Six months ago
“How… how is that possible?” Had Graham heard the man correctly? He was—good God—pregnant?
The doctor smiled and clapped Hyden on the back. “I think there’s only one answer to that question.”
Hyden, appearing stunned as well, nodded. “Yes. One answer. I had an idea but…” He turned to Graham, who was sitting beside him, stood, and pulled him up and into his arms. “Oh, thank you, little one. You are making us parents. I can’t believe it. It’s a dream I thought would remain exactly that. A dream.”
Graham loved being in these arms. And after learning for the first time just yesterday that he belonged to a massive pack and that his lover was the Supreme Alpha, well, it was just a little overwhelming. And now this?
He was pregnant!
“I’m an Oletti?” he whispered. Was he really just like Myrk?
Hyden pulled him back to gaze at him with shiny eyes. Oh God, those were tears. “Yes, my sweet. I can’t believe it either, but yes, you must be from the Oletti clan.”
“And you suspected?”
Hyden grinned after wiping his eyes. “Well, the mood swings, weight gain, strange cravings in the middle of the night. Pretty classic.”
“You mean last night? First of all, it wasn’t the middle of the night, it was well before eleven.”
“It was five to, and when I usually get up at four, eleven is the middle of the night.”
Graham grunted. “Okay, fine, I’ll give you that. But M&Ms are not a strange craving.”
“What’s strange about that?”
“It was a frozen pizza that you had no idea how long had been in the freezer and you know they never have enough sauce.”
“Ketchup is not pizza sauce.”
“Did we have pizza sauce?”
“I rest my case. Not strange. Just… creative.”
Hyden sighed and mumbled something.
“And you didn’t even try it.”
Hyden chuckled. “No. You’re right. I didn’t.”
“But… I do have a question.”
“What’s that, my love?”
“Does this mean… I mean, am I… is Myrk somehow… like my brother or something?” Myrk should not be someone Graham thought about at all, much less in this intimate moment, but the very thought they were even remotely related was making him a little nauseous. Or maybe it was the pregnancy doing that. Nonetheless, he wanted to know.
Hyden’s adoring expression morphed into confusion. “I don’t know.” He turned to the doctor. “Jack?”
“Myrk Varwag? I honestly couldn’t tell you. We would have to conduct a DNA test for that. Admittedly, I don’t know much about the Oletti clan. The only real information there seems to be is that the male has reproductive organs. Since that does not occur in any other species, the only conclusion I can come to, is that you are Oletti. Since Myrk is Oletti as well, there is a possibility you could be related.”
Graham had met Myrk, one of Hyden’s pack members, just last night, and it had not gone well. Coming home to the beautiful Omega shamelessly trying to seduce Hyden while standing in his own kitchen had set Graham’s canines on edge. Hyden had left the kitchen immediately and come to Graham’s side to hug him and ask about his day. But it didn’t change the fact that Myrk made it obvious he thought Graham was far beneath him, a fact Graham unfortunately had trouble denying.
“Wow,” the irritating Myrk had said. “I actually have the privilege of meeting the man who finally captured the great Hyden Solfang. And before the big commitment ceremony too.” Graham remembered the man had walked toward them with a flirty, sauntering gait. “Oh, Hyden! He is adorable, isn’t he?”
“Careful, Myrk,” Hyden had warned.
Myrk had then reached up to flick a lock of hair from Graham’s forehead, causing Graham to flinch back as if the man had cooties. He probably did.
“Simply delightful!” Myrk had chuckled, as if he had said something funny. He totally didn’t.
Graham remembered growling. But that didn’t stop the snarky little man.
“I have to say, as impressed as I am such a man was even in existence, I am a bit perplexed.”
Hyden was finally getting upset, too, because he growled as well. “Perplexed, Myrk?” he had said. “What in hell are you perplexed about?” The problem was, Hyden was stiff beside Graham, as if he were concerned Mr. Varwag was going to say something Graham was not supposed to hear. Graham couldn’t help thinking, then why the hell encourage the stupid man to keep talking?
“Well, two things, really,” Myrk unwisely continued. “First, what kind of shifter name is Taylor? I know I’ve never heard it?”
“Graham was raised by human parents. That’s all that needs to be said about the matter.” Hyden did not sound pleased.
