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By the time Quinton had gone back to the nursery, most of the nursing parents had returned with their pups and were laying them down for their afternoon naps. Caleb was still sitting, rocking his little one, though no longer nursing.
A few of the other parents had stopped to greet him and introduce themselves and also to gush over the pup. Many of them commenting on how much he looked like Rhys. Quinton watched from the door way as Caleb acknowledged each of the well-wishers with smiles and soft chuckles as they discussed things that Quinton could only assume were baby related.
Caleb definitely seemed to be in his element here. Especially when talking with other omegas. They were probably trading baby stories and cleaning tips. Whatever they were discussing, Caleb seemed to fit right in and no one seemed nervous around him at all. In fact, the other parents seemed to warm up to him fairly easily and he to them.
Quinton slouched against the wall some and frowned. Why couldn’t the omega warm up to him the same way? Was there something about him that made it hard for the omega to trust him? The way he spoke or perhaps carried himself? Or was it simply because he was an alpha which made him more intimidating?
Or, Quinton thought to himself, suddenly ashamed, It could be the fact that you’ve kept him lock away for two days and refused to let him near his pup.
That seemed the most likely cause. Whether Quinton wanted to admit it or not, he’d probably come across as a grade-A asshole to the young omega.
When Caleb glanced up and saw Quinton standing in the open doorway, his smile faded and he clutched the infant a little closer to his chest. Well, that was his answer. Asshole for sure.
Caleb tensed and the scent of fear wafted across the room, assaulting Quinton’s senses. A few of the other omega’s noticed the change in Caleb as well because they followed his gaze to the door and more than a few of them shot Quinton the evil eye. He was not in anyone’s favor today. That was for damn sure.
“You’ll be fine.” A female omega named Clara whispered to Caleb as she gave his hand a gentle pat. “He’s not as bad as he seems.”
Caleb thanked her and returned her smile. Clara Shot Quinton a disapproving look with a hint of a warning in it. Do not hurt him. Her eyes said as they focused on the alpha, causing him to flinch. He gave her a quick nod. Quinton knew better than to piss off an omega.
They may appear gentle, even submissive, on the outside but threaten someone they took upon themselves to protect and look out. An angry omega could be every bit as scary as an alpha. Sometimes more so.
Quinton’s father had always told him to stay on an omegas good side because hell hath no fury like a pissed off omega. Quinton’s recent interactions with Caleb had proved the saying true. He’d honestly hate to see what the spunky little omega would do if he really got mad.
Quinton stepped aside as one by one, the babies were laid down, and their ever doting parents filed out of the room, returning to their jobs. The last one squeezed past Quinton and out into the hall, leaving Quinton alone in the room with Caleb and Emily, who was busy with her charges.
Caleb’s attention was on his son again. He cooed softly to the babe while rocking him gently to sleep. Quinton could see the deep love and adoration the omega had for his child. Watching the two of them together, he was starting to understand why his brother might have risked everything to help the boy.
There really was something special about him. He could see it in the way he so delicately cared for his child though Quinton doubted what he was seeing in him was why Silver Moon had taken an interest in him.
What secrets are you hiding, Caleb? Quinton thought as he watched the boy. He sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. He wanted the omega to trust him but trust was a two way street and Quinton knew he could never truly let his guard down around Caleb until he knew what he was hiding.
There was only one way he would find that out though. He had to bite the bullet and demand his answers from the boy. Even if that meant employing a little rough justice. He hated using the pup as leverage but Caleb wasn’t as forth coming as Quinton wanted and, quite frankly, he was running out of options.
Quinton unfolded his arms, shoved his hands into his pockets and crossed the room to where Caleb was sitting.
At first, he looked around, diverting his eyes anywhere but on the sleeping baby, which was ridiculous. He was and alpha for crying out loud. The Alpha. A tiny infant shouldn’t feel like such a threat but it was what that infant represented. He didn’t want to look at it. He didn’t want to acknowledge it. But, the more he fought it, the harder it was to look away.
Slowly, his eyes drifted down, over Caleb who’s head was bent, watching his child, to the same child that the omega held, cradled, in his arms. Quinton’s breath caught and for a moment he swore that his heart stopped Demetevler Escort beating before suddenly pounding, menacingly in his chest.
