The High Wall
I climbed into the carriage, sniffling slightly and hastily wiping the tears that had escaped as I said goodbye to the only mother I had ever known.
Thankfully, it was only Paeris and I in the carriage, so I didn't feel as if I had to put on my hard face and pretend to have no emotion. Over the past few days, this man had seen nearly every aspect of me: angry, jealous, sad, goofy, and my heart utterly and entirely vulnerable to him.
Had I realized that he was a real man only hours away from me, I probably would have been much harder to get to. Maybe that was his plan all along.
He sighed at my red puffy cheeks, running his soft fingers under my eyes to brush away the tear tracks that I had missed wiping myself. The silence between us was comfortable, but the closeness of his warm skin was definitely enough to make me a little dizzy.
"What do you know about my mother?" I said simply, tipping my head into the palm of his hand. I had tried to ask my father, but he had told me that there was nothing to tell. I thought perhaps he was still angry with himself for betraying the only mother I had known. "Is she beautiful? Kind? Nym has been the best mom I could ask for, so I guess I may be a little biased." I said honestly, but the curiosity was killing me inside.
"Well.... I don't know your mom." He said with confusion on his tone, looking at me as if I were confused as well. What was I missing?
"What do you mean? Your father is a part of the Council, isn't he?"
"Well, of course. But..." he shook his head, pulling me closer to him on the seat as the carriage bounced. "What has your father told you about her?" He asked softly.
"Just that she is the Queen. I know that Meara is the Queen. I think I've seen a picture of her before, but it wasn't recently." I admitted, trying to think back to the way she looked. All I knew for certain about her was that she was blonde like any other Elder and had skin that was white as snow which was probably why I had never been as dark skinned as the rest of my Pack.
"But what did he tell you about your mom?" He asked stubbornly, causing me to feel even more confused as I originally had felt.
"I just told you. He didn't tell me much of anything. He just said there was nothing to tell."
"Oh." Paeris seemed disappointed. "What do you know of the High Wall? About your people?" He asked gently, in a way that I could tell wasn't meant to be rude or offensive.
"I know of House of Cruor... at least, the basics." I said honestly, looking at him with curiosity. "I know you can shift with me. I know your chosen form is a wolf, just like me." I smiled at this, remembering that he had told me so during one of our dream visits.
Something came to me then, a way to explain to Paeris of Cage.
"What do you know of Pack culture?" I asked bluntly, pulling back to look at Paeris with sincerity in my eyes.
"I know of the test, if that's what you mean. I know about Cage, too."
I nodded slowly, taking in his words. This must be why it was not a great shock to him when he saw us walking back the way we were.
"This morning looked worse than it was. I swear." I opened my mouth to try to explain the situation, but Paeris simply lifted his hand as if to tell me to stop.
"I understand." He smiled at me, a smile that made my heart flutter in my chest. "You're a free woman. You can choose to do whatever you want." He added, making me frown.
"I didn't have sex with Cage." I said bluntly, crossing my arms and narrowing my eyes at him. "I have never had sex with him. I'm not... I don't know. He doesn't see me in that way." He seemed surprised at the statement, but didn't say anything. Instead, he waited for me to continue. "We were running. I basically gave him my blessing for Allie."
He nodded simply, a touch of relief seeming to wash over him, but he didn't seem as if he truly believed me.
"It's none of my business, Ray. Really. Yeah, I was confused when you woke up and I was left alone with no explanation... and a little hurt meeting you for real for the first time the way I did. But you are your own person. Cage would be crazy to not want you in that way."
I growled at him, rolling my eyes, completely missing his hidden message.
Paeris clasped my chin then, soft fingertips brushing my jaw gently. "I'm not saying you slept with him, Ray. I'm just saying that I am happy to spend any time I can with you, whether you care for him or not. I'm just happy to have a part of you." He smiled at me again, tipping his head as if to apologize.
The carriage bumped along the road again, forcing me to brace myself against Paeris so I wouldn't bounce out of my seat.
The moment would have been perfect to finally have that kiss I had missed out on the night before if we hadn't been interrupted by Jonas ripping open the carriage door with genuine fear on his face.
"Paeris, you need to get Alaray out of here. Now!" He yelled to his son, looking over his shoulder as if something would swoop down and grab us. "She's here!"
My eyes widened, my inner wolf clawing to get out at the sight of danger. She? Who was out there?
"I'm not going anywhere!"
"Oh yes, you are!" Paeris thundered, hoisting me up by my waist and throwing me over his shoulder. I hit his back and kicked as hard as my legs would let me, but he was much bigger than me and definitely stronger. "Ray! Stop fighting me!"
"I can take care of myself! I'm not a weak little Princess!" I screamed, causing him to put me down.
"Ray... I just got you... I can't lose you now." He said softly, pushing the hair away from my eyes so I could see his green ones directly. "I think your mother is here. It's not safe for you."
"What? Why would it not be safe for me?" I asked with annoyance and confusion threaded through my words, pushing his chest so I could see past him. My eyes were calculating, searching the parameters for the Queen of Elves.
"Your mother is not who you think, Ray. You are in the middle of a war and you don't even know it."