Knocking on the door to Nolan’s room after a brief pause, I heard the television pause as footsteps moved towards the door. It took me a few seconds to make sure my eyes were dry, but I couldn’t guarantee they wouldn’t be red as hell. What I’d heard him say killed me, even if I didn’t think my father would be so callous as to force a mating for his second son. I would make sure there would be no reason for him to, either.
Enid opened the door looking fresh as a daisy in her light blue maxi dress and hair flowing down to the middle of her back. I almost reached out to touch it, but instead looked over her shoulder to see Nolan, wide-eyed and staring at me. He knew how keen my sense of hearing was because his was almost as strong. Once his wolf emerged, his would be almost on level with mine.
“Hey, Nolan.” I tried to sound cheerful, lighthearted. Bringing the smile to my face was a chore, and I’m not quite sure if wasn’t a grimace. The attempt was there, and I tried to shrug off what I’d heard by asking to speak with Enid alone. “Care if I steal Enid for a bit? Mating issues—nothing for you to be concerned over.”
He nodded and turned his head back to the TV screen, unpausing just in time to get clobbered by a machine gun and groan with his head tossed into the air.
The smile I gave was genuine, and I wished with all my heart I had some trivial things to worry about—death by rifle in a made-up world that I could turn off with a flick of the wrist. Not mysterious Alphas bent on taking over my pack or whether or not my mating with Enid was a good choice or not. Mating was end-game and not something to be thought lightly of.
If only I was that carefree with zero worries, nothing heavy weighing on me…
But then I remembered his worries about his own mate, whoever she would be. It gave me pause, and I attempted to shake the thought away. It would be at least five years before I would have to deal with that. I actually felt sorry for and was more concerned about whoever got paired with Leah—that boy would have his hands full with her.
Or girl if she swung that way. I couldn’t honestly say I gave a rat’s ass whether or not she was interested in men or women. She irritated the shit out of me half the time, and the other half she was great because we were ignoring each other.
Walking out into the woods, I remained silent. What I wanted to talk about wasn’t for everyone’s ears, and I made sure that I headed in the direction of my old treehouse, something I’d grown out of years ago, but still visited quite frequently. I was fond of the many good memories made there—with or without Lucy.
But Lucy was the past, and I was talking with what I hoped to be the future. As I hadn’t marked Enid—not even mentioned it to her really—I had to make sure she would be an ally to me and our pack, and not just someone to hold the mantle of Luna ceremoniously.
I needed full disclosure.
“I heard what Nolan said in there when he was talking to you,” I started to say as soon as we had settled into the bean bags chairs on the far side of the treehouse. They were old and worn, but still more comfortable to me than even my bed. “You handled him well. I never realized how concerned he was for his own mating. He never talks about it.” Not that he should as he was still years away from having one.
“How could he not be worried?” Enid sighed. “Seeing what happened to after Lucy… I think he’s scared that something along the same lines will occur with his mating.”
I shook my head, an almost violent gesture. “I won’t let it. Once we…once we mate—” I took a deep, cleansing breath. “—I won’t let anything deter him from his destined mate. It’s not right, and I won’t let Artemis pick and choose his other children’s partners like he did with me.”
I looked at her, deep into her eyes. “It’s not that I begrudge you for being thrust upon me in a sense, it’s just that people have almost died because of this. I can’t let that happen. Not to Nolan—not even to Leah, heaven help her mate. I don’t know how he cleared this with The Elders as it’s very unusual to be mated outside of fate or one of The Claiming ceremonies, but it’s been said to happen once a blue moon.”
Enid was silent for a while, her eyes far away as if thinking hard about something. When she looked back over to me, it was with a worried look.
“So, you want to try? To mark and mate as one would in any chosen pairing?”
She seemed so unbelieving that my mouth twitched up in amusement. “You’re good and sweet and deserve better than what you’ve been handed, Enid. You haven’t let your rank in the pack affect your attitude or generosity, and you are everything one could want in a partner. I can honestly say you will make a great Luna. You listen without judgement and give advice when needed. I’d be a fool to let that slip away.”
She was silent, like she was waiting for more. Of what, I wasn’t sure of, but it felt like she was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and probably not in a good way.
“And you’re utterly beautiful,” I told her quietly. “We’ve let our wolves run together a lot. Groom. Hunt. I think it’s foolish to let ourselves think that this isn’t more than what it appears to be.”
I rocked up from my seated position, my arm out to Enid in a come-hither gesture. She took my hand and I pulled her onto my lap, losing myself in the sweet fragrance of her hair. It was light and clean, the smell of a Spring day. Floral—maybe a little fruity as well.
