“Are you ready, your highness?”
Serendipity couldn’t muster the strength to roll her eyes at Beckham’s sarcastic tone. Instead, she was silent for a moment before nodding her head. A part of her was happy that Dominic hadn’t returned the night before, a small part of her. A much larger part of her, the illogical part of her, wanted him to rush in with a bouquet and a long heartfelt apology like something out of a terrible romantic movie. Especially when she had woken up alone with Lindsey at her bedside looking perfectly fine as if nothing had happened to her.
Her friend had explained that she had been punished, but it hadn’t been a whipping. She hadn’t been mauled or tied up and tortured. No, Lindsey had simply been given a few more chores added on to what she would normally do on a workday. Serendipity had immediately felt ashamed of herself. Her mind had automatically jumped to the worst possible conclusion about what Dominic could have done after he had marked her. She hadn’t even given him a chance to explain himself before she had cast him away. To top it off, while Lindsey was helping her get dressed and ready for the morning, she had boasted that the Prince had come to her himself to apologize and had even given Lindsey a few days off in apology.
That wasn’t to say that Serendipity wasn’t still angry with him. She was furious and even the magnetic pull of the mate bond couldn’t erase that. Dominic had marked her without her consent and she didn’t know if she would ever be able to completely forgive him for it. She was feeling miserable too. The cast on her leg hindered her from being independent and she was still in a fair amount of pain. The pain pill she had taken when she had woken up morning had helped with some of the throbbings in her leg, but unfortunately, with a big bulky cast on her leg there was nothing she could do about needing help and she needed help with just about everything. Someone had to help her with getting in and out of bed, getting to the bathroom, dressing, and just about anything besides breathing. It had only been a day and already she was ready to pull her hair out.
If she was honest with herself, she was ready to pull her hair out for reasons other than her temporary handicap. The day without Dominic had been the longest she had gone without seeing her wolf since meeting him less than a week ago. She thought that maybe she would be able to clear her mind with him gone and think clearly about how crazy it was that she was so attached to someone she had known for so little time. It amazed her that instead of being terrified of the giant of a man, her fear had dried up faster than water in the Sahara after she had seen his wolf. When she thought about it for too long, that just made her more confused. It made no sense because as beautiful and majestic as her wolf had been, it had been just as monstrous. The more she thought about everything that had happened in such a short amount of time, the more she felt like maybe she was like Alice and had fallen through a rabbit hole of her own.
Her hand drifted up to the piece of gauze that covered the mark Dominic had left when it began to ache, bringing her back out of her head as Beckham grasped her wheelchair and rolled it out of Dominic’s room. Lindsey had cleaned the wound for her earlier and covered it to keep it sanitary. Serendipity had not mustered the courage to look at it yet. Her emotions were still too raw and for the moment, if she tried hard, she could pretend it wasn’t there. The last thing she wanted to do was to catch sight of it and burst out into tears.
Serendipity noticed that it was quieter than usual in the manor, probably because it was still so early. She wasn’t complaining. The manor was overflowing with wolves most of the time because of the pack summit, but thankfully it wouldn’t be long before most of the visiting packs left to go back to their own territories. She was tired of Beckham and his two goons following her around and she was hoping that she would be able to talk Dominic out of so much supervision once things settled. Or at least she had been hoping to talk him out of it. Now, with her having ditched her guards with Lindsey he would probably keep three guards on her for the rest of her life when he wasn’t with her. If not more.
Beckham, who seemed to notice the constant attention she was giving her neck, groaned from behind her. “Thank Goddess that he marked you. I would seriously hate having to bend down to push this wheelchair for the next six to eight weeks while you healed.”
Serendipity frowned, not understanding why he still wouldn’t have to. She glanced back at him, careful not to irritate her neck further, and moved her hand to ask him why. She had been teaching him a few signs here and there and he had picked them up rather well. As well as a wolf who had no intention or interest in learning sign language could, that was.
With a snort, Beckham answered her. “Why would I hate bending down to cart you around? I may be a werewolf, but after a bit, I’m sure my back would protest. Plus, it’s annoying. I’m supposed to be a guard, not a babysitter.”
Roswell did roll her eyes then and she gently patted her neck, hoping he’d catch her drift. It took him a second, but eventually, he gave her the answer she was looking for.
