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Warrior's Redemption Part 3

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

Chapter 19 - Suzie

The night we found out we were mates, I told myself he would have to earn my affection. I promised myself the mate bond wouldn’t control me into simply giving in. And I held firm.

‘Yeah, for all of twenty-four hours. And look who initiated the kiss.’ Kayla taunted as my lips met his.

Sure it’s only been a day, but you know what it feels like years, probably because I’ve known him my whole life. But he did earn this. He stood up to Denise and his grandfather, all for me. And like the cherry on top, he just gave me a family heirloom, a ring that his mother wore.

If that isn’t a reason to kiss a man, I don’t know what is. And while I’ve never kissed someone before, I am confident if I had, none would measure up to kissing Austin.

I’d only intended for it to be a brief kiss, a thank you. I don’t know my intention, but that’s not how this kiss went.

Austin’s arms wrapped around me, holding me closer. I moaned into the kiss, and the moment my lips parted, he deepened the kiss, his tongue slipping past my lips.

I don’t want to think about how he got to be such a good kisser. I also don’t want to think about the last lips he kissed before me. Mine are the only lips he’s touching for the rest of his life.

‘Damn straight.’ Kayla snorted.

I couldn’t tell you how long we had been standing there kissing. It both felt like an eternity and only a moment as the sound of someone clearing their throat interrupted us. I blushed as we pulled apart to find his father standing in the doorway.

“Not looking to interrupt or anything. But kind of figured you two might need some time alone to….” Hale coughed.

“Be acquainted as mates. So I’m going over to the Walterson’s to do whatever old people do. Probably play cards and drink. So um… you kids have a good time. Just make sure Suzie is home before one since she’s got school.” Hale nodded, looking uncomfortable as he sounded.

He didn’t want to tell us we could have sex so long as I was home before one in the morning. I don’t think we will be having sex, but it’s adorable he’s trying to say it without saying it.

“Yeah, sure, dad. Don’t drink any hard liquor or too much of it. Your tolerance is not what it was.” Austin nodded.

Hale sighed, shaking his head and muttering about who the parent was. It was adorable the relationship Austin has with his dad.

“Come on, honey. Let’s go inside where it’s not snowing.” Austin suggested.

While werewolves naturally run hot, I realized I hadn’t noticed it had started to snow. Kind of embarrassing, but in my defense, I was distracted.

“Yeah… sounds good.” I nodded, letting him lead me inside.

I’d thought of the scenarios of how things might play out tonight, and I was betting Austin was going to try and lead me up to his room. I am not letting that happen. I am not ready for that.

‘Speak for yourself. I want that and am very ready for it.’ Kayla snorted.

I nervously glanced at the stairs, but Austin turned, bringing me into the living room instead. My emotions were conflicted, and I blamed the mate bond and Kayla. Cause there is a part of me disappointed we didn’t go upstairs.

“What’s with the face?” Austin arched an eyebrow as he sat down on the sofa.

“What face?” When in doubt, deny deny deny.

“The one you’re making. Surprised and disappointed. Did you want to go upstairs?” He smirked.

Ugh, smug bastard. I’m not going to give him the satisfaction of telling him anything close to the truth.

“Nope. There’s nothing upstairs I’m interested in.” I shook my head.

“Right, because you’re interested in me, and I’m right here.” He chuckled.

“Wow, someone has a serious ego issue.” I scoffed, rolling my eyes.

“And someone lives in denial.” He taunted me, pulling me into his lap.

I gasped as I straddled his lap, hands instinctively holding his shoulders. I’m not sure this is safer than just going up to his bedroom.

“Just because my dad left us alone doesn’t mean we’re going to have sex, even if I bet Kayla is as down for that as Jax and I are.” Austin smiled, cupping my face with one hand.

“We won’t do anything you aren’t ready for. We’ve got time for you to be ready and not be in denial about what you want.” He assured, lips getting closer.

Well, at least he acknowledged I’m not ready for more.

“Right.” I agreed.

“Just because I kissed you outside doesn’t mean I’m sleeping with you.” I half-heartedly warned.

My words conflicted as I wanted to sound firm in my stance, but my tone seemed so damn needy. Between Austin’s scent and the sparks of the mate bond, my senses are on overload.

His lips brushed against mine, starting a slow burn kiss that grew deeper and more passionate with each passing second, tipping the scales and shoving all my worries to the far back of my mind. All that mattered was him and those lips.

All bets were off with that kiss. Well, not all bets. Sex is still off the table. At least until he’s visited the pack doctor and made sure he didn’t pick anything up from that crazy ex.

I couldn’t tell you how long we spent making out on the sofa. I know we’d changed positions, and I was under Austin at some point.

Okay, we were getting handsy. I’m not sure when Austin’s shirt ended up on the floor, but I’m also not going to complain because it means I get to touch more of him. My dress was pushed up over my hips, leaving just my basic white cotton panties to safeguard my virginity somehow.

We were caught up in making out, grinding against each other, touching any available skin we could when Austin’s phone started to ring. We both groaned at the interruption.

“I should at least check who called.” Austin groaned against my neck.

I nodded a bit in a daze as he leaned away enough to get his phone out of his pocket to check his phone. I should be thankful to whoever called because if he spent much longer kissing and nibbling at my neck, I might have let him mark and fuck me right on the sofa.

Austin sighed, moving off me, running a hand over his hair. I frowned, sitting up, trying to fix my dress.

“Everything alright?” I asked.

“Yeah, just dad reminding me it’s after midnight. I need to get you home and bring him home.” Austin sighed, running his hand over his face.

“Oh. It’s already that late.” I blinked and got up.

“Time flies when you’re having fun.” Austin winked as we both hurried to make sure we were dressed before he drove me home.

Since that night, Austin has driven me to school, and on days he gets off work in time, he picks me up. I spend more time at his house than I do at mine, and I am sure if my brother weren’t anxiously awaiting the birth of his son, he’d probably have noticed I’ve not been video chatting as much this past week.

Tonight is the official one-week of finding out we are mates. I don’t know what Austin has planned, but I know what I have planned. I think I’m ready. I mean, I know I’m ready. I know what I want, and it’s to be with him in all the ways mates should be.

‘About damn time!’ Kayla scoffed as I went through my closet, looking for something to wear.

Austin said he would pick me up after work, and we’d be going on a date, so I wanted to look nice. I don’t know where the hell he’s taking me. It makes picking the right outfit complicated, made more so by how I want to end the night.

After hemming and hawing between two outfits, I decided to go with the knee-length deep purple wrap dress with a layered effect on the skirt. I love how I look in this dress. It was undoubtedly a more mature look, especially with my purple leather heels.

“SUZIE!? Austin is here!” Mom called out the stairs just as I finished getting my earrings in.

I gave myself a once over, making sure I was ready. I was doing a mental checklist. Hair left down but pulled to one side to keep my neck on display, minimal makeup to avoid streaks, brand new black sheer lace bra and thong set, and the heirloom ring he gave me.

I quickly grabbed my purse, checking that it had the condoms I’d very embarrassingly bought. Okay, I’m ready. I hurried downstairs, eager for my date and where tonight will lead.

“Damn, you look hot, Suzie. Worth the awkward waiting.” Austin grinned as I was halfway down the stairs.

At least I wasn’t overdressed. I’d been terrified I had dressed up too much. But Austin was standing there looking…

‘Like a tasty snack. Let’s skip dinner.’ Kayla smirked.

I rolled my eyes at her just because Austin looked good in gray slacks, a two-tone wine red and gray slim fit dress shirt, and his usual dark gray pea coat.

“Ready to go?” Austin cocked his head.

I was blushing while walking down the rest of the steps as I felt his eyes slowly perusing my body.

“Yes, I just need to grab my jacket.” I assured him, hurrying to get my white peplum coat from the closet.

“Bye, mom! Bye, dad!” I waved as Austin slipped his arm around me.

“Don’t wait up!” Austin smirked as he escorted me out to his jeep.

I think we are on the same page on where tonight will go. I’m nervous but also eager to take this step.

Chapter 20 - Austin

I want to begin by saying that it was not with the direct intention of getting laid when I planned tonight. I also want to say that I am taking Suzie somewhere I have never taken someone before. So no repeats.

Now that I’ve said that, my thoughts have fallen in the gutter seeing her dressed up like this. I’m glad dad convinced me to dress up, pointing out I made the reservation at a nice place.

‘We should skip the meal and just eat her.’ Jax suggested.

‘Tempting, so very tempting. But we’ll see where things go. We’ve waited a week. We can and will wait longer if that’s what Suzie needs.’ I sighed.

‘Fair. We don’t want to be on the receiving end of our mate’s fits. We saw how far she made Dillon fly.’ Jax agreed.

“Everything alright over there?” I arched my eyebrow, noticing the nervous way she held her purse.

“Yeah. I’m fine. Don’t worry.” Suzie nodded, smiling as she tried to reassure me.

I’m not buying it. Suzie still seems a little off, but I won’t push. She’ll tell me what’s wrong in her own time.

“So, where are we going?” She asked, shifting the conversation.

“Got a table at Brooklyn Trattoria over in Portland.” I explained.

“Oh, that place is supposed to be good. Mom and dad have gone there on a few date nights.” She nodded.

“Yeah, I’ve heard a few good things about it. My boss Grant had good things to say about it. Apparently, his wife loves their chicken parm.” I shrugged.

“So, any word about your ex?” Suzie arched an eyebrow.

“Nope. I have my restraining order, and she seems to be following it as I haven’t caught her scent around.” I shrugged.

“That dumb fuck Stan and his merry band of pack morons still hassling you about us?” I countered.

Oh yes, I knew all about those dumb fuckers. It came up the day after the dinner at my house. I dropped her off at school, and Stan glared at me with a few others. When I asked what his problem was, she told me what had happened.

“None. I think me punching Stan so hard he dented the lockers behind him taught him a lesson. And if that wasn’t enough, I am sure my mom verbally ripping them all a new one for trying to interfere in the will of the Goddess was.” Suzie snickered.

“Good. Fuckers need to learn their place.” I snorted.

“Speaking of learning their place. Any news about your grandparents? I know you said you’d talk to Alpha Logan when his schedule allowed.” Suzie probed.

“We had a meeting earlier today. Last minute opening in Alpha Logan’s schedule.” I sighed.

“Well, how did it go?” She questioned.

I know she’s eager to know if my grandfather will be punished. She does not like that old prick, and I don’t blame her. He’s a bastard.

“Well, sat down with Alpha Logan and Luna Aurelia. I told them every detail of what happened at the dinner. I left nothing out.” I began.

“And well, the best I can say is it’s a good thing their younger kid decided to interrupt the meeting. If the little one wasn’t on Luna Aurelia’s lap, they’d both have broken some furniture.” I sighed.

“They were that pissed?” Suzie’s eyebrows raised in surprise.

