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“Me?” Caleb was taken aback. He looked up at Quinton, eyes wide, unsure how to respond.
Quinton let out a soft chuckle. “Yes, you. Who else but you? Caleb, since you’ve come into my life you’ve turned my world upside down. I’ve never considered having a mate before, never really even wanted one. I’m too set in my ways and I liked the bachelor life a little too much but now, now, I can’t imagine not having you in my life. The thought of anyone taking you away from me, the very thought of you leaving, it terrifies me because I know I would kill anyone who tried to come between us. I’m not saying that to sound tough or bad ass, I’m saying it because it’s true. I care about you in a way that I never thought I’d ever care about anyone. I might even be falling in love with you.”
Quinton couldn’t believe he’d actually said all that to Caleb but now that he had, a sense of relief washed over him, calming the beast inside. His wolf was proud of him. He could feel it. The internal struggle was gone. He and his wolf were of the same mind now. All that was left was to wait and see how Caleb reacted to this revelation. Quinton just hoped that he hadn’t fucked things up and scared Caleb off for good.
Caleb just stared at Quinton dumbstruck. He opened his mouth to speak but found that no words would come out. Slowly, he began to shake his head as tears once again filled his eyes. “How…” He stammered, trying to find his words. “How can you even say that?”
Quinton sat back, the disappointment clear on his face. “I was just being honest.”
“Honest?” Caleb laughed bitterly. “Alp…Quinton. Forgive me but, I don’t understand you. A minute ago I was certain that you were going to send me back to Silver Moon. The way you let, so angry, I thought for sure that I’d ruined everything. I was convinced you hated me. The past couple of weeks you’ve been avoiding me and the entire time I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what I’d done wrong. I just kind of assumed that you’d gotten sick of having me around or something and now you’re telling me you might be falling in love with me?”
“I know it’s a lot to take in.” Quinton told him.
“It’s a hell of a lot to take in!” Caleb suddenly yelled, rising to his feet. “And way too fast. I don’t even know what to say to that.”
Caleb started pacing back and forth in front of the couch, his hand raking through his hair.
Quinton sighed. He’d wanted to confess his feelings to Caleb hoping it would ease his mind some but instead he’d managed to push the omega into a full on panic attack. “You don’t have to say anything right now. Just breathe. It’s really not a big deal.”
Caleb turned at stared at him as though he’d just grown another head. “Not a big deal? Excuse me Quinton Hallorann, but it is a huge deal! You don’t just tell someone you’re falling in love with them and then say it’s not a big deal. What the hell is wrong with you?”
Quinton put his head in his hands and groaned. This was not going the way he’d planned. “I’m really not good at this stuff.” He confessed.
“Well, that’s apparent.” Caleb snapped.
Quinton glanced up, cocking an eyebrow. Caleb sure was frustrating but Quinton found his ire amusing if not a bit adorable. Zev was right, Caleb had a feisty side and now that he was living in Black River, it was finally coming out.
“I’m sorry that I just sprang this on you.” Quinton apologized. “It doesn’t obligate you to anything. If you want to follow the original plan I’ll understand. Nothing will change. I’ll still help you. Even if you wanted to mate someone else…”
“I don’t want another mate!” Caleb froze, regretting the words as soon as they came out of his mouth. Especially when he saw the look of defeat on Quinton’s face. “That didn’t come out right.” He tried to explain. “I mean that I don’t want someone else. I…shit. I don’t know what I want right now.” He threw his hands up in frustration.
Rhylan had woken up apparently from hearing the yelling and started to cry. Caleb went to the pup at once and scooped him up, holding him against his chest as he tried to sooth him. “I need some time, Quinton.”
“Of course.” Quinton told him, trying to hide the disappointment in his voice. “Take all the time you need.”
“I’m sorry.” Caleb grabbed his diaper bag and slung it over his shoulder. He turned to look at Quinton again, his expression sympathetic. He opened his mouth to speak again but no words would come. Finally, he managed to whisper a weak, “I’ll be back later.” Then turned and headed out the door.
Rusty had just put Shay down for a nap when he heard a soft knock at the door. He pulled a sheet up over the pup’s legs and up to mid belly then carefully crept out of the room leaving the door half closed then made his way to the living room. Zev, who had taken the rest of the day off to stay with his mate and sick child looked up questioningly as Rusty came out of the room. Rusty shrugged then went to the door to see who was there.
