We laid in bed together, Rhys running his fingers through my hair after a steamy session of sex. It felt so much better to have lessened the space between us. There were less secrets and that changed everything. All that was left was for me to talk about Silas and the things that had happened between us. I felt a chill sweep over my exposed skin from the evening breeze leaking in through the cracked window. I burrowed in deeper to Rhys body, trying to absorb some of his warmth and calm.
“You know, I do like blonde on you...” He remarked.
I smiled to myself, closing my eyes, “It was really hard for me when I realized I needed to dye it. I always loved my hair because it was what always tied me to my roots. My mother was a blonde...” I could remember her face in my mind, plainly. She had a long face and almond shaped eyes the color of dried leaves. They her hair was a soft golden color that she would let me spend hours playing with as a child while we watched reruns on TV. My father had been a lazy drunk. In our small town everyone had known him and the trouble he often got into. My parents weren’t a happy couple.
I had lived with my mother in the house that she and my father had bought together after they got married, before he lost his job and turned into a drunk. I don’t remember their being much love between them, but I do remember nights when he would show up on our doorstep. I remember how my mother would roll her eyes but let him inside to use the shower and sleep on the couch. She was a good woman, a compassionate woman.
“Do you miss your family?” Rhys asked me, resting his hand on the back of my neck as his fingers kneaded gently as at my muscles.
I shrugged my shoulders slightly, tilting my head so that I could look into his eyes, “I think I miss what used to be, but I know that there isn’t anything back there for me anymore.” I had left that small town with plans and ideas of grandeur for myself. I was going to be somebody, make something more of myself then my parents ever did. I was certain in my heart that my father was still drinking himself to death, and my mother... well she was already buried six feet under.
“As awful as this may sound...” Rhys cleared his throat, “I’m glad that you don’t have any reason to keep you from being here with me.” I rolled my eyes at his cheesy comment. The man said he didn’t know how to be romantic but then he went and said things he had no right to be saying. I could feel my lips turning upward into a soft smile.
“Even if I had a reason to go...I can promise you that I would always come back to you, Rhys. You and this pack...this is my home now.” I pressed up off of his chest so that I was looking down on him, “When I met Silas I was a naive girl. I didn’t know what it was to truly be loved or love someone. Now things are different... I know different.”
I watched his expression become harder at the mention of Silas. I knew that it was hard for him in ways that I could never understand. Sure, I had been under the man’s thumb. I had been forced to do things that no one should be forced to do or experience but I had endured and overcome. I wasn’t a werewolf. I didn’t know how deep the bond between Rhys and I went or what it felt like to know that someone had hurt me in such cruel ways.
He wrapped his arms around me pulling me closer, “I will bring you his head on a platter. Let you chose where we hang it on our wall.” His voice was a heavy grumble, nearly a growl. I loved how protected and loved that he made me feel. In Rhys arms I felt like I was a queen and the whole world would quake before me in adoration or fear, depending on the situation.
“I love you.” I whispered softly, feeling content with what I had shared with him. Tomorrow was a new day and I could share more of the mysteries of me with him then.
He tilted his head down as he pushed my body upward, leaving a lingering kiss on the top of my head, “I love you, much more than you could know.” His words were spoken softly and on the edge of sleep. I closed my eyes and snuggled into him, letting myself be drawn into the darkness of comfort.
When I woke again it was to the sound of Rhys talking in angry tones. I rolled over in the bed to reach for him in my confusion finding the space beside me cold and empty as if he had been long gone from it. I let out a small sigh of irritation as I rolled over again, opening my eyes. The room looked as if a tornado had moved through, both of our clothes thrown about. It surprised me that I had been so deeply asleep not to have heard all the movement that had happened around me.
I pushed up onto my elbows, glancing toward the bags that were packed near the bedroom door. I recognized the bags as my own and I felt a moment of shock followed by a strong bubbling of fear in the pit of my stomach. I rose from the bed, throwing back the sheet that had been placed over me at some point during my sleep.
I grabbed a large shirt that obviously belonged to Rhys and threw it over my head, snatching up my underwear from earlier and pulling it up my legs. I could hear the sound of voices carrying through the house, all of them sounding tense and agitated. I moved as quickly as my legs would carry me to Rhys. I needed to know what had happened, what was going on. When we had gone to sleep the world was at peace but when I opened my eyes everything seemed to be unsettled once more. I walked down the hallway, catching bits and pieces of the conversation.
