I closed the door and leaned my head against it. As much as I wanted to believe that the Vindictoria pack wasn’t behind the letters, and all the theories I crafted in my mind to avoid thinking about the inevitable, it now came crashing down on me. It was them, and they would try everything to get what they wanted.
Now, the next question was: am I ready for that?
Not really. I should come clean and tell Gunnar and Tyra about everything that happened. I didn’t want them to worry after they finally got less protective of me, though. They were concerned about my well-being every day until I finally had my house filled with furniture and nothing awful happened. Nothing they knew of, anyway.
If I dropped the Vindictoria bomb on them now, they might want to get involved. I didn’t want them to start an attack and risk losing pack members to senseless violence. Maybe I was selfish, but I didn’t want to see a war between the two packs, with me in the middle of it.
Possibly it was my deep-rooted fear of losing the people I care about once again. It was better to not have them involved and face the problem alone than to potentially lose one of them by letting them know.
I couldn’t sleep the entire night, thinking about a solution to what I could do to solve this issue. They wanted my territory, but I couldn’t give it up. Not when my pack sacrificed everything to save it. Perhaps the ancient mages would help? If I only knew where to find them.
When Tyra and Gunnar arrived the next day, I felt like a truck had hit me. But I tried to hide it as good as I could. Tyra brought yet another blanket with her, making me laugh. I had no clue why she needed so many blankets, but it almost seemed as if she wanted to have a blanket at every possible spot, in case she spontaneously freezes to death.
The children rushed into the house, only throwing me a short greeting, as they made a beeline to the garden, shouting for Gunnar. They started building a treehouse in the old oak tree, and Gunnar probably invested a lot more time into it than he had planned in the beginning. By now, it almost looks like it would turn into a living space. Not that it bothered me. When I was a child, I kept imagining having a treehouse, but my parents never wanted to build one for me. It was fun to see them having fun together, and I hoped they would enjoy it when it was done, too.
Svea tugged on my shirt like she usually does, and I picked her up for a short cuddle session. We grew even closer since I moved into my house. Sometimes she even sneaked into my bed during the night. She wouldn’t utter a single word, but Tyra told me she hadn’t been speaking a lot since her dad died. The only time she had spoken to me was in her wolf form, but that was fine with me. I enjoyed her company, with or without words.
After a while, she wiggled out of my arms, running after her siblings.
“It’s good to see you again,” Gunnar said behind me, his low voice sending a shiver down my spine. The usual reaction whenever I would see him by now, and I was still debating if I liked it or not.
I turned around with a smile, my breath hitching in my throat. I didn’t know what he had done, but he looked more and more handsome every time I met him again.
“Welcome back,” I said, trying to act as if he wasn’t the most attractive man I ever laid eyes on. A smirk spread over his face as he closed the distance between us and swooped me into his arms. I wrapped my arms around his neck, enjoying his body pushed to mine for just a bit, before stepping back again.
He dropped his arms around me and chuckled. “I can’t believe how stubborn you are.”
I crossed my arms. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I’m pretty sure you know, beautiful,” he said, caressing my cheek ever so softly. “How much longer will you fight against this?”
“It’s not time yet,” I answered breathlessly, staring at the ground to avoid his gaze. I knew if I wouldn’t distance myself from him, I would fall for his charm in an instant. Heck, I probably did already, but the nagging guilt made me deny as long as I could.
“It’s good that I have all the time in the world,” he answered, straightening his back and walking past me to take care of the shouting children.
I let out a puff of air, ignoring the whining wolf in the back of my mind, begging me to follow him and telling him we would stay with him forever. She acted like she was in heat and has never seen a man before. Even if I had to admit, we never did meet a man like Gunnar before.
“That was quite intense,” Tyra said next to me.
I shrieked, my heart racing. “Do you have to say it like that?”
She laughed. “First you basically make out with my brother in the middle of the hallway, and then you swoon after him like a teenage girl, not hearing me when I call you. I think that I have to be this way, yes.”
I felt my cheeks turning red and fanned air into my face. “We didn’t make out. We are just friends.”
She waved me off. “You can tell that to yourself all you want, but believe me, it’s obvious to everyone that you have fallen head over heels for him. It’s only a matter of time before you finally stop denying it.”
I was about to protest, but I couldn’t even open my mouth before she stopped me. “I don’t want to hear it. It’s fine. I know what you think, and I know you need time. But don’t try to make me believe something that isn’t true. And now go outside and help them with the treehouse. I will paint for a bit.”
She ushered me outside, and I knew she only wanted me to spend more time with Gunnar, but I didn’t mind. Spending time with him and the children was fun, even if Gunnar did most of the work. Renovating the house showed me I had no talent for building anything whatsoever. But I was fantastic at handing more talented people the right tools.
It was getting darker when we stopped for the day. The children were complaining, hoping we could finish it faster, but it would only get more dangerous the longer we tried to fiddle around in the approaching sunset. Gunnar and I retreated inside, while they stayed behind, imagining what to do with their treehouse once it was done.
“I love to see them talk about the treehouse and what they will do with it. Thank you for building it,” I said, while I washed my hands.
Gunnar smiled. “We should thank you for offering the tree. We have plenty of trees in the forests surrounding our property, but there are no safe trees in our backyard. I feel like it’s every child’s dream to have a treehouse, so this is all thanks to you.”
I made space for him, so he could wash his hands, too. “As long as they are happy, I’m happy. I’m feeling bad for robbing you guys away from the pack all the time, but when I see them like this, I almost forget there is a pack you return to.”
“You know I would hope to stay together with you for much longer, too,” he said, making me blush again.
I shook my head and grabbed the vegetables, handing them to him. “Wash these, please.”
He nodded, washing them and handing them to me after, so I could cut them. We were working in comfortable silence when a piercing scream from outside startled us. A cold shiver ran through my body, and I immediately dropped everything, running outside, Gunnar close behind me.