The Rise

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Chapter Forty-One

I gazed down at Ayodele’s body which was resting in a hospital bed. I didn’t know how the foriegn body - Ashur’s soul - was going to interact with him and wanted to keep him stable and under strict watch when he was sleeping.

Ashur’s mother was now aware and I had to be sure to keep him alive. So, before I left the hospital to meet Aaisha’s baby and to prepare dinner, I made sure the best doctor and nurses were at his side, watching him 24/7. I was taking no chances.

I should’ve stayed and watched him for a bit longer to make sure everything went perfectly. I had seen Ashur in Ayodele’s body in my vision, but I didn’t know if the future could change as I made choices.

I frowned, realizing I still had a lot to learn about being a divine. How much could I affect the lives of my wolves? I could give them mates, but I couldn’t explain mates actions. I thought I’d have a lot of power over them, but they did make their own choices. All I could do, for the most part, was steer them in the right direction.

Like Nakida, I couldn’t make her decision to betray me. I took a deep breath. Nakida.

As Valerio and I walked out of the hospital and passed the doors to the prison, I had an urge to tell her that her brother had died. She hadn’t received a chance to say good-bye to him. Ayodele refused to see her after her betrayal.

Now, a part of me was regretting it. He was her only brother and she loved him so much - more than anything, more than Vihaan. I knew that for a fact. By the way she looked up to him, even though he was her younger brother, told me so much about her.

Was never seeing her best friend and brother ever again enough punishment?

A part of me screamed yes, but the darker part of me screamed no.

After we passed the cells, I stopped. “I need to tell Nakida.”

Valerio furrowed his brows in a pained expression. “Aaisha is screaming through the mindlink for us to get there,” he said. He put his fingers on his temples and massaged lightly.

I urged him along. “You go. I’ll be there in a bit.”

Valerio’s gaze traveled from me to the cell then back. He looked like he wanted to stay with me, but instead he just nodded and departed through the forest to our cabin. Aaisha was probably going to hate me for not going to see her first, but this was something I needed to do.

No, I didn’t want to do it, but Nakida had been a strong warrior for me for a long time. She deserved to know that her brother was dead.

When I made it to the entrance to the cells, I nodded to the guards at the door. “I will escort you in there,” one of them said.

“I can go alone,” I stated.

“I mean no disrespect, but Valerio informed me that nobody goes in there without a guard, especially you.”

I raised a brow. “Did he really now?”

Valerio, although nothing like his brother, was starting to act a bit like him. Possessive… or maybe he was just practicing caution?

I nodded my head. Although I could defeat everyone in here within a few moments, it was best to be cautious I guess.

One guard stayed on post while the other followed me down the steps. I passed Vihaan’s cell. He called out, trying to get my attention, but I ignored him. I didn’t have time for his pleas of innocence.

Nakida was in the last cell, curled in a ball in the corner. I lightly tapped on the iron bars, catching her attention. She wiped her sleepy eyes and stood up. “Moon Goddess.” After a bow, she gazed at me. “How can I make this up to you?”

I shook my head. “I’m not here to talk about that now.” I pressed my lips together. Well, here we go. “As Aaisha was having her baby last night-”

Her eyes widened. “Aaisha had her baby?”

I held up a hand, telling her to stop. It was rude, yes. I just couldn’t stop myself. I barely had gotten any sleep and didn’t have time for this. “As she had her baby, this pack was attacked. Your brother helped me fight and was killed.”

Her hands began to shake. “What?” Her voice wasn’t more than a whisper. She collapsed onto her knees. “What?” Tears welled up in her eyes. “Ayodele is gone?” She placed a hand over her quivering lips as she let out a cry. “My brother is gone?”

My heart ached.

“I didn’t get to say goodbye to him. I didn’t get to say goodbye.” Tears now streamed out of her eyes and soaked her cheeks. “I wanted to say goodbye.”

Before I could tell her that she could’ve said goodbye if she didn’t go behind my back, I pressed my lips together. I didn’t have to stoop down to her level. I was her goddess, not her friend anymore. This was her problem to deal with.

“I could’ve been there. I could’ve stopped him from dying,” Nakida cried. Hiccups escaped her lips as she returned to coddling herself.

With a deep breath, I stepped away from her cell. “I just wanted to inform you.”

I didn’t wait for her to respond. I walked out of the prison, the guard following after me.

When the prison was locked and secure, I thanked the guard and followed the path to our cabin, taking my time on the trail. Moonflowers glowed around me, making me feel a certain kind of way. I used to feel happy when I saw them; now, I didn’t know how to feel.

Did I do the right thing with Nakida? Should I have stayed with her, comforted her? I would never know.

Samuel was waiting outside of the cabin with a bandaged hand when I approached. He looked at me, then at his hand.

“Aaisha?” I asked, brow raised. I could only imagine how tightly she squeezed his hand when we left to fight.

“Aaisha’s baby,” he joked. I wouldn’t have been surprised if her baby actually had that tight of a grip already. It was Aaisha’s baby after all.

“How are you?” he asked.

I gnawed on the inside of my cheek. “Ayodele…”

He nodded. “Valerio told me.”

“Does Aaisha know?”

He shook his head. “We were waiting for you to tell her.”

I mentally slapped my hand over my face. Why did I have to always break the bad news to people? Samuel wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me closer. Then, he opened the door for me to enter.

When I entered, Valeiro looked up at me, his eyes shining. Aaisha’s baby girl was in his arms, wrapped in a teal blanket. His lips softened into a smile and my breath caught in my throat.

What a beautiful sight.

I could see a hint of Damon in Valerio’s smile. My fingers grazed against the mark on my neck, knowing that Damon would’ve loved to be here for this moment. He had wanted pups for so long, and now our own friend had a pup of her own.

Valerio walked over to me with the baby and I leaned my chin on his shoulder. I brushed my finger against the baby’s soft little feet.

Aaisha walked out of the bathroom, buttoning her pants back up. When she saw me, she smiled brightly. “You’re here, Mae.” She walked over to Valerio, slapping him on the shoulder. “Let her hold ma babes.”

Valerio gently placed the baby in my arms. She smiled, her eyes opening just a bit to look up at me. “What’s her name?”

“Lucia,” she whispered.

I smiled at Aaisha, a tear falling from my eye. “You named her after Luca?”

She nodded her head, wiping a tear from her cheek. My chin quivered as I gazed down at the baby. Aaisha took her from me a few moments later and laid back on the loveseat.

With a smile on her face, Lucia curled into Aaisha. I smiled widely at the happy mother and daughter, then at Valerio. Valerio wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me into a hug. I leaned my head on his shoulder.

This was how our lives were supposed to go - having pups, having happiness - not facing death after death.

I didn’t think anything could ruin the moment. I was so content. I wrapped my arms around Valerio and pulled him closer.

“Where is Ayodele?” Aaisha asked. “I want him to meet her.”

Of course, nothing could ever be perfect.

Valerio’s arm curled around me tighter, comforting me. “Ayodele didn’t make it,” he said.

She raised a brow. “What the hell you mean he didn’t make it?”

“He died in battle,” Valerio said cautiously.

Her face washed over with a certain sadness, then she shook her head, as if she refused to drop anymore tears. “He had the goddamn nerve to miss this moment.”

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