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“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”
-John F Kennedy
Any morsel of pride that ran though my body was shoved down into a deep dark place, shut off and locked away as I walked next to Oliver towards his father-wherever that was. The entire place looked so similar at every turn it was nearly impossible to discern one hall from another.
Everywhere I looked there was concrete and doors of steel, no art, no lavish trimmings, no music or laughter. A military base through and through.
But that didn’t stop me from engraining each step into my mind, noting the slightest of details at each corner. A crack in the wall, a stain on the ground, a cobweb in the corner. Oliver didn’t notice, or if he did, he didn’t say anything-he seemed to please with the fact that I was out of the cells, my hand encased in his gloved one.
He walked at a pace slightly faster than usual but I could only pinpoint that down to the fact that he wanted me as far away from there as soon as possible. If it were to stop me from remembering my way then not only would he failing miserably but I’d guess he’d take more measures to ensure I couldn’t. Which meant he didn’t have the slightest clue.
“All you need to do is apologise. My father is… difficult but he is forgiving,” Oliver says, one of the few things he has spoken since leaving the cells. It took him a long time to come up with that and I’m not exactly impressed with the lie. There isn’t a thing he could say about his father to blow over the fact that he kept me locked away in a cold hard cell because I challenged the fact he killed my friend and we both know it.
You can’t defend the indefensible but, apparently, you can try. And I think that says a lot more about Oliver than it does Arthur. He is convinced, so truly and utterly consumed by his hatred for Roman and blinded by his love for me-if I can even call it that-that he can’t see he is everything he claims me to be.
If I’m deluded then so is he, it’s the pot calling the kettle black and I want nothing more than to throw that truth in his face but its not apart of the plan. Justice for me rarely is part of any plan-even if it is the supposed goal.
“I don’t like him,” I admit. The best lies contain some truth, after all.
Oliver sighs. “Most of the time, I don’t either,” he grumbles before looking to me. I have to pull my gaze away from his emerald eyes because the sight of them makes me uncomfortable, the false sense of security that they give me is unnerving. “You don’t always have to like someone to work with them, Mae. He has things that I want and I have things that he wants, it’s a mutual understanding.”
“Would I happen to be the thing that you have?” I ask, genuinely curious.
“No,” he says, serious. “But you are the thing I want.”
I don’t know how to respond to that so I don’t. I’m aware that his logic revolves around me, every decision he makes is guided by my best interests. But still, the tone of his voice meant more than that and it was enough to make me allow the silence to take over as we walked through the halls together.
The moment we came close to where I presume Arthur spent most of his time, the hub of the base bustling with people and screens and sounds, I felt my gut coil. I kept tabs on the exits, the amount of people, every minor detail that the wolves told me to absorb was soaking into my brain by the gallons and it made me uneasy. Everyones attention was on me, if not a side glance then an obvious glare-people noticed me and they made a point of making it known.
How on earth am I supposed to make it out of here? It took so long for me to even attempt to leave Roman and even then it didn’t work out. I don’t know how much time I have before Arthur’s true intentions reveal themselves or the bond starts to slowly kill me and by the looks of things time is the very thing I need.
“It’s this way, Mae,” Oliver says, tugging my hand slightly and directing me past the groups of people.
“I just say sorry?” I ask, clarifying once more and he nods.
“You could try make it sound a little more convincing, but yes. That’s the deal,” he replies, his voice sombre as if it were some mask put up around the people that occupied this space.
We continue moving until we near a door, open wide into an office holding people that all gather around a desk. Before we even reach the room, all three heads turn to my direction as if they can sense me and I have to force my feet to move. From the way my body reacts, the way every hair stands on edge and my skin begins to crawl I know they are hunters. Be it the mark or the bond or common sense for that matter, I’m picking up the warning given loud and clear.
Arthurs attention is the first I notice when we enter, his eyes, so similar to Oliver’s its uncanny, stare straight at me-not a hint of a smile on his face. “We will continue this shortly, you may take your break,” he says to the people in the room and they all nod before walking out, leaving the three of us stood together.
“What is she doing out of her cell?” He demands, turning his attention to Oliver. There is only malevolence in his words and it makes chills run down my spine.
“She’s agreed to your terms,” Oliver responds, unaffected and completely void of any emotion. It’s a different kind of degrading hearing the two of them talk of me as if I’m not stood right there. Like I’m some kind of thing rather than a human being.
“Finally seen sense?” He asks his son again and I clench my hand into a fist before releasing its trying to regulate my anger as best I can.
