Ashley made Azrael a plate of food and filled his glass without being asked to. Again this was an act that to her may mean very little, but to a lycan it meant a great deal. She was showing him respect as a mate by serving him in such a way. His family would see that too, once they witnessed a meal with the young couple.

“Thank you,” Azrael watched his mate in a cherishing manner. She was perfect, she wasn’t like a lycan, but she was perfect in his eyes. He’d felt her even before he had seen her. And then, the voice of her mother broke into his thoughts.

“Did you finish your internship?” Rose was trying to keep Azrael from focusing too much on Ashley and her actions. Her daughter didn’t know much about lycan and their ways. It was something she would need to learn; that much was apparent.

“No, ma’am. I was going to get my sister…” he paused, some hurt in his demeanor. “I didn’t get to go to my internship. I wound up a slave, instead.” He paused for a moment before adding, “It would be under Avery Eriksson, though I hate that last name, it was kind of the only one I had. I suppose you could look up or have somebody look up my records to tell you when I left. I attended in Wilmington. I know I’ll never forget college in a beach town.” He perked up a bit. “But then I kind of moved around before that.”

“I’m sure we can find it. Would you like to go back into medicine?” Rose was curious what he intended to do now that he was freed.

“Yes, yes I would.” Looking to the food, he closed his eyes momentarily and then took a deep breath to really enjoy the scent of it all before grabbing the fork and digging in.

“It’s a field that never will become obsolete,” Nathan smiled. He liked that part of the equation.

“And I can be of help to others like us. The field is …or was… in need,” he spoke around the bites of food.

Ashley watched him eat and smiled a moment. He’d been taken trying to save his sister and now he was here but where was she? “We can you help you find your family. We’ll start at the Eriksson’s right?”

Azrael was about to respond to his mate, when once again, her mother interrupted.

“Absolutely not!” Rose had quickly snapped then covered her own mouth in surprise. She’d heard tales about that coven and wanted her children no place near it.

“You will do no such thing. Going to the other side without us to help was enough,” Nathan scolded.

“If it’s that bad we can’t just leave his sister there now can we?”

“Ash,” the lycan was trying to get a word in edgewise.

“We hand this over to the authorities and let them handle it properly, is what we do, Ashley,” Rose replied quickly.

“Why? She could be in danger,” Ahsley was confused.

“We have no idea how long he’s been gone, Ash,” her mother reminded.

“The Eriksson Coven flies just enough under Crimson radar to get away with a lot of bullshit. They’ve been taken down a couple of times, but someone always claws their way back and keeps things going. It’d take a lot to get inside and do anything,” Nathan was just being realistic.

“It’s not worth the lives of anyone here to go up against them without proper reinforcement.”

“But, surely there’s something we can…” Ashley was cut off by the sudden response of Azrael.

Finally having enough, Azrael growled and got up from the table. He backed away and held his hands out, his nails having already grown into claws. He willed the shift to stop. He was trying to will it to stop.  

“They killed all of them. I…I don’t think she’s alive. I shouldn’t have even gone back…” he was breathing heavily as he looked over to Ashley. “Promise you won’t go! Don’t go!” He looked for a way out as he felt the bones begin to pop and things begin to change. “No,” he growled the word roughly. He was trying not to change. His emotions just had taken him right into it. 

Nathan grabbed Rose and moved her bodily aside to give the boy some room. The lycan took the opportunity to run outside the house before shifting once again.  He went flying over the railing and out to the trees as Devon and Eva were trying to make their way up the steps.

Pushing Eva behind him instinctively Devon rumbled a deep warning to the unfamiliar lycan. His eyes glowed that warm gold as he went on defense. The big man made no other moves that could be seen as threatening; he was simply warning the other at this point.

Ashley was standing at the railing looking at them all. “Azrael don’t! They’re friends coming to help you!”

Eva watched, startled by the entire situation.

“You asked us here to help with a stray named after this world’s angel of death?” the alpha raised a brow and looked over to the three humans that stood at the door and at the banister respectively.

“What?”Ashley shook her head frustration and even huffed a little. “I think that’s what they called him for the fighting arena. We upset him. He can’t…he can’t stop the change. He needs help I can’t give him. I just don’t want him hurt.”

