All week people, all freaking week! Add on top that three dinners in one day for Thanksgiving, a trip to the retirement home to visit boyfriend's great gran, and an entire night of chauferring around our Black Friday crew, followed by work for ten hour shifts through Sunday and I'm ready to shut my eyes and sleep for seven days straight.
So, this apology is completely unnecessary, because I know you all understand, but I feel obligated to give it anyway. I'm sorry for the delay. lol ;) Heart for Trade is on for tomorrow. Here is your Turkey Travesty wrap up. Lots of love to you all.
XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
A TURKEY TRAVESTY: PART 2
“Alright, settle down,” Shepard commanded to the shifters gathered.
Fourteen of his best men and women huffed to their seats so he could continue. Alex remained standing next to him, searching out his boyfriend Luca. The two of them were finally getting together after what seemed like an eternity of exhausting angst. Shepard was happy for Alex, but the looks the two were sharing at the moment weren’t conducive to the meeting. He needed his head beta on his A-game right now, not in the clouds imagining Luca naked. It reminded him of his own mate, which wasn’t good for business either. With a gentle elbow to Alex’s side, Samuel raised a brow. The sandy haired beta cleared his throat and straightened his back. His eyes drifted away from his new boyfriend to settle on the others.
The alpha crossed his arms. “The situation involving me and Paul has left its mark on my mate, and this pack. I’ll admit the handling of the breakup was flawed and I wouldn’t be a good alpha if I wasn’t honest about it. That said, I think it’s time I dealt with Paul properly. He’s a negative influence in the spirit of the pack and he has made it very clear that he intends to break apart my relationship with Hugh.”
The betas and omegas growled back at him. They were furious that someone would try to upset their alpha and his mate. It just wasn’t done. It was a challenge to his authority, and with Paul already having numerous marks against him, this was the last straw. No one dared to hurt their leader, and especially not Hugh. The man made Shepard happy, and happy was good for the pack.
“Alpha, has he challenged your mate?” An omega stood to his left.
“Not yet, but if he does, his livelihood is questionable. No one will stand in my way and no one will stand by his side. Is that clear?” Samuel looked around the room. All heads nodded. “Good. I intend to give him a notice of eviction tomorrow. He’ll have one week, maybe less if he gives me trouble, to put his things in storage and clear out of pack lands. I want everyone ready in case he decides to put up a fight. With my parents coming … things are bound to get heated. He’ll try and use them to his advantage like he used to.”
“Why not call them and cancel their visit?” A beta asked.
“They’re already on a plane to the states. It’s too late for that, but I intend to make this visit educational for them. Yes, they’re my family, but no one interferes with my mated bond,” he growled. “I am the alpha here.” The growls and snarls agreed with him.
“We’ll cover the house for the next twenty-four hours. Hugh is our top priority. His safety is everything and if Paul makes his move, we take him down. Understood?” Alex lifted his chin as a sign of dominance. His eyes bled gold and heads lowered in answer. “Omegas, you’ll be in charge of clearing out Paul’s house. I’ve arranged a moving truck and we’ve secured a spot for Paul at our sister-pack in Oakridge. The alpha there is expecting us. His number has been sent to your phones.”
“We’re really kicking him out, aren’t we?” Luca looked to Shepard.
The alpha narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, you got a problem with that, Luca?”
Luca grinned. “I was just wondering why the hell we haven’t done it sooner.”
“It took me a little while to realize how badly he fucked up, but now it’s time. No one challenges my authority or harms my mate, physically or emotionally.” Shepard’s nostrils flared. “Who’s ready to take out the trash?”
Every shifter pushed to their feet. They were with him completely. Now it was time to go home to his mate and get some much needed peace with Hugh before all hell broke loose.
“Meeting adjourned. Alex will message you instructions. Be ready first thing in the morning.” Shepard grabbed his coat with relief and walked out into the night. He could feel his mate in his head. He still had groveling to do. With a lick of his fangs, he walked down the street. He was more than happy to satisfy Hugh.
The next morning, the coffee pot beeped. The eggs were burning. Laundry was scattered on the kitchen floor—the bin dumped over from the counter with Shepard’s hand. He gripped the cabinet handles above him, clenching his ass as he came in Hugh’s mouth. Ever since he’d come home last night, they couldn’t seem to get enough of each other. In their sleep, awake, half-awake—they could not stop touching. This was the way it was supposed to have been all along, but now it seemed the bond they’d forged was truly cemented. Hugh was letting him in. They trusted each other. It was so hot! Shepard sank to the kitchen floor.
He shared a greedy kiss with Hugh on their knees. The smell of the eggs, almost charred in the pan, made him pause. Hugh laughed, hopped up, and grabbed the pan.
“I don’t need Louisa on my ass about the smoke alarm,” he said, scraping dark brown crust into the garbage disposal. “She already yelled at us last night.”
“She should be happy that we’re happy.” Shepard pulled up his sweat pants and snaked his arms around Hugh’s waist.
“She’s an eighteen year old girl, Shep. She doesn’t want to hear her brother going at it all night.” Hugh turned around. “We have to be respectful of her too.”
