I sit awkwardly, fiddling with my fingers as Caleb talks about his plans for the pack when he takes over as Alpha.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been paying much attention, apart from throwing out the odd one-word response. My mind is too wrapped up in how I’m going to break the news to him.
Just get it over and done with, I scold myself.
He might not even want you; he hasn’t made any further moves on you… maybe it was just a friends with benefits moment… he’ll probably laugh it off because I’m being dramatic!
“So, I was wondering if you would consider being my Luna?” He throws in, totally out of the blue.
“Sorry, what?” I respond wide-eyed and shocked.
Ok, well, there goes that theory! I mentally facepalm.
“I really like you, Mae. Please, at least think about it”, he begs, taking my hands in his and looking at me pleadingly.
My mind is racing, “This, this is all just so fast… too fast, Caleb”, I panic, starting to break out into a sweat.
“I can wait longer before I mark you. I’ll wait as long as it takes, Mae”, he assures. “I want you. I want you to be mine”.
I feel slightly light-headed; this is too much... I can’t do this.
“No, I’m not ready. I might never be ready”, I counter. My palms feel sweaty and my cheeks heat, feeling flummoxed.
“I can wait for you, Mae. I’ll wait until you’re ready”, he tries again.
“No, Caleb… You don’t get it” I say, flustered, shaking my head. “I’m never going to be ready to mate with someone... other than my mate. I can’t take that opportunity for you to meet your mate away either... it’s not fair on you”, I retort, trying to make him see my point of view.
“But… can you not feel this?” He gestures between us, “This, this connection we have?” He’s looking at me with a pained expression, his eyes look glassy, before tearing his eyes away and looking at his hands.
Oh, fuck! I’m doing it again... I’m hurting him.
“Of course, I’ve felt it, Caleb. These last few weeks have been incredible!” He looks back to me with hopeful eyes, glistening with unspent tears, as I lay a gentle hand on his shoulder “But… Rex, I can’t give up on him, I’ll never give up on him”, I finish.
He looks down again as his expression shifts to a scowl.
“Fucking Jasper”, he mutters, clenching his fists.
“Sorry, what? What does he have to do with this?” I ask with furrowed brows.
“He had to fuck everything up, didn’t he?” He grumbles to himself. His jaw looks tight as he clenches his teeth.
“I’m still not following, Caleb? What’s going on?” I quiz, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder, trying to look him in the eyes.
“If he’d have just stuck to the fucking plan, this wouldn’t be happening right now… and you… you’d be mine”, he rages; his entire body is taut, oozing danger.
I lean back shocked, cautiously taking my hand away from his shoulder. “What? What are you talking about?” I push, confused and frightened.
“Isn’t it obvious, Mae?” he says as his eyes snap to mine. I coil back even further; he looks dangerous, feral almost.
Silence stretches out before us, my eyes search his frantically, trying to find the answer I’m looking for… when finally… it clicks.
He’s been behind everything the entire time.
I sit for a while, just opening and closing my mouth like a fish out of water, trying to find the words I’m looking for but coming up empty each time.
“Why!?” I finally snap, my anger rising, “All this time? All this time, you were pretending?”
He shakes his head, “Yes, I had an agenda to be King… but I do love you, Mae. I’ve always loved you. Ever since the first time I saw you all those years ago,” he says calmly, looking softly into the distance, as though he’s reminiscing on the memory.
Looking back at me with intense eyes, he starts, “Don’t you see? I had to have to you, the perfect jewel of the palace. I knew we would be perfect together, but he was in the way! I got rid of him, for us, Mae!” He rants like a maniac.
Attempting to put some space between us, I shuffle closer and closer to the edge, bit by bit, praying he won’t notice the distance.
“How!? How could you do that to him!? He never hurt anyone!” I scream as tears I hadn’t noticed before stream down my cheeks. “Why have you tortured him for so long!?”
“I planned to kill him straight away”, he shrugs nonchalantly, “but then we received the reports of the pain you were in, we found out that Lycan”, he spits the word as if it disgusts him, “had already claimed your wolf, don’t you see!? It’s him that’s been hurting you this entire time!? If he hadn’t claimed your wolf, you would be fine… you would be happy!”
His eyes are flashing to those of his wolf’s hazel eyes, his breathing is rapid, his rage barely contained.
“I did this for you! Can’t you see that!?” He bellows.
For me? For me!? Ha! He’s out of his mind, delusional even!
My mind races with all the horrific things he could’ve done to Rex, my sweet Rex. He doesn’t deserve any of this! We could’ve been together all of this time if it wasn’t for him! He did this to us!
A primal rage erupts from within, the earth shakes below, similar to when Jasper had attacked me, but this time it’s louder… closer. Like a freight train is incoming.
