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An Unexpected Mating


by Lilly Rayman



Copyright 2017 Rachel Lillyman





eBook Edition License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



Warning: contains mature content, which includes but is not limited to sexual scenes, swearing and violence.



Dedication

I would like to dedicate this book to every reader that has ever picked up a book, enjoyed it and left a review.

I would like to also say how much I love my husband and his (as he sees it) long-term sufferance at my addiction to literature, whether that be reading or writing.



Table Of Contents



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

An Unexpected Bonding

An Unexpected Revelation

The Last Centaur

StarCrossed

About The Author

Books By Lilly Rayman

Connect With Lilly Rayman



Chapter One



NUMITO DUCKED HIS HEAD as Rhea Silvia launched a pewter wolf-head ornament across the lounge room. Her eyes flashed entirely amber, and he knew he was dealing with his mate's wolf. Her eyes narrowed on him.

"Don't you dare duck when I throw something at you, Romero! If you'd only been home in time, then I wouldn't have to throw anything at you."

Growling, he jumped across the sofa standing between him and his enraged mate. "Now, Rhea, calm down. It was not my fault O'Connor held up the meeting. Besides," he added as he tried to gather the shaking woman in his arms, "I didn't KNOW you had planned an empty pack house and candlelit dinner."

The vicious snarls erupting from the small woman in his arms was the only warning he had said the wrong thing. A nasty kick to his shin had him dropping his arms from her as she pushed away from him. Groaning, he watched her storm out of the main living room. He knew the route this argument was taking. He reached out along their bond, sending her as many romantic images as possible.

It was always the way. She would get mad at something he did or didn't do, usually outside of his actual control. She would yell and scream, throw things at his head and explode out of the house in wolf form, with fur as fiery as her temper.

Numito took the time to strip off his clothes as he followed her out of the house, shaking his head at the sight of her torn summer dress, lifting an eyebrow as he realised that was ALL she had been wearing. Without further ado, he shifted to his own wolf and followed her scent out into the woods towards the lake.

She came out of nowhere. Numito rolled onto the forest floor as Rhea knocked him off his feet. The growls rumbling from her chest held a playful tone. Numito growled back, snapping his teeth at her as he pushed her off him, rolling back and up onto his feet. The red she-wolf recovered quickly, meeting Numito's brown wolf as he launched at her. Paws settled on shoulders as playful bites were nipped at the back of necks.

As they both fell to the ground together, they shifted. No longer two wolves fighting, but a tangle of tanned bare flesh, lips locked together in a passionate kiss. Numito felt Silvia's desire match his own. The fiery aggression of Rhea was tempered by the sweet tenderness of Silvia.

Numito rolled to his back, keeping Rhea Silvia locked in his arms. Their tongues fought for dominance of the kiss that stole his breath. Twigs, rocks and other sharp and pointy forest litter dug into the hard planes of his body. The sharp claw-tipped fingers of Rhea dug into his chest as she rolled back and took his hardness inside with one swift movement.

Numito felt his wolf push to the forefront of his mind and knew his eyes would be heavily amber as he watched his mate arch her back and take her pleasure from him. Their connection seemed deeper than ever before, and he felt his wolf join with Rhea in their minds while he and Silvia were physically connected.

Her movements became more wild, more erratic. Her claws scraped down his chest drawing blood from welts that closed moments later. As Rhea Silvia reached her peak, Numito felt like he was drowning in the sheer eroticism of the moment. He moved his own hips, thrusting up to meet her, his fingers locked on her thighs holding her steady.

They peaked together. The tight contractions of her walls around his cock milking him for every drop of seed he could possibly give her. His groan turned into a growl that ripped through the forest with enough force to startle nearby birds from the trees.

Silvia collapsed against his chest. Claws withdrew from his flesh with a sting, the scent of his blood a hint on the breeze. Numito felt Rhea slip into the background of Silvia's consciousness and knew he had a rare moment of quiet with his beautiful mate without the aggressive dominance of her wolf.

He pressed a kiss into the tangle of red curls on her head as he basked in the afterglow of their lovemaking.

"I feel different, Toe. I feel complete."

Numito grinned and thrust up, "Of course you do, love. I'm still half hard in you."

He laughed as she slapped at his chest. Silvia's more demure nature blushing with his cockiness. "I'm serious, Toe. I think we were in heat. It's why Rhea was so explosive this evening."

Numito felt hope soar in his heart, only the knowledge that in the thirty years they had been mated, Rhea Silvia had yet to go into heat, kept his heart tethered close to the ground. Instead, he laughed. "Hate to break it to you, darling, but Rhea is always that explosive. It's not the first time she's thrown objects at my head."

Silvia lifted, her hard nipples now grazing sensually across Numito's hard chest. "It was different this time. Didn't you feel how it was different? For once in my life, I felt separated from Rhea, yet connected more completely with you."

Numito smiled softly at his mate, his hands running up the length of her soft body until they rounded over her shoulders and across the swell of her bosom. "I will admit I felt our wolves make a deeper mental connection together. I just don't want you getting your hopes up. I didn't knot."

Silvia moved her hips in a slow sensual thrust. "No? We're still joined now."

Numito growled as he sat up, locking his arms around Silvia as he thrust up into her. "Babe! I'm always hard for you and ready for more."

Silvia's laughter turned to moans as Numito arched her back so he could take one breast in his mouth while he started a deep slow rock into her tight body.



Chapter Two



IT WAS QUIET. TOO quiet in fact. Numito frowned as he pulled his Harley up in front of the pack house. Straddling the bike at a half stand he rested both wrists over the ape hanger styled handlebar and listened. Nothing stirred, not even a mouse.