“I didn’t hear that come out of your mouth last night.” The alpha waggled his brows. “In fact, I believe the words ‘harder and more’ were all you could manage.”
“Now that I’m clear headed, I’m telling you we need to—” The phone rang on the counter and Hugh went back to the dishes. It was the phone for pack business. He knew Shepard had plans for today and he’d become accustomed to small interruptions and it had taken some time, but now he was okay with his mate’s role.
Kissing Hugh’s cheek, Shep grabbed the phone. “Yeah?”
“Kathryn and Edgar just pulled into Paul’s driveway,” Alex growled.
“What?” Shepard motioned Hugh over, putting the phone on speaker.
“I said your parents are at Paul’s house. He must have called them on their way over here. They have to be plotting or something.”
Hugh nodded his head, kissed Shepard quickly and darted off. Now that they were here, he had work to do and so did Shepard. Passing the guest room with an evil smile, he went to their room to get changed. His side of the closet now had two different sections—his normal attire and his new, funky clothing that he promised he would pay Shep back for. Of course, his mate wouldn’t hear of it and requested more sexy underwear. Typical horn-ball, he rolled his eyes.
Biting his lip, Hugh got dressed in something a little spicier than usual. He wanted to leave a great impression with his in-laws, make their eyes pop out of their heads. His new threads on, he gave himself a once over in the mirror. Looking good, Hugh, he laughed. Doing a spin with glee, he saw Louisa in the doorway and stopped quickly. A younger pack male stood behind her. Enter the fiancé, Hugh smirked.
She yawned. “Are sure about this, Hugh? They’re going to flip a shit when they see him.” She hitched a thumb at the stud behind her. The male grinned, nodding his head before she elbowed him without a glance his way. “See what I mean?”
“Hey, the alpha gave me a job to do and I can’t go against his orders. Now can I?” The teen ran a hand over her shoulder.
“Yeah, well, if you put your hands where they don’t belong, my brother will rip them off.” She smiled, pinching his arm. “How about you let me lead, rent-a-boyfriend?”
“Whatever you say, Lou.” His eyes wide, he rubbed his arm. “And I’m not some call boy.”
Hugh watched the two. God this was going to be so much fun! Shep’s parents were going to die. “You two better get a move on.” He felt Shepard’s warning in his head. “The rents are heading over.”
“Aye, aye, captain.” Louisa did a salute, dragging lover-boy behind her.
Hugh took a deep breath and counted to three. The doorbell rang. He put on a smile. “Coming!”
Edgar and Kathryn Hanes stood together on the porch. Their mouths dropped in shock. Edgar was shorter than Hugh had expected, only a few inches taller than his wife, who was maybe 5’7” altogether. His stern face and dark brown eyes held no mercy, though. Like his wife, whose scowl could scare the pants off a beta, he was pissed.
“You’re Shepard’s mate?” She clutched her purse to her chest and eyed him up and down—taking in the deep v neck sweater that showed off his chest and the tight leather pants tucked into his motorcycle boots. A hand ran through the side of her colored curls with disgust on her face.
“Yes.” He smiled sweetly. “I’m Hugh Northam and—”
“Where’s my son?” Edgar cut him off, pushing past Hugh into the foyer.
“He’s running a few errands, I’m afraid. He’ll be back shortly.” Hugh clasped his hands behind his back, offering Kathryn another award winning smile.
“Not soon enough,” she commented dryly. Her heeled boots clicked over the hardwood as she surveyed the house with an upturned nose.
“You must be anxious to see him. What has it been, two years since you made a visit? That’s an awfully long time.” Hugh walked into the living room.
Edgar whirled around. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Oh nothing, just that I understand your need to see him, I guess.”
“Paul said he was here this morning. What could he possibly be doing? Shepard knew we were coming today.” Kathryn moved a few pillows around until she was satisfied enough to sit down on the couch that cost more than Hugh’s old apartment in its entirety.
Count to ten, Hugh told himself. Just count to ten and you won’t want to rip Paul’s throat out. “We were out of a few things. He wanted to make sure we were fully stocked.”
“With liquor I hope,” Edgar huffed and seated himself next to Kathryn.
“Plenty of that to go around.” Hugh cocked his head, showing off another pristine smile. Yep. He thought. A drink sounded really good about now.
Where the hell are you? He relayed to his mate.
It’s too early to start drinking. Chill out a minute. Be right there.
Soon! They’re already making me sick.
A chuckle filled his head. I’m heading up the driveway. Just breathe.
“Where are your things? We can start to move them into your room,” Hugh offered.
The couple looked at each other. “In the car.” Edgar tossed him keys like some bellhop. “Don’t drag the dry cleaning bag. I hate wrinkles.”
“I’ll make sure not to drag your bags.” Unless you’re inside of them, Hugh narrowed his eyes.
Staring right back, Kathryn’s lip curled into a smile. “Was there something else, Hugh?”
“Nope.” He dangled the keys. “That should do it. Oh, and Louisa, come in here and say hi!”
