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    astone2292
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Rising in the Shadows - 20. Chapter 20: Introductory Interview

The weekend was flying by, at least in Vincent’s opinion. Lowe slept peacefully during the first night in the established Lowe’s Lair. As the mage poked his head in the blanketed fort, he saw the toddler working in a coloring book with determination. He’s barely left that thing! The few times Lowe ventured outside his cave was to declare his need for the bathroom.

Potty training was straightforward. Vincent set up the plastic mini-toilet provided by Tasha and let the kid do his business. After the first trip, Vincent’s enhanced nose had issues, but the mage developed a technique. When confronted with the concept of clean-up, he would contain the mess within shadow magic, dump it in the toilet, and break off the trailed darkness instead of retracting it. The shadow would dissipate within the bowl and he would go wipe down the plastic potty. He was beyond grateful for his magic abilities.

Elaine and Lei stopped by for a few hours with the intention to work with Vincent on frost and hybrid exercises. The couple were easily distracted by the toddler. "Why didn't you two tell us you were watching Lowe? We would have happily come sooner to spoil him!"

Vincent stirred a pot of tomato sauce and looked at his teacher, "I didn't think about it, to be honest. Lowe's kept us pretty busy. Did you guys want to stay for lunch? I can make extra.”

Lei spoke up after sending Lowe off to hunt down Mason. “That’s not necessary, but it’s kind to offer. How has everything been with Mesker?”

He sighed, “Better than I hoped. It’s still a lot to process, especially with… you know.”

“Taking a life?” Vincent nodded as Elaine put her hand on his shoulder, “As a mother, I feel your pain, even if that alpha was able to change his ways, we could never know. But as one of your instructors,” her voice grew cold and stern, “you have to accept it. He assaulted Dave and injured you in the process. His death is justified.”

Vincent tapped the spoon on the side of the pot and set it to down. She’s right. I can tell the difference between my fights with Dirk and Kordell, but I...

His thoughts trailed, but the wolf inside of him picked them up, Need forgive.

I forgive you, bud. I know you didn’t—

No! Forgive self. I hear you in head. You think you did kill. It me, I kill bad alpha. We talk later, Mace mother want speak.

"Talking with yourself? It didn't seem pleasant."

He grabbed the spoon again. "My wolf thinks I need to forgive myself, but I wasn't the one to kill Kordell."

Elaine rested her hip against the stove and whispered, "Yes, you did. You and your wolf are the same person, and you need to understand that. I didn't mate two people, I mated my Leidolf. All shifters possess two minds, but in the end, we share a body. I suggest you meditate on that when you have time."

The parents stayed for lunch and spent time coddling Lowe. Lei could be seen in the living room speaking with Mace. The older alpha kept his conversation shush, but Vincent heard mentions of grandkids. Already? I think they might need to wait a few years.

They went outside to the backyard for a few hours so Lowe could run around. The toddler was screaming with joy and excitement when Mason and Lei shifted into their wolves to play chase. After half an hour of exercise, Lowe tuckered out and Vincent led the group back inside. Lei and Elaine thanked them for lunch and left as Vincent put Lowe down for a nap.

With the couple to themselves, they sat in the living room and spoke in nearly silent whispers, "This has been fun watching him." Vincent rested his head against Mason. "I heard Lei asking about kids of our own."

Mason wrapped an arm around his mate. "Yeah, but I brushed it off. I don't think I'm ready for that just yet." He nuzzled Vincent's lengthy hair, "I want to have you to myself as long as possible."

"Same here, but I think we can handle it when it comes time. It's not as bad as Caleb and Tasha make it out to be."

"Yeah, but like you said, we've had him for a day. Who knows what it would be like on a daily basis." After a lull, Mason squeezed Vincent's body, "I'd be honored to be parents with you. Whenever you’re ready for it, I’ll be right there with you.”

***

Monday morning, Caleb and Tasha came by to pick up Lowe. The kid was ecstatic to see his parents and the alphas were almost somber to see him go. “Any time you guys need a break, let us know, okay?”

Tasha swept Lowe into her arms, “You got it, Vin. Did you have fun with Alpa and Vinsy, little man?”

“Yeah! We made a lair and had boogers!”

Caleb snorted, “Yeah, we saw pictures of your fort. We can make one of our own tonight. It’ll be bigger and better than theirs.”

Mason crossed his arms, “Good luck with that. Lowe’s Lair will never be outclassed!”

Vincent hushed the blossoming rivalry and the Gage family went on their way with praise and thanks. Closing the door, the mage’s phone emitted a tone. “Right, I got work in an hour.” He was thankful Quinn was able to take over the grocery department for Dave and him. He’s a kick-ass manager, especially when shit hits the fan. “Let me get a shower and I’ll head out, big guy.”

Mason headed to the kitchen, “I’ll pack a quick lunch for you. Remember, today’s the day we have Bartlett and Ashford coming in.”

Brushing a hand through his lengthening hair, Vincent recalled the details of their arrival. “Right, they’ll be here around four. I won’t be home until five, so make sure you’re ready to welcome them.” With a speedy shower and a sack lunch, Vincent grabbed his keys and made his way to the Greenthumb.

