27.

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Back at the hotel in the human town, Ezekiel was pacing.
His hands ran through his hair over and over. Hunter was on his computer, typing away in a stream of messages between them and Aimee.

"Right. Akela said her mother was South born. Lexi... She met her mate, Link James when she visited a northern pack. Akela doesn't know which one..." Hunter nodded.

"Ask Grange. She grew up in the south Island pack," Ezekiel said.

Hunter typed for a moment and waited. And waited until his face lit up.
Quickly his hands picked up the phone and set it on the loudspeaker.

"We're on!" Aimee said.

"Good. Granny?" Hunter asked.

"I'm here. Akela looks a bit upset though. We might do this when you come home," Grange said.

In the background, the sound of Zion and Abel fussing over Akela could be heard.

"No. We need to know what happened," Ezekiel said.

"Do you know where your mum came from, Akela?" Hunter asked.

"No. She said there was nothing left for us there and that we were better off without them," Akela said with a thickened voice.

"But she was from the south?" Ezekiel asked.

"Yeah. She was southern. I just don't know which pack," Akela admitted.

"Wasn't there a kidnapped girl from the south?" old Hunter was heard in the background.

"When was that?" Ezekiel asked, trying to connect all the loose bits of information.

"You were still a dog, kiddo... but it was just before you killed Erberus so we didn't really join in the search. Archer was too busy keeping his territory safe," old Hunter chuckled.

"It would fit with the timescale..." Ezekiel mused thoughtfully while looking at Allie with a wistful smile.

His mate gave him a warm smile back.

"So, if Lexi was the kidnapped female, but really she wasn't kidnapped but had mated Link... Why didn't they just go back to South?" Aimee asked somewhere in the background of the phone call.

"If she had been promised to Preston, she wanted to save the south Alpha from embarrassment I guess! To break a promise like that is a grave offence. Link would have been punished. Probably killed," Grange said.

"Why? They should be happy she found her mate!" Young Hunter frowned.

"No. Because this was an Alpha arranged marriage deal!" Grange explained.

"So she was supposed to mate the Alpha regardless of bond?" Aimee asked.

"Well. Yeah!" Grange confirmed.

"But... why?" Three youngsters chimed in.

"Up until modern houses and health care, the North had a high mortality rate. So. This meant true mates were rare. They believe the mated bond appears at the moment a claim is made..." Grange tried to explain.

"So no connection?" Allie asked. Her mate was pacing the floor, trying to connect all the loose wires

"Not before the mating, no," Grange said sadly.

Allie and Ezekiel looked at each other. Ezekiel flattened his mouth with obvious dislike.
"Most lycans bond though..." Allie almost whispered.

"Not everyone thinks it's a necessity," old Hunter said at the same time as Grange drew a sharp breath.

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