Prologue | Be Reasonable
⚠️Warning before you read⚠️
My characters don’t always make perfect decisions. They will frustrate, annoy, and maybe anger you. The consequences that follow could probably be predicted from a mile away.
I know you all might make different decisions if you were in their shoes, but have you ever been a werewolf with a domineering Alpha to please, and a stubborn mate to run from?
If you choose to continue reading, please keep this in mind before you give up and throw your phone at the wall.
Also, this storyline switches back and forth between the very distant past and the present. I will mark each chapter accordingly, so it won’t be confusing. All feedback is greatly appreciated.
Prologue | Be Reasonable
“Mmm, something smells amazing.”
“It’s just fried onion,” Miranda replied, rolling her eyes at her mate as he stomped through the back door, hung his coat over a chair, and covered the ground between them. He was always over dramatic like this, praising even the smallest things that barely deserved recognition. “I haven’t added any other ingredients just yet.”
“Are you sure?” His arms encircled her, fingers splaying over her large, pregnant belly. “I swear I can smell rosemary, roast chicken, and fresh bread.” Kissing her neck, he breathed in her scent and closed his eyes in bliss.
“Your nose has always been unreliable,” Miranda quipped, turning in his arms and wrapping her own around his neck. After pulling him in for a quick kiss, she disentangled herself and picked up the spatula. “And soon, my dear Caleb, all you’ll be smelling is burnt onion if you keep distracting me.”
Caleb laughed, crossing the kitchen to where a rack of buns were cooling. “See, I knew I could smell fresh bread,” he chided, taking a large bite out of one before moaning in delight.
“Sometimes I wonder if you married me just for my cooking,” Miranda scolded, waving the spatula his direction.
He clutched his chest and looked offended. “Randy! You’re the one who snagged me with your tasty masterpieces. What’s that quote I always heard you discussing with Alpha Chesca? The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Looks like I’m not the only one with games up his sleeve.”
“Oh yeah?” She raised an eyebrow and leaned back against the counter. This playful banter with her mate after a long day of work was what she lived for. From the moment he left in the morning to when he returned, she thought about him and their future together. It had been a long time for them to finally work through their pasts and glaring differences, each having lost mates and been through hell. But anything good was worth fighting for, and they were finally enjoying the companionship destined for them.
But their journey wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Since they were both older than most wolves beginning a family, they’d suffered a number of miscarriages and were desperate for this baby to reach full-term. Only a few more weeks of uncertainty was all they had to endure before the birth, which had proven healthy so far. “And what new games have you got for me today?” she queried, then bit her lip while mentally kicking herself. All of dinner would be ruined if they had a repeat of last night.
As anticipated, Caleb stalked across the kitchen, never once breaking eye contact with her. His smirk confirmed he too recalled the events of their passionate evening. “Hm, you want another game?” His eyes dropped to her lips, then to the mark on her neck. When his fingers slid up her thigh while the other hand tilted her head back, she resisted the urge to give in to his touch, and instead shoved him back. “If you want that roast chicken you think you can smell, I suggest taking a step back.”
His seductive smirk only grew. “Who wants chicken when I can have you? You’re all I need, Randy Bandy.”
His voice was deeper and huskier than usual, and she felt her knees threaten to give out. But she raised a wooden spoon between them and pushed him back by the nose. “Since you’re the one with so much spare time, why don’t you go start packing the car? I want to leave first thing in the morning.” They’d been on their way to Silverstone Pack, a territory whose Alpha had accepted Caleb’s application for the job of Head Guard. It was a better paying position than his previous one under Alpha Kaiden’s command, plus they would be closer to Miranda’s brother and his mate.
She couldn’t wait to get settled before the baby came, but when their car broke down in the middle of nowhere, she felt her plans crash down with uncertainty and her blood pressure rise with anxiety.
“Uh, about that…” Caleb rubbed the back of his head, raking his fingers through his hair as he always did when about to reveal bad news.
“Tell me you got it fixed today and the car is parked out front, all ready to go.” Miranda went to the window and looked out, eyeing the empty yard in front of the small cabin in the woods. Her heart sank.
“The mechanic can only get the part in by Thursday.”
