The Lost and the Lonely
As soon as my father closed the door to the office, Asenna was rushing toward me from the storage closet. Her hand wrapped around my throat, her eyes burning with blue fire. I choked beneath her grasp, but I didn’t fight her. I just laid my hand on her arm, gently pleading with her to listen.
My touch didn’t break through her hurricane of emotions. “Is it true?” She hissed through her fangs.
I tried to speak, but the words couldn’t get out of my throat. Seeing me struggling to breath, Asenna let me go, shoving me away from her. I rubbed my neck, taking in a ragged breath and coughing to clear my throat.
“Ryker.” She snapped, pulling my attention back to her. “Is he telling the truth? Did you get close to me just to help him? To get me to open up and tell you everything about me and my people?”
“No! It’s not like that!” I argued, trying to keep my voice from raising. “I guess, maybe he asked me to do it, but I didn’t know anything about what he had done. I didn’t know what he wanted from it- and I still don’t.”
She straightened her back and stared me in the eyes. Her face wasn’t a shield of anger anymore. Her brows were drawn slightly upward, crowning watery eyes that tore my soul in two. It was worse than her being angry with me. Asenna was hurting- and it was my fault.
“I…” She started, her voice cracking. She sniffled and set her jaw in an effort to appear strong, but I knew better. “I trusted you. I let you in.” I willed her to look at me, to see how much I hated this, but she kept her eyes fixed on the cloak in her hand. “I opened up a new part of myself to you that I didn’t even know existed. I thought-” Asenna’s voice was choked. “I thought maybe things were going somewhere, but that was my mistake.”
“No, its not a mistake.” I reached for her and she flinched away from me. “Asenna, I swear I-”
“It’s fine.” She interrupted. “It wouldn’t have worked anyways.”
I wanted to argue with her, to shake her and tell her just how much I wanted her. But I knew the truth of it. She wouldn’t have me now. I had lied to her. I had betrayed her. My father was the reason she was left alone in this world. How could she even look at me? I thought of how she had felt against me, how her smooth her skin was beneath my hands, how agonizingly sweet she tasted. Had it only been that morning?
“There’s a peace summit coming up.” I blurted. She looked at me with confused annoyance. “Members from the neighboring packs will be coming here to attend the renewal of the Accords. It’s your best shot at telling everyone your story.”
Asenna looked like she was thinking it over, weighing her options. “No one will listen to me.” She said.
“Then make them listen.” I pressed. “You’re the daughter of an Alpha. You have the dominance and authority to command a room. Use it.” She was still unsure. Her fingers playing with the fabric of the scarlet cloak. “I’ll help you in any way I can.”
Her eyes snapped up to me threateningly. “I don’t need your help. You’ve done enough already.”
Asenna’s words sank into me like acid as she left the room, slamming the door behind her. My father expected me to kill her once my training was done like she was just some pawn in his master plan. I couldn’t even think about it. The idea of Asenna’s blood on my hands made my stomach twist and curl.
I sat in one of the leather chairs, holding my head in my hands. What was I going to do? My father expected me to take over this Pack. They were my family- my people. And Asenna was my mate. Everything with her was new and fragile- if it even still existed- but she had me completely hooked on her. I hated my father for what he had done to the Spartans and our people, but he was my father. I was still bound to him by loyalty, wasn’t I? Or was my loyalty to Asenna? Should I turn my back on my people for her? How could I help her? What was going to happen when my father found out about us? There was no way she would finish training me, which meant he would push for her execution. I was lost and I feared that I would take her down with me.
I sat on the floor of my room leaning against the bed. In my hands were the old photographs I had hidden between the mattress and box spring. The photo paper was smooth and tacky as I ran the tips of my fingers over the faces. The picture that held my attention now was of three people. They were squished together on a couch- two adults sandwiching a little girl. The woman looked at me with warm blue eyes and a smile that lit her face with happiness. Her dainty, smooth features were a stark contrast to the man’s sharp edges. His jaw was strong and squared, his cheekbones high. His slate grey eyes matched his hair and I could see the softness of affection and love in his face. My parents.
I felt like I had dishonored their memory. I had taught our sacred traditions to an outsider- the son of the man that killed them of all people! And what was worse? I had slept with him, giving him the last scrap of innocence I still had. And it had all turned out to be a game. A stupid ploy to get what they wanted from me. And I was naïve enough to give in.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered to the picture. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.” I held the photo close to my heart, wishing that somehow, I could feel their presence.
I curled into a ball on the floor, unsure of when sleep came for me. As I fell into unconsciousness, I was haunted by the sound of howls and gunfire.
“Asenna!” A voice screamed.
I was huddled in the corner of my room, my eyes frantically darting from the shadows cast onto my wall and the door that could fly open at any moment.
“Asenna!” The man yelled again; he was coming closer. I could see his shadow from the under the door.
