“A person who values you won’t ever put themselves in a position to lose you,”
I stand as still as a brick, my hand still resting on the hard surface of… a body? A demon? Tingles shoot up my hand from the nerves but I can’t bring myself from retracting it close to my chest and hurtling down the empty corridor like my life depends on it. If I move my hand, then I won’t know where they are and being chased down in a haunted passage seems that much more daunting than being chomped up right here and now.
“Fancy meeting you here.” Roman’s voice echoes throughout the tunnel and I let out a sigh of relief I instantly regret releasing. Not a demon, maybe worse. I yank my hand off his chest and take a few steps back, ready to give into my instincts and run for it, even after the countless fails to my methods I can’t help the urge pulling me to sprint.
“Don’t even think about it Mae.” I am though, the fact he knows that, knows me that well, sends chills down my spine. His hulking frame, so large that my assumption of a wall wasn’t so far fetched, turns around and begins walking down the halls. I glance behind me, still holding onto the laptop tightly, the one he no doubt could see when I literally walked straight into his arms and follow him, no longer feeling ten foot tall and bulletproof.
I’m not stealthy, if that wasn’t clear enough by now and why my mind decided to jump to the conclusion that I could pull of anything even in the same ball game as James Bond was stupid,. So, so, so stupid, just like everything I do. I clench my teeth in frustration, completely dreading facing Roman once we reach the library, or the office, or the dungeon. Who the hell knows where he’s leading me in this deathly silence? I don’t have the nerve to ask, or pop out some remark because I just feel sick to my stomach, the rush of adrenaline vanishing from my body so abruptly taking its toll.
We round a bend and I see light peeking in from the crack Roman obviously left open, the library coming into view when he pulls the door back and walks out onto the balcony. He stops outside the door, facing me as I emerge from the shadows and the second I step out of the way he moves past me and shuts the entrance with a thud that makes me visibly flinch. I wait patiently as he turns around to face me with a clenched jaw, his blue eyes fixating on the laptop tucked under my arm which I take out and hold out between us, not even bothering to fight.
“Keep it.” He says and my hand hovers in the air, becoming strained at the weight of the device resting solely in my palm.
“What?” I question, my forehead creased with confusion.
“Keep it. I don’t know what it is that you’re trying to find, Mae but if you don’t trust what I say to be true then find out for yourself by all means,” he says and I retract the device, noticing the flash of emotion passing over his face at my continued distrust.
“You’re acting as if I am being stupid. The only stupid part of taking this was the fact that I got caught,” I rebuke and he narrows his eyes.
“You’re right, that was stupid. It took me all of two seconds to find out where you went when I found this library empty and it’d take me two seconds to erase every bit of content from that laptop. This,” he says, motioning to the space between us, “isn’t going to work at all if there isn’t an ounce of honesty between us. If we are to run a country together and implement all the things you are so passionate about then this sneaking around behind my back has to stop.” I let out a scoff, rolling my eyes only to return them to his in a glare.
“Sneaking around behind your back? I wasn’t aware that sneaking around didn’t include sharing your bed with some office slut,” I spit out and his face drops a fraction before returning to a scowl.
“Eavesdropping as well? You really are taking this spy thing seriously aren’t you,” he quips back with narrowed eyes.
“Fine. If that’s how it is then I guess you won’t mind if I rug up some man to cuddle next to all night long,” I draw out and I watch as he struggles to hold in his restraint, every muscle in his body tensing firmly.
“You don’t want to go there Maeve,” he grits out, his eyes rimmed with a vehement anger threatening to erupt.
“Well apparently you have no problem going there yourself,” I rebuke.
“I don’t have a choice, you refuse to sleep beside me so what else can I do? I’m trying my hardest to cope with your rejection of the bond and unless you are okay with the idea of moving back on in I’m going to have to continue using whatever methods I have to,” he says and I feel discomfort bubbling up inside me at the idea of him next to her at night.
“I’m not sleeping near you, not when you’re so pent up about not getting laid,” I jab, a low blow admittedly that he doesn’t take lightly.
“For the sake of the goddess I have some restraint you know? Sex isn’t exactly my biggest issue right now and just because you intruded on a private discussion that I had with a friend doesn’t mean you know the full insight to my intentions,” he says and I feel a pang of guilt, my snooping seeming more uncalled for as the seconds tick by.
“And what is your biggest issue?” I ask composed, staring him dead in the eye and I can tell from the displeased look he wears that we both know exactly what issue I am talking about.
