Warning: This scene contains spoilers for Grave Threat (Grant Wolves #3) and has not been edited. Read at your own risk!
Joey visits with Abby Walker, an Alpha visiting Seattle with her pack.
“Seems like a good group you’ve got here,” Joey commented, absently twirling a blade of grass between her fingers.
“They’re good eggs. What made you decide to bring Justin on board? Your pack has been blood only for a long time, hasn’t it?”
“He seemed like a good egg,” Joey said, glancing at Abby with a small smile. But she didn’t leave it there. “He saved my life. It seemed like the least I could do.”
“Right place, right time?”
“Something like that.” Joey tossed the blade of grass back down again. She didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want to think about it. The wound in her stomach still wasn’t fully healed, and a few nights ago she’d had to sit out of the pack’s full moon run. Not being able to shift sucked donkey sac.
“Your mom, she was a good judge of character. I bet some of that rubbed off on you.”
“Here’s hoping. We didn’t—” She shut the thought down before it could finish escaping. She didn’t like thinking about her mother in the past tense, wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to do it without the sharp edge of loss scraping at her insides.
“Didn’t what?” Abby asked, studying her thoughtfully. Have much in common? I find that hard to believe.”
Joey sighed and shook her head. “We didn’t always see eye to eye. But I think she would’ve liked Justin. He’s very… respectable.”
Abby threw back her head and laughed while Joey eyed her askance, uncertain what was so funny.
It took a few moments for Abby’s laughter to die down to a chuckle. “Sorry. There was a time I thought respectable and Adelaide Grant would never belong in the same sentence. But I suppose everyone has to grow up sometime.” She rubbed her knuckles along her jaw. “Well, almost everyone.”
Joey’s brows lifted. In her experience, respectable pretty much defined Adelaide Grant. August, even. “How long ago was that?”
Abby sighed. “A long time, girl. A long damn time.”
The sound of laughter drifted toward them from the direction of the fire as Joey studied Abby’s profile in silence, waiting to see if the older woman would elaborate or if she’d need a nudge to satisfy Joey’s curiosity. Joey knew so little about the first century of her mother’s life. It wasn’t something Adelaide talked about, and Joey had never been able to coax much out of her. Maybe this woman could give her a piece of the puzzle.
Abby didn’t disappoint. “Christ, but your mom was a spitfire back in the day. Ten pounds of sass in a five pound package. She couldn’t have been more than sixteen when Roberta took her in. I know I wasn’t much more than that. But back then, sixteen was basically a woman grown. It wasn’t like it was now… or maybe it isn’t all that different. Kids these days…” She snorted and shook her head, then continued. “Roberta nicknamed her Hellcat. Flame-haired and foul-mouthed, but she had an innocent look about her. I swear she leaned into it just for the joy of shocking anyone that didn’t know her well enough.”
Joey didn’t intend to interrupt, but the picture Abby painted sounded so out of character that she couldn’t help herself. “Are you sure you’re not thinking of another Adelaide Grant?”
Abby chuckled and shook her head. “Oh, I’m quite sure. I’m old but I ain’t senile yet. Most of us were cast-offs back then, but Hellcat was a purebred bitch. The girls hazed her pretty hard at first, but she gave as good as she got. No one understood why she’d run off on her genteel family to run with the likes of us, but there was a wildness in her that burned even brighter than her hair. She was fearless. Reckless, even. She could drink us all under the table, and ride like the wind.” The woman’s eyes took on a distant cast to them, the ghost of a smile curving her lips. It faded slowly, supplanted by sorrow. “Can I ask a difficult question?”
“Sure.” Joey answered absently, struggling to reconcile Abby’s recollections of a much younger Adelaide than the one Joey had known all her life.
“How’d she die?”
