Chapter 9 - Eden
The garden surrounding the pack house is vast and magical beneath the setting sun. It’s almost enough to distract me from the events of the past two days. Rose bushes grow up the sides of stone archways, trailing their thorny bodies up them. Evergreen trees line the pathways, making a maze-like structure out of the area. Stephen walks a pace in front of me, his hands in his pockets. He looks back at me every now and then, to make sure I’m still there I imagine. I told him that Liam told me to leave, but Stephen said that it was just the frustration talking and that he’d never want me to leave. I’m still not keen on staying, but I don’t think I have much choice in the matter.
“Stephen?” I ask, my voice soft.
“Yes?” He replies without turning to look at me.
“Did you find me on accident?” I’ve been wanting to ask him if he heard me call to him, but I didn’t know how to bring it up.
“I don’t think I did.” He stops in his tracks and turns around to face me. “Is there something you want to tell me?” He doesn’t smile, his face looks serious and his emerald eyes are dark. I gulp before answering, looking at the ground.
“I didn’t think it would work, but I was hoping…” I don’t know why I’m getting so upset, but I feel tears begin to grow in my eyes once again. “I didn’t know what else to do.” The tears spill over.
“No, no, Eden don’t be upset you didn’t do anything wrong.” He takes a careful step toward me and moves a strand of hair from my damp cheek. “You know what his means, right?” His emerald eyes glitter softly once again.
“What?” I chew my lip in cautious anticipation of his response.
“That you’re capable of more than anyone here thought. You’ve been here for a day and you’re able to mind-link. It’s not very strong, but it’s there Eden. You’re so much stronger than any of us could’ve imagined.” The smile on his face is contagious, making the corners of my lips tug up. Once again, I found myself thinking about what it would be like if Stephen was my so-called mate, and not Liam. He’s kind, and gentle. Handsome and funny.
“You belong here Eden, it may not feel like it right now, but things will get better.” His hand trails down my arm to take my hand in his. “And even if Liam doesn’t want you here, I know one person that does.” He winks. My stomach flutters with butterflies, and my cheeks wash red as I’m flattered.
“Thank you, Stephen. Hearing someone say that really means a lot to me.” I give his hand a gentle squeeze.
“Now come with me, there’s something I want to show you.” He smiles softly and continues down the path with my hand in his. I giggle softly as he pulls me behind him.
We stand before an enormous fountain that has to be at least four of me stack on one another. Water spews from the top, out of the mouth of a mermaid and rains down on the tier below it. Beneath the gloriously topless mermaid are fish, Stephen told me are dolphin fish. They too pour the water below them from their mouths into a massive pool filled with lily pads in full bloom.
“Oh, this is beautiful Stephen!” I gasp, taking in the entire garden. The entire maze encircles the fountain, every path leading here.
“Not a lot of people come out here, so this is where I like to come to clear my mind. It’s private, out of reach.” He stares into the water, sighing softly.
“Thank you,” I put my hand on his arm, standing beside him.
“For what?” He asks, turning to look at me with furrowed brows.
“For sharing your special place with me.” I offer him a small smile. “For listening to me, for being my friend when I don’t have anyone else here. Thank you for everything.”
“You don’t have to thank me, Eden. You lost your entire life as you knew it in just a day, your entire world completely changed and you’re handling everything so well. You deserve kindness Eden, all of it. You’re so strong and so brave.” He brushes my hair away from my face, his eyes flickering from mine to my lips and then back. For a second, our faces hover just inches away from each other’s. My heart pounds so hard I can hear it in my ears. There’s no fog coming over my mind, no hypnotic spell taking over my body telling me I was to kiss him. It’s just me. I want to kiss him. I close my eyes and I can feel his hot breath on my lips. Then just as soon as it all happened, he was gone.
My eyes snap open, and Stephen was now a good arm length away from me. His eyes were clouding with the same obsidian colour Liam’s have many times before when he was losing control. I felt my cheeks flush with hot embarrassment. How could I be so foolish? I’m the mate of the Alpha, and as Stephen put it earlier, I’m basically Liam’s property. Yet here I am, one day into living here and almost kissing another man. Who knows what Liam would do to me if he found out, let alone Stephen? I’ve never even kissed a man in my life, and now I’ve almost kissed two in one day. What’s happening to me?
