“What happened to your mother?”
Evan looked down at Lorelai, her eyes gentle on his as she waited for an answer to her question.
It had been three nights since he’d come to her room and experienced his first taste of her and though it hadn’t ended the way he expected, he wouldn’t change a moment. Every night since found them in the same position - Lorelai in his arms and their conversations ending with her falling asleep curled against his chest. He himself had barely slept, too enamoured by her to waste the precious moments by sleeping.
“Evan? We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.” He smiled, brushing his thumb over her lips.
“No. No, its fine,” he said, watching as the light from the candle danced across the different specs of colours in her eyes. “She died when I was a pup. Killed, actually.” He paused as his mind shifted back to that day.
It had started the same as any other.
There were two nurseries the castle. One for the pups who were completely reliant on their mothers and fed only on milk. Kept in the deepest parts of the castle, his father insisted on the highest protection for them and their mothers.
The second nursery was for the more curious pups. When they had outgrown their den, they had free roam of the castle under the watchful eye of the she-wolves and security detail. Since the attack, Theo had taken on this duty himself. They spent their days in the courtyard and the nursery was in his private quarters, so he was always on hand for protection.
Evan was part of that second nursery, almost old enough to leave once and for all. He’d been play-fighting with his sister when he heard the snarls. He’d thought nothing of it until he looked up and saw the blood dripping from the mouth of a wolf he didn’t recognise. Putting himself between the attacker and his sister, he’d tried so hard to be brave.
But then the blood stained teeth had turned in his direction, the dark wolf they belonged to seeming to sneer at him. He stood his ground, but his pitiful growls did nothing to fend off the attacker. All around him, he could hear the terrified yelps of his siblings, the snarls of fury from their mother and the other she-wolves.
It was only when he heard the agonising yelp of his sister that he leapt into action. While his attention had been on the wolf in front of him, another had come behind them and snatched his sister. He didn’t pause or give himself time to think. He ran at her attacker and did the only thing he could think of.
He sunk his teeth into his balls.
The attacking wolf released his sister and sent her flying across the courtyard. His relief was short-lived as he ran to her lifeless body, dodging the fighting wolves along his way. He nudged her with his snout, licked at her wounds to make them stop. But he was too late. She was dead before she hit the ground.
There was no time to grieve as teeth closed around the scruff of his neck. He didn’t panic, not this time. Instead, a rush of calm spread over him as he smelled the familiar and comforting scent of his mother. Closing his eyes, he tried to ignore the carnage all around him, focusing instead on the woman who had given him life.
“It’s okay, Little One.” Her words were soft and reassuring in his mind, even if her pounding heart contradicted the pounding of her heart. She kept running, wind whipping past them both with the speed. Evan was sure they’d be okay. He was sure.
Until he felt a jolt and his mother released her grip on him. He opened his eyes just before he hit the ground. The air rushed out of his lungs. Every inch of him ached. But he pushed himself to his feet.
“Run Evan!” His mother’s voice was frantic now. Her earlier calm a distant memory. “Run and hide, baby. And don’t turn back. Just run!”
Every instinct told him to look back. But he was a good boy. He listened to his parents. He obeyed the rules. Though his bones ached and he struggled to catch his breath, he did as he was told. He ran. As fast as he could. As hard as he could. He ran.
There was a small crevice in the wall. Barely big enough for him to squeeze through. If anyone saw him hide there, they didn’t come and find him. He stayed in the dark, shivering as adrenaline pumped through his veins and fear gripped his small body. He was so tired, but he forced his eyes to stay open, looking through the crevice for any sign of his mother.
She wolves he recognised lay lifeless on the ground, other wolves he didn’t, littered here and there. His pack may have got a few kills in, but they had definitely come off worse. His eyes scanned the scene, hastening away from the smaller bodies of his littermates. He couldn’t dwell on that yet. Not until he knew his mother was okay.
