To Love

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Chapter 36




"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."

-Unknown

I woke up in the one place I had just staged a coup trying to evade. I overran a military base, ran by a being with so much more power than I've even witnessed if the stories are true, just to get away from being exactly where I am now. Hooks and wires plugged into my skin like I'm some sort of robot.

The faint beep of the monitor rang through my ears and I breathed in the air being provided to me in one large gulp. Blinking my eyes open proved to be the hardest part, my eyelids were glued together, like they wanted to stay shut away from the world and its problems. But I opened them eventually, taking in the hospital room like it was the first time I was seeing it.

"Mae?" I had to turn my head slowly, my taut muscles restricting my movements to find Roman next to the bed. His face had developed lines of worry, concern consuming his skin that once remained without a single flaw.

He rose from his seat, taking my hand in his that lay dormant next to me. I hadn't even attempted to move it yet, every bone in my body felt sore, I wasn't even sure if I could. "It's alright, we're home now. You're home."

Memories started flooding back in then, hitting me like a tidal wave-the thoughts unending. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes.

I can't look at him the same, those icy blue eyes don't give me all the same comfort they once did. When I see him I'm reminded instantly of Oliver, of all the things he had to say.

I move up my free hand, so taut that the action of taking off my oxygen mask is painful. "Are-" I pause at the sound my own voice, how different it sounds. So rough and distant.

"Take your time."

I do, coughing before graciously accepting the glass of water he offers me, taking all of two sips before handing it back. "Are they alright?" I manage and he gulps.

"We got as many out as we could. The ones who came with you, most of them survived and are still in

"Most?" I ask, a tear slipping down my face.

"Once the ones who are still undergoing surgeries have recovered they will be honoured and you'll have the chance to meet them again. Under much better circumstances," he says and a silence soon develops between us. His eyes inspect my face, brows furrowed intently before he turns his attention to my stomach, looking so quickly as though the action is illegal. "How are you holding up?" He asks.

"I'm fine," I manage, gulping. I look around the room, my eyes glazing over the machines, the stark white walls only coloured by a vase with pale yellow flowers. I try to ignore the crippling fear the room gives me, the anxiety it makes me feel. But I can't.

"When can I get out of here?" I ask, my voice tight—strained from the pain. I don't bother to blink away the tears that well in my eyes. All I can think about is Arthur, that evil glint in his eyes as he planned to take me somewhere like here, the memories of being held here with doctor Matthews lording over me. The struggle it took to overcome how much I hated being here to reconnect with what I love, with someone I thought cared about me only for them to betray me. My brother screaming in pain, pure panic consuming him, turning him into an entirely new person.

I dreamed of spending everyday in a place like this when I was younger. I wanted nothing more than to help out kids like myself when they came in with bruises—to be the one that pushed further, asked more questions, drew conclusions that would stop their pain.

But now I don't ever want to be here again. Everything good about hospitals has been ruined for me, smeared and tarnished by memories I can't shake.

His face scrunches, his pain matching mine before he gulps it away, squeezing my hand. "Once they've checked on you we can go," he says, trying to sound as positive as he can but it just makes my chest hurt with the effort of not sobbing.

"No," I manage. "No more doctors."

The door handle moves then and my heart beat spikes with the action, making me look to Roman with nothing but fear. He gets up in an instant, leaving my hand now warm alone, the lack of comfort reverberating through my body.

He shuts the door just as someone opens it a crack, slamming it shut and locking it before returning to me, his eyes moving from glossed over to normal. "No more doctors," he agrees, taking my hand in his. "Not until you're ready."

I inhale deeply, closing my eyes and letting my head drop back down onto the pillow, leaving my hand in his grip. Silence overcomes the room once more and I let it, making zero effort to bring up conversation, not when I know where it will lead.

"Maeve," Roman starts but I just close my eyes more, scrunching them together. "Mae talk to me. We need to talk about this, about you."

I don't even want to look to my stomach, as if ignoring the slight bump will make it disappear. "I don't want to talk, I just want to get out of here."

He nods, clearly struggling with how to deal with this given my reluctance. "Okay, we can get out of here."

I nod and he holds my hand tighter. "We can go."

-

Washing out the buildup of grime in my hair, over my body felt like I was shedding a skin. Stepping out of the experience I had just endured, washing that out, too. I cleaned every inch of my body, scrubbing and moisturising. Stopping only when my hand fund my stomach, an area I never had any trouble cleaning before.

Its what kept me in the bathroom, even an hour after I'd finished my bath and dried off, the water now completely cool. Its what kept me sat on the cool tiles, my body covered in my cotton nightwear, down to my slippers with my hand resting there, unable to move.

