Two burning coals glowed in the distance. The eyes of a beast, whose rumbling was becoming quieter as the night grew colder, glowered at me. My tired muscles propelled me forward, but with each step I took, I became farther behind. Liquid sleep ran through my veins, and I growled as my body slowed. My legs gave out beneath me as the beast rumbled on. My mate was in the belly of that beast, and here I lay, powerless to save her.
My eyes snapped open. Lifting a tired arm, I ran my hand through my hair. Grimacing at the chill that caressed my damp, clammy, skin, I sucked a breath between my clenched teeth. It had been just over a week since she left. Since then I had spent every waking moment looking for her. That was a lie. I spent half my time looking, and the other half of my time running through every detail of that night. Highlighting where I had failed. Pinpointing the exact moment when I lost everything.
It was almost as if I believed that if I found the moment it all went wrong; I would be given the opportunity to make it right. A sudden clap of thunder sounded before a wicked vein of lightning lit up the purple sky outside my window. I didn’t even blink at nature’s sudden outcry. I didn’t even turn my head. It had failed to surprise me because my life had been a constant storm since she left.
Mother nature wailed out again. Screaming her dominance over her dominion. The wind picked up, forcing the tree outside my window to tap its fingers against the glass. The musical tinkling begging me to take notice, urging me to cower at the storm’s magnificence. I could almost see the rabbits running to their burrows and the birds taking flight. The great mother spoke, and her subjects answered.
I, however, was already holed up in the dark corners of my own thoughts. Already weathering a storm I had no chance of surviving. Insanity cursed me, while reasoning plagued me. Recalling the events of that night would gain me nothing but pain, but a voice told me I had earned it. It told me that the emptiness I would soon be drowning in was my reward for squandering the best gift the moon goddess had given me.
Closing my eyes, I let the memories overtake me. The hollow ache I felt reminded me of the silence that lurked in every corner of my dark home.
Ade hadn’t come home that night. I had given her space after our fight. I had decided to let things go. After all, Brenden was gone, so the problem was too. Ade and I would be together soon. Once I had marked her, our bond would grow, and Ade would regain her connection with her wolf.
When it began to rain and she still hadn’t returned I became nervous. Pacing the kitchen, I contacted Jeremy and a patrol of wolves and sent them looking for her. She could be lost or injured. Or maybe she had decided to run. My mind hadn’t wanted to believe that. She had agreed to be with me.
'She did that for him', my conscience whispered. My hand twitches, aching to tug at my hair. She had wanted to protect her old friend, her mate, from me. My breath hitched. The familiar stab of pain was coiling itself around my chest, constricting my rib cage. My own mate feared what I would do to someone she cared about.
She had been nowhere near being ready for the mark. I should have seen that. I think I did, but a selfish part of me held onto the fact that she had agreed to it. I had hoped the bond would heal everything, that her surrender would give me the opportunity to love her, to care for her the way I desperately needed to. I could show her the joys of living in the pack. I could heal her with all the love she never received, with a family that was eager to embrace her.
Another clap of thunder brought me back to that night. When the storm grew more intense and she still didn’t come home, I linked my patrol, telling them I was joining in the search. Patrick would stay at my house in case she returned. I had traced a trail back to the compound when my patrol linked me. They had tracked her to the far edge of the property and they believed she would try to leave pack lands.
I had told them to stop her, as I turned tail and ran towards her. When they caught up to her, they approached her and she refused to come with them. They began to get hostile with her and I had ordered them to stop. I told them to keep her on the property until I arrived, and I would handle it from there. It wasn’t long after that all hell broke loose.
I had been thinking of what I would say to her. I would promise her that we could wait as long as she wanted, that I would forget Brenden as long as he never returned. I just needed her to stay. I never had the opportunity to tell here any of that though. When I broke through the trees, my wolves were under attack.
