Chapter 23 ♕
“I really think you made the right decision by staying, Luna,” Rowan said, what made me look up from my phone. I had been busy with the latest emails to insurance companies and some of the clinic’s regular customers.
I looked at Rowan strangely. “What is that suddenly with you and the whole Luna thing. Until a few days ago you just called me by name,” I said. Rowan looked straight ahead.
“I would shame my Alpha by addressing you by a name other than your title,” he said.
I sighed deeply. It wasn’t that I didn’t see what he was trying to do. The timing just wasn’t right. For a moment I put my hand on his arm. “Listen Rowan, I appreciate how loyal you are to Alaric. But this is all very hectic for me and I could use a friend. So what do you say if you just let go of that very serious attitude and try to be exactly what you are to me, a friend,” I pleaded.
He looked at me for a moment from the corner of his eye, but then he smiled. I immediately took my hand off his arm. Stupid mate bond, went through my mind. Even when I touched another man without any ulterior motives, I already felt guilty. But I saw that my words had reached him.
He immediately felt more relaxed and now had his familiar grin on his face. Immediately the whole atmosphere in the car became lighter, so that I could concentrate on the latest emails again.
The past twenty-four hours had been perhaps the most hectic of my life, and I had once preformed multiple emergency surgery in a day at work. That was nothing compared to this.
The struggle had started early yesterday with Alaric, who did not accept that Rowan was the one accompanying me. According to him, he couldn’t be trusted anymore after he had allowed me to leave.
All it took was to take him aside for a moment. I took his face in my hands and told him what I felt inside. “Don’t forget why I’m leaving now, Alaric. I’m going so I can come back afterwards and be with you. I’m going to be with you. Then we have plenty of time to get to know each other, up to the point that we are completely tired of each other”.
“That will never happen,” he had replied with a half grin.
But after that he had let me go without any resistance. I had packed a small bag of clothes for over night and then got into the car with Rowan. The whole time we drove off I had watched through the rearview mirror as both Alaric and Bethany grew smaller in the distance. From then on I had been silent the whole time.
Completely lost in thought, I underwent the car ride and the flight. It was only after we landed and I knew there were things to be done that I gathered myself together. First we went to my house. I was too ashamed to admit it, but I was glad to be able to leave this behind, and to have found a new home to be happy in.
Rowan helped me pack everything. All I wanted to do personally was my collection of antiques that my parents had brought from all over the world. They were my most treasured possession and one of the few things that I could not have found in my heart to sell. As last, I packed the hourglass, which the officers had handed to me the night my parents died.
Only then did I realize that I had stopped thinking about them for a while. That my grief had diminished. That I was actually happy again for the first time in a long time. The tears had come up and I had just let them fall down my cheeks. After a few minutes everything was in boxes and when I went to check Rowan and I saw that he was ready too. We waited for the movers to come and load everything into their truck before Rowan drove me to work.
It was strange because I had always loved my job. But after I had took some distance from it, I realized that I was actually not appreciated at all there. My colleagues always assumed that I would take on the hard work and all the least pleasant hours were automatically handed over to me. Once I realized that, it suddenly became a lot easier to step inside and inform them that I was resigning immediately.
My boss made a desperate attempt to convince me to stay, but I didn’t give in. When she asked why I felt it necessary to move to another country, my answer had been simple, I had found my family there.
When that was also dealt with, there was only one thing left for me to do. We drove straight to the house of the old couple who let me rent that shed all these years. I wanted to say goodbye to them in a dignified way. But unfortunately for me, William had been there at the time. The moment our eyes met, it was clear he didn’t know how to behave.
I, on the other hand, had no problem with that. Thanks to him and his hunting friends, I was left with a scar on my side for the rest of my life. I thanked the husband and wife for their kindness and handed them the key. But afterwards I wanted to leave immediately, so I declined their friendly offer to stay for dinner. Rowan had been waiting in the car the whole time. Once outside I heard footsteps behind me, followed by a hand closing around my upper arm.
