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Warrior's Redemption Part 2

Updated: May 23, 2022

Chapter 10 - Austin

I don’t know why I expect discretion for Suzanne Walterson. I have never known her to bite her tongue or hold back on anything. I really shouldn’t be surprised.

As much as I dread having the conversation I know is coming, I’m glad to at least be alone with her. No one to overhear us. No one to watch us. And no one to interrupt us.

We probably need to discuss a lot, not just my past relationship with Denise. Like how she seemed hesitant and quickly retreated before I could kiss her earlier.

I mean, I’m not looking to pressure her or anything. She’d probably knock me into next week. But still, I’m not so oblivious to have missed the look in her eyes. She anticipated the kiss, but suddenly she moved away and insisted we leave.

“Is it so surprising that I can do nice things?” I arched my eyebrow as we left the training center.

“Yeah. I mean, have you met yourself?” Suzie shook her head.

“Okay, fair, I guess. But that’s you judging me on how I used to be. I’m not really that guy anymore.” I sighed.

She sighed too. “I know. At least from what I could tell during my physical therapy sessions. But well, what happened?” She questioned. “I mean did you do a one-eighty because of your leg?”

“I guess. I mean, it’s part of it. It made me rethink my life. My plans were thrown out the window, and I had to reevaluate everything.” I shrugged.

“Which takes a lot of courage and determination. Few people ever truly change themselves, let alone for the better. No offense but Clement was a grade-A dickbag.” Suzie didn’t hold back in her assessment.

“None taken.” I frowned. “Clement was a dick. He was an asshole who defined himself and others through the lens of his bigot grandfather’s view.”

My grip tightened slightly on the steering wheel just talking about my grandfather. I spent the first eighteen years of my life seeing things in his way of letting him define me.

“Dillon? I can’t say I know much about him. My parents obviously don’t associate with your grandfather. But how does he factor into things?” She questioned.

Of course, she doesn’t. My grandfather wouldn’t want to be associated with ‘farmers.’

He doesn’t see it as a proper profession, just people playing in the dirt. Honestly, I don’t want her to ever meet my grandfather.

“It’s complicated and a long story.” I frowned.

“Well, I’m listening. If this will work, Austin, I need to know more about you. To understand you both for how you were, how you are now, and why the change happened.” Suzie encouraged, playing her hand on my leg briefly.

I sighed. I don’t like talking about it. Mostly I don’t like talking about him.

‘Our mate has a right to know these things. You can’t just pretend your past didn’t exist.’ Jax sagely advised.

“You know my mom died, right?” I decided to start at the beginning.

“Um. Yes. You were little, right? It was before I was born.” Suzie nodded.

“Yeah. There was a rogue attack when I was six. I don’t remember a lot about her. I can count on one hand the things I remember about her.” I frowned, sighing as the thought of the mother I could barely remember squeezed at my heart.

“Her eyes were bluer than a clear summer sky. Her soft laugh reminded me of what I thought fairies would sound like. She smelled like old books, like when you go to the pack library and end up in the section of the older books.” I tried to describe it.

“So leather, musk, vanilla, old wood, and antique paper?” Suzie questioned, managing to hit the nail on the head.

“Yes. Exactly. It makes sense as my mom was a librarian in the pack. And well, the only other thing I remember about her… my last memory of her was shoving me into the bunker, tears in her eyes as the rogue’s fist came through her chest. Her last act was slamming the bunker door to engage the locks.” I let out a shaky breath.

I don’t like to remember that moment. But it’s the only clear memory of my mom’s face I have. Anything else is just a construct from looking at her picture rather than an actual memory.

“Austin… I… I don’t even know what to say. That’s a lot for anyone to go through, least of all at such a young age. I can’t even imagine my life without my mom.” Suzie frowned, speaking softly with her hand on my leg again in gentle reassurance.

I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “I.. thanks. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I did. Least of all you. I’m glad you have Edith and Maxton. That you got to grow up in a stable, happy home.”

“How… I mean, how did Hale survive that? Losing Lexia nearly killed Stephen, and they hadn’t even mated. But your dad… he survived losing her.” Suzie questioned.

“He lost more than a mate that day. His wolf took all the pain. Dad never talks about it. But grandma told me that dad’s wolf Jason was very strong. The strongest wolf born in the Shelton line. And that he took all the heartbreak on himself so that dad would survive to raise me.” I frowned.

“Wait… you mean… your dad… he doesn’t have his wolf?” Suzie blinked.

I nodded. “There’s a reason my dad is never at the pack runs and doesn’t do any pack activities that involve a wolf. Jason died, leaving my dad hollow. No wolf and no mate.” I explained.

“Oh wow. Your poor father. Stephen was lucky that Conway came back after a year of being weak, and until he mated with Amelia, they were only at half their usual strength.” Suzie frowned.

“Yeah. My dad was not really in a mental space to raise me, let alone look at me for a while. I may look like him, but I guess some things about me reminded him of her. And let’s not forget she died because she protected me instead of herself.” I frowned.

“Did… or does your dad resent you? Blame you?” Suzie probed.

“No… at least, I don’t think so. Maybe at first. I went to live with my grandparents for a while. Eventually, coming home, but my grandparents were always there too. They were the ones raising me more than dad. And that’s the problem.” I shrugged.

“So that’s how your grandfather factors in. Like I said, I don’t know much about him. Is he really that bad?” she cocked her head.

“Oh yeah. If there is a backward asshole way of looking at things, it’s something my grandfather prescribes to. But because he was around more, I emulated his behavior.” I sighed.

“Ahh. So that’s why Clement was a major dickhead.” Suzie nodded.

I chuckled softly, shaking my head. Leave it to Suzie to lighten the mood.

“ Yeah, and it took losing my leg to realize it. I came back from Incubi without my leg and the words of Alpha André in my head on repeat.” I sighed.

“What did André say to you?” Suzie’s head cocked, long ponytail falling over her shoulder, putting her neck on full display.

I felt Jax taking notice of her neck, the spot where my mark would go in particular. I had to yank him back to not make this some weird thing.

“He told me the Goddess guides us on our paths. But we all have to put in the work to find our destinies. He also said I shouldn’t see this as the end of everything but a chance to see who I am.” I shrugged.

“Wow. That’s… super profound for André. Are you sure it wasn’t something Darren said?” She snickered, raising an eyebrow.

I sighed, shaking my head. “Yeah, I know it does sound more like something the stern Delaney brother would say. But no. It was Alpha André’s words. I had been a real shithead to him, and he still took the time to drop some unexpected wisdom on me.”

“Okay, so André’s words of wisdom sunk in, and you decided to be reborn as Austin?” She questioned.

“Something like that. Sitting in that hospital bed facing what my life will be like. I had my family around me, and I really looked at them.” I frowned.

I clenched my jaw thinking about it. “My grandma was of course worried and looking for fuss over me but my grandfather sternly told her not to and I noticed the tone he used and worse how she reacted. How she retreated into herself and looked so… beaten down.”

“And when I looked at my dad, I saw it too. I saw the same defeated, broken expression as grandma. The whole interaction made it clear like my time away shattered the rose-colored glasses. I could see my grandfather for what he is. A bully. He bullied his son and his mate.” My knuckles were turning white, clutching the steering wheel.

“Austin… if you grip the wheel any tighter, you’re going to break it. And that will not go well. But I get it. Your grandfather sounds like an asshole. But you woke up. You realized he was toxic and how much you were becoming like him.” Suzie sighed, squeezing my leg gently.

I let out a slow breath, loosening my grip again. “You’re right. And well, that moment was when I decided I couldn’t be like that anymore.”

“After I got out of the hospital, I started trying to change. To make that conscious effort. I spent more time with dad. And working with Grant, he’s my boss now, but he was my physical therapist back then, helped too.” I shrugged.

“Is that why you got into physical therapy? Your time going through it?” She asked.

“Basically.” I nodded. “I saw firsthand how Grant and the others helped people through one of the hardest parts of their lives.”

“And I also realized that our pack didn’t have a physical therapist. Sure it’s not often someone loses a limb like me or needs physical therapy after an accident or fight since our wolves heal so fast.” I shrugged.

“And unshifted wolves like I was can still get hurt and need to see a physical therapist like you. If not for you, I don’t know what would have happened. And I don’t just mean you saving me and the others. But helping me with the physical therapy to walk without the limp or pain.” Suzie sighed.

Chapter 11 - Suzie

If I hadn’t seen his change with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it. The Clement Shelton I knew growing up was a total self-centered asshole. But Austin Shelton is entirely different. Well, maybe not completely. He’s still kind of an asshole. But he’s not the same kind of an unredeemable asshole.

“You shouldn’t have even been in that accident. That kid is a fucking moron. One for not paying attention while driving and two for even going up that mountain in those conditions.” Austin rumbled.

“I made a choice to be in that truck. I knew it was a bad idea, but I did it anyway.” I pointed out.

“Congrats, you’re stupider than your friends? Because it takes a real idiot to know something is a bad idea and still does it,” Austin rolled his eyes.

“Oh, because you smell your own? I can make a list as long as my arm of all the stupid shit you’ve done that I bet money you knew was a bad idea.” I countered.

“Doubtful.” Austin scoffed.

“Oh, let’s see. When I was five, I remember you deciding to take a baseball bat and hit a hornet nest in a tree at the edge of the woods near the playground. You screamed like a little girl as you and all the boys scattered for safety. Stephen had to grab me and protect me from getting stung.” I recalled.

I had him, and he knew it. I saw how his jaw ticked, and his eyes narrowed as I brought up one of the many highlights of stupid moments of his life.

“I was thirteen. A young dumb pup.” Austin grumbled.

“Uh-huh. What’s your excuse for the multiple counts of stupid moments when you were in Incubi?” I questioned.

I was armed and ready to list them all. His annoyed expression wasn’t going to deter me either.

“Don’t think Stephen and Amelia didn’t dish. I heard you grabbed Beta Zoe’s ass and spent time as a statue. I heard you insulted Alpha André not once but twice. Not to mention when you insulted Amelia, and Beta Zoe turned you to stone.” I listed them all off.

I’ve touched a nerve, given how tight his grip on the steering wheel had become.

“I’m aware of my mistakes. But I made them, and I own up to them. No one convinced me to do them. No one else is responsible. And the only person physically hurt by my actions, excluding the hornets, has been me.” Austin ground out.

