Mine

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Chapter 17

“No, absolutely not, Mae”, my dad states stubbornly. It’s as if I’ve told him the sky isn’t, in fact, blue... but rainbow coloured. You wouldn’t think I’m trying to strategise a battle.

He sits, long legs folded, as he casually leans back in his office chair.

“Just hear me out! I don’t intend to actually go with him... just use me as bait!” I plead, eyes wide, hands grasped together, quite literally begging for him to see things through my eyes.

I can tell I’m fighting a losing battle. He’s just closing down more the more I beg, plead and grovel.

It’s been three days since we have received word of Caleb’s demands. Three days since Ozzy was last seen dipping out of our realm and into the realm of the demons and three whole days of arguing with my dad to use me as bait.

“No, Mae. That is final”, he says bluntly, rubbing his temples as he attempts to put an end to our conversation. If it was anyone else, that would be it – case closed. Dare to speak back and you would be punished – severely…but, as his only daughter, I like to think I get a little bit of leeway to his temper… so, what does someone with a death wish do? She keeps pushing, of course.

“I want to help!” I beg.

“AND I DON’T WANT TO LOSE YOU!” He roars his admission, standing up swiftly in a rage, before quieting. “I don’t want to lose you… What if your plan backfires and then you’re gone too, hm? You didn’t think of that, did you? We could lose you and Rex”.

Believe me, I get that he is worried for his daughter’s safety and all, but I am a twenty-four-year-old woman, offering to be used as the bait we need to get within the same vicinity as Caleb and his cowardly comrades.

An exasperated groan leaves my mouth.

“Don’t you see? If we comply, we choose the location, we bargain” I try to reason, trying to get him to see my trail of thought.

“Mae, in an ideal world, that would work. But this is not that world. My options right now are to call for war and face him head-on with the army, that means losing countless innocent lives… our options are somewhat limited”.

As I realise I won’t be winning this argument, my shoulders slump in defeat as I swallow the lump in my throat. I can’t bear to be in here a moment longer, or I’ll burst into tears. I give a quick nod and turn on my heel, powering my way out of his office.

There must be another way. There has to be.

My dad might think this conversation is over… but it’s far from finished. If anything, I’m just getting started.

As a plan forms in my mind, my strides hasten, becoming more purposeful. My jaw sets firmly in determination as my legs take me towards my new objective. Allies.

Ali and Anya are easy enough to find. They’re busy ogling the pack warriors. Their tour de love is buried deep in the back of their minds as they drool over some new recruits.

“You have a bit of something leaking from your mouth, girls”, I tease, using a brushing motion on my chin.

Their slack mouths slam shut as they frantically wipe at their chins; before giving me a glare, Amber would be proud of.

“Bitch”, Ali chuckles, “What gives us the pleasure of your company? You don’t normally like to window shop the local talent”, she says with a devilish wink.

“Aaaaaand I still won’t be”, I respond playfully.

“I’ve actually hunted you down to recruit you for my suicide squad”, I say, wiggling my eyebrows as my bottom lip is trapped between my top teeth.

“Ooooo juicy! Spill!” Anya chimes in, leaning forwards, eager to hear more.

Ali and Anya are easy to persuade; they’re always looking for any chance to have some sort of adventure. They’re the kind of people that, even in the face of danger, can slap a smile on their faces and crack a joke.

That’s two down, three to go!

I caught Hector on the terrace, enjoying some peace and quiet to himself. Hector, well… straight cut Hector was a bit harder to persuade. We went in circles for a while about why I wasn’t filling my dad in on the plan.

Eventually, with my glowing charm and batting of my eyelashes... he caved.

Three down, two to go!

As I’m bidding farewell to Hector, I catch sight of Ozzy leisurely leaning against the wall just inside the doors to the terrace, his eyes glistening with mischief as the corner of his mouth pulls up into a wolfish grin.

“I’m in”, he states simply.

Well… ok… that was easy.

