Waking up disgruntled and disoriented, Anastasia wasn’t quite sure where she was but her initial instinct was to spring up in bed and yank her arms to her chest. When she realised that the motion was completely possible and that her wrists weren’t chained to the wall, a sigh of relief escaped her and she allowed herself to drop back onto the bed, snuggling up under the covers and burying her face in the pillow.
She didn’t need anyone to tell her that she was in Marcellus’ bed. The musky, woodsy smell of his sheets was enough of a giveaway, not to mention the overall feel of how she felt; safe, sound and secure. When her lips twitched at the corners, she didn’t try to fight it.
Despite how much of a mess their mate situation was and the terrible foot that they had started off on, after everything that she had been through in the past day or so, Anastasia knew that giving up now would be the worst thing that she could ever do. While she had seriously been considering going through with the rejection a few days ago simply because she was afraid that such lingering thoughts of her unworthiness remained on his mind despite his insistence denial of it, he had singe-handedly squashed all her fears and doubts by turning doing all he could to locate her and get her out of the dangerous situation she had somehow managed to land herself in.
Although she had hoped that he would come to save her, Anastasia couldn’t deny the fact that she feared he wouldn’t have bothered for the same reason that he had significantly delayed in telling her that they were mates and then proceeding to play with her feelings while succumbing to council pressure of taking a choice mate.
Anastasia was far from naïve and instead, she was more of a realist than an optimist most of the time, hence she was fully aware that they still had a lot of rocky roads ahead of them however, she was willing to face them all as long as he was by her side.
If he was willing, then she was willing and together, they would nurture and mould this mate bond into the absolute best that it could be but for now, they needed to talk and clear the air before any other misunderstandings tried to pry them further away from each other.
Throwing the covers off, Anastasia threw her legs over the side of the bed and looked down, surprised to see that she was only dressed in a thin cotton shirt that barely covered her ass cheeks. She had no doubt in her mind that her mate had been the one to change her but instead of scowling at the thought and being disgusted by it, she couldn’t help but chuckle as she headed into the bathroom, glad to see that other than a few bruises, scratches and grazed that should all heal completely in a couple of days, there wasn’t nothing much else wrong.
After borrowing a pair of leggings that he had left out for her – which looked suspiciously like a pair she had at home – Anastasia brushed her fingers through her hair and headed out of the bedroom in search of her mate.
Since Marcellus was only ever either in his office or in the kitchen if he wasn’t in his room, she decided to try her luck with the former first. Before Anastasia even reached out for the door handle, she knew that he was in there. Not because she could sense him – simply because she wasn’t a wolf and their mate bond hadn’t come into full affect yet – but because she could hear him as well as a few others talking on the other side of the door.
Upon second thoughts, she let go of the handle in hesitation and instead, raised her hand to knock. If he was busy or in a meeting then she would simply come back another time but they really needed to talk.
“You don’t need to knock, Anastasia.” He called out to her the moment the first knock sounded and before she could tap her knuckles against it for a second time.
Reaching down for the door handle for a second time, she squeezed it gently before pushing opening the door and taking a step into the room. While she wasn’t surprised to see that he was in a meeting, she was surprised to see that there were seven of them in total in his office; including both Marcellus and Dalton.
Nodding in respect and recognition toward the friendly Beta wolf that beamed at her, Anastasia turned her head to lock eyes with her mate whom unsurprisingly, was already watching her. She allowed his hazel eyes to guide her as she walked around the room, only coming to a stop when she reached him.
Standing up from his chair, Marcellus smiled down at her with a soft look on his face as he guided her into his seat, more than willing to remain standing for his mate.
When he glanced down at her with an intense, questioning look in his eyes, she took in a deep breath before nodding her head ever so slightly. While this was something that she had wanted him to do and be honest about from the very beginning, she couldn’t help but feel a little nervous now that the situation was presented in front of her.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to meet Anastasia Mulberry.” Marcellus grinned proudly as he introduced her to the five council members – four male and one female – all of them with curious expressions on their faces as they watched her closely; no doubt being able to scent out that she was human. “My mate.”
As an uncomfortable, momentary silence filled the room, Marcellus perched himself on the corner of his desk despite Dalton having offered to get him a chair.
“Mate?” Elder Malachi was the first one to speak up, the evident surprise and shock dripping from his voice as he stared at Anastasia with wide, disbelieving eyes. “Since when do you have a mate?”
Marcellus pursed his lips at the uncomfortable question but before he could answer, Anastasia reached out and placed her hand on his, squeezing gently.
