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"Damn, Lia! Are you eating for an army?" I look at my plate and then over at Ollie's. Hers is nearly identical - meat stacked on top of each other, steaming veggies squished into every nook and cranny there is, and multiple bread rolls balancing on top. Food. Strength. Hungry.

"Look who's talking! You're just as bad!"

"Please," Linda interjects as she comes out of the kitchen with Anna in tow. "I have you both beat." She proudly shows off her plate, stacked so high, she has to tilt her head to see what's in front of her. It's quiet for a moment as we eye each other and our dinner before we break out into laughter, taking a seat at the table. It's safe to say, none of us has any control over our food portions yet.

It's been a couple days since Linda woke up, and we're all just enjoying our time together. Colton and Collin would have liked to partake in our shenanigans, but they've been preoccupied in planning our next move against the hunters. The faster we finish up business here, the sooner everyone can go home. Surprisingly, the hunters have been pretty quiet, laying low after our preliminary raid which worries many. And the biggest question yet is: where's Walther? There were no signs or traces of his presence at their compound.

"Hey!" Anna pipes up. "You were going to tell me about how you stabbed a guy in the eye once!" Ollie starts coughing, choking on the piece of steak she just bit off. My wolf perks up, interested in the subject as well.

"During the raid?" I ask as she grabs her water. She gulps the liquid down before giving Anna a look. The girl is unsuccessfully trying to stifle her laughter. Although Ollie is hardly kid-friendly, she and Anna have bonded really well in the short time they've gotten to know each other.

"Uh, no. During a date I once had." Linda and I exchange a look of our own before turning back to Ollie.

"Well then, go on!"

"It's not as exciting as it sounds. I may have exaggerated a bit. He was a dud - all handsy and creepy ass shi-"

"Language," Linda interrupts.

"-take mushrooms."

"Mushrooms?" Anna questions teasingly.

"Shut up. Anyways, he wasn't reading my cues very well or blatantly ignoring them, so I may have 'poked' him in the eye with my keys."

"Was there blood and gore?" This kid.

"Sadly, no. I used a blunt end and didn't push it in very far. Dude had blurry vision and some discoloring for a while, but nothing permanent."

"And just like that, Ollie scared off the only man who wanted her." We all laugh again while Ollie makes a face, shoving another piece of food into her mouth. Joking aside, whoever Ollie's mate is - they'll have a lot to handle for sure, but they'll also be one of the luckiest wolves out there. Agreed.

"Enough about me," Ollie says, pointing her fork in my direction. "Lia never dished about her romantic evening with Colton." At this, everyone else looks my way, waiting.

"It was nice." I push my food around nervously as I avoid eye contact. I didn't like being the center of attention even when it's just my sister wolves, but I disliked it even more when I wasn't sure what to say. Mate. My wolf is excited, wanting me to show-off Colton to the others. She nudges my mind, trying to encourage me to speak more.

"And?" Happy.

"And...I enjoyed the food?"

"And?" Handsome.

"It was a nice surprise?"

"And?" Strong.

"And…?" My wolf nips me in frustration as she doesn't understand why I'm being so reserved. Mate. Safe. Happy. Smile. Desirable. Fun. Love. I stop her after that last one. Logically, it's still too soon for love and I'm pretty sure even Colton would agree with me.


"What do you want me to say?"

"Did you enjoy yourself?"

"Y-yeah. I did."

"Like a lot?" Anna asks, her brown eyes alive with wonder. "Was it like a dream come true?" I think about it for a moment, smiling as the date replays in my head like a movie reel. Ollie makes some obnoxious eyebrows at me and Linda laughs at the overall situation.

"I suppose you could say that. It was...unreal in the best way possible." This seems to satisfy everyone and we thankfully move on. The rest of dinner is filled with jokes and light stories and lots of laughter until our sides ache. Eventually, Linda and I move to the kitchen to clean-up while Ollie stays with Anna, engaged in a silly hand game.

"Can you believe we're actually living somewhat normally again?" I ask, handing her a plate. She grabs it, shaking her head.

"I sometimes still think it's all temporary. That any wrong move will disrupt it and I'll be back with the hunters."

"Yeah, me too." We're both silent, in our own thoughts as we continue washing dishes. Everything has been so crazy and fast paced - it's easy to ignore any underlying issues, but eventually, we'll have to tackle some of the harder topics. Like, how do we tame our nightmares and insomnia? How do we integrate back into everyday life? I was taken when I was thirteen, meaning I never finished school. Do I still go to college? What about my sister wolves? Will we all be separated? And where is Anna going to go? So many questions and it feels like there's not enough time to answer them all, an invisible cut-off looming above our heads.

"Collin and I talked about some things, but a lot of it's still up in the air."

"What about?" I ask, coming back to reality.

