Twelve years old
“Come here, Eros!” Sophia called, “My mum wants to meet you since apparently I never shut up about you!” She laughed, not at all embarrassed by her revelation.
I held out my hand to the older lady as I murmured politely. “It’s nice to meet you, ma’am,” I told her, making sure my handshake was firm, remembering all the things my dad had told me about first impressions.
“What lovely manners!” She grinned, shaking the hand I offered her. “Any friend of Sophia’s is welcome here! Are you hungry, Eros?”
“I’m always hungry.” I grinned back, liking her instantly.
“Just like our Sophia, she never seems to stop eating. Well, come on, come on, get inside.” She looked around, her eyes darting behind us.
Was it me, or did she look nervous about something?
“Are you okay, ma’am?” I asked in concern, feeling my wolf come forward as he recognised the instinct to protect those who may be in danger.
“What? Oh, yes. I’m fine. Just looking for Sophia’s father – Mark. You’ll meet him soon. And enough of this ma’am business, you make me feel old.”
“That’s what my mum says,” I laughed.
“Then me and your mum have something in common.” She ushered me and Sophia inside, locking the door behind us. She pointed to the living room. “I’ll leave you two to it. Sandwiches okay for everyone?” She waited until we nodded and then went to leave. At the last minute, she poked her head around the door frame. “And Eros? Please, call me Jasmine.”
Where had I heard that name before?
My wolf came forward with a joyful shout, nudging in my mind as he tried to tell me what was happening.
Before I could focus on my wolf, Sophia’s mum clasped my hand, shaking it firmly, a frown appearing on her face. “Have we met before? Your face is so familiar to me...” her voice trailed off as her eyes widened. She grasped my hand, pulling me closer, her head descending to inhale my hair deeply. “Violet,” she whispered, looking completely awestruck.
“Mum?” Sophia questioned, raising her eyebrow at the scene the pair of us made. Jasmine laughed, gently pushing me away from her.
“I’m sorry, you remind me of someone, but it’s not possible.”
I took my shot, knowing that I may be a million miles from the truth, but wanting to do this for my mother, regardless. If there was even a small chance that I was right, I had to take my chance. I would never forgive myself. My mother had been heartbroken over the loss of her friend for as long as I could remember, and I know the guilt of not knowing how she fared still kept her up at night.
I took a deep breath. “Did you once belong to the Dragon Heart Pack? Under the leadership of a man named Khaos?” Jasmine paled more than I thought it was possible for our kind to do so.
She pulled back from me, her hand clamped over her mouth as tears sprung to her eyes - although I couldn’t tell if these were because of overwhelming emotions or genuine fear.
“Who sent you?” she demanded, her face growing angry before my eyes. “Sophia, get him out of my house! Now!”
“Mum, what has gotten into you? It’s just Eros—”
I interrupted before the situation got completely out of control, “I didn’t mean to scare you, Jasmine - my parents… they have been looking for you for a long time. Especially my mum, Violet...”
“Violet mated again?” she gasped, her eyes clouding over as she focused on her memories. “I never thought she would be able to get over it… the two of them were unlike anything I had ever seen.” She shook her head slightly and looked at me once more. “Sorry, Eros, I’m sure you love your father, and I imagine your mother loves him very much too. It’s just Violet and Khaos… they were…”
“What? No, I think you misunderstand me, Jasmine. My mother did not mate again... Khaos is my father.”
I thought Jasmine was going to pass out as her face paled even further. “That’s not possible - you’re lying.”
I think my dad possessed my body for a moment because I scoffed in her face, folding my arms over my chest. “I have no reason to lie.”
Jasmine smiled softly, “You look so like your mother, apart from your dark hair, but when you stand like that, it’s like Khaos all over again. His mannerism are your own, it’s uncanny,” she paused, looking off into the distance and stroking down her arms. “I’m sorry for your loss, Eros. Khaos was an amazing man whilst he lived – though not without his demons. I don’t know why I’m surprised really,” she added with a small laugh, “the two of them were at it like rabbits.”
My cheeks flamed at her remark, but I remained silent. I knew what my parents were like.
“Khaos looked after me when no one else would. I know a lot of people hated him, they feared his reputation, but I promise you, the world became that little darker when Khaos left it. And Goddess knows it’s dark enough as it is,” she added in a soft voice, almost too quiet for anyone else to hear.
“I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear that,” I told her.
She looked at me through the corner of her eye, “it’s nice that you still have your faith and believe that he’s still around. Your mother did an excellent job keeping his memory alive—”
I laughed, “his memory isn’t alive, but Khaos very much is.”
“What?” She asked, a frown marring her pretty features.