I mean, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to convince Ozzy... he likes to defy our parents at every waking moment, but he quite literally found me... and what the hell has he been up to these past couple of days!?

“Where the heck have you been!? And… and, how did you know?” I ask with narrowed eyes before realisation quickly catches up to me.

“Was it Ali or Anya?” I quiz, eyebrow raised and hands-on-hips.

He chortles, tapping a finger to his nose, letting me know he won’t be revealing his sources. I stick my tongue out in response, the stubborn devil.

As he turns and walks away, he calls over his shoulder, “Leave Hunter to me. Get everyone to meet in your room at 11pm sharp”.

“Errrrr, ok?” I respond, slightly taken aback.

What has just happened?

One minute, I’m the big boss gathering my loyal assassins... and the next… Ozzy happens. Dishing out his own orders and taking control of the motley crew before I can even say ‘treason’.

Errr, five down, zero to go?

***

Before I know where the time has gone, the suicide squad are sitting in my bed-chamber, brainstorming potential battle options.

“First things first, how are we going to locate them? We can’t do anything if we can’t get a message to them”, Hunter presses, hands behind his head as he lounges in one of my large bean bags.

“What do you think I have been doing all of this time, brother?” Ozzy starts with a smug smirk. “The hellhounds located them around a 4 hours run north-west of the Palace. I’ve left a hound on guard at their camp to keep watch and make sure they don’t give us the slip”.

“That’s all well and good, but how are we going to make sure that we don’t end up as worm fodder?” Anya inputs, glancing between everyone in the room, looking slightly nervous about the prospect of potentially facing an army by ourselves.

Hector wrings his hands nervously, “We should really tell our parents about this plan”. Hector is very much by the book when it comes to pack politics, not to mention he absolutely shat his pants when my dad found out we had been screwing behind closed doors, he avoided my dad for a good week, ducking in and out of rooms to avoid him for a good month. Ever since then I think he’s always been trying to get back into his good graces, instead of being just another wolf that has defiled his daughter in a father’s eyes.

“No. No parents. We will tell them, I promise. We just need to give ourselves a head start”, I instruct, giving him a reassuring pat on the knee, which earns a small smile.

Hunter sits up, pulling out a map of the lands. He unravels it out on the floor as we all huddle around. Ozzy places a marker on the area the camp has been discovered. Meanwhile, Ali points out clear spaces, highlighting several areas that are clear enough for Caleb and his comrades to feel confident. But also, tactical with vantage points in trees and hills we can use to our advantage, we scour for areas we can herd them, causing them a disadvantage, if needed.

Slowly and tediously, we mull through our options one by one, going through battle plan after battle plan. Crossing off those that just won’t cut it. Until finally, we agree upon one solid plan. With heavy eyes, we call it a night and agree to set off the very next morning.

***

The thundering of paws is loud and steady in rhythm, beating at the earth like the drum of a heartbeat. The kicking up of the soil is soothing and relaxing to the ear as my mind goes haywire.

After today, I might finally have Rex back, where he belongs... with me.

Excitement is at the forefront of my emotions... excitement to see him again, to smell him again... to know beyond all reasonable doubt that he is, in fact, my mate, as I’ve always felt in my core... in my very soul. I’ve believed all these years that he is mine and I am his, nothing... and no one has ever swayed me to believe otherwise.

To be able to hold him in my arms and tell him how much I’ve missed him. To have my very best friend and the keeper of my heart back.

But then, as always, there’s also that devil on my shoulder that’s telling me not to get my hopes up, that we aren’t mates, that I’ll only be left bitter and disappointed. That my true fate is still... and always will be to be a spinster princess.

That Rex isn’t going to want me, the girl that didn’t save herself for him after all of these years. That I don’t deserve my sweet, gentle giant. That I’ve changed too much over the years for him to be able to love me still… I’m not the same fourteen-year-old girl he knew me as.

