Shade had gone ahead and called the people in Lumen to let them know we were going back. He also got in touch with Kalypso Hel Velia who would give us a ride.
As we waited for the Deity, we didn’t talk much. Things were a little tense with things unsaid but I believed it would be relieved once we would be alone again. But an ominous feeling entered my gut, telling me that when we returned, things wouldn’t be the same. Not at all. And it scared me.
But there was a difference between fighting obvious battles or invisible foes, so for now, I tried my best to give myself all the assurance I needed that we were good, that we were strong, and we were completely together. So I hugged my mate and buried my head in his chest, soaking in his dazing scent.
Shade’s hand wrapped around the nape of my neck and he rubbed against my skin, making me sigh and tuck myself closer to him. His other arm soothed my lower back, massaging softly. “Don’t be nervous, Daisy,” he murmured, his lips brushing against my forehead. “It’s your pack and family we go back to.”
“That’s why I’m worried,” I said quietly, letting my eyes close and lean into his touch, “things weren’t so good when I was kidnapped. I have a bugging feeling they didn’t get better.”
“Trust me, everyone had already forgotten about your behavior and secrets in face of what was happening to you,” his hands clenched around me. “If anyone is still mad, they’ll have business with me.”
Just then, Kalypso popped out of nowhere and smiled, making me reluctantly let go of my mate. “Time to go,” she said and stretched out her hands.
Since there was no point in waiting any longer, I gave one last look at the beautiful house, recalling the memories from our time here, and then took Kalypso’s hand. Then we teleported out of Freedom Island and landed smack in the middle of the Entrance Hall of the Pack House in Lumen.
Disoriented from the trip, I found myself stumbling onto Shade, and he grabbed me tightly. People milled in the room, and even when Kalypso gave us one last nod and checked out the Deity’s way, it was too crowded. Fog crept into my mind, clouding everything, and I found myself holding onto Shade as though he was a safety net.
Voices filled the room but they were too loud. Everything was suddenly too loud. I couldn’t breathe. It happened so fast; one moment I was saying goodbye to the safe haven, the next I was on the verge of passing out.
It was thanks to Shade’s growl of warning to the others that I was able to get some space. “Breathe, Daisy,” he said softly, cradling me close. We were on the floor, I realized with a start, and he was holding me to his chest and I was shaking uncontrollably. “No one here can hurt you. I have you. I got you, baby. I’m here. You’re safe.”
I clung onto him and took a few deep breaths until I could finally breathe normally. It took me about five minutes before I was able to pull myself to on to my feet with Shade’s help, and only then I was able to look around me.
Daphne was the closest one to me. She had tears in her eyes, and she looked thinner and more worn out than I’d ever seen her; her eyes and cheeks were sunken, her clothes were rumpled and heavy on her slimmer figure and her hair was frizzled. Next to her was Omar, Raphael’s Warlord, and he looked worried, but since we’d barely spoken a few words in the entire time I’d known him, I suspected his worry was not directed at me. In fact, considering how close he stood to Daphne and how his glanced at her as though his eyes couldn’t help themselves, I became certain his worry was wholly for my sister.
But I didn’t have the time to dwell on it, or the mind to do so, and so my eyes searched around me instead. Eve and Raphael were standing a few feet away, and Eve seemed furious. Raphael wasn’t any better; he looked ready to go on a murder spree with his mate.
Then there was the other Millennium Wolves, and Claire, who was fully crying now. I could see Gabe too, standing with Zavier, both wearing a face tight with rage. They were all seething, possibly on my behalf, and I had no doubt in mind all of them were thinking of killing the one who made me into this flustered wimp.
But I wasn’t a flustered wimp. No, I might’ve had issues, and was different than I was before the kidnapping, but I was still me. I believed the old Daisy was still inside me somewhere, and I knew that while I would never be completely like I used to be, I would overcome this shithole that was now my mind.
And I had Shade with me, the mating bond a burst of protectiveness and love and tenderness. And that was all I needed for now.
“Hey,” I said, breaking the heavy silence in the room. I even managed a mile, albeit a weak one. “How y’all doing?”
Claire and Daphne were the first ones to react. They cried out almost simultaneously and threw themselves over me, hugging and crying and sniffing into my shoulders. “I will kill him!” Daphne vowed while Claire murmured, “I’m so glad you’re back safe and sound.”
I let them cry and say unintelligible things then, and once they got it all out of their system, they let me go. Daphne then looked at Shade and place a hand over his shoulder, squeezing. “Thank you,” she said softly, eyes bloodshot, “thank you so much.”
