“When were you going to tell me about her?” Kane asked, his eyes fixated on me. Disappointment and anger simmered in them as he walked down the stairs. I didn’t understand why he was feeling these emotions. I was the one paired with the enemy whom I could never have. If anything, those feelings belonged to me only.
Mentally cursing myself, I rubbed my face and pinched the bridge of my nose, “Announce this to the whole world, why don’t you,” I grumbled, furthering this unwanted conversation outside. The rest of the house didn’t need to hear about my business—especially Carson, who has diarrhea of the mouth.
In the dead of night, the trickling fountain equaled the noise of a thunderstorm as I stared into the distance. He crossed his arms and waited for me to explain, but nothing came out of my mouth.
“I knew something was off between you two,” He mused before the anger was back in his tone, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” It finally dawned on me that he was upset about my decision not to share something this important with him. We told each other everything, but the problematic situation stitched my lips together.
“I didn’t want anyone to know, Kane. You know how these situations can be.”
His eyebrows raised, giving me a pointed look, “Your secret would have been safe with me,” His face relaxed as he looked at me deep in thought, “Despite our rocky relationship with the Collins, this is great news. Blood Rose will have a Luna, and the animosity will finally be put to rest. How coincidental that mom and Grace were best friends and now you’re paired with her daughter,” I’d forgotten all about my mother’s friendship with the River Ash Luna at one point.
I stopped and replayed his words in my head to make sure I’d heard him correctly. I expected him to be entirely baffled by this information, but his soft eyes suggested something else. He was happy for me, and I’d wondered if he understood me in the first place.
“No!” I shook my head, appalled by his foolish words, “You know as well as I do that our kind cannot have a mate. Have you forgotten about all the innocent lives slaughtered for the stupid mistake of forming an interspecies relationship?”
“Technically, it isn’t the same for you two. She is a wolf, and you are part wolf. The similarity has to count for something.”
“That does not matter. The council will never allow it!”
“But she is your mate,” He frowned, determined to change my mind, “The council cannot keep you away from each other. They’d be opposing the moon goddesses’ plans, and I doubt they’d want to upset our powerful creator.”
I rubbed my forehead in frustration for the 50th time tonight, attempting to ease the throbbing headache on my temples. He truly didn’t understand the severity of the situation.
“So, what do you suppose I do? Take her as my mate and bring her down the shithole with me? Everyone would begin to treat her differently, and the council will come looking for her. She doesn’t deserve to live a life with constant apprehension. I don’t wish this life on anyone!”
His shoulders fell as he stared out into the distance, “You don’t realize how lucky you are,” He mused. I didn’t fail to miss the jealousy and longing in his voice. Mates are equally important to demons as they are wolves. Our hybrid nature increased the yearning for a woman though the authorities would come beating down our doors if we marked and mated with one, especially if we made the mistake of reproducing.
“Do what you want, but before you make rash decisions, think about this more. Don’t throw something so precious away for fear of her acceptance in society. You could both get through the obstacles together,” He started to walk back to the house but turned to me and added, “I’m sure mom would like to look down from the skies and see you happy for a change.”
His words hit me harder than I’d expected them to. My mother would always talk about my future mate as if it were a guarantee. I could imagine her bright smile and the constant nagging to give her grand pups. She was probably dancing in the sky now.
I followed Kane back inside the house when we simultaneously smelt cigarette smoke. I could see the red tip peeking out from the bushes, and the faint smoke drifting up and disappearing into the air. Someone was eavesdropping!
“How much are we talking?”
With my head tilted, I took a good look at the painting of a naked woman tangled in pink satin bedsheets. The buyer concentrated on my facial expressions, not realizing I was pretending to contemplate a price. Adding to my pose, I rested my fingers under my chin before deciding to put an end to the anticipation. I knew what my artwork was worth.
“Forty-thousand,” I spoke confidently, my eyes gleaming with determination. A low whistle followed my response, and he nervously pushed up his glasses. He looked tempted but not entirely convinced, “It’s okay if you’re not interested anymore. I think Mr. Bradley was more than willing to pay this much. I will go talk to him.”
“Wait,” The man slightly grabbed my arm before I could turn away. I smiled at him as he quickly shook his head and said, “This painting is too good to let go. I’ll take it!”
“Please see the receptionist at the end of the event,” I said, placing a ‘sold’ sign under the artwork. My smile widened as I took one more look at the painting with my name proudly signed at the bottom.
Rachel’s flower-designed dress bounced with her excitement as she hurriedly made her way through the guests to inform me about our sales. She resembled a child in a candy store, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at her. She left with a wide grin to assist another buyer. Our hard work paid off, and the gallery would be rewarded because of it.
Sipping out of my champagne glass, I watched the guest admire my work along with my artist’s work. The classical music playing in the background dragged me deep into my thoughts. I was pleased about tonight, but something felt like it was missing. Someone felt missing from here.
“Are you the owner?” A man dressed in a delivery uniform asked from behind me. He wrinkled his brows and looked at his clipboard to confirm, “Astrid Collins?” He handed me a receipt to sign as I nodded. My mouth fell to the floor at the sight of his team shuffling vases and vases of flowers out of their tuck.
“Um…excuse me? What is all of this?”
“You’re Astrid Collins, aren’t you?” One of the men holding a mixture of colored flowers asked.
“Great! These are yours,” He shoved the vase into my hands before going back out to his truck. Rachel stopped her work and led them to the back of my studio. I watched in shock as the flowers kept coming one after the other. I’d counted more than fifty vases. I kept trying to tell them to take the flowers away because it was a mistake. No one would send me flowers.
“Who sent me these?” I asked the same delivery guy for the hundredth time. He sighed in annoyance before he said, “Look, lady, I’m just trying to do my job. Some nice man ordered all these flowers for you. He didn’t leave a name, but I can give you his number if you’d like to thank him.”
I shook my head eagerly, “That would be helpful.”
He set the last vase of roses in my studio and gave me the number. My fingers moved at lightning speed to check my phone. The number wasn’t saved in any of my contacts, leaving me even more bewildered. I sat back in my desk chair, scanning my memory for any clues. Who would send me all these flowers?
“You have a secret admirer,” A familiar deep voice made me jump in my chair. I was so lost in thought trying to solve the mystery; I hadn’t realized Bryson walked in.
“Did you do all of this?” I sighed, knowing the answer before he shook his head and rose his hands, “Nope. If it were me, I would’ve sent you lilacs because I know they’re your favorite,” I expected this much because the phone number didn’t match Bryson’s.
“Why would someone send me these?” I mumbled to myself, looking at all the beautiful colors decorating my studio. I was grateful for them, but I wanted to know who the sender was and ask the reason behind their kindness. My heart nearly did a backflip as a silver-eyed, delicious hybrid crossed my mind. He wouldn’t…would he?
It was then a small white card poking out of a vase caught my attention. I reached for it on my desk and read the card. The butterflies in my stomach screamed and rapidly flapped their wings with joy.
I didn’t get the chance to show my gratitude. I hope you like the flowers. Blood Rose and Silver Moon, thank you for the vote. - A. Blackburn
I hid the card safely. Bryson slowly walked behind me, gently wrapping his arms around my neck. For the first time, the smell of his cologne didn’t excite me like it used to, and his touch felt like needles pricking my skin.
“Why else?” He whispered close to my ear, sending a shiver down my spine, “You’re beautiful. Any man could see how perfect you are,” He said, kissing the most sensitive spot on my neck.