“She’s still in bed,” Kathryn spat. “That girl is so lazy. I can’t wait until we introduce her to the Mancha pack. Maybe they can teach her some structure. Paulo is a fine alpha. They’ll make a beautiful couple.”
“All in good time, dear.” Edgar patted his wife’s arm.
Hugh passed Louisa in the hall as she emerged from her room looking completely mussed with the faux boyfriend behind her—guaranteeing a memorable entrance.
“Louisa Kathryn Hanes!” Edgar roared to his feet as Hugh flung open the front door. “What is the name of all that is holy are you doing! Who is this? Why … you smell like … dear God!”
Shepard grinned back at Hugh, holding a bag in each hand. “I bring gifts of baked goods.”
“And I bring gifts of raw, in-your-face drama.” He leaned forward for a kiss. “Glad to have you back.”
“We’re in love and we’re getting married!” Louisa screamed behind them. “I’m eighteen now. You can’t tell me what to do!”
“That was fast,” Shepard whispered, following Hugh down the hall.
“Yeah, well, she’s an actress, Shep, a very good actress.” Hugh took a bag and looked inside. “Who wants scones?” The room of shifters turned eyes on him as he held up the bag with a smile.
“We’ve got blueberry, mom.” Shepard put an arm around Hugh. “You’re favorite.”
Kathryn Hanes screamed through her teeth and marched out the back door.
“Is this a joke?” Edgar looked between the two makeshift cots in the spare room. “Tell me you’re joking.”
“Sorry about that. There was only a twin in here and we decided to get rid of it and use this as my office. I didn’t even think about where to put you for your visit.” Hugh sighed. “But I made sure to give you both plenty of blankets.”
Kathryn crouched down, fingering an old comforter with hearts on it—compliments of Louisa. “Cots? For the parents of your mate, you give us cots? Am I correct?”
“They’re comfy, I promise.” Hugh leaned in the doorway, thinking of the rocks he’d put in the cushionsu underneath last night. Sweet dreams, mommy dearest, he mused.
“I see what you’re doing here, Hugh.” Edgar shoved a finger into his chest. “But it’s not going to work. You and I both know you’re not good enough for my son and I will spend this visit showing you as much. We’ll take your little cots and in exchange, we’ll get our son a real shifter—someone who knows a thing or two about hospitality.”
Eyes turning gold, Hugh gently pushed the finger away. “I know plenty about hospitality. Rule number one, when a guest has overstayed their welcome, you politely get them the fuck out of your house. I’ll have lunch ready in an hour. Enjoy!” He turned and shut the door.
“Where did you put the twin bed?” Shepard joined him in the hallway, pleased with his mate.
“It’s in the garage. I had Louisa’s new fiancé take it down this morning.” Hugh kept walking. “I needed room for … my office.”
They both cracked up laughing. “You’re better at this than I thought,” Shepard wheezed.
“Why thank you. Thank you very much.” Hugh put on a pot of soup. “Hungry?”
“Always.” Shepard licked his fangs.
After lunch, Shepard along with Hugh, headed over to Paul’s place. The in-laws were taking a nap after a mind-numbing screaming match with Louisa and a debate over why Hugh would choose to work instead of running the household for his mate. Both conversations had Hugh ready to pull his hair out, but he kept it in check. They had a plan. The others were nearby watching. He could feel them everywhere. This was really going to happen. He suddenly worried whether or not this plan was going to go well. Nothing about plans usually happened like they were supposed to.
Knocking on the door was terrifying. What happened next was up in the air. He wanted to hide behind his mate, but he had to show he wasn’t afraid. He was a man, a strong, educated man that would fight for what was his. Fuck Paul and his childish game of tug of war. Shepard was his man.
The door opened. Paul rolled his eyes. “Can I help you?”
Shepard shoved a packet into Paul’s chest. “This is your notice of eviction. You have until Friday to clear the premises and a week to take care of any unfinished business. A moving truck will be provided for you today and the omegas will be helping you. You are to report to the Oakridge pack alpha by phone before five or you will find yourself free game to any pack that challenges for you. Are we clear?”
“The fuck we are.” Paul pushed Shepard back. “This is my home. I have rights to it and not even you can evict me.” He threw the packet into the lawn. “This is all because of some crappy human that you turned into your lapdog. Some alpha you are, letting him run your life when you know you still want me. I saw how you looked at me whenever I talked to him. You were jealous!”
“My mate is not a lapdog.” Shepard shoved Paul back. “I’m happy you cheated on me, because if you didn’t, I would have never met him!”
“You are such a liar!” Paul stepped forward, getting in his face. “I may have fucked up, but don’t tell me you don’t still want this—me, inside of you, taking away your control as alpha.” He grabbed Shepard’s face and kissed him.
Hugh’s wolf took over. Speaking of control, all of his was given over to the animal inside as he rushed Paul to the porch floor, and dug his fangs into the man’s skin. Thrown off by Paul, Hugh’s rage only increased. He rushed the larger man again, screaming his rage. His arms locked around Paul’s waist and they flew over the banister.
