CHAPTER 2 (Scott)
I enjoyed the darkness, when the sun was long gone from the sky, or when the heavy curtains were pulled over my window to cancel out the brilliant morning rays. It was seclusion and solitude I craved, because when it was quiet and dark I could close my eyes and just sink into the memories of my childhood, all the good things, all of it revolving around Malcolm Kerry.
When I woke up I didn’t want to move, I didn’t even bother opening my eyes as I buried my face further into the pillow, my arms wrapped up and under it, letting the groggy, weightless feeling of sleep settle back over me with the full intention of sleeping the day away. I couldn’t remember the last time I managed that, because someone was pulling on my shirt, as usual.
“Wake up, daddy,” the voice chided me, and I peeled open one eye to see the eight-year-old crouching on the bed, pushing on me with an excited gleam in his stunning gold eyes, “It’s almost breakfast.”
I grumbled, pulling one arm free so I could reach over and pinch his cheek, where a thick square band-aid was taped, “Go make uncle make you breakfast,” I said, “I’m sure he’d love it if you woke him up for once.”
He giggled and rubbed his face when I’d let go to instead run my fingers through his hair, smiling at him. This little boy was mine, my little Rebel, only one of two good things to have happened to me since leaving Kerry Clan. He was eight years old with thick black hair like mine and eyes that rivaled the color of the sun itself, eyes that I never got tired of waking up to.
“Hmph,” I poked his cheek again, “Why are you in my room anyway? Did you have a nightmare?”
“Nu-uh,” Rebel shook his head at me, hair flapping around his face, “You were crying again in your sleep.”
I frowned at his explanation, looking away before pasting a smile back onto my face and pushing myself onto my knees, reaching out and scooping him into my arms, grinning more genuinely when he squealed, “You just like sleeping with your daddy, huh?” I teased, and he giggled furiously, struggling in my hold.
“No, I’m a big boy!” he insisted through his laughter, “I don’t wanna sleep in the same bed as you!”
I tensed up when the door swung open, slamming against the wall, making Rebel cling onto my neck and peer over my shoulder towards the open door where a familiar woman stood, hands on her hips and eyes narrowed, curly brown hair pulled out of her face and into a braid that fell down her back.
“Good morning, dear,” I greeted her, but her lips just curled into a scowl.
“Keep that thing quiet,” she snapped at me, and I wrapped my arms tighter around my son, narrowing my eyes dangerously at her as she pushed off the doorframe, “It’s too early for him to be yelling like a pig, so keep it down.”
“The only people who live in this house, Ms. Paige, are myself, Rebel, and Shaede. There’s no reason for you to be acting like a heartless bitch when we haven’t even gotten out of bed yet,” I kept Rebel in my arms as I stood up, propping him up on my hip as he wound his arms tighter around my neck, hiding his face in my shoulder, “Can I help you with something? Or did you come into my house just to harass my son?”
The snarl never lessened as Priscilla Paige turned, flicking a few loose strands of hair behind her ear, “Father wanted to speak with you after you woke up, but you were taking too long. He isn’t a young man, Scott, making him wait for you is just selfish.”
“It’s like six o’clock in the morning, give me a break,” I snapped, “Just get out, tell the alpha I’ll be there in five minutes.”
She spun on her heel and slammed the door closed, Rebel tightening his grip on me and glaring at the door as I sat him down on the foot of the bed, ruffling his hair and crouching down in front of him to see his face and the turmoil in his eyes. No eight-year-old should ever look that scared.
“She’s gone now,” I reassured, squeezing his little knee, and smiling at him, “Remember what I said? Just avoid her, she won’t bother you if you’re with me or uncle.”
Rebel nodded to me and I stood up, walking over to my dresser as he kicked his legs, “Uncle says she’s a Pissy Priscy,” he said, and I snorted, looking over my shoulder towards him.
“She can be,” I agreed, shedding my nightshirt, and pulling out a long sleeved black shirt with a high collar, yanking it on as Rebel continued to talk about how mean Priscilla was and how much he didn’t like her.
I didn’t blame him, she could be very cruel. Priscilla Paige was the beta born daughter of Alpha Amos, the leader of the pack. Amos was a good man, exactly what an alpha should be like, understanding and level headed and warm hearted, but his daughter was almost the exact opposite. I hated how she looked at Rebel, that resentment and anger, yet I understood her disgust.
Scilla was my mate, but my son Rebel wasn’t hers.