Arthur walks around his desk and takes a seat in the large chair, making himself comfortable. Oliver doesn’t respond to him, trying his best to control his own emotions and honestly, at least I can say he has that going for him. Him not being completely infatuated with his father is at least slightly redeeming.
“I came here to apologise,” I announce, putting as much guilt as I can into my words, averting my gaze so that it meets the floor.
His attention returns instantly to me. “I’m glad to hear it,” he quips, looking at me expectedly.
“I shouldn’t have threatened you or disrespected you like I did. It was wrong and I’m sorry,” I say, putting as much truth into the lie as I can.
He nods his head, the stern look not leaving his face. “I appreciate you admitting your faults. Human mates that have been marked and taken for long periods of time are usually testy at best. We try our best to be accomodating however I am sure as a former leader you can understand why I cannot allow such behaviour to go unchecked.”
Would a former leader be actively scheming with her pack members? No. “I get it,” I mumble, averting my gaze to the ground in shame.
“If any such repeats occur then you must know I will take further measures to ensure you learn properly. You are my daughter in law, which makes you my family and that means to a certain point I will have leniency but you need to prove that it can be earned. Oliver has promised me that you will adhere to the itinerary set for you without complaint is this correct?” He asks, no hint of satisfaction on his face, no hint of anything other than the stoic expression of someone that wasn’t playing around. He wanted to intimidate me, and in a way, it worked.
I nodded. “Yes,” I reply meekly and I could see then the slight flash of smugness cross his face, that look of victory a predator holds once its jaws are locked around its prey. But it vanished as fast as it came.
“Most of the other human mates that had been liberated were unfortunately moved to a base that was raided by were forces a few months ago. We hoped we’d find others like you before bringing you here however rescue missions are risky and rarely successful. But you should know that your itinerary, save for a few minor things, is the same as what they were given.”
“Will I be completing these tasks on my own?” I ask, a genuine question considering the liberty he poses to give me in my new life.
“For your safety you will have someone allocated to accompany you to and from your daily activities. I’m sure your husband will offer to take you places where he can.”
“I wasn’t aware my safety was a concern of yours,” I reply cooly, unable to stop myself and I notice Olivers head snap towards me from my peripheral vision but I keep my gaze on his father.
“Your life is of serious importance, not just to us here but to our enemies. Preserving that importance is my concern.”
“Exactly, so why not just kill me? It would surely be easier for you,” I comment and for once, he doesn’t have an immediate response. It strikes me that perhaps it’s because his answer would agree with me.
My is making Roman weak, putting the pack under immense stress-the wolves in the cellar told me as much. So I’d take it that’s the plan, weaken Roman to his most vulnerable point and when that comes, they can kill me and follow through with the finishing blow. Attack an Alpha-less pack in dismay and chaos.
“We don’t want to kill you,” he replies, ever so sure of himself. They have to, and eventually, they will.
The implication alone should frighten me to my core, death actually managed to frighten me once upon a time, but it doesn’t. I don’t know if it’s confidence that drives me to not let an inch of fear slip into my expression or lack of care but either way he can threaten me all he likes. He can hold a knife to my throat and do the deed-it doesn’t matter so long as I have tried my hardest to achieve my goal.
Get those people out, get back to the palace, find Roman and end this mess once and for all.
“We want to help.” It’s Oliver who speaks up this time, his tone pure and firm in defence of his father and it sounds so genuine. Such truth pouring from a person that lied to me without an issue for years.
I look at him, my eyes meeting that emerald green that once melted my heart. For a moment I believe his words, I stare into his soul and I trust him in the way that I used to when he gave me that look.
And I let my expression morph into what it did then, I let him see my heart melt through the slight crevice made between my brows, let him witness my guard drop and my acceptance pour out of my eyes.
“And what if I can’t do the activities?” I ask but we all know that I mean won’t.
Arthur cocks his head to the side in consideration. “Should your rehabilitation take longer than necessary, or should you become too difficult to handle… the doctors on your case will have prescription medicine available to assist you. However withdrawal symptoms vary from case to case, so that all really depends on you,” he says and I keep my passive facade in tact though his message is clear as day.
If you continue to fight, we will drug you so that you can’t. A warning.
“I want to get better,” I profess quietly, a scorned look of guilt overcoming my face, like I am battling the inner conflict they presume I should be. They expect my mind to be a chaotic mess, coping with how to become human again and I intend to use that to my advantage.
“I just…” I start, my brows furrowed in concentration. There is a sympathetic sort of silence that envelops the room, even if it isn’t felt by Arthur himself. Its the kind of silence that comes when you simply have no idea how to put yourself in someone else shoes-when their misgivings are your worst nightmare.