After arriving, Dave and Vincent realized the store was in shambles after the weekend rush. My gods, this place is trashed! I bet Quinn’s happy with the sales though. The duo worked diligently to salvage their department and prepare for the weekly sale changes. Several hours into the shift, Vincent had all of the front end caps filled. He brought out a fresh pallet of cereal when he noticed a disturbingly large shadow enter the store. Holy crap! Who is that?

Looking up, the self-checkouts were in the way. He returned to face the shelves, closed his eyes, and snapped his fingers. Conjuring a ward high in the rafters, he scanned for the shadow’s owner. There’s a smaller one incredibly close to it as well. Could it—

Vincent inhaled as he found the matching pair. The mountain of a man matched the profile picture Mason showed him. They aren’t supposed to be here for a few more hours! He sped towards them. Once he laid eyes on them, he whispered, “Beta Bartlett? Enforcer Ashford?”

The couple turned as Vincent came closer. They met the alpha’s choice of tone, “Alpha Bolton? Is that you?” The slender beta walked up and offered his hand, “We weren’t expecting to see you here. This is where you work?”

“Yep, and please call me Vincent. I’m still not used to the whole alpha thing yet.” The mage met Bartlett’s gesture with a smile.

“Yet? Forgive me, I don’t understand.”

Vincent scratched his head nervously, “I was turned less than a month ago by Mason.”

Ashford, despite his size, crept behind Bartlett. Even whispered, the voice sounded demonic, “An alpha that declines the use of title? The rumors were true of this area being laid back.”

Vincent shook the giant’s hand, intimidated by how it dwarfed his own. “Not to be rude, but I thought you guys weren’t due to be here until later?”

“We got a notification about an earlier connecting flight. We were just looking around and had every intention of meeting at four as promised.”

“Well, if you two need to kill some time, there’s some things to do around Owensville. Make sure you stop at Nini’s on Main Street and tell Morrine I sent you. Be careful though, she’ll start teasing.”

Bartlett smirked, “I’m already floored by the hospitality! We’ll make a point to go there. From what we’ve seen so far, Owensville is lush and beautiful. I imagine we’ll go to Mesker Park City tomorrow, if that’s alright with you?”

Confused by the question, Vincent furrowed his brow. “Well, after our meeting, you’re free to do what you want."

The enforcer's head dipped, "Your mate hasn't gone over land ownership with you, has he?"

Vincent shook his head.

"We only ask to prevent trespassing issues."

The mage felt ignorant. "Right. By all means, go check out the city. If you want, I'm sure Mace won't mind if you two want to stay longer. Mesker’s a pretty big area."

Ashford and Bartlett looked at each other and shrugged before the beta returned to Vincent, "We'll discuss it later, but we appreciate the offer. Anything else we should know?"

Vincent thought for a moment. "Not really. Nothing too crazy happens here."

"That's good to know. We'll let you get back to work, Vincent. It was a pleasure meeting you. Do you mind exchanging numbers?"

Vincent and Bartlett did so and tucked their phones away. "Mace'll be home by two if you guys want to get a nap or run before we talk."

"That sounds good to me. How about you, Hoss?"

Ashford closed the distance between his mate, "You're the brains, Tic Tac. I could go for a run."

They parted ways and the mage returned to his pallet.

By the end of his shift, Vincent was exhausted. He got a message from Mason stating the beta and enforcer had arrived and went for a run in the woods. That was a few hours ago. I wonder what they're doing now. He hurried home, anxious for a shower and the meeting. Pulling in, he saw Caleb's sedan and another with a rental license frame.

Leaving the Kia, his bond grew dark. What the hell is this?

Don't know. Mate in trouble? Vincent pushed a sense of concern through his end and received a small wave of love. He fine? We check.

Falling into the shadows, Vincent ran around the side of the house and went to the backyard. He saw Ashford and Mason with their fists raised with Bartlett and Caleb standing near the porch. Watching carefully, the mage judged the situation. I think they're just fighting for fun.

Vincent's assumption was correct as Mason approached the enforcer. The alpha's kick was easily blocked by Ashford's calf. The mountainous man swept Mason's grounded leg out from under him. Ashford then rushed on top of the fallen man and pinned the arms to the earth. "You're out."

Mason rested his head against the grass and sighed, "Damn! Where'd you learn to fight like that?" He took the extended hand and was lifted up as if he were a ragdoll.

"Military will teach you a few things. You tensed up a bit before I took you down. What happened?"

"Got distracted. Vinnie's here and my bond pulsed." Ashford's eyebrow raised, showing his confusion. "We're destined, so we can sense each other's emotions when we're close."

Seeing the outcome, Vincent went behind Caleb and reappeared from the shadows. The second he did, the lion pounced away. "Bol's bones, Little B!" Everyone's head turned towards the new commotion.

The mage giggled, "Can't help scaring you, G-man. What's going on?"

Caleb smirked, "Mace just got his ass handed to him. Enforcer Ashford didn't even break a sweat!"

Vincent examined the combatants. He's right! Mace is drenched and Ashford is dry as can be! This guy's for real.

Want try.

You can't be serious! I'm exhausted and I can't imagine going against him if he's warmed up.

Use magic. We win.