At first it started out okay with her, we took things slow, I agreed to marry her because of my duty as an ambassador, I figured marrying her would make the transition easier for the rest of the pack when the day came and we had to move and unite with the Kerry Clan. However, things became rocky very quickly. I tried to be nice, but every day was just another fight between us, despite being chosen mates, we couldn’t agree or get along in any circumstance, even if her father was around we couldn’t seem to set aside our differences for his benefit.
The only thing we had in common was how much we respected the alpha. She moved out five months after we married, and we were still married, but neither of us wore our rings, we didn’t sleep in the same room, let alone the same house, and we understood that we’re mates, but it was a begrudging acceptance of something that couldn’t be changed.
We were chosen for each other by the goddess, there was really no way around it. I had to tell myself we were mates because our children would be top notch alphas, because there was obviously no way in hell we were compatible in any other way. We had nothing in common besides the fact we were chosen mates, but that lead to an even bigger problem, because I wasn’t really interested in hopping into bed with her.
That’s not to say I didn’t try to sleep with her, because it was my duty to breed with my mate and leave an heir for our species, but the most we managed to do was get our shirts off before I quite literally lost my lunch. I ended up vomiting on her red lace bra. She didn’t appreciate it. After that we kind of gave up, and we’ve been living on a rocky ledge ever since.
The pack accepted me with open arms, for the most part. I’d easily fallen under Alpha Amos’ apprenticeship, evidently I had a lot of potential to be an amazing alpha, and considering I’d married his daughter, the rein of the Paige Clan would be handed to me at the moment of Amos’ death.
Most of the wolves were happy enough with the decision, but there was one thing none of them were okay with, and honestly, I wasn’t surprised. Rebel. He was mine, my blood, my son, but he was born outside of my chosen mate, he wasn’t Priscilla’s, which deemed him filth in the eyes of everyone in this pack. None of the other pups would play with him, whenever it seemed they were starting to like him, they would end up shoving him around and he would come home with bloody knees, bruises, and a forced smile.
I could understand how the wolves would be uncomfortable around him considering the circumstances, but he was just a child. How could they willingly harass an eight-year-old who’s never done a bad thing before in his life? More than once I ended up in fights with some of the members of the pack because they wouldn’t talk to their kids about not beating the shit out of Rebel, and if it weren’t for Shaede I would probably be dead or thrown out on my own by now.
The knock on my door had me lifting my head up from where I was concentrating on lacing up my boots, smiling at the man who stood in the thresh-hold. His hair was red like blood, unevenly cut to frame his face and fall over his forehead, longer in the back where it reached his shoulders. His eyes were an odd color, like amethyst, a unique shade I’d never seen before as an eye color.
He was already dressed, one hand stuffed into the pocket of his coat and a bored look on his face, though his eyes lit up a bit when Rebel jumped off the bed and ran over to grab onto his legs, hugging him with a huge grin that showed his missing left canine.
“Morning,” I greeted, turning back down to finish lacing up my boots, “I hope we didn’t wake you up.”
“Nah,” Shaede ruffled Rebel’s hair, shrugging, “I was awake. I heard her,” he looked up at me, and I sighed, scratching my head.
“It’s nothing. Amos just wants to see me is all.”
“She didn’t have to barge in,” Shaede said, picking Rebel up and setting him on his shoulders so he could grab onto Shaede’s red hair and touch the ceiling just above him.
“It’s fine, really. Rebel is too,” I stood up, grabbing my coat from where it was hanging over the back of my chair and pulling it on, “I shouldn’t be long, can you keep an eye on him?”
“Daddy!” Rebel reached his hand out for me when I was close enough, and I smiled, reaching up to grab his hand.
“Can I see it? Please?”
I rolled my eyes and shook his hand a little, “When I get back. I have work, okay? I want you to keep an eye on Shaede and make sure he stays out of trouble,” Shaede squinted his eyes down at me and I grinned at him before leaving the room, “Make sure he eats!”
I didn’t know Shaede’s last name, in fact I was fully convinced that “Shaede” wasn’t even his real name. Normally lone wolves abandon everything from their past, so it would make since that he’d developed an alias. We’d met maybe eight months after I left Malcolm, Shaede cornered me in the woods, and I can’t really remember what state I was in. All I recalled was it was a national forest, and Shaede was demanding I give him all my supplies.
Details aren’t necessary, but because of my health at the time, Shaede ended up helping me instead of robbing and murdering me. He saved my life then, and I suppose he figured he needed to keep an eye on me, because he abandoned his solitude as a lone wolf and joined me instead, becoming part of the Paige Clan the same time I did.
