Chapter 17

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After Dante left Jade alone, she went to the mirror on the bathroom door and looked at herself. She decided she needed to work on speaking. It had been so long since she had even uttered a sound. She knew it would take some practice before she felt comfortable actually speaking out loud to another person.

"Dante" she tried to say to herself in the mirror, but her voice cracked and the sounds that came out were both quiet and undiscernible as words. "Dante, Dante, Dante" she tried again. "Jade, Jade, Jade" she continued. It was working, sort of. Like riding a bike, you don't really actually forget how to speak, but her voice sounded foreign to herself, and she knew she would want to keep practicing for a while before she would attempt to actually speak to anyone.

At 6 pm, Dante knocked on Jade's door. He was giddy, and couldn't wait for her to join him for dinner. It felt almost like a date, even though they were only going downstairs to eat. But this would be the first time she had chosen to spend time with him, and he was excited about that.

When Jade opened the door, Dante actually froze. He was speechless, as he took in the vision before him. Jade was beautiful, with her auburn hair loose and flowing around her face, and her brown eyes sparkling with anticipation. Her arms were mostly bare, as she was wearing a pink tank dress that fit her curves loosely, showing off her beautiful shape. The dress stopped just above the knee, revealing beautiful and muscularly toned legs.

"Wow, I mean ummm, you look stunning" Dante spluttered, trying to articulate his appreciation for her appearance. He was tempted to take her right then and there, and kiss her passionately before completing the mate bond and marking her as his own. Nothing would have given him more pleasure, but he knew that would be completely inappropriate at this juncture, not to mention she likely wouldn't want it, and he wasn't willing to push her to do anything she wasn't comfortable with. So he found it best to simply offer her his arm, and keep his hands to himself.

Jade had made an effort to look nice for dinner, picking out a simple dress to wear, and trying to make her hair look nice. But she couldn't help blushing when Dante stood there gawking at her, and she then started to feel embarrassed, like she was trying too hard, which just caused her to blush more. She huffed impatiently when he continued to stare at her, and was appreciative when he offered his arm, because he had turned and was no longer staring at her. She took his arm walked with him down the hallway.

"I hope you don't mind" he began to speak "but Jackson and his mate Evelyn with be joining us for dinner." He could feel her tense up a little, but she looked up at him and nodded acceptance of what he had just said. "Evelyn has been dying to meet you since you arrived" he continued. "I tried to tell her you might not be ready to meet others yet, but she wouldn't take no for an answer."

When they reached the dining room, Jackson and Evelyn were already there. Jackson immediately stood up, and nodded a greeting.

"Dante, Jade" he said. "This is my mate, Evelyn" and he gestured toward a lovely plump woman who could only be described as a ball of sunshine. She was grinning from ear to ear, her blond curls bobbing up and down as she nodded her head in greeting. Her blues eyes sparkled like the sun on the ocean.

"I am so excited to meet you, Luna!" she said, "what a beautiful picture the two of you make!" and she clasped her hands together dreamily. "I'm so glad the clothes seem to fit you" she continued jabbering. "These two weren't much help in giving me an idea of your size, but I was able to piece it together and picked out some things. Any time you need anything, you just let me know. I'm so glad you're here."

"Ok, Love" Jackson said to her, kissing the top of her head adoringly "let's not completely overwhelm her before she even has a chance to sit down."

Jade was a little surprised to see this gentle side of Jackson. The few times she had seen him previously, he had been all business. Following Dante's orders and acting like the perfect Beta. But here, in a relaxed environment with his adorable mate, he was far less intimidating and seemed more like a giant teddy bear.

Jade nodded her greeting and took the seat Dante had offered her, and within a few moments, Lucy the pack cook, came in with food. She was an older woman, with smile lines around her mouth and eyes. She reminded Jade of Tina, who had worked in the kitchen back home, before the attacks. Lucy set several dishes down on the table and then left to serve food in the mess hall for the many other pack members.

"Lucy runs the whole kitchen" Dante said smilingly. "I don't know what we'd do without her."

"We'd starve" said Jackson, between mouthfuls of food.

"She has several pack helpers" Dante continued, "but without her, we'd all be lost."

The conversation during the meal was light and friendly, and the food was delicious. Evelyn loved to talk, and frequently monopolized the conversation. Jade actually appreciated the nonstop babble, as it seemed to take pressure off of her, as it was obvious that her responses weren't necessary for the chatter to continue. Jade enjoyed herself more than she thought she would. She loved seeing Dante interact with both Jackson and Evelyn. They all genuinely enjoyed each other's company, and were having a nice time together. She had never seen Luther interact like this with any of his pack members.

"We're going to head home, unless there's anything else you need, Alpha?" Jackson asked, after the meal had concluded.

"No, I think we're good here." Dante said to him. "Have a nice evening" he said to the two of them.

"It's been lovely to meet you" Evelyn said to Jade has, she gave her a warm hug, and then took Jackson's hand. "Good night Alpha" she then said, turning to Dante. "Take good care of her" she told him, and gave him a look like she would take matters into her own hands if Dante didn't follow her instructions.

"Jackson and Evelyn don't live in the pack house" Dante explained after they had left, and he steered her down the hallway of the pack house dorms. "They've got a little cabin just down the drive, it gives them a little more privacy, but keeps Jackson close. "These are the dorms here," he said as they continued to walk. "Most of the unmated wolves live here and then we have several cottages scattered around the pack house, where the mated wolves and families live."

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