Until finally, theres a knock on the door. It makes me rip my hand away, like I'm burnt. "How are you going in there?" It's Romans familiar voice that greets me, which is entirely unsurprising. I knew he was in the room just outside the entire time, I could feel his presence somehow.

I stand up, using the edge of the bath to help me and walk towards the door, ignoring my reflection in the mirror from my peripheral vision the entire time. I answer by opening the door, finding Roman stood close, shocked to see me.

He doesn't move right away, waiting there for me to say something, only moving to let me pass once I don't. He follows me as I walk towards the bed. "Are you hungry? Can I get you something to eat? You haven't eaten since you woke up, the do- its best if you eat. I could make you something if you want that, anything."

I stare into his eyes, looking at his desperation and it breaks my heart. It's silent for a while longer. "You really didn't know?" I ask softly, suddenly thinking about the bed I'm sat on. All the nights where we'd...

His expression shifts, unready for the timing of the conversation. But it has to be had.

He lets out a sigh, looking to my stomach briefly before sitting down next to me, placing his head in his hands before looking at me. "I didn't. I suspected the king was up to something. I even had my top agents tracking his movements to figure it out, I never would've guessed..."

"Is he still here?" I ask and he nods.

"As long as Lynn stays I suppose he will too. Until she goes with him," he says, distaste in his voice as he mentions her. "I trusted them with you, my mate. And they violated you in a way I can't forgive. I'm sorry for that, Mae. I can't tell you how sorry I am that I put your wellbeing in their hands."

"Its not your fault."

"Yes, it is. I trusted them, gave them their jobs, made you see them for medical help. And now..." he puts his head in his hands again. "If you don't want to go through with it I understand. I can't force this, I promised you I'd never... this is worse than that and I know it. Whatever choice you make I'll accept it."

He couldn't stop me anyway. The only person who could would be the king, I guess-but even that would likely have loopholes. And he knows that.

He knows the law he signed off on, the one removing the right of wolves to hold governance over human bodies. All human bodies.

"I don't- I don't want to think about that right now." I reply and he nods. "Why did he do it?"

I know the immediate answer, its currently growing in my womb. An heir for that pack, a secure line to ensure the future of his people. But why so urgently? Surely tricking me into it was an option that could've been used later down the track, once he was certain it wasn't going to happen. Maybe it was convenience, an opportunity he couldn't miss. Maybe he's just a terrible person to his core.

In all honestly, if Nicholas wasn't also a terrible person, I'd understand his push to leave the power of Tiberius behind.

"It took nearly killing him-or getting killed myself. But I figured it out," he says, the memory spoken with a slight ounce of guilt. The part of him that can't hurt his leader. "He was planning to die."

His answer knocks the air from my lungs. Well, I didn't expect that.

"What?"

"He was planning to die. He figured he would never find his mate and he was over living after so long. He was going to partake in a ceremony that would enable him to end his own life, so he wanted us to secure an heir before then."

"Oh." It's all I can say in response to that.

"It doesn't justify what he did," Roman says, m shaking his head. "If it weren't for Jayce being there to take me out... things are tense right now. Ever since you left everything has only gotten worse."

I know it doesn't justify anything, the king taking away my right to do what I want with my body so he could have the right all to himself isn't fair. No amount of pity can convince me of that.

"I guess we'll have all of tomorrow to deal with that." I offer him a tight lipped smile but concern he can't control takes over his expression.

"You don't have to, if you just want to rest thats completely fine. No one will judge you for it," he says, the unspoken plea behind his words coming through.

"I want to," I say.

"But if it might cause you stress or discomfort-"

"I want too, Roman. I'm not letting this stop me, not when there's so much to do." He nods, unable to argue the point and to save him having to try fish for some fake answer telling me he's okay with it, when I know deep down, everything in him is telling him the opposite, I crawl back into the bed.

He follows me, switching off the light and enveloping the room in darkness. His arms wrap around me, pulling me close and his hold feels so strong, so sturdy and sure. Like nothing in this world could make him let go.His hand lingers at the top of my stomach but doesn't dare move down, too afraid it'll ruin it, make me jerk away and retreat and his worries were warranted.

"Goodnight," he mummers into the skin of my neck, placing a featherlight kiss over his words as if to seal them, make them true and I relax my body against his, feeling his slump soon after and the long drawn breaths begin as he falls into a deep sleep.

Something I don't think I'm going to get for a long time.

-

"The meeting can be held afterwards," I say too Roman as I put on a loose jumper, the fabric warming me instantly.

