Nate opened his eyes slowly and looked down. Kellan blinked as they both seemed to shimmer for a few seconds and then gaped as he stared at the white wolf now standing shoulder to shoulder with a black one.
Nate had shifted. Not only had he shifted into a beautiful wolf, his wolf was black. Nate was an Alpha.
“Does that mean what I think it does?” Marcus said quietly.
“I’ve never seen his wolf,” Ricoh said, awe coloring his words.
Then in another second, Nate had shifted back, and that was their second surprise. He was fully clothed. Kellan realized there had been no torn clothes on the floor, and as far as he knew Darric was the only wolf with that ability.
Nate stood. The wolf, Chris, was still close enough so Nate could burrow his hands in the thick white fur.
Marcus took a step forward and Nate lifted his head — and they all gasped. All hesitancy, all trace of fear, all the remnants of pain that Nate seemed to carry with him constantly — it all vanished as the man took a step and Marcus opened his arms for Nate to step into them.
The white wolf shook himself, casually licked a paw, and headed for one of the smaller meeting rooms. Conner followed him with some jeans he had been carrying. In seconds Chris and Conner were walking over to Marcus, Chris fully shifted back and clothed. Nate and Marcus stood quietly holding each other.
Blaze spoke up. “Unless it’s essential for you all to be here would you please give your Alphas some privacy?”
In seconds everyone had disappeared except for both Alpha groups and Chris. Blaze drew some chairs together and sat down. Aden chuckled, his arms full with a sleeping baby. “Well, you don’t see that every day.”
“Look,” Marcus said quietly, holding one of Nate’s scarred hands. The skin was smooth. Injury free, no burn marks, no missing nails.
Aden stared in astonishment. “That’s incredible. Shifting heals, but it doesn’t remove scars.” Darric dropped a hand on his leg. “I should know,” Aden whispered.
Kellan swallowed, guilt immediately swamping him. Kellan had lured Aden back to their old pack the last time when he got injured again.
Aden lifted his head and stared at Kellan. Then he smiled, and Kellan felt the guilt ease. He was grateful. He wasn’t sure he deserved it, but he was grateful.
“I have to ask,” Blaze said when they were all sitting down. Marcus and Nate were side by side, but Kellan had drawn Ricoh to him. Of them all, Ricoh seemed the most shocked. “I understand you were thrown out of your pack as a child. Was it because you are an Alpha?”
Nate sat a little taller. “I’m not an Alpha,” he said hesitantly.
“I can assure you,” Darric interrupted, “your wolf is black. Alpha marked. Besides which, I can feel your energy.” He paused and assessed him. “That’s new, isn’t it?”
“New?” Marcus asked.
“My wolf is gray,” Nate said hesitantly. He looked at Chris who was sitting quietly with Conner. “Did you do that? I felt an incredible amount of power when I touched you.”
Chris put his head to one side and laughed nervously. “I don’t think so. I just remember thinking you seemed hurt and that I had to help you.”
“I felt the Alpha power. I can sense it in you,” Darric said.
Nate turned his head and gazed at Darric. “I’m sorry. I know those are words often said with little meaning, but I—”
Darric reached over and clasped Nate’s hand. “The gods knew what they were doing. I think everything happened as it should.” Darric smiled. “I think you are an Alpha for a reason, and I think the gods have a purpose for you.”
Kellan gazed at everyone’s awed faces and knew that Darric was right. Even he could feel the steady thrum of Alpha power coming from Nate. What did that mean for their future?
Marcus stared in awe. He wasn’t totally sure what was happening here. “Are you saying that because Nathaniel has a black wolf, he’s an Alpha, and that his wolf has changed color?”
“There are different types of Alphas, Marcus. My wolf is silver,” Darric said.
“Stephen’s is golden brown, as is mine,” Conner said.
Marcus frowned. “Then why do you say black means Alpha-marked if an Alpha can be any color?”
Darric smiled. “Alpha-marked also means marked by gods.” He gestured at Blaze. “Blaze’s wolf is black. It’s usually an indication of leadership as well.”
Marcus gazed at Nate. “What does that mean for you?” Did that mean he should be running the pack? But Nate never left their rooms. He looked like he had a newfound confidence, but he was still curled into Marcus’ side as if he needed protection.
Nate looked at a complete loss. Aden spoke up. “I am not completely sure but I would hazard a guess that Sirius has a specific job for you to do,” he said quietly.
Marcus nearly shook his head in complete disbelief, but then he knew all the other incredible things that had happened, Darric being alive, the baby that Aden was cuddling. If they had happened, why was it such a leap to believe Nate had a higher purpose of some sort?
Marcus thought hard. Even as the other Alphas stood and congratulated Nate and fussed over Chris, he let the conversation swirl around him and he knew. Kellan was a strong werewolf. Ricoh had gotten a strength of purpose planning the new school and helping the kids he loved.
And Nate — his fragile boy, the one who Marcus had never been able to leave for long, because he needed him so much … Nate was an Alpha werewolf. If he wasn’t about to run a pack then he was destined to play some important role. God touched.
Marcus eased his arm away from Nate as Nate laughed at something Darric said. At the end of the day, Marcus was fooling himself. Nate healing had just taken away his reason for being here, and he was very much afraid none of them needed him now.