With me in Sun Camp, Rhava gave Marcus a kiss in parting and walked off to leave me in the care of the other Solaris. I got the feeling this was a purely Solaris matter, and he knew better than to stick around. Probably didn't want to get chomped again. I didn't blame him. Canine bites were painful.
“I will leave you in Marcus's hands, Dylan. Afterward, please come find me.” Aunt Minerva smiled again and strolled to one of the huts. The other two, the other lion and the eagle, inclined their heads and wandered off.
I turned to Marcus with what I hope was a pleasant expression on my face. Too much, too fast, too magic, and my poor little brain couldn't keep up. I was in a bit of an overload. Thankfully Marcus seemed to realize that and led me over to a small fire pit and the seating around it. The chairs looked to be the most permanent item in Sun Camp. They were finely crafted and sturdy enough for even my size to not fear turning it into sawdust. “I bet you are a bit overwhelmed right now.”
“You'd win that bet. Just...too much at the same time. The solstice, the guys, the attack if you want to call it that, meeting the camps' peoples, meeting my aunt, and all the damn magic making my skin itch. So yeah, a bit much.”
His eyes twitched with some quickly suppressed emotion. Then he shook his head and the emotion leaked through. Marcus was amazed at something. “Not many males would be so honest about their feelings.”
“Yeah, well, my dad pretty much got it into my head that honesty, even about your emotional state, was the best thing. Which means you'll get almost everything I feel and think. Not all of it, no one should be subjected to the shit in my head,” that got a bit of a smile, “but I'll let you know when I'm confused, upset, or happy.”
“Not a strong trait in a Lycan, but perhaps it works in your pack.”
“Pretty well, actually. It's been ten years or so since Homestead was founded, and Dad hasn't seen more than a few grumbles with his leadership, and most of those from some of the more traditional members who didn't like that he listened to opinions instead of ruling outright. I got a lot of my openness from the leaders of Homestead and how to temper my temper from my Grandpa, Minerva's brother.”
Marcus grinned. “I believe that temper runs in your family. Fire Mother Minnie is called Fire Mother for a reason.” I could only imagine what it would look like to see her flip her shit. “I know you have many questions about several subjects, but the easiest to answer is the one which led you to Sun Camp. Here is where you will be during the solstice, among your solar cousins and family. You will find it easier than you fear to remain calm here.”
“So we aren't too close to Equis Camp to be a danger? I mean, I've had one other solar event in my life. It did not end well.”
Which was a huge understatement. I had torn up Dad pretty bad, and it took Grandpa and Papa Travis to take me down. Neither was trying to hurt me, or else it would have been easy for either to do it, but my lion was bigger than Grandpa's. Dad had been furious with me for a week. Not for hurting him, he understood flight or fight, but for not listening to him leading up to the event. I didn't want to go into hiding, even when Grandpa said it was for the best, and the open defiance was why he was so pissed.
“You should not worry as much here. I do not doubt your grandfather kept your rampage to a minimum but such a small group of Solaris is not enough to create the feeling of Pack or Pride in your case. The more we have in the same area, the more we can keep each other calm.” Marcus leaned over and placed a hand on my shoulder. “You need not fear for your friends' safety.” I nodded my understanding. “Now, are there any other questions you have?”
“How the hell do you deal with being attracted to Rhava?”
At first, he was shocked, but he recovered quickly enough. “With honesty and love. I feel no attraction for any man, and very little to Rhava even. He is my other half, and to deny what is natural would only hurt. I am sure you recall your sexual awakening.” I rolled my eyes, but I did.
I was a jack-off demon. So much that Dad wondered if I was too aware of the scents around me and too sensitive. He didn't know that those born Lycans have a ton more hormones than your average human. “Yeah...embarrassing time.”
“Now imagine if you had Quintin in your head then. His own hormonal state flowing into yours, fueling your own desires, and then your state flowing back into him.” He snickered at my comprehension. “Precisely. So, because Rhava and I were too young to mate, and we could not hide it from each other, we handled our hormones together. It led to helping each other with our urges, and then to us becoming fully intimate. I could feel his arousal, and I felt his frustration and hurt when I did not agree with his plan for a circle jerk. He squashed the thought as quickly as it came, but I knew he would have gone along with it had I suggested it simply because I had asked and he loved me. How could he have denied me anything when he could feel the emotions that came from being denied?
“So, we progressed. Neither of us is truly physically attracted to the other, but to deny anything is to cause pain to our soul. Would you, if Quintin insisted, deny him anything?”