Ade was fighting a scentless masked figure. The moment she saw me, she called out for me to help her. Seeing her terrified made me lose all control. I knew instantly that the attackers were from the rebellion. As I threw a wolf off of me, I charged for my mate, but more wolves came.
The minute I got close; the attackers began shooting tranquilizer darts into the fray. Adeline disappeared into the belly of a black van, the wolves dispersed and I chased after them. I could feel the darts pierce my skin. My men began to fall around me, but I couldn’t stop. My mate was counting on me to save her.
My body betrayed me, and I began to slow down as the van picked up speed. The passenger was still shooting at me, and urging myself forward, I clamped down on the weapon and pulled it from the man’s grasp. I could hear my mate struggling, I could smell her fear permeating the vehicle from the open window. That drove me on. Soon I couldn’t tell if I was slowing or if the vehicle was speeding up. My legs began to cramp and my body began to tire.
I chased the van until I could no longer feel. Until I could barely move. When I finally fell to the ground, I heaved air into my weary lungs. Air that was laced with the dust of the vehicles retreating further into the night. Her dust.
When I woke up, I was in the med clinic. My father had been pacing the room, and Patrick was on the phone with Jeremy. By the time Jeremy had reached the clearing, the attackers were gone. After learning what had happened from an injured wolf, he had called for backup and had begun to pursue them. Considering Adeline as his friend, he had gone off on his own, hoping he could stop them before they got too far.
He reached out to all his contacts, and one called back saying they had seen a caravan that matched his description. He followed his intel into a city. He tracked her scent from a rental car lot to an alley, then it was gone. It disappeared as if she had never existed. Still hopeful, Jeremy set up a search of the surrounding areas. He returned bruised and empty-handed.
He hadn’t given up though. Going back to the car lot, he got the names the cars had been rented under. We tried to pull up the company’s security footage to find that it had mysteriously stopped recording two days before. Two days. This had obviously been planned.
I put a lot of hope into the names the cars were rented under, only to have that hope crushed when I discovered it had been a front for another fake name. After that, we were back to square one. Following my father’s advice, I formally opened a case for Adeline and forged paperwork stating she was a member of my pack. Then I contacted the surrounding alphas asking for help in finding my mate and future luna. Doing this, making sure she was in the system ensured that if she was picked up, she wouldn’t be treated as a rogue. She would have the safety of my name until I could reach her.
If she even wants it. Lightning lit up my room once more, and my morose turned rancid in my gut. Had she planned all this with him? In the moments they were alone had she agreed to go with him? Had she strung me along like the fool I was?
No, she had meant it when she agreed to be my mate. Besides, did it really matter if she had? She was my mate, and I had claimed her as such in front of my pack. I couldn’t just let her go. I couldn’t just let him go. Not now.
Would she ever forgive me if I killed Brenden? What if she accepted his mark? Could I let her go then? My hands twitched, and my dormant wolf howled to life. The flames that licked and ate away at the bones that kept them caged in my chest sizzled hungrily. No.
Was love really letting go? Or was it holding on with bloody fists and white knuckles? Was it the sweet release of surrender? Or was it the defiant howl of the broken beast who, after being defeated, still clung to the earth, clawing his way towards the only victory he had ever wanted? His chosen.
I wasn’t sure what the right answer was, but I knew that my heart wasn’t capable of living a love half fought for.
Now, fully rooted in the present I fisted my sheets, thinking about the possibility that I wouldn’t find her in time. Then a chilling thought rolled over me. What if I didn’t find her at all? Rain began pelting my window, and focusing on the continuous hammering relaxed me. Closing my eyes, I clung to the sound, hoping it could lull me to sleep.
“Alpha, we have a visitor,” a warrior linked me from the border. My eyes snapped open, and I growled. “ Find out where they are from. If they are cleared to be here, set them up in a guest house until morning.” Rolling over in bed, I put my pillow over my head.
“Alpha, it is councilman Eli Hunt and he says he has news about Adeline.”