"The beta's want for you to relay everything you can while its fresh in your mind. It will only take a short amount of time and the king will not be present."

I wake out of the wardrobe and shoot him a look. "That's not why I want it pushed back," I say sternly. "I'm not afraid of facing the King, there is nothing more he can do to hurt me. I don't expect he's going to apologise either, what I want, is to resolve this conflict soon so that I never have to see him again."

Roman lets out a sigh. "Even if we resolve the conflict to a point where he feels he can leave his mate will still be here. She remains under my protection," he reminds me, the request I asked of him seeming so long ago now.

"Then end it, I don't care what it takes but I want him gone, I don't want him here meddling in my life any longer. I don't want either of them meddling in my life."

"You want me to let him take her?" He asks me and I shrug.

"It's only a matter of time until your protection becomes a bigger problem for the king, one that he'll need to eliminate. Their issues are not our own, not right now at least," I say and he nods.

"We'll discuss it more later and decide on a time we both feel is right. But for now we need to think about the meeting, our enemies are still out there. The recovery of the base is still underway but they suspect many people left before the explosion and those that did survive are in no state to be interrogated yet. We don't have the time to wait for them to be better."

"I just want to speak with them, thank them," I say. Even if it means going back into that hospital, facing what I don't want to see. They are there, some still out cold but others have woken up, they are speaking. Being reunited with family members by the minute.

"Many have expressed the same wish to thank you, Mae, but I think it'd be better to wait. A few weeks even, never mind this afternoon. They are not in a good state."

I nod my head in defeat. "Fine. But what about the one I told you about last night, did you find his name? How he's going?" The thought of the man from the cell next to me in those prisons dying just to get me out, like all the others... its unbearable.

"I believe his name is Parker and he's doing alright. He's still got many surgeries ahead of him like the others and he's been given the help he needs to cope with it all. But he's alive, back with his mate and as good as he can be given the circumstances."

I hadn't even thought about his human mate, the one that had tried to escape him so many times. I guess part of me thought that maybe after such a long time she'd be allowed to leave. I don't know why it surprises me.

"Okay," I concede and he takes my hand. "They aren't... they don't know about this, do they?" I ask, my hand only touching my stomach for a moment and Roman looks at me grimly.

"They know. It's how I found you once you exited the base." My stomach sinks and he notices, taking both my hands in his. "But they won't bring it up, I've already told them as such and if they do then we'll shut it down. I'll shut it down. We don't have to focus on that until you're ready."

"Okay," I mummer, pulling my hands from his. He's right though, no matter how I feel right now, no matter how stressed I am about a million other things, I need to put what's important first. Even if deciding that in itself has become a challenge.

-

"Are you sure that all the prisoners you took from the base are secured?" Is the first question I ask, speaking to a room full of wolves.

"Our facilities are fully equipped to hold the prisoners, we are currently in the process of organising files for trials and whatnot now. Many have already been processed and are currently being held in our outer facilities awaiting further information," Elijah responds and I still.

"But there are still some on palace grounds?"

"Yes, Luna. Could I ask why that is your most pressing concern."

"Because that's how they got me. Getting those hunters and humans in here was how they got me out, I don't know the finer details of it but Carter was in on the ploy, they all were."

Saying it aloud, watching each and every one of them still at the news, feeling Roman's rage simmer through the bond, despite the fact he doesn't show it, makes me feel like a traitor. I don't know for certain Carter's intention but I'm going to believe until proven otherwise that he only meant to help me.

But how the others react is out of my control.

"I know that there are hunters within them that somehow could aid in them getting me and I know that compromising that base was not a big deal to them. You're probably seeing the difference in the base they recently destroyed but points they aren't preparing for something. They're prepared."

"Beta Jayce, I want you to report to the cells immediately, every person, every item, everything extracted from that mission is to be monitored round the clock. I want tests ran on them all again, if we've missed a hunter I want to know," Roman says immediately and Jayce stands from his seat, nodding.

"Of course Alpha."

He leaves the room before I can object. Which I don't. Given the circumstances, it's probably a logical thing to do.

"With all due respect, how do we know what you were told was not a lie Luna," a man speaks up, turning the attention onto me once more and I narrow my eyes. I know he is suggesting more than just that.

"The information that I managed to get is reliable, and even if it's not it is all we have. I have confidence that it wasn't told to me with the intention of me returning with the information," I reply sternly. "Their aim is obvious, they want to end all wolves, no matter the cost. And they'll do whatever they can to achieve that."

"And what of the wolf soldiers that were reported?" A woman asks formally and I glance at Roman then. Reported is a loose term, I barely know anything about it.

