Waking up the next morning, I all but throw myself out of bed to start the day. After a rushed shower, I throw on some jeans and a plain t-shirt and practically skip down to the kitchen with a broad smile plastered on my face.
I feel like I’m on cloud nine. My mate is back! My wolf is chomping at the bit to get near him again, to drown ourselves in everything Rex… forever.
With a face that hurts from smiling, I pop my head around the door and chirpily call out, “Good morning, everyone!”
With an audibly loud, happy sigh, I plop myself onto a chair between Ali and Anya. Opposite me sits my mum and dad - to the right of them is Amber and Eddie.
“Would you mind passing me the bacon, please, dad?” I sing as I start shovelling sausages, eggs and hash browns onto my plate.
He looks at me sceptically, as if I’ll sprout a second head for a moment, but obliges and passes me the bacon.
“Wow, Mae… you’re incredibly bright today”, he smiles warmly at me. Though, I can see the doubt and confusion swimming in the depths of his silver pools.
“Of course! Why wouldn’t I be?” I retort with a friendly smile of my own, furrowing my brows and shaking my head ever so slightly.
At that, everyone shifts in their seats uncomfortably, as if they don’t wish to be the one to point out the obvious.
My eyes glance around the room suspiciously, as everyone else looks everywhere but me.
Is there an elephant in the room that I’m not aware of? I ask.
Not one that I can see. Sierra chirps back contently.
Mum and Dad glance at each other with concerned expressions, a silent communication ensuing between the two.
My eyes are drawn downwards; both of my hands have been taken into the possession of the twins.
Anya rubs my hand with a sigh, “We were worried, that… maybe… you might regress and become… how you used to be”, she winces at the memory… or maybe fear of my reaction to her admission.
Bursting out laughing, I respond, “What? No, of course, I wouldn’t! Don’t be so silly!” I laugh, waving off her ludicrous comment.
They all look back at me with that look, the look I despise with every fibre of my being… that look of pity.
I groan internally; Ugh… why those looks, again!? What have I got to be pitied for now?
“Listen, Mae”, Amber starts with a soothing, quiet tone, “We understand that yesterday must have been hard for you... If you need to talk to anyone about it, we are all here for you... our doors are always open if you need to talk”. She looks at me with a sympathetic smile, the dark scar that runs down from her forehead to chin is stretched as her mouth lifts into a reassuring smile.
“Ok… I’m still not following?” I respond awkwardly.
Why do I get the feeling I’m about to be the target of a family intervention?
All of a sudden, I hear the most melodious of sounds emanating from the hallway, causing my heart to flutter wildly in my chest; sitting up straighter, I eye the doorway with uncontained anticipation as the beautiful sound of laughter draws closer.
The door flies open to reveal Idris pulling Rex into a headlock, laughing and rubbing his knuckles on the top of Rex’s head, Rex’s silky honey brown locks tousled at the action. Dinah follows in after holding her sides in fits of laughter.
I haven’t seen them this happy for a long time; Dinah has that fiery spark back in her eyes again... it’s like I can see her soul roaring like a flame behind her eyes, her life force burning brightly once again.
Rex suddenly stops laughing, straightening up quickly. His face, which was bright and full of cheer now cold and empty as he looks me in the eyes.
“I’ll come back later”, he says coolly with a sharp nod; before turning on his heel and fleeing as though he’s on fire.
Everyone looks back at me with sadness in their eyes. My mum leans across the table, giving my hand a quick, comforting squeeze.
My shoulders slump a little, but my spirit remains positive, “It’s ok… he’s been through a lot. He’ll see soon enough, I know he will”, I smile brightly.
Ali pulls at my arms, “Come on, let’s go for a walk”.
We walk arm in arm through a section of the palace grounds that grows the most beautiful lilac wisteria. The sky of purple sways gently in the breeze as we walk in silence.
Though that silence doesn’t last.
“Seriously, girl… what the hell is going on?” Ali presses.
“What?” I laugh, “My mate is back, he will come around soon and we’ll be together, as we are meant to be. He doesn’t mean all of this. It’s probably just a game… yeah, that’s it… a game!”
Ali and Anya over-dramatically look at each other before saying in unison, “Denial”.