“No worries, if you’ve put up your wards, you know he can’t get out. And I know you’re accustomed to what it takes to keep a lycan contained, Nathan. Devon and I can track him well enough. He’s not trying to cover his tracks. What…what just happened? Do you know anything about him?” Eva had helped strays for as long as she had been able to. It was her past time. Most were not feral but, since these folks had gotten involved with this particular one, she figured she’d ask the first questions she always asked.

“He’ll come back, not for us but for Ashley. He was kidnapped from this side while searching for his sister. He also has a brother that has been helping him, or was until he vanished into slavery. He’s not sure how long it has been since he was taken. He has another name and we have the names of his siblings, but before we go further, might I suggest that you all come in and get a drink? We can wait for him. He won’t stay out long because he knows she’ll wait for him no matter how cold it gets. Stubborn child.” Rose motioned toward the doorway. 

Devon held his mate close and looked down at her. “Up to you darlin’ I follow yer lead in this remember?” In cases like this Devon was along for muscle and support. He never interfered until she asked him to – unless it became dangerous. It was a compromise between them – when she had promised no more solo runs without him.

Eva walked over to Ashley and placed her handmade shawl over the girl’s shoulders.

“Please tell me you didn’t make a mistake. I’m not sure that I can deal with another separation ceremony right now, Ashley.” Eva had despised doing such a thing as breaking a bond between Derek and Isabel. It had taken her many nights asking the Goddess’ guidance and forgiveness and to think that Isabel’s older sister might have done the same?

Ashley looked the woman in the eyes and shook her head, “I don’t feel like this is a mistake Mrs. Weylyn.  I went there for him and I wouldn’t leave without him. I won’t leave him now either.” She gripped the railing with one hand and the shawl closed with the other as she stared back out at the woods and waited for her wolf to come back.

Nathan kept quiet. Rose was right and proper to get them inside before telling them what they knew. And the pup had already shifted before Devon and Eva had gotten a good look, otherwise, this conversation wouldn’t be taking place and those two lycan would’ve shifted and gone right after the kid.  This needed explaining. And Devon was right. The wards Nathan had around this place would keep intruders out and also keep Azrael in.

“She’ll stay right there and we can see her from the table. Nathan will leave the sliding glass open while we talk over glasses of tea.” Rose led the way inside and with a smile began pouring everyone their drinks.

Nathan and Rose sat on one side the large table and Devon pulled out Eva’s chair on the other. Once they were seated, Eva took a deep breath.  “I’m glad this is not what I thought it was.”

When Eva joined her, Rose took her hand and squeezed it but didn’t let go as she looked her in the Alpha woman’s eyes. “I have something to tell you, but I want you to sit here and listen to everything before reacting.”

“Oh…kay…” Eva looked from Rose to their hands and then back again. What was this about? Or was this just that Kennedy propensity for overreacting?

“He went to school to become a doctor. He went by the name Avery Eriksson, he has a brother named Evan and a sister named Becca. They are from the Eriksson coven and I believe that makes him your son. I believe Ashley has brought one of your children home to you Eva. He doesn’t know that, so you need to take this very slowly.” Rose had tears in her eyes for this heartbroken mother and she wanted it to be true. “Just look at him when he shifts and you’ll see what I mean.”

Eva sat there, unmoving, not even breathing. They’d been taken from her. Each one of them, one after the other. There had been no reason to do anything but mourn for them. They had died. They weren’t natural, is what she had told herself. They weren’t meant to be… the Goddess had taken them from her, and when she had lost her first two with Devon, she had thought she was cursed. They were… they were all dead…

Dev kept his arm around his mate and when it felt like she was losing it he held her even closer. He was processing what Ms. Matthew’s had told them. Her first pups weren’t in the fields and one was here?

Eva’s hand came back to her mouth to catch a pent up sob. Her eyes filled with tears.  But she couldn’t talk. She couldn’t speak. This wasn’t real – was it?

“They died. Evan got sick at age three. He had a fever and I couldn’t stop it. I tried.. And he died.  They took him from me and told me he died. And Avery was only two when he contracted it. I kept him okay for a few years, but… it got worse and I had to let them… but they couldn’t… and Becca…. I… I only got to hold her…” she was hyperventilating. She knew in her mind what to do and even went through the steps she would have taken had this been anyone else but herself.  She couldn’t speak. She looked at Devon, desperate for confirmation and air and assurance and anything!

There was a soft soothing rumble from his chest as Devon let his mate turn in his arms to face him.

