~ 22 ~
I looked at her as I anticipated her to reject me. However she dazzled me with her words: ‘I am not the type of person who judges others no matter what they do. I am certainly not going to start now.’
I saw the sincerity in her eyes even though she could not offer me a smile. Regardless, I was grateful for her words.
“How are you feeling?”She asked me before I could get the chance to point out how something had distracted her.
“I prefer to not talk about my emotions; every time I do, I end up crying.” I let out a bitter chuckle as I felt the tears threaten to leave my eyes.
“It is okay to cry Alec.” She mumbled as she tried to get off my lap. I stopped her mid-action and wrapped my arms around her. I leaned my head on her shoulder and buried my face in her neck. Amoux moaned in content. When I told him to shut up, he let out a growl.
“I see Amoux is good.” Shadow giggled at my embarrassment as I pulled away from her. I am pretty sure I was blushing.
“Yeah, after what happened, I could not feel his presence in my mind. A part of me preferred it that way, but Nolan advised me to reach out to him. I took his advice, and it turned out that Amoux was hurting even more than I was. So, we comforted each other.” Amoux let out a whimper as he remembered the pain and the guilt he felt.
“I want to tell you that everything will be okay, but I cannot promise such things.”
“I would not want you to promise me such things either.” I agreed with her.
“So tell me, what is bothering you?”
“Me?” She gave me an astonished look.
“Yeah, do not think I cannot see your sadness mate.” I gave her playful smile as I touched her cheek. Her skin was so smooth that it gave both Amoux and I the warmth that we never thought we would feel.
“Like I said, you do not have to tell me, but it looks like you can use someone to talk to.” I did not want her to think that she was obligated to share anything with me. However, I cannot lie to myself and say that I did not want her to confide in me. In fact, even Amoux wanted her to trust him enough to share her worries with him.
“If I tell you this, it means I trust you Alec and I need you to promise me that you will understand what it means. I have never talked about it to anyone.” My heart was fighting to escape from my chest; I was getting what I yearned for ever since I laid eyes on her in my parents’ house; her trust. I completely understood how important that moment was. I held her face with my hands.
“I understand, believe me I do.” My hands traveled down her body until they reached her waist. If the situation was not serious, I would have been humiliated from the fact that she was in my lap while I was totally naked. Still, she did not seem to mind. Hence, I chose to pretend that I did not notice my nudity.
“I do not know if you remember, but I told you before that I had… I had a younger sister.” She stuttered at the end of her sentence.
“I do remember; Diamanda.” I would never forget anything she shares with me.
“Growing up, she was despised by our family; our father, our brother, and even our mother. They, along with the rest of the pack, regarded her as a disgrace. Only Clay and I loved her and cared for her. In fact, she and Clay were the only family I needed. I mean my family hated me as well; they just hated Diamanda a little more.” She took a shaky breath as she stared at the waterfall before us.
“My sister, she was different than the rest of our pack. Unlike the rest of us she did not turn into her wolf when she turned thirteen. Everyone looked down at her because of it, but she was strong; she did not allow their harsh comments and judgmental stares to influence her in any way. She accepted who she was and that she was a little diverse compared to everyone else around her. I admired her for her strength; actually I think I might have envied her.” The look in her eyes killed me; I wanted to whimper at the pain she was feeling. My arms tightened around her tiny body in a secure hold.
“Four years ago, Diamanda turned sixteen. For some reason, my father believed that that year she would finally turn and get her wolf. He was furious when that did not happen. I remember Stefan, my brother, saying that he no longer can bear the humiliation of having Diamanda as a sister. He claimed that a beta having a ‘human’ sibling damaged his image and reputation. You have no idea how much I loathed him for that.” The bitterness in her voice indicated how profound her hatred was.
“Two days later, Diamanda got abducted. I did not know it at the time but her abductors were Stefan, my father, and my uncle. I stupidly, ran to them and told them what happened. Do you know what Stefan said?” She looked at me as tears made their way down her cheeks. I noticed how her breathing became a little shallow from the crying, and right away I worried about her health. She is an adult, however, and she knows what is best for herself.