"Cato?" He reached out to his Beta through the mind link. "Where is everyone?"

"Thank heavens you're back." Relief trickled through Cato's mental tone. "Rhea is in the foulest of moods. The teens have hit the beach and have taken tents to camp out. Most single males have gone for a night on the town, and young families are hiding in their quarters." The relief shifted to exasperation, and Numito wondered where exactly Cato had decided to hide.

Numito sighed as he rocked the bike back onto the kickstand before throwing his leg over. He jogged up to the front door, opening it cautiously.

"Honey? I'm home!" His voice echoed through the disturbingly quiet ground floor. The place really had been deserted. Frowning he wandered through the multitude of recreation and sitting rooms until he reached the kitchen. He had heard the sniffling before he stepped through the door. His brow drew in tighter as he failed to see who was making the noise. He followed the sound past the industrial sized kitchen and into the large open plan pantry.

"Hey!" He whispered as he spotted his mate sat in front of the deep chest freezer. "What's wrong?" If it weren't for the tears streaming down her ruddy cheeks, he would have found the sight of Rhea Silvia amusing. Her legs were spread out in front of her, a gallon of ice cream upended in a melting mess between her knees. It was the swollen belly looking like a beach ball under her shirt that provided the most comic value to the image. Watery blue eyes turned up to him and his heart twisted at the sadness in Silvia's eyes.

"I'm a complete and utter mess. Rhea started snarling and snapping at anyone and anything. Next thing I know, everyone has disappeared. I can't even satisfy my cravings for ice cream without dropping the damn tub cause my fingers are so bloody swollen. Then because everyone has disappeared to god knows where I can't even find help to clean up the mess. I try to do it myself only to find I can't move when I get down here cause I'm a friggin whale on sticks only some sick bastard went and filled the sticks with fluid, so they are humungous too! Top it all off, my back has been aching all bloody day, and now even Rhea has pissed off to leave me to it!"

Numito was amazed he managed to keep a straight face as he listened to the blubbering tirade from his gentle mate. Centring his stance over her he offered her both hands, she just looked at him.

"Well?" He waggled his fingers at her, "did you want to get up off the cold tiles and have some TLC from the man who loves you more than anything in the world?"

It was a rare dirty look that Silvia shot him as she accepted his hands. "The man who loves me more than anything in the world would never have buggered off and left me to find myself in such a−" she paused, her face going white and her eyes as round as saucers. "Oh, crap."

Numito looked down in disbelief to find the sound of splashing of water was puddling around Silvia's feet and thickly mixing into the melted mess of ice cream. He seemed frozen to the spot as he watched the mucus and blood streaked liquid create patterns on the tiles.

Hands squeezed tight around his own. "Don't you bloody lose the plot on me now, Toe. I'm not prepared to have your bloody pup in the damned pantry for heaven’s sake!"

The snap of Rhea in his mates’ voice pulled Numito to action, he pulled Silvia into his arms for a side on hug as he pressed a kiss to her red curls. "No. No, I don't suppose you would want to. Come on, let's get you up to our room and on the bed."

He surprised himself with his own calmness as the next few hours seemed to drag him through the ordeal of childbirth. Cato had luckily been hiding in the pack house and had been able to organise the maternity she-wolf and prepare the Alpha's bedroom by the time Numito and his mate, who had by that point seemed to have been in full blown labour, had gotten there. He'd also disappeared with some off-handed reference to cleaning up the snail trail back to its source.

Numito had stood stoically beside his mate through every contraction, keeping her calm and centred until the need to push brought a whole new wave of pain and she had started to cry out that she couldn't do it anymore and she needed it to be over. He doubted she heard the old she-wolf monitoring the progress from the end of the bed telling Silvia that things were moving nicely along. But then when the woman mentioned seeing a full head of hair crowning, Rhea decided to throw in her two cents and snarled at the birthing attendant to “grab a bloody handful of its hair and drag the baby out”. Numito nearly laughed until he saw the mortified expression on Silvia's face at her wolf's suggestion.

Numito had been amazed at how quickly the whole ordeal seemed to take place after only couple more pushes he heard his child's screams for the first time. He'd been congratulated on having a son while having a pair of scissors shoved in his hand and directed to cut the terrifying cord that led from his mate to his first born.

Now as he sat watching the silently sleeping pair he marvelled at the miracle that all that excitement could produce. Standing up from the chair in the window he pressed a gentle kiss against Rhea Silvia's forehead before leaning over the child nuzzled at her breast. With a deep breath of his scent, Numito rubbed his son's damp head with his nose.

"Welcome to the world, little Julio."



Chapter Three



LAUGHTER ECHOED AROUND THE large garden. The young pups ran around chasing each other, their antics and laughter fuelled the adult’s own laughter. Numito couldn't help but grin as he watched his mini-me dodge away from his friends who tried to tug a scrap of cloth away from the waistband of his little shorts. Marcus stumbled over his little feet and took out Quinn. The pair rolled about laughing as Pablo and Caesar dodged around them and tackled a distracted Julio to the lawn themselves. The Alpha was unsure if it was coincidence or if the four young friends of his son had planned that manoeuvre to capture the flag from Julio.

Numito tightened his arm around Rhea Silvia's waist as she jerked forward to go to their son. "He's okay, love. See? He's laughing. Let him enjoy his birthday party without you hovering over him like a clucky hen."

Rhea Silvia grumbled under her breath, yet she listened to her mate and leant back against his side once more. Shaking his head, he turned to Cato who stepped up beside him. Cato laughed silently at his Alpha and passed him an icy cold bottle of beer.

"Thanks."