“This is good news, love. It means we have pups that didn’t go to the fields after all. Nothing bad there right? Now we have one right here that needs our help and maybe a little guidance is all. He’s smart. He’s a doc. So he’s gonna have a good life and yer gonna get to see him all through it. First though, we have ta get him through this moment and get him used to us, right?” Thick knuckles of his left hand stroked beneath Eva’s chin as he rumbled again for her. They’d get this pup settled and then Devon knew he’d find the other two for her to make her life as complete as he could.

His words and his touches were calming her down. This was a weight that had suddenly felt crushing to her. They’d been alive all of this time and she’d not known?  Devon could see all of the questions she had inside of her bubbling while they just looked into one another’s gazes. Her hands went around him and she hugged him tightly and rubbed her tears on his chest.  

Across from them Rose watched as she leaned into her dragon. It was a touching moment and Rose hoped it all worked out well for them. It was hard, losing a loved one, and she thought that maybe they were all due a little happiness.

Nathan put his arm around Rose and watched and waited.

Eva soon came around and looked up at Devon, “You’re right.” She wiped at her eyes. 

“Now want to go find him or do we stay here and enjoy tea?” Devon gave his vixen a slow grin that made his eyes sparkle.

“Who cares about the tea!” Eva went running out the door. She was shifting as soon as she hit the patio. She bounded by Ashley without a second thought. She was tracking her son. There were so many questions she had and he was the answer to them all.  

Nathan growled a reaction to them all and looked to Rosie for permission.

“If I get behind the boy, I could flush him out quicker,” He offered.

“Let’s do it!” Devon was already on his way out.

“He wouldn’t even have to see me. But… Ash has never seen me, either. Maybe she should.” This was one of the few places he could actually shift his form without worry so long as it was dark outside. 

Smoothing her hand over his cheek Rose nodded, “Yes, go enjoy yourself while you can. It won’t hurt for her to see you thus, besides I love watching you fly.” While Rose couldn’t enjoy the ride or the flight right now, she felt Uscias should be able to enjoy for them both while she watched from the sideline. He may have looked older as a human, but his actions told another story. He was out the door with a quickness. 

Rose followed the trio outside and she moved to stand beside her daughter and watched as they shifted forms to give chase to Azrael.

“They’re going to run him down?” Ashley didn’t like that idea at all.

“No, my child they are going to find him and run with him. He needs to know he doesn’t have to run alone. His mother is about to show him that.” She smiled Ashley’s way.

“Mother? Eva is his mom and Dev..” Ashley thought she had it all together.

“Devon isn’t his biological father but he will happily take the father’s position if given the chance to.” Rose slipped an arm around her daughter’s shoulder and waited for the reaction once Ashley saw Uscias in his true form.

Nathan didn’t shift like the others. He watched them run on past as he jogged out to the center of the rounded off clearing below the house.  Once he got there, he turned and clapped his hands together, the flash of magic that it made looked a lot like a firework that kept growing and growing and then, in its place was a lustrous gray and black scaled creature nearly the size of the house that they were standing behind.  He bowed to his mate and daughter before moving to the edge of the field.

Ashley watched wide eyed as her father changed into the fierce form of his dragon. She  knew what he was, but had never seen him like this. She had no words..

“Breathtaking isn’t he?” Rose watched while smiling and wishing she could fly with him again.

Uscias bounded across the clearing to grab some air in his wings before he flapped and went upward into the sky.  

The smell of the dragon had Azrael turning away from his current path and moving back toward the house. He wasn’t sure what to make of the smells and there had been sounds that bothered him. He had no idea he was being wrangled that way by the man he had just been eating with. Not yet, anyway.

Devon took the high road in his wolf form and tracked the unfamiliar scent. He didn’t bother hiding as he was playing bait to the other male lycan. He figured if anyone was going to get pounced it should be him.

Azrael watched from one of the higher shelves of rock as the other wolves moved after his scent. He’d not found any flowing water on this side of the boundary. He didn’t like that.  He didn’t know who this was, tracking him, but he moved to double back and then the wind changed. The lycan froze.

Tilting his head back the huge reddish colored wolf with Alpha markings stared up the rock face where the scent led him. Fluidly, Devon shifted from full wolf to hybrid and digging his claws into the soft limestone, he scaled to the top and stood on the ledge to look at the other wolf.

The lycan backed up, huffing at the obvious elder lycan before him. He wasn’t sure what to do. Was this one going to attack him? Since he hadn’t – Azrael hadn’t attacked either. However, he didn’t shift, just in case he needed to defend himself or run. In wolf form, he could run like the wind.