“But that’s three days away!”
“He’s doing the best he can. It’s a rare part,” Caleb explained, looking at her like she was making a big deal about nothing. “Besides, my uncle said he’s happy for us to stay here as long as we need--”
“That’s not the problem, Caleb.” Miranda huffed out a sharp breath, then turned back to stir the onions. “I don’t care about the cabin. We should be in Silverstone by now. Our baby could come any day.”
He shook his head, playing off the concern in her voice. “You’re not due for another month.”
“Babies can come at any time beyond thirty-six weeks, you know that. And remember what Lexi said about me being high-risk? Anything could happen with this pregnancy, so we should really be settled in Silverstone yesterday. But no!” She lifted her hands in exasperation, her voice rising with the stress of their predicament. “We’re stuck in this forest, miles from any medical help, all because of your dad’s stupid old car--”
“Hey, it’s not stupid!” Caleb defended. “It’s a classic, and will drive as good as new once we replace--”
“It was supposed to be fixed before we left! I can’t believe you didn’t have the whole thing checked over like I said it should be. This all could have been avoided--”
Caleb cut her off with a serious look, “Randy, let’s not argue about this again. I know what you think should have happened. But that doesn’t change anything now, does it?” he asked, smiling in a way that was meant to calm her as he took several steps towards her.
She hated the condescension in his tone and the way he eyed her like a skittish animal. Why couldn’t he see the seriousness of their situation? “It should change the fact that you’re in here flirting with me like nothing is wrong when you could be outside fixing that pathetic rust bucket so we can get back on the road,” she spat, folding her arms and rejecting his advances.
He stopped mid-stride. “Now? In the dark?” He waved his hand towards the darkness outside. “Randy, be reasonable. There’s nothing I can do.”
“Oh, so now I’m being unreasonable? Well, I hope you’re happy to help me deliver out here in these God-forsaken woods and deal with any emergencies.” Glaring at him, she bit back the dozens more heated words she felt like spewing. Usually, she admired his carefree attitude. It was one of the things that had attracted her to him. But now, it only frustrated her. When the responsibilities of life weighed on them like grindstones, Caleb all too often had a glib response, shrugging it off like worrying about important things was the last thing on his mind.
“Babe, you’re not going to go into labour anytime soon--”
As the words left his mouth, a sharp pain shot through Miranda’s stomach and curled around the base of her spine. She winced, pressing her hand against her belly. “You were saying?” She glared at him through gritted teeth.
“Oh my goodness, Miranda! Are you okay? Should I call an ambulance? Did your waters break?” He was on his knees in a flash, looking up at her with alarm while supporting her weight against him.
“Oh, shut up!” She slapped his hands away. Having felt this before and being warned by Lexi--her midwife back in Alpha Savannah’s pack--Miranda figured the pain was just pre-labour contractions. Braxton Hicks were especially common amongst women her age. “This is normal. Or don’t you remember anything from the birth classes?” She shook her head incredulously at him, her frustration mounting.
“Are you sure? Because I can call the hospital in the nearest town. I don’t want our baby girl born out here--”
“Just forget it, Caleb!” she snapped at him, turning away and hurriedly chucking random ingredients into the frying pan on the stove while breathing through another contraction. “In case you haven’t noticed, there’s barely any reception out here. And we could be having a son, so stop being so adamant it’s a girl.”
“Well, I hope you’ve picked a couple names either way.”
“Oh, you just leave the naming to me,” she told him pointedly. His suggestions so far had been beyond ridiculous.
Hearing his heavy sign behind her, she tried not to feel guilty for how she’d spoken to him. There was only so much patience she had for his childish nonsense. Maybe if he’d had better foresight and prepared for their road trip, she wouldn’t be in this mess. Maybe if he’d respected her more and got the car properly serviced like she’d suggested, it wouldn’t have broken down. Maybe if he’d--
“Shh, don’t move,” he hissed, causing her hand to freeze in midair. The spatula hung from her fingers.
Turning slowly, she noticed him watching the door a moment before the scent of wolves struck her. Her sensitive nose was helpful at times, but mostly bothersome.
