Authors: Elizabeth Kelly
Sophia nodded. Neither of them needed to say it, but they were both thinking of Draken and his pack. They were still out there and underneath the excitement over the wedding, there was a growing tension among all of them. Not knowing when or how Draken would attack, was putting them all on edge.
* * *
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong, or just keep glaring at your food?” Ian asked.
“There’s nothing wrong.” Kaden replied. He hadn’t wanted to join the others for dinner tonight, and Ian had brought their dinners to the barn without commenting.
Ian leaned over and scraped the carrots from his plate on to Kaden’s. “Seems like there’s something wrong.”
Kaden pushed at the pile of carrots. “I’m just tired.”
“Sophia seems to be upset as well.” Ian said casually.
Kaden glared at him. “Drop it, old man.”
Ian stared steadily at him. “You’ll feel better if you talk about it.”
“What’s there to talk about? I find Sophia attractive and I’m disgusted with myself because of it.”
“Why?” Kaden gave him an impatient look. “Because Ian, she’s a Lycan.”
“Aye, I’m aware of that.” Ian replied, amused.
Kaden put his plate down. “I know you’ve worked for the Lycans a long time, but they can’t be trusted.”
Ian shook his head immediately. “You’re wrong, Kaden.”
“I’m not.” Kaden insisted. “Lycans aren’t like you and I. They’re – they’re animals.”
Ian gave him a sharp look. “No they’re not. They have emotions and feelings just like humans and they love as deeply, if not deeper, than humans.”
Kaden didn’t reply and Ian sighed harshly. “Listen closely to me, Kaden. I like you. You’re a good man and I consider you a friend. Do you think of me as a friend?”
Kaden nodded. “Aye, I do.”
“Good. I hope that you’ll take what I’m about to say, to heart. It is not just the Lycans you believe untrustworthy. It’s everyone.”
Kaden stared at him in shock. “That’s not true.”
“Is it not? Name one other person, besides Bree, that you have trusted.”
Kaden opened his mouth and hesitated as Ian gave him a knowing look.
“Your life has not been easy, Kaden. I don’t blame you for not trusting, but I promise you that these people, these Lycans that Bree has learned to love and respect and trust, are worth getting to know. You have a wall around yourself and I understand why you do, but you’re hurting no one but yourself by building it higher.”
Ian sighed. “Bree has found her mate. She loves him and she trusts him with her life, and it upsets you. Your entire purpose since you were a small boy, was keeping her alive. Not having to do that anymore has left you floundering and unsure of yourself. You’re allowing your distrust for Lycans, for people in general, to keep you from seeing the truth. Sophia and the others are worth getting to know. You promised Bree that you would try.”
“I am trying.” Kaden replied.
“Try harder.” Ian clapped him lightly on the back and left him to his supper.
* * *
“Please mama. Please, please, please.” Leta gave her mother a pleading look and Avery smiled gently at her.
“They’re going overnight, Leta. You’ve never been away from your father and I overnight before.”
“I’m ten now, mama. It’s old enough.”
“Aye, I know my love.” She kissed Leta’s forehead as the little girl stared anxiously at her. Avery glanced at Tristan who gave her a small nod.
Avery smiled at Leta. “You’ll have to ask your brothers. If they – “
“I already asked Nicky and he said it was fine with him. Please mama, I want to pick out my own dress for the wedding.”
“Leta, you’re Bree’s flower girl. I imagine she’ll have a specific dress she’ll want you to wear.”
“She already told me I could wear whatever I wanted as long as it had blue in it. Oh please mama – I haven’t been to town in forever.” The little girl sighed dramatically.
“Alright, but you need to listen to your brothers and your sister and obey them without question. Do you understand me?”
Leta nodded eagerly as Avery stroked her hair back from her face. “And you cannot wander away at all. You must have your brothers or your sister with you at all times.”
The little girl nodded again and Avery held her chin firmly in her hand. “I’m serious, Leta. If you disobey them or wander away, it will be a very long time before you’re allowed to leave my sight again.”
“I understand, mama.” Leta said solemnly.
“Good. Now, go quickly to your room and pack a bag. They’re leaving soon.”