The look she gave me broke my heart. It felt like she was pleading for me to do something, but I did not know what, nothing I could have done would have helped. I gave her a powerless look; I did not know what to say.
“He said: ‘they did us a favor taking her away, so why would we go and look for her?’ Accalia wanted to rip his throat out at that moment so she just gave him a glare and we ran to Clay. I told him everything, and he threw me off balance when he told me that she was his mate. He planned to tell her once she turned eighteen.” I already knew what she was about to say; it was not difficult to figure it out, and it turned my blood into nothing.
“We spent days looking for her. We went to our alpha, we went to our gamma; but everyone refused to help us search for her. Clay was losing it, and I could not blame him. He became short tempered; and he did not sleep or eat. He even neglected his duties as the head warrior while we searched the entire territory for her. Almost a week later, while we were searching the woods, we found her on the ground taking her last breaths…” She hiccupped as she cried, and I found myself killing her brother and father for what they did to her sister and for the pain it inflicted on Shadow; I wanted their blood.
“With her last few breaths, she mind-linked both of us and she told us that my family was responsible for killing her, and she asked us to avenge her.”
“Did you avenge her?” I asked when I saw the remorse in my mate’s eyes.
“We went to Oliver, and we demanded that he gets justice for Diamanda as her alpha. He told us that such accusations will never be proven to be right, and even if we managed to prove the three men’s guilt, it will only end up with us being seen as traitors in the pack members’ eyes. I never liked Oliver, but in that moment, I hated him with everything I had.” She glared at the waterfall’s water with a shaky breath.
“However, I later discovered that he only told us that so he can protect me from my family. He told my brother and father about the accusation, but never once did he mention my name. A few days later, he ordered both Clay and I to meet him at the territory’s south border and to make sure that we were not being followed.” Shadow gave me a quick look before she rested her head on my shoulder.
“At first I was skeptical, but I went to meet Oliver for Clay’s sake. As expected, he did not take his mate’s death very well. In fact, as a result to the trauma, he became mute. So, I met Oliver for him; I saw how badly he wanted to make them pay; how badly he wanted to find closure.” At that moment, my respect for Clay peaked. If I were in his shoes, I would have killed all three of them, and damn the consequences. Moreover, losing my mate would have broken me, and I believe I would have died from heartbreak. At least that is how it felt like when Shadow’s heart stopped beating for three minutes while she was in recovery.
“Oliver told us that he already had reached out to the Amazonians and told them what happened to Diamanda. Stefan is his best friend so he knew that if my brother learned that I intended to take him down he would have surely killed me. I honestly do not know what he did, but he managed to keep all our names, including his own, hidden from everyone. He also managed to convince the Amazonians not to make it a public case. After all, the nation would have had my head; he claimed that he did not want Diamanda to become a topic people gossiped about.”
“That would have been devastating.” I commented only because I did not know what to say. I literally had to force myself to not picture what our racist nation would have said about Diamanda or what they would have done to Shadow.
“Yeah. The Amazonians barged into our house the next day and they took both Stefan and my father. They also took my uncle from his house. The next thing I know, Clay tells me that all three of them confessed about what they did to Diamanda. To this day, he refuses to tell me exactly what they did to her. He says that I am better off not knowing, and I believe him. Thus, we made a pact to never talk about it at all.”
“And yet you are telling me about it.” I hid my smile because I knew it would seem insensitive.
“Yeah.” She pulled away from my shoulder and gave me a soft smile.
“My uncle’s sentence was to spend the rest of his life in the Amazonians’ underwater prison. As for my father, the Amazonian literally handed him over to Clay to do with him whatever he pleases.” She moved away from me and got off of my lap. She sat beside me, and I would have felt hurt by her action if it was not for the look on her face. She was in deep pain; it anguished her to talk about it. I could tell that she wanted to be the one to handle her father.