"No problem. I'm still finding it hard to believe that four years have passed since Julio was born. I never really thought the years flew by as a wolf but watching a pup grow up? That makes time fly."

"I can't believe the pups are going to preschool in September."

Rhea Silvia started to growl, her grumbling vibrating through Numito.  "Don't remind me. I don't want any of the pack pups, let alone my own going to school. I want to keep them all small and innocent forever."

Numito and Cato had shared a glance before the Alpha turned his head to nuzzle in his mates’ neck. "We talked about this, love. We agreed that the pups need to be educated. They are smart enough to start early, and they will excel from the challenge of integrating into the human world."

The she-wolf lowered the tone of her growl, but she was still unhappy. "We may have agreed, but it doesn't mean I have to like it."

He smiled against her neck before nipping gently on the soft flesh. "I don't like it either, my love. Julio, however, is excited as can be at the thought of going to school. He will be surrounded by his pack mates, and one of our own she-wolves was successful in getting the position of teacher for Julio's class. We couldn't ask for better protection for our pup."

Their conversation came to a halt as Julio came skidding to a stop in front of them. "Mama? Papa? Can we have cake yet? Please?"

Instantly, Rhea Silvia changed from a growling she-wolf to a doting mother. "Of course, you can, little man. I made the most fantastic cake for you as well. You will love it. Gather up your friends, and I will bring it out to you."

Numito laughed at the joy of his son, especially as he bounced away, fingers crossed muttering to himself, "Please be a Hulk cake. Please be a Hulk cake."

Rhea Silvia laughed lightly as she watched their son, she turned to look at Cato with a wink before pressing a kiss to Numito's stubbled jaw. "He will be over the moon when he sees the green monstrosity that is his birthday cake."

As she stood up, Numito slapped her ass to grab her attention. "You're a great mother, Rhea Silvia. He'll be buzzing for hours."

Her hazel eyes seemed to sparkle with amber as she winked at her mate. "Thank you, Toe." She whispered before moving towards the house.

Cato chuckled as he clinked his beer bottle against his Alpha's own drink. "The amount of sugar all the pups have eaten will have them all buzzing for hours. Makes me glad I'm not a parent. I won't have to deal with their sugar highs before they crash tonight."

Numito arched an eyebrow at his beta, watching him take a long pull from his beer. "Didn't you get the memo? You're helping with the kid’s camp out tonight. We both have to deal with them all on a sugar hype."

The beta wolf spat out his beer as he choked. It took him a minute of spluttering with no help from his Alpha before he could form words. "What? Since when?"

"Since I volunteered you for your jackass remarks."

With a groan, Cato dropped his head in his hands, muttering to himself about keeping his mouth shut before looking sideways at Numito. "Ghost stories and s'mores round the campfire?"

Numito grinned as he added, "And now we're adding wolf-back rides since they are all so hyped up."

His best friend groaned again before standing up swiftly. "Guess I better go cancel my date with the pretty little redhead from the gas station then." He flipped Numito a baleful look over his shoulder in hopes of being told he could go on his date instead. When Numito only grinned at him, he sighed again before walking back to the house.

Numito wondered if he should feel sorry for his friend, but the squeals from the pups reminded him he needed the backup. It had been his own mate that had promised their son and his four mates a camp out with the Alpha for his birthday. It was also his lovely mate that had then proceeded to fill the already excitable four-year olds with Tang, cupcakes and every other sugar fuelled food available. The lot of them were ready to explode from the high they were on right now.

Julio's little voice shouted out with glee as he spotted his mother approaching with his cake. Numito grinned when he saw the hulking mammoth of green frosted cake topped with four burning sparklers. Jumping up he headed over to stand behind the kids, his own voice joining in with the rest of his pack as they sang "Happy Birthday" to the bounciest child ever.

He had never been more proud of Rhea Silvia for the fantastic cake she had made, nor had he felt more joy than he did seeing his sons’ happiness. He truly felt like fate had blessed him, and prayed that nothing would upset this perfect life they currently lived.



Chapter Four



THE LOUD BANG THAT followed the severely shaking steering wheel told Rhea Silvia she had blown a tyre. Cursing she was careful not to brake hard and throw the car into a tailspin. Instead, she glided to a stop on the side of the deserted road bathed only in the weak sliver of moonlight from the waning crescent.

The car phone was out of service. It was starting to look like she shouldn't have been in such a rush to get home to her mate and pup. Although maybe she shouldn't have left New Hampshire after all. Especially since the client, she had been going to meet never bothered to show up, especially after all the pleading they had done to get Rhea Silvia out to Albany, New York for the lucrative photo shoot deal that had been too good to turn down.

Hitting her fists against the steering wheel with a growl, Rhea Silvia killed the engine and climbed out the Chevrolet sedan. The night seemed preternaturally silent, as she opened the boot to grab the spare wheel, jack and brace. A breeze slipped over her bare arms, lifting the hair on the back of her neck as Rhea went on high alert.

Scenting the air, she looked around, her ears listening hard for any sign of danger. Nothing. Reaching into the wheel well had Rhea swearing. The damn spare was missing. The unease she felt had Rhea hesitant to remain by the car and wait for help. At two in the morning it was likely to be a long wait, so instead, she grabbed her wallet, tucking it into her back pocket before locking up the car and pocketing the keys. Deciding to keep moving up the road was her best choice, she started walking down the tree-lined highway.

Clouds drifted across what little moon there was, plunging Rhea into near total darkness. Her eyes adjusted with a slight shift, so she was using more of her wolf sense to see into the night. A crack of a twig to her left had her turning around, searching for the source, hackles raised.

When a twig snapped from the opposite direction, she spun again, sure now she was being toyed with.

