“What are you drinking, Patrick?” Jesse asked as I sat at the bar at the Crate.
“Smithwick’s,” I replied.
“Keep ‘em coming.” I raised my almost empty bottle in a salute to him.
“Hold that,” a strong voice said from behind me. I looked up to see Kyle Westin glaring down at me.
“What? Join me,” I said slurring my words.
He held his hand up to Jesse who shrugged and took a swig of what should have been my beer.
I knew I wasn’t going to get another. No one was dumb enough to cross the Alpha even on something as minor as this.
“What do you want, Kyle?” I asked.
“I want you to shake off this funk you’re in. It’s time, Patrick. I need you back in the game.”
“Not interested,” I said.
I had tried. I really did, but the fact that Westin Pack had been invaded on my watch had been eating away at me. I had been arrogant and thought I knew what was best. I’d hesitated and hadn’t trusted my team. I’d let them down. I didn’t deserve to be called a Beta.
“This is not a request this time,” Kyle said in a voice as strong as steel.
I shivered feeling his Alpha powers wash over me.
“Tell him to give me my beer back and I’ll consider it.”
“That’s not going to happen and there’s nothing to consider. You’ll report to my office first thing tomorrow morning.” He hesitated before adding, “Sober.”
“Tell Jesse to give me my fecking drink back or I’ll drive down the mountain and find someone who will.”
“Like hell you will!”
I cringed and slowly looked past Kyle.
She stomped over and took my arm dragging me off the stool.
“Need some help?” Kyle asked.
“I’ve got this. He’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I sure hope so,” he told her.
My chest hurt. The last thing I wanted to do was let my mate down. It had been happening far too much lately. And we both knew that the only reason Kyle was giving me another chance was because Elise was his sister.
Family ran deep in Westin Pack. My own had been a disaster and I was no longer in communication with them. It hurt, especially around the holidays.
Americans didn’t consider St. Patrick’s Day a true holiday. To them it was just fun and drinking, but it meant something to me and more importantly, it reminded me of home.
My father had always been a grade A arsehole, but my life there hadn’t been all bad. I didn’t think that was just the alcohol talking either.
Two weeks ago, Kyle pulled me into his office to tell me my father, Aidan, the great Irish Clan Alpha had died. How? I didn’t know because no one, not even one of my fecking brothers, had bothered to call and tell me. They hadn’t informed Kyle either. He’d found out through a bloody announcement sent out by the Grand Council.
I should care that my father was dead. He had turned his back on me. Westin Pack was my home now. So why did it hurt so much?
It was almost as if all the negative, terrible things my da had told me over the years were finally sinking in. While he was alive, I was stubborn and determined to prove him wrong. Now that he was gone, I’d never get that chance.
Had he been right about me? Was I weak? Too headstrong for my own good? Was I the disgrace and disappointment he told me I was the last time I spoke with him?
He’d died before I could make things right.
Worst part was that I feared he might have been right about me.
Six weeks ago, Westin territory had been a war zone. For the most part we’d fared well, but it never should have happened. In hindsight I could see a dozen times I’d been wrong. I’d been weak, too headstrong for my own good, and a disappointment to everyone and everything I cared about.
I knew they didn’t see it that way, but how could I not?
My number one job as Beta of the largest wolf shifter pack in the world was security. I was supposed to keep everyone safe and our secrets hidden from the human world. I had failed in that mission. I wasn’t worthy of carrying the title of Beta. My da had been right about me all along.
I didn’t put up a fight as Elise dragged me from the bar, shoved me into her car, and drove me home. The utter silence was unbearable.
“No,” she said curtly, cutting off my words before I could even say them. “You don’t get to talk right now. I know you’re hurting Patrick but getting drunk every night at the bar isn’t helping anything.”
“I’m fine. It’s all under control.”
“You aren’t, and it’s not. Do you really think I can’t feel your pain and self-deprecation? I just don’t understand where it’s coming from because you won’t talk to me.”
I didn’t say a word.
“I’d ask if this had anything to do with the death of your father, but we both know you were spiraling even before that. It’s been weeks now. If you can’t talk to me, you have to talk to someone.”
I sighed as she pulled up to the small cottage we called home.
“If I were going to talk to anyone it’d be you, love.”
I opened the car door and almost fell out before righting myself.
