Darcie looked at the group in contemplation and murmured, “While we wait for Langdon’s friends to arrive, I’d like to speak with Coal alone. Langdon, could you take Brinley to the north gardens? The fresh layer of snow has made the view quite beautiful.”
Oh, hell no, that wasn’t happening. I bristled at the idea of Brinley being anywhere alone with Langdon. My spine straightened. A low rumble released from my chest, and I tightened my hold on her hand.
In her usual intuitive fashion, Darcie eyed me and asked, “Coal, do you trust your mate?”
I froze. The bluntness of her question washed over me, forcing me to consider my words before I answered. Did I trust Brinley?
The mate attraction was hard to describe, but I could almost feel her heartbeat next to mine in my chest. She had given me no reason for mistrust. I answered carefully, “Yes...it is Langdon I’m not sure of.”
Langdon smirked. Darcie didn’t appear to be the least bit offended at my words. Her tone was instructional, but soothing at the same time. “As a future Alpha, you know your Luna will have to deal with many wolves. She is the one you need to trust first. After that, you are wise to consider which wolves you trust to leave her in their care when you cannot be there. He’ll make sure she’s safe.”
Her words were true, but there was still a glaring problem. I gritted my teeth. “I do not suspect Langdon of wanting to harm her. Quite the opposite. He asked her to be his mate. His intentions exceed that of a normal wolf.”
Darcie nodded. ”He did ask that of her. And what was her response?”
So she knew about it. How then could she ask me to leave them alone together? I replied, “She told him no.” Brinley gave my hand a reassuring squeeze.
“Do you fault him for recognizing her value?”
I shook my head. He’d be insane not to. That wasn’t the point.
“Did she belong to you at the time?”
I bit back a snarl, angry with myself for rejecting her and shook my head.
Darcie continued, “So, the question boils down to, will he take steps to win her from you now?”
Yes, that was precisely my concern. I replied, ”Langdon has no loyalty to me.” I didn’t expect him to be loyal to me. We weren’t in the same pack. I was just stating the fact because it factored into his intentions.
She mused, “You are correct, he doesn’t, because respect and loyalty are earned...on both sides. However, you already trust your mate. Now, you just need to trust that Langdon is a noble wolf. You may not have liked his actions or intentions, but he acted above reproach. He put himself in harm’s way for her, you certainly can’t fault him for recognizing how valuable she is, and he never tried to take what belonged to another wolf.”
She patiently waited for me to process her words.
I didn’t like it, but she was right. So far, Darcie had proven herself wise and caring, even to my benefit and even when she didn’t know me. My instinct told me I could trust her. I nodded and let go of Brinley’s hand.
Brinley looked up at me in surprise. I gave her a quick peck on the forehead. Langdon walked toward the door, throwing me a smug wink on his way out. I narrowed my eyes and calmed the beast inside. I wouldn’t let him provoke me. If I was going to trust her, then I was going to trust her.
After they left, Darcie motioned toward the chair closest to her. “Please, sit.”
I crossed the room and settled into the chair. Before Darcie began, I felt I needed to apologize for my earlier behavior and murmured, “I’m sorry...about before...coming in as abruptly as I did and then getting around you. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
She chuckled, “You didn’t scare me or even offend me, young Alpha. I was mated to a very dominant male and raised two rambunctious pups. Your behavior was exactly what I expected, exactly what any male would do when his mind was crazed, trying to get to his mate.”
I raised an eyebrow at her. She did understand.
She continued contemplating, “You knew Brinley was hurt, didn’t you? That’s why you followed her?”
I nodded. Once again she was spot on. I mused quietly, “You saw...almost immediately...that I cared...that I wanted her.”
A slow grin spread across her face. Her eyes twinkled knowingly. “Of course, young wolf. I suspected the truth as soon as Langdon explained you had rejected her. Most Alpha’s simply cannot resist the pull of the mate bond. They feel it stronger than other wolves. It’s the Moon’s way of ensuring her intended Luna’s take their rightful places. Given your father’s reputation and his dislike of Brinley, it wasn’t hard to put the pieces together. When you arrived, the conflict and desire raging in your eyes just confirmed it.”
I cringed at the reminder of my father, feeling the heavy weight of the situation settle on me like a black cloud. Ominous. My shoulders slumped slightly. I still had a long way to go before Brinley, and I could be together.
Darcie’s voice dropped lower, motherly, as she acknowledged softly, “It isn’t easy to consider killing your own flesh and blood, no matter the circumstances.”
I swallowed and tried to speak past the lump in my throat. “No...but it’s the right thing to do, for everyone, not just Brinley and myself. I’m learning more and more of his cruelty with other pack members...,” I took a deep breath in and let it out, “...it’s time.”
She nodded, her eyes filled with quiet concern. “Tell me about your mother.”
My eyebrows rose in surprise. I hadn’t expected that question. I sat back, working to pull ancient memories to the surface. I spoke hesitantly, pausing through the details in my mind, “My mother died giving birth to Chase. I was only five at the time...so I don’t remember much.”
She gave an encouraging nod. “Go on.”
I wasn’t quite sure what she was looking for so just told her the few memories I did have. “I remember her smile. She was always smiling at me, even when she was frustrated.” My lips curled up at the memory. “I splashed mud all over the bottom of her dress because I wouldn’t stop jumping in the puddles. She was irritated...but still, she smiled.”
Darcie gave a low chuckle. “That sounds exactly like something Langdon and his brother Evan, would have done at that age.”
My grin widened. I guess most pups were mischievous like that.
“She sang to me...beautiful songs. That’s what I remember most...the times when she’d read and sing to Ryder and me before bed.”
Darcie brought the delicate teacup to her lips and sipped as she listened. “Those are beautiful memories.”
After a moment of easy silence, I asked, “Is that what you wanted to talk to me about? My parents?”
“Something like that...I just wanted to hear you talk without any distractions. It gives me a feel for who you are.” She kept her steady gaze on me. Once again, she exuded a motherly atmosphere, calm in the middle of any storm.
“Thank you…,” I began. “…for taking care of Brinley when I did not.” The words were difficult to say. Not the appreciation part, that was easy. It was acknowledging my failure to Brinley as a mate that stung. Even going forward, I wasn’t able to take care of Brinley as I wanted, not until I defeated my father. I clenched my fists in frustration.
“Soon, young wolf,” Darcie murmured, once again reacting to words I hadn’t spoken. I was almost in awe of the way she seemed to be able to read my thoughts.
The sound of multiple voices interrupted us. I stood to my feet, ready to meet these new wolves. A moment later, Langdon and Brinley walked back into the room with two Onyx Moon Enforcers right behind them. Langdon introduced us. “Coal, this is Daniel and Jax.”
I gave them a nod. Both were smirking from ear to ear, anticipation practically rolling off of their large frames. My Wolf reacted with a show of testosterone of his own, puffing out his chest and strutting about in my head.
Yes, my training was about to get very interesting...