"Show yourself, cowards." She snarled into the empty night air, sure she was being watched. She snapped her head back and forth, nostrils flared as she searched for the scent that would identify her paranoia or not. One by one six pairs of amber glowing eyes stepped into her line of sight. Her claws lengthened in response, her need to shift pressing upon her.

That's when she spotted him, walking towards her. An enormous hulking mass of a man stalking up the middle of the highway. The clouds moved away from the moon, and the bright light bounced off his highly defined muscles, highlighting the fact he was naked. The wind shifted and teased her with his familiar scent then.

"Amulius." She growled.

"Hello, Rhea Silvia." Despite the neutral tone of his voice, Rhea felt unease at his greeting.

"What do you want, Amulius? You're a long way from daddy's shirt tails back in Arizona."

He growled at her barb. "I'm looking at what I want, bitch."

"Too bad. I'm not interested in a daddy's boy starved for attention."

"Oh, I don't want to fuck a burnt out old she-wolf like you. I just want to see you dead."

Rhea laughed. "Yeah? And what do you hope to achieve by that? Numito will decimate your pack before you can pull your cock out for a piss if you tried to harm me."

"I'm going to do more than try, Rhea Silvia. And with you dead at the hands of a vampire? Romero won't even look at the Remus pack. Besides he'll be too busy mourning you, it won't be long until I can take over Romulus pack. Between my father on the West coast, and me here on the East coast, we'll be able to overthrow the whole of the Wolf Nation."

"You're mad!" Exclaimed Rhea.

Movement from behind had the she-wolf turning quickly to assess the threat. Her eyes widened as she saw two men tugging a blood-starved vampire between them. Fear slithered up her spine as the vampires crazed eyes landed on her.

She startled as she felt an arm snap around her middle like a vice grip, the cold metal of a knife pressed into her neck. The tangy scent of her blood hitting her nose was the only warning the sharp blade had entered her skin before the cut tingled as it healed.

It didn't matter, though, the blood that had welled up from the cut had been enough to attract the starving vampires’ attention, its eyes almost rolling in its head at the speed in which the blood-lust created a red haze across them.

The two men that restrained the vampire dropped the poles that held a noose each around its neck, allowing the creature free to close the twenty-foot distance between them in the blinking of an eye.

Rhea found herself shoved into the vampires wicked grasp before she could shift. She released a howl of pain as teeth savagely latched onto her neck, yet she fought to break free. Her knee connecting with its groin and her fist into its stomach. It stumbled back for a moment, but the hit of blood it had already taken from her sent it into a frenzy. Despite how many times she kicked and punched at the creature, it kept on, biting into her body wherever it could, taking out chunks of flesh whenever she knocked it away.

Rhea started to falter, the pounding rush of blood through her ears slowing down to a sluggish thud as she lost dangerous amounts of blood. She could hear the laughter of Amulius, sounding like her head was underwater with how muffled the sound was. She heard him shout out his orders as the vampire fastened its teeth into her ruined neck once more.

"Make sure the vamp is dead and left with her body the moment the bitch is dead. I want Romero to know a vampire killed his mate."

Rhea Silvia tried to reach along her bond towards her mate, only he was two states away. Her eyes fluttered shut and her consciousness faded as she sent her last words of love for her pup and mate out into the world.



Chapter Five



THE SOUNDS OF THE day starting for the pack house stirred Numito from his sleep. The moment awareness came back to him, he remembered. His bed and his heart were empty. Rhea Silvia was gone. Torn apart by a vampire on her way home from a business trip. He nearly died himself when he realised what had happened, feeling the mating bond snap so fiercely with little warning. He hadn't been happy she was so far away from him that their bond wouldn't allow them to talk to each other. However, he was at a council of Alpha's meeting, and he couldn't travel with her. He had paid the ultimate price for allowing his strong and independent mate her freedom to travel on her own.

He heard the door of his room creak open slowly, his pups scent teased his senses. Julio. The poor little man had lost not only a mother but a father too. Numito barely raised his head from his pillow for the last month, the only time he did was when he wanted to drown himself in as much of a case of hard liquor as he could handle before sinking into the oblivion of sleep.

"Papa?"

There was a dip on the bed near his feet, the acrid smell of fear from his son nearly shattered Numito. Hazy memories of yelling at his son to go away followed by a kick caused a tsunami of guilt to wash over the broken Alpha. It wasn't Julio's fault his mother was gone, and his father was a wreck, a shadow of his former self. Tears threatened to spill over his cheeks, only this time guilt was the driving force and not grief.

Numito rolled onto his back, opening his arms to his son, he invited his boy to come and hold him. Julio didn't hesitate to launch himself across the bed, burrowing his head under his father’s chin and his arms shaking with the effort of how hard he was holding on.

"I'm so sorry, little man."

"I miss you, Papa. I miss Mama."

"I know. Let's do something today, just you and me."

The joy that flooded towards Numito from his son was what was needed for him to mentally close the door on his grief and silently promise his son that things would be different from now on. He vowed he would be strong once more, he needed to be for Julio's sake, for the benefit of the pack.

Little Julio raced away from the incoming tide, giggling with delight as he beat the water before it moved back out to sea. Numito felt a tug on the corner of his mouth as he watched his son run back into the water. His heart was too sore to allow the smile to develop. It was because his Julio needed him he got his sorry arse out of bed every day since the death of his beloved mate.

A sudden wind blew across the beach, whipping up the waves and knocking the young wolf pup off his feet. In an instant, Numito was on his feet and racing across the sand. Before he reached the crying child, a woman with long black curls scooped the sodden boy out of the freezing waters.