I’m a twenty-four-year-old she-wolf… who is still yet to fully get her wolf back. I’m damaged goods. I’m not the young girl who once saw sunshine and rainbows in every situation. I’m the woman who didn’t feel anything for ten years, the woman that almost fell prey to a wolf-incubus hybrid and the woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

A newfound sense of resolve fills me, urging me on, powering me through my dark thoughts.

If I can overcome all of my recent obstacles. I can tackle this head-on too. What will be, will be. Even if Rex doesn’t want me, I will have him home.

I chant this, over and over in my mind, like an affirmation.

Even though I know if Rex doesn’t want me, my heart will surely splinter before crumbling to dust… but still… I continue to chant my affirmation over and over, using this to keep my thoughts at bay, even if just a little.

“We’re here”, Hector announces, pulling me from my thoughts.

I climb off of Hunter, so he is able to shift and communicate with me. Everyone but me stands around laying it all bare. Luckily, having grown up in a shifter community, none of us bats an eye at the nudity – there is no such thing as modesty in our world.

“Mum and dad are pissed, but they’re on their way… to kill you”, Hunter provides, giving me a cheeky grin.

Shoving him with my shoulder, I retort, “Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll take away your title as Alpha King Heir with your participation in the suicide squad too”, I joke, matching his grin with my own.

He scoffs, flexing his muscles, “And pass up the opportunity to have this fine specimen as King, I think not”, he says, wiggling his brows before we burst into laughter at his own arrogance.

Ali butts in, breaking our moment, “Come on, you too, it’s time to get into our places”, she says, clapping her hands bossily. “Caleb should be arriving in T-minus – 15 minutes... we need to get a move on!”

There’s a sudden hush as all expressions turn serious and we get into our positions.

Hunter and I head into the vast field. There isn’t much life in the meadow, apart from grass and the odd tree. The trees are thick with lush foliage, enough to house Hector and Anya in if we need to use the element of surprise.

This part of the land is called The Fire Hills. In 1890, a pack resided here until a great fire tore through the hills and the pack itself - nothing was left unscathed. Charred ruins are scattered over the field... crumbling stone structures stand where the extinct pack once resided.

Behind where Hunter and I are standing is a steep incline - it peaks at the top before coming down just as steep on the other side. Hidden just below the peak are Ali and Ozzy, prepared for an aerial attack.

Hunter stands with me as a pretence that he is here to oversee the fair exchange. Me for Rex.

Hunter stands with a hand placed at the top of my back. The warmth from his hand reminds me that I have people that love me and are behind me every step of the way, even standing with me and my crazy schemes.

Suddenly, about 60ft away, a portal large enough to fit an army opens.

Out steps Caleb, followed by masses and masses of soldiers, who march their way through the portal. If I had to guess, I would estimate about 70 rogues and hunters in total. Hunters. Caleb has sunk so low as to work with the humans that detest our very existence.

Fuck. I knew Caleb would bring back up… but we hadn’t anticipated for this many.

“Mae, how I’ve missed you”, he beams at me, arms open wide as if expecting me to run into his embrace. It’s like he’s greeting a loved one and not someone he is blackmailing to be his.

“Let’s just get this over and done with Caleb”, I spit with venom, “We need to see him first, to make sure you’re telling the truth. I want to see he is safe”.

“Your wish is my command, my dear”, he says with a dramatic bow as another portal opens behind him”.

I hear before I see the silver shackles shuffling, before a filthy, behemoth beast of a man is all but shoved through the portal by an arrogant looking Jasper.

My blood boils instantly, a dark rage bubbles within. Taking some deep, calming breaths, I eye the man before me with hope.

Is it Rex?

The mountain of a man slowly looks up through a mop of matted honey brown hair. The amber eyes I once knew so well meet my own.

My breath audibly hitches as my heart dips, flips and flutters. Goosebumps break out over my skin as recognition hits me. Something within me roars to life. Completing me, mind, body and soul.

“Mate”.

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