“Human? Really? I wonder.” Myrk had stepped back as he gave Graham a long up-and-down inspection, which made Graham even madder. “Are you sure he’s even a shifter, Hyden? Maybe he’s given you a human-made potion that muddles the brain and you only think he’s your mate. I have certainly heard of that happening.”
“Myrk!” Hyden had shouted, startling Graham who stood right beside him. “That’s enough. Yes, Graham’s an Omega wolf shifter, and yes, he is my fated life-long and only mate. What’s your other perplexity?”
Graham had watched in awe the exchange between the two. He remembered almost feeling sorry for Myrk. Almost.
Myrk’s face had become dark, though, at that moment, which worried Graham just a little. “My other perplexity?” Myrk had basically huffed as he lifted that beautiful face and looked down his perfect nose at Graham. “That the gods would see fit to pair our supreme leader with someone so… so… oh, what’s a good word? Common.”
Yeah. That’s what he said.
It was little wonder Graham had trouble acting the gracious host. His demeanor did not improve even after Hyden had finally kicked Myrk out because it was then Graham learned Hyden and Myrk had been lovers.
Okay, not lovers, according to Hyden. But the two of them had been to bed together and maybe even in Hyden’s playroom plenty of times and that just ate at Graham. Myrk indeed was perfect. A flawless body, a gorgeous face, and probably a closet full of runway clothes. All things Graham would never have. Which of course made him doubt that Hyden would have even been attracted to him without the fated mate thing.
Still, he reached out to touch his man for comfort.
“I learned in my shifter class,” Graham offered, “one theory was that there may have been some sort of lineage to adhere to. Only certain genes were to be passed down or highlighted. Something only the Y chromosome could carry, and it had to stay strong and unmutated. I admit I got a little lost in the explanation, but it had something to do with preventing genetic drift and how the earth reacted to that.”
The doctor nodded. “Interesting. I had not heard that. But in thinking about genetic drift, it does make some sense. Some traits that are attached to the Y chromosome can actually harm the genes in a female fetus. So, in other words, Mother Nature was showing off. Making a show.” He chuckled. “I don’t know if that’s correct or not, but she is still very much in control no matter what us shifters think.” The doctor shook his head. “Or those idiot humans who believe… well, never mind that. Needless to say, I will have to study up.”
“About Mother Nature?”
“History has recorded aggressive behavior from her before. Who knows?”
“Like now, you mean?”
“She does seem angry.”
Hyden huffed. “I agree. The tremors last night were strong.”
“They were. There was what we thought was a gas line break near the hospital downtown because of it. Turned out it was a gas leak, but more along the lines of volcanic gas.”
“Yes. We responded to that. There were several around the city.” Hyden shook his head.
“Unfortunately, there were burn admissions to the hospitals. Thankfully none were life-threatening. But, scary stuff. I did hear you sent your people to help. Thank you for all the support your Betas offered. Have you heard anything?”
“You mean if Mount Genesis will erupt? There are those who say it’s inevitable.”
“I’ve heard that, too, but they’re talking about a huge earthquake as well.”
“Like the one nearly thirty years ago. I know. They’re also talking about evacuation.”
Graham chimed in. “My professor’s one of those who is preaching for everyone to get out. He says he’s leaving at the end of the week because this whole area will be destroyed.”
Hyden huffed. “Well, volcanos and earthquakes can go together. But it’s not good to panic. All we can do right now is be aware. Stay informed.”
“Agreed.” The doctor put a hand on Graham’s shoulder. “Enough about that. Do you have any other questions, Graham?”
“Actually, I do. How will this work? I mean, I don’t exactly have the anatomy for giving birth.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll deliver by cesarean, I suspect. Even though I have never experienced a male being pregnant, I do know a thing or two about birthing babies. We will watch you as time moves forward. For now, get plenty of rest, schedule a visit with my nutritionist. There are standard vitamins and such. Then, I want to see you again in a month.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” Hyden smiled. “Thank you very much.” He shook the doctor’s hand and turned Graham toward the door. “Come, my love. Next, we meet my pack. I’ve asked them to gather at the house. They should be there by the time we get home.”
“Excuse me? Your pack? How are you going to get that many shifters in our house?”
Hyden laughed as they walked out of the office and to the elevator. “No, not the entire pack. That would be insane. Just some of the Alphas, maybe the Gammas, they would be important today, and any of my Betas who are not on assignment or helping with the cleanup. It will take a while for you to meet everyone. Honestly, I haven’t even met everyone.”
