Lorelai poked her head around the door, looking up and down the long corridor. She’d heard people talking about the castle, but she didn’t take it literally. Now, looking at the stone brick walls and the concrete flooring, she was thinking it might be literal.
She was in a fucking castle.
Stepping outside her room, the plate from dinner in hand, she closed the door silently and chewed her lip. Where would the kitchen be in a place like this? Where was she? Making a choice, she turned to her left and walked down the first flight of stairs she found. Surely even in a castle the kitchen would be downstairs.
Her footsteps echoed against the floor, and it occurred to her she didn’t remember getting clothes after the battle back at the packhouse. Did Evan dress her? Did a stranger? She wasn’t sure which was worse. As she walked down the corridor, she struggled to remember anything following the day after the battle.
She’d pointedly not thought about Bethany for fear her grief would cripple her, so yes. Shock seemed like an appropriate response. As it was, now all she could think about was Bethany. God, how could she ever live with the guilt of her death? The girl had tried to put herself between Lorelai and her captors and got herself killed.
And Brooke. What happened to Brooke?
For the past few days, staring at those four walls, Lorelai had tortured herself with that question. Brooke made poor decisions, she trusted the wrong people. But she was Lorelai’s best friend, had been since they were pups. If she lost Brooke…
No. The girl was okay. She had to be okay because otherwise Lorelai wasn’t sure she could survive the loss of her best friend. Separated from her was a feeling she was used to. Their parents had separated them plenty of times. It’s what rival packs did. But to lose her completely was inconceivable.
It couldn’t hap…
Lorelai stopped in her tracks at the screech aimed in her direction. It could only be her. The corridor was otherwise empty. She turned, looking into the eyes of a woman who was a stranger. Yet there was a familiarity about her that Lorelai couldn’t place. Somehow, she knew this woman.
“Where you going, little wolfie?”
“Excuse me?” Lorelai asked. “I’m sorry. I don’t-.”
“Know me? Well, why the fuck would you? You only got my mate killed.”
Lorelai’s heart dropped. She was Austin’s mate. It wasn’t the woman she recognised. It was the agony. The agony of losing the person you loved most in the world. Clutching her dinner plate tighter, Lorelai looked up and down the corridor. She couldn’t escape, and even if she could, where the fuck would she go?
She was better than this. Running away from her problems. With confidence she didn’t feel, she took a step towards the other woman.
“My name is Lorelai,” she said, kneeling to put the plate on the floor. “And I am so very sorry you lost your mate, but-.”
“There is no but,” she spat. “You kept your mate. Mine is dead. You don’t get a but.”
“My friend is dead. Someone else’s mate. You don’t get to talk down to me for that.”
The unknown woman laughed, the sound shrill. Hysterical. Fucking scary, frankly. Lorelai felt the hair on the back of her neck rise. If the bitch wanted a fight, she’d get one. She might feel guilt over Bethany’s death, but she wouldn’t over the man who killed him.
“It’s your fault he’s dead.”
“It’s his fault Bethany is dead.”
The two women stared each other down, Lorelai and the unnamed wolf before her. Neither of them willing to back down. Neither of them believing themselves the guilty party.
“You’re not the only person who is grieving,” Lorelai said. “And I know how you feel. I lost my mate too.” The woman scoffed and rolled her eyes.
“No. You don’t.”
“I lost my mate too!” Lorelai tensed up, her fists clenching as a fresh wave of grief hit her. She missed Liam so much, it was easier not to think of him. To think of him only caused her pain.
“You didn’t lose your mate. You lost a fuck buddy.” Lorelai opened her mouth to interrupt, only to have the woman click her fingers. “No. Your mate is somewhere in the castle, figuring out how to get close to you. Your mate risked his reputation among our entire pack by getting retribution for your fallen pack mate. So don’t tell me you know how I feel.”
“I love Liam! You don’t-.”