“Yeah, the Alpha auras were oppressive. Jax was practically whimpering at the intensity, and I was trying to become part of the chair I was in with my neck bare.” I admitted.

It’s not a weakness to submit to an Alpha’s intense aura, let alone to two. The Bloodmoon Alpha and Luna are an intense couple any given day but pissed off, they are downright terrifying.

“Oh wow. I’ve never really seen Alpha Logan or Luna Aurelia angry. But I can imagine the amount of power they were putting into the air.” Suzie nodded.

“Yeah. Alpha Logan’s eyes turned red, and Luna Aurelia’s were glowing as their wolves tried to come forward. Again lucky the younger heir was there to keep them in control.” I sighed.

“Well, what did they say? What’s going to happen?” Suzie questioned.

“My grandfather was being hauled into the packhouse as I was leaving. My grandmother was not far behind him, confused and upset. I don’t think I’ve seen David and Mikali take more joy in their duties as they force my grandfather to the Alpha office.” I explained.

“Do you know what happened after that?” Suzie prodded.

“Well, I saw the young heir sent out of the office and heard some crashing and growling. I stayed to know the outcome. Grandma looked so sad as she walked out, leaning on David’s arm for support. Alpha Logan was dragging grandfather out by his scruff in the direction of the dungeons.” I sighed.

“Oh, poor Michele. Did she reject him?” She frowned.

“No, she didn’t. I shook my head.

“She couldn’t bring herself to do it. From what Mikali said when he passed her to me to drive home, he warned she may not survive it after so many years as mates.” I sighed.

Suzie’s frown deepened. She doesn’t know my grandmother, but she still is empathetic to her and worries about her health and safety. I appreciate that.

“My grandfather is to spend two weeks in the dungeons. Grandma didn’t speak the whole drive to her house. Just sniffled. Dad is staying with her while grandfather is serving his punishment for mate abuse.” I explained.

“Well, I’m glad Dillon will be held accountable and punished. I’m also glad Hale will get some time with his mother. They will keep each other company.” Suzie nodded.

“Yeah, I honestly think it’s best for them both. Neither should probably be left alone too long, especially grandma. I don’t want her to do anything crazy while temporarily separated from her mate.” I sighed.

“She’ll be okay. Maybe time away from Dillon will open her eyes and give her and her wolf the strength to stand against him.” Suzie smiled, squeezing my thigh.

“Yeah. I can only hope. Thanks for worrying about my grandma.” I smiled.

“Of course, I would worry about her. She’s your grandmother. That makes her my family too.” Suzie smiled, removing her hand as I found a parking spot.

“Well, I still appreciate it. My family has been on our own a lot since mom died. I mean, I think people were kind, though more out of pity at first because dad lost his mate and wolf in one go.” I frowned.

“Then we just sort of got written off. Dad for being wolfless and me for being a dickhead.” I sighed, moving around the jeep to help her out.

“I’m pretty sure your family was the only one that consistently helped and supported us. Like your dad always making sure to get me to school. Or your mom making lunches for me as she’d make for Stephen.” I frowned.

“That is because they care.” Suzie smiled.

“It’s because they were friends with my parents. I can only imagine how they felt about me in those years before I lost my leg.” I shook my head.

“Maybe, but you aren’t that person anymore. And now you’re family.” Suzie sighed, linking her arm with mine as we entered the restaurant.

It was a nice place with soft lighting and warm tone decor. I can certainly see why Maxton and Grant would bring their wives here for dates. It is hitting the mark for being romantic.

“Welcome to Brooklyn Trattoria. Do you have a reservation? If not, the wait for a table for two will be about thirty minutes.” The hostess greeted us with a smile.

“We have a reservation under the name Austin Shelton.” I answered.

“Ah, here we are. Right, this way.” She nodded, taking out two menus before leading us to a booth near the back.

“Oh…” Suzie blinked as we reached the booth.

I’m guessing that the long stem rose in an empty wine bottle and some rose petals on the table surprised her. I smiled, helping her take her jacket off, hanging it up on the hook next to our booth.

“Enjoy your meal.” The hostess smiled, leaving the menus.

“This is nice. No wonder my mom likes it when dad brings her here.” Suzie whispered as she slid into the black leather booth.

“It is a nice place. The rose and petals are a nice touch, if not a bit over the top.” I shrugged, sliding into the booth across from her.

Our waiter arrived rather quickly to get our drink order while looking over the menu.

“I’ll have a northwest mule and a glass of water.” I nodded, leaning to take my ID out to show proof of age.

“Oh, I’ll take a glass of Stroller Pinot Noir Rosé.” Suzie smiled.

“Please don’t listen to her. She’s not twenty-one yet. She spends too much time in Sicily where they let her have wine.” I quickly spoke up, giving her an ‘are you s hitting me’ look.

I do not want her to show this guy her ID. I would rather not have him and the rest of the staff thinking I’m some criminal going on a date with a sixteen-year-old.

“I was only teasing, babe.” Suzie chuckled.

“I’ll have iced tea, please.” She smiled at the waiter.

“Of course. Would you like to order an appetizer?” He questioned, jotting down her drink order.

“Oh, my mom said the bruschetta is delicious here.” Suzie perked up.

“Alright, we’ll start with the bruschetta.” I nodded.

“Excellent. I’ll get that put in and be right back with your drinks.” The waiter nodded, leaving us.

“Did you seriously try to order wine? Are you trying to get me in trouble? The last thing I want to explain to a restaurant staff of humans is to explain why I’m on a date with someone so much younger than me.” I groaned, running a hand over my face.

“I wanted to see what I could get away with. And your expression and reaction were priceless.” Suzie softly giggled.

“You’re twisted. I love that about you, but still pretty fucked up.” I sighed.

“Oh, and what else do you love about me?” Suzie was fishing for compliments or something.

“You’ll have to find out. Can’t simply give it all away.” I smirked as the waiter arrived with our drinks.

“Your appetizer will be out shortly. Have you decided on an entree?” The waiter asked.

“Hmm. I’ll have the saffron seafood linguine.” Suzie smiled, handing over her menu.

“I’ll go with the lasagna. Thank you.” I nodded, giving him my menu.

Our conversation flowed easily while we ate. Suzie updated me on the status of Stephen and Amelia’s pregnancy and how they were just waiting for the pup to decide to make his appearance.

We discussed her plans and hopes for after school. Like most people her age, hell even some my age, she doesn’t know what she wants to do long term. She was adamant she wanted to go to college and get at least an associate's degree before picking her major to go for a bachelor's.

By the time we were eating our desserts of a chocolate mousse and cannolis, the conversation had turned to what plans for our future would hold.

“So the tentative plan is that we will live with your dad?” Suzie asked before licking the spoon clean of chocolate.

Fucking hell, she needs to stop trying to drive me crazy over here.

“Yeah, at the moment. If things change for grandma, he may go live with her to be there for her. Are you okay with that?” I asked, trying to focus on the conversation and not what I’d like her tongue to be doing.

“I think it will be fine. I wouldn’t want dad to live alone in that house full of memories.” Suzie nodded.

“Glad we’re on the same page.” I nodded.

“Speaking of the same pages and being alone at the house. Didn’t you say you’ve got the house to yourself tonight?” Suzie arched her brow, licking chocolate from the corner of her lips.

Okay, she’s doing that on purpose now.

“Yeah. Dad’s staying with grandma, so I’ve got the house to myself.” I nodded, looking to see where this was going.

“That’s good. So there wouldn’t be a problem with us going back there after dinner to see where things go?” She questioned.

‘Oh shit! Is she saying what I think?’ I questioned.

‘I believe she is. Get the damn check. I would rather be home mating and marking our mate than sitting in this restaurant hiding a hardon.’ Jax encouraged.

“I think that sounds like a damn good plan. Let me just pay the check, and we can get out of here.” I agreed, looking for our waiter.

Old me would have flagged the guy down. But I’m not some rude asshole, so I waited for him to check on us to get the check and pay for our meal.

It took a lot of control not to rush out of the restaurant. I didn’t want to come off as too eager, but I couldn’t wait for what was coming next.

Chapter 21 - Suzie

I am about ninety-nine percent sure I am making an utter fool of myself. I bet anyone looking at our table is thinking, ‘that girl looks like a deranged idiot licking that spoon.’. I doubt this is even a fraction of as sexy as I wanted it to be.

‘I don’t care about what others think, but given how our mate is looking at you, it certainly enticed him.’ Kayla snickered as Austin seemed to be in a hurry as he escorted me to the jeep.

I laughed softly as we started driving, and I saw he was going a bit faster than the drive to the restaurant. Oh yes, someone is eager to get home.

I am eager too. I’m also nervous and terrified. By all accounts, I know that the pain of having sex for the first time is more fleeting, but as a werewolf, I also have to pain of marking to contend with.

“What’s funny over there?” Austin arched an eyebrow.

“Just that you seem rather eager to get to your house.” I shrugged, smirking.

“Well, you did sort of imply we might be having sex. If sex isn’t on the table or is a maybe but doesn’t happen because you changed your mind, it’s okay. We don’t have to.” Austin assured me.

He was rambling like he was trying to overcorrect to not sound like an asshole. It only made me laugh more.

“You are trying hard not to be a douchebag and coming off like an inexperienced virgin. I’m the inexperienced virgin here.” I laughed, shaking my head.

“Maybe, but I just don’t want you to think that implying sex means we have to or that I’ll get upset if we don’t.” Austin shrugged.

“I know. You’ve not tried to pressure me for more than I was willing to give in the last week. I doubt that was going to change. Mostly because you know I’d knock you into next week.” I continued to laugh.

He’s adorable as he rolls his eyes at me. He knows I’m right. He saw the damage I did to his grandfather, and he was just being a rude asshole. So I’m sure Austin has pictured how he would get hurt if he tried to pressure me for sex.

“I admit to nothing.” He sighed.

“That’s a yes. It’s okay. I don’t blame you. Just know I wouldn’t outright ever hurt you. In defense of myself, sure. But you are my mate, and I would never want to hurt you simply because you made me angry.” I assured him.

“I know, Suzie. As strong as your gift makes you, it doesn’t override the strength of your heart.” Austin smiled.

Awe, that was probably the sweetest thing I’ve heard him say.

“You were always a loud-mouth girl with zero filter.” Austin’s smile transitioned into a smirk as I narrowed my eyes at him.

“You go from saying something charming to being a dick.” I huffed.

“If you’d let me finish. Your lack of filter and loud mouth is because you wear your heart on your sleeve. I think it’s genetic for Waltersons. Your dad and brother are the same way. They just don’t also have your mom’s blunt manner.” Austin explained.

“You have a big heart. When you feel something, you feel it with all of your heart. You’re fearless in how you express your feelings and opinions. It’s not something many others could do. It’s admirable.” He shrugged.

