Shadow of The Wolf Ch. 08byblackduchess©
Shrugging mentally, Alex figured that it was none of her concern whether they took her seriously or not. She knew in her heart that she would claw their faces and eat their hearts if they ever attempted to make a move on Rance. Smiling serenely, Alex let the conversation wash around her and tried to emulate her mother's example of a good hostess as she'd seen her entertaining at home.
Katherine, on the other hand, helped ground her. She was the epitome of a precocious young girl who loved to ask questions upon questions about life as a human. She dogged Alex's steps and was a well of information about pack life and individual pack members. She was refreshing, humorous and candid in her opinions. Alex kept the girl near her to hear her take on shifters, as she supposed it wouldn't hurt to listen and see them through the girl's eyes.
Shaking herself from her reverie about the presentation, Ophelia and Katherine, she faced her mate and thought about what they would face in her very human Grant family home.
Rance was insistent that they tell her family today about their engagement, her moving in with him and of her impending motherhood. Alex agreed with him wholeheartedly about the first two, but she'd rather wait on announcing her pregnancy for later; maybe after their wedding ceremony, which they planned for the following month. Although he loathed keeping her family ignorant about the baby, Rance acquiesced. He could not understand Alex's hesitance in telling her family, he believed that the Grants would be overjoyed once they heard of her condition.
Rance parked at the curb in front of Alex's parents' house. A pick-up truck and a newer model SUV were already parked in the carport in front of the garage. Her brothers had arrived already. Exiting the car, Rance went around and opened Alex's door. Alex let him assist her out of the car then waited for him while he took their gift for her mother out of the trunk. Locking and engaging the alarm, they walked, hand--in-hand, to the front door. As they mounted the porch steps, Rance wrapped his arm on Alex's waist. She looked up at him with a dazzling smile, and he bent to give her a kiss, when the front door suddenly burst open.
"Midge!" A shout rang out, before a hulking figure grabbed Alex by the waist and twirled her around.
"Put me down, you goof! You're ruining my dress." Alex shrieked and playfully batted at the shoulder of the man holding her.
Ordinarily, a strange man putting hands on Alex, practically ripping her from his arms, would end in bloodshed; but Rance recognized this man as family by scent. Rance stood by the side watching with amusement as his mate was spun around by her brother. Also, he recognized Jacob right away from the pictures Alex took from her house that now rested on the fireplace mantel in their sitting room.
"Yeah? And when did you start wearing dresses? Hey Drew, come here! Take a gander at Midge here. You won't believe what she's wearing."
"Jacob Gabriel Grant! I'm warning you if you don't put me down this minute you are going to be in serious trouble." There was a hint of exasperation in Alex's voice, although she couldn't help her laughter from bubbling out. "And stop calling me Midge."
Jake ignored her. Instead, he slung her over his shoulder and turned to Rance with a friendly smile.
"You must be Rance." Offering his hand, he continued with a smile on his face. "I'm Jake, as you must have heard from Midge here." Rance grasped his hand and shook it warmly.
"It's great to meet you. Ah, just curious here. Why do you call her Midge?"
"We love to tease her about her size. She used to be a lot bigger than all of us and called each of us "squirt" all the time. But then she stopped growing at thirteen and we outgrew her. We started calling her "midget" then but shortened it to Midge," he explained with a devious smile.
Just then Andrew sauntered out with a beer in his hand. "Hiya, sis." He smiled at Alex, who still dangled on Jake's shoulder, and did a double take when he realized she was in a dress.
"Drew, meet Rance. Rance, this is Andrew, one of her other brothers." Jake smirked at Andrew and swiped the beer off his hand, saying, "Thanks, bro."
"Hey! Get your own. And what's with Alex and the dress? I thought we were going to play basketball later. There's no way that she can keep up with us with that girly get-up," Andrew teased.
Pushing up and kneeing Jake in the ribs, Alex loosened the arm around her. With an exaggerated huff, Jake let Alex go. "Easy on my ribs, sis. I'm still recovering from the bruising I got from you last time, remember?"
"Serves you right." Alex replied with a twinkle in her eyes that bespoke her affection for her brother.
Walking over to Andrew, she gave him a hug, "Good to see you in one piece, Drew."