Just as Vincent prepared a mental comeback, Bartlett stood in bewilderment. "I saw the description on Mason's EC profile, but I didn't believe it until now. You're an actual shadow mage?" When Vincent nodded, the beta tossed a quick glance towards Ashford. "I don't mean to ask in a rude manner, but could you and my mate spar?"

Ashford grinned, "Haven't faced a shadow mage before and I could use the experience. I'd be in your debt if I need to fight one later on."

Vincent considered the request. When his wolf nudged, he gave in. "Sure. No sense in doing it later and showering again." He emptied his pockets and walked into the yard. Staring at the behemoth opponent, Vincent felt the same intimidation from shaking the enforcer's hand from before. "Do you want me to just use my shadow magic, or are the others fair game?"

The question shocked Ashford, "Others? You have another affinity?"

"I have three."

"Three?" Bartlett was beside himself. "Hoss, what do you think?"

Ashford crossed his arms, "Give me your all, Alpha Bolton. My wolf tells me you might be my greatest challenge yet."

Vincent rolled his shoulders in an effort to limber up. "If that's what you want." The two shook hands and gave each other ample space. The mage widened his feet and checked his bracelet. I still have several beads full. "Whenever you're ready."

The enforcer brought up his fists and began closing the distance. Vincent flicked his wrists and flung ice shards towards the wolf. As Ashford leapt to the side, the mage brought his staff into play and pointed the ball forward.

Ashford grinned and ran full speed towards the mage.

Surprised by the tactic, Vincent stood still. Too fast! Can't swing. He dipped in the shadows, retreated to a safer position, and reappeared. If he's that fast, my staff is useless. Dropping the weapon, he fashioned a dagger and gripped it tight. The wolf saw the new tool and hesitated to follow up. He knows how to deal with different weapons. I don't think my ice will do any good here.

Try cloud.

He's probably smart enough to hit himself out of it pretty quick. An idea whizzed through his mind. He looped a finger through the dagger and hurled it. Like before, the enforcer prepared to dodge. There!

Vincent snapped his fingers and the knife melted, transforming into a small, pink cloud. Twirling his index, the cloud phased through Ashford's face and continued past him. The moment the wolf's eyes turned lavender, Vincent went into the shadows and dove towards his opponent. As Ashford's fist landed on his thigh, the mage reappeared and decked him on the cheek.

The wolf reeled, but remained on his feet. Vincent brought up an arm and latched onto Ashford's ankles with a shadowy tentacle. He yanked and sent the enforcer toppling to the ground face-up. I got him! Seizing the moment, Vincent sent another strand of darkness to bind his opponent.

As the shadow lifted from the earth to attach onto Ashford, the wolf latched onto it. Vincent’s heart fell to his stomach. Did he—

His feet flew out from underneath him. Vincent landed on his back and the air left his lungs. He was terrified. Is he a shadow mage? How did he—

No think! Move!

The inner thoughts were too late. Orange skies darkened and intense pressure pinned down Vincent’s wrists. He grunted against the weight.

“You’re done.” The hellish voice whispered from above. Ashford was on top of him.

Vincent evaluated his situation. Do I continue? I can escape, but I really want to He fell into the shadows once more and watched Ashford lose his balance. Vincent came back into the colorful world a few yards away from the enforcer, who quickly found him. “Stop! How…” The mage caught his breath and absorbed a bead of energy from the bracelet. “How did you grab my shadow?”

The wolf appeared ready to pounce but answered, “Seemed like the right thing to do.”

“No one’s ever grabbed my shadow before. It’s a refraction of light, so that can’t happen!” Vincent’s knowledge of light properties flashed before his eyes. There’s no way! Light and refractions of light can’t be touched by an outside force.

Ashford straightened himself, “You’re really bothered by this, aren’t you? I didn’t mean to do something indecent during our fight.”

Vincent shook his head, “No, I’m just trying to figure out how one can touch a shadow like you did. I’ve used my magic to hit and form objects, but I thought I could be the only one to actually control or manipulate it.”

The enforcer huffed and shifted his weight onto one leg, “Your reasoning is invalid. If you can use it to put weight onto someone or something, then others can touch it like a normal object, even if it’s a refraction of light.”

Amazed at Ashford’s knowledge of the subject, Vincent became puzzled at the logic. After a moment of thought, he slapped his forehead, “I’m such an idiot! My shadows are filled with magical energy. That must make them physical entities!" He lifted an arm and brought up a tentacle. Squeezing with his free hand, Vincent examined it. He walked towards Ashford, causing the wolf to return to a fighting stance. "You've already pinned me. I concede defeat. Come help me figure this out."

Dropping the aggressiveness, Ashford came closer with Bartlett, Caleb, and Mason in tow. "I mean, it looks like you have it pretty figured out." The larger man pinched the conjured shadow and felt it was squishy. "How much magic are you throwing me in there?"

"Not much."

"Pump some more, like if you meant to swing it in a fight."

Vincent obliged and gave the tendril an ample amount of anger. Ashford's fingers were forced to retract. "So the more energy, the more mass it retains. That makes sense."

Bartlett grabbed the darkness and turned to the mage, "You're still learning?"

"Yeah, I have a teacher though. There isn't an instruction manual for this affinity or many people that have it." Vincent smiled as he reveled in his newfound knowledge.

Mason held his mate, "Glad to see you're still figuring things out, pup. How about we all get cleaned up and head out for dinner? We can talk business when we get back."