“Your little boyfriend got you and four others hurt because of his stupidity.” He growled when he said, ‘boyfriend.’

“Back up that train of thought. Because Stan is not my boyfriend.” I explained.

‘You better make it very clear to our mate that the boy is absolutely nothing to you. Because I’ll make your life hell if you leave the impression that anything has happened with that gomer.’ Kayla threatened.

“He sure seems to think he is. Walking in today with his arm around you. And not wanting back off even after it was verbalized you’re my mate.” Austin glanced at me.

The expression on his face was still stern and filled with annoyance, but his eyes were different. He looked hurt by the very idea.

“Around my shoulders. That’s a friend thing, and when I walked in, I was still mateless.” I pointed out.

“And when Kayla scented you, I shrugged him away. Stan has never and would never have been my boyfriend. When I was a kid, I already decided I wouldn’t date or do anything with a guy who wasn’t my mate.” I shook my head.

“But you like him?” Austin arched an eyebrow.

I rolled my eyes. Great unwarranted jealousy rears its ugly head.

“He’s cute. Lots of guys are cute.” I shrugged.

There goes that tick of his jaw. He doesn’t like the idea that I think Stan or anyone else is cute. He’s going to need to keep that jealousy in check if this will work.

“But none of them are you.” I added, putting my hand on his forearm.

The sparks of the bond startled me at first. I closed my eyes, letting them surge through me before trying to convey calming energy to him through our bond. I smiled, opening my eyes to see he had relaxed. His lips had even turned into a small smile.

“Uh-huh. Good to know.” He nodded, trying to play it cool.

“So you’re telling me that you’ve never dated someone? Never even kissed someone?” He questioned, raising a blonde brow as he glanced at me.

I don’t know if he’s trying to mock me or bait me. I do know that I don’t like either of those options. It pisses me off because I know he didn’t save himself for me.

I’m well aware he had girlfriends even before he lost his leg. I don’t know how many he’s had since. Though that reminds me, I still want to question him about Denise.

“I just said I haven’t dated, didn’t I?” I sighed.

“Yes, but not dating doesn’t always mean abstaining from other activities.” Austin shrugged, glancing at me, still waiting for an answer.

I rolled my eyes cause he was going to make me say this. Cause that’s just what I want to admit to him.

“Fine. If you want me to spell it out for you. I haven’t done anything with anyone. No sex, no touching, and no kissing.” I sighed as he parked his jeep in my family’s driveway.

“So you’re telling me that it would be your first if I kiss you right now?” Austin questioned.

I blinked, gulping as I looked at him and realized he was facing me. Just like earlier, when I came out of the changing room, we were practically sharing our breaths.

Kayla was all in when it came to Austin. His scent of fresh-cut grass, garden herbs, and wildflowers engulfed me, overriding all my senses. Kayla was practically purring trying to nudge me forward.

Just as his lips were about to touch mine, the house’s front door opened, the light from inside streaming out into the dark night. My head turned just in time, his lips pressing to my cheek instead as I looked at my father standing on the porch, arms folded and eyebrow raised.

“I… I better go. Um, we can meet tomorrow if you want. And talk some more. We obviously didn’t discuss everything in one car ride.” I hurried to grab my things, rushing out of the jeep before he could answer.

I could feel his eyes on me as I rushed up the steps. I gave my dad a smile knowing my blush would probably rival the ripest cherry we’ve ever grown.

“Hi, daddy. Bye, daddy.” I waved, rushing past him.

I barely paused to take off my boots as I rushed upstairs to avoid questions. Of course, I wasn’t going to be so lucky. I heard footsteps following me, and the scent of my parents reached me, so I knew both had come to find out what was going on.

“Suzie?” Dad questioned, knocking at my bedroom door.

“What’s going on? Why did you rush up here so fast? Was training bad?” Mom questioned, apparently unaware of who drove me home.

“I think the better question is why Clement Shelton drove her home and looked like he was about to kiss her when I stepped outside.” Dad huffed.

I growled when he called Austin Clement and yanked my door open, glaring at my father. “HIS NAME IS AUSTIN!” I shouted as I corrected him.

“Well, it got her to open the door.” Dad smirked and glanced at mom.

I grumbled, folding my arms and kicking myself for falling for his stupid trick. He knows Clement had started going by Austin. Obviously, he knows because Austin was my Physical Therapist.

“Dirty trick.” I muttered, walking back to sulk on my bed, pulling my pillow up to my chest as my parents followed me.

“Maybe, but it worked. Now want to explain what’s going on?” Dad sighed.

“You know that you can tell us anything. I like to think we are an open and honest family.” Mom sighed.

“He’s my mate.” I sighed.

“Wait, did you just… did you say Austin is your mate?” Dad furrowed his brow, digging his finger into his ear like checking for clogs.

“I didn’t stutter.” I rolled my eyes.

“He was one of the instructors for tonight. When I walked into the training center, Kayla went wild, picking up our mate’s scent. And well, it led me to Austin.” I admitted.

“I see. And what about Austin’s human girlfriend?” Mom questioned bluntly, charging forward and asking the burning question in her.

She knew about my crush on him when I was still attending physical therapy. She also knows that I returned that day upset because of what happened with Denise and her saying they were going on a date.

“He says they aren’t together. But I didn’t get to question him further to know what that means.” I shrugged.

“We talked on the drive home. But it was more about his past and the reasoning behind him changing his name and attitude. Did you know his grandfather was such a prick?” I huffed.

“Well yeah. Anyone who’s ever dealt with Dillon Shelton knows what kind of asshole he is.” Mom snorted.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t. At least not to that extent. But after talking with Austin tonight, I can understand why he used to act that way. It was how he was being raised. Thank Goddess, he got some sense knocked into him in that Incubi war.” I sighed.

“We’re glad he’s changed too. Don’t think we’d like you being with a jerk like Clement Shelton as a mate. You’re too willful for that, and it would crush us to see him take that away.” Dad sighed.

“So what are you two going to be doing then? Your father owes you an apology for interrupting your first kiss.” Mom questioned, elbowing dad in the ribs.

“It’s fine. I don’t think I was ready for it anyway. Austin is going to have to earn it. I’m not going to cave just because of the mate bond. So dad technically saved me. As for the rest. I guess we’ll talk more tomorrow.” I shrugged.

“Are you going to tell your brother and Amelia?” Dad questioned.

“Oh, Goddess, I hadn’t even thought about that. I mean, I’ll have to eventually. But right now, I want to wait. At least until after the baby is born. I don’t want to put any unnecessary duress on Amelia.” I sighed.

“Okay, sweetie. We’ll support whatever you decide. And you know your brother will support you.” Mom smiled.

“Even if he hates Austin for the man he was?” I arched an eyebrow.

“Even then. Stephen will just have to learn the man he is now and let go of Clement and all the bad behavior and memories that go with him.” Mom smiled, kissing the top of my head.

“Now, why don’t you get some rest. It’s only been your second day shifting. And I know that the first training session tends to be draining.” Dad suggested giving me a hug before they left me alone with my thoughts.

Falling asleep was not going to be easy tonight. I had so much to think about. I need to figure out how things will move forward with Austin and how to handle the bad blood between him and my brother. Talk about a lot to put on shoulders.

Chapter 12 - Austin

You have got to be kidding me!

Thanks Maxton, thanks a fucking lot. Cocking blocking, son of a bitch. Do all fathers have a cockblocker mode, or is it just him?

Because fuck if he doesn’t. There is no way he could have just coincidentally timed walking out onto the porch like that. No way. He had to have sensed it like that robot in Spaceballs with her virgin alarm.

I waited till she was inside, and Maxton had shut the door before backing out of the driveway. Don’t think I didn’t miss the way his eyebrow arched as he looked at me. Oh, he not only knows my jeep, but he saw me clear as day behind the wheel.

I can just imagine what conversation is happening inside the Walterson house tonight. What will she tell them?

Will she lie and say we ran into each, and I offered to drop her off? Will she tell the truth and say we’re mates? Or will she tell a white lie? Omitting that I’m her mate but say I was one of the instructors?

So many possibilities and I have no way of knowing what she’ll do. Not only because I can’t simply contact her, but because Suzanne Walterson is anything but predictable.

‘You realize you’re a moron.’ Jax sighed.

‘I’m afraid to ask this. But how do you figure?’ I questioned.

‘She has a wolf now. She’s part of the pack. Which means…’ Jax tried to lead me down his path of thinking.

‘That she’s in the pack link. So I don’t need to have her number to contact her.’ I blinked as the realization dawned on me.

‘Look at that! You can be taught!’ Jax chuckled.

‘Fuck you.’ I grumbled.

I decided to wait till I got home to try and link Suzie and see what she told her parents. I would rather not deal with any surprises if I run into them. Especially any unpleasant surprises.

Like pulling into my driveway to see Denise’s car. What the fuck!? Why the hell is she at my house? How did she even find out where I live? I’ve never brought her here.

‘If that human bitch screws things up for us with Suzie, I’m killing her.’ Jax growled as I climbed out of the jeep and hurried inside.

Walking into my family home, I could hear Denise laughing. I used to think it was cute, but it’s like nails on a fucking chalkboard now.

“I can’t believe how cute Austin was as a kid.” Denise laughed.

“Thanks so much for letting me wait for him to get home inside.” She added.

“Not a problem, Miss. Far too cold to sit outside in your car and a waste of gas to keep it running.” Dad assured her.

Clenching my jaw as I tried to keep Jax in place, I quickly made my way to the living room. My dad was sitting in his usual chair, with the tv on low, watching Sports Center. And there she was smiling, looking at some pictures my dad still has hung up on the wall.

“Denise? Mind telling me what the fuck you’re doing in my living room?” I was barely able to stop myself from growling.

“Is he always this grouchy after going to the gym?” Denise chuckled.

“Sometimes.” Dad answered.

“Austin, you shouldn’t be rude to your girlfriend. Bad enough that you’ve been dating this girl for months now and never introduced her to me. Poor thing had to come here herself to make the introduction.” Dad scolded me.

“Girlfriend? Is that what she told you she is? We aren’t dating, dad.” I shook my head, clenching my fists, willing the old hot head asshole Clement to stay locked away.

Dad frowned at my reaction and glanced at Denise.

