I watched the slow rise and fall of her chest, my eyes travelling up to rest on her peaceful face. She was so beautiful, breath-taking even, so much so she almost didn’t seem real. My cold, heavy heart warmed at the sight of her. It always did. Her long lashes fanned the tip of her high cheekbones and her lips, soft, plump and kissable. She was flawless. Wiping a loose strand of hair from her temple, I trailed a finger down her chin. Then I remembered what she did. Her touch ran cold and with a little growl, I pulled away.
“Wolfsbane,” I confirmed, staring down at Izabella, my stomach-churning at the nostalgic odour.
I knew she’d do something like this so I asked the pharmacist to not give her any wolfsbane but replace it with anything that had a similar effect. What they gave her wasn’t lethal. I rubbed her stomach, lightly kissing the bare skin peeking through. Nuzzling her belly button, I rubbed her hips lightly, lifting my head to watch her face, a part of me hoping to wake her up.
Wolfsbane was banned in The Bloodstone and it was only used for medical purposes under the supervision of pack doctors. This was law, one that was rooted to my past.
Memories of my birth-pack plagued my vision, right when I was a mere pup ’til the night of the massacre. We were very tribal, not like the ‘elite associations’ she was born in. I saw the Moon in her, felt it, tasted even whenever her lips touched mine. She was every culture, every wolf bottled into one, slender body and she was mine.
I came to peace with my family’s death, knowing if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have known her. Never in my thirty-five years of living did I ever think I’d meet my true mate; I never even knew that was such a thing. My birth-pack held one tradition that The Nobles condemned - a forced union between two wolves. By now, I would’ve been Alpha but mated to a she-wolf I could never truly love with pups that weren’t pure enough for the Moon. We were seen as barbarians. In her eyes, I was still the barbarian.
I stole Izabella from her home, marked and impregnated her against her wishes. Her fight was pointless. If she wasn’t chosen to be mine, I’d understand but eventually, she’d give in. I just quickened the process.
We were chosen for each other, why did she try to resist it all?
Something from my peripheral caught my attention. The cold air and the odour of decaying flesh was an indicator of who it was. The hairs on my arm stood to attention, alert and ready if she tried anything against Izabella.
Nadia stared down at her, eyes black and cold, emotionless and her complexion greying to a sickly colour, causing bile to rise in my throat. Even in death, she bled. Blood dribbled rhythmically to the ground eerily. The sound was in sync with my throbbing skull and my nostrils flared, my fists clenched as I beard the pain. I tried to help her; after learning of my parents’ death, I tried to find her so we could escape but they got to her before I could. Then they got to me. Outstretching her hand, she tried to touch my Izabella but I grabbed her wrist just as those dark orbs snapped to mine.
“Do not touch her,” I growled, tossing her hand to the side.
She sensed the Moon’s in her as well. It was impossible to ignore. It was so potent the whole pack could sense it. By default, they loved her and she was something they’d never encountered, a woman they could lean on. It explained why Terry was drawn to her but it was no excuse for touching her. I don’t know what I would’ve done if she wasn’t there to stop me. I wasn’t going to kill him – that’s all I knew – but the damage would’ve been severe. I placed my mark on her; he should’ve known she was taken from a mile away.
She shifted slightly, her chest heaving with deep breaths, moaning when I kissed her stomach once again right on top of our baby. She would wake soon and this time, she wasn’t going to avoid my anger. I gave her a chance to fess up but she chose to lie instead.
Whispering in my native tongue, I rubbed the spot just above her womb and in those short, few seconds, I didn’t feel the need to vomit. Rubbing her stomach one last time, I placed another kiss. She stirred again and slowly, her deep hazel eyes zeroed on me. Dawn made itself present by the warm tangerine glow brightening our room. Disorientated, she scanned her surroundings. Nadia vanished at that moment, knowing through our bond, she could see her.
“You didn’t sleep,” She mumbled softly. Watching the swell of her breast and her nonchalance from the truth hanging heavy between us caused rage to fire through me. Why would she betray me? The Moon’s will?