Okay, that was now the sweetest thing he’s ever said. I’ve never had anyone complement my loud and blunt behavior like that. Many find it annoying, but he’s calling it admirable.

“Wow… um, thank you. I don’t think anyone’s ever complimented me for being what most call a loud-mouth bitch.” I sighed.

“Well, they just don’t see it the same way as me. And that’s fine. They don’t need to see you the way I do.” Austin smiled as we pulled into his driveway.

Before he could get out, I leaned over, kissing him. I’d wanted to kiss him since he started talking but didn’t because he was driving. But I can now since we’re parked. Just as I thought he would deepen the kiss, he pulled back.

“Let’s go inside.” Austin whispered, his eyes rimmed with the silver I know belongs to Jax.

“Okay…” I absently agreed, nodding as we exited his jeep.

The nerves were back in full force as we walked up the steps to the front door. The door has been replaced since I broke the last one by punching Dillon through it. I need a distraction, something to get me out of my head with worries about what will happen.

‘Hello, distraction.’ Kayla practically purred as Austin pressed me to the foyer wall, his lips devouring mine in a hot and needy kiss.

I moaned into the kiss, welcoming the distraction the kiss offered and the bliss the sparks from the bond created. Neither of us pulled apart as we helped each other out of our jackets.

I gasped as his cold hands stared to push up my dress, dancing across my thighs. The coldness of his hands was such a contrast to how hot his touch made me feel. I eeped as his hands moved to knead my ass.

“Fuck… a thong? You’re killing me, honey.” Austin groaned, breaking the kiss for only a moment before his lips were on mine again.

I gasped as he lifted me by my ass, my gasp becoming a moan as I wrapped my legs around him and felt just how affected he was through his slacks. That nervous fear started to creep into my mind thinking of where this was going.

‘Don’t you dare back out now. You even went so far as to buy condoms. So don’t back out. You set your mind to something, don’t change it now. Those worries are normal and will pale in comparison to the pleasure.’ Kayla warned.

‘So stop thinking and let the mate bond and our mate distract you.’ She added.

Okay, she’s right. I did make up my mind about wanting to mate tonight, and I shouldn’t back out because of natural worries. Kayla distracted me with her lecture enough that I didn’t realize we weren’t in the foyer anymore until I felt my ass hit the mattress.

I’ve never seen the inside of Austin’s bedroom, and I’m too distracted to pay attention. His hands had moved to untie my dress.

His lips made their way from mine. He kissed my jaw and down my neck, nipping at the hollow where his mark would be before the night ended. I shivered, failing to suppress a moan as he pulled my dress open with an appreciative groan. It looks like someone approved of the sheer black lace bra and thong combination.

“So damn gorgeous….”Austin groaned as his lips trailed down my collar as he moved to kneel between my legs.

I couldn’t even muster words to answer him. Even if I tried, it would have just come out as a moan, especially as he tweaked my nipples through the sheer fabric.

Panting with a familiar need, all the making out we’ve done this past week may not have been like this, but they certainly left me with a need in my core. A need that would be fulfilled tonight.

I hurried to get my arms out of the dress, wanting it gone. Austin groaned again, finding that the bar was clasped in the front. I blushed as he stared when the bra fell open, freeing my breasts.

This is the most of my body I’ve let him see, up close at least. When we’ve allowed Jax and Kayla to run, I've shifted around him, but I constantly change into clothes quickly.

“Absolutely perfect.” Austin murmured in awe.

I moaned, arching into his touch as he gently stroked and massaged my breasts before letting his lips devour them. Thankfully, the sparks of the bond and the sheer pleasure of his touch were enough to distract my mind both from what would happen and how he became so good at this.

“Lay back for me, honey.” Austin encouraged as his lips started trailing down my stomach.

Licking my lips, I obeyed. I propped myself up on my elbows to see what was happening. I don’t know if that was a good or bad idea as I had the perfect view to watch Austin.

I licked my lips, watching as he pulled thongs down, raising my hips to help him. I moaned as his lips started trailing, scorching kisses up the inside of my leg. Instinctively I let my legs open wider.

“Oh fuck…” I gasped as his tongue licked my entrance before slipping inside.

Wow. Just wow. Austin’s going down on me, and fuck, it feels good. I may be a virgin, but it’s not like I haven’t touched myself, but this is different as he added his fingers, one at a time, teasing and driving me crazy.

“Fuck… you taste just like you smell.” Austin groaned as he took a breath before going right back to driving me to that edge.

“Ooo… oh, Austin….” I moaned, reaching down with one hand to grip his hair.

My grip didn’t deter him. It apparently seemed to encourage him as he picked up the pace. My hips bucked against his fingers and his face wanting, needing more.

“Cum for me, honey. I want to taste you.” his husky voice encouraged as he expertly curled his fingers to find the right spot to send me over the edge.

“AUSTIN…” I moaned loudly.

I collapsed on the bed as I started to come down from well cumming. I raised my head, hearing Austin softly chuckling. I blushed, realizing I was completely naked, and he was still fully dressed. I blushed, knowing the wetness he was licking from his lips was from me.

“You’re overdressed.” I smirked, biting my bottom lip as he kissed back up my body.

“I can fix that.” He smirked.

“No, I can fix it.” I retorted, sitting up more to reach the buttons of his shirt.

He chuckled but didn’t stop me, moving to stand again so I could undress him. I’ve seen him naked but never got close or touched him anywhere below his waist. And well, let’s just say seeing his cock after shifting is very different from having it hard and quite literally in my face.

‘Lick it! Touch it! He gave us pleasure, time to return the favor! What was the point of watching those videos if not for this?’ Kayla encouraged me.

Hesitantly I licked the tip, noticing how he growled in approval, and grabbed my side ponytail. I’ll take that as a good sign because I have no clue what I’m doing.

I continued my exploration, sure that I was probably doing something wrong. But Austin doesn’t stop me. He growled, groaned, and moaned, even rocking his hips, pushing himself deeper into my mouth.

Just as I thought, I was finding my rhythm when he pulled my hair just enough to pop his cock out of my mouth. I furrowed my brow looking up at him in silent questions since I thought he had been enjoying it.

“I don’t get to have multiple orgasms, and unless you tell me oral is as far as we are going, I’m not blowing my load in your mouth when a much better place is available.” Austin panted.

I blushed. I’d been so caught up trying to give Austin the pleasure he’d given me that I forgot that we weren’t nearly finished. I’m still an unmarked virgin.

“Right… um, I did bring condoms. They’re in my purse…downstairs.” I groaned, realizing my purse was abandoned with my coat.

“You really did plan things, honey. But I have some in my nightstand. And before you ask, they are new and not bought with anyone but you in mind.” Austin smiled, leaning down, tilting my face up, and kissing me.

Well, I can at least appreciate he was responsible too. Plus, I like that they aren’t condoms he got when he was with that bitch. At least I know she’s never been in his bed.

“Okay, good. No offense, but I am not looking to start a family yet.” I smiled, moving further onto the bed.

“None taken. I’m not looking for that yet either.” He assured, reaching into his nightstand and taking out a condom.

Clenching my thighs in anticipation as I watched him roll the latex down his length. I was a mixed bag of emotions inside but at the moment, and the one winning was horny. I want him, and I want him now.

“Last chance. Are you sure you want this? Want to have sex? To be marked?” Austin questioned, positioning himself between my legs.

“More than anything. So stop stalling.” I smirked.

My bravado crumbled into a cry of pain that became a moan of pleasure as he entered me. It hurt at first, but as my body became accustomed to his size, the rhythm of our movements created a pleasure that left the pain to fade away. At least mom was right about that part.

As the pleasure started to build, I knew we should mark each other. Mom said it was essential to mark during the act, before the climax, to ensure the pleasure could balance the pain.

“Au…Austin… we should mark each other.” I moaned.

“Don’t have to tell me twice. Jax has wanted this since day one.” Austin nuzzled against my neck, licking where his teeth would soon sink into.

“He’s loved you since the day he knew you were for us. Hell, so did I.” He admitted, his words whispered against my skin, but I heard them.

“You… you love me?” I blinked.

“Of course I do. I was already falling for you before you got your wolf.” Austin smiled, pressing a kiss to my neck.

I smiled because who wouldn’t smile to be told they are loved?

“I love you too, Austin. Now mark me so we can make this official.” I encouraged tilting my head to give him more access.

I howled in pain as his teeth sank into my tender flesh. The mate bond half clicked into place as he left his mark on me.

As if knowing or at least sensing my pain, Austin started to move again, reaching between us to tease my clit to draw my body from feeling the pain to feeling pleasure instead. I was panting, hovering between pleasure and pain as he licked his mark, offering me his neck.

“Your turn, Suzie.” He encouraged.

Kayla didn’t need to be told twice as she half pushed forward, eagerly sinking my canines into his neck. He howled as well in pain, picking up his pace.

I licked his mark, eager to find out what they would look like. But any thoughts fell to the wayside as I was pushed over the edge, moaning his name as I came.

“Suzanne…” He groaned as he found his release. I kind of like that he used my proper name. I’m not a little girl, not anymore.

He kissed me deeply before moving to lay next to me. While I tried to catch my breath, I barely noticed him throwing out the condom or taking off his prosthetic. I just know he wrapped me in his arms, whispering that he loved me as I fell asleep.

Chapter 22 - Austin

I wasn’t sure what I expected after we completed our bond. Okay, I had a vague idea based on other people talking about the completion of the mate bond.

It wasn’t something Dad and I discussed. Partially because I spent more time with my dirtbag grandfather and because I thought asking him might bring up sad memories of mom. I didn’t want him to be sad and lost in memories of what he had lost.

Last night when she marked me and the bond clicked into place, it was euphoric. But even that word seems to pale to how I felt.

The only thing that felt even better was hearing her say she loved me. And when the bond clicked fully in place, I knew her words weren’t just said in the heat of the moment.

Until Suzie, no one outside my parents and grandma loved me unconditionally.

After a night of her in my bed, I don’t think I’m ever sleeping away from her. And to think, just last week, she was telling me how she wouldn’t be in my bed, let alone naked in it. Well, I got both right.

I smiled, propping myself up on my arm to look at her sleeping soundly. This will be the sight I get to see every morning, and I couldn’t be happier.

Carefully I brushed her hair away to see the mark. I just wanted to see how it turned out.

And there it was—the Shelton shooting eight-point star. The same mark mated pairs of Shelton wolves have had. Dad still has his even after losing his mate and wolf.

A mate bond mark is said to only fade if the mates reject each other or a mate finds their second chance mate. Even being marked by a chosen mate can’t erase an existing mark.

I smiled as she shivered while lightly tracing her mark with my finger. I’m not looking to wake her up.

‘Why the hell not? If we want to wake her up, we should do it while getting a taste of her again.’ Jax suggested.

