Astrid smiled sheepishly before disappearing behind the bathroom door. She was so cute when she was nervous, and I liked that I made her feel that way. I stood there staring at the door, imagining the bareness of her curves and delicate skin as she undressed. My imagination most likely didn’t do any justice for the real deal. I shook my head, snapping out of my daze and began unpacking. I’m sure I looked like a total creeper staring off in space like that.
Mine. My demon-wolf growled, pacing inside me. That’s all he seemed to do these days. I swear the only vocabulary he spoke was Mine. Mate. Astrid. My Luna. And a bunch of other inappropriate Latin slang he used to talk about our mate. The more Astrid and I kept our relationship platonic, the harder it was to keep him in line. It was like telling a starving lion not to devour the beautiful gazelle standing in front of him. A gazelle that solely belonged to him.
I caught an unmatched movement from the mirror hanging on the closet door. As I stared back at my reflection, I saw him, my demon staring back at me. Dark red eyes, razor-sharp canines, and a grim expression stared back at me. My chest rose and fell rapidly in the refection. All of the inner stress I felt because of him showed in the mirror. He did this a lot when I ignored him.
“Let me out,” My demon-wolf growled, his voice booming. I gave him a stern warning look to keep his voice down. His demands were giving me a headache, and I’d been dealing with them for quite some time. He acted as if I wasn’t dealing with the same emotional turmoil.
“I can’t trust you around her.”
“You cannot keep me locked inside forever. I know what you are trying to do.” A dark, demonic look crossed his face. My reflection shattered though I knew it wasn’t real. I put both hands on the closet door and hung my head low, letting out an exhausted sigh.
Understanding where to draw the line between mate and friend ate us both on the inside. It was even more difficult not to inch across it. The moon goddess blessed me with a mate despite my demon blood. But what was I to do with it? I could mate with Astrid and give her everything she’d ever want. All she had to do was ask once, and I’d move between worlds to get it for her. She could be happy. She’d have me, body and soul, until my very last breath. And even after that. Everything would fall into place like it’s supposed to.
Except everything wouldn’t fall into place because life is chaotic with me- the bastard child: Half-demon, half-wolf. The ultimate sin Astrid could ever commit, according to the rest of the world. And then there was the River Ash pack, a huge hurdle that stood between my mate and me. Would she even think twice about leaving the pack she worked so hard to prove herself worthy, to be my Luna? Could I move on without her? The one person who was sent to save me from myself.
To love her, to not love her. To drag her down with me, to set her free. Reject or Mate. Alpha or Luna. Astrid or the continuation of my charades, thinking that I could live my miserable existence without her.
“She’s mine.” He growled again.
I looked up at my demonic eyes, determined. “Then we shall have her. Just give me some time to convince her that we’re the right decision.” I swore to myself that I was lying to my demon-wolf. But this time, our voices didn’t outweigh the other. For the first time in days, we were in sync, on the same page. The dark smile that spread across my lips confirmed that he knew I was speaking the truth. He knew I was breaking my promise.
“Am I interrupting something?” I turned to see Astrid standing in the bathroom doorway. Her hair was damp, and she wore a pink, silk robe. I took long breaths of her fresh scent, completely hypnotized for some moments. She was beautiful. At the sight of her, my demon-wolf stirred, begging for control. I reminded him of our talk, and he settled down.
“Are you having a pep-talk with yourself or something?” Astrid joked, flashing that smile that always took my breath away. How could someone be so beautiful?
“Something like that,” I chuckled, throwing a blanket over the mirror. Thankfully, she didn’t ask me why. I had other reasons besides my scary demon for hiding my reflection. I saw Azazel sometimes through the mirrors, lurking in the shadows of my room even if I reminded myself that he was dead.
“Sorry I took so long in the shower. It’s all yours now.”
“Thanks,” I said, grabbing my clothes and heading for the bathroom. I spent about five minutes in the shower, not wanting to waste a single second of my time. This was the longest I’d ever spent with Astrid, and I was going to use my time wisely. Without thinking much, I dried off and walked out with nothing but boxers on.
Astrid was putting some things up in the dresser when she turned around to look at me. Her eyes widened, and her cheeks flushed.
“Um…I“ She stammered, her eyes drifting down to my chest and stomach. I could hear her heartbeat racing in her chest as she stood there watching me. She quickly went back to folding clothes as she caught me smiling. “I put some of your things up,” Astrid spoke softly. I stepped closer until I was standing right behind her, inhaling her scent.
“I appreciate it,” I said, leaning closer. The mixture of her shampoo and lotion smelled amazing, and I couldn’t resist. I leaned in even closer, sniffing her hair. She froze, but she didn’t stop me, so I pulled her hair to the side, exposing her neck. It was difficult not to attack her neck with kisses when she tilted her head, inviting me to do just that. I imagined my canines piercing through her soft skin and claiming her as mine.