The pups eyes were closed but even without seeing the bright blue orbs that Quinton was positive would be peering back up at him, he could not mistake the truth that he’d been repressing since the child and it’s omega parent had landed in his lap. This child, was Rhys.
The resemblance was there and it was too strong to deny anymore. From the fair complexion to the jet back hair, it was all Rhys. Even his features, so small, were unmistakably similar to Rhys. A Hallorann family trait that seemed to get passed on from alpha to alpha. Had this child been an omega or even a beta or gamma, he might have resembled his bearer more, or even a mixture of both parents but he didn’t. He was an alpha through and through.
Caleb looked up and caught Quinton staring at the child, the look on his face unreadable. The omega seemed to tighten his grip on the babe, as though worried Quinton might snatch him out of his arms at any moment. Again, the scent of fear rose up from the omega. His uncertainty tugged at the alpha’s heart strings. Even so, the conversation he planned to have with the boy could not be avoided.
Quinton let out the breath he’d been holding, put on a straight face and said, with authority, “We need to talk.”
Quinton wasn’t surprised when Caleb squirmed in his seat. Panic rolled off him in waves. His eyes dulled then fogged over with unbridled tears. For a moment, Quinton thought Caleb was going to jump out of his chair and raced towards the door. He could almost see the gears working in his head. He was debating whether it was worth it to run now, and risk being recaptured or killed.
“Caleb.” Quinton knelt down beside him, speaking in soft, calming, tones. “If what you’ve told me so far is the truth, then you have nothing to fear from me. I just want to talk. I’m not going hurt you and I certainly would never harm your…Rhys…” He reached out a hand to touch the sleeping pup but then quickly withdrew it. He closed his eyes. “No matter what happens, the pup is safe here. Do you understand?”
“Rhylan.” Caleb murmured.
Quinton opened his eyes and looked at Caleb. The omegas hands were shaking but he still held firmly to the pup.
“What?” Quinton asked.
“Rhylan.” Caleb repeated. “The pup’s name is Rhylan.”
Caleb was reluctant to give up the pup. Even if it were only to lay him in the crib to finish his nap while Caleb and Quinton left the nursery to talk. Walking away from his child felt like abandonment though Quinton had promised that he wouldn’t keep the pup from Caleb any longer. Caleb wanted to take Quinton at his word but there was a part of him that still couldn’t trust him.
It wasn’t just Quinton that Caleb didn’t trust, though Quinton hadn’t given him much reason to trust him, but Caleb had trouble trusting alphas in general. His experiences with them had been less than favorable. Still, he was at least willing to give Quinton a chance to prove that he wasn’t the asshole that most alphas seemed to be.
“Are you hungry” Quinton asked as they stepped out of the daycare and into the warm summer air. “You must be hungry, I know I am.”
Caleb nodded. “A little.” That was a lie. He was starving.
“Let’s grab something to eat, then we can talk.” Quinton told him.
Caleb had expected Quinton to lead him back to the den where he’d most likely be served one of the jail house type meals he’d been given previously. Not that they were bad, or even skimpy. By Silver Moon standards the food Caleb had been served was like a banquet. His only complaint was how impersonal they felt.
The beige, plastic tray with individual food slots, made the whole experience cold and uninviting. It was just one more way to say he wasn’t welcome nor wanted here.
To his complete surprise though, Quinton instead took him to the small restaurant they had passed on their way to the daycare center.
Quinton opened the door and allowed Caleb to enter first. The place was small but in a charming sort of way. There were several booths that lined the wall and a bar in front with attached stools. Not a high class, four star, establishment one might see in the city. More like a small deli or diner. Caleb was never the less impressed with the place.
“Ever been to a restaurant before?” Quinton asked as he led Caleb to one of the booths.
Caleb fought back the urge to sneer at the alpha. After checking his attitude he realized how innocent that question was. Of course Silver Moon had nothing even close to the little deli.diner and Quinton had no idea what Caleb and Rhys had done while they were on the run.
“Twice.” Caleb admitted. “Rhys took me to a place that had the best hamburgers I’d ever tasted. I literally fell in love with the place. I think it was called Joan’s. They also had great apple pie there.”
He Otele gelen escort smiled bringing up the memory of what he considered his first real date with Rhys. Even though the memory was a happy one, there was still a hint of sadness in his eyes when he brought up Rhys. It made Quinton wonder. Had Caleb actually loved Rhys as much as he claimed? Maybe it wasn’t an act after all.