‘You are a honey wolf. Good thing we are on the same page this time.’ I chuckled, carefully moving under the blankets.

I think subconsciously, Suzie knows what’s coming as she rolls to her back, letting those tantalizing legs fall open. Damn, what a view.

‘She might be asleep, but I’ve been awake since you touched the mark.’ A female voice that I quickly realized must be her wolf laughed.

‘Morning, Kayla. Let’s see if I can wake Suzie up. After breakfast, maybe we’ll let you and Jax get properly acquainted.’ I suggested.

‘Suzanne. She liked it when you called her that while cumming last night. So get your breakfast. I want to be with Jax. Not fair you two get all the fun.’ Kayla laughed.

Oh, she’s a dirty-minded one. She and Jax will get along just fine. She’s right that I should eat my breakfast, I mean my mate. I groaned, licking her entrance, yep tastes just like she smells.

It only took my second lick for Suzanne to stir with a moan, legs moving as her thighs tightened around my head. It didn’t stop me from continuing my quest to devour her for my breakfast.

Maybe she’ll feel like reciprocating. For a virgin, and perhaps because she’s a virgin, it was damn hot when she gave me a blow job last night. And if she isn’t up for that, I can at least hope she’ll be up for some morning sex.

“A…Au…Austin…” I like how my name sounds when she moans it.

I can feel everything she’s feeling. Which honestly makes it a lot easier to know exactly what she likes and where her spots are as I use my tongue and fingers to make her cum.

I smirked at her as she raised the blanket to look down at me. Her face is flushed, and she’s panting from her orgasm.

“Morning, honey.” I chuckled.

“M…Morning. Do you plan to do that every morning?” She asked, still catching her breath.

“Yep. I do like to eat something sweet to start my day.” I teased, kissing her stomach.

“Ugh, you are so lame. Now get up here. You left me wanting more.” She crooked her finger, gesturing to me closer.

I chuckled, kissing my way back up her body. At least she’s not bashful in demanding what she wants. By the time I made my way back up level with her face, she’d already grabbed a condom from the nightstand.

“I’ll take that.” I smiled, taking the condom from her and putting it on.

“Can we change positions?” Suzanne questioned, biting her lip.

“Oh, I’m not going to say no to you riding my dick where I get to see your tits swaying.” I smirked.

“Good, now get on your back.” She ordered.

I chuckled, moving to lay down. I’m never against a woman on top, especially since losing my leg. It’s a lot easier on my leg not to kneel on it.

For all her bravado, she was blushing as she moved to straddle me, gripping my cock as she lowered herself down my length. We groaned in unison as she took me entirely.

“Fuck… Suzanne.” I groaned, gripping her hips, trying to help her find a rhythm we both liked.

“You… you called me Suzanne again.” She moaned, rocking her hips on her own now.

“Kayla said you liked that. And I don’t mind. Suzie does sound a bit juvenile, and that’s not you.” I explained as my hands slid up her sides and around to palm her breasts.

“I…that’s why I liked it. I liked you using my more grown-up na…me.” She nodded, gasping as I tweaked her nipples lightly.

She definitely likes that, given how her pussy just squeezed my dick. As she moved to lean over me, I leaned up to suck at her breasts. They are perfect.

It wasn’t much longer before we tumbled over that edge, finding our release. Suzanne collapsed on my chest, both of us a sweaty mess.

“We should wash up. I promised our wolves they could have their time after breakfast.” I sighed, rubbing my hand down her back.

“Fine… only because if we don’t, Kayla will never let me hear the end of it.” She agreed, moaning as she moved off me.

“So she’s just like you.” I teased, kissing her cheek and rolling away before I could get smacked.

“Shower is this way.” I jogged my head to the bathroom I shared with the guest room.

“I call dibs.” She hurried to rush to the shower.

I chuckled because that is not a fair race, given I’m not wearing my prosthetic. The shower may have a seat for me it’s not meant for two. So as hot as getting frisky in the shower is, I know it’s not something that would go well.

So I waited there to get out of the shower before my turn, throwing out the condom. However, when Suzanne walked out, there was an odd look on her face and a mix of emotions. Using my crutch, I got to my foot and went to her.

“What’s going on, honey?” I questioned cocking my head.

“As I was getting out of the shower, mom linked me. We have to go to Sicily. Amelia had Asher last night, but there were some complications. So mom and dad are getting us tickets. We leave this afternoon.” She explained.

“Oh, well, I’m sad to hear she had complications, but the pup is healthy, so that’s a good thing. It’s going to suck to have you leave. But I’ll manage.” I shrugged.

“What are you talking about? I said us, that includes you. I mean, if you can get the time away from work. They know we mated last night. They felt the family link.” Suzanne furrowed her brow at me.

“Oh, um, I can call Grant and see. How long would we be gone? And are you sure? Not exactly Stephen or Amelia’s favorite person.” I frowned.

“It’ll be fine. You aren’t that same guy, and they aren’t the same people either. They are parents and Gammas so they won’t hold a grudge. And we’d only be gone about three or four days. If they need mom and dad longer, they’ll stay, but we would still come home.” She assured me.

“Okay, if you say so. Let me take a shower, and then I’ll call Grant to see if someone can cover for me for a few days.” I nodded.

Who am I to say no? Especially when it earns such a bright smile.

“Great. I’ll raid your kitchen to fix an actual breakfast.” She beamed at me, giving me a quick kiss before grabbing a shirt and shorts from my dresser.

She looks damn hot in my clothes. She can think the world of her brother, but I would bet money he won’t be thrilled to see me let alone to see we are mates. I sighed, shaking my head, entering the bathroom.

After my shower, I let Grant know I had something of a family emergency and needed about four days off. He at least didn’t ask questions. He just said he would make sure my patients were covered.

At least we managed to let Kayla and Jax have their alone time. I’m trying to block it out. They are a couple of freaks; that’s all I’m saying. After those two got to have their turn mating, we had to pack up, and I let dad know we’d be gone for a few days.

This is the second time I’ve been on a plane heading to Sicily. Though the first time that it’s a commercial flight. TSA is a fucking bitch inspecting my prosthetic like it somehow might contain a weapon.

A joyful occasion darkened by the possible threat to Amelia’s health. Edith and Maxton didn’t say too much. I think they were worried about Amelia. They did congratulate us on our mating, but their thoughts have been taken up by why we are going to Sicily.

Suzanne slept most of the flight, using me as a pillow. I managed to get comfortable and sleep some too. While it made the flights go faster, it just meant it sped up facing Stephen again.

As we got past security at the Catania airport, I quickly spotted Stephen holding a little girl with black and purple hair. Grace, that’s her name, the adopted hybrid daughter Suzanne gushes over.

Stephen looked haggard but happy to see his family. Well, that is until he sees my face. Then that look of happiness faded into annoyance.

“What the hell is Clement doing here?” Stephen half growled as he questioned his family.

His eyes found my mark, quickly noticed the matching one on his sisters, and looked shocked and appalled.

“Are you kidding me? You’re fucking my sister?” Stephen exclaimed.

“Stephen!” Edith and Suzanna both scolded while keeping their voices down not to draw attention.

“Mated. I’m mated to your sister. It’s slightly different. Sex is still obviously involved, but sex isn’t the core.” I shrugged.

Maxton sighed, shaking his head.

“Stephen, control yourself. We are in mixed company. You are holding my granddaughter. And your new brother-in-law goes by his middle name these days.” Maxton calmly explained, taking Grace from his son.

“But… but… he’s Clement. How… why…” Stephen stammered.

“It’s called growing up and self-improvement. And again, I go by Austin. Look, I know we left off on bad terms. And for that, I’m truly sorry. I know that I was a total d… doo doo head.” I stopped myself from cursing in front of the little one.

“Doo Doo head.” Little Grace snickered.

“But after my injury, I decided not to be that guy.” I sighed.

“He’s telling the truth.” Edith nodded.

“Since returning, Austin has worked hard to remake himself. He went to college and is an excellent physical therapist with aspirations of furthering his education and opening his own clinic.” Suzanne went to bat for me.

“He’s a good guy, Stephen. And you know me, if he acts like his old self, I’ll put him through a wall.” She smiled, linking her arm with mine.

“Or a door like she did my grandfather.” I shrugged.

“I don’t like this, but I also know I can’t dispute the will of the Goddess or that my sister would kick your booty with both arms behind her back.” Stephen sighed.

“Glad we’re on the same page. Now I believe we came here to see your son and check on your mate’s health.” I tried to get to the subject of the visit.

“Right. Come on, I’ve got cars waiting outside. We can head to the house if you need to crash first.” Stephen nodded.

“Oh no, we are going straight to the hospital. I want to see my grandson and daughter-in-law.” Edith scoffed, leading the way out of the airport.

Well, this is an exciting start to this trip. I wonder how many ghosts of my Clement past I will see while here.

Chapter 23 - Suzie

I swear to the Goddess, if he wasn’t holding my niece and we weren’t in a very public place filled with humans, I’d have knocked my brother to the exit with one punch. First, he not only swears in front of Grace, but he also degrades my mating with Austin by calling it ‘fucking’.

And don’t get me started on him calling Austin by that name he hates. I take offense with anyone that calls him that. I don’t care who they are; I will knock them out. Again my brother is lucky he held Grace, and there were too many humans around.

At least we managed to get him to see reason. And I’ll temporarily excuse his behavior on stress. He did, after all, just have a son and his mate is in the hospital from complications.

“So… when the heck did this happen? And why didn’t anyone say something?” Stephen glanced at the review as he drove the SUV back to Madonie.

“It is a recent development. And you were a tad occupied with the pending birth of Asher.” Dad shrugged in the front passenger seat.

“And those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Let’s not forget, big brother, who didn’t bother to tell us until after taking a mate.” I scoffed, rolling my eyes.

Stephen grumbled at getting called out. He doesn’t know my mate as the man he is now. And Austin is a good man. I’m not going to let him indirectly shit on my mating with Austin.

‘Who knows how to wake a girl up.’ Kayla snickered.

‘Best breakfast I’ve eaten.’ Austin taunted me in our mate link.

‘I look forward to that being every meal.’ Jax was no better than Austin or Kayla.

I took all my self-control not to blush too noticeable. And I was about to say something back when Grace derailed my thoughts.

Grace turned slightly in her booster seat next to mom and signed to me, “Why does papa not like Zio Austin? He seems funny to me.”

I chuckled at the sweet innocence and accepting nature of my niece. She’s a good kid.

“What did she just say about me?” Austin questioned.

“She asked why Stephen doesn’t like you.” I smiled.

He knows that Amelia communicates with LIS, which is different from ASL. And while he can talk to her in the family link, he asked to learn a little since Grace will use it sometimes. He’s still, of course, learning but knows the alphabet.

“Oh, well, I can’t sign very well… yet.” Austin started to explain, trying to sign as he spoke though he was making mistakes.

