Sitting atop a boulder above the waterfall, I look out over a large expanse of the forest; a wildflower-filled meadow is laid out behind me as the wisteria hangs above.
I can see the palace lit up, sparkling like a Christmas tree, looking warm and inviting in the distance.
As I sit peacefully and my mind clears, I can’t help but mull over the events of the past couple of days.
What is Idris hiding?
What does Jasper mean that I will be his?
What could his family possibly offer my dad for my hand?
My last thought leaves an uneasy feeling in my stomach; it must be something big if Jasper is so assured that I will be his. So convinced that he feels he is allowed to behave in such a way to a Princess. Either that, or he’s just stupid and has a death wish.
My dad wouldn’t allow someone to bribe him into giving my hand in marriage; I think he would rather die than support that. But still, I need to speak with him and find out what their offer is, when and if they make one.
The sound of the rustle of grass and the snap of twigs catches my attention. My head whips around to the source of the sound.
The stranger with the green eyes… the one that was watching me dance with Jasper, appears. He stops moving whilst we assess each other. He’s not giving away any of his emotions whilst we stare each other down.
Is he a friend or foe, I’m not sure yet.
I clutch the whistle Hector gave me to my chest, ready to blow it if I need to. I eye him warily, trying to decipher whether he is dangerous.
His eyes drift down to the whistle. He raises his hands as though he means me no harm.
“I come in peace”, he states, still holding his hands up, palms facing me like he’s showing me he has no weapons. “I just wanted to find the best view of the kingdom”. He states, smiling warmly.
“There’s plenty of other forest locations to take in the scenery”. I say bluntly, eyeing him with caution.
“I know, but those ones don’t have anyone I can enjoy them with… in silence, of course. I promise, I won’t force you to divulge me with any conversation”, he says, moving slightly closer.
I pause, trying to assess whether he is an honest man. I don’t sense any malicious vibes or intent coming from him; I usually have a good instinct about these kinds of things… so I trust my gut.
I nod to the rock, not too close to me. “Fine, but don’t bother me. If you do, you leave”. I say with ice lacing my tone, dismissing him... in the hope, he will leave me be.
“I can agree to those terms”. He says with a broad dazzling smile. He sits down and does just that... sits in silence, stretching his long legs and relaxing, just enjoying the view.
After around an hour, I realise I have started to relax in his company. I feel weirdly comfortable around him. There is something about him that I find soothing; his scent is enticing... it has something stirring from within me. I have to admit… I am curious about this male. I keep glancing in his direction to see what he’s doing. I can’t seem to help but to glimpse his way, trying to get a better sniff of his scent, attempting to remain cool, and subtle as I do so. I’m too stubborn to talk to him now after I’ve told him to sit in silence.
So, I stay silent for another half an hour, just enjoying the view and the quiet company whilst I work through my many thoughts and emotions. I appreciate that he hasn’t tried to engage in conversation with me; he hasn’t even glanced in my direction... there’s something quite chivalrous about it in a way, the way he has stuck to his word and allowed me the space I need.
Eventually, I decided enough time has gone by... I’m finally ready to suck up my pride to find out more about the mysterious stranger.
“So…” I start awkwardly. “Which pack are you from?” I ask, cocking my head in his direction.
A smirk spreads across his face; as he raises a finger to his lips… he’s playing on what I said to be quiet.
Grr, playing me at my own game, I think as I narrow my eyes at him.
I bet he’s been waiting all this time for me to crack first just so he can play with me, but little does he know, I can playback. I doubt he’s come out all of this way just to sit with me and pretend he now doesn’t want to talk. Well… that’s my guess anyway, so I play to that.
“Ok. Never mind. Enjoy your evening, quiet stranger”. I start to stand up and pat down my dress. “I might see you back inside the ball, but then again… I might not have the energy to speak with you then”. As I turn on my heel towards the palace, I raise my hand and wiggle my fingers in a delicate, yet taunting wave.