I wanted to say yes, but I shook my head. “No. It...would kill me to feel him hurting.” It did. I knew every time he woke up from a nightmare of his dead ex, the shitheel who abused him for so long. I knew when he was annoyed with Zeke. I knew when he was frustrated because Colton was teasing him, sexually or otherwise. I knew when he was horny as hell, wanting his mate and not getting him because Zeke was at work or on patrol.
Hell, that last one I had thought of some pretty graphic stuff I would do to him, sent it to him, and it got him off. Bad part was Zeke had popped wood a hundred miles away because of the bond they shared. Don't regret it.
“And do you know why he has not insisted on some carnal fun?” Marcus knew a lot about Quintin and me. Probably because he has the same issues with Rhava.
“Because he loves me and wants my happiness. He knows I want to wait until Heather and I get married and mated.”
“Precisely. He has his mate, so the urges for sexual contact are met. Probably frequently and with passion.” I nodded. Zeke and Quint were almost as bad as my Dad and Pat. “I have a question for you? Could you, knowing your sexuality, have sex with Quintin?”
“Yeah, I could, and it would end up being an orgy,” I said with a smiling grumble.
“Ah yes. His mate and Colton share a similar bond. You are a stronger man than I, Dylan, to keep all their thoughts out of your head.” There was a lot of admiration there.
“Actually, I can't. I hear Quint all the time, Zeke on occasion, and thankfully I don't hear Colton at all. In times of stress I can pick up enough to feel their needs, but it's like a fly in the room. I have to concentrate on it, or I just ignore it. Quint says he feels Colton often enough, and Zeke feels him all the time.” Talking with Marcus about this was making it easier to put into words. Maybe if someone asks again, I can tell them more than a few words that make no sense.
“Would you deny them anything?”
“Maybe, if it meant a lot to me, like I won't be bringing them on my honeymoon to tag in once Heather is done.” Colton had actually asked if there was a chance for that. All three wanted my dick.
“Good. You have not lost your sense of self in this bond. Rhava understands my fears and does not push me.”
“The horse dick?” I asked with a grin.
“The horse dick. Ouch.” I laughed at the look on his face. He'd obviously tried bottoming. I'm guessing he didn't like it much.
“Phuong,” I said.
His face sobered and his brow drew down a bit. “With our connection, I cannot deny that she is meant for Rhava. Even I feel that attraction, and I am normally into thicker women.” Phuong had some curves, but she wasn't thick at all. “Rhava and I have yet to find a mate who will take us both, and we cannot be without each other.”
It was my turn to put my hand on his shoulder. “I can tell Phuong is interested in Rhava, but I have no clue if she would take you both. Or if she could. She is going to be the next Wind Master of her flock, and there are many traditionalists who don't like her taking over as it is. Not just Lycan traditions. You can guess some problems from being raised in a male-dominated society as a powerful woman.” Marcus nodded. “So, you would be with Phuong if she would take the two of you?” I don't know why it mattered to me, except it did. I wanted Phuong happy. She was my friend's sister and a friend in her own right.
“I could. Her aura compliments Rhava's and her magic compliments mine.” I raised a brow. “I am not as strong as either, but I am water and fire.”
“And, if I paid any attention, she has both in spades, she and Rhava share wind, and he has earth. So the three of you would make one hell of an elemental synergy.”
Marcus looked impressed. “You may not like magic, my solar cousin, but you understand it. Yes, the three of us working together would be a very strong bond. One, I hope for our sake, she does not deny.”
“That strong?” I asked, wondering if it would be a problem in the future.
“The bond between Rhava and the Wind-Master-to-be is strong.” Marcus looked in the direction of the temporary camp we set up. “Even now he is fighting himself. He wants to go to her, but he does not want to get his heart hurt if she chooses duty over us.” He shook his head to try and clear the thoughts. “I worry for him...for us both.”
I nodded, but there was very little I could do. “I could sic the boys on her and get an idea if she's thinking about Rhava.”
Marcus's smirk was all the answer I needed, but he said, “It would not be honorable to ask this of you,”
“You didn't, I offered. But, before it gets too late, I'd like to get some time with my new family. Maybe she can help shed some light on what the hell happened during the little squabble earlier.” I stood and we bid him farewell.
I found Aunt Minerva kneeling in a small garden, her hand held over a rabbit. The rabbit was perfectly calm even when being confronted by two very large predators. I could see its leg was bent at an odd angle but mending even as she murmured under her breath. I waited, watching a side of magic that had my justified prejudice finding an exception. I couldn't hate all magic when there was healing going on right here. When the spell was complete, the rabbit was healed, nudged Aunt Minerva's hand, and was left with food and water to recover its strength.
