It had been a couple of days and Ashley’s whole body ached and just the idea of moving was unappealing. Her shoulder throbbed and when she finally eased away from Azrael and tiptoed to the bathroom. Stripping was a chore but she succeeded and when she looked in the mirror it was to see the angry purple bruise on her collarbone where he’d bitten her along with a few smaller finger bruises at her hips. She was kind of… proud… of them. Looking back over her shoulder, though, Ash was reminded of her sweet lycan warrior. She didn’t mind in the least but she knew if Azrael saw them he may never touch her again. Running a bath Ash decided to soak before rousting her lover to start their day. He had training and work while she had to head into the office for a meeting and some file work.

Once her bath finished Ashley dressed in her business get up which covered everything but a faint spot that looked like a hickey on her neck. Her hair was in a tight bun and her straight cut, collared blouse and jacket with the pencil skirt that went to her knees said she was in serious mode. Padding barefoot to the bed she smiled as she knelt on the edge to lean over and kiss the sexy man that was still occupying it.

“Mmm…” his eyelashes fluttered as his blue eyes came out of slumber. He reached out to hold her hand. “Leaving already?”

“I have to head to the office, I’ll be back this afternoon. You need shower and head to Devon, he’ll be waiting on you. I’ll track you down when I get back I promise.” She kissed him and rubbed her nose with his. Then she moved over to toss on her heels and shuffled out the door with her briefcase in hand. She waved at Azrael’s parents as she climbed into her car and took off.

Devon gave Avery another hour to get himself awake and together before he left the porch and went across to knock on the cabin door. “Ya alive in there boy or was the night too rough for ya.” Devon chuckled and leaned on the door frame and grinned as he waited for the door to open.

Avery opened the door and held up a cup of coffee for Devon to take.

“It tastes earthy. I like it. I poured the rest of them out into the garden.” He walked back inside and picked up his own cup of coffee. “It’s from a local place. Anyway, let me finish this.”

“You ready for the day or got other plans?” Devon hadn’t been too sure how the was going to go after the couple had left during supper as they had.

“I’m ready. I’ll train with you and then shower and get ready for clinic work. I’m almost back to good on the shifting. My emotions are in the best check they’ve ever been in. When Ashley freaked out last night, I was able to keep her steady. Thank you for helping me come this far,” Avery was sincere as he spoke to Devon.

“You’re welcome, I know it’s hard but I also know you’re capable when ya put your mind to it.” Devon took a drink of the coffee and nodded. “It’s decent I can’t complain.”

“Maybe you’re not as much a coffee snob as I am,” Avery chuckled. “When you’re constantly working 12 to 18 hour shifts… coffee is life,” He said the last bit very dramatically and then drank down the rest.

As they walked towards the training area Devon went on, “I’m glad that ya gonna put in some time at the clinic. I think it’s real good for ya. Ya mama thinks so too, she just doesn’t like the idea of ya bein’ in the city right now. She thinks it’s too soon.” Devon had promised Avery that he’d be straightforward and honest with him no matter what. “My question is how do you think you’ll do in that busy setting?”

“If I can handle the clinic, I can handle the city. I know that Ashley would prefer to have me there with her and wanted to be closer to everything. I used to live in Indianapolis. I remember the city fondly. And Whitley isn’t near as large.” Avery looked over to Devon, “But if mama’s worried about it, and you’d like me to stay a few more days, I could. Plus, even after we leave, maybe I could talk to her every morning after shift?” Something Devon had learned well enough was that Avery adored his mama. He didn’t want her to worry.

“That’s a good plan. It would make both the women in your life very happy.” Devon was a proud papa and he wouldn’t hide that fact. He’d always commended his pups when they deserved it and he was impressed with the way Avery was handling all the changes that had gone on in his life. “You’re doin’ real good in ya trainin’ son. You’ve shown that ya got a handle on shiftin’ and control over ya urges. Is there somethin’ ya think ya need more work on? If there is we’ll focus today on that.”

“I didn’t handle my urge last night. Though… it wasn’t just me and I didn’t harm her… much. I believe all that we’ve been working on since I came home helped me keep from doing that. That and knowing that – knowing how the others hurt people?” Avery looked down as he walked. He took a breath and looked up at Devon. “I never want to hurt anyone like they did. Especially not my mate.”

“That’s understandable. So we need to work on findin’ out yer triggers. What happens between you and yer mate – that’s just excitment of the moment and you’ll be able to work on that and get better pretty quick. It’s that need to be careful with a mate and maybe ya mama needs ta talk with Ash…that gal needs ta stand up to ya. Anyway, the other triggers? We all have ‘em and it’s good to know what things ya can tolerate and what ya can’t. What makes ya go zero to pissed and quickly puts ya on defense.” Devon drank more coffee and listened to what Avery said very closely.

“Family. Threats to it… it’s how they got me in a cage.”

Devon rubbed the back of his neck. “I suffer that same trigger. It ain’t all bad, but like you learned, it can be used against you. That will take some but we’ll get you ready. As far as Ashley goes I’ll tell ya that there will be times ya just can’t avoid a bruise or some achin’ with some good loving.”