“When I first got pregnant I started craving those burgers. Rhys would often bring take out from Joan’s back to the hotel room we were staying in. I was so disappointed when we had to leave. But, you know, all good things eventually have to come to an end.”
They don’t have to. Quinton thought as he sat down across from Caleb. Maybe for someone living in Silver Moon that was the case, but not in Black River. Not always. Things weren’t always perfect and bad things did happen. That was life. But just to always expect the worse? Quinton couldn’t imagine living that way. The conversation was taking a turn for the morbid and depressing so Quinton decided to change the topic.
“As great as I’m sure Joan’s was, I think you’re in for a real treat.” He smiled warmly at the omega, trying to lighten his mood. “Annie makes the best Apple pie in town and her mate, Wyatt, is a master on the grill.” He grabbed a couple menus from behind a napkin holder and handed one to Caleb.
Caleb accepted the menu with a curious nod and a “Thank you” before opening it up and perusing the selections. He frowned suddenly as he lay the menu on top of the table. “I don’t have any money.” He told Quinton.
“Don’t worry about it.” Quinton said. “It’s on me.”
“I can’t…” Caleb started to protest but the look on Quinton’s face stopped him before he could finish his sentence.
“I insist.” Quinton told him. “It’s really no problem. Besides, I get an Alpha discount.”
“What’s this I hear about a discount?” A middle aged female beta walked up to the table with her hands on her hips as she started at Quinton sternly. Quinton smirked.
“Oh come on now, Annie.” Quinton chuckled a bit. “You know you’re always sending me home with free food.” He winked at Caleb playfully. “I think she has a crush on me.”
Annie huffed. She set a couple glasses of water on the table then said, “Don’t act so full of yourself Quinton Hallorann. I send you home with free food because you’d be eating nothing but potato chips and chocolate bars if I didn’t.”
“I can cook you know.” He said in his defense.
“Cook?” Annie snorted a laugh. “Honey, the crap you cook isn’t fit for a human.”
Quinton raised an eyebrow. “A human, really?”
Annie shrugged. “Well, I hold dogs in higher regard.”
Caleb suddenly laughed so hard he nearly choked on the water he was attempting to swallow. He really liked this woman. She had grit.
“Any-who…” Annie pulled an order pad and pencil from the navy blue apron she was wearing and stood ready. “What can I get you two?” She asked with a friendly smile.
“Burger and steak fries for me.” Quinton told her. He closed his menu and stashed it back behind the napkin holder. “And a coke.”
Annie jotted down his order then looked at Caleb. Caleb glanced over at Quinton, not sure what he should ask for then Quinton gave him a nod and told him to order whatever he liked.
“Um…I’ll have the same?” He said though it came out as more of a question. “And mountain dew, if you have it.”
Caleb had tried a mountain dew at Joan’s and absolutely loved it.
“Mellow yellow okay, Hun?” Annie asked.
Caleb looked to Quinton for clarification.
“It’s coke’s version of mountain dew.” He explained. “Mountain dew is a Pepsi product.”
“Oh. That’s fine then.” Caleb closed the menu and put it back with Quinton’s.
“Give me a few minutes to get your drinks.” Annie smiled again, then hurried off to get their orders.
They were silent in the space of time it too Annie to bring them their drinks. They thanked her and as soon as she’d gone to check on another table, Caleb took a test sip of his soda. Hie eyes widened as he let the flavor take hold. “This is really good.” He grinned wide, taking a bigger gulp.
“Don’t get a lot of soda in Silver Moon do ya?” Quinton asked.
Caleb shook his head. “Never. Rhys was the one that introduced me to it. And Beer.” He blushed a bit. “Don’t really like the taste of that though. I much prefer the soda.”
Quinton tried to imagine Caleb tasting his first beer and the disgusted face he must have made. He had to chuckle some at that.
“Annie doesn’t care much for humans?” Caleb asked, pulling Quinton out of his thoughts.
“Relations aren’t that great.” Quinton told him. “Most of her inventory comes from outside the pack, from human suppliers. It took her some time to find one that would actually work with us and then he tends to over charge her and she has no choice but to pay it.”
“Why would he charge her more than Balgat Escort any other customer?” Caleb asked. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Quinton shrugged. “Because she’s a shifter. Why else?”