“How is that denial? I know it’s going to happen… positive even”, I say with my hands on my hips, giving them a challenging stare.
“And we hope that’s what happens, Mae… we really do. But, I can’t help but think, maybe, just maybe… this is your grief talking”, Anya responds.
“Grief? I’m not sad”, I laugh, shaking my head at their ridiculousness.
“Not right now. But if the five stages of grief are right… you’re in stage 1 – denial”, Ali responds.
“Ok, I’ll bite. So, theoretically, if I was going through the five stages… what are all of the stages then?” I say rather smugly, with my arms folded across my chest.
“Grief”, Anya starts.
“Followed by Anger”, Ali throws in.
“Don’t forget bargaining”, Anya chirps back.
“Then… the dreaded depression”, Ali frowns.
“And finally…” Anya says, miming a drum roll.
“…Acceptance”, they say in unison.
Chuckling lightly, I respond, “Ok, well, right now, I’m feeling elated, so I don’t think I’m going to start flying off into a rage anytime soon”.
The twins eye each other warily, “If you do… you know… start to feel like you want to kill someone… just let us know. We can help you, we want to help you... we’re here for you”.
“Ok, sure… if I need to hide a body I now know who to go to”, I play along.
They eye each other with wide eyes.
“That’s… that’s not really what we meant”, Anya responds shaking her head.
Just to get the twins off of my back, I half-heartedly agree. Having learnt from experience, they are not afraid to resort to torture if they want to get their way… sometimes I think I can still hear the screeching sounds that came from their mouths once before. The other part of me thinks it could be mild trauma, warning me not to disobey the mastermind twins again.
Note to self, tell dad of the twin’s expertise in torture - they could have the most stubborn prisoners talking in minutes.
“So…” I start, making an attempt to change the subject, “…When will you both be leaving for your tour de love?”
Ali mimics her mother’s signature eye roll as she laughs at my comment.
“Five days now”, Anya responds sadly. I know they don’t want to leave as much as I don’t want them to. However, it really would help them to find their mates.
I nod gloomily in response, even though it’s selfish of me to want them to stay.
Through a break in the wisteria, I spy a mop of honey, making a beeline to the training grounds. My heart soars, making it feel as though it’s lodged in my throat as I struggle to calm my racing pulse.
I quickly mutter an “I’ll catch up to you girls later”, as my feet pull me in the direction of my mate.
Following the scent of home, I push through the wisteria, being sure to keep my distance for now.
Rex has chosen the rocky terrain area. There are boulders in all shapes and sizes, rock walls for climbing and other obstacles used for practising to fight in tight spaces.
Watching from afar, I eye him as he slowly lifts away his t-shirt revealing his sculpted body; my eyes wander as they begin to drink in his body, he’s not the bulkiest of shifters, tall and lean, with the right amount of muscle, chiselled abs that beg for my hands to roam them.
Perfection incarnate, I drool.
Jump his bones. Jump his bones right now. Sierra pants.
Mm, believe me… I would love to, but we have to be patient whilst he comes around.
Sierra flops herself to the ground in my mind’s eye with a huff, sulking like a toddler.
I continue to lay low for a while, watching like the pervy stalker I am, hypnotised by each tense and ripple of his taut muscles in his arms and back, watching his back as he throws punches into a solid wall for half an hour.
As he turns around and walks away from the wall, his fists drip with blood, the droplets stop almost instantaneously as his wounded hands heal at great speed - even greater than the healing abilities of a werewolf.
I have a better view of his face now, I didn’t pay enough attention this morning, but now I can see his hair and facial hair have been cut and tidied… and my word I can hardly cope with the god-like creation before me… better yet… he’s mine.
His beard is now what I would call long stubble – not quite a beard, not quite stubble. His honey coloured hair tickles the back of his neck and the tops of his ears, yet still long enough to be swept backwards for a more sophisticated style. Although, at present, some strands are hanging loosely in his face, shielding my view of his amber orbs.
He moves onto the mu ren zhuang – the wooden dummy. As he kicks or punches an arm, it swings around with speed, forcing him to defend or dodge the arm.
Rex moves at speed close to a blur, dipping, swerving and launching assaults at the dummy. I sit in awe, watching the sheer strength of my mate.
