I bounced up and down in front of the house, my belongings next to me, while I waited for Gunnar to bring me home. He offered to drive, so I didn’t have to take a cab.
“Gunnar!” I called, tapping my foot. I had a fluttery feeling in my stomach all day, which even stopped me from eating breakfast. Time couldn’t pass fast enough, and I couldn’t wait to see my home again.
“You have to work on your patience,” Gunnar said, appearing next to me.
“Sorry,” I said, picking up my luggage.
He took it out of my hand and carried it to the car. “Did you wish goodbye to everyone?”
I nodded. “Yes, I’m ready to go.”
I already said my goodbyes yesterday during the girls-only party Joseline and Tyra threw for me. But Cedric popped by in the evening, too.
It was slightly heartbreaking when Svea didn’t want to let me leave, but I promised her she could visit me whenever anyone would have time to bring her.
“Okay, let’s leave then.”
I looked back at the house one more time, stunned at how much had happened in so little time. I would miss them, but it was time to move on.
We didn’t say much on our way, and the flutter in my stomach turned into nausea the closer we got to my hometown.
Gunnar glanced at me from the side several times, looking as if he had something to say, but stopped himself. I was also out of words. I couldn’t believe how much I had shared with him already, and I didn’t even know him for long. Besides, he had no reason to show me kindness and mercy when he found me in his territory. He could have handled it a lot differently. But he never hurt me, and I believe he’s a good man.
“Thank you for everything,” I said eventually.
“There is no need to thank me.”
I turned towards him in my seat. “You did more than you had to. I was a stranger, and I wasn’t exactly cooperative at first. You didn’t have to help me, yet you did.”
He raised a brow. “I did the right thing. You didn’t deserve any of the things that happened to you, and I had no reason to be rude on purpose. I’m not the kind of alpha who decides things without a bigger picture.”
I laughed. “You might be too kind to be an alpha. I think we both know what you and Tyra, even Joseline and Cedric, did for me was more than what I could have expected from a wolf pack that didn’t know me.”
“Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone receives the same treatment. But when I first saw you, I liked the fire in you. For the first time, I met someone who I couldn’t figure out at all, and when you kept reacting in ways I didn’t expect, I couldn’t stir away anymore.”
I smiled, feeling my face turning red, and turned around again, looking out of the window, counting the trees as we drove past them. “I appreciate you showed me your world, even when you were kinda pushy and didn’t really respect my privacy in the beginning.”
“You won’t ever let me forget that, right? And it’s our world, Mia. You are part of this.”
Hearing him use my nickname made my heart skip a beat, and I wasn’t sure if I liked my body’s reaction. “Your world and my world might be similar, but not the same. I grew up completely differently.”
He shrugged. “We might have different traditions, but we are both ancient wolves, and that won’t change. The blood connects us, and it always will. You are also always free to pick up our traditions. It’s never too late. I could be wrong, but it looked like you enjoyed it.”
“Maybe in the future. But for now, I have different things on my mind.”
“Understandable. Also, we are almost there, and we should pass over to your territory soon.”
My hands felt sweaty as I held my breath, awaiting the time to return.
The moment we passed, it almost felt like something hugged and wrapped around me. I took a deep breath. For a moment, it felt like it was the deepest breath I ever took until something heavy settled on my chest. My wolf howled in the back of my mind.
“Wow,” I breathed. “That was a surreal feeling.”
Goosebumps travel all over my skin. I looked over to Gunnar, and even the hair on his arms stood up.
“You just officially reclaimed your territory.”
“I thought it was my territory all along, and no else could claim it.”
“It couldn’t be claimed, and it technically was yours, but it was vacant. It now officially acknowledges you as the new alpha.”
“Did you feel that, too?”
He nodded. “Probably not as strong as you did, though.”
“Is that how you feel all the time?”
“You mean as if an enormous responsibility lies on top of you like a massive rock?”
“Is that what it is? Responsibility? First, I felt so free, and now it feels like someone is squeezing my lungs together.”
He chuckled. “Don’t worry. You will get used to this. But remember, you have the responsibility of the territory now. It’s your task to make sure wolves stay safe, that your home is safe, and I suppose you have to protect those ruins, too.”
For a moment, I felt overwhelmed. Was I ready to handle all of that? Was there even a way out now?
“Let’s reach your house for now. Where do I have to drive?”
I looked outside, orienting myself. I hadn’t been here in years, and it still looked like nothing had changed. “Turn right here.”
We drove down the road until we reached the right street.
“It should pop up on the right side any time now,” I said, looking around. The streets were empty, and I didn’t see a single person outside. It felt like a ghost town, but I rarely saw anyone anyway, even back then.
I sat up straight. “This one should be it.”
Gunnar stopped in front of the lonely house, and I left the car.
“Well, that calls for a lot of work,” Gunnar said.
I gasped, unable to form any response while I stared at my old family home.