The group agreed and made their way inside. Once everyone showered, Vincent drove them to Biacci's. Despite the circumstances, he felt the need to showcase the finer points of Mason's territory. The establishment was packed, but the host was able to seat the group rather quickly.

Bartlett and Ashford were questioned about their land. Canton was small and the pack was very manageable with a lycan population of thirty-seven. Like Mason and Vincent heard before, they faced frequent ownership challenges from neighboring alphas. Ashford had no issue winning, but to the couple, it had become pestersome.

"I have no relatable experience with that. I think Dad only had one challenge when he was Alpha, but he squashed the guy."

Vincent faced Mason in surprise. "Really? I didn't know that."

"It's in the pack history records. Dad said you can ask for them anytime if you need more to read."

The mage made a mental note to do so. I need to get caught up on reading. The bylaws are taking up a lot of my time.

As the food arrived, conversation was diminished. Mason, Vincent, and Caleb couldn't stop staring at Ashford's order. The enforcer had ordered enough to feed two grown and starving shifters. Vincent shook his head and returned to his carbonara. I'd hate to see their grocery budget!

With their bills paid, they went back to Mason's home to begin their discussion of Mesker Park City. They waited a few minutes for Dave's arrival before conducting the interview. Everyone convened in Mason’s office, with the alpha pair and their council behind the desk. Vincent stood next to Mason’s chair with Caleb on his other side. He watched the beta and enforcer seat themselves in front of the desk.

Bartlett handed Vincent a portfolio. "Here are our pack standings, financial records, and the latest evaluation from the Executive Council."

Needing assistance, Vincent had Mason look over the documents before passing them to Dave and Caleb. With the financial papers in hand, Dave looked up, "This is impressive. You've banked on cultural tourism for funding?"

"Yes. We take part in the First Monday Day Trade events as much as possible. Most of our pack participates as vendors and it funds almost all pack events. Due to the recent success over the last few years, we've reduced dues by twenty percent since then."

"Twenty percent over two years? Not bad." Dave flipped through the pages before handing them back. "Financially, your pack is booming for its size."

Caleb furrowed his brow, "I don't see anything involving security or contingency plans."

Ashford nodded, "You're looking at it. Most of those issues are handled by me. We have a few deltas who help handle things when we're away. I trust them with my life should we come under attack."

"Attack?" Vincent grew concerned. "How often are you guys attacked?"

The slender beta shook his head, "Like Enforcer Gage said, contingency. All of our challenges have been either financial deals for land ownership or the occasional alpha confrontation."

Concern was replaced with conflict. These two have gone through a lot! Part of me wants to give them the deed and call it a day, but I know I need to interview Stuerm and McCabe.

Hard, but keep go. Ask on int… intents…

Intentions? Yeah, I do want to know their plans. Pushing the feelings aside, Vincent interlaced his fingers. "If chosen, what are your intentions for Mesker Park City?"

Bartlett shifted in his seat, "Assuming leadership over a leader-less area is something we haven't encountered before. Ideally, we would work with the EC by introducing ourselves to the human city leaders and arrange proper locations for our pack to meet without being bothered by those unaware of the supernatural. Overall, we want the shifter community to be comfortable with us coming in. Whatever problems the city is having, we will come up with programs to solve them. We’re also not afraid to ask for help, so you would probably hear from us.”

Mason seemed to be convinced when he pushed out his chair and kicked up a leg onto his knee, but threw out a question. “My biggest concern is being neighbors. Do I need to worry about a potential take-over?”

Ashford’s eyes bulged, “Hell no! We wouldn’t dream of doing that! You know where we come from, Alpha Wilson. To even be considered in the running for this opportunity is a blessing from the Seven. I’d be honored to be your ally.”

“Make that two of us.” Bartlett’s arm moved closer to the enforcer, presumably to hold Ashford’s hand.

The Owensville council looked at one another and saw no one had any further questions. Vincent turned to the couple, “Do you have any questions for us?”

“Yes, what kind of payment are you expecting for the deed, if we are chosen?”

Mason took the question, “We discussed it, and since Mesker Park fell in our lap, we’re asking for what you think is fair.”

Bartlett and Ashford looked at each other for a moment before the beta continued, “Pay what is fair? I’m confused.”

“Ultimately, we aren’t looking for compensation. Our pack is financially stable, and we don’t want money to be the deciding factor. We’re looking at each candidate for merit and the ability to run their pack and council. Whether you can pay five million dollars or just five, we simply want the land and its shifters in good hands.” With the concept explained, Mason leaned back in his chair. “That being said, what do you two think would be fair?”

Ashford shifted in his seat, “We weren’t prepared for this kind of consideration, but Trent and I agreed to offer what we could. While our pack finances are fine, we don’t have a lot saved up personally since we took Canton less than five years ago. We’re prepared to offer a quarter-million.”

Vincent swallowed. He understood the laws and policies of land ownership and transfer options, but he was speechless when the number reached his ears. Qu-Quarter-million? Like, dollars? Is this normal? He turned to Dave and Mason, “I’ll let you two handle this. I’m a little out of my area of expertise when it comes to price.”

