I walk over and take her face in my hands and try to rub the worry lines away from her forehead. “Nothing is going to happen. You aren’t going anywhere. This is your home now, and you are my mate. Nothing and no one will change that.”
She reaches up and puts her hand over mine, and we press our foreheads together.
The sound of the front door opening has us both looking up. Grabbing Gwen’s hand, I move towards the living room.
“He’s here,” Winnie says, looking out the open doorway to the clearing in front of the house.
“Stay here,” I order, leaving Gwen inside with Winnie as I walk out onto the porch.
Stone walks from the tree line just as I reach the edge of the porch. He walks through the clearing and stands a few feet away as walk down the steps to meet him.
He’s looking at the house and the surrounding area with a questioning look in his eyes. He doesn’t ask anything, and I can sense he’s one pissed-off alpha.
“What do you want, Stone?” I don’t have time for games. He needs to say what he wants and leave. I have a mate to bond with.
“I needed to check on my sister. I saw you broke out of the cell. Where is she?” His anger is palpable, but I don’t care. He doesn’t intimidate me.
“She’s fine. You can go now.”
“I need to see her, Xavier. I know how you’ve been these past few years. I need to make sure she’s okay.” He spits the words at me as if my sorrow over the loss of my family was something I could control.
“Get off my property. If you don’t, we’ll fight. And I will win.” I clench my fists at my side. I’m not intimidated by his words.
“You’ll have to kill me.”
“If that’s what it takes.”
“Enough!” Gwen’s shout has me turning around. I see her standing on the porch with her hands on her hips. “I’m here, Stone. I’m fine. You can go home and leave my mate and me to our bonding.”
“Gwen, are you okay?”
“What is wrong with you, Stone? You’re acting crazy. Shifters don’t hurt their mates. You locked mine up and tried to keep him from me. You know what that would have done to him. What it would have done to me. Why are you acting this way? You’ve gone crazy!”
I see Winnie step onto the porch behind Gwen, and I feel a shift in Stone. Anyone else wouldn’t feel it, but because I found my mate before she was of age, I know what it is. There’s a longing in Stone, along with the need to hold back. He’s terrified because his heart wants her, but his wolf doesn’t know if she’s the one.
Suddenly, all his talk from when I was in the cell makes sense. He’s angry with himself because he’s doing all the things I did with Gwen when she was young.
“Stone.” I say his name low, and his eyes shoot to mine. “Do you see what I have built for Gwen? Do you see that I pulled myself through the grief so I could be a worthy mate for her?” He looks around at the house and then back to me. I’m sure I look a sight better after the trim she gave my long hair and beard. “Do you see that what happened before happened for a reason?”
His eyes come back to me, and I can see a slight nod. He understands my meaning, and I feel some of the tension between us fade.
He looks at Gwen and raises his chin. “You’re the only family I have left. I’m sorry, but I just needed to make sure you were okay.”
Gwen steps off the porch and goes to walk past me, but I grab her wrist. She turns to look into my eyes, then reaches up to touch my face.
“You said you would do anything for me. I’m not going anywhere, Xavier.”
I take a breath and nod, releasing her wrist. She turns towards Stone and goes to him, giving him a hug. He wraps his arms around her, and I can see he is relieved she is okay, and also that she is in a safe place. I can only imagine how I would have been with my sister. If I tried to put myself in his position, I may have acted the same. I would have only wanted what was best for her.
She releases her hold and immediately comes back to my side, nearly wrapping her entire body around me. It comforts me that she needs my touch just as much as I need hers.
“Give us a few weeks. We’d like to have you over for dinner after the full moon.” I look down at Gwen and raise my eyebrow. I guess we’re hosting a dinner party. I will always give her whatever she wants.
Stone just nods and looks over my shoulder at Winnie. I see it again, and I feel what’s happening between them. I have no doubt they’ll be mated together. I don’t know why he’s too blinded by his own self-hatred to see it. I can’t really see much of Winnie under her long hair and baggy clothes, but she smells nice. I’m sure she’ll make him a good mate and bear lots of cubs.
I look over at Stone and his eyes come back to mine. “Do you see it yet?”
The movement nearly imperceptible, but I see he nods his head.
“What?” Gwen asks, and I just lean down, kissing the top of her head.
“Later, my love,” is all I say.
I turn us back towards the house, and Gwen reaches out, hugging Winnie as we go inside. “I’ll call you tomorrow. I’ll have X bring me into town to get the rest of my things.
“I’ll escort you back to town,” Stone says to Winnie.
A small blush blossoms across her cheeks as she follows the alpha out of the clearing and to the line of trees where the forest begins.