“Oh, Austin just misunderstood last night. We had a fight about moving in together, and I told him to leave.” Denise tried to smooth things over with dad.

“That’s why I’m here, baby. I wanted to make up. I’m sure we can talk this through.” Denise was all smiles and sex appeal as she walked up to me, pressing her hand to my chest.

Her hand barely touched me, and I practically jumped ten feet back. No way in hell am I getting her fucking scent on me. Nope. Suzie would have my balls no matter the reason.

“Don’t fucking touch me.” I growled, like really growled.

I could feel Jax trying to take control. He was not having her shit. We found our mate tonight, and he would not let anyone jeopardize that.

“Austin… I think you may want to take some calming breaths.” Dad suggested jumping to his feet.

“Put Jax in a corner. I don’t know what’s happening, but your eyes are starting to change, and we do not need an incident.” Dad warned, his voice barely a whisper.

Fuck, it would be so much easier if he had his wolf. Then he could use the link, and I could explain this all without risking her hearing me.

I closed my eyes, trying the breathing exercises as I pulled Jax back in my mind. I cannot have Denise finding out I’m a werewolf.

Alpha Logan would lose his shit, and I’d be a dead man. Denise, she’d get her memory wiped by Duncan. Her never remembering me wouldn’t be so bad, but me dying would be. I don’t want to die, not now that I’ve found my mate.

“Austin, why are you acting like this? I thought you loved me?” Denise sniffled.

Oh fuck. It’s either I keep asshole Clement at bay or Jax. I can’t keep them both bottled up. And either way, this was going to be messy.

“I never once told you I love you. Do not stand here and put words in my mouth.” I reminded her dickhead Clement starting to rear his ugly head.

“We fucked and went on some dates. That’s it. There was never a future for us. You dumped me last night, and it’s for the best. I don’t want to be with you. So get the fuck out of my house.” I raised my voice, not quite shouting, pointing in the direction of the door.

Denise was sniffling as she started to cry. “You… you don’t need to be such an asshole.”

“Apparently, I fucking do. How else will I get it through your thick skull that it’s over?” I rolled my eyes.

“You know what? Fuck you, Austin! I hope you end up alone and miserable.” Denise cursed as she grabbed her jacket and purse, running out of the house.

“Austin? What was that all about? Why did you have to be so cruel?” Dad questioned after she left.

I let out a heavy sigh running my hands over my face. I finally let Jax go, and I managed to shut down dickhead mode with a few more deep breaths. I don’t want to be a dick to my dad.

“I found my mate tonight.” I confessed.

That at least shut dad up. He went wide-eyed as he stumbled back for a half second. Then suddenly, he was hugging me as tight as he could.

“That’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you, Austin. Who is she? When can I meet her? Do I know her family? Tell me everything.” Dad peppered me with questions as he made me sit on the sofa

I chuckled, shaking my head at his one-eighty personality flip. A second ago, he scolded me about how I treated Denise, but one mention of my mate and Denise became forgotten.

‘Good. We should all be so lucky to forget that bitch.’ Jax scoffed.

“It’s Suzanne Walterson, so you know her and her family.” I sighed.

“Little Suzie Walterson? Oh, how the time flies. Suzie’s already old enough to get her wolf? I remember when she was just a baby.” He sighed, shaking his head as he sat down.

I rolled my eyes.

“Yeah, well, there are some downsides to all this.” I frowned.

“What downside can there be? You found your mate. This is news worth celebrating. I should call Maxton, invite them over for dinner.” Dad smiled.

“Goddess, I can’t believe it. Your mother would have been so happy. She and Edith were such good friends. It’s why you and Stephen were always together as pups.” Dad sighed, his gaze softening as he looked at the last family portrait hanging on the wall.

I don’t remember much from before mom died. I mean, I know I spent a lot of time around Stephen. I thought it was because we lived down the road.

I never thought it was because of our moms. But I guess it explains why, after mom died, Edith was friendly to me even when I was at my worst. I still have a lot to learn about my mom.

“Dad, I know you’re thrilled about this. And, of course, I am too. I didn’t think I’d have a mate or that a mate would want me, given my injury. But you need to dial it back.” I sighed.

“The Goddess wouldn’t give you a mate who couldn’t love you exactly as you are. And what’s the problem?” Dad frowned.

“Grandpa, for one. Stephen for another. And the bitch that just left could be an issue.” I sighed.

“Oh right…. Dad. He will be an issue, given he doesn’t like that family. But he can’t do anything about it, son. No one can get in the way of the Goddess’s will. So ignore him.” Dad encouraged.

“And the same goes for Stephen. It’s been years since you saw him. You’ve both grown. Both matured. And if anyone should understand how important and fragile the mate bond is, it’s him.” Dad snorted.

“Now, as for the girl. Well, just be sure you don’t keep secrets from Suzie. The best foundation for a relationship is honesty. And if Suzie grew up to be anything like Edith….” Dad cringed.

“Suzie knows me, dad. Suzie knows every dumb, mean, and shithead thing I’ve done. And I don’t know if she will hold it against me or if she’s going to accept that I’ve changed. And yeah… Suzie has her mother’s strength.” I sighed.

“You are mates. That means you were made for each other. Like pieces of a puzzle.” He smiled.

“Her knowing your past can only benefit you. It means you don’t have to go over all that. It also means she can see how far you’ve come to be the man you are now. You just need to be honest about that Denise girl and not let her mess things up.” He advised.

“I know. I don’t want to keep things from Suzie. I just know Denise is going to be a sore subject.” I frowned.

“What do you mean? The girl knows you, so she knows you’re no saint, least of all a virgin. She should expect you to have former lovers.” Dad shrugged.

“You know I was Suzie’s physical therapist after her accident.” I sighed.

“Yes, I remember you mentioning it. You two had been getting along rather well during that. This means Suzie got to see the man you are now. That’s a good thing.” Dad nodded.

“Yeah, well, she showed up while Denise was propositioning me in the breakroom on her last day. Suzie saw Denise getting close to me and dropped the cherry pie she’d apparently brought for me. Then got angry at me when I tried to go after her. And I hadn’t seen or talked to her until tonight.” I explained.

Dad groaned and hit his palm to his forehead.

“Austin… I love you, but damn, you are dense. So the girl had a crush on you before her shift, and you obviously crushed that budding love.” Dad shook his head.

“Thanks for the recap. But yeah. So me telling Suzie I was sleeping with Denise these past months….” I sighed.

“Could get you an ass kicking.” Dad nodded.

“Exactly. But I have to tell Suzie because the last thing I want is to keep a secret from her.” I agreed.

“Well, you better tell her quickly. Cause it will go all kinds of wrong if Suzie goes to see you at work and that Denise girl still hasn’t gotten the picture about you being over.” Dad frowned.

I sighed, slumping deeper into the sofa. I could just imagine how badly that would go. Suzie would be furious. I can imagine the fit Denise would pitch to find out that I started seeing Suzie a day after she dumped me.

“Why don’t you sleep on it? You’ll have a better plan of action in the morning. Just don’t wait too long to tell your mate. Then we can see about having the Walterson family over for dinner.” Dad suggested patting my head as he headed upstairs.

I sighed, glancing at the clock. Dad’s probably right. I should get some rest. Maybe a path forward will be evident in the morning. I can at least count myself lucky that Denise isn’t on the schedule for tomorrow.

With that in mind, I lumbered up to my room. I took a quick shower in my bathroom before collapsing face first on my bed.

Chapter 13 - Suzie

Today has been a whirlwind of changes. Hell, the last twenty-four hours have been a trip. Last night, I shifted for the first time, and now I’ve also found my mate. I still don’t know how I feel about my mate being Austin.

‘Why are humans so difficult?’ Kayla scoffed.

‘Excuse me?’ I arched my brow.

‘You heard me. Why are humans, or I guess just you, so difficult? This isn’t rocket science. It’s actually really simple. He’s our mate. Therefore, we should be with him.’ Kayla sighed.

‘It’s not that simple. You don’t know what Austin was like.’ I frowned.

‘WAS!’ Kayla shouted, making my head hurt.

‘What he WAS like! I don’t give a fuck what he WAS like. And I know exactly how he used to be. Remember, I can access all your memories from before I awakened.’ Kayla rolled her eyes.

‘People don’t just change personalities overnight.’ I countered.

‘It’s been YEARS! Our mate has focused on improving himself, of making himself a better man for YEARS!’ Kayla insisted.

And I hate that she’s right. Because it’s not like it was only a few days or even months ago that Austin was still going by Clement and acting like an asshole.

“That isn’t a sudden shift. That is a gradual change. A change Austin decided to make. You heard him in the car tonight. He got a wake-up call after returning from war and decided to be better.’ Kayla continued her rant.

‘And now we get to be the ones who benefit from his change. We get to be with the man he has become. And we will be the ones that get to see him continue on this path of self-improvement and perhaps grow and improve with him.’ Kayla finally shut up.

‘Okay, enough with the wolf sage rant. I get it. It’s hard to let go of the past, even though I want to.’ I sighed.

‘I mean, I saw the change in him while going to physical therapy. And I thought there was something between us, but when I dared to make my feelings known, that bimbo was all over him. And yes, I know he said they weren’t together, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get together.’ I sighed.

‘Don’t worry about his past. Be that his former attitude or any lovers. We may not have been his first, but we will be his last, and that’s what matters most. So give him a chance, or I’ll make your life miserable.’ Kayla warned.

I rolled my eyes, tuning her out as I rolled over in my bed, trying to fall asleep. Not the easiest task. It annoyed me because I usually fall asleep pretty quick. Instead, I laid there awake for I had no idea how long, contemplating what I would do about Austin, us being mates, and then dealing with telling my brother.

‘Suzanne.’ A voice called out in my head.

‘Leave me alone, Kayla.’ I grumbled at the intrusion.

‘I didn’t say anything.’ Kayla grumbled right back.

‘Not your wolf, honey.’ A masculine voice chuckled.

Honey? Who the fuck? I know it’s not dad, and Stephen is too far away to link me. So who the hell could that be?

‘You’ve not used the pack link yet?’ The male voice sighed.

Oh, crap, the pack link! That’s right. Now that I have shifted, I’m in the pack link.

‘Um…no. Who is this? So I know who I’m going to kill later cause this is super intrusive of some rando packmate.’ I growled.

‘Rando? I’m not sure how offended I should be that you can’t place my voice.’ The voice chuckled.

