When Worlds Collide Ch. 05byJazCullen©
Rafe woke slowly and smiled without opening his eyes. A deep sense of peace and contentment enveloped him and he simply wanted to just lie there and bask in the amazing feeling.
The woman lying sleeping in his arms was the source of that contentment. His Lacey, his precious mate. He breathed in her wonderful scent as she stirred slightly against him and cuddled further into his arms. He couldn't imagine a more perfect way to wake up than having her beautiful body draped over his.
He was hard and aching for her but he didn't want to move and wake her. They had enjoyed each other into the small hours and it was early still, just gone six am. He needed this moment of perfect peace with her. He had no idea if he would ever get to experience it again. War was coming and they would need to start preparing.
Lacey's words of the night before came back, about people dying, and he felt a deep fear in his heart. He wasn't afraid of dying himself, he was afraid for Lacey. He knew if anything happened to her he wouldn't be alive to see it. He would defend her to the death and pray Jared or Caleb or someone else would take up his position and protect her. Graves couldn't be allowed to get his hands on her again.
His arms tightened around her and he buried his face in the side of her warm neck, breathing in her scent, brushing his lips gently across her warm, fragrant skin, memorising how she felt in his arms because he had no idea when he would get the chance to lie with her like this again.
A noise just outside the bedroom door attracted his attention and there was a discreet knock before it slowly opened. Rafe disentangled himself from Lacey and made sure she was completely covered before he turned to look at his Alpha.
"Sorry, Rafe, I need you," Jared said very quietly so as not to wake the sleeping woman.
"I'll be right there," Rafe answered just as quietly, turning back to look down at Lacey's sleeping face. He brushed her silvery blonde hair away from her face and leaned down to gently brush his lips against hers.
"Rafe?" she murmured sleepily opening her eyes to look up at him.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you, baby," he whispered against her mouth. "Jared needs me so I have to go. Try and go back to sleep."
She smiled sleepily and closed her eyes again, drifting quickly back into sleep as Rafe rose from the bed and dressed. He headed down to the study figuring that was where Jared would be. His Alpha was tiredly running his hands over his face, sitting behind his desk when Rafe entered the study.
"Sorry to drag you away from Lacey, Rafe," he said with a slight smile tugging at his lips. He was happy to see the contentment on the big man's face. Despite the danger they were all in, seeing a member of his pack find their mate was always a satisfying experience.
"The pack meeting is in a few hours and we need to be able to give everyone as much information as we can," he said after a brief pause. "We need to have the evacuation plan for the children already mapped out. I'm going to work on that with Millie so I'll need you to liaise with Caleb about what he can bring to the party. He had meetings set up last night with some of his friends. I know it's early but can you see what you can get from him?"
Rafe snorted and ran his fingers through his mussed up hair. "Why'd you always give me the tough jobs, boss?" he asked ruefully. "Too chicken to wake Caleb at this ungodly hour in the morning?"
Jared's smile widened slightly. "You're his brother-in-law. He's less likely to scream abuse at you than he is me," he answered.
Rafe stared at Jared for a long moment feeling the burden of being responsible for what was about to land on the pack's head and wishing there was some other way out of the mess. Some of his people were going to die over him choosing Lacey as his mate.
Jared watched the brooding expression settle over Rafe's face and sighed deeply. "Don't go there, Rafe," he said quietly. "The pack would do the same for anyone whose mate was threatened. The pack protects its own. Sometimes that means not all of us will make it. It's a fact of life we all have to live with. Lacey's pack now even though you haven't fully mated with her yet."
Rafe frowned deeply but he nodded his head. He knew what Jared said was true but he still didn't like being the catalyst of a war with vampires. He didn't want to be responsible for people dying.
Jared turned away from him and picked up some papers from the desk, evacuation plans for the more vulnerable members of the pack. "I need you to talk to Aaron too, Rafe," he said quietly. "I don't have time to go down and see him. Make sure he knows, in no uncertain terms, that he will be leaving with the children. Convince him it's for the best somehow."
Rafe snorted again. "He's going to be pissed, Jared," he answered rolling his eyes. "You know he's not going to agree to meekly go with the others."