There were deep rumbles and growls as Devon attempted lycan and when it didn’t seem to make sense to the wolf, he shifted to his human form that still wore his clothing though a little tattered from the shifting.

Azrael’s head tilted to the side. He didn’t understand. Not a mixed lycan language.  

“Not here to hurt ya, just came to say hi and introduce ourselves. Ya took off before we made it up the stairs.” Devon chuckled low and shoved his hands in his front pockets to further prove no threat was present. “My mate will be here in a minute so if ya gonna shift and end up naked ya might wanna do it now so we can get ya dressed.”

Azrael backed up and concentrated. Unlike before, he was more controlled. He shifted and his clothing was still intact.  He looked Devon up and down.

“I only lost control. I’m getting things back, now.” He looked down at himself, his clothes nice still for what they were. “I shouldn’t have run, but my emotions went wild. I take it, you’re the ones that are here to help me with that?”  

“Yeah, son. We are.”

Eva came up and shifted immediately upon seeing her son. He was so tall and handsome, but he had the same face and eyes…and his scent was still similar. It was missing her own scent, of course.

“Avery?” she asked, moving forward step by step. She had to look up at him, now whereas before she had held him in her arms and he had run at her side.  

Her voice. Her look. Her skin was just a hint darker than his own, but her hair was reddish, wild, thick, and curly. He sniffed the air and the smell was a memory that comforted him.

“Mama?” he whispered, an expression of longing was on his face.

“Yes, it’s me. I thought you were in the fields, Avery. But you’re standing here in front of me a grown man?” She opened her arms up and the young man moved forward, falling to his knees and wrapped his arms around Eva’s hips, his head against her tummy. Her arms wrapped around him as well. She leaned as best she could to take in his scent and kiss his head.  

Devon watched and smiled with happiness for his mate. He didn’t interrupt the mother and son moment anymore than he ever did with her and their other pups. Instead, the big man waited patiently and knew that his mate would introduce them soon enough.

“Avery,” Eva stood up straight again as one hand motioned toward Devon, “The big fellow? He’s my mate, Devon Weylyn. We’re the alphas of a pack, here in this world,” She kissed his cheek as he slowly stood. He held her hand and turned to the other male. Eva knew what would come and so she let go reluctantly.

As the young man produced his forearm for customary greeting, Devon clasped it with his own and pulled Avery forward for a bone crushing bear hug. “Welcome home son.” The Alpha eased back only enough for eye contact as he made the offer clearer. “As Eva’s pup, you are also mine and I proudly offer you the Weylyn’s loyalty, love, trust, and name if you’re of a mind to take it. I adore, cherish, and love all that is my mate and the pups she has blessed me with – which includes you and your siblings.”

“Thank you sir,” he was being squished! But he tried to just deal with it until Devon allowed him to once again be free. “I miss my family. We never got to really be a true family…”

“If it’s family you want son, ya got plenty of it. We don’t turn our back on our own.” Devon let the young man go so he could step back several paces to put distance between them.

“Will Ashley be accepted? I would not be free if not for her. I am hers,” he grinned and turned to look toward where he could feel her. No matter what separated them, he could feel her.

Devon rubbed at the back of his neck as he watched the younger man look towards the direction of the house. What was it with their pups and forming bonds with those other than lycan? The big lycan looked towards his mate on this. In most cases he was the person to ask. When it came to mating, healing, and babies? Those were all Eva’s areas. Dev helped in everything just as she helped him in everything, but at times they knew when to step back and give the other control. So instead of answering the question regarding Ashley Matthews, he switched topics. “What of yer siblins?”

“Maybe I can find Evan again. I don’t know how long it’s been. He always kept track of me and not the other way around. And…Becca?” His mood seemed to suffer when he mentioned his sister’s name.

“It’s okay. There’s plenty of time.” Eva smiled.  

“Then we’ll keep our eyes and our ears open for any word on them?” Devon was grinning as he looked Azrael over. “For now though, we would like ya to come home with us. Ya mama wants to put meat on ya bones and make sure ya truly are healthy and well.” His arm slid around Eva’s waist as he nuzzled her in a show of affection that was guaranteed to make her smile.

Azrael looked from them, between them, and then back toward the house.  

“I need to get back to Ash,” he turned and ran back through the woods.  He wasn’t sure of anything else. He was sure of Ash. She wanted him to stay here with her. And he didn’t want to say anything about Becca. So it was best to go back to her; the one he wanted to call his mate.  