“Hugh!” Shepard hopped the porch railing as the betas came charging into the yard.
“He is mine!” Hugh roared and smashed Paul’s face into the grass.
Paul flipped them over until he straddled Hugh. A shimmer filled the air. Two wolves, one a deep chocolate and the other a light brown, clashed against each other. Fangs cut into skin. Claws swiped at the other. The wolves rolled around until Shepard felt it safe enough to intervene and not hurt Hugh. He bit deep into Paul’s leg, dragging him away from his mate.
A golden shimmer flared over both males until two naked men appeared in the yard. The alpha’s hand closed over Paul’s throat, holding him there until his face turned red. Hugh lay on his side, gasping for air and clutching his arm to his chest. A deep gash lined his forearm. Bite marks oozed crimson over his side as he watched his mate kill Paul slowly. He could feel the tension in the pack. Every one of them didn’t mean for this to happen. They didn’t want to watch Paul die, but he deserved it at this point. Hugh had to shut his eyes. He couldn’t move any more. It hurt too much, both physically and emotionally.
Alex pulled Shepard back with the help of Luca and another beta. “No!” The alpha roared. “He is mine!”
His head beta hugged him so tight, he could barely breathe. Shepard’s mind whirled with death, his mate’s pain, and his own rage. He wanted to kill Paul as the bastard crawled to the feet of his parents. The people that had come outside not to stand by his side, but to comfort Paul! His eyes burned bright with the need to rip his ex’s face off.
“You signed over rights to him, Shepard!” Alex fought against his alpha. “If we kill him, Oakridge has the right to kill you. I checked this morning.”
“Bullshit! He bled my mate. He dies!” Shepard lunged, but was tackled by several of his best men. Half his face pushed into the ground, he watched Paul helped to his feet by his parents and growled.
“Think of Hugh,” someone wheezed in his ear. “He’s hurt. He needs you.”
“I want Paul gone!” Shepard shouted.
Alex looked over to where Paul was secured in the arms of Kathryn. “Bring the moving truck now. I want the house cleared out immediately. He is gone tonight!”
The omegas scurried around the pile of shifters, but were stopped by Edgar. “This house belongs to me. You have no right to enter my property.”
“Let him up boys,” Alex called to the pile. Slowly, the shifters let their alpha stand. Alex smiled because he knew what was coming next. It was about time.
“Take Hugh inside. Now!” Shepard barked. Stay with me baby. I’ll be right there. I swear it.
Hugh could only groan. Being pulled into Alex’s arms when his wounds were starting to heal, hurt like hell. He wanted to reach for his mate. He wanted it to be Shepard’s arms around him, but Hugh knew what was about to happen was more important. He knew Shepard loved him and that he wasn’t being tossed aside. For once, Hugh had to let things go and trust in his mate. This was serious pack business. This was the only way they would be able to live in peace. His mate needed to stand up for them, seeing as he was the only one who could speak at the moment.
“You don’t talk to me about ownership of anything! I am the alpha here, not you. I own this land and you own the house. Unless you plan on picking up that house and moving it elsewhere, shut your damn mouth!” Shepard looked down on his father with narrowed eyes. “Do you understand me, Edgar?”
“Don’t you talk to your father that way,” Kathryn shouted.
Shepard grinned, turning to his mother—Paul wrapped in her arms. “And you. You can either zip your mouth or get the fuck off my property and never come back! I love that man,” he pointed to Hugh being carted off, “and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. If you wish to reconcile our relationship, mom, and be part of my life, start acting like my family and not his! If you can’t do that, get out!”
Kathryn put a hand to her chest, stunned to the spot. She looked to her husband, who had his head hung down in submission. Edgar had never been strong enough to stand as a beta, much less an alpha. His temper and his need to rise above the others with money and influence stemmed from his lack of strength and everyone knew it now. It had been their choice to come here.
They’d been under the impression that with the leash they kept Shepard on, panting for their affection, he would drop the turned human and commit to Paul. But now as Kathryn and Edgar backed away from their son, they knew what they had done was wrong. They’d pushed their children away, left Shepard to raise their own daughter while they ran away to party it up, escape, and denied themselves a beautiful family because they felt threatened.
“You can have the house,” Edgar managed.
Shepard leaned down. “What was that?”
“I said you can have the house, alpha.” Edgar stood straighter, but couldn’t look his son in the eye.
Stepping back, Shepard studied his father with clenched fists. The man seemed to have reached the conclusion his son was superior to him—that no amount of money made a man, only love and what you did with it. Shepard was a true alpha. He was strong. He loved every one of his pack members and he had finally found a mate that made him think—someone who could balance out his overaggressive tendencies.
“Why?” The alpha took a step into his father’s space.
Edgar sighed. “Because … because, never mind.” He looked at his wife. “Kathryn, let the boy go. He’s got business to deal with that we aren’t a part of.”
“Not this time, Kathryn.” The older werewolf pulled his wife to him, leaving Paul all by himself.
“You both told me you would—” Paul was cut off. He scowled at Shepard, who was in his face within seconds.