"Well, it's your job to make sure he does," Jared sighed. "He's not going to be properly healed by the time the vampires get here. They'll take him out in seconds if he's not up to par. I don't care how you do it, just convince him he's needed elsewhere. I don't want to have to come down on him heavy, I need to save that for the pack meeting."
Rafe heard the steel in Jared's voice and watched him with a thoughtful expression on his face. "You think there's going to be trouble at the meeting?"
Jared put down his papers and looked back at his friend with a resigned expression on his face. "Bill Shepherd has already been to see me. A few others of his group of friends too," he answered with a frown. "The pack has had it easy for so long now, Rafe. We haven't had any real challenges for nearly a century now and we've become complacent about it. I've become complacent about it," he amended with frown on his face. "I'm expecting a challenge today, Rafe."
Rafe's face turned thunderous. "You're not serious?" he ground out. "You're a good Alpha, Jared. No one is going to challenge you." He was incensed at the very thought of it.
"The changes I've made to the pack recently haven't gone down well with quite a few of the older members," Jared said. "I don't need to tell you that, Rafe. You've had to deal with some of the fallout from it being my second. You've been away working at the club for a few months now. In that time it would appear that Bill and the others seem to think this pack is now being run as a committee, with them having a say in everything. They're subtle about it but they try and question just about every decision I make these days. They think I'm a weak Alpha and I'm sure they'll have managed to talk some younger idiot into making a challenge against me."
Rafe sat down on the sofa and stared at him stunned. Things were that bad in the pack? Jared hadn't mentioned a thing about any pack issues. "What are you going to do about it?" he finally asked when he could bring himself to speak again.
Jared's face turned hard and his blue eyes blazed with a fury Rafe had never seen before. "I'm going to teach them the error of their ways," he said coldly. "Anyone who won't follow me will be banished from the pack. Anyone who wants to challenge me can do so, they will die for their efforts. Today I am going to show them this pack is mine and always will be until someone better comes along to lead it or my son is old enough and strong enough to take over."
Rafe stared at his friend blinking slowly as he took in the cold hardness around him. He'd seen Jared angry before but he had never seen him like this, cold, hard, determined and completely lethal. His lips suddenly twitched in a little smile. "Your son?" he said with a little chuckle. "Something you're not telling me, Jared?"
Jared's expression cleared and his own lips twitched with a smile. "I wish, Rafe," he sighed. "Millie is desperate for children and getting restless that we haven't managed to create any yet. I keep trying to tell her not to worry about it, that her physiology has changed with her becoming a wolf and it sometimes takes a little while for it to settle down again. But she's impatient is my woman." His handsome face turned soft as he spoke of Millie and then he ran another weary hand over his face again and sighed deeply.
"Did you get any sleep at all?" Rafe asked him, concerned.
"Millie dragged me to bed about four am so I got an hour or so," His Alpha answered. "There is just so much to do and so little time to do it all in. That's why I need you to talk with Caleb and Aaron. It will free me up for the rest of it."
Rafe nodded and stood up. "I'll head over and talk to Aaron first," he sighed. "Give Caleb another ten minutes of sleep before I wake him up. He might be less grumpy if I do." He smiled and rolled his eyes at the thought of waking the vampire before he turned and headed to the door.
"Rafe, wait a moment," Jared said standing up, his face set in a determined expression as his friend turned back to him with a quizzical look on his face. Jared took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "If I am challenged today and fail to keep my position, I want you to immediately challenge the winner."
Rafe froze completely, a stunned expression crossing his face before his brows drew down in a dark, angry line. "No fucking way," he ground out shocked. "You wouldn't fail a challenge in the first place, Jared, and even if you did, I sure as hell don't want to lead a pack. You know that."
"But you do want to keep Lacey safe," Jared pushed ruthlessly, knowing he was using dirty tactics on the big man. "Rafe, if I fail then Lacey's life is in danger and you know it. My successor will most likely banish her from the pack leaving her and any of her friends here at the mercy of Graves. You're a Hanlon now, Rafe, by your choice remember. If I fail in a challenge then it's up to you to take up the mantle of Alpha. Not just to protect Lacey but to protect Millie too and to keep as much of this pack together as possible."
