"The truth is that most of your life will unfold in accordance with forces far outside your control, regardless of what your mind has to say about it."
I glance at Sam as he strides next to me, escorting me to wherever it is that Roman has decided for us to meet. There are other guards with us, of course, but the brunette is the only one who captures my attention. His features aren't strikingly similar to Elijah. The two may be cousins but you couldn't tell without close inspection.
"Where are all of you staying in this establishment anyway?" I ask him, so out of the blue that he snaps his head towards me and shoots me an incredulous stare.
"In the training barracks, Luna," he says and I nod.
"Are they nice? I imagine everywhere is nice in a place like this," I point out and he tilts his head to the side in thought for a moment before levelling it out.
"They are standard military rooms, next to some temporary accommodation for onsite workers," he explains and from his disinterested tone I gather they aren't in living quarters anywhere near as nice as Roman and I's.
"Have you ever been to this pack before?" I ask and he clenches his jaw.
"Luna unless your questions have direct importance to your safety I will refrain from engaging in conversation with you," he says and I pause for a second-startled.
"Why?" I ask, somewhat defensive.
"Because Teo was my friend and listening to you got him killed. I trust that as my Luna you will one day hold my wellbeing at heart, the goddess wills it, but I also know that until you accept that you are Luna, I can't either." His answer makes my stomach sink notably but before I can form a response, we round a corner to find Roman waiting, dressed casually with a large smile.
Roman doesn't stop talking to me as we venture together, without any guards, through a dense forrest. The trek was long and tenuous, up hills and past small creeks. It made me wonder how often he went off into nature on his own when he trained here. It must have been relatively often if he managed to find a spot that he adored so much. Plus the way he navigated through the undergrowth. I wasn't sure if that boiled down to wolf instinct or if he had indeed mapped this place out in his mind.
"Its just through here," he says.
I debate whether or not to believe him considering he mentioned that thirty minutes ago but settle on nodding instead and summering, "Okay."
We walk through a narrow passage and come to a dead end. My face falls and I stop in my tracks staring at the large bushes and then to Roman who turns back to me with a smile.
"Is this a joke?" I ask and his smile widens as he grips onto the leaves.
"You tell me," he says as he pushes the leaves and it swings open, the bush only a mask to a wooden gate.
He steps inside and I follow after him, my eyes widening at the sight before me. Vines twirl around ancient stone pillars and weave into the crevices of a path that lead onto a stone gazebo that overlooks a flowing river. Everything in the hidden garden shimmers with a beauty that I didn't know was possible until my very eyes were set upon it.
Romans hand moves around my waist and he pulls me into his body. "What do you think?" He says and I can't help the smile that works its way onto my face.
"Its beautiful," I whisper, still entranced by the sheer charm of the setting. I whipped around, his hand still resting on the fabric of my shirt as I peered into his eyes. "How did you find this place?" I ask softly, noting how his eyes flick down to my lips as I speak.
I step from his grasp and take his hand in mine, leading us towards the gazebo in a way that suggests he still answer me. "When I trained here I was still learning to adjust to the shift. It takes a lot of training and skill to master a transition under different circumstances and the actual action of shifting requires being strong." That explains all the muscle of the wolves, I guess.
"It wasn't easy and I hadn't ever trained so harshly before-not when I was sheltered by my mother as a young boy. Akeno made sure that I was banned from the premises library and I wasn't allowed any free time outside of sleeping and training both physically and intellectually,"
When we enter the gazebo he lets go of my hand and I sit down on the bench, resting my body-worn from the trek out here. "Going running was my only real escape, either in wolf form or human form it didn't really matter. Akeno let it pass as training when I started but I think deep down he knew I was just going out into the wilderness as a curious young pup-not as an Alpha in training," he glanced at me as he said this, a warm smile gracing his face. Gone was the sorrow that flashed in those icy orbs whenever his former trainer and friend was mentioned, now replaced with a sort of content happiness.
He turns back around. "It was just chance that I stumbled upon this place. Some older boys from my training group felt threatened I suppose and decided to pursue me and when I ran, I ran into here," he says and I watch as he cracks open a stone chest, lifting the heavy lid.
"What's that?" I twist my body around fully to observe him as he pulls out a book and dusts off the cover. Lord of the Flies.
"I was only permitted to read books about war tactics, economics, leadership-the boring things. When I'd read through all the readings Akeno assigned me twice through each I suck into the library and smuggled out a story at a time. I'd bring them here so they wouldn't be found in my room and I made a collection," he explains, running a finger down the worn spine of the novel, read back to front countless times.
"This was your escape?" I state as more of a question and he nods looking back into the box.
