Leader of the Pack Ch. 07bysecretme©
Cullen and Aislinn had fallen back to sleep. When the hesitant knock came on the door Cullen groaned. He looked toward the clock on the table next to the bed and saw that it was nearly 9pm. He thought about that for a minute. Yeah, I guess it could be that late. The ceremony, the drive into town, got back here, spent the morning asleep then afternoon with Aislinn. The knock came again, a little more insistent. Cullen hugged Aislinn to himself as he pressed his face into her hair and took a deep breath. By the time the third knock came he was crawling unhappily out of the bed. Aislinn grinned at him before she pulled the blankets back around her and cuddled down into the bed again.
Cullen headed for the door and opened it, knowing that there were only a handful of people who had the key that would get them all the way up to the penthouse. Keith was on the other side of the door. He raised his eyebrows at Cullen when he saw the man standing there completely naked and the woman in the bed beyond the door. Keith shook his head. "Please tell me she's conscious," he laughed.
Cullen pushed Keith out of the doorway and back into the main living area, closing the door as they went. "Yes she's conscious," Cullen growled but couldn't keep the smile from belying the tone in his voice.
Keith laughed openly at that. "Okay, I don't feel quite so used as I did before. I do believe this is the first time I've seen you smile in months. I think that whatever she did to put you in that mood should be bottled and put in an emergency box that the rest of us can get to and throw at you when you start getting pissy. Or we could keep here around on emergency stand my and the next time you get that glare on your face and come after one of us we can hide behind her."
"Alright," Cullen said seriously. "You've had your fun. Now what's up?"
"Well, we can start with the fact that most everyone is back from the reservation and they all want a more thorough explanation than I have to give them. Not to mention I've been running interference with Celia and the rest. Everyone downstairs knows you brought her up here last night. Between Meghan asking if she'll be back to work at all and Celia's group trying to find out who she is and how she got this privileged so quickly, I'm going crazy. Mostly because I don't have the answers to give them. You kinda took us all off guard on this one, my friend."
Cullen nodded. "Sorry. I didn't plan it. As far as explanations for everyone go, I'll need to talk to Aislinn before I'll have the answers to any of the questions that are going to be asked. Give me an hour and I'll be down. Besides, I'm starving."
Keith grinned again. "Now if I leave you two alone, you will get dressed and make it downstairs right?"
"You know," Cullen said smugly and crossed his arms over his chest, "do I need to remind you of that little party back in Boston, new years, 1907. I don't recall complaining about all the trouble I went through dealing with the Merick clan while you were off with the alpha's favorite daughter."
"Ooo, low blow," Keith laughed. "Alright alright I'm going, before you start digging up any more dirt on me."
"I wouldn't have to dig long," Cullen smiled.
"Ouch, I said I was going." Keith headed for the elevator and hit the button. "One hour," he reiterated as the doors slid open and he stepped inside.
Cullen ran his hand through his hair. He knew that this wasn't going to be an easy conversation. When he opened the bedroom door and walked into the room he was seriously tempted to jump back into his bed. He couldn't believe how much of a hold she had on him or how pleased he was by it. The word mate kept running through his mind. He didn't want to let her be around anyone else until he made their relationship permanent. Again he found himself forcing his wolf to concede to the human logic that it just wasn't going to work that way.
There were a number of things he needed to know from her. First he had to find out what else she knew about what happened during the mating ceremony and how she knew about it. He wanted to know more about her and that included her past as well as what she was. He stood there staring at her realizing how little he knew. At the same time he didn't really care. If he didn't need the information for protecting the pack he would have been perfectly happy just being with her.
Aislinn stared back at him. She could see him thinking. She sat up, drew her knees up to her chest, and wrapped her arms around them. She watched him and waited for him to decide what he was going to say. When he didn't seem forthcoming with what he was thinking she decided to break the contemplative silence. Aislinn smiled widely at Cullen. "I guess you don't worry much for modesty around here."
Her statement jarred Cullen out of his thought process. "Huh?"
