The Oisín family arrived at the Belle estate a few hours after Kieran was discharged from the hospital to finish his recovery from his injuries. Despite his complaints, Cory refused to let Kieran attempt to walk in to the house. He loaded his lover into the wheelchair they’d purchased to keep Kieran from straining the still knitting bones in his legs. As Cory pushed Kieran in through the massive double doors of the log mansion, Billy instantly pushed himself through the family to pad alongside the chair. A mob scene waited for Kieran inside the huge entrance hall, with it’s massive timber support columns reaching up to the roof three stories overhead. The members of the Matriarchs’ Council jostled each other, with the exception of Kieran’s grandmother and his great-aunt, Desdemona who stood waiting to the forefront of the chaos. Around the perimeter of the great hall Kieran caught sight of his young cousins both male and female peeking out around columns for a look at the first male to become a hunter-candidate in living memory. Four young boys stepped forward from the sidelines and stopped when they were directly in front of Kieran’s party. In unison the boys bowed to Kieran.
“Welcome home, Hunter-candidate Kieran. We await your recovery to resume our training so we might aide you as your trackers.”
“Greetings my tracker-candidates. I look forward to continuing your training when you reach the appropriate age to begin the full training. Until such time you will resume your regular duties and return to school. When you enter high school, I will retest each of you as a potential tracker-candidate. Go and be boys for a while longer.”
Beside Kieran’s chair Billy sniffed and whined as the oldest of the candidates approached and knelt at Kieran’s feet. The black wolf edged closer to the kneeling boy and sniffed his scent. A huge pink tongue lashed out and licked the boy’s face. The boy taken completely by surprise fell backwards onto his ass and looked up into the glowing amber eyes of the wolf. Billy nudged the young boy trying to get him to pet him, but the boy cowered in fear, until Kieran spoke up.
“It appears that Billy likes you, cousin. You have nothing to fear from my nephew. Now, I feel bad for not remembering your name cousin but you boys have all sprouted in the year I’ve been gone from this house. Tell me your name.”
“I am probationary tracker-candidate Ian Belle – O’Connell, Hunter-candidate Kieran.”
“And how old are you, cousin Ian?”
“I just turned thirteen last week, Sir.”
“Well Ian, you and Billy are the same age. Perhaps you might even convince my nephew to become a boy again instead of remaining a wolf.”
“He’s a shifter?” came the startled cry from one of the Matriarchs. “You brought a shifter into the House of Beauty?”
“Do not question my actions. I may not look the part right now but I am the salvation of this house. I don’t enjoy it but I am the Silver Hunter. I have already passed the test of the Huntress on my father’s family estate and survived. I lead the House of Beauty as Hunter and my word is law in this house.”
Cory’s hand on Kieran’s shoulder stopped his tirade at his great-aunts. His grandmother, still proud in her heritage came forward from the gaggle of women to meet Kieran.
“Forgive me for not getting up to greet you properly, Huntress-emeritus, but my keepers and the doctors don’t want me putting weight on my legs at the moment.” Kieran said extending his hand to his grandmother.
The old woman took his hand and stiffened for a moment before bowing as best as she could given her bad leg. Rising she spoke.
“Forgive me for not being able to give you the proper courtesy due your rank, Hunter Kieran.” There were gasps from the crowd in the hall. “The matriarchs and I are at your service, honored grandson.”
Kieran was glad he was sitting down. Never had he heard such respect in his grandmother’s voice. The woman was sincere in her new found respect. Before he could reply she turned and stood at his side and addressed the gathered family.
“Know this all members of the House of Beauty, this day I acknowledge a new Hunter and leader of the House of Beauty. I present to you my grandson, a Hunter who in his test has slain a dozen shifters and retains his magic. Kieran Samuel Belle, I acknowledge you this day as Hunter and head of the House of Beauty. We are yours to command.”
“Thank you grandmother. The time has come to clean out the forest of the shifter pack and to put an end to the lineage of the Beast. Go about your regular duties and rest tonight. Tomorrow the House of Beauty prepares for war.” Kieran said before turning his chair to face Cory, Billy and Ian. The young boy had his arms wrapped around the wolf’s neck and his face buried in Billy’s fur. Cory stood over them looking proudly at Kieran.
Sensing eyes on him Ian lifted his head from Billy’s fur but kept a tight hold on the wolf as if afraid he would vanish.
“You two seem to have become fast friends, cousin.” Kieran said to the boy.
“He’s wonderful, Sir. We’ve never had animals in the house before. Is he really a shifter?”
Billy gently pulled loose from the young boy and padded over to Kieran and rubbed his collar against Kieran’s hand. Kieran looked down at the wolf and silver eyes met amber ones before the man nodded and unfastened the clasp on the collar. With a howl, Billy the wolf returned to being Billy the boy. Billy the naked boy, whom Kieran quickly wrapped in the blanket, which had been covering the casts on his legs. Billy rose on shaky legs and walked over to Ian, then wrapped the startled boy in a hug. Kieran and Cory glanced at each other with huge grins on their faces as the two boys hugged.
“I think you’re about the same size as cousin Henry. Lets go see if any of his clothes fit you.” Ian said to Billy.
Billy glanced over his shoulder at his uncles, who nodded their approval, before allowing Ian to drag him off to find clothes. For being the same age Ian was smaller than Billy both in height and body mass, Kieran noted. Some time later when dinner for the main family was being called Cory wandered the halls of the cousins’ living quarters looking for Billy so the boy could eat with them. He found Billy and Ian sitting in the strangest position. Billy was on wedged in the narrow hallway with his bare feet pressed to one wall and his shoulders and upper back pressed against the opposite wall. On his legs seated in a lotus position was Ian who was bent over and kissing Billy. Wow, thought Cory these two move fast. Wonder if Billy sensed a potential mate. They look so cute like this. I have to get a picture for Kieran to see. Cory took out his cell phone and snapped a picture of the two boys before he disturbed them.
“It’s time for dinner, guys. Kieran wants you both at our table tonight.”
Ian looked up with eyes grass green eyes as wide as saucers, Billy merely grinned at his uncle. He’d known Cory was there the entire time and had kept Ian unaware of his approaching uncle. He liked Ian a lot, there was something special between them and he knew that after Uncle Kieran dealt with the evil shifters in the woods, Billy would be asking for his collar back so he could remain in human form.