Authors: Elizabeth Kelly
“Why are you touching his chest? Was he hurt there as well?”
Avery shook her head as she removed her hand from Kaden’s side. Kaden glanced down at his ribs and grunted with surprise. The bruise was gone.
Avery smiled at Sophia as she pressed her other hand next to the one still pressed against his chest. “I’m trying an experiment.”
“What kind of experiment?” Sophia’s grandmother, Kaden thought her name was Vivian, entered the common room. Leta trailed after her and, after checking that Avery wasn’t looking, stuck her tongue out at him.
Kaden grinned at the young Lycan as Vivian circled around him to examine his back. “Gods,” she said disgustedly, “this Draken gives all Lycans a bad name.”
“I thought I would see if perhaps my abilities could heal his old scars.” Avery told her mother-in-law.
“Does it work that way?” Sophia frowned.
Avery shrugged. “I do not know. It doesn’t hurt to try though.”
He jerked a little when Vivian touched his back lightly. He was starting to feel distinctly uncomfortable by the stares of the women surrounding him. Leta kicked at one of the chairs before collapsing in it and staring moodily at him.
“How come you’re not skinny like Bree was?” She asked suddenly.
He hesitated, not sure how much he should say to the young girl, but Avery gave him an encouraging look and he decided to be honest. “The Lycans who held us as slaves valued those of us who were – were naturally strong. They wanted us strong and well-fed so that we could,” he hesitated again, a strange look coming over his face, “provide them with manual labour. They made sure we were fed.”
He looked down at the floor. “Slaves like Bree, who were only needed for housework and –“
He stopped abruptly and Sophia had to fight the urge to put her arms around him as a sick look crossed his face. It was very clear from his look what slaves like Bree were used for, and she was astonished that Bree hadn’t been hurt in such a manner. She wondered how much of that had to do with Kaden.
“They weren’t given much food.” He finished quietly. “And they would not let me give her my share of food.” He gave Sophia a pleading look, as if he thought she would judge him for being so healthy when Bree had nearly starved to death, and she smiled soothingly at him.
Vivian traced the scars on his back before peering around him at Avery. “If it were to work, then you would already know. James would have healed Bree’s scars.”
“Bree didn’t have any scars.” Avery replied.
Vivian poked him in a not unfriendly way. “So the Lycans that held you as slaves at least had the decency not to whip the women then?”
Kaden shook his head. “No, they whipped them.”
Vivian frowned. “Avery, are you wrong? Perhaps James had healed her scars before he brought her home. We should ask him if – “
“Bree wasn’t whipped.” Kaden interrupted.
“Why not?” Vivian asked bluntly.
Kaden didn’t reply. He was staring at Sophia and she made a small moan of dismay as she read his dark gaze clearly. “You took her beatings.” She whispered.
He remained silent and Avery stared up at him. “Kaden? Is that true?”
“She was too little.” He said gruffly. He looked away from Sophia and gazed into the fire instead. “If they had whipped her, it would have – have killed her. Whenever they tried to punish her, I convinced them to let me take her place.”
There was a long, drawn-out silence, and he looked at Avery when her soft hand touched his face. He was surprised to see tears in her eyes as she whispered, “You sweet boy.”
He was oddly embarrassed by the way they were all staring at him. Allowing Draken’s pack to capture them was his greatest shame. He had failed to keep his baby sister safe, and taking her beatings had been his only way to protect her.
Avery patted his cheek gently and then dropped her hand back to his chest. She pressed again and stared questioningly at him. “Do you feel anything, Kaden? Warmth or tingling?”
He shrugged. “I’m not sure. I don’t think so.”
He glanced at Sophia again. She was biting at her lower lip and giving him a look he didn’t quite understand. She had her long, dark hair braided today, and she was wearing a plain grey shirt with a pair of black pants. The shirt hugged her full breasts and her pants clung enticingly to her firm thighs. Her pants were tucked into leather boots that rose to her knees and he watched as she ran her hands nervously down the front of her thighs.
He made himself look away and blushed again when he noticed Avery watching him. She gave him a deliberately innocent grin, and he groaned under his breath when Dani entered the room.