As he turned his head to glance down at her in surprise, having been caught off guard by the gesture, she was quick to take advantage of the situation.
“Since recently but with everything going on, I’m sure Marcellus didn’t have the chance to inform you all about us.” Anastasia lied smoothly with a bright smile on her face; her facial expression not giving anything away.
Just because they were having issues didn’t mean that she was about to air their dirty laundry in front of everyone, especially these people whom she had never met before and had no idea who they were. While they were having issues now, it wasn’t anything that they couldn’t solve and move past together with an open and honest communication channel.
When elder Malachi opened his mouth to ask several more questions, Marcellus was quick to divert the situation. While he was thankful for the way Anastasia had spared him the shame and embarrassment that would have come from his father and council members finding out the truth of how he had initially handled his mate situation, that didn’t mean that he wasn’t appreciative. There was being appreciative and then there was pushing someone’s buttons and before the uncomfortable questions arose, he desperately needed to steer the conversation back on track.
“Since you’re awake,” he hummed as turned to glance at her. “Do you think you’ll be able to tell us more of what happened?”
Anastasia nodded and took in a deep breath, fully aware that she would have had to talk about all of this sooner or later but she had thought that she would have gotten some breakfast in her first. However, it appeared that food would just have to wait until later as she currently had seven pairs of expectant eyes on her.
“Before we get into it all, I want to ask how is Thea?” She asked, tilting her head up to glance at her mate, believing him to have sorted appropriate arrangements for the woman upon Anastasia’s earlier insistence.
“Thea is good.” Marcellus was quick to assure her. “She was set up in a room last night at the pack house and I believe she’s having breakfast right now with her son.”
Anastasia opened her mouth in surprise but was quick to close it, momentarily rendered speechless.
“Her son?” She finally managed to ask.
“Yes.” One of the council members, elder Maverick confirmed. “Marcellus requested for us to bring little Malik with us from Thea’s pack.”
She smiled politely at him before turning her gaze to her mate who refused to meet her eyes. She wanted to tell him that his gesture had been nothing short of immensely thoughtful, reuniting Thea with her son after everything that they had been through but it appeared that she would have to wait until that could happen.
Instead, she nodded and turned back to glance at the rest of the council and Dalton.
Taking in a deep breath, Anastasia began.
A lengthy period of time as she started from the moment that she left the pack grounds that fateful night to return home and receive the flowers and card as a late-night delivery. She recounted in detail from the moment she woke up in the dark room to the moment she had landed in Marcellus’ arm after throwing herself out of the window in a desperate escape attempt, relaying to them all everything that Harvey had told her as he revealed their master plan, having not expected for there to be anyway to derail it.
If the situation wasn’t so dire and serious, she probably would have laughed at the shocked expressions on everyone’s faces, including Dalton and Marcellus’ even though they had been present for the last part of it, having even already heard some of the story from her already.
“I’m sure I speak for us all when I say that I definitely wasn’t expecting that.”
Much to Marcellus’ surprise, elder Malachi remained silent throughout the whole conversation with only a thoughtful expression on his face but before he could question it, a few of the other elders asked him what he had seen once he had arrived on the scene.
Similar to him, they all thought it to be something out of a movie but unfortunately, this child trafficking scheme was nothing short of real and disgusting; something which needed to cease before even more people got hurt.
“Alpha Marcellus?” Elder Paulo turned to face him in question. “You say you have taken some wolves in for questioning?”
“Yes.” Marcellus confirmed with a simple nod of his head. “We managed to bring back them back with us. They’re in the dungeons now.”
“And the rest?”
“We killed them and burned their bodies.”
“However, we’re not sure how many escaped on the helicopter.” Dalton injected, quiet murmurs sounding around the room at his input.
Anastasia found herself struggling to keep up as more questions bounced around the room, someone answering and offering a solution quickly before another one arose. Almost as if he sensed her lost state, Marcellus reached behind him and placed his hand down on hers, his touch comforting her while he relayed the little that he had managed to get out of the child traffickers the previous night.
“Well, it seems the only way forward right now is to get some more answers out of these prisoners. Mind if we take them out of your hands?” Malachi finally joined the conversation even though Marcellus knew that regardless of his say right now, the council would have to take over this case as this was beyond him and his pack.
He merely nodded in response, more than glad to wash his hands of all of this.
With the conversation now over and the next move already decided, Dalton guided the council out of the office and down to the dungeons where the prisoners were being kept but much to Anastasia’s surprise, one remained.
Much to her surprise, the elder grinned at her with a knowing twinkle in her eyes before he turned to Marcellus.
“Aren’t you going to introduce us, son?”
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