The country lane flies past in a blur as Hector barrels back towards the Palace. The howls in the distance warn me that we are not safe yet; Jaspers’ comrades are coming... and they are ready for a fight.
It feels like hours, even though it has only been minutes. When I raise my head to see a sight for sore eyes.
At the front and centre of an army of warriors are my parents in their wolf forms. Throwing their heads back, they howl in anger, readying the troops to attack.
I don’t know if it is the immense wave of relief that is flooding me, or something else entirely... but I swear, as the sun from the horizon hits them… to me, they look like angels, regal yet fearsome angels, out for blood and revenge.
Coming to a halt next to Hector, their wolves give me a once over sniffing and searching for any harm; before giving me a swift lick and tearing away in the direction I have just come from.
Sitting up, I look over my shoulder as they race off into the distance; my mum and dad are flanked by Dinah and Idris as they’re the packs second in command. Mums demon wings sprout from the shoulder blades of her wolf as she kicks up and off the ground for an aerial advantage to track the traitors.
Please be safe… I pray.
From the looks of things, they have left Eddie, Amber, Gamma Jude and Maria back at the Palace, I assume in case the attackers intended to use me as a distraction and ambush the remaining pack members whilst the majority of the pack warriors are on another mission.
When we arrive at the Palace, Ali and Anya rush to my side.
“Oh my god, Mae! What happened!?” They fret.
My body is still quivering from fear… or shock... I’m not quite sure which.
One of the Palace maids – Mindy, rushes over with some nice thick woollen blankets; she wraps them tightly - yet attentively, around my shoulders.
“Thank you, Mindy”, I smile at her.
“Come on, Mae. Let’s get you to your room”, says Ali, helping me off of Hector’s wolf, as she leads me away; my legs tremble and fall from underneath me. Ali and Anya gasp with shock rushing to help me back to my feet.
“Let me help you”, whispers a now human Hector, as he scoops me up bridal style into his arms.
Resting my head against his bare chest, I pass out from exhaustion.
“Mae…” I hear someone whisper.
“Mae? Can you hear me?” The voice speaks again. I know this voice, but it sounds as though it’s underwater.
I can feel something lukewarm pressing against my forehead; it’s soothing and feels... oh so nice!
“Mae? Are you awake?” The voice says clearer. I think it’s Ali... or Anya, I can’t tell which.
My eyes flutter open. I take in the two pale blue sets of concerned eyes; Anya is dabbing at my forehead with a cool flannel.
I smile up at them.
“Hey…” I croak out.
“Oh, thank the goddess!” They say in unison as they both come down to kiss me on my cheeks.
“You had us so worried!” Ali pouts.
I manage a small smile, “Is that what a girl has to do to get some attention around here?” I try to joke; my voice is hoarse and gravelly.
“Ha!” Anya laughs. “Definitely not, but if that Jasper shows his stupid face around here again, I’ll… I’ll… well, I can’t think of what I’ll do right now, but it won’t be pretty!” She fumes.
“Can we get you anything? Water?” Ali asks thoughtfully.
I nod my head, trying to sit up enough to take a sip from the straw Ali is offering me, whilst Anya props me up with more cushions.
I’ve never seen the girls so worried; I must’ve really pulled a number on them, I think feeling ever so slightly guilty. I don’t want to worry or burden anyone.
“Right, that’s enough worrying about me, help me up”, I say, stretching my arms out.
“Oh, thank the goddess! She’s back!” Anya sings, grabbing ahold of an arm as Ali grabs the other and pulls.
“Are my mum and dad back yet?” I ask hopefully.
They nod, but there’s still a grim expression on their faces.
“What? What is it? Are they ok!?” I ask in a flustered panic.
“Shh, shh shh, it’s ok! They’re fine, completely unharmed”, Ali soothes.
“Thank the goddess”, I say, deflating as I release the breath I was holding.
“So, why do you look like someone has died” I frown in confusion.
“No one has died… but… Jasper got away”, Ali responds sadly.
“Oh, I don’t care about him! As long as nobody was severely injured. He will get his karma one day”, I state, “I need to go and see my parents”.
Slowly but surely, I make my way through the corridors and down the stairs, holding onto walls and bannisters for stability.
I’m absolutely wiped; with each step, my muscles are screaming at me to stop and rest. But I can’t just yet, not until I speak with my parents. I clench my jaw as determination flows through my body; even if the shell is weak and sweating profusely, my mind is still strong and stubborn.
Finally, I make it to my father’s office. I hear loud, muffled voices from the other side. He sounds as though he is fuming. I give a gentle knock, the voices hush to silence as I push open the door.
My mum is seated on my dad’s lap, trying to soothe him; his eyes are wide as anger simmers just below the surface.
“Oh my gosh, Mae-Mae!” My mum worries, hopping off of his lap and rushing over to me.
“You shouldn’t be out of bed yet, come on, let us get you back to rest”, she says, trying to turn me out of the office.
Patting her arm and smiling, I respond, “No, mum, it’s ok. I want to know what happened”.
“Come on, we can catch you up to speed once you’ve rested”, she frets.
“Mum, I’m not going to rest until I know… so you may as well tell me”, I say defiantly, crossing my arms over my chest and raising an eyebrow, daring them to try me.
“So stubborn”, she half-smiles.
