Chapter 15 ♕
I felt my muscles burn as I ran down the corridors. I tried to keep breathing regularly, but was greatly let down by my condition. There was not really anything else to be expected. I preferred to spend the few free hours I had on the couch unconscious, instead of in a gym. But my head, on the other hand, seemed to be in great shape judging by the way he was running off with my thoughts.
Immediately after Alaric ran away, I was verbally attacked by Bethany. Apparently I had just made al the thinkable mistakes. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions, instead I should had listened to him and most of all, I shouldn’t have said I didn’t want any of this.
Maybe she was right somewhere. Judging by his response, I had hurt him deeply. And that had been the least of my intention. I just hadn’t known what to say or feel. It had all just been a lot to take in once.
But it was the words Bethany had said to me at the time that immediately forced me back to my senses.
“Listen to me very carefully now, Maggie. I can very well understand that all of this is a lot to take in. But couldn’t you have thought a little more carefully before you said that. I just mean, do you have any idea what you have done? You are my brother’s mate. His only mate”.
“But I don’t even know what that really means,” I had replied, somewhat frustrated. Probably because I expected her of all people to be on my side.
“Even then” was Bethany’s response.
We had stared at each other for a moment, and I had used that time to organize my thoughts and give everything a place. I had to admit that I wasn’t as anxious as before. I hadn’t been that since he showed up. I had just taken me awhile to realise it. Bethany, meanwhile, had gone on tirelessly to list everything she apparently blamed me for.
“Just go talk to him, please. I promise I’ll explain everything afterwards, but for now you have to reassure him before he demolishes the whole palace. If he hasn’t already” Bethany practically begged me.
At the time I really thought she was overreacting. Even though I might have spoken somewhat harsh to him, that was not necessarily a good reason to destroy a building.
I found out how wrong I was when I heard the sound of breaking glass in the distance, followed by the sound of running footsteps. I wasn’t sure why, but those noises made me run even faster.
The sounds of destruction quickly approached, and when I finally turned the corner, I came stumbling to a stop and stared wide eyed at all the commotion.
Paintings I’d admired earlier that week were scattered across the ground, mixed with what looked like shards of glass. And besides that, the room was filled with wolves. Some half changed, some as human and some completely in their animal form.
This was the first time I had come face to face with so many of them. During the encounter with the witches, not a single wolf had been transformed and also my eyes had been closed for most of the time.
But now, with the literal evidence before my own eyes, there was no point in denying. I had to face it, everything I had tried so hard to ignore for the past few days. I squeezed my eyes tight for a moment, took a deep breath.
But there was no panic, no fear or paralyzed feeling. I didn’t feel anything happening anymore. I was completely fine.
That was at least until I turned my eyes to what was capturing everyone’s attention. And there he was. Again with his back to me. He seemed to be swallowed up in his own world, because I don’t think he had noticed me yet. To my left I heard a familiar voice say something.
“She turned you down,” Cayden said.
My eyebrows furrowed. I was surprised to see him here. Given his wounds, he shouldn’t be here at all. I wondered if Bethany was aware of this.
It wasn’t until the next moment that I realized what he had actually said.
So Alaric thought I had rejected him.
When I had said I didn’t want any of this, I wasn’t referring to him, but to the situation. He must have got it all wrong. Suddenly I didn’t find it strange at all anymore that he seemed able to smash everything to bits. In his eyes I was his only chance for happiness, if it were taken from me I wouldn’t know how to react either.
My flow of thoughts was rudely disrupted as I felt something inside me. It didn’t hurt, but it felt like something was shifting. As if something disappeared, but something else emerged in it’s place. Without thinking, my gaze shifted to him.
Because this was all him.
I thoughtlessly stepped aside, so that I could now better see what he was actually doing and immediately gasped. It was as if two invisible hands shook me completely, bringing me back to my senses.
“Stop it!” I screamed and immediately saw him freeze.
I took a step in his direction. I couldn’t see his face, but I could see the one he was holding. Rowan was about to collapse. I had no idea what was happening here, but I knew I wouldn’t allow it. His shoulders, muscles, everything indicated how intensely he tried to resist the words that had come out of my mouth.
Except for him, no one seemed to share the same feeling. All guards, including Cayden, stared at me. Some, I think, must thought that I was completely nuts that I was even trying to interrupt the king.
“Look at me,” I said softly.
