After my tears had dried, the situation became awkward. Gunnar still held me in his arms and drew circles on my back. I enjoyed his warmth and soothing motions, but there was a small nagging voice in my head telling me that this kind of intimacy wasn’t right yet. I only broke up with George not even a week ago, and here I was in someone else’s arms.
As much as my wolf tried to convince me of the opposite, I slipped out of his arms. Gunnar let go of me without hesitation, a slight smile on his lips. He didn’t seem bothered about this situation at all, and I was glad he didn’t make this weird.
I cleared my throat. “Sorry about that.”
“Don’t apologize for being vulnerable. I don’t mind offering you support.”
I nodded, still feeling a bit too sensitive lately. But I was glad he didn’t think that way.
“This doesn’t make me look at you any different, either. If that is what you were worried about.”
I turned to him. “What do you mean?”
“I think you worry too much about being seen as weak, but you aren’t. You’re probably one of the strongest women I’ve met in my life, and your stubbornness is a nice, fresh wind.”
I raised a brow. “That almost sounds like you are hanging out with me because I’m the new shiny toy with a messed up backstory.”
That came out a bit more snappy than I wanted it to, and I pressed my lips into a thin line to stop me from making it even worse.
Gunnar laughed. “You really tend to think the worst of me. Of course, your unique circumstances got me interested in you in the first place, but since then I can’t stop myself from wanting to find out more about you. I love spending time with you.”
I felt like my ears got set on fire, and I dropped my gaze, fanning air into my face. How can someone be so direct?
“Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m well aware that your heart isn’t in a place to think about someone like me right now. I didn’t want to make this feel awkward. The support I offer you is what I would offer all friends I hold close.”
My stomach dropped. I imagined I would feel relieved to hear that he didn’t expect anything from me, but for some reason, it caused the opposite. Worse even. Imagining that there would be someone else he would treat the same way made my blood boil, and I couldn’t quite understand what his end goal was. From his actions, I thought he was interested in me, but maybe I misunderstood.
“Gunnar, are you interested in me more than just a friend?”
He brushed a hand through his hair and sheepishly glanced at me from the side. “What do you think?”
I didn’t respond, hoping he would elaborate. I wanted to know what he was thinking.
"I’m interested in something more, yes, but don’t think too much about it. I’m not the kind of person who would toss you aside if you wouldn’t have the same intentions towards me. We ancient wolves are loyal beings, and you are a friend of the pack. If you decide you don’t hold the same interest in your heart, then I will accept that.”
“Aren’t you an alpha, though? Shouldn’t your pride be damaged and all?”
“I may be proud, but I’m not a prick. You hopefully realize that at some point. It wouldn’t be the first time a woman didn’t see me this way,” he said with a smile, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Are you joking with me right now?”
He tilted his head to the side. “Why would I joke about that?”
“Why would anyone- I mean, that is hard to imagine,” I said and felt myself blushing again.
I almost blurted out that I couldn’t imagine that someone as handsome as him would be rejected often. But he did mention that he had never experienced love before when we were back at his house.
I dared to look up at Gunnar, and he had a wolfish grin on his face again and twinkling in his eyes.
“Don’t look at me like this,” I said, pouting. “You should know that you are very handsome.”
He chuckled before turning serious again. “Many women can’t deal with the prospect of being an alpha female. An alpha female is born, not made. Either they have it in them or they don’t. Many of them realize they aren’t up for the task when they see what it involves. Especially in a big pack like mine. Being challenged and judged isn’t rare. It’s in our nature to want a strong and dependable leader. The pack members want to depend on their alpha female as much as they want to on their alpha male. But that task and the need to uphold a certain image are often too hard to handle for most female wolves. We can be quite violent, after all.”
We never had such problems with our pack, but we were a small pack. No one threatened each other. But if the reaction towards an alpha female was similar to what Bertram put me through, then I could understand the hesitation. Even if his behavior made my blood boil rather than being scared. Especially because I couldn’t attack him and defend myself. Not as a guest.
“Some packs even make sure the alpha male will reject his alpha female when she doesn’t seem fitting.”
I gasped. “That’s awful! They shouldn’t do that. Isn’t an Alpha bond usually for life?”
He nodded. “It usually is. We see an alpha bond as quite permanent, considering we even ink the symbol of our alpha partner on our skin. But it happens that they split up anyway or that the alpha male feels so pushed into a corner, that they actually kill their partner, just so they can continue to lead.”
My mouth felt incredibly dry suddenly, and I felt sick to my stomach. “They kill their partner? Gunnar, that’s horrible!”
He looked at me with the same rage I could feel.
“Did you experience such a thing before?” I whispered.
“In one of our allied packs, it happened before. I was still a pup, though, so it was a while ago. I don’t agree with such things and I would never do that. If I choose my partner and pick her to be my alpha, she will be my queen until the day I die,” he said and sat up straight, staring at me as if he wanted to look into my soul.
“I wouldn’t expect anything else from you,” I said with a smile.
He visibly relaxed. “I’m glad you think so.”
“You don’t give me the impression of ruthlessly killing your wife, besides I expect your sister would tear you a new one too.”
He laughed. “She would never allow me to act like a jerk.”
“But I still can’t imagine that no one was ready to get together with you,” I said hesitantly.
“Oh, no. I had girlfriends, three to be exact, and they all seemed like they were fitting to be the potential alpha female candidate. But they all couldn’t deal with the prospect of what might happen. They were more interested in living a comfortable and peaceful life within the pack. It also never felt right with them. I liked them, but I never loved them, you know?”
I smiled. “I’m sure it will work out, eventually.”
“I hope so too,” he said and winked at me.
I rolled my eyes and punched him playfully.
Gunnar stayed for a while longer, and when he left, he took the clothes with him I planned to donate. He also was so nice to drop me off at the local swimming pool. I decided it would be a good chance to get some exercise in and to finally take a shower after cleaning up all day.