Chapter 3. You're Leaving
I dropped the knife, and it hit the dirty dishwater with a final plunk.
Only then did Hale let go. “Honestly, Kora. I didn’t take you for a coward, like your father. Stabbing my father in the back after all those years of serving him loyally. Stabbing him in the back!”
I gritted my teeth and didn’t answer. I’d heard this story many times before, but Hale seemed determined to tell it again.
“Your father let Lyle slither into our packlands with an army that decimated us! Do you even remember how many lives were lost beating him back?!” Hale continued.
I still remained silent, staring at the silty wash water.
“And now you want me to feel sorry for you? Watch you kill yourself?!” Hale shook his head. “You are unbelievable. Weren’t we friends once? How could you do this?! Are you determined to make me suffer as your father made this pack suffer?! Don’t you think HE made me suffer enough?! I lost my father!”
‘I lost my father as well,’ I thought, but didn’t speak. I knew. I understood.
Even till now, as long as I shut my eyes, the world dropped dead, only the bloody moon that night up in the scarlet sky. Cries. Screams. Shouts. Blood. Blood. Blood.
Under the bloody moon, I’d sworn that day. No matter what it would take, I would sacrifice all I had to take revenge, for those dead souls who couldn’t rest in peace, for their families who were still drowning in sorrow.
They must pay. I was on Hale’s side. The culprits who caused all these tragedies must pay.
But……The first time today, I looked into Hale’s eyes. My father had been beaten back along with Lyle’s pack. He was with them now.
‘Papa, please tell me. Were you really involved?’
“F*ck.” Hale stepped away from me.
I didn’t speak, hoping he would be the one who couldn’t tolerate the dead silence first, and leave me alone.
However, what he said next immediately tore off my mask of pretended indifference.
Hale looked deeply at me, and announced. “I’m exiling you after the rejection ceremony. I’m not going to deal with this. Whatever you do after the ceremony makes no difference to me, or this pack.”
My heart pounded. Exile? That would completely ruin my plans. It hadn’t even occurred to me that he might exile me! Children of traitors were meant to be warriors in the pack and die protecting it. Exile was unheard of.
“With all due respect, Alpha, I would rather not be exiled,” I said softly. “It is my duty to protect the pack. I have no intention of abandoning that duty.”
Hale’s eyes widened with disbelief. “You… what?”
All these years, I couldn’t quite believe the man whose gentle face still lingered in my mind had really betrayed Hale’s father, the former Alpha. I was desperate to find answers to the mystery that remained—namely, why? Why had he done what he did? If I was exiled from the pack, I would never find out.
“I prefer not to be exiled,” I repeated.
Then Hale had both my wrists, and pulled me close to his chest. We stared at each other, breathing each other’s air. “You really want to die here? For this pack? On the battlefield or by the blade, huh? Maybe off the edge of a cliff? You want to destroy my wolf, is that it?”
“Your… wolf?” I asked, confused.
“Don’t you know, as my mate, every time you try to hurt yourself, you cause me pain?”
My cold heart panged for the first time in many years.
It was an excuse. If Hale started to repeat something, it meant he was lying. The alpha in front of me was taciturn since we were children—he never talked much.
But this close, I could feel the mate bond, too, tantalizing, trying to trick me into doing all sorts of things that would bring Hale and me closer.
“I’m sorry for your pain,” I looked into his eyes, said quietly.
“But it won’t be a problem much longer. I won’t be a problem much longer. In two weeks, there is the rejection ceremony, and our bond will be severed. Then you will care nothing for me, and I can… Alpha, I’m not suicidal. Don’t you want me to disappear from your life? Isn’t that what the rejection ceremony is all about?”
“That’s not how I feel at all,” Hale ground out. “Disappear from my life?”
“Yes, disappear from your life,” I reiterated. “You won’t need to worry about me. Honestly, Alpha, if you are so concerned about me, why reject me at all?” I gestured to the third scar on my face—HIS scar.
“How could you possibly expect anything different?!” Hale boomed.
“Exactly,” I said. “I’m the daughter of a traitor. I couldn’t possibly be your Luna. I will always be unforgiven for what my father did. It is my fate to die for this pack, and it is your fate to lead it. That’s where we are.”
Hale looked to be on the edge of another tirade, so I tilted my head to the side and pretended to hear something.
“My leader is calling. I need to go, Alpha.” I stepped back from him, gently extricating my wrists from his grasp.
“You… you can’t…” Hale murmured, a stricken look on his face.
I didn’t understand his reaction. I didn’t understand MY reaction. I couldn’t believe I’d spoken so forcefully to the Alpha of our pack, as though we were children and friends again. As though I had some right to speak to him.
I’d even dared to lie to him.
“I’ve got to go,” I repeated and hurried away before he could give me some kind of Alpha’s order to stay.
I saw Giselle in the hall outside the kitchen, holding the back of her head. Her eyes flashed at me, but for once she didn’t say a thing. I wondered what had happened, but was still trying to make my escape, so I didn’t stop to ask.
Not that I would have, anyway. I was a traitor’s daughter and unworthy of speaking to her first. Then there was also the fact that I’d long since stopped caring about her wellbeing.
I made my way back to my small quarters in the warriors’ section of the dormitory—often referred to as the “traitors’ cave.” It was dingy, not well-maintained, cold, and generally uncomfortable. A perfect place to put all the pack traitors.
My roommate was asleep. That seemed like a good idea to me. I’d missed my usual patrol by half an hour, speaking with Hale, and would be punished just as harshly whether I arrived late or not at all.
I closed my eyes, glad, at least, that I’d made my point clear. Any punishment was worth severing ties with Hale. I had things I needed to accomplish in this pack before I could even consider any “exile.” Hale’s hovering attention just made the task more difficult.
He wouldn’t come to me again, that I knew. After feeling the mate bond flare between us, he would know just as well as I did how dangerous his obsession was. I wouldn’t see him again until the rejection ceremony.
Now the only question left was whether or not I’d convinced him to let me stay.
With that lingering worry in my head, I closed my weary eyes.
I’d sleep on it. My father had always said, if you couldn’t find a solution right away, you should sleep on it.
He’d also said you should sleep on it before starting an argument. I hadn’t done that very well today, I supposed.
But at least this was the end of Mason Hale interfering in my life.
Our door banged open, and my roommate and I both jolted upright.
Mason Hale was standing in my doorway.
What did he want?
“Kora Monroe, get out of bed and come with me,” the butler standing next to him ordered.
With an obedient nod, I slid off of my cot and pulled on my boots.
I walked over to them, head bowed. “What is your will, Alpha?”
Hale didn’t answer. The butler did instead. “Stay out. You’re leaving.”
I frowned slightly. He couldn’t mean to exile me already. “Alpha, the ceremony will be next week…”
“Move,” the butler said.
I kept my eyes on the floor as I went to our two-drawer dresser and emptied my things out onto my bed.
As I began packing it, I noted the other maids who had arrived with the butler looking repulsed by me.
My eyes flicked up of their own accord to Hale, and our gazes met. There was definitely a burning… something… in Hale’s eyes. It created a funny feeling in my stomach I didn’t want to examine.
But when I was going to turn back to my suitcase, a man’s hand stopped me.
I turned around.
And met Hale’s cold eyes.