“Who’d be visiting us at this hour?” she whispered, meeting his eyes and finding them filled with unease.
“Who even knows we’re here?” he queried, moving to check the door before a loud knock resounded on the other side of the timber. After peering through the side window, Caleb looked back at her with wide eyes. Miranda, go to our room now. And don’t make a sound!
The worry in his voice, even as it echoed in her mind, had her scurrying to the back of the house and shutting the door quietly behind her. She knew of Caleb’s past, of when he worked for Luna Seneca in Malachi’s pack. The woman had been an actual demon, intent on ruining her son and his pack, and Caleb’s service to her had brought danger and enemies that couldn’t seem to stay buried. Miranda had hoped moving packs would leave most of that horror behind, but perhaps she’d been wrong. Sitting quietly on the bed, she cradled her baby in her womb and prayed Caleb could send the wolves away without any trouble.
The sound of angry voices drifted down the hall, and her whispered prayers became more fervent. God, please keep him safe.
A loud thud echoed in the house, followed by the sound of timber splintering and glass shattering. Miranda’s heart rate spiked, and fear paralysed her limbs. She’d been a good fighter back in her day as a warrior for Alpha Kaiden, but there was no chance she’d take down a crazed wolf in her condition. She wouldn’t jeopardize her child’s life, not when she’d lost so many already. She knew her mate was a strong wolf, barely past his prime, and he would put up a good fight to protect her and their baby.
God, please…was all she could whisper over and over as the fighting continued. A gun shot rang out, and her mind froze with it. The breath was stolen from her lungs, and the house fell silent until only the sound of blood rushing through her veins was all she could hear. A horrible pain throbbed in her chest, and she dreaded to know what it meant.
Carefully tiptoeing back down the hall and into the living room, her heart stopped at the sight of so much destruction, blood, and carnage around her. Two bodies lay on the floor of the kitchen, the beginnings of dinner splattered over every surface, and broken crockery was littered amongst shards of window glass. It crunched underfoot as she entered the room hesitantly.
The pained voice of her mate drew her attention to the front door, where he was slumped by the doorstep.
He turned to face her, revealing a growing stain on the front of his chest. “I’m sorry…”
“No! No, no no,” she protested, running to him and wrapping her arms around his shoulders.
His bronzed skin had turned ashen grey, and the light in his dark green eyes was fading. Wincing, he opened his mouth to speak, but all she heard was his voice in her head.
I’m so sorry, my darling…
“You’re gonna be okay,” she whispered, fighting the panic that seized her mind. She had to think clearly, had to be strong, and had to stop this bleeding before it killed him. She pressed her cardigan against the gunshot wound, but the warmth of his blood seeped over her fingers and contrasted to the ice spreading in her own veins. Through their bond, she felt his strength slipping.
I will always love you. Never forget that.
“Caleb,” she sobbed, pressing her forehead to his and inhaling his scent. It was clouded with the metallic stench of blood, but the faint traces of anise and cardamom helped her hang on to sanity. “I need you. You can’t leave me like this. Please, we need you!” she begged, but his startling jade green eyes pinned her with desperation.
Run. Miranda, you need to run. Before they come back…
“Who? Who were those men? Why did they do this to you?” Why are they breaking my soul in half?
Just… some old..enemies… I’m so sorry, but you need to look after yourself… and our daughter…
His hand brushed her belly, his touch so faint yet it warmed her like a branding iron. Laying her hand over his, she pressed it against her womb and felt the baby respond to his father. This couldn’t be the last time they felt his presence. Caleb would fight this, like he’d fought every other adversary they’d faced, and he would recover. He had to. They were a family, and their baby needed a daddy as much as he needed a mother.
“Caleb, you can fight this. You can--”
Miranda…. His eyes found hers, and she couldn’t ignore the pleading she saw in the jade depths. You’re going to be strong… for our baby… I love you both so much.
The warmth of his breath against her cheek faded as he exhaled and never took another.
In a sharp, sudden motion, the mate bond between them snapped. It felt like electricity shooting through her body, leaving a scorching path of fire and destruction. Her heart shuddered and convulsed while her mind was suffocated with his absence. It felt like her very soul was shattering like the glass surrounding them, and laying trampled on the ground alongside her mate’s body.