Minerva stood, dusted off her hands and skirts, and turned to me with a kind smile as we walked around the rabbit in silence. I marveled that it was still just sitting there eating and drinking like we wouldn't eat it given the desire. She led me to a doorway with a curtain acting as the door, held back the curtain, and followed me in. “You've a gentle soul, Dylan. My new friend would have bolted otherwise.”
I sat at the table when she gestured. “I've been told that before. To balance my temper, I was given a gentle nature. I've helped birth two colts in the open plains. The dams seemed to welcome my help.” She gave me a glass of water, which I was grateful for since it was a bit hot today. “I say it's more of a balance to my general creepiness.”
Minerva chuckled and joined me at the table. “Well, I can see why some would view it as creepy. Sad to say you may have been booted out of the family had you been raised in it. Your inborn knowledge would seem too close to magic for your great-grandfather. Your bond to that delightful soldier, his mate, and the tracker would be enough to get you kicked out.” Her tone was kind but firm, showing she still harbored ill will toward her father.
“And since you actively cast spells, you were kicked out. Why is that?” Her eyes went a bit narrow, and as much as I didn't want to dredge up bad feelings, I had every right to ask about my family.
“So much like your grandfather. Kindness and compassion, but the drive to know is stronger.”
“He did help raise me since I was thirteen, as he helped raise my dad before me.” Only logical I would have some of his personality traits mixed in with my own.
Her smile was a bit distant but kind. “I am sure Alan told you about magic in our kind. We're soldiers, not magicians.” I nodded. He'd told me as much a few times. “When the forces of Wepwawet swept us out of Egypt, they used magic to kill our priests, kill our magicians. It left a bad taste in the mouths of Solaris. Magic was banned in our kind, and those with magic were killed. When our ancestors found that killing was too cruel for an accident of birth, they simply kicked us out to go our own way. My father was known for being strict even for our kind, and I'm surprised I was allowed to live. A priest and a girl, two strikes in his eyes.”
“Sorry to interrupt, but great-grandfather sounds like a fucking douche.” I know my face showed I wasn't and wouldn't feel remorse for my opinion.
Her face was calm, but her eyes twinkled. “Funny since your grandfather called him roughly that when he left home, or so his wife said when she met me when your mother was born. I believe the phrase 'worthless git wanker' was what he used, but don't quote me on that.” I laughed way too hard. That would be the phrase since I have heard him use it in traffic, word for word. I would never repeat it since my dad told me, many years ago, to never repeat anything you hear in traffic.
“Do I have magic?” I asked, again being oh so tactful.
“No, but you have a triple dose of the passive traits associated with the priesthood. Sensing Lycans, sensing the flows of spells, a mind link to another, the ability to shift rapidly, and a near impenetrable defense against dangerous spells. Passed down to you since it passed by your grandfather and your mother. Had I gotten to you before your first shift, you would have active magic coming out of your nose and would not have the same hatred of it. I can remove the scar if you would like, and probably with less pain than most since we are kin.” Her offer was tempting. Very since she was a blood relative.
“The scar I don't mind. The damn itching and pain are the annoying parts.”
“All or nothing with a scar like that. The offer will stand, Dylan. You need not decide now.”
I took her hand and gave it a squeeze. I think it shocked her that I would reach out and touch a magician. I could almost feel her energy trying to find the blood connection. I know I could feel Quint almost barge into my mind to see if I was okay. I'm fine. Talking with Aunt Minerva.
Just checking. He gave me a mental pat on the shoulder and receded from my active thoughts.
“Did your soldier just check on you?” asked my aunt.
“He's always making sure I'm fine when he knows there is magic around.” I struggled with my own mind to relax around her, to let her in. Magic was evil. Aunt Minerva was a healer. Magic was evil, Aunt Minerva was family. Magic was evil...Minerva was not evil. It took some doing, but I focused inward and relaxed. In rushed her magic, filling me like a pleasant warmth and the love of a mother. Our eyes widened in unison. I had no idea how I did it, I just did. She didn't think I could do it or would if I could.
When the energy found the blood link, it pulled back and looked at it. That link was held captive by the scar and the ceremony that nearly cost me my heart and soul. When the energy touched it, I flinched and the barriers I usually kept so tight started to slam back up.
