While I am escorted by Corey to High Tower, to the basement level to have breakfast with Pack Moon - I am reminiscing about last night. Alpha Baden had escorted me back to Pack Claw’s dormitories and he had waved an awkward ‘bye’ at the door before quickly running off into the night.
We had remained almost completely silent after finding out that we were mates. We had shared out spit, mixed it together and tasted the impacts of the bond. While heat spread through me like it was raining fantasy men - Baden had his own reaction, or should I say, erecti-
“Maia,” Corey grabs my arm before I walk into a post and he pulls me into his side as we ascend a bridge into High Tower’s front doors, which are guarded by an unaccountable amount of other Guardians, “Focus, it’s just a breakfast - nothing more,” Corey is forcing on a casual tone, which just worried me all the more.
“Huh?” I ask, looking down at the formal dress I had put on. Okay, it wasn’t too formal, but I had put on a woolen black dress, with long sleeves and it was tight down to my knees. I felt pretty classy in this, which is what I assumed I needed to look like if I was seriously going to have breakfast with Pack Moon, “Am I too formal?”
“Ah, no... just relax,” Corey was about to say something else while looking me up and down, but now he escorts me down a corridor that descends with moss covered stones, paved tiles made of a natural green while even water trickles down the sides.
“This leads to the basement?” I ask Corey and he just smiles.
“You’ll love the den,” Corey winks and I straighted my dress.
You might get the impression I was trying to impress Baden.
Quite the opposite.
Well, not exactly the opposite, but I wanted his family not to hate my guts. Or at least, not to start thinking of reasons to banish me. I barely had the right to be here after my own Pack members infiltrated their territory, so I had to kiss their feet and be the pitiful little Omega wanting attention.
It was the only way to get accepted amongst high blood - to submit and be thankful that you are graced by their presence.
No, I didn’t think that myself - Corey explained it to me this morning while I had been putting on some makeup.
Corey was quickly becoming a life line, a Guardian of Baden’s that actually wanted me to succeed.
I shouldn’t be surprised, Guardians were often supportive like counsellors. They saw everything and were often wise.
As we descend the Pack Moon ramp into their sacred den, guarded by all those Guardians up above... now I see what Corey means as we reach the bottom of the ramp.
The floor is pure flat rock - natural and not sculpted.
It wasn’t even a room, but an open cave, underneath the foundations of the college, overlooking the whole valley which dropped down far, far below our highly raised Half-Moon Academy. In this massive den, the open space over the valley had windows set in, to keep out the wind and rain. The whole area was decked out with a table long and grand, filled with young, old and all kinds of members from Pack Moon.
The Prime Alpha doesn’t even sit at the end of the table, his Beta does. She sits with the elderly, while the Prime Alpha is in his werewolf form, lounging by the fire as the cubs nick at his fur and play with his tail. He grooms them and eyes me carefully as I walk in with Corey.
Just having the Prime Alpha’s eyes on me is extremely unnerving while he is in his wolf form, despite how kind he was yesterday - he was looking after his own first and foremost. Breakfast was the best time to bond, after all, over food and all together with a fresh start to the day.
My eyes scan the table and I see Baden sitting somewhere in some random spot in the middle, his chin in his hand, elbow on the engraved wood, looking pissed off. For an Alpha, he sure didn’t like company as much as you’d think he would. I stop moving half way across the rock floor, refusing to move when I see no seat for me left. Corey grabs my arm, humming encouragement under his breath as we get closer.
“Come on... smile...” Corey keeps murmuring as he takes me right up behind Baden’s chair, where Corey puts a hand on a random wolf’s shoulders, telling him to move.
“Don’t -” I try to stop Corey, but he holds out a hand to me.
“I insist,” Corey shoves the disgruntled family member aside, and holds out the chair for me.
As this exchange happens, a lull in conversation has all ears turning towards my situation. As I take the seat, Baden turns to me and pretends to look amazed.
“Hi, little cousin,” he blurts out quickly - almost like he wasn’t sure what else to do or say.
With his words, everyone turns away and starts murmuring or continuing their conversation, while I turn to Baden with a raised brow, wishing to speak with him.
