Status: Alive and Kicking!

The Ripple Effect

Two Cups Flour

“Papa, wake up! It smells wonderful in here!”

I swatted blindly at the air, but the little pest caught my hand and started tugging feverishly. In an effort to pretend to ignore her just a few minutes longer, I pulled my pillow over my face and sighed loudly.

But the pillow was, predictably, thrown aside and a cheeky girl grinned down at me. I groaned, but she just looked even more triumphant as she grabbed my other hand and pulled.

Something did smell very heavenly, though. I swung upright on my couch, tossing my blanket aside and sniffing at the delightful scents radiating throughout the cabin. But then I heard a soft sound, gentle humming. It was a tune I remembered well, a song my mother would sing as she scurried through the house rousing my brother and I for our classes.

The song held a special place in my heart, for obvious reasons.

“Are you guys ready to eat?” Eliana called, peering around the corner with a whisk and empty bowl in her hands.

There were drops of batter on her cheeks, and the apron she wore was now covered in flour. Her hair had obviously been quickly pulled up, as a few strands hung defiantly at her face. Flour covered the ends of her hair, too. I smiled at the spectacle; she had clearly put so much effort into this.

“Ellie, it smells wonderful,” I told her, my voice still heavy with sleep.

“It’s...just pancakes,” she mumbled, looking away and tucking her loose strands of hair feverishly behind her ear. But I saw the small smile on her lips.

This was a side of her that I had definitely never seen before...but I loved it. She was almost fragile, with that light rose colouring on her cheeks. It was endearing, charming, and everything in between. Iah purred, and I agreed with him.

But then she hid behind the corner again, and Zeya scurried after her. And the memories of last night came flooding back. Oh, by the gods. I had not even planned on...on mauling her face like that! I didn’t give her much of a choice in the matter! My face burned bright red. How was she feeling? Had I crossed a line? She hadn’t said much when I bid her goodnight and took my place on the couch, but maybe she had been too mortified to say anything?

I threw my face into my hands. What had I done? My mother always said I was too impulsive!

“Papa, they’re blueberry!” Zeya shrieked from the kitchen, but the words were garbled indeed.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full!” Eliana scolded, rounding the corner as she tossed the apron aside. Her eyes met mine, and the air of happiness slipped as she frowned and stuttered, “D-Did I do something wrong?”

Surely she had never been so timid around me before!

I shook my head quickly, standing and immediately regretting the action. What now? What did I do now!

“Oh. You just seem...tense.”

“The couch,” I lied, my mouth incredibly dry.

She smiled half-heartedly like she wanted to believe the answer, but then she strode up to me with that deadly elegance that made my knees weak. I was just waiting for her to flip that switch again and resume loathing my very guts, but she was still smiling up at me as she draped her arms over my shoulders.

“Luca, what’s really wrong?”

I bit down on my lip, helpless to stop my hands as they fell to her hips. She smiled up at me, but I was still so unsure.

“Ellie,” I whimpered, looking anywhere but at her. “I’m sorry if I was...pushy last night. Or if I forced anything on you. I wasn’t thinking, and I just... Iah... He sometimes...”

I hung my head in defeat. What was wrong with me!

“Ara likes you, too,” she whispered, her face red. But she didn’t pull her eyes from mine. “I know this is a very...delicate situation. And if you have any regrets about last night, we can—”

“No!” I blurted much too quickly, and then my eyes widened. Smooth. Very smooth. She exhaled quickly, like I had almost made her laugh.

“Come have some breakfast. I’m not going to do this every day; I’m just in a good mood.”

She kissed me quickly before slipping from my hands and disappearing around the corner. My feet forced me to follow without another thought. Who knew how long this “good mood” would last? I wanted to enjoy every second of it!

Breakfast was more than I could have ever imagined. The food was delicious, but the atmosphere... It was almost like I had finally gotten everything I wanted. A family. I had my family. Sure, it wasn’t all down to a science yet, but it was incredibly promising. We still needed a pack—if possible, a pack that needed a new Alpha. Iah just wouldn’t be happy as a commoner.

Zeya was telling us, in grave detail, all about her dream last night (with purple elephants and pink leopards...) when a soft knocking pulled me to my feet. It was a familiar knock, the knock Orion used to use when he wanted to come into my bedroom when I had the door shut.

I pulled the door open quickly, and my brother immediately pulled me into a bear hug. He was beaming up at me, like nothing had changed. And part of me wished that nothing had...