“Leaders of the packs that are now governed by me.”
“Oh. So, how many shifters?”
“Twenty. Maybe thirty. Depends.”
“Well, I’m glad the house is at least clean.” Except the bedroom. Damn. He forgot to close the door. What would they think? Not that it mattered. They already had to know, right? “Um… so, we’re not going to get there before them?”
“I don’t think so. Why?”
“I… just…. was thinking…”
And as if the man could read his mind, “Oh. You mean the bedrooms. No worries, pup. None of the pack are allowed past the living room and they know that.”
“Really? Oh. Okay. Still, I’m… a little nervous. I mean, even twenty shifters… I’ve never…”
Hyden sighed as he squeezed Graham’s hand. “I know. Lean on me. I won’t leave your side. I simply want to introduce you as my fated mate and give them this wonderful news we just learned. Actually, I want to shout all of it from the rooftops. They’ll never believe it. I’m having trouble myself.”
“Was Myrk invited?”
Hyden growled. “No. But he might be there. His father is Alpha to the Varwag pack. Originally a Delta, hunters for the pack. Back in the day, they were tasked to find new territory, new hunting grounds, keep the pack fed. That role has evolved over the decades into more of a business-related hunt. Geared toward acquiring land in the sense of owning it. Housing, office structures, rental units, that type of thing. Due to the fact Farn, Myrk’s father, was evidently successful, he rose in the ranks to become Alpha for his pack. A top shifter. He renamed it the Varwag pack. So, he would have been invited.”
“Wow. He became Alpha as opposed to being an Alpha?”
“I’ve been told it happens. Bloods are mixed all the time and evidently on occasion an Alpha’s blood rises to the top. Apparently even in a Delta.” Hyden shook his head. “I’m not so sure in this case though. However, somehow he was charismatic and persuasive enough to convince an entire pack.”
“Oh. So… Myrk’s family is well respected?”
“I wouldn’t go that far. Feared maybe. Recently, it was brought to my attention that he may have done some things—unethically. And in my name. There’s hard evidence of it as well and I do need to talk with him. That status just might be stripped. Zamro, one of my Betas, is the one who discovered it.” He glanced at Graham. “No one knows that so keep it quiet. Zamro’s on a big assignment right now so that’s why the investigation is on hold. He needs to be here for the interrogation and eventual trial. So, at the moment, Farn Varwag’s position in the pack remains intact. If he shows, I believe he will bring Myrk with him.”
Graham sighed. “Even though you ordered Myrk to never enter your house.”
“Our house. And it’s complicated. As our house, I would force him to comply. Unfortunately, in this moment, it’s not our house, but Solfang House. The pack house. He would have to leave the pack in order to not be able to enter when I have called for the pack to come.”
“Can you change that?”
“What do you mean?”
“Have Solfang House somewhere else? Like one of your office buildings?”
Hyden nodded his head consideringly as they made their way to the parking lot. “I could. That’s a good suggestion. I’ve never had the need to change things up like that. I do have to admit lately it gets quite crowded.” He gazed down at Graham. “Plus, now I owe my mate a home. A real home. I will look into moving Solfang House either later today or tomorrow.”
“Good. Thank you. That doesn’t help for right now though. I still don’t like the idea Myrk may be there. If he is, you know he will cause trouble.”
“Yes, regrettably, I do. But…”
“There was a time when I truly wished Myrk was my fated mate. I don’t love him, Graham. Please don’t misunderstand this. I have never loved him. But I wanted a family. My sister’s mating ceremony is coming up soon, and she’s pregnant with twins. That’s another thing. I can’t wait for you to meet her and her Beta fiancé. You’re going to love them both. She’s maybe not going to be too happy with me wanting to steal the limelight by mating with you so soon, but she’s happy and so excited about having a family. Kids.” He chuckled. “I’ve wanted that for me too.”
“Really? You wished Myrk was your fated mate?”
“Hey.” Hyden stopped as they reached his truck. “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that, but I promised to hold nothing back. Before I met you and when I learned a male could actually give birth, I admit, I daydreamed about it. Not living with Myrk, exactly, but having a child of my own. Knowing it was a possibility. And now, not only am I given the amazing gift of my true fated mate, but you’re an Oletti as well. And pregnant with my pup. Or—pups.” He opened the passenger door and helped Graham climb in.