I was trying to place the voice. But honestly, I was drawing a blank at first. But the chuckle clicked in my head.

‘AUSTIN!?’ I exclaimed, sitting up suddenly in my bed, pulling my blanket to my chin as if he was in the room.

‘Bingo. Now that we’ve got that covered. You have school today, right?’ Austin questioned.

I groaned, running a hand over my face before looking at my alarm clock. I have over an hour before I need to head to school. Austin woke me up before my alarm. Dick.

‘Um… yeah, I have school. But I don’t even have to leave for another hour.’ I rolled my eyes.

‘Good. I’ll be there in ten.’ He informed me.

‘What? Wait? Ten minutes? I just said I don’t have to leave for an hour! I’m still in bed!’ I exclaimed.

He is out of his damn mind if he thinks I can be ready to go anywhere that isn’t the kitchen to make a bowl of cereal in ten minutes. There is no way I would be prepared to see him or leave the house in ten minutes

‘Is that so? Wearing anything interesting?’ Austin taunted.

I gasped, blushing at what he was asking and the one he was asking it in. Thank the Goddess that the link doesn’t let him actually see me.

‘I… I am not telling you what I am wearing, Austin Shelton.’ I snorted.

‘Hmm… let me guess. I’m rather good at this.’ I could practically hear him smirking.

‘I don’t think telling your mate you’re rather good at guessing what women are wearing is a good way to start the day.’ I huffed.

‘I meant at guessing in general. But down, girl. No need to get your hackles up.’ Austin sighed.

‘Now then. As I was saying. I’d say there are three options. Most likely, I’m going to say a worn oversized t-shirt, probably one of Stephen’s or maybe your dad’s. And you have it paired with… fleece Hello Kitty pajama bottoms.’ Austin continued on with his guessing game.

I blushed brightly because, damn it, he’s right. I’m wearing Dad’s University of Portland tee from his college days and a pair of fleece Hello Kitty pjs.

But he doesn’t need to know that!

‘You are ridiculous. I don’t even like Hello Kitty.’ I put up what I think is a good front.

‘That might be true. I mean, last time I was at your house, you were like ten, and your room was very pink like Pepto Bismol threw up all over, and your bed had Hello Kitty bedding.’ Austin teased.

I grumbled, looking around my room. I had retired the bedding, but I hadn’t painted it. I like pink, there is nothing wrong with that.

‘Creepy that you remember the details of a ten-year-old’s bedroom.’ I sighed.

‘Maybe, but it was my mate’s bedroom.’ He countered.

I rolled my eyes, getting out of bed, figuring if I stalled him long enough, I could have my outfit planned and maybe get a shower in before he arrived.

‘Now, if you are going to deny what I’m sure is the truth. You could have grown up and started wearing more revealing pajamas.’ He pondered.

‘So could be wearing pajama shorts and a matching tank. And it’s cold this morning, so I would guess nipples are pronounced if you’re in a tank top.’ Austin carried on.

I blushed, glancing down at my chest. Of course, you can’t tell anything through this shirt, but I know it’s cold and that my nipples were well aware it’s cold. But more than that, they seem to know Austin’s talking about them.

‘Ugh, you are such a dumbass.’ I grumbled.

‘Hmm. Well, that just leaves the final option. I’m not thinking it is right because I don’t see you sleeping naked while living at your parents’ house.’ He casually stated.

‘OH, MY GODDESS! You are deplorable.’ I shouted.

“I said I don’t think it’s the right one. I mean, I’m all for you sleeping naked. But you can save that for when you’re in my bed.’ Austin answered smugly.

‘Wow. You’re already assuming I’ll ever be in your bed, let alone be naked in it?’ I scoffed.

Okay, so that was all bravado. I’m so glad Austin can’t see me because I’m as pink as my bedroom walls.

The fact he’s thinking of a future, even if he’s focusing on the physical side of it. I like it. I like that he’s thinking of that future and wants that. And I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind.

‘Because you haven’t already thought about it. You keep telling yourself those lies, honey. Maybe you’ll even buy them.’ He taunted.

I rolled my eyes and started to take my pajama shirt off to go into my bathroom. I’m still hoping I’ve distracted Austin long enough that I can at least shower, and then maybe my parents can delay him while I get ready.

Oh, how wrong I was. Maybe I’d have noticed Kayla jumping around with excitement if I had been less focused on the mind link conversation with him. Or caught the scent of fresh-cut grass, garden herbs, and wildflowers drifting under my door seconds before my bedroom door was suddenly opened.

I am not proud of this, but I screamed like I was auditioning for a horror film, clutching my shirt to my chest to hide my breasts. Austin was in my doorway, laughing with a smug look on his face and a dark desire in his eyes.

“I told you I’d be here in ten minutes. You aren’t very good at multitasking while mind linking. It’s okay. You’ll figure it out over time.” He chuckled.

I was blushing brighter as his gaze drifted down from my face, taking notice of the shirt clutched to my chest and then down to my fleece Hello Kitty pajama pants. I wish a hole would just open up in the ground and swallow me whole.

“I see I was right the first time. Want to drop the shirt, and we’ll see if I was also right about your nip….” He didn’t get to finish the sentence.

Letting out a yelp, he was dragged back by the scruff in the inescapable death grip of my mother. Austin is apparently not most males. Most males would be pissing themselves, submitting to her strength.

Chapter 14 - Austin

I wanted to get ahead of any possible issues with Suzie. After sleeping on it, I woke up knowing one thing for sure if Suzie finds out Denise was at my place from anyone else, I am dead.

So I got up early and went to a local bakery to get a couple dozen donuts and a large carafe of fresh-brewed coffee. Don’t judge. Werewolves have a high metabolism.

As a kid, Maxton would stop at Pearl’s Bakery if he was in charge of carpooling Stephen, me, and a couple of other kids to the pack middle school. So I’m sort of banking that he still has a soft spot for it.

While getting the donuts and coffee, I kept up a running conversation with Suzie in the pack link. And fuck, she’s adorable.

I knew what she was doing, distracting me with that comment about still being in bed. Okay, so that probably wasn’t her initial plan when we mentioned it, but she didn’t discourage me from trying to guess what she wears to bed.

I am about ninety percent sure my first guess was correct. There might be a nine percent chance that my second guess is accurate. And there’s that very slim one percent chance she sleeps naked.

I’m not lucky enough for that to be true. But that’s fine. Suzie can sleep naked when we live together. I prefer that line of thought anyway.

‘You realize you’d need to move out of your dad’s house to live together.’ Jax pointed out.

‘I’ve been saving up to get an apartment closer to work. I just haven’t really looked.’ I shrugged.

‘More like you’ve been dragging your feet.’ Jax scoffed.

‘I don’t want to leave dad alone, okay? I move out, and what’s he got left? A house full of memories of mom.’ I pointed out.

And that shut him up. I don’t want dad to be alone. I feel if I wasn’t around, he’d have let himself go. I don’t mean just sitting around in the same clothes for days. I mean, let go permanently.

I’ll worry about my dad’s stability later. Right now, I’ve got a mate to see. I know she’s new to having her wolf and access to the pack link, but does she honestly think I can’t multitask?

I handled our conversation while getting the donuts and driving to her place quickly. I smiled when Maxton opened the door, knowing Suzie was still caught up in our mind link conversation to realize I was here.

“Austin.” Maxton arched an eyebrow.

He doesn’t seem surprised to see me, so he must know what I am to his daughter. He just seems confused about why I’m here this early.

“Hi, Maxton. Is Suzie still upstairs? You know what, don’t worry about it. I can follow my nose.” I stepped inside, passing the two boxes of donuts and carafe of coffee into his hands.

“Wait? What? Where are you going?” Maxton furrowed his brow as I started heading to the stairs.

“To see my mate. Go enjoy the donuts. Bavarian cream is still your favorite, right? Got three in there with your name on it.” I explained, continuing up the stairs.

He didn’t follow me, so he obviously isn’t going to try and intervene. And given I could hear him stuffing his face, my bribe worked. Of course, that only got me past Maxton.

I had only just gotten to Suzie’s room with a rather lovely view of her shirtless. Okay, the shirt was pressed to her chest, so I only got a glimpse of side boob.

But I was still right. This girl is predictable, at least on some things. She was wearing her dad’s only college tee with fleece Hello Kitty pajama bottoms.

As Edit grabbed me by the scruff, I was quickly reminded which parent Suzie takes after, and I don’t just mean in their gift. Edith and Suzie have an unpredictable temper and blunt manner.

“Morning, Edith. How’s it going? I brought coffee and donuts.” I greeted Edith with a smile despite the pain she was causing me.

“That’s nice, then you can go downstairs and have some. No boys in my daughter’s bedroom.” Edith snorted, forcing me away from Suzie’s bedroom door.

I was lucky she didn’t shove me down the stairs. With her strength, she could have sent me flying down them. I don’t think a fall down the stairs would be in my best interest.

“See you downstairs!” I shouted.

“Go take your shower and get dressed. We’ll deal with your mate until then.” Edith assured my mate as she shut her bedroom door.

I glanced back over my shoulder to see Edith right on my heels. Her expression may be the stern mother wolf protecting her pup, but there was amusement in her eyes. Well, at least my in-laws don’t totally hate me.

“How did you get past my mate?” Edith demanded.

I didn’t have to answer as we walked into the living room. I simply pointed to where Maxton was stuffing what I’m guessing was his second donut into his mouth.

“Maxton! You let him bribe you with donuts to sneak into our daughter’s room?” Edith demanded, hands on her hips.

I bit back a smile as Maxton’s eyebrows went up, and he had to hurry to finish his mouthful to answer. I grabbed one of the raspberry jelly-filled donuts and plopped onto the sofa.

“Technically, I wasn’t sneaking into my mate’s room. She was aware I was coming over. It’s not my fault she can’t multitask.” I pointed out before taking a bite of the donuts.

“See. Suzie knew he was coming. He arrived, handing me the donuts and coffee, and went up. Was I supposed to tackle him? And drop his offering?” Maxton questioned as if dropping the donuts and coffee would have been a tragedy.

“He almost saw her naked and was asking about her nipples.” Edith narrowed her eyes.

“To be fair, she’s seen me naked.” I pointed out.

And that narrowed look has turned to me. Guess that wasn’t the right thing to say.