"Before I left, I was met with a wolf that I tried to kill me," I say and shock befalls some of their faces, even though they likely knew already. Like even the thought of bringing me harm is so outward it won't ever be normal to hear.

"Perhaps they've made an allegiance with rouges?" Someone suggests and Roman shakes his head.

"There are hardly any rouges in our pack, and even a rouge would hesitate before doing something like that. They're a reckless troublesome bunch but they aren't stupid enough to kill a luna superior."

"The other wolves, the ones helping me escape. I think some of them knew who it was, they looked relieved to see it before... before it killed them. The wolves who were rescued might have a better understanding but from what I gather they were turned into that. From torture or some poison or whatever else I'm not sure," I say and I feel the tension of the room. The slight edge of fear it holds.

"How did you manage to escape it?"

My gut wrenches with he memory. The rage on Olivers face as he looked at me after killing it, all those things that he said to me. How we were done, no matter what we were done. I'd never ever be able to speak to him the same, or speak to him at all for that matter.

"A hunter killed the wolf trying to get me back. They used a sword." My tone is clipped and I don't want to go any further in the description, I don't want to relive that memory.

"That sounds like something a hunter would do," someone else quips, the whole sword thing didn't seem to throw anyone off. "Is there further reason to believe the recent rebel uprisings have any correlation to the hunters abduction of the Luna, Alpha?"

"Uprisings?" I ask and he looks at me briefly, clenching his jaw as his eyes twinkle with slight worry, the same way they always do when he looks at me now, a protective edge constantly there.

"It's still too hard to say, but I would think so. There have been trouble in the packs, most humans have accepted the improvements to law however there are still a few that want sovereignty outside of the packs. It's not going over so well with the Alphas, or the rebels," he tells me and I sigh.

"How have they been dealt with?" I ask and someone clears their throat as Roman looks at me, conflict crossing his eyes.

"Well most have been given written warnings or placed on community service duties within their pack. But they all underwent processes with pack authorities to determine their role within the attacks. Some are still being processed, others have been moved to different facilities depending on the nature of their involvement. We needed to make sure that we got everything we could, in case they knew anything of you," he explains and I nod, gulping.

"Is there anything else of importance you have to report, Luna?" Another wolf asks, holding a tablet of sorts in her hand.

I nod. "I don't have as much information as I wished to get but there were only so many opportunities for me to access conversations of importance. But there is one other thing that troubled me," I start, shifting in my seat. I only allow my glance to rest on Roman for a split second before I remove it. "They are planning someone with the other human mates they have there."

Mummers erupt from around the table and Roman instinctively leans in. "I don't know if they plan to hurt them, like they did the other wolves but before I left I was supposed to meet some doctor, I'm guessing the same one that they did. I was told by the other mates that they wanted to move from rehabilitation efforts and try other methods. Like pairing mates with humans or hunters to test for compatibility."

I can feel the shock that ripples through the room. "What?" Roman asks through clenched teeth.

"I don't know for sure, I know they wanted me to go to the doctors, to be tested. But they didn't get far enough to push their other agendas on me."

"I want a Gamma assigned to getting all known wolfs with human mates that have gone missing into a secure facility to be monitored. If the bond is to be tampered with in any way, they will know first. I want a high alert issued to all packs as well, all human mates are under threat of being taken," Roman says swiftly, leaving no time for more questions to be asked. Something I'm mildly grateful for.

"Yes Alpha," Elijah responds, looking between the two of us with an unsaid suggestion. He's broaching a subject he thinks we are going to bring up, telling us too almost.

"There is only one other matter of importance to discuss today before I let you all go," Roman says and I feel my stomach sink. "It concerns Alpha Nicholas. As many of you are aware there have been recent reports about the preparations he is making on our border, sightings that are troublesome. If he, the rebels and the hunters are working together they are likely to strike together on different fronts at the same time."

I felt a burden lift off my shoulders but Elijahs troubled gaze didn't help. He knew about my condition and he felt that everyone should too. So I guess I know where he stands on it all.

"The hunters will betray Alpha Nicholas, it's inevitable," I say, confused at why the leader wouldn't think that himself.

"So would the rebels. I can only assume that Alpha Nicholas doesn't know of their connection otherwise he truly has lost his mind. Even still, we need to eliminate him as an opponent first and then focus on the other two."

"Why not just tell him? If he knows about them then maybe he'll change his mind. If there's a diplomatic solution to it all surely that'd be better," I say, looking around at the grim faces. I should have guessed they'd already considered it, and decided against.