Pups? As in more than one? Graham’s heart thrilled with that thought. But… Myrk. Damn it. “It’s still hard to hear. I really hate that man.”
Hyden squeezed Graham’s knee. “Buckle up. And know this. I’m not happy with him either. He was out of line last night. But he’ll come around. It wasn’t like he was in love with me either. He’s more set on being mated with a head Alpha. He’s full-on Omega, so will not inherit the title nor does he want it. It’s a rank thing with him. That and the fact I have money.” He shut the door and came around to the driver side. After he was in the truck and buckled, he started the large vehicle. “Unfortunately, I allowed for there to be an on-and-off again thing between us. But the last time we were together was a good month before I met you. That was when I made it clear we were never going to be mated to one another. He got mad and left. And that was it. He started going out with other shifters. It was over.”
“But clearly it wasn’t. He was probably trying to make you jealous.”
Hyden glanced at Graham as he maneuvered the truck out of the parking lot. “Yeah, maybe. He didn’t.”
“Good. I still don’t like that you thought of him at all as your mate.”
Hyden huffed. “Honestly? I’m not proud of that either. Neither one of us should have ever even thought to simply settle for something that wasn’t real. Those times when I dreamed about having a child of my own, I thought Myrk was my only hope for that. When I wasn’t with him, for that reason, it became easier to think it was possible to mate with him. But of course, the second we were together, I knew that would never happen. Not to mention, I would never be able to make him pregnant anyway.”
“Because an Oletti male can only become pregnant by their fated mate?”
“Yes. Their fated male mate. Certainly a female would never be able to provide the necessary component to make that happen.”
“Good point. Which further supports we’re fated mates.”
Hyden reached out a hand and grabbed Graham’s. “Yes, again. I have never doubted that since the moment you stood at my door, dripping wet and sneezing. The fact I had finally met you hit me like a lightning bolt.”
They arrived at Solfang House but couldn’t get into the garage where Hyden’s Jeep was and where he normally parked the truck. They couldn’t even get in the driveway. There were too many cars parked everywhere, including the street.
“Damn. I need a parking lot. You are absolutely right about moving Solfang House.” Hyden parked the truck on the street a half block away. “Looks like we have a ton of company. We’ll have to walk from here.”
Oh God, company? “No!” Graham gasped. An image of Jake, the asshole Alpha Graham had lived with before he stumbled into Solfang House, slammed into his brain. It seemed ages ago, but it had only been months. Jake, who lived in Tenway Park, had a habit of inviting his “friends” and offering Graham up to them like he was a thick piece of filet mignon. Graham had trouble not remembering the leers on those Alpha faces, the vulgar comments they made, the chuckling as they advanced on him…
“What’s wrong?” Hyden shouted. “Are you okay?”
“Sorry! I… I was just thinking. We’re here…” Graham put a hand on his heart. He had had no defenses back then. Jake was his Alpha. The man he was supposed to be able to trust. And the man would keep Graham naked and force him to lube himself just so he was nice and ready when his “company” arrived. The big shifter would sit on the couch with a fucking beer and watch Graham do it, too, making Graham kneel on the floor in front of him, bent over, his ass in the air…
“Talk to me. What’s going on in that head?”
Graham gazed into Hyden’s eyes. “I… it’s just that I remember… I don’t like company.”
“Oh, Graham.” Hyden grabbed him and pulled him into a hug across the seat. “You do not need to fear company ever again. I swear it. I will kill any shifter or human who even suggests I share you. I will not. Trust me.”
He did. But the tears came anyway. Hyden just held him.
“And Myrk?” Hyden whispered gently. “Please don’t worry about him either. I’ll be with you. I can’t imagine he’ll dare do or say anything anyway. Not in front of the pack. I hope he wouldn’t embarrass his father like that, especially with the trouble his father might be in. But even so, I won’t leave your side. I’ll protect you.” Hyden pulled back and kissed Graham lightly on his wet lips. “I promise. Okay?” He wiped the tears from his face.
Graham nodded as he took a deep breath. “Okay.” He sniffed. “Or this time, I get to rip his face off, right?”
Hyden laughed. “Yes. And believe me, there are plenty of shifters in that house right now who would cheer you on.” He kissed him again. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” Graham nodded and pulled out of Hyden’s arms.