Mason smirked and patted the small hand on his shoulder, “I got you, pup.” The alpha returned his attention back to Bartlett, “I’m impressed you can put such a number on the table considering your pack size. Will this put you two in a bind?”

Bartlett sighed silently, “Yes, but we’re looking for a change in life. Fred and I are willing to put in everything we have.”

Dave crossed his arms, “Everything?”

“Well, we have more set aside for a down-payment on a mortgage and other living expenses. We’re not leaving ourselves empty-handed.”

“That answers my follow-up question. Carry on.”

Mason nodded, “Like I said, we’re not looking at the money. I think that’s all the questions I had. Vinnie, Dave, Caleb?” The three shook their heads. “Then I think we’re good. Since you’re staying the next few nights, we can answer any future questions you have for us.” He stood and offered his hand.

The two rose and met Mason’s gesture. “Likewise, should anything cross your minds.”

With the meeting concluded, the conversations quickly turned informal. Throughout the evening, the councils learned about each others’ lives. It wasn’t long before everyone grew fond of one another. Several hours later, Dave and Caleb left, leaving the two couples. As midnight struck, Bartlett and Ashford adjourned to the guest room and Mason ushered Vincent to bed as well.

Waking up the next day, Vincent quietly raided the kitchen and prepared breakfast. While he was cracking eggs, he felt movement within the shadows.

To him, it was familiar and Vincent smiled. Good morning, Yakob.

Good morning. It seems my student has guests?

Sorry if I’ve been distant, a lot’s been going on!

I would say so since you never came to bring me to your spar with Tierney.

Vincent whisked the eggs lightly before adding a small amount of milk. Yeah, about that. We didn’t get the chance. Dave and Stacy got into some trouble in Mesker Park City.

Trouble?

I… “I…” The alpha’s breath caught as he recalled Kordell's figure.

You fought? In a real battle? Yakob emerged from the shadows and stood across the kitchen island. “What happened?”

Both mages turned towards the bedroom. Vincent felt Mason’s shadow moving. “In the kitchen, big guy. Yakob’s here.” He whispered lightly before returning to his teacher, “Dave was assaulted, Stacy was exposed, and I… I killed him.” Gripping the rubber whisk tightly, the entire scene played out in his mind. From taking Stacy and Dave to safety, to watching the alpha’s claws pierce his skin.

Yakob’s breath caught. “You were injured? From the looks of it, it was nearly fatal.”

Vincent turned to the mage, “You… Can you see my memories?”

“Only when someone is thinking about them.” Seeing Mason enter the kitchen, Yakob smiled as he changed the subject, “Good to see you, Mason. I hope all has been well?”

Yawning, the taller man waved with half-interest and targeted the coffee machine, “Morning. Life’s been a little crazy as of late. Has Vinnie told you about our land situation?”

“Land situation?”

Vincent poured the egg mixture into a large pan, “Yeah, when I fought that alpha, he was in the process of claiming Mesker Park City. Several hours later, a council member from the EC showed up and awarded me the land.” He turned to see the astonished face on Yakob. “I’m sure you’ve noticed we have some guests? They’re one of the interested parties in taking it.”

“I see! A lot has happened in the past few days. I am glad that everything is working itself out. And yes, I noticed. I would consider myself blind if I didn’t feel the mountainous shadow coming down the hallway.”

Mason blinked a few times before whispering, “Ashford? You there?”

“Yeah, I smelled coffee.” The hulking man halted in the doorway, “And I heard a new voice. I’m guessing he’s trustworthy?”

“Yes, this is Yakob. He’s teaching Vinnie how to use his magic.” Mason turned and offered the enforcer a mug.

“This is the shadow teacher?” Ashford took the cup and poured the bean juice. “You have an exceptional student, Mister Yakob. His magic had me worried for a moment.”

The monk bowed his head, “You’ve sparred with Vincent? How did that turn out?”

Vincent combed fingers through his hair, “I lost. But I did learn more about my magic in the process.” He eagerly shared the knowledge found from his fight with Ashford. “I guess I never noticed that being a trait with the shadows.”

“There is much to learn, both with the affinity and magic as a whole. I can tell you have a fighting spirit, Mister Ashford. Maybe one day, we’ll have a duel ourselves.”

Ashford lowered his mug and grinned, “It’d be my pleasure. Just name a time and place, sir.”

Yakob took a seat on a stool, “It will be soon, but I’m here on business with my student.”

Vincent stirred the breakfast, “What did you need?”

“I’ve spent some time meditating on a few things and I think we need to talk about your training. Perhaps after breakfast, we could speak?”

The younger mage smiled and nodded. “Of course. Ash, food’s almost ready if you want to wake up your…” Vincent’s thought trailed off as he felt a shadow moving in the guest room. “Nevermind, he’s awake.”

Ashford furrowed his brow, “How do you know that?”

“I’ve been feeling everyone’s shadows. He was sleeping a few minutes ago, but his shadow just moved off the bed.”

The enforcer’s eyes widened, “Your magic amazes me, Vincent. You have the senses of a lycan, but you exceed them by feeling movement around you. Consider me envious.”

As Bartlett came in, Vincent introduced Yakob to him, and promptly served breakfast for the hungry shifters. He thought he cooked enough, but forgot how much food Ashford could put away. When Vincent offered to make more, he declined and stated he could grab some at a restaurant later.