Caleb still looked a bit confused so Quinton had to elaborate. “Bay Village, our neighboring town, doesn’t like the idea that our pack is located basically at their door step. They’ve tried for years to relocate us but since we pay our taxes, stay out of trouble, and basically keep to ourselves, legally there isn’t anything they can do. Like it or not, we have rights, and they don’t have a leg to stand on. “
Quinton took a drink of his coke. “Plus, it helps that I make sure to make generous donations to various organizations every year. Helps to keep the pack in good standing with most of the locals. Whatever they may think of me or the pack, they like my money.”
Caleb gave what Quinton had said some serious thought. “That makes sense now.” He said, more to himself than to Quinton.
Caleb blinked. “Oh, I was just thinking. Alpha Bowden has been known to pour money into the human community. He seemed to care more about the humans than his own pack. I mean, the pack is poor but I wouldn’t nessasarily consider Seth poor. A lot of that money could have went to improve the pack but he chose to cater to the humans instead. After what you just told me, it makes more sense why he would do that.”
Caleb shrugged. “Well, I gather that from what you told me, it’s not about how good or bad someone is. It’s all about the money. So, I figure, Seth basically paid the humans to keep them off our backs so he could run the pack the way he wanted without interference.”
Quinton raised an eyebrow. “You’re pretty dang smart.”
“Thanks.” Caleb said. He didn’t miss the undertone though. For an omega. It may not have been what Quinton meant but the assumption was there regardless. Omegas weren’t meant to think or voice their own opinions.
They weren’t seen as intelligent, and many didn’t even feel that omegas were capable of living on their own, earning their own wage, or even owning their own property. The only goal an omega should have was to find a mate, have pups, and keep house. It was unheard of in Silver Moon for an omega to aspire to be anything else because they weren’t deemed fit for anything but servitude.
Many didn’t even finish school. What was the point when they would soon have a mate to make all their decisions for them? Quinton may believe that Black River was more progressive and in many ways they were, but the prejudice was still there, under the surface. Omegas were second class citizens. No matter how smart they were, how determined, or hard working, they would never been seen as equals. That just wasn’t how shifter society worked. Caleb would always be seen as less than, simply because of his anatomy.
An uncomfortable silence had fallen between them leaving Quinton wondering if he’d said something wrong. He was about to ask Caleb if everything was alright when their food arrived and he decided to forget, for now, and focus on the meal in front of them.
Caleb’s mouth mattered when he saw the thick burger placed before him. Annie had also sat two bottles down in the center of the table. One read ketchup and the other, mustard. Caleb recognized them from when he and Rhys had gone to Joan’s. He quickly picked up the ketchup bottle and deposited a fair amount of it on his sandwich before literally drowning his fries in the stuff.
Annie watched with an amused expression on her face. “Enjoy.” She chuckled.
“Thank you.” Caleb exclaimed through a mouthful of half chewed hamburger.
We’ll have to work on table manners. Quinton thought with a laugh as he dug into his own food.
Twenty minutes later the food was gone. Quinton ordered apple pie for Caleb when Annie came to clear the plates away. At first Caleb protested, claiming Quinton had spent enough on him already but Quinton wasn’t hearing it. Caleb’s protests however, had vanished when the plate with his pie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream had been set down in front of him.
Caleb devoured the desert as quickly as he had the burger and fries. Quinton enjoyed watching the omega eat. He became so excited over so many little things that Quinton had always just taken for granted. It was like watching a pup rip through his first birthday cake and not caring if half the cake ended up in his mouth or in his hair.
Caleb had finished nearly everything on his plate when he looked up and asked if Quinton was going to have some too.
Quinton shook his head. “Not that I don’t love Annie’s apple pie.” He said, giving Annie a slight nod and watching her face light up from the praise. “But if I eat anymore I’m going to explode.”
Caleb snickered, then scraped up the crumbs on his plate, slipping the fork in his mouth and moaning over the last few morsels as though he’d just had the worlds most earth shattering orgasm. A few of the other diners looked over and giggled at his reaction but Caleb didn’t care. He may never get to enjoy pie and ice cream again, and he was damn sure going to savor the experience while he still could.
“So,” Quinton took a sip of coffee that he’d ordered the last time Annie had come round, and looked at Caleb. “Do you think you’re ready to have that talk now?”
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