I slowly put my hands on the dresser, pinning her against my chest. A very soft moan left her lips before she covered her mouth with her hand. I smirked as I reached past her and grabbed one of my shirts in the drawer. Her shoulders relaxed, and she turned to look at me with lust simmering in her eyes.
“We have a long day tomorrow. I think we should get to bed,” I said, not realizing my mistake as we walked to the edge of the bed. We both instantaneously looked down at the bed, standing on opposite sides. Why we missed this important detail was beyond me, but now we stood, staring at each other awkwardly—one bed for the both of us.
Astrid smiled and shrugged her shoulders, playing it off. “No worries. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
I frowned and shook my head. What kind of man would that make me if I allowed my mate to sleep on the couch?
“You’re not sleeping on the couch. Take the bed. There’s a pull-out mattress in the closet.”
I didn’t need the assistance, but she gladly helped me assemble the old thing anyway. The mattress smelled like dust, and the bed frame creaked loudly every time you sat on it. Though it beat sleeping on the floor.
After we got settled in bed, I stared up at the ceiling, wondering how long I could stand to be so close yet still so far away from her. I wanted to hold her so bad, but neither one of us was ready for that. She might claw my eyes out if I attempted it.
“Goodnight, Arlo,” She poked her head over the bed and smiled down at me. For some reason, she looked more beautiful than ever, staring down at me like that. My patience and rationality would definitely be tested.
The nightmares of my past never came, and for the first time in a long time, I slept peacefully, knowing my mate was there with me.
“Drink up,” Blair tapped the edge of my glass until I gulped the whole thing down. I cringed as the disgusting chunky liquid slid down my throat. It was bitter and probably the worst taste my tastebuds had ever encountered. I closed my eyes and drank some water to hold back a gag.
“How is this supposed to help me again?”
“Think of it as like the trackers that the guys have in their necks. If anything happens and we get separated, this potion will make it easier to find you,” Blair explained.
After Blair was completely satisfied with her spells, we both walked to the temple, a few meters outside her house. Everyone was waiting for our arrival so we could begin to track our pups down. It wasn’t until we walked halfway that I remembered my sword. I’d forgotten to grab it before I left the guest house. I told Blair I’d meet back up with her and turned back around.
As I headed back to the guest house, I saw Louisa headed in my direction. This time I didn’t pay her any mind. She was rude and snobby, and I had other things to worry about with our search for the pups. I assumed she would ignore me like yesterday, but surprisingly, she stepped in front of me, blocking my path.
“Sorry didn’t see you there,” I lied when she didn’t say anything. Her piercing blue eyes bore into me, not speaking a word. She looked like she wanted to punch me in the face. Had I not been a she-wolf, she might have.
“Excuse me.” I tried stepping aside, but she purposely stepped in front of me again. Determination and fury decorated her face.
“I’m only going to say this once she-wolf,” Louisa muttered in my face. I glared at her as she stepped as close to me as possible. She was taking up my personal space, and it pissed me off instantly. She might be the head priestess here, but I’m an alpha. I deserved to be treated with respect, and I wouldn’t take anything less from anyone. Especially not her. “My wife may trust you, but I don’t. I know who you are and where you come from, and if you cause harm to my people or my wife, I will kill you.”
For a moment, I was shocked that she dared to speak to me that way. I hadn’t disrespected her or Blair in any way, so why was she treating me like this? The initial shock immediately replaced with anger as she tipped her chin and hardened her eyes.
“Threatening me isn’t something you really want to do,” I growled lowly, clenching my fists and slightly flashing my canines. This girl had another thing coming if she thought I was easy to scare off. Being fearless came with the alpha title. I’d start a fight with anyone who wanted a piece of me.
I noticed our height and build were the same. It would be interesting to fight Louisa one on one. I could already imagine slicing my sword across that pretty face of hers. Maybe that would teach the bitch to think twice before she threatened me.
“Oh, I can guarantee that it’s a promise, and I’ll bash your fucking skull the minute you pull something foolish.” Louisa spoke with a fiery tongue. The tips of her fingers curled around the dagger she hid in her back pocket. Rage clouded my vision.
“It’s easy to talk like a bad bitch but let’s see if you can back it up like one,” I growled, forcing my claws out. We would’ve attacked each other on impulse had Blair not stepped in.
“Is there a problem?” Blair’s concern sounded from behind me. The question was directed at the bitch standing in front of me. Louisa straightened up and put the dagger back in her pocket, careful not to tip off Blair.
“Louisa?” I asked sweetly, daring her to say something smart. Her piercing blue eyes fogged with rage and defeat.
“Everything’s fine…for now,” Louisa muttered the latter as she shouldered past me and headed for the temple.
Should I slap the bitch now or later?