One Year Later
It’s funny how life goes on, even when your heart is breaking.
I remember the night that Eros called me, telling me what had happened, though I already knew. I had felt the family bond snap into place with Sophia and knew that they had completed the mating. He hadn’t known about the battle that had taken place, and we had taken painstaking measures to ensure that he never would. We removed the scene of all bodies; the blood mopped up, and our scent thoroughly washed away.
The same heart that had been brimming with love for my son and his beautiful mate then broke, hearing his words as he told me he wasn’t coming back. I listened without uttering a word as he told me all about Sophia, how she was a panther being hunted by a ruthless murderer that used to be her Alpha.
I remember thinking that we had been right to keep the battle from him – he told me he had run away not only to protect Sophia but also to protect the pack. It would break his heart if he found out the battle had made its way to us, regardless.
They were building an army they said. They needed people who understood Sophia’s condition and who would protect her, and fight by her side. I assured him that we would protect her and love her as one of her own. And he knew from experience that we would always fight by her side in order to protect her. She was our family.
It wasn’t enough. Not for Jeremy. Eros believed that he would rip through our defences like a hot knife through butter.
Khaos had told me about some creatures Jeremy had created, and I felt a shiver run through my mind as I remembered the vivid descriptions he gave me. It seems Jeremy had plans for the shifter world, and the sooner Eros found out what those were, the sooner he would be able to return to us.
Khaos had felt my pain that night, and he had come running to me. Still bloody from his battle, with his eyes swollen and his body battered and bruised, he came to me, pushing his own pain aside as he scooped me into his arms. His mate needed him. He would never lay down and lick his wounds whilst he sensed my anguish. I came first with him. Always.
I told him what Eros had told me, and he had simply rocked me, murmuring small words of comfort until I was soothed and relaxed.
“Eros will return to us when the time is right, little one. We’re his family, and we love him. He knows he’s safe here.”
I didn’t respond. I didn’t need to. Khaos knew me better than I knew myself.
If I didn’t say the words out loud, then they weren’t real. The minute I put my fears into words and spoke them, I was putting them out into the universe, almost taunting it, challenging it to make them real.
It was stupid, and it was irrational, but my worst fears had already come true in the past. I knew how cruel the hands of fate could be.
When Eros had rang back a week later, Khaos had ripped the phone out of my grasp and had barked a few choice words at Eros. It was the first time I really heard them argue, Khaos was always the more patient parent - no one was more surprised about this than I was, but it was true. He raised his kid with a firm but gentle hand. There were little rules in this house, and nothing was off the table for discussion, we would make every decision as a family and the kids were free to call a family meeting and let us know what we weren’t doing to make sure they were happy, and we would take steps to change that. Together. There were no secrets amongst us.
So I guess, in a way, I could understand Khaos’ anger towards Eros and Sophia. They had made this decision alone, deciding amongst themselves what was the safest thing to do for the pack, forgetting the measures we already had in place to ensure they were safe.
Much like at the Dragonheart pack all those years ago, the warriors we had were fierce, abominable even. The only difference being, these warriors, both male and female, were people who had been hurt beyond recognition. They may have lost their mate, parents, siblings. They may have been abused as Khaos himself was. They were loyal to a fault, but they were not people you wanted to be friends with.
It wasn’t long before we gave them the name Lycan, to distinguish them from the warriors that patrolled the pack as guards or trainers. The Lycans embraced this change and tattooed themselves with their own emblem, marking them as different and warning any trespassers to stay away.
Eros wouldn’t listen to this. He said he could not risk any harm coming to Antheia, he wouldn’t unleash war onto us for no reason. This was his mess, and he would sort it.
I was so proud of the man that he had become - in such a short time he had forgotten his playboy ways and adapted to the life of a mated male, putting her life above his own.
I had no idea how long father and son argued for, but by the end of it, Khaos was red-faced as he slammed the phone down.
Eros still kept me up to date with where they were at. Every two weeks I would receive a rushed phone call as they let me know their next plan and I would mark their steps on the map I had created, enabling me to follow them. Every month I would get a letter that provided me with more detail, and it was through these letters that I realised the true extent of their problems.
Sophia was not just a hybrid; she was a complete mixed breed. Don’t ask me to explain because I don’t know much about it. All I know is she could be either a wolf or a panther, or a grotesque mixture of both.
Due to the reputation of my mate, as well as the rumours that had formed over the year, the packs they visited initially welcomed them with open arms. The minute they smelled Sophia, it went one of two ways.
They either grew scared, recognising her as one of their own but also belonging to the wolves and they would throw her out.
Or they would attack.
I finished reading Eros’ latest later and felt my anger growing at the contents. Khaos walked in to find me in front of the map, staring at the place where they told me they would next be headed to.
“Finished?” He asked softly, leaning against the doorframe.
“Almost,” I replied with a sigh, taking a step back to survey my work. Khaos didn’t get involved with my maps. He knew that so long as I could track my son, I could feel as though I had some control over the situation.
“And he’s okay?” He nodded at the latest letter from Eros. He had been the one to bring it to me, knowing that if there was anything seriously wrong, I would bring it to his attention.
