Chapter 5 - What now?
She stood like a ghost in the threshold of our bed chambers, she was a truly beautiful woman when I met her, but my mate, it hurt me to admit that the time away had done wonders for her.
She seemed to stand taller, hold herself with more confidence, even as we stood looking at each other, for the first time a long year, I could tell she had been doing something that she loved. Her skin glowed and her hair looked like pure starlight, she must have been working hard and living well for no weight seemed to weigh down on her shoulders.
Perhaps it was a mistake to have assigned Jamie the task to track her down and bring her back. Perhaps she should have been left unfound.
Yet, the scent of flowers had filled my room before she opened the door, I had heard her footsteps padding down the hallway before, the scent of books and old paper wafting in the breeze and open windows.
I had wanted to dig up every flower bed and burn every book when she left. When I could not find her.
But she was here, all of the hate washed away like the ocean of a cliff. The hate, the loathing, the anger, and the desire for revenge, washed away. She had come back.
“I’m sorry,” came out of my mouth before I even realised what I was doing.
The words seemed to surprise her as much as they did me, and her gaze dropped to the ground, her neck bobbing as she swallowed, “I know,” she finally said, breaking the silence.
The wind blew through the open window, the thin black dress she wore fluttered, the skirt rising, the neck line gaping and her hair brushed off her shoulders. My gaze washed over her and landed on my mark on her neck, I had almost expected her to have some how removed it, it wouldn’t have surprised me if she had found out how to, or if her powers had somehow allowed her to.
I didn’t expect to ever see her again, I thought she would have left the country, been in Europe perhaps, or some small island in the Pacific or Indian Ocean.
“Where have you been? All this time, where were you?”
“I never left the pack, I couldn’t break the command you’d left on me.”
My thoughts flashed to the fight we’d had, not far from here, and my wind began to rethink every stupid thing I’d said to her, every cocky thought I’d assumed about her. To think that I believed she would stay, that she could have been happy here.
“I’m sorry,” she said, her face blank and emotionless, her feelings controlled and her reactions withdrawn. “I’m sorry for leaving, for not trying to work things out between us.”
I sat back down on the bed, my head falling into my hands and I let out a sigh, her scent was making me light headed as I controlled the urge to embrace her and never let her go.
“Don’t apologise,” I hissed, my voice sounds more aggressive and assertive than I’d intended. “I didn’t treat you like I should have,” I admitted.
She took a couple steps towards me, her feet padding against the cool floor, and I let my gaze wander from her feet, up her bear legs and the figure poorly hidden under the thin black fabric, “you were under a lot of stress,” she said, the words sounding heavy.
I let her words hang in the air, I didn’t know what to say next, we could have spent the next several hours apologising for every little thing we did to each other in the short time we knew each other. I beat myself up every night as I burned holes into the ceiling with my eyes, unable to fall asleep, rethinking every word, every action, every little thing that pushed her away.
I had lost my mate, my pride had been hurt, and I was powerless against her.
But more than anything, I wanted her to stay.
“What have you been doing the last year?” I eventually asked, wanting to know what had made her happy from the inside out.
“I finished my doctorate, just,” she said, crossing her arms, her breasts plumping and bulging, through her low neck line, seductively.
Forcing my gaze up to her eyes, “You were at Hardwall?” I asked, more distracted than in dis-belief.
She nodded, “I was, you and Jamie apparently never thought to look there.”
“You’ve been enjoying it then? It was a good school for you to finish your studies?”
She nodded again, “It was amazing, they offered me a job teaching and researching, which I accepted. I have a couple grants for research into the performance of mass timber building systems,” she said, a smile hinting at her lips.
I opened my mouth, I wanted to congratulate her, to wish her well, ask about her job, her co-workers, her research and her students. I wanted to know everything about her, where she went out to eat, who her friends were, not because I was jealous, I just wanted to learn everything about her. But the thought, the thought of her having fun, friends and living her life without me, it made my heart throb and my chest hurt.
“Are you okay?” she eventually said, taking another step forward and her brow furrowing.
“Hmm?” I hummed, snapping out of my thoughts again, “I’m fine, I’m sorry, just thinking about – well, everything.”
She smiled softly and her defensive posture soften as she exhaled, “what about you?” she said, cringing at her own words.
“Cleaning up after the war to be honest, most things are back to normal, but I’m missing many men, not just those who died fighting for us, but those who were banished or killed. We lost a lot of good men and women that day.”
“Both sides did,” she said, salt lacing her words.
I looked up at the darkness that now swirled behind her eyes, right, she lost a best friend that day, she lost Jenny.
“I’m sorry,” I said, standing and reaching out an arm, the desire to hold and comfort her was overwhelming.
The urge to bite her again, to mate with her, it was like the first time I met her all over again. But I guess we’d both made mistakes then too. I swallowed, “I am truly so sorry for your loss, for her parents, for your friends. I am so sorry.”
Her gaze was cold and she stepped backwards as my hand reached out to her, like a instinctive reaction, rather than a thought and action. A twang of pain shot through my chest once again, it was almost more painful her here, recoiling at my touch, than it was when she ran away.
“Will you ever forgive me?” I asked outright, “will we ever be together? Or am I chasing you, making you resent me more?” my question stinging my tongue as I said the words.
“I didn’t run,” she said quietly.
“What?” I said my brow furrowing as I scanned her face.
“I, when I left, it hurt me too, a lot and in many new ways. But when Jamie showed up at my door this morning, I didn’t run, I didn’t fight it. I knew you’d find me, Jamie would find me one day, that I’d have to face you again, face what I left behind.”
“Do I get a second chance?” I asked.
She looked at me, her eyes scanning my face and my body, her brow still furrowed, and the traces of happiness had faded away.