“They’ve made their choice, the right choice, Paul. I’m there son, not you. You are officially claimed by the Oakridge pack. You have no claim to this house or this property. You have no family here. You have no friends here. You have laid your hands on my mate and therefore you give me reason to challenge you to the death with the permission of your new alpha. Do you really want to die, Paul? Because I assure you, one phone call is all it will take, and your blood is mine.”
Paul sought help within the crowd. Just one person in his favor was all he needed to make a case against Shepard. But no one would look at him. One by one they turned their backs. This was no longer his home and his wolf cried out in pain. He had done this to them. He had driven them away from his own home, people he used to call friends and family. Now he and his wolf were being pushed into a pack they didn’t know, all because of him. Ever the bastard though, Paul wouldn’t admit his wrongs.
“Fuck you. I’ll get my stuff, but this isn’t over, Shepard Hanes.” Paul pointed a finger at the alpha.
“Yeah, Paul, it is. If I ever see you on my land after today, you’re done. You can consider yourself suicidal. Got it?”
“Right, I’m sure.” Paul rolled his eyes. “Fuck you guys too,” he sneered at Kathryn and Edgar as he marched up the lawn.
“Paul!” Kathryn yelled, but her husband pulled her tightly to him. “Let me go.”
“No. You let him go. He’s not ours, Kathryn.”
“He’s…” she sobbed, rubbing her eyes.
“Everything you ever wanted?” Shepard offered. He shook his head. “Guess that answers that.”
“She never said that,” Edgar pleaded.
“She didn’t have to, dad.” Shepard walked to his own lawn, stopping just short of the drive. He turned around. “You can get your stuff and go, or stay for dinner tomorrow. Either way, I don’t care. I have to take of my mate now.”
“Son,” Edgar tried, but left hanging, he watched his only son walk into the house without another word.
Hugh’s eyes drifted open. He had no idea how long he’d been asleep and as he came to, he wished he had never woken up. With Shepard curled around his back, thick covers pulled over them both, and the rhythmic breathing of his mate in his ear, Hugh just wanted to stay like this forever. Stretching out, he felt Shepard shift behind him.
Hugh shivered as the covers were pulled back. His arm was grasped gently by his mate. A thumb ran along the marks from Paul’s claws. The wound was nothing more than a barely visible trio of pale pink lines now. The same hand ran down his side, inspecting the skin just as carefully. There wasn’t any pain left. Now, only Shepard’s warm hands over his body remained.
“I’m okay, Shep,” he whispered.
“I’m not. He could have killed you, Hugh. What were you thinking?”
Hugh rolled over. “I wasn’t. Paul kissed you and I snapped. If he had kissed me, what would you have done?”
“I guess I would have ripped his head off,” Shepard snarled while he settled Hugh onto his chest.
“And you almost did.” Hugh smiled.
“Sometimes I wish I didn’t care. I should have killed him, Hugh, for touching you.” Shepard lifted his mate’s chin. “But I couldn’t do it.”
“Despite the fact that I hate Paul, I’m glad you care.” Hugh scooted up for a kiss. “If you would have killed him, it would have scared them all. I know that sounds dumb, because I don’t know much about pack life, but I saw them watching you. I felt them. They couldn’t go against you, but they didn’t want Paul dead. He used to be their friend, part of this family, and even though he fucked up, it wouldn’t have been right. Yes.” Hugh held up a hand before Shepard could speak. “I know you had the right, but like I said, I’m glad you care.”
“I thought you didn’t care much for pack life. I think you said they were nothing, but a bunch of gossiping—” His words were cut off with another kiss.
Hugh licked Shep’s lips. “The way they came together for us, to see you happy, maybe I don’t hate it after all.”
“There is still the issue of my parents, Hugh. As much as I hate the way they treat us, they’re still my family. They’re pack too.”
Hugh traced Shep’s jawline with his finger. “My grandmother calls me her little pansy, wears socks with sandals, and throws rocks at the neighbor kids from her porch. I still love her. I think I can deal with the in-laws.”
Shepard turned his face away and laughed. “Speaking of rocks, I think they found you’re little welcome gift.”
“Uh-oh. We should probably pull out the couch bed, huh?” Hugh bit his lip playfully.
“Yeah, we should probably do that.”
Hugh winked before he remembered something important. “But, hey, what happened to Paul?”
A smug smile graced Shepard’s lips. “The Oakridge alpha called a little while ago to say that Paul was just getting settled.”
“Poor Oakridge, I almost feel bad for them.” Hugh rose onto his knees, straddling his naked mate. “But not really.”
Shepard growled, running his hands up Hugh’s chest. “Me either. Now what do you say we spend we use this free time to get a little exercise?”
“Free time?” Hugh barked a laugh. “In-laws, sister and faux fiancé, other room, ring a bell, Shep?”
“Out to dinner,” the alpha mumbled.
“Unexpected.” Hugh cocked his head.
“Do you care?”
“Mmm, not really.” Hugh smiled and bent down to take his mate’s mouth.
“Are those marshmallows?” Kathryn looked over Hugh’s sweet potatoes.