“Baden,” I whisper, before my nose crinkles up and I sneeze three times into my hand. However, this time he doesn’t smile, amused. Instead, Baden’s already torn his gaze from mine nonchalantly to reach over the table and grab some freshly cooked bread.
He grabs some and starts munching on it quickly.
“Don’t get too attached... little cousin,” Baden adds this in while talking with his mouth full and avoiding my gaze completely. He is completely dismissing me. Until he remembers something and his eyebrows raise and he turns to me for a brief second of his precious time, “Oh... and don’t share my drink,” he smiles and turns to his goblet of... was that wine for breakfast? “Ale,” he counters, as if reading my thoughts... he pushes his goblet to the other side of his plate.
I turn to the food as my heart thumps in my chest.
“Big ′cousin’?” I ask, also casually as my cheeks go pink and I pretend to be disinterested in Baden. I also reach forward to grab some warm bread, while Baden growls in approval, nodding his head at the corner of my eye.
“Yep,” he takes a few more bites, “Let’s keep it that way,” I watch in hurt confusion as he suddenly scrapes his chair back, ready to depart. I still in my chair, not wishing to face him in this moment. When he had apologised last night in the forest, I had almost begun to believe he had changed his attitude towards me completely. But I was wrong, clearly. However, before he leaves from the table, Baden grabs the back of my chair, leans down and growls low - so only I can hear, “Just in front of others, okay?” I pause again, blinking at this, before he pats my shoulder and says more loudly, “I’m heading to the restroom - I don’t want to sit here. Follow me when I’m done, eat quick,” Baden squeezes my shoulder again, a little too firm and comforting for the dismissive way he had just treated me in front of Pack freaking Moon.
It sends an irritated shiver down my spine.
And now I had to rush.
I lean over the table and grab some butter, some herbs, some sliced fresh meet, cured and no doubt flavourful.
I make a makeshift sandwich and eat quickly, stuffing my face as all of Pack Moon seem disgruntled by my quick eating.
“My dear, slow down,” the Beta, Haley speaks to me from the head of the table, smiling warmly, “Please?”
“Sorry! I got to go!” I get up from the table in a panic, holding my mouth shut with my hand as I turn to a fretful Corey.
He’s ushering me aside anxiously to follow Baden before he exits the restroom in the corner near the ramp.
I look over my shoulder and I see Baden’s mum is watching me with a sweet expression... and the Prime Alpha seems to be amused by my nervousness as I skirt around the table and wait for Baden.
I had been here for a total of a few seconds - and Baden was rushing me about.
He was such an ass.
The moment I wait by the restrooms, Baden comes striding out, practically ignoring me as he rounds the bend, heads up the ramp and starts running.
“Go, Maia,” Corey ushers me after him again and I start to run while gritting my teeth.
“Hurry up, Omega!” Baden yells out loudly without looking back to see if I’m falling behind. I sprint to try and catch up and as I follow him up the ramp and out of the High Tower entrance onto the main bridge, his other five Guardians also follow. I’m already panting as I see Baden quite literally sprinting himself, across the bridge - where to, I had no idea.
I see Baden stop at the end of the main bridge, which led to the rest of the campus. Now he jumps onto the brick sides of the bridge, looks down with a grin... and jumps.
“What?” I growl as I finally catch up to see he’s hit a side of the mossy incline underneath the art building. He’s taking a short cut to the balcony on the lower level. I get on top of the balcony and prepare to jump, trying not to look at the huge drop below, which led to the trees of Moon territory. If you missed the jump - you’d just be a splattered mess somewhere down below.
The crows would eat you before anyone could find your body, or maybe Mages would steal your bones for spells.
Oh moon, I really shouldn’t be thinking this before I jump.
“Maia!” Corey grabs my hand and pulls me off the bricks, “Don’t try it - go in through the entrance, I have your back.”
“Fine,” I agree and sprint around the bridge to a beautiful courtyard just beyond, which led to a huge blue stone art hub. Once I’m inside the main entrance, there are a small set of stairs that lead down to a huge art space. You could create anything here and it was multileveled. My eyes automatically look up and I see Baden waving at me from the top balcony, in the corner, about five stories up. Chandeliers are up here, and I see Baden sitting on his little platform, holding a book and an apple he must have snuck from somewhere.