“Did Dominic not explain? I figured that was why he marked you in the first place so that you would heal faster. It shouldn’t take more than a few days for the cast to come off and you should be up and walking by the time we celebrate New Nation,” he informed her.
She sat up in the wheelchair a bit straighter. This was news to her, great news! She was just as annoyed as Beckham about being carted around. She wondered for a moment why Dominic hadn’t told her, then remembered that he hadn’t exactly had time to tell her because of her hysterics. She hesitated for a moment, close to attempting to use the bond that had been forged between them if to not do anything else than assure herself that he was okay, but she couldn’t make herself. She was weak and she knew it. All it would take was to hear one word from him and she’d be putty in his hands. She was mad at him. She was!
Or, at least, she was trying to be...
Beckham stopped the wheelchair just outside of the classroom and knocked before opening the door. The sound of children could be heard, just like the last time she was there, but this time it was much, much louder. She was rolled over to the same spot as before, right beside the desk where Alpha Gabriel taught. She was a bit annoyed when she realized that Beckham would be staying with her through the lecture. He didn’t even move to sit in one of the available chairs. Though the chattering children were a bit quieter with her in the room, they weren’t shy about staring. She heard her name a few times and smiled at one of the younger boys, hoping that they weren’t intimidated by her. Not that they would have a reason to be. She was human after all, even if she was Dominic’s mate.
Serendipity studied a few faces that she didn’t recognize from last week and it dawned on her that a few of the children most have been from the visiting packs. She made a note to ask someone how exactly the education system for young wolves worked because she hadn’t heard of schools being set up after the War. She knew enough about the way the districts worked to know that human children didn’t get an education except for what the mothers passed down. She’d have to speak with Dominic about that eventually.
The door to the classroom opened and Alpha Gabriel walked in with his briefcase. She knew something was off as soon as she saw the man, and, judging by the way Beckham tensed up behind her, she could tell he sensed it too. Even the children grew quieter. It had only been a week since she had seen the Alpha King, but the man seemed to have aged years since then. His hair had sprouted more grey, more winkles weathered his face, and he had no color. His walking was a bit sluggish as well as if he was struggling to keep from face planting. Serendipity looked up to Beckham and nodded towards the Alpha King, telling him without words to check on the wolf. Beckham needed no more encouragement. He took large strides towards the man, but only got a few feet before he was stopped.
Alpha Gabriel glanced towards Serendipity’s guard and growled lowly, his eyes flickering a gold color, deeper than that of Dominic’s. “I’m fine.”
Serendipity’s heart broke. It was clear that the man wasn’t fine and from what she understood he was only going to get worse. Beckham hesitated before he took up his place behind Serendipity and she watched as Alpha Gabriel laid his briefcase down on the desk. Sweat beaded up on the man’s forehead and her concern grew. She had never seen a wolf break a sweat before, especially from just a walk across the room. He turned to give Serendipity a small smile as if to reassure her that he was okay, and just like the flip of a switch the man’s eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed into the floor. His body hit the ground with a loud thud.
Chaos ensued as the children erupted into wails and cries of distress. Beckham rushed forward, yelling to one of the children to get one of the guards that were outside the door. Not even thinking about it, she reached out to Dominic, terrified for the man who had been nothing but kind to her. She felt the second they connected again, the bond snapping back into place. She received the impression he was anxious and sad but didn’t have time to dwell on the rush of sensations. Still, it was a weird feeling his emotions and knowing they weren’t hers. At first, she felt the bond morph into surprise and glee that she was contacting him and then when he picked up on her terror, she felt an all-encompassing worry settle over him.
She heard him just as clearly as if he had been in the room with her. What’s wrong?
She couldn’t help the little sob that preceded her thoughts. Alpha Gabriel just collapsed. Please send someone. He needs help, Dominic.
She felt the bottom drop out of her stomach and realized after a moment that it was what Dominic was feeling, not herself. Then she was cut off from him as he shut his mind to hers and she watched as wolves filed into the room, one of which led the still hysterical children out. Serendipity watched as a few guards surrounded Alpha Gabriel before trying to sit the man up. The wolf was completely unresponsive as a few people worked on him and all Serendipity could do was watch helplessly as eventually, two men came in with something to carry the man out.