“It’s true mum,” Sophia interjected. “I’ve seen Khaos myself. I had no idea he was your friend, or I would have told you ages ago. I’ve seen him drop Eros off at school sometimes. He’s nice,” she added with a shrug of her shoulders.
“He lives? He truly lives?”
I stepped forward and placed my hand on her shoulder, making her jump with my touch.
“Come with me, I’ll take you to my pack and you can see for yourself.”
“I- I can’t,” she stuttered, once again looking around in fear. Luckily, it was Sophia who came to my rescue.
“Mum, for as long as I can remember you have talked about your old pack and how much you miss them. Eros isn’t Alpha Jeremy, he’s not here to cause any harm,” she whispered, probably hoping it was low enough for me not to hear.
“Who is Alpha Jer—”
“I’d love to come to your pack, thank you for inviting me,” Jasmine almost shouted, pulling herself together with a quick shake and smiling at me as though nothing had happened. Sophia looked at the ground, almost seemingly ashamed of the secret her mother was hiding.
I would have to mention that to my father. Clearly, something was scaring them, and if anyone could get to the bottom of it, it was definitely him.
“Come on then, I’ll lead the way,” I smiled back, decided to drop the subject of the mysterious Alpha Jeremy for the time being.
As we walked, I linked my mum, “Mum, I’m bringing guests, and you’re not going to believe who it is…”************
Allowing her to travel behind me went against all Alpha instincts I possessed. My dad always travelled at the back of the pack whenever we went out as a group – he said it was his job to make sure that he could see any attack approaching us and to take the force of an attack that came from an enemy at our backs. At the back of the pack, he could see each and every member. He could make sure no one was left behind, that no one was struggling with the pace. He was able to assess any situation, determining when we should take our breaks when the pups were getting restless. I hated that Jasmine was behind me. My instincts were to protect her, but she had insisted that because I knew the way, I went up front and showed her where we were going.
I had argued my point, but once Sophia took her mother’s side, it was hard for me to argue against them. I agreed – reluctantly, and with my teeth gritted. My dad wouldn’t be happy about it, but what choice did I have if she refused to lead?
“Hey,” Sophia said softly, linking her arm through mine. “What’s on your mind?”
I looked down at her hand curled up around my forearm and smiled at her. Sometimes I looked at her and thought that she was so beautiful and perfect, it made my heart hurt. I hated that I was looking at her like this when she had only ever shown me friendly affection. I didn’t want to be the love-sick puppy dog stuck in the friend zone, but lately, I couldn’t help the way I was thinking towards her. I was only twelve, much too young to fall in love, but what I felt for Sophia was pretty damn close, I was sure of it.
“Is your mum okay back there?” I finally responded to her, my voice as soft as her own.
She sighed and gave my arm a squeeze. “She’s fine, Eros, I promise you. She wouldn’t have volunteered if she weren’t comfortable. She doesn’t like to travel in a group – she says that it draws too much attention.”
“I would feel much better if I could see her, though. Her being nervous makes me nervous,”
Sophia laughed gently, “look at you being the young Alpha!” She unlinked my arm to give me a playful punch to my bicep. “Your dad would be proud.”
I was so transfixed on her smile I didn’t notice the small rock in front of me. I tripped over, only just about managing to steady myself, biting my own tongue as I tried to stop myself from falling over my own feet. I heard Sophia try to hold in her laughter and so I laughed back, trying in vain to play off my embarrassment, but I had no doubt that my cheeks were burning red. “Err, yeah. Looks as though his training finally paid off,” I said, looking anywhere but at her.
“Eros,” Sophia said seriously. She stopped, jerking her head back towards her mum who was sniffing around a tree.
“What is she doing?”
“Scenting. Isn’t that obvious?”
There were a million questions I wanted to ask at that moment. Why was Jasmine so afraid? Why was Sophia acting as though this sort of paranoid behaviour was a common occurrence? What had happened to them? Did it have anything to do with their disappearances that happened a few times a year? Sophia would always tell me they went on holiday, but I never really bought it. They disappeared without saying goodbye to anyone; they didn’t take any of their things with them – I know because I often went to their house to keep it tidy and clean for them during their absences, and they came back just as suddenly, with no evidence to prove they had been away on holiday. I never voiced any of these questions, though. It wasn’t my business. Besides, I doubt I would understand their reasonings. I might like to think that I was a mini-Alpha, but I was still far too young to understand all the ways of the world.
“Thank you,” Sophia said, her eyes focussed on the ground at her feet.
She looked at me then and gave me another of her radiant smiles, but this time it was plagued by the tears in her eyes and the catch in her voice. “For everything, Eros. You don’t ask questions that I can’t answer. I don’t want to lie to you, and you never put me in a position to have to.”
My heart skipped a beat with the way she was looking at me. “I’d do anything for you, Sophia. You’re my best friend – even if you are a girl.” I added with a smile.
