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Love After 40 Part 2

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

Chapter 13 - Hale

I could tell Erin was unsettled by all this. The question is, why is she unsettled? Is it the whole supernatural being real? It can’t be easy for a human to accept something they thought was a myth to be real. I could understand that.

I suppose there are other reasons to be unsettled, especially with my son standing in her living room in his underwear. Nudity is not something humans are as causal about as werewolves. But if either of her twins has a wolf spirit, she’ll have to get accustomed to it as they will be nude every time they shift back. And given their excitement about all of this, they will often be shifting.

I should feel more concerned with my son standing in her living room in his boxers. But I’m not. Austin is only doing what I asked, proving that werewolves are real. Beyond that, he has a mate.

If I still had my wolf, I’d have done it myself. I probably would have been more embarrassed than Austin. I may have been raised that nudity is normal but getting naked in front of an employee truly crosses HR lines.

“Who knew learning could be this fun.” River snickered as Austin shucked the last of his clothes, leaving him in just a pair of boxers.

“Whoa, you have a fake leg. What happened to the real one? Or were you born that way?” Sage questioned, looking at Austin’s prosthetic in fascination. “How does that affect shifting to your wolf? Is your wolf also missing a leg?”

“I lost it in battle several years ago. And because I’m missing a leg, so is my wolf.” Austin sighed, removing his prosthetic. “Alright, stay back while I shift and do not touch Jax. Only my mate gets to touch him.” Austin held up a finger in warning, mainly pointing at the twins, his eyes flashing the silver of Jax for a moment.

I didn’t watch my son shift. I was watching the Carlisle family and their reactions. The twins were enraptured as my son’s bones cracked and twisted, his human body morphing until he went from standing on one leg to three paws. Unlike the average wolf, a werewolf is naturally more enormous. Jax is intermediate in size for our pack.

As the shift was complete, Jax shook out his fur, silver eyes looking at me. From what I know about Jax’s personality, he’s a rational version of my son but just as blunt. I’m sure he’d have much to say if I could still use the link.

Jax is the perfect blending of Jason and Jen’s wolf Cheri. Jax has Jason’s silver eyes and Cheri’s silver coat. The first time Austin shifted, I saw how much Jax looked like Cheri and Jason. I had to excuse myself from the event. I couldn’t break down in front of everyone. Least of all, in front of my father.

“HOLY SHIT!! THAT WAS SO COOL!” River and Sage overlapped in their excited reactions to seeing Jax. “Does it hurt? Can you run on three legs? How do you communicate like that?” Their questions once again started up.

My attention turned to Erin, whose eyes were wide in disbelief. “It’s…it’s true. Werewolves…are real.” She gasped, staring at Jax.

“Jax won’t be able to answer you. At least not yet. Werewolves can communicate through a telepathic link. When we are as young as eight, we can start to develop a link to our family members. And when we come of age and gain our wolves, we can connect to any member of our pack.” I explained.

“And Jax is as able-bodied as any wolf. As for if the transformation hurts. Yes, immensely at first. But the pain is dulled when you shift if you are with family or your mate. And the more you shift, the less it hurts.” I answered their questions.

“Are you alright, Erin? I know all this is very shocking. Do you have questions? Concerns? I’ll answer any you have.” I offered, turning my attention to the quietest person in the room.

“I… I need some air.” Erin jumped to her feet and hurried out the patio doors, slipping her feet into a pair of boots as she went out into the snow.

I thought of following her but didn’t want to leave her kids here with Jax. Plus, she said she needed air. That’s just another way she needs to be alone. Me intruding would only cause trouble, I’m sure. While I resolved to let her have her space, I felt something nudging my knee.

I blinked, realizing it was Jax nudging me with his snout. “It’s fine, Jax. This is a lot for any person to accept. If she needs space to process, we should let her.” I assured, rubbing between his ears.

“Um, dude, we get you’ve been riding the pine when it comes to the ladies. But you’re being a dumb fuck. Go follow our mom.” River waved their hands at me, shooing me away.

“Yeah, you’ve fucked up enough. Fix it. Mom doesn’t want to be alone.” Sage rolled their eyes. “And we aren’t babies. We will be fine on our own.”

I started to get up as the doorbell chimed. I looked from the front door to the patio where Erin had walked further into the yard, arms wrapped around herself to stay warm. I don’t want one of her kids to answer the door if it’s her ex again, but it should be the food delivery.

“Dad, go follow her. I’ll answer the door. After I put pants on.” Austin offered as he shifted back.

“Whoa! Nice schlong. Is Daddy Hale that big too? And if you get to be naked in the living room, we can too.” River’s focus changed in the bat of an eye.

“No running around the house naked.” I used my dad voice. “Austin, put your clothes on and answer the door. It should be the food delivery. But if it’s her ex again… well, you know what to do about him.” I instructed.

Austin grinned as he put his prosthetic on before shimming into his jeans. “Oh, I know exactly what to do about him. You two stay put just in case it is him.” Austin added, pointing at the twins as he headed for the front door.

Trusting that Austin could handle whatever was at the door, I grabbed my coat and followed Erin into the yard. “Do you make it a habit of going out into the cold, leaving your children with strangers?” I questioned, slipping my fleece-lined winter jacket over her shoulders.

“Hale… you didn’t need to follow me. I just needed to clear my head, and it’s not like you’re a total stranger. I trust you wouldn’t hurt my kids. And if your son is half the man you are, he wouldn’t hurt them either.” Erin sighed.

“Of course, I wouldn’t hurt them. And while Austin doesn’t have my patience, he wouldn’t either. If anything, I should be worried that I left the three of them alone. Goddess, help me what trouble they could cause.” I frowned, glancing at the house.

River and Sage waved through the patio doors before their attention eagerly turned to Austin entering the living room with multiple bags of food. How much did they order? And from how many places? I dread looking at the bill. At least they are fine; it was just the delivery person at the door.

I was concerned about who was at the door, so I turned back to Erin, fiddling with my jacket. I thought she would take the coat off for a moment, but instead, she slid her arms into the sleeves, pulling it tighter to her body. “Thank you. I shouldn’t be so surprised and moved by such a simple gesture.” She frowned.

“You’re welcome. And you’re right; you shouldn’t be surprised by me giving you my jacket. Any man who wouldn’t think to give you their jacket isn’t one you want in your life.” I shrugged, glancing back to the house to see Austin overseeing her kids, dividing out the feast of delivery food.

“I may, as River so eloquently put it, have been riding the pine regarding women, but I haven’t forgotten that sometimes small gestures can count the most.” I sighed.

“Not surprised they would say something like that. But I’m not a woman you are pursuing romantically.” Erin chuckled softly.

“Remember you said it yourself. Things should only be professional between us. I’ll excuse tonight since it was special circumstances. So don’t worry. I’m not foolish enough to think any of this means things have changed. Monday morning, you will still be my boss Mr. Shelton, and I’ll be Miss. Carlisle, just another employee.” She sighed, turning to face me.

Oh, that hurt. Erin’s not wrong, but still, that hurts to hear. It hurt more than it should. Which should be a sign I’m on the wrong path. “I suppose that was deserved. I wanted to apologize for how I behaved that day. Especially that I spoke my peace, making a unilateral decision for both of us without letting you speak before walking away. It was wrong of me. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, it was a total dick move. I felt like several people there that day knew everything that was said. And I’ve felt like people have been whispering about me the rest of the week. I’m probably paranoid, but I don’t like how that felt.” Erin frowned.

I grimaced as she explained how she felt like our conversation was overheard. “Why are you making that face? Did you get that feeling too? Or just that you realize how big of an ass you’ve been?” She raised an eyebrow.

“Um, the latter, yes. And I’m sorry, I’m not used to being an ass. That sort of behavior is more something my father and sometimes my son utilize. I’m more laid back and passive like my mother.” I sighed. “But I grimaced because you’re not paranoid.”

“What do you mean? Have people been talking about us at the office? Oh god, I don’t need to be labeled as some tramp or pathetic given you so coldly shut down anything happening between us.” Erin groaned, running her hands over her face.

“I didn’t even think we were talking that loud. Crap. I just started this job, and I’m the center of gossip. The stupid new girl who had a crush on her department director.” She groaned.

“We weren’t talking loudly. A human wouldn’t have overheard us.” I started to explain. Her hands lowered as she looked up at me. Her face was pale, yet her cheeks remained red from the cold.

“You mean… we work with a lot of werewolves? How many werewolves work for Kinsley? How many are in our department? Please tell me Mr. Andrews isn’t a werewolf. I would have to resign if my direct supervisor knew I am attracted to you.” Erin started questioning. This answers why her kids go down a rabbit hole of questions.

“Yes, we work with many werewolves. After all, the Kinsley brothers are werewolves. They are our Alpha and Beta, to be exact. So their company employs around a thousand pack members. And no Andrews is as human as you are, though you have the advantage of knowing there are more than just humans in the world.” I answered.

“Wait, so a thousand Kinsley employees are werewolves. And some of them overheard us. Oh fuck. That might be worse. I’m not probably the tramp or the foolish human who got shot down by one of their own.” Erin shook her head

“I highly doubt….” I tried rationalizing, but she kept rambling like I wasn’t talking.

“How am I going to show my face at work again? I liked it better than I just thought I was paranoid.” Erin started to ramble, her mind going to all sorts of outcomes.

Trying to talk to her and use reason wasn’t going to work. She had gone down a rabbit hole. She needs something to shock her, and I will certainly not smack her back to reality. I don’t think shaking her will go over well. Besides, outside of a fight, I’m not the violent type. That leaves one final option, which may go over as well as the alternatives.

Here goes nothing. Cupping Erin’s face with both hands, I pressed my lips to hers as she paused in her rant.

Chapter 14 - Erin

When I took this job, I thought moving to Oregon would be a great new start for us. I researched the fuck out of Portland and was so happy to see it was a quirky and accepting place. It looked like a place that accepted what most would call weird or abnormal.

I didn’t think it was to this extent! Werewolves! My children are werewolves! My boss is a werewolf! My coworkers are werewolves! The owners of my company are… you guessed it, WEREWOLVES! But it’s not just that. They are the Alpha and Beta! Whatever the fuck that means in the werewolf community.

Alpha would be the leader, and Beta would be second in the group based on the old standard of how wolf packs were previously defined. Of course, those terms have gone the way of the dodo as scientists have studied further and felt the previously described hierarchy isn’t accurate.

This is just a lot to take in, and while it may seem minor in the grand scheme of life, the fact that people at work heard Hale telling me we can’t be more than professional irks me. I mean, great, I’m not paranoid. But I would prefer being paranoid than right in this case. Now I know people in our office have been gossiping about us.

Maybe I was focusing on that more than the revelations about supernatural beings exist, my ex being one of them, and my children being hybrids who may or may not end up with wolf spirits. Can you blame me? I think freaking out and letting my mind go down the rabbit hole of possibilities of people at my new office knowing I had even a passing unprofessional relationship with my boss feels easier to handle.

I know I was going into a tangent of what-ifs, focusing on my professional reputation rather than all the what-ifs my life faces. What-ifs like a crazy werewolf ex that wants to claim my children and what all this will mean and change for River and Sage. When I get into a tangent, it either has to run its course, or someone hits me. Usually, one of my kids will shake me.

That didn’t happen this time. No one shook me or tried to smack me back out of my rant. And my rant certainly didn’t run its course. No, my rant got derailed. My train of thought crashed in an explosion as I felt Hale’s warm hands on my face and even warmer lips pressed to mine.


Hale Shelton is kissing me!!?? Is this happening? I thought he said to be professional only. Kissing me is the least professional thing that’s happened tonight. Driving all the way here based on an SOS from my kids wasn’t professional. And neither was having his son strip in my living room to prove werewolves were real.

How am I supposed to react to this? Should I pull back? I don’t want to, but should I? Wait, why am I even questioning this!? He started it. He initiated this kiss so I could kiss back. This might be the only chance I’ll ever have to say I kissed Hale Shelton.

If this was the only chance I’m getting at kissing this handsome, patient, and kind man, I’m going all in. My lips moved against his, snaking my arms around his neck to bring him closer, not wanting this to end. My heart felt like it was beating at the rate of a hummingbird’s wing.

I moaned, the panic of him pulling away fading as he took it a step further, deepening the kiss with a groan of his own. One of his hands slid from my face, holding the back of my neck, gently angling my head to suit his desires. His tongue caressed my lips, making me gasp at the teasing, giving him what he wanted… entrance. For someone who’s not done this in a long time, he’s good.

I swear I heard him growl, but I’m sure it wasn’t that he doesn’t have a wolf, as my tongue eagerly greeted his. Wow, he is good at this. Everything melted away. My worries about office gossip, the looming fear that my ex is still out there, even that my kids and his son are in the living room and could probably see us if they bothered to look. Hell, even the bitter cold of Oregon in January faded away. All that remained was us and this kiss.

It was amazing. Euphoric even. At least while it lasted, I should have known it wouldn’t last. The sound of howls, applause, and laughter from the house burst our blissful bubble. Startled by the noise of our kids finding us, we quickly pull apart. Perhaps too fast as we both slip in the snow, falling on our asses.

“SMOOTH, DAD! I didn’t realize you could suddenly be so uncoordinated.” Austin chuckled. “I’m more graceful and have only one leg!”

I tried to hide in Hale’s coat, knowing my face was as bright red as a tomato. Knowing my kids, I am NEVER living this moment down. Cause it wasn’t bad enough, they caught us, but now my ass is wet from landing in the snow. Just what I need, a soggy bottom.

“Thanks, Austin. I greatly appreciate your words of wisdom and impeccable timing.” Hale groaned, getting to his feet first. “I shall remember it the next time you and Suzie leave your bedroom door open or think my living room is a private space.” Hale rolled his eyes before extending a hand to me.

“I would apologize for my son, but that would mean there is an excuse for his behavior.” He sighed.

“I could say the same. My kids were just as involved in startling us.” I sighed, grasping his hand.

Now I know my weight. The scale loves displaying it on that bright blue digital screen whenever I step on it. I can’t blame the scale, but I don’t blame myself. I eat healthily and exercise, but I’ve never been a skinny woman, and I gave birth to twins. A woman’s body after carrying even one child changes, and I carried two. So with that being said, I was prepared to do most of the work in getting to my feet. I blinked in surprise at how little effort on my part was necessary as Hale pulled me to my feet like I was as light as a feather.

I gasped as the momentum pulled me flush against Hale, looking up at him with wide eyes. I suppose even without a wolf, he is still a werewolf, which means he’s stronger than the average man. I was still blushing as his eyes darted to my lips. For a moment, I once again forgot we weren’t alone.

