Worst bloody hangover ever! My head was about to explode and I could feel my brain pulsate underneath my scalp. It took a lot of effort to open my heavy eyelids, eventually seeing that it was daytime once again.
I am never having Venom again, never. Callum should have warned me that those things were lethal. Given the state that I was in currently, I must have been in pretty bad shape when I got back to my room after the pub.
Except that when I looked around, I realised that I was not in my room, even if the place was just as lavish as Aiden’s palace.
Crap, did I end up going home with Callum?
DID WE HAVE SEX?
My heart was galloping in my chest as I tried to recall what had happened the night before.
“Hey, you are awake!” That voice was music to my ears, easing all my worries just from hearing it because I knew I was safe.
I tried to smile, but I was way too tired and achy to manage that. “Ugh, you better have painkillers with you because this hangover is on a whole new level. I don’t get how people here survive drinking these local concoctions.”
When I eventually brought myself to look at my best friend, I saw the worry and sympathy written on her face.
“How do you feel?” She asked softly, twisting the watch on her wrist like she was approaching a delicate matter.
Riley and I had shared many drunken nights during our friendship, and hangovers were something that we used to help each other with but also poked a lot of fun at one another about. The fact that she seemed so careful right now worried me.
“Like death.” I tried to lighten the mood because I did not like the uneasy feeling in the air.
Then again, it was also a pretty accurate description of my current shape. I could easily imagine that this was what dying and coming back to life felt like. I am never drinking again!
But my joke did not go down well with Riley, who gave me a funny look before she threw herself at me, wrapping her arms around me and pulling me in for a tight hug.
“Hey, I was only joking, Ri. Take it easy there. I’m okay, I promise.” I embraced her as well, stroking her soft hair with my fingers as I tried to reassure her.
Her head remained buried in my neck, her arms holding me tighter like she was afraid to let me go. I had no idea what was going on but making her laugh was always a fool-proof way to get her back to a happy mood.
“You’ll laugh at this,” I exclaimed, chuckling just at the memory of what I was about to share with her. She was going to find it hilarious. “I had the strangest dream- I got kidnapped after I found out that Callum had slept with you, but then Callum came to rescue me, telling me that he was a shapeshifter. Can you imagine? I actually dreamt about him turning into a giant brown bear called Mahon that crushed all of our attackers. How crazy is that?”
My laughter was the only sound that rang in the room. Jesus, that dream really was insane and pretty damn intense too! Just thinking back about how it ended made my skin crawl- the mere idea that Callum was hurt was too much but recalling the moment that the imaginary goon slit my throat, ending my life, was also a bit too much to handle. This part was probably not something I want to share with Riley though- I did not want to worry her with my overactive imagination.
To my surprise, she still didn’t look up. Only when the t-shirt that I was wearing became damp that I realised that she was quietly sobbing on my shoulder.
“Riley, what’s going on?” My face scrunched up in worry. “Are you okay? Did someone hurt you?” I tried to pull her away from me so that she would finally look me in the eyes but she didn’t budge. “Come on, Ri, just tell me his name and I will make sure that the arsehole regrets that he was ever born.”
The threat in my tone was obvious - no one could dare hurt my best friend and believe that he, or she, would walk away in one piece after that.
My best friend closed her eyes and summoned a deep breath, holding it in. When her gaze met mine, a strange mix of pain and relief etched her features.
“I am so happy that you are okay, Scar.” Her voice trembled when she spoke up at last. “I don’t know what I would do if I ever lost you.”
“What are you talking about, woman? You are never getting rid of me. I am on this Earth to pester and annoy you until our dying breaths,” I joked, once again lonely in my laughter.
Slowly, Riley rose to her feet and proceeded to pace back and forth in the room, her head lowered and her eyes glued to the floor. Something was bothering her and I could not figure out what.
“Right, you need to start talking, missy. What’s happening? And while we are at it, where are we?”
“At the Windcrest packhouse.”
“The what now?” She might as well have been speaking in Chinese because I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Rafe’s estate.” I felt a tiny pang of jealousy when, at long last, my best friend smiled- albeit a weak smile- at the mention of one of the guys that she came down to London with. It was suddenly clear as day that he was the mystery guy that she was dating. Although, I was convinced that there was something between her and the other guy, Aiden.
Let’s be honest- nobody gives their castle to a stranger for no reason.
“So you are…..”
“Together.” She finished my sentence, although her reply came as no surprise. But I was just glad to see that she was slowly getting back to her usual self. “I live here too now- I moved at the same time as you got here. And so did Aiden,” she added, biting her lip like she always did when she was nervous.
“Aiden? What does he have to do with anything? He is not crashing here to be your third wheel, is he? If he is, I am going to have a word with him to bugger off and leave you two in peace.”
She let out a guffaw that echoed throughout the room. I was so happy to hear her laugh again. Whatever it was that was bothering her could be solved; I just knew it.
“No, please don’t do that, especially because I want him to be here. You see,” there was a slight note of hesitation as she spoke, ”I don’t know how to explain this really, so I am just going to say it straight- Rafe, Aiden and I are a throuple.”
There was the lip-biting again. I had to admit that I was a bit stunned by the news- imagining Riley in a relationship with one man was already hard enough, but two? At the same time? But then I thought about our conversation on the way from Glasgow after I arrived, and I remembered how elated she looked and sounded. Who was I to judge if a menage was what it took to provide my best friend with the bliss she deserved!