Shade nodded a little stiffly and I felt his uneasiness with her touch in the mating bond. I understood him. Even I had a tough time holding myself in place for the two to hug me. Yet I felt their love and worry, felt their wolves brushing against mine, letting me know I was home, that I was back, that the pack was here for me. My mate didn’t consider anyone a true pack but Raphael and me, and so Daphne’s touch was not comforting for him. I hoped that in time it would be. Because she was his sister in law now, and she was family, not to mention that she was part of the Millennium Wolves crew, to which Shade belonged to as well, whether he’d wanted to or not.
After Daphne and Claire’s spectacle was over, everyone came close but no one hugged me again, for which I was grateful. They all said they missed me and were worried and I believed them. I’d missed them too, at least at the first month. Then that feeling was locked away with all the others in order for me to survived the brutality I’d endured.
Once the greetings and welcoming were over with, Gabe came close and said, “You must rest. I had Iris in charge while you were away, and for now she will do. But I want you as the head healer again, and I’ll wait for you to be better.” He gave me a small smile, “you’ve been greatly missed, Daisy.”
I noticed how he’d put some distance between us, and I knew that under different circumstances, he would’ve come closer and gave me a tight hug. But since he was my ex-lover, whether he had feelings for me or not still, he couldn’t come close to me. Not when Shade and I had only bonded, the mating still raw and fragile. Not to mention Shade had gone all growly and stiff, putting a possessive hand over my lower back, his wolf flashing his eyes an ominous silver while Gabe had spoken.
“Thank you, Gabriel,” I said, meaning it. My wolf was somewhat content with our alpha being near, past relationship or not. “I appreciate it.”
He waved his hand and stepped even farther away. “Don’t mention it.”
Eve and Raphael exchanged a quick glance and then looked at Shade and me. I felt a certain premonition that made me feel a little sick. “We would’ve let you go rest now under different circumstances, but we’re afraid there are things we need to discuss,” Raphael said, giving us both a meaningful look. “Meet us in the lounge in an hour. Go have some coffee in the meanwhile.”
Shade nodded and brought his hand up from my back to my nape, massaging it. Only then I realized I’d gone stiff. “Will do,” he said quietly his wolf again leashed now that Gabe was away from me, and his face blank. I hadn’t seen his face blank for so long that I almost forgot that he used to be like that with me, too, pre-kidnapping. That made me both relieved and a little worried. I was glad that he was so open with me, that we’d passed that stage, but he needed to stop being so stoic with others. But maybe time would heal that as well, and maybe his mating with me would help along the way too.
We didn’t need to rush our process. We’d rushed it enough in Canada, and while that was necessary, we needed to take it slow now. Time was the key for that.
Afterwards, everyone dispersed, giving Shade and me some space. We needed it after being so overwhelmed with everyone waiting for us and welcoming us back so happily. So we went to the kitchen and Shade prepared himself some coffee. When I refused to have a cup and instead made myself some tea instead, Shade gave me an odd look.
I knew what he wanted to ask, since I felt his need to know through the mating bond, but I played dumb anyway. “What?”
“You used to drink coffee,” he said, and I felt him eyeing me while I concentrated on putting sugar in my tea. “Why don’t you now?”
“Coffee reminds me of things I’d rather put behind me,” I told him, and I knew from his anger that he understood. I didn’t need to elaborate; he probably had some bad memories about small things from his own torture as well.
He sighed. “I wish you’d never had to go through that.”
I sighed too. “I wish neither of us had to go through all that.”
We didn’t speak as we sipped our drinks, but words weren’t needed. He leaned with his back against the counter and had me standing with my back to his front, leaning against him, as we drank. His free arm was wrapped around my waist and his head sat on top of mine. The embrace was warm, and the mating bond soothed us both, that we were here, that we were in Lumen, and that everything was okay for now.
But the peacefulness didn’t last. An hour later, we were at the lounge, sitting next to each other on the sofa, while Raphael and Eve sat before us. It was time we got back into the business whether we wanted it or not.
“First of all, we’d like to congratulate you on your mating,” Raphael said, smiling warmly at Shade in particular. “I’ve been worried about your for a long time, and I was glad when you found your mate. I’m content now to know both of you have formed the bond.”
Shade nodded and I saw that he was smiling a little back at him. “I understand you now,” he said, cocking his chin toward Eve, “before I met Daisy, I couldn’t fathom why you’d chase a woman over the world, and why you’d want to mate her Now I do.”
Eve let out a snort. “Don’t rub it in,” she muttered, “my pride is still recovering from getting myself caught for eternity.”
Eve was just teasing, yet I found myself fascinated. I’d never seen her tease like that, so unabashedly. She was usually a private woman, and that she’d gone so far as to be able to joke about herself, it made me feel hopeful. If a woman who’d gone five hundred years of hell by having her baby torn away from her could be somewhat normal again, I could do it too.