“Get up,” I snapped, tossing the duvet off her body, reigning in my frustration. She blinked a couple of times, disorientated to her surroundings. “Get breakfast then meet me by the training centre by noon,”
Confusion tinged her delicate features. With brows knitted together, she clumsily shuffled off the bed, nearly tripping over the duvet sprawled lazily on the ground. Impatiently, I grabbed her arm, hoisting her up and she struggled out of my grasp. Izabella glowered at me, folding her arms protectively. I didn’t feel any sense of remorse but the fucking smell of Wolfsbane eroding my nostrils fed my temper. A growl rumbled in my chest as I took a step forward.
“What’s your deal?” She asked, staggering away until her back hit the wall.
With an unforgiving growl, I stalked towards her, gripping her jaw tightly but not with too much pressure. I scented her, hoping it’d diffuse the fire burning inside. I couldn’t contain my flailing emotions or revolt at the smell of Wolfsbane. That poison! Slamming my hands at both ends of her head, I snarled at her menacingly, my skin bristling with the urge to shift. I saw her as a threat, I saw her flesh was a threat; her reason ruled her wolfs innate instinct to breed. Her throat worked with a hard swallow. She was nervous. Good.
“I will continue to fuck you until you fall pregnant,” She didn’t say anything, didn’t even make an attempt to cower away. She was strong, that was one thing I needed in a Luna but I also needed heirs. “If I catch you with Wolfsbane I will-”
“You’ll what? Beat me?” She bellowed, causing me to flinch at her harsh tone. She pushed my shoulders but I didn’t move an inch. Irritated, Izabella ducked under the arm and walked straight through the opened door. She wasn’t going to get away with this.
“Izabella!” I barked but she ignored me.
I thought she’d travel to the kitchen like I instructed but from the corner of my eyes, I caught her disappearing around a corner, heading for the front door. I growled, frustrated, and jogged after her, hearing her heavy footsteps. Not many people were awake early at dawn, especially the children, but there were those who kept the pack going. There were some who greeted me but I dismissed them rudely, my attention too focused on Izabella.
I winced when sunlight hit my eyes and called Izabella but she still ignored me. Jogging to her side, I grabbed her arm and she wiggled, desperate to leave my hold. Tugging restraining her with a sharp tug to my chest, she screamed bloody murder. Shocked, I released her immediately. Elizabeth ran out of the pack-house, worry etched in her dark features.
“What the hell is going on?” She asked, glancing between the both of us.
“Keep him away from me!” Izabella roared, jabbing her finger at me. I lunged for her but Elizabeth got in my way. An unholy snarl rumbled from deep within and I lowered my scowl to her but she held up her arms to placate me.
“Move out of my way,” I snapped, my eyes still glued to Izabella’s retreating form. She was heading for the woods and I shifted from foot to foot then paced back and forth.
Hurting Elizabeth to get to Izabella was out of the question but I’d do what was necessary. Over the years we’d been together, I loved her as if she was my own mother. She touched my arms and gently pulled me to the side, ignoring the audience forming around us. I stopped abruptly, taking a couple of steps and bellowed.
“Get fuck out of here!”
Immediately, they all obeyed my command. Their attention was unnecessary.
“Basil,” Elizabeth chanted, her tone of disappointment.
“What happens between us –,” I pointed in the direction Izabella disappeared to. “–Isn’t any of their business,”
“You can’t blame them for their concern if there’s a screaming match right outside their doorstep,”
Dragging the fingers through the roots of my hair, I seethed. “She wouldn’t listen!”
“Right, I’m going to give you some advice you need to consider when it comes to that girl,” At her words, I refocused my attention on her, eyes narrowing with curiosity.
“What do you mean?”
We rounded the corner, out of sight from the pack members. She rubbed my arms soothingly.
“I see how you are around her and you need to be gentler.” I scoffed, shrugging her off and shaking my head.
“If I go easy on her, she’ll try to fuck with me,” I tapped my temple for emphasis. “She tried to drink Wolfsbane. She could’ve poisoned herself!”
It was vile, sickening and I knew from first-hand experience what it did to the body. I banished any more thoughts relating to my birth-pack, feeling my chest heavy with grief and despair.
“I understand, I understand,” She said frantically. “But what else is she supposed to do when back her into a corner. She is Alpha and still so young, still in the early stages of a full grown wolf. You took her from her home so suddenly, you marked her when she least expected it and now you’re pressuring her with children?”
