SARINA TRAVERSE sat in her mother’s living room perusing wedding magazines. As the oldest of the Walker-Traverse children, she felt a certain responsibility to throw a party no one would forget for some time to come. At least until Shawna married. The boys, Wade and Joshua wouldn’t care one way or another when it was their turn to marry. Sucking in her lip she tried to stem the tears that still wanted to fall at the thought of her twin, Jason.
It had been nearly three months since he’d been killed by Lilith, the once dead and now reliving creator of the werewolf and initial maker of both of Fenris’ packs. The Delta pack had risen, thanks in huge part to the Traverse clan, all the way back past Sarina’s grandfather, Jeremiah. Romeo, Sarina’s father, had worked hard, struggled and sacrificed to keep a peace between the Delta pack and other outlying packs. Some had even submitted their alpha position and joined themselves with the Delta pack, becoming a large family of werewolves who looked out for one another.
Sarina had been so excited to turn twenty-four, to do her part in keeping the Delta pack strong. Then she’d met her now mate, Brody. He was the father of her twin boys, Jedidiah and Brody Jr., who were just about to start walking and were already well on their way to forming sentences. Apparently growing quickly wasn’t just a phenomenon that affected them in the womb, but for the whole of their lives, at least until the change came. She was grateful she had another ten to twelve years before that happened.
“He would have loved seeing them,” Sarina said, her heart still broken. “Jason would have been the best uncle.”
“Yes he would have,” Amanda Traverse said softly. Since losing her son, Amanda had barely spoken. The first weeks after his death, she’d barely eaten enough to stay alive, so lost in her grief that she truly didn’t care at the time whether or not she lived. Now, while she still wasn’t herself, probably never truly would be again, she at least ate and conversed some. “Judging by his first change, you’d have a disgruntled opinion of your brother as uncle material. Jason was a little hellion during his first shift. Couldn’t blame him though, it’s a painful and overwhelming process.”
“Sort of like our first breeding, huh?” said Sarina.
“A lot like it yes, but different, in so many ways. Our shift comes because we want it to. Our men shift whether they want to or not. Every full moon, they morph into werewolves and stalk into the brush and woods to find prey. Don’t forget, my daughter. No one asks for this life. I found out at twenty-four what my parents were, who I was. It took me several more years to truly come to grips with the reality of it. Even after I’d married your father and had you and Jason.”
“Was it difficult, learning all of that literally overnight?”
She knew she’d heard the stories a million times since she was little, but listening to them always soothed her soul and Sarina hoped they’d take her mother to a happier time. Anything to pull her from the loss of one of her children.
“Your father was like a handsome ogre. He was an overbearing ass who thought everything was his way or the highway. I just had to show him that compromise was definitely in his best interest.” Sarina caught the hint of a smile on her mother’s lips before her eyes dulled again. Moving closer, Sarina wrapped her arms around her mother, pulling her close.
“Tell me more?”
Amanda hugged her back. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d fallen head over heels for your father, not that he’d have had it any other way, peeping Tom. Still, I wasn’t about to make it easy on him. I fought him tooth and nail for every inch of freedom. I stepped into the cabin Wade has now and your father acted as if I was the Holy Grail. Wouldn’t let me have a moment’s peace and quiet. After we found out that you and Jason were coming it was worse, except that I was halfway around the world. I couldn’t reach your father at all and he was being tortured by Remus, your Aunt Audri’s first love. Things got really complicated when my half-brother Dean came into the picture, trying to steal the Radiant powers my mother had given me. That’s when I met your Aunt Penelope. She was so timid. I learned early in those first conversations that this was more to ensure her safety and the secret she kept, than her actual personality.”
“Aunt Pen sure has come into her own, hasn’t she?”
“That she has. I, of course, fully credit her and Elijah finding their own happiness. They could have torched a house with the sparks they gave off in the beginning, even when they didn’t think they could have a life together.”
“Why didn’t Aunt Pen just say screw it and become Uncle Elijah’s mate anyway?”
“Because while she loved him, she loved being a Radiant, the powers her mother passed to her. She wanted to honor them to the best of her ability and she didn’t think she could have both her powers and Elijah at the time.”
“She’s got more in her than I do,” Sarina said, looking out the window.
“Your aunt would tell you that it was because she loved Elijah that she didn’t throw it all away. She loved him enough to walk away from him, to let him move on, when she couldn’t have him and be a Radiant. As women, particularly mothers, we have to remember that sacrificing for our families doesn’t mean we give up the things we need. Your Aunt does a great job of balancing her needs and wants with those of her husband and child.”
“Planning this whole thing feels sort of strange.”
“Not all mates legally wed, you know?”
“I know, but after all that’s happened this last year, I think both Brody and I need this. We need to know that come hell or high water, we will always choose each other, first and last. We’ve talked about it and in the beginning I think we sort of leaned towards not doing it, but there has been so much trying to weigh us down that we need a moment to step back, to thank everyone who’s stood by and behind us in support. To say ‘thank you’ to everyone who’s kept us safe. And who’ve worked to keep the boys safe.”
“Any member of our pack would gladly give their lives to keep Brody Jr. and Jedidiah safe, you know that. Still, a wedding is a great way to get everyone together.”
Sarina could tell that her mother was trying to be cheerful, trying hard not to let her grief show, trying hard and failing miserably at it. Still, she hoped helping with the wedding would bring a genuine smile to her face. “Why don’t we plan a shopping trip?”
“Where?” asked Amanda.
“I don’t know. Somewhere outside the pack. We never go outside anymore and nothing against the Delta, but we’re a little behind the times and if I want a dress that’s going to knock Brody off his feet, I need to look around.”
“Your father isn’t going to like it.”
“Dad never likes anything. We’re grown women. Plus, we can take Dad and Brody with us if they want to come. They can get some male bonding in over beer and pool, while we enjoy giggling like idiots over lace and tulle.”
“Alright,” Amanda said, the grief lifting from her eyes for a moment. “Maybe Jas…” Sarina caught the first sob from her mother before teary eyes met hers. Then her mother just turned and walked away. Her own grief was still very raw and Sarina found herself crying. She needed her twin, now more than ever. Who would be there to look after her boys when they no longer wanted their parents around? Who would teach them all the things she told them not to do? Wiping her eyes, she sniffled before she stepped out of the living room straight into her little brother, Wade. Barely more than a year behind her and Jason, he favored their father just as much as she did their mother. “Hey,” he said, his voice soft, understanding. “You okay?”
“Just grieving,” she said, a sheepish smile curving her lips. “How about you?”
“The same,” he grinned. “Just in a different way.”
“Does it help with the grief?”
“Some, but I’m not sure Brody would like you doing it.”
“What is it?” asked Sarina.
“Manual labor,” he said. “Actually, I’m tracking the bitch who killed Jason. No luck so far, but I’m getting closer. I can feel it.”
“That whore won’t know what’s coming when I get my claws and teeth into her. I’ll rip her throat out before she can whimper,” said Sarina.
“Now there’s my sister,” Wade smiled. “So, if you wanna help, just let me know. I’ll be heading back out in about two hours.”
“Hell yes,” Sarina said.
“Good. The more wolves I have looking, the sooner I’ll find her trail. Do you… do you think you can show me where he… where Jason was killed?”
“Yes,” Sarina said without hesitation. If it helped Wade track that spineless wench, she’d do whatever it took to avenge her brother’s death. Wade looked almost relieved.
“I hate asking you, Sarina.”
“I’m offering,” she replied, hugging her little brother. “Besides, my helping you kick that bitch’s teeth down her throat might feel a little bit like justice for Jason. Lord knows we won’t be getting it any other way.”