She had arranged for a private family breakfast in one of the secluded high slopes in the gardens behind the mansion. It was officially a land of the royals but they opened it for occasions as such. A beautiful table sat on the grass, adorned by cakes, cookies, pies and kettles.
“Morning,” Lily smiled at the former beta and his mate followed by a pleasant nod at Luke.
Sam placed a china cup in front of her and Marie poured her tea from one of the kettles.
“Your favorite. Blossom tea.”
Lily gazed down at the lush warm liquid, the earthy and floral scent of which no longer evoking pleasant thirst.
“Thank you.” She mumbled and cut herself a slice of vanilla cake.
“So,” Marie cleared her throat. “This might come off a little weird but trust me when I say I am fully conscious and have thought this through.”
Luke smiled at his sister encouragingly.
Marie looked across the table at the two guests. One was her coordinate partner Shawn and the other she had introduced as her friend, Vernon.
“Shawn and I are choosing each other as mates tomorrow at the mating ball.”
Sam paused mid-bite. “What do you mean choosing?”
Shawn scooted closer. “We’re in love.”
Marie’s father narrowed his eyes in a calculating manner. “What about your mates?”
“My mate died in an accident three years ago.”
Marie wrung her hands on the table and straightened her back. “My mate is Vernon.”
All heads turned to him.
Vernon took a slow calm sip from his coffee, set his mug down and leaned back in his chair. There was an air of confidence around him which was appealing. He had bronze hair, the sharpest green eyes and a gentle stuble.
“I gave her two weeks to decide what she wants the most,” his thumb drummed subtly on the table. “And here we are.”
Luke slowly lost his smile. Seemed like he was oblivious of his sister’s surprise. “You don’t have a problem with that?”
“No.” Vernon replied. “I’m not going to be the one leaving my pack to blend in another one. If she’s happy, I’ll go with it. After all, we both know once a bond breaks, it can never repair.”
Lily sat like a rock, listening to the lunacy. How could someone willingly let go of their mate and think they chose a better person? Oh, wait. That sounded too familiar. The nail hit home harder than she anticipated.
“Mom, dad,” Marie pulled their attention. “I considered my life with both of them and in the end I’m choosing love. Vernon supports me. He knew the moment we met. I told him about Shawn and me. Tomorrow is my big day, the day I have been waiting for so long and I want all of you to understand and be happy for me.”
Sam, Cindy and Luke remained silent, her parents seemed colored in disbelief whilst Lily caught Vernon’s eye. Their gazes locked for a split second. The indifferent, calm and sophisticated man had something to hide, something his eyes feared Lily would recognize because he dropped his gaze in a beat.
“How do you know this is the right decision?” Her father asked. “Remember, the right decisions don’t always bring happiness.”
Marie smiled at Shawn. “My heart says it’s right, dad. You know I always listen to my heart.”
“The heart can be foolish,” her mother added.
“Not this time, mom.” Marie flicked a hopeful look towards her parents. “I’m going to be fine. I love Shawn. He’ll never disappoint you. Give him a chance.”
Her parents were reluctant. “If you say so.” Her mother glanced at Vernon. “What about you, dear?”
Vernon wiped his mouth with a napkin and placed it by his mug. “Life goes on, ma’am.” His mysteriously shallow gaze gave nothing away as it flickered from Lily to Marie. “Time waits for none.”
He stood up and slid on his coat when he added,“I think my work here is done. I will reject Marie by midnight so she can bond with her chosen mate. Her decision is my decision. Have a great day ahead of you. Excuse me,” and he disappeared.
The family seemed to consider some quality time with Shawn, Sam and Cindy acted like their sole purpose of existence was breakfast and tea while Lillian was bothered by the bitter taste in her mouth.
Her favorite blossom tea spiked no desire from her so she left her cup untouched and ate her cake with orange juice.
“You seem off,” Marie asked on their way to the library.
“Yup,” Marie gauged her face. “I mean... you usually bury your nose in books when the world irritates you by existing.”
Lily rolled her bottom lip under her teeth and silently stopped in front of the massive double doors to the library.
“Are you sure?”
Marie frowned. “Me?”
“About the whole... Rejection thing.”
Marie gripped her hands and quirked her lips happily. “Vernon is very understanding. He said if I don’t love him then there’s no reason for us to stay together. Shawn loves me to death, Lily. I have thought about this for so long. Don’t worry.”
