“What are you thinking, little one?” I raised my head as Khaos came to sit next to me, his feet on the ground as he rested his elbows on his knees. “You’ve been out here a while now.”
I blinked, taking in the moon, the stillness of the night. When I had first come out into the gardens, the pack had been bustling with activity, the sun shining brightly. Khaos wrapped an arm around me as I shivered, finally noticing the cold.
“I like it here,” I said softly, nodding my head towards the statue of The Moon Goddess.
Khaos had initially been reluctant to create a garden for her when I first brought up the idea. I couldn’t blame him. We had been through enough with the Gods.
However, I had thought it would be a good idea for the rest of the pack. They knew bits and pieces of our story – many of them had been here for Khaos’ big video reveal, after all. But they hadn’t been through it themselves. They deserved to have a place to come to, a place where they could be alone to worship the Goddess who did what she could to protect us.
Besides, this garden was almost an exact replica of the garden Khaos had all those years ago in the Dragon Heart pack. I liked to come here and remind myself of how far we had come, how much we had gone through together.
“It is nice here,” Khaos said, smiling softly. “Come on, Violet, don’t shut me out. That’s not us. What’s going on in that mind of yours?”
“You always see right through me,” I smiled back, resting my head on his shoulder as we both looked at the Goddess’ statue. “I was just thinking. Eros is eighteen now. He still seems like a boy, but this was the moment in my life when everything changed.”
Khaos linked his hand with mine. “Change isn’t always a bad thing, sweetheart.”
“I know, it’s just… I’m not ready to let him go.”
“He’s not going anywhere,” he replied with a soft laugh. “He’s going to be the Alpha of this pack eventually. His home is here.”
“I know… I guess I’m just feeling nostalgic for the little boy who would cry about monsters under his bed.”
“And now he is the monster in the bed.”
I slapped his leg playfully, “don’t say that about him!” I laughed, covering my ears. “He’s still a child!”
Khaos laughed, pulling my hands away, “he’s not a boy, Violet. He’s been a man for a while now – you’ve heard just as much as I have.”
I pulled my hands away from his, trying to cover my ears, but Khaos was ready, pinning my hands down by my side. I gave a squeal of laughter and wriggled away from him, arching my back as he brought his body over mine and laid me on the floor. He supported his weight on the palms of his hands, using his lower body to keep me pinned down.
“I love you,” I told him, bringing his head down to mine as I planted kisses all over his face. He grinned, shifting his legs slightly, and I gave a bark of laughter. He realised my trick too late – I flipped him over and straddled his hips, looking down at him with a victorious look.
He smiled softly at me and reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. “I love you, too, little one.”
He pushed gently on my back until I was laid over him, our chests pressed together, my head tucked under his chin.
“He’ll be okay, won’t he?” I almost whispered.
“Of course he will. It’s his time now. He has to make his own path in life. Remember what we always said over the years? Parentship, not ownership. We have to trust that all we’ve taught him over the years will be enough. We can’t get in his way.”
“I suppose… I just can’t help but worry. The God’s haven’t exactly been kind to us over the years.” I reminded him. “When I’m in this garden, I remember the time we were apart. You were with Duke, and I was with Jasmine at our pack. I had thought then that the Moon Goddess was watching over us and she would do all she could to protect us. Even if she had failed you in the past, she wouldn’t allow it to happen again. But she did. She failed us so badly, Khaos—”
“Hey, hey,” he soothed as my breathing became faster and more panicked. “It wasn’t completely her fault, you know this. Don’t lose your faith in her.”
“She’s not here, Khaos. No one has seen or heard from her in months.”
Khaos stiffened beneath me and I knew then that he was thinking the same I was. “It’s strange,” he admitted eventually.
“I’ve been thinking about this myself recently. There was a time when we couldn’t seem to get rid of her. She was always here, fussing over Antheia and playing with Eros. She seems to have completely disappeared.”
“But why? The last time she disappeared like this, it was because Hades was meddling where he shouldn’t be meddling.”
“Violet… Don’t think this way. What else could the Gods possibly do to us?”
“Not us. Him. He’s eighteen now, Khaos. His mate is out there—”
“Shit,” Khaos swore, pushing me off him gently as he sat up. “You don’t think—”
“I don’t know… But nothing is adding up. Jasmine returning after all these years, the secrets they hide… Then there’s Sophia—”
“What about her?”
“Come on, Khaos, you know what I mean.”
“You mean that she’s not completely a wolf? I know, Violet. I’ve smelled another animal on her many times.”
“Exactly!” I came to my knees between his legs and hold his face in my hands. “I love Sophia, but if she has another animal inside her, that means she also has another God in charge of her fate. Depending on which God it is—”
“We could be really screwed.”
“Not us…” I repeated.
“Him.” Khaos finished with a sigh. He wrapped his arms around me and crossed his legs, pulling me into his lap.
“I’ve been pushing them together all these years,” I whispered, feeling the tears pool in my eyes.
“You weren’t to know, little one. It might not be as bad as we think.”
“No? What if her animal is connected to Hades? He has a lot of family if the rumours are to be believed.”
“Then we keep them separated for a while. I’ve heard Sophia and her family are moving away in a few days. I know you’re going to miss Jasmine, but she’s made it clear that she wants to cut back on our friendship for a while, so maybe it would be best to let them go. The next round of training is coming up, I’ll put Eros in charge of that.”
I went silent as I thought of the training he was talking about. It was brutal and deadly, designed to test the ultimate warriors and weed out those that didn’t have what it took. The first stage involved leaving the pack for a year, living completely as a wolf, only allowing yourself to turn back human for an hour a day.
It was to strengthen the bond you had with your animal. As much as we were one, we were still two separate beings. There were times when we could shift back to our human form against our own will – mainly due to an injury. Warriors couldn’t allow this to happen. So they went away from the pack as a wolf, learning how to live as a wolf in the wild would do. They had to catch their own food, find somewhere safe to sleep, and battle all the rogues and other dangers they came across. If they passed that test, they went on to the next round. By the end of the three rounds, only a handful of warriors remained. Some dropped out, some lost their lives.
If Eros was in charge of that, he would be distracted for well over a year. It would give us time to research, to dig around and see what was happening.
“Do you think he’ll go for it?” I asked.
“He’s been asking to take on more responsibility, so I can’t see why not. He won’t be happy about it, because he’s been hinting about taking part in the challenge himself. But after our talk tonight, we can’t risk him being away from the pack for the entire year… Look, I’ll wait until school and prom are over, and then I’ll approach the subject. Let him enjoy his last few days of freedom.”
“Has he been trained enough to handle this?”
“We’ll soon see. He’s had more training than any other pup in this pack. Now’s the time to put it to use.”