“Am I weird?” Lucy asked her mother, brows furrowing over her button nose.
“What you have is rare, but it’s not unheard of,” Mrs. Wallace told her daughter, soothing her with a firm hand on her knee. “It means your bond will be strong when you two finally reach maturity at 18.”
Lucy watched her mother sigh wistfully and look away toward the window as if wondering where the passing time had gone. It was only 14 years ago she had held a small baby girl she had named Lucinda Briana Wallace in her hands for the first time. Ironically enough, the male they were talking about had been born only a few weeks prior to Lucy, and the two had grown up as friends. Now her daughter had told her she had felt an odd pull forming over the last several weeks toward her best friend, Zachary, the son of the Alpha of Arrowhead pack in northern California. Her daughter didn’t know if he felt it too and had come to her for some advice.
“I don’t know what to say to him.” Lucy looked down, watching her hands fidgeting nervously in her lap. “Do I mention it or wait for him to say something first?”
“Lu, he’s been your best friend since you were practically in diapers.” Her mother’s voice was a soft chide as she cupped the young girl’s cheek in one hand. “You wouldn’t want to keep things from him when you never have before, would you?”
“No.” The petulant mewl of her voice made the older woman smile.
“Then you should say something,” Mrs. Wallace replied. “If you are feeling it already, he must be as well, with his Alpha blood and all. He may think you don’t feel the same way or that it’s too soon for you both, and while it is and you will have to wait until you are both of-age, that is no reason to avoid the topic now.”
Lucy’s lip trembled like she wanted to say something and her eyes gave a faraway look as she thought over what her mother said. Though she now knew that pull she had been feeling was the beginning of the mating bond forming, she had shied away from talking to Zach about it before now. Fear of rejection or the fact that he might not feel the bond forming at all made her wary, and she had decided to distance herself from her best friend to sort out her feelings. She had come up trumps until she finally confided in her mother.
Lucinda had always been close with both her parents and her younger brother, Emery, but there had always been a special bond between the two females in the family and—though she was reluctant to say anything lest she be wrong—it was always at the forefront of her mind to tell her mother, who was the most open and honest person she knew, bar none.
“I’m…I’m afraid to say something,” she admitted, her chin jerking away with defiance at her mother’s prodding. “What if…what if he won’t want me in the same way? What if he rejects me because he can only see me as his best friend? What if—”
“The mating bond will only become stronger with time and if he’s smart, he’ll put the kibosh on any doubts he has about being with you. A mate makes a man—particularly an Alpha—stronger and gives balance to the pack as a whole. No man, even a younger one, would be stupid enough to reject their true mate for a lesser bond. It’s hardly ever done, and only in dire circumstances when it does happen.”
Lucy nodded, only slightly more assured at what she must do in the very near future.
As her mother went off to start an early supper, Lucy sat on her bed, thinking about how much it was killing her to be away from Zach. Weeks had gone by and she barely saw him. The constant texts had only made it harder to be apart from him. She needed clarity, not the ever-constant reminder of who he would one day be to her. If anything at all.
Her cell phone vibrated on the nightstand, pulling her attention away from the window and to the small piece of technology that kept her connected to Zach. She picked up the device and saw a new text pop up on the screen.
Zach: I don’t know why you’re ignoring me, but I’d like to talk this out. The falls? 9 PM. I’ll meet you there. Please, Lulu.
She sighed, but knew she had to reach out to him and at least make him understand why she had been so distant, so absent in his life. She opened up the text and responded.
Lucy: Okay. I’ll be there.
A teenager of only 14 shouldn’t have to deal with this type of situation so soon. It made her head spin to think of enduring the mating bond for four years until she was old enough to claim what was rightfully hers, her birthright.
If that could even happen. She had her doubts.
Lucy could see the shine of the moon’s light off Zach’s blond locks and thought, “that boy needs another haircut.” It seemed he was forever getting trims and that his hair was growing like weeds from the top of his head. When it got too unmanageable, it always made her think of a golden halo sitting atop his head like something placed upon him by the gods. The need to wind her fingers straight through to his scalp was like a pulse that started at the tips of her fingers and found a home in the dripping beat between her thighs. It had only gotten worse as time went on, and now that she was seeing him for the first time—close up—in weeks, it was all she could do not to run up to him and jump into his arms, winding her legs around his trim hips in the process.
The pulse in her core had a heartbeat, and the thrum it caused in her veins was like a flame that flickered beneath her skin, setting every nerve ending on fire.
Zach turned his head and his profile set her heart galloping. He had heard her, that much was obvious, and it was impossible to tell whether or not he was upset with her for her recent distance.
“Luce,” he called softly, only barely audible over the sound of the waterfall fifty feet to his right and to the east. It was a favorite spot of theirs to meet, and the sound of water plummeting over the rocks into the clear pool below was always a calming influence. She felt her muscles relax minutely before moving forward to her best friend.
