? Me? Because we’re an alpha couple? I don’t know.
I grab her hands quickly again to reassure her and give them a gentle squeeze.
“It’s ok. Carla, I’m not mad at you. Please, just tell us what you know. I just want to know the truth.”
“Yes, of course.” Carla says, taking a few deep calming breaths.
“Your dad knows because I told him.”
I just blink, waiting for her to continue. I don’t want to speak until I hear the full story.
Ryker is sitting tolerantly as well, waiting for Carla to continue, but I can tell his patience is wearing thin. He’s starting to get aggravated.
“I told him shortly after you were placed in Mike and Sandy’s care and they took you home. I saw him outside one day while he was mowing grass, and approached him. I told him everything. That your parents were murdered, how they found you with your biological parents but they were in wolf form when they found you, why we couldn’t claim you. Absolutely everything. He didn’t believe me at first, of course, so I showed him werewolves truly exist by shifting in front of him. He was understandably a little freaked out at first, but he eventually came around and accepted the facts. James and I became quick friends with your parents, and that is why I have always been there in your life, to look out for you. Telling your dad was just an extra step in ensuring your safety. My parents, your biological paternal grandparents, as well as your biological maternal grandparents all agreed it was the right thing to do to help protect you better. As the years went on, I filled your dad in on more werewolf knowledge. What to expect, changes that will happen when you come of age and start shifting. That is why you were at my house when they were putting together your surprise birthday part. That was partially an excuse. He knew you were going to shift for the first time because I told him, and we agreed it’d be better if you were with me when it happened. He most likely knows that you and Ryker are mates too, because I explained that to him as well. That starting at age eighteen you could find your mate. We’ve had many conversations about it, and why you were still mateless. He’s been waiting for you to find your forever love. Just like the rest of us. I’m sorry we didn’t tell you sooner. Again, holding off on telling you was also out of concern for your safety. We also wanted to make sure the time was right, and now feels like the right time. You know everything now. Us much as we do anyway.”
I sit there as a long silence stretches between us, processing what I just learned.
My dad knew? Does mom know? Does Chloe? Is that why dad has been acting strange every time he sees Ryker and I together? Is that why Chloe and mom have been rude and standoffish? It all makes sense. Dad has never questioned me much about boys, even mom and Chloe have only ever said a few things here and there, but I was never pressured to date or find anyone, which I am grateful for.
“It all makes sense now.” I whisper, looking at Carla first and then at Ryker.
“What does?” Ryker asks.
“Everything” is my only response as I continue to work through my emotions and memories.
I stand quickly, and Carla and Ryker follow my lead.
“Carla, thank you for telling me everything. If you think of anything else, please do not hesitate to call. Also, I want to let you know that I am not mad at you, James, my dad, or any of my biological family. I understand why you all did what you did. I hold no hard feelings towards anyone for anything. Especially when you were acting with my safety in mind. However, now it is time for us to get back to the house. I have to pack for my trip tomorrow, and I want to get home before mom and Chloe does. I also need to sit down with my dad before I leave and have a nice long talk with him. Please give James my love. Tell him I know, and I don’t feel any animosity towards him. If anything, my feelings and love for you both has only grown more with learning what you both did and gave up for me. I cannot express my gratitude enough. I can’t wait to see you out west when we are both finally home and settled in. I also can’t wait until I get to finally meet the rest of my family. I’m going to try digging into my parents murders too once I get settled, so if you know of anything, or can find anything out, please let me know. I love you and I’ll see you soon.”
It isn’t the first time, I told Carla I loved her, I’ve been saying it for years, but now, it feels more profound, more honest, more meaningful. I give her the biggest hug I can manage, and give her a kiss on the cheek.
I turn towards Ryker, and give him a big, genuine smile. It feels like my life is finally beginning.
“Come here” he says affectionately and holds his arms open for me. I walk to him, and he embraces me with such warmth and love that I assume one can only find with the mate bond, and he gives me a quick kiss on the forehead. His eyes search mine as if asking if I am ok. I give him another big smile. He then positions me at his side, and reaches a hand out to Carla.
“Thank you for the honestly today. It is truly appreciated. I am so glad Rylee had you in her life, and I cannot wait for her to be able to meet the rest of her family. I’m sure our packs will have an even stronger alliance going forward. See you soon. Please tell James I am sorry to have missed him.”
With that, Ryker takes my hand and we walk towards the front door.
Carla follows us, and stands at the front door to wave us off. I glance back, over my shoulder to give her one last look before I get into the car. Ryker shuts my car door and races around to the passenger side to slide into his seat. Carla waves us off, and then we’re on the road back to the only home I have ever known.
But not for long. Tomorrow starts a whole new life for me. I’m excited and I’m nervous, but I have a feeling that my life is only about to get better. More fulfilling. More complete. I just need to get this conversation with my dad out of the way first. Then tomorrow I am getting on a plane to Colorado to begin the next chapter of my life.
Ryker looks over at me, and I glance over at him quickly before returning my eyes back to the road. He takes my right hand, intertwines our fingers together, and holds it in my lap as I steer with my left.
“Are you ok?” He genuinely asks, and I can feel the love and concern rolling off him. “Truly, with everything you learned today? That was a lot to take in. It’s ok if you’re not.”
I give his hand a reassuring gentle squeeze.
“It was a lot to take in, I won’t deny that, but honestly, I am ok. I’m just so glad to finally know the truth. Sure, it stings a little that it was kept from me for this long. That Carla, James and my dad knew the truth, possibly my mom and Chloe too, but I understand why they did what they did too. I cannot fault them for trying to protect me and keep me safe. If I am in danger, I hope I can find out why and who I am in danger of.”
Ryker leans over and gives me a quick kiss on the cheek.
“You are going to make a great luna. I already knew you were loving, level headed, and caring. Knowing you have alpha and beta blood makes sense. You are truly a natural. You are driven, fair, and generous. There are so many more enduring qualities I can say too, but we don’t have the time right now for me to list them all off.”
He gives me his beaming white smile, and I cannot help laughing with happiness. I love him. So much.
“Rylee, I hope you know just how lucky I am to finally have found you. I can’t believe I lived this long without you. I never want to go another day without you by my side. As soon as we are both in to Colorado, I never will. Our pack is so lucky I found you as well, but I’m definitely luckier. I get to call you mine and hold you and love you for the rest of my life.”
A wide smile stretches across my face that I can no longer hold in. He makes me feel so special.
“I’m so glad we found each other too. I honestly feel like I am the lucky one. You’re so sweet and loving, but strong and passionate too.”
As soon as the words leave my lips, I’m pulling into the driveway of my childhood home.
The drive from Carla’s is only a few short minutes.
We climb out, and hug quickly in the driveway.
Something remarkable passes between us as we embrace, but I cannot quite put my finger on what it is.
After we release one another, we venture into the house before anyone else returns home.