For the second time today, I debated my outfit of choice. It was skinny jeans and a short white crop top – something Sienna had laid out for me. Everyone seemed to be helping me with everything these two days. Someone would fetch me food, someone would make sure I had everything I needed, the day before Xena yelled at someone because the soup was too hot for me to drink immediately. I felt a little claustrophobic. I knew why they did what they did but they needed to dial it down a little.
I decided to throw on a longer sweatshirt. I was alone for now, Reece had convened an Alpha meeting to let everyone know what had gone down at the castle. It was the day he told them that I was a Nihl, if they hadn’t already figured it out.
The outlook was promising, from what Grey told me. Everyone was in favor, and everyone wanted the Nihls back. This was their second chance to mend the bridges and they were going to take it.
I was technically still on bed-rest, but I’d had enough. I couldn’t stay in our room for so long. I needed to get out and breathe a little, and not out on the balcony, out into the open. Deciding to do just that, I opened the doors to our grand suite and stepped out. The faces of two surprised guards met mine and I shook my head as one of them was about to curtsy.
“Tell no one.” I instructed and they looked hesitant. I decided to push it further, “That’s a command.” I told them and then they reluctantly nodded. I was about to walk away, but then stopped to put them at ease.
“Don’t worry, I just need some air. I won’t wander far.” They looked visibly relieved.
Making my way to the side of the building, I managed to get out undetected, I knew my scent would still linger, but it was fairly windy outside, and it would give me a little while before someone figured out exactly where I was. I decided to venture a little more into the woods, to a nearby river I’d seen from my room. It should be beautiful.
I could hear the sound of the stream and just moved in that general direction. The ground was more or less flat and there was plenty of sunlight pouring in. It would have been a perfect day to go camping with my mom, and Xena.
“Need a breather?” Hank’s voice startled me, and I barely avoided falling over a root. He immediately hovered closer. “Sorry, Flo. I didn’t mean to startle you. I guess your werewolf senses haven’t developed yet.” He chuckled. I gave him a sheepish smile.
“Are you keeping an eye on me, or did you need a breather too?”
He gave me a lopsided smile. “I was taking a breather, but now I guess I’m doing both.” He answered honestly and I nodded. Then he tilted his head in another direction and said, “There’s a small deck over there which overlooks the stream. I’ll walk you to it and then leave you be.”
We walked in silence for the most part, both our minds were elsewhere. I knew he was thinking about his cousin. I knew it killed him to keep it aside and focus on the mission, and now that this whole scene was over, he was free to grieve, to gather himself, to understand what was going on.
“Where’s Zia?” I asked him and a small smile lit his face. “She’s gone back to finish some work at home.” I raised an eyebrow and he chuckled. “Zia… she wasn’t raised like us. She was raised a stray. She had no idea that she was a wolf and I freaked her out.” His eyes had a twinkle as he thought back to the memory. I suppressed my reaction, willing for him to continue. “So, she’s raised as a human. She tries to value the pack and honor our traditions, but some things are just suffocating for her. She needs breathers more than I do. Besides, she has a very successful business to run, I wouldn’t want to be in the way of that.”
I nodded, this was surprising but interesting.
We reached a small path that was more defined than usual. The trees broke apart to a small landing and a wooden deck that extended out over the river. It was perfect. Nothing breathtaking but just the right amount for someone to relax. I smiled at the site, wishing I’d gotten a speaker or earphones. I’d been so behind on my work, the director I had a meeting with on my first night at The Wolf had left me several messages. I’d get back to writing, it’d keep me grounded.
“I won’t tell anyone till they ask me.” Hank promised and for that, I was grateful.
“But, Flora. Please remember that you can mindlink in case something happens. Everyone’s close by.” He told me and I nodded, I did always forget that I could do that.
“Hank?” I asked him as a doubt crossed my mind.
“I keep wondering if there’s a mastermind.”
“What do you mean? We caught them - Jeff and Kin - they were the masterminds and their followers will be caught soon since Jeff sang like a canary before we killed him.”
“Something about what Brianna said - about the matching tattoos on their heads and them being answerable to some woman - I keep wondering if that is true. I have this feeling….”
“Look, if it is, then we’ll get her too. For now, you need to stop thinking about everything and take a day for yourself.”
The sound of the stream was the only music I had but I was grateful for that. It felt good to connect with nature, get out of that massive, superior room and feel more down to earth. Everything was too grand when it came to Reece, I guess if you were a King you got used to it.
Tasmin hadn’t contacted me since then, and we’d sent people to Greece to find them, but I was sure she wouldn’t trust them even if they found them. I hoped they were okay, and the others hadn’t found them before we got to them. She looked so small, not someone who should be fighting this battle, and definitely not someone who doesn’t have guidance on what is going on. I had spent the last two days in bed, tracing the history of it – there was barely any. I couldn’t even decide if it was a bloodline thing or just random.
I would ask my mom more about my father.
A part of me was itching to go join the Alpha meetings, and another wanted to stay as far away from them as possible, not trusting anyone apart from my loved ones. I felt solely responsible for the other Nihls – the ones with Tasmin and the ones with no one. I could try to will their safety, but the risk was too high with my injuries still healing. My mind was still recuperating, and the consequences were unknown. I needed to stay alive not just for my friends and myself, but also for this small minority of people whose best chance to live would be through me, and the pull I would now have over the werewolf kingdom.
