Chapter 25: Mate to Mate
“You didn’t call me,” I said as I looked down at his hand, which was moving towards my leg. “I thought you had rejected me.”
“I… I had a lot to think about. I didn’t want to do this over the phone, you deserve this in person.” Oh Luna, here it came. I steeled myself to the rejection, hoping it wouldn’t hurt too much. I had seen what it did you shewolves, and it wasn’t pretty. “I wanted to apologize for being such an ass before. I didn’t know, and when I found out, I had to recognize the truth and what it meant. Now that I know what I want, I had to do this in person.”
“I’m sorry, too. I gave up on you, I listened to the doctor and I reached out to a friend instead of waiting. My heart broke when you came to me and I knew what you smelled on me.” Tears started to flow down my eyes as I looked down, my hand protectively moving over my babies. “And then to know that I’m pregnant, with twins none the less. I understand, really I do. Please, just do what you came here to do before I lose any self-respect I somehow retained.”
He got off the couch and kneeled in front of me, taking my hand in his. “I, Craig Robert Anderson…” Here it comes, I thought to myself. I closed my eyes, anticipating the pain as my heart would be ripped out and stomped on in my own living room. “Accept you, Ella Grey, as my mate.”
“I accept your rej… wait… WHAT?” My eyes flew open as the words made their way through my head. “You want me?”
“How could I not want you, Ella? You’re my other half. You’re amazing. I am the luckiest wolf in the world.” I couldn’t think, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move. I just sat there, jaw down at my chest, as I looked at this man, this wonderful man who had just given me his heart. I was still frozen when he picked me up and sat back on the couch, holding me on his lap with his strong arms pulling me close.
There was no holding back the tears as I sobbed onto his chest. My right arm went around his chest, squeezing him tight, while the left went behind his neck, keeping the bad thumb safe. He didn’t say anything, he just held me and stroked my hair as his nose was buried in my neck. We sat that way until my tears were finally gone and I could sit up again. He pulled some Kleenex from the box on the side table and handed them to me. I looked down, shocked at the size of the wet spot my tears had left on his sweatshirt, but he didn’t care.
I blew my nose and wiped my face, all the while gathering myself to face him. When I was ready, I straddled his legs and put my hands behind his neck. “And I, Ella Grey, Alpha of the Belden Pack, accept you as my mate.” We moved together as if rare earth magnets were in our lips; I pulled him to me and kissed him with all the emotion and love I could find.
It was the kind of kiss that made every kiss you’ve had before fade into nothingness. Mark’s touch was a distant memory as our tongues moved against each other, as our bodies found new ways to become even closer. He made the blood rush to my loins, and the butterflies take flight in my stomach.
He was my mate, and this moment was everything I had dreamed of when I was younger. I loved the kiss, but I wanted more. I pulled back from him, panting in need as I looked into his green eyes. “Mark me,” I said. “Make me yours.”
He leaned forward, placing his forehead on mine as his hands ran down my sides to my hips. “I can’t, Ella.”
“Why?” My voice broke, making it sound more like a cry than a question.
“I have to wait, Ella. It’s too dangerous for us right now.” My body ached from the loss of contact as he moved me to sit next to him on the couch again. He turned slightly, so that our knees touched, never letting go of my hand. “If I do what I want, what my wolf is imagining right now, I’d claim you and mate you tonight.”
“I want you to, Craig. I need you.” I didn’t understand the emotional rollercoaster I was on.
“I know, but my first responsibility is to protect you. I don’t like it, but I don’t have a choice. Let me tell you what is happening so you understand.”
I realized that I had been drinking too much and I had to pee. “All right, but I need to take a quick break. I’ll be right back.” I got up and almost ran down the hall to the bathroom; finishing up quickly, I washed my face and tried to fix my hair before I went back out there. I opened the door, and froze when I heard Marge.
“So you’re her mate.”
I moved to where I could see around the corner. He stood up and moved towards her, his hand out in greeting. “Craig Anderson, pleased to meet you…”
“Marge. Marge McDonald.” She moved closer, then faster than I could follow her right fist flew out and caught him on the right cheek. He went flying, his head leaving a dent in the wall behind the couch.
“Marge! What the hell?” I ran over to the couch, where Craig was sitting up, his fingers checking the back of his head for blood. I could see the reddening of his cheek, he’d have a nice shiner soon.
“That’s for attacking my Alpha, the Luna and killing Beta Darryl.” She picked up the magazines that had been knocked off the table, then clapped her hands together and smiled. “Now that we’ve got that settled, would you like any coffee?”
“No, thank you. I would appreciate some water, though.”
I asked for some juice, and she walked off to the kitchen. “I’m sorry about that. Marge is very protective of me, always has been. You don’t have to worry about her, though, she made her point and you’re like family now.”
He rubbed his face. “Good thing, she still packs a punch.” He smiled as Marge walked back in with our drinks and a small tray of cheese and sausage. “Come here, I need to tell you my story.” He had moved into the corner of the couch, moving his right leg to the back he patted the cushion between his legs. I walked over, sitting down and reclining against his chest, my head nestled on his shoulder. I’d never felt as safe as I did now.