Started but didn't because I suddenly had three guardians in my mind, and these guardians were packing some heavy “steel” as they set up to defend me. You okay, Dyl? Asked Colton, the faintest link.
I'm fine. Just getting to know Aunt Minnie. You guys can stand down. They didn't though. They stayed where they were, in my mind, ready to attack whatever tried to hurt me. I could feel the three of them were holding hands, a mile away, and I knew they would be able to kick out anything that tried to hurt me.
Aunt Minerva touched that spot again, and I didn't flinch this time. The boys were watching her and making sure she behaved. The feeling of a hug came, and she was leaving, taking a bit of the pain of the scar with her. Our eyes opened and we grinned. “Quite the watchdogs you have there.”
“I love them.” I couldn't feel Colton anymore, and Zeke was just a murmur. Quint sent a hug and I felt a mental pinch on my butt as he chortled in my mind. “Perverted bastards that they are. What...what happened?”
“You let me in, trusted me not to hurt you. Your core is twisted up inside that scar, but I could unravel it. It would take me a few years by myself or far less with help, especially if your mates guard you.”
Something to think about. “So, if you, Phuong, Marcus, and Rhava went at it, with the boys keeping watch...what would happen?”
She pinched her bottom lip a bit, something I had seen Grandpa do often when lost in thought. “It would take only a few hours. The scar would be gone, the twisting would be gone, and you would have no pain.” That was some good news, and I knew the guys and Phuong would do it without question or hesitation. Rhava and Marcus probably would, too. “The drawback is you might have some erratic active magic awaken.” Not good. At all. Like I would take another scar over that. “We could then seal off your magic, but you would lose the rest of your creepiness as well.”
“I decline, as of right now. My lady love would have a say since she would have to deal with it, and my dad, too, as my Alpha. I... don't like the idea of being able to use magic, especially if it's not conscious. I mean I do it anyway, but passive is not throwing fireballs at people when I get annoyed with them or I had too many habaneros.” It actually scared me to know I had the blood in me. Would my kids get it?
“A wise choice, Dylan. Thank you for the trust you placed in me.”
“You're family. To an orphan, that means a lot.” It was something I could never repay. Dad, Pat, Papa Travis, Gene, Heather, Uncle Dean, Ginger...I had a huge family and none of them were related by blood. Grandpa and Grandma, and now Aunt Minnie. “Did you ever have kids?”
Her grin was wonderful. “I did. You've met two of my grandkids.” I raised a brow. “Rhava and Rhisi. Their father was born of my womb, but not mine.”
“Surrogate,” I said with a sure smile.
“For two of the kindest souls. My egg, their seed. I miss them terribly.” Her eyes showed it, too. They were dead, that much was obvious, and by the pain, it was recently and not naturally.
“The attacks?” I asked, but I knew before she nodded. “Looks like I have yet another reason to stick around. Someone has killed my cousin's folks.” I felt my temper kick in, and I did nothing to hide it. To anyone else, it may have looked like I was calm, but to any Lycan, and more so those who knew me best, my scent was so far beyond angry it was cold. “Council or no, Pack boundaries be damned, I will find them and gut them myself.”
“You won't be alone,” came words from beyond the curtain. Aunt Minnie and I stood and went outside to see my friends looking resolved. Phuong, Rhava, and Marcus stood beside them. They must have come running when I let Minnie in.
I turned to Rhava. “Well, little cousin, tell me everything you know. If your brother knows more, I'll go ask him too.”
“Gods save us, the temper runs in the blood,” he said with a bit of a smirk. “Little, I may be, Dylan, but I am a few years older.”
“And? I'm bigger, stronger, and your magic doesn't work on me very well. I'll give you a wedgie if you think you can win.” Temper or no, I used humor and sarcasm as a my normal mode of communication. Usually calmed me down.
His grin, and the light in his eyes, brought my temper back from the point of explosion. “Very true. Good thing I don't wear underwear.” He pulled me into a hug, which I returned. I had cousins. One of them ordered me arrested or worse, but no family is perfect.
“Cousin?” asked Phuong and Colton together.
“Everyone, this is Minerva Davenport, my great aunt. Grandpa Alan's older sister. Surrogate mother to Rhava and Rhisi's dad.”
Colton groaned and thumped his head. “There goes that fantasy.” I think he got thumped upside his head by everyone present, including Minnie. He didn't even act upset. “Ah well. Still got plenty more where that came from.” The wink he shot at Phuong was comical, and she just started laughing.
