thanks @Ms.Mystery over on Inkitt for the quote, in line comment her if you have some cool ones to add!
“The true heart can touch the poison of hatred without being harmed”
-The Lion turtle from Avatar The Last Airbender
“Are you ready for today?” I stare out the balcony of the room as Roman’s fingers trace soft circles onto my exposed shoulder, running over the strap of my nightgown and back around, following a pattern.
“It’s just a baby shower,” I reply and he laughs from behind me, his hand stopping momentarily before picking up again.
“It’s Astrid’s baby ceremony, anything could happen,” he comments and a silence settles between us again. “I mean after that. Tonight,” he says quieter. I knew that’s what he meant though, I’d not been able to stop thinking about tonight. It had been buzzing in my mind ever since he mentioned it all those days ago.
“I still think it’s a bad idea. I think wasting this morning is a bad idea,” I state and he removes his hand from my shoulder entirely, taking the sparks with him.
“There isn’t much more we can do, Mae. The permitter has been secured, the details have been finalised and if we spend anymore time on it we’ll go mad. There is nothing to do now but wait, a little distraction this morning will do us good.” Week, it had been a week since the message and the terms of the negotiation. And every day that passed felt like torture, endless thinking and wondering what could be happening to Carter at any moment.
I had to remind myself that they wouldn’t harm him, not if he was of value to me. But it was always there, always a nagging threat that it could be the case.
“As for the show…” he starts and I clench my eyes shut.
“I don’t want to do it,” I say and he stills.
“It’s one hour of our lives. I don’t particularly want to do it either but it isn’t negotiable. Besides, the world will have to see us sooner or later and with all this talk of war, it might not be the last public announcement we have to make.” My chest tightens and I feel my throat begin to close up. Being broadcast over the globe, having people who once knew me from a different time see me like this, so validated…
I push my back into Roman’s chest and allow him to wrap his hand around my waist, letting his touch calm me down.
He holds me tighter to him, his chest hard and sturdy. “The King is right, morale is slipping and we need to give our pack reassurance, both humans and wolves.”
“It’s more than that and we both know it,” I reply and his grip loosens. “He wants us to have an heir and he somehow thinks that pushing us to pretend even more is going to make it happen. He’s deluded,” I state and Roman stills behind me.
“The King is many things but deluded is not one of them,” Roman states, a hidden experience lingering on his lips, one I don’t want him to divulge in.
“Well he’s either a stork or cupid then, anything other than that and he’s gotta be mad,” I say and a part of me wants Roman to respond. I want to just have this discussion we’ve been brushing under the rug for so long so that I can make sense of it all-or at least confirm my stance.
I don’t want his child, I don’t want to raise a family in this.
“He wants what is best for the future of the pack,” Roman explains and I feel a pang of guilt hit my body, one that washes away as quickly as it came.
I swallow the knot in my throat. “And what do you think is best for the future of the pack?”
He is silent for a while, mulling over his thoughts, collecting them. A notion that frightens me just as much as it makes me more curious. “Two leaders that don’t hate each other.”
He moves swiftly, sliding out of the covers and I turn to look as he stretches at the side of the bed, the muscles on his back flexing before relaxing. “I know you don’t want a child, I understand that. As much as I’d like to start a family with you it is a choice we both have to make, the two of us, not the King,” he says, no hint of aggression in his voice.
“What about the pack?” I ask and he tenses, like the thought of negatively impacting his pack makes him physically disgusted.
“The pack will survive. It won’t be easy but if it comes to the case that we haven’t had a child within the next ten years I’ll put the handover measures in place to Astrid and Jayce’s first born.”
“Can you do that?” I ask, a little too hopefully.
“It’s never been done in my family line but others have, yes,” he explains and I imagine that wall of paintings lining the hall to this room, the lineage disrupted by the human luna who tore her legacy to pieces. It’d be a tale for the books, that’s for sure.
Roman turns around, any hint of pain or anguish one might have expected completely erased. “I’m going to have a shower, care to join?” He asks so casually, laying the offer out on the table like its an offer of biscuits with tea.
My gaze flicks to the sheets and I shake my head, looking up only to see him nod. “All right, well I won’t be too long then, we are already running behind schedule as it is.”
I push myself further into the sheets, cocooning my body in the thick blankets once more and close my eyes, just for a few more minutes so the thoughts in my head will stop.
“I can’t believe Astrid is still lively with a newborn, like seriously, she gave birth a week ago,” I mutter too Roman as we enter the crowded hall arm in arm, smiles on our faces.
“She’s a tough woman,” Roman responds and I can’t deny that, not when she looks absolutely stunning in the centre of the room, talking to people while Jayce cradles the small child.
