Amelia knew her son had hit his rock bottom when she saw him hunched over in the couch. His knees were up to his chest as if shielding him from the world. He was a reckless boy and a ruthless man but in that moment he looked so defeated, it filled her with dread and sadness.
“Baby?” She sat beside him cautiously, combing her fingers through his messy hair. “You’re not alone. I’m here. Your dad is here. Everyone is here with you.”
Her maternal instincts and overprotective heart squeezed all her past hurt and grudge out of her. His behavior was disrespectful and it hurt her. However, he needed her.
“Cole told me...” She lied deliberately. Lily was the one who told her he might be lonely. At that moment, mentioning her was probably not a good idea.
“I’m proud of you.” She continued and rubbed his strained forearms. “It was the right thing to do. It’s hard but you’ll get through this. I know my son. He’s a fighter–”
The noice he made froze her. He sniffled.
“I’m not a fighter.” His voice was muffled, barely audible or coherent. “I feel like a fucking failure.”
Amelia scooted closer and encased him in her protective arms. “No, honey.” She stroked his back reassuringly. “You’re not a failure. Sometimes life takes a different path. That doesn’t make you a failure.”
His head lifted and the sight prickled Amelia’s skin. His eyes were bloodshot, cheeks moist in the dim lamp light and his breaths short.
“But I failed you. I failed dad. I failed Brian. I failed her. I fuck everything up. Couldn’t be a good friend. Proved to be a bad son and an asshole mate–”
The rest of his words stabbed him throat and made him choke.
Helplessly tearing up, Amelia wiped at his cheeks. “You didn’t fail anyone, son. Sure you made mistakes but you’re not a bad person.”
Ezra peered deep into her eyes with chilling accusations. He didn’t believe her. The shadows in his eyes were too intense to allow him peace.
“You’re lying to me,” he rasped. “I am a bad person. A very bad person. I deserve this. She left me and I fucking deserve all this pai–” his chest heaved with a strong inhale, struggling with staying coherent.
Worried, Amelia quickly fetched him a glass of water and made him drink. Her son was falling apart in front of him.
“I love her, mom.” His voice broke off once again. “I feel dead, empty, useless. Like a dry forgotten well. Why couldn’t I be normal?” He grabbed her hands in a daze. “She sealed my heart and took it. There’s never going to be another. Never. I’d stay broken.”
“You’re going to be alright–”
“I won’t,” he whispered, his breaths hitching.
“I know you will. You will live like you used. With your family. Your friends. You just have to try and understand that sometimes letting someone go is better than holding them back. She was a part of your life, not the end of it.”
“Please,” Amelia begged.
She couldn’t see him like this. No traces of her son in his eyes. Only a hollow shell. His broad shoulders shook with the force he strangled his silent sobs with.
Exhausted, he curled up on the couch, placed his head on her thighs and tugged her hand to his hair. Minutes stretched into an hour when his vice grip on her dress loosened, his struggling breaths evened out and his strained muscles relaxed.
“He’s not taking it well, I presume.” Ben took a seat across from them.
That earned him a teary glare.
“He’s sleeping,” his mate whispered curtly.
“I can see that,” Ben lowered his voice and glanced at his son. “He surprised me today.”
Amelia swiped at her damp eyes and stroked her son’s hair lovingly. It never mattered to her how he acted. She gave birth to him. She raised him. She had witnessed him find comfort in silly little physical touches. Sure he was impulsive, reckless and driven by his Alpha instincts but he was not a bad person contrary to his fallacy. He was a gem. It wasn’t his fault he ended up in that accident.
Maybe it was irrational that she couldn’t see what Ben often pointed out as unacceptable behavior. How could she when all she saw was a precious soft heart paired with a dark lost mind.
“Me too,” she breathed. “I hope he heals soon. Sooner than I hope he does. It’s killing him, his peace, his heart.”
Ben was still holding a grudge against his son. They were both Alphas which drove the women in their lives mad but it never faltered them from being hotheaded. Ezra went off the hook and he needed to apologize. That didn’t mean he wasn’t half of Ben’s heart.
Amelia smiled inwardly when Ben took his wristwatch off, removed his belt and stretched in the couch before lying down. Soon enough, the father and son were both sound asleep in the living room.
“Do you like it?”
Marie and two maids stared at her expectantly.
They had made it to the pack in roughly four hours. Lily was tired, anxious and somewhat void in a sense. It was a moment of relief for her yet deep down a part of her was aching for him.
“Yes,” she gazed around the spacious room. “It’s lovely. Thank you.”
Marie turned to the maids, “Tell Shawn she’ll be staying here.”
The two maids bowed slightly and scurried out of the room. Lily sighed and opened her suitcases on the bed. Her lungs seized working when she spotted her documents folder on top of her clothes. Frantically, she picked it up and opened the zipper.
There it was.
Her pregnancy report.
The breath stuck in her lungs eased out when she found it. If Ezra had seen it, he would never have let it slide.
She almost forgot about Marie standing behind her. A quick smile was thrown at her over her shoulder before she neatly scooped up her clothes from the suitcase.
“Are you happy?”
“You’ve been quite the whole ride.”
Lily turned to her with a convincingly calm expression on her face. “Feeling sleepy. Nothing serious.”
Marie crossed her arms and tilted her head to the side in wonder. “Why did Ezra ask you to come with me out of the blue? I thought you guys were back together? And you never mentioned anything about leaving the pack.”
“We were not back together. We were sorting some things out and we did. As for why I didn’t mention leaving the pack, he knew I needed a break. I had no clue he’d plan one for me.”
“You’re okay with that?”