He was a good friend, and always looked after Rebel when I was too busy. Shaede was the one who ended up naming him. Originally, he wanted something ridiculous, which I easily shot down, but I could deal with the name Rebel, so it stuck. I was happy to have him. Rebel and I both were.
Alpha Amos’ home was in the middle of the pack settlement, so I had to make my way through the dirt paths and do my best to avoid most of the people. I know being an alpha, basically the future alpha of this very pack, I had to be social, and normally I was, but I was tired and not really in the mood.
I was too distracted by the dream I’d had the previous night, understanding well how I could have been making tortured noises in my sleep. Even when I dream about Malcolm my heart aches, because I know logically he isn’t really there with me, I know when I wake up he’ll be thousands of miles away on the other side of the country, so even in my dreams when his hands are on my face and his lips against mine, I still cry from it.
There were a handful of soldiers loitering around the front porch of the Alpha’s home, but they spread out and provided a path to the front door for me when I stepped up. They were all wearing similarly grim expressions, I could smell the lingering stench of inevitable death hanging in the air, and my heart squeezed in my chest as I moved faster, into the house and down the hall to Amos’ bedroom.
I wasn’t surprised to see the room was occupied by more than just Amos and Priscilla. The sick alpha was lying in bed with covers tucked around him and his face pale, and Priscilla was kneeling beside him with lips pressed into a tight line, hands clenched around one of her father’s and eyes shut.
The beta was standing just behind her, his hands clenched and his pained gaze on the leader he’d followed from the moment he was given the title as second in command so many years ago, so many years before I’d shown up. Their Shaman was in the room as well, on the other side of the bed with a hand on Amos’ forehead and his eyes closed peacefully, the lines in his face dark as he read the old wolf’s aura before looking up at the beta and shaking his head.
“Scott is here,” Amos said gruffly, and I stepped further into the room as he opened his dark eyes to me, a fatherly smile gracing his wrinkled face as the Shaman stepped back and let me take his place, sitting on the edge of the bed and taking the hand he lifted to me.
“I’m sorry I took so long, alpha.”
“Nonsense, I know you have a child to look after,” Amos assured me, “I know how taxing raising a pup alone can be. I raised Priscilla without any help from her mother. My beautiful Luna,” his eyes became glassy, “I’ll be seeing her soon, though.”
I shook my head, “What are you talking about? You’re a picture of health!”
“Don’t mock him,” Priscilla hissed at me, and Amos pulled his hand out of her grip to pay her shoulder, laughing richly before coughing hard, covering his mouth.
“Nonsense, Scilla. Laughter is good for my health.”
I gave him a weak smile and squeezed his hand against my chest, “What did you call me for? Can I help with something? Do you want me to pick up any medicine from town?”
“No, son, this visit isn’t about me,” Amos corrected, pulling his hand away from his mouth and rolling his head to the side to look me straight in the eye, “These past eight years I have been blessed to have you in my pack. The ambassador trial I set up with Alpha Wade has ended up being one of my better decisions. I was admittedly wary when we first decided on it, but I’m happy to say I’m pleased with the results.
“I took you under my wing because I saw endless potential in you, and I still see it. There’s a fire in you, Scott, a fire that I want to sit at the forefront of my pack and lead it into the future. You are my heir, it’s already been established, and I’m not getting any younger.”
I somehow knew what he was going to say next as he pulled his hand from mine and lifted it up, a motion for me to bow my head to him so he could set his hand in my hair, “I am proud to have been your mentor, Mr. Dannell.”
“I’m honored to have been taken in as your student,” I whispered back, and Amos hummed.
“My helm is passed to you, Alpha Scott. I know you’ll make the best decisions for this pack. Lead them home, my boy. Lead them to unite the packs.”
I pinched my eyes closed to keep the tears in, my voice choking, “I will, alpha.”
His hand slipped from my hair, and my eyes snapped open as I caught his wrist before he was entirely limp, looking up to see his eyes were closed, face white, chest still. Priscilla gave a horrible whine and raised up on her knees, leaning over the bed and burying her face against Amos’ chest, sobbing.
I carefully set his hand down onto the bed, squeezing his fingers and swallowing down my tears before standing up and rubbing my hands over my face to compose myself.
“What are your orders, alpha?” the Shaman asked softly, and I looked at him before turning my head down, fingers flexing and curling into fists.
“We need to honor our fallen alpha, giving him a proper funeral, and bury him.”
“We honor his wishes,” I said, wiping my eyes, and looking over at the beta, “We unite the packs. It was always supposed to happen, it was just delayed because alpha got sick,” I cleared my throat, “It was his last wish.”
