Nothing was going to be alright. I knew this the next morning when I heard someone running outside my room, calling, “Gabe challenged Shade! They’re going at it at the backyard!”
Talking about a wake-up call. But instead of rushing to my mate’s aide, I remembered what he told me. He wanted me to stay away, that I wasn’t the one for him. And was I also not a fan of the idea of the two of us together?
If only yesterday hadn’t occurred... I sighed, then rolled to my side. Gabe was an idiot. He might be the alpha, but Shade didn’t belong to hierarchy, was one of the Alpha of the Millennium’s crew. If Gabe lost the challenge he initiated... It would not bode well for his reputation.
My heart jumped to my throat when someone kicked my door open. I spun around with wide, misty eyes, and saw my sister standing there with a big grin on her face. “Daze!” Daphne said, eyes glittering maniacally. “You’ve got to see the fight!”
Daphne might’ve looked like a mature, collected, classy-as-fuck woman, but the fact was, she was still twenty-one, and was still younger than me, and still liked to share stuff like watching fights with me because that’s just how she rolled. She wanted me to be happy, probably because she’d felt like she stole my spot within the Millennium Wolves.
I groaned. “Daphne, I’m still tired. I decided to sleep in – “
“Come on, Daisy,” she rolled her eyes at me, “you cannot possibly miss a fight between your former lover to your mate!”
That got my attention. “How do you know Shade and I are mates?” I asked her, tensing. I only told Claire and Gabe, and none of them would start a rumor like that, even Gabe...
Daphne shrugged and folded her arms. “I kind of hoped you would tell me, but it doesn’t matter now. The entire Pack House is talking about you two being mates. Shade has been in a foul mood since people, staff mostly, began congratulating him.”
I could only imagine. A rhythmic thud ensnared my head and I massaged my temples as I hopped off the bed. “Nosy packmates,” I grumbled as I went to the closet, opened it, and checked for normal clothes.
“You’re coming, aren’t you?” Daphne asked in excitement. Only violence would make her this jumpy; she would always get anxious to heal them afterwards.
“Yeah, why not,” I murmured as I pulled on a tank top and elastic jeans, “but I’m not going to do any healing. They can both hang around with cracked ribs for all I care.”
Daphne snickered. “It’s always been tough love with you,” she said and made a squealing voice when I had my sneakers on and was ready to go. “I still love you, so don’t worry about tough-loving me.” She put her arm around my shoulder, towering over me by at least one head, and I barely managed to shake her off. I’d always hated the fact that my little sister was taller than me. It just didn’t seem fair somehow.
We walked quickly through the hallways and encountered none other than Eve, who seemed no less bleary eyes than me. “Morning,” she said, grinning a little, “I heard the alpha and the Gamma are fighting. You going there too?”
“You two keep going,” Daphne said with another big smile. “I’m going to pick up Reyna and Anya. Watching to werewolves fight would be good for their defense-against-the-world education program.”
Reyna and Anya Morgan were seventeen and fifteen respectively, and were considered some sort of modernized royalty in California. Ever since their mother, Elena, died three and a half years ago, the girls were in danger because, until the oldest, Reyna, was eighteen, she couldn’t “reclaim the Crown.” So their father, Martin Long, who wasn’t royalty really, whisked the two girls and himself to Lumen, seeking shelter within the werewolves, and so far they’d been living here as peacefully as they could; the girls were going to school and in the afternoon were learning how to defend themselves, and Martin was keeping a worried eye about all of this.
So when Daphne wanted the two to watch the fight, I completely understood what she wanted to do. Sighing, I looked at Eve, who was studying my face quietly. “I don’t want to go watch the fight,” I told her. I wouldn’t call her exactly a friend, since she was extremely old (despite looking pretty twenty) but she offered a shoulder to lean on. She’d been helluva lot relaxed instead of strung up tight since her official mating with Raphael, and looked more approachable than ever.
“Then don’t,” Eve gave me a careful shrug. “But keep in mind that, despite what the both of them might say, they want you to be there, to show off their prowess and strength for you.”
I sighed. “You’ve heard that Shade’s my mate too.”
“Raphael has been extremely happy to hear the news,” Eve let out a small smile. “Shade is the one he’s most worried about in his crew, you see. I don’t know exactly why, as Raphael keeps the information confidential and Shade and I aren’t really friends, but there’s some heavy baggage there that only a strong woman would be able to help carry.” She gave me a sudden, piercing gaze I felt down to my soul. “You’re just too filled with gentleness and kindness that I don’t know if or when you finally learn the truth, you’ll be able to handle it.”