Numito arrived at the water's edge, ignoring the cold water as it swirled around his feet and soaked the denim around his ankles. "Julio, it's okay, little man. Papa's here!" He allowed the young lad's grasping hands to fist into his shirt as he pulled him into his arms. As he looked up from his son, he startled a little as he found himself mesmerised by the warm brown eyes and friendly smile of the pale-skinned woman. "Thank you so much for helping. I didn't expect such a strong wind on such a beautiful day."

A dimple deepened in her wind-blushed cheek as she smiled wider. "Oh, it was no hassle. I was already walking along the edge of the water."

Numito shifted the sniffling Julio in his arms and offered his hand to her. "I'm Numito. Numito Romero."

Her small hand slipped into his, and he marvelled at the tingle chasing up his arm as he enfolded his large fingers around hers. "Helena."

A sense of rightness filled him. Before he put his brain in gear, the words tumbled from his mouth. "Would you like to come and have a coffee with me?"

Her smile dazzled more than he thought possible. "I'd love to."

Numito felt his heart lighten a little. Julio rubbed his face against his father’s shoulder, and his sobs subsided. A shiver raced up Julio's wet body as the wind whipped past them again.

"Although, your little boy probably needs to go home and have a change of clothes," Helena said while rubbing a hand up Julio's back.

Fighting within himself against the desire to have coffee with this stimulating woman and feel something again, or locking down his heart caused Numito surprise when he answered. "Drive back with us, we'll get him changed then go for coffee."

She raised a delicate hand, palm out towards him. "I wouldn't want to get in your way or put you out."

"You promised we'd get ice cream today, Papa." Piped up, Julio.

"And you will most definitely get your ice cream." Numito gave Helena a crooked smile, "See, Julio and I will be going out again anyway." He cringed inwardly at how desperate he thought he sounded. "But if you're busy, a boyfriend or something you have to get back to−."

"I don't have anyone." She whispered, a sad smile on her face. "I'd love to accompany you and your darling boy."

"Great." Enthused Numito as he tugged his car keys from his hip pocket as they reached the parking lot on the edge of the sand. He headed straight for the Firebird and opened the passenger door for Helena. She gave him an almost startled look before settling into the seat. Numito had felt a moment of pride before he passed Julio to the woman that had made him feel more in five minutes than he had in six months.



Chapter Six



THE PACK GROUNDS LOOKED amazing. No expense had been spared by any of his pack members. Ornamental cherry blossom trees in huge white terracotta pots lined the huge lawn, swathes of sheer white fabric were draped between the trees, white fairy lights entwined within the fabric.

Numito had been blown away when he had stepped outside just before noon. He walked up the aisle between two sections of white linen draped chairs to take his place in the small white rose lined arbour. His pack had huge grins on their faces as they sat in their seats, bowing their heads as he passed. It was the first wedding to take place in the Romulus pack, but then it was the first time a wolf had taken a human as a mate. It had seemed to be the right thing to do for Numito when he fell in love with Helena. She may not be a true mate like Rhea Silvia had been, but she eased his heartache and was a good mother figure for his son. So, he had decided to do the human thing and propose to Helena.

The pack had accepted her readily, loving her for who she was and recognising her for what she was to their beloved Alpha. She was the balm to his broken heart and shattered soul. She brought life and happiness back to the Romulus wolves. And that love and acceptance had been shown in the way in which the pack had worked hard to transform the pack grounds into the most beautiful of wedding venues.

He'd been nervous, waiting at that arbour, O'Connor at his side and the human celebrant ignorant to the significance of the wolf pack before him. But then a hush had fallen, and a keyboard player began Canon in D, the patio door slid open and Cato in a morning suit stepped out, on his arm was the most breathtaking vision Numito had ever seen.

Helena's dark hair tumbled in lazy waves over bare shoulders of creamy skin that he itched to taste. The bohemian style ivory lace gown clung to her slender frame. A layer of lace fell down her upper arms and over her breasts, emphasising the gentle swell of her bosom. Her smile was soft and tender, full of the love they shared.

Numito was fixated on his bride, barely registering Julio in a mini tux, his face serious as he proceeded down the aisle before his new Mom and Cato. The white silk square of cushion balanced in his trembling hands carrying the simple gold bands that would seal the ceremony.

Only now the ceremony was over, his bride was his wife, and he wore a gold band on his left hand rather than a claim mark on his neck. They both smiled happily, laughing with Cato, O'Connor and his beta while the chairs were swiftly shifted around tables on the other side of the lawn and a dance floor hastily laid out. In less than half an hour the garden was transformed once more.

Cato slipped away, heading towards the DJ, a younger member of O'Connor's pack, now set up in the white rose lined arbour. There was a squeal over the sound system before Cato cleared his throat.

"I'd like everyone's attention, please. Thank you. Well, as wolves, today was something out of the ordinary for us, but I must say, Bella and Giselle, you excelled yourselves in planning and maybe should go into the wedding planning business this place looks great. Thanks, everyone for helping set up. I believe there will be speeches later, at least that's what my study of weddings has revealed, but right now, I'd like to invite Mr and Mrs Romero to the floor for their first dance."

The pack went wild with applause as Numito, Helena under his arm, made their way onto the dance floor. As they reached the centre music began to play, and Numito couldn't slow his heart rate as he heard Roberta Flack start to sing; "The first time ever I saw your face."

The moved together on the dance floor, the centre of everyone’s enraptured attention. "I love you," murmured Numito in his new wife's ear. She rubbed her head against his chest and whispered back.

"I love you too, Numito."

As soon as the song ended more music began, and everyone flooded the dance floor to dance along with Abba's favourite song, "Dancing Queen."