Rafe cursed loudly, his face turning thunderous as he shook his head in disbelief. "You bastard," he hissed furiously. "You know damned well just which buttons of mine to push to make me do what I don't want to, don't you? You always fucking have, Jared, right from the very first moment we met. You used Annie's safety as a way to keep me in the pack for weeks and now you're using my mate and my other sister as a fucking hammer over my head. Is there nothing you won't do, Jared?"
"To keep this pack together? No," Jared said unrepentantly. "We can't walk away from this fight with Graves because he is attacking who we are as a people. Some of us are going to die but the ones who survive need a strong Alpha to help them recover. Bill and his friends are ready to roll over and be submissive to the vampires. They are ready to tear this pack apart because they've become too old, too cowardly. I will not let that happen, Rafe. If I'm not strong enough to lead this pack then I want the best person for the job doing it and that just happens to be you, whether you like it or not."
The look Rafe gave him with nothing short of murderous. The rage roiling off him was almost palpable as he stared at Jared with something akin to hatred in his eyes. Jared had expected this reaction from the big man. He didn't like being manipulated at all which just so happened to be the sign of a true Alpha, which Rafe just didn't want to be. But sometimes you just didn't get to choose what you wanted to be. Sometimes the choice was made for you.
They stood glaring at each other, Jared waiting tensely to see if Rafe would snap and lose control of his wolf; Rafe fighting desperately not to lose control of his wolf and attack the man who was a brother to him.
"You boys just about finished?" a light, feminine voice said from the doorway and both their heads whipped around to stare at Millie in surprise. Neither of them had heard her enter the room.
Rafe was the first to relax, giving his sister a lopsided, rueful smile. "Yeah, we're finished, Mills," he sighed in resignation. He turned back to Jared and gave him an abrupt nod of the head.
Jared relaxed too and gave Rafe an apologetic smile. He could afford to be generous now he had gotten what he wanted. He hated to bully the big man but sometimes it was the only way to get through to him.
"I'd better go," Rafe said. "Lots to get done before the meeting." He gave Millie a quick peck on the cheek and ruffled her curls before he headed out of the study without another word.
Millie eyed Jared with a raised eyebrow. "Care to tell me what that was about?" she asked archly, stifling down a sigh when she saw the shutters come over his eyes as he went into full Alpha mode. She had come to know that look so well over the last year. He would not tell her what it was she had interrupted between himself and Rafe.
He gave her a regretful smile as he reached to pull her into his arms. "Just working out some contingency plans, baby," he sighed into her hair. "Nothing to concern you." He tilted her chin up and stroked her cheek gently, once more overawed that he was so lucky to have her in his life. "I love you so much, Millie," he whispered softly before he caught her lips with his and gave her a kiss full of love and just a tiny hint of desperation too.
Rafe put Jared's request out of his mind as he headed over to see Aaron, his rage still bubbling just beneath the surface though he worked hard to dampen it down. There was no point dwelling on it. He was sure it wouldn't come about anyway, not if he could do anything to prevent it. He could understand his Alpha's need to make a contingency plan just in case the unthinkable did happen. He just wished he had asked someone else to step up to the plate in the event it did.
His attention was diverted as a car pulled up outside the medical centre and a tall, leggy blonde stepped out and closed the door. His lips automatically curled into a smile as he took in the annoyed expression on her beautiful face. Light blue eyes flashed irritably at him as the woman's long blonde curls swayed in the slight morning breeze.
"So, you're determined to get my brother killed, Rafe?" Cedar Alexander snapped waspishly, her displeasure more than evident in her harsh tone.
"Cedar," he smiled unperturbed. Aaron's sister was extremely close to him and quick to anger when she felt he was threatened in any way. She was also quick to cool down and a lot fonder of Rafe than her current expression suggested.
They had enjoyed a short dalliance a while back, to both of their mutual pleasure, and still retained a level of closeness even though both had moved on since then. "You know Aaron better than I do," he continued still smiling. "He's still trying to get his head around the fact he isn't truly immortal."
"That doesn't take away the fact that he'd do just about anything you ask him to," she retorted angrily, crossing her arms over her chest. "He bloody idolises you, Rafe, and you know it. What the fuck was so important he had to almost get himself killed for?"
Rafe frowned then and looked at the door to the medical building with a slightly guilty expression on his face. "He was escorting my mate home safely," he answered slowly.
