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The War Claim - The Claim: Book 3

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Chapter 2 - Chloe

The news spread fast in the pack.

When Chloe got home from school, she ran to Luna Aki and Alpha Noodin’s house to find out if it was true.

Luna Aki gave her a sad smile. “Yes, dear. He called us late last night to give us the news. They won’t be back until next week, I’m afraid. It’s hard for a young female to leave her friends and family and travel a long way to live with her mate in a foreign place. You’ll have to wait until they come back to see them.”

Pain twisted in her chest. She never told anyone that she had a crush on her best friend, but it looked like everyone already knew.

Luna Aki wrapped her arms around her and tried to soothe her as tears began to build in her eyes. She blinked them back, refusing to let them fall. Refusing to admit how much this hurt when she should be happy for him.

“You’ll find your mate too someday. Have faith in the Moon G0ddess. He’s out there somewhere waiting to meet you.”

To anyone else, that might have eased a young female’s heart, but that only further heightened her pain. Her mate wouldn’t be Animkii, her best friend. Things would be different now. How different, she couldn’t be sure yet. Only time would tell.

She ran home and slammed herself in her room and cried into her pillow. She could hear her little sister, Camilla, crying downstairs and her mother trying to soothe her—Chloe must have startled the pup but she didn’t care. Her life was over! Her world was ending! Things would never be the same again!

All her pain poured out from her chest and into her pillow and it didn’t make anything better.

She didn’t know how much time passed before her mother gently knocked on the door before cracking it open. “Chloe?”

“Go away!”

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”

“I said, go away!"

Her mother came in anyway with her two-year-old sister on her hip. She set the pup down on Chloe’s bed before sitting down next to her and rubbing her back. “He found his mate, didn’t he?”

Ugh! Even her own mother knew!

Sniffling, she turned her back to her mother and curled up into a ball. Her mother rubbed her back and Chloe began to cry softly. Camilla even tried to comfort her by patting her thigh and saying, “No cry, Ko-ee, no cry.”

Her mother stayed with her and didn’t say another word again until she left to put her sister down for a nap before starting dinner.

Once the meat was in the oven, her mother returned to try and talk with her but Chloe didn’t want to talk. Her mother didn’t press and just stayed with her again for a few more minutes before going back downstairs to continue making dinner.

Chloe stayed in her room for the rest of the evening. She didn’t go down for dinner and even when her mother brought dinner up to her, she didn’t eat any of it.

She never imagined heartbreak hurting so much. It wasn’t just her dreams coming to an end, but everything she’d known. He wouldn’t be the same when he came back. He wouldn’t have time for her. Maybe they could hang out for a few hours on weekends, but that would be it. He’d have his own family now and be alpha of their pack. Who was she? The daughter of the pack’s current Head Warrior, yes, but just a pup.

He’d never look at her the same way again. And that scared her.

He didn’t come back next week.

An early snowstorm blew in, throwing snow and ice upon the land. The temperature dropped, turning the rain into freezing rain before it turned to ice pellets and then a few inches of snow. Everyone was advised to stay off the roads until further notice. The storm stretched over hundreds of miles. The drive would have been too treacherous for Animkii to make.

Chloe had spent the week moping around, dragging her feet, and crying into her pillow at night. After the storm had passed, leaving behind fresh wet snow, perfect for building snowmen, Chloe’s three younger siblings wanted to play in it. Their parents pulled her out of the house—whether she liked it or not—to play with them all in the snow. Her mother even thrust her onto a sled with her little sister that was hitched to her father in his wolf-form, wagging his tail with big puffs of air billowing out from his panting mouth. Once their mother secured them on the sled, their father took off, pulling them as fast as he could across the open valley.

Chloe’s heart and stomach lurched forward while her little sister squealed in excitement. Bundled up in warm layers of clothing with a scarf around her mouth and nose, Chloe couldn’t help the smile the tugged on the corners of her eyes as their father ran hard and fast, giving his pups a great ride—the fastest he’d ever dared to go with them.

