“We were wondering when you would get here.” A deep voice sounded from behind her, sending shivers and chills down her spine.
She had thought that in the middle of the large crowd of wolves during the Mating ceremony meant that she would be safe but when she felt a large hand land on her shoulder from behind, Thea stilled and held her breath, not at all prepared for yet another encounter so soon. Especially not after the panic attack that the simple sight of him had induced upon her.
If it wasn’t Anastasia and Marcellus’ Mating ceremony, Thea wouldn’t have given a second thought in scooping up Malik and rushing back to the pack in attempt to escape him. After everything the fated pair had done for her and Malik, she owed them this and so much more.
If she had to swallow her fear and manage through the next few hours for the people that saved her life, then so be it. It was only the least of what she could do for them to pay back such a favour.
When she didn’t respond, unable to do so actually, the voice sounded out from behind her again. Although it didn’t sound so sure this time.
“Thea?” He asked again and this time, she turned her head both left and right, looking for a way out of this crowd and away from him.
However, before she could so much as move from her spot, she felt herself be pulled back gently. Before she could scream out in a mixture of fear and cry for help, a flash of blonde caught her vision which made her stop in her tracks.
As Thea glanced over her shoulder and blinked up at the two men stood behind her, beaming down at her, her shoulder sagged in relief and she sighed.
“Sorry, guys.” She apologised quickly while turning around so she could face them properly. “I thought you were someone else.”
“Expecting someone else?” Justas asked curiously with a cocked brow while Raphael merely smirked knowingly at her from over his mate’s shoulder.
“No, of course not.” Thea smiled softly as she leaned in to give the both of them a hug. “I’m glad to see you guys, though.”
In the short time that she had stayed at the Lupum Griseo pack after the kidnapping, she had gotten to know Raphael and Justas as well as Anastasis as well as their adorable their little baby boy, Alistair.
“Us, too.” Raphael grinned at her. “It’s non-negotiable but you and Malik are coming round to dinner at ours sometime this week.”
“Just pick a day that works for you and we’ll do the rest.” Justas nodded as he turned his head, sending his mate a soft, endearing look.
Even though the denial was on the tip of her tongue, Thea couldn’t bring herself to say it. Thankfully, the council made a public announcement that they were officially ready to start, saving her the explanation for now as to why she would be leaving so soon.
As the three of them turned around to watch Marcellus and Anastasia take their vows to lead the pack together, Thea didn’t notice that there was only one pair of eyes not looking at the front but instead, was trained intently on her.
She couldn’t help appreciate how good the both of them looked, not so much referring to being in their best of a sleek, black suit and a flattering node bodycon dress but rather, the way the both of them were glowing. Even though Marcellus was already Alpha of the Lupum Griseo pack and Anastasia had been acting Luna these past few months, things were about to become official now.
Staring up at the both of them, she couldn’t help but feel happy and proud of the both of them, even if they weren’t directly her pack leaders.
As head of the council and elder Maverick came to the front of the stage, standing between both Marcellus and Anastasia, he took a moment to glance at the both of them with a knowing smirk on his face before he turned to face the crowd.
“Anastasia Mulberry, do you vow to take on the role of Luna of the Lupum Griseo pack and all of the responsibilities it comes with? To tend to the needs of Lupum Griseo and put the needs of the pack ahead of everything else? To rule by the side of your mate and Alpha, Alpha Marcellus of the Lupum Griseo pack, leading the pack in growth and prosperity?”
“I do.” Anastasia announced proudly in a loud, clear voice, sounding like the true born leader that she was.
Even though Anastasia wasn’t much of a crier, this was a very touching moment, one of the most special moments in her life that she would ever experience – especially since this was equivalent of her and Marcellus getting married but so much more – Thea was still surprised with how strong she truly was.
“And Alpha Marcellus?” Maverick asked as he turned his head to glance at his one and only child, his beloved son with a sharp, proud glint in his eyes.
“Alpha Marcellus, do you vow to uphold and maintain the role of Alpha of the Lupum Griseo pack and all of the responsibilities it comes with? To continue maintaining the needs of the Lupum Griseo pack and put the needs of the pack ahead of everything else? To rule by the side of your mate and Luna, Luna Anastasia of the Lupum Griseo pack, leading the packing in growth and prosperity?”
“I do.” Marcellus answered almost immediately without an ounce of hesitation in his voice, his eyes locked with the baby blues of his mate’s.
Elder Maverick grinned before he took a step back.
“Alpha Marcellus and Luna Anastasia, please proceed with the next step of the ceremony which is marking each other in front of the pack.”
Marcellus didn’t need to be told twice as he took a step forward and pulled his mate into his arms, not the least bit ashamed or embarrassed about the fact that his whole pack was watching. Opposite to what everyone was expecting from him, he cocked his head to the side to bare his neck to his mate; allowing her the honour of going first.
If Anastasia was surprised, she didn’t show it. Cocking her head back, she opened her mouth and bared her teeth before sinking them into the crook of his neck where her current mark was. With this new mark, it would replace the old one, just as his would hers.
Even though this was a very personal moment and Thea felt like she was intruding, just like everyone else, she forced herself to watch.