“Yep.” He popped one into his mouth and held the bag out to her. “Want one?”
“Uh, no.” She took a step back. “Did you at least stuff the turkey?” She raised a brow.
“No. I turned it inside out and rolled it in graham crackers.” He rolled his eyes. “Yes, I stuffed the turkey, Kathryn.”
She clicked her nails on the counter. “There’s no need to be so rude, Hugh.”
“How my son ever got mixed up with you is beyond me.” She shook her head.
On his way to the oven, Hugh leaned into her. “He pissed on me. Take it up with Shepard.” He winked.
Her mouth fell open. “My God!”
Hugh, Shepard warned as he rounded the counter. He cocked a brow, sending his mate a private message. Don’t start with her. You said you’d play nice.
I know, but come on, Shep! Who doesn’t like marshmallows? Hugh put the sweet potatoes in the oven.
Turning, Hugh put a hand on his hip. Ugh. Fine, but don’t expect me to like this.
I wouldn’t dream of it. Now come here, you smell like food.
It’s past your breakfast time.
“Am I interrupting something?” Kathryn’s lips pressed tightly together.
The men looked at each other and laughed. “No,” they chorused.
Kiss. Shepard leaned in to his mate to get his prize. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his mother turn away. She’s still standing there. It’s a start.
Whatever you say. Hugh tugged his mate closer while Kathryn looked away, slipping his tongue in Shepard’s mouth.
Marshmallow? Shepard licked his lips.
You’re mother’s favorite.
You little shit. Shepard nudged Hugh in the direction of the beeping timer on the stove. I’ll be outside with dad, unless you need help in here?
“For the thousandth time, I don’t want you in here,” Hugh said out loud before he realized he was looking at Kathryn.
“Actually, this is the first time you’ve said as much. But believe me, I get the message.” She left the kitchen without a word.
“Shit,” he whispered. “Uh, Kathryn, I wasn’t … talking to you?”
Shepard groaned. “Well, this visit couldn’t get any better,” he teased.
“Oh, yeah right. By the time she calms down, I’ll be ready to drop the turkey or pour red wine on her or something.”
“Happy thoughts.” Shepard pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I’ll be back in a little while. Take it easy in here, okay?”
Waving a spatula, Hugh faked a smile. “I’ll try.”
“God, you’re cute in the kitchen.”
“I am not cute! Shepard Hanes, you take that back.” Hugh whacked the spatula into his open palm as his mate made for the back door. He looked down to see sweet potato all over his hand. “Fuck. I swear to God, this day could not get any worse,” he muttered to himself.
“Will you look at this, Edgar?” Kathryn plopped down in her chair at the table. “Shepard’s wife can cook!” She giggled, wiggling her empty wine glass in her hand.
“He is my mate, mother.” Shepard wanted to hide under the table. He knew Hugh had heard that one.
“Mate, wife, whatever.” She slapped the table as if her reply was the best joke she had ever told. “Even has himself an apron, Edgar.”
Her husband shot her a look—one dominant wolf behind his eyes. “Kathryn!”
“Oh, hush, you big baby.” She waved him off. “Marshmallows.” Her laugher made Hugh stab a roll with a butter knife.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t shove a filet mignon up the turkey’s ass and baste it in champagne on such short notice,” he let the sweet potatoes slam on the table, “but I see you’re enjoying the wine.” He shook the empty bottle to prove his point.
Deep breathe. His mate coached, but Hugh was finished with this woman. Edgar was trying to make some peace—taking his daughter to dinner last night, making nice with her fake fiancé, and even bringing home some wine for the big meal today, but Kathryn? Oh, was she a hot mess. Hugh was about ready to stick her head in the oven.
Louisa helped him bring the salad and other sides to the table. The silence thick in the air, he wanted to scream, but he held himself together. Louisa looked ready to bolt. Shepard was looking from here to there as if he was ready to step into the middle of a warzone. The new kid plastered himself to his chair, watching Kathryn intently. And Edgar just shook his head as if this were nothing new.
“Let’s hope he didn’t poison us, Edgar.” Kathryn hiccupped and patted his hand.
“Oh. For heaven’s sake, Kathryn, will you shut your mouth?” Her mate stood.
Louisa’s eyes went wide. “Dad?”
He waved her off, pointing to his mate. “Hugh has made a perfectly good meal for us. We are guests here, and you are making a fool of yourself. It’s time you stopped making their lives a living hell because your own life isn’t what you truly wanted. If Shepard loves Hugh, then shut up and be happy for your son. I won’t try to please you any longer by keeping quiet. I love my son and my daughter and I’m through making them think otherwise while you continue your agenda.”
“Whoa.” Louisa put a basket of rolls on the table.
“Uh huh,” Hugh whispered.
“Enough!” Kathryn managed to get to her feet. Her eyes narrowed. Her wolf making an appearance as her pupils turned gold. “Not another word,” she growled.
“What’s wrong, Kathryn? You don’t want your son to find out that I’m not your true mate, and that you settled, just like you were trying to make him do?”