“It’s already packed!” Leta said brightly. “I packed last night!”
“Of course you did.” Tristan laughed and swung the little girl into his arms. “Run and get your bag, my sweet.” He kissed her soundly on the cheek before rubbing his scruff against face.
She giggled and pushed him away. “Stop it, papa!”
He set her down gently and she skipped out of the room as Avery sighed. Tristan put his arm around her and kissed her on the mouth. “She’ll be just fine.”
“I know.” Avery ran her fingers over his mouth. “You’re looking very handsome today, my lord.”
He grinned and kissed her again. This time he probed at her lips with his tongue and she opened her mouth so he could explore it lightly.
“I’m not on watch until this afternoon.” He whispered against her mouth.
“Is that right, m’lord?” She slid her hand down his back and squeezed his ass. “What did you have in mind?”
“You know exactly what I have in mind, girl.” He growled playfully.
She smiled and ran her hand through the grey that was just starting to show in the hair at his temples. “Again, my lord? You had me up half the night.”
“Aye, I remember. Are you tired?”
She kissed him firmly on the mouth in reply, and he pulled her tightly against his hard body. He was reaching for her breast when Nicholas and Sophia strolled into the room.
“Gross.” Nicky rolled his eyes as Maya and Dani joined them.
“I’m so excited!” Dani grinned at the others. “I can’t wait to try on dresses and look at decorations and – “
“Dani, remember that it’s Bree’s wedding.” Maya chided gently.
“I know, mama.” Dani replied. “But it doesn’t mean I can’t make suggestions.”
Avery laughed and led the others towards the door. “I’m sure Bree will be very happy for your help, Dani.”
* * *
“Kaden? Are you ready to go?” Bree climbed the ladder to the hayloft and peered into the room.
“Aye. Just packing my things.” He grinned at her and showed her the empty bag.
She laughed. “It’ll be nice to get your own clothes will it not? James’ clothes fit you fairly well, all things considered, but your pants are a little short.”
He looked down at his legs. “You don’t like the look of my ankles?”
Bree laughed again as she climbed down the ladder. “Hurry, Kaden. We’re leaving in ten minutes.”
He followed her down the ladder and stared at Bandit’s empty stall. “Where is Bandit?”
“I believe Ian has already saddled him for you and brought him into the yard.” Bree opened the barn door as Kaden joined her.
He stiffened when he saw Sophia swinging into the saddle of her own horse. “Why is she going with us?”
Bree smiled. “Because Kaden, she is my maid of honour. I need her with me.”
“I’m not going.” Kaden replied. He turned and headed towards the hayloft. Bree gave a grunt of frustration and ran after him. She grabbed his arm and swung him around. He blinked in surprise at the look of anger on her face.
“Stop being such a baby, Kaden!” She huffed at him.
“Bree, what – “
“You cannot avoid Sophia forever. I don’t know what happened between you two but if she’s willing to put it aside for the wedding, then my own brother should be able to do the same.”
He stared at her for a moment and then suddenly grinned before tugging lightly on her hair. “What has happened to my timid baby sister?”
She slapped at his hand. “Nothing’s happened to me. I am just tired of you being a pain in my ass.”
He laughed out loud and she shrieked with surprise when he suddenly lifted her and dumped her over his shoulder. “I never thought I would say this Bree, but living with these Lycans might actually be good for you. It’s nice to see you with a bit of spirit.”
She bit him sharply on the back and he flinched before setting her back on her feet. He rubbed at his back. “So the Lycans have taught you to bite?”
She stuck her tongue out at him. “Let’s go, the others are waiting.”
He followed her towards the door and she gave him a warning look. “I want you to play nice, Kaden.”
He stared at the light reflecting off Sophia’s dark hair. Playing nice with Sophia was something he dreamed about on a nightly basis. He snorted to himself and followed his sister.
“Bree, are you sure you don’t want to get married in a church instead of at the house? There’s a lovely one in the town we’re going to. We could decorate it so beautifully, and there’s a small building next to it that we could have a dinner in and dancing!” Dani smiled eagerly at her.
“No, I want to be married at home.” Bree said firmly.
“Can Lycans even go into a church? Don’t they just, I don’t know, burst into flame?” Kaden raised his eyebrows.
