It had been several days since the Howling, and I was falling apart. My wolf was more desperate than ever to tear out of my skin to search for my mate. I’d have to suffer through it, surely it would pass… eventually… right?
I was sitting at the fountain in the courtyard, staring at my distorted reflection in the ripples of the water. The cool autumn breeze lifted the strands of my hair wildly around my face.
“Hey.” I heard a silky-smooth voice say behind me. I bit back a snarl and turned to look at the Prince-not-so-Charming, not bothering to hide the hatred in my eyes. He balked slightly at my cold acknowledgement and nervously pressed forward. “I haven’t seen you around the last couple days.”
No shit, Sherlock. I’d been avoiding Ryker since I had overheard him and Skylar at the ball. I’d hate to claw his pretty face apart.
At my silence, he continued. “Well, I was just wondering if you wanted to head out of the city for a bit. Maybe wolf out, go for a run?”
A run. How I had missed my wolf’s power. But could I risk phasing right now? What if my instincts took over and I tore through the city looking for my mate? I pictured my wolf running through the forest and was hit with a pang of longing. My skin was prickling, my fur trying its best to break through my control.
What could be the harm? Even if he was an ass, Ryker was my ticket outside the city. Border patrol would never let me pass on my own. I looked at Ryker with his tan skin and dark hair, his bottomless dark eyes, his sharp jaw line. It was a pain in ass to hate such a gorgeous face.
“Fine.” I growled.
Why was Asenna being so cold? I thought we had gained some ground since the last time we had talked. We were moving in uncomfortable silence through the city. I was racking my brain trying to figure out why she could be so mad at me. I thought taking her out to phase would get her to trust me, but it sure didn’t look like that was in the cards.
We passed by two large wolves that I recognized as Aaron- Bryce’s dad- and one of his troops patrolling the border. I waved to them and they both bowed to me respectfully. I heard Asenna growl slightly under her breath beside me and looked at her with confusion.
“What? Your pack didn’t show respect to your Alpha and his family?” I asked pointedly.
She cut her eyes at me and spoke in the same cold and distant voice. “My Alpha wasn’t anything like you or your father.” Her words held a certain gravity to them. “He looked out for what was important. He didn’t waste time on balls or parties. He led us to be strong and resourceful.” Her eyes were trained on the ground, as if she was weighing her words. “He was the best man I ever knew- worthy of the respect our people gave to him.”
“Must not have been too great because he-” I slammed the breaks on my words. I couldn’t believe what I was about to say to her. Had I really thought it would be a good idea to say he must not have been that great because he led his entire pack to their deaths?
I didn’t get the chance to reroute my words before Asenna stepped in front of me, wolf eyes glowing, and fangs bared.
“Never say a word against him or my people.” She snarled. “You know nothing about us! You know nothing about our ways!” Her voice was gravelly, her body fighting to phase into her wolf.
I held my hands up in apology. “Then teach me.” I said. I was shooting my shot here, and if she shot me down then I didn’t want to be around when my dad lost it.
Another snarl ripped through Asenna as she glared at me. She looked me up and down with a scornful eye. “You’d never make it.” She turned and walked away from me, straight to the woods.
I jogged after her. “How do you know?” I challenged, my frustration turning into anger. “What makes you think that you’re the only one who could learn your people’s skills and traditions? What makes you different from any other wolf?” My voice was raised, and my wolf was ready to erupt from my human control.
“It’s about upbringing, Prince Charming.” Asenna spat. “You’ve spent your whole life in cushy palaces, getting the best of everything, not having to fight for what is yours. I grew up fighting my whole life. My people threw us into training as soon as we could stand. We tortured ourselves, beat each other within an inch of our lives for our entire childhood. Our lives were weapons, combat, defensive maneuvers. We drilled our skills into our brains until they became our reflexes.” She explained with pride. “Nothing you can learn on a whim.”
“Try me.” I pushed. She looked at me with a quizzical raised brow. “Come on. If you’re right, then you’ll at least get to put me through extensive amounts of torture.”
She considered my words, shifting her weight back and forth on her heels as she looked towards the tree line of the forest in front of us. I guess I should have been concerned about how intrigued she looked at the mention of torturing me, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the prospect of spending more time with her.
“Wait here.” She said abruptly as she stepped into the woods. As she disappeared into the dense foliage, I held my arms up in a what the hell motion. Then I heard the twisting and cracking of bones, and the groans of pain.
Then out stepped the large, icy white wolf with electric blue eyes. She kept most of herself hidden within the woods but stared at me with those unwavering eyes. I had never had a wolf hold my gaze so long. If it was anyone else, I would consider it a challenge, but for whatever reason, Asenna’s eye contact didn’t fill me with rage or the need to assert my dominance.
If you can keep up, I might teach you. I heard in my head. It was Asenna’s voice, soft and confident.
She spun on her back paws and took off into the forest before I could say a word. This was my chance. I let my wolf take over, letting out a competitive snarl as black fur covered my body and my features morphed into those of a powerful animal.
You’re on, Spartan. I spoke to her through the mind link.
I took off after her, following the sweet scent of lavender and honey she left behind. My paws dug into the earth, pushing me faster and faster. I couldn’t hear her movements, but I could sense her nearby. Her scent was overwhelming my senses, I could smell it in every direction. I looked at the leaves on the ground, trying to determine which path showed the most recent damage. There. To the right.
I ran, trusting my instincts and letting my senses guide me to Asenna. Her scent was stronger now, driving my adrenaline into overdrive. I turned a corner around an outcropping of boulders and caught a glimpse of white darting through the trees. Gotcha.
I climbed up the boulders and used the higher elevation to get ahead of her. I launched myself over the crevices in the stone, careful not to make any missteps. Right as I was about to pounce on her, she saw me and darted to the left, weaving in and out of the trees. I growled and chased after her. She was in my sights now, and I wasn’t about to let her shake me. She was light footed and quick, a streaking silver comet through the vegetation. We broke through the trees and came out by a modest lake, continuing our race down the shoreline.
I pushed my legs to move faster, edging closer to her with every stride. Her tail wafted her scent in my face and I nearly got my legs tangled up beneath me. She was intoxicating. I nipped at her heels and she leapt up with a snarl. She sprinted out of my reach and bounded onto a patch of stones that edged out into the water. She stopped her flight, raised her head and released a victorious howl.
That howl. That agonizing, glorious, sweet howl. That same howl that had set my soul on fire and left me in pieces. The sound that had been haunting my dreams and clouding my every waking thought. My wolf song.
I let out my own howl in response to her, letting my voice harmonize and caress hers through the air around us. Our song lifted toward the sky and I felt the pieces of my being snap into place. I was whole, I had found the true other half of my soul.
I had found my mate.