“If you two are done making googly eyes at each other, bring your wet asses inside. Austin had something he needed to tell his dad!” Sage rolled their eyes.

“Her ass isn’t what you’re supposed to make wet, Daddy Hale.” River snickered as they followed Sage back into the house.

Hale furrowed his brow, stepping away and putting distance between us. “What’s happened, Austin?” He questioned his son.

“Let’s talk about it inside. Not something to discuss outside.” Austin nodded his head to the patio, gesturing us to follow as he went inside.

“That doesn’t sound ominous at all.” I muttered, following Hale inside. I sighed, looking at my breakfast bar covered in food: sushi, buffalo chicken pizza, steak fajitas, and a box of strawberry glazed donuts. I cringed just imagining how much all this cost Hale.

“That’s a very eclectic spread of food.” Hale commented as he took in the sight of the feast he paid for. “Okay, food order aside. Austin, what happened?” His attention turned to his son.

“I got a pack link from Alpha Logan. While Delta Jonathan and his mate track down her ex, he wants her, and the hybrid minors watched.” Austin started to explain.

“Watched? Like they plan to have someone stake out my house?” I questioned. “I do not feel comfortable with that. I don’t want some stranger watching my house or thinking we need a babysitter.” I scoffed as I removed Hale’s jacket.

“We should trust Alpha’s orders. He only wishes to ensure the safety of your family. And it shouldn’t take long for our Delta couple to find Dane. They are geniuses. Delta Jonathan had already graduated from MIT by the time he went through his first shift.” Hale assured.

Okay, so that is fucking impressive. A sixteen-year-old graduating from MIT is nuts. So sure, they might find Dane quickly, but I’m not too fond of the idea of someone watching us. I don’t need strangers chilling outside my house, waiting for Dane to appear again. What happens if he does? I have a werewolf fight on my front lawn?

“No need to jump to conclusions and get all testy, Miss Erin. Alpha wasn’t suggesting a stranger come to watch your house. No one will be sitting in a car outside, and I doubt the selected individual will consider it babysitting. I think he’s going to like his assignment.” Austin smirked.

Hale’s brow furrowed. “Who exactly did Alpha say would be sent to protect them? And if they won’t be outside, he expects her to let this person into her home?”

“What happened to trust your Alpha’s opinion?” I questioned, folding my arms.

“Wow. Dad, were you always this dense, and I just never noticed? Kids, is your mom usually this oblivious?” Austin chuckled as he sat down to tie his boots.

“She has her moments.” Sage shrugged.

“That’s enough. Just get to your point. Who is supposed to be coming here that isn’t supposedly a stranger?” I huffed.

“Dad.” Austin stated as of that would somehow make sense.

Hale furrowed his brow for a moment before his eyes widened, realization hitting him. “Wait, Alpha wants me to stay and watch for her ex? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have someone with a wolf here?” Hale questioned.

“Check your phone if you don’t believe me. But Alpha was specific. You are to remain here until Dane is captured. So enjoy each other’s company. Try not to gross the kids out by getting handsy in common rooms. I’m going to go pick up my mate and enjoy our movie and then fucking her in every common room at the house since you won’t be home.” Austin chuckled, waving as he made a quick exit.

I stood there stunned. By their Alpha’s order, Hale is staying at my place? I’m not sure about this. Especially if Hale would only remain because of the command, I would like him to stay, to have him here to watch for Dane instead of someone else. But I would rather it be his own choice.

“You don’t have to stay, Hale. I wouldn’t want you to feel obligated because your Alpha said so.” I sighed, shaking my head.

“Are you gonna flake on us?” River arched their brow.

“But mom is right. Don’t stay just because someone ordered you to. Not hurting our mom’s feelings.” Sage frowned.

“As long as you are okay with me crashing on your sofa, I will stay not simply because Alpha Logan commands it. I have no wolf, so obedience to an Alpha command doesn’t work on me. Despite not having a wolf if a fight becomes necessary, I would still rather be the one here with you.” Hale answered.

“Do you wish for me to stay, Erin?” He arched a brow at me.

“Oh, she wants you to stay… in her bed.” River snickered.

I rolled my eyes, shooting them a glare before answering. “If someone needs to be here to watch for Dane, to protect us, I feel far more comfortable with it being you.”

“Then I’ll stay.” Hale smiled.

“Not with your wet ass pants. And if we don’t get to hang around in our birthday suits, you gotta wear clothes too.” River proclaimed.

“River, go get a pair of your sweats. They should fit him as a temporary solution while I throw clothes in the dryer.” I instructed.

“He’s way bigger than me. You want to see him in tight sweats. Just admit the truth.” River rolled their eyes but did get up.

“River…” I groaned, running a hand over my face as they laughed, heading for their room.

River isn’t wrong. A part of me is eager to see him in a pair of sweats that may show off more than his jeans do. My first thought, however, was to give Hale dry clothes that weren’t super feminine. The only sweats I have wouldn’t be tall enough for him but also have a glittery red heart on the ass.

Chapter 15 - Hale

It’s a good thing I’m excellent at compartmentalizing things. I can evaluate and stress over what happened with Erin in the yard later. I don’t have the time to mentally face the fact that I kissed someone who isn’t Jen. Jen was the only woman I ever kissed. She was my first and was supposed to be the last and only. But again, I can overthink and mentally kick myself over that later.

Right now, my focus is the safety of Erin and her children. I can’t begin to fathom why Alpha Logan would appoint me as their guard. Someone with a wolf would be a much better choice. Erin and the kids wouldn’t even have to know they were here, just having them stay in wolf form in the wooded area by the house. At least then, if Dane shows up, they would truly be protected.

I have no idea what Dane’s gift, if any, is. If he shifts, I have no wolf to fight back with. Yes, I still do my training. Losing my wolf wasn’t a good enough reason for Alpha Logan to let me out of pack training. I’ve still had to train to fight against a wolf while having none.

At first, it annoyed me that I was still being forced to go through the training as if nothing about me had changed. It was frustrating to get my ass kicked because my opponent would shift. I learned ways to counter a wolf in a fight, but these were my packmates. I knew them, so I knew how they moved.

And when Luna Aurelia’s human friend Alex joined the training, I stopped even considering my participation as some chore. Even though I’m sure Alex’s involvement in the training is more for Alpha’s amusement as Alex still gets his ass kicked, yet always shows up for training. That is a very determined human. And if he could do that, what right did I, someone born a werewolf, have to complain?

None of that, however, makes me feel that the decision to place me as their guard was founded on logic. Unless there is another packmate lurking outside as a precaution. I’m betting there is. It isn’t like Alpha Logan to leave anything to chance. With that thought in mind, I was a little more comfortable staying.

Until I was reminded my pants were wet from falling in the snow and I had no change of clothes. I’m resigned to borrowing sweats from River. I'm a man in his forties wearing sweats owned by a teenager who’s less than half his size in muscle mass. They are among the scrawniest werewolves I’ve met. Well, that’s if they end up with wolves.

“This way, Daddy Hale.” River snickered, waving a hand for me to follow.

I felt my jaw twitch. Having heard them call that since I arrived is getting on my nerves. I am not their daddy, and the way they say that word is very inappropriate. I should say something, but I have the feeling if I comment, they will double down, and it can and will get worse.

With a sigh, I followed River to their room. It was a typical teen bedroom, meaning a mess. I was hesitant even to follow River past the doorway. Based on what I see in their room, they are into skateboarding, music, and computers. It was like a little window into the type of person River is.

“These are big on me, so they may fit you. I can’t say how snug, but mom will like them if they fit tighter.” River snickered, throwing a pair of gray sweatpants at me.

“Is that your defense mechanism?” I questioned, neatly folding the pants over my arm.

River frowned, looking at me confused. “Is what a defense mechanism?”

“This behavior. The shock value innuendo, double entendres, and just inappropriate comments. I don’t wish to sound offensive, River. I want to understand. My son will bluntly say things, but he does so for that shock value and to deflect from a subject or his true feelings.” I explained my question leaning in the doorway.

For all I know, this is how River is, and there's no deeper meaning. And that’s fine, but I want to know. I want to know more about these kids. Whether anything beyond that kiss happens, these two are hybrids and may one day awaken their wolves. And if that happens, they could join this pack if that’s what they wanted. So, they would continue to be in my life. So, I want to know River and Sage as individuals and ensure they know I am someone they could speak with.

River looked lost in contemplation for a while as we stood in silence. “I dunno. I like messing with people. But you haven’t reacted. This is the first time you’ve said something, and we’ve been saying shit since you got here.”

“I see. There doesn’t have to be a deeper meaning than that. But it is something to think about. To ask yourself. Because you will be an adult soon, depending on your birthday. As in the werewolf community, we are considered adults when we awaken our wolves.” I nodded.

“Um…right. Sure.” River nodded. I must have caught them off guard with the question and the serious tone of our conversation.

“Either way, I’m sure you and Sage will turn out just fine.” I smiled. “Thank you for the loan of pants. I’m going to go change in the bathroom. Go finish your dinner before the hot items get cold and the cold items get warm.” I suggested as I went to the bathroom across the hall.

I frowned as I slipped on the sweatpants. This was a terrible idea. The best thing I can say is that River is on the taller side, so they aren’t high waters. But they also do not leave much to the imagination, fitting more like leggings than sweatpants. I wish Austin hadn’t rushed off. I know he has spare clothes in his jeep that would fit me. I’m going to blame him for the predicament I find myself in.

“Hale? Um, are you okay in there? If you were hungry, you should probably come out before my kids eat everything they ordered on your card.” Erin called out through the door as she lightly knocked. “Also, I wanted to get your pants in the dryer, so you don’t have to spend too long in River’s sweats.”

“Right. Of course, thank you.” I sighed and opened the door, holding my pants in front of me.

I hadn’t felt this uncomfortable since I was fifteen, and some older boys decided they should haze the upcoming shifters by taking our clothes from the locker room and making us walk naked to collect them from the flagpole. It wasn’t so embarrassing walking through the school naked.

It was Jennifer seeing me with both hands over my crotch. I had to choose what to cover, so my ass was left exposed. She was giggling with a friend, watching me specifically. Not a self-esteem booster until she whistled as I got past her, and she saw my exposed ass.

I felt like that as I had to hand the pants to Erin, taking away my cover. She was trying to maintain eye contact. She succeeded long enough to take my pants and say, “Thanks, I’ll get these into the dry.” But once she had the pants and I was essentially exposed, sure I was wearing clothes, but these sweatpants outlined everything.

There wasn’t any giggling as her eyes went to my crotch. The only way to describe her expression, the way her eyes darkened, and how she briefly licked her lips was desire. There was a distinct flash of desire on Erin’s face when she looked at me. But she quickly recovered, looking back at my face. “I’ll put these in the dryer….” She was flustered as she quickly turned to head to the basement, where I assume their laundry is.

As she hurried away, I noticed she’d changed as well. My brow furrowed at the sight of a sparkly red heart over her ass on the lounge pants she had changed into. I’m not sure if the clothing choice was intentional, but it drew my attention as I watched her until she was out of sight. I shook my head, reminding myself I was here for a reason. I’m supposed to protect them from Dane, not see if we could pick up where we left off in the yard.

I returned to the main living space to be greeted with snickers and smiles from River and Sage. “Are you hungry? We left some food.” Sage offered, holding up a pizza box with one meager slice.

“I’m okay. I ate at home.” I had eaten before I received their hate texts that ended with an SOS. “So go ahead and eat your fill. If you and your mother have eaten, that’s what matters.” I waved off the offer politely as I sat down on the sofa.

“Suit yourself.” Sage shrugged before stuffing the slice of pizza into their mouth.

“What happens now? Like if the sperm donor comes back, what will happen? What happens to us now that we know we are hybrids?” River questioned, coming to sit next to me as they munched on a donut.

“If Dan makes another attempt, it will be up to me to stop him. I may not have my wolf, but I am still a trained member of the Bloodmoon pack. I would ask that one of you or your mother use my phone to contact Alpha Logan with my phone.” I explained, taking my phone out to bring up the contacts to show them.

“He is listed as LK on my phone.” I outlined. “I didn’t want to use titles as it could confuse a human if they looked at my phone and saw a contact called Alpha. If you cannot reach Alpha Logan, message Beta John who is in my contacts at JK, one of them will respond, and the nearest pack member to us will be sent to help me subdue Dane until they arrive.”

“What happens after they arrive?” Sage questioned, taking up the spot on the other side of me.

“At that point, Dane will be taken to the pack’s dungeon for his indiscretions to be judged. Werewolves take trespassing in pack lands very seriously. We do not tolerate the harassment of civilians in our territory, even more so when minors are involved. The fact you two are hybrids adds another layer to that violation.” I explained.

“What does that mean? Why would my children being hybrids make things worse?” Erin questioned as she entered the room, apparently having heard part of the conversation.

“Given you and Dane aren’t mates, tradition dictates any children born outside of a mated pair will by default reside with their mother and be given the choice of what pack they join upon awakening their wolf.” I outlined.

“So based on werewolf law, Dane has no legal claim to my kids? He can’t take them away without facing the wrath of your Alpha?” Erin arched her brow.

“Wait, so if we have wolves, we can join your pack? How does that work? Is there some initiation? Or do you and mom have to hook up for us to join?” The twins alternated their questions, making me think I was being given a hearing test as they spoke from different sides of me.

River’s voice is much deeper. It almost reminds me of Alpha Logan’s voice, while Sage has a lighter voice more akin to their mother’s in pitch. I at least knew who was talking without looking as they had very different voices.

“Dane has no legal claim by werewolf laws. And if he attempts to take them, he will learn why no one messes with the Bloodmoon Alpha.” I assured Erin before addressing her children.

“Yes, River. If you awaken your wolves, you may choose to become part of Bloodmoon. The process is simple, Sage. You would take a blood oath to Alpha Logan. River, there is no need for your mother to be involved with anyone in the pack, myself included.” I answered them.

“What do you mean by blood oath? Do we have to cut our hands and vow on our blood?” River questioned.

“You would be brought before Alpha Logan and drink from a cup containing some of his blood and pledge loyalty to him and the pack. After you drink, it will connect you to the pack, opening the telepathic link to all members.” I explained.

“That’s so cool. I can’t wait till April.” Sage grinned. Well, that answers how long it will be before we know if they are wolves. I wouldn’t want to trouble Beta Sarael with having her check beforehand.

“I want a wolf so I can shift like Austin did and join Bloodmoon and use telepathy to talk to people.” River grinned. At least they were still excited about being werewolves and expressing interest in joining the pack should they be.