Raphael rolled his eyes. “Like you’re complaining.”
Eve sent him a mischievous glare and then turned to me and sobered up. “Daisy, I’m sorry for what happened before,” she said, and from a woman who didn’t apologize often, it meant a lot. “I got snoopy and irritated with you for no reason. Sometimes I forget myself when I set my mind on solving a mystery, and your past was, and still is, just that.”
“Thank you. I accept your apology,” I said, and then decided to get it over with. “And I think it’s time both you and Raphael know about that.”
I told them the story of Webb Montgomery, his past with Damon and Dorian, and how I’d searched for it. I then forced myself a little to tell them about my trips to the Red Market and how I bribed Fred with Snow’s blood. They weren’t angry with me when I finished explaining it all, and they didn’t pity me either. In fact, they kept a level head about the entire thing. I guess they were trying being considerate since I’d been through so much.
Once that was out of the way, Raphael leaned back against the sofa. “We’re grateful you told us all that,” he told me, “and now, it’s time to get back to what we’ve been wanting to speak to you about.”
“First,” Eve said, looking at Shade, “while I’m positive Damon wouldn’t come after Daisy again, I guess it would be better to eliminate the threat instead of living in fear of him popping in her and doing something.”
Shade growled. “I’m all up for that.”
“But,” Eve raised a hand, and looked at me, “he’s a Deity. I barely managed to take Barron Von Logia down, and the only reason I never succeeded was because Damon interfered. The two of them are tight. I don’t know exactly why they help each other, but they do.”
“Taking one Deity down might be only slightly possible,” Raphael continued, “but trying to eliminate two is out of the question. We cannot risk either of you dying in the process, and you will die if it came to that. Damon and Barron both believe that each is good for the first. They won’t let us seclude one even if we could.”
“He’d hurt Daisy almost beyond recovery,” Shade’s growl grew louder, “and he’s a threat to everyone out there. He’s also the one responsible for Claire’s first death. He’s a twisted fuck and he needs to be exterminated for the world to be a better place.”
“While you’re completely correct,” Eve said, “he’s still a Deity, and his power is unknown. The fact he’d managed to put a barrier even Kalypso Hel Velia couldn’t detect is enough to let us know he must be more powerful than most.”
“And he’s got Barron by his side, who’s not weak either,” Raphael pointed out. “That’s why, while I know it must gut you, I need you to let it go.”
Shade sprang to his feet with a growl and paced to the other side of the room. Then he punched the wall with all of his might, making the building shake with the force. My eyes grew round and I jumped out of my seat and strode toward him. His face was contorted in rage and his knuckles were bleeding.
I put a calming hand on his shoulder, “Look at me,” I ordered him softly.
He growled, not entirely human at the moment.
Taking a deep breath, I came to stand before him and cupped his face. “Look at me,” I put a command in my voice. His eyes snapped to mine, thank God. “Good. Now come sit with me and listen to reason. Do not wreck anything.”
He growled again, this time lowly, but followed me when I went to take my seat back. With him seated again next to me, I healed his wound and looked at the Alpha couple. “I agree with you,” I said, and saw that both were surprised. “He won’t come back for me. In his twisted mind, he paid his debt in his own sick way and he has no interest in me. It would be pointlessly dangerous to go after him.”
Eve sent me a strange look. “Aren’t you angry with him, though? For what he’d done?”
I remembered Shade’s claim that I might’ve had the Stockholm Syndrome and a shiver went through my body. “I don’t know anymore,” I told them honestly, and Shade’s arms came around me, tucking me close. I saw Raphael’s eyes following the movement with almost wonder. “But I do know that I don’t want to see him again.”
“He hurt you,” Shade’s voice was rough. “He hurt you almost irrevocably.”
“I know,” I said, putting my arms around his waist, embracing him so he would feel I was here, with him, and safe. “But he won’t hurt me anymore.”
“So we’re letting this go?” he asked, disbelieving. “We let this fucker roam free and possibly hurt others?”
“He’d been free for much longer than any of us were alive,” Eve noted quite smartly, “having him free still won’t change much. Shade,” she looked at my mate gravelly, “the odds are not in our favor.”
Both Barron and Damon against us were certainly an odd we couldn’t afford to fight.
“I know how you feel,” Raphael said, grimacing. “I’ve been there. I felt that too when Barron almost hurt Eve. But the knowledge he won’t come after her comforted me in time, no matter how helpless it made me feel at first. It will comfort you too, I assure you. But first you need to let it go.”
Shade’s jaw clenched and he asked a question I was sure no one expected him to ask. “What if I agreed to become the next One True Alpha?”