He’d thought maybe Alice porno izle had stopped by just to double check on Shay before heading back to the clinic but instead he found Caleb standing there holding Rhylan and looking a bit disheveled.
“Can I come in?” Caleb asked. “I need to talk to someone.”
“Of course.” Rusty moved to the side to allow Caleb to enter the apartment. “Let’s go into the kitchen, I was just about to put on a kettle of tea.”
“Thank you.” Caleb followed Rusty inside where he saw Zev sitting at the kitchen table with a half eaten sandwich on a plate in front of him. Caleb sat down in the empty chair opposite him, propping Rhylan up on his shoulder, Caleb gave Zev a quick nod in greeting.
“How’s Shay doing?” He asked. “I know it’s only been about an hour but any change?”
“Actually yes.” Rusty told him. “I was able to get him to eat a little applesauce and about half a sippy cup of water.”
“Then he threw the cup at me and giggled.” Zev added.
Caleb grinned. “Sounds like he’s almost back to normal then.”
“Yeah.” Zev agreed with a half grin. “Ornery as ever.”
“That’s good. I’m glad he’s doing well.” Caleb spoke softly, his eyes momentarily focused on the table top. “Listen guys, I’m really sorry for my outburst earlier. Especially for how I treated you, Russ. You were just trying to show your appreciation and I jumped down your throat. It wasn’t fair to you.”
“I’m not angry, Caleb. Really. I totally understand why you were upset. After I thought about it, I realized that I may have reacted the same way. What’s really not fair is that the council have their heads so far up their asses that they can’t see the damage they’re doing. Either that or they just don’t care. What gives them the right to dictate how others live their lives anyway? They need to just back the hell off.”
“Russ.” Zev raised an eyebrow, staring at his mate, the look conveying an unspoken message between them.
“What?” Rusty shot back. “It’s the truth.”
“Maybe now isn’t the time.” He gave a sideways glance to Caleb and Rusty nodded in understanding. They could both tell that Caleb was worried. He was scared of not only losing his place in the pack but scared of losing his freedom as well. What he needed was a friend to lean on. Rusty’s disgust with council politics would have to wait.
Rusty had just put the kettle on the stove and turned the burner on then walked to the table and sat down when Zev suddenly stood and, after taking his empty plate to sink, announced that he was going to go.
“You don’t want any tea?” Rusty asked him.
Zev shook his head. “I’ll have to pass. I want to take the truck over to Stan’s and get the oil changed. The engine was knocking on the way back from town today and I can’t afford to be without a vehicle.”
“Alright, don’t forget though, dinners at six.”
“Do I ever forget?” Zev asked with a wink.
“Never when it comes to food.” Rusty giggled.
“Exactly.” Zev gave Rusty a kiss on the top of his head then excused himself from the room.
When he was sure they were alone, Rusty turned back to Caleb. “So, what’s up? Not that I don’t appreciate the apology but I get the feeling that’s not the only reason you came all the way over here.”
“Not entirely, no.” Caleb rested Rhylan in the crook of his arm. The pup reached up and grabbed a strand of Caleb’s hair and began to play with it. Caleb watched him, seeming to focus on the pup rather than what was bothering him.
“You can talk to me about anything you know.” Rusty urged. “We’re friends, Caleb.”
Caleb looked up and Rusty saw the glistening of tears in his eyes. “Quinton might be falling in love with me.” He suddenly blurted out.
Rusty sat back in his seat, eyes wide, but the look of relief that also crossed his face was impossible to miss. “He told you that? Like, himself?”
Caleb nodded. He went on to explain the conversation that he and Quinton had had and how Caleb had run out in the end, unsure of what to do or say. Rusty listened closely, paying attention to each detail while also taking into account Caleb’s emotional state.
“Okay so, I’m confused. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?”
Caleb shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t know how I should feel or react. I was so caught off guard. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. I think I might have over reacted I mean, he didn’t come right out and say that he wanted to claim me or anything.”
Rusty considered Caleb’s words for a moment before finally speaking. “Forget for a moment how you think you’re supposed to feel.” He told him. “How do you actually feel?”
Caleb thought about what Rusty was asking. How did he feel? He hadn’t actually taken the time to stop and consider that himself. His emotions were all a tangled mess of thoughts and feelings and ideas of what’s expected of an omega. Things he’d been taught his entire life conflicting with how he was actually feeling.