“Go on, we’ll stay down here,” Corey sounds bored of Baden’s antics as his Guardians disperse over the floor area and I head to the stairs, which eventually lead to ladders. All across the walls, you had multiple levels of hung art works and sculptures. Baden is beyond even all this on his hidden little snug platform in the corner of the ceiling. When I eventually get to his little space, up the last ladder, I watch him as he sits surrounded by pillows - like a little love den.
I shiver with the thought that many girls had possibly been here before me.
“Before you ask why I’m here - an Alpha only knows such heights when he knows he is destined for greatness, so I look over everyone in my spare time, to get used to my future,” Baden replies with forced enthusiasm, so clearly he is being sarcastic about something, “I don’t like people that much,” Baden continues, “They betray you, use you, pretend to love you,” Baden looks up at this and his eyes are a bit glazed over until he sees me and seems to realise I am actually here. Now, he shuts his mouth after rambling.
“May I join you, oh great Alpha?” I ask, sour and confused still, “Sorry, I mean, big cousin.”
“Right here,” Alpha Baden pats the spot next to him and I climb up to his little cubby house, which surely was some sort of storage platform in the past. Now, it’s just big enough for three people, if that. I climb up the last rung and sit next to him.
“So what’s with the cousin business?” I ask, outright, “We established we’re mates.”
“I’m still trying to work out who you are, Maia Royale,” Baden pretends to read his book while eating his apple. I sit with only a few inches separating us.
“Why, do you actually care about my identity now that we’re bound together?” I inquire.
“How about you tell me when you go into heat again this month,” Baden suggests out of the blue, way too casually while also ignoring my question.
“Excuse me?!” I ask, aghast, “What sort of question is that?”
“So I can lock you in your room, sweety,” Baden mocks me with the last endearment, before closing his book abruptly and putting it aside and turning to me, “Because if I smell you... I’m going to want to have my way with you - and Chase will want to seduce you to spite me. You need to be locked away, safely, from all of us. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to ride you just because you’re my mate, you can sleep with others if you want,” Baden shrugs at this and I blink.
That’s all I can do.
I have no words.
“Little wolf...” Baden sing songs as he looks away, “I’m waiting for an answer.”
“I don’t understand your ways or your words, Alpha,” I growl out through gritted teeth, “Am I your mate or not?”
“Look, I thought about it last night,” Baden looks down over the scene below him, where some younger wolves are setting up their supplies for the day, “Mates - schmates. Who cares, am I right?” as Baden turns to me, I again... blink, “The thing is, Maia - I fell in love with Chloe four months ago,” Baden shrugs, “She’s sweet, kind, beautiful, classy, intelligent. You know, everything you’d want - and she made my heart pound. Pretty bad.”
Talk about being open... in the worst and most abrupt way possible!
“Didn’t she dump you four months ago?” I ask, “Why would she dump you if you had this amazing relationship?”
“Apparently, I was too moody and ‘I didn’t’ know’ what I wanted,” Baden explains and I laugh out loud - very loud.
“Oh really?” I ask, turning to him, “But you are moody! It’s like you’re on your period every day. You apologised to me last night when you found out I was your mate and -”
“Forget about that, Maia,” Baden cuts me off, looking me over like he’s frustrated at himself and at me, “You don’t understand.”
“Damn right I don’t,” I answer back, “How can you dismiss me?”
“I’m asking you to prove yourself,” Baden snaps, like it’s obvious, “Prove to me you’re worthy.”
“Me? You’re the one that needs to redeem yourself -”
“No, no, I don’t think so,” Baden cuts me off, “Shut up. I’m an Alpha and people respect me. I need a mate on my level. You need to get there. I’m giving you some tough love, Maia. Grow a back bone, some intelligence... maybe you’ll do okay.”
“I’m going to ignore you just said that and ask this... Baden, forgive me for asking such an awkward question... but are you attracted to me... at all?” I ask, “Because, we’re mates and... that’s sort of a big deal.”