The question was like a bucket of cold water, a shock to Joey’s system. She looked off toward the bonfire, where Sara tugged on Jon’s hand, dragging Joey’s reluctant brother to his feet. Sara was radiant in the firelight, and he’d never been able to deny her anything, not even before she was carrying his child. Joey watched them sway together to the music while she tried to figure out how to answer the question.
“Heart attack is the official story.” Joey glanced back to Abby, who met her gaze evenly.
“But not the truth.”
“No.” Joey snapped off another blade of grass to toy with, rolling it between her fingers and thumb. “She took a bullet for me.”
Abby arched a brow. “A silver bullet?”
The mention of silver made Joey’s not quite healed stomach twinge. She shook her head. “A magic bullet.”
“And the witch that did it?”
Joey looked away again, uncomfortable under the intensity of the older wolf’s gaze. “Taken care of.”
“Permanently?” Tension deepened the lines in her forehead, not smoothing until Joey nodded a confirmation. Abby didn’t ask for details. Instead, she put a hand on Joey’s shoulder and squeezed. “Don’t blame yourself.”
“I’m not.” The words sprung from Joey’s lips a little too quickly, and she winced.
“You want to know why you’ve never met one of your momma’s oldest friends?”
Abby’s hand lingered on Joey’s shoulder, and she could feel the weight of the older wolf’s gaze even without looking. “She was probably worried I’d run off with you.”
Abby laughed and let her hand fall away. “Smart girl. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, did it?”
Joey shrugged and studied the blade of grass between her fingers. “Closer than I’d like to admit. Or maybe not close enough. I dunno, Abby. I spent so much time trying not to be like her, but now— Now I wish I’d tried harder to figure out who she really was.” Her eyes prickled in an all too familiar fashion, but she fought back the tears.
“Honey, the Adelaide Grant you knew wasn’t the same Hellcat I knew back in the day. Centuries of life will do that.”
“I know, it’s just… I did my share of rebelling, and we were like oil and water for the better part of a decade. It wasn’t until very recently that we found a sort of equilibrium and I started to understand her better. Peek beneath the mask, you know? Now she’s gone, and I’m supposed to take her place, and I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.” Joey hadn’t meant to unload quite so thoroughly. She hadn’t even confessed that last bit to Chris, who’d taken to his own position as Alpha like he’d been born for it. Maybe he had. Maybe she should turn both packs over into his care, and settle for being his second. The mere thought made her wolf bristle.
Silence descended in the wake of her words, and she sneaked a covert glance in Abby’s direction, finding the woman regarding her with a thoughtful cast to her features.
“Why not let one of your brothers shoulder the burden?”
Joey’s wolf bristled and she barely managed not to growl at the suggestion. Her human half might be feeling overwhelmed and unprepared, but there was no question how her wolf felt about the prospect of submitting to one of her brothers. Joey swallowed. “No, I—I can’t.”
“Then you’ll have to figure it out as you go. Have you named a second?”
“Not officially, but Sam’s the obvious choice. He was Mom’s.”
Abby gave her a curious look. “Not Reg? Interesting. Well, then you have an experienced alpha to help guide you. Lean on him.”
Samuel is a good soldier, but he’s not you. You were born for this.
Her mother’s words surfaced from the depths of memory, unbidden. Adelaide had groomed Sam as surely as she’d tried to groom Joey, but perhaps not to the same purpose. Joey didn’t like the idea of leaning on anyone, but Sam would be as loyal to her as he had been to their mother.
“I’ll think about it, thanks.” Joey forced a smile. “But I want to hear more about Mom’s youthful indiscretions.”
The crows feet beside Abby’s eyes deepened as she smiled. “That could take a while, but I’m happy to oblige.”
“Actually, wait.” Joey hopped to her feet and offered Abby a hand up. “My brothers will want to hear this too.”
Once Abby was standing, Joey towed her over to the bonfire by the hand. As she settled between Ben and Justin to listen, she curled her arms around her knees and wished Chris was there. She’d just have to absorb as much of the story as she could, to tell him when she got home.