In Silver Moon it was expected that an omega have a brief mourning period porno after the death of a mate and then be mated to a new alpha as soon as possible. Love had never been a factor in Silver Moon. Mating’s were a matter of survival. Omega’s were not permitted to live on their own, work outside the home, or even own property. Everything they were and had belonged to their alpha.
Black River was different though. Caleb had a choice. Quinton had given him a choice. The only issue now was figuring out exactly what he wanted. Did he want to be a single omega father, or did he want to be a mated omega? A month ago, his life had been all about Rhys and his pup. Nothing else mattered. That life no longer existed now though. After Rhys death, Caleb had thought he was facing a future alone. Nothing was certain. He had no security, no way of knowing what would happen from one day to the next. Now, at least, he knew that he had a place in Black River. Quinton would do everything in his power to ensure that.
So, with the matter of being safe, of having a home, and a real shot at a happy life out of the way Caleb was left with the only obvious consideration. What did he want? Really want. Not what was best or easiest, or even practical. What was his heart telling him?
“I still love Rhys.” Caleb said softly, wiping at his tears. “I think I’ll always love him.” He touched the spot on his neck where Rhys had claimed him. The mating mark that he thought would be there forever was already starting to fade. The bond he’d shared with Rhys had disappeared when Rhys had died but those were both physical signs. The emotional bond however had stayed intact. He wouldn’t stop loving Rhys just because he was dead but the loss of his mate had left an emptiness inside of Caleb that he hadn’t thought would ever heal.
That emptiness grew daily until it threatened to consume Caleb in a thick, dark, shroud of despair. The only real reprieve he had from that sinking pit of misery was when he was with Quinton. Just sharing a meal with the man or watching a late night movie with him helped to fill the void in his soul, just a little. Being with Quinton was like wrapping oneself in a warm blanket on a cold winters night. He loved listening to him talk about his day. He adored the quiet walks they took together through the forest. Even the mans laugh brought a smile to Caleb’s face.
He’d felt the beginnings of something there but was too scared to really think on it too much. Then, Quinton came home with the necklace. A gift so impractical but the sentiment so heartfelt that Caleb had nearly wept in the man’s arms. Then the near kiss. Irritatingly interrupted by Shelby in what, Caleb supposed, was a deliberate attempt to shield Quinton from what, Caleb didn’t know. Shelby’s motives were still a mystery to him. That didn’t matter though. She didn’t matter. All that mattered was what Caleb and Quinton felt about each other and now, thanks to Quinton’s candor, Caleb knew exactly where the man stood.
If Quinton could be so honest, then why was it so damn hard for Caleb to be? Was it a sense of being disloyal to Rhys? Rhys would want Caleb to be happy. Maybe it was the fear of the unknown. How could he know for certain that things between he and Quinton would even work out? What if Quinton grew tired of him? What if the council decided that Caleb should be sent back to Silver Moon? He couldn’t deal with the loss of another mate. He knew that without a doubt in his mind. He just wasn’t that strong.
“I don’t want to be alone.” The words came out before Caleb had even had a chance to process what it was he was saying. “Since Rhys was killed, I’ve felt more alone than I ever have in my life but, when I’m with Quinton, it gets a little better. If that makes any sense.”
Rusty smiled warmly at his friend. “It makes perfect sense. And, of course you love Rhys. Just because someone dies doesn’t mean that we stop loving them. Rhys was your first love. The father of your child. He will always occupy a special place in your heart but that doesn’t mean that your heart is closed off to everyone else. Rhys wouldn’t want that.”
“It just feels wrong to be happy after losing so much.”
“Why? Don’t you think you deserve happiness?”
Caleb shrugged. “Sometimes I wonder. I’ve hurt so many people in my own selfish quest for happiness. I have to stop and ask myself if it was worth it all.”
“Do you really think Rhys would have sacrificed his own life it wasn’t worth it?”
Caleb looked up as a single tear slipped down his cheek then he slowly shook his head. “No. He told me to run because he wanted Rhylan and I to be safe. He knew if we were caught, they probably would have killed him anyway. Maybe Rhylan too. Seth Bowden was out for blood.”