When he brought them back home, he shook himself and puffed his chest out while their mother helped to unbuckle them from the sled.

“Did you have fun?” she asked.

Camilla bounced up from the sled and ran to their father before Chloe even had a chance to respond. “Yes! Yes! Daddy da bestest!”

Chloe couldn’t hide her smile and her mother caught it, her eyes crinkling. “There’s my girl. I’ve missed you,” she said, reaching down.

Grasping her outstretched hand, Chloe let her mother help pull her up from the sled and was welcomed into a hug. “Sorry, Mom. I just...”

Her mother rubbed her back. “I know. I know. You two can still try to be friends. It won’t be the same, but all you can do is try. And when you meet your mate, you’ll know it was for the best.”

“Snowball fight!” her eight-year-old brother, Oliver bellowed and launched a big ball of snow at her and their mother. It struck between them and they jerked away from each other to grab handfuls of snow themselves.

“You want a fight, huh?” their mother jeered. “You got one, buddy!”

Giggling, Chloe molded the snow between her hands and threw it at Oliver as their younger brother of five, Oscar, joined in. Their father stayed in his wolf form, circling around everyone with his tongue hanging out, yipping and yapping in excitement and keeping a close eye on Camilla as she tried her best to make snowballs and throw them from her brothers’ side.

“Boys against girls!” Chloe shouted out, darting forward to grab Camilla and bring her to their side.

“No fair! We’re small and you’re big!” Oliver shouted before Mom struck him with a snowball.

“You started it, buddy,” Mom asserted as she scooped up more snow and nailed Oscar in the chest.

“Daddy!” both boys cried out and ran behind their father, still panting with his tail wagging. “Help us, Daddy!”

“No fair! Daddy’s stronger than both of us!” Chloe yelled, ducking behind their mother and setting Camilla down.

Their father bolted toward the house while the battle raged on with Camilla toddling after him. He returned a minute later in his coat and boots with Camilla under one arm. With the other, he raised his fist up to the darkening sky. “Prepare for battle!”

The snowball fight took off the moment he set Camilla down, asserting that Camilla was off-limits and a snowball storm from both sides would hail down on anyone who struck her. Camilla continued to toddle around, trying to play along but not doing very well. Their father frequently scooped her up when she looked frustrated, dodging around snowballs Chloe and her mother threw in an attempt to make Camilla feel more included. Soon everyone was huffing and puffing as they dodged, scooped, molded, and threw snowballs at the opposing team, laughing and egging each other on before everyone started to burn out. Camilla complained about being cold and tired and jutting out her fat bottom lip.

Their father scooped her up again for the twentieth time and kissed her cheek. “Ready to go inside, sweetpea?”

“Yeah,” she mumbled.

Chloe’s younger brothers were all ready to call it a day and flopped back in the snow to catch their breaths.

A few minutes later, they were all inside to warm up with some hot chocolate around the fireplace while their mother prepared dinner in the kitchen and their father cuddled with Camilla on the couch, who had fallen asleep after a few sips of his hot chocolate.

While her brothers occupied themselves with some legos, Chloe sat on the floor next to her father’s legs, sipping her hot chocolate and watching the flames flicker and dance in the fireplace.

Her father touched her head. “Feeling better, Chloe-bear?”

Turning, she gave him a small smile at the old nick-name. “Yeah.”

He smiled back and ruffled her hair lightly. “Good. Anytime you want to talk, you can talk to me or your mother, okay?”

She nodded. “Thanks, Daddy.”

He huffed. “I waited my whole life to be called Papaw, and everyone follows you in calling me Daddy.”

Her smile reached her eyes. “Because you are my Daddy.”

Rising to her feet, she climbed onto the couch next to him and snuggled into his side while Camilla occupied his other arm. He kissed her forehead as she turned her gaze back to the fireplace on his left and let the dancing of the flames calm her mind.

Maybe things wouldn’t be as bad as she thought? Maybe waiting for her mate was the best thing to do…

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