"It was the only peace I could get, and whilst mathematics was interesting to read it was too real. Escaping is when you read something that draws you into the pages, out of this world and into someone else's," he says and I note the twinkle in his eyes as he pulls out another book, that same twinkle that I held as a young child.
"I know what you mean," I say and he raises a brow, moving to sit down next to me, completely relaxed.
I shift in my seat a little and tuck away a loose strand of blond hair. "I guess I used to do the same thing," I laugh dryly and he leans forward ever so slightly-intrigued. "When I was in foster care I used to go to the library all the time. I wasn't banned or anything, or made to do drills or training like yourself. For me, I guess it was the exact opposite. Nobody really cared where I was or what I did, as long as that monthly check came in it wasn't an issue to them."
I fidget with my hands, entwining my fingers into delicate knots before staring out at the stream. "Reading made me feel like someone would one day care, just like the people in those stories had lovers or friends or family. It gave me hope as cheesy as that sounds," I say with a slight laugh.
"Its not cheesy," Roman says, his tone serious and his face matching. "Its not. I get what you mean entirely, I do." He says and I nod.
"I guess I just always had a place to go in the library. No matter where social services sent me I knew there would be a new a library full of new stories waiting for me. If the home I was at was... unpleasant, then I had sanctuary," I say and a rumble emits from his chest.
"How do you mean unpleasant?" He says and I shake the question off.
"Sometimes I went to a good home and other times I didn't. Let's just leave it at that," I say and he doesn't push on the issue, letting me keep certain parts of my past buried within.
"I was thinking about libraries the other day actually. How they are an optional resources for Alphas to permit to humans within packs and I think that also needs to change too. If anything, we need more places for kids of all ages to go, more libraries, clubs, camps. I've already had the financing team look at organising the allocation of funds when they become available," he says and I smile.
"That's a really good idea. It could be good to mend bridges between the species also, if kids have places they can go together without the prejudice of the world," I add and he returns the smile, both of us sharing in the same image.
"I meant to ask you earlier, but how have your sessions with the therapist been going?" He asks and I tense a little at the topic. The woman I spoke with in France came with us to Asia, claiming she wanted to tour the country whilst she had the chance and travel back with us to America when we departed.
"Its been going good," I reply, truthfully it has. There are things that I haven't yet mended, things I haven't even began to fix and things that will probably never be solved even after years of consultation. But any change for the better is a massive step.
"I was thinking... and maybe I should see her too," he says and my gut coils. The thought of Roman sitting in on my sessions... the fact that if he really wanted to, he could.
"Its... I don't think I really want you in there with me, Roman," I say tentatively and his brows furrow before he shakes his head.
"No, I meant see her myself. Or perhaps another person, I'm not sure," he says and I turn to him fully, pure confusion taking over my features.
"What? Really?... you're not just saying this are you?" I ask and to my relief, his face doesn't break into a joking smile but rather stays solemn.
"No, I mean it, Maeve. I'm trying to be a better man- a better mate and changing all that on my own..." he sighs before letting out a loose laugh. "God, my father would have me assassinated if he ever found out I was talking of such things. Deconstructing a belief system that I have been born and bred to live by isn't easy-some of it is purely impossible, but for what I can change... I want to. It isn't up to you to fix me, maybe I thought when you arrived that you would-that the goddess sent you here with the purpose of helping me, but I see how wrong I was," he says and I can't help the twinge of sadness that plucks at my heart strings, like I feel as though I should have tried to fix him in some way.
"Mates aren't therapists and whilst you have filled many holes within my soul unknowingly, some damaged parts of myself are for me to figure out. Placing that kind of burden on you-on top of everything else... its unfair,"
I give him a sheepish smile, "You know for once, I have to agree with you," I say light heartedly and he smiles also, his glimpse of happiness making my chest swell. "But really, that's a great idea Roman and I support it fully,"
"I'm glad," he says before standing up and walking with a skip in his step to the gazebos front which extends out onto the water. "Fancy a swim?" He asks, his brow raised mischievously.
I look into the glistening water and then back at Roman as he slips off his cotton shirt, revealing the washboard abs beneath. I let out a shaky sigh, "As long as you stay three feet away from me buddy,"
His grin widens and he sends me a wink, "No promises, sweetheart," is his only response before he turns around and jumps into the water with a large splash.
After a much needed swim where I nearly drowned after a playful water fight turned wrong-we lay out on the rivers bank and let the sun dry our bodies. The clothes sticking onto my body took much longer to dry the Romans chest and I flat out refused to listen to his suggestion of taking them off so they'd dry faster.
We wanted the sun go down and ate some type of fruit that grew on a small tree near the rivers edge until the stars wrapped over the sky, blanketing the light of day. It was nice, a break from pack life and despite the company- I enjoyed myself.