Rhava and Rhisi knew very little about the attackers, and what they did know was circumstantial at best. The attacks all came from the east, which was a lot of land to search. No telling which group did it, only that they had the skills to cover their tracks enough to thwart conventional and magical tracking. Maybe not a coyote.
“Colton?” I looked over at him and he closed his eyes.
After a moment, he sighed and shook his head. “I get nothing more than east, which is known. Not even how far. I did see a pair of yellow-green eyes, but those are as common among Lycans as finding a blonde in Minnesota. Creeped me out more than you ever could,” he said to me, as serious as I had ever seen him.
“Lycan though, right? Not a Skifter or human?” Phuong asked, her brow pulled down in a frown. That look showed just how much of a raptor bird she was. I had seen eagles and hawks with that brow line.
“Lycan, no doubt.” That was more info than we had now and narrowed the field a bit.
“Lunar or Solar?” asked Rhava.
“I... couldn't tell. If I had more info, or if I did nothing for the next few days, I might be able to get you more of an answer, but I'm lost right now.” Zeke pulled him close to cuddle away the negative tone. He was too damn hard on himself. Quintin kissed his forehead.
“Completely off topic, but are the three of you in a relationship?” asked Marcus.
Colton flicked his eyes to Zeke. Zeke looked at Quintin. It was a common enough question for people who didn't know them well enough. A lot of pack members who didn't live around our hometown would see them and ask the same, but the three never had a concrete answer. There was a lot of love between them, and even I was curious how they would answer. Rather, how Quintin would answer since the decision had been his since pretty much day one. “Yes,” was his simple, definite answer. Judging by Zeke's and Colton's beaming smiles, they had been waiting for it. Their scents went so far into joyous orbit, Houston knew there was a problem.
Congrats, you guys, was my simple sending, and I knew they could all hear me. I focused on just Quint and the others sort of blinked out of my mind. Why now? I asked. I knew the decision had been made very recently, maybe even on the spot.
Because I love them. Just had to get my brain wrapped around being in a poly with Zeke and that durned hornball coyote. His comment had both serious and joking overtones. Maybe Phuong will see it can work out. Lord Above knows I ain't the sharing kind when it comes to Zeke, but you two are special. You got Heather, so we know you're not available, but I don't know why I haven't agreed before. In other words, he'd make it a four-way if he could. Hell, they'd probably take Heather too if it meant they could have me with them. Quint's oh-so-tiny nod told me as much.
“I hate when you soul bonded talk in your heads,” said Aunt Minerva with false irritation. “You just get quiet and think at each other.” Except I knew that little talk took less than a second. She knew the signs so well thanks to Marcus and Cousin Rhava.
“Don't be jealous, Aunt Minnie. It's far more trouble than it's worth,” I snarked, and all the men nodded. “So,” I began with a bit of an evil grin, “are you going to tell Rhisi I'm related by blood, or can I?”
Rhava just grinned. “Be my guest, Little Cousin,” he said with his own grin of mischief. “Anyone got a cell phone to record this? Should be great.”
It was. When all of us except Aunt Minnie got back to Equis Camp, Rhisi was waiting for us. He looked ready to bolt. “You said you had news, Rhava?” came his question. I wondered if little patience also ran in the blood.
“Thanks to the tracking abilities of Colton, we know the attackers were Lycan, not Skifter or human,” said Rhava.
Rhisi turned to Colton. “Thank you for your help. This helps quite a bit.” He then gave me a nod, acknowledging me as leader of the delegation.
“Anything for family,” I replied, barely able to keep the smile from my face. He raised his brows in question. “You do remember my surname, right?”
“You are the adopted son of Alpha Jonathan Davenport of Homestead.” Someone had done a bit of homework.
“And the biological grandson of Alan Davenport, the brother of Minerva...”
“You have got to be fucking kidding me!” he yelled as his jaw dropped. The entire camp stopped and stared. Outbursts were probably common enough from him because they only looked to see how angry he was and if they needed to get out of the area should magic start flying. “It's not fucking possible!”
“Sorry, Cousin Rhisi, but it is. My great aunt is your biological grandmother.” I know the grin on my face was so annoying even I would slap me for it. He looked at Rhava who shrugged.
Rhisi's mouth opened and closed several times, his eyes so wide he looked like a landed fish. He sighed, ran his hand through his hair, shook his head, and said, “This will make for one hell of a family story.”
“You mean the time you tried to have your cousin maimed?” asked Rhava innocently.
“I hate you, little brother,” Rhisi grumped without heat.
A huge thanks to my editor, Timothy, for taking the time to edit this.