Aaaah. There was just so much on my plate that I didn’t even want to eat anymore. If that made sense. For now, I would relax. I closed my eyes and leaned back on the wooden deck, letting the sounds calm me.
“Flora? Mate?” His voice was gentle but also concerned. His hand was encircled around my wrist. I felt the warm sparks flow through and smiled. “Come on, it’s getting chilly outside.” He urged, but I could hear a smile in his voice. I peeped one eye open and looked at him, leaning over me, an adorable smile on his face.
“But I’m so comfortable.” I whined, still sleepy but aware. Reece let out a hearty chuckle. “I shall get this deck to replace our bed then.” I gave him a sly smile, and then tugged on his wrist instead, making him tumble on top of me in surprise. I knew his reflexes were fast enough that he wouldn’t fall directly on me – seeing as I still had wounds that wouldn’t take that kind of abuse.
Both his hands came on either side of me, like he was mid push-up and I had just slithered below him. “I don’t think so. This deck looks…breakable.” I told him with a shy but flirty smile. His reaction was priceless as he registered my joke, before matching me with a smile of his own.
“Someone’s in a good mood.” He mused but didn’t come close to touching me. He was being too careful. I was still delicate in his head. I raised an eyebrow, impressed that he could hold this stance for so long. If someone asked me to do a push-up I would have crumpled within a minute.
“I could get you to be in a good mood too.” I promised him, even adding in a wink. The way his body reacted just to my words, it was a powerful drug to my ego. Reece inhaled deeply, as if trying to control his instincts, but from the looks of his pants, I knew that wasn’t working.
In a flash he was off me, standing a few feet away. I knew this was going to happen. His lust was always lesser than his protective instincts. I plopped myself up on an elbow, wincing slightly as I did this, and frowned at him.
“Afraid you’ll lose control?” I asked him and he shook his head. “Never with you.”
“Then why’d you get off?”
“You’re not ready.” He told me. Now he had my attention.
“What do you mean? We’ve done this before.” I told him, how does he know when I’m ready or not?
“I mean, my injuries are minimal now, nothing’s going to go wrong.” I told him and he shook his head.
“The injuries, although important, are secondary.” He told me, coming closer again. I watched him carefully, he was going to make his point by showing me something.
Reece crouched down next to me and put his hand behind my neck, pulling me closer to him. I met his lips with my own eager ones, showing him that I was good to go. He was holding most of my upper body weight with his hand behind my neck. I leaned in further, ignoring the small aches, feeling wonderful.
His other hand moved to my waist, the fingers dipping below the hem of my shirt to gently graze my skin. The familiar desire coursed through me and then he raised the hem higher, the sweatshirt coming up as his fingers moved up. Something in me froze and I clamped a hand on his wrist, stopping his movement. “Then tell me, why did you not wear the crop top laid out for you?” He whispered, his breath making my head foggy. He was not the slightest baffled at my actions, as if he knew this was going to happen.
Me on the other hand? I was staring at my own hand as if it was alien. His hand moved away from my waist, and settled on my chin, raising my eyes to meet his. I was still processing my own feelings. “Not all wounds are visible, mate.” He told me kindly and I swallowed. I didn’t think it’d have been an issue. I was so sure that I was fine.
“I don’t know what happened.” I told him truthfully, still trying to understand what made me stop him. Reece gave me a loving smile. “That’s okay. There is no hurry.”
“He carved out lines on your stomach, Flora. And watched you with a smile as he did it. The scars are a constant reminder. If you can’t see them yet, will you be okay with me seeing them?” He told me quietly and it took everything in me not to break down once again, in front of him. As if sensing this, Reece moved behind me, engulfing me in a warm hug from the back. I closed my eyes and leaned into him, enjoying the comfort his body offered my mind.
And just like that, we stayed. With me in his arms, and him occasionally tracing circles on my skin, over the material. Once in a while he would raise the hem a little, just to test how okay I was, but he never pushed too far. I still couldn’t believe that he got all that just from the fact that I didn’t wear what Sienna picked out. Had he asked her to? This was something leagues apart – he should be a detective character in my plots. I let out a sigh, both content and anxious.
I just wanted to be normal again – well, as normal as I could be.
“Things take time, love.” He told me affectionately as he nibbled on my ear. I nodded, understanding what he meant now.
“I knooow.” I stretched, turning, to face him. The movement made me wince and immediately Reece changed positions, moving to sit beside me now. We moved ahead so that our legs were dangling off the deck, just a foot above the water.
“I just want to get back on my feet – start the hunt for Tasmin and Jura and the rest.” I told him and he nodded. “Don’t worry, we’ll find them. There’s anyway not much we can do till they contact us again. We think someone has a masking power – because we can find no trace of any scent anywhere.” He told me and I nodded.
“That’s a relief then.” I said, but my mind was on a million other things. Reece gave me a questioning look and I shrugged.
“I just wish there was a way to speed it up, you know? Get better, I mean.”
“Well, I could always take you from behind.” Reece joked, teasing.
And so, I pushed him into the water.