“Magnolia, I wanted to say how sorry I am,” William began. But I immediately pulled myself away and glared at him. “The days when you could do that are long gone. I called you my friend, William. But instead, you had one of your friends aim a gun at a defenceless creature. That bullet hit me, you hear that. Because of you I have to bear a scar for the rest of my life. You could have killed me, but it was obvious you didn’t care at all. Otherwise you wouldn’t have run away. You’re pathetic, William. And I have nothing more to say to you,” I camped out when he tried to interrupt me.
In the distance I heard a car door open and close and a second later Rowan’s menacing figure appeared in front of me and had grabbed William by the collar roughly. Then his fist came in contact with William’s face, who fell directly to the ground.
I didn’t even get ready to stop Rowan. From his face it was clear he had heard every word. I was the mate of his Alpha. It was only natural that he felt he should defend me. William, rubbing the spot that was already starting to turn blue, looked at me.
“Is this your new boyfriend or something”, to which I then laughed right in his face. “Believe me. Rowan is not a weakling, but compared to my new love he can still learn a lot. When he hears what happened to me thanks to you, that bruise is going to be nothing compared to what he would do to you”.
I would never tell Alaric what happened to me. Mainly because I dared to say with certainty that Will wouldn’t survive what Alaric would do with him. Without saying another word to him, I turned around and walked away.
In the meantime hours had passed and we also had safely left the flight behind us. It wouldn’t be long before I would be back home with Alaric. In order not to have to think too much about my former home, I decided to take my mind off, so I turned to Rowan.
“Now that we’re talking to each other again as friends, is it okay if I ask you some questions?” I asked him.
“Go ahead,” he said.
It was just him and I in the car. Alaric had actually insisted that more of his warriors come along, but that would have been impossible to explain to anyone at home. With a lot of grunts, he finally agreed.
“Have you ever heard of Ascian before? Alaric and Bethany’s cousin. He suddenly appeared in the forest last night without any explanation and has already managed to turn things upside down,” I said.
“Is Ascian back?” Rowan said, with wide eyes, “I was only just released from the infirmary that morning, so I’m not really aware of anything yet. But the name he bears is by no means positive. The guy is reckless and never takes the consequences of his actions. Even worse, he’s relentless. He hasn’t been in contact with his family in years. Even his father didn’t know where he was half the time. Nobody knew where he was. Every now and then you heard stories that he had left a trail of destruction and death somewhere on the other side of the world, but that was it”.
“Do you know why?” I asked cautiously, not really shocked by that description. One look at Ascian yesterday had been enough to know he was up to no good.
“The reason seems logical to me,” Rowan said with a shrug, “he has no mate. Even before I was even born, he was alone. The king was exactly the same before he found you. Wolves are bad, but we are nothing compared to Lycan males”.
I let those words sink in. “Do you have a mate?” I then asked. Suddenly the grin disappeared from his face and I saw something of regret in his look. Then he shook his head. “You’re still young,” I said, trying to lighten the mood, “I mean, look at Alaric. He is hundreds of years old and only recently found me. You can’t give up hope just yet”.
Rowan looked at me for a moment to respond, but at that moment I had looked out through the window and suddenly saw someone in the middle of the road. It was too late to warn Rowan. In the next second, massive boulders shot up from the ground, which the car then crashed into at high speed.
I felt an number of things happening at the same time. A sharp pain cut through my stomach as the car tumbled over. I wanted to look to the side to see how Rowan was doing, but I had lost consciousness before I had the chance.
The first thing I felt was an insane headache.
Followed by pain in my lower stomach. I gritted my teeth and groaned. When I wanted to open my eyes to see where the hell I had ended up, it didn’t work right away. It was as if my body wouldn’t listen to the signals from my brain. I tried to speak, but both my mouth and throat were as dry as sandpaper. So in the end I just let out a painful whimper. I heard voices in the distance.
“She’s awake. Go report it”.