There had been plenty of laughter, food and drink all afternoon and now, as evening started to fall the fairy lights came on, and the space was transformed again. Helena tugged her hand out of Numito's hot one.

"I'll be back in a moment."

Numito watched her float through the pack, talking with everyone she passed. Cato handed him and O'Connor a bottle of beer each and the three men watched as Helena whispered to the DJ. Her face was alive with mischief, and the DJ frowned, leaning back to look at her. Numito wondered what she was up to when the young wolf's face turned resigned and nodded before moving away to one of the many cases of records he had set up behind him.

Helena was half way back to him when the song changed to one of the popular songs in the charts. The pack hushed and looked at their groaning Alpha as everyone heard Warren Zevon sing out that he had seen “a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hands.”

Helena was laughing now, she loved this song, and Numito groaned every time he heard it. But it made her happy, so as Warren Zevon tried to howl through the chorus, Numito lifted his head.

"Arooooooooooooooooooooooo."

"Werewolves of London..." sang through the sound system.

As Numito lifted his head to howl again, the whole pack joined in. Their voices raised as one, singing together into the night sky. Celebrating the love of their Alpha and his bride and the renewal of their pack.



Chapter Seven



THERE WAS LAUGHTER RINGING out across the back lawn of the Romulus pack house. Numito watched from inside the French windows of the main lounge room. Julio, Marcus, Quinn, Caesar and Pablo had been back from Manchester Community College for about three hours. Long enough to have given Julio's favourite, and only, little sister Livia a karaoke machine for her fourteenth birthday. They'd all been singing songs for most of the time since she'd opened her present in a flurry of squeals and hollers. He couldn't stop smiling at the sight of the young wolves bouncing around singing "I want it that way" and trying to imitate the popular boy band, Backstreet Boys.

Their song came to an end with cheers from Livia and some of the other pack members that were hanging around. He sensed his wife approaching, Helena laughed. "He is most definitely your son, darling."

Numito looked at her, brow raised in query, she simply smiled and nodded back towards where Julio was now parading in front of his laughing friends and sister. He held the mic close, but as he was belting out "I'm too sexy." While he was wiggling his hips, and touching himself provocatively.

Laughing Numito circled his arms around Helena's shoulders and pulled her towards his side, frowning a little at how skinny she felt under his fingers. He noticed a few things lately, things that by themselves meant very little, but added together disturbed him. Her appetite was reduced, her skin was losing her natural rosy bloom, and her hair had been thinning too. She always said she was fine and brushed him off. And in truth, he threw himself into his work as Alpha because it was easier than facing the truth that his wife was beginning to appear sick.

The hollers of laughter from outside drew his attention again. Livia had pushed her brother over and grabbed the mic from him. She gave him a wicked grin before she started to belt out the latest release on the charts. Numito groaned and looked down at his wife. "She is most definitely your daughter." He retorted as Livia got louder against the protests of her brother and his pack mates.

"Who let the dogs out? Woof! Woof! Woof!" Her voice rang out clearly across the lawn, her amusement clearly heard by her parents.

She didn't get very far through the song before she was tackled by Julio and Quinn. Numito laughed at the sound of his baby girls giggles that peeled through the karaoke machines sound system. She swiftly recovered from her laughter and fought back against her brother, wrestling with him as her father had been teaching her. She held her own for a few moments, making Numito proud of her. As a yet unshifted she-wolf, she could wrestle with a young Alpha wolf, slipping out of his holds and pinning him in her own holds. Eventually, all the boys started to gang up on her, one by one piling on top until it seemed to be a Livia pile-up.

"I better break them up." Sighed Helena as she pulled away from her husband. She grabbed a box of cookies and a bag of marshmallows before stepping out the house.

"Right-o, you lot! Who wants s'mores?" Called Helena without raising her voice. S'mores had always been a favourite of Livia's, well anything to do with sitting around a roaring fire. Singing camp songs, toasting marshmallows for s'mores, or telling stories. He knew she was also looking forward to when she was fifteen, and she would be shifting for the first time by the bonfire under the first full moon of winter.

With Helena's words, as one, everyone stopped wrestling and stood up. Julio lifted a flushed and rather flustered looking Livia up off the ground and set her on her feet again.  She grinned at him before digging her elbow into his ribs and running towards her mother. Caesar was lighting the fire in the prepared fire pit as Pablo and Marcus packed away the karaoke machine. Quinn walked into the house and headed for the fridge where the boys had put their six packs earlier. With a root beer and six bottles of beer in hand, the young wolf approached him.

"Would you like a beer, Alpha?" He asked offering him the extra bottle.

Numito nodded with a smile, "Thanks, Quinn." He took the proffered bottle and twisted the cap off.

The young man inclined his head respectfully and stepped back out to join the others at the now roaring fire pit.

Helena stepped back into the house, looking tired yet happy. "I always worry about our Livia, whether she is happy or not. She doesn't have many friends, but then I see her with her brother and his friends, and I know she is happy."

"They are close despite the ten years between them. It's been hard for Livia with Julio off at college. At least she does have a couple of school friends."

Helena grinned knowingly as she slipped into his arms once more. "It's not only Livia who misses Julio."

Numito returned the smile as he kissed her head. "No, she's not. I'm not scared to admit that I miss him too. It's hard to believe my boy is growing up already. Before long the pair of them will be off out in the world and making their own lives."

Helena laughed. "You're getting ahead of yourself, darling. Livia has only just turned fourteen, she'll be your baby girl for a while yet, and she'll be at your side until she finds her mate. And well, Julio? Well, Julio will be home when he finishes his business course and will be working by your side to help you and learn the ropes of being an Alpha."