“It’s leeches who burst into flames if they go into a church.” Leta said solemnly.
“No they don’t, Leta. That’s just an old ancients’ tale. Leeches can go into a church as easily as Lycans and humans.” Sophia said. “And Kaden is only teasing – he knows that Lycans can go into churches.”
Leta gave him a suspicious look and Kaden winked at her. He was riding Bandit, and Leta was sitting in the back of the wagon with Dani. He watched as James, sitting in the front of the wagon next to Bree, handed her the reins.
She took them carefully and he kissed her forehead. “Just like I taught you, little one.”
She nodded, and he stretched and glanced at Nicholas who was riding his own horse in front of them. “There was that time in Windora when Nicky and that girl -what was her name again brother?
“Minta.” Nicholas grunted.
“Right, Minta. The people at that church certainly thought they might burst into flames. Of course that had nothing to do with them being Lycans and more because Nicky was – “
“Hold your tongue brother,” Nicky said warningly, “unless you want Bree to know what you were doing in the church that day?”
James flushed and Bree raised her eyebrow at him. “Care to share, my lord?”
He shook his head innocently. “Honestly my love, I can’t remember a single thing that happened to me before I met you.”
She laughed and punched him lightly before handing the reins back to him. “Wise answer.”
“Bree!” Dani tugged on her arm impatiently. “What about flowers? Have you thought about the kind you would like?”
Bree frowned. “There are no flowers this time of the year, Dani. It is too cold.”
Dani smiled. “I keep forgetting that you haven’t been to town before.”
“I have.” Bree replied. “I went with Sophia and Tristan and mama.”
Calling Avery ‘mama’, still felt strange on her tongue and she gave Sophia a hesitant look, wondering if it bothered the Lycan that Bree referred to Avery as mama.
Sophia smiled at her. “You did, but we did not take you to very many of the shops in the town. You didn’t see the flower shop.”
“Flower shop?” Bree frowned.
“It’s a store that sells fresh flowers all year around.” Dani explained.
“Really?” Bree blinked in surprise and Kaden sighed softly to himself.
Growing up, he had purposely kept Bree away from towns and cities as much as he could. He had been terrified that someone would realize how young he was, and try to take Bree away from him. Because of that, Bree was sadly naïve and his stomach twisted painfully.
“Yes, really.” Dani replied. “Of course, they don’t have nearly the selection that the ancients used to have. Did you know that before the Great War, there were hundreds of thousands of different flowers?”
“That can’t be true.” Bree stared wide-eyed at her.
“It is.” Dani said. “The poison the ancients used in the Great War killed many of the flowers and plants and animals. Only a small percentage of them survived.”
“Why didn’t they just grow them again?” Bree wondered.
“They couldn’t. It was many years before humans and Lycans could even begin to grow their own food again. The races were on the brink of extinction before the earth and the air finally healed itself. Why, I bet even a hundred years ago we could not have grown food in the land like we do now.” Dani said. “We are too close to the old city.”
“Too close to the old city?” Bree frowned. “It has to be at least a month’s ride to the old city.” She looked to James for confirmation and he nodded.
“Aye, I know.” Dani answered. “But the poison spread far.”
“How do you know all of this?” Bree asked curiously.
“Mama taught me. She taught all of us.” Dani said.
“How did a slave learn it?” Kaden asked.
Dani smiled at him. “Mama and Aunt Avery weren’t always slaves. As children, they were very wealthy. My grandfather was James Hendrin.”
“What?” Bree stared flabbergasted at her. Even she knew the name of the man who brought light back to the world.
“It’s true!” Dani said gleefully. “Mama used to have a ton of money. She said they used to go to parties nearly every month, and that their house had a room in it that was just for books. My grandfather taught them lots of stuff about the ancients.”
“James?” Bree looked at the Red and he nodded.
“Aye, it is true. I am named for my grandfather.”
“Mama says that grandpa was obsessed with the ancients. He wanted to learn everything about them so that we didn’t repeat their mistakes.” Dani said.
“How did mama and Maya become slaves?” Bree asked.
“Their father died and their mother sold them into slavery.” Sophia said shortly.