Her Mate by Fiona Davenport
My cell phone dinged with a notification as I was shoving the last bite of the leftover lasagna my mom had heated for my lunch into my mouth. After swallowing and flashing my mom an apologetic smile, I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check the screen. Although my mom wasn’t a fan of electronic devices at the table, I was glad I hadn’t waited to check to see who the message was from. “I hate to eat and run, but Kace needs to see me. Sorry about cutting my visit short, Mom.”
“Do you know what the alpha wants to talk to you about?” she asked, twisting her hands together.
I hated seeing how anxious she’d become over the past few months. “No, but I’m sure it isn’t anything bad. He’s been vocal about how happy he is with my contributions to the pack. There isn’t anything to worry about.”
Ever since my sister fucked up and got herself a temporary transfer to another pack, my mom had been nervous about my place in ours. Although our alpha had been more than lenient with Heather’s punishment after she had tried to cause trouble for his new mate just because she was human, my sister’s absence had hit my mom hard. My mom had hoped Heather would clean up her act, so her exile from the pack wouldn’t take too long. As the months added up, my mom’s mood worsened, and my frustration with my sister grew.
Heather had still been hurting for another pack mate who had become a loner after being denied by the human female fate had paired him with. She’d had a crush on Aaron ever since he saved her from drowning in the river when she was ten—if that was even the right word for it since shifters didn’t feel a physical or emotional pull toward anyone other than their fated mate—but that didn’t excuse the shit she’d pulled. One of our most sacred rules as shifters was not to interfere between mates, but Heather hadn’t been willing to listen to reason. It pissed me the fuck off that my mom was paying the price for her transgression just as much as she was.
Her brow was still wrinkled when she nodded and said, “Okay, but please come to see me as soon as you’re done speaking with Kace.”
I crossed the room and wrapped my arms around her body, lifting her off her feet as I gave her a fierce hug. “I’ll always take whatever excuse I can to stop by and visit you, but there really isn’t anything to worry about. Do me a favor and take a bath, read a book, or have a glass of wine while I’m gone. Take some you-time; you more than deserve it.”
She smiled at my suggestion, and some of her tension melted away. I wanted to do a fist pump but limited myself to brushing a kiss across her cheek before heading toward the door. If my mom knew how worried about her I was, she would just have something else to be anxious about, and that was the last thing she needed. I wished I could do more to help, but Heather wasn’t prone to taking my advice. Taking other people’s feelings into consideration—even our mother’s—wasn’t something my sister often did. She was young and spoiled. I hoped her punishment would help her mature, but I was losing faith that anything would open her eyes to the damage she’d done.
That was a concern for another day, though. My alpha was waiting for me, and he didn’t like to waste time. Especially not since his mate had their first child. Kace was an excellent leader who cared deeply for every member of his pack, but he fiercely protected his schedule so he could carve out as many hours each day as possible to spend with Larissa and Talon. His mate and pup were the center of his world, which was exactly as it should be when a shifter found the person who was fated for them.
Since my parents’ house wasn’t too far from where Kace lived, I decided to jog over. It only took about five minutes before I was knocking on his front door. “Come in!”
I paused inside the doorway, my lips curving up in a grin at the sight of the tough alpha who fearlessly led our pack with a tiny, sleeping baby strapped to his chest. I didn’t want to wake Talon, but Kace waved me closer. “Are you sure you don’t want me to come back after his nap?” I whispered.
“No, once he’s conked out, it would take a lot more than us talking to wake him up again.” Kace pointed at the smoke detector on the ceiling. “I don’t even know that the blare of the alarm would bother him.”
I dropped onto the chair closest to the couch he was sprawled on. “My parents had shared horror stories about how the slightest noises used to wake Heather and me up when we were little, so you definitely got lucky.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” he grumbled, rubbing his hand up and down the baby’s back. “Noise doesn’t pull Talon from sleep, but the second I have Larissa under me, the boy goes from a deep sleep to screaming his head off in the blink of an eye. My son is almost as possessive of his mom as I am.”
I chuckled and shrugged. “He’s an alpha in the making. What did you expect?”
“For him to be able to walk and talk before he started tossing attitude my way.” His smile didn’t match his disgruntled tone, communicating without words that he didn’t truly mind that his son’s dominant nature was already making itself known.
I didn’t want to take too much of his time, so I asked, “What was so urgent that you wanted to see me during Talon’s nap?”
His expression turned serious as he answered, “I need you to go to the Badlands Territory.”
“Fuck,” I groaned, scrubbing my hands over my face. Kace’s request was the last thing I’d been expecting to hear. My parents had gone to visit my sister, but I hadn’t seen her since she’d been sent there for her punishment. “What kind of trouble has Heather gotten into now? Please tell me she hasn’t pissed off Jackson Havoc.”
“No, if there was an issue with the alpha of the Havoc pack, I’d go there myself,” he assured me, shaking his head. “It isn’t so much what she’s done as it is what she hasn’t. The separation had gone on for longer than I expected when I handed out Heather’s punishment. And I hate seeing the pain in your mother’s eyes. She’s always been one of the first pack members to welcome babies into the pack, but she was the last to visit after Alena was born.”
My mom loved babies so much—and could barely wait for the day when I found my fated mate because then she could start demanding grandbabies—but the recent births in the pack had seemed to bring her more pain than joy. I knew she was happy for our alpha, beta, third, and their mates, but seeing them with their babies made her miss Heather more. Especially now that Tane and Calliope had a little girl. “I’m sorry—”
Kace held his hand up to stop me from finishing what I’d been about to say. “You don’t owe me an apology. None of this mess is your fault, but I still need you to help me fix it.”
I leaned forward with my elbows on my knees and heaved a deep sigh. I wasn’t sure how I would make Heather understand how bad things were getting for our mother, but if my alpha wanted me to step in, that was exactly what I’d do. “What do you need me to do while I’m in the Badlands Territory?”
“You’re not going to like what I’m asking of you,” he warned.
I grimaced, steeling myself for what I was going to need to do. With my mother’s happiness on the line, I was willing to try just about anything. “I figured, but I’m still in.”
“Normally, this is a task an alpha would do, but this message needs to be delivered in person, and it will be a while before I’m willing to leave our territory for anything other than a life and death emergency.” He got to his feet when Talon stirred and let out a little whimper. Pacing back and forth in front of the couch, he added, “But your sister needs a swift kick in the ass to get her back on the straight and narrow. If it’s not going to come from me, you’re the next best option since your dad has a tendency to coddle her.”
“You don’t have to worry about me going easy on Heather. Not when my mom is paying the price for her fuckup.” My knuckles turned white because of how tightly my hands were clenched into fists. If anything, I was going to need to hold myself back from wringing my sister’s neck for not pulling her head out of her ass sooner.