“She didn’t complain. But I could tell. I can do better. I didn’t… you know… I’m giving her time. I think that’s part of why I feel like it’s wise not to move just yet. Give things a few days.”  

“I have no doubt of that. I don’t think she’ll complain and ya mama can always give her some herbal soaks that’ll help her out if ya like.” Devon had left his own mate aching a time or two so he well understood what Avery meant.

“I’ll tell you what, if you want to bypass training for a day I’ll let ya go with me on another errand. It’s kind of personal though, and ya can’t discuss it with anyone other than me and ya mama.” He thought maybe Avery needed to meet one more part of the family.

“Well, I know how to keep secrets. So, no problem, there,” Avery smiled. Doctor/patient privilege was a real thing.

“I’ll tell you little about the situation as we walk cause I don’t want you shocked.” They stopped at of the communal smoke houses and he pulled out a deer shank to take with them. When they were away from the cabins the big lycan explained, “The last war I fought in took a lot from us. I lost my best friend and not long after I lost my own mother. But I also lost another in a very different way and I think meeting him is important for you. After you meet him, you will understand why your mama fears for you.”

They walked through the woods and followed the stream for at least a mile if not more before they came to the cave. Devon stopped a football field away from its opening and whistled sharp and loud. He pulled back and threw the deer shank towards the cave. The meat landed with a thud and Devon waited. “Give him a minute, he ain’t sure about you.”

The big black wolf lumbered out of the cave opening and moved towards the meat while snarling at the men. His blue eyes were hard as ice. He bared sharp teeth at them and circled the meat while keeping his attention on them. 

“Can he…”

“It’s alright. The area is warded to keep him contained for his safety and ours. The only way he can get out is if he shifts to his human form.” Devon crouched down and watched the wolf rip into the meat. “Avery meet my lil brother Gareth.”

“She’s afraid I could become a true feral? How long has he been like this?” Avery had never seen a true feral lycan.  He moved a little closer and watched his – uncle.

“Bout forty years now, and yes she fears this fate for you and your younger brother Russell. Ya both remind her of him. When we lost him, he was wild at heart, but things broke him and he never healed.. We’ve tried over the years to get him to shift with no luck. I’ve even been bitten a time or two helping Eva treat himfor one ailment or another. He don’t take care of himself for the most part. It’s like he just don’t care. He got blamed for my best friend’s death. Not officially, but you know how harsh rumors and gossip can be. After so many fights and so much pain, he shifted and tried to kill the ones tormenting him. He went berserk and me and my dragon brother, we had to trap him. I fought our Pack elders for him, I refuse to put him down. I’ve never given up on him and I won’t let any other tend him as he is my responsibility. I thought you needed to see him though, to understand your mama a little better.”

“I’m not this.” Avery looked back at Devon. “You know that at least, don’t you? Even when I was in the pens, I never went fully feral. But then, I’ve never been a warrior, not until I had to be. I was one of the lucky ones. The Eriksson’s had their picks and my brother was a warrior. My sister was a delta. She was to help handle the children. At least… until they no longer wanted evidence around and killed them all.” Avery growled when he thought about it.

Startled from his meal Gareth snarled as he hunched down defensively while licking his lips.

“Yeah I know you aren’t like this and I told her that, but she just worries because she was there for this and knows how it hurts.” Devon looked up at their eldest. “Tell me what the good doc has ya doing at the clinic right now? I hear she has her hands full right now.”

“She does. So far I’ve been helping out in the main clinic, but she showed me how to deal with night shift for two days now. So tonight will be my first solo run. I know she has three inpatients and one Jane Doe in intensive care. I told her I’d look in on everyone and keep things running for the emergency area. She needs a break.”  

“Agreed, so a Jane Doe hmm, wonder what that’s about? It isn’t every day you get those in small clinics like hers.” Devon stood back up and watched as Gareth went back to the cave dragging the rest of the deer shank with him. “Doc has earned a break, just watch yaself at the clinic. Ya never what is going to walk through those doors.”

“I know. Like a lycan with copper in his ass? Or a vampire with silver in his chest?” Avery smirked.

“Yeah. That’s some of the crazy around Whitley. And usually we’re right in the middle of it.” Devon chuckled. “By the way, somethin’ also happened last night that I think maybe you should know about.” The big Alpha turned Avery to walk him back toward the main cabin. 

“Oh? What’s that?”

“That.” Devon had already smelled the older brother once they had walked back away from the compound where Gareth was kept. Evan had been tracking them. It was something lycan did, and these two were no different it seemed.  Avery cocked his head for a moment, letting his senses begin giving him information.

“Evan?” He laughed out loud, looked to his new father and then went running toward his big brother. “Evan!”  The two of them met in the trail and hugged and growled and jumped back from each other to see one another. They were both smiling and happy. Soon, they were taking each other’s arms and hugging fiercely.  “I…I thought…”

“Yeah, Az… I thought so, too.”

 

~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2019