“All right. Careful getting out on that side. It’s still pretty muddy.”
The rains that had been plaguing the entire metro area of Tenway off and on for months, including its southern suburb of Davenshire, had at last stopped. However, sewer systems were still overwhelmed and much of the lower lying regions remained flooded, forcing people from their homes. Even here, in the upper neighborhoods, standing water was an issue. Added to those challenges, the strong earth tremors off to the north and east near the mountains overnight, sparked more anxiety. Even though they only caused very minor damage, the pop-up fires triggered by broken gas lines had city resources, and city dwellers nerves, at the breaking point.
And now Graham had learned it wasn’t necessarily natural gas lines, but volcanic gas spewing from the earth. Was Mount Genesis about to blow?
Unfortunately, humans were starting to believe it was the beginning of the end of the world and blamed it on shifters. It had been all over the news. They preached shifters were an abomination and it was divine intervention ridding the planet of an unnatural being. Others whispered it was a government conspiracy also involving getting rid of shifters. This kind of thinking only added to the unrest on both sides.
For those very reasons, the twenty or so top shifters, which Hyden had told Graham would be in attendance, ended up being over fifty, including the Alphas Hyden had claimed would be there and the Betas. But there were also Thetas, Kappas, and yes, Gammas, the elders, who had somehow filed into the house. Everyone was scared and wanted answers, thinking Hyden could provide them.
Hyden and Graham made their way across the entry and into the kitchen, Hyden saying he would make an announcement once Dreven got there. Dreven was an Epsilon, or spiritual leader, Hyden explained quietly to Graham. He would bless their union first before the official announcement.
Hyden got the two of them in front of the large island in the kitchen while a number of men crowded around him. One of the shifters reported all the fires in the metro were out and cleanup was underway. Another wearily told Hyden the gang wars in Tenway had claimed four more shifters and several humans although that number was uncertain. Still another Beta, very obviously exhausted as well, handed Hyden files while despairingly telling him the local government was still blaming shifters for all of the chaos.
“How can they continue to think that?” The Beta moaned. “They need to fucking open their eyes. How is it we brought the rain? Or the tremors, for the Great Wolf’s sake.”
“Agreed,” Hyden said as he paged through the top file. “None of this is good.” Hyden sighed and closed the file, then set it on the counter behind him. “I’ll read these later. Any word from Tenway?”
“You mean Zamro, Aryn, and Gharnaf? No. Nothing.”
“Damn.” Hyden shook his head. “I was hoping one of them would be able to get word out of what’s going on with them.”
Graham put a hand on Hyden’s arm as his heart twisted for his Alpha. “Hyden?” he said softly.
Hyden patted Graham’s hand. “It’s okay, pup. I do fear the worst, but I’m not about to give up hope just yet.”
The man who had handed Hyden the files cleared his throat. Graham glanced at him, feeling embarrassed he had distracted Hyden from his business, and the glare he received from the other shifter confirmed it.
“Well,” he said loudly as Hyden returned his attention to him. “We did establish Vodri’s dealing in some kind of zombie drug. A controlling substance over the weak humans. Seems once they take it, they become Vodri’s minions with no mind of their own. I’ve seen it firsthand.” He took a deep breath and a very worried expression crossed his face. “I’m not sure, but maybe there is a possibility it could affect shifters as well.”
“How? There’s no way it could,” Hyden said with conviction although Graham knew he felt differently. Just because most things done by humans did not affect shifters, didn’t mean that nothing would. “However, we don’t have enough information. I guess we need to find out more.” Hyden jerked his head around to look at Graham. “Where are you going?”
Graham had moved away from Hyden’s side, trying to make his way to the hallway that led back toward the bedrooms. “I need to go to the bathroom.”
Hyden nodded. “Okay. Hurry. Dreven should be here soon.”
One of the Betas raised his hand that had a cell phone in it to get Hyden’s attention. “Actually, I just got word he is being helped up the driveway right now.”
Hyden grinned at the man, then turned to Graham. “Great news. Hurry, pup. Get back here as soon as you can. I can’t wait!”
The dazzling smile that graced his Alpha’s face made Graham weak in the knees. “Yes, Hyden. I will.” And he did hurry, but after he returned, he hovered at the end of the hallway hoping Hyden was right about no pack member being able to approach him there. Mainly because Myrk indeed was present. The man stood staring at Graham from the living room, shooting poison darts with his eyes.