"As always, my dear, you are right."

"Of course, I am. Now, let's leave the kids to celebrate Livia's birthday, and you can take me to the movie room for some us time."

He hid his emotions at the finality of his wife's words. He heard the implication behind Helena's opinion that Livia would be by his side. He would have to face his fears sooner or later to challenge Helena as to what was going on with her, but today he was happy to let it slide once more.



Chapter Eight



NUMITO BLINKED BACK TRAITOROUS tears as he applied the parking brake outside Washington Middle School. It had been a tough six months since he had found out the truth from Helena as to what was going on. She had an appointment booked with a Doctor to get the results of testing she had secretly been getting. He wouldn't allow her to go on her own and was glad he had been with her when the Doctor told her she had M1 stage stomach cancer. Her body was riddled with secondary cancer. It was the worst possible diagnosis they could have expected, but she had left it rather late to see her Doctor in the first place.

She had chosen not to have any treatment since her odds were not good, she wanted to live out what was left of her days with her family without being made sicker from treatment that likely would fail her. Despite Numito's instances, that she should do whatever the Doctor recommended, she was not prepared to budge.

Now, after five months at home, the cancer had made her so sick, and in so much pain she had been moved into a palliative care hospice. The Kindred. Their pack doctor had been at a loss of how to help Numito's human wife who was literally being eaten away from the inside. The last month in the Hospice had been hard for the pack, especially on Numito, Julio and Livia, but it had been easier for Helena.

Julio had called him from the Hospice that morning, he'd been at her bedside for the last twelve hours. He was also the one to talk to the Doctor who had advised that maybe the rest of the family should come in and say their goodbyes. So here Numito was, sitting in his Honda, parked outside Livia's school trying to get his life together to be able to walk in with some modicum of self-respect to ask for Livia to be released early from her classes. Although some shameless side of him muttered that the school understood Mrs Romero was dying and would fully understand if he walked in crying. It was the Alpha wolf within him that refused to show weakness to anyone, human or not outside of his pack.

With the thought of being able to hold one life mate in her final hour, he took a deep fortifying breath and grabbed his keys and climbed out of the Accord in one swift movement. A click of the fob locked the door with a flash of lights and a chirping beep of the locking system.

The heavy scent of adolescent angst hit Numito like a brick as he walked in through the main doors of the school. He shook it off and continued to the administration office a hundred feet away. The older administrator looked up sharply as she heard the door open. Instantly her demeanour changed to sympathy.

"Do you need Livvie, Mr Romero?"

Grateful to not need to speak he simply nodded.

She gave him a tight smile, more of a twist of her thin lips before she tapped at the computer. "She's in History. I'll be back in a moment."

She hadn't been gone long when the door opened again and the welcome scent of his baby girl met his nose.

"Momma?" she whispered out on a terrified voice.

He nodded. "I'm sorry, Baby Girl. Julio called. We really should be there soon."

She blinked back tears and straightened her spine as she moved towards the desk and signed the book that the administrator had pulled out for her. "Thank you, Mrs Wells." She murmured as she put her pen down. Hitching her bag higher up her shoulder she slipped her smaller hand in her father’s larger one.

The journey from Washington Middle School to The Kindred Hospice was filled with silence, Livia even turned the radio off and gazed out the window watching rain start to fall and track down the windows. The staff at Kindred were even more sympathetic in their demeanour than Mrs Wells and quickly ushered the pair into the bright and cheerful private room where Helena had been confined to her bed for the last month.

Julio looked up with tired, red-rimmed eyes as the door opened. His larger hand was wrapped around his step-mothers frail one. She appeared to be sleeping when Livia and Numito approached the bed, but as soon as they were both at her side, she lifted her pale face towards them and smiled brightly. The same smile that had first dazzled Numito nearly twenty years ago.

"Livia, my beautiful baby girl. Come give Momma a kiss."

Livia fell on her mother’s bed, her face buried into her mother’s frail body. Julio released her hand so both her arms could wrap around Livia’s shoulders.

There was only the sound of their sobs for a moment or two before Helena lifted her head, her tear-filled eyes met Numito's own watery gaze.

Helena took as deep a breath as she could manage before she spoke, her voice stronger than her body.

"Now you three listen to me. You are the most important people I've ever had in my life. You three are what made life for me worth living. I don't want you to remember me with sadness, I want you to remember all the love and happiness we have shared. I'll be watching over you all. Livia, you will have the most beautiful wolf, I am certain, and I'm only sorry I won't get to meet her."

Numito moved closer, edging his hip on the bed beside Livia so he could wrap his arm around Helena as she kept talking.

"Julio, you are so handsome and strong. I am very proud of you, as I am sure your own mother would be if she could see you. I've always loved you as my own, and I will always watch over you."

"I love you too, Momma." Croaked Julio as he fought back tears.

Helena rubbed her head against Numito's chest. "My love. My heart. Don't let yourself fall in despair. Our children need you, the pack needs you. I know you wanted to try and claim me, but it never felt right to me. I thank you for respecting my wishes every day for the last two decades. I feel as if my life is complete and my purpose has been fulfilled with you all."

She started to cough, one hand lifted off Livia to cover her mouth, trying to hide the trickle of blood that gathered at the corner of her mouth. Eventually, her coughing ended, and she collapsed back exhausted against her husband.

With her family gathered as tightly as they could around her, she breathed out her final goodbye.

"I love you all."



Chapter Nine



IT WAS THE FIRST full moon of winter. The air was crisp with the coming chill indicating the arrival of winter. The pale bark of the tall trees glowed in the moonlight, disappearing high in the dying autumnal leaves. Numito, in his Wolf form, watched Livia. Around her were the newly shifted forms of her peers, the young pack members who had turned fifteen since the last first full winter moon.

