The Rise

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Chapter Four

Seven stacks of papers, all at least a foot high, sat on my desk. Over the past few days, when I wasn't hunting the Challengers, I had been trying to finally catch up on work I had been putting off.

After endlessly reading papers about missing and found pups, the Challengers, this stupid divine, and possible sighting of Aeron, I needed something else. Something that wasn't bad news.

I pulled a stack that I hadn't touched yet closer to me. A yellow sticky note was stuck to the top which read Matesin Valerio's handwriting. After a moment of wanting to keep this stack untouched, I sighed and pulled the top page in front of me.

Assigning mates was something I tried to put off for as long as I could. Truth was, I didn't think I would be any good at matching making. It's not like I had any help from Mom; she told me that she only mated me with Damon because he was a lesson.

Damon sure did turn into a lesson. Don't trust someone just because your mother did. It just wasn't the lesson she thought.

I turned my attention back to the paper on my desk. On it were the names of people who recently lost their mates. I was to decide whether they were deserving of a second-chance mate. If they were, I would write two names, of the individuals who I thought fit the best together, next to each other in my journal. Their bond would forever be forged in history, then their love would find a way.

My stomach turned. These were people's lives I'd be writing. If I made a mistake, just one small mistake, these people could end up in terrible relationships. They could end up like Luca – mates with Alexandra – or something worse, if there was anything worse than her.

I cringed. No way could I take this lightly.

The first name was Ayodele Abara, Nakida's brother. He was mated to a woman for four years until a Challenger killed her while she was protecting her siblings. He was a lover of history, particularly divinity history and his tracking abilities were some of the best in the area. Following his short profile was a list of alphas and packs he's tracked down rogues for. It was quite an extensive list of some of the most respected alphas.

For a few moments, I wondered why we hadn't asked him to become a Protector yet. Based on his history he would surely fit the part for it. I'd have to talk to Valerio about it and meet him, of course, before we decided if he would fit our pack.

A few names down the list, Aaisha's name was written. Her profile was quite different. Mated to a Challenger. Fiery woman. Will chase you around with a knife if you get on her bad side (don't get on her bad side).

I giggled. Whoever's job it was to keep track of mates must've run into Aaisha on one of her bad days.

No matter the kind of day it was though, I knew Aaisha was the strongest woman I've ever met. She didn't need a mate, but she did deserve some happiness after Richard's death. And, besides, I'm sure she wouldn't mind someone taking care of her pup with she's on alpha duty.

My pen was aching to write their names together in my journal, to seal their love. But, again, I needed to meet him first. Aaisha wasn't made for any weak man.

After officially forging bonds between a few souls, I put my journal to the side and glanced at the clock. 3:38pm. Nakida's family would be here at four.

I took a moment to myself, letting my fingers graze so lightly over Damon's mark, Damon's soul. His smile flashed in my mind; his deep forest-green eyes burnt into my memory. I wasn't sad when I thought about him anymore. He calmed me.

When I was relaxed, I walked to the living room. Aaisha sprawled out on the couch, one hand resting gently on her stomach. She wasn't showing yet, but she sure did act like it which was cute.

She smiled and sat up. "Hey girl." She rubbed her tummy. "Whew, it's hard work bein' a mom."

"Yeah?" I sat next to her.

"All these constant cravings been makin' me take too many trips to the kitchen. I've never exercised this hard since Luca was trainin' me to shift."

Valerio entered, a container of Oreos in hand. He handed them to Aaisha. She ripped open the package and took a whiff of the sweets.

I furrowed my brows. "Did you make Valerio get you those? I thought you said—"

Aaisha stuffed two in her mouth.

I raised a brow at Valerio. He paced from one side of the room to the other, grinding his palms together. "What?" he snapped, throwing me small glances every time he turned my way.

"Aaisha's a big girl. She can get—"

"Yeah, a big pregnant girl with a bat," he said. He grumbled an apology when Aaisha growled at him. He ran his hands through his hair. "Sorry, I'm just nervous. Nakida's family will be here soon."

So that's what's bothering him. I didn't think I've ever seen him so nervous before. The corner of my lip curled. "You don't have anything to worry about."

He was quiet. "What if they don't like me?"

Aaisha flicked her long nails in his direction. "Y'all sexy as fuck, of course they'll like you."

A short knock at the front door interrupted us. Valerio's eyes widened, looking like he was going to have a heart attack. I squeezed his shoulder, told him to calm down, and walked to the door.

Nakida stood in the doorway, smiling from ear to ear. A woman and an older man stood next to her. Her mother looked so young that I swore she and Nakida could've been sisters. A man stood behind them.

My eyes widened. He smiled widely at me, his bright white teeth contrasting his dark complexion.

This was Nakida's brother?

Oh, my goodness. This man was from my vision of Ashur. This man... he was Ashur. I glanced down at my arm, seeing Ashur's soul swirling around in it. Well, he wasn't Ashur yet.

Aaisha screeched. "Don't just stand there, Mae. Invite Nakida and her sexy ass family in."

I cleared my throat and stepped out of the way. "Come in."

Despite what I'd told Nakida before, she bowed to me as she entered. Her mother and father did the same. Valerio shook her father's hand, quite hard, almost too hard, but he didn't seem to mind. Thankfully, he adjusted his handshake for Nakida's mother.

As Ayodele entered, Aaisha smirked at him. "Ooh, dayum. Who do we have here?" She shamelessly let her gaze roam his body.

His eyes were wide as he took her in.

"Girl, you never told me your brother was so—"

"So?" he asked. His voice was deep, so deep, and I swore Aaisha almost buckled over at the sound of it. She had to grab me for support.

"Oooh, you can't be doin' that to me. Speaking all sexy like that," she continued.

Great, they were hitting it off already. It was exactly what I wanted to happen before I assigned Aaisha a new mate, but I knew from the second I saw him that I couldn't forge a bond between them. I couldn't put Aaisha through another heartbreak.

If my vision was correct, Ayodele was going to die. I didn't know when. I didn't know how. But I knew that he would.

That's when I knew it was time to tell someone about the vision that I had of Ashur's soul in Ayodele's body.

I grabbed onto Valerio's arm. "I need to talk to you for a moment. It's important." When we were in the hallway, I took a deep breath. "So, I haven't been completely honest with you because I didn't want to get your hopes up. But do you remember when I asked you to lay with me and I woke up in the middle of the night and told you I had a bad dream?" He nodded. "Well, I actually had a vision."

He furrowed his brows, sinking into that hardworking, confident, serious Valerio that I knew. Not the nervous one. "What was it of?"

"Do you remember Ashur?" I asked. He glanced down at my wrist, where the red and yellow spirit swirled around. He remembered. "I had a vision that I didn't have his soul in me anymore. He was alive again. But it wasn't in his body. He was in... Ayodele's body."

Valerio's lips parted, then his eyes widened. "Are you being serious?"

I nodded.

"So, you're saying that you put Ashur's soul into Ayodele's body?"

Another nod.

"How?"

"I don't know."

"Do you think that he die—" he started. I held my hand up. I didn't need to hear of any negative thoughts right now. "And you put it into his bod—" Valerio's eyes became even wider. He gazed at my neck. "Damon. That means you could bring back Damon."

I swallowed hard.

A/N

Okay, I picture Chadwick Boseman as Ayodele because... just... *heart eyes* what an attractive man.

What do you think of his character so far? What will be his role?

What will happen between Aaisha and Ayodele?

Warmly, Destiny <3

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