“Then that’s your answer, Caleb. It was worth it. You were worth it. Never doubt that and stop blaming yourself. You never could have predicted what would happen and personally speaking, you can’t fight love. It sneaks up on you and smacks you along side the head until rokettube you finally give in and accept it. You did nothing wrong. I want you to understand that. None of what happened was your fault.”
“You’re probably right.” Caleb let out a deep breath then looked down at Rhylan who was now sucking on his own fingers. “How do I know that that wasn’t my one and only shot at love though? How do I know that if I opened my heart to someone new that things would be any different?”
“How do you know that they won’t?” Rusty got up when the kettle began to whistle. A moment later he was pouring hot water into two mugs and dipping mint flavored tea into each. “You know, I always thought that love only came once in a life time. That there was that one special person who would come into your life and that was it. I don’t believe that’s true anymore though. Now, I believe that people come into our lives for a reason.
Sometimes it’s only for a short while, other times, it’s for life. I’m not saying that what you and Rhys had wasn’t real or that you weren’t meant to be together. I don’t know why he was taken from you so soon. It doesn’t seem fair but I like to believe that there’s a reason for everything. We may not always see it or even agree with it, but there is a reason. Maybe you met Rhys because you were meant to end up here. Wolf God only knows what our futures hold. It’s up to us to make the best of it.”
Caleb sighed. “I’m just so scared of being hurt again. It seems like every time I allow myself to feel one shred of happiness something happens to knock me back down again. I think I’ve lost hope that anything good would ever happen to me again.”
Rusty shook his head and laughed as he sat a cup of tea in front of Caleb then one in front of himself and sat down again. “Caleb, look around you. So many good things have happened already. Yes, you lost Rhys, and that’s horrible. I can’t even imagine what that would feel like and I pray every night to wolf God that I never find out, but even in the face of that terrible tragedy, you have so many other things to be thankful for. Look at your son. He’s a true testament to the love that you and Rhys shared. You have a new home, a pack that will stand behind you and fight for you, friends who already love you, and an alpha who, quite frankly, adores you.
You have everything you need to lead a good and happy life, you just have to be brave enough to reach out and take it. And yeah, you may get your heart broken. That’s a risk we all take, but whats the alternative? A life alone? You may not see it, or don’t want to see it, I don’t know, but you have an alpha waiting for you at home that will love you, unconditionally, for the rest of his life. He will never hurt you. He will never insult or try to break you down. He will never make you feel worthless or unwanted.
I know Quinton, have known him all my life. He is the kindest, most sincere man I have ever met. He has always put the needs of others before his own. He gives without ever asking for anything in return. The man has set his own happiness aside for the sake of the pack for so long, so if he’s offering his heart to you now, you better know that he means it because he wouldn’t do that for just anyone. He sees something special in you and he’s risking everything just to keep you in his life. When you really think about all that, how can you honestly lose hope in love? Honey, it’s staring you right in the face.”
Caleb took a sip of tea as Rusty’s words echoed in his mind. He made a good point. Several of them actually. Caleb had spent so much time waiting for the other shoe to drop that he’d lost sight of what was right in front of him. The universe wasn’t out to get him, he was just a victim of bad circumstance. He could turn it all around though, couldn’t he? Maybe. Maybe with Quinton by his side, he could have the life he’d always dreamed of.
“You’re right.” He said, finally. “I have so much to be thankful for. Maybe it’s time I stop dwelling on the past and start thinking about the future.”
“That’s a great idea.” Rusty smiled, sipping at his own tea. “Instead of looking at this mating with Quinton as some scheme the council devised to control you, look at it as the gift it is. Of all the alpha’s they could have paired you with, they chose one who will cherish you and protect you. I think you’ll be happy together, if you give him a chance. I really think you will.”
Rusty may be loud, overbearing, and opinionated at times, but he was smart and he had a good heart. He told Caleb exactly what he needed to hear and Caleb was thankful he had such a caring and compassionate friend. Rusty was correct on so many levels. An omega didn’t nessasarily need an alpha to protect them and care for them, not when they had the kinds of opportunities that Black River offered, but they did need companionship. Wolves were social creatures by nature and an omega, at the very core, thrived on nurturing and providing for others. It was hard wired into their DNA.
“Thank you, Russ.” Caleb smiled at his friend, his eyes bright with new found hope. “I know what I want now. I think I knew before, I was just afraid to admit it.” Rhylan began fussing and rooting around as he tugged at Caleb’s shirt.
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