A WOLF ON A MISSION Part 13
Declan drew a deep breath and almost doubled over from the pain. The gash Phil had bandaged was bad enough, but multiple cracked ribs made breathing excruciating. Everything would heal up within the next twenty-four to thirty-six hours, but he was still going to hurt like hell until it did. After decades of experience in dealing with the aftermath of challenge fights, he had no doubt his parents had both assessed the type and severity of his injuries as painful but not life threatening. That didn't keep them from each giving him hard hugs that had him wincing. It was their way of to letting him know that they weren't all that happy with him right now.
His brothers showed a little more mercy, shaking his hand and slapping him on the shoulder hard enough to jar his teeth. Rather than retaliate, he offered introductions. "Mom, Dad, I'd like you to meet my mate, Vivian Channing. Viv, these are my parents—Tobias and Liza Lyell, the Alphas of their pack."
He ignored his mother's sharp intake of breath when she realized the significance of his slight emphasis on the words "their pack," but she didn't immediately say anything. To further postpone that discussion, he pointed at his brothers next, introducing each in turn. "I'm the oldest, Ian's the middle child, and Rand is the baby in the family."
Ian grinned. "That might be technically accurate, but I'm also the smart one while Rand is the best looking."
Rand elbowed Ian on his way to offer his hand to Vivian. "I'm also the Beta of our pack. Ian owns the company that Declan works for. He's the one who set Declan on your trail."
Declan had been doing his best to keep Vivian slightly behind him, making his determination to protect her all too clear, but she stepped past him to stare down his brothers. "I might just forgive you for that, Ian, all things considered."
"It would make family gatherings more peaceful if you did. For the record, I talked to Ambrose O'Brien this morning, and he's officially closed the file on you."
That was a relief. Declan turned his attention to Logan. "Everybody, this is Logan McCaig, the friend I told you about."
Tobias met the vampire's gaze head on. "Thanks for having my son's back. If you ever need anything, anything all, just ask. We'll have your back like you've had his."
Logan looked as if he didn't quite know what to say to that. He'd never told Declan why he was living on the edge of nowhere, but it was obvious that he wasn't use to having someone to stand with him when times turned dangerous. "Thank you, sir. It goes both ways. Call and I'll be there."
Deciding he'd ignored the pack—their pack now—for too long, Declan glanced back to where Phil stood beside Jack and his son. Since they were the only three whom he knew by name, he directed his orders to them. "Jack and Joey, I'm assuming we have guest quarters somewhere. Would you see that my family gets settled and has whatever else they need. Phil, I'll meet you in the infirmary in a couple of minutes."
He glanced back at his father. "Phil served as Beta under the previous Alpha, but he's actually the medic for the pack."
The other wolf nodded that he'd gotten the message. He was welcome to be a part of the pack in the role of medic, a position that carried a certain amount of prestige, but the job of Beta would remain open until Declan had a chance to assess the situation.
He turned face the rest of the crowd. "Please go about your usual duties. I would appreciate it if someone would take charge of providing a meal for our guests. I think we've had enough excitement for one day. Tomorrow will be soon enough for us to get better acquainted. My mate and I look forward to meeting with each and every one of you."
There was a moment of silence and then almost as one, they offered him and Vivian a shallow bow and said, "Yes, Alphas."
When everyone scattered to carry out her mate's orders, Vivian wrapped her arm around Declan's waist and whispered, "Lean on me if you need to. I'll take you to the infirmary."
Logan positioned himself on Declan's other side. He laughed and put a little more distance between them when Declan growled. "Down, boy. I'm just along for the ride. I know better than to make an Alpha wolf look weak in front of his pack."
That only made Declan growl even more. She tried not laugh, but finally gave up. Anything to help relieve the knot of tension that threatened to choke her. "Why did you introduce me to your parents as your mate?"
Declan glared down at her. "Because that's who you are. It's too late to change your mind. You're mine."
"Yes, I am. But it would have been nice for them to get to know me a little before we sprung that little tidbit on them." She glanced down at her clothes. "I'm covered in your blood, my hair's a mess, and I can't remember when I last showered. Not to mention you just fought a challenge fight that could have gotten you killed all because of me. What kind of impression do you think I made on them?"