Grace nodded, not correcting him, just happy he was even trying to learn.

“But your papa and I have a bad history from when we were young and dumb.” Austin explained.

“But if you are Zia Suzie’s mate, you can’t be that dumb.” Grace shook her head.

I leaned into Austin, chuckling before leaning forward and kissing her cheeks. She’s just so damn cute.

“Exactly, Grace. Just remember, all boys are dumb. They have to grow up into men to be worth wild.” I snickered as both Stephen and Austin grumbled.

“Just stay away from boys.” Stephen snorted.

Ah, the words of a father. They are all hard-wired to think it’s their job to keep their daughters away from boys.

“But I like playing with the other ranked heirs. And most of them are males.” Grace pouted.

“Well, they are okay. I know their papas, so I know they won’t be mean to you.” Stephen conceded.

I chuckled because, of course, he had to back peddle. He can’t say a word against the other ranked heirs, especially those born to André and Darren.

The rest of the ride was mostly quiet. Mom and dad asked a question here and there about Amelia’s status as we went to the pack’s hospital. I didn’t ask questions. I have a million of them, but I want to see my sister for myself.

Entering the hospital, various staff nodded in polite greeting to Stephen as their Gamma male. He doesn’t have the same power and authority that Amelia carries, but just as Gamma Sybille is respected in Bloodmoon, the Madonie people respect my brother.

I took Austin’s hand in mine, sensing how uncomfortable he was getting the deeper we went into the hospital. I’m not sure if he worried about meeting someone he offended or hurt during the war or if being in a hospital again brings back bad memories. Either way, I’m here to support him.

‘It’s going to be okay. You aren’t the person in the hospital, and if we see anyone who is still angry at you about the war after six years, I’ll get them a bed of their own in this hospital.’ I assured him in our link.

‘I’m not sure being quick to hospitalize people is good. Might be frowned on, but thanks, honey.’ Austin chuckled as we followed my family into a hospital room.

Of course, no one thought to knock, so Amelia let out a startled gasp putting a blanket over herself as we walked in on her nursing Asher.

‘The hell, Stephen!? Knock when you bring company… and what the hell is he doing here?’ Amelia demanded as her eyes locked on Austin at my side.

‘Sorry, I should have remembered. But I was in a hurry to see you and our pup.’ Stephen shrugged.

‘As for why Austin is here, you know the answer. I bet you felt the family link, and you can see our marks.’ I rolled my eyes.

‘I can wait in the hall if I’m making you uncomfortable.’ Austin offered.

“You have some explaining to do later.” Amelia signed.

“I don’t tell you and Stephen everything.” I signed back with a smirk.

“How long have you been hiding this?” Amelia signed her question.

“A week. We only completed the bond the night you had Asher.” I replied, still using sign language.

“Um, I can’t keep up with the signs. I am still entry-level on this stuff. I know my ABCs and a few words.” Austin chimed in, signing what he could, mostly spelling words out.

Amelia blinked, looking at Austin in surprise. I simply grinned because I knew how much he’s changed, and now everyone in my family was getting to see it too.

‘You’ve certainly changed.’ Amelia arched an eyebrow as she spoke in the link.

‘So have you and Stephen. Gammas and two kids. Which congrats on both.’ Austin shrugged.

“Okay, enough of this shock about Austin being in the family. I didn’t come here to discuss Suzie’s mate and your bad blood history. If you’re done nursing, I want to hold my grandson.” Mom interjected, having had enough of waiting.

Amelia chuckled, shaking her head and fiddling under the blanket before lowering it to show my nephew. I couldn’t see his eyes as he was squinting at the lights, but he had Amelia’s dirty blonde hair and a lot of it.

‘Here, Edith. I wouldn’t want to keep you from him longer. Meet Asher Maxton Walterson.’ Amelia smiled as she passed the bundle to my mom’s eager arms.

“Oh, you are so handsome. Hello, Asher. I’m your Nonna Edith. Welcome to our family.” Mom cooed, nuzzling his cheek.

“If his hair was a darker brown and maybe he was a tad smaller, I’d say he was a replica of Stephen.” Dad remarked as mom passed Asher to him.

“Hello, Asher. We share a name. I’m your Nonno Maxton.” Dad looked as deliriously happy as Mom when holding Asher.

“Here, Suzie, why don’t you hold him.” Dad offered me the baby.

I held Grace a few times when we visited after she was adopted, so y know how to hold a baby. Gently dad passed Asher into my arms, and I smiled down at him, seeing he had Stephen’s brown eyes.

“Hey, nephew. I’m your Zia Suzanne. And this…” Turning slightly so Asher could see Austin.

“Is your new Zio Austin. He joined our family the same day you did.” I smiled.

“Hey, pup.” Austin looked a bit unsure but gave a small wave.

“He is so cute, Amelia. He’s so cute it’s almost enough to make me want a pup.” I sighed and kissed his forehead.

“That doesn’t mean we are having a pup anytime soon.” I warned Austin and my parents alike.

I don’t want anyone getting the idea we are straight away going to have a pup. Austin agreed with me as he started to laugh.

“Oh heck no. We aren’t having a pup for a while. I and condoms are good friends. Maybe a visit to the pack’s OB would be a good idea for extra precaution.” Austin was rather adamant.

I rolled my eyes at his comment about being good friends with condoms. While I appreciate that he is on the same page about not having kids yet, the reminder he’s slept around, including that crazy Denise, bothers me.

“Don’t give me that look. I’m allowed a past. And it doesn’t matter given you’re my present and future.” Austin rolled his eyes.

“How can you balance being a jerk and sweet in one breath?” I questioned as I passed Asher to Stephen.

“It’s one of my talents. If you want, I can list the other talents you are well aware of, but only in the link. There are children present.” Austin smirked.

I rolled my eyes but couldn’t help smiling as I stepped closer, following the pull of the bond. I’d almost forgotten we weren’t alone. Just as I was about to kiss him and someone cleared their throat.

“And that’s enough of that. I don’t want to see that. I doubt your family wants to see that. And you’re in my way of checking on my patient.” A familiar voice sighed.

Stepping out of the way, I rolled my eyes, seeing Alexander. I know how to handle the Madonie Beta, but I noticed how Austin tensed as Alexander looked at him, his eyes narrowing.

“Clement… didn’t think I’d have to see your face again.” Alexander frowned.

“He goes by Austin. Don’t call him that other name if you don’t want trouble.” I growled.

“It’s alright, Suzanne.” Austin tried to reassure me, but I knew that name bothered him.

“And what will you do if I repeat it?” Alexandr challenged.

“I may not be able to hit you because of your rank. But I can and will tell your mate and your Alpha you are being a jerk. I bet money they will put you in your place.” I snorted while standing my ground.

I saw him cave the moment I mentioned his mate. Yep, the man is so whipped it isn’t funny.

His mate is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. And while their relationship started rocky, after learning they were mates, she’s had him wrapped around her pink since the day they initially met.

“You wouldn’t dare.” Alexander hesitantly responded.

“Alexander, you know my sister by now. She would rat you out to your mate and Alpha in a heartbeat.” Stephen shrugged.

I smiled triumphantly as Alexander backed down.

“Who’s going to rat my cousin out? What did he do now? Whoa… a packed room. Can Amelia even breathe with so many visitors?” André entered the room as if he knew he was being talked about.

I heard Austin gulp behind me and felt his heartbeat skyrocket at the arrival of the Madonie Alpha. During his time here for the war, I know they had their share of confrontations. I also know that André’s words helped Austin change into the man I love.

“Oh, ciao Walterson family and ooo… There’s a face I haven’t seen in a while. Grew up to be rather handsome.” André smirked as he gave Austin a once over.

“Now what do we have…ohh.” André whistled as he took notice of our marks and how close we were standing.

“Nice, Suzie, very nice. You’re welcome, by the way.” He winked and blew me a kiss as he laughed.

“You know Darren wouldn’t like you calling someone handsome.” Alexander sighed, shaking his head.

“Oh, I can look, just not touch. Though I am going to hug this one.” André half cackled as he yanked my mate away to hug him.

“Um… I am confused.” Austin furrowed his brow standing perfectly still, not sure how to react.

“Who are you, Austin? Other than doing well since you’re mated with Suzie.” André laughed as he let Austin go.

“I… wait, how did you know I go by Austin now, Alpha André ?” Austin furrowed his brow.

“Oh hun, I am an Alpha. I have an ongoing group chat with the male leaders of our aligned packs and the female leaders. So I talk with your pack leaders often.” André shrugged like that should have been obvious.

“Um, but why would Alpha Logan or Luna Aurelia talk about me?” Austin questioned.

“Because I asked, of course. You were injured in our war. I wanted to be sure you were doing well.” André smiled.

“They told me all about you taking my words to heart and having a wake-up call. I hear congrats are in order about graduating college and becoming a physical therapist. And like the cherry on top, you’re with Suzie.” He explained.

“Oh… um. Still weird, but….” Austin seemed at a loss.

“Thank you, André. We are both grateful to you for your words that pointed him on the path of change.” I smiled, stepping forward to hold his hand.

“Yes, thank you.” Austin bowed his head, deciding to just go with it.

“Any time. Now then, how is Amelia? And where is that baby? I want to get my baby fix.” His attention quickly turned.

“If you are done with your rambling and fawning, you’d have noticed Stephen is holding his son and that I finished the last round of healing. Amelia is clear to leave home and take her family with her.” Alexander sighed.

“Excellent. But not until I hold that pup.” André grinned and snatched Asher from Stephen. I guess Alpha’s can get away with anything.

It was adorable watching him nuzzle Asher so tenderly. It’s no wonder he’s a good papa in his own right. The man does enjoy babies.

He held Grace almost as much as Stephen and Amelia as a baby. He called her his soul baby since, like him and his twin Grace is a hybrid and has unnatural purple streaks in her hair.

With Amelia out of danger, mom and dad said it was okay to move our return flight up. They were going to stay a bit longer to help Amelia and Stephen as they transitioned to a family of four.

We stayed three days in Sicily before returning home. As much as I love visiting my brother, I was thrilled to be home. Even happier when returning home included packing all my things to move in with Austin officially.

Things slowly settled into a routine at the house when Hale returned after Dillon was released, and my heat ended. Alpha Logan assured someone would be monitoring Dillon’s behavior to ensure if he raises a hand against Michele again, it will be handled immediately.

We all felt safer knowing Dillon was being watched. He didn’t change at all over the next few months. He was still an insufferable dick when we would go to visit Michele. But fuck him, we just ignore his ass.

The only gray cloud in my happily ever after is seeing that sad, forlorn look on Hale anytime he saw Austin and me being close, kissing or cuddling on the sofa. He misses Jennifer.

And while I understand that loss is immense, he has mourned for so long. It’s unfair that he should live without companionship and love. Being friends with my parents and spending time doing what old people do doesn’t count.

