When I awoke what felt like days later, my head hurt. It was that dull ache you sometimes got from sleeping too much, and I wondered if it was because I had finally felt the last of my bond—mine and Lucy’s—disappear.
I wasn’t only headachy. I was stiff—like it had been years since my limbs last functioned, and I tried to call out to my wolf, my inner beast, before realizing all was silent in my head. Not a whimper. Not a howl. Absolutely no noise.
I almost would have preferred the heartbreaking howl when I saw Lucy getting claimed by another. At least it was something.
Sitting up in my bed, I realized it was probably past midnight. The room was dark and the shades open, but I was still at the clinic, still in the sickly-smelling, sanitized room I had fallen asleep in, whenever that was.
I couldn’t take it. The bond…the bond I had was missing, completely disintegrated, and I wanted to wail and beat my chest, pull a full-on Planet of the Apes ending and crash to my knees in the sand off the Jersey shore with the Statue of Liberty in the background mocking me.
Preferably, I’d be knee-deep in quicksand.
I had never felt so alone in my life. After the last four years with Lucy by my side, it seemed that even when she was far away, she was there. In my head or soothing my soul just by existing. The loneliness I felt—it weighted me down, and when I tried to get up from my bed, my legs felt leaden. I could barely stand on them I was so weak.
That was what the loss of the mating bond did—it rendered you incapacitated until all you knew was the devastation of your missing half, and it slowly ate away at you, killed you. Whether it was from exhaustion or heartache, I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to find out.
I made my way slowly to the door, peeking out to see if anyone—a nurse or doctor—was waiting outside, waiting for me to wake up. I smelled a familiar scent and figured my father had probably been haunting the place regularly. The fucker, like so many others, didn’t know what he’d had until it was lost.
Like me. Lost.
I didn’t smell anyone else nearby, so I made my way into a supply closet. It was full of clean towels and linens on one side, and the other was medicines and utensils—things like forceps and scalpels.
I bypassed the medicines, knowing they wouldn’t accomplish what I had in mind, and went directly to the sharpest of instruments, breaking open a small case that was filled with them. Grabbing one, I walked over to the far end of the closet and leaned back against the wall, sliding downward until my ass met with the cool linoleum.
Thinking back on every instance in my life…
Maybe that was what they meant when they said your life flashes before your eyes before you die… Maybe it was simply your own mind trying to latch onto something, anything, that would pull you away from the horrors of the moment.
Lucy at our waterfall. Lucy and I at the old willow tree in the meadow in the spring. Lucy… Every memory was peppered with her image, and it made me sick to my stomach that I had listened to my father, let him take me away from the one good thing in my life.
I didn’t care what anyone said. I had nothing to live for, to fight for. I was sure my mother would miss me, and my brother and sister too, but I would be damned if I had to live a life without the one thing I’d wanted for the past four years.
My hand trembled as I fisted around the sharp surgical instrument, pointing it at my wrist. They say when slicing open a vein to bleed out, it’s best to cut vertically, not the cliché horizontal. Slice from wrist towards your elbow and it would take you away to sweet solace that much quicker.
Lucy had tried to kill herself. It was only apropos that I go the same way. I wasn’t hurtling myself to hundreds of feet below to drown or be bashed upon the rocks of a quick-moving river, but I didn’t think my legs would carry me that far. Or that I could get there without sending up warning flags that the future Alpha had gone missing from the hospital. I’d get about as far as the tree line before someone would have cottoned on to my intent and manhandled me back into my hospital bed.
No way was I going to keep them from doing that to me. This was my decision, my choice. I couldn’t live without her, even if I was the one that had been forced to abandon her against my will.
So…this was my will.
I tried to remember the happy memories as the scalpel first cut into flesh, breaking the skin with a cowardly whimper. I gritted my teeth, bit down on my tongue, anything to keep away the pain as my hand moved a millimeter towards the crease in my elbow.
A little more…
Maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much on my other hand.
Or, it could hurt worse.
But the pain was superficial, physical. It would go away soon enough and I would be free of the emotional equivalent of an atom bomb in my heart.
First pain, then…
At least hopefully.
“West? What the fuck?”
My head snapped to the door, right up to my father’s face as he stood there, shocked at what he was seeing.
Well, what did the bastard actually fucking expect? Hearts and rainbows? Unicorns and waterfalls?
Whatever it was, he certainly hadn’t expected to walk into a supply closet and see his son huddled on the ground with blood running down his arm, soiling the clean, white tiles. I didn’t expect for the pain to be this intense, this all-encompassing.
“Fuck off, old man,” I snarled, the only strength I had left coming through in my tone. “You did this to me, so you can fuck right off!”