The second that Marcellus pulled his mouth away from her skin, only to bow his head and place a soft, gentle kiss to her lips before the both of them turned to face everyone, their fingers entwined together as for the first time officially, they stood together in unison and the Alpha and Luna of the Lupum Griseo pack.
Not wasting a second, the both of them shared a secret look before leaping off the stage and into the air, shredding their clothes as they transformed into their wolves and landed on the ground on their wolfish paws. Craning their necks back, the two wolves howled before they began off into the forest.
Since this was the first time that Thea had seen Anastasia in her wolf form, she could barely believe her eyes. Even though she knew that her friend had gained her wolf after completing the mating bond with Marcellus, it was so much different seeing it for herself rather than just hearing it.
While she was happy for her friend, a part of her couldn’t help but wonder if she had a mate of her own. That, and if she would ever have a mate of her own. If Anastasia was only a quarter-wolf and was able to gain her wolf, then surely Thea could do the same since she was half-wolf. However, her more than anyone else, knew her bad luck and doubted that that would ever happen to her. Not to mention the fact that having a mate also meant having to completely and wholly open up to someone, something which Thea wasn’t ready to do with herself yet.
When she lost sight of both the wolves as they disappeared into the forest, Thea sighed and turned around, trying to weave her way through the crowd to get out of it while she had the time and before everyone began shifting.
Almost as if she needed another reminder that she wasn’t like everyone else, Thea took a step back before heading into the pack house while everyone else shifted into their wolves and began after their Alpha and new Luna for the traditional pack run after every Mating ceremony. As the rest of the wolves around her followed the example and shifted before joining the Alpha and Luna for the post-Mating ceremony hunt, she headed back into the pack house where she could actually be of some use.
Since she wasn’t a wolf, that meant she couldn’t take part in the pack however, what she could do was take part in the cooking and preparation of the post-run lunch which the pack chefs had already started on inside.
After a quick check to make sure Malik was fine, Thea headed into the kitchen and grabbed an apron, more than happy to lend a helping hand. Especially since they seemed to be in a rush to finish and get everything on the table before the wolves returned in just over an hour’s time.
On roast potato duty to go with the meat, she stood next to the sink with her knife, chopping board and large bowl of already peeled potatoes. She needed to cut them all down into smaller chunks which would be easier to both cook and eat.
If she wasn’t paying so much attention to what she was doing and not cutting herself with the sharp knife, Thea may have noticed the lone wolf stood on the border of the forest, gazing at her through the window with a concentrated, intense look in his eyes.
By the time she had finished and moved over to wash her hands in the sink, casually looking through the window as she did, he had disappeared and she was none the wiser. Without so much as a second thought, Thea seasoned her potatoes and fluffed them up before laying them on a tray and popping them into the oven to cook.
While she waited for them to finish, she cleaned up her workspace and began helping out with other odd jobs that needed doing. Even though she wasn’t a werewolf and probably would never be one, she was a team player and was more than happy to help out wherever she could, especially after the kind nature of the Lupus Rapax pack who had welcomed her into their home and accepted her son as one of their own.
Before they knew it, the wolves returned from the forest and shifted into their human forms, some heading toward either the packhouse or their respective houses to get dressed before lunch started. Even though they had brought back several kills with them, those would just have to be left for dinner as there was not nearly enough time to clean and cook them now.
As the timer on her phone went off, she retrieved the potatoes from the oven and allowed them to cool down for a little while before piling them into a large serving bowl.
Thea was probably biased but with her perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy and light on the inside roast potatoes, she carried the bowl out of the kitchen and toward the large serving table where people had already begun to help themselves to.
When she spotted an empty spot between an assortment of meats, her lips curled up into a small smile as she made her way over there, weaving her way through the crowds of people that had started to form and gather around the room.
Unfortunately, the smile didn’t last long for long as just when she reached the table, she felt someone press into her side, though quickly moved away as they realised that she was stood there.
“Sorry.” A deep, gruff voice apologised from beside her. “I didn’t see you there.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Thea was quick to dismiss the polite stranger but just when she lifted her head to look at who it was, her eyes widened in shock and her throat suddenly went dry. Her heart began thumping loudly in her chest as the blood rushed frantically around her body, unable to tear her eyes away from the man that was a stranger but not a stranger to her at the same time.
While she knew nothing about him, he had been there with her in the darkest, weakest and most vulnerable time of her life – the single and sole cause for it, actually. Unfortunately, he had already returned to the conversation that he was previously engaged in, not sparing her a second glance; just as he hadn’t spared her a second thought that fateful night before proceeding to strip her of her self-worth and virtue.
Even though she was stood next to him, frozen in her spot with the large bowl of roast potatoes in her arms, the criminal in question didn’t even notice her as he continued conversing with Marcellus who was otherwise distracted, sending Thea a curious, questioning look.
When Anastasia saddled up next to her and took the bowl from her arms and placed it down on the table – very much aware of what she was feeling while stood next to her rapist and worst nightmare – Thea took that as her opportunity to escape without so much as a look back. Not when he was still back there.
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