The second she catches our gaze she breaks off the conversation she was having and beams at the both of us. Our steps meet in the middle and I give her a large embrace. “Thank you so much for coming,” she says and I look around the room again briefly before meeting her gaze.
“It’s our pleasure, you’ve done a great job with the place,” I comment and a blush rises to her cheeks. It’s true though, the decor of the room is exquisite.
Jayce walks over to us, the small bundle in his hands and his face reads pure joy as he moves to stand behind Astrid. “Alpha, Luna,” he says with a nod and for the first time in a while, Roman doesn’t hold contempt when he stares at his friend.
“Congratulations on your new blessing,” he says next to me, his hand gliding around my waist as if to calm himself. “I’m sure the both of you will raise this child to be a great leader,” he says and though they don’t feel the weight of his words, I do. This child may as well be his after our discussion this morning. It’s his sole heir.
Jayce moves to show us the sleeping child and my smile turns genuine at the baby’s soft face. “Meet the future Beta,” he says and I know Roman is doing something similar to me. “Her name’s Hazel, after my mother,” he says and I don’t do a good enough job masking the surprise on my face because Jayce furrows his brows.
“A girl?” I state quizzically and Jayce laughs.
“Yes, Luna,” he says, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.
“I thought…” I start and Roman smiles from beside me.
“Thought males were only allowed to take the positions?” Roman intervenes and I nod, which makes them all chuckle. “It is a common thought amongst many humans but no, it is a little more complicated than that,” he explains and I furrow my brows just as someone calls out to the new parents in front of us, making them excuse themselves politely.
“How do you mean complicated?” I ask as Romans hand guides me to follow his footsteps.
He leads us towards a couch, somewhere semi-secluded from the party and I wonder if it’s because he knows just how much I hate events like this or if he needs to rest. “Well with the first born of a pack’s higher ranking couples, we believe the goddess chooses the gender based on the circumstance, on who is needed most. More often then not, first borns are male, primarily to ensure the bloodline continues and the pack has someone with physical strength to protect the pack. Given our people have been on the defensive for centuries, we needed it,” he says and I raise a brow, the information entirely new.
“Why are Astrid and Cameron called Beta-female then?” I ask and he smiles.
“Again, circumstantial. Hazel will be a Beta and her mate will be a Beta-male,” he says.
“Right,” I say, nodding my head. “What about Alpha’s?” I ask and he leans back into the chair.
“Should a Luna be first born, her mate would have to complete the mating process to claim the Alpha title, much like you claimed your Luna title. Many of the roles would be reversed for some packs but the basic principal would stand, the two are equal in the goddess’ eyes,” he says mulling over his words. “At least that’s the ancient way, a lot of it has changed throughout time and many packs hold different customs. The amount of born Luna’s are very slim nowadays, extremely so. But I think there will come a time when it is even again, especially now when fighting isn’t so much about ripping throats out and more political,”
“I know a fair few girls who could rip out a throat,” I contest with a smile and he grins.
“You’ll have to drop their names to the next priestess you see, ask them to direct the goddess to their paths,” he jokes and I fake shudder.
“Those people give me the hebbie-”
“Luna, Alpha,” I nearly jump out of my skin at the cool voice from behind me, that silky sound that holds an ethereal edge, one that makes my skin crawl.
I turn around slowly to see a thin priestess, much younger than the one who officiated my mating ceremony. She was gorgeous, her legs long and slender underneath the thin dress that fitted her body perfectly. Her pasty white skin was dotted with freckles at the nose and shone like the moon itself in contrast to her dark hair, that was nearly midnight black. Her eyes were shaded in that same kohl that all priestesses wore and a golden chain hung loose around her neck, resting above her stomach. She looked like she didn’t belong but was meant to be here all at the same time.
“The ceremony is due to commence soon, whereupon your blessing will be served to the child in the name of the goddess. I bid you good fortune in the name of our mother and pray daily that she too, blesses you in such a way,” she says, her words but a mere whisper. I don’t mistake her meekness for weakness however, not when her eyes shine with a deathly glint.
“Thank you, we will be over shortly, goddess be with you” Roman replies and the priestess nods her head.
“Priestess be with you,” she repeats before stalking away.
Once she is a safe distance from us, I turn to Roman. “Well she’s a lot less scary than the other one,” I point out and his laugh bellows from his stomach, the sound so pure and melodious to my ears I can’t help but smile.
“Less scary, but not entirely,” he replies and I chuckle.
He takes my hand in his and stands from the couch, pulling me up with him. “This ceremony will simply entail the both of us placing a kiss on the forehead of the child. Once you have kissed her it is custom to recite a gift in your head, something that you bestow upon the child. That part is obviously less legitimate, and no one will tell if you don’t, but there is some magic to it, or at least luck,” he says and I think back to when he blessed my niece, wondering what kind of blessing he placed on her then.