Oliver’s gloved hand encases mine, giving it a firm squeeze and I look to him, finding nothing but pure sadness. “We understand, Mae. All we ask is that you do your best, try with each activity, talk to me if you need any guidance or help.”
“My son is right, you have been lied to for a long time-we’d be more concerned if you came out believing none of what your mate told you. After your rehabilitation you’ll be as good as new,” Arthur adds, not missing the opportunity to compare me to damaged goods.
I nod at them meekly, accepting their words as truth. “Good. Well unless there is anything else you’d like to discuss I have matters to attend to. Your husband should be more than able to fill you in on anything else,” Arthur says, picking up a pen in his hand to move things along. I know that whatever I tell Oliver he will demand to know immediately, he can pretend my presence isn’t important but I know that it is. I hold answers to questions that are crucial to his cause. In a way I am the answer.
“Thank you,” I say, even though it kills a little bit of me inside.
His only acknowledgement is a sincere smile and a nod but his eyes look just as they always do as we walk from the room and I can feel them even as we are turned away, boring into my back. Cold, calculating and cruel-an icy stare that will haunt my memories no doubt and send chills down my spine long after I escape here.
My eyes shoot open to the sound of a shutting door and I jump into an upright position, my body tense and ready for an attack.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” Oliver says, his emerald eyes connecting with mine instantaneously before his brows furrow. “Did it happen again?” He asks, guilt in his eyes, guilt that he couldn’t be here.
I raise my hand to my forehead, unaware of his immediate observation and feel the sticky coat of sweat covering my skin, matting my hair to my body. I’m drenched in it, the sheets beneath me soaked but my body completely chilled.
I remember feeling the pain of it, stuck in my sleep as my heart constantly constricted, it felt hot at the time, it was like I was trapped in a sauna on full heat and I couldn’t get out. I remember flashes, Romans face tight with pain, his screams ringing in my ears. It felt like he was dying and the pain of it made me feel like death.
I nod, scared that if I form words they will come out as weak as I feel. My confirmation only makes more shame gather on his face as he walks up to me, a bottle of chilled water in his hands. He is careful to hold it at the cap, leaving room for me to take it without making contact with his ungloved skin.
“It won’t last forever,” he says soothingly.
I take large gulps of the water, downing nearly half of the bottle before gasping for air, looking at him once more. “It doesn’t feel that way,” I say, my voice hoarse and dry despite the river of water I just gulped. I shoot him a confused look, noting his training uniform on. “What time is it?”
“Just after ten,” he says and I mutter a string of curse words under my breath.
“I missed my morning event,” I tell him, thought it’s pretty obvious.
“I know, I covered for you, it’s fine. You need rest more than you need to help garden food,” he says sincerely but I think about the gardening tools I buried on yesterdays shift, the tools I was meant to retrieve today and rest seems like the most unimportant thing in the world.
“I’m not supposed to skip out on things,” I reply, fully serious as I slump my shoulders over slightly, resting my head in my hands to cope somewhat with the exhaustion.
“You’ve followed the rules for the last week without fail, slipping from time to time isn’t uncommon. Sometimes human mates go into relapses for months, you are bound to come across some challenges in getting better. These nightmares, or whatever you face at night will pass too, even if it isn’t in a day or a month, they’ll go,” he promises and I think about my performance so far.
If I’m doing good then perhaps I should rethink my tactic, maybe I’m being too good, showing them what they want to see in a suspicious manner. There is no way of knowing these things though until it is ultimately too late.
“Your dad won’t be pleased,” I comment, opening the bottle and chugging the rest of the water.
“He won’t mind, he is busy with other things anyway. So long as you aren’t causing problems he won’t be an issue,” he says and I want to slap his ignorance from him. Arthur is always an issue, he is a constant issue that doesn’t just stop caring about me.
As long as I am here I am being monitored by him. He doesn’t address me at the dinners I am forced to endure on his table, he doesn’t greet me or bid me farewell or interact with me in any given way but I feel his stares. I catch him glimpsing stolen looks my way when he expects me to not know, I sense the threat that he poses without him making a physical move. Every fibre in my being is a flashing warning sign when I’m around him and I don’t think that is me being crazy.
“I came to wake you regardless. I have the morning off so I thought I’d escort you to the east wing,” he says. The east wing is really just a collection of activity rooms meant more so for the small children and elderly that spend their days occupying themselves with easy menial tasks.
So far I’ve taken music lessons and sat in on group therapy sessions that involve playing music and saying unified prayers for one another. I haven’t done anything hard hitting, I haven’t yet been interrogated or merely talked with a physiologist or a doctor. The only time I was even around anything remotely important was when Oliver took me to his fathers office and I haven’t been back since.
