19. Just hold me
If I closed my eyes, I could imagine her there again, lying on the floor in that cabin, her throat slashed and her neck covered in smudged fresh blood. I had always kept my cool in my bear form but seeing my mate like that- lifeless, taken away from me- I lost every shred of clear thinking in my mind. Without any hesitation, I crushed the head of the man who did that to her with Mahon’s jaw, enjoying the crunching sound as my bear’s teeth sank deeper.
Never before had I ever enjoyed killing anyone- if anything, I tried to avoid as much as possible. But this lowlife, him I was ready to kill over and over again, ensuring his slow, painful demise for even daring to touch a hair on Flame’s head. He had signed his death sentence the moment he robbed me of her.
When I finally reached my mate, her breathing was so faint that I could barely catch it even with my shifter hearing. But no matter how weak it was, she was still breathing. She still had a feeble pulse, and that meant that there was still hope.
I knew what my options were- mark her, hoping that my healing abilities would have passed on to her like Riley took on her mates’ abilities, or lick her wound, praying that I was not too late to close the wound and get her to heal. Neither solution guaranteed that she was going to make it, but if I marked her and she survived, she was going to be tied down to me, no matter whether she liked it or not, and that was not a position that I was ready to put her in.
The coppery taste of her blood on my tongue drove Mahon into a frenzy. It was like a drug and a poison, combined in one. With every lick, the mate bond pulled at us, working its magic as the wound on her neck began to close up. Yet, at the same time, my mind was envenomed by the pain of witnessing my mate knocking on Death’s door, the horrifying images in my head corrupting my heart and soul with rage and desire for revenge even if I had just killed the main culprit.
But the reality was that it was the desperation, the helplessness that I felt that drove me crazy. I was ready to swap places with her in a heartbeat. She was meant to live, and I was supposed to protect her.
By the time her breathing returned to normal, my bears had located us. I left them to deal with the mess that I had left behind because I only had one priority at that moment, and that was my mate. They didn’t even question it, quite the opposite- they knelt on the floor in a sign of respect and grief for my mate, their future Luna, as I carried Flame in my arms to one of our cars and drove away.
I contemplated taking her back to my place but I knew that when she woke up, she was going to need the support of someone she knew and trusted, and as much as it pained me that I could not be that person for her, I understood that only Riley could be there for her in that way. Because once she came around, she was going to realise that her whole world had just been turned upside down, and only her best friend could help her come to grips with that.
When I walked into her room hours later and saw her smiling again, I knew that I had made the right decision.
“Hi,” she spoke first.
One word, just one word. Two letters. And yet, I felt like my whole world came back to life hearing her say it because it meant that she was still here. I still had her, and I was never going to let anything happen to her again.
“Hey.” I got closer, pulling a chair right next to her bed. “How are you feeling?”
“Pretty damn good for someone who nearly died.” Her smile was still weak, but it was the most beautiful sight. I studied her face, trying to take a mental picture of every line, every freckle and feature, to replace the gruesome memories from the previous day.
When she reached out, I practically jumped out of my chair to get to her, placing her hand in mine. The warmth of her skin brought peace and calm to Mahon and me, and my bear purred like a cat.
“Thank you,” she said, her voice shaky. “You saved my life, Callum, and I don’t know how I could ever repay you.”
“I told you that I will always protect you, Flame- I just wish that I got there before that guy was able to hurt you.” My gaze shifted to the floor, the guilt that I was not there on time eating me from inside.
The quick squeeze she gave me made me look up. “Don’t you dare, Callum Andrews,” she scolded me, but there was gentleness and determination in her voice. “You don’t get to feel guilty for this. If it were not for you, I would have been dead, even if it was not that guy who killed me. All those men were out to get me, and you are the only reason why I am still standing here.”
Goddess, I loved her fire.
“I see that the near-death experience didn’t affect your bossiness,” I chuckled, finally starting to relax.
But when her smile disappeared, I immediately found myself wondering what was wrong as she chewed on her cheek, her gaze roaming around the room.
When her lips finally moved to speak, she took the biggest breath in. “Is it true, Callum? Are we mates?”
I was too stunned to say anything, even if I had this conversation play out a million times in my head. How was I to explain to her that we were meant to be together forever when in the world she lived in, nothing lasted forever? Certainly not the kind of relationships that humans usually had.
But I also couldn’t hide the truth any longer.
“Yes, we are, Flame. You are my soulmate, chosen for me by the Sun Goddess, the same way that she picked me for you.”