"Do you always answer the door naked?" Aislinn almost started laughing, between his confused reaction and the look on his face.
"I knew it was probably Keith. There aren't many people able to get all the way to my bedroom door without making a lot of noise. And for the most part, no, I don't think much about modesty the same way you might." Cullen's voice was heavy and serious. Aislinn could feel the next question coming before it actually came out of his mouth. "That is if you're human."
Aislinn shifted awkwardly . "Well, I guess that you might have a right to ask that after the way we spent the morning. But I can honestly tell you that I don't really know. Not that I see why it should matter," she added with a knowing look. "In any case I prefer to answer my door with clothes no matter who is there. I've never known any guys who were quite that free. Even with good friends. Maybe you could arrange for me to get something to where for when I'm on my way out of here?"
"Aislinn," Cullen came over and sat down on the bed facing her. He knew from the tone, the run on attempt at changing the subject and the look on her face that he was in dangerous territory. He was speaking slowly and Aislinn figured that he was choosing his words very carefully. "As far as you and I are concerned, I don't care what you are. I want you here regardless. You can be an alien for all that matters," he smiled at her and she smiled back at the attempt to be light hearted. "But I'm in a difficult position when it comes to balancing my personal life with protecting the pack."
Aislinn's face dropped and became more tired and sad. "So if I were a danger to you would you get rid of me?"
Cullen quickly moved closer to her and reached out to touch her cheek. He forced her to look into his eyes. "No. I don't think I'd be capable of giving you up at this point. But I need all the information I can get if I'm going to make sure everyone is safe."
Aislinn smiled at him weakly. She put her hand on the back of his, turned her face to kiss his palm and pulled his hand away. "I'm sorry but I told you the truth. I was born human. At least I thought I was. I don't know. Rafe," he felt her shudder at the mention of that name, "has confused me about a lot of things."
"Alright, so start from the beginning. Who is Rafe? How do you know him? How did you know about the things you said to me at the restaurant the other night?"
"That's all a long story," she said and it was apparent that she didn't want to talk about it.
Cullen nodded. He got up and headed over to a table where he had left his phone the night before. He hit a button and waited, all the while smiling at her reassuringly. "Hey, Sarah?" Cullen paused and then growled into the phone. "I told Keith an hour. You'll get your explanations then. For now I need you to bring some clothes up here for Aislinn." There was another pause. "I don't know," he answered, then looked over at Aislinn. "What size do you wear?" She raised her eyebrows as if to say the question wasn't polite. "Oh come on," he said exasperated. "I can't get you clothes if I don't know what to ask for."
"Six," she responded.
Cullen echoed the number into the phone. "And give me some time." Then he hung up and walked over to Aislinn with a frustrated air.
"You know I could have just worn my work clothes." She indicated the pile he had made the night before. "I was just giving you a hard time," she said apologetically.
Cullen mirrored the concerned look she was giving him and shook his head. "My frustration isn't for you. Please don't take it like that. And the clothes aren't an issue. There are plenty lying around here somewhere. We tend to go through them regularly," he smiled.
Aislinn smiled back but it was only half-hearted and when he continued it dropped from her face completely again. "I'm sorry I have to push this. But I get the impression that you know a great deal that could help with some things we've been having trouble coping with."
"Can't we just go back to having sex," she grinned wickedly. But Cullen's eyes told her that she needed to be serious and answer him. She shifted uncomfortably, then shot a heavy glare at Cullen. "I'm not used to being able to trust people the way you're asking me to trust you right now."
Cullen was trying to be understanding, but he didn't have a lot of time and was a bit hurt that she'd fuck him but wouldn't trust him. "I can't make you talk to me," he said and the hurt came through in his tone. "But you did say that you feel safe with me."
Aislinn nodded. She did feel safe with him. She wanted to trust him.