“Attraction is a funny word,” Baden growls under his breath, looking away from me again, “Does wanting to hide you away count as attraction?”
“Um... what does that mean?” I ask, confused.
“One of my favourite poets once said, when love and hate cross paths, and you grasp the meaning behind the riddle, you’ll often wonder, what emotion is real, and what is simply desire,” Baden looks at me, “Does that make sense?”
“...” I open my mouth and close it “...” I open it again, “...uh?”
“Forget it. Just tell me when you’re about to go into heat and I’ll get my Guardians to confine you to your room,” Baden opens his book and rips out a page, handing it to me, “Read this and I’ll do my own thing today... but... little cousin, don’t talk to me,” Baden pats my head and manoeuvres his large body around mine, then he pauses... where I feel a heat at my neck... and then he starts to descend down the ladder, “Please don’t bother me today - keep your distance,” Baden stops on the ladder, to gaze at me one last time... not that he had dared to do so for most of the morning, “I’m dead serious, Maia,” he adds, “Don’t share drinks with me either - please... it’s not worth the trouble.”
“...what trouble?” I ask, as Baden continues to speak in riddles.
“Isn’t it obvious? You’re too innocent, Maia, y-you’re a little... a little wolf... okay? It’s hard to tell you, okay? You’re not going to like me,” he seems confused by his own words, “Just don’t disobey me, is that clear?”
“Can I fight you?” I ask, “I might have to kill you - and me, before I endure your prescence and your riddles any longer.”
"Fight me?” Baden asks as he jumps off the ladder at the bottom of the fourth level, he looks up at me and cocks an eye brow... he had relaxed a bit with the space, “You can try... but... you wouldn’t like the humiliation of losing to me, sweety,” he winks and turns.
Leaving me so confused.
I decide Baden is his own kind of crazy.
When I look down at Corey, he’s watching me, raising a brow, as if to say ‘I told you so’.
There was more to Baden than I knew about.
He was extremely complex and it wasn’t just his blood line or his Alpha genes.
Eventually I fold up the page he tore out for me and I put it in my bra, before following Baden at a safe distance.
Already, I knew today was going to be as painful as it was going to be interesting.
Baden was slowly becoming my beautiful nightmare. Sweet, rude, obnoxious and passionate all at once.
To me, he was one confused Alpha.
My eyes widen as I think about our history lessons in werewolf lore.
Whenever an Alpha was like this... it was often a sign of immaturity before the maturity happened, if that made sense.
Mixed emotions, strange habits, riddled words.
It was the Alpha’s Mind’s Eye.
It was a very famous belief between Alphas and usually only discussed between them.
I just happened to remember reading a child’s book as a kid in Cave City - about the legend behind werewolves.
We were created by the combining of animal and human, a mythical wolf of god like status know only as Wolvenshire, whom fell in love with a mortal woman and gave brith to a thousand tiny pups - Alphas.
They were born directly from Wolvenshire’s wisdom.
It was more a myth than anything but it was to represent the Alpha’s ability to connect with the world, more so than any other being.
Alpha Baden was just growing into his roots - he was just becoming a man and an Alpha. He was still holding onto some aspects of his childhood... and I think I knew why and more specifically - who - held him back.
I don’t know how my mind somehow figures this out, but I needed to get Chase to mend ties with Baden or piss off back to Noble Metropolis... because there was something about Chase’s presence that was scaring Baden out of his own identity.
Alpha’s often struggled with their identities while growing older, unsure of the pressure, the voices, the eyes, the influence.
It was the reason only a few Alpha’s became actual Alphas of their own pack - or the Prime Alpha of all werewolves.
Not all of the Alpha’s at this academy would succeed.
At least now I knew my next step.
While in the company of Baden, I needed to find Chase and work out what their past was really about.
Because Chase might just be the reason Baden was an outright dick - after all, Chase betrayed him, somehow someway.... and Baden was clearly taking that out on everyone else.
He had trust issues.
But to be fair... didn’t we all?
I had to find a way to make Baden see differently.
I had to teach him how to trust again.