Looks of pity were sent her way as she sat upon the mulched leaf litter of the forest floor, a shivering naked human form bathed in moonlight. Her cheeks were red as she sat shaking with the early winter chill, awaiting the emergence of her inner wolf. Yet it seemed there was no wolf to welcome into the pack. He was a little surprised that she was still human, even if her mother had only been human. There had always been a secret hope, and a whispered thought throughout the pack, that the strength of Numito's wolf would be enough to share with his daughter a wolf spirit, yet it seemed she was destined to be like her dearly departed mother.

Human.

Julio's russet wolf brushed up alongside Numito, nipping at the massive Alpha's jaw in affection. Numito rubbed his jaw against Julio's head before licking at his muzzle.

I want you to lead the pack run. Your sister needs me.

Julio whined a little as he looked at his sister, but his voice was loud within Numito's mind.

Okay, Papa.

Numito trotted over to the trees and shifting swiftly and pulling on a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie. He grabbed another hoodie from the pile and walked over to Livia. He pulled the soft material over her head, startling her from her introspective connection with the bonfire.

Julio howled once, calling the pack together. All the wolves new and old lifted their own heads, their eyes gleaming in the moonlight. With another longer howl from Julio, the pack moved as one, following the young Alpha into the woods, running as one in celebration of the joy and freedom of being a wolf.

As the last wolf disappeared from the clearing Livia turned around and buried herself into Numito's arms. Her sobs breaking his heart.

"Come on, Baby Girl." He murmured into her hair, wrapping his arms around her and lifting her up. He settled her securely in his arms before walking back towards the pack house. Another round of howls lifted into the night sky and Livia sobbed louder again.

"Do you want to go to the movies, or to the ice cream parlour?" He asked, knowing immediately that she would be unable to settle tonight, hearing so many wolves calling out, reminding her of her lack of wolf. She rubbed her face against his hoodie, sniffling loudly.

"I don't really want to be seen in public right now, Papa. But I don't want to stay here. Can you take me to see The One?"

Numito gave her a small smile. "Is that the new Jet Li movie?"

She nodded against his chest.

"Sure thing, Baby Girl. I don't mind watching Jet Li." He juggled her briefly in his arms so he could open the door to the house and stepped into the warm kitchen. "How about you go get dressed, and then we can go into town, load up on all your favourite snacks at the cinema before we watch the movie."

Livia nodded and jumped down from his arms. "Ok, Papa. Ten minutes?"

He smiled at her, proud of how strong she was being. Feeling his heart swell with emotion as he watched her run through the kitchen into the house, he hands tugging the hoodie down over the back of her thighs. He followed her, heading to his room to change into jeans and shirt.

When they arrived at the movie complex, they found they had a forty-minute wait before their film started. Numito bought their tickets and then headed to the nearby Olive Garden for a coffee and a bite to eat while waiting for their movie to start.

They sat in silence as they waited for their order of fried mozzarella and fried beef and pork ravioli to come. Livia slid the salt shaker back and forth between her hands on the table as she waited. Numito found it hard to watch her seem so lost. It hadn't really been a topic of discussion, whether she would or wouldn't have a wolf soul when she turned fifteen. Watching her, he saw his little girl was on the cusp of becoming a young woman, and it scared him. He was terrified of losing her, but at the same time proud of the young woman she was becoming. Losing her mother at fourteen had matured her quicker than he would have liked. This last two months though had seen her bursting with excitement at the thought of finally becoming a wolf.

Their platter of food arrived and was placed between them. Livia finally stopped playing with the salt, settling instead for selecting a piece of fried mozzarella and biting into it. She seemed to be working hard at keeping her mouth full of food and avoid talking as much as she could.

When there was nothing left Numito smiled at her, placing his hand over hers. "You can speak to me, Baby Girl. You don't have to keep this to yourself."

She looked up, her chocolate eyes watery with unshed tears. "I'm not good enough. That's why I had Momma taken from me, and I wasn't given a wolf."

Numito's heart splintered with her words. "Oh, Livia, my darling. You are good enough, in fact, you are better than good enough. I love you so much, and I won't ever stop loving you. The pack loves you too. You don't need a wolf to be pack. And as for your Momma, that was sheer bad luck that she got sick. It had nothing to do with you."

Livia nodded, a big fat tear rolling down each cheek before she swept them away with her hand.

"Ok, Papa." She murmured before looking at her phone. "Hey, we better get moving if we want to catch the trailers."

She tried to smile at him, but it never reached her eyes.



Chapter Ten



Most of the Alpha's from the phone conference had clicked off. Only O'Connor remained on the line with Numito.

"How you doing, my friend?"

Numito grimaced at the phone. Somehow his friend always knew when he was struggling with some element of his personal life. "I'm well enough."

"I sense a but there, old friend." Drifted through the phone.

The laugh he let out held no humour. "My Baby Girl wants to leave home."

Despite the conversation over the phone, he could still hear his friends shock. "Oh, she found her mate?"

Numito growled at the idea of some unknown wolf putting his paws on his Baby Girl. "No, thank goodness. She wants to travel America, try and find herself. Apparently, she feels stifled here as the only wolf-less pack member. I told her I would have to think about it, but the truth is, I just don't want to let her go."

"I can understand that. But, you must ask yourself, what's the best thing for Livia? I can't imagine how difficult it must be for her, not only is she wolf-less but she is also the daughter of a very dominant Alpha. It must make her feel insecure around the pack when she can't take part in pack hunts or runs."


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