Elise huffed and got out of the car to come around to help me. Together we stumbled up to the door.
I let my fingers trail down her back. She froze with the door half open.
“Patrick,” she said in warning.
I stepped inside feeling a little steadier than before.
“I don’t need to talk, love. I just need you.”
“Patrick,” she tried again, only her voice sounded a little huskier and less angry this time. It only spurred me on.
My lips crushed against hers as my hands found her ass and easily lifted her up to my height. Her legs wrapped around my waist as I stepped forward until her back was braced against the wall.
I knew the second the fight left her, and she kissed me back with equal demand.
How long had it been since I last had her?
I couldn’t remember and that terrified me. No matter what was wrong in my world, this was always right. Being with her put the pieces of my life back in place and into prospective.
“I need you,” I repeated as I fumbled to remove her shirt and then the fasteners on her bra.
There was a sort of frenzy driven by primitive desires. I couldn’t get my mate naked fast enough. As I tried, we somehow moved from the entryway to the couch, finally settling on the chair in the corner.
I smirked remembering another moment we’d shared on that very chair, and the reason why the ugly thing had been moved to our house to begin with.
I laid back against the chair with Elise above me, every bit as eager as I felt.
A slow smile broke out across my face.
She was so beautiful, and she was mine.
“Mine,” I growled.
Somehow I managed to rise with her in my arms as I carried her to bed. We’d certainly never needed a bed to make love. There wasn’t an inch of this place that we hadn’t marked together. She deserved to be cherished. Somewhere along the way I had forgotten that.
I could live with screwing everything up in my life, aside from her.
Elise was the only person in the world who truly mattered to me. It was her, and her alone, that I sought to please. I hadn’t even been very good at that lately either, but now was the time to change that.
She was as hungry and greedy for me as I was for her.
I gently laid her down on the bed, which was in stark contrast to the way I had roughly handled her in eager need.
She stilled and looked up at me. She smiled as she reached out and cradled my face in her hands.
“There’s my handsome mate. I’ve missed you.”
I kissed her passionately until my breathing waned and I was forced to pull back. She was gloriously naked beneath me now.
My hands roamed down her body as I stared into her eyes watching her every reaction. I began to sober quickly.
Nothing mattered but her, and I proceeded to show her exactly how much she meant to me. I poured every ounce of love I had for this woman into my kisses. She was breathless and so beautiful. She took my breath away when I finally took her.
As we moved as one, my head swam with all my thoughts, fears, and love. I growled and started to move faster within her.
“Patrick,” she moaned setting my heart on fire.
I wasn’t sure what came over me as this growing desire to mark her once more overwhelmed me.
My teeth elongated and sunk them into her neck in the exact spot I had claimed her before.
We were already mated. There was no way possible to make me anymore mated to this woman. I’d already tied my heart and soul to hers, but I needed this reminder, this reclamation now.
She let out a soft giggle before biting me back.
It wasn’t the same as our first bonding, but there was still a sense of thrill and energy buzzing around us, and a frenzy began to build.
I took her hard and fast. I wanted to possess her, or perhaps have her possess me and remove the demons I was battling within.
My teeth retracted and I called out to her. “Elise!”
I was so close to the brink of so much more than I realized. I couldn’t hold out any longer as I pumped into her once more. My muscles tightened, and then she broke free dragging me along with her.
I collapsed on top of her physically and emotionally wrecked.
We laid there in silence. The only sounds were our ragged breaths and beating hearts.
As I began to slowly recover, she nudged me to roll off of her and onto my side. I knew I’d been crushing her, but I had felt paralyzed to do anything about it.
Slowly, I moved away from her only to drag her to me as I repositioned us so I was lying on my back with her sprawled out across my chest.
“What was that?” she whispered.
“Something more,” I whispered back.
I kissed the top of her head and held her close to my heart. I could tell by her breathing that she was on the verge of sleep. I couldn’t blame her that.
I wasn’t certain what had just transpired between us, but for the first time in weeks, I felt whole again. With a smile on my face, I followed her into sleep.
The next morning, I awoke before the sun rose. The hangover headache I’d been experiencing more often than not lately was absent. I felt… normal. I’d forgotten what that felt like.