"Ha, ha, funny." Drew hugged her back and then pushed her away, but kept his arms around her. Looking closely, he ran his gaze from the top of her head to her sandaled feet. His expression changed from a smile to a puzzled frown, he said, "There is something different about you. I just can't point it out yet."
Alex looked warily at her brother. Andrew was four years younger than she, but he had always been gifted with an old soul. His power of observation was such that his Army Ranger team utilized his uncanny ability in their missions. All three of her brothers, including the youngest, Devon, had dark brown hair, with a reddish mahogany tint in sunlight, and Devon and Jake had chocolate brown eyes that were a hit with females around. However, Andrew and Alex got their steel grey eyes from their dad. All three of her brothers dwarfed Alex, as all three shared her father's height of six plus feet. They shared similar features too, chiseled cheekbones and strong jawlines with clefts in their chins. Seen together, there was no way anybody could mistake them for anything than siblings. Although they were similar looking, Alex's face was made along delicate lines with high cheekbones and soft, pillowy red lips that, according to Rance, looked great wrapped around his dick.
"New hairdo? How about because I'm wearing a dress?" Alex replied, tongue-in-cheek.
Drew scrutinized her from head to toe. "Nah... I don't think so. Jake, what do you think? She seems sleeker and more toned to me." Looking at his brother, he lifted his brow in inquiry, "and there's a certain grace in the way you move. Not that you're a klutz, or anything like that..." he drifted off, puzzlement clear on his face.
"Now that you point it out to me, I believe I agree with you there." Jake quizzically ran his gaze over his two-years older sister. "Have you been working out lately, more than you did before that is?"
Alex readily grabbed the pretext, "Yes," she said with a too-bright smile plastered on her face. She never was good at lying. Uh, I'm a wolf shifter wasn't an explanatory option. She took Rance's hand and looked up at him. "Rance always makes me join him in working out and training every day at the gym. Isn't that right, sweetie?"
Rance nodded his head, "She spars with me too, although she hasn't beaten me yet." He smiled down at Alex. Rance was having fun seeing Alex and her brothers interact. The love and affection was very evident in the easy way they related.
"That's great. Maybe you and I can spar before I leave," Jake said, interest gleaming in his eyes. He could not wait to test the mettle of the man who purportedly won his sister's heart. Not that he didn't like what he'd seen so far. Rance seemed like an okay guy. Jake only wanted to be certain that Rance deserved Alex.
"You can come and visit us anytime. We have a gym where we could spar. And if you want to do it outside, we also have a big yard."
"Us?" Jake and Drew said at the same time, warning rife in their tone.
Alex looked helplessly at Rance. He was meeting her two brothers for the first time, and she hadn't told her parents yet, and now her brothers had gleaned from Rance's innocent remark that they lived together! Yeah, she was old enough to do what she wanted, but her family had always been traditional in their values. Alex knew that her and Rance's situation was not unique in the eyes of the shifter community, since they were already as good as married. Mated for life. She did not really want to disappoint her family, especially her parents. Now, how to keep her brother's mouth shut -- that was the question, at least, until she got the chance to tell them herself that as engaged couple, they weren't really 'living in sin.'
"Alex! You're finally here. Look at you, in a dress and looking oh so beautiful," her mother gushed from the doorway. "What are you boys doing just standing there? Let them in."
Miranda Callaghan Grant cast her gaze over her children approvingly. She was happy that all of them came to celebrate with her. She still retained her slim figure even at fifty, and stood almost shoulder-to-shoulder with her sons in her three inches heels, although she was still much taller than Alex. Her brunette hair was cut short in the latest style that emphasized her deep chocolate eyes. She was dressed simply in a flowered A-line cut dress cinched at the waist. As usual, she looked fresh and elegant.
"Hello Mrs. Grant."
"Rance, you may call me Mira," she chided gently as she stepped onto the crowded porch. "We don't stand on ceremony here." Glancing down at Alex's and Rance's entwined hands, she suddenly squealed in delight. She laughed out loud and cupped her hand over her mouth. Eyes brimming with tears, Mira looked at her daughter. Surging forward, she hugged her exuberantly. Letting Alex go, she then enfolded Rance in her embrace.
"I'm so happy for you both!" she exclaimed, looking from one to the other. "Congratulations!" She clapped her hands together and almost giddily looked over her shoulders. "Look at Alex's hand. You boys are so oblivious sometimes. You wouldn't know what's going on unless it hit you in the head."
