Violence bred consequences. Usually, it was not the answer to life’s quarrels. In such circumstances, many would advocate peace and communication with words. However, this was sadly optimistic. In a supposed world of new understanding and openness, nothing but resentment, jealousy and hostility had been showcased in the European packs against their first Alpha female. In the end, the violence they had forced upon Duskfall, was to their own demise.
The days following the brutal slaughtering of Alfonso and his Spanish followers had the once loud and opinionated wolves, silent. Titania had taken one look at the three Spaniards that had luckily been knocked out during the event and slit their throats. A relatively quick death in comparison to Alfonso and Matíus. A hunt for Nathan had turned up dry and Titania reeled with fury– her furniture taking the brunt of it. While her empty heart held no love for the male, her sense of self-worth and justice prevailed, equalling a burning desire for his head on a pike for the injustices Duskfall had suffered from his arrogance. Hushed whispers fluttered around the packs with explicit stories of how she had survived a silver knife to the heart. And the way she had torn the males apart was spared no detail as males bit their tongue, teenagers halted their bullying and mothers clutched their little ones dear.
Feral. The part of Titania that been let loose. After years of perfect and steely control, she was now a ferocious beast. While feral wolves were more often put down or hunted, Titania was a deadly combination of both. Fully functional with the strength and complete instincts of her wolf– no human barriers to its destruction.
And now they understood. Her reputation of the Mountain Widow was hearsay compared to the demon she had become. If the wolves thought she was soulless before, they had not gazed upon the newly pitch-black depths of her wolf.
With a pen in one hand and a small tick-box list in the other, Titania looked like the epitome of herself two and a half months ago. The only indicator of the internal madness was the tell-tale glimmer within her gaze and the burning temper that lay within her fur hidden from the world. Then again, many would counter that was already part of her before the shattering of her soul.
It had taken her a matter of two days to clean up the mess her pack was left in. None too happy, her mere presence struck fear into the wolves residing on her territory, and the two offers of alliance from the French and Lithuanian Alphas was a testament to what they now saw her as. An abomination that they couldn’t control.
Schedule training in fifteen minutes for the adult wolves, male and female. She ordered to Angus through the packlink, gently running her finger over the small bandage covering her chest. Chase them down if you must.
Yes Alpha, he replied. Angus was ecstatic his Alpha was back, a magnificent leader he had always preached. Yet, when Eóghan had mentioned the scene of Alfonso’s funeral, he couldn’t help but cringe.
Titania closed her link and continued to sign the seemingly endless stream of correspondence, expenses, and invitations that had piled up on her once-pristine desk. She grumbled, for why was she the only one capable of completing paperwork?
Absorbed in the monotonous task, the slow unlocking of her cabin door was nearly missed. Her ears perked and nostrils flared at the deep hues of pine and sweat. Focusing herself to continue in her task, she couldn’t help the involuntary skip that took over her heart.
“Brett.” She acknowledged with a curt greeting.
Brett made his way into her cabin. He eyed the woman in front of him ignoring him completely. He knew he deserved the response, if anything the guilt and distress made his fingers twitch in awkwardness. The urge to tuck tail and run was high but he swallowed and stood straight, clearing his head of the burning bond newly formed between them.
Hiding the nervousness from his voice, he addressed her, “I was just wondering if you were free to talk…”
Sweat prickled his forehead at the dead silence following the open-endedness of his statement.
The seconds ticked by as Titania slowly brought her eyes from the paperwork to Brett, their trail burning in their intensity. The swirl of her bright blues a sight Brett had missed.
“Talk then.” She supplied icily. Her eyes dared him to spill every dark secret that plagued him. It was as if his weeks of tending to her was gone, the moments they had shared, and the care he had given, everything simply vanished.
He took this as an invitation to sit on the couch to the left of Titania, but at the small cluck and motion to the chair in front of her desk, he complied. The meeting now took on more of a professional atmosphere rather than a personal one and Brett couldn’t help but frown at that.
“I want to talk about what happened two days ago. We haven’t had a chance to discuss it.”
The hidden implication of her refusal to speak to him was clear. As soon as Doctor Craig had given the all-clear and pointed out her mark, she had done everything but address the issue.
Her eyebrow lifted and she leaned forward on the desk. A move which had Brett’s wolf pushing its instincts through. As a newly bound couple, the skin of her breast contained within her black top did nothing to suppress his own urges.
Oblivious to the internal tug of war within the male opposite her, she adorned a patronising tone, “Don’t bullshit me Brett, you’ve never been one to cover your real intentions so just spit it out. It didn’t stop you three Christmas’s ago when you told me ’hunting in autumn was not the best for my deer population.’” She mimicked, “Funny you commented on that when firstly, you don’t have deer and secondly, it was my pack.”