I’ve tried to bring it up to him, and he just laughs and waves it off, telling me love is for the young. I say to hell with that. I don’t care if I’m overstepping, but I cannot let this stand as his daughter-in-law.

So with Austin’s help, we signed him up on a dating app called Kindred Spirits. It is a sight unseen type of app.

You have to have at least three days of interactions before you even unlock the picture of the person you are chatting with. They match couples on their answers and then let it go from there. I have a good feeling about this app. I think this is going to change everything for Hale.


Stay tuned for two epilogues. And keep an eye out for the upcoming Love After 40 bonus story about Hale’s adventures with the dating app.

Epilogue - Suzanne Part 1

I can’t believe it’s been over two years since Austin and I mated. It has certainly been an eventful couple of years.

Things between Austin and I are fine. I won’t say perfect because we still push each other’s buttons with our attitudes. But I can’t even complain about that since it often ends with us having sex either right there or if we aren’t alone back in our room.

My brother and Amelia are doing great as a family of four. Asher is just the cutest pup since Grace. They have come around about Austin being in the family.

It probably helps that they don’t see him in person. He does sometimes join me on my video chats with them. And his LIS has seriously improved.

He’s been busy between work and returning to college to further his education, working towards his Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science. He was about to get a scholarship from Kinsley Industrial, which took a lot of weight about affording the program. So he’s enrolled at the University of Portland, where I’ll be starting in the fall.

I finally decided on what I was going to go for. I will get my BBA in Accounting, given how much I work on balancing the books for my family’s cherry orchard.

Speaking of my family’s cherry orchard, that’s where we are today. For a while now, my family has set aside an area of the orchard for weddings and receptions. And today, I’m going to be one of those brides getting married here.

I honestly didn’t think Austin intended to go through with a human wedding, that the whole being engaged with an arranged marriage was just to shut up the humans he deals with daily for work.

I was wrong. Even though I tried to tell Austin a wedding wasn’t necessary as we are mated, which matters to werewolves. He answered back with logic.

I know I was surprised he had logical answers. He outlined that people would question if we had an arranged marriage and why we weren’t married. Also, he pointed out that it would be best if I were listed as his spouse for legal reasons.

So we started planning our wedding. Austin was all in when I suggested having it during peak blossom season at the orchard. Even if it meant pink would be one of our colors, a delicate pink but still pink.

He gave little input, mainly when deciding on cake flavor, the dinner menu, and music. For the rest, he said he trusted my choices.

I didn’t want to do a big or over-the-top wedding. That’s not our style. So we each would only have one person to stand at our side. I chose my friend Diann as my maid of honor, while Austin had difficulty selecting the best man, so he ended up choosing his father.

Hale was surprised and happy to stand at his son’s side. Even if it meant his girlfriend would have to sit alone with her kids.

Yes, you read that right. Hale has a girlfriend. I knew getting him on that dating app was a good idea. It’s how he met her. There were some bumps in the road, but they’ve been together for two years.

“Okay, you can look now.” Diann announced as she spun the chair I was sitting in to face the mirror.

As a budget saver, I let her do my hair and make-up. It only slightly worried me as she insisted I couldn’t look until she was done.

I took a breath and looked at her as she blocked the view of the mirror doing last-minute fussing with my hair. She’s rocking the flutter sleeve chiffon dusty pink tea-length dress we selected together. Diann liked it because it was something she could wear again.

“There, perfection.” Diann nodded, stepping out of the way.

I gasped at my reflection. Diann’s a damn artist! This is why Diann is going to school for cosmetology.

The make-up was subdued, with soft pinks and whites highlighting my features. Diann braided my hair back into a low bun accented by a blush pink silk cherry blossom with gold hairpins along the braid.

“Wow…this is you did outstanding work, Diann.” I smiled, turning my head to look at my reflection from different angles.

“As if there was ever a doubt.” She scoffed, flipping back her long side braid of blonde hair.

I chuckled as I stood from the chair, slipping on my four-inch heels that I seriously lucked out finding. They have a cherry blossom print with gold, pearl, and zirconia cluster near the tip of the shoe. It pairs well with my strapless ivory glittery floral tulle and lace tea-length dress.

When I tried on dresses, this was the one for me when I realized it had pockets. POCKETS! I have pockets in my wedding dress.

“Alright, let’s check this human list. Something new?” Diann raised an eyebrow.

“Um, everything I’m wearing.” I chuckled.

“Check. Something old?” She continued her little list.

I held my right hand up and pointed to the James family ring.

“My mother-in-law’s family ring worn by generations of mates in the James family.” I smiled.

“Check. Don’t go all lovesick-eyed on me thinking about your mate giving that ring to you.” Diann rolled her eyes.

“Something borrowed?” Diann furrowed her brow.

I reached to touch my wrist, making sure the diamond bracelet Michele Shelton secretly loaned me was still there.

“Check. Technically this is old and borrowed since it’s from Michele.” I sighed.

“Sucks she can’t come because her mate a fucking dickweed. Her grandson is getting married, and she can’t even attend because her controlling mate won’t let her.” Diann huffed.

“Trust me; I feel the same. So what’s the last item?” I wanted to change the subject.

The more I think about Dillon, the angrier I get. And I don’t want to be pissed off on my wedding day. This is a happy day.

“Something blue. And don’t tell me that hot guy I saw show up with a blue mohawk gave you a lock of hair.” Diann fanned herself.

I laughed, shaking my head. Oh, she’s in for a world of disappointment.

“That is Alpha André of Madonie. He’s very gay and mated to the oldest of the Delany triplets.” I explained.

I hadn’t expected the Alpha couple of Madonie to travel for my wedding. But I guess André is up for any chance to party. And by his own words, he wanted to be here to witness what he made possible.

“Well, shit. I seriously need to find my mate. I’m a year older than you and still haven’t found him. Though I will say something outside smells amazing. But I have always loved the smell of cherry blossoms.” Diann sighed.

“Maybe he’s out there, and you have too much resolve to not fuck up my wedding to hunt him down.” I shrugged.

“As for something blue. Alpha André did give me something. And no, it’s not a lock of hair. He decided to give me a robin’s egg blue lingerie set with a cherry blossom print. Please don’t ask how he knew my size. He simply knows things.” I shrugged.

“That’s… yeah, gay or not. I hope you don’t tell Austin where the lingerie came from. Now let’s get out there.” Diann laughed, handing me my bouquet before getting hers.

Our bouquets were soft pink and white peonies, ranunculus, sweet peas, jasmine, and cherry blossoms. Mine was double the size of hers but beautiful and impressive.

As the sound of a string quartet playing our song In Your Eyes started to play, Dad stepped up to my side in his gray suit with a light pink tie taking my arm. Diann began down the paver path, almost stumbling as she glanced to the fourth row.

It took her a half second, but she finally continued down the aisle, taking her place. All eyes turned to watch as Dad walked me down the aisle. I barely noticed anyone else, even Dad, as we walked.

My eyes were focused on Austin. He was in the same gray suit as both our dads, but his tie while being pink, was in a cherry blossom print.

‘Did you have to pick the most fuckable dress at the shop?’ Austin taunted me in our link as his eyes traveled down my body while I walked.

‘Oh, there are worse. Like dresses that are maybe meant for Vegas but certainly shouldn’t be worn around family.’ I countered.

He smirked as I came to a stop next to him. Dad kissed my cheek and took his seat with my family.

We’d gotten a local justice of the peace to perform the ceremony. Nothing super fancy, though. We opted to write our vows. I wasn’t sure what Austin would say, and I quickly realized I wasn’t prepared for his words.

Epilogue -Suzanne Part 2

“Suzanne, I didn’t need someone to complete me. I needed someone to accept me completely, and you are that someone.” Austin had a sincere expression on his face as he spoke his vows.

I sniffled back tears because I’d be damned if I ruined my make-up. I took a calming breath, passing my bouquet to Diann as his father handed him the dark cherry wood rings with rose and coffee gold-tone edges and a thin strip through the middle.

“With this ring, I Clement Austin Shelton, take you, Suzanne Bernice Walterson, to be my wife. I vow to value our differences just as much as our common ground. I’ll love you forever on good or bad days, rain or shine. I’m so lucky you’re mine.” He smiled as he slid the ring onto my finger.

Now it was my turn. I worked hard on my vows, hoping they come out right.

“Austin, I choose you to be no other than yourself, loving what I know of you and trusting what I do not yet know. You make me feel happier than I could ever imagine and more loved than I ever thought possible.” I recited.

I held my hand out to Hale as he put Austin’s ring in my hand. Looking into his eyes, I slipped the ring on Austin’s finger.

“With this ring, I, Suzanne Bernice Walterson, take you, Clement Austin Shelton, to be my husband. I promise to respect you as a person with your own interests, desires, and needs. And to realize that those are sometimes different but no less important than mine. With kindness, honesty, and trust, I will work by your side to create a wonderful life together.” I made my vow.

As the officiant pronounced us man and wife, permitting for Austin to kiss me, he was already doing just that. All to the sound of whistles and cheers.

Thankfully the werewolves in attendance didn’t start howling. I think that would have confused our human guests.

While everyone headed to the outdoor reception area, the wedding party and our families went to take pictures. Grace looked adorable in her lavender party dress, and Asher was cute in his little suit.

I could tell Diann was antsy to find whoever the source of that scent was. I give her credit for staying around for the pictures. Especially as we were taking pictures in my favorite spot. There was a wooden circle swing covered in flowers hanging from one of the trees.

As Diann and I posed for a picture of just us, I felt her tense, looking beyond the photographer. I cocked my head to see who she was staring at.

I didn’t recognize him, but I knew he was a werewolf. A man with short brown hair, a matching manicured light beard, brown eyes, and an olive complexion, dressed in a blue suit, stood beyond my photographer with his eyes focused on Diann, nostrils flaring.

“What is Valter doing over here? I know André wanted to bring him to Bloodmoon and Silverclaw to look for a mate, but he didn’t need to bring him to the wedding.” Stephen groaned, starting to head over to Valter.

“Valter…” Diann whispered the name.

It finally clicked why they were staring like that. I nudged Diann.

“Go. He’s your mate, go. We have plenty of pictures together.” I whispered, nudging her again.

It seems that was enough as she ran across the grass, passing my brother before throwing herself at Valter. I whistled loudly, laughing as he caught her and wordlessly kissed her.

Stephen shook his head and walked back over, no longer needing to send Valter away. I’m glad she found her mate. I still don’t know who Valter is, but I’ll find out eventually.

“Stephen, who is Valter that André would bring him all the way here?” I questioned.

“Oh, he’s the Gamma Heir of Incubi. Used to date Regina before they turned sixteen and realized they weren’t mates.” Stephen shrugged.

“Oh… I bet Ivan is his biggest fan.” I snickered.

