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chapter twelve; (more badly written hanky panky and some cursing haha just warning)

I'd never asked Sebastian for advice before, I'd been too young or too scared. There was nothing I'd needed, no reason to go to him. He always just knew what was wrong and how to fix it. The sun started to dip toward the tree tops as I clenched my hands and knocked on the shed door, waiting to be told I could enter.

He was alone, which made it easier. The light filtered through the grimy windows and outlined the strong planes of his naked back. He threw a look over his shoulder and motioned for me to come closer.

'Sebastian...'

I rolled his name on my tongue and he stopped immediately, his head cocked to one side. He set his tools down and took me by the waist, lifting me onto the work surface in between his legs with an expectant expression on his face. I bit my tongue, sandwiching my hands between my thighs as my mind went blank. Why was it so hard to ask Sebastian for anything? He was my mate, the scar on his neck reminded me. He seemed content to stay silent, his rough hands rubbing my thighs through my worn jeans. I took a breath to steady myself,

'Sebastian...I need to ask you...'

His attention turned away from my voice quickly. He nuzzled into my neck, his hands brushing the crease of my hips and the bottoms of my breasts, 'mmmm?'

I lay my hands on his to stop him, 'Sebastian.'

His eyes narrowed and he shifted backwards, his hands resting in my lap firmly as he waited for me to continue impatiently. I shrugged under his stare,

'I'm not...strong.'

His face stayed deadpan, 'no.'

It was a start, 'right...I want-'

'I'm strong,' he interrupted, a dark look passed over his face and his voice grew accusatory, 'you don't think I am.'

I smoothed my hands across his shoulders soothingly, 'No, no, no. I know you're strong.'

'What's the problem.'

I met his bemused gaze, 'I want to be.'

'No. I am. So you don't have to be. That's how it works.'

A part of me recoiled. Sebastian had always been a cornerstone in my life, I respected him as a man and as my mate. Muffled voices crept through the wall behind me as members of the pack started to arrive and head for the house. I knew I had to make a decision and stick to it. Over the past few weeks, Sebastian had gained weight. He'd become harder, more developed, physically dwarfing my father and Conan. It might have been because of the threat of the other packs, it might have been to better protect me. He hadn't told me, but people had noticed. As a member of the pack and as a person developing a heightened sense of self-awareness, I wasn't content to live my life as Sebastian's mate. A topic of conversation. A potential weakness.

His eyes danced with arrogance as he slid his hands under me, his palms tucking themselves into the back pockets of my jeans and lifting me effortlessly from the wooden table in a show of strength. I wrapped my arms and legs around his waist and neck to support myself and scowled at him.

'Sebastian. Take me seriously,' our eyes met and the laughter dimmed in his as I furrowed my brow, 'please.'

He set me back on the side gently and braced his hands either side of me, 'why?'

'I don't...I just want to be stronger.'

'I like you like this.'

He smoothed his hands over the swell of my hips, the dip of my stomach, then up again to my breasts, palming them insistently. We'd never really had a two sided conversation before, his voice thrummed through me as if he was talking with his mouth pressed to my skin.

He squeezed gently and pressed his lips to the hollow behind my ear, pressing himself between my legs again, 'I like these.'

He growled and dipped his head, tonguing one nipple through my t shirt. I jumped at the quick movement and clenched his head tightly. He sucked it into his mouth and laved it with his tongue, prodding firmly. Heat shot through my torso and I squeezed him tightly with my thighs. It would be so easy, I knew. So easy to accept that yes, Sebastian was my mate, he would look after me forever. He was strong so I didn't have to be. If I wanted to, I could live the rest of my life wrapped in him and everything he gave me. But I didn't want to live like that. He turned his attention to my other breast, flicking the hard nub he left behind with a grin.

I tugged on his hair even as my eyes started to close, aware that I was rolling my chest into his mouth. This was his way. Our conversation was one he didn't want to have, he was trying to distract me, 'Seb.'

He ceased sucking to mumble against the wet patch he'd left on my top with another wide grin, 'Seb?'

I ignored the gentle throbbing between my legs and pulled him back as he leant in, pushing at the base of his neck firmly, 'I don't want to be the weakest in the pack.'

He snorted and came close to rolling his eyes, 'Tina's the weakest in the pack.'