I don't understand Roman in many, many ways but there is a part of me that gets a part of him. And maybe it's the bond or just chance but I guess it goes to show that no matter how vastly different you are to a person, there will always be some kind of common ground.
We managed to arrive back to our room not too long into the night, which was good because I wanted nothing more than to collapse on the bed and sleep but as I walked in the room I was drawn immediately to the balcony. Below, torches and lights were strewn across a the grounds of the estate and when I opened the door, music and laughter flowed into the room.
I turned too Roman, "What is going on there?" I ask and he smiles.
"A party, of course," he says and I notice a white dress, laced over a flowing skirt hanging on the open closet door.
"We aren't going down there right?" I ask and he smiles.
"Not if you don't want to. But it is a festival of fun, a celebration after last nights mourning," he explains and another roar of laughter streams through the open balcony.
"I mean..." I look back to the bed, alluring with its fluffy duvet and perfectly arranged set of pillows.
"There is food," he counters and as I look back to him my stomach rumbles, agreeing for me.
Roman lets out a hearty laugh and I push past him, picking the dress off the door. "Alright, I'll come but don't be disappointed if I disappear off into the night to get some damn sleep," I grumble and he just chuckles, letting me close the closet door and prepare to dance with wolves.
The atmosphere is electric. The second Roman and I walk out onto the grassed area, both dressed in white, save for Roman's pastel brown shorts, the parties energy flows over us at full force. Everyone is so full of life, so loving and free and joyous as they celebrate collectively.
Roman leans down next to my ear and whispers, "Things get a little... wolf-like tonight. Don't let it bother you, most are just very close to nature," he says and I make a face, uncertain of what to expect now.
I clutch onto Roman's arm as he guide us past large tents housing tables and entertainment and to a large fire, so large you can see it from a mile away. In front of the fire people dance along to upbeat music, their bodies not solemn or rigid like last night and the music entirely different. Bodies move with the rhythm, mates moving against one another like there aren't hundred of eyes surrounding them.
Off to the side of the fire, a large array of rugs and pillows are set on a stage of sorts, and the Superiors lay casually on them, the ones who aren't dancing or elsewhere that is. Servers bring them food like they are gods and they look the part, all positioned around a throne of sorts in which the King sits, laid back as a stunning woman brings him a glass of auburn liquid.
He looks her up and down and gives her a suggestive wink, making her giggle before scurrying off. I'm surprised he didn't pull her into his lap right there and play around, if that glint in his eyes was any giveaway.
Roman and I approach the seated area and the attention of all the leaders snap to us as we take a seat on a large cushion, the fabric moulding our bodies closer together. A server comes over to us with a large tray of food and I take it from his hands. "Thank you very much," I say with a large smile and his face lights up at the acknowledgement before he bows his head and exits.
"We were starting to think you wouldn't show," Luna Beatrice says and I glance over to where she is sprawled in the lap of her mate, her very essence that is usually tight and firm loosened.
"And miss all the glorious food?" Roman jokes and a few chuckles erupt from around us.
"Not here for our pleasant company then, are we?" The King asks, his eyes trained on me as he does so.
"Why of course your majesty," I reply, my sincerity convincing all of the wolves surrounding us. Though the King doesn't buy it for a moment and merely takes his attention elsewhere. They all break off into their own conversations, our arrival only interesting for a few fleeting seconds.
"You shouldn't tease him like that," Roman whispers into my ear and the action sends tingles down my neck, his proximity dangerously close to that spot just below my ear, where his mark sits. But his voice is firm and the message he relays also holds a sharper edge.
I lean into his neck, appearing loved up enough to make any prying wolves believe we are simply having fun. And from the deep rumble of approval in Romans chest, I can tell he doesn't object to it in the slightest. "Someone needs to knock him down a few pegs," I whisper back and I swear a shudder goes down his spine.
"That someone is not you. He may seem intrigued by your games now, but he can switch at any moment and punish you for speaking lowly to him. His primal instincts might demand it even if he does not," he warns and I move my head from his neck, choosing to rest it on his chest and not respond.
Roman lifts a small sandwich to my mouth and I oblige to his offer, opening my mouth and letting the decedent food settle in my stomach. One bite is all it takes however for me to move off his chest and lean over the tray, helping myself to more servings of the food.
Once I have had my fill of the food, I simply lean back into Roman's warmth and watch the people dance near the fire. I don't object as his fingers lazily draw circles across my exposed skin or filter through my hair and sit entranced. The flames of the fire rise high, its embers flying off into the starry night and I can't help but admire the beauty of it, the lethal grace.
Its an effort not to close my eyes and fall asleep right there, in the comfort of Romans hold and if it weren't for the upbeat music I convinced myself to focus in on every couple of minutes-perhaps I would. I glance up at Roman and he looks down at me, a content smile on his lips. I'd be content if I were him too, I suppose, he has me in his hold and is surrounded by pure power. What more could he want?
