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Six Months Ago
“Happy birthday, babe.” Helena grinned as she presented him with the homemade cake he had requested. Double chocolate with fudge icing. His favorite.
“Thank you, angel,” he replied as his eyes glowed from the candles she had lit for him to celebrate his 29th birthday. She must have used several packs of them to get the right number.
“Don’t forget to make a wish,” she reminded as she sat down next to him at the small dining table in their modest little home.
Webb closed his eyes, paused, and blew them out. One remained lit, and Helena—who had shortened her name to Lena—blew that one out for him.
“What did you wish for?” she asked, knowing that since he hadn’t answered her in all the years before, he probably wouldn’t today.
She was wrong.
“I wished for our own little family,” he told her, smiling sadly at her.
Lena looked down, unable to take Webb’s intense stare. “I thought you wanted to wait one more year,” she mumbled softly. “If you don’t find your mate by the time you’re 30—”
“I won’t,” he replied gruffly. “Who’s ever heard of finding one this late in life? Mine is most likely dead or has taken a chosen mate by now.”
“If we start now, who’s to say you won’t find her or him in a couple of months from now—or maybe even a year.” These were the things that always gnawed at her when he mentioned trying to start their own little family.
Lena and Webb had an odd relationship. Both were without mates, though for different reasons. In the shifter world, nothing was more important than the other half of your soul. Lena’s mate had died many years ago when she was only 19. Webb had never found his, male or female. He was bisexual and so, his mate could have been damn near anyone.
The problem didn’t lie necessarily wholly on Lena and Webb. In their pack, Shadow Creek, the age-old custom of mating was held in the utmost regard. Hence, choosing your mate was forbidden, no matter what the circumstance. The Alpha, Lenon, upheld the centuries-old rule, though in Lena and Webb’s case, he was very tempted to allow their coupling.
A female with a dead mate. A man who had gone longer than he’s ever heard of—without their mate being definitely dead—to wait for his true mate. It was a pickle. Fucked-up royally. Lenon really wished he could find some sort of loophole, but the law was clear. He would have had to take up removing it with the elders, most of which preferred the law to stay in place.
“I don’t want to wait any longer,” Webb urged her. “I want children with you, even if the law states we aren’t allowed to mark each other as mates. This won’t change. Ever.”
“We could even marry in the human courts. Lena, please. It’s my birthday wish,” he confided. “It’s my birthday, so you have to grant it now that I’ve told you.”
His eyes pleaded with her, and her heart went soft and gooey. She loved this man, as much as anyone could love another person, but that mating pull she had with her true mate—that was missing. It didn’t make her love him any less. He was her person—well, wolf—and she found herself agreeing.
“Okay,” she said, smiling. “Let’s do it.”
He smiled, a big, face-splitting grin that couldn’t be torn from his countenance if he tried.
And they tried. A lot.
Lena wondered if it was fate’s way of telling her that they weren’t meant to be, that it was a mistake.
That they should have waited that extra year to make this decision.
If they had, maybe things wouldn’t have been so fucked-up in the end. Maybe her heart wouldn’t have been wrecked twice in one day.