F O R T Y - F I V E
“So you see” Zephyr grabbed my hands “Since the very first day that we’ve met, I’ve knew who you were to me.”
“You knew this whole time?” I asked, hurt lacing my tone “That we were Mates? And you didn’t think to tell me?”
“Serenity...” he started but I cut him off.
“This whole time! You knew!” I pushed at his chest “You knew that I was struggling with my feelings! You knew how hard it is for me to trust people and you still didn’t tell me!”
He let me shove and punch at his chest for a few minutes, gazing at me with agony filled eyes.
“Serenity...” My Uncle said softly “The boy has had enough. He’s starting to bruise.”
I glared at him but immediately stopped my assault.
My Uncle gripped my wrist and dragged me away from Zephyr.
I yanked my wrist out of his grasp and glared up at him “What does being a Guardian mean? And why were the Matthews chosen?”
“Being a Guardian means to make sure that whatever’s trapped inside those gates never get out” my Uncle said softly, guiding me to the right “And as for why we were chosen specifically, I don’t really know all the specifics. The Chief would though. He was one of the first Guardians ever made.”
He nodded for me to follow him but I stayed rooted to the spot.
When he noticed I wasn’t following him, he looked over his shoulder “You coming?”
“I can’t go in there” I shook my head “I’m not dead.”
“You don’t have to be dead to go into your family’s Elysium” Zephyr finally spoke up, his jaw clenching “That’s what makes the Matthew’s Elysium special. The living descendants can enter it at their will since you all will become guardians eventually.”
I whirled on him, my anger sparking “You knew we were coming here all along, didn’t you?”
His silence was an answer in and of itself.
“Let’s go.” I said, taking a step in my uncle’s direction.
Before I could take another one, a familiar hand grabbed my wrist to stop me.
“Serenity...” he said softly “I don’t want to leave this unfinished. I don’t want to fight with you.”
“Please Serenity” he pleaded “Once you go in there, I can’t follow you.”
That statement gave me pause.
“What do you mean you can’t follow me?” I looked towards my uncle for confirmation “I thought all Matthews, even their Mates, were allowed into this place?”
“They are.” My Uncle confirmed.
“Then why can’t you enter Zephyr?”
“Do you remember the deal Persephone first talked about when we were in Hades office?” He asked “The one where she had to make new changes as the Queen of the Underworld?”
I nodded briskly.
“Well, when that deal was made, your family had specific stipulations when it came to who could enter and exit their Elysium.”
“And I’m guessing one of the stipulations was to keep you out?” I replied.
From my peripheral, I saw him nod “My parents and any member of their family, including their children, cannot enter the Matthews Elysium. Your family saw it as a conflict of interest.”
My Uncle, who was relatively quiet throughout Zephyr’s explanation, suddenly spoke up.
“Are you sure you two are even Mates?” he asked softly.
“Why would you ask that?” I asked when I saw Zephyr’s body tense up.
My Uncle shrugged “Because if you are Mates, he wouldn’t have a problem entering our home. If the connection is there, then it could be considered a loophole in the contract our families made all those years ago.”
I looked at Zephyr to see if what my Uncle was saying was true, and saw that he had a pained filled expression on his face.
“It won’t work” he said solemnly “We haven’t formed that type of connection yet.”
Despite my anger at Zephyr for withholding information from me, I couldn’t help the wave of heat that sprung across my face.
“The connection doesn’t have to be physical” My Uncle made a disgruntled face “If the emotional and spiritual bond is there, then it really shouldn’t matter.”
Zephyr remained quiet and I knew, deep down, that there was something he wasn’t telling me.
“Zephyr, there’s one thing you should know about Mates” I said quietly, locking eyes with him “We’ll always know when you’re lying or withholding information from us. And right now, you are definitely withholding something from me.”
He looked at me with agony filled eyes “Serenity...”
“I...can’t” he grasped my hands in his “I just can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“Can’t” he said “I would if I could but I just...can’t.”
“Fine” I crossed my arms across my chest “Then I guess were done for now. I’ll be back to fill you in on the details later.”