“Will it be musical chairs today?” I quip, the annoyance in my voice clear as day.
“You are set to meet with the doctors soon, they are dealing with a large influx of people at the moment and think that what you need is time to rest and get used to the place. I thought you didn’t mind going there,” he says and I sigh.
“It makes me feel like a child,” I respond. “You are off doing something important constantly no doubt, something challenging and actually suited for a fully functioning adult. I can take it from the people there to treat me like I’m insane but it’s different coming from you,” I say.
“I don’t think you’re insane.”
I shoot him a look. “You think I’m not capable of what you are, that I need you to shelter and protect me but I don’t. At least if I were left to my own devices I’d feel somewhat less inept,” I counter and he purses his lips into a thin line.
“I don’t make the rules Mae,” he says. You’re just complicit to them.
“I know,” I mummer, placing my head in my hands and exhaling a deep sigh. I shouldn’t be snapping at him, slipping from my task. I need to stay focused and stay strong but over the last few days especially it’s been extremely difficult. My head won’t stop pounding, its usually just at a manageable thrum but every time Oliver gets too close, like right now, it worsens.
“It’s just hard. They all stare at me, they all hate me,” I continue and his brows furrow.
“Don’t say that, that’s not true,” he says and I look at him once more.
“It is. I just don’t like being there, I’m not the same as those other human mates. I know the basics are similar but I’m known, my mate was-is, an Alpha Superior.” At even mentioning him the room stills slightly and both of us tense for different reasons. “It’s hard to rest and get used to the place when I’m constantly reminded I’m an outsider.”
He looks at me for a moment, the thoughts turning behind his eyes. “I’ll talk to my father about it, see what I can do. If I can’t get you a little more alone time then maybe he’ll allow me to have a word to the operators of the east wing.”
The relief that washes over me at that statement almost ends my headache entirely. It’s one less thing for me to worry about achieving. They said it’d be preferable to get out of being closely monitored on a strict schedule however unlikely it may be.
“Thank you,” I say and he moves up, making room for me to stand too. He moves over to a drawer and pulls out a fresh set of clothes for me, setting them on the end of the bed.
“I’ll let you have a shower and get yourself ready while I bring this to the laundry,” he says, reaching down to the sheets bundled up on the mattress he’s been sleeping on at the foot of the bed. He usually does this, makes some kind of excuse to leave each time I need to undress or shower or anything that would involve me stripping down.
It wouldn’t be strange if it weren’t for the fact that these things used to be normal for us. I’d change in front of him, shower with him and it was so normal that it felt routine. I didn’t ever think there would come a day where we wouldn’t feel comfortable in that way around each other and I don’t think he did either.
I step off the bed shakily and walk towards the clothes, grabbing them and making my way to the bathroom as he begins stripping my bed clear.
When I unlock the bathroom door I find him sat waiting on a bed made with fresh linen, the room completely cleaned from the clutter that was once in it. He sits up straight away, a smile decorating his face. “Are you ready to go?” He asks and I nod, looking down at his gloved hands.
He opens the door, unlocking it with he key tucked in his pocket and locking it again when we leave. “I talked with some of the operators and I think they are going to get you into the kitchens today, do some baking or something like that. I did tell them you make a mean spaghetti so if they decide to test it please make sure you leave me some,” he says with a grin as we walk down the hall and its like he’s stuck a knife into my gut, thoughts of Roman laughing while eating spaghetti in France flashing through my mind as though he’s pressed play on a screen in my mind.
“Cooking sounds good,” I say with a tight smile and it appeases him enough to let silence drift between us until we reach the east wing and enter a small kitchen area, people moving around setting ingredients up.
“I’ll be back in a couple hours, have fun,” Oliver says before leaving and I let my eyes scan the room before they land on a tub containing freshly sharpened knives that glisten like they know I’m watching. I think about the stash of items collected in a small crevice behind the toilet, somewhere that Oliver hasn’t ever made a point to clean ever since I’ve known him and the idea of cooking with a bunch of crazies becomes more fun than Oliver probably intended for it to be.
Hey guys, so I know I’ve been pretty absent for a while and I don’t even have that much of an excuse for it. Writing is just very exhausting and it seems like it is my new sleeping pill honestly, a hundred words and I’m knocked out. Everything has just been kinda difficult lately and weird to navigate, getting old isn’t fun and I suppose trying to figure out life and make all those big decisions is stressful.
I love writing this book and I love getting to share it with you all and continuing to share my stories is probably my biggest dream that I hope to hell never goes away.