“We’re werewolves, Edith. Nudity is part of life. Suzie has known me her whole life. She’s seen me shift to my wolf and back as recently as last night for her training.” I sighed.

“Hey, Maxton, mind giving me a cup of coffee?” I asked, nodding to the carafe.

“That is entirely different, Clement Austin Shelton. Seeing someone naked when they shift is on a different level than seeing them in the privacy of their bedroom.” Edith pulled out the big guns using my full name.

I clenched my jaw, hearing the name Clement. I have started to loathe that name these past six years. There is a reason I don’t go by it. And yet here Edith is throwing it back in my face.

I took a deep breath, slowly letting it out because the last thing I need is to let that Clement attitude out. Last night with Denise was enough.

“Edith, I would appreciate it if you didn’t use my full given name.” I remained calm as I stood back up.

“Allow me to clear up some things for you. First, you’re not my mother. Don’t try to be. So you can cut the lecture.” I narrowed my eyes.

It is too early in the morning for this shit. But it’s best to get this all said now and clear the air.

Based on the hurt in her eyes, I struck a nerve. She was friends with my mom, but even if my mom didn’t live long to raise me into who I am, I don’t need someone showing up all these years later attempting to mother me.

“Second, you can also take your gender bias double standard and shove it. If this was reversed, if Stephen’s mate went to his room, you wouldn’t be having this conversation.” I pointed out.

“And yes, I’m well aware that they’d already marked each other by the time you met Amelia. But I know you well enough to know you’d have not thought twice about someone seeing Stephen naked.” I added.

“Lastly, I’m not just anyone. I’m not one of Suzie’s dumbass friends looking to sneak a peek. I’m her mate. If anyone should and will see her naked in private, it is me.” I concluded.

I’m fully prepared to get knocked the fuck out. Even if I didn’t go full Clement, I’m sure enough of my asshole side shined through.

It won’t be the first time a Walterson has punched me. And given Suzie is my mate probably won’t be the last. Shit, I will bet money Stephen will deck me when we see each other, and he finds out I’m with his sister.

I could see Edith wavering on how to even handle me. Maxton had shoved another donut into his mouth, probably to avoid conflict, and well, he loves those damn things.

“Okay, that’s enough of the glaring contest. To your own corners.” Suzie interrupted, clapping her hands.

My head turned at the sound of her voice. Fuck me, is that what she was going to wear to school, or is that just because I’m here?

A white off-the-shoulder blouse paired with a black skirt that sits mid-thigh with her long hair down in curly waves and only a little bit of make-up from what I could see. She really doesn’t need make-up.

I hope the outfit is for my benefit and not the dickheads she goes to school with. Jax growled at the thought that dumbass Stan would be ogling her at school later.

The urge to tell her to put more clothes on was there, but I shoved it down cause controlling someone’s wardrobe is an asshole move my grandfather would use. I will not ever be like him. I won’t treat Suzie the way he does grandma.

Chapter 15 - Suzie

I may have rushed through my shower and getting dressed. I know my mom, and honestly worried for Austin’s safety. She’s as sweet as sugar unless she feels her kids are threatened. Then you realize that sugar has sharp pieces of glass hidden inside.

And I think I got downstairs just in time. From the sounds of things and the general vibe of the room, Austin’s asshole side was showing, and mom’s growly bitch side was coming out.

Of course, dad wasn’t much use. I don’t blame him. He probably didn’t want to get in the middle and deal with mom later if he didn’t side with her. So I’ll do it.

After I told them to get to their corners, mom glared at Austin, grabbed a glazed donut, and sat down with a huff. Austin didn’t look apologetic in the least. Hell, he simply shrugged and smiled at me.

“So me spending a few minutes with your parents gets your ass moving, but giving you a ten-minute warning does nothing. Noted.” Austin chuckled.

I rolled my eyes. What a dumbass.

“Why are you here so early? You never told me. I have plenty of time before I need to leave for school. Or did you forget what time school starts?” I questioned, folding my arms.

“Well, it has been years since I graduated.” Austin smirked, stepping closer.

I had to struggle to keep Kayla in check. She wanted to take two steps forward so I’d be right in his personal space. Apparently, reminding her my parents are in the room has no effect.

“Answer the question.” I sighed.

“We didn’t get to finish talking last night. So I figured I pick you up before school, and we could pick up where we left off last night.” The double meaning of his words wasn’t lost on me.

I felt myself blush, remembering exactly where we left off last night. He was about to kiss me, and I almost let him.

“You said talking. That’s not really where we left off last night.” I commented.

“We can do both.” He shrugged.

“What were you doing last night?” Mom demanded.

“They were doing nothing, Edith. At least they didn’t get to do much because I went outside.” Dad shrugged.

“Yeah, thanks for that, Maxton. You can shut off your virgin alarm now.” Austin rolled his eyes.

I groaned, running my hand over my face. “You talk a big game for someone who hasn’t even gotten to kiss me. So don’t go around thinking you’re getting laid anytime soon.”

“We’ll see how long you and your wolf hold out. I’m not going anywhere. We’re mates. You’re stuck with me, honey.” Austin winked, picking up an apple cider donut.

“Now take your donut, and let’s go. We have things to talk about, and I would rather they be in private.” Austin instructed, putting the donut in my hand.

“Oh, Maxton and Edith, my dad wanted to invite you both over with Suzie for dinner. He’s pretty stoked about the whole thing.” Austin added with a nod to my parents as his hand pressed on my back to guide me away.

I was still stunned that he had given me the apple cider donut. Did he honestly remember they were my favorite? Did he not forget how I’d beg dad to get me one every time he took Stephen and Austin to school.

I had been so stunned by it I barely noticed we were heading for the door. I blinked as I realized Austin was holding my coat for me to put on.

“Oh… um, thanks.” I blushed as I slipped my jacket on.

“Bye, mom! Bye, dad!” I called out before stuffing my donut in my mouth.

Pearl’s makes the best around. Tasty as always. I’d have to ask Austin if he remembered I like them or randomly grabbed one. After I’ve finished eating, of course.

“So what did you need to talk about that couldn’t wait till after school?” I asked once we were in his jeep.

“Well, I will be at work when you get out of school. So I figured it best to talk now. And like I told your parents, my dad wants you guys to come over for dinner. So best to have it all said before dad could say something and dig my grave.” Austins shrugged.

“You are not building confidence with that last part. What would your dad say that you think would get you killed?” I questioned.

Austin let out a long heavy sigh pulling over into a rest area along the road. This can’t be good. He feels it shouldn’t be said while driving whatever he wants to discuss.

“Okay… so I was not looking forward to talking about this. But I can’t really avoid it.” Austin sighed, running his hand over his face.

“Austin? You’re starting to worry me. What is it?” I questioned a few thoughts crossing my mind, and I didn’t like them.

“Okay, so last night you told me you haven’t dated or kissed anyone. And obviously, you know the same isn’t true for me. I’ve never seriously dated, keeping things casual.” He shrugged.

“Uh-huh. Austin, get to your point before I just punch you on principle.” I warned him.

I am a blunt person because I don’t see the point in beating around the bush. All it does is delay the inevitable and most often makes things worse.

“You asked me about Denise, and I honestly said we aren’t together.” He began.

“But there is more to it. We did have a thing going on. We weren’t serious. At least I didn’t think we were.” Austin said the one thing I didn’t want to hear.

‘Keep it in check. Do not go off on Austin. The human skank was before he knew about being our mate.’ Kayla tried to keep me from getting upset.

“What about her? What do you mean by you didn’t think you were serious? That implies she did.” I questioned.

“The other night, I was with her on the full moon, and she started talking about living together and stuff like that. I told her I couldn’t do that.” He started to explain.

Right, not serious? They were just talking about living together. And he was with her just the other night!? He was with her while I was going through my first shift! I feel like I want to throw up.

“She got pissed that I wouldn’t commit to her. I hadn’t even told dad about her or brought her around the house.” Austin continued, not letting me get a word in.

Probably for the best. Austin knows if he lets me talk, I might lose my shit.

“I didn’t consider what was going on as more than casual. Denise wasn’t my mate, and even if I doubted I’d have one or have one that wouldn’t reject me, I couldn’t commit to someone else. And so Denise went off on me and threw me up, ending things. Which was fine by me.” He sighed.

“So the night of my shift, you were fucking that bitch?” I demanded.

Austin sighed. “Yes. But keep in mind that was before we knew we were mates.”

“But you also knew I liked you. Or are you going to really claim you are that dumb to not have realized it when I brought that pie to my last physical therapy session?” I demanded.

“Suzanne…” Austin sighed.

“That was not only months ago. It was also before you got your wolf. I didn’t think about you that way.” He shook his head.

“Fuck I’m saying this wrong.” He groaned, hitting his steering wheel.

“I mean, when you showed up for your first day of therapy, and I saw you, I thought you had grown up a lot and looked beautiful. But you were still young and a patient.” he tried to explain and maybe dig himself out of the hole.

“Plus, I didn’t really think you’d look at me that way, given you are Stephen’s sister and know me from before. And like I said, you hadn’t gotten your wolf yet, so you could’ve been someone else’s mate.” He frowned.

“Wait… what does that mean? What about the other girls you’ve been with? They were other people’s mates.” I questioned.

“No, they weren’t. I didn’t fool around with she-wolves. I’d flirt, but I didn’t get physical with any she-wolves. I didn’t want to be the guy responsible for someone’s mate getting pissed at them later.” Austin was adamant.

I guess, in a way, that’s admirable. Even if it does mean he fooled around with local human girls, at least I won’t run into any she-wolves, who will know how he kisses and is in bed.

I took a deep breath, holding it before slowly letting it go. I can’t lose my temper with Austin about this. He was following his own form of a moral compass and not making a pass at me.

“Okay… I’m going to let that go. Kayla doesn’t think I should hold your past against you, and she’s probably right. But okay, so you were involved with Denise. She wanted more, and you didn’t, so she dumped you.” I nodded.

“Well, I appreciate that. Thank you, Kayla, for going to bat for me.” Austin winked.

“Anything else I should know?” I arched an eyebrow.

I am not letting him off the hook because he’s good-looking. If I let him off the hook now, I’m in for a lifetime of him using his looks against me.

“After I dropped you off, I went home and had a big surprise waiting.” Austin frowned.

“What kind of big surprise?” I cocked my head.