I expected her to pull back but she remained in her place, her hand still resting in mine. Still, her eyes were full of countless questions.
“How can you be so sure though? How can you tell that I am the one for you?”
Her questions made me chuckle because, mating text aside, I knew without a shadow of doubt that she was the person for me, the half that I never knew that I was missing, but now I could never live without.
“I know you feel it too, Flame. The mating text, which you thought was a prank from my side, helped us understand it quicker, but I know that our connection was there from the moment we met at Riley’s place in Putney. I tried to deny it. Hell, I even told myself that my mate was probably some bear-shifter but, deep down, my mind and my soul already knew that they belonged to you.”
Watching her blush under the intensity of my gaze amused me and turned me on so fucking much. Realising that I was the only one who could affect the gorgeous ballsy woman I was honoured to call my mate drove me crazy in all the right ways. My cock was hard as a rock just from knowing that she was mine.
And now that the truth was finally out in the open, our mate bond was goading us to complete the mating by marking and claiming her. The Goddess was my witness how badly I wanted it too, but I had to reign my urges in because there was no guarantee that this was what Flame wanted as well.
“What does it actually mean being mates?” She asked cautiously, still trying to piece it all together.
“It’s like finding your happy ending, except in our world, it is forever. Shifters mate for life- we don’t have divorces or anything like that.”
“It probably sounds intense to you but in the shifter world, your mate completes you perfectly, so life without them- once you have found him or her- is unimaginable. Your mate would be there for you through thick and thin. A best friend, a protector and a lover all in one. “
Her rapid heartbeat matched mine as I spoke about the power of the mate bond. I basked in the warmth of her presence...until the flashbacks crept in. The memories were like a nightmare that I couldn’t shake off.
“Callum, what’s wrong?” My mate asked, alarmed. “I can feel your distress, almost like it’s my own.”
“That’s our bond- it intensifies the closer we are and even more so after I…..” The words got stuck in my throat and my voice broke down, making it difficult to continue. “I nearly lost you, Flame. It was the single most frightening moment in my life, and I never want to go through that ever again.”
Her eyes welled up with tears and I wanted to smack myself for upsetting her.
“Would you….”She paused as she not-so-subtly patted her eyes dry with the sleeves of her shirt, which were wrapped around her clenched hands. “Would you please hold me for a little while?”
I couldn’t get to her fast enough the moment that her whispered plea left her lips. She slid to the middle of the bed and, without any hesitation, I sat next to her, wrapping my arms around her, pulling her tightly towards me until her head was nestled on my chest. She felt so small, so fragile in my embrace that I was worried that if I held her too tight, I would hurt her accidentally. Yet, I never wanted to let her go.
A smile erupted on my face when I realised that holding her was so perfect that I did not even think about kissing her at that instant. I couldn’t even remember that last time I had such an intimate moment with someone without there being anything more than a hug, but with Flame, it was everything that I needed and more. I didn’t want it to end.
My attention snapped down to her face when I heard a hearty, teary laugh from her.
“Jesus, you put your arms around me, and I literally felt my knees buckle. What kind of sorcery is this?”
“That’s just how good I am, mate.” I smirked, teasing her. “Imagine all the other ways I can make you feel. Soon enough, I promise you that.”
My words caressed her ear, making her shiver as I whispered my assurance. Her gulp was so audible that I had to suppress my chuckle. Her hand grabbed my t-shirt tighter, daring me to imagine how she was going to grab on the crumpled bed sheets beneath her as I brought her to ecstasy.
Sure, I was being a cocky bastard but seeing her tremble like this just from my promise was worth it. And I planned to deliver.
When she looked up and our eyes met, however, I knew that no matter how smug I pretended to be, she was always going to be the one that I bowed down to. My mate. My Flame. My Luna.
“Do you mind if we stay like this for a little longer?” She asked with a hesitant smile, which made her so damn adorable. I couldn’t help but kiss the top of her head to reassure her.
“Anything you want, mate. Anything you want.”
Awwww, I love their dynamic relationship and their usual banter but those moments when everything between them slows down and they finally open up to one another are so damn cute. 😭
Who else wanted to jump in and give Callum a massive hug in this chapter? The poor man nearly lost his mate. 😭
So are there better days coming Scar and Callum’s way now, or will another obstacle get in their way? 👀👀👀 We’ll find out soon enough...
I hope you enjoyed this slower-paced chapter. As usual, let me know in the comments what you thought about it.