“You know how to twist a man’s arm, don’t you?” He calls out to me.
I turn back to him, feigning innocence. “Me? Never!” I say with my hand on my chest.
He smiles back at me as though he’s trying to hold back laughter.
“I’m from the Red River Pack”, he stands and starts to casually walk towards me with his hands tucked in his pockets.
That’s a pleasant surprise.
The Red River Pack are one of the packs that have earned their titles through their charitable work. I respect those packs greatly; it can take years and years of commitment to finally be noticed. It’s certainly not an easy way to become a Lord or Lady.
“I see, and what is your name, Lord?” He’s now stood directly in front of me, looking at me with a half-smile decorating his handsome features; his eyes have a playful glint to them. I can see him clearly now in the moonlight; his hair is tousled and styled backwards, with a few strands escaping the confines of his hair, giving him that just got out of bed sexy look. His features are sharp and refined, making him look intelligent, yet his figure is muscular, matching his look of intelligence with strength.
“Lord Caleb, you can call me Caleb”. He says with an outstretched hand.
I accept his hand and shake, “nice to meet you, Caleb. I’m Princess Mae of the Royal Pack”.
He smirks, “Pleased to formally meet you, Princess Mae”, he says, raising my hand to his lips, gently kissing the back of my hand as he looks at me from under his eyelashes.
“Please, just call me Mae. I don’t like the formalities that come with the titles”.
“Mae”, he repeats back to me. “Can I walk you back to the ball, maybe steal a dance from you?”
“I suppose I can spare you a dance”, I say, shrugging playfully.
We walk back to the palace, mostly in comfortable silence, apart from when I ask Caleb the odd question about his life.
His parents are still running the Red River Pack; they’re slowly easing their responsibilities to Caleb to make him Alpha of the pack. He has a younger brother that mated to an Alpha’s daughter in one of the west coast packs. He told me he misses him greatly.
As we arrive back at the ball, I scope out the room - trying to gauge if Jasper is still in attendance. I don’t see him at the moment.
Thank the goddess!
However, I do spot Ali and Anya; flirting with a couple of Alphas from several packs.
Got to love those girls for keeping their options open. I smile to myself.
Caleb steps into my line of vision, bowing with an arm behind his back as he offers his other hand.
Giving my head a gentle nod of acceptance, I take his hand. He straightens up and glides me to the dance floor.
He pulls me close, causing me to inhale that delicious scent of his; it’s all around me, drowning me in all of its glory, butterflies erupt in my stomach, whilst goosebumps burst to life dancing across my skin.
Why? Why does he smell so good!? I think as a blush spreads across my cheeks.
He places his large hand at the small of my back, heat radiates through me, his touch feels… nice... great even. Flashing me a cheeky smile, he starts to move… and boy can he move.
Caleb is light on his feet, he has the grace of a professional dancer, he manages to even make my dancing look good by leading me with such ease. He dances as though it’s as easy as breathing. Whilst also being a goof and pulling over the top, silly faces in time with his moves and the beat of the music.
It’s enough to bring out a smile in me, a real sincere smile. I haven’t smiled in so long! I didn’t even force it out... it just came out on its own accord! Having not smiled for so long, I can’t help but wonder, how has Caleb managed to get one out of me on our first meeting? The thought alone excites me! If he can draw a smile out of me, what other emotions might he be able to bring to the surface; could he be the key to my wolf returning?
“Wow…” he breathes. “You’re… breathtaking”.
My frozen heart feels as though it melts just a tad from his words.
Why am I feeling like this? He’s making me feel like a teenager… and that scent, oh god, that scent, it’s intoxicating!
We dance until the early hours; little by little, he pulls me in even closer, little by little, until I am firmly pressed up against him. Usually, I would mind this close proximity... it would make me feel claustrophobic. However, with Caleb, it doesn’t bother me. If anything, I want to lean in closer to smell him, to taste his skin and see if it tastes as good as it smells.
Before I have time to think, he leans into my ear.