A scream welled in her throat, borne from the pain that wracked her core, but she squeezed her mouth shut against the anguish that consumed her. All she wanted to do was let out the hysteria that scorched every cell of her body, close her eyes against the horror of the scene before her, and throw her head back in defiance of this cruelty.
But his warning of the rogues coming back haunted her, and she bottled it up to save herself.
For a long time she couldn’t move. Clutching her mate’s hand until his fingers were cold and stiff, she sat crouched on the floor beside him for what could have been minutes, or eternity.
As the hour of midnight passed, she felt something warm between her legs, and found clear liquid mixing with the crimson of Caleb’s blood. Her abdomen clenched in another contraction, and the truth of her situation hit her like a second round of rogue attacks. Nothing could compare to the pain of her shattered soul, so the hours spent in childbirth were more exhausting than anything else. She was numb and devastated inside, so perhaps this anguish had forced her baby to rebel against the confines of her body.
Kneeling on the broken glass with shards biting into her knees, she laid her mate’s jacket on the floor beneath her and guided her baby onto the clean fabric. “A girl…” Miranda choked on the words, tears blurring the vision of the squirming, messy newborn. “Your daddy was right. You’re a girl.” She even had thick black hair just like her father.
Scooping up her daughter, Miranda cleaned her face and watched as she took her first breath. The juxtaposition of her lifeless mate in the background of her baby’s perfect body and healthy scream was almost too much for Miranda, and she sat on the floor for a long time, just holding her baby against her chest and breathing in her beautiful scent.
The joy of childbirth, of finally cradling her baby after months of anxious waiting, was strangled by the overwhelming grief of her loss. How could she marvel in the creation of her perfect daughter when her mate was no longer with them? Memories of their dreams were all she had left; all those times Caleb snuggled her in the middle of the night and whispered sweet words to their baby; all the moments he’d wrap his arms around her and playfully tickle her belly; all those blueprints he’d drawn of their dream home with many rooms for their children; all those afternoons he’d come home from work with a special surprise for ‘his girls’.
This moment now just didn’t feel right without him holding them close.
And suddenly, all the girl names they’d written down over the last few months weren’t suitable. Names like Abigail, Mia, and Vivian spoke of joy and a glorious future. But Miranda felt only disbelief and soul-crushing despair in the face of her mate’s death. She’d hoped their move to another pack would bring a fresh start for their life together. But what was she left with now? “Mara,” she whispered, kissing her baby on her tiny button nose. “For all I feel is bitterness and wretched pain.”
As dawn brightened the gloominess of the cabin, the first glow of impending sunrise pushing through the curtained windows, Miranda snapped from her paralysis and felt new determination infuse her body. If Caleb was right and those rogues came back, she had to be gone from here. Her only defence was to run, so she grabbed as many supplies as she could fit in a small duffle bag, slung it onto her back, and wrapped baby Mara in a few warm, clean shirts. Caleb’s scent clung to the fabric, and this lifeline gave Miranda strength to keep moving.
Kneeling down beside her dead mate, she placed one last kiss on his forehead. “I will always love you, my husband,” she whispered as she grabbed his phone from his pocket and stepped through the splintered remains of the front door. Not even having time to bury or cremate Caleb’s body was torturing her inside, but the quiet whimpers of their newborn baby were a constant incentive to keep going. She had to get as far away from here as possible, and fast.
The sun rose behind her as she ran west, while birds twittered and small animals scurried in oblivion of her heartache. Without even knowing where she was headed, Miranda could only hold her baby tightly and put one foot in front of the other. Shortly after sunrise, she heard the angered howls of wolves as they prowled the deserted cabin. It wouldn’t take them long to track her scent and catch up.
On the breeze came faint whispers of her pursuers, branches breaking as they crashed through the forest after her. She skirted small streams and picked through dense copses of trees. She carefully traversed down gullies and climbed rocky ridges. Finally, upon reaching a large river, she looked north and south without seeing any easy way across.
Had her journey been futile? Would she and her baby endure the same fate as Caleb, all because a river stood between them and freedom?