“You should go Eden.” Stephen whispered, his voice low and unfaltering. I felt choked up at his use of words. Nearly the same words Liam had spoken to me earlier.
“Seriously?” I found myself curling my lip. Am I snarling?
“I shouldn’t have done that Eden, you’re not mine.” He turns away from me, his hands combing through his hair.
“So what?” I hiss, marching toward him and grabbing his arm, forcing him to face me. His eyes look tortured.
“I wish you were!” He yells into my face. “From the moment I laid eyes on you I wished you were mine and not his. Is that what you want to hear Eden?” He tears his arm from my grip, his eyes on the cobblestone path.
“Yes,” I reply, breathless. His gaze flicks up into mine, softening. He steps toward me, closing the distance between us and in one swift movement, crushes his lips to mine.
My body responds immediately, my lips pushing back against his. I feel his growl beneath my touch as my fingers find their way into his smooth blonde locks. His hands are on my hips, locking me against him as our lips move in perfect unison. His tongue sweeps across my lips and I find myself opening my mouth to let him in, moaning softly into him. This makes him move his hands into my hair, his thumbs sweeping over my cheeks as he gently pulls the hair at the nape of my neck. I stand on my tiptoes so I can get closer to him, and he wraps his arms around me, holding me there as everything unspoken between us melts down into this. Us in one tangled mess. My first kiss.
He pulls away, resting his forehead against mine. We both breathe heavily, and slowly I open my eyes to meet his green ones staring down at me. I study his eyes, his flushed face, his lips as I softly trace my thumb across his thick lower one, rosy from the pressure of mine. Slowly, he pulls away from my hold, leaving me instantly cold.
“I shouldn’t have done that.” He says with a low voice.
“But you did,” I say softly.
“And I don’t regret it, Eden.” He combs his hand through my hair one last time. “I should get you back.”
“That’s probably a good idea.” I look down at the ground, too embarrassed to meet his gaze. He walks past me, and I follow a few steps behind him, unsure of what to think. What am I supposed to make of what just happened? I kissed a man who isn’t the one I supposedly belong with, but it still felt so right. Why does this feel like rocket science?
We walk through the pack house, the air so thick between us you could cut it with a knife. Neither one of us dare to speak a word to the other, the silence is too much to overcome. I don’t think Stephen even knows what to make of the situation. There’s no way that we could ever be together, so what was there to even talk about? I’m meant to be with Liam. My entire life fated in just one day. It was so much to take in, and I still don’t want to believe that any of this is real. How could it be? If anyone had told me this would happen just a week ago, I would’ve thought them insane just as I accused my aunt of being this morning. But here I am, living in the middle of the craziest. Heck, all of this is because of me, because my family chose to keep this a secret from me.
“This is you,” Stephen gestures to the large double doors, his lips pressed into a thin line.
“Stephen, I -” he cuts me off abruptly.
“Another night Eden. I think we both need a little time to digest.” He says curtly. “Good night.” I stand in front of my door gobsmacked as he walks away. Did that really just happen?I let that man shove his tongue down my throat in the gardens and now he won’t even let me speak to him? My head falls into my hands as I rub my temples. Now I remember why I stayed away from guys in school. They don’t make any sense.
With a heavy sigh, I open the doors to my room. My heart drops to the ground as I see Liam sitting on the ivory couch with his head in his hands. His eyes shoot up to meet mine, his dark gaze dances between dark chocolate and obsidian, lips pulled tight together. His scent fills my nose and sends shivers down my spine. Before he even said a word, I already could tell he knows what happened. What I can’t understand is why he isn’t tearing me to pieces right now.
“Liam,” I say his name, but my mouth can’t find the words to follow up.
“It’s okay Eden.” He stands up, scratching his head. “I actually wanted to apologize for the way I treated you earlier. It wasn’t right. I know it’s your first day here and I shouldn’t have been so hard on you. I guess I’m just excited that I’ve finally found you, I’m getting ahead of myself. I promise that from now on, I’ll take it at your pace.” He doesn’t smile, but I can hear the genuineness in his voice and feel it in my bones. My distain washes away a little bit, but I struggle to look into his eyes, the eyes of my mate after what just happened.