The sounds of the battle were quieting down and he strained his ears to hear the smallest of sounds. There were pads of feet, growls as the rival pack communicated. And then a howl so terrifying he whimpered, warm liquid running down his leg. He forced himself further into the crevice until he backed against the wall.
The snarls were back. Louder than ever.
He closed his eyes and prayed for it to be over.
“My father came back to find his mate and litter slaughtered. I hid myself away where no one would find me. Like a coward.”
“Like a puppy who’d just seen so many people he cared about killed,” Lorelai said, cupping his jaw. “Don’t you ever call yourself that again.”
His father told him the same thing. He’d never made Evan feel guilty, nor put any blame on his shoulders. He didn’t need to. Evan carried that guilt every day. But somehow, with his mate looking in his eyes, telling him he did no wrong, Evan finally made some sort of peace with that day.
“Father made sure no one escaped. He came back just after I made it into my hiding spot. He was on a hunting trip, see. Making sure there was enough food for us all that night after a tough winter made prey scarce.”
He fell silent for a moment, his eyes seeing only one thing.
“I don’t think I ever would have come out of that crevice had it not been for the thud of a body being thrown down. They were piling the bodies, getting them ready for the ceremony to send our loved one’s back to the ancient goddess, Amaya.” He sighed and shook his head to rid his mind of the memory. “My mother’s lifeless eyes stared at me through the crevice and for the first time, I cried.”
“Oh, Evan. I am so sorry. That is more than one pup should ever have to go through.” He nodded in agreement and sighed once more.
“Father never let me out of his sight after that,” he said, focusing on her eyes. “He took over as the head security of the nursery. He made sure nothing like that would ever happen again.”
“How did he cope? After your mother died?” Evan tightened his arms around her, drawing comfort from having her so close.
“He didn’t. He never bonded with her, see. When she died, he should have died with her. But she insisted one of them needed to stay for their children.” He looked down at the lovely face of his mate and tried to imagine her lifeless as his mother had been. If the Gods were kind, they would make it so they bonded and tied their lives together. “I don’t know if she knew something like that would happen, but since the day they mated, until the morning of her death, father begged her to bond with him and she refused. I’ve never seen someone love their mate as much as he loved her. He’s never taken another she-wolf since. I doubt he ever will. His life is his pack now. It always will be.”
Silence fell between them, Lorelai tracing patterns over his skin. She’d done it every night since their first one together. He hoped she never stopped. It was comforting. Relaxing. It kept him here with her, in the moment, instead of living the horrors of his past.
“Why did they attack?” She asked. “You never said.”
“We’ll never know, mo chridhe. Father didn’t wait for an answer from them. For all we know, there could be more of them out there. Ready to attack again.”
“Only this time, we’ll be ready for them.” Evan didn’t draw attention to her casual use of the word ‘we’ but his heart danced with elation. Not only did she suggest she would fight with them, she had coupled herself with his pack. With him.
He bowed his head to brush his lips against hers, unable to put into words how much her words meant. He’d barely touched her when they both pulled back with matching hisses of pain.
“Are you okay?” He asked, barely paying attention to the burning sensation on his chest. She wasn’t looking at his face, though. Her eyes followed the movement of his hand, her face pale. “Lorelai? What is it?” Without answering him, her hand moved to her shirt, pulling it down out of the way. Despite himself, he couldn’t help but look down for a glance at her breasts.
What he saw was something he never expected.
Burned into her skin, as though tattooed there, was a perfect replica of his wolf, down to the chunk of ear missing from the attack so many years ago. He looked down at his own chest, Lorelai’s wolf sitting proudly in the same position on his skin.
The mating marks.
“I thought we had to have sex for that to happen?” Her voice was barely above a whisper. She was right. He’d never heard of this before. It was common knowledge that two wolves had to actually mate for the mark to appear.
He stared at his mark on her chest, amazed, elated, utterly confused.
“But we haven’t…” he said. The only thing he could think to say.
And yet somehow, despite everything saying it was impossible, the marks were there.
Somehow, they had mated.