The impact of that scowl made Graham’s heart race. He wanted to disappear into his bedroom, close and lock the door, and pretend all these shifters and this meeting had nothing to do with him. Except Hyden was now motioning for him to come to him, and Graham could do nothing but obey. The Epsilon, Dreven, had made his way to Hyden. No question it was the elder Hyden had waited for because the older man was dressed in a beautiful brightly colored ceremonial robe evidently necessary for this type of proclamation. Hyden had not said much about what was going to happen today but that the declaration he was about to make, especially since he was the head Alpha, was huge. So as Graham walked to Hyden and Dreven, the dull roar of lively conversation ceased, and all attention turned to the three of them.
He moved to stand beside Hyden who immediately put his arm around him. Graham kept his head down. Hyden’s touch calmed him, but he still refused to even peek into the crowd that now pushed forward. He was thinking he shouldn’t lose sight of Myrk. It was good to keep an eye on your enemy. But being shorter than most of the shifters present, that just wasn’t possible.
That was when Dreven shuffled to stand before Hyden and Graham, and Graham couldn’t help but gaze up at the man. Oh! Such a kind face. Plus, he was beaming ear to ear. But even bent over, this old man was taller, wider, broader built than Graham. He was quite impressive. However, that huge smile faded as he studied Graham. After a few moments, Dreven sighed and shook his head. Graham shot a wide-eyed glance up at Hyden who frowned deeply. What was going on? Was there a problem? Was that problem Graham? Oh damn, were they not fated mates after all? Had that been a lie too? He tried to pull away from Hyden, but Hyden just tightened his grip.
“Hang on, pup,” he whispered.
The spiritual leader leaned over to kiss Graham’s forehead. Reaching up, he brought Hyden’s face down to kiss his forehead as well. Immediately, Hyden let out a breath and relaxed beside Graham, which allowed him to breathe again. Evidently, it was some sort of ritual for accepting Graham into the pack, maybe announcing a mating. Whatever it was sent the room into a low roar of mutterings. The older man held up a hand, then turned back to Graham when the room once again was quiet.
“Oh, little one, for most of us, life consists of choosing paths. We are tasked with making many decisions every day that affect what we do and where we go. Some are obvious choices, like the jobs we are meant to do. Others not so clear, like who we are to mate with. Still others of us”—he glanced up at Hyden—“make choices that affect us all and we are glad for it.” He nodded at Hyden before returning his attention back to Graham. “For every path we take, many others continue to open to us. Paths of glorious joy, love, a chance at dreams. And sometimes deception and perhaps betrayal. And so it goes all of our lives.” The older man sucked in a breath and let it out slowly as he touched Graham’s stomach. “But for a few there is an ancient calling that will allow only one path.” He gazed into Graham’s eyes. “You, my pup, are about to witness greatness.” He glanced up at Hyden. “Take good care of them, Alpha. The child he carries will change our world. And… I see great trouble ahead.”
There were gasps all around the room, the questioning whispered words of “child” and “could he be pregnant” flowed like a gentle wave.
Dreven’s smile, although a bit sad now, resumed as he stepped back and turned to the crowd. “We are in the presence of a pivotal moment in the lives of shifters. This”—he gestured back at Hyden and Graham—“is a true fated destiny-bound mating between our great leader, Hyden, and this young man, Graham. A mating, of which, I can do nothing but approve.”
There was a moment of hesitation, but then a cheer rose loudly from the gathered pack members. Finally, Hyden raised his hand for silence. When the noise died down, he spoke. “I did not need for the Shaman to confirm that Graham and I are fated mates. But it is good that he sees it. Thank you, Dreven, and”—he bowed slightly toward the older man—“we obviously need to talk later?” The older man nodded once and stepped back into the crowd while Hyden spoke again. “I now want to introduce to you my fated mate, Graham, soon-to-be Solfang. Yes, he is one of the rare Oletti, and he carries my child.” He gazed down at Graham. “No one was as surprised or pleased as I was to learn that very thing just this morning.” He returned his attention to the crowd. “That is the reason I wanted this meeting. I wanted to announce Graham and I will be joined as one under the next Mating Moon a month from tonight.”