Without even realising it, I’ve stood up, my feet walking me closer and closer to Rex. The scent of him drawing me closer, like a compass pointing me to home, the pull of the mate bond pulls me to Rex, step by step like I’ve been hypnotised.
When I stand around 3 metres away, he stiffens as if he wasn’t expecting me to approach him. He moves around the dummy, keeping his back to me as he continues to punch at the dummy in a tamer manner.
“What are you doing here?” He growls out with a frown.
Though his tone is hostile, I can’t help that my body’s reaction to his voice and dominance is to clench my thighs and bite my lower lip.
“I thought that would be obvious?” I smirk, trying to make the mood light and playful.
“I don’t want you here, Mae”, he says bluntly, causing a stabbing pain in my chest.
“Why? Can you at least tell me that?” I all but whisper, the hurt in my voice is as clear as day.
He pauses his training, back still facing me as he stands to his full intimidating size.
“Is it not enough if I tell you we cannot be together?” He states.
“Cannot… or will not?” I ask, trembling.
“Does it even matter?” He sighs.
“You don’t mean that”, I say, shaking my head slowly, my eyes forming tears, “I understand you’re going through some things… but, we are meant to be together, Rex”, I say hopefully… or as Ali and Anya might say… full of denial.
Slowly, he turns, eyes cast downwards.
When he’s finally facing me, he peeks up from under his thick dark eyelashes. The ambers of his eyes pierce me straight to my soul, causing my whole body to thrum as a reaction to the attention of its fated.
He looks at me with a pained expression for a few moments before he sucks in a breath, as though he is steadying his emotions and looks to me with the same cold stare at the Fire Hills.
“And… no, it’s not good enough, Rex. I think I deserve answers... I think I deserve to know why”, I choke out as my voice begins to break.
“I can’t be who you need me to be”, he states simply.
“And who do I need you to be, Rex? I don’t need you to be anyone. I want you to be my mate... for eternity, that’s how this whole fated works, right? I’ve hoped for you to return for ten years Rex, I’ve missed you… did you not miss me?” Sadness and anger crack my voice, battling for dominance. Tears begin to leak from my eyes. At this point, I’m not sure if I’m sad-crying, or angry-crying... my emotions are just one big ball of mess.
“We can’t be together, Mae… I’m sorry”, Rex responds in a lighter, gentler tone, stepping closer to me. He’s now within reaching distance, his arms tense up for a moment, as if he lost control for a fraction of a second and wished to console me – but stopped himself. The coldness of his stare shifts - just slightly… but enough to reveal some of his own pain screaming back at me.
“I-I don’t get it? I don’t want to feel anyone else’s touch. My heart is yours, Rex, yours. I’ll never love anyone else… you’re my one… you’re it for me… am I not yours?” My lower lip trembles as I pour my heart out. Never have I ever laid myself so bare for someone to see, to have the opportunity to destroy me with ease with just a matter of words.
Rex’s brows pull in, forming an expression of pained sorrow, his lips push out in the slightest of pouts, making even his sad expression; undeniably sexy. He steps even closer, so close I can feel his heat radiating from his body. I have to fight the urge to throw myself into his hard frame… because I know that if I tried, the rejection I fear I’m about to face, will be all the worse.
He raises a hand to my face but doesn’t touch my skin, just hovers mere millimetres away.
I long to be able to bend my head into the warmth of his hand, to feel the bond pulse through me from the touch of my mate, but he stays there, with that sorrowful look etched into his face.
“For what it’s worth… I will always love you, Mae”, he says with such truth and anguish, it leaves me feeling all the more confused.
As I open my mouth to respond, he pulls his hand away from me as if he can no longer bear it, before breaking out into a run in the opposite direction.
“I don’t want love unless it’s with you, Rex! You’re my one!” I shout after him, not caring if I sound like a crazed, lovesick maniac.
I stand and stare in the direction he fled for some time, stray tears lingering on my cheeks.
Ten years, ten torturous years I have wanted him, craved for his touch and dreamt of his safe return... and he turns his back on me with no explanation at all.
As my tears dry, my hands clench into fists as my eyes set alight. The feelings of hurt and sadness now morphing to one of overwhelming anger for all that I’ve lost.