When he turned around to face her fully, her heart stuttered and leaped into a canter. A tug at her solar plexus kept her moving towards him and he closed half the distance in just a few strides of his long legs.
“Where have you been?” he asked. There was no hurt or pain in his voice, and it had Lucy wondering if what she felt was all in her head. It was something she had asked with increasing frequency, and it made her mouth quiver as she sought to find the words to tell him—admit to him—all that she was feeling.
“Home.” It was the only word she could think of, though her mind was swirling with everything she wanted to say.
Are you my home, Zach?
Do you feel the pull just like I do?
Will you reject me if I say it?
Will you cut me dead if I admit there’s more to this to me than just friendship? Will it ruin everything if I open my mouth and speak?
“Home,” he repeated. There was no question in his tone and it was obvious he knew where she had been the whole time, even if she hadn’t seen him skulking nearby when she was on her mate-vacation.
She nodded in response and he jerked his head toward the cliff over the falls after a moment. He meant for her to follow him and swing their legs over the side of the cliff to let them dangle. They always did that when the weather permitted, and they could sit there for hours talking about nothing until the sun went to bed.
Lucy joined him at the ledge and tossed her legs over the side. They swung a few times until the tension in her body leaked into her lower extremities.
“You’ve been avoiding me.”
Again, it was not a question, and Lucy could only nod, her eyes averted as she felt his seeking hers until his hand came out to pull her focus to him.
“I—” she immediately stammered, unable to lock her gaze onto his. “Tell me. Please.”
She wanted to run and bury her head in the sand, but as soon as she had texted him back that they would meet earlier, she had resolved to speak with him about everything—everything she had been feeling and thinking about for the few weeks that the bond had been pulling at her.
This was torture she had inflicted upon herself, denying the pull she felt. Now that he was there, next to her, the tether between them seemed to wrap around their entire bodies, coating them in a sense of rightness that had been lacking as of late.
“I don’t…I don’t know how to say it,” she admitted, shrugging a shoulder as if to ward off the question in his eyes.
Why? Why are you doing this?
“Is it…fuck, Luce—can you feel it too?”
Her heart thudded to a halt in her chest before picking up its frantic rhythm again. She could feel her pulse in her throat, her heartbeat in her skull, washing out all other sounds for an interminable amount of time until he pulled her from the panic she was experiencing.
Her head shot to his and she hesitated before nodding.
“Yes, I feel it, too.”
He chest expanded, making him seem larger than his usual boyish frame. It was not that he was small, just still growing and all lanky limbs and awkward angles. Zach was tall for his age, and growing by the minute it seemed.
“The bond,” he rectified. “You feel it like….like I feel it?”
His tone held no hint of rejection, only stunned relief. Though it soothed her to realize he wasn’t turning away from her in disgust, her heart’s rapid beat didn’t slow and she waited for more of his words.
“Thank fuck,” he breathed out, seeming to expel a vast amount of air that he’d been holding in. “I was…I thought it was just me—that maybe my alpha blood let me feel it sooner. I was going crazy with doubt.”
She looked at him, at his profile as his eyes remained closed in the solace he took from her words. She realized he had been just as anxious as she, and it warmed her heart.
“W-what do we do?” she asked right before his eyes blinked open and his head shot to hers.
“What do you mean? There’s nothing we can do for right now,” he said. “I haven’t told anyone about the bond, but I did do some research in the archives. It seems that every other generation or so of my bloodline has the ability to feel the mating bond early. My father did not, but my grandad was said to have felt it at 15 when he met my grandmother.”
That was not what she had meant, and she shook her head at him.
“No, I mean—” She cleared her throat. “What do we do about our bond? Do we tell people or…or do you—”
Her throat closed up as the words fought to get out.
“Do I?” he prompted.
She gulped so loudly she was certain it could be heard over the tumult of water cascading down into the white water below.
“Do you want to find a different mate? Someone who’s not your friend?”
He blinked in rapid succession, as if he wasn’t quite sure he had heard her right.
“I would never,” he told her, the shock trembling in his voice. “You’re going to be my mate when we turn 18 and that’s it. You’ll rule the pack beside me when my father steps down and that’s all there is to it. That is—you do want that, don’t you? Please tell me you do.”
The tension in her shoulders eased incrementally and she let out her own held breath after a second.
“I do…I didn’t know it before now, but I do.”
“So, it’s set then,” he said, leaning into her warmth as he wrapped a steadying arm around her. “We wait ’til we’re 18 and mark and mate. You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours.”
She melted against him, the warmth of his skin seeping out through his t-shirt and cocooning her in an odd sense of home.
Author's Note: This chapter is dedicated to Gloria, who passed into the next life a few hours ago. Love you, sis