“We didn’t get to know their names,” Gunnar said after we stood in silence for a good few minutes. I still stared at the empty spot in front of us, unable to come to terms that a house simply vanished into thin air.
I turned to him. “That’s going through your head after hearing everything we heard?”
He shrugged, a shy smile on his lips. “I’m a bit overwhelmed by all the information. I mostly worry about your thoughts, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“I worry you might feel like everything was out of your control, and nothing was your choice. I’m a little afraid you are going to push me away.”
I stared at him, my heart aching, seeing him clasping his arm and staring at the ground to avoid my gaze. He looked nothing like the confident Gunnar he always appeared to be. I looked back to the spot where the house had stood only a few minutes ago, cursing the ancient mages for what they had done.
“It’s not that I couldn’t understand it. But in that sense, we are all pawns in the same game, and at least to me, it doesn’t matter. Fate, choice, prophecies- I’m just glad I got to meet you,” he said.
A breath hitched in my throat, and I dared to look back at him. His eyes looked almost teary, as he hesitantly moved closer, reaching out to me and taking my hand in his. I looked up to meet his eyes-so green, like the roof of leaves covering the sky above us.
“We learned a lot, but most of all, I learned how afraid I’m to lose you. You know I would never want to pressure you, and if you don’t feel the same, then I will and must accept that. But the look in your eyes almost makes it seem like a goodbye.”
I shook my head, easing out of his soft grip and placing my hands on both sides of his face, pulling him down to me. “That’s not true. Yes, I’m angry that my entire life seemed to be going after some plan I had no control over, but whatever I feel for you - what we feel for each other - that can’t be part of a plan. And if it was, I don’t care. You had as little say and this as I did. You aren’t to blame. It’s all thanks to you that I got my wolf and home back. If it wasn’t for you, I would have never found out the truth. Maybe it was all meant to be a lesson, but if it was supposed to end this way, I’m happy I learned it.”
A single tear rolled down his cheek, hitting my thumb, and I wiped it away. “Weren’t I the one to cry all the time?”
He chuckled and wrapped his arm around my waist, pulling me closer. “I think it’s only fair for me to cry once in a while, too.”
His breath tickled my face as his gaze dropped to my lips. I leaned closer, our lips almost touching. My heart galloped in my chest.
“Do you think this is a wise decision?” I whispered.
His eyes locked with mine again, and being so close, I could see a few brown spots mixed in the green of his eyes. “Since when do you care if your decisions are wise?”
I smiled and pressed my lips to his before I could overthink this. I wrapped my arms around his neck and let him push me against one of the trees. When his kisses traveled down my jawline to my neck, I pressed my body against him, gasping for air.
He chuckled, looking up at me with glossy eyes. “I for sure think it was a wise decision.”
I laughed, brushing a hand through his thick hair. “The wisest yet.”
He stepped away a bit, his hands still placed on my waist, as he swallowed visibly. “Amalia, am I a choice, or am I the escape?”
My stomach dropped, remembering the conversation we had a while ago. The uncertainty was written all over his face as I struggled to come up with the right words. It should be so easy. I should say he was my choice, but why was it so hard?
He smiled and dropped his hands. “It’s okay. You don’t need to answer if you aren’t ready yet. How about we go back to your house for now?”
I felt my heart shattering when his warmth left me, and I wish I could stop this moment from happening, but it was already too late. The spell was broken. I was too late.
We walked back in silence, a tense atmosphere in the air. My thoughts whirled around, and my wolf cursed at me for being such a moron. I knew she was right, but she didn’t have to rub salt into the wound. At least we could find our way back to the hiking trail relatively easily. In the end, we didn’t walk too far away from the ruins.
Gunnar cleared his throat. “So, are you satisfied with the things you learned? About your parents and pack and what the prophecy was all about?”
I glanced at him and seeing him forcing a smile made me feel even worse. “I’m not sure, but I wish they would have told me earlier. We could have found a different way together. I can’t believe they let me grow up knowing they wouldn’t be around for so much longer.”