"Mainly about which pack we're going to go with and family. I definitely want to spend some time back at home, but I think I'd be okay if we stayed in Colton's pack." She gives me a small smile.

"Why's that?"

"I think too much time has passed for me to re-settle into my old life. I just need a new start."

"Even if you're stuck with me?"

"I'll somehow manage." She chuckles as I stick my tongue out. She then nods her head towards the other room. "Do you think we can convince Ollie to stay near us?"

"I don't know. All her familiar ties besides us are back on the east coast." Linda and I don't really know the details of Ollie's personal life as she has always deflected the subject. She seems to have a standard childhood from what we've been able to piece together, but there's definitely more to the story that we don't know.

As if we had beckoned her with our conversation, Ollie comes up to us, throwing her arms around each of our shoulders. She looks between me and Linda, questiongly. "Why the serious faces? What are you talking about?"

"Life, you, and other things," Linda answers as she finishes washing the last plate.

"Boring," Ollie replies, pulling us away from the sink. "Let's go! Anna wants to play a board game and I think it's a wonderful idea!"

"Monopoly?" Linda and I question simultaneously.

"Hell yeah!"

"Fine, but you're not the banker this time."

"What? Why?"

"Cause you cheat, giving money to Anna in bribes and miscounting on purpose."

"Sounds like someone's still feeling the loss from last time."

"Rightfully so," Linda states. Ollie rolls her eyes, but agrees to the terms. When we arrive at the family room, Anna has already set-up the board and clearly appointed herself as banker.

"Oh no." Ollie grins.

"You never said anything about Anna and it's too late now."



"Watch the movie!" I cry out, playfully nudging Colton.

"I can't help it - your child-like wonder is amusing."

"Hey! I've been cut-off from cinema and technology for several years. I think I've earned the right to enjoy the magic of modern times."

"It's The Lion King."

"In HD!" Colton laughs, pulling me closer to his side. I feel a blush forming, but I welcome the embrace, relaxing. It's been getting easier to act so casually with him, dare I say, like a normal couple. It helps that he's been so willing to go my pace, never pressuring me into anything I didn't want.

It's Sunday and Gary was called away to a local council meeting among the other alphas in the area, leaving Colton free to hang with me. We had considered going into town as that's what the others were doing, but Colton seemed more tired than usual so we decided to hang back. Mate. Bond. Alone. We are currently on our second movie.

"You know, they made a real-life version of this, right?"

"What? And you're just telling me this now?"

"We need to catch you up on a lot." Once the credits start rolling, Colton takes over, choosing titles or renditions of classics I've never seen. I'm hooked, watching each film from start to finish with minimal distractions. Colton finally passes out for a snooze around our fifth movie, his curls falling over his eyes. I instinctively move them, caressing his forehead in the process. He makes a soft grumble, leaning into my hand before settling. I smile, looking him over a little longer before going back to my movie. Don't be creepy, Lia.

Time ticks by and as I get up to switch movies once again, a loud commotion disturbs the peace. Colton wakes immediately, jumping up and heading towards the foyer. I follow close behind. We don't say anything, but we both can smell it: blood. My wolf is tense, uncertain of the threat. She had also been resting - curled up in the corner of my mind. Danger?

Standing in front of the door is everyone, but I hone in on Collin who is currently cradling an unconscious Ollie. I'm about to rush forward, but Colton stops me, assessing the situation himself. Dodd appears at the top of the stairs, also drawn out by the noise. Colton spots him and a silent communication passes between them before he starts barking orders.

"Call Gary and Dr. Henderson." He then turns to Collin. "Put her up in a room and try to address any basic first aid. Anna, go up and help, okay? Linda, I need you to tell us what happened." Everyone moves about quickly, following directions. Colton and I stay with Linda as she tries to find the words.

"Uh...I-I…" She seems frazzled, her eyes darting everywhere while her hands shake. I reach out, grabbing and steadying them in my own. She looks up at me, scared.

"It's okay. Tell us the important details. We can get the full story later."

"Hunters," she said softly. "I don't know how they picked us out of the crowd, but they blindsided us. Collin and I had run into a shop for food real quick while Ollie and Anna waited outside. All of a sudden, we heard screaming and when we hurried out, Ollie was already down and they were trying to drag Anna away. Collin managed to fend them off, but...bu-"

"Shhh," I say gently while giving Colton a look. "It's okay. Ollie's here and will be treated. She'll be okay."

"I think they hit her in the head with a bat. One of them was carrying it and there was blood." Oh God. I hold Linda in my arms as she struggles to calm down. My wolf is fuming, pacing dangerously back and forth. Sister wolf. Hurt. Protect.

"Linda, is there anything else we need to know right now?" It takes her a moment, but she nods, pulling away so she can meet Colton's gaze.

"We saw him. Walther's finally in town."