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“You’ve lost your control too?”
She let out a soft half breath of a laugh. “Yeah, I learned quickly to control my urges and emotions as not to let my wolf betray me.”
“How? I want that control.”
She was silent for a moment, and Tristan almost made himself known, but he waited just another moment.
“You don’t want to learn how I did. Your alpha, he’s caring, and he doesn’t want to hurt you just to teach control. He did what he did only to help you gain back the control you’d lost. My alpha? Would have left me out in the cold to bring myself back in.”
Anger filled him. Her own father would have done that to her?
“Tristan isn’t like that. He’s a hardass, but he says he understands that all young wolves lose their control.”
“And he’s absolutely right. No one is born with perfect control over the beast that they hold.”
Tristan peeked around the corner to see Erin snuggling with the young wolf and stroking his hair. For a moment he imagined that she would have made a wonderful mother. Calm, collected, soothing. Obviously features she hadn’t inherited from her father.
“Oh, hello Tristan.” She looked over at him. “Coming to check up on me?”
He stepped all the way in and gave a half shrug. “You and Scott. I’m surprised he’s awake. It was a rough change back.”
Scott looked away, but Erin continued to stroke his hair. She smiled. “He’s strong, but it helps that he was taken care of after his change.”
“Do you often take care of pups?” Tristan sat in another chair by the fire as he watched her. She barely looked up at him, and her eyes were all for Scott. For a moment he was a little bit jealous. Then he realized that she was probably trying to come up with an answer that didn’t give too much away.
“When I’m allowed to, yes,” she finally answered, but still didn’t look at him. “After a rough change, if they either change back alone or are forced back, they need rest, food, and reassurance.”
Scott snuggled into her, pulling the blanket around him tighter.
Tristan nodded. “They come down here for rest. When we’re sure they are rested, we bring them food. Normally I come down and talk to them, but it seems you’ve got it all covered.”
“Have you ever been left out in the cold to fend for yourself after a change?” Her eyes flickered to his, and he saw something haunting cross behind her gaze.
He shook his head. “My alpha wasn’t that cruel. He made sure we were all well taken care of and had perfect control before letting us out on our own.”
“That’s how we learn in our pack.”
Something in her voice broke his heart. He wasn’t going to send her back to that because of a stupid mark not appearing. He went to reach for her, but she stood. “I’ll let you take over.”
Tristan glanced at Scott, then to Erin. Scott gave a subtle jerk of his head to the woman. Tristan pushed himself out of the chair, and she paused. “Why don’t I head back up with you? You seem to have taken care of Scott, and we all know what he really needs is rest.”
He didn’t miss the hesitation in her voice. He walked up the stairs right behind her. She walked into the dining room without another word and sat down in silence.
Molly stood. “I’ll get you a warm bowl of stew.”
“No, it’s okay. This one is still warm.” She gave a small smile. “Thank you for cooking. I don’t think I told you that.”
Molly sat back down and gave a slight laugh. “We all take turns cooking here. It’s no big deal. It’s just how things work.”
Tristan watched as Erin slowly ate her stew. She didn’t look around at the others, and she didn’t join in in the chatter. Occasionally she looked up at him but said nothing. He ate his own bowl and then stood. “I’m going to take a run. Anyone want to come?”
“In the storm? You’re crazy.” Molly shook her head. “It’s too cold even for my wolf.”
Erin stood and smiled. “I’ll go with you. I’m not afraid of a storm.”