“Let’s just say there are reasons Ivan and Regina live in Madonie even though she’s the Beta Heir of Incubi. But maybe now that he won’t think Valter is a threat, he’d be willing to move.” Stephen shrugged before scooping Grace up into his arms.

“Come on, don’t you have to appear at your reception?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Maybe we thought to skip the reception and just duck out to our honeymoon.” Austin smirked as he wrapped his arms around me, leaning his head on my bare shoulder.

I chuckled, rolling my eyes, turning my head to give him a stern look.

“Oh hell no. I can smell that buffet calling my name, and I’m not skipping out on that four-tier wildflower honey sponge cake with caramel buttercream.” I shook my head.

“Fine… for the cake, I’ll forgo skipping the reception to start our honeymoon.” Austin winked.

What a shithead. I rolled my eyes, taking his hand and following our families as we made our way to the reception. Everyone, but Valter and Diann, was already mingling at their tables.

Given the way Stephen’s eyes glazed for a moment, I’m guessing André was asking about Valter’s whereabouts. Or that’s my guess because André busted out laughing when no one was talking to him.

The food was fantastic, with two choices of salad, four meat choices, three veggies, and four starch sides. I’m glad we went buffet style too. The buffet had something for everyone. No one would be leaving hungry with a spread like this.

After everyone had something to eat, it was time to dance before dessert. An acoustic version of In Your Eyes started as Austin led me to the dance floor. We’d taken some lessons not to make fools of ourselves as we aren’t precisely graceful dancers.

The party kicked off from there. I could tell how the human guests found it hard to keep up with the werewolves. We do tend to have more stamina than a human.

Looking around the dance floor, I smiled at everyone having fun. Some were dancing in groups, but there were plenty of couples. I cocked my head, seeing Lando dancing very close to a girl I didn’t recognize.

Lando recently turned sixteen, and while he’s no Austin, I’ll always be biased about my mate… er husband; Lando grew up hot. His hair isn’t as fluffy, but I think it’s because he straightened it.

I just couldn’t figure out who the girl was. So I made my way around the dance floor till I spotted his fathers.

“Hey, André.” I pumped my hips with him as he danced.

“Behold the bride!” André grinned, lifting me by the waist as he spun me before sitting me down.

I laughed, shaking my head at him.

“That’s enough lifting my wife. I don’t care that you’re an Alpha and gay.” Austin grumbled, pulling me against him by the hip.

“Anyway. I have a question for you. Who’s the girl Lando’s dancing with? I don’t recognize her, and they seem a bit close.” I went right to my question.

“Oh, that’s Talia, Kurt’s little sister. We discovered they are mates the other night when we visited Silverclaw. They’ve been joined at the hip since.” André chuckled, obviously proud his son found his mate.

“We should count ourselves lucky they haven’t jumped and marked each other.” Darren sighed.

“Fair. I’m sure Diann and Valter are off doing that right now.” I shrugged, looking around, not seeing them.

“Oh, if only all initial mate meetings ended in sex. But some mates make us wait what feels like forever to fuck them.” André laughed, getting a dirty look from Darren.

“Would’ve been nice. But I’m not going to complain.” Austin snickered as I elbowed him.

“Suzie, Austin… oh, excuse me. But Hale said it was time for you to cut the cake. Then if you want, you can duck out of the party.” Hale’s girlfriend interrupted, nervously smiling as she glanced at André and Darren.

“CAKE! Yes, move along, little ones. I have been eyeing that cake since it was brought out.” André shouted, pointing to the cake.

It did look amazing. The bottom tier resembled a tree stump, while the upper three tiers were more black but still resembled bark with fondant cherry blossoms trailing up the side.

“Oh good, they are going to give us a knife. Just don’t stab me.” Austin warned, guiding me to the cake.

Following tradition, we fed each other the cake. Or tried. I shoved Austin’s piece into his face, getting frosting and cake all over him.

“Asher gets less messy eating!” Grace scolded while everyone else laughed.

“You’ll pay for that.” Austin narrowed his eyes.

I tried to get away but found myself being held still. Glancing to my left and right, I saw the twins, Hale’s girlfriend’s kids, holding my arms with big grins on their faces.

“Get her, bro!” They practically cackled.

“Oh, you three are so dead.” I warned through gritted teeth as Austin came closer with a piece of cake in his hand.

I cringed, preparing to get cake in my face. Instead, I screeched as Austin rubbed the cake, frosting side first, up my neck. Then the shithead licked it! He licked the frosting off my neck.

The twins let me go running away, laughing, knowing my revenge would come. I’ll get revenge on Austin tonight though he’s probably going to like that.

“Delicious as always.” Austin winked, taking my hands so I couldn’t hit him.

“Now, let’s get the hell out of here. We have a honeymoon to start.” He smirked, tugging me away as my parents took over cutting and serving cake to the hungry guests.

We barely took a moment to say goodbye to anyone passing a disheveled Diann and Valter, stumbling out of the space she and I had changed before the wedding. I think they mumbled excuses, but I didn’t pay attention as we hurried to our getaway car to catch our flight to Key West for some time at the beach.

Epilogue - Austin Part 1

Reflecting on my life, it’s crazy to think how much it’s changed. I was an insufferable asshole.

Not saying I’m fully reformed. Ask my mate, and she’ll tell you I’m still an asshole at times. But I guess I’m not an insufferable one makes all the difference. One misstep, one wrong choice in battle, and my whole world changed.

My life goals were gone, just like my left leg below my knee. Wolfsbane laced bite from a magic roided-up werewolf is no fucking joke.

That moment changed everything. My dream of joining the military was gone. And at my lowest moment, as the realization that everything I’d been working towards would never happen, the least likely person gave me advice.

Alpha André visited me in the hospital, a man I’ve insulted more times than I wanted to count. He didn’t have to see me, let alone talk to me. But he left me with the advice that the Goddess guides us on our paths. But we all have to put in the work to find our destinies.

He told me to look within and find who I’m supposed to be, who I want to be. And his words resonated with me. They still do, thirteen years later.

He likes taking credit for my change and all the good things that have happened since the war. I’ve tried to argue that I made these choices on my own and that him giving me that advice doesn’t mean he gets credit for the man I am.

He laughs and pats my head like I’m some child he’s placating. It’s frustrating sometimes. Thankfully I don’t see him often. And I know the truth. I put in the work, and I made my own choices.

And now, I’m a Doctor of Rehabilitation Science and recently opened my physical therapy clinic closer to the pack. I still take human clients, but I also see pack members with various mobility issues.

I may not be a warrior in the pack, but I am still part of the pack. I’m still contributing to the pack in a meaningful way. Honestly, if I want to credit an Alpha with any of the changes in my life, it’ll be Alpha Logan.

Without him, a lot of things wouldn’t have happened. I wouldn’t have found Suzanne was my mate. If he hadn’t assigned me to the training of the newly shifted wolves that December, even living nearby, I’d have not crossed paths with her to have scented her.

I know I’d be more likely to slip into that insufferable asshole mentality without Suzanne. After all, a life without love isn’t one worth living. And I love the fuck out of this woman currently snoring like a chainsaw in bed next to me.

She doesn’t typically snore, but she’s nine months pregnant and started snoring the last three months. Her OB said it happens due to the pregnancy weight gain and the elevated hormones.

I like the idea of breathing and getting to see my little girl be born. If I complained about her snoring, I know she might go pregnancy rage mode and punch me through a wall or door. So I’ve not complained that I’ve had to wear earplugs to bed if I wanted to sleep.

And I’m the only one disturbed by her snoring since we moved out of dad’s house after the wedding five years ago. We’d been saving for a home and finally got a place in Kavanah Glen in Mount Hood proper.

It’s a friendly community, and now that we are expecting our daughter, it will make an excellent place to raise her. There are plenty of other pups around to play with, and there’s a community pool and playground, not to mention the pack’s park within walking distance.

When we looked at the house designs being offered by Fowler Construction, Suzanne fell in love with a craftsman-style house. I liked it because it was one story, so there was less stress on my leg with the stairs. And we both loved the master suite.

We both have our walk-in closets, though mine is smaller, not that I care since I don’t have as many clothes as her. It still surprises people that she’s just as girly as any other woman with her general attitude.

In the bathroom, we have a corner soaking tub that is big enough for two. I think it was in that tub our daughter was conceived. I forgot the condom as we celebrated her graduating college.

We also have a shower big enough for two with a built-in seat. Highly recommend it if you like the idea of shower sex but realize your current shower wouldn’t accommodate that.

Beyond that, I share it with Suzanne. The best part of our bedroom is that we have our own set of french doors that lead out to the back porch and yard. The sun comes in at just the right angle each morning as the back of the house faces east.

The only downside to the layout is that the two other bedrooms are on the other side of the house. But I figure werewolf hearing, so we’ll know when our pup cries.

And the first couple of months, we plan to have her in our room in the bassinet my dad and his wife, yep his dating app girlfriend is my stepmom, gave us.

They’ve been doing well. Dillon doesn’t like it. He threw a fit when dad started dating her and exploded when he found out dad would marry her. None of us cared about his opinion.

I could see the sun starting to crest the fence, so I knew it was time to get out of bed and make some breakfast to appease the women of my life. Placing a light kiss on her temple, I quietly got out of bed, putting on my prosthetic before sneaking out to the kitchen.

We wrote off a long night with mild contracts as they were so far apart. Suzanne said they were like Braxton hicks she’d read about. And so, she didn’t want to bother anyone unless the contracts were much closer together.

So I started making her most consistent pregnancy, craving bananas foster waffles with turkey sausage. I know turkey sausage sounds weird, but the smell of bacon is a sure-fire way to get her not to eat something and throw up instead.

My daughter is weird if she doesn’t like bacon. Bacon is excellent and makes everything taste better. But this has meant I needed to eat bacon when not at home. I do my best not to expose Suzanne to things we know will offend her senses.

I was pouring the batter into the waffle iron when I heard a scream from our bedroom. While I’m all for making Suzanne scream, it’s only in good ways. This sounded like she was in pain.

I quickly unplugged the waffle iron and ran to the bedroom. Suzanne was standing with some pale yellow fluid on her thighs and her side of the bed. Either she pissed the bed, like emptied her entire bladder, or…

“AaaaHhh! Fuck don’t just stand there asSHOLE!” Suzanne alternated between calm and screaming while holding her stomach and doing the Lamaze breathing.

“Oh shit, she’s early. Okay. I’ve got this. Let’s get you in the shower first. I’ll throw the bedding in the washer and grab the hospital bag.” I calmly outlined.

‘Yeah, calm. That’s an excellent front you’ve got going.’ Jax taunted.

‘Shut the hell up, Jax!’ Kayla and Suzanne growled at him in the link.

‘Shutting up now.’ Jax quickly conceded at the ire of our mate.

I helped Suzanne into the bathroom so she could shower. I left a long sleeve maternity dress out for her to change into.