“I leave you on your own for a few weeks, young lady, and you go and snag yourself two men. Two very hot, sexy men, I admit, but I did not see this coming.” Shoving my splitting headache aside, I pushed myself off the bed and scurried over to my best friend to hug her. “I am happy for you, Ri.”
“Thank you, my lovely,” she whispered as she hugged me back. “It means the world to me. Now can you please get back to bed because you need to rest- you are too weak still.” She was worse than my mother sometimes.
I snuck back underneath the blanket, but I realised that my mystery was still not solved. “Ri, why were you crying earlier? If it’s not your men that I have to knock some sense into, who is bothering you?”
Like a stormy cloud that got in the way of the sun, worry reappeared on her beautiful face and her whole body tensed as she looked at me. Taking her previous place on the bed next to me, Riley grabbed my hand, her eyes searching mine.
“Scar, you know I would never intentionally hide anything from you, right?” This was not a good start. A ball of worry and foreboding twisted in my stomach like a fist trying to bury itself into my ribcage. “I just couldn’t tell you the truth until now but I can’t keep it away from you any longer. Not when you are part of this world now.”
I sat there, stunned as my best friend proceeded to tell me what had happened to her birth parents, how they were killed because they were seen as a threat and how the people behind their murder had now been brought to justice, but not before they tried to hurt her and her guys once again.
The whole thing sounded like something out of a modern-day drama-thriller if it was not for the fact that she told me her parents were wolf shifters, leaders of their pack, which made her and her brother shifters as well. But in Riley’s case, her wolf was killed by the men who murdered her parents, leaving her as a human now. Then there was the part about her adoptive parents being warlocks and her two men being not only a wolf and a dragon shifter but also her mates, her destined soulmates that she was now bonded to.
It was like I had not woken up from my earlier dream when Callum was explaining the same thing to me. Almost like the whole thing was real.
“Ri, I love you, but you do realise how insane this sounds, right?” I tried to be as polite about it as possible because, although I thought that my best friend had lost her mind right now, I did not want to offend her.
Yet, the sympathetic look she gave me as she squeezed my hand made me feel like maybe I was going nuts. “Trust me, I know. And I know exactly how you feel. The day I met Lucien and I found out about it all, I was just as shocked as you are right now. That’s why I text you to come over to my house, and you were my knight in shining armour- you kept me sane by dragging me out that night. But I promise you, Scar, it’s all real.”
To make her point, she rolled one of her sleeves up and pushed her hair off one shoulder to reveal a dragon mark on her wrist and the clear outline of a bite mark on her neck.
“What the heck, Riley! Neither of these things is normal- unless you want to convince me that you and your guys are into some weird shit- but it definitely doesn’t prove that shifters exist.”
“Don’t make me drag the boys here to shift, missy!” She let out an exasperated sigh. “But fine, how about this?” Next thing I knew, my best friend, who I have known for years, conjured a ball of fire in her palm and threw it towards the fireplace in the other end of the room, setting it alight.
My eyes widened, and I contemplated slapping myself to check whether I was dreaming. “How did you do that?”
Her lips tipped up in a mischievous smile. “I picked up some tricks from the boys. Thirsty?”
Without even waiting for my reply, she dashed to the table on the other end of the room, grabbed a glass of water and brought it to me in seconds. The inhuman speed that she moved in was exactly like the two guys who captured me first in my dream.
I felt a rush of butterflies in my stomach as the cogs in my head started to spin, putting the puzzle pieces together, connecting the dots.
That dream, Riley’s story, her distraught behaviour when I first woke up. I stood there, the butterflies rapidly turning into knots.
“Did you sleep with Callum, Riley?”
She whipped her head around to look at me again, her eyebrows arching in surprise. “What? What does that have to do with anything?”
“Just answer the question, Ri- did you or did you not? You want me to believe that what you’re telling me is true- well, this is the way to do it.”
The tension in the air was palpable while I waited for her to reply. She was evidently struggling to find the right words as she chewed on her cheek.
“I did. But….this was back when I first arrived here and long before I knew that I had mates or that Rafe and Aiden were the men for me. I promise you, Scar, it was just one night of no-strings-attached fun. Callum and I have been great friends since, but that’s about it.”
But I was not listening to any of her explanations. All the words blurred together the moment that she confirmed that they had sex. It was not that I was angry- thinking about the two of them together was the least of my worries. Yet, her answer confirmed what I was already suspecting.
“Is Callum a bear shifter?” I asked matter-of-factly.
The fear in Riley’s eyes told me that she knew what was going on inside my head.
Instinctively, my hands went straight for my neck, but there was nothing but smooth skin underneath my fingertips. I rushed to the closest mirror to double-check, yet there was still not even a faint mark in sight.
My breath hitched in my throat, tears trying to escape from my eyes as I recalled the moment when I had died. “How am I still alive, Riley?”
She is alive! But how did she survive, I hear you ask- well, I am apparently a mean writer because I am not going to give you the answer to that until the next chapter.
I don’t know about you but I absolutely loved the moments between the two BFFs, from Riley’s emotions after nearly losing Scar to them giggling about neverending TV series and Riley finally telling Scarlett the truth about the shifter world. Who better to explain it all to our fiery MC than her equally spirited bestie?
More revelations are coming Scar’s way but where is Callum and is he okay? 😱Tune in on Friday to find out.
If you enjoyed this chapter, don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments and if you are loving Bear with Me so far, I would be grateful if you could leave a review to help other readers discover the story. 🤩