“Denise was in my living room talking to dad like we’re an item, and she hadn’t dumped me because I wouldn’t commit.” He growled.

I blinked, stunned. That bitch was at Austin’s house!? What the hell? He said he never took her home, so how did she know where he lived?

“I can imagine what you’re thinking. And trust me, I plan to find out how Denise found my house.” He assured me.

“I haven’t shown her my ID, so she’d have to get it from work. And if she did, she violated some serious HR policies about privacy. Grant is big on ensuring our privacy.” He sighed.

“Do I need to beat some sense into her? I mean, I’m not above it.” I offered.

Austins snickered, shaking his head.

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Beyond that, Denise is human, and you could get in trouble. There is the fact a lot of my co-workers will think us being together is creepy since you’re sixteen.” He sighed.

Crap, he’s right. Our relationship won’t be taken well because he works outside the pack among the humans. And for us to start a relationship so quickly after Denise dumped him will look shady.

“True. Shit. Well, you better get things straightened out with Denise. And what do you plan to do? Hide me from your co-workers for the next two years?” I questioned.

“I will make sure things are straightened out with her. I think I made myself clear last night.” He chuckled.

“I went into my Clement mode, I suppose you could say. She stormed out when I told her she was just a casual fuck I didn’t love. I mean, it was true, but it pissed her off. Though going asshole Clement was better than letting Jax forward, he wanted to rip her throat out.” Austin sighed.

“Oh, I can imagine that went really well.” I sighed.

“But anyway, I did think about what I could say to work.” He smiled.

“Oh, and what grand scheme did you come up with?” I folded my arms.

“Arranged marriage. They are still a thing. I’m going to say that marriages are often arranged in our religion and that the engagement period begins when the girl turns sixteen. And now that you’re sixteen, our engagement period has begun.” He explained.

He really thought about this. I mean, it’s a tad far-fetched, but claiming religious reasons is one people can’t exactly argue with.

And not a total lie. We believe in the Goddess and that we all have a soulmate we are destined to be with. So all werewolf relationships that aren’t chosen, like Stephen and Amelia, are arranged by the Goddess.

“Engagement period?” I arched an eyebrow.

I may be a werewolf, but I obviously know how relationships on the human side work. Our Alpha and Beta both proposed to their mates and had traditional human weddings.

Chapter 16 - Austin

I’d put a lot of thought into how I would handle not just Denise but people in general. Within the pack, no one would bat an eyelash about us being together. But I work outside the pack with humans, so I needed a plan.

I wasn’t sure how Suzanne would react to all of this, mainly the part about Denise. I’ll give her credit; I was expecting more yelling and not just threats of violence but to be punched.

I didn’t just pull over and park because I didn’t want to talk while driving. No, I did it to be sure if Suzanne went She-Hulk on me, I’d not get us into an accident. She’s been in one accident. That’s more than enough, thank you.

I sighed, running my hand over my hair as she questioned my plans of telling people I work with that we have an arranged marriage and are starting the engagement period. This was the tricky part, if I’m honest.

We only found out yesterday we are mates, and given she was my client, people will question how things ended and the whole sleeping with Denise part if I knew I was arranged to be married to Suzanne.

It’ll be tricky, and I’m sure they’ll think I’m a bit scummy when I say that I was free to do whatever I wanted before the engagement period began. But now that Suzanne was old enough, I couldn’t and wouldn’t see anyone else.

“Yes, engagement period. Or at least that’s what I’m going to tell people who ask about it outside the pack.” I sighed.

“It’s the best answer I could think of that I would be asked minimal questions about cause usually pushing about someone’s religion is a judgy and asshole thing to do.” I shrugged.

“I agree with that. I’m astonished you managed to think of a believable answer quickly.” Suzie teased.

I rolled my eyes. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, honey.”

“What is with that? Why are you calling me that?” She demanded.

“It’s what you smell like. Well, honey and cinnamon.” I shrugged.

“Oh… if we are going to call each other names based on our scents….” Suzie smirked.

“I am not liking where this is going. I’m afraid to ask, but what exactly are you thinking?” I cautiously questioned.

“Well, just debating what to call you. You smell like fresh-cut grass, garden herbs, and wildflowers. So, I could call you flower. What do you think?” Suzie’s green eyes had mischief in them.

“For the love of Goddess, don’t. At least me calling you honey, no one is going to think twice about. You calling me Flower is going to be weird.” I cringed.

‘Shut up. Our mate can call us Flower if she wants to.’ Jax scoffed.

‘I don’t even want to know why you are suddenly quoting Bambi but let’s not, okay. Or do you identify as a skunk instead of a wolf?’ I rolled my eyes.

That shut him up. Suzie, however, was laughing and fuck do I like how it sounds.

“I could call you blue dick, like the flower.” Suzie offered, still giggling.

I don’t remember her laugh being anything but irritating before. I guess opinions change between her growing up and the mate bond.

“Yeah… let’s not. Bad enough, I’m going to be spending Goddess knows how long with blue balls being mated to you. I don’t want to be called blue dick.” I shook my head, snickering cause her laughter was contagious.

“You’ll survive. I think you could go without getting laid for a while.” Suzie scoffed.

“It’s fine. I’ll live. Not like I’m going to push you to do something before you’re ready.” I shrugged.

“Good. Now was there anything else we needed to discuss? You came clean about the skank and discussed your plans for dealing with people outside the pack.” Suzie questioned.

“Not at the moment. So let’s get you to school unless you have something on your mind or want to just stay parked here and make out.” I smirked.

Suzie rolled her eyes, shoving me playfully. “Drive me to school, numbskull.”

I chuckled but put the jeep in gear, driving to the pack high school. Several people took notice that I was dropping her off. Good, let them all know who she’s with.

“So I guess I’ll see you tonight at your house for dinner?” Suzie questioned, pausing as she reached for the handle.

“Yes. I’ll see you at dinner.” I nodded, leaning closer.

Once again, I got cock blocked. I didn’t kiss Suzie as some girl shouted her name, waving her arms outside the jeep. Yet again, my lips only found her cheek.

“Bye, Austin.” Suzie smiled shyly, pecking my cheek as she hurried out of the car and to her friend.

I sighed, shaking my head. Eventually, I am kissing her, and no one is interrupting. I narrowed my eyes at that Stan kid when he walked up to Suzie and her friend.

I will gut that boy if he touches her. Lucky for him, he didn’t try to touch her.

I headed to work and went straight to Grant’s office. I was going to get to the bottom of Denise finding my address. Grant was, of course, in his office, already drinking his coffee.

“Yo, Austin. You’re a bit early? You don’t have a client for a couple more hours. Everything okay?” He arched his brow.

“I’m early for a couple reasons. So, I want to talk to you.” I sighed, sitting down.

“You know my door is always open. What’s up?” Grant nodded, putting his coffee down and giving me his full attention.

“Okay, you already know I’d been hooking up with Denise.” I began.

Grant nodded and waited for me to continue.

“Well, there’s something I didn’t tell her or anyone. So my family is part of an orthodox sect of Christianity. So some of our beliefs are a bit odd and old-fashioned. And one of the biggest is arranged marriage.” I sighed.

“Wait… are you telling me you’re getting married?” Grant arched an eyebrow.

“Well, yes and no. She’s not eighteen yet, so we aren’t getting married. But in our religion, there is a two-year engagement period that begins when both parties are sixteen.” I shrugged.

“I take it your child bride wasn’t thrilled about Denise and vice versa.” Grant snickered.

“She’s not a child. But anyways.” I growled.

“I thought the point was moot. I managed to get Denise to dump me, thinking of me as the asshole. Which I’m cool with cause I am. I couldn’t and wouldn’t commit to her.” I shrugged.

“Uh-huh. So congrats on your engagement? Are you okay with this? Having your wife picked out for you? Did you always know who it was going to be?” Grant questioned.

“I didn’t know who I was arranged to until last night. And while most people might not be down with it, I am fine with an arranged marriage. Actually, kind of lucked out.” I smiled.

“Oh, so you like who was picked out for you? Who’s the lucky lady then?” Grant chuckled.

“Suzanne Walterson.” I confessed.

“Wait, you mean the girl you were the physical therapist for a few months ago? The one that dumped cherry pie on the break room floor cause she had a huge crush on you and caught you with Denise?” Grant’s brows raised so high they should be part of his hairline.

“Yea… that’s her. And I didn’t realize she had a crush on me. And neither of us knew we were arranged. You don’t get told until both of you are over sixteen.” I explained.

“I know it was scummy of me to mess around with girls knowing I’d have this arrangement. But I also made sure to only fool around with women outside our religion to avoid issues later on within the church.” I sighed.

“Uh-huh. So now you are with Suzanne, and Denise is out of the picture. Thanks for telling me. I’ll try to limit the cross-over of your schedules to avoid conflict and tension here.” Grant nodded.

“Thanks. I appreciate that. But there is another thing I want to talk about. Denise showed up at my house last night. I never told her where I lived. So I want to know if she got my address from my file here.” I frowned.

“Whoa. Um, well, I sure hope Denise didn’t. Cause that’d be a big offense.” Grant frowned, turning to his laptop.

I watched as he did his thing on the computer, his frown deepening. That can’t be a good sign.

“Oh, she is so fired.” Grant growled or growled for a human.

“I take that to mean I was right.” I sighed.

“Yeah, I’m showing my computer was accessed after hours. I am so sorry about this, Austin. She hacked my computer, according to the security feed. Denise will be handled accordingly.” Grant sighed.

“Thanks, man. I appreciate it. Now I should go get ready for my first patient.” I nodded and got up.

Granted nodded but said nothing more as he was in full boss mode. I trust that he will handle Denise. So I went about my day with that weight off my shoulders, and the only concern left was this dinner tonight.

I don’t think anything will go wrong. Dad likes Maxton and Edith. Maybe I’ll get some alone time with Suzie. There was something I wanted to give her earlier, but it didn’t seem like the right time or place.

The only worry I have about tonight is if my grandparents get wind of this. I know grandma will be happy I have a mate at all. But grandfather will not like me being with someone he thinks is from a lesser family.

Chapter 17 - Suzie

I haven’t been the talk of the school since Stephen became a Gamma in Madonie, but then that was about my brother. Today the gossip was directly about me. Now that I have Kayla, everyone's whispers about Austin dropping me off and kissing my cheek weren’t going unheard.