Eva looked up at Devon and huffed. Maybe they had come across too strongly? Maybe he was too attached – that wasn’t even a question. She hoped she could talk he and Ashley into a nice courting period to be sure of their feelings.  

“Let’s go. I want to spend more time just… looking at him.”  

“He gets that from you.” Devon grinned as he walked with his mate back towards the house. “I’m thinkin’ we’re gonna have to accept the Matthews gal to keep him… not sure I’m likin’ this recent trend of breakin’ old ways so much. How many more are gonna choose other than lycan?”

“Well, the good thing about a human is that if she really wants to be his mate, she could change for him.  Even an elf can change for a lycan, though, I doubt Wulf would ever want to change Zen. Derek?” Eva shrugged her shoulders.   

There was just a huff of sound in reference to the wayward one that might as well be theirs by birth.

“Derek’ll do what he’s always done. He’ll do what he likes and to hell with everything else – including repercussions. Pup’s more like his father than he wants to admit.” Devon led his mate down from the woods and towards the back of the house. He paused before actually exiting them so that Eva could watch Azrael with the pretty blonde. Maybe she was right, and this wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Ashley was curled up on the bench seat out on the patio. She refused to go back in until Azrael was back and she knew that he was okay. So she’d curled into the blanket and enjoyed the coolness of the air while closing her eyes.

The sound of the wood creaking was the only sound he made as he moved up the stairs toward his mate. Well, his lady. He came to her and sat next to her and put his arms around her.

“I’m sorry.” He didn’t know what else to say. His reaction had been over the top and he didn’t want her to be scared of him.  “I got frustrated and… thinking about Becca hurts. And there were so many things moving through my head.”

Curling in close to the warmth that Azrael put off, Ashley smiled for him. 

“It’s alright, we shouldn’t have pushed you so hard. Sometimes we get carried away.” Her head rested on his chest and she could hear his heartbeat which made her smile just a little brighter. “I just wish there was some way I could ease your pain. You deserve some happiness in your life.”

“You do. You make the pain go away.” He closed his eyes and paused in what he was saying.

“Did you enjoy your surprise? I hoped maybe having other lycan here to talk to would help and then finding out it’s your parents.. that was like wow. I was surprised.” She gave a soft little laugh and enjoyed his body heat.

“I haven’t seen her since I was a child. I don’t know her. I don’t know him. They’re nice. But I know you. I would prefer to stay with you.” He snuggled up to her despite their awkward position on the bench.  

 “Mmm I could get used to this living heater thing you’ve got going on,” Ashley hadn’t realized how cold she’d been until just now. “Well, at least during winter. I think during summer I might have to worry about overheating.” It wasn’t often that Ashley joked and teased but with him, it was different. He made her different. He drew the playful, flirty side out that few got to see.

“Overheating can be good, too,” He replied, a bit of a chuckle leaving him for once. “Besides, so long as we’re careful, the heat is good. Don’t get burned.” His lips ghosted her ear.  

There a a small quick intake of breath and heart fluttered even as her breath left in a slow shudder. Ashley’s body was quick to respond and it shocked her a little.

Eva and Devon walked from the forest through the trail to the clearing that was the backyard of the cabin. Immediately, the alpha knew they needed to figure something out. These two were getting very close.

When his parents came into view Ashley quickly jumped up from the bench and had to grab for the throw that her mom had wrapped around her. She blushed as if she were some school girl caught doing something naughty and the worst part was she felt herself blush from the tips of her ears straight down her neck.

Avery’s eyes were watching, but he didn’t move like Ashley did.

Swallowing hard Ashley looked at Azrael’s mother and smiled.

“Hello Mrs. Weylyn and Mr. Weylyn.. my parents are in the kitchen if you need them.” She nervously tucked blonde strands that had escaped her ponytail back behind her ears. She hadn’t stepped away from Azrael or the bench, and she wasn’t going to unless forced away. She’d just stood up, breaking the physical contact because of the arrival.

“You sure you aren’t lycan? You move as quick as one,” Eva whispered.

“Calm down and catch your breath girl, we’ve never bitten ya before and not gonna start now.” Devon chuckled low as they all seemed to realize where things were quickly heading before their arrival. He watched as she sat back down beside their son and how Avery was quick to draw her close again. Protect and defend, oh yeah, they were well and truly stuck with the human. Like Eva pointed out though, humans could change if the genetics were there.

