A Warriors Heart

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Too soft, too beautiful

Cole

As I ride through the gate I reopen the mindlink. Holding my breath as I wait for the flood of angry links from Elijah but they never come.

Not one to shy away from conflict, I decide to just talk to him. Take my lashings now instead of waiting.

I walk toward the packhouse slowly, nervously, but I don't feel her here. When I knock on Elijah's office I'm met with a loud growl from behind the door.
I step inside and cringe when I'm faced with not one, but two pissed off glares. Elijah is seated behind his desk with Sorsha in his lap. I've never seen her look angrier than she looks now.

She stands from his lap and glowers at me as she walks toward the door, mumbling, "prick asshole...almost died... fucking jerk..."

She slams the door closed and my head spins. Who almost died?

"Did she say someone almost died? Who almost died?"

"Nobody you care about," Elijah huffs in disgust.

"Who almost died?" My wolf is desperate. I know that he's angry with me right now but this isn't the time to be fucking petty and vague.

"Lucienne, your mate, she almost died."

"How?" My blood runs cold. She almost died? That's not possible, I just saw her and she was perfect...

"Why do you care?"

"Elijah..." I growl.

"The doctor doesn't know...we found her passed out, barely breathing... almost like she had an asthma attack."

"Wolves don't have asthma?"
She's definitely a wolf, I felt it.

"He thinks maybe her wolf abandoned her... when...when you..."

That's not possible. Her wolf wouldn't leave her because I walked away. Even through her innocence, through the sweetness that emanates from her, I could feel strength. Her wolf wouldn't leave because of me, it couldn't.
I sprint out of his office. If she's not here in the packhouse, she's at the medical center.
As soon as I get there, her sweet smell wraps around me like a blanket, I can't escape it.
I creep through the quiet halls to her room.

When I walk inside my heart stops.
She's sleeping, her long blonde hair spread over the pillow. She's got an oxygen mask over face. I've been wounded on missions over the past twenty years, sometimes pretty seriously, I have never felt pain like this.
Her eyes are swollen and red, she's been crying.

I can't help but to think about her eyes this morning, bright and blue. They had an innocence about them, maybe it was just that she was caught by surprise but it rattled me.
Even looking at her face now, the soft, smooth skin on her cheeks, her tiny hand resting over her stomach. She's too soft, too beautiful, too good, for me. I can't even imagine touching her. My rough, callused hands couldn't possibly graze her perfect skin.

I pull a chair quietly up to her bed. I'll just sit for a minute, just to make sure that she's alright.

A feeling I don't understand spreads through me. It feels soft, all of the usual alertness I feel has faded and I feel light. It's strange and I'm not sure I like it.

I sit listening to the quiet beep of her heart monitor, watching her chest slowly rise and fall. I'm not sure how long I sit here, etching the details of her face into my memory.
A hand on my shoulder makes me jolt up defensively.

Where the fuck am I?

"Whoa, calm down," Elijah whispers.

I look around the room, disoriented. I'm still in her hospital room. Her eyes are still closed but the oxygen mask has been removed. She looks peaceful, some of the color has come back to her cheeks and her chest is moving at a regular rhythm.

Even in sleep I can't believe how beautiful she is.

I pull my eyes from her to look at Elijah. What is he doing here? How long have I been here?

"Don't fight it, Cole," he whispers quietly, he knows me too well.

"It's too late, I'm too old for this now. I can't learn how to be someone's mate now. I know how to fight, I know how to destroy and rip things apart. I don't know how to take care of something so soft and beautiful. I know it seems like I'm being a coward but I'm doing this for her. I'll ruin her. She should take a chosen mate, someone who can love."

Thinking of her taking a chosen mate makes me want to tear the entire hospital apart. I feel anger bubbling up inside of me. I need to leave here. I shouldn't have come.

"If she's your mate, she's perfect for you," he looks at me and I can see the frustration building, "you are being a coward. You won't ruin her, you're made for each other. I know, better than most, how a mate can change you, calm you, you just need to get out of the way, Cole."

"You can't know that I won't ruin her. Maybe if we had met earlier, if I were younger and not so...myself." I struggle to find the words to make him understand. This is for the best.

He can't understand. He met his mate when he was twenty one. I have a lifetime of shit imbedded in me now, things I have seen, and done, things that no one, least of all this beautiful woman, could understand or accept.

I stare down at her one more time, letting the soft beat of her heart thump in time with mine.

The curve of her face, every freckle, every little, perfect detail, has been carved into my brain. I know I'll dream of her face, I'll hear her voice, taunting me while I sleep.
I ignore the pain spreading like fire through my chest as I walk out the door. I have to leave, I have to think of her.
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