“Okay, I think that’s enough questions for Hale now. Why don’t you two do whatever you do in your rooms? I’ll clean up the mess from your dinner.” Erin suggested.

“Mom just wants alone time with Daddy Hale.” Sage rolled their eyes.

“Probably. Just don’t screw on the sofa. We sit here and don’t need to use a black light to know what cushions, if any, are safe.” River snickered, getting to their feet.

I shook my head as the twins left; it was just Erin and me alone in her living room. All those reasons I had to not think about that kiss were gone and addressed. Leaving just that thought, that memory of her lips on mine and of how eagerly she kissed back. Yeah, not good memories to focus on when wearing sweatpants that are already snug.

Chapter 16 - Erin

I know I was the one that sent my kids to their rooms, but now that it’s just Hale and me, I’m feeling nervous. The last time we were alone was the first time we met in person, back when neither of us knew the other was who we’d been talking to on Kindred Spirits. I don’t count him sitting at my table in the office cafeteria as being alone, given we were in a room full of people, many of whom were werewolves, and heard every embarrassing word.

Remembering that conversation, if you could call it a conversation, brought up some questions, I’d like to have answered. I will not let any residual embarrassment about this situation stop me. This is my house, damn it, and I’m not going to sit here awkwardly pondering all the possible answers when I can ask and get answers from him directly.

“I’m sure you probably have more questions. Ones that River and Sage didn’t think to ask. I can’t imagine how you must feel learning all this. So if you have any questions, I’ll answer to the best of my abilities.” Hale offered.

I know his offer was more about the revelation that my dumbass ex is a werewolf and my kids are hybrids that may end up awakening wolf spirits in a few months. And I’ll admit I have some questions about that, but the questions that weigh heaviest on my mind aren’t about werewolves or my kids’ futures. It’s about the man sitting on my sofa in dangerously tight sweatpants.

What is it about sweatpants on a man that is so hot? As he adjusts how he’s sitting and my eyes unconsciously look to his crotch, I get my answer. I’d only dared a glance earlier, so sue me that I’m taking a long time gawking at the outline of his cock. This is exceptionally unfair. As my kids have liked to point out, I haven’t gotten laid in a long time, and now I’m sitting here with a handsome man whose dick is unintentionally on display wanting to take it for a ride when I know I can’t or at least shouldn’t.

“Erin? He’s not going to talk back. It’s just a dick. Should I use one of the blankets to cover up?” Hale offered, bringing me out of the trance I was in.

“Sorry. I’m fine. And I wasn’t expecting answers from your cock.” I sighed, covering my embarrassment at being caught gawking. I don’t want his cock to answer questions. I want it for something very different.

“You are right. I have questions. But they aren’t about werewolves, my ex, or my kids. And that may make me a bad mom, or I don’t know. Maybe I’m still processing that, so I’m focused on something more grounded in what I used to call reality.” I shrugged.

“That makes sense. I don’t think it makes you a bad mom. You haven’t run. You haven’t rejected them. You aren’t curled into a ball of denial in the safe bubble that most humans live in, where they believe they are the only intelligent beings around. So what is the other topic you had questions about?” He nodded.

“What happens now? By that, I mean between us. At the start of the week, you said we needed to keep things professional.” I jumped right into it. “Coming here blurred that line, and kissing me pretty much blew that line to pieces.”

“Erin…” Hale sighed. “The kiss… I…” I could see a mix of emotions on his face, and maybe I misinterpreted, but one might have been regret. Oh fuck, he’s going to apologize.

“Don’t apologize. I’m not looking for one. I’m just trying to understand this. Understand where I stand when it comes to you. Because I’m getting dizzy trying to keep up.” I cut him off, not willing to hear any apologies.

“Well, that’s good because I wasn’t going to apologize. I’m sorry if everything is getting confusing, but you aren’t the only one feeling that way. I’m just as confused. And it’s not simply because of our job titles.” Hale sighed, rubbing a hand over his face.

“I told you before, Jen was it for me. She was my one and only. Even before we were old enough to know we were mates, Jen was the only girl I looked at with desire. She was the only one that made me feel anything like that. So sitting here with you and having these feelings makes me confused.” Hale frowned.

Well, that’s a gut punch of a reminder. Of course, he’s going to feel conflicted. His wife was his literal soulmate, and he’s lived the last eighteen years without her. Now I show up in his life, and sure, when we started talking, he might not have seen it as more than someone to talk to, but that’s changed this week. And now everything is a muddled mess.

“I won’t say I understand how you feel because I’ve never been in the situation you are. I’ve never loved someone the way you loved and still love Jen.” I sighed. “On that note, I will understand if you would rather keep this platonic. That we forget the kiss even happened. It won’t be easy to forget the best kiss of my life, but I can try.”

It hurt for me to suggest, but I’d try. I don’t want to put Hale through more pain. He lost his soulmate. How long, if ever, does it take to move on from something like that? His son thinks it’s been long enough, but that’s not for Austin to judge. The only one that knows when Hale is ready is Hale.

“I won’t lie. I’m always going to love Jen. I can’t stop. She’s forever right here.” Hale touched his heart. “But that’s the thing about the heart. It’s boundless. There is always room for new people to care about and possibly love.” He sighed.

“I agreed to try Kindred Spirits because my son was right. A rare occurrence, but nonetheless, he was right. This whole being alone and miserable going through the motions of living but not living. I’ve lived the last eighteen years basically on autopilot. I don’t want to do that anymore.” He admitted. “So I don’t want to forget the kiss. I’m not sure I could if I tried.”

“You don’t?” I blinked, trying to hold in the excitement his words elicited. He doesn’t want to pretend the kiss didn’t happen. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but everything he’s saying, it’s all adding up to this, not just a lapse in his professional demeanor that this could be more.

“Then… with what you’re saying, where does that leave us?” I dared to ask. I dared to hope this could leave us on the other side of that professional line. If neither of us wants to forget the kiss, maybe something more can happen.

“I’m not sure. I do know I enjoyed talking to you on the app. And when you walked into my office, before I knew you were EMomma, I thought you were beautiful and then scolded myself since you’re an employee in my department. So to find out you were EMomma, professionally speaking, put me in a bad situation.” Hale sighed.

“Which is why you told me Monday things had to remain professional.” I nodded. “But now? We’ve kissed. You’re sitting on my sofa in my kid’s sweatpants and are staying the night.” I arched an eyebrow.

“We’re still probably an HR infraction. I know the company makes exceptions for mates. But we aren’t that, so I don’t know what will happen to either of us professionally. Ultimately the only people who can overrule an HR policy are the Kinsley brothers.” Hale shrugged.

“Meaning your Alpha and Beta.” I nodded. “The same Alpha who gave the order that you should stay here. I don’t know how close you are with him, but it sounds like he has a plan with that order. He could have made your son stay or sent someone else.”

“I’m not sure how much of a plan he has. He does have a history of somehow putting people in the right place at the right time. Including putting my son in the right place at the right time for him to connect with his mate.” Hale conceded.

“So maybe, you’re in the right place at the right time.” I suggested taking the initiative to move from my chair, and before I could let myself second guess, I straddled his lap.

This was a risk; for a moment, I thought I’d moved too fast as he looked startled. But then his hands held my hips, keeping me in place on his lap. I smiled that he wasn’t rejecting my advance as I rested my hands on his shoulders.

“Because I believe it. With everything going on right now, you’re the best person to be here for my kids and me. You’re kind to a fault and so damn patient with my kids. I can’t imagine anyone being able to calmly answer their questions and help them and me through this new revelation.” I explained, leaning in closer.

“Even if all this craziness wasn’t happening… you’re exactly the person I need in my life.” I confessed as my lips brushed against his, initiating our second kiss. It was just as good, maybe better than the first, as this time, there was no hesitation from either of us as our lips moved in sync.

I don’t know how long we have. I love my kids, but I can’t trust how long they’ll stay in their rooms. For all I know, they are already sneaking out here to see if anything is happening. And if they saw me on Hale’s lap with us kissing, they’d probably go into a fit of giggles that would take us out of the moment. I pushed aside the possible pending child interruption as Hale deepened the kiss with a groan.

I don’t know how long we were kissing, it could have been an hour, but it wasn’t long enough as I felt something rubbing at my thigh. Initially, I thought it was something else until I realized it was Hale’s phone buzzing. Regrettably, he pulled back from our kiss.

“I should check that. It might be someone from the pack.” Hale sighed, taking a hand from my hip to reach between us for his phone. His expression changed as he saw whoever was calling him. It wasn’t just his expression; his whole demeanor changed as he answered.

“Yes, Delta.” Hale formally greeted. That must be the Delta he mentioned earlier. The genius. “Understood. Send me the intel, and I’ll review it. If he reappears, I will report immediately.” Hale nodded. “Thank you.” He sighed, hanging up and putting the phone aside as it started to buzz from an email or something.

“What’s going on?” I furrowed my brow. “What did your Delta say?”

“From your security footage above the front door, they got your ex’s name, address, pack, everything.” Hale explained.

“I could’ve told you his name. But I guess I wouldn’t know the rest of that. What did they find? Is it relevant somehow?” I cocked my head, trying to understand.

“They are sending me the information. We’ll know in a moment why getting to your kids was so important he tracked you down.” Hale assured. I’m not sure how reassured I feel. Knowing Dane’s reason is essential, but the look on Hale’s face, whatever his Delta told him, couldn’t have been good.

Chapter 17 - Hale

I don’t do well in uncomfortable or embarrassing situations. I usually react in one of two ways in those situations. More often than not, I retreat and avoid the problem letting the embarrassment fade before either acting like it didn’t happen or addressing it. The other, which occurs less often, I show my Shelton genes aren’t as weak as my father believes.

That means I will speak up and speak more bluntly. Sometimes when I do that, it makes things worse because often, my blunt words come off as me being an asshole. The rare times I’ve reacted more like a Shelton, I’ve gotten punched. Thankfully that wasn’t the case with Erin. I think I embarrassed her by catching her off guard. But she handled it with grace moving forward despite her embarrassment.

Talking like this wasn’t easy. It was easier to talk to Erin when it was in the app. It felt less overwhelming, less like I was an exposed nerve. It’s never easy to talk about Jen and how I still feel about her. So add having to speak not only about that but about how I’m starting to feel about Erin directly to Erin. It’s a lot, and more than once, I wanted to bolt or at least shut up, but that wouldn’t get me anywhere good.

If I’d shut down like my anxiety wanted me to, I wouldn’t have Erin in my lap kissing me. And this is far better than the outcomes I would have considered. Of course, the nagging voices in my head reminded me I was kissing someone who isn’t Jen and that we were in a shared room where her kids could easily intrude.

I pushed those worries to the far reaches of my mind. I prefer to focus on what or who is right in front of me. Erin should be the first and only thought in my mind. This kiss was different from the one outside. Not just because she initiated, but there is more contact between us, and I like it. I like holding her in my lap and exploring her curves as we kiss.

It has been a long time since I’ve done this. I may be out of practice, but that means I will take my time to enjoy this and learn as much as I can about what Erin likes. Too bad that wasn’t going to happen. The moment was ruined by my phone. I’m still unsure if having a phone buzzing is a better or worse interruption than when I had the pack link, and someone could intrude into my mind.

Regrettably, the kiss had to end as I took Delta Jonathan’s call. Wolf or not, it’s still ingrained into me that I need to be attentive and serious when speaking to any ranked member of the pack. Even if I wanted to ask why he and his mate couldn’t have waited a bit longer. But from what I understand, mostly about his mate, cock blocking is something of a talent.

“Yes, Delta.” I formally greeted. It doesn’t matter that Delta Jonathan is the same age as my son, he was hand selected by Alpha Logan to be our Delta, and I would never disrespect him just because he’s young.

“Hope I’m not interrupting you and your new girlfriend.” Jonathan snickered. I maintained my composure, making a mental note to send an apology to Phil and Pat when I beat their son for gossiping.

“Now, I’m sure you’re as eager to get back to her as I am to get back to code with my mate. No, that’s not a euphemism… well, maybe a little… or a lot. I digress. Persephone, stop distracting me while I’m on the phone, or I’ll make you talk to him and see how you like it.” Jonathan rambled.

Goddess, help me. Please give me the patience to deal with my Delta couple and not lose composure with them. Especially with Erin still in my lap, looking at me, concerned.

“Fine, I bet I can tell him what he needs to know no matter what you’re doing and not be distracted.” Delta Persephone boasted as I heard the phone changing hands.

“Hale, hey. So …. Fuck… You aren’t going to… win. Now then. We got the name… Silvercloud… on the guy. We dug… of fuck… up everything we could from birth to today.” Persephone’s voice kept changing pitch, and I did not want to know what her mate was doing to her. I suppose she shouldn’t have challenged him.

“Understood. Send me the intel, and I’ll review it. If he reappears, I will report immediately.” I nodded, ready to get off the phone. I don’t want to hear what they are doing. I hope they don’t pull stunts like this when reporting to Alpha Logan or Beta John.

“Sending now. Bye… oh fuck me….” Was the last words I heard as the phone clattered to the ground. After that, I didn’t want to discuss the sounds I heard. “Thank you.” I sighed. I hung up to not listen to more of them fucking, putting it aside just before it started buzzing. At least she sent the data before getting lost in the mate bond.

Pushing the urge to shudder away, I explained to Erin what the call was about and that I would be receiving the information on her ex. The moment we’d shared a moment ago was ruined. Erin silently nodded as she moved off my lap to sit next to me. So kind of my Delta couple to ruin a moment between us while still having a moment of their own.

“So what’s it say? I’m ready. I want to know the things Dane never told me. I want to know why he tracked us down and thinks he can take my kids.” Erin straightened her shoulders as if bracing herself for whatever news was about to hit her.

“Alright. Let’s see what they sent over.” I sighed, picking my phone up and opening the encrypted email attachment. “Do you want to call the kids in? Or wait until you’ve processed everything to discuss it with them?” I offered.

“River! Sage! Come in here!” Erin shouted, calling for her children. “As much as I want to protect them, they have the right to know it all without being filtered through me.” She sighed, leaning her head on my shoulder.

“You two done already? That was speedy.” River taunted as they and Sage entered the living room. I wasn’t going to respond. Better not to encourage the behavior.

“Please take a seat. I received a full background report on Dane from my pack’s Delta couple. Your mother feels you should hear this information first hand rather than filtered through her.” I explained, gesturing for them to sit.

“Okay. So what dirt did you dig up on the sperm donor?” River questioned

“What does he want with us?” Sage questioned, taking a seat with their twin.