His angry eyes warmed when he met her worried gaze. "They learned that I believe you're a woman worth fighting for. That you would stand at my side no matter what life throws at us. That I'm proud to call you mine."
Okay, then. She smiled and gave him a quick kiss. "Now that we've got that settled, let's get those ribs taken care of."
Two hours later, Logan could tell Declan and Vivian were dragging their feet about rejoining Declan's family. They kept coming up one new excuse after another to postpone meeting with them. He gave it about another fifteen minutes max before his father and the rest came knocking.
He was off by eight minutes. Vivian had been wearing out the carpet in their new temporary quarters by pacing from one end of the room and back again. She about jumped out of her skin when someone knocked at the door.
Logan didn't bother waiting for either Declan or Vivian to answer the summons. "Viv, sit down by Declan and try to look like you're glad to see these people." She shot him a worried look. "What people? It's probably just another member of the pack needing something."
"Babe, you can't ignore your guests any longer. They've given up waiting for you to come to them, so they've come to you. I'll let them in and then go rustle up some refreshments."
Before she could protest, he swung the door open wide. "Mr. and Mrs. Lyell, Ian, and Rand. Please come in."
Then he was gone. That didn't mean he didn't wish he could be a mouse in the corner listening to what the Lyells had to say about the unexpected changes in their eldest son's life. He could only hope they would understand that taking over this pack was the best thing that could happen to Declan.
Logan might not be a wolf himself, but he recognized Alpha wolves when he met them. Evidently it was a trait that bred true in the Lyell family, because Tobias was a strong Alpha, and his sons were each a powerful Alpha in his own right. It couldn't be easy to have that many dominants under one roof.
There was a reason that Ian had left his pack to start his own business. And from what Declan had told him, Rand had worked there until he had challenged Declan for the role of Beta and won. That's when Declan had gone to work for Ian. While it was clear the three brothers loved each other, they needed their space, too. With Declan now on a par with his father as an Alpha of his own pack, it meant for a another major shift in the power structure within the family.
For now, he'd give them a few minutes of privacy before returning with the refreshments he'd already requested from the kitchen. If things turned violent between the brothers, he needed to be there to join the fight. He'd meant what he'd said to Tobias earlier when he'd promised to back their play anytime, but his first loyalty was to Declan and Vivian.
Declan rose to his feet to welcome his family. "Sorry to leave you on your own, but it took longer than I expected for Phil to patch me up."
He offered his hand to Vivian and tugged her up to stand beside him, keeping his fingers tangled with hers. The small touch helped anchor him in this new reality. "Logan offered to round up some refreshments for us. Please make yourselves comfortable."
There was a sofa along the wall with a love seat at a ninety-degree angle sitting at one end and a pair of wingback chairs in the same position at the other end. Ian and Rand parked themselves in the chairs. The smug jerks were clearly enjoying watching him squirm, but he would have done the same thing if the situation was reversed. Meanwhile, his mother and father remained standing. Under normal circumstances, he would have preferred to explain the situation to his mother and let her run interference with his dad. Not this time, thought. She was the one who looked ready to explode.
Sure enough, she lobbed the opening salvo. "When are you coming home?"
There was no way to ease into this discussion. "I'm not, Mom. We'll visit, of course, but this is our home now."
His father did what he could to soothe his mate. "Now, Liza, let Declan explain what's happened."
Vivian motioned toward the other sofa. "Why don't you have a seat?"
Without waiting to see how his mother would respond, she all but dragged Declan toward the loveseat. Once everyone was seated, she asked him, "Shall I explain or do you want to do the honors?"
He'd already told his father most of the story when he'd called home to explain the situation. It would be a huge surprise if he hadn't shared every detail with his wife even if she was acting like all of this had come as a big, bad surprise to her.
"I'll hit the highlights." Meaning he'd gloss over the part where he'd been knocked on the head and locked in a cell in Logan's basement. "When Ian sent me to track down Vivian here, I found her working at Logan's bar. She explained the truth of the situation, that the former Alpha of her pack had terrorized her. When she escaped, he made up lies about what had happened, which resulted in a warrant for her arrest. Logan and I decided to help clear her name. We talked to Ambrose O'Brien to keep everything on the up and up."