I can’t even count how many times I had to answer the question about if Austin is really my mate. I also can’t count how many people I snarled at for calling him Clement or making a face about being his mate. I swear these people will put mine and Kayla’s tolerance to the limits.

I’m lucky I made it through the day without knocking anyone through a wall. I was never so happy to hear the final bell and get out of there. I was hurrying to get my stuff in my locker when it closed on me.

“Excuse fucking me, but I was putting shit in there.” I snarled, turning my attention to the offending individual.

I frowned as I saw Stan, Paul, and a couple of she-wolves at the training last night, including Melody standing there. Just what I don’t want to deal with.

“Can I help you?” I questioned, folding my arms.

“We’re just worried about you, Suz.” Paul frowned.

“Worried about me? What the hell are you talking about?” I furrowed my brow.

“This nonsense about being with Clement. He’s not the kind of guy you want to be mates with. You should seriously consider rejecting him.” Stan stated.

‘Kill him!’ Kayla snarled as Stan suggested I reject Austin.

And you know what, with everyone questioning us being mates and the bullshit I’ve dealt with all day, Stan made the wrong move. He didn’t even see it coming as I drew back my fist and connected with his jaw, sending him flying, denting the lockers behind him.

“AUSTIN! His name is Austin! And the next person to call him that vile name he hates, I’m sending to the pack hospital. And I swear to the Goddess… if someone even utters the word rejection, I’m sending you to meet her.” I growled, glaring daggers at each person standing there.

“Austin is MY mate! And not a damn one of you knows him, so shove your judgment up your ass if you have the room with your heads already up there.” I snorted, throwing my bag into the locker before slamming it shut.

I didn’t wait around for an answer. I am too pissed off to be on a bus. I rushed out of the school and to the trees. As soon as I reached the tree line, I let Kayla come forward. While I regretted ripping my outfit, I needed to blow off some steam.

I really wanted to go see Austin, but he said he’d be at work when I got out of school. I certainly can go to his clinic in wolf form. I do not have clothes to change into, and it would draw way too much attention for a wolf to be running around in a city.

So instead, I ran home where I could find clothes and not draw unwanted attention. Of course, arriving in wolf form drew some curious looks from my parents as Kayla went through the house and straight up to my room before letting me change back.

“Suzie? Is everything okay?” Mom questioned, knocking on my door.

I quickly changed into lounge pants and a tee before opening the door. I frowned as mom stepped into the room.

“Just a long day of stupid people.” I grumbled, starting to brush my hair.

“Like Stan?” Mom raised an eyebrow.

“Great, so you already know about that.” I groaned, dropping the brush as I flopped onto my bed.

“Well, of course, I do. The principal had to call me, and then Stan’s mother was in an uproar. Telling me my daughter is out of control.” Mom rolled her eyes.

“Want to tell me why you damaged lockers by trying to knock Stan through them?” Mom questioned.

“All day, I’ve been being asked about Austin and always in snide ways. I can’t tell if they truly hate him, which is bullshit cause they don’t know him or are jealous that I found my mate so quickly.” I sighed.

“Not everyone will like Austin. And not everyone can be happy for others getting something they want, not saying they want Austin, but they want their mates too.” Mom shrugged.

“Yeah, well, Stan went too far. He called him Clement, which Austin hates that name, but Stan suggested that I should reject Austin because he’s not, and I quote, ‘the kind of guy I want to be with.’ Like Stan knows the kind of guy I want to be with, let alone the kind of guy Austin really is.” I grumbled.

“That little fucking brat. You should have hit Stan harder.” Mom growled.

Yep, no doubt where I got my temper from.

“How dare he suggest you reject your mate. This is Bloodmoon. We accept our mates unless there are serious grounds like cheating and abuse. Austin has done neither of those things.” Mom snorted.

“Exactly! And if Austin fucks up, I’ll handle it. I’ll probably put him in a hospital depending, but I will handle it. I wish people would just but the fuck out.” I groaned.

“Well, you made a clear stance today. I’ll deal with the school and parents. Stan’s mother can go to hell if she thinks she’s getting an apology. Her son owes you and Austin one for speaking that way.” Mom snorted.

“Thanks for having my back, mom.” I smiled.

“Always, sweetheart. Now you should shower and make yourself presentable. Hale called while you were at school. We are to be there for a six o’clock dinner.” Mom smiled, leaving me alone to get ready.

I put all my worries about my classmates aside and focused on getting ready for dinner tonight. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Hale Shelton. Austin said he was happy about us being mates, but I also know his grandfather won’t be. Fingers crossed that the old dickhead isn’t invited.

I ended up wearing my black v-neck sweater dress and my knee-high boots leaving only a strip of skin no wider than a credit card between the top of my boots and the bottom of the dress. I hope it’s not too casual for dinner with my father-in-law.

I didn’t want to do anything too fancy with my hair, so I brushed it out and pulled it into a low side ponytail. Then some light makeup, and I was ready to go.

I, however, was not ready for the scene we pulled up to. A car I didn’t know was at the curb, but a somewhat familiar woman was pounding on the door, screaming her lungs out. Kayla was already growling as we got out of the car and could hear Denise shouting more clearly.


“YOU PIECE OF FUCKING SHIT! OPEN THIS DOOR, YOU COWARD!” She pounded on the door before becoming aware of us standing there when dad cleared his throat.

“Miss, I don’t know who you are….” Dad started to be polite about it.

“And we don’t fucking care. You are a nuisance and blocking us from getting to our dinner.” Mom chimed in, not pulling the punches.

Denise narrowed her gaze at me. I could tell the moment she recognized me. Her eyes went wide, and I saw the rage spark anew in them.

“YOU!? You’re his arranged bride!? Don’t look so smug, you little bitch. See this.” Denise held her arm up, pointing at a gold bracelet on her wrist.

Honestly, it looked cheap and tacky as fuck. Like some generic thing, you could buy at the Walmart jewelry counter.

“He gave me this for my birthday. I’m the one he actually loves. He’ll never love you. You’re just the person he’s being forced to be with because of his religion.” Denise scoffed.

Her rage had transferred to me as she started walking with purpose in my direction. Oh, she better not get in my face. I’m in no mood. I’ll kill her.

Before she could reach me, Austin was standing in front of me. Give the man credit. He can still move quickly with that prosthetic. Also, give him credit because he looks good in a black button-down and dark wash jeans, especially from the back.

“Back the fuck off, Denise. You don’t get to talk to her like that.” Austin growled.

‘Damn, he’s hot.’ Kayla practically purred at the aggressive display to defend me.

“Now, those state troopers….” Austin smirked, pointing to the road.

I turned my head in time with my parents to see David Bryant and his human partner climbing out of their Oregon State Trooper car. Looks like Austin already had this well in hand.

“Are going to make you get off my property. And when I file my restraining order tomorrow, you won’t be coming near me again.” Austin sighed.

“Evening, Austin. Hey Maxton and Edith. Oh, and little Suzie Q. Look at you all grown up. Grew up as pretty as your mom.” David taunted with a wink.

Austin growled while I rolled my eyes. “Trooper Bryant, perhaps we should focus on work and not that you have a personal connection to the victim.” David’s red-haired partner sighed.

“Miss, I’m Trooper Shadow, and this is Trooper Bryant. We received a call about an aggressive trespasser. In this case, that would be you. We will need you to come with us if Mister Shelton wishes to press charges.” Trooper Shadow arched an eyebrow at Austin.

“Oh, by all means, take her away. This is the second time she’s shown up here uninvited and unwelcome. She shouldn’t even know where I live.” Austin shrugged.

“I’m his girlfriend! Of course, I know where he lives! He’s lying!” Denise protested as David sighed, taking out a set of cuffs.

“Miss, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?” David started reading her rights as she cuffed her.

I shook my head, sighing as she continued shouting that they had it wrong while David and Trooper Shadow escorted her to the back of their vehicle.

“Austin! I suggest you handle that restraining order fast. Do not need crazy getting between you and Suzie Q. Trust me.” David stressed the last part before getting in with his partner taking a very pissed-off Denise away.

“Well, that was not how I wanted tonight to start. Sorry about that, Suzie.” Austin apologized, wrapping me in a hug like I was something precious to him.

‘And you like it.’ Kayla teased.

I would argue, but well, I do like it. I like that his instinct was to protect me and now hug me.

“I didn’t expect her to show up again. I had hoped kicking her out last night, and then Grant firing her for hacking his computer to illegally obtain my address would be enough.” Austin sighed.

“It’s…. It’s okay. Well, it’s shitty, but that’s because she’s a shitty person. But it’s not on you.” I assured him.

“Well, aren’t you two adorable?” Hale called out with a chuckle.

“Maxton, Edith. Good to see you. How about everyone getting inside? I’ve got dinner ready.” Hale gestured for us to come inside.

“Dinner sounds like a good idea.” Dad nodded, taking mom’s hand.

I smiled a little as Austin kept one arm around me, escorting me inside. Denise has been taken away and he made it very clear who he wants to be with. Maybe this dinner can go better now.

Chapter 18 - Austin

Literally, one of the worst possible outcomes for tonight came true. I was just praying to the Goddess after the shit show of Denise’s crazy showing that nothing else goes wrong.

I didn’t think Denise would go off the deep end like that. It was a causal relationship. Until recently, she made no hints, I picked up on, of wanting something super serious.

I’m fucking pissed she just made a huge scene in front of Suzie’s parents. And fuck trying to use that birthday present I got her as a symbol of my love? That woman needs help.

The last thing I need is for Maxton and Edith, or much worse for Suzie, to question how serious I am about the mate bond. And it’s not just the mate bond that makes me want to be with her.

I started liking and seeing Suzie as more than the annoying kid sister of Stephen while I was her physical therapist. I didn’t make a move because I don’t mess with she-wolves or patients.

But all those things don’t matter now. Suzie’s not my patient, and we are mates. There isn’t anything to stand in the way of us being together.

Thankfully dinner was going smoothly. We all seemed to forget the whole Denise debacle. She wasn’t mentioned once while we were eating.

Dad acted as a good buffer as he has a long-standing friendship with Maxton and Edith. I haven’t seen dad this full of life since I started making changes in my life and found my direction. It was a nice change

Too bad his presence wasn’t enough to keep this dinner from turning into a job interview. I didn’t realize I would have to interview to be with my fucking mate. It was annoying to be asked question after question about my life goals. It’s not like they can stop us from being together.

