My paws couldn’t carry me fast enough away from Shade, who seemed to be on speeds as he hunted after me.
Some odd part of me wondered what would happen if I stopped and let him catch me. But I was too pissed off to consider the option. It wasn’t like Shade the Pope would break his vow not to claim me or something if I gave myself away. Besides, I was just a little bit too dominant to yield in this particular chase.
However, the chase could’ve never gone too far anyway because suddenly, my leg twisted in a fallen ivy on the ground and my wolf form plummeted to the earth. Barely a moment later Shade, still in human form, was pinning me down, his front pressed to my furry back. I hissed, getting even more enraged when a twinge of arousal crawled into the pit of my stomach.
“Don’t dare moving,” he growled, his heat searing my fur, “and shift. We meed to have words.”
I refused to be pinned all naked under him. Sure, it would be a dream come true - he was my mate, for God’s sake - but letting him have me all vulnerable... Yeah, I couldn’t do it right now. Not when I was in this mood. So in retort I growled back.
The bastard clasped a hand around my throat as a reprimand. “You’re not the dominant here,” he said lowly, his voice almost mean, “do as I said, Luxford, or you’ll regret it.”
His voice was so full of command, I wanted to spit at him. But, for my astonishment, I felt my wolf cowering back, wanting to shift because he said so. He shouldn’t have this kind of power over me. Only an alpha’s order could make any of his people to submit; Shade, as far as I knew, was certainly not an alpha.
So why the heck was I shifting?
“Fuck you,” I bit out when I was human again, trying to struggle underneath him but to no avail. Despite my proclaimed strength, I was simply a healer. I might be a little more dominant than most healers, but I wasn’t a true dominant. I wasn’t as strong.
Shade, however, was too strong for someone who wasn’t supposed to be an alpha or even a beta. And when he flipped me around easily so he was facing me, his hands now shackling mine above my head, I wished, just for a short moment, I had a mate who was less strong. Someone who needed to rely on me. Because eventually, we healers needed someone who needed us.
Shade didn’t seem to need anybody.
“Don’t ever mouth off at me,” Shade growled, his jungle eyes almost mad as they landed on my furious blue ones, “I’m not one of your little boys you wrap around your finger.”
If looks could kill, mine would’ve done him over by now. “My little boys?”
His free hand clasped my chin tightly, almost bruisingly, but both of us were too angry to care. “I know all about your lovers, Luxford. You’re a player. You even managed to seduce Gabe to the point of him almost turning feral. That’s what I meant by what I said.”
“I don’t need this kind of shit in my life.” Now it made sense. But my anger only rose because he was being extremely daft. “It’s not fair, Shade,” I told him, glaring into his eyes, “I have sex with men because I’m a wolf. I never made any promises to them; they all knew what they got into. I didn’t play with them; I took them as lovers and when I wasn’t interested anymore I dumped them. That’s how it works in a healthy werewolf’s world. If they got too attached it’s not my fucking fault.”
His face was so close suddenly that his nose brushed mine and his minty breath tickled my nostrils. “You see,” he murmured, eyes narrowing, “you think men have no feelings. You think you can hurt them as you wish because they’re emotionless.”
I felt the need to laugh at the ironic statement. “You know nothing about me, Shade,” I informed him, and suddenly, the anger dissipated, leaving me numb. I averted my gaze from him. “And I know nothing about you. In fact, I think this is the longest we’ve ever talked. And we’re supposed to be mates.” I chuckled, but there was no humor in that. “Fate surely has a good laugh in my expanse now.”
When he said nothing to that, I dared sneaking a glance at him. For my shock, his eyes had wandered down to my naked body. In fact, they seemed to fixate on my breasts like he’d never seen them before. My stomach squeezed when he simply stared at my chest. It wasn’t even a heated stare; it was flat, like he wanted to move his eyes away but physically couldn’t.
My chest rose and fell when my breathing stuttered. Something flashed in his eyes at the sight and suddenly, his entire body tensed and he was off me the next moment and turning his back to me. I sucked in a breath, and when I leaned on my elbows, I saw him punching a tree trunk so hard, the sound echoed in the entire forest and made me wince.
Rising slowly onto my feet, I cautiously walked toward him, and when I saw his face, something inside me broke. His eyes were scrunched shut and his entire face was contorted in evident pain. His muscles were still tightly taut, and I knew with an inner instinct that he wasn’t here with me now. Something was going on with him.
Taking a deep breath, I dared stepping closer. “Shade?”
He said nothing. Instead, his body began to shake. My heart beat faster. “Shade, please say something.”
When he was still shivering, the veins all over his arms bulging with how terse he was, I knew the only thing that would be able to get him out of it was touch. How he would react to the touch... I had a hunch. It would be worth it, however, if it helped snapping him out of this state. Taking another deep breath, I closed my eyes and put my hand on his forearm.
Even though I expected it, I wasn’t prepared for the blow. The hand I grabbed backhanded me so hard, my cheek blazed with pain and I fell like a rag doll onto the ground. The sting, the hurt, the deep-rooted agony of having my own mate hitting me, even though I logically knew it wasn’t because of me but because of some episode he was having, made tears well in my eyes and my body shake with suppressed sobs.
This wasn’t how everything should’ve been between us. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I should’ve seduced him, claiming him bit by bit, but somehow, I ruined whatever little progress I made, which, right now, I wasn’t so sure I even made. I wasn’t stupid; I knew he was using the fact I had a lot of lovers in the past as an excuse of not having me. After all, he’d told me bluntly that he didn’t want to find his mate. It didn’t even matter that it was me. It could’ve been another woman and he would’ve still been the same.
But while I was all of being understanding, I couldn’t help but selfishly, cruelly think, why did it have to happen to me?
Warm, brass hands suddenly cupped my cheek. “Fuck, Daisy,” Shade’s voice was pained, horrified, “I’m so fucking sorry.”
I looked at him without really seeing him. My head was still spinning from the blow he gave me.
“I didn’t mean... I wasn’t... Shit,” for the first time since I met him, Shade’s emotions were written all over his face. He looked disgusted with himself and self-loath I could feel rolling off him in waves was enough to clue me in as to what mental state hid behind his blank facade.
It wasn’t a good mental state, that was for sure.
“Daphne will fix it,” he said, eyes a little crazy as they landed on the spot where he hit me. “Healers can’t fix themselves, after all. Fuck.” He growled, and his eyes turned almost lunatic with rage.
I found myself speaking. “You hit me.”
“I know,” he growled again, his face turning murderous. “I fucking know.”
“Mates shouldn’t hit mates,” I whispered, tears bursting out of my eyes. It didn’t even matter what was the reason behind it or whether I understood it or not. This? This shouldn’t have happened.
Shade was too far gone, more than I ever thought.
“This is why you need to stay away from me,” he said softly, no longer growling, but the hatred still remained a shadow on his handsome face. “This is why you really need to stay away from me. I’ll infect your life, infect everything you love, and you won’t be able to cure it. You don’t need a walking, filthy disease as your mate. You can have much better. You deserve much better.”
My eyes clashed with his, and at that moment, a new resolve settled inside me. Yes, he hit me. Yes, he was pushing me away. Yes, he had some major issues that he might never overcome. Yes, he’d been a mean ass to me.
But all of that didn’t truly matter. He was my mate. Mates were stuck with each other for life.
So instead of doing what would be so easy to do, instead of pushing him away and out of my life for good, I instead grabbed his face and kissed him.