Surprise rolled through me, 'really?'

'Yes. Let go.'

'Sebastian! Now isn't a great time to be doing this!-'

He leant back slightly, his hands reaching up to rest on my shoulders, his thumbs pressed to the pulse point at the bottom of my neck. His hands swamped me but they were warm. It should have comforted me but it darkened my mood. Would I ever be able to comfort him the way he could comfort me - it never even crossed my mind in the past that he might need it sometime. Our connection was a two way street. He moved closer again but with different intentions. His hands slid over my back in a strong embrace, his tensed muscles holding me firmly in his arms. He wasn't soft, but he was solid. An immovable object. He squeezed, crushing me to his chest with force which would have bruised before I changed, but now only felt secure. He'd been holding himself back for so long, I felt the underlying urgency in his embrace. This is how he wanted it always. Where he wanted me always.

You'll be okay


He pressed his lips to my forehead soothingly, running a hand over my hair and letting it loose from the messy ponytail. He still loved my hair, some things never changed.

Amber light spilled over the living room and the twenty or so people who were sat, expectant, in various chairs and lounging across the floor. Goosebumps rose on my arms as I took in the sight in front of me. Teachers, some kids I recognised from school, doctors, a medley of familiar and not so familiar faces. People I'd never have suspected, had never seen at the house before. Tina was sat primly in one corner, her feet tucked daintily under herself, surrounded by three girls I knew from school. Parker made the introductions, the surreality of the situation threatening to overwhelm me. These people all turned into wolves. I turned into a wolf. This was going to be my pack. Which my father led.

'...it's been a long time coming and to most of you, Ryan is by now a more than familiar face.'

I liked how he introduced me as Ryan, not his daughter. A gentle hubub of greetings filled the room and some of the tension surrounding me eased slightly. Their faces looked open, inviting, welcoming. I could trust these people, I knew. This was a network of support, a family. I loosened up under warm smiles and a glass of wine. It was awkward, at first, made moreso by Tina's chilly disposition. She lasted longer than I'd thought she would. She lasted long enough for Brady to limp to bed. Then she unfurled,

'I thought she couldn't change.'

Sebastian's face darkened and his back straightened. He was angry. It was a formidable sight, one I'd almost forgotten. His temper had been kept under wraps for the past few days. His lips rolled back over his teeth and his chest vibrated with a growl.

Tina, still surrounded by handful of the other girls I hadn't been introduced to, stood suddenly, her face contorted in anger, 'This is bullshit. She has to earn her place. you can't just expect us to let her slot into place at the top of-'

His eyes narrowed to slits as he stepped closer to her. She wilted in his shadow but kept his gaze defiantly. Sebastian growled, his voice grating against his throat with a distinctive roughness, 'are you challenging her.'

Her eyes widened as she seemed to realise her precarious position, 'I-I never...'

Parker cut in, placing a hand on Sebastian's shoulder and pushing him back firmly before he turned his attention to Tina, 'If you want to challenge the order of things, I'd appreciate it if you were civil. We don't challenge our pack members to physical altercations. You know that.'

His tone brooked no argument. Tina was scowling at the floor and I looked from my father's face to hers. Had she tried to challenge someone to a fight before? I'd guessed pack members fought for social standing, was glad they didn't. Who would Tina have challenged? She was well situated with the other girls in the pack, I didn't know where everyone stood, what the ranking was like in the pack. Considering I'd lived with the Alpha for as long as I had, dad had done a pretty good job of keeping my life as normal as he could. Considering. Sebastian's eyes snapped to mine and he tilted his head slightly.

Later.

Tension crackled through the air, the other pack members shuffling and murmuring. Sebastian's attention had moved to my father. I could tell they were communicating, dad's eyes flicked to me and then Sebastian. He inclined his head slightly as he addressed the gathering,

'On a lighter note, I'm sure, I'd like to offer my congratulations to Ryan and Sebastian on their imminent mating. It's about time they settled down.'