“You should write to Alpha Wade,” the Shaman said, putting a gentle hand on my shoulder, and I nodded firmly.
“I will. Can I trust you with the preparations for Amos’ funeral?”
“Then I’ll write to Alpha Wade,” I turned, “Come get me if something happens.”
Alpha. It felt weird to be called that. I was alpha born, and I already knew that the pack would be passed to me at the time of Amos’ death, but it had come so suddenly, far sooner than I’d been prepared for. There was still so much I needed to learn, I didn’t think I was ready.
When the front door to my home was shut, I leaned against it and slid down, pulling my knees to my chest and wrapping my arms around them before burying my face and letting the tears fall. I just lost a man I considered to be my father, and suddenly so much responsibility was weighing on my shoulders. It was all too much.
“Daddy?” I lifted my head from my arms and gave Rebel a watery smile when I saw him standing down the hall, leaning out of the kitchen doorway, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, little man,” I lied, sniffing, and wiping my arm under my nose before cleaning the tears away from my cheeks and holding my arms out for my son, “Come here, give your dad a hug.”
Rebel hurried over to me and knelt beside me, wrapping his arms around my neck and hugging me, snuggling his face against my neck, “It’s okay, daddy, I love you.”
“I know baby,” I whispered, hiding my face in his hair and stroking my fingers through the curled inky locks, “You still wanna see him?” I asked, and Rebel nodded furiously before turning and situating himself so he was sitting on my lap, and I pulled at the silver chain hanging around my neck, pulling the locket out from where it was hiding under my shirt and setting it in my palm, popping it open and holding it out for Rebel to see.
He drew his little fingers around the picture, his golden eyes glimmering in awe, “Can I meet him someday, daddy?” he asked, and I wrapped an arm around his waist, pulling him back against my chest and kissing his forehead.
“I hope so.”
“Scott,” I looked up to see Shaede stepping down the hall, cleaning his hands on a towel, his brow drawn in distress, but before he could ask me why my eyes were red, he stopped walking, bowing his head, “I see…”
I sniffed again and closed the locket, letting it hang and standing up, rubbing my eyes and setting a hand on Rebel’s head, “Would you mind helping him pack his things?” I asked, “We’ll be leaving soon.”
Shaede simply nodded and held a hand out for Rebel, who looked at me with a small frown, “Are we going somewhere?”
“We’re moving,” I explained, smiling warmly, “Back to my hometown where I was born and raised. I think you’ll like it,” I picked him up and propped him on my hip, “It’s surrounded by redwoods, we’re only five hours away from the ocean, there are freshwater ponds, oak trees, hills covered in grass and flowers. It’ll be like we’re camping every day!”
Rebel seemed to muse through my words before brightening up, “Can I make friends?”
My already wounded heart seemed to break even more, and I gave him a warm smile, “Of course you can make friends, sweetie. You know what else?”
“You’ll be able to meet your papa,” I said it breathlessly, and immediately Rebel was all for it, wiggling in my arms until I’d let him down and he ran down the hall.
“I’ll pack and we can leave right now!”
Shaede chuckled a little, watching the eight-year-old disappear down the hall before turning back to me, the smile fading as he stepped up to me and wrapped an arm around my shoulders, letting me bury by face against his chest, shivering a little from the sharp inhale, letting more of my tears fall.
“I’m not ready for this,” I whispered, and Shaede squeezed me securely, chin on my head.
“You are. You’ve been training since before we met. You’re ready, you’re just scared and inexperienced. I’ll be right here for you if you need any help,” he pulled me away and wiped my tears with his thumb before putting a hand on my back and turning me towards the hallway, “Go on, you have a letter to write, your own things to pack. I’ll help Rebel.”
“Thanks,” I offered him a weak smile, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Something painful seemed to flash in his eyes, but it was gone almost as quickly as it had appeared, and he shrugged one shoulder, pushing me forward gently, “Go on.”
I cleaned the rest of my tears from my face before I got to my room, shutting the door, and making my way over to my desk to sit down and pull a piece of paper in front of me, grabbing a pen and taking a deep breath, my fingers playing with the silver locket hanging at my chest for a moment as I considered what I was going to say.
I’m sure they would be happy to hear from me, I didn’t write as often as I could have, they were probably mad at me for that, but if nothing had changed, then they would be ecstatic to hear from me. I really hoped Malcolm would be happy. I was finally coming home.
A slow breath slipped in before I leaned over my desk, putting my pen to the paper.
Dear Alpha Wade,
You don’t have to bother responding to this letter. We’ll be seeing each other soon…