“Can I see you again?” He asks. His breath tickles my ear and neck, sending a pleasant shiver down my spine.
“Tomorrow?” He says, looking into my eyes and biting his bottom lip.
I nod before I can even think straight.
What on earth has gotten into me!?
Standing there in a trance, the tension between us is becoming clear. Caleb looks down at my lips, licking his own... looking at me as though he’s been starved for a week and I’m his favourite meal, being laid out in front of him, begging to be eaten.
My heart rate accelerates. I’m not used to someone looking at me as if they not only want to taste me... but devour me.
He leans down, eyes still on my lips; his eyes fluttering closed as he leans even further forwards…
…Until I place my hands gently on his chest, gently telling him I’ve reached my limit for this evening. Truth be told, I’m freaking out inside, I’m torn, I’m exhausted and I’m emotionally drained.
“Thank you for this evening”, I tell him sincerely. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
He nods, “O-of course!”
My eyes linger on his emerald green orbs as I slowly turn away and make my way back to my room.
My door closes behind me; I smile to myself before guilt creeps in, the pain is back, soul-destroying and immobilising, like being constricted by a python, slowly squeezing all the air out of your lungs until your demise. I burst into tears... the sobs wracking my entire body, my heart and soul is splitting before me, I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know what to think and I don’t know what to do.
My heart flutters for the mysterious Caleb, the man that has so effortlessly gotten me to smile and feel a tiny slither of happiness. But, on the other hand, my soul and my entire being continues to yearn for another; my heart beats only for Rex… but could Caleb be the one to help me move on from the loss of Rex? The thought alone feels like a betrayal… what if Rex is still out there? Waiting for me to find him.
“Argh, fuck!!” I yell out as I pull on my hair, exasperated.
Why can’t I just be happy for once!? Why can’t my life just be simple for one day?
My head is splitting as a migraine begins to tear through my brain. I need to stop thinking about this… maybe with rest, I will be able to make sense of these new feelings.
I lay in bed, tossing and turning, trying to sleep whilst my racing mind fights the inevitable.
Exhaustion eventually takes me.
Soft lips caress my own, a large hand grasps the back of my head, my eyes flutter open to see bright amber orbs looking back at me. Rex.
I know this is a dream and a memory, but I have to savour this fleeting happy moment; before I know the horror of what is to come arrives.
I revel in the moment... telling each other of our love for one another like lovesick puppies, whispering promises of being one another’s and only each other are made.
Promising I will be his, forever and always.
Oh, how simple we thought life would be.
Then it happens… that look, the look that has haunted me and my dreams for so long, stares back at me.
The apologetic look, like he knows what’s happening and he’s sorry he can’t stop it. I should’ve been the one apologising to him; because I was too weak to stop it, to save him. If I had just been able to move instead of just stand there, like a dumbstruck idiot, maybe, just maybe I could’ve saved him.
Red, that’s all I can see… blood splatters against my face like a light rain shower. My heart sinks as I tear my eyes away from Rex’s beautiful amber eyes, the beautiful pools of Amber I wanted to look into for the rest of my life, to look down... I see it then.
The large silver hook that’s protruding from Rex’s gut. Blood gushes from his wound, raining down onto the dirt. I look back up to Rex, eyes wide with fear, sick stirring in my gut. Rex attempts to smile at me... blood seeps from his mouth and down his chest; his bronzed skin is sickeningly pale.
“I’m sorry… I love you”, he says all but a whisper. His body is yanked away at a sickening speed; the claw is attached to some sort of high-end black pickup truck; masked people are sitting in the truck bed. It speeds away as poor Rex is dragged along the floor behind it.
I stand there frozen, mouth agape. Frozen. My feet won’t move, I can’t speak, I can’t even utter a single word. I can hear the shuffle of feet behind me, but I’m still rooted to the spot, mouth twitching as I try to utter something, anything. A tearing pain erupts at the base of my skull… before darkness takes me.