I quickly threw clothes on and stripped the bed, tossing stuff into the washer. By the time I grabbed Suzanne’s hospital bag, she was dressed and ready to go. She was still holding her stomach using the Lamaze breathing.

“How far apart are the contractions?” I questioned, guiding her to the garage.

“About…” Suzanne winced, gripping my arm so hard I swear she would break it.

“Four minutes.” She finally answered as I helped her into the car.

“Okay, I’m linking the hospital and your parents.” I assured her as I backed out of our driveway.

‘Grandparents! This is your notice. We are heading to the hospital. Your granddaughter has decided today is her day.’ I called out in the link to Maxton and Edith.

‘Oh! We’re on our way! We’ll call your father.’ Edith assured me, sounding very excited.

I can’t blame her, I guess. While our daughter won’t be her first grandchild, this will be the first one she will be there the day they are born.

‘Doctor Hamilton, Suzanne is in labor. Her water has broken, and contractions are four minutes apart. We are heading to the hospital.’ I called out to her OB, Mikali.

‘She’s two weeks early. Good thing I’m already here for rounds.’ Mikali was quick to respond.

Epilogue - Austin Part 2

Living closer to the hospital meant we got there before our parents. Mikali already had a room ready, so Suzanne was already in active labor when our parents arrived. She was actively trying to break my hand as I did my best to help her through this.

So they didn’t get to come into the delivery room. But I think that’s okay. I’m glad I didn’t have to share this moment with any of them. No offense to my dad or her parents, but this is our pup. This is the start of our family.

And it was all worth it. Five hours from the time we left the house to when our daughter entered this world. Now I’m standing in the recovery room with a pink bundle in my arms.

Her blue eyes squinted at me, blonde hair poking out of the pink and white striped cap the hospital put on her. I can’t begin to describe this feeling. I thought I felt complete when Suzanne and I marked each other, but this feeling in my heart is different.

I smiled down at this new life we had created. She’s perfect.

“Hi, Jennifer. You’re just like your mommy, aren’t you? When you want to do something, you do it. Just couldn’t wait any longer to meet us.” I sighed softly.

“I won’t promise I’ll always be the best dad and that you won’t be embarrassed by me or get angry at me. But I can promise I’m always going to love and protect you.” I whispered, stroking her cheek.

I smiled as her tiny hand wiggled free of her blanket to hold my finger. I placed a soft kiss on her tiny hand. Yep, she officially owns my heart. I hope Suzanne is willing to share that number one stop in my heart.

“If you are done hogging her. I’d like to hold my pup.” Suzanne rolled her eyes.

“Don’t start getting jealous. It’s not my fault Jenny likes me better already.” I chuckled as I carefully passed Jennifer to her.

Suzanne took our daughter with another heavy eye roll as she started to fuss.

“See, she’s fussing already.” I teased.

“She’s probably hungry. So go find our parents while I feed her.” Suzanne shooed me as she adjusted her hold on Jennifer to see if she’d latch.

Oh yeah, that kid is mine. She latched to the breasts that I’ve not gotten to play with in months. Pregnancy nipples are extra sensitive, and Suzanne was not about them being touched.

I chuckled, leaving to find our parents in a waiting room. Edith instantly jumped up when she saw me.

“Well? Where are they? Can we go see them?” Edith bombarded me.

“Momma and pup are both healthy and in her recovery room. She’s feeding the pup, but we can go in when she’s done.” I answered.

“As for the pup, despite being early, she is healthy, weighing seven pounds and measuring nineteen inches. With blonde hair and blue eyes.” I smiled.

“Congratulations, son. We’re all very happy for this new edition to the family.” Dad smiled, hugging me.

I can’t help but wish that my grandfather would not be a dick and let grandma be here. It was bad enough that she couldn’t come to either wedding. But I wish she’d get to see her great-granddaughter. The woman raised me and isn’t getting to be in the happy moments of my adult life.

“Too bad grandma can’t be here.” I sighed.

My back straightened as someone gently cleared their throat behind me. It smelled like Grandma, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Dad was looking wide-eyed past my shoulder as I slowly turned.

My grandma is here! A bit further behind her, I caught a glimpse of my grandfather. His head was bowed as he stayed out of view. As long as he doesn’t say or do anything rude, I won’t put him in a hospital bed for ruining my daughter’s birth.

“Clemmy… I mean Austin.” Grandma smiled with teary eyes.

“You can call me anything you want, Grandma.” I assured, closing the distance and hugging her tightly.

Damn, I’ve missed my grandma. She still smells the same. Not just her actual scent, but she smells like her favorite Red Rose black tea, snickerdoodle cookies, and roses from her garden.

“We didn’t expect to run into you here. What’s happened? Is Suzanne okay?” Grandma asked, noticing everyone in the waiting room.

“Oh, she’s fine. We had our pup. Do you want to meet her?” I asked.

“Mom, if you aren’t here because of the pup, why are you at the hospital? Are you okay?” Dad questioned.

“Oh, a pup. That’s wonderful news, Clemmy. And don’t fuss Hale, I’m fine. We’re here for your father, he’s had a bad cough the last few months, and I practically needed Alpha Logan to command him to come in today.” Grandma sighed, frowning as she glanced back at my grandfather.

“I told you it was nothing.” Grandfather grumbled before starting to cough, covering his mouth with a handkerchief.

He could play it off, but I saw and smelled the blood on that rag. And while he’s given me plenty of cause to hate him, he’s still my grandfather. I still care about him.

“What did the doctor say?” I questioned.

“Don’t talk about it, Michele. They’re here for a new life, not to hear about an old one.” Grandfather grumbled.

“They need to know, Dillon. It would be best if you made amends. We have a great-grandpup. Don’t you want to see that pup? To be in their life while you can?” Grandma was tearing up again.

“Grandfather? Why does it sound like your diagnosis is terminal?” I questioned, keeping my arm around my grandmother to support her.

“I don’t need pity.” He sighed.

“It isn’t pity, Grandpa. It’s concern. You may say and do things that piss me off, but you did help raise me. You helped dad pick up the pieces and fill in raising me when he couldn’t. So don’t stand here and lie to me or tell me I shouldn’t care about your health.” I shook my head.

“It’s lung cancer.” Grandma blurted out, earning a growl from grandpa.

“David said it’s lung cancer. It isn’t something a healer can do more than easing the pain. He said he’ll be gone by April at its current rate of progression.” Grandma turned into my chest, crying.

I sighed, closing my eyes, hugging her tight. I won’t cry in front of the old man as I know he wouldn’t want that. But it hurts knowing he only has months.

I don’t want him to go with our family relationship in such a state. I don’t want his final days to be like this. I don’t want grandma’s last days to be spent away from her family because of him.

“Dad… I won’t tell you I’m sorry or give you any words of empathy that you’ll rebuff. But know none of us hate you. All we’ve wanted is for you to see and accept us as we are. To have a good relationship with you.” Dad sighed.

During this conversation, I could tell the Waltersons and my stepmom felt uncomfortable and out of place. And I think maybe we need to change gears. I know Grandpa doesn’t want to be the center of attention.

“Why don’t you come with us and meet your great-granddaughter. She’s so beautiful, grandpa. If anyone could melt your heart, it would be her.” I suggested.

He grumbled a little but nodded. I sighed and led the way to Suzanne’s room. I just hope I’m right that Jennifer can perform some kind of magic the rest of us couldn’t.

‘Suzanne, honey… I’m bringing the family. And um, well, my grandparents are here.’ I hesitantly told my mate.

‘ And before you start getting upset, they are here because grandpa was seeing a doctor. They diagnosed him with lung cancer, and he only has a couple of months.’ I quickly explained.

‘Please… please let them see Jennifer. I don’t want them passing away without even meeting her.’ I pleaded.

I won’t force her to let them in. She just had a baby and should be comfortable, but I hope she’ll let them in.

‘Fine. For Michele.’ Suzanne sighed.

I sighed as she agreed. Opening the door, I led the way inside.

“Oh, my baby.” Edith rushed to Suzanne, kissed her forehead, and immediately took Jennifer out of her arms.

“Hey, sweetie. You did it. And in record time. You and your brother took forever to be born.” Maxton teased, kissing her cheek.

“That’s because she’s a Shelton.” Grandpa snorted.

“He’s right. Hale was born in under four hours. Dillon’s mother was only in labor for three. Clemmy here took five to make his appearance.” Grandma smiled as she quickly covered up the borderline rude remark.

“Good to know. Hello, Michele… Dillon. I’m glad you were able to meet her. Austin, why don’t you introduce her.” Suzanne kept a smile on her face as she politely greeted them.

I smiled as I got to steal my baby girl from Edith. I rolled my eyes as she pouted.

“Everyone, may I officially present Jennifer Bernice Shelton.” I smiled, turning Jennifer for everyone to get to see.

Dad gasped when he heard the name. We haven’t discussed baby names with the family. We wanted it to be a surprise. I hope it was a good surprise.

“That…that’s a perfect name. Jen would have loved it. To be so blessed to share a name with our granddaughter.” Dad nodded, holding back his tears as his wife squeezed his hand.

“It’s truly a perfect name. May I hold her?” Grandma nodded, holding her arms out.

I glanced at Suzanne to be sure. Once I got the approval, I passed Jennifer to my grandmother.

“Oh, Dillon, look at her. She’s so precious. She has your eyes. Those beautiful blue Shelton eyes. Say hello to the new generation of the Shelton line.” Grandma smiled, moving closer, trying to hand her to him.

I felt my breath freeze in my lungs. Would Grandfather reject her? Refuse to hold her? Come on, Jenny baby. Melt that ice-cold heart of his.

I thought he would refuse to hold her for a moment, but as he looked at her, Jennifer yawned that cute newborn yawn. And I saw it. I saw that first crack in his armor as he took her into his arms.

Grandma smiled so big as she leaned slightly into his side while he was utterly enraptured by Jennifer letting her hold his finger. I quickly dug my phone out and snapped a picture. I need proof that they were here, proof that he can smile.

Jennifer is truly magic. My grandparents had stayed in the room for an hour. Grandpa barely let someone else hold her. And in the months after her birth, they were at our house a minimum of twice a week.

Every visit, grandpa had a new dress or toy for Jenny. He doted on her so much in his final months as he underwent chemo to try and stave off death. Sadly the magic Jenny had to melt his heart wasn’t enough to keep him with us.

On the same day he entered this world, he left it. Grandma passed two days later. We visit their headstones, and my mom’s twice a month to leave flowers and tell them how Jennifer is growing.

And two years after Jennifer was born, we visited as a family of four with our son, Dillon Thomas. I hope he never feels the same about his first name as I do mine.

I know he won’t because Suzanne and I will never let him grow up to be the closed-minded man my grandfather was but to be the kind and loving version he was in his final days.

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