"There's too much risk. Regardless of if he changes sides now, it's too late. The King and the council have already decided upon the end to his pack, a swift end would be the easiest option."

"An end?" I ask. I'd expect the king to deal in such extremes, but not Roman. War pushes people to make rash decisions but this...

"One way or another, the enemy will surrender and come under our control. All of our enemies," Beta Elijah says and it stuns me slightly.

"Then you'll find yourself with an endless supply of enemies," I reply. Their ways of control might work on wolves, it might all feel so natural and fun and great but it won't last on humans. The more they are controlled, the more tastes of freedom they are given they'll crave it so much it'll consume them.

And that is what scares me the most. If I were anyone else in this room, I'd see it as it is, that the more freedoms they give humans the harder running the pack will be. It's like Oliver is taunting me, proving everything he said to be right just to hurt me. But I know that's impossible.

"And we'll crush them too," Elijah responds sternly and I rise from my seat.

"I think I've heard enough. If you'll all excuse me," I say and they all look at me with confusion, Roman taking my hand before I can turn around and exit.

"Maeve, there is still more we have to discuss," he says, concern flashing in his eyes when he sees my expression.

"I'm tired, I need rest," I reply because it's true, all the politics, the fighting, the pain. It's made exhaustion wash over me, drowning out the ability to even think straight. His brows knit together and his gaze flicks to the table of people gathered here to speak with me. His subjects depending on him.

"Are you sure..." I put my hand over my stomach briefly, and, as I thought, it changes his whole demeanour. "Of course, as you can all understand the Luna has been through much. Beta I trust you can finalise the meeting," he says to Elijah who eyes me with suspicion.

"Yes Alpha, I hope you recover quickly Luna," he says and I nod, moving from the room with Roman hot on my tail.

We move down the halls and I avoid the stares thrown our way, picking up my pace to a point I may as well jog before Roman takes ahold of my hand, stopping me.

"Mae," he says softly but I don't turn around, trying to sort through my emotions. "Mae please."

I turn around and let him see my vulnerability, the unshed tears in my eyes. Olivers logic swamps my mind and I can't stop it, even though I hate the part of myself that thinks he might just be right. It's a hard thing, to think that what I'm fighting for might is the very thing I swore to destroy.

"If I wasn't in the picture would you have carried on as you did? Was there even just a slight part of you that regretted what you were doing to us, that entire time? All that suffering Roman I... how can I be sure that it won't return when you and the pack think its necessary? If you were capable of such cruelty once what stops you from doing it again?" I fire and I can tell its not at all what he was expecting.

What did he think? I'd complain about morning sickness or indecisiveness over baby names? I know that the knowledge of my state consumes him more than me, I can tell it is the only thing he can think of when he looks at me but what consumes me is so much more important.

"I don't know what would've happened without you, I don't like to think about things like that. I couldn't tell you what the future might've been then just as I can't tell you what the future will be now, not with certainty," he responds cooly but its not enough to quell the raging thoughts in my mind.

"You must have some sort of clue," I rebut. "A hypothetical."

He is silent at that, because we both know the answer. Without being forced to change he likely wouldn't have and people like me would continue to live in poverty, oppressed. And generally speaking, those who oppress are the bad guys.

They are the guys I'd fight against, without question. But now I'm not sure, I'm confused. And it's a feeling that I dislike so much, it's like a layer of grime that cant be erased, no matter how hard you scrub at it.

"I figured they would attempt to turn you against me, one way or another," h says distastefully, his lips forming a grim line.

I let out a sigh. "That's not-" Another sigh. "They just posed some good questions, questions I didn't have the answer too. And then all that in there, about complete control and squishing the enemy? I mean how am I supposed to react to that? I don't want any part in it, but being complicit is just as bad," I stress, the worry of it eating me alive.

"Not everyone can win. I wish it were different but its not, someone, somewhere is going to loose out on all this. People are going to die and there is nothing you or I can do about that besides minimise it as much as we can on our end. Which is what meetings like that are for, it's why they are important. You were right when you said that the rebels will forever stay, in one form or another, but the hunters have to go. All of them, or there won't ever be peace."

I nearly laugh at the irony of it, obtaining peace through such violent methods. But I don't, I don't think it's possible for such an emotion to run through my body right now.

"Mae what's really troubling you? Speak to me," he says, moving forward and taking my face in his hands, those blue eyes running over my face to try read the answer in my lines of worry.

"Everything," I reply, letting out a sigh as I lean into his touch. I place my head on his solid chest and he embraces me, holding me close. "Everything."

authors note

and another very late update for you to enjoy :) happy reading folks
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