“How did you arrange all of this? You were what, seventeen at the time?” I say through gritted teeth, I can feel it, I’m about to explode, but I’m trying my best to reign in my emotions, at least until I get the answers I need.
“The Cooks, of course”, he replies smugly, “They approached me when they caught me watching you from afar. Offering me something I couldn’t resist… power. Little did I know they intended to try and give you to Jasper, but he will be easy enough to dispose of”.
“You’re sick”, I seethe, the rumbling getting louder and louder.
Caleb looks around briefly - as though trying to locate the source; before his attention is fixed back on me, a predatory smile spreads across his lips.
“Come now, Mae. I did this all for you… for us”, he says calmly, shifting closer to me.
“I’m warning you”; I spit like a feral cat.
“Does your wolf want to come out and play?” He taunts with a small smile. Leaning down, he places a palm on the floor as I watch on in confusion, “I can feel the power she’s feeding you”, he says, smiling back at me.
As I attempt to shuffle further away, I realise I have come to the end of the bench. I know I can run, but for how long, he can catch up to me in a heartbeat. I can’t hide... there is nowhere I could hide from this wolf - he would sniff me out in no time.
My anger is slowly starting to simmer away, turning more to fear than anything else. The loud rumbling has quietened down as my anger sizzles away. I grasp at the whistle Hector gave me, still hanging around my neck.
Swiftly bringing it up to my lips, I inhale to blow. When the whistle is yanked away from me, I squeal as a mixture between fright and pain hits me, the back of my neck stings where the necklace snapped off.
Caleb looks to me with the whistle firmly in his grasp. His eyes are burning with anger and hurt, his face contorts into a scowl.
“You were going to try and call for help? Why, Mae? Don’t you see we’re made for each other?” He rambles with a hurt expression etched to his annoyingly handsome face. His emerald eyes I once found comforting, now filling me with unease.
“NO! We’re not! I am Rex’s and he is mine! I was never yours to take!” I scream through my tears. I start trying to hover off of the bench to attempt my futile escape.
Eyeing me, he watches my movement for a moment; before lunging for me.
The fright of his fast movement causes my feet to skid out from underneath me. As I’m falling, I will myself to be somewhere other than here, anywhere but here. I’d rather be in a million different places; than on this spot right here.
Closing my eyes, ready to embrace the impact, I feel a surge of energy shine forwards within me. The energy frightens me; it is dark... yet alluring. Whenever I have felt it before, I have stuffed it deep, deep down, for fear of the unknown… but this time… this time I grasp at it and hope whatever it is will assist me.
I land on the floor with a thump, my eyes flash open. Something is different. I don’t see the bench where it should be in front of me anymore… it’s about 6ft to my left instead, where a very bewildered Caleb is looking backwards and forwards. I follow his line of sight… suddenly realising why.
In my place at the foot of the bench - is another me. A copy, or maybe an illusion, if you will. I think... I think I did that? I feel like it’s more of a mirage - or a projection if anything. I don’t really know, but I’m thankful for whatever it is.
Looking further down the line to my left and then to my right. I count about ten other copies of me from a quick glance.
Caleb tries to grab the copy in front of him. Only for her to disappear in a cloud of green mist. He looks to his hands in bewilderment.
“Mae! Come on, show yourself! I know you’re still here!” He says, standing and lunging at another copy, only for her to float away with the wind.
I will them all to get up and move. As the projections run... so do I. I ask them to scatter in the hope it will keep Caleb busy enough that I can escape.
I run in the least likely route I would usually take, entirely out in the open, with nowhere to hide, whilst the copies of myself try to run to the forest, in the direction for help, anywhere that would be deemed a tactical option.
Caleb runs for the copies heading towards the trees first. Meanwhile, I continue to sprint further into the park and further away from any chance of rescue… but hopefully giving me enough distance to escape, at least for a little while.
I’ve been running for god knows how long… probably not long at all, but my lungs are burning, begging for rest.
I decide to take a breather, y’know… just for a minute! Hunching over with my hands on my knees, I try to regain my breath; before collapsing in a heap on the floor. Rolling over onto my back with my arms splayed out beside me, I take the opportunity to see if I can hear anything within close proximity.
The only thing I hear is my heavy breaths, birds singing and leaves rustling in the wind.
Sitting up, I take in my surroundings. I’m about halfway up a relatively steep incline, which has started to thicken with trees and brush as I’m heading into a wooded area. I can see the open landscape of the park below. No sign of Caleb.
I’m taken by surprise when I hear a primal howl, filled with rage. It’s the kind of howl that shakes the ground and buildings all within a 3-mile radius. Dad. I don’t know why he’s howling a call to arms; I can only hope he’s looking for me.
Caleb has the whistle - I can’t call for help without it.