“You’re not mad?” I chew my lips, looking at the swirling marble, tracing it with my eyes.
“I can’t be mad Eden, you’re half human. This is all new for you, this world, these experiences. I can’t blame you for anything you’re feeling. These feelings I have, they’re more intense than what you feel. I know you’re aware of our connection, that you feel it to some extent. For me Eden, it’s so magnified you wouldn’t believe it, how much care and love I already feel for you. It’s the way lycan are made, to be so drawn to each other that nothing could ever separate us. You’re not like me though, and that’s why I can’t be upset with you. You’re lost and confused in this new world. The best thing I could’ve done was be there for you, and I wasn’t. For that, I apologize.”
I look up into Liam’s dark eyes as he now stands before me. They’re the colour of milk chocolate, and they’re soft, melted. I can see it in his gaze that he means every word that he says, I can see the care he feels toward me in his eyes. My heart flutters like a hummingbird in my chest as my mouth falls open and shut. I have no words to respond to him, nothing to say that can reassure him. So, I do the next best thing. I envelope his massive body in my much tinier one, resting my head on his chest. A hug. He wraps his arms around me, laying his cheek atop my head. We stand like this for a few moments, not speaking, but just hugging.
This is the closest to Liam I’ve been since coming here, other than him catching me from falling onto the bathroom floor. I feel like our bodies could combust at any moment, the electric current his touch sends through me sparking and fizzling. Being so close to him makes my worry melt away, like butter in a frying pan. I knew exactly what he meant when he spoke of our connection. Though I liked it when Stephen held me, kissed me, it didn’t hold a candle to the way Liam’s touch makes me feel. The hunger that courses through me, the sense of belonging. Like our hearts beat as one, not in a tangled frenzy. I bury my face deep into his chest, releasing a sigh.
“Let me relax you Eden, breathe me in.” His hands stroke my hair softly. I do as he says, taking deep, slow breaths. I find my fingers tracing circles into his back, which twitches softly beneath my touch. He holds me so close against him, I feel his pants begin to tighten against my midsection. I tense up, eyes widening. I’ve never been in this situation. In response, Liam chuckles softly. “I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but I really can’t control that around you.” He pulls away from out hug. “It’s a lycan thing. Usually the first night mates meet they consummate their bond.”
“I um, I’ve never, I…” I trail off, eyes wide as I glance from the large mound barely constricted by his pants to his eyes. A soft smile tugs on his lips.
“Hey, it’s okay Eden.” He takes my hand in his, rubbing the back of it softly. “Like I said, everything’s at your pace from now on. I’m not going to make you do anything. I want you to want these things as much as I do.” His eyes bore into mine with sincerity as he plants a gentle kiss on my forehead. It was clear to me that my body wanted him too, with the things I feel and the places I feel them. It’s my brain that stops me from giving in. I’m not ready, I’ve just met him today, and I was just kissing his friend in the courtyard.
“It means a lot to hear you say that,” I release a relieved sigh.
“All that being said, I made something for you.” He smiles, gesturing to the oaken coffee table by the couch. On it was a little plate with a sandwich. “I called Beatrice and asked what you like. It’s peanut butter and jam, chunky of course. No crust.”
“Alpha Greywolf, calling in the recruits to find the way to a girl’s heart.” I snicker softly. I can’t believe he actually called my aunt to ask what I like.
“Don’t go around telling anyone, I can’t let them know I’m soft.” He winks at me as I move past him toward the sandwich. “Not that they’d believe you anyway.” I shoot him a joking glare, taking a seat and digging into my sandwich.
“Oh, and raspberry jam too…” I close my eyes and groan. This sandwich was heaven.
“Beatrice was very detailed.” He chuckles. “She’s worried about you. I told her we’d come visit next week.” His smile grew wider as my eyes lit up.
“Thank you, Liam.” I felt my heart shudder in my chest at the way he looked at me. It was love. I only wish I could feel that strongly back.
“No problem. Now get some rest, you’ve got a big day tomorrow.” Liam’s smile made the hairs on my skin dance, as he walked to the door. A wave of confusion washes over me.
“I thought this was your room too?” My brows furrow together, and he chuckles softly.
“Your pace, Eden.” He opened the door and stepped out of the room. “Good night, Angel.”