“That’s why I came here to try and find you, there are some things you need to know,” he says and I narrow my eyes.
“I’m guessing it has something to do with the rebels and whatever evil thing you are planning.” He looks at me with annoyance, annoyance that tells me I’m completely correct and he hates that fact.
“Yes. Maybe you should come into our office for this one,” he says, his tone dropping considerably making the dread in my stomach fester even further.
“There will be a trial held in two days time, one which you and I will both be attending.”
“A trial?” I ask, looking at his large form sat seriously behind the desk, the same file he hid from me the other day sitting proudly next to him, its contents still masked by a sheet of off white.
“Yes and I am telling you this because I know for a fact that you won’t agree with how it will pan out and rather than blindside you, I figured it would be best to inform you now and let it sink in. It is important that you are composed on the day and refrain from acting out. This will be your first real demonstration as a leader too many of our pack members and if you want their respect, you must show them your strength,” he explains, not a hint of remorse shadowing his eyes.
“The members of the rebel organisation that tried to have you killed and this pack ruined will face the appropriate means of punishment according to their involvement with the crime. An offence on a scale this high will indefinitely mean death for many of those involved, usually for something like this they’d have a much more deserving death, but for your sake it will be clean and quick,” he explains and my stomach turns… death? All of the words I want to blurt out get loved in my throat as I stare at him with horror.
“Some will simply be punished and your attendance is not required for the lesser deaths, it won’t be an easy thing for you, my kind are more conditioned to this kind of thing and I understand that. Unfortunately it must happen however,” he says and every emotion I have felt since being coddled up in this place screams to get out of me. Punishment, he said before that he would punish me and that I’d find out what it was when he deemed fit and this must be it. He’s going to show me what will happen to people who tried to take me from him, a warning even if only a subconscious one.
“No,” I begin to shake my head and a stony look crosses over his face. “They didn’t try to kill me, they tried to free me, to help me. They don’t deserve to die, Roman, don’t do this,” I argue and he look he gives me doesn’t falter.
“We got more information out of them than you’d think, Maeve. They never planed on you surviving away from me and they didn’t care. Trying to hurt the Luna of a pack is the most direct threat one can make and I won’t let it go unanswered, let alone the people of this pack.” He slides the folder over the desk and my fingers twitch underneath the desk before giving into the urge and lifting open the cover. Lines of faces in four by four frames line the sheet of paper, all looking straight at the camera and my eyes skim over the faces of those familiar before landing on one that makes my throat close up and my scanning stop.
“Teo,” I whisper, looking up at Roman whose anger does certainly not subdue. “There’s been a mistake, this one, he didn’t do anything wrong, I tricked him it was my fault,” I say, my heart beating one hundred miles an hour.
Roman’s lip raises in a snarl. “So you are familiar with the little traitor of a guard. Your friend will not be let off easily by any means, for a human to jeopardise this pack is one thing but a high ranking guard placed in his position to protect you is beyond despicable. I trained him myself, taught him the importance of the Luna’s role and gave him every title he ever wore and he betrayed me,” he justifies and I want to bite back the sob edging to escape but I don’t, my pain in his enemy’s death only furthering his anger.
“You don’t understand Roman, he was just trying to help me. He had to watch me every day become worse and worse because I was forced to be with you, in his mind what he did was to help me, to prevent what happened to his own mother from happening to me,” I blurt, watching the lines in his face become more prominent.
“He made a foolish mistake, one that put many lives at danger and someone given the responsibilities he was can’t afford to make mistakes. The first day of his training, when he pledged his allegiance to this pack and our people, he was informed very clearly that is he ever betrayed me then he’d face the full repercussions fit and those were terms he agreed to. I take no pleasure in punishing my people Maeve, I’m not a sadist, but as hard as watching it will be for you I am going to have to wield the weapon,” he says with such conviction that I find it hard to not believe him.
“Just don’t do it then, if you don’t want to do it then don’t,” I argue and a glimmer of sadness crosses over his face, not sadness for what he’ll have to do, sadness that he knows I’ll never understand his customs.
“As an Alpha it is my duty to protect my people, letting him off the hook is a weakness, one that other packs will notice and use as motivation to try and tear this pack apart. This is all foreign to you and I get that, but this is a system that has worked for thousands of years, something sacred and spiritual that we wolves take extremely seriously.”