Doing the only thing I can think to do, I throw my head backwards and scream a long broken howl a werewolf would be ashamed of. I repeat three more times, hoping to notify someone of my location. I realise I could also tell Caleb where I am, but it’s a risk I have to take.
I anxiously wait, propped up against a tree trunk; every slightest sound, every twig snapping catches my attention. My heart feels like it’s in my throat. My breathing is coming out shakily - yet shallow, as I try to control my breathing so I can hear what’s happening around me.
“Mae! Come out, come out wherever you are!” Caleb calls. My breath hitches. I believe he’s about 100ft away, though I can’t see him.
Pushing myself up the trunk slowly, I start to walk away as quietly as I can in the opposite direction.
“I know you’re close, Mae! I can smell the betrayal from a mile away!” He jeers.
I scoff internally. Me, betray him? He has some nerve after everything he has done!
“That was a very clever trick you pulled back there Mae, I’ll give you that! It’s time to come home now... you’ve had your fun”.
As if I would ever go anywhere you again… willingly at least.
I can hear his voice, getting closer and closer; my slow sneaking isn’t going to get me anywhere.
Think, Mae, think!
Looking at my surroundings, I know certain I’m not going to be able to outrun a wolf on an incline or even the decline.
I can’t run. I can’t hide. What can I do? Think!
That’s when I get my light bulb moment. The only other thing I can do is... climb.
Grabbing onto any branches or ridges of the trees, I make quick work scaling the tree as high as I’m able to go, perching on a branch, I clutch onto the trunk of the tree for dear life… awaiting my fate.
Not long later, I hear the treading of feet over dead leaves; before Caleb rounds the tree, nose in the air, sniffing me out. From the looks of it, he enjoys the hunt.
I hold my breath as he passes the tree I’m currently hiding in. Just as I think he’s about to continue on. He pauses. Closing his eyes and inhaling. He steps backwards and stares at the tree trunk, smoothing his hand over the bark like it’s telling him all of its secrets.
He stops there for a moment longer, until his eyes trail up the trunk to meet my silver orbs.
A wolfish smile breaks out on his face, “There you are, Mae! Come on down so we can talk this out”, he chirpily greets, waving me down like an old friend.
I don’t respond, other than shaking my head. There’s absolutely no way on this Earth I’m coming down from this tree.
He shrugs, “Well, I guess I’ll have to find another way to get you down then”, he pouts dramatically.
I wonder if he’s about to scale the tree to get me down; when I feel an almighty thump that shakes and rattles the tree, causing me to adjust my grip and cling on all the tighter.
Peering down, I realise why. He is literally beating the tree to death. Each punch is taking large chunks of the tree with it. It won’t be long until the tree caves under pressure and falls.
“Come now, Mae. You could make this so much easier for the both of us. I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot, but you’re leaving me no choice”.
“Then let Rex go!” I scream, likening myself to that of a petulant child.
“You’re not his! You’re mine!” He explodes; his eyes are wide like a mad man. He’s seething; his shoulders are high and tight as he continues to smash away piece by piece of the tree. His knuckles ooze with blood, each punch causing blood to spray over his shirt and face.
“You’re insane!” I interject.
“You’ll see soon… you’ll understand! I’ll make you see!” He spits.
The tree begins to groan and shudder, caving in to the pressure it’s being put under.
Crap! This is it!
Slowly it sways and groans; before the creaking gets louder and the wind rushes through my hair as I begin to fall, my stomach jumps up to my throat.
Just before the tree hits the floor, I leap. Rolling as I land to take away some of the impact.
Spitting out a mouthful of leaves, I roll over to see my attacker pursuing me; as he leans down, I recall mine and Elsie’s sparring sessions. Grabbing a fistful of leaves and dirt, I launch it into Caleb’s face.
He hisses, frantically wiping and blinking his eyes, trying to free them from the earth.
Taking my chance - I run.
Not for long, though… because my clumsy arse slips and eats another mouthful of dirt.
I spit profusely, using my hands to scramble, trying to get back up as swiftly as possible. Something makes me pause… a presence.
I look up to see some silver paws charging towards me. Blade.
My heart soars with relief.
I flip over, eyeing my pursuers next move; he would be stupid to try something against the Alpha King. He’s certainly not strong enough to win.
Caleb’s face turns to one of annoyance more than fear. He gives me a look that tells me this is far from over; before creating what looks like… a demon portal under his feet. Just like that, Caleb’s gone in a flash.
A demon portal? What is happening!?
I look back to my dad, my eyes searching for answers, whilst my brain scrambles to piece together what the fuck is going on.
He’s already shifted back to his human form and is putting some trousers on – Thank the goddess.
He looks at me with a heavy sigh, “Boy, oh boy! Have I got a lot to fill you in on”. Dad states, trying to lighten the mood.