Much of the previous night was still crystal clear in my head. There was no haze or wondering what exactly I’d done or how I got where I was.
I looked down at Elise still sound asleep in my arms and smiled. I certainly remembered how I’d gotten here.
Without waking her, I slid from the bed and made my way to the bathroom. I stopped to look in the mirror when I noticed dried blood at the base of my neck. I grinned. The mark I proudly bore was now slightly askew as Elise had marked me again just a hair off of the original target.
Despite my faults, my sudden temper, and the drunk stupor I’d remained in for days, she still wanted me, needed me even. I had claimed her again as a reminder of what was most important to me, but her return bite was an affirmation to me of our unconditional love.
I’d put her through hell these last two months, and she’d patiently waited for me to get my head out of my arse. I needed to step up and be the man she thought I could be. I was ready to do that for her, but more importantly for myself.
Today was the start of something more.
I grinned like a fool in the mirror before getting ready for the day.
I had the urge to go for a run, so I didn’t bother dressing. I just grabbed some clean clothes and set them on the back porch.
I stood there completely naked, taking in the beauty of the woods and mountains pre-dawn. There was a newfound calm within me.
I welcomed the shift as I dropped to four legs covered in fur.
My wolf pranced around happily. I couldn’t remember the last time I let him out, which told me it had been far too long.
He took off running across the yard and right into the woods. I felt fast, strong, and maybe a little bit wild as I relinquished control to my wolf spirit.
By the time we finally made it back to the cottage, the sun was greeting us on a new day.
I shifted back to my skin and dressed for the day. I knew I’d smell a bit wild, but that was okay. Just a reminder of my state of being.
I walked back inside and checked on Elise. She was still out cold.
I gave her a quick kiss making sure not to wake her as she stayed asleep, then left to drive over to the Alpha House.
When I arrived, I parked my car out front and then walked into the house without knocking. I knew it was still early and didn’t want to disturb Mary and Jason on the off chance they too were sleeping in.
At seven sharp, I knocked on Kyle’s door.
“It’s open,” he yelled.
I let myself in.
Kyle’s jaw dropped as he quickly checked the time.
“I wasn’t expecting you quite this early.”
“You said first thing in the morning, did you not?”
He looked a little confused. “Did Elise make you come?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“Really?” he asked with a smirk as if he knew better.
I grinned at him evilly. “I properly wore my mate out last night. She’s sleeping in and will likely be a bit late for work today.”
“Gross! How many times do I have to tell you to keep that shit to yourself? She’s my sister, man.”
I shrugged. “She’s my mate.”
“So you managed to come on your own?”
“Aye, I did.”
“Are you ready to talk?”
“No, but I know we have to.”
“So tell me why you’ve been acting like asshole lately. Where’s all this coming from Patrick? I know it’s not your dad.”
My jaw locked and I took a deep breath. “You have a father who loves you and supports you. You can’t possibly understand what I’m feeling regarding my father’s death.”
“So explain it.”
I wasn’t prepared to discuss this, which left me feeling vulnerable.
“I never hated my da, Kyle. Yes, he was a ruthless, hard man, but he was still my father. All I ever wanted to do was make him proud of me. If I hadn’t caught wind of my mate, I would have followed through with the challenges, and I’d be sitting in that chair of yours right now, or long dead from trying. It was a fifty-fifty chance that I was glad to take.”
“Because of your father?”
“Aye. Because of him.”
“But he turned his back on you, Patrick.”
“Because I didn’t follow his plan. But you know what? As sick as it sounds, as long as he was alive, there was a chance for me to redeem myself to him. Don’t mistake this for regret, because I regret nothing. Elise is my everything, and I wouldn’t give up even a second with her for my da or anyone else in this world.”
“But you still just wanted your father to recognize you and be proud of what you’ve done.”
I sighed. “Now that he’s dead, there’s zero chance of that. I told you, it’s complicated.”
“I get that and can even appreciate it. But you were acting weird and drinking too much weeks before we knew about his death.”
I nodded. I knew Kyle wasn’t about to sugarcoat this conversation.
“I fecking screwed up.”
“What are you talking about?”
I took a deep breath considering my words carefully. “My sole job as your Beta is to keep this Pack safe. I failed you, Kyle. I listened to what I thought was credible intel and made decisions that could have done far more harm than good. It didn’t come down to that, and I’m grateful for it, but it doesn’t change the fact that I messed up and inadvertently put this Pack at risk.”