I sighed while opening the document. “Let’s see. Dane Jordan Blackburn, age forty-six, was born and raised a rogue. He was in and out of foster homes after his mother was killed. All the human social services documentation indicates aggressive nature and inability to focus, labeled a runaway. Fairy standard background for a rogue.” I shrugged.

“What’s a rogue? And what do you mean by standard?” River questioned.

“I knew he was an orphan and lived in foster care as a kid.” Erin frowned.

“A rogue is a wolf without a pack. Werewolves are pack animals. We weren’t meant to be on our own. Sometimes rogues will come together as a makeshift pack, but it is never the same as a true pack. And living on their own like that puts them at greater risk. Especially if they cross into pack territory. Most packs don’t take kindle to rogues as they become aggressive, attack, and even kill needlessly as their wolf’s mind is warped from being without a pack.” I explained.

As a Chief in the pack’s patrol department, I saw many raped and murdered rogue she-wolves because of Siegfried and his followers. “And tragically, female rogues, especially if living alone or with a pup, often die either because they trespassed or because a male rogue kills them. Please don’t ask me to explain how bad that can be for the female.” I frowned.

“What else does it say about him? You said he was born a rogue, but does that mean his mother and father were born rogues?” Erin questioned.

“There’s no documentation about his father. When her father learned she was pregnant, his mother was kicked out of the Steelcrest Pak, a pack on Prince Edward Island. I’m guessing his father wasn’t her mate.” I explained.

“That’s a reason to kick someone out of a pack?” Sage arched a brow.

“Not in most cases. Some packs are more old school, and it would seem Steelcrest is one of those types. Having children that aren’t born from your mate is frowned upon. Some see it as an insult to the Goddess. Here in Bloodmoon, we believe the Goddess always has a plan. So even a child born outside of a fated mate bond was meant to be.” I explained.

“Like us? People would look down on mom and us like they did sperm donor’s mom?” River questioned.

“Unfortunately, there will always be hateful people in this world, River. So I won’t promise no one ever would or will. But I can promise on the whole my pack wouldn’t. Our Alpha doesn’t take kindly to such mindsets.” I assured them.

“Now, let’s see what else they dug up on Dane. Knowing his past is helpful but let’s see more recent events.” I nodded, moving forward.

“Oh…” I frowned as I read forward in the report.

“What is it? What does it say, Hale?” Erin questioned, trying to peer at my phone.

“Well, I know why he ghosted you before you could tell him you were pregnant. He stumbled across his mate.” I began.

“But if he found his mate, why’s he looking for us now? What happened? Why care about us so suddenly?” Sage questioned.

“His mate was the only child to the Steelcrest Pack Alpha. Which by old school standards made him the new Alpha.” I sighed.

“So we’re what Alpha heirs?” River furrowed their brow trying to understand.

“Well, technically, yes. But you and Sage hold no blood claim to the Steelcrest Pack. Dane, however, doesn’t care about that. He and his mate never had children or at least none that survived more than a year. His mate passed recently in childbirth, and the pup didn’t survive either. Which makes Dane more dangerous than anticipated.” I frowned.

“Oh, that poor woman.” Erin frowned. Of course, she felt empathy for the woman. As a mother, she probably imagines how she’d feel if she lost her kids. I can understand that feeling. I’ve feared I lost Austin twice in my life. And both times, the Goddess spared him tragically. The first time to spare him meant taking Jen.

“What do you mean this makes him more dangerous? Shouldn’t he be without a wolf like you if he lost his mate?” Sage questioned.

“Sage.” Erin scolded them with a stern look.

“It’s okay, Erin. I understand the question, and there is no ill intention.” I assured, placing my hand on her knee. “Sage, losing a mate affects us all differently. Typically we die with our mate. By all accounts, I shouldn’t be here, but my wolf took all the pain from me so I could live for Austin’s sake.” I explained.

“Others, it could take days or weeks for them to die from the loss. And in those cases, they lose their minds, turning almost feral, clinging to something to keep them going. We had a rogue Alpha that gave us trouble for a long time. Eight years ago, my Luna killed his mate in battle. He survived and slipped deeper into madness. Revenge kept him alive until he too fell to my Luna.” I tried to explain.

“So sperm donor is unhinged because he lost his mate and hasn’t died from it because of us?” River’s face squished up in confusion and disbelief.

“From what my Deltas found, he left Steelcrest telling the other ranked wolves he would return with his heirs no matter what. I’m not sure if he clings to life for you or more to the idea of keeping his hold over the pack that had once shunned his pregnant mother. But either way, he is dangerous in this mindset.” I sighed.

“I urge you all not to panic, though. My pack is searching for Dane right now. And when he is found, he will be taken into custody and forced to return to Steelcrest or face the consequences of trespassing into our territory.” I assured, squeezing Erin’s leg as I felt her starting to shake.

“No one is taking you from your mother. No one is going to hurt you or your mother. I promise.” I probably shouldn’t make such promises, but damn it, I’m not letting either of those outcomes happen.

Chapter 18 - Erin

I don’t even know where to begin with processing all of this. I knew there would be a lot about Dane I didn’t know. I didn’t know he was a werewolf when we dated, so I’m sure there was a lot related to that he kept from me. I just wasn’t fully prepared to hear all this.

I knew Dane was different, more aggressive, and unstable than the man I knew. Now that I know he’s that way because he lost his mate, I’m unsure how to feel about it. Do I feel bad for him? I mean, in a way, I do. His soulmate died.

The thing is, Hale lost his soulmate too and isn’t deranged and aggressive. He lost his wolf, staying alive for his son’s sake. Dane isn’t clinging to life for River and Sage. He’s clinging to life rather than following his soulmate because he got a taste of power and wants to keep it. He didn’t even know about them without looking for me.

And when I think that he’s here because he wants to use my kids, it pisses me off. All the sympathy I had for his loss goes out the window. I don’t care what he lost. Nothing gives him the right to try and take my children, to try and use them.

I wouldn’t be so afraid if he were still the same Dane I knew. I could take the Dane I knew, the one I thought was human, in a fight. I’d fight to the bitter end to keep my kids safe from him. But he’s not a human. He’s a mentally unstable werewolf. I wouldn’t stand a chance in a fight against him.

By all accounts, I should be freaking out right now. Thinking about how quickly I can pack my kids up and get as far from here as possible. Yet, I’m not. And I know exactly why I’m not. Hale.

His presence is calming and exactly what I need. It’s like being calm is his superpower and that he can make others feel that way through his words and touch. Because I was a few seconds from a panic attack when he reached over, put his hand on my leg, and squeezed gently.

And don’t get me started on the things his conviction, as he promised no one would hurt us or take my children from me, did to my heart. Before I had my kids, I dated my share of guys. Sure they all ended up being toxic assholes, but none of them made me feel like Hale does. Is this what falling in love feels like?

I sound ridiculous. Talking about love when I barely know the man. But I don’t think I can ignore the feelings. And I know they aren’t just because he came here when he thought I was in danger. That helps, but it isn’t everything. I fell for him when we were just EMomma and MountHD chatting on Kindred Spirits. I don’t know if things would have moved this quickly if Hale hadn’t realized who I was. And despite all the craziness, I’m glad he’s here and that this feeling wasn’t one-sided.

“Okay. So there doesn’t seem to be much we can do now. Unless you think there is something we can do as some form of defense if Dane comes back.” I sighed, trying to take control of the situation and move forward.

“And this is why you should have let us get that BB gun. I bet silver bullets would be helpful.” River interjected.

“River, this isn’t a monster movie. We don’t even know if silver is harmful to werewolves. And I stand by my decision not to keep guns in my house.” I sighed.

“Well, River is correct. Silver is harmful to werewolves. Silver poisoning can kill if untreated and a bullet to the heart or head does the job no matter what kind of round it is.” Hale stated.

“See!” River exclaimed.

“However, many hybrids are affected by silver as well. It’s not as deadly to them, but it can be harmful. So having silver around would put you and Sage in danger.” Hale explained.

River and Sage pouted. “That explains a lot. I thought it was weird that they would have a silver allergy. I used to have a silver locket, and as babies, they tried to chew on it, resulting in a rash on their hands and their lips swell.” I blinked as it all now made sense.

“Fine, no silver.” River grumbled. “What else can we use?” They questioned.

“Well, wolfsbane, also known as monkshood, is poisonous to werewolves. But again, as hybrids, you would be susceptible to its poison, though to a lesser degree than a full-blooded werewolf. So the option wouldn’t be beneficial. Only your mother could handle the plant.” Hale shook his head, shooting down another idea.

“Is it poisonous to you? Not trying to be rude.” Sage questioned.

“That’s an excellent question. I may no longer have my wolf, but as a full-blooded werewolf, I still have the same weaknesses. So silver and wolfsbane can still hurt me and, like anyone else, could kill me.” Hale explained.

“So then, what can we do?” Sage questioned, arching their brow.

“Make sure all windows and doors are locked, and if there is a security system, it is armed. I know there is a Silvercloud security camera above the front door. I’m not sure how far that extends to security on the property.” Hale explained.

“Well, we do have an alarm system. It was part of the house already. So the camera on the front door and another facing the yard with motion lights.” I answered.

“Okay, good. Then since none of us are going anywhere tonight, you should arm the system. It will alert us if Dane does come back. Since the system is Silvercloud, it will be accessible by my Deltas.” Hale nodded.

“You never explained that. Why would your Delta have access to the security system? Is it because this house is rented to use through the company and therefore your Alpha?” I questioned because that was one thing that struck me as odd.

“Well, that is part of it, yes. But also because my Delta is Silvercloud.” Hale shrugged like that wasn’t some shocking news.

“Wait, you know THE Silvercloud!? The guy who started Silvercloud tech? The guy responsible for some of the coolest technology ever?!” River exclaimed, going wide-eyed.

Hale chuckled softly as he nodded. “Yes. Delta Jonathan Silvercloud is the founder of the Silvercloud brand. He and his mate Persephone have made some interesting technological advances. To the world, they are tech geniuses. In the pack, they are our Delta couple. And in Jonathan’s case, the boy who blew up a part of the pack house.”

“He blew up the pack house?!” River inched forward in their seat, all ears.

“What’s a pack house?” Sage questioned.

“The pack house is our Alpha’s home and acts as a meeting place for the pack and guest quarters for visitors. In his youth, Jonathan lived at the pack house and had a unique sleep affliction. Some people talk or walk in their sleep. He invents and then doesn’t remember what he made. In one such incident, a button was pressed on an unknown invention. It resulted in part of the house being destroyed and rebuilt. Alpha Logan moved his lab to an underground bunker further from residential areas.” Hale explained.

“Whoa! That is so cool!” River laughed.

I, of course, groaned cause this was all just giving my kids ideas. “Okay, enough of that. Neither of you is allowed to make anything that is combustible. We are renting this duplex, and I am not dealing with not only paying damages for our half but to end up paying for damages for our neighbor’s stuff.” I warned, pointing my finger at each of my kids.

“You’re no fun.” My kids pouted.

“Alright, I think that’s probably enough excitement for the evening. You should all try to get some rest.” Hale suggested getting to his feet. “I’ll ensure everything is locked, and then I’ll be on the sofa if you need me.”

“Right… cause you’re going to stay on the sofa and not mom’s bed.” River snickered as they and Sage got to their feet.

“Good luck with that.” Sage chimed in. “Night, mom. Night, Daddy Hale.” The cheeky shits grinned as they hurried out of the living room.

“Feel free to ignore them. They are just trying to tease us. I won’t fight you about it if you want to sleep out here.” I sighed. Of course, I want him to stay in my room. But I also don’t want to push his boundaries. He’s too nice a guy with a lot of baggage to sort through.

“It would be the most appropriate place. And if something does happen, it means I’m in a better location to address it no matter which door Dane may attempt to come through.” Hale rationalized.

“Of course… that does make sense.” I agreed. I reminded myself I shouldn’t feel put out by him sleeping in the living room. He’s here to protect us first. And the living room does give him a better defensive position.

“Erin? You don’t seem all that sold on the idea.” Hale sighed, cocking his head slightly. “Did you want me to stay in your room?” He questioned.

“No… yes.”I know my answer was a contradiction “I don’t know. I understand why you’d want to sleep out here. And I don’t want to push or to come off like something has to or would happen if you stayed in my room. Just because we were making out earlier doesn’t mean we are jumping into sex. Not that I would mind that, but I’m sure you aren’t ready for that. And it makes sense you have a lot of emotions to sort through. Way more than I do. I know having your close helps calm me, and I….” I tried to explain myself, rambling a little.

His lips cut off my rant. It wasn’t a long kiss, but it was sweet, and as he pulled back, he rested his forehead against mine. “I understand, Erin. And if we are on the same page that nothing physical would be happening, I can stay in your room.”

My heart fluttered, blinking as I looked at his boundless blue eyes. Seriously, he is the sweetest man I’ve ever met. And these little moments are making me swoon. “Okay… Thank you. I’m going to change into pajamas then.” I gulped mentally, thinking about what I had for pajamas that weren’t going to be embarrassing or too sexy to wear. I don’t want to give him the wrong idea.

“Okay. I’ll be there shortly. I want to make sure the house is secure. What is the alarm code so I can turn it on?” Hale nodded, stepping back to give me space.

“Oh right. Um, it’s 8431.” I had to think for a moment about the code. I hadn’t used it yet. Guess I’m going to start using it every day from now on. Even if Dane is sent packing, I live in a city with werewolves and vampires. I’m not sure how safe I’ll ever feel again.

“I’ll be to bed soon then.” Hale nodded, stepping away from me to check the windows and doors.

I let out a breath as I turned, went to my room, and started going through my clothes, trying to find something that rides the line of sexy and comfy. It’s honestly not very easy. The best I could find was a light blue floral print cami and shorts set. Fuck I’m nervous. Why am I anxious? We aren’t going to have sex. He’s just going to sleep in here. Yet my heart jumped when I heard a gentle knock at my door. “Come in.” I tried to keep my voice from squeaking, but it still did.

I smiled, nervously chewing my lip as Hale stepped into my room, closing the door behind him to the soft giggles of my kids. I’m sure they poked their heads out to see what was happening—little shits.

“Are you alright?” Hale questioned, obviously having noticed I was nervous

“Yes. It’s just that I can’t remember the last time I shared my bed. I don’t count sharing a bed with my kids when they were little. And I know nothing physical will happen, but I’m still on edge that you’ll be in my bed.” I admitted.

“It’s okay. I’m in the same boat. I haven’t shared a bed with anyone but Jen. So, it’s a new thing for us, and we’re both nervous about it. But let’s try to move past our nerves and get some rest.” He suggested as he tugged his sweater off.