“Am I your best friend, Eros?”
“Of course – don’t you want to be?”
She blushed. “I… Eros…” she whispered.
I might have only been twelve years old, but I knew the time was coming when the beginning of the end of my childhood was fast on the horizon. Sophia leant closer to me, and I knew that if I just copied her lead, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. I could already taste her lips – my first kiss. Our eyes connected and it was almost as though a gong rang out – a gong that would resound for the rest of our lives.
It was just Jasmine as she laughed at us, throwing a rock at the tree next to us.
“Are you two lovebirds coming, or are you going to continue making goo-goo eyes at each other?”
Sophia laughed and ran to catch up to her mum, who was suddenly happy to go on ahead of me. I shook my head and followed, unable to process what had just happened.
As soon as we entered the iron gates signalling the border of our pack lands, I heard Jasmine take a sharp intake of breath. She looked around with wide eyes, taking in everything happening around her.
My dad had set the pack up so everyone had something to do at all times – there were people cleaning, training, doing the washing, collecting food, looking after the pups – the list went on and on. You were under no obligation to do anything outside of the jobs of your rank, and you could go and find a life outside of the pack to occupy your days if that’s what you wanted. However, my dad didn’t tolerate disrespect – regardless of your rank, you were accepted and treated as an equal. For that reason, most of the wolves chose to spend their days here, and it was always bustling with activity and the noise could sometimes be overwhelming.
“Error? Error!” I rolled my eyes as I heard my little sister shout my name.
“Eros, Antheia. How many more times?”
“I said what I said!” She grinned at me. She might be only six, but she was advanced beyond her years. My dad said it was because he had spent too much time in Hades’ domain that she was infected with the curse of the devil, determined to drive him into an early grave. My mum said it was because she was too much like her father. Although she said this with a laugh and always kissed his cheek afterwards. All I knew was she was the most annoying of little sisters. I was sure of it.
“Hey, Antheia,” Sophia said, linking her arm with mine again.
“Sophia!” She beamed, throwing herself into her arms. Sophia wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a big squeeze.
“Oh sure,” I muttered, rolling my eyes. “Her, you can be nice to.”
“What was that?”
“Nothing. Where is mu—”
“Eros?” My mother called, interrupting my question as she rushed down the steps of the packhouse. Her eyes landed on Sophia, whose arm was linked with mine, and she smiled knowingly.
“Don’t you dare,” I shot over the bond, warning her not to embarrass me.
“It’s lovely to see you again, Sophia,” my mother grinned, looking at the pair of us and trying hard to stifle her giggle. “You don’t come by here nearly as much as we would like.”
“I’m a very busy person,” Sophia said with a giggle, walking into my mum’s embrace.
“Mum, we have someone with us,” I said, barely able to contain my grin.
“Remember me?” A voice from behind us called softly. My mother’s head snapped up, taking in Sophia’s mum. It was our turn to stifle giggles as my mum’s mouthed opened and closed, seemingly lost for words.
“This isn’t like you, Violet, where’s that special spark of yours?” Jasmine laughed, succeeding in breaking the trance. My mum gave a squeal of happiness, pushing on mine and Sophia’s shoulders and knocking us to the side as she barged between us, grabbing Jasmine, and locking her into an enormous hug.
Sophia and I looked at each other and grinned, although I was still rubbing my shoulder from the force my mother had applied pushing us apart.
The two of them spoke a million miles a minute, the tone of their voice getting higher and higher until it was a wonder they could understand each other at all.
Sophia elbowed me in the side as my father came storming out of the doors, his face like thunder as he looked at my mum.
“For the love of the Goddess, lower your voice, woman! You’ll have all the cats in the neighbourhood lining up outside the pack if you keep on with that incessant wailing of yours!”
“Shut the fuck up, old man! Still as grumpy as ever, I see,” Jasmine laughed, raising her head to look at my dad, tears shining bright in her eyes.
I laughed out loud when my dad came to a dead stop, frowning at the two of them.
“Khaos?” Jasmine asked with a frown. He studied her, a small flint of recognition in his eyes, but he couldn’t seem to place her.
“Believe it or not, that’s Jasmine. Your Jasmine. From the Dragon Heart pack.” I shot to him over the bond, and by the glazed look in my mother’s eyes, I could tell she had done the same thing.
My dad might not remember much from his past, but I vaguely remember a tape when I was younger that he made for himself – back during that awful time we had to live with Alpha Grey, my grandfather. That tape told him everything that he needed to know, and my mother filled in the gaps over the years for him. The Moon Goddess said he would never regain his memories, but he seemed to get flashbacks of important events. He could remember mating with my mum with vivid clarity, but he couldn’t remember the first time they met. However, between the tape, my mum, and the things he could remember himself, he seemed to have a fairly good understanding of his own history.