His gaze breaks as he looks in front of us and I follow his stare to see two young girls, both different in nationality shifting nervously hand in hand. "What can we do for you young girls?" Roman asks and they both smile sheepishly, their faces so utterly adorable I can't help but smile.
"I'm Ezra," one says, her skin fair and eyes wide and blue.
"Well hello Ezra, I'm Roman," he responds, his words coming out through a large smile.
"This is my friend," she points to the girl next to her of Asian decent, "she can't speak English," the girl clarifies and I smile even further at their sheer cuteness.
Roman raises his brows, "Ah, did she have something she wished to say?" He asks, entertained completely with their courage it seems.
"We- we wanted to ask if Luna Superior Maeve wanted to dance," she says softly and Roman looks down at me, a twinkle in his eyes.
"Dance?" I ask nervously and Roman's chest rumbles with a laugh.
"I think that is what these pups would like," he says and I look back at the girls who smiles at me with such hope and I have no choice but to rise from Romans chest.
"Of course," I say and I feel some attention from the other leaders on my back as I stand and take the two girls hands.
They both giggle with excitement and pull me over to the fire, bubbling with a joy out energy that makes me laugh and look back to Roman with a slight plea for help to which he just smiles even further and leans back.
We move into the dance area, on the edge away from the more... promiscuous dances and they both bob up and down, dancing with the others to the music and I follow suit, letting my body go free with the untamed music that bounced through the air, off the bodies of the people moving as we all combined into one unstoppable energy.
I laughed wildly, smiling at the grinning girls as they showed me their dance moves and giggled proudly. I became as carefree as them, enjoying every second of it probably more so than they did but it felt good. It felt liberating to be able to just let everything go and move back to that childlike joy, that kind of happiness that couldn't be stopped.
That is until their mothers came and took each of their hands, pure shock and embarrassment over their faces. "Luna we are so very sorry, we let them go off to the children tent. We are so so sorry if they bothered you," one of the mothers confessed and I smiled.
"No, it's no bother, you have two very lovely little girls," I say and relief overcomes their faces.
"Two little naughty girls soon if they don't get into bed," the second jokes, her voice thick with an accent and I laugh.
They both thank me-for what I'm not sure and I look back to the stage holding the Superiors and see Roman engrossed in a conversation with some of the leaders, turning back to the enigmatic dance behind me. I morph into the crowd and find a free space, moving my body again to the music and letting myself move free from restraint.
I notice-only briefly, as the melody changes into something more familiar-yet without words still. The backing of a song I know but can't place.
The people around me don't even notice who I am, everyone so engrossed in their own mates that the presence of a Superior isn't important. Nothing is important as long as the melody continues and drowns out any sorrow or pain that might linger from the death of the packs former leaders. It is like any weight that dragged my body down is lifted with every pluck of a guitar string and it feels amazing.
I feel someone tap on my shoulder, their finger gloved and I resist the urge to roll my eyes, not bothered with the Kings games despite Roman's warnings. "May I have this dance?"
My heart drops to the pit of my stomach and I whirl around like an invisible force yanks me.
Emerald green eyes that blend out into a softer yellow like a forrest after spring stare down at me and I blink. Then blink again.
Oliver. My head whips over to the Alphas and I spot Roman, only narrowly through the masking wall of bodies still in deep conversation before turning back to Oliver, my mouth agape and my heart rendered completely malfunctioned.
"Ollie," I whisper, my words a shadow to the roaring music and his gloved hand moves to my cheek, pure sorrow flashing through his eyes. "Your alive," I state and he nods grimly and wipes a tear that rolls down my cheek.
I look back towards Roman, concealed completely by the dancing people and my eyes become frantic as I move from his hold, making his brows furrow. I gulp, my entire body skittish. "What are you doing here? You can't be here, its not safe- you'll be killed," I rush, my voice hushed but steady.
"I came for you, Maeve. Meet me at midnight tonight under the willow east of the palace. Tell no one and don't be a second late," he rushes out, his face full of longing. "I love you." Is the last thing he mummers before vanishing into the crowd of people and I don't have a second to regain my composure as someone else taps on my shoulder.
I whip around to see Roman, smiling and completely unaware standing in front of me, no evidence that he can sent Oliver's lingering presence. His brows scrunch but his smile remains as he places a steady hand on my shoulder.
"Maeve, are you alright? You look like you've seen a ghost." I gulp thickly glancing behind me and then back to Roman whose smile is slowly fading in concern. "Maeve..."
"I'm fine. I'm fine. I think I just need a drink of water." Or something much, much stronger.
Andddddd now you gotta wait a week im sorry ily