“What about the other wolves? The ones that blindly left me out of sheer stupidity? Is it their fault for putting me in danger or yours considering you trained them and all it took was a little acting to get them to forget their sacred task?” I question and his jaw clenches.
“Your Umbra have are currently being re-trained and for them being demoted was punishment enough,” he answers and my stomach does nothing to stop from clenching.
“And what is punishment enough for Teo?” I ask, purposely including his name as yet another low jab.
“He has decided for himself what he deems fit, I can assure you that as disappointed as I am in the young guard he is much more disappointed in himself,” he answers cooly and I furrow my brows.
“He chose himself?” Roman nods.
“Thirty silver lashes and clean quick death.” I can’t hold it in any further and everything I ate that morning rises up into my mouth, my hand clamping over the exit to contain it. Roman doesn’t waste a second to grab a dustbin, sweeping my hair behind me and positioning the bucket in front on my mouth where I shamelessly retch. As soon as there is nothing left, I move my shaky hands in front of me and push the bin away, recoiling as far as I can from Roman.
“You can’t do that,” I struggle out, my display of weakness having a toll on him as he stares at me sympathetically. “Roman I don’t care what he said, don’t do it, I won’t watch it, I can’t.”
He purses his lips in thought, every muscle in his body tense. “I’ll see what I can do, but as for your attendance that is non negotiable. Being a leader isn’t all making decisions to do what you want to, like I said, these ceremonies are not enjoyable for me in the slightest and they’re not supposed to be, yes I am angry at what they have done, especially since it concerns your wellbeing, but this is a solemn event for everyone.”
“When?” I croak out, looking down at the desk with absence coating my eyes.
“It was planned for two days from now but we have moved it to tomorrow, I’ll review the improvements you made on the human drafts in the meantime and you can resume work on that when you are ready. I hate to restrict you but around the trials things may get unpredictable so if you want to travel outside out quarters you’ll need to be escorted,” he says, sadness rimming his eyes.
I gulp, nodding my head and standing shakily from the chair. Oliver got out, one man whom I love more than anyone made it to some semblance of safety. That should make me so ecstatic, so overcome with relief that surging here is a piece of cake but it seems the cost was greater than the reward.
“Maeve,” I pause at the exit, my hand hovering over the door knob before turning back to Roman, “I’m sorry,” he says truthfully but I cannot stand to look at the vulnerability in his eyes a second longer so I turn around and open the door.
“Me too,” I mutter before leaving the office to go and swallow as many sleeping pills as it takes to knock me out cold until tomorrow.
My body shoots up from my bed, images of Teo’s back being scared into as he screams for me to do something ring in my head. It was just a dream, a bad dream. I glance down at my watch, the time reading three am on the dot. A dream that will come true whether I like it or not.
I slide the covers off my body and move toward the door, reluctant to swallow anymore of the medication prescribed to me considering it can’t stop the terrors that visit me in slumber. My hand twitches at my side and I reach out for the handle, twisting it and pushing the wooden barrier open to my surprise. No guards line the hallway, not even the two assigned to me and so I take a nervous step outside. I just need something to eat, maybe some fruit and a glass of water, nothing major.
My feet drag me down through the hallways, past the passage to Roman’s room most likely holding him and his new little sleeping accessory and straight towards the foyer. I come to a complete halt just as I am about to step down onto the first of many steps when I hear a soft melody floating through the air. The deep rhythm of a piano makes its way to my ears and for a moment I forget why I’m stood where I am, the melody making me too entranced to do anything else.
I follow the sound like a child to the pied piper, the complexity of the ballot so intense it only draws me in deeper. Each new strike of sound floats on the waves in the air, allowing me to feel the emotion running through each note. I keep moving, walking through the dining hall and the kitchen as the volume only increases, the music becoming less and less muffled making its beauty that much easier to hear.
My feet stop behind the wooden panel lining the archway to the living room and I hide myself, peering over the edge to get a view of Roman’s back as his fingers dance across the keys, the dark, sorrowful melody all that consumes his mind. I notice a bottle of amber liquid sat atop the piano, a quarter of its contents already drowned away.
Standing here feels like I’m intruding on something very personal, like my being here is treasonous on a moral level but I don’t many any move to leave. The music stops in an instant and I hold my breath, ready to tuck tail and run from the kitchen but the second he lifts up the bottle to his lips and takes a large sip I let out a sigh of relief instead. His head snaps around at the slight sound so fast I don’t even have the chance to blink before his blue eyes completely absorb mine. Without thinking I whip back around the ledge and press myself against the kitchen wall, grimacing as I hear the piano legs move against the hardwood floor.