Brett bit down on his tongue at the clear agitation from Titania. He remembered the incident as clear as day. At two years into her Alpha position, he had said some choice words offering advice. But he knew this was Titania deflecting so taking a breath, he spoke, “I marked you.”
He paused, trying to figure out how to continue but not before she interrupted. “No shit, I’ve got this mangled excuse of a mark to prove it.”
She pulled down the neck of her jumper to reveal the puncture wounds of her mark. Red angry skin met his gaze and while the conflicting emotion of pride fluttered through him, the unwavering feeling of disgust with himself also appeared. The wound was scabbed, oozing and harsher than what he had imagined.
The unhidden fury in her eyes met his, “Despite the arseholes of my last bondmates, they never left my neck like this.” She pointed to the mark again. “Maybe I need to off you like I did with them.”
His stare levelled hers at her threatening comment. “I can see you’re clearly mad at me and I don’t blame you. What I did was completely wrong, and I genuinely didn’t mean it to be like this.” His looked at her, his eyes trying to convey his truth, “I’m not justifying what I did but I take full responsibility for it. I might have taken away your choice, but you can choose how we continue.”
She watched him, analysing him harshly. She didn’t offer him a response, so he continued, “Don’t get me wrong, I did want this to happen, just not the way it uh… did. I left Ash Crescent when Duskfall was in need and I’ve had feelings for you for quite some time but still, it doesn’t and won’t ever make what happened right.”
“I didn’t force you to make those choices, I heard that you had decided to leave your pack, during winter to come here which by my standards is another level of idiocy.” She leant back, twirling her ballpoint pen over her knuckles, “Despite that, you may have, in a small way helped me get to where I am now so for that I’m thankful.”
Brett released a breath. His chest puffed with admiration of her appraisal of his diligence and sacrifice. It dropped, however, when her voice once again turned its usual ice cold.
“That does not excuse your actions of sinking your teeth into my fuckin’ neck.”
She stood and rounded the desk, murderous intent rolling off her form as she sat on the edge of the wooden furniture: poised ready to strike. Brett could see that under the cold façade that Titania was hurt; he had put her in a compromising position that put him on the same level, or even worse, than her previous bondmates. He thought of Nathan and the rumours of treatment from the lowly males and growled, he was not like them.
“I’m not them.” He stated seeing the torment on her face, “I’ll apologise with every breath I have but I always intended to give you the choice for…us. You can choose from now on what you want to do but know that I’m willing to make it work. I’m not like the others.”
Titania rolled her eyes at his growls, “That’s yet to be proven.”
Red tipped Brett’s cheeks at the accusation. Anger, slow and steady built up within at the blatant disrespect from Titania. He knew she was pushing him away and succeeding but his headstrong anger took centre stage.
“I’m no saint but don’t ever say that.” His eyes darkened, “I don’t run away, I don’t hit my partner and I don’t emotionally manipulate them either. I care more about you than you’d ever dream to imagine, and I’ve taken care of you when you’ve been at your worst. Who do you think stayed by your bed? Cleaned your wounds? Tended to your catheter? Me, Titania.”
She internally winced at the image, “I didn’t ask you to. I don’t need a guardian angel Brett. Think I’ve coped well enough up until now.”
Casting a quick glance to her watch she readied herself for her training session– one needed after the heavy exchange from the Shetland male in front of her. She cursed at his stubbornness and the burning resolve within his watchful gaze.
She stalked out her cabin but not before Brett left her with some parting words. “Stop running away from this and consider it. Give me a chance.”
As her fist met the unfortunate flesh of her Belgium opponent, her mind was occupied by Brett’s last words. Words that held the weight of his desire of a life with her, something she struggled to comprehend. She was broken, scorned by men and yet he looked at her as if she were a prize, something worth fighting for.
She shook the notion away as she continued her spar. Wary that the wolves that watched her held scrutiny, disgust and most prevalent - fear - within their accusatory glares. It didn’t escape her when wolves stood rigid to her very command and only a few challengers remained after Alfonso’s demise. The supposed revolution had died with him.
After her second consecutive win, she wiped her brow with the towel before making her rounds around the fighting wolves, offering tips and advice. Only her Duskfall wolves held her eye as the rest kept theirs dipped and it wasn’t until Eóghan joined her that a wolf had broached conversation. The air remained stale and an air of oppression held Duskfall territory hostage.
“Good to see you back in your element, how you feeling?”
She chugged down on her water before answering, “I’m feeling fine. So, where’s this supposed revolt huh?”
Eóghan’s cheeks rosied as he ran a nervous hand through his beard. “Yeah…it was pretty intense. I didn’t think my leadership was that bad…”
The roll of her eyes had Eóghan correcting himself, “Okay maybe it wasn’t the best but compared to you of course I’d look shoddy. Least we kept the challengers at bay. Losing Duskfall would’ve been a disaster.”