“Okay,” I mumble and we both make our way to the small stage that stands at the top of the room.
Astrid now holds her child and I notice Elijah and Cameron stood in next to the stage, both of them cuddled close together, nothing but love written into their expressions. We walk onto the stage and I feel the rooms attention shift to us, something I’ll never get used to, all these eager eyes looking up at me with pride and admiration. Some might dream for this sort of thing to be their norm, but not me, not when I really don’t deserve it.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to thank you for coming to witness the blessing of our baby daughter. It means so much to the both of us that you are here, truly,” he says and a round of applause, hoots and howls erupt in the room, making him smile. “I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce our priestess, a noble daughter of the moon who came here specifically for this at our request. Thank you,” he says and I turn my attention to the priestess who walks on the stage, no hint of a smile on her face as she nods dutifully to Jayce and Astrid, settling her eyes on their child.
She walks straight up to Astrid who outstretches the child, handing it over to the woman without an issue. The woman takes the child in her thin arms and walks to the centre of the stage. The room goes still with awe, the people looking up at the priestess with adoration and awe.
She begins to recite a chant, the words so foreign to me I don’t even bother attempting to discern them. When I glance at Roman however, he is soaking up every word like it is being spoken directly to him, nothing but pride shining in his eyes.
The moment the priestess stops her chant she reaches her thumb out and draws a crescent moon onto the cheek of the child and I watch in astonishment as it glows faintly before disappearing, like it soaked into her skin. When she turns to us I mask the shock on my face, composing myself and standing tall next to Roman, even when nerves bite at my insides.
“In the name of the goddess, I present this child for you to bless,” she says, glancing at me and I wonder for a moment if she would have recited that in her own language had I not been here.
She hands the baby to Roman and it rests soundly in his sturdy arms. I watch as he looks down, his silent prayer invisible to my ears but there all the same. He remains that way for a minute before closing his eyes and placing a gentle kiss atop its forehead.
Once he finishes, he hands me the child and I feel my heart beat a little faster. It feels so light in my arms, its tiny little body not so much as squirming even though my touch is foreign. Its like it trusts me without even having to question it, a feeling engrained into its nature like breathing.
I look down to its cute little nose, my eyes lingering on the cheek that once bore the mark of the moon. I need to pray, send some message to the goddess, even if she may not hear me.
I will give you the gift… the gift of happiness. A happiness so strong that you will be able to overcome any pain you may face, the ind of happiness that lets you live without worry and anguish. I pray you share your gift with others, build them up with your smile and never forget how important it is to make yourself smile first sometimes too.
I lean down and place a kiss over where Roman’s lips once were and the cheers of the crowd erupt once more. When I glance up, Astrid is in front of me, tears glossing over her eyes as she reaches for her child. I hand Hazel over instantly and she walks back to Jayce who embraces the both of them in his strong arms, unspilled tears masking his eyes.
Roman’s hand finds my waist once more and I turn around to him. “What did you gift?” I ask, curiosity lacing my words.
He smiles and leans down to my ear. “I gave her the strength of an Alpha,” he says and I think about the young heir, how she will now grow, contesting the physical nature of the men. A force to be reckoned with. “What about you?” He asks and my smile falters a little but I pick it back up.
I lean up to his ear and cup my hand around it, whispering, “Happiness.”
His smile mimics mine and he pulls back, a grin now adorning his face. “The buffet is still serving,” he states and I feel my stomach tighten with excitement. I smile faintly and we both move off the stage together, spending the rest of the morning eating copious amounts of food and socialising with the people of the party, dipping off to the secluded couch every so often with a new plate of hidden food.
It’s only when the afternoon comes around, creeping over morning like a growing shadow, encasing the free-rolling happiness of the party with a growing dread.
We both walk down the hall towards our quarter, where the production team is supposed to be setting up. I still need to go through wardrobe and have my face painted with makeup. The idea of having a camera pointed in front if my face feels more daunting than the barrel of a gun.
Anything I say, whatever I respond will be documented forever and may very well change the tide of what’s to come. For better or for worse.
“Alpha, Luna,” I glance up as Sam, the leader of my Umbra enters around the corner, a look of urgency on his face.
“What is it?” Roman asks, seeing something amiss in the air.
“It’s your mother, she’s…” he sighs heavily, “she’s tried to do it again,” he finishes with a gulp and Romans grip on me tightens, like he is trying to contain his emotions.
“Where is she?” He asks.
“We tried removing her from outside the cell blocks but she is refusing to leave, she says she won’t move until she see’s him,” he says and Roman’s lips purse.
“Tell the production crew we will be running late.” Is the only clipped response he gives before he turns, taking me with him.
“What is it? What has she tried to do?” I ask, completely confused.