“You’re talking about the battle with the Raglan?”
“Aye, I am.”
“What intel were you following?”
I hesitated. This was shaky ground due to the Alpha’s personal connections. With a deep breath I let it all out. “Jacob Winthrop led me to believe that we’d been breached by a human influence that couldn’t be trusted.”
“Yes. He failed to include any part of her life that he was responsible for. I thought she was a risk to not just the Pack, but to the Force and possibly all shifters. She knew too much. Kyle, I almost used the serum on her.”
“But you didn’t.”
“I was ready to when she disappeared with Jake.”
“She was with you for days before that. Why did you hesitate?”
I shrugged. “Gut feeling. But in the end, I was ready to follow the intel instead of my heart, and it disgusts me to think of the impact that could have had.”
“Jake?” he guessed.
I swallowed hard and nodded. “I didn’t want to believe that a human couple could feel a connection as strong as what I feel for your sister. I needed to believe it wasn’t possible, or I couldn’t have gone through with what needed to happen based off the intel Winthrop had provided me.”
“Why didn’t you include me in this decision?”
“You’re too close to him, Kyle. His connection to Maddie and Liam weakens your resolve towards him.” I scoffed. “I have always worried that he would manipulate you, when in reality, it was me he manipulated. If I had known he was only trying to cover his own arse, I never would have even considered using the serum on her.”
“And if you had spoken with me, I would not have sided with Jacob in this case, but I do understand why you felt the way you did.”
“Why wouldn’t you have?”
He gave me a sad smile. “I’d already spoken with Nonna and Sapphire. They seemed to believe that there was something special, something more, between Jake and Alaina. Call me a sentimental fool, but I was rooting for them.”
“That boy loves his wife every bit as fiercely as I love my mate.”
“I know, but I can understand and appreciate where you were coming from too.”
“No,” I said. “I should have known better. Because of my stubbornness, I nearly cost him his mate. It put unnecessary stress on Bravo team, and I didn’t listen and act fast enough to save the Pack and keep our territory safe. That’s on me, Kyle. No one else.”
“We knew the Raglan were coming, Patrick. We prepared for that. You did that.”
I shook my head. “Thanks, but the fact remains that my number one job here is to keep things like that from happening. I was the weak spot in our security, and as such, I removed the biggest threat you were facing.”
“Patrick this is insane. You aren’t a threat to us.”
“I am when I can so easy be manipulated by the likes of Winthrop. I can never trust him again, Kyle.”
“I’m not asking you to. He’s been playing both sides of the fence for far too long. Keep him at arm’s length, but removing yourself isn’t helping anything.”
“No! Okay, so you made a few bad judgement calls. You had your reasons for that. It’s behind us. Now get your ass back to work.”
I hesitated. “Kyle, I can’t say with certainty that if I had to do it all over again that I would change a damn thing. I’m a liability. I can’t be your Beta.”
“So you say. I say that if you hadn’t struggled with the decision, Alaina’s memories would have been wiped and she would have gone home, and then the Raglan would have attacked us in a blindside. Patrick, don’t you see? If you hadn’t tried to follow your intel and do the right thing, then Jake and Alaina never would have run. If they hadn’t run, we wouldn’t have discovered who she really was or that the Raglan were coming for us. Our guard would have been down, and things would have been very bad. It’s because of your actions, right or wrong, that they were able to acquire the info we needed and bring it back to ensure all of our safety. The Raglan attacked with zero casualties to any of my shifters. That’s your victory, Patrick.”
“Well, it doesn’t bloody feel like a victory.”
I didn’t want to see things his way. I didn’t want to think that by almost doing something horrible that I could have inadvertently saved us all. It was too much.
“We can’t live with the what ifs, Patrick. You know that.”
“I don’t know if I can go back, Kyle. I don’t trust myself.”
There, I’d let it out, the one thing that was eating me alive from the inside out. After everything that happened, I couldn’t trust myself to make the big decisions anymore.
“I never intended for all of this to reside solely on your shoulders. Your job is to lessen my burdens as Alpha, not carry those burdens in my place. Together, we can get through this and get Westin Force back on track. They need a strong leader, Patrick, and I still stand by my decision. There is no one better for this position than you.”