The cheer that went up was wild, and the pack crowded in around Hyden and Graham. Hyden held Graham tightly to his side as congratulations and slaps on the back and handshakes rocked them both.
Suddenly there was a shout from the living room and all attention turned to Myrk, who was standing on top of one of Hyden’s beautiful coffee tables.
And he was very obviously pissed.
“You!” He pointed at Graham. “You husband stealer!” Myrk glanced around the room and then down to the elders who were sitting, stunned, on the couches. “You all know Hyden was to mate with me. And not this… this… imposter who somehow bewitched Hyden into believing he’s an Oletti. He’s no Oletti! He only claims that because he knows that’s what I am, and he thinks to trap Hyden with his fantasy of being pregnant. You can’t let this happen. You just can’t. Hyden is mine. He said so. You have to make him honor that.”
“Myrk!” Hyden shouted. “This is not the time or place for this conversation.”
“It is! You’re under a spell or a potion or something. Some kind of mind-controlling drug because you’ve forbidden me from your house. Me. The son of an Alpha. This was practically my home, too, and you’ve told me never to step foot in it again.” Myrk allowed a tear to slide down his face, and he choked out the last of his sentence. He appeared to get a hold of himself, wiping away that manufactured tear and continued. “This… this is exactly the time and place.”
Hyden glanced around the room at all of the shifters present. “Fine. We’ll do it your way.” Hyden growled at Myrk. “But we will talk only truth in Solfang House, and that truth is you were the only one talking about mating, not me. I will admit, I did tell you I was beginning to doubt I would ever meet my fated mate, but I never promised I would mate with you. And when I made that clear to you—again—you told me to go to hell and you left.”
“That never happened! I never said that. I would never say that to you. I love you.”
“And I never told you I would mate with you.”
“Yes!” Another older shifter, Graham assumed it to be Farn, Myrk’s father, had stepped forward to stand beside Myrk who continued to pose on the coffee table, hands on his hips, looking like a model. “Yes, you did, Hyden,” the older man continued. “You even talked to me about it.” There was a gasp in the room, Graham wondered if it had to do with such a provocative claim or Farn not using Hyden’s title of Alpha, which was prudent to do in what seemed to be an official meeting. The man then spoke directly to the elders. “Hyden absolutely did talk to me about mating with my son, a conversation I understood to be a promise. Pack law dictates he cannot break that vow.”
One of the elders rose from his seat. “Alpha Varwag! We are in the pack house at an official gathering, and you, being an Alpha yourself, are not allowed to be so familiar. You will address Alpha Solfang as Alpha Solfang out of respect to our clan and his status. Do I make myself clear?”
Farn only glared at the older man but did not argue.
“Thank you, council.” Hyden nodded at the elder as he once again took his seat. Then he gazed hard at Farn. “I did no such thing, Alpha. The only time you and I discussed anything to do with your son was when you barged into my office demanding I pick a date to mate with him. I told you then there was no promise between us. Myrk and I did not have that kind of relationship and Myrk knows that.”
“That’s certainly not the way I remember it. But it seems now you’re admitting to leading my son on. How dare you? The so-called Supreme Alpha leading on a vulnerable unmated Omega? Not only an Omega, but an Oletti? Why? Did you pretend to love him just so you could get him into bed to see if you could make an Oletti pregnant? Is that what your goal was? How wrong is that? And now you claim to have found yet another Oletti and that he alleges to be pregnant—by you!”
“Alpha Farn! Stop! I admit to having a relationship with Myrk—in the past. We were both consenting adults. And you know as well as does your son and his mother, we are not fated mates. We established at the very beginning neither one of us were looking to mate just anyone. Evidently, he changed his mind, but I didn’t. Even so, he moved on. There is no longer anything between us.”
“Moved on?” Myrk jumped down from the table and pushed through the crowd to stand in front of Hyden. “Is that what you thought? No. I wanted to make you jealous. I wanted you to finally understand what it was you were losing and come after me. God, Hyden, why are you so dense?” He put a hand on Hyden’s chest, which made Graham very anxious. “Please, Hyden. You have to know I am your fated mate. Not…” Myrk sneered at Graham. “Not this ugly, fat, lying Omega. He disgusts me and would disgust you as well if you were in your right mind. Hyden, come back to your senses. I swear to you, he had to have given you a drug or something.” He gazed up at Hyden. “You are under some kind of spell. I just know it. You have to believe me. You need to break it! Hyden, throw him away! I beg you!”