Since I was used to being judged upon my inherent nature and not my actual traits, I let the conversation drop. Eve was wrong. She, like everyone else, held certain prejudices about healers, and I knew why. Daphne was a true gentle soul, someone who didn’t want to hurt anyone, who didn’t want to do bad, much like Jocelyn White of the East Coast Pack. I, on the other hand, was different. I was ruined. I was tainted. Life smacking you across the face tended to do it to a person, even the kindest one.
After finding out about Webb Montgomery, after what my mother had told me, after everything I figured about my true heritage, I was no longer the sixteen-year-old Daisy who was blind to the world and vainly adored every bit of attention she got from guys. I was different.
Both Webb Montgomery and my mother made sure of it.
* * *
There was quite a crowd when Eve and I arrived the fighting scene. Raphael was standing next to Zack, Zavier, Omar – the Warlord – and Juniper – the Spymaster. Juniper was cat-calling at Shade and Gabe, who were circling each other with menace, while Zack gave Shade advises as to how to win, and Zavier told Gabe that he must win, or else. The rest of the crowd was basically made of my healers, who were gnawing their nails nervously; Jack Philips, the archiver of the pack who usually didn’t come out of the library in such hours; and more staff of the Pack House.
Shade and Gabe were both hurt. Gabe had a nosebleed, a bruise was blooming on his upper arm, and from his heavy breathing I guessed he had a broken rib. Shade’s condition was better; his face was clean, as handsome as ever, but his knuckles were busted open, and his left arm seemed to be hanging funny.
While my wolf clawed at me to heal my hurt mate, I stifled the urge. It his own stupidity he agreed to engage in a battle with Gabe, and I was not going to get involved. Besides, I had a nagging feeling that Shade wanted me to stay back on this one, and that if I got involved, I would just somewhat undermine him, and that I wouldn’t do. Despite me not being a submissive, I knew who the dominant was between us, and it wasn’t me.
So I leaned against the outer wall of the backyard, folded my arms, and watched.
Gabe was the one who kicked Shade first, but Shade evaded it and made a chopping motion with his arm toward the alpha’s knees. His arm made contact and suddenly Gabe was out of balance, his knees buckling as his face contorted with pain. My mouth hung open. I’d never seen something like that chopping thingy before. It was not a werewolf way of fighting. Werewolves fought with practical fighting motions, no needing anything else thanks to their superhuman strength. But this... this was different.
I made a mental note to look into that later.
Gabe spat some blood from his mouth. “What the fuck was that?!” he barked at Shade, eyes blazing a dangerous gold. People, me in particular, tended to forget that Gabriel was a very strong, very dangerous alpha, because of his somewhat corrupted personality. Now, however, he was nothing if not a pure pissed-off alpha. Stupid alpha, but dangerous one.
Shade didn’t reply and instead straightened on his feet and with his good head dusted his shirt. He was fully dressed, unlike Gabe who only wore jeans sneakers. Shade never took his clothes off in public, and I suspected that even in the privacy of his own room, he refrained from taking them off too.
A growl erupted from Gabe’s throat. “I’m going to mince you,” he threatened in a somewhat civilized voice before he launched the attack. When I saw that his nails curled into claws, suddenly my wolf was scratching against my mind, worried sick.
Suddenly terrified, my body moved before I could even stop myself. As Gabe was coming at Shade with his claws, my body jumped and landed right before Shade, my back to him, my hands outstretched in order to protect. Gabe, who was practically midair, looked at me with wide, shocked eyes.
Then I spoke, and it was my wolf who talked. “Do not touch him, you piece of shit!” she screamed, terrified to our shared bones. I was shaking uncontrollably, both terrified of the alpha and terrified for Shade, furious with the both of them.
Shade doesn’t need more scars. That was the thought that propelled my body into action.
Gabe managed to come to abrupt stop, breathing heavily. He looked at me with wide, torn eyes, then at Shade behind me, and the look on his face, how shattered it was... I almost felt pity. “Daisy...” he murmured, his heartbreaking expression slowly turning blank. “You can’t interrupt like that in the middle of a challenge fight.”
I didn’t rest my position, not trusting Gabe not to do anything. “I can do whatever I damn please,” I snarled, my eyes turning wolf-blue, “as long as my mate is involved.”