Cullen could see the conflict in her eyes as she stared at her hands and considered what to do. "Aislinn, I don't even know your whole name. I can tell you that the amount of trust I had to have in you to bring you up here was pretty high. I got used to trusting my instincts some time ago. I wonder why you're fighting yourself so hard right now. I give you my word that I won't hurt you. You may not know it, because you aren't part of the pack, but my word is worth a great deal to me. I don't make promises lightly."
"Alright," she said slowly. I guess I have to start trusting someone sometime. God I hope he is what he seems to be, she thought and tears almost came to her eyes. Aislinn hadn't wanted anything this badly in a long time. She hadn't dared to think she could have a family again, let alone a lover. And she wanted this to be so much more than just a onetime thing. "The burning buildings," Aislinn started, remembering the vision she'd had in the restaurant.
Cullen nodded encouragingly. "I need to know how you knew about that and what else you might know."
Aislinn sighed. She knew that she might as well get it over with. I suppose if he's going to decide I'm not worth the effort because of my past then it would be better for it to happen sooner rather than later. Aislinn resigned herself to the possibility of a miserable outcome and decided to just give him the whole story from the beginning. "Okay, I guess I should say that I've had premonitions, visions for as long as I can remember. When I was little I was told that it was just coincidence that I was dreaming about things that happened. The visions didn't get detailed or strange until after Rafe." Cullen's eyes narrowed but he sat silently waiting for her to continue.
"In the beginning it was just vague impressions about things. My mother used to tell me that I was psychic, just like her. It always bothered my grandmother. She would tell my mother not to encourage me. They fought a lot about that." Aislinn's eyes glazed over and sadness over took her features. Cullen was tempted to comfort her but he didn't want to take the chance that she'd stop talking. "I believed that for a while. The visions didn't actually get strong or bad until I met Rafe. That was in college. About seven years ago. I was earning my masters in folklore." She smiled at him wanly. "Maybe I was always headed in this direction. My thesis was on gothic lit. You know Frankenstein, Dracula, and the reality that resulted in the fiction. My mother always argued with me about my college career. She didn't think I'd ever get a job with that kind of degree. I told her that I'd get my doctorate and teach it. I couldn't help it. I was just drawn to that stuff." Cullen chuckled and grinned at her. Thinking how gorgeous her eyes were.
"I studied several dead languages as well. I can read or speak quite a few actually. Gaelic being one of them. I figured that if I didn't end up teaching folklore then having experience with multiple languages would get me somewhere." She smiled at Cullen and he smiled back reassuringly, but remained silent and waited for her to continue. "Rafe was teaching one of my folklore classes. When I started taking his class was when the visions started getting scary. I didn't connect them to him at first. They were all disjointed and vague. As though something was trying to warn me that I was in danger."
She took another deep breath. "But Rafe, himself, was always very nice. Exceedingly so. And he always smelled good. I don't know what it was but he wore some kind of cologne that made me want to breath him in. He ran a club after class that examined and discussed antique texts. I ended up joining the club and that was when we started dating." Cullen shifted and his jaw tightened. "That was a bad phase in my life. After I started dating him I found myself pulling away from my family and friends that I had known all my life. My world revolved around the guy. I had no idea what I was getting into or what he was doing to me.
"After I told him about my visions, which I never should have done, he seemed to be even more interested in me. Since I was a doting girlfriend at the time I was willing to do anything to please him or make him happy with me. He started taking me with him on weekends to a compound that he lived on. It was weird. After I got away from it I started thinking it was probably a cult.
"He referred to the compound as the Circle. When we were there the people treated him like he was God. They would do anything he told them to do. It was creepy. He told me that there used to be a council that ran the place, but he had convinced them that he would be a better leader than the council. I would nod stupidly and agree with him when he told me things like that and when I was informed of how wonderful and brilliant he was. Each time I went there with him things got stranger. But since it happened in little pieces I just accepted it day by day. I stopped talking to my family completely and my friends. Looking back on all of it I'm almost grateful that my separation from them happened the way it did. It's probably what stopped him from using them against me later.