A shower of bullets rang through the night air. I clutched my hands over my ears. The howls of battle echoed off each other, snarls and screams intertwining in ferocity and agony. What was happening? Why were they fighting? I didn’t understand what was going on and I was afraid to look out my window.
The door to my room swung open sharply, light flooding around the silhouette of a man that was rushing towards me.
“Asenna.” He said as his face came into view. It was him- his familiar grey eyes were looking at me with an emotion I had never seen in them- fear.
“Daddy, what’s happening?” I cried.
He didn’t answer me. He just scooped my small frame into his arms and ran through our house to the back door. I could hear crashing and snarling coming from the front of the house. Was someone trying to come in? My father ran as fast as he could while carrying me. He leapt from the porch, his feet touching down onto the grass with a small thud. I was being jostled around and his grip was tight, but I felt safer in his arms.
I looked over his shoulder as he ran. My home was a war zone. Bodies were lying across the training grounds. Fire lit the night with terrifying shades of orange and red. A small wolf ran across the street, its fur engulfed in flame. I recognized him- he was one of my classmates. Gunfire popped off again- over and over. Where was it coming from?
It was chaos.
The scene fell away from my view as we entered the woods. My father’s breaths were coming quick and I could feel the sweat coming through his clothes. He came to a startling halt, setting me down roughly. He looked back from where we had come, listening to screams and howls that filled the space around us. When he looked back at me, I saw a deep sadness in his face.
“Asenna, I need you to run, baby.” He smoothed my hair down and held my face in his massive hands. “Do you understand?” His breath was deep and ragged between words. His eyes kept darting back behind us.
“No, I want to stay with you!” I cried, reaching my arms back toward him.
He pushed me away. “Listen to me!” He never used his Alpha voice with me before, but as it boomed from his chest now, I felt myself cower in front of him. “You can’t go back! I need you to stay in the woods. Stay hidden. Run as fast as you can for as long as you can.”
I nodded weakly but tried to bite back my tears. I would show him I could be brave. I would show him I was strong. Strength and Honor. That was our way.
He leaned his forehead against mine. “Daddy loves you sweetheart.” A howl pierced the night and my father jerked his head away from me, his face contorting in worry and concern. “Amara.” He whispered my mother’s name. He spun away from me and leapt through the air, phasing into his humongous grey wolf form mid-air before taking off back toward the city.
“No! Daddy!” I yelled after him. “Don’t go!” I started to chase after him, forgetting my promise. “Don’t leave me!” Tears streamed from my eyes, making my vision muddled and blurry.
Run, Asenna! I heard him say in my head. His voice was commanding and powerful, willing me to obey.
I stopped in my tracks, remembering my promise to him. If there was one thing my father had always taught me, it was respect and loyalty. I sniffled against the tears and turned back around, leaving my burning city behind me. I would find him after the battle. I would tell him how I did as he asked. I would make him proud.
I ran. And ran. And when my feet began to bleed, I kept running. It wasn’t until my legs were ready to give out from under me that I found a small hollowed out den in an outcrop of boulders. I curled against the stone, hiding as much of myself as I could. I replayed it all in my mind. I kept imagining my father calling my name.
“Asenaaaaa!” I heard as a something body slammed against me.
I jolted up, ready to strike. I looked around me, taking in the fine furnishing of my room at the manor. I wasn’t in the woods. I wasn’t home. I was in this hell hole with Larken staring up at me innocently.
“It’s about time you woke up!” He griped at me. “You were making all sorts of weird noises.”
“What are you doing here?” I asked, my breathing still heavy from the rush of adrenaline.
Larken reached up onto the bedside table and handed me the glass of orange juice he had sat there. “I wanted to see you.”
I took the juice gratefully and gulped down half the glass in one breath. I liked Larken, but now when I looked at him, I could only think of his father- the Royal Beta- one of the men responsible for the massacre. I didn’t know what or how much he knew about it. He probably hadn’t even been born yet. It wasn’t his fault, and I knew I shouldn’t hold it against him. But how could I make his father suffer without hurting Larken in the process?
I handed the glass back to him and he finished off the juice, holding it in both of his pudgy, little hands. When he was done, he wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve.
“I made something for you in school yesterday!” He chirped happily. I could tell he was proud of himself.
“Is that so?” I yawned, still sleepy.
Larken nodded and dug in his pocket for a moment. He pulled out his fist and dropped its contents into my open hand. I held it up to look at it properly and a small smile spread on my face. It was a white stone carefully nestled snuggly in a cord to form a necklace. Carved into the stone was an upward pointing arrowhead- my Pack’s sigil. Larken took it from my hand and looped it over my head a bit clumsily.
“The chord stretches, so it won’t break when you phase.” He said with pride.
I held the stone between my fingers and studied the rough craftsmanship that was carried out with affection. With my other hand I rustled his hair and watched him smile his wide grin.