As I tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, I exhaled the breath I was holding and brought her close—as close as I could get without swallowing her up completely.
We sat there for a few minutes, her body relaxing into mine until she felt molded to me.
“Tell me about your father, sweetheart,” I coaxed. “And your mother. How did she die?”
I felt her take a deep breath before she lifted her head to look at me. “I don’t know how she died. Her body was found in no man’s land, her throat ripped clean out. She was practically drained of blood by the time the trackers went out to look for her. She was gone before they could even call for help.”
Giving her some time to collect herself as she gave a brief shiver, I palmed the back of her head before moving my hand down to midback, rubbing what I hoped to be soothing circles against her body. After a long, quavering sigh, she spoke again.
“Right after she passed, my father started seeing another woman, someone… She’s so close to my age it’s scary.”
I had forgotten that Enid was a couple of years older than I, she was so quiet and small most times it was almost like she was a very dutiful child. I wanted to intervene and ask her more questions, but once the dam broke, everything was coming out of her mouth in a heated torrent.
“I don’t think my father even cared that much when Mom died. He was off to the next female almost immediately—wouldn’t surprise me to know he was seeing that bitch behind Mom’s back. She was barely cold in her grave when he started fucking that sly little female.”
I let her vent her spleen, and she cussed up a storm talking about the woman her father was currently fucking. The two rarely saw each other, but she knew enough to stay away if the woman came over to the house.
“I usually would go to my mate’s—sneak out and hang with him and his friend Faith, but after he was gone, I just went into the woods for hours. The problem with being the Alpha’s daughter isn’t that you were quite popular, it’s just that you were popular for all the wrong reasons. You didn’t know why people liked you, or if it was for the right reasons or not. Petty bitches would try to ingratiate themselves to me. I…it made me jaded and wary of trusting anyone.”
Her words, her usually gentle, soft voice came out like poison, dripping venom from her tongue. I did my best to just let her talk without interrupting, like she always did with me.
As she spoke, I leaned back, adjusting us so we were at a more comfortable angle, her soft body pressed to mine as she continued to speak her hatred of her father’s mistress.
“I can’t stand that slick bitch,” she vowed. “Wouldn’t surprise me if she had something to do with my mother’s death. She certainly turned up right after the damn funeral to worm her way into my father’s bed, if they already weren’t fucking!”
I tried soothing her, but she was too wound up. Maybe she had held it all in for too long. Maybe I was the first person who had shown an interest in her thoughts. Whatever it was, I was ready to listen. Listen and give her my words when she was ready to hear them.
I had to smile a little bit. Her spitfire attitude was a shock, though a welcome one. I’d been afraid she was too meek to stand up for herself, but I saw she had some spunk in her. That was good. It told me she wouldn’t allow herself to be walked over.
I mumbled mhmm a few times as I listened to her talk, her body tensing sporadically before I quickly urged her to relax. Kissing her on the top of her head, I felt her body melt, some of the fire leaving her voice as she snuggled closer.
My mind wandered off a bit as her soft body curved into mine, I had to admit. She smelled like nature, and it was a soothing balm after hearing my brother’s words. It was relaxing, and I closed my eyes as I listened to her talk about her mother.
“She was sweet, so kind—never a bad word to say about anyone,” she was saying of her mom. “And then just one day, she was gone. Like…like she had never existed. And my father, he didn’t even seem to care. Yeah, he looked angry, but not once did he cry for her. He just buried her and moved on. The next day that filthy bitch was warming his bed like a year had passed and not just a few days. He seemed unaffected…or maybe just his face was. It was harder, sterner after that. Like he didn’t know how to smile or laugh anymore. The grins he gave your father and you when he visited? Fabricated. Like a mask he puts on for company or for show. Like lines he’s memorized for a play he’s in, he puts them on to…well, for whatever reason he has. And that bitch, Carla—”
I woke up in a fucking hurry. The name was familiar—too familiar. After all, I had only heard it a few hours before.
West’s first mate. Wasn’t that the bitch’s name? Carla?
“Carla what? Do you know her last name?”
I jerked to sitting up, jostling her almost off my lap and onto the floor before steadying her.
“Moore? Monroe? One of those, I think,” she said. When she looked at my face and saw the tension there, she became worried, her brow creasing to a ‘V’ in the middle. “Zach? What’s wrong?”
“Carla Moore or Monroe you said?” I wanted to be sure.
“One of those two,” she confirmed. “I can’t say I honestly paid attention much. Do you know her?”
I shook my head. “I don’t, but I have a feeling I know who does.”