She hummed her agreement, but the spark of disapproval was there. Titania was not happy with the decisions made during her absence and was determined to make some changes while the iron was still hot.
“I’m removing you as Beta.” She admitted. At Eóghan’s sombre but not shocked expression, it was clear the male wasn’t surprised at the demotion.
“When?” was his only response as he attempted to control the whines from his wolf.
“As soon as the council get their shit cleared and these packs leave. I read through your notes left on the desk and they’re clearly taking their time with their investigation.” Her tone held obvious ire at the council’s lacklustre leadership.
“Sure, I knew this was coming. I think it was just too soon. I appreciated the position but with everything going on, my wolf and I can’t handle the stress with our PTSD. Think it was just a recipe for disaster.”
Titania’s gaze bore into his, Eóghan’s forest eyes conveying the raw hurt from his past. “You finally spoke to someone?”
A small smile took over his features, “Aye, I have regular counselling over Skype with a lady from Liverpool. She’s helping me work through it. Shame her accent isn’t the easiest to understand.” He joked, lightening the mood.
“I’m glad.” Her hand slapped his shoulder in a small sign of affection. “Let me know if I can help you work through anything, I know it’ll get better.”
“Same goes to you Alpha,” Eóghan’s smile turned into a grimace, “I can hook you up with some counselling if you need? Asalah has some good connections with therapy and- “
“I’m fine.” She cut him off, “Just need some time to get back into my routine.”
Her answer left him less than convinced but she shrugged him off, bright eyes forcing his wolf to back down. “You take the teenagers, I’ll get the adults doing a run around the perimeter while the weather is calm.”
He nodded, “No problem,” As Titania walked away to inform the sweaty group of adults, Eóghan added, “Oh! Doctor Craig was looking for you. Said something about stitches and herbs.”
A huff and roll of her shoulders was the only response from her at her distaste of Eóghan’s words. He chuckled, knowing that Titania despised being taken care of, even if her injuries were serious.
“That old man never quits…”
“He helped save your life, so it’s a good thing he doesn’t.” Titania sighed and ran a hand over her forehead, before she could interrupt, Eóghan continued, “Quiet yes. But he’s an amazing wolf so make sure you stop by his cabin, now shoo!”
Her eyebrow raised, “Excuse me…Shoo? Am I a little pup to you now?”
At the lightness in her tone, he jested, “You’re two months younger so yes, you’re the pup.”
Her scowl only made him laugh harder. Spars stopped at the sound escaping the male, curious to what humour the Mountain Widow was supplying. With a growl and a demand to continue, the wolves swiftly resumed their previous fights, their judgemental looks all but gone.
She motioned her head to the approaching teenagers, “If you can’t handle them, get Angus. I want no interruptions while I visit the doctor.” Her message was clear and Eóghan gave her a salute, happiness radiated off him as she agreed to see Doctor Craig.
Doctor Craig prodded the female with needles as he redid her burst stitches. He tutted at her lack of care during sparring and he made this known as he berated her for breaking the rules he had put in place, for her own healing, so she could recover. But, as predicted, the female was as headstrong as ever and continued to lead rather than tend for herself.
“Stop grumbling or I’ll do the bloody stitches myself.”
Her ire only infuriated the doctor further. It was about time she took time to herself to heal, instead all he could do was mutter and complain but it fell on deaf ears.
“I wouldn’t be grumbling if you had taken the week off rather than fight…” He muttered under his breath, but the sharp-witted female caught every word.
Unimpressed, she slammed a fist onto the metal bed. The doctor gave her a stern eye before continuing. “I’m not scared of you Alpha. I’ve seen all the good you’ve done for the pack and I know you might be a fierce Alpha, but you’re not the monster they paint you out to be. So, hold still.”
Titania snorted, “I’m everything they say I am, but I don’t care, gave up caring years ago.”
“That’s your opinion. You do care but you hide it well. I didn’t study psychology to be completely clueless in this department. At least it comes in handy from time to time.”
She marinated in his words as he continued piecing her chest wound back together. He applied some ointment to her neck and she hissed at the pain. The mark had become infected, the skin swollen and had taken on a yellow tinge from the force behind the bite. Titania left the cabin with a renewed sense of despair and hatred towards one male, surprisingly it was pointed towards Brett rather than Nathan.
It wasn’t until the silver blade met her skin in the sanction of her private cabin, that the emotional pain truly subsided. The tears dripped slowly over her pale skin at the gifts left for her in her living room. With renewed vigour, she cut deeper into her thigh, demanding relief. Titania fell asleep in a distorted sense of peace as her surface wounds pulsed. Momentary reprieve towards the torment within her own mind.
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