“Still sneaking around I see,” he mumbles loud enough for me to hear and I loosen my muscles before spinning around to meet his large form.
“I couldn’t sleep,” I answer and his head drops a little.
“Neither,” his words come out broken, the tiny fractures in his heavy armour letting light shine through. He doesn’t bother to hide the pain masking his face and I notice the burden of what he has to do and how it affects him at full force. I guess there is a lot I don’t know about being a werewolf, about the customs and responsibilities that come with an entire new species. Relating him to humans seems a little conceited if anything because no matter how much I try to feign righteousness over him, he has his own world that lays things out completely different to the one I’m used to.
“Roman,” I say softly, edging closer to him, stopping at arms reach to look up into the eyes of a broken man. A single tear rolls down the side of his cheek and I wrap my arms around his waist, my body pressed up against his to shield me from the hurt in his face but also because the feel of him holding me back tightly, his strong arms cocooning me feels like a breath of fresh air after a smoke storm.
“I don’t want this to hurt you Mae, I really, really don’t. I just wish you understood but I know its worth nothing if you understand me and I don’t understand you. I don’t want you to conform to my ways, not fully, I believe the goddess paired us together to learn from each other to rule both species and bring something good into the world,” he says, hid head resting on top of mine as his truth comes out in a strained voice.
“It’s not fair, if it clearly hurts you so much then don’t do it, Roman, spare their lives and change that one horrible part of your culture,” I mumble into his solid chest and he holds onto me tighter, drawing from the calm that my touch gives him.
“It hurts me because I know that I have to do it, for the better of the people and for the better of the pack,” he answers and I pull back from him, instantly missing his touch.
“And I have to do it alongside you,” I croak out, taking a large gulp.
“This is a once a year type of event, the crime rate of our packs are significantly low because of the repercussions that are dealt. I know that you might not support this fact but there are many humans who are okay with the number of murderers and rapists dropping,” he says and he makes a solid point.
“It doesn’t make it any easier,” I respond and this time he moves forwards to envelop me in a hug.
“I know, I’m sorry,” he mummers into my neck and I let him hold me close to his body, let the waves of calm roll over me without regret. “You should get back to bed, tomorrow’s going to be a long day,” he offers and my eyes roll over to the bottle of booze sitting on the piano, indicating his own sleep was out of the question.
“I can’t, not with everything going on,” I confess and he pulls back his hand reaching out to touch my face before his eyes hover over the mark on my neck.
His blue eyes inspect mine, longing and reluctance coating them, “Can I?” He asks, motioning to the piece of gauze over his imprint and I flinch back, noticing the way he shatters just a little more. I fold my arms over my stomach and grip my forearm tightly, wringing it as I nod quickly.
He peels back the sheet of gauze and I hold back a grimace as the sticky substance prickles my skin, waiting for it to be over. Once it is fully removed he continues looking at it for a moment, his face hidden from my view. “You don’t need to wear this anymore,” he announces, holding the piece of fabric in his hands and my fingers shoot up to feel the smooth skin coating my neck, any trace of a mark completely gone. His hand reaches out and he points to a mirror lining the wall next to us and my head snaps to inspect my neck. In the absence of teeth marks there is a small black sigil like a tattoo, a circle with an array of patterns lining the inside of it.
“Is it permanent?” I blurt out and Roman tries to fight off a smile but fails miserably.
“You don’t like it?” He asks raising a brow and I just look back at him with a pout before sighing deeply, the saddened mood returning. Roman’s face falls again and he moves past me to the piano, taking the bottle of alcohol down from its resting place and holding it in the air.
Andddd cue the “Maeve is so annoying, I’m so sick of her, why are they always fighting with each other, I wish they’d just kumbaya already ffs”
I don’t really have a whole lot to say today, apart from a little message I just want to remind you all of. A couple chapters back good ol Roman pointed out that half our current population lives off around $2.50 a day. If you have access to a device to read this message right now then chances are, you don’t fit into that bracket and I just want to say that yeah, things may get tough from this virus and we might have to live with less but if billions can do it and survive then so can you. I could go on but i know ya’ll came here for a story and not some random rant so yeah.
If you have any questions, comments, queries, then please ask here :)