“These are procedures that happen between two wolves,”
“These are the procedures from your birth pack, a pack she sees as tribal,” Elizabeth raised her brows when I wasn’t quick to reply. “You’re mated, chosen by the Moon, not just another she-wolf forced upon you. She’s a high-born wolf from a very powerful pack. She is royalty in their eyes. All I’m asking is to be gentle with her. Give her a few minutes to cool down. Remember, Basil, she’s not a regular wolf, you knew that. You love that,”
I listened to her advice; I wasn’t a complete brute. Hours flew by and still, she made no appearance. I spent most of my day in the training ground, training without her, to then preparing for The Midnight Moon, getting Katherina to pack her bags. For some time, I stood outside like a lost pup, waiting for her return. A few pack members walked by and I ignored their pitiful looks. I’d wait for a goddamned eternity if I had to.
Night fell when I set out to search for her. I was afraid I waited too long. Wasn't she hungry or something? Why didn’t she come back? I prayed she was okay. After taking the whole afternoon to cool off, I yearned for her touch; I was going crazy without her. Her scent surrounded me, luring me, and I followed it like it was my pathway to her and I heard her silent cries. The pain felt like knives driving through my heart. Guilt seeped through me, pouring out for her forgiveness.
Be gentle with her...
‘Gentle’ wasn’t in my vocabulary but for her, I’d try. I’d always tried for her. She was my Izabella, my delicate flower – too delicate to put up with the likes of me. She hid behind an oak tree and her shoulders stopped moving as did her cries. She knew I was here. When I walked around her, she didn’t lift her head. Crouching low in front of her, I ran my fingers through her hair, massaging her scalp and kissed her crown. She groaned inwardly, leaning into my touch. Immediately, she relaxed in my embrace. I heard the low, rhythmic thump of her heart which was in sync with mine, forming one single heartbeat. Our hearts will align but our personalities refused to do so - she was light clashing against my darkness.
Burying her face in my neck, she refused to look at me. I hummed in her ear, an old lullaby my mother once sang to me when I was younger, trying to calm her jittery nerves. I could protect her from the world, but not from myself. I guess, hurting her was inevitable but I wanted her to know I was sorry. For any future wrongdoings, I was sorry. Finally, her breathing slowed as sleep lurked around the corners of her consciousness. I lifted her chin to meet her eyes. Her irises were golden, her wolf brought as a form of defence. It wouldn’t work. Her wolf loved me, no matter how much her flesh felt, her wolf and I had been in love since the beginning. Her wolf was nothing without her flesh and I needed to make amends with her.
“It’s time to go,” I whispered, kissing the shell of her ear, rubbing her back soothingly. A sob escaped her lips. “Please don’t cry,”
She shifted as I cradled her in my arms and she gazed up at me. Her eyes, dimming to hazel hues, were glassy with tears, reflecting her pain, her suffering and her humanity, a side of her I sought to understand. Touching my beard, she pulled it lightly and I nipped her fingers playfully. Stroking her hair, I lowered my head for my lips to graze hers.
Be gentle with her...
She was compliant, stretching her neck to return the kiss. Clutching my collar of my shirt tightly, she deepened the kiss, a desperate moan sweeping me in a soft caress. Addicted, I crushed her to me, the swell of her breast smothered against me. Her groan was a mixture of pain and pleasure. I sucked it all, drinking her in. Reluctantly, I pulled away. There was no time for this. We needed to leave early to make it on time. Without warning, I stood abruptly and carried Izabella. She wrapped her arms around my neck, refusing to show her face.
Whispering in my mother tongue, I touched her temple and her eyes lowered, succumbing to the haziness of sleep.
I walked out of the woods, heading to my jeep. Cena was waiting along with other males. They were my top males in the pack, useful for any possible attacks. Keith, my second in command, stayed behind to ensure the pack was functioning well without me. For her, we’d stay for a few days.
Cena opened the door and carefully, I placed Izabella on the back seats of my jeep and threw a blanket over her body. I kissed her cheek with rare affection before shutting the door, turning to my men. Some of their gazes lingered on her and stared them down until they shifted their gazes. They were fascinated by her. They were unmated males and I wouldn’t hesitate to kill any one of them. Cena hopped into the passenger seat as I took the wheel. I glanced at her one last time through the rear-view mirror before taking off, heading to the state of Georgia.
It’s only a few days...