Avery’s eyes were on them.  

“They want me to go home with them. I want to stay with you.” For Avery, it was simple.

She felt trapped.. His parents were staring at her as if waiting for an answer and she wasn’t sure what to say. How did it work with lycan? Was it always so fast? She had just pulled him from a cage in the otherworld and now he wanted her forever. How could he be so sure? She didn’t want to be hurt if he changed his mind later.

“I want you with me too, but I want you to be sure and it not be just because I brought you back from there.”Ashley looked down and then back at him as she grabbed his hand in hers to hold, “I don’t want to be a mistake or something you regret later.” Ashley looked towards the lycan elders, “You have to help me here because I don’t know anything about lycan ways, but I want to learn for him. Help me be what he needs.” She wasn’t sure if that sounded right or if she’d fumbled it badly but she hoped all three understood what she was saying.

“A mistake?” Avery wasn’t sure what to think. “No one is a mistake,” he whispered, but he touched his head. He’d said that before.  

Eva’s back straightened. She walked forward and took Ashley’s hand.

“He’s absolutely sure of you, but you have to be absolutely sure about yourself, my dear. None of us can do that for you.”  She moved a strand of blond hair back behind the girl’s ear again. “Think about it. And in the meantime, come inside before you get too cold. We lycan can take the cold better than you. And he isn’t thinking clearly yet, my dear, not about practical things, anyway.”

“No.. wait – you don’t understand. I have no doubts. I want him. I was drawn to him even before I found him. He pulled me there. He pulled me to him. I went there for him and I know that for me and my future – it’s him. I just wanted him to be sure. I don’t want us to leave this little piece of the world and see others and him realize that there are more out there than just me.” Ashley held the other woman’s gaze as she squeezed the hand that held hers, “I saw how badly Derek hurt because of Izzy and I don’t want that for either of us.” She let Eva’s hand go to step back into the warmth of Azrael’s embrace. “But if you’re sure, Azer…” She looked up at him. “I know I am.” 

Azrael welcomed her, holding her from behind as if he were a cloak for her.  When he looked at his parents, the bright blue eyes spoke a warning to them.

“So, please don’t take him from me.” Ashley leaned back into Azer as he held her. She wasn’t certain about anything except this. She just didn’t want them to move so fast that errors were made and regrets had later on.

“There are things that may change for you… or may not. Depends on your blood and also on what the two of you can handle together. It seems you’ve already been through a lot, but believe me, it’s just the beginning. You have to come to know his history and he needs to know who you are. It’s called courting. It means you get to know each other and while you do that, you find out about all of those things your heart and mind both question. And by the end of that courting, you’ll no longer have those doubts.”  

“Why does it depend on my blood? And this courting, is that how it was for you and your husband?” Ashley was curious and wouldn’t hide that fact. She wanted to learn what she could so why not start now.

“Mate.” Devon corrected her, “Eva is my mate and I am hers. And ours was a little different situation and a very different time and place. Eva was already lycan and so it was a little different for us in that aspect as well. Not quite so much worry over harm if you understand.”

“You worried that you’d hurt her?” Ashley looked from one to the other. “Azrael wouldn’t hurt me.” For herself she was very certain of this and yet not everyone seemed so. “I trust him, he wouldn’t hurt me.”

“No way,” Azrael assured.

“You wanted to learn from us, then please allow yourself to learn, Ashley.” Eva would not parse words.

“I’ve no doubt that he wouldn’t hurt you on purpose, but at times when we get carried away or highly emotional we tend to forget ourselves and what we are capable of. In our case we heal quickly so the rush is fun, but he can’t afford such slips with you Ashley or it could be fatal.” Devon was being serious and he wanted them to understand that this put limits on Avery or Azrael as she called him. The alpha raised his chin a bit and reminded them, “What just happened? When you couldn’t contain yourself? That can happen when you’re … “

“Feeling amorous,” Eva added.

“Then, how do I control myself? I know I can’t yet. That’s why I had to run away. They asked me about Becca. I couldn’t protect her like a big brother should. My mind just, it got locked on that and then Ash’s family, they were arguing at the dinner table and kept asking more and more questions. If I can’t handle questions, I may not be able to handle anything else. But I want to.” Azrael was nothing if not honest.

“You couldn’t protect her? Protect her from what?” Eva was suddenly concerned.  