Lily slipped her hands from hers hesitantly. “I just–”
“You just need to chillax.” Marie interjected. “Now don’t get lost in there. The library is pretty big and fortunately it’s been empty since the beginning of this event. Read as much as you want and flush your worries. I have errands to run. Sorry for bailing on you.”
Lily reassured her it was alright with her. In all honesty, she was craving solitude. The giddiness, fluffy and giggly environment in the mansion was suffocating her. Her insides were knitted in a tangled mess. The pain in those blue eyes haunted her all night. Her fingers were numb with dread. Making the right decision truly never brought happiness or satisfaction, but, it was the right thing to do nevertheless.
Your pain is pain, mine is a joke...
She never meant for it to hurt him. He was confusing. The higher he made her soar, the harder she fell. That fall made her shatter, he hurt himself by being close when her shards scattered. It was not her fault.
The slender fingers of her delicate hand traced books in the shelves as she ventured deeper into the maze of knowledge. At some point, she sighed and picked a random book. The vast space was quiet, dusty and dim.
A squeak spilled from her lips, eyes turned round as soccer and the book dropped from her hands when she turned.
There he stood.
Ezra in all his glory.
Very red, very dark, very intense and very brooding glory.
A growl drummed out if his heaving chest and rattled her insides. His head was tilted down, letting his hair fall on his forehead and his dangerously hooded eyes sliced right through her barriers.
The two stood rooted to their stops. A cluster of chairs and tables separated them. Lily knew. She knew her wounds and his madness were too raw to confront each other.
Her feet moved before she could register. The sunlight peeking into the library through the windows and vents flickered as Lily retracted her steps and scurried deeper into the library.
Is he even real? He mind stumbled for a beat. Of course he’s real! The perfection called his face was not a pigment of her imaginations.
Their bodies crashed into the nearest shelf. Books fell, Ezra hovered above Lily and took the hits. She was trying to catch her breaths but he was adamant on stealing her breaths and then the life left.
“Why, damn it, why?!”
He yelled at her.
“Why don’t you feel the turmoil I do when you’re away from me?”
He hit the shelve behind with a loud thud.
“Why don’t you feel insatiable for my presence?”
His yanked her closer by her shoulders and made her look deep into the hell loose behind his harmless blues. Lily threw a glance at the gun in his hand pressing into her skin then back up at him, her heart pounding.
“I want you restless. Sleep deprived. Craving me.” His words were dripping with zeal, venom, a plea with a sharp edge. “Every moment you spend away from me, I want you to suffer.” He gave her a firm shake.“Just like me.”
With a flickering hunger in his eyes, he slapped her hand against his chest and made her feel the bursting organ.
“Do you feel it? The intensity of our emotions.” He pressed that heart against her own chest next. “I do. And it’s scorching.”
The glinting gun felt cold and daunting against her hot cheek when he cupped her face and drew her near. Her short, ragged breaths fanned her. His presence set her body ablaze but the eyes, the beautiful yet horrific eyes straing at her raked a cold shiver down her body.
“Feel my soul quack inside my body.” He breathed and bore his gaze into hers. “It’s horror. I’m terrified of suspecting my life without Lillian Avi.”
“Ezra.” Lily finally snapped out of her frozen shock and grabbed his wrists. “Let go.”
“I fucking can’t!”
The darkness around him spread until it consumed them both.
Lily couldn’t put a coherent thought together so she tried the least agitating way. Her tight hold on him loosened. She let him inhale her scent in his short breaths and softened her ruffled feathers.
“Calm down,” she cautioned. “Just... Relax. We can talk. No one is stopping you.”
“You are,” he accused. “You are stopping us from happening. I don’t care what happened. I rejected you and you took your revenge. We’re even now. Let’s go back.”
Lily couldn’t hold back her frown. “I didn’t reject you for revenge. It was for me.”
Ezra traced the smooth curve of her neck down to her back and folded his arm around her. “There’s no you without me.”
Lily moved but her crazed alpha tugged her back.
“There is and that is exactly why I broke the bond.”
“What about my heart? My head? Me? You broke the bond but you never left me. You’re still written all over Ezra.”
“Please,” she pushed the gun away from her cheek.
“Why? Are you scared of me?”
Lily pursed her lips and peered into the flames in his eyes. She wasn’t afraid. She was on her guard. This man in front of her was him but not him.
His eyes narrowed. “Not scared of losing me?”
Her throat moved. “No.”