Khaos came forward then and pulled me into his arms, his hand coming up to soothe the lines of worry on my forehead. “Look at who his mum is. How could you ever doubt that he would find himself in trouble? You managed this for years and years, little one. And that was with a newborn to take care of. At least Eros has his Sophia.”
I tucked myself in close to his body, resting my head on his chest as I wrapped my arms around his waist and smiled to myself. I was so lucky to have him. This year had been difficult on us, and we had argued more now than we ever did before. However, things finally seemed to improve. But those first few weeks after Eros had gone had really taken its toll on us. We had barely spoken for fear of snapping at each other. Especially when Antheia was around. We didn’t want her to be raised in a toxic environment.
Our sex life was as good as ever - our bond was one that could not be denied. However, those early days, it was emotionless, detached sex. He didn’t cover my body in kisses and murmur words of love and affection down my ear. No longer did he hold me as every last tremor left me. Our sex was passionate and all-consuming, but the minute it was over we went our separate ways. Thank the Goddess that hurdle had passed us, and even though we had only been like that for a month tops, Khaos had dedicated the best part of a year proving that he wanted me as fiercely as ever. I had never felt so thoroughly loved, and exhausted, in my entire life.
I heard him sigh, and I raised my face to him. “Sweetheart… I know you love what you’re doing in here, and if it brings you happiness and comfort, I fully support it. However, you do know that once you’ve read their letters, their movements are sometimes weeks old.”
He picked up the letter than I had discarded a moment ago and quickly scanned over the words. His lips tightened into a thin line, a white line forming around the shape of them. “What the fuck is this?” He demanded.
I shrugged. “You read the exact same words as me. There’s no special ink on there that only my eyes can see. We’re in the same position here.”
“Cut the sarcasm, now is not the time. Who told them this?” He waved the letter at me, his index finger covering the passage he was referring to.
“Again, I don’t know, he didn’t tell m—” I flinched as Khaos began to shred the letter, hurling the tiny pieces away from him.
“This was meant to be over!” He almost whispered, running his hands through his hair.
“Hey, we’re no worse off now than we were last year. We always suspected that the Gods might be at play here – I know it can’t be easy reading it, but we always had our suspicions. This changes nothing.”
“I know, little one, I know,” he whispered, pulling me tightly into his arms. “Of all the things to be right about, I had to be right about this.”
I knew where he was coming from.
It was one thing to have our suspicions, but it was another thing to realise that the horror we had imagined was exactly what was happening.
Sophia was a panther hybrid. Her loyalty was split between two Goddesses. Selene, the Goddess of the Moon, protector of the wolves. And Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, protector of the panthers.
“Don’t give in to the anger, Khaos. We can fix this!”
“Can we?” He said, expelling a puff of air. “We should have known that we could never go against the Gods and win! Why didn’t we put this together earlier?”
“How were we supposed to know? The Moon Goddess promised us we were safe; we could never have predicted that she would find herself effectively mated to Hades—”
“We knew that Artemis was his sister! We should have been more prepared to face up to the fact that she owns the panthers, just like the moon goddess owns us!”
“Khaos... We had no idea that Mark was a panther.”
“Until a year ago!” He shouted. “We have had a year to prepare for this and we’ve done nothing! Of course Hades made it so that Sophia and Eros would be mates!”
“Look,” I said, holding him in my arms to try to ease the distraught look on his face, “this might not be a bad thing, they—”
He threw his arms out and brushed me off him, shocking me with the venomous look he threw in my direction. “Of course it’s a bad thing! I should never have listened to you in the first place. I wanted to hunt Eros down and bring him back where he belongs at the beginning of this charade, you were the one that insisted we allow him to protect his... his mate,” he almost spat the word.
“Khaos,” I whispered, feeling my heart shatter. He rushed back forward and grabbed me fiercely.
“Shit, Violet. I’m sorry. I know it’s not your fault. I know. I just can’t stand the thought of Eros being out there alone. I failed him once—”
“You didn’t fail him!” I almost shouted.
“How didn’t I fail him?” He growled. “Stop living your life with your head in the sand like your mother and learn to face the facts. Eros’ life is no longer his own, once again the Gods are using our family as their playground and the only people who are going to end up hurt will be the kids. Whilst you’re having a realisation of the truth as well, consider this. Eros is headed towards the Atlantis pack as we speak - he may already be there. You just remember what took place and who definitely still holds a grudge against us.”
I gasped as an image was projected to me over the bond and covered my mouth in horror. “That’s right, little one. Between Jeremy, Hades and whatever awaits him at the Atlantis pack, our son has effectively signed his own death warrant and you let it happen. I warned you no good could come of him mating to that creature and now look where he is - just know that if anything happens to him, I blame you for it. My instinct was to keep Eros and Sophia part. I wanted to reject that part of his life and find him a choice mate. You insisted that true mates were the best option. Conveniently you forgot about all the shitty examples of choices mates – Drake and Ryssa. Nyx and Grey. Yeah, great choices there, Violet.”
He stormed out of the room, leaving me stood in shock as I tried to process everything he had just said. He was right. There was no way both Eros and Sophia would survive this - not with the bounty they had right now.