Followed by the sound of footsteps running away. I tried to move, but I soon stopped when I felt how much pain it costed me. Slowly I came to and opened my eyes. I hung my head and when my vision cleared again, the first thing I saw was my body.
I was still wearing the same clothes I had worn on the plane, except they were ripped and covered in dirt. I also noticed that I smelled rather strange. Alaric had once told me that I could never stink for him, but at the time I was glad he wasn’t here to confirm that concept. When I took a closer look, I saw a bleeding wound just above the hem of my jeans. It was not taken care of and looked infected. I also felt my whole body getting warm. It wasn’t strange that I would run a fever in a room like this, or rather dungeon, I realized as I looked around.
It was cold and damp in here. It was completely shrouded in darkness except for the burning torch that lit the only entrance and exit in the room. A black solid steel door. I let my gaze slide further along the walls. The whole room, including the walls, ceiling, and floors, were made of the same stone. Streams of water ran down the stone and created small puddles on the ground. I didn’t know where I was, but it had to be deep underground.
I heard the sound of a heavy door opening and groaned as I struggled to look up. A woman stood in front of me. She looked like two drops of water like Giselle, only unlike her, this girl’s hair was short. Yet she had the exact same strand of red hair falling before her eyes.
“Who are you?” I asked in a hoarse voice, “why am I here?”.
“I’m Nesita. Head of the Virdartes Coven,” she said and immediately I winced. Her voice sounded like nails on a chalkboard. I shook my head and then looked up again. “Tell me why I’m here,” I demanded.
Nesita stepped forward and leaned forward so that she now looked me straight in the eye. “Rumors said that the monstrous king has found himself a mate after all these years. And after all he’s done to this coven, he doesn’t deserve to be happy, so to prevent that, we decided to turn to that one thing that could end his existence on this planet. The loss of his beloved mate,” said Nestia.
There was something crazy about the look in her eyes. Something that would make me want to take a step back, only that was prevented by the chains that were tied around my arms and legs.
“Actually, sister, that’s not the main reason,” came another voice, only I had heard it several times before. I looked past Nesita just as she turned around. Giselle stood in the doorway. I felt all the color disappear from my face. That was impossible.
“How did you get out?” I snapped at her before anyone else could have said anything. Giselle looked at me bored for a moment, but then decided to ignore me completely and focus on Nesita instead. That witch, on the other hand, had frowned.
“Giselle, how nice that you are finally rejoining us. I was wondering how long it will take them to break out of there. Unfortunately for you that outbreak cost us dozens of our sisters”. Nesita’s voice was lifeless and reserved. “We’ll talk about your failure later, tell me why you think that torturing the kings isn’t the main reason for her being here”.
I had studied Giselle closely while Nesita had spoken. She had done her best not to show anything, but when it was said that the topic of her failure would come back later, I saw real fear.
Giselle feared her coven head. Not that I could blame her. This lady really seemed to have a few screws loose in her head. I saw how Giselle had managed to shake off the fear and look at me in the meantime.
“You mean you don’t see it, Sister. Take a closer look. Look at her hair and eyes. She is exactly who we have been looking for all along. She is the magical object. She means the salvation of our coven” Giselle ended, whereupon Nesita turned to me with wide eyes.
“That’s great news,” she went on to say, a sinister grin spread from her lips. I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t understand anything that had just been said.
“Giselle, give me a little more fire so I can get a better look at her,” Nesita ordered, moving closer to me. She looked at me as if I were a lab animal that could be cut open at any time for further investigation. For a second I drew back from her outstretched hand, but then felt it happen again. I was no longer in control of my own body or my own words. I straightened my back and felt the corner of my mouth rise.
The words were out of my mouth before I knew it. Both witches looked at me with completely different facial expressions. Nesita seemed at best surprised, but Giselle, on the other hand, radiated more rage than I had ever seen her do. But I didn’t care and just moved on instead.
“She can no longer control elements. I took that from her” I heard coming from my mouth.
What was going on here?