"Anyway the first couple times I went out there with him I noticed the exotic animals around the place. Lots of them. All kinds and weird ones too. Animals that looked like a bear had bred with a gorilla. And on any given occasion when I looked at them, especially the females, their eyes would glow and swirl. None of them in cages, just wandering around. Then there was the time I was there that I walked into an orgy. Animals and humans. At the time, I was exceedingly bothered by that." She smiled at Cullen as she put the emphasis on 'at the time.' "Even though it was so strange Rafe was always able to explain it all away and I would just accept it. Even now there always seems to be this part of my brain that looks at things that should bother me and tells me that I haven't seen anything yet and if I stare at anything long enough I'll see something unusual in it and that's okay."
"As time wore on I started having black outs. When I would go with him to the Circle I wouldn't remember what had happened to me. I started getting scared. I didn't like the things I saw there. And I both wanted to know and still don't want to know what was happening to me that I couldn't remember. When I wasn't around Rafe for a long period of time I'd start to wonder why I was going along with him. But it was like every time I saw him I just accepted it all and was happy to do whatever he wanted from me. When I questioned him about what happened during some of the blackout time he would tell me not to worry about it and that he was taking care of me. I was his favorite." She had chills at the thought.
"Finally he decided that I should quit college and go live at the Circle. The suggestions he started making then got more and more demanding. I don't really know when I got control of my mind again. It might have been the day that I watched him order a man put to death. He fed the man to some of the lions that he had walking around." Cullen growled in distaste. This was the kind of thing that would keep weres and humans from ever being able to interact with each other.
Aislinn continued. "I was starting to think that I needed to get away from them. But I would lose the motivation every time I saw Rafe. I suppose I should thank Kara for giving me the incentive to get out. She was one of his favorites. She was always walking around naked and flaunting herself in front of Rafe. She hated me. She was the one who told me that he intended to get me pregnant." Cullen growled again.
Aislinn smiled at him. "It never happened. I left. It took more than I ever imagined it would. He sent people after me and I kept having to move. Any time I started to get settled somewhere the visions would come back. More and more detailed. It got to the point where I could feel him coming for me and could move on before it became too urgent. I got better at controlling the premonitions over the years. But he never stopped and just kept coming. It was always just a matter of how long. But the longer I was away from him the more I realized about what had been happening and what he had been doing. So I tried all the harder to keep out of his reach. Random cash jobs in shithole places until the visions came back and then I'd run. There were pieces of it all that I learned from visions and things that I just remembered."
"I can tell you that Rafe can influence anyone with his mind. He seems to be able to control people, large groups of people. Mostly you have to be kinda willing to let him. So he always comes off nice at first and slowly manipulates you into trusting him. Just like any guy who might start a cult. He starts by giving you things you want or treating you the way you want. Whatever will get you to trust him enough to let him plant suggestions in your head. He doesn't seem to be able to make people do things that they are drastically inclined not to do. Like if he had ever told me to kill someone that wouldn't have worked. I don't think." Aislinn seemed to look into herself at that before returning to the story. "He can get into dreams and he's been able to pull me out of my dreams. That's the worst because it doesn't matter where I am or how far, he can grab my mind and pull me to him. Sometimes I think that's worse than him having me physically. He doesn't seem to be able to get into my head while I'm awake. So I try to sleep as little as I can and usually at odd times of the day. Hence the bar jobs being my favorites. It give him fewer opportunities to bother me. During your ceremony, while I was sleeping, he grabbed me out of my dreams and brought me to the ceremony. He was there. Watching you all and waiting to attack you."
"The best way to describe it is an out of body experience. It's like my consciousness is somewhere. And no one can see me or hear me but I can see and hear them. I can walk around and touch things but no one can feel my touch. Or at least I used to think they couldn't." She briefly considered that she had managed to touch the lycans' dreams that night before continuing. "But I really don't know much about it. It all just sort of happens to me. But the impression Rafe has given me is that he's able to do more to me because I'm like him." Just saying it left a bad taste in her mouth.