Beckham’s hand on her shoulder surprised her and she realized for the first time that tears streamed down her face. He looked just as devastated as she felt, and she appreciated the bit of support he offered, especially since the wolf didn’t exactly like her. The trip to the medical wing of the manor was a blur, but the atmosphere in the manor was noticeably different. It was tense and just as quiet as it had been earlier even though usually the halls would be bustling with wolves and human servants alike by that time. It was as if everyone already knew what had happened to their king, and after a moment of thinking about it, she realized that with the wolves able to telepathically talk to each other, they probably did.
Turning down the hallway that would lead her to where she knew the Alpha King was being treated, she was met with a sight that broke her heart. Dominic sat outside a room, his head in his hands. The man looked so vulnerable in the position that she felt the anger she had been hanging onto so tightly dissipate as if it had never been there in the first place. He looked up at their approach and the sight of tear stains on her wolfs face broke down every single emotional wall she still had erected concerning him. He stood quickly, his face morphing into an expressionless void as he nodded his head at Beckham. Her guard left her in front of her mate, without a word. Serendipity and Dominic studied each other for a moment, right outside of the room Alpha Gabriel was being worked on in.
Serendipity, who already couldn’t speak, couldn’t do much else now that she was in a wheelchair and she hated herself at that moment for getting herself hurt, especially when Dominic so clearly needed her at that moment. It was quiet and they both seemed to be waiting for the other to make a move. Serendipity put her pride aside and held out her arms, not able to go to him with her leg in the cast. Just like that, the facade of strength on Dominic’s face vanished and he fell to his knees just in front of her, his body that of a broken man. Tears welled up in her eyes as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. The man was so large that even with her elevated in the wheelchair, his head rested on his chest, right over her heart.
She felt his tears soak into the long-sleeved shirt she was wearing as a silent sob made his form tremble against her. “I’m sorry, little human. I’m so sorry. I can’t lose you too. Please find the courage to forgive me. I’ll be better, I swear it.”
Serendipity held him close to her, one hand running through his locks of messy wild hair in comfort. A part of her had no idea what to say. As painful as it was for her to see Dominic’s father collapse, she couldn’t imagine what her wolf was feeling. She had never seen him upset in this way. When Dominic didn’t like something, he got angry and a few things were smashed and destroyed in the process. He was a wolf and his anger was almost second nature to him. She knew that and accepted it as a part of him. To see him so visibly shaken up and hurting was...unacceptable to her. She’d have rather carve out her own heart and offer it up on a silver platter than see him shed tears the way he was.
I’m not going anywhere, Dominic. It’s going to be okay. He’s going to be okay.
She sent the words as soothingly as she could through the bond between the two, sending every feeling of love that she could to him so that he would know he wasn’t alone. He looked up at her then, moving his face away from the shelter of her heart. His eyes were bloodshot and she knew he hadn’t had much sleep, probably not any since they had argued. She knew she hadn’t exactly slept well the night before. Her hand moved from his hair to stroke the side of his face and his hand reached up to grab it, bringing it to his mouth to press a light kiss to it.
He didn’t let it go as he spoke to her. “I shouldn’t have marked you in the way that I did. You should have gotten everything you ever wanted in a partner. The romance, the flowers, and someone that could be patient and understanding of your humanity and independence. You deserve so much better, the man my father thinks I am. The one I wanted to be for you and him. Now, I can feel him slipping away, every wolf can, and I’ve messed things up between us. Everything is falling apart.”
Serendipity shook her head and tugged him back to her, closing her eyes as she rested her chin on top of his head. You haven’t pushed me away. You messed up, but so did I. I haven’t once thought about how difficult this must be for you, Dominic. Against all odds, you fought every instinct in your body to not mark me and give me time to adjust. I’m still angry, but this isn’t something we can’t work through. And we are going to get through this. Together. We’ll do whatever it takes to make it work and if there’s anything we can do for your father, we’ll do it. I mean it when I say I’m not going anywhere, even if I get upset sometimes and say otherwise. Can’t you feel how much I care for you already? It’s only been a week and I can’t imagine life without you. You aren’t alone now and you won’t be ever again. No matter what happens.
She felt him grip her wrist a bit tighter, lean in a bit closer as if he couldn’t believe what she was saying to him. She held him in the silence of the hallway, the murmur of voices in the medical room the only other thing that could be heard. She didn’t know how long they waited like that, both clutching each other like a lifeline. She knew that eventually someone was going to come out and let them know what exactly Alpha Gabriel’s prognosis was and she didn’t know if she would be prepared for what she was going to hear, but she did know that Dominic wasn’t going to be ready for it and all she could do was be there for him. So much of her wanted to be able to wave a magic wand and make things better.