“So, after that weekend conference, my Dad was furious. He came home yelling about how you had killed Tanner’s youngest boy while your parents were negotiating a treaty. He said they were so furious, they killed your parents but you got away.” He was rubbing his hand over my stomach, his thumb slipping under my shirt and spreading tingles all over. “He said Alpha Goodwin and Alpha Tanner were taking the lead on finding you and killing you. He and Alpha Lewis were making plans to take over your Pack.”
“But Alpha Goodwin’s people were the ones who took Marge and Mabel hostage.”
“Oh, I know, and that really made him livid. When they finally sent me and a few others to this territory, his men were already here and your Pack members were gone. That he did that without the others… he thought he had a good alliance. Then he said you escaped after killing another Tanner son. Goodwin convinced us that we could put together a team and take you out, then he would let the three Alphas split the territory and the Pack assets. He didn’t tell anyone that you had already lost your wolf. If we had known that, we would have known that the Pack wasn’t coming back.”
I grabbed the tray of snacks, turning in his arms I fed him some meat and cheese while I thought through what he said. “We put together a team of ten to go get you. We weren’t taking chances this time, our instructions were to kill you and bring back your heart. Tanner’s oldest boy, Stephen, was put in charge since he was avenging his brothers. We staked out the Pack for a while, and since we had learned your thumb had been reattached by a human surgeon, we hit pay dirt. We looked for specialists nearby and sent people to their offices. A distraction or two, and we found out when your appointment was. We arranged for a roadblock with a human biker we met in a bar, and set up the ambush. We didn’t know the Luna and her daughter would be along, or that your Beta would fight so hard.”
“Why did you stop? You must have hated me.” I could still remember how he stopped and looked at me as I was covered in blood, silver knife in hand.
“At first it was because I caught a whiff and you were human. You know the rules, it stopped me and I took a deeper sniff, and that’s when I realized what you were to me. I’m sorry, I couldn’t handle it. You had been made out to be our greatest enemy, a conniving little bitch, and if that wasn’t enough you’d managed to beat back our attack. I ran, all the way back to my car and drove home before the Johnson wolves could catch me.”
I settled back into his chest after a drink. “I always wondered what you were thinking. I could see the shock in your eyes, they were so bright, you were beautiful, it was like you realized you couldn’t kill me.”
He sighed deeply and held me closer. “I couldn’t, but I couldn’t accept you either. I went back home and reported in what had happened, all except the realizing you were my mate part. I told them I broke off from the fight when the Johnson warriors approached and barely made it to my car. I was sure no one else had made it. I’m not sure if they believed me, I was kept on a tight leash for a few weeks. The alliance fell apart after that, and rumors about you started circulating. Some said you were human, others that your Pack was in hiding and planning an attack. I got a break from school and I had to find out for myself, that’s when I came out here and staked out your house.”
I blushed. “I can’t imagine what you felt like when you saw him, when you smelled me.”
“My wolf was furious, but I couldn’t hurt you. I ran until I had worn my wolf out, then went back home to think. I thought you were rejecting me, that you had chosen a human instead. It wasn’t until Carolyn sent me that tape of the trial that I knew the truth. Ella, I had no idea. I should have been there for you, and it kills me to think about what happened because I wasn’t there. I hope you can forgive me someday.”
I kissed him and settled back onto his chest. “I was mad when I found out who you were, but I wasn’t mad at you. I was mad at Luna for not bringing us together sooner. I’m still mad at her for losing my wolf. You did nothing wrong, Craig, don’t blame yourself.” He leaned forward and kissed me, and we made out like the teenagers we were for a few minutes before he finally pulled away. “Now why can’t you mark me? I want you to, I can feel you want me.” His member had been poking my side and he was forced to adjust it a few times while we were talking.
“I want to more than anything, but my wolf and I are in agreement that the most important thing is your safety. My father and the other two Alphas still want you dead.”
I snorted. “Yeah, but Uncle Doug put the fear of Luna into them. They don’t dare cross him, he said he would destroy them if anything happened to me. I could see their eyes, Craig, they believed it.”
“True, so they won’t kill you or harm you directly. That doesn’t mean they won’t find other ways to get back at you. I know there have been wolves sent out here to spy on you. If I can find your lover, others have too.” He took my face and cupped it with his hands as we sat up. “I have to go back, it’s the only way I can find out what they are planning and warn you about it. I’m not strong enough to take on my father yet, and my Pack is pissed off about our men being skinned and burned like that.” He kissed me gently. “If I mark you, they’ll know. I can’t go back if they smell you on me, if they know who my mate is, and I won’t be able to hide it. They’ll kill me.”
“This sucks.” I gazed into his eyes as they begged me to understand.
“I have to go now. The bond between us will grow stronger with each passing minute, and it’s already taking all my willpower to get up and leave you, Ella.” He stood and went to the door, pulling his sweatshirt off and dropping it to the floor. I rushed into his arms, placing myself against his bare chest as I started to cry. “Goodbye, my love. I will call or text you when I can.”
“Stay safe and return to me, my mate.” We kissed deeply, then he dropped his sweatpants and shifted into his large wolf. I let my hand run through his fur as I opened the door and he walked out. He looked back once, his green eyes sad, before he ran for the hills and his waiting car.
I watched him disappear, then closed the door against the cold wind and sank to the floor.
“He’s a good man, Ella. He’s strong enough to do what is right.” Mabel came into the room and cleaned up the plates as I got back to my feet.
“He is,” I said. “May Luna protect him.”