The Rise

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Chapter Thirty-Two

Before I could stop him, Valerio sprinted into the woods. Hopping over branches with ease and dodging falling leaves like they were bricks, he neared the Great Oak. White and Black ran by my side as I followed after him.

“Valerio,” I called. His ears furrowed back, listening to my voice, but he didn’t stop. His wolf continued to run until we had circled the property about five times.

We must’ve looked like maniacs to all the guards at the borders, and probably even crazier maniacs to Aeron if he was watching. Since he received the skull back, I could only imagine him sitting back, relaxed, in a grand castle in the sky and not even lifting a finger to deal with us. We created these problems by ourselves and would probably run each other into the ground at some point.

At least, that’s what he probably thought. It wasn’t going to happen. As long as Valerio and I trusted each other, it didn’t matter. We were the best team.

Valerio,” I linked. “Shift.

He ran to his clothes and shifted back into his human. Sweat glistened against his bare abdomen in the setting sun, and his eyes were dark and wide. “I can’t believe her!”

I pressed my lips together, trying to figure out the best way to approach him. Valerio and I both had our trust broken by Nakida, but Valerio was one who did have a relationship with her at one point. Of course, he was going to be angry. Sweet, innocent Nakida turned into the devil.

“There is nothing that you could’ve done, Valerio. You can’t control her.”

He shook his head. “He’s changed her.”

“Wolves do anything for their mates - no matter how stupid.” How many times did I make dumb decisions because of Damon? I didn’t even want to count. There was excusing his bad behavior for weeks, kissing him when I was with Luca, trying to make him love me for me… I caused so much drama between him and Luca because I loved him.

“Maybe he hasn’t changed her at all,” I said.

“She was never like this when she was with me.”

I pressed my lips together. “Think about her title in this pack.” Nakida specialized in making people fall in love with her. “Nakida seduces. At least, that’s what she did with Luca. I’m sure she could do the same to you.”

“I thought I was over this,” he said, resting against a tree. He hadn’t really dealt with the whole Nakida break-up, so I knew this was coming. All he had done so far was use his feelings for me to hide his heartbreak, but that wasn’t good enough. He needed time to process, time to be angry and hurt, and now was finally that time.

I sat next to him. He gazed down at his lap and shook his head. “I want to be over this…”

“You’re hurt, betrayed.” I kicked my foot against his. “I get it.” He playfully kicked me back and looked over at me. A small smile twitched on his lips. I grabbed his knee, squeezing it lightly. “You’ll be alright. If I got through it, you can too.”

He nodded. “I know.” We stared at each other for a few moments before he… laughed. “We’re fucked.”

I tried to stifle another laugh. Oh, Valerio, I knew that a long time ago.

If we couldn’t trust the members in this pack, we were royally fucked. This team was our only hope. Now it was crumbling from the inside out - just like the Hunter and Aeron probably wanted it to. All along, their goal was to stir up trouble from the inside and watch everything come crashing down.

Alexandra created unneeded drama between Damon and me. She made me weak when Damon was with her. I wouldn’t put it past her to be the one to shoot me, the one to take me off of life support.

Now, here we were. She had corrupted one of my closest friends, Nakida. I still could barely believe it. Valerio had loved her. Ayodele and Aaisha had loved her. I had loved her. And she just betrayed me without even considering to tell me the truth.

Sure, I did some stupid ass things for Damon, but not this stupid, not this dentrimenal. I chose this pack - My Protectors, My Family - over my lovers. I killed Luca to keep my sanity for my people. I let Damon die for me.

And Nakida couldn’t even admit that she betrayed me.

“We have each other,” I said.

Again, another smile twitched on his lips. This time it made its way to his eyes. “Me and you.”

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