He took a hesitant step, and I growled back at him, feeling more animal than human, even if my wolf was silent.
“Son, don’t do this,” he pleaded.
Fuck me. I’d never heard the man beg for anything in his life.
“I’m doing the only thing I can do, asshole,” I snarled. “You’ve taken away my reason for being. You took her from me and didn’t look back. I hate you.”
I staggered to my feet, leaning against the wall for support for a moment as I tried to fight the dizziness off. A warm feeling in my chest made me realize my wolf had woken up, but he was barely sentient, like he was peeking at me from under hooded, sad eyes, and not liking what he saw.
The man in front of us. The one who made us deny our bond and took our mate away with one heartrending command so he could right some wrong he achieved years ago. It was always him before pack, so now it was me before anyone. Even him.
“Son, I’m sor—”
“Don’t!” I cut in. “Don’t say you’re fucking sorry. I can’t bear it. You’re never sorry, never repentant. Everything you do is to fatten your bottom line or to aid your own devices. I’d think you’d reject your own mate if it meant it satisfied you in the long run, so don’t tell me how much you’re sorry for ruining my life. No one can be as sorry as I am that it has to be this way.”
Staggering towards him, towards the only way out of the room, I pushed him back against the right wall, his back colliding with the cement and his head knocking loudly against the hard surface. Probably smarted, but I wouldn’t have cared if he died at the moment. Would actually prefer it, maybe. Nolan could have the title of Alpha when he reached the age of 18. No one could run it into the ground as quickly as a greedy bastard like my father.
“Don’t fucking talk to me. Don’t look for me,” I told him, a wretched whine to my tone. “I won’t be around for you to find. Ever.”
I walked out the door quicker than I thought I could, past a startled nurse and out the back door. With a baying howl, I shifted mid-leap and took off towards the only place I could find relief.
I gained speed with each passing second, my wolf just as desperate for the sweet release of death as I was. I could hear him. Whimpering, snarling, the mix of anger and grief making him charge forward, towards the last place we had seen Lucy before she had been rejected by me.
It was no longer the haven that it once was. All I saw was death and defeat. What used to be a place full of happy memories was now the place where I had lost everything I could ever remembering wanting.
Love. Compassion. The sense of completeness I felt when Lucy was near.
Now it had withered into a place of death, of sadness. Of loss so irrevocable, it made me want to do something I never thought I would.
The place pulled at me like a magnet, like the once-powerful mating bond that I’d shared with Lucy for four wonderful years.
Lucy. My Lucinda. My Lulu.
I howled again, letting my beast take over fully, to rush me to my death. When I got to the cliff, I looked down through my sharp, canine eyes, imagining her as she tumbled down into the fathomless waters to be swept away. Swept away and…reclaimed by the Goddess or whomever that bound us to our mates.
Every foot she fell had felt like a hundred, each stabbing their way into my heart as I tried to make out her small body amongst the white and blue torrents of water beneath me.
Gone. She had been gone since then, the bond ripping apart as cleanly as a hot knife through butter, and pulling me to follow her, all the way down to our deaths.
I had fought it, the urge to jump over and be with her, even in death. I battled it because I was hoping that somehow, some way, this wasn’t the end of us.
I had been a fool.
They say that love is blind, but I now saw it as evil. Something not worth the agony when it’s torn asunder so ruthlessly as ours was. I would always miss her and never love another, so what was the point of an Alpha who couldn’t love even those closest to himself? His mate, even if a chosen, would only be seen as a means to an end—pups. An heir to carry on the pack for years to come.
Yes, I could go back and choose to be with Enid, or at least for the sake of future progeny, but so could Nolan when he took a mate. Enid was a kind female, and I was not worthy of her when I would never be able to love her. Each time I saw her, it would be a reminder of who she wasn’t, and why I couldn’t be with the one I was destined for.
I let out a yowling howl, the piercing sound sending a flock of birds to eliminate and then scatter off into the dark of night. It could have midnight of 4 AM, but to me, it was only death o’clock.
Death o’clock, and creeping closer to my final sleep.
And I would welcome it with open arms. Arms like my mother’s to fall asleep in when I had a nightmare. To hold me when I was ill. To stroke my brow when I was worried.
My father, the pitiful creature, was never caring, never present. It was alright for him to take care of the pack when it suited him, but even his children, his own blood, were more of a nuisance and just a way to hand down his lofty, beloved title. He—
“What are you doing here?”
I turned around, nearly stumbling off the cliff as my hind foot pressed against the crumbling, unstable ledge.
Even when trying to isolate myself in the most final way I couldn’t get any peace.