“They were extremely committed to their plan, and they believed in you.”
“Perhaps, but things aren’t over yet. The Vindictoria pack still wants to take over the ruins, and I still have to prove myself.”
He nodded. “And for that, you need to stay safe. You also should avoid getting into a fight with no backup. You are the last living member of the Ruinas back. When you die, the ruins are vulnerable. I will contact my pack and tell them about the latest development. We are allies now, and even if you have trouble accepting help, we will end this battle with you.”
I bit my lip, stopping myself from disagreeing with him. I didn’t want to put his pack in danger, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to deal with this on my own, either.
We ate lunch together before Gunnar got picked up by Cedric. It was the most awkward farewell I had experienced in a while, and when the house was empty, it felt like he took part of me with him. But this was all on me. I should have stepped up and said something. Instead, I was afraid to speak my mind.
I knew he would be back for dinner, but dinner felt so far away. To keep my mind busy, I cleaned the house, but when that was done, I was still restless. I replayed our kiss in the forest over and over again, feeling my cheeks turning bright red. Before I lost my mind, I exited the house and went for a stroll in the neighborhood.
I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with fresh air. It had the scent of spring flowers and rain. Not far away from the house, it actually started raining. Small drops of water hit my face, and I smiled, not bothered by it.
My wolf urged me to walk to the forest, to let her run free, but I didn’t want to risk it. The Vindictoria pack might be there, and I was only safe in the open.
I was about to head back when a weird scent hit my nose- a mixture of wolves and blood. My wolf howled in my head, pushing me to the forest, and taking over without leaving me a choice. I ran through the woods, mortified about her control.
“What are you doing? Do you want to get us killed?!”
She didn’t respond and followed the scent until we reached a small clearing. I spotted a crumpled body on the floor, and horrified, I realized it was the old lady that was so rude to me when I moved in. I dashed towards her, trying to find a pulse, but there wasn’t one. Her body was already cold, and her lifeless eyes stared into the sky. Nausea built up in me, and I stepped away.
“Don’t tell me they killed a human?”
My wolf didn’t have to answer me to know what they had done. I froze when I heard several wolves approaching. It didn’t take long before I saw a group of five wolves coming towards me.
I growled and bared my teeth. They stopped but didn’t seem intimidated in the slightest.
“How dare you kill a human!”
The black wolf in the front laughed. “Oh please, she was about to die soon, anyway. Not our fault she snooped around in places she shouldn’t have.”
“Aren’t you snooping around places you shouldn’t be in, either? You rotten piece of shit.”
They growled at me, snapping the air in front of them. But I wasn’t afraid. As much as I disliked the old woman, she didn’t deserve to die this way.
“Leave my territory!”
“Not without you,” the black wolf answers, taking a step forward.
I stepped away, ready to make a run for it. “Tell your alpha I have no interest in him. And if he knows what’s good for him, he stops this.”
They didn’t answer me, and I didn’t want to stall this any longer. Who knows how many of them are already here, and they are trying to get them closer?
I turned around and ran. I knew I wouldn’t be able to win against five of them, and it took them precious seconds to realize what I was doing. They didn’t expect my sudden escape. Only the black wolf in the front got to me and bit my hind leg. I yelped and freed myself from him, before pushing him to the ground and biting into his throat without hesitation.
Hot blood filled my mouth, as my teeth pierced the skin with surprising ease. I heard him whine under me before I stopped. I quickly let go and continued to run, with pain throbbing in my leg. No one tried to follow me, and when I dared to look behind me, I saw a group of men sitting around the motionless wolf on the floor.
They were gesturing wildly, seemingly arguing with each other. I was pretty sure he was going to survive, but even if he wouldn’t, that wouldn’t be my problem. They attacked me first, and they killed a human in my territory. They knew what they got into. But why did I feel such dread?