“The Erikssons. She wouldn’t leave with me. Evan had left a long time before. I left, but she was safe when I left. Then, she called me out of the blue, scared. I went to help her leave. But I wound up getting snared.”  

“So maybe she’s alive and we just need to find her.” Ashley was already thinking like a lycan. Maybe coming from a big family helped. There was no you in the pack; it was we. “But first, we need to handle this control issue, because I don’t want to accidentally die and leave him with a bunch of guilt. He has enough of that already. And he needs to get his life back. Dad said something about the clinic and I think he’d be a great doctor there. He needs to get his mind on something else other than memories.”

“But his memories may be the only thing that can help us find her,” Eva pointed out.

Azrael shook his head and moved for the door. It was too much right now. He wanted to leave them all and go where it was quiet. He completely ignored Rose and Nathan and moved back to the mat in front of the fire. Picking up the covers, he pulled them around his body and just watched the flame.

“And those memories may be the one thing that can still break him.” Ashely sighed. “I’m sorry, Mrs.Weylyn, but I’d rather have him completely healthy right now.” Ashley turned from the elders and followed Azrael inside. She passed her mom with barely a look before going to him. They could hash what they wanted between them, but she would do what was right for Azrael. And she would protect him and his well-being from all of them. 

Eva looked down in shame. “I shouldn’t have pushed.”

“Maybe not. At least we know his triggers, though. Once he gets better, things can turn around, Eva. And in the meantime, I can send this information to Sen and Gabe and the fang. They might be able to find things out for us.”

Eva nodded.

Inside, Ashley looked down at Azrael.

“May I join you or are you going to hog the heat?” She wasn’t going to let him brood and get lost in his own head again.

“I thought you might not be able to handle the heat,” He smirked, remembering their fun on the porch. He looked up at her and took her hand to tug her down on the mat next to him.

You okay?”

“Yeah. My head’s just jumbled.”

“Are you really okay and not just telling me what I want to hear?”

“I just need to get my mind back to where it needs to be, Ash. I know I can be the mate you deserve. And I can be the doctor that I should be. I’m not doing anything because you saved me. I’m doing it because I need to.”  

“Good, that’s both what’s needed and what I want to hear. Do it for yourself Azer or do you prefer Avery?” No matter what he chose to be called he would be perfect and she just knew deep in her gut that there was no other for her. Fate and destiny had led her to him – of that she was positive.

“You can call me Azer or Azrael. But, this world and I suppose my family will always know m as Avery.” He held no distaste for his fighter’s name. “Azrael is who you saved and who survived for Avery to continue to exist, in a way of speaking.”

“I think you would’ve found a way free without me. But I’m glad you pulled me to you Azer, I’m glad it’s me who gets the joy of you in my life.” Her hand lifted to smooth over his opposite cheek as she pressed her lips to the other. The ease of their small intimate touches and casual caresses all felt so natural. It was hard to imagine they’d only met but a few days ago and that these were their first actual moments of intimacy. It felt as if they’d been with one another for years! When she looked at him she didn’t see an animal, a beast that could rip people apart barehanded. She saw a man who needed tender touches and someone to show him love.

 

********

 

Rose stepped out to join the lycan when her husband returned from his flying. He shifted and jogged up behind them. Seeing that Rose was on a mission, he walked on by and went inside to grab some things for them all.  

“Well what do you think?” She wanted the mother’s opinion on the whole situation.

Eva sat down on the bench where their son had been and gave Devon the larger chair across from her. She patted the seat next to her for Rose.

Taking the seat beside Eva, Rose watched the big male settle into the patio chair as if he were light as a feather. Lycan never ceased to amaze her. Her gaze turned to Eva and she waited to hear what the woman had to said about their children.

“He has his mind better than a feral. But he’s haunted. I believe Ashley may be correct, in that he needs stability and habit and he needs something to keep his mind moving right now. He loves helping people as a doctor or nurse or whatever he has been able to be. So perhaps he should do that. We’ve been becoming friends with Dr. Keene and if that’s who is treating him, she already knows the background. If she hires him, she can also look out for him.” Eva figured she’d begin there… give them a plan.

“He also needs to come run with the Pack, Eva, or he’ll never get total control over himself.” Devon could see that his mate wanted to fix their boy, but this time like with Aaron there was no quick fixes.

Nathan came out later with the whiskey and passed the bottle to Devon along with a glass.

Taking the offered glass and whiskey, Devon offered the old claw a cigar as he put one between his own teeth.