Okay, so I understand why he’s taking it off. It’s a nice sweater he wore to work, which looked way too nice paired with River’s sweatpants. Plus, who wears a sweater to bed.

Holy shit, he’s shirtless. My boss, Hale Shelton, is standing in my bedroom in sweatpants that don’t fit him, or maybe they fit too well.

I hope I’m not drooling right now. I didn’t realize Hale looked like this under all his prim and proper business clothes. He didn’t have the ‘dad bod’ you’d think most men his age would have. I’m not saying he has a six-pack or anything crazy, but he’s still fit. And I will be in bed where I can touch and hopefully cuddle with him. Jackpot.

Chapter 19 - Hale

I took my time going room by room to ensure all windows and doors were locked. I saved checking the windows in River and Sage’s rooms for last. Something told me going into either of their rooms wasn’t going to be an easy in-and-out experience. And since I’m dealing with teenagers, I didn’t just walk in. I knocked. Goddess knows how many times after he turned ten, I got screamed at for not knocking by Austin.

“Come in, Daddy Hale.” River taunted me when I knocked at their door.

Her kids will give me a migraine. I can feel it. If anything more serious develops between Erin and me, I fear for our sanities putting her twins with my son and his mate in the same space. It was scary enough to have them and Austin in the same room earlier. Then add Suzie, who is closer to River and Sage’s age, and it’s a new level of headache.

“Just ensuring your windows are locked before I set the alarm.” I explained as I made my way over to their windows. Thankfully they were both already firmly locked. “Make sure you keep the curtains and blinds closed. We don’t want him to be able to figure out what rooms you are in easily.” I added.

“Do you think he’d come through the window for us?” River questioned, brow furrowed. I sighed because I was not looking to cause unnecessary duress.

“I can’t be sure. Dane’s mental state is uncertain, so I want to be prepared for any possibilities.” I explained. “Do you have candles or incense, perhaps?” I asked as an idea started to form.

“Why are you looking for mood lighting in mom’s room? She has plenty of candles in her room.” River taunted. Of course, that is where their mind went. Mine, however, didn’t have romantic inclinations. I wanted to try and ensure their protection the best I could.

“River, I am being serious. Werewolves have heightened senses of smell. And every species and then each person has distinct scents. But you can mask that and sometimes even overwhelm the senses with powerful odors. So I want to light scented candles or incense. Incense would be preferable as it tends to be stronger and have a lingering scent. This will cover yours and Sage’s scents and confuse him.” I explained.

“Oh… that makes a lot of sense. Okay, sure, let me get mine out. Sage has some too, but they don’t have a lighter. Mom doesn’t trust them with fire.” River explained, putting their tablet down to get their incense out of the desk, handing it and a lighter to me.

“Thank you, River. I’ll keep the lighter then.” I nodded, picking the most pungent incense stick. I set it up near the windows to ensure the smell would cover River’s scent if Dane came lurking around the windows.

“Alright, you’re all set. I’ll check on Sage, then set the alarm. With luck, my pack will have captured Dane before morning.” I assured them. “Goodnight, River.”

“Guess we’ll see. Thanks, Hale, and night. Don’t get too rowdy with mom.” River couldn’t let me leave without throwing one more inappropriate comment.

Entering Sage’s room was less of an ordeal. I explained that I would be lighting incense to throw Dane off their scent, So there wasn’t as much back and forth on it as with River. As I was about to leave, I paused, looking back at Sage on their bed. Unlike their twin, Sage doesn’t as easily hide their emotions.

“Everything is going to be okay, Sage. My pack will find and stop him.” I assured them.

“And if they don’t stop him before he comes for us again? No offense, but he’s an unhinged Alpha werewolf, and you’re well a wolfless pencil pusher.” Sage frowned.

“None taken.” I sighed. I mean, it’s hard not to take offense, but I understand they aren’t saying it to be cruel. Their safety and the safety of their family depend on me. And I’m sure a cursory glance at me, I don’t look like much. “However, I am, as you put it, more than a pencil pusher.”

“I may not have my wolf, but as a pack member, I am still expected to attend training. I don’t look it, but I can still fight, even against a werewolf. After all, I have to spar against my packmates. So if he returns, I will fight to protect you, River, and your mother.” I promised. “So trust my pack and me. Goodnight, Sage.”

“I’ll try. Thanks, Hale. For you know, coming here so fast and staying. Night.”

Sage nodded as I shut their bedroom door.

That only leaves the windows in Erin’s bedroom. I’ll set the alarm before I go into her room. Yes, I’m delaying going into her room. I agreed to sleep in there with her, but I’m still hesitant about it. I haven’t shared a bed in eighteen years. I sighed, punching in the code to arm the security system, and tried to think of what Jason would say if he were with me.

‘Suck it up, dumbass. You gave your word, and you won’t break that. This isn’t about you. This is about Erin. She’s been given a lot of new and scary information. If your presence can help calm her even a little, you will do it. So push back your hangs and be there for the woman.’

Yeah, that’s what Jason would be telling me. He was also the one that would push me to do things that I was too timid to do myself. He was my courage. When I had Jason, I was bolder in my words and actions.

Taking a deep breath, I knocked at her door, ignoring the giggles of her kids as I went inside. My breath seized in my lungs as I looked at her. Is this what she always wears to bed? Sure it’s not lingerie, but the shorts sat high on her thighs, and the lace detail at the neck of the camisole did nothing to hide her cleavage.

I felt better knowing we are both nervous about this situation. But remembering my internal pep talk and I feigned Jason’s opinion, I pushed down my fears and removed my sweater. I’m still a werewolf, so I’m accustomed to nudity. I’ve been naked many times in front of hundreds in my pack.

Yet standing here without a shirt in sweatpants that feel more like leggings in front of Erin suddenly throws me back to the first night Jen and I were together and saw each other naked without shifting.

I’m not sure what that says or means. I’m as nervous now with Erin staring at me with hunger in her eyes as I did my first night with my mate, and that Shelton or flight moment was back.

“So shall we go to bed, or should I stand here longer while you gawk?” I questioned the Shelton gene kicking in and controlling my words.

Her cheeks turned a bright red, and now I’m worried my Shelton mouth just got me in trouble. Her gaze quickly looked away from me and to the bed. “Um.. sorry. I didn’t mean… we should go to bed. You know, before I say or do something else embarrassing.” Erin suggested gulping as she made her way to the left side of the bed.

“Sounds like a good plan.” I agreed, eager to no longer be in the embarrassing situation. Especially as certain parts of my body, my dick, were reacting noticeably to seeing her in her pajamas. So the sooner I can be covered where she won’t notice, the better. I turned the light off and climbed into the bed with her.

“I left incense burning in Sage and River’s rooms. I’m hoping it will help cover their scents. So that if he comes back, Dane won’t be able to pinpoint where they are in the house.” I said after settling in under the covers. It was random but better than lying in silence and embarrassment.

“Oh, that’s a good idea. Thank you for making sure they are safe. I doubt this was what you signed up for when you first started talking to me on the app.” Erin sighed, rolling to her side to face me.

“I don’t know what I thought I was getting signed up for when it came to that app.” I shrugged, rolling to my side, so we faced each other in her bedroom’s dimness. Even though I’m without a werewolf, I still adjust to the dark better than most humans.

“Hale, if I wasn’t an employee, would you have wanted to date me? Sorry if that’s forward. Well, I can’t help but wonder if things were different. Like if I worked at a different company and there was no crazy werewolf ex-boyfriend.” Erin sighed.

“I’m not one to think of what ifs. I did too much of that in my past.” I sighed, reaching out to brush her hair back behind her ear. “The fact is you have a crazy werewolf ex-boyfriend, and you are my employee.” I started to answer.

“Oh…” Erin nodded, interrupting me as she was getting the wrong idea.

“And I still want to date you. We can figure things out with HR Monday morning. And when we have the issue of your ex resolved, I would like to take you on a real date.” I explained before giving her a soft kiss.

“Oh…” Erin’s tone changed as she realized I hadn’t meant it in a bad way. “I would like that.” She smiled, licking her lips. I have the feeling if we start kissing, it may not stop there. And while that sounds like a good time to the brain in my pants, my heart and actual brain point out I need more time and to be alert if Dane shows up.

“We’ll figure it out. Now, we should sleep.” I smiled, stroking her cheek absently, wanting to touch her even if it’s only a little.

“Right. I hope you don’t mind, but I am a cuddler. If you weren’t here, I’d be cuddling the pillows you use.” Erin sheepishly admitted.

“I think I can handle you cuddling me.” I softly laughed, moving to my back, where I’m more comfortable. Erin quickly took my permission to cuddle, wrapping an arm and a leg over me, yet timidly placed her head on my chest.

I waited till she had settled in and was comfortable before letting my arm wrapped around her. Jen and I would cuddle in our sleep, not exactly like this, which is probably good because I don’t want to have my mind get confused or make comparisons. Erin is entirely different from Jen and should never be compared.

I don’t know how long I laid there absently rubbing her back before I fell asleep. It was a light sleep as I wanted to be ready if Dane did show up. Despite that, I felt like falling asleep with Erin cuddled up to me was easier than falling asleep any night these past eighteen years alone.

Chapter 20 - Erin

Okay, I’m going to wake up any minute now. There is no way any of this is real. Men like Hale are not real. They are more fairy tales than werewolves. He’s kind and patient with my kids and treats them like anyone else. He doesn’t talk down to them and has never once misgendered them. I don’t think anyone outside of me has ever treated them that way, and even I might baby them a little because they are my babies.

And if his way with my kids isn’t enough to make me believe I’m in a dream, he finds me attractive. I saw how he looked at me when he entered my room. I also saw the subtle movement in his pants. Have I mentioned I like Hale in those sweatpants?

This is another reason this has to be a dream. I’m having some weird fantasy dream about my boss; he’s too hot to be into me. That’s the only explanation. For him being into me, kissing me, and saying he wants to date me. But also for this whole craziness about werewolves. Only my imagination would put me in a fantasy world where werewolves are real.

But if this is a dream, I will make the most of it. I was hesitant about cuddling Hale, but damn, it felt good. He’s so warm. How is it possible for someone to be that warm? He’s like a personal heater, and I can’t get enough. I fit perfectly here, and as much as I wanted to stay awake, to lay here and enjoy Hale rubbing my back was calming, and my eyes wouldn’t stay open. I hope this isn’t a dream.

I’m not sure how long I was asleep, but I woke up to what sounded like elephants stampeding in my bedroom. “MOM!” “HALE!” The overlapping shouts of my kids had me jolting out of Hale’s arms. Shit, I didn’t even get to enjoy waking up in his arms.

Hale quickly sat up, turning on the small lamp on the bedside table. “Slow down. Panic is the worst thing to do. Now tell me, what got you in such a state?” Hale calmly addressed my kids, standing wide-eyed at the end of my bed clutching pillows.

“We heard something outside. It sounded like a large animal.” Sage explained.

“I looked out my window but couldn’t determine what it was but saw fur. It was big.” River nodded. “We think sperm donor came back.”

That answers if everything was a dream before I fell asleep in Hale’s arms. This is my reality. It would be a damn good reality if it weren’t for Dane. I am in bed with a hot guy who listens and genuinely cares about my kids. I’m accustomed to looking for the monsters under the bed and the boogeyman in the closet. “I’ll go look.” I sighed and started to get out of bed.

“Erin, I can handle this. Please stay here with your kids.” Hale suggested as he climbed out of bed. “River, remember what I said. If I confirm it is Dane, you are to call the contact of L Kinsley and tell my Alpha what’s happening. Can you do that?” Hale questioned, offering his phone to River.

“I.. yeah, I can do that.” River nodded, taking the phone.

“Good. Be clear and confident in your words if you make the call.” Hale smiled, patting River’s shoulder. “So stay here with your mother.” He instructed, pulling his sweater back on as he left my room.

Oh, like hell, I’m staying put. I am not a damsel. As much as I love Hale being the white knight, I’ve been saving myself my whole life. I can’t and won’t just let him sideline me. Plus, how will we know if it’s Dane if we don’t see for ourselves? And what if something happens to Hale? I wouldn’t forgive myself.

I quickly got out of bed and threw on a robe as I headed for the door. “Mom? Didn’t Hale say to stay in here?” Sage frowned.

“I know what he said, but protecting you is still my job. Besides, how will we know it’s Dane if we wait here? Wait for Hale to be hurt and shout? I think not.” I snorted, hurrying to follow after Hale.

“Mom makes a good point.” River shrugged, and soon I heard their footfalls behind me.

This could go wrong in so many ways. But I need to know if it is Dane lurking outside and if it is, I need to make sure nothing terrible happens to Hale. I slipped my boots on before heading out the front door. My steps slowed as I heard growling and grunts. Oh no, is it Dane? Is Hale okay?

“Should I call Hale’s Alpha?” River questioned as we started to round the corner of the house.

“You…” My words trailed off as a motion light went on, and I couldn’t believe what I saw.

I had seen Austin shift to his wolf, and I know Dane is a werewolf. So why am I still scared and shocked to see a shabby gray wolf snarling and lunging at Hale? Well, I know why I’m afraid. I’m scared Dane will hurt Hale. He will turn his attention to my kids and me if he hurts Hale.

Dane isn’t taking my kids. I’d die before I let anyone take them from me. Instinctively I took a couple of side steps, stretching my arms out to ensure River and Sage were behind me. “Call Mr. Kinsley.” I whispered, hoping Dane wouldn’t notice us.

But of course, his crazed eyes locked in on me or behind me to the twins. The air in my lungs and blood in my veins froze in fear as Dane snarled and moved to rush at us. Oh, fuck, this is how I’m going to die. My crazy werewolf ex-boyfriend will kill me to get to my kids.

My life flashed before my eyes, and the biggest regret I have is that the only thing Hale and I did in my bed was kiss and cuddle. If I’m going to die, I’d like to have known if we were compatible sexually.

I braced for impact, ready and willing to shield my children, but nothing happened. “I told you to leave them alone!” Hale shouted.

I didn’t think Hale could be sexier. I was wrong because, holy hell, that was hot! I blinked and saw him grabbing Dane’s wolf by the scruff, yanking him back with all his might. Dane’s claws dug into the snow, pulling up the grass underneath as he tried to fight Hale’s hold.

Dane snarled, turning, trying to bite Hale. I wanted to scream, but before Dane’s jaw could connect, Hale slammed his mouth shut, holding Dane’s muzzle in something like a headlock. “I don’t think so. You’re in Bloodmoon territory, Dane. Even those of us without wolves know how to fight a wolf.” Hale grunted as he tried to pull Dane further away from us.