Ezra gritted his teeth as his nose flared. He leisurely let his hands linger on his skin before pulling them back. He took a single step back and cracked his neck. His fingers were twitching, she could see.
“You don’t give a fuck about me, do you?”
Lily slowly leaned against the book shelf and sighed. Her mind could not muster enough evidence to admit otherwise. Her wolf was reeling, the rejection too much for her.
It hurt to see him. See him close, so far and in the middle. It hurt to see the confusion in his eyes. It hurt to see him in pain. It hurt even more that he was the one who had caused her more pain than anyone in her entire life.
How far deep were her scars?
Ezra blocked her path with her arm planted beside her head when she turned sideways.
“I have seen longing in your eyes. I have sensed love in your hesitation. What was all that?”
Lily lowered her head and closed her eyes. “What about the humiliation, heartbreak, betrayal and shredded trust? You see only love because that concides with what you want.”
He raised his hand to brush back her stray strands but paused for a moment then dropped his hand. The ghost of his touch tickled her cheek.
“My world now is you. Anything that doesn’t support that world will have to turn away or I will destroy it.”
Her eyes snapped open when the unmistakable cold nuzzle of the gun pressed into her forehead.
“Let’s see,” he rubbed his nose with the back of his hand and sniffled. “You are the reason why my world is falling apart. So I’ll start by destroying you.”
He wanted to see the terror in her eyes, the same he could sense in his blood but there was none. She didn’t even flinch as she straightened up, faced him and matched his vengeful gaze.
“You have already done that. Try something new.”
The words, they stung. Because they were true or maybe they weren’t. His own fucking mind was treacherous, falling in love with the stuck up woman all over again.
“Yeah,” he breathed. “We’re both destroyed. Who was the reason? According to you... Me.”
He combed his hair back and let out a sadistic chuckle. “Fucking right. The one who is sinking my world is actually me.”
In a flash, he yanked her hand, slipped the gun into it and dug it into his chest. The flickering eerie and direful darkness roared once again.
Lily froze. “What are you doing?” Her hands trembled.
Ezra gave her a disturbing lopsided grin, popping his dimple out. “Why, I’m making things right. If there’s no you, no me. No me, no problems. No problems and you will be happy.”
Lily’s breaths hitched. “No, that’s wrong. You’re not a problem.”
Ezra ever so slightly applied a slight pressure on her finger that he had trapped with his in the trigger guard.
“No, please, no!” Lily screeched.
Ezra observed the shean of sweating forming on her delicious caramel skin. “No?”
Lily looked up at him and pleaded, “Why are you doing this?” Her voice cracked. “There’s a whole lot women out there–”
“No one is Lillian Avi.” Ezra tilted his head and gazed at her lips with hooded eyes.
“There are better–”
“Then they’re definitely not like you.”
His dark eyes flicked up to hers. “If I live, I’ll live with you only. If you don’t want to live with me then I don’t want to live either and what better way of dying than in your arms, huh?”
The pressure on her finger increased, ripping out a choked breath from her. “I will, I will!” Lily squeaked.
“You will what?” He feigned misunderstanding.
“I’ll come back with you?”
His head dropped and he let out an exaggerated sigh. “You’re just saying that. You hate me. You will make me lose you again. I don’t want to live anymore.”
“No, I promise.” She rushed, stumbling over her words in desperation. “I swear I’ll go back with you.”
Ezra raised his free hand and stroked her glistering cheek. The growing worry threatening to choke her satisfied his demons. “You don’t have to lie.”
“I’m not lying,” Lily pleaded, “I give you my word, I’m yours.”
“No, you’re not.” Ezra touched their foreheads and grazed her trapped finger. “I’m too much of a fuck up. It’s better this way.”
When pressed on his fingers, she gasped and gripped his forearms.
“No, no! We’re going to be together, I promise! I don’t want this, Ezra. I l–”
He made her pull the trigger, snatching her sanity.
The sound resonated in the empty library. The empty click of the gun. Ezra released her hand and dropped the gun to the ground with a deafening thump.
“I swear on everything holy and unholy, Lillian.” Ezra whispered into her ear. “Next time, it won’t be empty. Next time, there will be death and my heart as guests in your presence and you’d watch them mate.”
Lily’s heart was beating in her toes. Her ears were ringing, mind numb and lungs dead. Her frail body slid down shelf and rested on the ground. Ezra followed, wrapped his arms around her bent legs and placed his head on her knees.
“Never ago have I needed someone to the brink of death. We’re eternal, my Lillian Avi.”