“No!” She stepped towards Lorelai, fire in her eyes. “No. It’s not the same Lorelai. It’s not the same and you know it. You don’t know the absolute agony of losing your mate. Of losing your future. And I pray you never have to feel it. As much as I can’t stand the sight of you, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
“You’re so stupid, you know that? Holding on to a teenage crush when your mate is fighting for you. So fucking stupid. I should beat the shit out of you.”
“That’s enough, Ava. You both need to stop”
Both women jumped at the deep voice that rang with authority. Though spoken calmly, there was no room for argument. Lorelai turned to look at the man who stepped into the corridor. He was a carbon copy of Evan, only older, with more scars. He must be Evan’s father, and therefore the Alpha. It was a terrifying thought. But it wasn’t him that scared her, it was her body’s reaction to him. Her wolfs reaction.
The mere fact she shut up at his order, that his authority was something her wolf responded to, was more devastating than realising Evan was her mate. She was becoming part of this pack. This man was becoming her Alpha.
“Lorelai. It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”
Ava bowed her head and collected Lorelai’s abandoned plate, disappearing down another corridor. Lorelai watched her until she was out of sight, before turning her gaze on Evan’s father.
“Walk with me, Lorelai. Let us get to know one another.”
Again, without meaning to, her body responded, falling into step with the older man. Silence fell between them as Lorelai struggled to find something, anything to say. She tried to concentrate on the path they were taking so she could find her way back to her room, but this castle was a fucking maze and she didn’t think she’d ever get a grip on it.
“You’ve been causing my son some discomfort, young Lorelai.”
“And his existence is a discomfort for me,” she replied, earning herself a chuckle.
“Ah. I like you already, Lorelai. Evan needs a challenge. He’s had things too easy so far, being my son.” Lorelai looked up at him and frowned.
“What’s your name, anyway?” She asked.
“Theo Angus. Did Ava give you much trouble?” Lorelai shook her head.
“Nothing I didn’t expect, really. She’s right to be angry. Evan made a mistake and-.”
“That’s not the story how I heard it, Lorelai,” Theo said. There was no disapproval in his tone, but somehow she still felt guilty. “I’m very sorry about your friend, by the way.”
“Friends. One died. One might have died. And the rest… well, they’re going to be a mess.”
“Including the man you left behind?” Theo asked, a sad smile on his face. “Yes. Evan told me. He tells me most things, Lorelai.”
“Who is he to decide to take me from Liam? From my home.”
“He didn’t decide, sweet. The Fates did. Things beyond our understanding.” Silence fell between them once more while Lorelai struggled to think of a compelling argument. “I know you’re upset, Lorelai. Understandably so. But I wish you’d be open to the possibility Evan would make you happy.”
“Liam already makes me happy,” she replied. “It’s been the two of us for so long.”
“And if the two of you love each other as much as you say, you’ll know when it’s time to let go. If you have found Evan, it stands to reason Liam will also find his mate.”
“No. No, it won’t matter,” she said, casting her gaze to her feet. “It won’t matter because he only wants me.”
“He only wants you while he has no other option, sweet.”
The pain of that reality hurt more than Lorelai wanted to admit. He was hers, as she was his. It had always been that way.
“I don’t want to take up more of your time, Lorelai,” Theo said, stopping outside a door. “I wanted to show you to your new room. More befitting of my new daughter.” He sighed and placed a hand under her chin, tilting her face to meet his gaze. “I know it’s hard, sweeting. I know it will take time. But give Evan a chance. Talk to him, at least. There’s more to this than a destiny taking its course.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
“That’s for him to tell you, pet. But I’ll leave you with a thought. There’s no one else who will love you more, protect you better, or treasure every moment with you.” Lorelai watched as pain flittered across Theo’s eyes, frowning as she tried to figure out its cause. “To have one’s mate so close and turn your back on them? I believe it’s the biggest mistake a single person can make.”
He kissed her forehead and offered her a kind smile, squeezing her shoulder before taking his leave. Lorelai watched him walk away and sighed, walking into her new room and flopping down on the bed.
The people here. They made it sound so easy. Like they could switch off their feelings and move on so quickly. But her heart ached for her Liam. She missed him in a way she never thought possible.
They made it sound so easy.
But love rarely was.