“Erin, get the kids back inside! River, call my Alpha!” Hale instructed, struggling with keeping Dane back. I could be annoyed that he was barking orders at us, but I won’t. He is occupied trying to hold my ex back.

“Um, Hi, Mr. Kinsley, Alpha, sir. This is River. Hale said to call you. Dane is at our house. He’s trying to hold him back, but I don’t know how long.” River nervously spoke to whoever answered his phone call.

“Okay. We can do that.” River nodded, hanging up. “The Alpha said to get inside, preferably the basement, and use security code 1902.” River shrugged, obviously confused by the instruction.

“Shouldn’t we help Hale?” Sage questioned, frowning, eyes locked on Hale fighting Dane’s wolf.

“Do what my Alpha instructed!” Hale shouted. “I’ll be fine! It’s you he wants, so go!” Hale grunted as Dane forced him to the ground, trying to break free of his hold.

I was torn. I want to protect my kids. But I also don’t want anything terrible to happen to Hale. “Get inside and use the code.” I instructed. Before I could think twice about it, I tried to help Hale, pulling at Dane. “Leave him alone, asshole!” I shouted, still trying to get him off Hale only to be sent stumbling back.

“MOM!” Sage shouted as they and River managed to stop me from falling to the ground.

“I told you to get inside.” I frowned. I don’t want them any closer to Dane. It’s not safe for them as he’s deranged.

“We wouldn’t leave you, mom. And we aren’t going to let him hurt Hale Daddy either.” River snorted, letting me go to storm to where Hale and Dane were now rolling in the snow, Hale doing his best to keep Dane from biting him.

“GET OFF HIM FUCK NUGGET!” River shouted, kicking Dane in the side with my hand-me-down teal doc martin boots forcing Dane off Hale.

Dane lumbered to his paws and snarled at River. Based on his posture, he looked ready to attack. The crazed look in his eyes had me second-guessing. Would he do it? Would he attack one of the children he came here for? He wants River and Sage as heirs to secure his hold on his pack. I started to rush forward. Everything felt like it was in slow motion as Dane’s wolf charged my baby.

“RIVER!!!!” I screamed in pure panic, hoping I could get to them in time. I grunted as River suddenly fell back into my arms. I don’t even care that I just landed on my ass. I’m checking to be sure my baby is okay. I can’t begin to describe the relief I felt when I found they were perfectly safe.

“Um… mom…” River pointed in front of us. I blinked, looking where they were pointing, and saw a white wolf snarling, biting Dane. Where did the second wolf come from? Did someone from Hale’s back arrive that fast?

Chapter 21 - Hale

I had hoped that maybe Dane wouldn’t come back. I know it was a foolish hope and not at all logical. I don’t know his personality, but that doesn’t matter; whoever he was when Erin knew him isn’t who he is now. Hell, it might not have been who he was then, either. He would have hidden a lot from Erin. His genuine personality could’ve been one of those things.

If I use Siegfried as a base of what happens to a wolf’s mind after losing its mate, not only is Dane dangerous, but he’s going to strike the first chance he finds. He went through all this effort to find Erin. To find River and Sage, then there is no way he will walk away because she says so.

He won’t know I’m here or Erin has any connection to the pack. So coming back at night when everyone would be in bed makes the most sense. He would believe this would make Erin and the twins vulnerable. And he would be right if I wasn’t here. I can only hope I can hold him off if/when he shows up until others from my pack can get here.

I wasn’t there to protect Jen, and it cost me everything. Wolf or not, I am here and will do everything I can to protect Erin and her kids. I will not let the past repeat itself. This is why when the twins came into Erin’s bedroom to say they thought Dane was outside, I quickly went out and told them to stay inside where it was safe.

I could see the paw prints of a werewolf in the snow. How can I tell it’s not some large breed dog? Because a werewolf is much larger than a regular wolf, our pawprints are bigger and leave a deeper impression as our wolf has more muscle mass. Based on the side of his prints, his wolf isn’t of a ranked bloodline. If I had to guess, his parents were mid-rank at best, but most likely, at least one was Omega.

Based on how he had paced near the windows of the twins’ bedrooms, the incense confused him and overpowered his wolf’s sense of smell. If his sense of smell is still off-kilter from the fragrance, I stand a good chance that he won’t scent me coming as I follow his tracks around the side of the house.

Rounding the corner cautiously, I spotted him. His wolf is in rough shape. Is this the fate Jason was saved from by letting go to be with Jen? The madness within is certainly reflected as I can see patches where his gray fur started falling out. He may not have smelled me, but as I took a step closer and the snow made that annoying crunch it does sometimes, he certainly heard me.

His ears perked, and he quickly rounded on me with a snarl. There was madness in his amber eyes. It was strange to look into eyes similar to River and Sage. The color may be the same, but nothing else matches. Dane’s eyes didn’t have the light in them like the twins’. Their eyes are bright, full of life and mischief. Dane’s eyes are dull, the life drained from them, and the only spark in them was from this made quest to maintain power.

“Dane Blackburn, Alpha of the Steelcrest Pack, you are trespassing in Bloodmoon territory. Alpha Logan Kinsley has been notified and is not happy. You will stand down and come quietly to be detained and then sent back to your pack.” I called out calmly, using the same tone of authority I once wielded as Chief of Bloodmoon Patrol.

For a second, it worked or at least threw him off guard. He shook his head, taking a deep breath. Great, his sense of smell has recovered. And now he has my scent and probably realizes he’s dealing with a wolfless werewolf. Yes, I can even pinpoint when he makes the connection. His posture changed. His eyes regarded me with less concern as he snorted. If he was human, I could easily guess what he’d say—about how a wolfless man like me couldn’t stop him.

But Dane chose to stay in his wolf form, probably feeling it gives him the best advantage against me. In some ways, it does. But I train just as hard as the rest of my pack. I spar against my packmates in their wolf form, so I’m prepared for this. I can handle this. This should go fine if Erin and the twins stay inside.

As Dane and I fought, he aimed to kill me while I tried to keep him from biting me as I only attempted to subdue him. It is not my place to take his life. He is still an Alpha of another pack. If I were to kill him, it would be trouble for Bloodmoon. Only Alpha Logan can take his life in battle and not cause a problem.

Things were going smoothly until Erin, and the twins came around the corner. The sight of her and what he feels are his rightful heirs sent Dane over the edge, giving his wolf a power boost. Why can’t anyone follow a simple instruction? Oh well, at least now I can have River call for backup.

If only they’d listened to my Alpha. As they actively ignored his command to go to the basement, I knew I would be the one getting an earful about it later. I’ll deal with it later. Right now, I need to focus on Dane. I can’t let him get to them. I am not losing anyone again. I don’t think I could survive losing someone again,

I don’t even know where the strength came from as I grabbed Dane and started to drag him away from Erin and her kids. Guess what they say is true; in times of great danger, people can pull forth strength they didn’t think they had. It’s the only rational reason I could find for where this reserve of strength was coming from as Dane and I continued to fight.

I wasn’t going to let myself think or hope on the feeling that maybe, just maybe, Jason was with me. I knew that was impossible. Jason was dead. He was with our mate in the afterlife, having returned to the Goddess. Wolf spirits don’t come back from that. People mistook Stephen’s wolf Conway coming back as a sign a wolf can be resurrected. Conway never died. He was just too weak to come forward. Jason died. He hasn’t been sleeping for eighteen years.

Rolling in the snow, trying to keep Dane from killing me, a whisper of a voice kept saying, ‘Offense, not defense. End it.’ I was more occupied with keeping Dane from killing me and away from Erin’s family to listen to that whisper. I was holding Dane’s muzzle to keep him from biting me. As he managed to get me to my back, I heard someone shout, “GET OFF HIM FUCK NUGGET!” before Dane was kicked off me.

Huffing, catching my breath, I turned my head to see it was River that stepped in. As much as I appreciate it, I wish they hadn’t. Especially as Dane got to his feet and looked ready to attack. My heart stopped, the air in my lungs froze, and time stood still. Erin was screaming River’s name, rushing forward to protect her child. River was bracing for the attack as Dane charged forward.

‘NO! NOT AGAIN!’ That whisper from before shouted. I know that voice. It’s impossible. He can’t be back. But I would never mistake his voice even if I haven’t heard it in all these years. Even if I have spent longer without him than I did with him, I will always know his voice.

‘JASON!!!!’ My heart leaped at the very idea I was hearing him. That any of this could be real, it must be my imagination. It was wishful thinking that Jason could ever return to me.

But I felt it, I saw it. I saw Jason’s white wolf push past me in my mind. I felt my bones crack and my body reform as I went from human on my back to leaping forward, landing in front of River in Jason’s ivory wolf form. The shockwave of his paws touching the ground sent a ripple through the earth, forcing River back and out of danger.

‘How…how is this… Jason. You’re back!? How? Why?’ I had so many questions and emotions. I was overloaded with them.

‘Later.’ Jason dismissed me, and his silver eyes focused on Dane’s wolf.

The shock in his amber eyes was almost comical. It’s about the only emotion that I probably share with Dane. Because no one is more shocked than me to have shifted. Jason snarled, adjusting his posture, ready to attack. As the shock that stopped Dane wore off, he snapped back and rushed straight for us.

Not the most brilliant move. Jason was known for his three hundred-sixty-degree defense. There was no sneaking up on him, and a frontal attack was often the most foolish thing you could do. Dane was going to learn that the hard way. Jason’s fur stood on end, and with a menacing growl, the earth shook, and a barrage of stones launched at Dane.

In the wind, I could smell reinforcements. Holy shit, I can smell again! Dane whimpered as he crumbled to the ground bleeding from multiple wounds. Jason wasn’t taking any chances. Digging his claws into the ground with a low growl, the earth shook again, this time rising around Dane, creating a stone cage.

‘D…dad!?’ Austin’s voice in the link drew Jason’s attention from Dane. Turning his head, his silver eyes focused on the man my son has grown into. Or most looking at Jax, the wolf our son awakened who was a blending of him and Jen’s wolf Cheri. Jax looked baffled at the sight of Jason.

Jax wasn’t the only one who came to a sudden stop and was looking with wide eyes. Some of those that arrived are young, too young to have known Jason. But two wolves that would know Jason pushed past the others. Jason quickly bowed his head, presenting his neck in submission when faced with Irving and Jericho.

‘Alpha. Beta.’ Jason greeted them in the link.

‘Jason… we will discuss this later.’ Alpha Jericho’s deep, gritty voice nodded before looking to Dane’s cage. Without probably a first thought to the mixed company Jericho Shifted, giving control back to Alpha Logan.

“Whoa…” Someone gasped. I’m not sure who it was as it was so quiet that it could have been Erin or her kids. We'll be good if no one comments on Logan’s height. I know most wouldn’t expect Logan to be our Alpha. They are constantly thrown off by his height but quickly learn it is a mistake to underestimate him.

“SHIFT! NOW!” Logan commanded as he gripped one of the stone bars to Dane’s cage. Logan’s blue eyes turned red as the oppressive aura of the Bloodmoon Alpha came out. It wasn’t seeping out. No, Logan was wielding his power like a weapon.

His command may have been meant for Dane, but his aura's strength affected the rest of us. John, Austin, Suzanne, Iver Kearney, Evan Kearney, and Scott Fowler all shifted to human forms. I was no exception. Jason recognized the command of his Alpha and stepped back, leaving me standing in the cold snow as naked as the rest of them.

In his cage, even as an Alpha, Dane was forced into obeying. Shifting to his human form, on his hands and knees, the pen didn’t allow him to stand. I squinted at him, and only then could I see it. Maybe it was difficult to see River and Sage in him because my vision was clouded by rage. But it was there, leaving no doubt who their father was.

“Dane Blackburn, you have trespassed in my territory. You have harassed a civilian employed by my company. You have attacked one of my pack. And you will suffer the consequences.” Alpha Logan commanded.

“Hale, take the cage down.” He commanded.

I wanted to question if that was a good idea. But I kept silent and nodded. It’s been a long time since I used Jason’s power. I was out of practice, so the pen crumbled instead of lowering as I intended. A chunk hit Dane on the head. I heard five distinct snickers.

Glancing to the left, I saw my son and his mate trying to hide that they were snickering. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Erin with her children. She held them close to her, and her eyes had mixed emotions. Despite her mixed feelings, she wasn’t weren’t trying to hide as she laughed with her children.

“He did that on purpose!” Dane snarled.

“SILENCE, SCUM!” Logan snarled, eyes flashing red as he glared up at Dane, finally able to stand up. Dane growled, but his slips pressed closed at Alpha Logan’s command.

“Kearney boys!” Logan commanded.

“Yes, Alpha.” Evan and Iver quickly jumped to attention.

“Bind him and get him out of my sight. I’ll deal with him in the morning.” Alpha instructed. “Scott, go with them.” He added.

Iver stepped around Dane, not fazed as he snarled. “Hands behind your back, and don’t move them.” Iver instructed in a calm, hypnotic tone. The Kearney bloodline always had unique telepathic abilities. It appears the boys are no different.

Dane obeyed, his hands moving behind him on automation. “Walk forward behind my brother. Keep your stride short as your feet are shackled.” Iver instructed, his tone unchanging.

We watched as Evan led the way and Dane followed, shuffling along as if he was truly shackled, his arms behind his back as if he was cuffed. Scott nodded to Alpha Logan as he went to follow them. I assume they parked nearby as running here in wolf would have taken longer.

“Um… so do you all have clothes? Cause I’m not sure how I will explain a mini nudist party happening in my yard at three in the morning to my neighbors.” Erin spoke up.

“They don’t need to get dressed, mom.” Sage boldly commented while taking shy glances at the Kinsley brothers.

“Yeah, mom. Stop complaining. Daddy Hale is naked.” River hissed, nudging Erin with a smirk, making her look my way.

She quickly looked away, turning red. That’s one way of ensuring we were both embarrassed as I quickly covered myself to the laughter of my son and his mate. Suzie at least stopped laughing when I glared at them. My son didn’t care.

“Austin, knock it off. Go get our clothes.” John commanded. “My brother and I do have a public image to maintain.”

“Yes, Beta John.” Austin dutifully bowed his head, turning on his heel to head to collect clothes. I hope he brought me some.

Chapter 22 - Erin

When I moved to Portland, I thought it couldn’t be worse than home. We’ve been here around a month, and my neighbors are all nice. None of them have misgendered my kids. None of them have gone off the deep end and tried to attack my kids. Everything has been chill. I was so happy living in a chill neighborhood with no drama.

Little did I know I would be the one that brought drama to the neighborhood. Honestly, I may be more shocked that none of my neighbors, especially the one living in the other half of my duplex, have rushed outside. I know I’d want to investigate the sounds of snarls, growls, yelling, and the EARTH shaking.