“Don’t smoke anymore. The missus isn’t a fan of the smell.” He smiled at Devon and toasted the man with the highball.

“It’s why I smoke Cubans, the aroma is sweeter and so is the taste.” Devon chuckled and even dipped the end of his cigar in the glass of whiskey so the tobacco soaked up some of the liquor. “My missus don’t seem to mind too awful much as long as her house ain’t filled with smoke.” He grinned and winked at his mate.

“The smell upsets my stomach so he’s kind enough not to smoke them.” Rose’s eyes sparkled as she looked at Eva again, “I am pretty sure he loves me just a little.”

Devon offered the bottle to his mate, “With what Eva just said, and my thoughts on the matter, they can’t stay up in these mountains forever.  Or let’s just go ahead and say, wet we won’t let them. Not for their own good. Where’s Ashley staying now days? City or out at your ranch?”

“She flits between both. She’s taken time off from the legal research assistant duties to handle this. She should honestly be training with Gabriel for a Councilorship. Or she should have been. I guess that might be derailed, now.” Nathan was a bit irritated by the timing.

“He needs time at the clinic and he needs time with the pack and he needs it to all be a cycled routine to help him sort things out better. And it sounds like Ashley should be getting back to her life and not putting it on hold for long. If he stays with the pack, that’s not too far out of town.” Eva nodded to herself as she pieced the plan together. “He’s lost track of time. Unless he remembers something that can give us a clue to the timeframe of his taking, we may never know how long he was over there and how long his wolf had to protect him. Unless we can find his brother or sister, of course. They might be able to put  timeframe to it. And so, we need to prepare for the worst.” She was thinking out loud. “They need to see each other daily, but they don’t need to be allowed to move forward until he has better control.” She clenched her fists, exasperated. “But if he’s not got control, should he even be around the rest?” 

Devon slowly stood up and moved to his mate. He knew she was worried for their pups, she always had worried over them. But her fierceness in this situation told him that she was getting a bit over excited. His chest rumbled in that soft way of his to let his mate know she was worrying him.

“If he feels anxious right now, the wolf wants to claw its way out. He shouldn’t even be moved to the pack until that at least has come under control, Devon. I don’t want him faced with everyone all at once and then him lose control and we lose him…”

Large knuckles beneath her chin kept Eva from looking away from him.

“We can watch them. Nathan isn’t about to let things go too far and neither will we. He’ll adjust, he isn’t like my brother, we won’t lose him to the wolf. He has Ashley to center him right?” His voice never raised as he stayed his calm usual self to keep her grounded.

“Me and Rosie, we’ve got plenty of hands out there at the ranch to help us out. We can help keep an eye on the both of ’em. And i’m sure when we need help, there’ll be plenty of family and pack to offer it. I want our girl to be happy, and your boy makes her happy.”

“Are you sure?” Eva took Devon’s hand. She would believe him if he could tell her so.

“Yes I’m sure. You seen him, when she’s around he focuses on her. In that aspect she seems a perfect mate. As long as she is grounded he will be too. Which means we keep Ashley stable and he’ll be stable. I know he needs to get himself together darlin’ but you know as well as I that Pack help their wounded. We just need to get him started first. I’m not gonna throw him amongst ’em and walk away.” Devon’s golden gaze was calm, confident and assuring.

Eva nodded. She believed him. Avery would be fine. So, her mind moved on to the next worry in her heart.

“If he lost time… how long ago was it that his sister asked for help?” It was the other thing that was bothering Eva. How long had Becca needed help? Why had she needed help? Why had things changed from her baby girl refusing to leave the coven to her calling her brother for help? Was she in danger? Had that danger caught up with her? Was she… “When I thought she was dead, I could accept that. Not knowing? Not knowing…I…”

“Hey..” Those large hands cupped Eva’s face as he leaned down to her so they were eye to eye. “We’ll find her. She’s her mother’s daughter, and you are a survivor. For now though? Focus on him, because he needs his mama even if he doesn’t know it yet. Let me work on finding the others. I swear I’ll find ’em for ya. Trust me with this.” Dev had no idea how long it had been and doubted that Avery did either. So he’d use other means to find those pups. 

Eva put her arms around Devon’s waist and held him tight. She believed him. Ashley had found one pup purely by accident. Surely, with the clues they had, they could find the other two. Knowing Devon, it wouldn’t take long.

 

~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2018