The meeting with Stuerm was scheduled for later in the afternoon, and the Texas couple left shortly after eating to visit Mesker Park City. Mason needed to do some paperwork at the farm, leaving Vincent and Yakob to themselves. The alpha anticipated some shadow exercises, but as they reached the backyard, Yakob fell into the shadows. Curious, Vincent followed him. Looking around, he found the monk sitting at the edge of the woods, “Yakob? Everything okay?”

The monk remained silent. Vincent approached with apprehension. A prod from his instinct told him to sit across from Yakob. On the gray grass, the mages sat in silence.

Minutes passed and Yakob opened his eyes. The two stared at each other, making Vincent nervous. He was prepared for a sudden sparring match, but when the teacher’s head shook, he relaxed.

Yakob breathed in deep, and exhaled slowly. “Tell me everything you know about the Seven.”

Copyright © 2021 astone2292; All Rights Reserved.
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17 minutes ago, centexhairysub said:

A wonderful chapter, it flowed beautifully.  

I do think it is a little early to start talking about kids; but something to keep in the back of their minds.  Glad that they enjoyed their weekend of babysitting.

The beta and enforcer seem like a truly good team; and also truly good people.  

Yakob's question truly worries me...

Thanks for commenting, centex! 

I agree, but you know parents. Their kiddo finds their mate and they're ready for rugrats. I like writing for the new couple, but I don't think y'all are ready for McCabe. Poor Yakob was left on the sidelines and wanted to see his student!

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I loved Vincent's practical use of his shadow magic with Lowe's potty training. It's like Vincent (and the author) to see another ingenious use of it.

Ashford's sparring session gave Vincent new knowledge which could save his life in the future. You never want big surprises in a real battle.

I like this pair and think they'd make good neighbors.

Now to Yakob's unusual visit. Who the heck are the Seven? I'm guessing they're big time bad news.

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3 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

I loved Vincent's practical use of his shadow magic with Lowe's potty training. It's like Vincent (and the author) to see another ingenious use of it.

Ashford's sparring session gave Vincent new knowledge which could save his life in the future. You never want big surprises in a real battle.

I like this pair and think they'd make good neighbors.

Now to Yakob's unusual visit. Who the heck are the Seven? I'm guessing they're big time bad news.

Hey, if shadows are everywhere, they better make themselves useful.

The Seven? Bol and Terik would be miffed... 

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32 minutes ago, astone2292 said:

Hey, if shadows are everywhere, they better make themselves useful.

The Seven? Bol and Terik would be miffed... 

Oh, those goomers. They're like the government. If you don't need them or aren't causing strife, they're out of mind.

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Great chapter, baby sitting sent well , the sparing also went reasonably well , he at least learnt something new , now we have another cliffhanger, about the seven , he has met two  I think , interesting times

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16 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

Oh, those goomers. They're like the government. If you don't need them or aren't causing strife, they're out of mind.

This made me giggle.

2 minutes ago, mikedup said:

Great chapter, baby sitting sent well , the sparing also went reasonably well , he at least learnt something new , now we have another cliffhanger, about the seven , he has met two  I think , interesting times

Well, Mason has met them, but we've had two encounters. Some of the others have been mentioned throughout the series.

As always, thanks for commenting!

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18 minutes ago, astone2292 said:

Well, Mason has met them, but we've had two encounters. Some of the others have been mentioned throughout the series

It's easy to forget Vincent hasn't met them. It's hard to meet someone when they keep using you as a sock puppet.

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so I live about an hour and a half from Canton and go to first Mondays often with my mom. I laughed when I read that. 

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Another amazing chapter.....  From babysitting to meeting the "2" candidates to Yakob and the Seven...such a wonderful read!!!  Thank you for "taking me away".... I really needed the escape.  I promise to be back to commenting more soon.  As always your talent blows me away. 👑🤩 

P.S.  You are probably to young to remember the commercials for Calgon...but for some reason the slogan "Calgon, take me away" was on my mind...

 

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8 hours ago, drpaladin said:

Now to Yakob's unusual visit. Who the heck are the Seven? I'm guessing they're big time bad news.

Aren’t the Seven the gods of the shapeshifters?  I say it that way, because I’m not sure if it’s just the lycans or if others are included. We’ve already met Bol and Terik, I think. They did have bad news for Vincent regarding his battle with Stefan, but it would better to ask would be Mason or his parents.

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51 minutes ago, Clancy59 said:

Aren’t the Seven the gods of the shapeshifters?  I say it that way, because I’m not sure if it’s just the lycans or if others are included. We’ve already met Bol and Terik, I think. They did have bad news for Vincent regarding his battle with Stefan, but it would better to ask would be Mason or his parents.

I don't believe they are only the gods of the shifters. They wouldn't be likely to be very powerful if they were only worshipped by such a small segment of the population.

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Man, I hope Vincent and Mason aren’t as open about their situation with the other candidates. I was shocked when Mason lost, then the couple admitted Vincent was still in training, then Vincent lost as well. What if Ashford and Bartlett (Tic Tac — I love it!) were bad guys, or land greedy? Mace and Vincent gave away their weaknesses!! They were hella trusting of these strangers. 
 

It’s great to see the story updating again. It’ll be interesting to see where you take this topic of the Seven.