Yet not a peep. Not even a light flicked on for someone to peer through their blinds. Does Portland not have nosey people? That seems impossible. It is statistically impossible that I moved to the one place in the world where people don’t give into natural curiosity.

Why am I thinking about all this when I have multiple naked people in my yard? Including the CEO and COO of the company that I work for. My crazy ex was hypnotized by a teenager and led away, naked, to I don’t want to know where after trying to kill or kidnap maybe a bit of both my kids. And let’s not forget that my boss and perhaps boyfriend, who told me he didn’t have a wolf, transformed into the most beautiful white wolf I’ve ever seen and saved my baby.

My brain is on overload. I didn’t know what to focus on at first. So I focused on why none of my neighbors had tried to see what was happening. This is why I suggested people get dressed cause I’m just waiting for my neighbors to notice and ask questions I don’t know how to answer.

Of course, my kids take the suggestion as an opportunity to embarrass Hale and me. And okay, I admit it, I looked. You can’t blame me! Who wouldn’t look? He’s NAKED! And wow, I wish the first time I got to see him naked wasn’t both outside and with a bunch of people, including our kids. Not at all how I pictured getting to see Hale in the buff.

Thankfully Austin went to get them all clothes. It didn’t take him long to return dressed in fitness clothes, his prosthetic leg on as he approached with a bag. “Here you go, Alpha, Beta.” Austin nodded, handing clothes to the Kinsley brothers.

“While I prefer you naked, you probably should get dressed. Don’t need the kiddos ogling you.” Austin teased as he handed the girl a set of clothes.

“You’re such a dumbass.” The girl rolled her eyes, intentionally elbowing Austin as she started getting dressed.

“What about me?” Hale questioned, raising an eyebrow at his son, hands still covering the goods.

“What about you? We didn’t bring you clothes, since you know you didn’t have Jason last eighteen years. How the fuck does that work?” Austin questioned, dismissing his father’s concerns about clothes.

“Clement, give your father clothes.” Mister Kinsley, the shorter one that everyone called Alpha, growled.

I saw a flash of anger in Austin’s eyes, but it quickly fizzled into a gulp as he reached into the bag and held out a set of clothes to Hale. “Yes, Alpha. No need to use that name. I was just messing with my dad.”

Hale sighed, taking the clothes quickly and getting dressed. “Can we maybe take the discussion inside? As Erin pointed out, this isn’t a scene she wants to explain to her neighbors.”

“You have Jason back. Take a sniff of the air, and you’ll understand why we aren’t worried about the neighbors.” Mister Kinsley, the taller brother, suggested as he fixed his shirt. I get the feeling athletic wear is not his go-to style. His brother looks far more comfortable in laid-back apparel.

“What does that mean? Hale, what does that mean?” I furrowed my brow, trying to understand.

Hale took a deep breath, closing his eyes. I raised an eyebrow as he clenched his jaw and his fist. I’m not sure what that is about, did something he smelled upset him? There is a lot I don’t understand. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand, but I want to.

“Hale?” I questioned, cautiously reaching out to touch his hand. I jumped, pulling my hand back as it felt like I’d just been electrocuted. It wasn’t static. This was something a lot more intense.

“Interesting.” The taller Kinsley commented.

“You’re fucking with me.” Austin exclaimed.

“Hush, dumbass.” The girl scolded.

“Everyone not named Hale or Erin inside, now.” The shorter Kinsley commanded.

“Wait, does that mean us? But we want to stay here?” Sage questioned, their voice raising to a squeak in concern.

“What’s going on? Why do we have to go inside but mom and Daddy Hale don’t?” River demanded.

“Come on, kids. I’ll explain inside.” Austin encouraged starting to guide my kids away. I frowned, looking for my hand, still tingling, and over my shoulder to where everyone was taking my kids.

“Hale? What’s going on? Why did everyone go inside? Why did touching you shock me? Why shouldn’t I be worried about my neighbors? How did…” I started rambling, the many questions I’ve had just spilling out until his lips cut my words off.

Whoa! Okay, I can work with this. But it seems weird, off. This is very forward for Hale. Sure, he’s kissed me to shut me up, but this feels different. Like I’m not kissing Hale. That electric shock I got from touching his hand was amplified and everywhere as we kissed. I blinked, hearing a growl just before my back hit the side of the house.

“Mine.” Hale growled, pulling back from our kiss. No, not Hale. I mean, yes, it’s Hale, but it wasn’t his blue eyes locked on mine. His eyes were silver and didn’t hold the warm softness of Hale’s eyes but a dangerous edge.

“J..Jason?” I eeped, remembering the majestic ivory wolf and his silver eyes. Is this normal behavior? I don’t know much about werewolves. I thought I did; well, I knew lore which is not entirely accurate.

Hale’s lips spread into a smirk. “That would be my name, mate.”

“Mate?” I squeaked. “Do you mean that in the British way? Like calling me your friend?” I asked because the other option sounded impossible. Hale had a mate, a soulmate, and she died.

Hale… I mean, Jason chuckled. It was deep and probably more manly than any guy’s laugh. And I may need a new pair of panties cause I seem to have soaked mine cause that laughter was hot.

“You know exactly which one. Let’s not play coy. Especially not when I can smell your arousal.” Jason said, proving to be far more blunt than Hale. Jason was like Hale when he was embarrassed and wanted to throw me off guard.

I was going to say something, but Hale’s blue eyes returned with a heavy sigh before I could speak. “You may feel free to ignore Jason. He has always been more forward than me. I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable or confused. A lot has happened, and it’s left us all reeling.” Hale sighed, stepping back just a fraction to give me breathing room.

Well, that was a rollercoaster. I went from a hot make-out session against the side of the house to a calm check-in conversation. Hale and Jason were total opposites living in one body. I don’t know how to wrap my head around it. And while it was hot and I’d happily go back to kissing Hale, he is right. A lot has happened.

“Right. Um… so can you maybe start with why and how Jason is back? You said he died eighteen years ago when your mate died.” I went for the first question. The question that dominoes into all the others.

Hale sighed, rubbing his hand over his face. “That… well, I guess the best way to phrase it is complicated.”

“I’ll explain.” Hale’s voice changed ever so slightly as his eyes went silver.

“Jason. Do you two do that a lot? Switch who speaks and eye colors?” I asked.

“Not often, just when necessary. And as the one that died, I’m the best one to explain how and why I’m back. As people say, it is always better to gear it straight from the horse or, in this case, wolf’s mouth.” Jason smirked.

“Okay. So what happened? Even you admitted you were dead. Is this normal? Do wolves often come back from the dead?” I cocked my head, wanting, needing answers.

“I did die. My spirit moved on to the afterlife, welcomed home by the Goddess to have eternity with Jennifer and her wolf Cheri. While I missed Hale, and we all regretted not being there for Austin and later his wolf Jax, I was happy to be there with my mate.” He sighed.

“But then Hale met you. You walked into his office, and he didn’t understand it. He couldn’t fathom the pull he felt to you on sight. But I felt that pull of my heart and soul that only comes from a mate.” He explained.

Oh wow. Jason felt a pull to me while in werewolf heaven? That’s… I can see why Hale said it was complicated.

“Wolves don’t come back like this. Well, some do, but those are very special wolves. Alpha Logan’s wolf is a reincarnation of the original Bloodmoon Alpha wolf. There is a mated pair in Italy who are reborn every few generations. So it’s possible, but those three are very special. I may be a white wolf, but I never consider myself something special.” He shrugged.

“Okay, but you’re here. Because Hale is attracted to me?” I raised my brow, still trying to understand all of this.

“I’m back because you are something special, something rare, Erin. Humans are rarely mated to our kind. Beta John’s mate Sarael is also one of those rare mates. But just as rare as human mates are second chance mates. Just like it sounds, it is a second chance at having a mate, having someone you are fated to be with. So you are doubly rare….” Jason smiled, cupping my face with both hands.

“I was called before the Goddess and told I would be returning to Hale. You are not only our second chance at love but a human. That his second chance has come, and while under other circumstances she’d have let him love you as the man he is, your children need guidance as they come of age. And Goddess love him, there would be only so much Hale could do, and Austin would be a poor substitute.” He smiled.

“I’m… I’m Hale’s second chance mate? We were fated for each other? And you’re back to help River and Sage through being werewolves? Did I... did I get all that?” I questioned.

“Precisely. The Goddess works in mysterious ways. And one of her favorite ways, it seems, is through our Alpha. It was not a coincidence that you got the job at Kinsley or were not only offered moving expenses but a rental in a neighborhood not only owned by Kinsley but that houses pack members.” Jason smiled.

I blinked, back straightening as he just told me my neighbors are all werewolves. “That’s why no one came outside. They’re part of the pack and were told to stand down? Or just knew their Alpha was here?”

“A bit of both, I assume. There’s a reason everyone has been so kind to you and your children. They must know the twins are hybrids. Alpha Logan probably knew it too when you moved in. Maybe not about your ex, who, by the way, is very lucky Hale took some control back. I’d have killed him rather than caged him.” Jason snorted when he spoke of Dane.

“So… okay. Well, I’m glad Hale stepped in. I don’t want my kids to see anyone die.” I shook my head. “So where does that leave Hale and me? And what was that static when I touched him, and why did he clench his jaw when he took that deep breath?”

“Well, it means the HR issues are moot. There are hidden clauses regarding mates in a company owned by werewolves with many werewolf employees. It means we must keep our hands to ourselves while at the office.” He shrugged. “As for the static and Hale’s reaction. The static is the mate bond, and well, he was able to smell you and recognize what I’d been saying. You’re our mate.”

“Oh… um okay. But wait, Hale smelled me? I’m not sure I’m okay with that part. I can’t smell good. I mean, yes, I took a shower when I got home from the office, but….” I shook my head, my words trailing off as Jason laughed.

“One, you’ll never smell bad to us. Two, you smell like orange blossoms and jasmine.” He said, stepping closer, leaning to smell my neck, sending my heart into overdrive. “It’s nice. We like it. Fuck… we need to get you alone.”He growled against my neck.

“We are alone.” I reminded him. I sucked in a breath because, damn, I am on board with that. I shouldn’t tempt fate like this as I wrap my arms around Hale’s neck.

“Not enough.” Hale sighed. I knew it was Hale because his voice was different as he pulled away enough to look at me. “And while I have nothing against sex outside, January is not a month for outdoor sex. And against your house with our kids and my Alpha and Beta inside probably wouldn’t be best either.”

Shit. Hale made a good point. While the part of me pressed to him was warm, my cold, wet ass reminded me it was cold outside, and I got a soggy butt from landing in the snow.

“You make valid points. So we should go inside then. I kind of need to change for… a couple of reasons. And I’m sure your Alpha and Beta want to talk to you and Jason.” I conceded.

“Yes. We will have time to talk more about being mates and find time to have the alone time we both want.” Hale assured, taking my hand to lead me back inside.

Chapter 23 - Hale

Having Jason back as me thrown for a loop. Feeling him come back was like awakening him all over again, and shifting hurt just as badly as it did when I was sixteen. But I suppose eighteen years of not shifting will do that. I couldn’t believe it. I’m still not sure I think this is real.

Not just that, Jason is back. But when the dust had settled, so to speak, I took that breath, and it was there. Rich and musky jasmine blended with warm honey, with a bright background of heady orange blossom, filled my senses, overpowering any others. The moment the scent hit me, I knew. Not just that it was Erin but what it meant.

Erin is my mate. Second chance mates are fairy tales in the werewolf community. They are rarer than having a human mate. Yet my second chance is a human. It defies logic. The chances of this happening are so slim it’s barely worth calculating. I’m not special. I’m just a nobody in our pack, white wolf or not, so how or rather why would the Goddess give me a second chance?

‘Oh, my fucking Goddess. I died, and you turned into some morose fuck. If I have to listen to more of your emo, whiny bitch bullshit, I will lose it.’ Jason groaned as we went back into Erin’s place.

‘I’m allowed to be confused and to question things. I’ve spent eighteen years without you. Then suddenly you’re back and tell Erin she’s our second chance mate and that the Goddess sent you back for her and her kids.’ I grumbled back.

‘You get out insane that sounds? In the history of werewolves, no wolf has ever come back. Stephen’s wolf didn’t die, so him coming around wasn’t abnormal. What makes us special? Or is it that the Goddess didn’t think I was enough? That I wouldn’t be enough for Erin or her kids? Kind of feels that way.’ I frowned.

“Hale? Are you alright?” Erin asked, lightly tugging at my hand as we entered the living room.

“He’s fine. I’m sure he and Jason have a lot to catch up on. But they can stow it until I’m done with them.” Alpha Logan scoffed, folding his arms, azure-cobalt blue eyes boring into me. It felt like he was seeing into my soul as the red of Jericho rimmed the edges of his iris.

“Yes, Alpha.” I bowed my head. “I’m fine, Erin. I was having a little discussion with Jason. When werewolves speak to our wolves, we tend to go into a daze, and our eyes glaze a little. I used to be better at hiding my internal conversations.” I explained.

“You’ll get back into practice, dad.” Austin smiled, his arm wrapped around Suzie as they shared the sofa with Erin’s kids.

“That was so cool! How you transformed. Way more dramatic and dynamic than watching Austin shift.” River exclaimed.

“How did you do that stuff with the ground? I was further back and felt the ground shake when your wolf landed. And that rock bullet move was straight out of a video game.” Sage was even getting excited.

“And the stone cage you put sperm donor in. You gotta teach us that.” River grinned. I’m terrified of what they would do if their wolf were to have a gift like Jason’s.

“Oh, you can get in line, kid. He needs to teach Jax that. I tried to do his legendary 360 offense-defensive move and lost a leg because I couldn’t pull it off.” Austin scoffed, tapping his prosthetic leg.

“Kids, we can discuss abilities and training later. I believe Alpha Logan has the floor, and we should all be respectful.” I calmly redirected them. I don’t want to scold them, I’m glad the kids are excited and have questions, and I’ll answer them all, but after Alpha Logan has said his peace. I could see Alpha Logan’s patience was wearing thin.

“Thank you. Now then, obviously, there are a lot of things that need to be discussed. Most of which can wait. So I’ll keep this brief.” Logan nodded.

“I will deal with Dane from this point forward. He can be sent home alive if he can agree to leave and not return. He will be sent home in a bodybag if he cannot.” Logan didn’t sugarcoat it, but I wouldn’t expect him to. It was never his style.

“We’ve already concluded that Erin is your second chance mate. With that in mind, you cannot mark her until the new moon at the end of the month.” Logan stated.