His face still showed some confusion for a moment, but it wasn’t more than a second before the fog of confusion clouding his eyes cleared and he focused on Jasmine with a pained look of recognition.
He came charging forward and this time Sophia and I dodged out of the way before we once again shoved to the side, each of us instinctively realising my dad would push us much harder than my mum did.
My dad threw his arms around Jasmine and picked her up, spinning her around as his nose dove into her neck. Jasmine let out a squeal of delight and yelled at him to put her down and that he was a brute. She was laughing the entire time and delivering playful blows to his back as she issued warning after warning. None of which my dad paid attention to. He carried on scenting her neck, locking her smell firmly in his mind. Anyone else would think he was overjoyed to see her, but I recognised the calculating look in his eyes when he looked at her. His actions were very deliberate as he tried to determine her scent.
“I don’t understand how this is possible,” Jasmine sobbed the minute he set her back on her feet. “I felt the bond break when you died!” She suddenly punched my dad’s arm.
“You bastard! Have you been alive this entire time?!”
My mum half laughed, half sobbed as she linked arms with her old best friend. “Come on, we have so much to catch you up on.”**************
“That was eventful,” I said to Sophia hours later. Our parents had spoken for what felt like a lifetime. Sometimes they were shouting, other times they were crying. But mostly they seemed to laugh as Jasmine helped fill in some more of the blanks in my dad’s memory. My mum tried her best, but she met him when she was eighteen, and other than the stuff he told her about his time with Ryssa and Drake, she didn’t know much of his life and how he was as an Alpha back then. My dad had often looked offended at some of the things Jasmine had accused him of doing. I had my doubts as she coyly sipped her drink and laughed as she told him he would never know. It was all in good jest though, as my dad grinned back at her and ruffled her hair, causing her to shout at him again.
My mum had insisted that they stay for dinner, and we had made a big occasion of inviting all the pack to the party. I had escaped an hour ago to take Antheia out – the festivities had gotten her too excited, and I could tell her wolf was on the brink of bursting free. She was a feisty pup, and I knew if I didn’t get her out of there, she would bite someone. Probably Axel. He was a pup her age, but for some reason, Antheia saw him as her personal chew toy and the pair of them were constantly in battle.
She had run around the lawn, hissing, and spitting at the tiniest of noises before she tired herself out and came to sleep at my feet, still in her wolf form.
“It sure was,” Sophia said, taking a seat on the step next to me. “Is she out for the count?” She asked, nodding at Antheia’s wolf.
“Sure is. I’m not carrying her inside. I nearly lost an eye the last time I tried to pick her up, and she’s doubled in size since then. My dad can come and get her.”
“And if he doesn’t?” She asked in concern.
“Then she will stay out here – don’t look so worried!” I laughed. “She’s within the pack lands, she’ll be more than safe here. Everyone in this pack will protect her with their lives. It wouldn’t surprise me if I woke up in the morning to find half the pack camped out here with her.”
“Including you?” She asked, a teasing note in her voice.
“Probably,” I laughed. I stroked my hand along Antheia’s fur. “As annoying as she is, she’s my little sister. It’s my job to protect her. My dad would die if anything happened to her. She’s the apple of his eye.”
“So are you.”
“I’m his heir. His son. He loves us both, but it’s a very different type of love. I’m his best friend, his mini-me. Antheia is his princess. There’s not a thing he wouldn’t do for her. I don’t resent it. I was around Antheia’s age when I met my dad for the first time, so he missed all of this with me. He wouldn’t let anyone else hold Antheia for the first year of her life until she got her wolf. It made feeding really awkward for my mum when my dad would hold Antheia’s head against her chest.”
Sophia laughed, “your parents really love each other, don’t they?”
“Don’t all parents?” I asked with a laugh of my own, turning around to face her just in time to see the smile fall from her lips.
“My parents don’t. Maybe they used to, but it’s not like Violet and Khaos. They have been mated for years and they still can’t keep their hands off each other. I’ve watched them, Eros. Your dad can’t let your mum walk past him without grabbing hold of her, and his eyes are always on her. No matter where she is, he’s aware of her in the room. My parents don’t really look at each other anymore.”
“How come?” I asked softly, linking my fingers with hers.
Sophia looked down at our hands, and for a moment I thought she was going to tell me her secrets. But just as quickly, the shutters came over her eyes and the moment was gone. “I guess they’ve just been through too much.” She said sadly. “My home isn’t like this one. I really love it here, Eros.”
“My home is your home, Sophia. You don’t have to leave if you don’t want to – you’re always welcome here, you know that.”
Sophia sighed and rested her head against my shoulder as we both turned to look at the moon.
“I might take you up on that one day, Eros.”