It was almost as if he then couldn’t resist the sound of my voice, because in the end he turned painfully slowly toward me. “Alaric” I said softly, but this only got me a snarl from his mouth.
I did not expect that, but wasn’t scared either. I looked closer, tilted my head, and studied him. This was indeed Alaric, but at the same time it was not. There was something different about him. For a moment I tried to bring to my eyes the pages of the books I had read about his species, but in the end that turned out not to be necessary. I already knew the answer myself.
This was his other side. He had clearly taken control and was about to kill Rowan. I had to take a gamble here. Bethany had made it very clear to me that Alaric wouldn’t hurt me, but said nothing about his other half. I also had no idea how far this so-called mate bond reached and what effect I had on him. I hadn’t even heard anyone use his name in the entire time I had stayed here. People were just to scared.
And now I was face to face with it. The side of him that made everyone tell those terrible stories. The side that caused him to be feared and avoided.
I took a step in his direction. My whole body seemed to want nothing more than to get closer. As with Alaric, his name just seemed to come to mind. I felt slight smile come to my mouth.
“Maximus” I said softly. The name sounded beautiful in my ears. I dropped my shoulders a little further. “Max”, that word I spoke possibly even softer.
It turned out to be effective.
Max released Rowan as if he had caught fire spontaneously and turned his undivided attention to me. I glanced quickly at Rowan, who had clutched his throat while coughing, but it looked like he was going to be fine. Then I looked ahead again. Max wanted to come to me, but I kept him at a distance with outstretched hands.
“Breathe,” I ordered him carefully.
He was reared, almost wild. I didn’t want him near me in a state like that. First he has to calm down. Maximus didn’t seem to think about it. He just did what I asked of him.
I felt a rush of utter amazement pass through the hallway. Maximus seemed to feel it too, looking from his warriors to me. Specifically, he looked at those who had broken out their claws. And then I realized it. He kept an eye on those who could pose a threat to me.
He showed his teeth fleetingly, followed by a deep growl. Apparently the wolves got the hint, because soon they started to leave.
Two of the warriors helped Rowan get up and upright. The males looked anxiously at Max, but he didn’t seem to notice anything. He only looked at me. I nodded encouraged to them, as a sign that the coast was clear and they could take him to the infirmary.
I didn’t know why I thought I had the right to provide them with that confirmation, but at the time it just seemed the best.
Finally, only Cayden was there. He was forced to lean against the wall again, because standing up was obviously too much effort for him. He looked at me strangely. Almost a mixture of suspicion, fascinated and impressed. I made a simple gesture with my head towards the hallway from which I had just come. And he directly got the hint. He would find Bethany there.
After everyone left, I felt like I could finally breathe again. I never felt comfortable with so many eyes on me. To think that there really are people who couldn’t care less what other people thought of them, I was definitely not one of them. I probably owed that to my eyes. Because of them, my first thought was always that people thought I was some sort of freak.
I felt a heated pair of eyes staring intently at me, so I looked back. He seemed to be in a slightly calmer state. But I saw the storming emotions in his eyes. He was waiting for answers.
I took a deep breath.
“I’d like to start with this. I am not about to declare my ever burning love to you here. I am far from getting to that point. Furthermore, I still have no idea what is going on and what exactly that so called bond between us means. Having said that, I will not reject you immediately” I began.
Immediately a weight seemed to fall off his shoulders. I could also see the tension in his face diminish. I however immediately raised a finger at him. “I’m not done yet,” I said quickly. I wanted to be transparent with him. Make him clear that he should not set his expectations too high.
“I can understand that for you wolves the bond formed by your god is a sacred thing, but the same is simply not true of us humans. I don’t look anyone in the eye and fall in love instantly. I want to take this step by step. I don’t know you, but I am willing to get to know you. That’s all I can offer you right now. Is that something you can agree with?”.
He seemed to think hard for a moment, but after a while he nodded. I then nodded in return. “Then there is now something I would like to ask of you,” I said firmly.
He tilted his head slightly, as if urging me to ask anything my heart desired. That he would give me everything, the whole world, if that’s what would make me happy.
I just hoped he would hold that feeling when I told him my request. I took one final step in his direction, which now brought us close together. I put my head back on my neck and looked straight into his eyes. He seemed taken aback for a moment. He was probably not used to people getting close. I gathered all my courage, but still managed to make the words come out confidently.
“Let me meet him” I said, “let me meet Alaric”.