“Mom?” Shepard’s face fell. “What is he talking about?”
“Nothing, he’s trying to show his ass is all.” She dug her claws into the back of her chair. “Isn’t that right, Edgar?”
“No, it’s not, Kathryn.” Edgar turned to his son. “I have loved your mother ever since I laid eyes on her. She may not have been my true mate, but she was still my world. We got married, did everything proper, I had a job and the right parents. Then you were born. A few weeks after we took you home, we went to the store and there he was, her true mate, shopping around with nothing else on his mind except groceries.
Your mother tried to hide it, but once he noticed her … I don’t want to talk about the in between, but I had to fight him for her and she has blamed me ever since. Like Hugh, I was the damn underdog, even though I was the father of her children and her husband. Because I didn’t just give her up, she has made everyone in her life miserable, including you. She won’t ever admit it, but she doesn’t think it’s fair that you get to be with your mate. She wants you to settle because that’s what she had to do. I still love her and I committed to her for life, but I won’t stand by anymore and watch her drown you in her depression.”
Kathryn slid into her seat, completely mortified. Her wolf shamed at her mate’s words. “I—”
“How could you do this to me?” Shepard balled his hands. “I am your son!” He rose and Hugh lost the oven mitts to comfort his mate.
“I’m sorry,” she breathed.
“Get out!” He roared. “Get the fuck out of my house and don’t ever come back here again.” His fist slamming on the table shook every glass to the floor.
“No.” Hugh whirled his mate around. “No,” he repeated to Shepard.
“What?” Shepard’s eyes filled with tears. “How can you say that?”
“Because she has every right to feel the way she does.” Hugh’s fingers bit into his mate’s arms. “How would you feel if you married Paul and then met me by chance? You would be torn up, Shep. What I feel for you, even after that first day, I couldn’t imagine it ever going away. I know she loves your dad. Look at her for crying out loud. She hasn’t left his side because she knows he’s her mate. Maybe not her true mate, but they love each other. They have two beautiful children and he takes care of her. You can’t step away from that, but you can’t fight how you feel.
What she did was wrong, yes, and you deserve an apology, but that’s your mom, Shep. Don’t throw that away, no matter how she feels about me. Just don’t do it. It’s Thanksgiving. Be grateful for what you have now, what you fought for, and all the people that got you here. She’s one of those people, Shepard. Without her, I would have never met you.”
Shepard looked over to his mother, who was sobbing in her chair. He watched his father crouch down in front of her and reach out. Kathryn slumped into his arms and cried into his neck. He could feel their bond, weaker than ever, but still there. He didn’t know what she was going through, or had been for his entire life, but he could feel her pain, her regret, and her guilt.
“Uh, should I go home now?” Louisa’s imposter fiancé raised his hand. “You didn’t exactly pay me for this part, bro. I was only supposed to play the boyfriend and now I’m getting married because of some dude in Europe that wants Lou? This is getting weird and a little too primetime for me.”
“Pay you?” Kathryn targeted the young male. Her head slowly turned to Shep. A nervous, tear filled, laugh greeted her. “Oh, no you didn’t!”
Louisa elbowed the teen male. “Now would be a good time to run.”
The teen bolted from his chair and slammed the front door in a flash. All hell broke loose as Louisa tried to fight her mother off. Hugh ended up on the floor with Edgar and Shepard. The turkey tumbled to the floor—stuffing splattering the hardwood. Wine, tossed salad, and marshmallow pieces painted the furniture as the brawl continued. Thanksgiving in the Hanes household was nothing short of exciting.
“We’ll call you when we get home.” Edgar stuck out a hand. “If that’s alright with you.”
Shepard nodded, accepting his father’s hand. “That sounds good to me.” In an uncharacteristic move, and because he knew he had to, he pulled his father in for a hug. After last night, all the drama coming to a close, he felt a little closer to his parents. He didn’t want to give them up, even if they were crazy.
His father held on for longer than Shep had expected before he pulled away, acting like it was no big deal. “Uh, alright then, I think that’s everything.”
“It was nice meeting you, Edgar.” Hugh flicked his fingers up in a polite wave. He wasn’t about to push his luck with a hug, or getting too close as Kathryn was still lingering near the back of the car watching. After that dog pile yesterday, it was a good thing any of them were still speaking. Then again, he’d noticed that the Hanes clan wasn’t exactly conventional. Maybe a dog pile was therapy to them.
“You too, Hugh.” Edgar surprised him by looping and arm around him with a squeeze. It wasn’t a hug, but it was just as good. “Thanks for putting up with us,” he whispered.
Hugh only nodded, smiling from ear to ear. One in-law down, one to go, he thought. Yeah. Right. As Louisa hugged her father goodbye, Kathryn slowly made her way up the drive. Shepard put an arm around Hugh, trying his best to look indifferent, but the way his mother looked made his heart ache. Under her eyes, puffy red circles lingered from a long night of crying. Her hair, normally curled into a perfect bob, was a mess. She looked smaller, weaker, and ashamed.
“I’m sorry,” she uttered softly. “That’s all I’ve got, Shepard.”