“I wonder who she takes after”, my dad jokes as mum fake laughs.
“Fine, but come and take a seat”, she says, making space for me to sit on a sofa next to Dinah; before sitting back on my father’s lap.
Dinah strokes my back soothingly but doesn’t say a word.
My dad clears his throat.
“To catch you up to speed. Jasper got away”, he states.
“The twins told me. How did he get away?” I ask.
He sighs, pushing his hair back. “A portal to the demon realm. We need to do some investigating, we believe he’s a hybrid”.
I nod, taking aboard this information.
“Ok, so what’s next?”
“I’m taking Ozzy with me to the demon realm. We will try and track where the portal went from there”, my mum states. My father’s grip tightens on my mum.
“My eyes take note of the movement, “I take it you aren’t happy with this plan?” I ask, directing my question to dad.
“Unhappy would be an understatement”, he says coolly.
“You know the demons won’t like having the Alpha King poking around their realm at such short notice. Even with my dad’s encouragement, they will still withhold information from you on purpose”, my mum says seriously.
He sighs, frustrated, “I know, I just wish I could be there with you”.
“Dad, the pack needs you here. Mum can handle herself”.
“I know, I know! Will you at least take a pack tracker with you?” He asks.
After mum finally agrees to take a pack tracker with her, everyone but me and my parents leave.
“You’re going to be the death of me, little wolf”, my father growls playfully, placing his forehead on hers. My mum stares deeply into his eyes, full of emotion, as though they’re still communicating with one another.
I clear my throat, breaking their moment. “How long will you be?” I ask my mum.
“Hopefully just a couple of days, if the mission goes smoothly, of course”, she confirms.
I nod grimly. I’m going to miss her, even if it is just a short time.
“Something happened when I was with Jasper”, I all but whisper.
“Happened? What happened?” My dad asks, already thinking of the worst-case scenario.
“I used my demon abilities… more than just a small flame”, I say, looking at the floor nervously.
“What did you do, Mae?” My mum asks with interest.
“I-I think I made flames, right up to my elbows… I just wanted him away from me. Before I knew it, he was… I think I blasted him away”, I say with a frown, trying to recall what exactly happened.
“That’s incredible, Mae!” My mum squeals, ecstatic.
“Is something else bothering you?” Dad questions.
“Well, I was just wondering how you learnt to tap into your abilities?” I ask my mum.
She pauses, looking thoughtful for a moment.
“I was a lot angrier back then. Bullies would cause my anger to boil... almost daily. I think anger was the key to them back then”, she states truthfully.
“Just be careful you don’t keep your emotions bottled up too much... the more you do, the harder they are to control”, she says as her eyes space out, almost as if she is thinking back on a past memory.
I nod, taking in this new piece of information, “that would make sense… he riled me up… so, so much”, I say as I clench my fists, “I wanted to wipe that smile off of his face… I wanted to kill him”.
My parents take me into their arms.
“You’ll get your chance one day... we’ll make sure of that”, Dad responds.
I say my goodbyes to my mum, she’ll be getting ready to leave late this evening. I force myself back upstairs; what should take just a couple of minutes takes me 15 minutes to haul myself back to my door.
I reach for the knob. But pause... my eyes flickering down the hall to the bedroom door that’s situated next to my own. Rex’s room.
I haven’t been in there since his disappearance; I haven’t been able to bring myself to. Tonight, something is different; I feel the urge to go to his room, to be encompassed by all of his things.
My brothers once stole a pillow from Rex’s room when he was first lost, but the scent of him made my heart feel like it would spontaneously combust or just stop beating altogether; it heightened the pain I was already feeling. I went into a full-blown panic attack mode... their faces were that of sheer horror.
They meant well, it was either going to soothe me or send me the other way and unfortunately, it had a negative effect on me. It was just a reminder of what I had lost. I felt so bad for them, they were so excited to cheer me up. Truth is, they’ve always looked out for me, even when they were just seven years old.
Before I know it, I’m pushing open the grand mahogany door carved with intricate roses and vines to Rex’s room.
My steps falter as I enter the threhold; it no longer smells of him. Everything has been covered in white sheets, protecting the furniture. The walls are painted silver, whilst the wooden furniture is a deep dark wood, almost matching my hair colour entirely.
Rex chose these colours specifically... he said when we weren’t together, it made his Lycan feel calm, having something that made him think of me, the silver walls to match the light silvers of my eyes and the dark wood to remind him of my hair.
My feet make their way to his bed as if they have a mind of their own. I tear the sheet off of his bed; thick dust flies into the air like snowflakes; after sneezing a few times. I climb in.
I bundle myself up in the covers, tears escaping the confines of my eyes.
Are you still out there, Rex? I think hopefully.
What if he comes home one day and he no longer wants me because I’m not ‘pure’ anymore?
What if he just doesn’t want me altogether?
Maybe we aren’t mates... he might find someone else to love… but how can I feel so much hurt for someone that isn’t my mate?
That wouldn’t make any sense…
What if I hurt Caleb? I can’t give myself to anyone else, not entirely. He will never hold my heart as Rex does… no matter how he makes me feel, that’s not fair on him.
He deserves a chance at true love. I’m not going to be able to be that for love him.
It’s going to break my heart, but I know what I must do.