He smiled down at Vivian. "In the process, I realized I'd found my mate. I challenged the Alpha for his crimes against her and won, which makes us the Alpha pair for this pack. From what I've learned already, we have our work cut out for us just to get the pack back on a firm footing."
His father looked thoughtful, but his mother was still fuming. She turned her attention toward Vivian. "I'm sure you're a lovely young woman, Ms. Channing, but you must see how all of this seems quite sudden to us."
Before Viv could respond, Ian joined the conversation. "Mom, get real. Jana and I were mated within even less time. Rand and Tamara were quick off the line, too. You're just unhappy because Declan's new pack is farther away. Think about what you're doing, because you're hurting him and his mate. They need our support right now."
After another long silence, his mom finally sighed. "I apologize, Vivian. Ian's right. I've been worried about Declan, and now he's about to build a whole new life without us."
Instead of anger, his mate responded with empathy. "Never without you, Mrs. Lyell. Declan loves his family too much to cut ties with you. I know this has all come as a shock to you. It's been quite a roller coaster ride for the two of us as well. I'm sure we'll both need your advice as we move forward. From what Declan has told me about how things are done in your pack, there are a lot of changes we need to make here to improve the lives of our pack."
Declan loved Vivian's response to his mother, letting her know that his parents still had an important role to play in their son's life. He continued in the same vein. "From what I've been told, thanks to Rolf's abuse, this pack has dwindled to a fraction of its former size. We'll have our hands full at first just getting things back on track around here. But to fill in the gaps, eventually we'll need to attract new members. I know you can help with that, Dad."
By that point, both of his parents were nodding. There was definitely a note of approval in his father voice when he spoke. "Good plan, son. Once you have some idea of how many new people you want to bring in and what skills they need to have, we can reach out to other packs who might have members ready and willing to take on a new challenge. I'll also get your name added to the e-mail loop for all of the Alphas. It's a good place to get advice from a variety of sources."
The door opened and Logan stuck his head in. "I have food and drink. Okay if I bring it in?"
Vivian relaxed at the sight of her friend. So did Declan for that matter. "Come in and grab a seat. We're just making plans for what comes next."
Two days later, Declan and Vivian stood at the gate and waved good-bye as his family drove out. He loved each and every one of them, but he couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief to see them go. "Am I a bad person because I'm ready for a break from them?"
Vivian leaned into him. "No, although I envy you for having a family that loves you so much. I have a few distant cousins left, but I still miss my parents."
He wrapped her in his arms and held her close. "My family is your family now. And don't forget Logan. I'm pretty sure we've adopted him although I didn't realize people kept vampires as pets."
"Very funny, you jerk." The man in question punched him on the arm. He was dressed head to toe in black and wore a wide brimmed hat to protect him from the sun. "Besides, I have a life to get back to and will be heading out, too. Need to find out if I still have a bar or if Maggy has taken it over for good."
Declan knew Vivian hated to see the vampire leave. Heck, so would he, but they couldn't expect him to hang around until they got their lives organized.
Vivian stepped away from Declan to hug her friend. "You'll come visit often."
"Of course. Someone has to make sure he treats you right."
"He will. He'll also be a great Alpha. Already I can see a difference in attitude among the pack members."
His mate's confidence in him warmed parts of Declan that had been cold for so long. "I've made it clear to our people that you have Friend of the Pack status. We've set aside the room you've been staying in as your permanent quarters whenever you want to visit or if you decide you want to relocate."
"That means more than you know, wolf."
He hugged Vivian again and then hugged Declan as well. "Have fun playing dictator."
After he drove out of sight, Declan studied their new home. This is where they both belonged. The pack needed them, and he was grateful to have found a new purpose in his life. It wouldn't be easy at first, but nothing worth having ever was. As long as he had Vivian at his side, he could handle anything life threw at them. He smiled down at her, knowing his eyes were glowing gold with love and desire for her.
"Well, mate, shall we retire to our quarters before someone else has a question or problem that requires our immediate attention? I find that I'm in the mood for some time alone with my beautiful mate."
"I would love that." Then she looked past him. "Don't look now, but Phil is headed this way. So is Jack."
Declan gave her a quick kiss, grabbed her hand and whispered, "Run!"