Both Jacob and Andrew looked at Alex and saw the huge diamond she was sporting. Their reaction was almost comical. Their eyes rounded in awe -- probably because of the size of the stone. Then happiness bloomed, followed by chagrin and suspicion.
It was Andrew who stepped forward first, followed by Jake who hugged her then shook Rance's hand. They both offered their congratulations, but their eyes conveyed their need to talk more privately later without their mother present.
Mira finally herded everyone inside. Alex's youngest brother, Devon, was glued to the tube. His lanky frame was sprawled across the living room sofa. He was watching a scientific documentary of some sort. Their mom pushed his legs off the sofa, making him sit up and look at the newly-arrived couple.
"Hey," he said by way of greeting.
Unlike the rest of the Grants, Devon had met Rance earlier in the week. Alex called him one day to meet up. She and Rance had picked him up at his dorm and took him to dinner. He liked Rance a lot. They hit it off well. He found out that he was not some stuffy old shirt. With the way he looked, Devon thought that Rance might be a narcissistic dude, but he was happy to be wrong. He liked Rance more when he saw how he treated Alex. He was very considerate of her needs and Rance's eyes always lit up whenever the man looked at Devon's sister. Rance even offered to financially assist him through college and medical school, although Devon did not immediately grab the offer since he was still a relatively new acquaintance, even though Rance insisted that the offer would never be withdrawn. Pretty generous opportunity for someone who did not have an idea of how he was doing in school, Devon thought.
"Everybody here yet?" Tony Grant strolled in from the deck where he was getting the grill ready for the barbecue. "Good!" he boomed in a loud voice, upon seeing everyone assembled in the living room. Smiling hugely, he walked straight to Alex. Tony hugged her to his side. "Good to see you made it here early enough. How is everything going with your garage, Alex? I heard in the news lately that most small businesses are having a hard time staying afloat in this economy."
"Could be better, but I have nothing to complain about. Good thing the garage has established a good rep and my client base is quite solid. I also try to be more competitive with the service price."
"Tsk, tsk...I knew you two would start talking business," Mira chided. "Tony, there's more to ask these two than that." She looked pointedly at Alex's left hand, then met her husband's questioning eyes with raised brows. A little slow on the uptake, Tony held his wife's gaze for a moment before looking down when Mira once again exaggeratedly looked at the ring.
"Oh my God!" exclaimed Tony. He let go of the couple and grabbed Alex's hand. "Does this mean what I think it does?"
His wife playfully swatted him in the arm. "What else would it mean?" she asked, a little peeved at him.
"How would I know if it's just one of those rings you women love to wear on your fingers. Nowadays I see women with so many rings in their fingers and toes. Not to mention on their faces and other body parts," he huffed.
Mira lifted her arms in exasperation. "You know very well that Alex does not wear jewelry all the time."
Everyone looked at the older couple with barely held amusement.
"True. But Honey, this ring is huge!" He gave an apologetic look at both Rance and Alex. "I don't want to jump into conclusions and then embarrass her later because I was mistaken." Tony turned and smiled at his daughter. "I'm so happy for you," Tony turned to Rance, "for you both." He hugged and kissed Alex on the cheek then shook Rance's hand and pulled him in for a bear hug. His wife tapped him on the shoulder, and looking over at her, he let go of Rance and put his arm around Mira's shoulder.
"This is a good day," he declared. "I have my two sons safely back from their missions. My daughter is happily engaged. And my wife is celebrating her birthday and she still looks as beautiful as the day I met her."
"What about me?" piped Devon. "I'll get a complex if you exclude me," he dramatically clutched his chest and comically pouted his lips.
"Well, let me see..." Tony pretended to think. "I got it. And I'm happy my youngest is here..." he paused thoughtfully, "to help me with the clean-up later on."
"Unfair!" Devon bursts out as everyone laughed out loud.
They all moved out to the patio where the picnic table was set for the barbecued lunch the Grants had prepared Rance took a deep breath, imperceptibly sniffing the area for any possible threats to his mate's and baby's safety. Scenting the faint trace of Damian and Troy outside reassured him somewhat that his family was well protected. Satisfied everything was as it should be, he relaxed and enjoyed the serenity of the Grants' backyard. Although a little small, it had its charm.