“What’s going on?” She stared with bright interest at the group of women surrounding the half-naked Kaden before joining them. She linked her arm through Kaden’s and pressed the side of one small breast against his arm.
“Hello Dani.” He looked away, his gaze falling back on Sophia. She was staring at Dani, and he wondered why her eyes were lightening. Her nostrils were flaring and there were two red spots high on her cheeks.
“What’s going on?” Dani repeated herself.
“Mama’s trying to heal the human’s scars.” Leta said from her spot in the chair.
She dangled her feet and pouted when Avery gave her a stern look. “His name is Kaden, not ‘the human’. Behave yourself Leta.”
“Leta.” Avery prompted.
“Sorry Kaden.” She muttered grudgingly.
He winked at her and shifted away from Dani. She followed him, pressing herself even more tightly against him, and he sighed. He would have to speak to her soon about her crush. Avoiding her was obviously not working. Maybe he could ask Bree to speak to her for him. He had no wish to hurt the girl’s feelings.
“Is it working?” Dani asked.
“Let’s find out.” Avery said softly. She removed her hands and everyone, even Leta who had slinked over to stand by her mother, leaned in to stare at Kaden’s chest.
The small scar was still there and Avery sighed with disappointment. “I’m sorry, Kaden.”
“It’s fine. Uh – thank you for trying.”
“Aye.” She muttered distractedly. She stared at Vivian. “Perhaps if I held him every day? What do you think? Maybe it’s just a matter of them needing time to heal.”
“It might work.” Vivian said. “Or maybe we should ask James to try. He is more powerful than you and – “
“No.” Kaden said. “The scars don’t hurt.”
Vivian suddenly laughed. “Aye, I’m being a silly old Lycan. I suppose it would be a bit awkward to have James hugging you.” She laughed again at herself and Dani giggled.
“I wish I had the healing ability.” She rubbed her hand over Kaden’s chest. “I’d be fine with touching you every day.” She blushed at her own boldness, but let her hand drift towards his flat stomach. “Maybe we – “
She was interrupted by a low growling and the others turned and stared in surprise at Sophia. She was glaring at Dani and Kaden, and the growl that was radiating from deep within her chest was growing steadily louder.
“Sophia?” Vivian said quietly. “What is wrong?”
Sophia quit growling abruptly and gave her grandmother a horrified look. “Nothing, grandmamma. I am just uh – “
She couldn’t think of a single excuse for her behaviour.
“She is just tired.” Avery interrupted smoothly. “And perhaps a bit disturbed by the prospect of wearing pink for the wedding.”
She reached for Dani’s hand and pulled her gently away from Kaden. “Come girls, let’s find Bree and discuss some wedding ideas.”
“I was going to visit with Kaden for a bit.” Dani protested. “I haven’t even had the chance to tell him how happy I am he’s staying.” She smiled brilliantly at him as Avery tugged her towards the door.
“I’m sure Kaden has work to do in the barn.” She replied.
“Aye, I do.” Kaden, feeling grateful to the Red, nodded quickly. “Ian will be wondering where I am.”
He grabbed his shirt and walked quickly from the room, nearly running into his sister.
“Kaden? What’s wrong?” She frowned at the look on his face as he shrugged into his shirt.
“Nothing. I need to go and help Ian in the barn. Avery and the others are looking for you. They want to discuss wedding plans.”
She grinned. “Aye, I heard a rumour that Dani has chosen pink and cream for my colours. I need to let her know that’s not going to happen.”
“Sophia will be happy to hear that.” He replied.
She gave him a strange look. “How do you know that?”
He shook his head. “Never mind. I’ll talk to you later okay?”
She nodded and disappeared into the common room.
Sophia was crossing the yard when she heard Leta scream. The sound was coming from the barn, and she turned and raced towards it. Her heart thumping in her chest, she drew her sword and burst into the barn as Leta screeched again.
“Stop it, Evan! Stop it right now or I’m telling mama!”
Kaden appeared in front of her and Sophia ran into his broad back before she could stop herself. He twisted quickly and caught her before she could fall, wincing when the flat of her sword hit him across the thigh.
“Gods be damned! Are you trying to cut my leg off?” He glared at her and released her. She stumbled back, nearly falling again before catching her balance.
She brushed past him as Leta squealed loudly. “I mean it, Evan!”