“Oh, right! Come in!” I bid him, stepping aside and allowing him entrance. My eyes focused on the toddler...toddling after him.

“Oh, you haven’t properly met!” Orion shouted in my face, turning and scooping the boy into his arms. “Luca, meet Jonah. Jonah, this is your Uncle Luca.”

The little boy gawked at me through bugging eyes, so I just smiled awkwardly. Zeya was one thing, but babies were another thing entirely. I just didn’t have any experience.

But then Orion looked past me, and he grinned toward the kitchen as he exclaimed, “Eliana! That smells divine!”

I shook my head quickly and offered him a plate. My mind was simply a mess this morning. What with last night and this morning and...and everything else.

When I finally came out of my thoughts, Orion was rambling on about something. I tuned in just in time to find that he had been explaining why he hadn’t brought all of the pups. Then again, I wasn’t so sure his herd would even fit in this guest cottage. Besides, I wouldn’t even know if Jonathan would want to see me, what with the fact that he had grown up thinking I was his deadbeat father.

“But enough about that. I’m sure this one is enough of a handful,” Orion teased, throwing an accusing finger at Zeya, who was sputtering.

“I’m a perfect angel! Papa says so.” She stuck her tongue out at him, and I smiled. My pup was certainly a handful.

“Oh, Zeya, how would you like to play with your cousin? He’s at that stage where he just loves to run around and get into trouble,” Orion added with a wink, and Zeya immediately bolted onto her feet and snatched the little boy.

I watched in shock as she bolted out of the cabin, but Orion was just laughing like a maniac. What had gotten into that girl!

But when I looked to Orion, his smile had faded. He wore a passive, thin line instead of a grin. It was the face Father always made when he was talking business. It was the face I, too, wore when talking business. Sort of a family tradition, in a way.

“Eliana, do you mind if I dampen the house a little with some talk about the invasion?” my brother asked deliberately.

“I’m just as worried as you. Zeya’s father is a monster,” Eliana whispered, staring at her plate.

“I’ve told my best wolves about the plan already, and they’re training as we speak. I just worry that Zeya something stupid.”

Eliana looked confused, but I knew exactly what he meant.

“I want her to stay here. She doesn’t seem to understand that her father wants her dead, and I don’t want him to get his wish. And I don’t want her to interfere.”

“You think she would try to save him?” Eliana sputtered, her eyes narrowed. “Why would she even want to! She knows that he’s a horrible creature.”

“Yeah, but he’s all she has left. I know she hates her brother Salek for injuring her, for making her useless to her father. I’m afraid she might try something, so she has to stay here. And Ellie... I don’t know that I want you going either.”

“Luca, I’m going. That was the whole point of coming with you!” she spat, shooting onto her feet and glowering at me. “You’re not ‘protecting’ me, if that’s what you think you’re doing!”

“I just don’t want you or Zeya to get hurt. Besides, there’s no need; Orion’s wolves are trained for this very situation.”

“I didn’t come to start a fight,” Orion interrupted, standing quickly. “The invasion isn’t for a while, so let’s not get worked up. I just wanted to make sure we are all on the same page, keep you updated. I’m sure Iah appreciates it.”

I sighed and nodded, but my eyes remained on Eliana. She was glaring back at me. Damn!

“Anyway...” Orion continued quietly, pushing in his chair. “I should head back. But I also wanted to extend an invitation for dinner tonight, at the pack house. Assuming you and the missus aren’t going to be busy, you know, killing each other.”

I slapped my hand over my face and groaned loudly before waving a dismissive hand at him.

“Just go, Orion!”

He snickered, clapping my shoulder. “It’s nice to have you back, Luca. Even if it’s only for a little while.”

My heart clenched. Damn it! Being back home was just messing me up in every possible way!

“Eliana, please forgive my brother. His heart is in the right place, I’m sure you know. He’s just never been a ladies’ man,” Orion cooed, immediately dancing out of my reach before I could hit him. “I’m going to try to hunt down your daughter and my son before they disappear across the country border...”

I glanced at Eliana after he had gone, but her face was stern. I already missed the good mood...
♠ ♠ ♠
This is a bit of a hasty update, but the next chapter is going to dive deeper into the Eliana mystery. This one was a way to... "set the scene," so to speak.

Anyway, thanks for reading/commenting/subscribing! :)