“She can stay on my territory. No one would suspect a thing...” I recognized Kendrick’s voice, memories of the kidnapping springing into my mind. I tensed, freezing in my walk for a moment. Rhys wanted to send me away? Why? I couldn’t think that I had done something wrong. In fact it seemed like we were closer to each other than we had ever been.
“I don’t like it anymore than you do, Rhys...but he has a point. Silas would never think to look for her there...” Dace grumbled in a low voice. His words followed by a deep growl that hinged on the verge of being pained. I knew that something had definitely happened while I had been asleep. Something serious with the Silas matter. I couldn’t help but feel like I had bad luck. Whenever things seemed to be going well for me, the universe flipped over my apple basket and I was left to scramble to catch them all before they went bad.
“Fine.” Rhys compliance left a sour taste in my mouth. He was going to ship me off, without even asking me what I wanted or what I thought? My heart ached and a familiar feeling of betrayal began to slither up my spine. I heard the sound of heavy footsteps moving toward me, but I remained frozen in place, waiting for everything to come to a head.
The moment he rounded the small corner of the hallway he froze. We both stood like statues, staring each other down in a silent combat of wills, “I didn’t know you were awake...” He remarked after a moment.
“I didn’t know you were receiving guests...” My words were cold and calculated, exactly the way I wanted them be. I didn’t want him to think that he was going to pull anything over on me. I had heard enough and I didn’t want to play games.
“Yes, well something came up that required my immediate attention.” He replied in a tone that mimicked my own.
“Silas?” I questioned, not planning on beating around the bush.
“Kendrick got a lock on his position. We want to move before he disappears again.”
I took a step towards him, wanting to feel the comfort of his body, “You’re going after him?” I knew eventually that this was what was bound to happen, it was what Rhys had been working towards since we met. Still, I felt fear that something would happen to him and I would lose the peace and love that I had finally gained. I didn’t care about Silas anymore. He could move in the shadows forever as long as I had Rhys and this world I had been building with him then I would be satisfied.
“Yes I am and you are going to stay with Kendrick’s people...” He left no room to question his decision as he turned away from me, shoulders tense.
“Why can’t I stay here?” I questioned as I stalked after Rhys.
“Because it would be too unguarded even with my mother and the others keeping watch. I have to protect them as much as you.” He seemed more than a little agitated as we moved into the living room. Kendrick and Dace turned their gazes away from me as my eyes swept over them. They obviously understood that I was ready to turn my anger onto anyone at the moment.
I moved quickly around him, throwing out my arms dramatically to stop him. We stood face to face, our chests brushing against one another as we breathed. The look in his eyes told me that he was not in the mood to argue with me, that he expected me to listen and obey. I, however, was never going to be treated as any less than his equal because that was what I was. I had learned to respect myself and to not live in fear any longer.
“You think my being here puts everyone in danger?” I asked. A part of me had believed that was the case from the beginning but Rhys had assured me that being with him was the safest thing. He had made it seem as though everything was fine regardless of Silas and his need to make me pay for embarrassing him.
“Yes.” He snapped and I recoiled, feeling an ache in my chest at his words. He let out a long sigh as he lifted a hand to push the hair back away from his face. I watched as the muscles in his jaw flexed in frustration, “Look, I need to make sure that my pack is safe.”
“Our pack...” I commented in a soft voice, correcting him.
His eyes softened at my words, flashing with a storm of emotions. Rhys took in a deep breath as if to wash away the tension in his body, exhaling to push away the tension that clouded the small space between our bodies, “If it’s our pack then you understand the need to protect everyone in it. If you stay here they will all be targets. This isn’t about us at the moment. We don’t have the luxury to think any other way. It’s about what is best for them.” He reached out and pressed his palm to my face, cradling it in a gentle manner that seemed to only come out when I was around, “It’s only going to be for short period of time. A couple of days at the most then we will be back together and I will put my mark on you. I promise, Dove.”
I wanted to be angry at him, but everything he was saying made perfect sense. I knew if I had been born like Rhys and the others that I would understand better what it was to be in these roles and what it was like to be part of a pack. I knew eventually that whether or not I would be turned was going to be a discussion. Personally, I wanted to remain as I was. I didn’t mind being human, even if it made me weaker in most senses. Thought perhaps it was simply an internal battle and unwillingness to accept change. However, I also knew that if I wanted to enjoy a long life with Rhys that receiving the gift of the bite was the only way to truly ensure that.
I closed my eyes, breathing is deeply as I leaned into his touch, “I don’t like the idea of being away from you.” I opened my eyes, meeting his bright eyes, “But I am trusting you, Rhys. Don’t disappoint me.”