The words were a slap, and I hoped they also served as as wake-up call. Whatever happened between Shade and me, whether we mated or not, it was none of Gabriel’s business anymore, and I was never, ever again was going to be with him. There was only one option for me now.
One option I still debated whether I wanted to fight for or not.
Gabe stepped away and turned his back to me. Without saying anything, he walked back into the House. One of my older healer, Iris, shot me a look, and I nodded to her. She rushed after him.
Looking around the crowd, I barked out, “The show’s over.”
Most staff hurried into the Pack House, and I saw Jack, the archiver, pausing for a moment to look me over. He appeared to come to a conclusion before he returned inside, back to his duties.
Raphael and Eve gave me each an acknowledging nod before dragging the rest of the spectators back inside, leaving me alone with Shade in the backyard. I let my arms fall and turned around, to see him looking at me with inscrutable green eyes. “Why did you interrupt the fight?” he inquired without preambles, straightforward as he was.
I walked toward him and before he could protest I took his wrist in my hand. It was broken. As I sent my healing ability to fix it, I said, “Because he was about to claw you. I didn’t want to see you being clawed.”
“I would’ve evaded his claws,” he said flatly, matter-of-fact.
“It doesn’t matter what you would our wouldn’t have done, Shade,” I said softly and looked up at him, looking right into his eyes, and felt a ripple of something making my spine shiver. “My instincts were screaming at me to get involved, whether you wanted to or not. That’s a part of having a mate – “
Before I could completely heal him, he snatched his hand from me and with his healthy one took my chin in an unyielding grip that forced my head up and my eyes to be locked in his. “Listen to me carefully, Luxford,” he said softly, his voice as smooth as silk yet as sharp as a werewolf’s claws, “It’s true we’re mates, but I don’t have any intention in ever mating you. It’s not just because of who you are and how overly gentle you are, but it’s because I never wanted to have a mate. I don’t need someone who will try to ‘heal my scars’ or something ridiculous like that. I don’t need pity, and I certainly don’t wish for someone to fix me.” His eyes almost blazed, but he remained completely under control, completely flat-voiced and blank-faced. “So I truly am sorry that someone as breakable as you had to find your mate in someone like me, and I don’t wish to hurt you, I truly don’t. I just don’t want to have a mating bond, with anyone for that matter.”
I didn’t know what I felt more; hurt or insulted. I knew that if I let the hurt win, it would take me days, weeks, perhaps even months to get over it, to come back to my senses. A hurt like this wasn’t something a woman could simply move froward from.
So I let the insulted part of me win, and let the true Daisy Luxford out to play. I swatted his hand off my chin and cupped his head in my hands, letting my lids fall a bit on my eyes and showing him the wolf within them. “I thought the Gamma of the millennium, had more guts than that,” I murmured in a sultry voice, stepping closer so my entire front brushed against his, my small boobs smearing against his hard chest. “Apparently, you’re only a scared little chicken.”
Shade’s eyes narrowed but I was not finished. “You think me to be weak, made of glass,” my voice turned edgy as, using my hold on his face, I pushed myself onto my tiptoes and made sure he saw my lidded eyes up close. “That’s what everyone think, you know. But I’m not.” My voice hardened, my eyes rounding up in fury, “I’m not a fine fucking China. I’m not a doll. You think I can’t handle you?” I barked out a laugh and made sure he saw my dead serious gaze. “The opposite is the truth.”
Tensions crackled in the air as Shade scanned my face, searching for something and not finding it. I knew what he wanted to see; my kind side. I had no kindness in my face now, only ruthlessness. What people didn’t understand about healers was that their true nature, much more than the inherent gentleness, was their vehemence and stubbornness to save lives, to heal, to fight for those who are dying.
And now, as a warning growl escaped his throat, I knew what I had to do. I smiled at him tauntingly. “You can’t run away from your mate, Shade,” I told him, my smile widening when I could see his hands, curled as they were into fists at his sides, were making his biceps bulge, his veins to tighten, with his abnormal, inhuman self-control. “You might’ve decided to have no mate, but you forger something very crucial; the woman always has a say in the matter. And I chose my say.” I let every bit of what made me me enter my eyes, letting the stubbornness and determination in, and gave him my most unrepentant look. Tilting his head lower, toward me, I had my lips only an inch away from his as I whispered, “I’m going to make you mine, Shade, the Gamma of the Millennium. I’m going to make you mine, and you’re going to be a good boy and let me.”
And before he could reply to that, I let him go, walked back, gave him one last predatory grin, and turned on my heel back inside the Pack House.