Hyden removed Myrk’s hand from his chest and pushed him gently back. “Please quit embarrassing us like this,” he whispered. “Even Eta Dreven blesses this union. Stand—down.”
Myrk yanked away from Hyden. “Never! I see this will take drastic measures to break this spell.” He turned toward his father who was scowling. “Father! We’re leaving.” He stomped to where his father stood. “In fact—” He turned to face Hyden and Graham again. “We are leaving your rule! Our pack’s resignation will be on your desk tomorrow!” There was a gasp from the others in the room as he turned with a flourish and headed for the door.
“Myrk!” Hyden shouted. “Be careful what you do. There may be no path back.”
“You’ll be sorry. Wait and see.” He stuck out his tongue and walked out the door, his father on his heels.
Hyden sighed, hugging Graham to his side. “I’m sorry, pet. You shouldn’t have had to go through that.”
Graham grunted. “I told you he hadn’t given up.”
“Yes, unfortunately, I didn’t see the danger.” He glanced up at the crowd. “May I have your attention again?” He called out to the shifters who were all talking at once. The murmurs died down, and Hyden shook his head. “I apologize you all had to witness that… that outburst. That should never have been played out in public.”
“It’s not public, Hyden,” a young man who would later be introduced to Graham as Lucril, a Beta, stated. “It’s just us.”
Hyden smiled. “Yes. Just us. Still, I am truly sorry for Myrk being… so angry with me.” He sighed. “I can’t defend his actions, but I won’t defend my own either. Incredibly messy business. Let’s put it behind us for now.” Hyden glanced a Graham. “Back to the reason for this gathering. Again, this is my fated mate. Truly my fated mate.” He smiled down at Graham. “It has been a long journey for both of us to find each other, but I am thrilled to announce he has consented to mate with me in one month.”
The cheers returned although Graham noticed not quite the tempo they had been before. However, the rest of the day passed without any more drama. Hyden ordered in all kinds of food and drink, and everyone took full advantage of the feast. Including Graham, who everyone seemed to want to get to know. They crowded in on him, introducing themselves, names and ranks Graham had no hope of remembering, answering as many questions as he could. But Graham was fine with all of it since Hyden knew him well enough to make good on his promise to never leave his side. He kept his arm around him and didn’t allow any of the pack to get too close. Somehow, he kept the intensity to a low roar as well, which helped greatly with Graham’s anxiety.
Graham was still happier when it was all over, and the pack was finally gone. A few shifters stayed behind to help clean up the mess. But even though Graham was incredibly grateful, and made that well-known, he breathed a huge sigh of relief when the door closed on even them.
Hyden pulled him into his arms and kissed the top of his head. “How are you feeling? Tired?”
“You did well. Thank you for putting up with that.”
“It was grueling.”
“It always is.”
Graham stepped back and gazed up at his beautiful mate. “Are you kidding me? You loved it. You were a little social butterfly, flitting your attention from shifter to shifter as they came up to us, chatting away. I did not know you were so knowledgeable about ancient Polperro or even been to Viotres Garden.”
Hyden laughed. “Yes, you did see a different side of me. My… political side. I know I can’t please everyone. Not everyone will like me. But I do attempt to be diplomatic.”
“Diplomatic? Really? How does what you did at Wimborne Place fit into diplomatic?”
“Oh, that. Yeah. Well, honestly, it wasn’t a big deal. It’s been destroyed now, the long-ago abandoned building torn down, no longer a draw for young humans, nor a hazard.”
“So not the point.”
“Look, I got out alive.”
“Yes, along with those idiot human children you went in to pull out. Kids who never should have been there in the first place and never even thanked you. Not even their parents.” Graham hugged Hyden. “Don’t think I don’t know about the roof caving in shortly after you did get out. Something you caused by removing a beam that was trapping one of the kids. You were so damn lucky.”
“Luck had nothing to do with it. I assure you.”
“I still don’t want you taking those kinds of chances anymore.”
Hyden kissed Graham lightly on the lips. “I can’t promise you that, pup. But let’s talk about it later. Right now, I have some other activities in mind.” He reached behind Graham and squeezed his butt cheeks. “How about we make sure you’re pregnant and I fill you with my seed again… and maybe again?”
“Mmmm. Sounds like a very good plan.”