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4 minutes ago, Geemeedee said:

Man, I hope Vincent and Mason aren’t as open about their situation with the other candidates. I was shocked when Mason lost, then the couple admitted Vincent was still in training, then Vincent lost as well. What if Ashford and Bartlett (Tic Tac — I love it!) were bad guys, or land greedy? Mace and Vincent gave away their weaknesses!! They were hella trusting of these strangers. 
 

It’s great to see the story updating again. It’ll be interesting to see where you take this topic of the Seven.

Don't forget Cyrus was familiar with them from his job with the EC. They know they are no threat.

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11 hours ago, JayT said:

so I live about an hour and a half from Canton and go to first Mondays often with my mom. I laughed when I read that. 

I did a little research involving that area, considering I've never been to Texas. I hope I'm getting the general concept of First Mondays correct! 

7 hours ago, Patch1 said:

Another amazing chapter.....  From babysitting to meeting the "2" candidates to Yakob and the Seven...such a wonderful read!!!  Thank you for "taking me away".... I really needed the escape.  I promise to be back to commenting more soon.  As always your talent blows me away. 👑🤩 

P.S.  You are probably to young to remember the commercials for Calgon...but for some reason the slogan "Calgon, take me away" was on my mind...

 

I just did a search, and yep, too young to remember. Commercial was chuckle-worthy. Always glad to see your comments, Patch. I'm even happier knowing my story is a little paradise from everyday life!

5 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

Aren’t the Seven the gods of the shapeshifters?  I say it that way, because I’m not sure if it’s just the lycans or if others are included. We’ve already met Bol and Terik, I think. They did have bad news for Vincent regarding his battle with Stefan, but it would better to ask would be Mason or his parents.

Nope. Way, way back in chapter four of Love in the Shadows, Vincent told Mason his family went to the services for the Gods of Luck, Love, and Order before they passed. I haven't really put much thought into this concept as an author, but I suppose this is an alternate-Earth story with another predominant set of religious deities. I'll need to do some background work on how I want to interpret their worship...

3 hours ago, Geemeedee said:

Man, I hope Vincent and Mason aren’t as open about their situation with the other candidates. I was shocked when Mason lost, then the couple admitted Vincent was still in training, then Vincent lost as well. What if Ashford and Bartlett (Tic Tac — I love it!) were bad guys, or land greedy? Mace and Vincent gave away their weaknesses!! They were hella trusting of these strangers. 
 

It’s great to see the story updating again. It’ll be interesting to see where you take this topic of the Seven.

I totally get your concerns, but honestly, that's us Kentuckians for you. We're a little too open for our own good. It's either complete open honesty, or we shut ourselves due to instant distrust. 

When I envisioned Bartlett and Ashford, I instantly thought of Tic Tac when coming up with nicknames/terms of endearment. There were other names I wanted to use for Ashford, but they've been used too many times for my liking, so I fell in love with using "Hoss."

I do apologizing for the late posting. My writing has slowed down since I'm fighting my ADHD. I've been bingeing the new Bo Burnham special on repeat, dissecting every tiny detail and its meaning. I think I'm back on a true writing kick, and I'm going full steam ahead!

2 hours ago, drpaladin said:

Don't forget Cyrus was familiar with them from his job with the EC. They know they are no threat.

I got nothing, so here's a panda GIF.

Awesome Life GIF by JustViral

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2 minutes ago, astone2292 said:

I did a little research involving that area, considering I've never been to Texas. I hope I'm getting the general concept of First Mondays correct! 

It's basically a huge flea market that happens every first Monday of the month. 

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8 minutes ago, JayT said:

It's basically a huge flea market that happens every first Monday of the month. 

That's what I thought. I squealed in both excitement and fright when you said you've been there. "Oh, boy. I didn't do too much research on that... "

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Clancy59

Posted (edited)

I don’t remember the info about the Seven.  I may go back and reread, but right now, I can’t stop watching that panda! He is so cute swinging in his hammock.  All he needs is his Wolfie companion!  🐼🐺

Edited by Clancy59
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15 minutes ago, Clancy59 said:

I don’t remember the info about the Seven.  I may go back and reread, but right now, I can’t stop watching that panda! He is so cute swinging in his hammock.  All he needs is his Wolfie companion!  🐼🐺

I won't stop you from rereading :gikkle:. That panda is absolutely adorable, at least until lightning shoots from his paws...

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16 minutes ago, astone2292 said:

I won't stop you from rereading :gikkle:. That panda is absolutely adorable, at least until lightning shoots from his paws...

That’s why he needs his wolfie.  He needs to cuddle and keep calm! :hug:

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Great chapter. Bartlett and Ashford seem like they would make good neighbors and allies.  I am very worried about Yakobs question about the seven.....

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41 minutes ago, wenmale64 said:

Great chapter. Bartlett and Ashford seem like they would make good neighbors and allies.  I am very worried about Yakobs question about the seven.....

One interview down, two more to go! 

I wonder when Vincent will be able to sit down and relax a bit...

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My goodness, I’m way behind in reading and posting comments here….