“So, this whole mate, not-mate, perhaps-mate, never-mind-not-mates thing is over?”
Lily gave her a look. “You’re prying awfully a lot today.”
“Well...” Marie squared her shoulders. “That’s the only way you talk. Anyways, I’ll leave you to rest. For now. The ride was horrible. My back hurts. We’ll talk more in the morning. Good night.”
Throwing her arms around her, Marie hugged her along with the clothes and left. It took her about an hour to set up her wardrobe and distract her wandering thoughts.
She also found a phone stashed under her pjs. It had a slick black cover and a flawless screen. The wallpaper was a burning flower. Not just any flower. It was white Lily.
Who gave me this phone? She wondered.
It couldn’t have been Marie or Sam. Cole, maybe... Or maybe Ezra.
A movement under her room’s door caught her eye. A shadow flickered in the light seeping through from under the door. She frowned and got up. The shadow was still there when she grabbed the handle but when she opened the door there was no one outside.
Lily brushed it off as paranoia and went back to bed. The mattress was soft but she found no comfort in it. Her body was restless. Mind wandering to his sneaky touches but she steered it away to her baby. The life inside her.
The life they both created.
Her belly tickled until she rest her hand atop it. No one knew about her being pregnant. She tried though. She tried telling Sam and Marie back at the cafe but couldn’t bring herself to do it.
It felt like a grave betrayal. Not telling Ezra. How could she when she was afraid of his reaction. She didn’t want her baby to be perceived as a possession, an opportunity or a threat.
Things changed that night. Maybe her heart will, too. She was waiting for the dark cloud of doubt to lift off her mind. Her exhaustion didn’t allow her to think further than the consideration of co-parenting.
When Marie woke her up in the morning, she felt like she’d barely blinked.
“You didn’t show up at breakfast so I figured I’d deliver it here.” Marie gestured at the maid who put the tray down on the table then left.
“Morning.” Lily yawned and groaned as she stretched. “Why are you up so early?”
Marie glanced at the clock above her bed. “Shawn and I have a meeting with the Alpha about our ceremony and my bond with this pack. Sam is still sleeping by the way.”
Lily nodded and slid off the bed. A wave of nausea hit her when she stood up. In a flash, she was heaving in the sink. Typical morning sickness. Quickly washing her face and brushing her teeth, she came out of the bathroom and plopped down in the chair by the table.
“What the fuck was that?” Marie quizzed, bewildered.
Lily faltered for a spliy second then composed herself. “The ride last night made me sick.”
“Need a doc?”
“No,” Lily reached for the toast and took a bite. “Just need some fresh air. I’ll be fine.”
Marie hmmped then left shortly. Lily ate the toast, eggs and pancakes but the smell or coffee repulsed her. Not that it was bad, no. Her stomach churned at the smell. Her pregnancy surely had changed her taste.
After breakfast, Lily changed into a floral white dress with baby pink flower prints and put on sandals. For some reason she was feeling extra protective of her belly so she wrapped a shawl around her shoulders, the corners of which concealed her front. The weather was a tinsy bit chilly which was a relief because she didn’t want to feel awkward in her shawl.
A knock at the door turned her head from the mirror.
Marie peaked her head in.
Lily scrunched her brows. “Ready for what?”
“Why, the tour of the pack, of course. You said you wanted some fresh air.”
“I thought you would be busy with that meeting of yours.” Lily checked her card in her handbag slung over her shoulder under the shawl and exited the room.
She stilled when she looked up. “Oh. Uhm... Hello.”
Marie was struggling with hiding her grin. Beside her stood a tall, lean and charming man. His brown hair was slightly curly, shoulders strong and broad in his white t-shirt. His green eyes were trained on her.
“Hi.” He said sheepishly. “Nice to meet you. You look nice.”
Lily looked down at her simple attire and offered a polite smile. “Thank you.”
The two stood there looking at each other, wondering what to say and why. Before the atmosphere could have been gotten any awkward, Marie cleared her throat.
“Since I couldn’t assist you myself, I asked Juan here to show you around.” Her smile stretched when Lily threw her a subtle death threat.
“You didn’t have to. I will manage. Sorry for the inconvenience–”
“No, no. It would be a pleasure.” Juan cut in then observed Lily’s expression and quickly added, “Unless it makes you uncomfortable, I don’t mind.”
It was surreal having this conversation standing in a hallway. “It doesn’t make me uncomfortable.” Lily squeezed out, her eyes flickering to Marie in a brief threat before returning to Juan. “It’s very kind of you.”
Marie clasped her hands together dramatically. “Yes, very kind of him. Don’t worry, Lily. He worked with me back at the ball. Now, off you go. I’ll see you at dinner. Have fun.”
Marie elbowed Lily which spurred her away from her. Her tiny hands fisted then uncurled as she drew in a breath and smiled up at Juan. He beckoned her forward with a slight tilt to his head.
Lily swallowed her irritation and stepped ahead of Juan. She was tempted to smack Marie upside her head but she didn’t want to embarrass Juan in the process. The guy looked like he was on the brink of blushing.
Enjoy your date. Marie chirped in her head.
Lily stilled mid-step and threw a murderous look over her shoulder but Marie was already gone. Her mindlink was shut off when Lily tried.
“Anything wrong?” Juan asked.
Lily shook her head and resumed her gait. “No.”
“Anywhere special you wanna start from?” He inquired when they reached the front of the packhouse.
“A cafe would be nice.”
Juan fished out his keys and flashed her his alluring smile. He was attractive in his own way. Not enough though. It couldn’t compete with half the dimpled smile she foolishly fell in love with.
That realization hurt her chest.