I had left Kyle’s office with things unresolved. I knew what he wanted, maybe even needed, from me, but I still wasn’t certain I could give it to him.
I drove around the territory for a bit, amazed at how normal everything looked when it had felt like my entire world had been falling apart. Surely there should be some visible scars or marks left on this place from the disaster that had happened, but there was nothing. It looked exactly the same as it always had.
Without consciously meaning to, I found my way to The Lodge and parked.
I sat there staring at the building before me with mixed feelings. I lost track of time and had no idea how long I’d stayed there trying to figure things out.
A tap on the window jolted me. I rolled it down as I turned to see who was there.
“Well, come on. It’s about damn time you showed up for work.”
I stared at him in shock. “Jake?”
“Come on. Bravo just finished up a run. Hitting the showers now. Pull it together and get in there for this morning’s meeting. We need you.”
“Why are you even talking to me after everything I did?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I put you and your mate through hell.”
He shrugged. “Were you doing what you thought was best for the Pack?”
“Well, yeah, at the time I thought I was. But I didn’t consider what was best for you.”
“Patrick, you’re head of the largest shifter army in the world. You have a bigger picture to deal with than me. Besides, you don’t think as the lone human in this world of ours that I don’t have to prove myself above and beyond everyone else every step of the way?”
“It shouldn’t be that way, Jake.”
“But it is, and that’s my reality, Patrick. Sure, I was hurt, mad even, but that’s in the past. As long as you were honestly acting in what you thought was in the best interest of our Pack, then we’re cool.”
I nodded, unable to believe what I was hearing. I’d been condemning myself, while he showed forgiveness.
“Look. I’ve heard you’ve been struggling since the battle and all, but there’s no need on my account. We’re going to be okay. And if you really want to somehow make it up to me then get inside and get back to work already. Archie fancies himself in charge in your absence. He’s driving us all insane. Please, Patrick. We need you back at the helm.”
“You’re sure about this?”
“Probably surer than you are. Get it together, boss. We’ve got work to do, and these animals will smell your fear.”
I sighed and got out of the car. Jake was right. If I was going to get back in the game, I needed to get my act together and portray confidence, even though I wasn’t quite feeling it.
Before Jake could walk away, I grabbed him and hugged him.
He didn’t say anything but as I pulled away from him, he nodded. There was no need to say anything more. We were going to be okay.
Clearing the air with Jake gave me the confidence necessary to walk in and get back to work. As we entered Westin Force headquarters, Jake took off for the showers while I moved to address Archie.
“S-sir. You’re here,” he stuttered, clearly not expecting me.
“Bravo is cleaning up from their run. You have thirty minutes to catch me up.”
“Yes, sir,” Archie said.
The rest of the day felt almost normal as if I were merely returning from a vacation or something.
After work, a couple of the guys asked me out for beers. A part of me wanted to go, but I had been drinking to the point of it being problematic and I wasn’t going to fix it by drinking more, even if it was St. Patrick’s Day and my Irish roots told me to celebrate.
This was my second chance and I’d be damned if I was going to blow it.
The others might not think I had a lot to prove, but I knew I needed to prove to myself that I was worthy of the position entrusted to me. I had a lot of apologizing to do to my mate, too.
Feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders, I headed home.
“Patrick? I’m surprised to see you home tonight. It’s St. Patrick’s Day. Why aren’t you out celebrating or something?” Elise asked.
I shrugged. “I think my drinking days are over, for a bit at least.”
“Are you sure? You and the guys always go out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.”
“Not this year. We can celebrate if you’d like, in bed of course, or the kitchen table, or Kyle’s chair, the couch, wherever you like, but I only want to be with you.”
She giggled as I lifted her into my arms and headed for the bedroom.
“My very own Saint Patrick on Saint Patrick’s Day?”
“With what I have in mind for you tonight, love, I can hardly be called a Saint.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
I hope you enjoyed this Westin World holiday short story.
If you have not read Patrick and Elise’s story, you can do so here at https://mybook.to/Westin2 in Fighting Destiny.
Or if you aren’t fully caught up with my books and wondering what’s going on with Jake and Alaina, you can find their story in Waging War here at https://mybook.to/WestinForce6