Twisted Fate

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Chapter 54

Astrid

Ms. Hattie breaks the awkward silence with a quick prayer to Hecate for the food. There are only three witches present, herself, Nicolas, and Louisa, who is glaring at me from across the table.

Aside from the fact that she’s a total raging bitch, I wonder what the hell her problem is. She’s probably in a bad mood because Blair is too sick to eat dinner with us tonight. Which sucks because I know she’d easily keep the tension at bay with her sweet smile and extroverted personality. Operation prevent wolves from killing each other: Minus the empath.

My faith in the moon goddess is unwavering, though that doesn’t stop me or the others from being respectful and bowing our heads. Once Ms. Hattie is done, the silence is back and blank faces stare across the table.

“Well, the food isn’t going to eat itself,” Brenda says after filling everyone’s glass with fresh tea. When no one moves, she demandingly claps her hands once, “Eat.” Although she is just a witch, every wolf picks up their fork and chows down at her scolding command.

I’m not surprised to find a combination of colorful foods that usually don’t go well together on my plate. If I’ve learned anything about Brenda, it’s that she could make the weirdest dishes taste like an orgasm in your mouth. Louisa and Blair were so right to hire her.

The first bite of sausage and peppers is bliss. My next bite of Zucchini salad and then bacon mac & cheese- I’ve reached heaven.

An involuntary moan slips past my lips and Arlo chuckles. He’s sitting right in front of me, and I can’t help but look up and smile when he nudges my foot with his. “What are you laughing at?”

He takes a bite and points his fork at me. “You.”

His answer makes me smile wider, so I look down at my food and fill my mouth again. When I look back up, he’s still looking at me, not caring that the others are watching.

I pick at the food on my plate and press my lips into a thin line. “Stop staring at me.” I mumble under my breath because if he doesn’t, I won’t be able to stop smiling.

Arlo looks at me with an unmistakable burning desire in his eyes that makes my knees go weak. “How could I not” He doesn’t mean to make that one, small sentence sound so passionate and sensual, but it does. My cheeks redden as everyone’s knowing gaze falls on us.

Nicole grins like an idiot and peers at me through the rim of her raised glass. “Oh, okay then,” she mumbles before pressing the glass to her lips. It’s girl language for I see that shimmer in your eyes and I know you two want each other. I keep my eyes glued down to my plate while I listen to my wolves’ hushed conversation, so I’m not tempted to look up at him anymore.

I’m not blind. I saw that look in his eyes just like Nicole did, just like everyone sitting at this table did. He wants me and despite all the bullshit that comes with this relationship, I secretly want him to. After all, he’s my mate and those only come once in a lifetime. But then reality bitch slaps me back in my place, reminding me of who he is and who I am.

This isn’t a fairytale. Arlo’s not prince charming who sweeps me off my feet and declares his feelings for me no matter what obstacles stand in our way. And I’m not the heroine who gets the happy ending.

We’re two puppets who belong to that bitch named fate, and she’s pulling all the strings, laughing as we do her twisted dance. One tug on the right string and we’ll both cross the line of passion and fire.

I must have spaced out for a while because Derek’s large hand is waving in front of my face. “Sorry, what’d you say?” I snap out of my thoughts.

He narrows his brown eyes at me and glances at Arlo, who’s laughing at something Kiera said. “Should we be worried about losing our alpha?”

“What?” I hiss, setting my fork down as calm as possible, “Why would you even think that?”

Derek leans in closer to my face and whispers. “Don’t play dumb with me. We’ve been best friends since we were in diapers, and I know that look you get when you like someone. You’re giving into the mate pull.”

I take a quick glance around the table to see if anyone is listening, but everyone is too busy with their own conversation. “Sorry to burst your bubble, bestie, but you’re wrong. And I don’t have a look.” Shit. Does Derek really have best friend intuition or am I that readable?

“Yes, you do,” He rolls his eyes. “You used to look at Bryson the same way for years before you finally stopped being a baby and admitted your feelings for him. The only difference is this one’s got you hypnotized and I’m not sure if you’ll come to your senses or fall right into his arms. If you were going to reject him, you would’ve done it by now,” he says with a sour face.

“I’m not a baby.”

“Seriously? That’s the only thing you heard out of that?”

“No, I just don’t like when people think they know how I feel,” I say grudgingly, crossing my arms. I’ve been told what to do and how to feel by everyone around me since my training days. I’m a grown ass she-wolf and I don’t need my best friend/beta accusing me of breaking my oath.

I have to remind myself to keep my voice low before I whisper harshly. “You gonna run and tell the pack I’m quitting now? I know I have a responsibility to my pack, but rejecting your soulmate isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Oh, that’s right. You wouldn’t know because you don’t have a mate.” Yeah, that was a childish remark, but I’m too pissed to care.