"Mom, do you need me to get anything in the kitchen?" Alex asked. "I'm going to head inside to wash up."
"Nothing dear, everything is set up here already. We were just waiting for you to show up so we could start."
"Okay." Alex turned to go inside and noticed Andrew's eyes on her. Meeting his gaze, she lifted her brow in query. Drew just kept looking intently at her. Shrugging mentally, she went inside and went straight to the bathroom off the living room. Closing the door, she used the toilet and quickly washed her hands. Seeing her reflection in the mirror above the vanity, she looked intently at herself.
Do I look pregnant? I wonder if Andrew knows. Turning side to side, she scrutinized herself but found nothing different in the way she looked. Must be just me. Guess it's just nerves of introducing someone special to my family. Not that Mom and Dad had not given their approval early on, it's just that she wanted her brothers to like him too.
Babe, time to come back. We're all waiting for you. Rance quietly reminded her through their bond.
Coming. Taking one last look at herself in the mirror, she shook off her misgivings and squared her shoulders to face her family.
Sitting next to Rance, she smiled at her mom. For now her brothers were behaving, but she did not delude herself that it would last. Tony finally sat next to Mira. After saying grace, they all dug in. Alex ate with gusto. Rance kept putting more meat on her plate, knowing that in her condition she needed the protein in her diet. Alex was oblivious to the attention they were getting from her family at the way she let Rance serve her. Her parents watched the couple with an indulgent and satisfied smile. They were both happy that Rance seemed intent on taking care of their daughter, and the intimate smiles the two shared assured Alex's parents of the love shared between Rance and Alex.
"Slow down Midge. Leave some for me." Jake teased from the far side of the table.
"Wow, you must be really hungry," observed Devon. "Did you two not eat breakfast before you came down here? It's only an hour's drive from Alex house after all."
Alex flushed in discomfiture. "We did," she mumbled.
"So why are you this hungry then?" Devon continued.
"Mind your own business squirt, and leave me be." She looked around the table and once more caught Andrew's speculating eyes upon her. Nerves skittered across her spine as their gazes met.
Alex, you okay? Rance asked with concern lacing his voice. He sensed his mate's uneasiness. He wanted to tell her family about their baby, but Alex wanted to wait until later. Pretty soon it would be a moot point since her body would betray the secret that she was keeping.
Alex blinked and faced Rance. She forced a smile on her lips and faintly nodded her head.
"Boys! Leave your sister be. Just what kind of impression must you giving Rance of our family?" Mira reprimanded.
"It's fine, Mira. I rather enjoy seeing how siblings interact. It reminds me of how I was with my friend Damian when we were younger. Bantering and bickering all the time without real animosity. I'm an only child so it's interesting to me. Besides, you don't need to treat me differently. After all, I'm part of your family now," Rance interjected with a reassuring smile to Mira.
"About that, when did you guys get engaged?" Jake asked. "The last time I heard you just met not even a month ago."
"Last week," Rance said, at the same moment Alex said, "Last night."
They looked at each other, then at the faces of the people around them. Each one wore an expression of confusion except Andrew, who stared at both of them perceptively.
"Now I'm confused..." Mira, with puckered brows, asked, "so when was it?"
"Ah, it was last night," Alex replied as she looked helplessly at Rance.
"So why did Rance say it was last week then?" Jake asked.
"You guys did not tell me anything last week when you took me out to eat." Devon persisted.
"The confusion is my fault," Rance interrupted, shaking his head self-deprecatingly. "I had the ring and wanted to ask her since last week. I guess in my mind we've been engaged since then."
"Anyway, yesterday was Friday. So it's still part of last week," Alex added weakly.
"Don't think it matters that much anyway." Tony said, "as long as you both are happy and in love." He beamed at them.
"True, true." Mira nodded her head and looked affectionately at her husband. Bending down, Tony kissed Mira lightly on the lips.
Jake and Devon hooted at their parents.
"So how did the two of you meet? And what kind of job do you have, Rance? I caught a glimpse of your ride. Man that must have cost you a bundle. Probably as much as this house." Jake continued to quiz the two, grinning cheekily at Alex who glowered at him across the table. Alex kicked under the table him, but it just glanced off his shin. "Ouch! What was that for?"