Follow My Lead

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When Circles Look Like Squares

Dark hairs started sprouting from Eidan’s trembling forearms. I watched the way his skin began to stretch as his body swelled. I couldn’t tell if the Shift was intentional or a byproduct of his uncontrolled anger. Either way, it only fueled my concern that we would have some serious problems in this Mating.

“You will not leave me,” Eidan bellowed.

My hand gripped the edge of the table as a physical presence in his voice buckled my knees. When my mind started to get foggy, I figured this must be the Shifters’ ‘Alpha Command’. I could feel my mind and body fighting for control, while a thrum of energy insisted I comply with his order.

Glaring up at him, the pinky and thumb of my right hand connected. The barrier of lightning circled Eidan before drawing closer to his feet. His partial transformation accelerated at my defiance. Nails grew to claws and teeth elongated and sharpened.

I was losing my grip on the situation, but I wouldn’t back down. Not first anyways. My thumb slid to the first knuckle of my pinky, shrinking the circle. A wild bolt scraped the side of Eidan’s shoe, delivering a mild shock.

“Hael!” he snapped. His chest was puffing at a rapidly uneven pace. The bubbling skin seemed on the verge of rupturing, a clear sign his control was on a razor thin edge. A wild look marred his eyes, making it harder for me to yield.

Eidan’s caveman attributes went on full display when he couldn’t get his way, which really pissed me off. He was being arrogant and temperamental with little room for negotiation. I wasn’t gonna be controlled by his feral attitude and larger frame. I’d break his jaw before he broke my will.

And yet, this standoff was getting us nowhere.

With a dejected sigh, I broke the connection between my fingers, the sparks on the ground fizzling into nothingness. With a wave of my hand, a strong gust of wind hit Eidan in the face.

“Cool off and take a seat,” I grunted as I collapsed into the chair behind me. With my magic gone, the room was awfully quiet. The ragged breathing of my Mate was the only sound filling the space. “Seriously. The barrier is gone. Put that away and have a conversation.”

Clearly unimpressed, Eidan glared at me for a few moments longer than necessary. I guess he felt like his point had been made because he grabbed the seat of his chair and pulled it right up to my knees. He flopped into the seat and crossed his arms, giving me a close view of the thick coarse hairs retreating under his skin.

When they were gone, he stared at me in disdain. I tapped my face next to my right eye, an indication he had forgotten something. A smirk dripping vengeance slid onto his lips.

“I’m not happy with you Hael. They stay.”

As does the bass in your voice, I see.

The pressure this bastard was putting off had me slipping. As a Black woman, a Conjurer at that, I would bow to no one.

Dominance wasn’t rulership though. Eidan had power, real strength. He had expressed pure kindness and controlled influence simultaneously, an intoxicating combination. My shoulders had been wound tight in anticipation, a dangerous part of me responsive to his commands. I wouldn’t bow to him, but I couldn’t fully deny him either.

“This Mating makes me more than uneasy,” I start, my eyes searching for a place to land. Anywhere was better than his brazen inspection. “I can tell that you’re a kind, devoted person. You might have some anger issues, but who doesn’t? Plus, excitement looks good on you.”

“What’s your point?”

His attitude irked me. My tongue rolled over the top teeth at the back of my mouth. Trying not to take the bait, I looked at him briefly before looking back out of the window.

“I don’t like feelings or physical contact or romance or people really. Conjure Women have different perspectives on Soul Mates than Shifters. It kinda varies by individual.”

I could feel a vein in my neck jumping like crazy at what I was attempting to do. Eidan remained silent, so I barreled through.

“I never really thought I’d have a Soul Mate, and it seems like you’ve really looked forward to your Mate... I’ve read about Second Chance Mates or Choice Mates for Shifters. Are those real?”

“I’m over here.”

I flinched at the darkness in the simple sentence. An icy chill bloomed in my chest, spreading at an agonizing pace. I had known it was a gamble to allude to Rejection, especially since I still didn’t know what breed of Shifter Eidan was. But the less I knew about him, the easier it could be for us to make this decision. We hadn’t undergone either culture’s rituals for accepting or bonding with a Mate, so if we weren’t going to do them, this would be the least painful way.

His rough palm was hot under my chin, stiff fingers settled on my jaw. My head turned with his hand, anxiety stopping me from resisting. I regretted it when our eyes met. It wasn’t like I was immune to the rage Eidan was directing at me. On the contrary, I think I’d finally realized that there wasn’t even almost a competition between us.

Eidan was so angry, he was motionless. The bright color of his eyes put genuine fear in my heart. I didn’t think he would physically hurt me, but at that moment, I believed he would take something precious from me: my freedom.

“I don’t give a fuck what Shifters have, Hael. I’m not Shifters. I’m Eidan. So if you have something to say, say it.”

The ice in my chest had spread to my shoulders. My fingers had been trembling, no electricity in sight. I couldn’t even Conjure a bubble in that state. Grasping at straws, I tried to think of a way to say this. I had dug myself into a very deep hole, and I was losing sight of the sky. Accepting the Mating knowing it was doomed wasn’t an option, but I couldn’t even suggest Rejection under Eidan’s watch.

Say it!” he hissed.

I jumped, unable to keep up my false bravado. My eyes fell. There was nothing for me to say. I had brought us here, but I couldn't find the words. His rage scorched me as the desperate silence swallowed the room. A small tug brought me back to him.

“You’ve been talking a lot today,” Eidan continued. “And I love listening to you talk. But it also looks like you think you’re the only one that has something to say. So, let’s get one thing clear. There won’t be a Rejection. You don’t like something? Okay. Let’s talk about it. Tell me what you like, what you don’t like, what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling.”

My nails dug into my palms, a desperate attempt to quell their shaking.

“I want you to tell me what music you like and what books you read and the creatures you’ve been studying. I want you. I can’t help wanting to touch you or show you that I care about you, but if it makes you uncomfortable, I want you to tell me, and I’ll stop. Wolves rely on social touch, but I’ll work on that if it’s what you need. I’ll respect your space, your opinions, your preferences, and your magic. All of it. But you don’t get to decide what kind of Mate I would be for you without letting me talk first.”

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