“Mark me? What? I feel like I’m missing something here.” Erin frowned.

“That may be a conversation Hale should have with you. But to simplify it, when a werewolf finds their mate, we don’t get married to solidify our bond and love. We mark each other.” Beta John explained, tugging his collar to show the unique mark his human mate left.

“Like you, my mate is human. We learned from an ancient tome of werewolf history that in the rare case of a werewolf and human mating, the pair must mark on the new moon when it is at its apex. If not, it can be fatal to the human. And in the cases of the marking happening outside with a ranked werewolf, the human may be gifted a new moon wolf.” John continued.

“Mom could get a wolf too!?” River and Sage exclaimed in unison.

“I cannot say for certain. My mate received her wolf as I’m of Alpha blood. Erin could gain a wolf given that the Shelton family are a Beta bloodline historically.” John shrugged.

“That would be so cool.” Sage grinned.

“We’d all have wolves then. We can run around together.” River’s smile matched their twin.

“We can discuss and address all that later. As Alpha Logan said, the new moon isn’t until the end of the month. And marking is something that your mother and I have not discussed. Not to mention it isn’t a guarantee even under the right conditions, she would receive a wolf.” I attempted to quell their enthusiasm.

“Yeah, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I don’t even know what I’m getting into here.” Erin sighed.

“With that mostly addressed. River, Sage.” Alpha Logan turned his attention to the twins. “Go pack an overnight bag. Probably pack for a few days.” He instructed.

“What? Why? Where do you think you’re taking my kids?” Erin demanded, starting to take a step forward. I quickly grabbed her hand to keep her back next to me.

“Would you rather they stick around while you and Hale fuck, probably loudly and in every room?” Logan cocked his head. “I mean, if you’re cool with traumatizing your teens, that’s on you. The walls here aren’t soundproof like they are at the pack house.”

Austin and the twins burst into laughter while Erin and I turned red. Leave it to my Alpha to embarrass me to such a degree. I forgot how easily his blunt manner could do that. I haven’t dealt with him as much since Jennifer died.

As the Beta’s daughter Logan and John both spent time around Jennifer growing up. And as the patrol chief, I answered directly to Alpha Logan. I guess it’s good to see he hasn’t lost his touch.

“EWWWW!” River and Sage exclaimed in unison. “We’re going with you!” They announced, jumping up from the sofa to race to their rooms.

“Nothing clears the room like talking about parents fucking.” Logan shrugged as John ran his hand over his exasperated face.

“Your children will be perfectly safe at the pack house, Miss Carlisle. And by spending the weekend there, they will get a chance to meet other youths in the pack and if they choose to join some training classes with others coming of age to awaken their wolves.” John assured her.

“Plus, Suzanne and I can check in on them.” Austin offered.

Suzie smiled, hurrying to her feet, offering her hand to Erin. “Right, we haven’t officially met. I’m Suzanne Walterson, Austin’s mate. It’s nice to meet you. You’ve got a great mate. Hale’s just the sweetest. If only his son were more like him.”

Erin chuckled softly as she shook her hand. “Um, nice to meet you.”

“You’re a rude little brat. I’ll make you pay for that comment when we get home.” Austin growled, wrapping his arms around Suzie and lifting her.

“Okay, that’s enough. Children, are you ready to go?” Logan shook his head, looking past us all.

Looking over my shoulder, I saw River and Sage with bags in hand. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand before mom blows Hale Daddy.” River smirked as Sage cringed.

“Let’s go before your mother throttles you.” Logan sighed, walking away and shooing the twins out the door.

“You can retrieve them at your leisure. If you don’t get them by Monday, we will ensure they arrive on time at their school.” John nodded as he nudged Austin and Suzie to the door.

“BYE, MOM! BYE, HALE DADDY!” Sage shouted.

“HAVE FUN BUT WEAR A CONDOM! YOU’RE TOO OLD TO HAVE MORE KIDS!” River shouted at their parting words before the door shut.

I groaned, running my hand over my face as I slumped down on the sofa. That was certainly a whirlwind. We haven’t had a proper date, and everyone is jumping to these conclusions. People are talking about mating, marking on the new moon to ensure Erin’s safety, and having sex.

‘We didn’t have a first date with Jen till after we were fucking, and she had our mark on her neck. I think the shooting star is going to look real good on Erin. And the new moon is weeks from now.’ Jason rationalized.

“Are you okay, Hale?” Erin asked, walking over to stand in front of me.

“I should be asking you that. You went from having a werewolf ex and hybrid twins to all this. Getting Jason back and finding out we’re mates changes a lot.” I sighed, taking her hands in mine.

“That’s true. A lot happened, but I’m not the only one hit with it all. And it might change some things, but I don’t think it changes anything badly. I still want to date you. You’ll have to explain the mark, but none of what happened tonight changes what I’ve felt about you.” Erin assured me as she climbed into my lap, straddling me.

“Your robe and shorts are wet.” I commented as her wet backside connected with my dry track pants.

‘Way to ruin the mood.’ Jason rolled his eyes.

“Then maybe you should help me take them off.” Erin suggested with a coy smile.

‘I swear to Goddess, if you say something stupid right now rather than ripping this woman’s clothes off, I’m disowning you as my human.’ Jason promised.

Chapter 24 - Erin

I know earlier, when we were going to bed, I said I’d be okay with just cuddling and that I could accept just being in Hale’s arms. I would never push Hale into doing something he’s not comfortable with. And him getting his wolf back shouldn’t change that, but I don’t know if I can do that. I mean, I will. I will if he’s not ready.

Something has changed, not just about him but me, since I touched him after he got Jason back. That spark triggered something in me, like a release of hormones that had me feeling like some horny teenager. But this is better than when I was just a horny teenager. For once, I know what I’m doing and like. For another, Hale is more mature and better looking than those boys from my youth.

I was feeling bold. It’s the only excuse I have for what I said. I should be blushing that I just suggested Hale undress me. I worried I might have gone too far but saw the silver ring on his iris and how his eyes darkened. There was little question about what Jason wanted. He was unequivocal outside. But the way Hale looks at me tells me it’s not just Jason who wants this.

Before it could get awkward, Hale made the first move, pulling me closer for a toe-curling kiss. Whoa, it’s good I’m already sitting because I think my knees would have buckled. Who knew a kiss could be that good? His kisses kept getting better. This one was more aggressive… possessive as he growled into my mouth as the kiss deepened.

I moaned as his hands caressed my body, navigating their way to the belt of my robe. I was more than eager to move my arms and help shrug my robe off. Those sparks from his touch as his hands trailed down my arms to remove the robe, making me putty in his hands.

I shivered with delight as his hands went under my cami, pushing the light fabric higher until we had to pull back from the kiss as he pulled it over my head. I flushed at suddenly being half naked in his lap, his hungry eyes looking at my tits. Like most of me, my tits are not and have not been small in many years.

“Perfect…” Hale growled as he swirled his tongue around a pebbled nipple. I moaned, arching into his touch as Hale’s hands started caressing and teasing my breasts.

“Oh fuck…Hale..” I moaned as he scraped his teeth over the nipple. His other hand continued its torment of my other breast as he took his sweet time tormenting me with his mouth.

His other hand trailed down to my waist, gripping the waistband of my shorts. Mentally I was preparing to have to move off his lap and probably be super clumsy about it to get my shorts off. It seems he had other plans.

I gasped, and not because he switched breasts. He ripped my shorts off! Let me repeat that because, wow, it needs to be repeated. Hale RIPPED my shorts off! Now that was impressive and so damn HOT! I have never had a man tear my clothes off. I wouldn’t have been impressed if this was one of my older, more worn pajama shorts. But these were new, so to tear them like that took effort.

“That… wow,” I licked my lips looking down at him. He seemed unfazed by what he’d done, still toying with my breasts. But then I saw the light curve of his lips against my skin. He’s smirking. He knows damn well what he had done would be impressive.

“You owe me new pajamas.” I teased, tilting his head away from my chest, so he had to look at me. His eyes had more silver in them as he growled softly at me.

“Or you can sleep naked. It makes it a lot easier to do this.” The deeper voice of Jason taunted me as Hale’s hand slipped between my legs. I bit my bottom lip, trying to contain a moan as two fingers thrust into my core, curling, somehow finding the right spot.

I gripped his shoulders for balance as his fingers started setting the rhythm, and my body tried to follow along. It has been far too long since I got laid, and if Hale knows how to use his dick half as well as his fingers, I have no doubt this will be the best sex I’ve had.

“You’re overdressed.” I moaned, trying to tug at his clothes, wanting him as naked as I am. I gasped in surprise as the shirt ripped off him. Is the shirt that flimsy, or did I secretly get super strong?

“Tear-away.” Hale smiled as if that answered anything. Even on the brink of ecstasy from his fingers, I still managed to look confused. “We wear tear-away clothes. Easier to shift. Pants will rip off easily too.” He explained.

Oh! That’s ingenious! Of course, they have specialty clothes. Cheaper than buying all new clothes every time they shift between human and wolf. And at least it explains how I could rip his shirt off so easily. I licked my lips moments before his lips were on mine again. He said the pants would rip off too. I need to get rid of those next.

I couldn’t concentrate, though. My hands fumbled, trying to reach for Hale’s pants as he fingered me until I was dropped over that cliff, moaning into his lips as I came. I gasped for air, coming down from my orgasm as I pulled back from the kiss.

“Hale…” I don’t even know what I want to say. My brain is not functioning right. And I don’t think it will be working for a while as I watch him licking his fingers clean. Shit, for being this button-up sweet guy, he’s proving to be a bit wild regarding sex.

“You need to be naked.” I managed to get a complete thought out. I need more of this man. I need all of him. I need him to feel as good as I do.

Hale chuckled, wrapping arms around me, and before I could prepare or realize his intentions, he was on his feet, holding me. I gasped because, seriously, men do not just pick me up, and they certainly don’t go from sitting with me on their lap to standing without dropping me.

I wrapped my arms around his neck and legs around his waist, fearing being dropped. It wouldn’t be the first time a man overestimated his strength or underestimated my weight. “I’ve got you, Erin. I’ll never drop you. I just wanted to move to the bedroom where we will have more usable space.” Hale assured me as he carried me to the bedroom.

I laughed as he so gently laid me on the bed. I pulled him with me, enjoying his body’s weight over me as he settled between my legs. Our lips eagerly found each other, picking up our passionate kisses, hands roaming to explore more. I grinned into the kiss as I managed to grip the waist of his pants. With a light tug, they tore away, and with his help, they were gone. Hale was finally naked in the way I wanted.

I want to explore his body like he did mine. I want to watch him lose himself to pleasure. So with that in mind, I managed to catch him off guard to flip us, so I’m on top. He chuckled, unbothered by the change, smiling at me with an arched brow.

“Have something in mind, Erin?” His question was more to taunt me as he gripped my hips, moving me over his hardon. Oh, I want that. I want it badly, and he’s teasing me with it. More than once, the tip nearly went in. Damn it. He’s distracting me. I was going to pleasure him first, then fuck him.

“Stop trying to distract me.” I scolded, kissing his jaw and making my way down his body. His chuckle turned into a moan as I bit what I’d previously thought was a tattoo of a shooting star on his neck. But it’s in the same spot Mr. Kinsley showed when speaking of the mate mark.

Nope, not going to ask questions right now. Not letting either of us get sidetracked. I have a destination in mind, and I know Hale will like it. I smiled as I kissed down his chest. I’ve wanted to touch and kiss his chest since he took his sweater off earlier. And as I reached my destination, I grinned, running my hand along his length. I’ve wanted to touch this since I first saw it in the sweat pants.

“Erin…” Hale groaned or growled. It’s hard to tell either way; it was hot.

I like having this kind of control over him. Looking up through my lashes, I could see his clenched jaw and those dark eyes, a perfect balance of Hale’s blue and Jason’s silver, looking at me as I swirled my tongue around his tip.

“Oh fuck… Erin..” He groaned as I took his length into my mouth. I know I probably shouldn’t do this for long. Like me, it’s been years since he’s had sex, but like most men, he’s not going to be able to have more than one orgasm. So as fun as having him gripping my hair as he took some of the control back, thrusting his cock into my eager mouth, is we needed to switch gears.

We were apparently on the same page as Hale pulled my hair to make me stop almost in time with my decision to stop. “As much as I’m enjoying this… and fuck am I… I don’t want to finish in your mouth. I need you.” His words were a breathless whisper as he gestured for me to come back up his body.

“You don’t have to tell me twice. I don’t want tonight to end with oral either.” I agreed, straddling him. We moaned together as I lowered myself onto his length. Fuck, that feels good.

Sure after my dry-spell sex with anyone would probably be good or acceptable. But this is Hale, and it’s a new level as his hands held my waist, letting me set the pace as I rode him to our mutual oblivion. I’m impressed with Hale’s stamina, an average man his age would not have gone this long or switched to two other positions, giving me mini orgasms building up to the grand finale when we both came. I’m lucky I kept up as we collapsed into bed, Hale wrapping his arms around me, holding me as I drifted off exhausted with a smile.

I wasn’t smiling as I fell asleep because I had just orgasmed. I was smiling because this can and will be the rest of my life as long as I want it. And I can’t help but smile at the vision of a future with him. Maybe not always a night of mind-blowing sex. We have kids and jobs, but falling asleep blissfully in his loving arms will be.

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98 Kommentare

Simone Carlisle
Simone Carlisle
02. Aug. 2022

Perfect! Hot sex and falling asleep snuggling!

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Author Bryant
Author Bryant
02. Aug. 2022

What a hot way to end a book!

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Amanda Gerner
Amanda Gerner
02. Aug. 2022
Antwort an

Oh thank goodness

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Penny Angeles-Tan
Penny Angeles-Tan
01. Aug. 2022

First of all, Loving Logan's legendary crassness, lol!

Second, the twins are just incorrigible. I can see that they and Austin are going to get along famously. :D

Jason, oh Jason, you horny wolf! I swoon!

Stop being a gentleman, for a moment, Hale! Erin's ready, Jason's ready, you're ready, the kids are on the way to the packhouse. It's time to get it on! Woohoo!

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Simone Carlisle
Simone Carlisle
01. Aug. 2022
Antwort an


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Amanda Gerner
Amanda Gerner
29. Juli 2022

Jason talking to Hale was so reminiscent of Irving telling John if he didn’t screw this up, they wouldn’t be virgins anymore. 😂. And Logan. I love Logan. Poor John with the hand rubbing his face trying to be more discreet.

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Author Bryant
Author Bryant
29. Juli 2022

Oh Logan, how I have missed you. I can't wait to see if your prediction is true. Jason certainly hopes so 😉

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