“You’re coming back?” his eyes brightened in hope.
“Yes, I’m coming back” I glared at him “And, while I’m extremely pissed at you this the moment, we’re still partners in this fucked up situation. The faster we collect whatever Hades wants, then that faster I can go back to my family.”
“Oh...” he said, the hope dimming in his eyes “Okay then. Be safe.”
I gave him a curt nod and walked towards my Uncle’s side.
When we were about a foot away from the entrance, my Uncle murmured quietly to me.
“Maybe he has his reasons for not telling you.”
I glared at him “Whose side are you really on?”
He let out a quiet chuckle “Just like your mother.”
I ignored his little comment “So...what do I have to do to in order enter this place?”
“Just walk in” he shrugged “You’re a Matthews. Nothing can ever keep a Matthews out.”
I took a deep breath in and was about to take a step forward when a strange pang hit my stomach.
I took a glance over my shoulder and found a despondent Zephyr gazing at with a melancholy grimace on his face.
“Kaden’s screwed” Uncle Ethan muttered under his breath so softly that I almost didn’t hear it.
“And I can’t even be there to see it.”
To say that the Matthews Elysium was beautiful was an understatement.
It was absolutely, positively breathtaking.
It was a stark contrast to the desolate and barren scene that Hell had to offer.
There were vibrant flowers everywhere, cute little houses all arranged in neat rows, and was surrounded by a vast forest.
“Welcome to our little slice of Heaven,” Uncle Ethan pinched my cheek “Now come on, my Mate says that everyone is anxious to meet you.”
“How do they know I’m here?”
He tapped his temple “I let them know.”
“Narc.” I muttered under my breath.
“It’s a good thing you got my sense of humor” Uncle Ethan snickered “Or else, you’d be as boring as your father.”
“Dad has good jokes” I winced “Sometimes...?”
“Why did the bike fall over?” My Uncle asked abruptly.
“Why did the bike fall over?” he repeated, snickering “Because it was two tired.”
I stared blankly at him “That’s what you call a joke?”
“That was one of your dad’s jokes” he snorted “He tested it out on me when your mother was pregnant with your brother.”
“And you didn’t tell him that it sucked?”
“Oh, I did” he snickered “But he said that since he was going to be a dad, he needed to load up on all the dad jokes that he could.”
“And you couldn’t help him find better jokes?”
“I did” he said “But he really really didn’t like my stripper joke.”
There was snort behind me and I turned and found a pretty woman staring at us with a raised eyebrow, her hands on her hips.
“Stripper jokes?” she said as we closed the distance “Now that sounds like a party.”
Her Australian accent was a welcomed surprise and I gave her a small smile as my Uncle swung a meaty arm around her shoulders and gave her a big kiss.
“Baby, this is my niece Serenity” he pointed “Serenity, this is the love of my life and gorgeous Mate Keira Matthews.”
“Nice to meet you Serenity” she hugged me “Your Uncle has told me so much about you.”
My Uncle blushed and looked away “I told you the things I knew about her when she was a baby.”
My heart panged at my Uncle’s words, feeling bad that he had limited memories of his family.
“My family has told me about you too Aunt Keira” I said softly and her face lit up “Specifically, my Aunt Kass.”
“How is Kassi doing?” he asked “Did that poor sucker finally convince her to marry him?”
“Yes, Uncle Rhys managed to sucker her into marriage” I laughed “They have two boys too.”
“Two little devils” Uncle Ethan snickered “If they’re anything like their mom, then the world better watch out. Any spawn of hers will wreak havoc.”
“Well well well?” A melodic voice said from behind me “Whose’s this pretty little thing?”
I turned and found a beautiful olive skinned woman with cerulean eyes and pretty dark hair give me a curious look.
“Josephina, this is Serenity” My Uncle introduced us “Serenity, this is Josephina, one of your great-great grandmothers.”
I gaped at her and she just laughed.
“Were you expecting me to be all wrinkly and gray haired? Maybe waving my cane around all you young’uns like a madwoman?”
I just nodded because she looked closer to my age than any great-grandma that I’ve ever seen.