Cedar's eyebrow shot up in surprise and her lips pursed for a moment and then her annoyed expression changed and she smiled and rolled her eyes. "So, you finally found a woman stupid enough to put up with you," she said with a little laugh. "Miracles never cease, Rafe."
Her lighter tone made him look back at her and he smiled too. "You've got that right, Cedar," he chuckled. "I'm not the only one to have found my mate so unexpectedly." Her shocked face made him laugh harder.
"You're shitting me?" she gasped her eyes going wide, her arms dropping back down to her sides. "Aaron found his mate too?"
"Yep," he smiled. "Even lying on his death bed isn't enough to stop your brother. Caught once whiff of Jen's scent and he was a goner, so to speak."
Cedar's delight was clear across her face. Finally her baby brother was ready to settle down and not before time too. She pushed away from the car and gave Rafe a quick hug before stepping back quickly. "Your mate's not about to appear from somewhere and kick my ass is she?" she teased lightly.
"Not unless she's sleepwalking," he chuckled. He wondered how Lacey would have reacted to seeing the hug between friends. Was she the jealous type? He knew he wouldn't be best pleased seeing Lacey hug another man even in friendship. Would she react the same way? There was so much to learn about her and he prayed he got the opportunity to do so.
He shot another quick smile at Cedar and motioned her to proceed him into the building. "I'm actually glad you're here," he told her. "You can help me knock some sense into Aaron if he decides to give me a hard time."
Cedar's curiosity was piqued. She'd received the news about Aaron's injury and the summons to come to the compound but like the rest of the pack, she didn't really know what was going on. She had a feeling it was something bad and she couldn't help the little shiver of fear which coursed through her as she preceded Rafe into the medical building.
Luke looked up from his desk when they entered and smiled tiredly at him. "It's a bit early for visitors," he commented dryly.
"Alpha's orders, Luke," Rafe said apologetically, giving him a small smile. "Is Aaron still sleeping?"
Luke smiled and nodded to Cedar before he turned back to Rafe. "Best let Cedar go in first," he laughed. "He hasn't let go of that little girl of his all night so he might react a bit aggressively if you enter first."
Rafe's eyebrow shot up in surprise. Jen hadn't gone back to the house last night? He saw Cedar smile, her blue eyes full of curiosity about the woman who had snared her brother. Rafe motioned her towards Aaron's room.
Aaron stirred at the sound of voices outside the room. He could scent Luke and another male scent and he instinctively growled and tightened his arms around his woman as he tried to drag himself out of the deep, drug induced sleep he had been in. He vaguely recognised the second scent and his wolf responded to it in a favourable way so he worked to release the tension he was feeling, the more he came awake.
The door opened and it wasn't the male that came in first. It was definitely a female scent entering the room, one he knew very well. The last fog of sleep cleared his mind and he opened his eyes slowly and smiled as he saw Cedar approach him.
Cedar looked at her brother and smiled slowly. He didn't look half as bad as she had imagined he would. His colouring was actually quite healthy looking despite the bandages across his wide chest. A pretty dark haired woman was lying asleep at his side, cradled gently against his body, curved against him in such a way as to try and minimise any contact with his chest. The way Aaron was holding her so proprietarily, it was obvious to anyone that she was his mate.
"You look better than I thought you would," she said quietly. She didn't want to wake Aaron's mate.
"I feel better than I did yesterday," Aaron smiled, his gaze going to Jen's sleeping face as she stirred slightly and then settled again. His eyes swung to Rafe who was hovering just inside the doorway. "It's safe to come in, Rafe. I'm awake enough to control my wolf's possessiveness."
Rafe smiled and entered the room fully. "I'm surprised Jen let you talk her into staying the night," he said softly. "She's still rather suspicious of us and our intentions."
"I didn't think she'd stay either," Aaron sighed with a fond smile down at the woman in his arms. "I expected her to be gone when I woke up but it would appear the mating instinct is strong within her."
"Added to that the fact you started groaning and moving around every time I tried to leave last night," Jen mumbled sleepily. "The only way to keep you settled was to lie down beside you." Her green eyes opened slowly and she caught her breath as she looked into Aaron's eyes. Her keen gaze took in how much better he looked already and also registered the heat in his eyes too.