“What in the gods name is going on here?” She pushed into the empty stall that Evan and Leta were standing in. She had to suppress her shudder of disgust at the creature in Evan’s hand. It was a rat, dead thank the gods, but still a rat. She hated the vile things, had since she was a small child, and she kept a careful distance even as she reminded herself not to show Leta her fear. Evan was swinging the dead animal by its plump, pink tail and grinning at his younger sister.
“Sophia! Make him stop!” Leta cried, cringing when Evan swung the rat closer to her.
“Evan, enough!” Sophia said sharply. “You know better.”
She turned to her younger sister. “Honestly Leta, it’s only a dead rat. You’re screaming like you’re being tortured in here.”
“It’s gross, Sophia! And Evan touched me with it!” Leta cried.
Evan laughed and swung the dead rat in a large circle over his head. Kaden watched as a look of revulsion mixed with fear, crossed Sophia’s face. She masked it quickly, and he stepped forward and plucked the dead rat from Evan’s hand.
He dropped it into the large garbage can at the end of the stall as Evan frowned at him. “Hey, that was mine. Give it back.”
Sophia smacked her brother on the arm. “Really, Evan?”
Evan stared down at the floor of the barn as Leta ran to Sophia and put her arms around her waist. “You’re so mean, Evan!”
“Calm down, Leta. It’s only a rat – they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” Sophia said. She patted the young Lycan’s back gently as Evan crouched in front of them.
“Sorry, Leta.” The look on his face suggested he wasn’t sorry at all, but his voice was sincere enough. He held out his hand. “Come on. Let’s find Marian and see if she made fresh bread this morning.”
Leta took his hand and the two of them left the barn. Sophia rolled her eyes. “One minute they’re at each other’s throats, and the next they’re best friends.”
Kaden looked at her curiously. “Why do you not want Leta to know you’re afraid of rats as well?”
“I’m not afraid of rats!” She gave him a dirty look.
“No? That’s good, because there’s another one right there.” He pointed to the floor and she looked down to see a rat scurrying past her foot.
She shrieked and launched herself at Kaden. She climbed his body like he was a tree, hooking her legs around his waist and wrapping her arms around his head.
“Gods!” She shuddered and looked down at the floor, trying to see where the rat had disappeared.
“Not afraid of rats huh?” His voice was muffled, and she realized with embarrassment that his face was buried between her breasts.
She leaned back as his hands circled around her and cupped her ass. She looked on the floor of the barn again, and didn’t seem to notice the way his hands kneaded her firm flesh. She shuddered again, and tightened her legs around his waist when she caught a glimpse of the rat’s long tail disappearing into the stall.
His body was shaking with laughter and she flushed and glared at him. “Stop laughing! This isn’t funny. Go and kill the rat, please.”
He laughed again. “You can’t expect me to catch it with my bare hands. You’d have better luck shifting into your Lycan form and hunting it down that way.”
She made a small noise of disgust and pressed herself against him. “I’m not going anywhere near that thing.”
“It’s just a rat. He’s probably more afraid of you than you are of him.” He mocked her lightly.
“Shut up!” She muttered before looking around again. “I don’t know how you can stay in here. You probably have rats crawling across your body while you sleep.”
“Luckily, I’m not afraid of rats.”
He could see the moment she forgot about the rat and realized that he was cupping and rubbing her ass. A mixture of desire and apprehension crossed her face.
“Stop that.” She whispered.
“Stop what?” His hand slipped down the curve of her ass, and the tips of his fingers nearly brushed against the soft flesh between her thighs.
“That.” She moaned.
He squeezed her ass, pressing her against his firm stomach. “You seem to like it.”
She didn’t reply and he squeezed her ass again. “Tell me you don’t like it, and I’ll stop.”
“What’s going on?”
Kaden dropped her so quickly at the sound of Nicholas’ voice that she nearly landed on her ass. She stared at James and Nicky guiltily as they entered the barn.
“Nothing. There was a rat.” She muttered.
Nicky gave her a suspicious look but James grinned. “I can’t believe you’re still afraid of rats. You know you’re a Lycan right?”
“Shut up, James.” She grimaced and picked up her sword from where she had dropped it in her mad scramble to get away from the rat.