She hooked her arm through mine “Come on, my father’s waiting for you.”
“The Chief” she clarified “You wanted to know why the Matthews were chosen as the guardians, correct?”
I nodded and she directed me in and out of the Matthew clan traffic.
We were quiet for a majority of the whole walk, until she pulled me to a stop about a few feet away from an old rustic cabin surrounded by neatly trimmed hedges.
“What’s wrong little one?” she asked “Something’s been on your mind since you’ve entered our compound.”
“I’m fine” I gave her a half-hearted smile “Just tired.”
She gripped my arm tighter “I am three hundred and eighty-two child, I have cared for hundreds of our family members and their mates that have passed through this land since we’ve been appointed as the Guardians. I know the ‘Just tired’ excuse is just that. An excuse. Your Uncle used that same line when he first came here too.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I really don’t want to talk about it right now.”
“It’s a boy” Josephina’s eyes narrowed on my face “This is about a boy.”
“What?” I asked, started at her quick deduction.
“This is about a boy” she said more firmly, with a smile on her face “Is it not?”
“It is” I said after a few moments “But that’s all you’re getting out of me.”
“Is he your Mate?” she asked “Or just a crush?”
“I’m not talking about this” I said, quickly changing the topic “Is this the Chief’s house?”
“No, it’s mine.”
“Why would you bring me to your house?”
“Because you looked like you needed to talk” she shrugged “The Chief isn’t one to...handle...normal emotions well.”
“So he hates cryers?” I asked dryly “And blubbery cry babies?”
“Yes, you should have seen him handle all the crying kids of the Pack back in the day” She snickered “Or when my sister was on her cycle.”
“It’s okay to ask for help when you need it” she said, gripping my hands “There’s nothing wrong with trusting someone.”
“Do you have a Mate?” I blurted out, suddenly curious on why she was so adamant about me talking about Zephyr.
Her face, which was open and inviting just a moment ago, completely shut down into a blank stare.
“I don’t see...”
“You don’t see how that that’s important?” I cocked my head to the side “How am I supposed to talk to you about Mates if you don’t have one yourself to know what I’m going through? No matter how many Mates you see pass through this Elysium, you’ll never know how I’ll feel until you’ve experienced these same intense feelings.”
She stared at be for a few seconds before nodding her head hesitantly.
“I was married” she began quietly “He was not my Mate but we loved each other like ones.”
I remained quiet and listened to her story.
“We loved each other till the day I died” she continued “I died prematurely giving birth to our child and because he knew that I would end up here, without him or our child, the fool thought it was wise to strike a deal with Hades in exchange for me to come back to him.”
She gaze at the sky with a fond smile.
“Just because he wasn’t my True Mate didn’t mean I didn’t love him the same nor does it mean that I don’t know what’s going on in here” She tapped my heart “Love is about sacrifice and compromise. Don’t let one mistake hold you back from listening to what your heart is trying to tell you.”
“Thank you for sharing that with me Josephina” I gave her a comforting hug “I’ll definitely think about what you’ve shared with me.”
She let out a snort “You’re going to do whatever you want, regardless of what I’ve said, won’t you?”
I gave her a tight smile and before I could reply, she turned on her heels and marched passed her house and down a narrow path.
I trailed behind her, quickly working to catch up with her long strides.
She suddenly stopped and pointed to another cabin hidden beneath a undergrowth of trees.
“The Chief’s in the back” She said “You have an hour to talk to him before he needs to be in town to bless the Pack ahead of tomorrow’s festivities.”
I gave her a confused look “What festivities?”
“The Annual Blood Moon Celebration” she explained “Every couple decades we celebrate the day the Matthew’s were given the role of Guardians. The Blood Moon Marks that semi-centennial event.”
Uneasiness fill my stomach for some unknown reason.
While Josephina went on to explain what normally went on during the festival -mundane things that usually went on during every festival- I couldn’t stop the knots from forming in my stomach.
My gut knew that something good could not come out of a festival called the Blood Moon.
And almost always my intuition was never wrong.