Every pair of eyes in the room turned to look at me for at least the third time that night, Sebastian's burnt into my face. I could feel him waiting for me. The pack might have altered certain customs to keep with the times but I knew rejecting Sebastian in front of them would do more than just wound his ego. It was a status thing. I squeezed his wrist and smiled at him with shaky resolve. I'd never been the type of girl to plan her wedding down to the last detail, to choose the wallpaper for every room in the house I'd share with Sebastian. It was happening faster than I'd have liked, but with Sebastian nothing was steady or predictable. I nodded at him encouragingly, wishing for a second he'd have told me beforehand, or at least that everybody would stop staring.

Sebastian chuckled and wrapped an arm around my waist, tucking me into his side as people started to congratulate him.


'Come.'

Sebastian pulled me from the couch and toward the front door. Moonlight streamed through the glass panelling and illuminated his silhouette as he grabbed me a coat out of habit. The air was still chilly, summer was overdue and it would have been cold for a human. Which I wasn't.

'Where are we going?'

He didn't answer but pulled me out toward his truck, waiting silently in the dirt drive. He strapped me in and started the engine in silence, his fingers tapped the driving wheel and he kept his eyes on the road. Normally, I'd have been fearful. Apprehensive. Scared. But I knew he wasn't angry, I'd have felt it if he were. He drove through the forest, headlights snaking along the tarmac in front of us and eventually the gravel and dirt. We were on the outskirts but I couldn't stop myself from scanning the inky space between the trunks of trees, watching for unknown wolves. Fear splintered inside my chest as I imagined coming face to face with Houston Ridges at this time of night, on his territory.

'We're here.'

Sebastian was still staring at the steering wheel, slightly misshapen under his grasp. The headlights threw arcs of light out over the land in front of us and onto a house. Nestled into the clearing just behind the edge of the treeline, private but not remote. It wasn't a hut or a cabin, but whitewashed stone work with a porch. Solid.

'I don't...'

He cleared his throat, 'it's tradition,' he seemed to be struggling with words, 'to move...once we're mated.'

It dawned on me slowly, staring from the beautiful house back to Sebastian. Our house.

'I built it. That's why...Parker and I...'

The trips to the forest, the trips to the hardware store. He'd gained muscle due to manual labour, his hands were rougher from the same. He'd built us a house to move into when we were mated. Our own place.

Excitement tingled through my fingers, 'dad helped?'

He shifted in his seat, fiddling with something in his lap, his hands moving to the steering wheel again as he gripped the indentations with his fingers. He leant forward until his forehead almost rested on his knuckles and sat that way in silence for a while. Confusion filled my thoughts and I reached out, placing one hand on his broad back in what I hoped would be a comforting gesture. When it came, his voice was just a whisper,

'He had to...I can't read.'

I frowned, 'you always read me stories all the time when I was a kid.'

His reply was a long time coming, 'Your mother...I memorised...'

I unbuckled my seatbelt and pushed him back in his seat, climbing onto his lap. His arms looped around me loosely but his eyes wandered through the window. I'd never seen him like this, vulnerable. He was scared. Scared I'd laugh at him, scared I'd say reject him, scared he wouldn't be enough for me.

Sebastian

He still didn't look at me but his mouth started moving, 'it's got the same layout as the treehouse in Georgia. You always told me where you wanted everything when we lived together. You said you wanted at least two-'

I leant over and stopped his mumbling with a kiss. He grunted in surprise and I pulled back before he could react,

'Are you going to show me around?'

He smiled softly, his eyes surprised. As soon as it appeared, his vulnerability was quashed by his arrogant and stoic self confidence. He led me from the truck to the porch, the soft light of which flickered on as we drew near. The white front door still smelt of fresh paint and promise. It was our home. I'd never been a homemaker, but looking down the bare hallway through the familiar glass panels either side of the door I felt something settle in my stomach. A sense of belonging. Nobody had ever lived in our house before, it was up to us to make it a home. Our home. I wasn't the type to stay barefoot in the kitchen, and he wasn't the type to come home after a day at the office demanding dinner, I knew.

His arms wrapped around my waist and he squeezed firmly. It was becoming a habit of his, but not one that I minded. We fit together awkwardly but close to perfectly. Essential to each other. Two sides of the same coin. I patted his hands,

'Invite me in, then.'


a/n: okay guys thanks again for reading! So there you go, Sebastian can't read. His attention span is almost as short as his temper (and we all know how short that is). It's actually a really touchy subject for him.