Any jealousy or uncertainty I felt towards Shadow’s strong friendship with Clay vanished at that moment. They bonded over the loss of Diamanda. They share a bond that is based on loss and mourning. I now understand why they are so close; I now understand why I should accept their friendship because they will never give each other up. He is the only constant Shadow has ever known.
In a way, it is a lot similar to my relationship with Nolan, Chance, Nick, and Joshua. We were close since we were young. However, after what happened five years ago, our bond became stronger, it became unbreakable. That is what happened with Shadow and Clay; the only difference is that after the tragedy they endured, they both met Nick, and he became part of their little family.
“What did Clay do to him?”
“What would you have done?” Her green eyes met mine, and she surprised me with the cold look in them.
“I would have killed him slowly and painfully, I would have made sure that he would wish for death and not get it until he endures the worst kind of torture I have to offer.” I answered sincerely with a growl; I would maim anyone who means Shadow any harm, I would do to them things Satan himself would not do.
“Really?” She whispered as a tear ran down her eye. The fact that she seemed to not believe me made my blood boil. I know that she has Nick and Clay, who are loyal friends. I just hope that she has a better family; I wish she did not have to endure all these horrifying incidents.
“Of course.” I touched her cheek and gently rubbed my thumb against her smooth skin.
“Hey look at me.” I pleaded. She did.
“I will always be there for you, whenever you need me, I will be there; nothing will ever change that. And I will be your friend, I will be your partner, I will be your family if you allow me to. I will also rip apart anyone who means you harm. Okay?” She only nodded, and I pulled her back into my arms.
“So if your uncle is in prison, and Clay killed your father, then what was Stefan’s punishment?”
“They could not punish him. Whether they imprison or kill him, it would have affected the Red Eclipse pack since he did not have an heir. They claimed that his penalty will come to pass when he finds his mate and has a child that can inherit his beta title.” I became furious at her words. Yet, I understood the Amazonians’ point of view. A beta is vital to the pack, if he dies before having an heir, it could affect their pack’s entire fate.
I made a vow to myself that when Stefan does have a child, I will kill him myself. After all, with the Amazonians disappearing, there is no guarantee that he will get what he deserves.
“The cover story for Diamanda’s death was a rogue attack. Sadly, people believed it; part of me wanted to expose my family’s dirtiness.”
“Did Stefan try to kill Clay after he murdered your father?”
“No; the only people who know what happened to that old man are the Amazonians, Oliver, Clay, Nick, me, and now you. Oliver let Clay keep his position because he knew that Clay is a loyal pack member, and he felt bad for everything he lost, so he did not want him to lose his position as well.”
“Your former alpha does not seem as bad as you used to paint him to be.” I recalled how she once described him.
“Yeah, he was a nice guy to Clay. When it came to me however… Well, that is a completely different story. We have bad blood for a reason I rather not discuss.” I wanted to ask, but I respected her desire. In the end, she already shared with me more than I thought she would.
“Thank you for trusting me with your secret.” I gave her a toothy smile as I played around with her long platinum hair.
“Thank you for trusting me with your secret.” She returned my smile before her smile vanished and she gave me a perplexed look.
“What is it honey?” My hand rested on the side of her head.
“Do you know why I told you about Diamanda?”
“While I was unconscious, I was forced to see her die once again. It was like I was trapped inside that memory and I could not do anything but watch the worst moment of my life unfold. So what I am thinking is: what are the odds that we were forced to relive our darkest memories at the same time?” I looked at her as I felt the unsettlement consume my senses.
“If that were true, then someone is behind it.”
“How do we know whether our assumption is true or we are just being delusional?”
“Well, there are only two people in this territory who can help us.” I got to my feet and offered her my hand. Once she took it, we started walking between the tall trees.
A few moments later, she gave me a smirk before she walked to a tree and pulled some basketball shorts from the in between of its leaves and threw them at me. As I put them on, I could only think about what Shadow said. It cannot be a coincidence, not when we have Stefan Prior as our foe.