Hugh elbowed his mate after a long silence. The alpha groaned and stepped forward. “I know you are, but I’m having a hard time here, with all of it.”
“What do I have to do to make this better?” Her eyes pleaded with him. “Shepard, please.”
“Let me live my life how I want to, and be happy for me, mom. Maybe you didn’t get what you wanted, but I did for once, and I love him.”
“Don’t you ever tell me I didn’t want your father, Shepard. I love that man with all my heart, just like you love Hugh. He is the father of my children and the best mate a woman could ever ask for. My wolf came to that conclusion a long time ago, but it still hurts sometimes to know another is out there. But I promise you, Shepard, that other man means nothing to us and he never will. It will only ever be your father for me.
I’m sorry been so incorrigible. I’m sorry I let my past get the best of me. It was selfish of me to try and keep you from your happy ending because I let go of what I thought was mine. But you know what, Shepard? This is my happy ending and I’m sorry I made you think otherwise, and he’s not so bad,” Kathryn cut her eyes to Hugh for a second, “at least he has a job.”
Shepard rolled his eyes. “Has a job? That’s all you give my mate credit for?”
“I’ll take it,” Hugh piped up. “At least I think that was a compliment.”
Eyeing his mate, Shepard raised a brow. “You’re more than your job, Hugh.”
“Duh,” Hugh laughed. “I make a mean breakfast too.”
Shepard growled. Their code word always got him riled up and Hugh knew it. He sighed, turning to his mother. “So, does this mean you’re cool with us now?”
Kathryn groaned. “Yes.”
A smile lit up the alpha from the inside. He grabbed his mother and hugged her tight. “That’s all I wanted, mom.”
She inhaled her son’s scent, rubbing his cheek as her wolf greeted their young. She missed her baby. She missed everything about him. But it was time she let go and let him be happy. This was his life, not hers. “Love you, Shep.”
“I love you too, mom, even when you’re being a bitch.”
“Shepard Hanes!” She leaned back and slapped his arm.
“Kathryn, we’ll miss our flight if we don’t get a move on.” Edgar gave his daughter one last hug before opening the door to the car.
“Well, we’ll call you later.” She shook her head, stepping out of Shepard’s embrace. “And, Hugh?”
“If you hurt my baby, I’ll skin you alive.” She smiled sweetly.
Hugh took his place under Shepard’s arm. “No skinning necessary. I’ll take good care of him and I’ll take that as a fond farewell.”
“You better,” she threatened, giving Louisa a hug. “And you, no more fake fiancés. Got it?”
“Yes, mom” Louisa rolled her eyes. “Bye.”
With one last kiss to her daughter’s head, and a wave to the small family gathered, Louisa got in the car and let her husband drive them away.
Hugh let out a deep sigh of relief when the coast was clear. “Thank God!”
“You think that was drama?” Louisa laughed. “You should have seen the time she poured a bowl of punch on Mrs. Iverson for calling her a snob. Now that was drama.”
“Got to give her points for execution.” Hugh snorted.
Shepard elbowed his mate playfully. “Shut up.”
“Good luck with that. My mouth has a mind of his own.” He winked.
The rev of an engine distracted them from any further conversation. Louisa bit her lip as she eyed the black truck pulling into the driveway. She turned doe eyes on Hugh and Shepard.
“Is that … your fake fiancé?” Shepard crossed his arms, the alpha in him coming out.
“His name is Justin, and yes.” She shrugged. “He kind of grew on me.”
“It’s been two days!” Hugh scoffed. “How could he grow on you? Oh no, no, no. He cannot grow anything anywhere on you! You are a lady and not of the night variety!”
She blushed and backed away. “Uh, I’ll see you guys later.”
“Oh, no you don’t!” Shepard moved towards the truck, but his little sister was already half way inside before the vehicle shifted into reverse. “Louisa!”
Another smaller vehicle paused to let them pass, Alex buzzing down his window with a smug grin at Hugh and Shep. Luca gave a little wave before they took off after the truck with no regard for speed. Relief flooded him as Hugh pressed into his back. Best. Beta. Ever.
“I think someone’s in trouble,” Hugh taunted, letting Shepard turn around in his arms.
Shepard narrowed his eyes. “Why do you say that? Have you been naughty, Hugh?”
“Possibly, I mean, I’m sure there’s something bad I’ve done.”
“Do you know what happens to naughty wolves, Hugh?” Shepard took a step closer as his mate backed up.
“They get punished by their alpha.” Shepard growled.
"I don't think you're talking about your sister anymore. At least I hope not." With a hand to his mouth and eyes wide with humor, Hugh turned. “You have to catch me first!”
“Get back here!” Shepard laughed, running after his mate.
He shimmered as he reached the woods, another outfit ruined, but for a good cause. Two wolves chased each other through the trees, until the bigger one finally caught his little mate, and rolled them through the dirt. A howl sounded and every pack member stopped what they were doing to smile. Their alpha was finally at peace with his mate. Well, as peaceful as he could be living in a subdivision full of werewolves. With them around, there was always drama.