When she stepped into the first true home she’d ever known, she smiled at the sight of her parents making out in the middle of the living room. They’d been mated for over thirty years, and still, Maddox and Ellie couldn’t keep their hands off each other. The two of them were standing close together, caught in an embrace that should have embarrassed Charlotte, but merely showed her what she would never have. At least not with Bram.
Finally, the two wolves in front of her seemed to notice their presence, and they pulled apart, but not before Ellie traced her finger over the scar on Maddox’s face.
The scar Corbin—the brother Ellie and Charlotte shared—had put there in a heated rage.
Maddox kissed Ellie’s palm and pulled away to face Charlotte and Bram. “How was your run?” he asked, his wolf in his eyes.
Charlotte held back a sigh and moved forward to hug her father and mother. “Good, I needed it.”
Her dad kissed her temple before looking over her head at Bram. “Bram.” His voice was a little rough, a little cold, and Charlotte almost rolled her eyes. Maddox loved Bram like a son, but as soon as it looked like Charlotte might be mates with Bram, Maddox had turned on the overprotective father charm and hadn’t been able to turn it off again.
Bram found it funny, but it annoyed Charlotte to no end.
She met her best friend’s gaze, and he shook his head. Today wasn’t the day to get into it, she knew, but one day soon, she’d have to explain that she and Bram weren’t what the others thought. What she had hoped.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Ellie said with a soft smile. Her mother always saw too much, just like Maddox did, and Charlotte was afraid they already knew the truth about her lack of bond with Bram. “Finn called earlier and asked for you.”
“Oh, really?” Finn was the Heir to the Redwood Pack, the eldest son of the Alpha, and would one day be the Alpha in truth. He was also her other best friend and former roommate before he’d mated with Brynn, a former Talon Pack member.
“He’s headed to the Talon den and asked you to join him and Brynn,” Maddox said. “You know that we’re not letting anyone go off alone outside the den, and while Finn and Brynn would normally be okay on their own as a duo, three would be even better.”
Charlotte’s eyes widened even as a slight thread of excitement wove its way through her. She didn’t normally get picked for assignments like this. Yes, she’d fought alongside others when needed, and even helped saved some of the Talon Pack members who had been too close to an explosion, but since she didn’t have a clear role in the Pack yet, those assignments were few and far between.
Maddox nodded. “He’s leaving soon, so meet him at the main sentry gate if you’re joining him. I’ll phone ahead to let him know.” He looked over at Bram. “Finn also said Kade was about to do an all call for the enforcers.”
Bram’s shoulders straightened. “At the Alpha’s home, or the enforcer’s place of residence?”
“At Kade’s,” Maddox answered.
“I’ll head over there right now.” Bram met Charlotte’s gaze. “Be careful, okay?”
She looked into his eyes and swallowed hard. She was always careful. There wasn’t another option for a wolf such as she.
“You, as well,” she whispered.
Her best friend left without another word, and Charlotte was left to stare at the closed door.
“Charlotte…” her mother began.
Charlotte shook her head. “I should head out. I need to stop by my place and change my shoes. Thanks for letting me know.” She quickly kissed her parents’ cheeks and left without another word. She hated keeping things from them, hating hurting like she did, but she didn’t know any other way to live.
By the time she made it to the gate, Brynn and Finn were already waiting. Newly mated, the two of them were wrapped around one another much like her parents had just been. Everyone in Charlotte’s life seemed to be finding a mate of their own, and while she couldn’t hate them for it, that little pang of jealousy still hit her every once in a while.
“You’re here,” Brynn said with a grin. She looked like her brothers and cousins, all strength and dark hair with wide blue eyes. Finn was one lucky wolf.
“Let’s head out,” Finn said quickly. “Gideon said he had something to show us, and since Brynn wanted to see her brothers, we said we’d go.”
Gideon was the Alpha of the Talon Pack, while Brynn was Gideon’s younger sister.
“Thanks for asking me along,” Charlotte said.
Finn studied her face. “I wouldn’t have anyone else.”
She let that seep into her soul and sighed softly. He believed in her, and that had to count for something.
They made their way over to the Talons in Finn’s vehicle, aware they were being watched. The soldiers that guarded the dens weren’t on the Packs’ side, but they didn’t do anything to provoke an attack.