“No need to get all pissy with me, Astrid. I care about you more than anyone here...” Mid-conversation, Nicole turns around and clears her throat. I knew as soon as she scooted her chair closer that she was listening to our conversation. Derek corrects himself. “Nicole and I care about you more than anyone here. All I’m saying is its obvious the mate pull is hard to ignore. I mean, anyone with eyes could see the sparks fly when you two are around each other. I don’t blame you for having feelings for him. He seems like an okay guy.”

I turn to look at him, and I nearly fall out of my chair when I see that his response is genuine. I was sure the warriors would have full of complaints about their substitute alpha. But maybe the trip to hunt down Cassandra didn’t go as bad as I’d thought.

“I love you and I want you to be happy, but you can’t blame me for worrying. Arlo is a hybrid, which doesn’t make your situation easy. The council will get involved and it will be a big mess. I don’t want to see you go through that.”

“I know,” I sigh. Okay, my reaction might have been a bit dramatic. Derek has always had my best interest at heart and that hasn’t changed because I have a mate. “I love you too, Derek. And I’m sorry for being a bitch. This whole mate thing has got my mind all deranged.”

“It’s alright, but I need you to be honest with me,” Derek pushes the food around on his plate, hesitant to ask what he’s dying to know. His posture straightens and I know the ball is about to drop. “The pack is worried and they’re wondering if you might leave us. So, I’m asking you if there’s a chance you might cross to the other side?”

Although I knew what he was going to say, I still suck in a nervous breath. I look down at my hands as if they hold all the answers and then back to him. My hesitation has his eyes widening with worry, and I shake my head.

“You guys have nothing to worry about. I made my promise to the pack when I took my father’s oath. Nothing is more important to me than the pack.” My chest tightens as the words leave my mouth. And I’m not sure if the reassurance is more for Derek or for myself.

He stares at me for a little longer before he nods, convinced my statement is true. I wish I had the same faith in myself as Derek.

Everyone is still eating and having their separate conversations when we turn our attention back to the table. Arlo is the only one who’s quiet. His eyes meet mine and I can see something is bothering him. He looks upset.

Oh, fuck. I hope he didn’t overhear me. The last thing I want to do is hurt him. I don’t let myself think much of it because soon he goes back to laughing with his warriors at a stupid joke Carson made. I’m not convinced of his fake smile, though.

Ms. Hattie’s plan is proved unfruitful. The dinner is over, and the warriors continue to ignore each other. I’m not surprised in the least. I almost want to scream in her face “I told you so,” but I’m pretty sure she’d team up with Brenda and kick my ass. So, I leave the idea.

My heart beats a little faster as I walk back to the guest house alone with Arlo. My wolf is pacing and I’m excited to sleep with the comfort of his presence. I feel safer when he is around. But disappointment hits me hard in the chest when he changes his shoes and reaches for his jacket.

I frown. “You’re leaving?”

“Yeah,” He nods, not looking up as he slips on his leather jacket. “Going to have a drink with the guys.”

“Oh, okay,” I say, crossing my arms and plopping down on the bed. I watch as he crosses the room, gathering his keys and wallet to leave. Well, what a way to shit all over my parade.

Shut up. You were just saying how unimportant he was and now you wanna throw a fit because he’s going out?!

That little voice in my head is 100% right, but I’m still not happy as he heads for the front door. He definitely heard my conversation and I feel like complete shit.

Say something to him, dumbass!

This time it’s not the little voice in my head but my wolf who speaks up.

“Arlo, wait!”

He turns around, his brow creased with concern at my sudden reaction.

“I’m sorry if you heard me at dinner. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I care about you so much, but…”

Closing the door, he puts out a hand. He saunters over to the bed, standing over me. “I understand why you said it and I’m not mad at you.” He leans down and places a gentle kiss on my forehead. As he pulls back, his eyes instantly drift down to my lips.

Being so close to him makes me want to reach out and pull him closer. I lick my lips and a tortured groan sounds at the back of his throat. “If things were different,” I find myself whispering. Did I really just admit that out loud?

“I know,” he whispers back, his hot breath fanning my face. He grabs the back of my head and caresses my hair. I want to kiss him. Bad. I’ve never wanted to kiss someone more in my life. I lean closer, fully prepared to let him devour my lips, but he just tucks a strand of hair behind my hair and leaves me all alone.

I toss and turn in bed throughout the night. I even try to count sheep on the ceiling, but nothing works. Arlo is invading my thoughts.

Eventually, I give up and head for the gift shop because I know Ms. Hattie will be there. She works late on Friday nights.

I’m hoping to have a quiet night with Ms. Hattie. Maybe even talk to her about this messed up situation. But as I cross the hall to her office, the red door reappears and suddenly there’s been a change of plans.

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