Roman sighs, his stony front remaining. “She keeps on trying to visit my father, to try and break him out or prove he still has a soul, I’m not sure,” he says and I notice how broken his words sound.
“Does she… surely she knows what he tried to do?” I ask and he shakes his head, guilt overcoming his features.
“I can’t do that to her. She thinks of you as her daughter, Mae. If she found out that Marcus tried to have you killed, after what he saw happened to her with Diana… it’d break her. That man has put her through enough, I won’t let him have this too,” he says firmly and I feel my own heart constrict at the thought. Roman as a mate has been one thing but Marcus? He’d already murdered her first mate, there is no telling what else April has been through.
I don’t know how to respond so I don’t, I just walk by him, the nerves from the foreboding production tripling in intensity the closer we get to the cells. We walk, side by side through halls, the rich reds of the walls tuning into concrete the more levels we descend until everything is a bleak grey.
The low lights make my skin crawl and the second we enter the prison, my heartbeat races. We turn a corner and the yells of a woman bounce across the walls. I notice how Roman tenses at the sound, the way he reaches for my hand and clutches onto it.
April’s red hair is the first thing I see, her loose strands falling over her shoulders like molten lava and her voice spitting words of fire too. Her back is turned from us as she yells at the guards blockading her path with pure passion.
“Mom,” Roman says, loud enough to reach over her raised voice. She snaps around to us and relief over takes her face.
“Roman,” she breathes, walking up to us, the shining glow that once covered her face replaced with dark circles and lines of stress. “Thank the goddess you are here, they won’t let me pass,” she says and Roman’s icy front manages to remain intact, despite the pain of her words.
“I know,” he says firmly and her brows furrow, “we’ve been through this mother, you aren’t to see him. I don’t know how you managed to trace him here but you need to leave, this is out of your control,” he says, his words cool and even.
“But, Roman. You said he was holidaying I- Marcus, he’s in there, he’s in there all alone I can’t-” she says, her breathing becoming more frantic the more unshelled she becomes.
“I know,” he repeats, “I put him there.”
She looks at her son with an anger I didn’t think she could possibly possess. Her eyes gleam with unshed tears and what I can only point as disappointment forms in her scowl. “How could you?” She says, the words like venom on her tongue. “You’re own father. My mate,” she continues and Roman squeezes my hand tighter but his face remains stoic.
“He knows why he is there, you weren’t supposed to,” he says and she turns even angrier, her face forming into the one of a scolding mother. But Roman isn’t a child anymore.
“How could I not?” She seethes, “he came to me in my dreams, he called to me, Roman. I knew he was in trouble but the fact that you are behind it.” She stops herself, breathing in shakily, closing her mouth to stop a sob.
“I didn’t have a choice, mom,” he says, his words less harsh but holding solidity nonetheless.
“You can’t, you can’t take him from me,” she says and Romans grip becomes so tight on my hand that his hand begins to shake, the only show of his emotions behind that facade.
“Yes, I can.”
A sob breaks from her mouth at this and Roman’s vice grip drops all at once before coming back with a ferocity. “Let me see him, please Roman just let me see him,” she pleads but he remains unmoving, unable to produce a verbal no.
“Put me in there with him then, let me stay with him. He’s my mate, I can’t leave him, Roman, I won’t,” she continues and Roman looks to the guards behind him, a decision dancing in his mind.
“I’m going to have these guards escort you to your room. You can leave as you wish but will be monitored until the issue of what to do from here is finalised,” he says, a leader through and through. Ice cold and unmoving.
She lets out another cry, not bothering to hope the tears that fall from her face. “No,” she croaks, her words but a whisper, “I can’t lose another one, Roman I can’t. Not again,” she says and I see the glimmer of sadness that shines in his eyes at mention of that time. A time where she became a shadow of herself.
“Guards,” He says firmly and the men move forward cautiously. I didn’t know I was crying until I taste the salty tears that drop over my lips.
“Please, no please just let me see him. I’m begging you Roman, as your mother, please. Please just give me this,” she begs, becoming more antsy and I can’t take it anymore, watching those burly men close in on her to lock her up, just as they did me.
I pull at Roman’s arm and his gaze snaps to me.
“Let her,” I whisper, pleading with every fibre of my being.
His face softens before hardening again but I don’t relent. “Just give her ten minutes, let her see him. Supervised if it makes it better but allow them to have some closure,” I say, and I don’t need to add that it was my life Marcus threatened, my family he put in jeopardy for Roman to get what I’m saying. If I can find it in my heart to give him a moment with his mate then Roman should be able to as well.
Roman is silent for a moment, his eyes holding that calculated stare and eventually he looks back to his mom. “Fine. You can visit him, but I’m not letting you go in there without me.”
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