“So, are you at a point in your career you’re happy with?”

“Do you have plans to move out or continue living with Hale?”

“How would that work with you being with Suzie?”

It was a barrage of questions, most from Edith, but Maxton had his concerns too. Joy.

“While I am happy with my job, it isn’t my end goal.” I sighed.

“I plan to continue my education to move up a tier in physical therapy. Someday I want to open my own office closer to the pack that could be more specialized for injuries sustained by pack members before and after their wolf awakens.” I shrugged.

“Austin has big dreams. And I think the pack could do with a physical therapist.” Dad nodded with a proud smile on his face.

“As for moving out.” I shrugged, glancing at dad.

“I have saved up to get my own place, but I also don’t want to leave dad here alone.” I explained.

“Son, you don’t have to stay here for me. I’ll be fine.” Dad forced a smile as he reassured me.

I know him too well. I know he’s lying and saying what he thinks I want to hear. But I don’t want to hear anything fake. I just want the truth.

“I don’t mind if we live with Mr. Shelton. It isn’t totally unheard of. I mean, for a couple to live with a parent. Or a parent to live with a couple. However, you want to view it. There are such things as in-law suites for a reason.” Suzie chimed in.

I smiled, reaching under the table to squeeze her leg. I’m glad she, at least to some degree, understands why I want to keep dad close. I wouldn’t want to leave him here alone with memories of mom.

“Oh, I wouldn’t want you two to think you need to care for me. I’m a grown man, and I can live independently.” Dad sighed.

“Oh, a real grown man who can’t invite his parents to dinner or bother to tell them their grandson has a mate.” Grandfather snorted as he stood scowling for the doorway of the dining room.

My jaw ticked, and I saw dad fold in on himself. The last person I wanted to see. Would rather have had Denise come back.

“Looks like we need to change the locks, dad. Might keep undesirable and unwanted people from just showing up.” I snorted.

“Don’t you talk to me like that, Clement.” Grandfather sneered, leaning hard into saying the name he knows I hate.

“And I see our family has sunk even further if you’re mated to these dirty, low-born farmers.” He wrinkled his nose as he looked at Suzie and her parents.

I growled, getting to my feet, but I wasn’t the only one to stand up. Suzie and her mother were both on their feet. Suzie held a hand out to her mother, motioning her to sit.

“I’ve got this.” Suzie assured, stepping into my grandfather’s space.

“You have a problem with the pack and the county’s largest cherry growers? You got a problem with me being AUSTIN’s mate?” Suzie demanded, shoving my grandfather, making him stumble back at the force.

“Remind me what you do? You know that isn’t putting other people down? That isn’t treating your son and grandson like shit?” Suzie kept the heat on him as she kept shoving him.

We had all gotten up and were following. Because so help me my grandfather raises a hand against her, I’ll kill him.

‘Damn fucking straight, we kill him. No one touches our mate.’ Jax growled, ready and eager to rip my grandfather’s throat out.

“How dare you! You ignorant little bitch!” He shouted.

“How could the Goddess continue to disgrace our family, mating our males to females below our bloodline.” Grandfather was trying to maintain some control.

I don’t think he’s used to a woman talking back. Grandmother certainly never does. Case in point, she stood to the side whimpering softly, worried something will happen but knowing to not do anything or she’ll get hit by him.

“Don’t you fucking talk to Suzie like that! You’re the only disgrace in the Shelton family!” I growled, ready to deck him, but Suzie held her arm to stop me.

“I’ve got this, Austin.” Suzie smiled.

“My apologies in advance, Hale. And I’m sorry this is your first impression of me, Mrs. Shelton.” Suzie apologized to my dad and grandmother.

I had a few ideas of what she might do that she’d have to apologize for. But she’s unpredictable.

I watched in shock but mostly awe as she pulled back and put her full power behind a right hook sending my grandfather flying through our front door into the snow. Yep, never pissing my mate off. She’ll send me to the Goddess.

“You weren’t invited tonight and won’t be ever again. At least until you magically stop being an old piece of shit.” Suzie growled, stepping outside.

“If you ever disrespect my mate, father, or family again, I will put you in the hospital. Now get your wrinkly ass out of here.” Suzie warned him.

I don’t think it was a threat. No, Suzie looked deadly serious. Putting my grandfather in the hospital is a legit promise. And given how dazed he looked as he ground trying to get up, he knows it.

Grandma hurried past us all to help him. Grandfather, of course, didn’t want her help slapping her hand away.

“Leave me alone, woman. I don’t need your help.” He scoffed at her trying to help him.

What a piece of shit. It broke my heart to see my grandmother whimpering and starting to cry.

“Stop whimpering, you bitch.” Grandfather growled, smacking her.

Oh, that was enough. I was not going to let my grandfather abuse my grandmother in front of me. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to think so as dad got there first and shoved grandfather back, using his arm to put grandma behind him.

“You will NOT touch my mother! She can stay for dessert, but you need to leave, or I call pack patrol to make you.” Dad stood up to his father.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen him stand up to grandfather. But then again, I don’t think we’ve ever seen grandfather hit my grandma.

“Michele, get in the car. Now. We are leaving and never coming back. They are dead to us.” Grandfather growled.

Grandma looked so torn between obeying her mate and staying with her son. But the mate bond, when used to control the other, is a twisted thing. I watched with anger and sadness as she lowered her head and went silently to their car.

My dad’s shoulders sank almost in time with mine, watching her leave with him. She’s been under his dictatorship for too many years to take a stand.

“Hale?” Maxton questioned, putting his hand on dad’s shoulder.

“Austin?” Suzie spoke my name softly, taking my hand in hers.

“We can’t make her leave him, and they’ve been together so long she’s too weak to take a stand.” I closed my eyes for a moment letting out a heavy sigh.

“I’ll be alright. Don’t worry.” Dad forced a smile.

“Now then, we should go back inside. We have another reason to celebrate. Dillon Shelton said he won’t ever come back. That’s at least good news.” He waved for us all to go inside.

“We’ll be inside shortly.” I nodded, leading Suzie around the side of the house.

I need to breathe and maybe hit something since I didn’t get to hit my grandfather. Suzie said nothing, just followed me around to the back of the house.

I let her hand go walking to the nearest tree and punching it. I didn’t have her strength, but the tree still shook some snow falling from the branches.

I let out a howl of anger and pain before leaning my head on the tree. I hate him. I hate my grandfather, but there isn’t a damn thing I can do. I can’t force grandma to reject him.

“It’ll be okay.” Suzie assured me as I felt her arms wrap around my waist, leaning her head on my back.

“No, it won’t. I can’t force my grandma to leave him. They’ve been together too long for her to dare leave.” I sighed.

“I know. I understand feeling like you are helpless. But there are things we can do. We can report the abuse. Alpha Logan and Luna Aurelia will not be idle about mate abuse.” Suzie pointed out.

I sighed because leave it to her to be the first to throw a punch but also the one to think logically.

“I should. Not like Alpha has a great love loss for my grandfather. There’s a reason Alpha John didn’t choose him.” I smiled.

“Because he knew he was an asshole?” Suzie questioned, making me chuckle.

“Probably. Come on. There was a reason I brought you out here, and it wasn’t to hit a tree or talk about my grandfather.” I sighed.

“Oh? What was it then?” She questioned, letting her arms drop and stepping away so I could move away from the tree.

I sighed, retaking her hand, bringing her to the back deck. She seemed confused as I leaned into the kitchen door to turn on the outside lights. I smiled as I heard a barely audible gasp.

I’d hung up some string lights to give the deck a soft glow. I hoped Suzie would like it over just the generic harsh flood light.

I reached into my pocket, finding the little octagon black box. I still can’t believe how sappy this is about to be.

“Is this your attempt to make a move on me? Mood lighting?” Suzie arched her brow at me.

“I dunno. Is it working?” I smirked.

“You’ll have to do better than that.” Suzie scoffed, rolling her eyes with a smile tugging at her lips.

“Maybe this will tip the scales in my favor.” I shrugged, holding out the box and opening it.

I don’t think she prepared for this. Inside was one of my mother’s rings. I think it was her favorite as in every picture of her and in the few memories I have of her, she was wearing it.

It was a delicate gold band with four small diamonds spaced out over the band and a round moonstone as the solitary stone. I hope it will fit Suzie’s finger.

“Austin…it’s beautiful.” Suzie whispered.

“It was my mother’s. It’s the only piece of jewelry I can remember her wearing. I asked dad if I could take it and if he’d tell me about it.” I sighed, taking the ring out.

“It is a James family heirloom. Generations of my mother’s family would pass the ring down when the firstborn found their mate. Dad had been holding on to it for the day I would find my mate. So he was more than happy to let me take it.” I explained, slipping the ring on her finger.

It just managed to fit. It was a big relief because I didn’t want to have to alter it if I could help it.

“That is just the sweetest thing ever.” Suzie’s eyes were brimming with tears as she looked from the ring to me.

I wasn’t sure what she would do, but I noticed a slight shift in her expression. It was still soft, but I don’t know. I’ve never had anyone look at me like that before. Before I could question it, her arms were around my neck, and her lips were on mine.

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Natasha Kelly
Natasha Kelly
24 maj 2022

Naw im teary how beautiful fairy light the ring oh my just wonderful and a quick mention of Suzie making a move! Eeek cant wait for next chapter! I feel sorry for grams but so thrilled for suzie to put gramps im his place! Haha yes parents and their 21 questions haha


Woo-hoo! Austin finally earned that kiss from Suzie! Also…Hale Yeah! My man protecting his mom and standing up to his a-hole father!


Kiss, kiss, kiss!!! Finally! *swoon* Austin and Suzie give me the warm fuzzies. :D

Uh-oh, Dillon. The big bad alpha is gonna get you!

I'm also quite excited for Hale, knowing he will get a second chance at love. 😍



I knew Austin could be sweet. They're a perfect mix of sweet and sass. Like Logan and Aurelia are to each other.

Also, thank you for also knocking grandpa out. But if she keeps this up, she may have an audience with the Alpha and Luna real soon. They'd side with Suzie after hearing the story, no doubt, but still. 🤣


Snow White
Snow White
23 maj 2022

Finally! They are so sweet ❤️

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