Lowe’s Lair is only the tip of the of this little conqueror’s influences. He has these Alpa and Vinsy conscripts fortifying his Lair. Then they devised a magical hinny bidet or is that a Brownie Butt Shadow-tizer? Now imagine the toddler running in to the den naked, with guest present, asking for his shadow thingy as he sports his Lion’s Pride. That’s right Lowe, make them hear your roar for fears of …the other way!

Mace doesn’t think he’s ready, neither does Vinsy, yet they challenge Lowe’s dad that their Lair shall always be the true and proper home for the King 🦁. Yep, it’s always hard to know what you don’t know! Hahaha 🤪 

Poor Vinsy, turned but a month ago, hybrid set free to celebrate that same anniversary. Then challenged by a fake Aplha that is a poor Delta, then challenged by an Alpha that knew no good an required the pup to bite when nature said not, but bite he did and land grant was his. Now the unexpected early show of the Delta that is an Alpha in size and spirit. Though exhausted 😩 already, his challenger did beg, and guests should be treated with courtesy and respect. So a reasonable effort was made, but full commitment was stayed, as the non-shadow folk did teach a new grip; of magic that is, shadow magic has mass and can be used to knock you to your ass….good to know!

@astone2292, though the Electric Panda, the now less shy Beta, and the Delta traitor were not part of this post, the Lair and the petitioning pack leadership was worth the intro. I’m a bit surprised that the Wolf and non-Wolf members and views were not directly addressed. But we know the views of one alternative for sure and another with questions unanswered to the Panda… However, there’s still time, and I believe the new pack looks promising, or sister pack, as an alliance may dictate, may be a wonderful twist for those non traditional Vinsy ways. 

Unfortunately, the visit by Mr Cliff Hanger seems to have interrupted your posting…something about the magnificent seven? Or is it the good, the bad, and the ugly? But which is which?

 

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33 minutes ago, Philippe said:

My goodness, I’m way behind in reading and posting comments here….

Lowe’s Lair is only the tip of the of this little conqueror’s influences. He has these Alpa and Vinsy conscripts fortifying his Lair. Then they devised a magical hinny bidet or is that a Brownie Butt Shadow-tizer? Now imagine the toddler running in to the den naked, with guest present, asking for his shadow thingy as he sports his Lion’s Pride. That’s right Lowe, make them hear your roar for fears of …the other way!

Mace doesn’t think he’s ready, neither does Vinsy, yet they challenge Lowe’s dad that their Lair shall always be the true and proper home for the King 🦁. Yep, it’s always hard to know what you don’t know! Hahaha 🤪 

Poor Vinsy, turned but a month ago, hybrid set free to celebrate that same anniversary. Then challenged by a fake Aplha that is a poor Delta, then challenged by an Alpha that knew no good an required the pup to bite when nature said not, but bite he did and land grant was his. Now the unexpected early show of the Delta that is an Alpha in size and spirit. Though exhausted 😩 already, his challenger did beg, and guests should be treated with courtesy and respect. So a reasonable effort was made, but full commitment was stayed, as the non-shadow folk did teach a new grip; of magic that is, shadow magic has mass and can be used to knock you to your ass….good to know!

@astone2292, though the Electric Panda, the now less shy Beta, and the Delta traitor were not part of this post, the Lair and the petitioning pack leadership was worth the intro. I’m a bit surprised that the Wolf and non-Wolf members and views were not directly addressed. But we know the views of one alternative for sure and another with questions unanswered to the Panda… However, there’s still time, and I believe the new pack looks promising, or sister pack, as an alliance may dictate, may be a wonderful twist for those non traditional Vinsy ways. 

Unfortunately, the visit by Mr Cliff Hanger seems to have interrupted your posting…something about the magnificent seven? Or is it the good, the bad, and the ugly? But which is which?

 

Philippe, your comments are going in the legendary category. 

"shadow magic has mass and can be used to knock you to your ass... " My God. I died. Am I still typing? That was really, really funny. 

I think I'm a wee bit lost with the paragraph mentioning Cyrus. Can I get a translation, pretty please with a cherry on top? I haven't had my coffee yet...

Mr. Hanger likes to show up and random times to distract the author from finishing the book. 

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Philippe

Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, astone2292 said:

Philippe, your comments are going in the legendary category. 

"shadow magic has mass and can be used to knock you to your ass... " My God. I died. Am I still typing? That was really, really funny. 

I think I'm a wee bit lost with the paragraph mentioning Cyrus. Can I get a translation, pretty please with a cherry on top? I haven't had my coffee yet...

Mr. Hanger likes to show up and random times to distract the author from finishing the book. 

The ramblings of a tired mind and body! 😝 

A legend in my own mind… Hanging within the fecal stealing shadows? Does this magic make my mass look fat?

Indirectly, I was saying that there was no progress on the NY pack storyline and the cliffhanger those characters will bring to resolution in a most electrifying and en-lightning way I’m sure.

Also, that of the three potential pack leaderships applying, the first interview is probably the only realistic choice. Their non-traditional construct and council makes them closer to the more democratic governance Vinsy invasions for a modern pack.

The other US based one has his own hit squad for the undesirables while trying to appear innocent of his bigoted misdeeds. And then, there are the major complications and suspicions for someone trying to bring a European Pack to the more quiet regions of the US; I don’t foresee a short interview uncovering the details, but then again the rollercoaster does have many twist and turns.

Keep em coming !

Edited by Philippe
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