“We need to,” she answered as she bent to pick up her clothing. She hadn’t missed Bram’s gaze wander over her body, and she couldn’t allow it any longer. They needed to move on, and they couldn’t do that if they were constantly panting with need. “I promised Mom that I’d be back for dinner. Lana and Belle miss me.”
Charlotte had chosen to call Ellie her mother when she’d come to the Redwood Pack. Though technically, Ellie was Charlotte’s half-sister, it had been easier to call Ellie “Mom” and refer to Maddox as her father. They had been the ones to raise her and teach her what it meant to be a shifter in the world of secrecy and hope. Belle and Lana were technically Charlotte’s nieces, but they were the sisters of her heart. As long as she didn’t think too hard about the bonds and connections that wove through their heritage, she was fine. The fact that one of her best friends, Parker, was also her nephew—and cousin—because of the ways everyone had mated only made her head hurt. So she chose to ignore all of that and focus on what mattered.
Bram grinned then, and she held back a moan at how gorgeous the man looked when he smiled. It simply wasn’t fair that he was so good-looking. “Let’s get dressed, then. Your sisters shouldn’t be kept waiting.”
Charlotte rolled her eyes and quickly pulled on her jeans. “You spoil them.”
“Well, duh. You tend to spoil them, too. They’re almost adults now so we need to make sure they’re pampered before we push them out into the ranking of the Pack.”
“Like Dad would ever let them be pushed out like baby birds in the nest.”
“True,” Bram said as they started back to the center of the den where most of the homes were located. The wards the witches of the Pack had put up might protect the den from the humans’ prying eyes and even more dangerous intentions, but the natural landscape of the area also provided some protection. “Maddox might not be the Omega now that Drake is coming into his powers, but the guy is more intuitive than any other wolf I know.”
Bram reached out as if to take her hand as he had countless times before but seemed to think better of it and quickly dropped his arm. She refused to be hurt because of the action. It was just the way things were now.
She gave him a falsely bright smile. “Yeah, you try growing up with a Dad who can literally feel every emotion you’re feeling. There’s no hiding from him.”
Bram gave her a look. “Considering I was at your house more than I was at any of my foster homes, I know exactly what you mean. Getting you out of there after hours so we could sneak around like any self-respecting teenagers wasn’t the easiest thing.”
Charlotte laughed, the tension of the run and what would never be slipping from her shoulders. “I still think we got off easier than Finn and the rest of Uncle Kade’s kids. I mean, Kade’s the freaking Alpha and always knew what I was up to. Just imagine his own kids.”
Bram shrugged. “Your family is so close, I’m pretty sure all the older generation knew what was going on with their entire passel of kids but let us get into some trouble anyway. I mean, it’s how we learn, right?”
Charlotte smiled and continued walking toward her parents’ home. The only reason she and her cousins had been able to run as wild as they had was because the Redwoods were healthy. Though she’d lost her grandparents in the final battles with the Central Pack, the rest of the den had risen up to protect their own. The battle that had taken Edward’s and Pat’s lives had fundamentally changed the Pack’s structure and bonds. Charlotte’s generation of wolves had been forced to come into their powers far earlier than they should have, and children like Bram had lost their parents in the seemingly unending battles.
From the ashes, the Redwoods had grown into a power to be reckoned with.
The Talon Pack, their allies and friends, were still learning how to become a Pack like hers. They didn’t have the same history as the Redwoods, and because of that, they were technically weaker. But because they were allies, and so many within each of the Packs had mated with each other, they were almost one large Pack now—with two Alphas. She wasn’t sure how things would work in the future, but for now, they had a solid alliance and shared a threat.
When the world had found out about the existence of shifters, some humans had chosen to take them in with open arms. Others had created a war. Politics and grandstanding were now commonplace, and Charlotte’s people were on the edge of a blade that would either protect them or cut them down to nothing.