“I was coming to see you after your class this morning. I didn’t know how I was going to get you to ever look at me again, nevertheless forgive me. I apologized to Lindsey for giving her extra chores when I realized it upset you so much and asked for her advice. She thought it was hilarious, me coming to a human for help on how to win you back. She suggested that I set up a way for human family members to get in contact with each other as most haven’t seen been able to since the war,” he told her, almost bashfully. She held her breath in shock and when she didn’t respond, he looked up at her with shame in his eyes. ” I held a meeting this morning to set up a way for the different districts to send letters between each other until I can set up a communications station for phone calls between them. The calls will have to be monitored and it isn’t much, but-”
Serendipity didn’t let him finish, launching herself forward until her mouth met his in a fiery kiss. It was different than the ones they had shared before. It was an act of desperation to be close to each other, but one full of sorrow and uncertainty as well. Thankfully, before they could be carried away, as carried away as they could be under the circumstances, the door to the room Alpha Gabriel was in opened and a man stepped out. Serendipity’s memory was a bit blurry, but she believed it was the same wolf that had come to her rescue when she had been trapped in the cave by the sea.
Dominic stood quickly, but kept a hold of her hand, as he stood at her side. He didn’t say anything, just waited on the healer to give him the news. Serendipity squeezed Dominic’s hand as she took note of the somber look on his face and she sent a tiny prayer upwards, hoping that it wouldn’t be as bad as they all feared.
“Alpha. Luna, I’m glad to see you are looking better,” the healer greeted. Her stomach dropped in anticipation and the tiny growl of frustration Dominic let out prompted the doctor to continue with a sad look on his face. “I won’t beat around the bush. His condition has exponentially worsened Alpha. As of now, he’s on permanent bed rest. He wasn’t happy when he came to and I let him know, but he mustn’t strain himself any more than he has to.”
She looked up at Dominic, saw they little furrow of confusion and pain in his eyes as he responded to the doctor. “Well, when will he be able to get up again? You’re the best healer New Nation has to offer, Damon. You’re here to get him better.”
She clutched onto his hand a bit tighter, already knowing what the doctor was going to tell him. She had been young when her grandmother had passed, but she had heard the tone the healer was using before when the doctor had informed her parents that things weren’t going to get better for her grandma. The healer gave him the most compassionate, patient look she could imagine he could muster.
“Alpha, with all due respect, your father has mating sickness. There is no cure. There is no way to make him better, and he doesn’t want his condition to improve. We’ve known that this was coming-” Dominic let go of Serendipity’s hand then, turning away from her as a sound of animalistic sorrow emanated from his chest. A few more tears slipped down her face as she looked past the healer to peek into the room beyond. The sight of Alpha Gabriel laying on a hospital cot looking as pale as the sheets he was laying on tugged on her heartstrings.
“How much time does he have?” This time Dominic’s voice was once again clear of emotion as if he was composing himself.
The doctor was quiet for a moment. “I think it best if you prepare yourself for the worst. If I may speak honestly, your father is tired, both physically and emotionally. He just isn’t fighting as hard as he once was and you know that the battle against this disease is half dependent upon his mental state. He wants to be with his mate in the next life. I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you, Alpha. We can keep him comfortable for the last few weeks of his struggle.”
Dominic straightened his back and gave the healer a curt nod of his head. “Thank you, Damon. I want to be kept up to date about his condition if anything new arises.”
“Yes, Alpha.” The healer bowed and then left.
Dominic stepped closer to Serendipity, looking into his fathers’ room but not making a move to get any closer. She reached for his hand and she looked up at him, watching him look at his father. There was so much pain in his gaze.
I’m sorry, Dominic. You know if there’s anything I can do to make this easier for you, I will. Your fathers a good man. Go see him. I’ll wait for you. She told him with a squeeze of her hand.
He looked down at her and nodded his appreciation. The pain quickly turned to determination. It was quiet for a minute as they watched Alpha Gabriel rest and she could hear the beeping of the machine he was hooked up to. Eventually, Dominic let go of her hand and she watched as he took a few steps into the hospital room to stand by his fathers’ side. She turned and rolled away from the room a few feet to give them a moment of privacy, wishing with everything inside of her that there was something she could to make it easier for him.