“What did you do this past week?” My dad asked.
My parents were on me as soon as I crossed the door. Zev was right behind me, and he kept smiling at my mom, who was looking at him strangely.
“Why didn’t Layton bring you home?” She asked.
“I think that’s my cue to go,” Zev said.
It was hard to keep up with all the questions my mom and dad threw at me after Zev left. They wanted to know what I did, what I learned, how I spent my time, if I’d missed them, and they asked about Layton.
I patiently answered every question, even though I was itching to go upstairs. I had spent the week at Zev’s house. It had been harder than I imagined. When I told Zev that if I left, he couldn’t come with me, he started trying to convince me to stay.
Layton called me every morning and every night for the first three days. But after that, his calls just stopped. I was worried about that. The third day that he didn’t call, Zev went to look for him.
He came back with a bruise on his face, but he refused to tell me what he and Layton had talked about. He simply said that Layton was fine.
That was when I decided to stay.
Later that night, I got my first visitor from Blue Bloods. When my mom told me that somebody was downstairs looking for me, I felt my heartbeat pick up.
I should have known that it wasn’t Layton. I would have felt him as soon as he arrived, and I hadn’t. I had heard nothing from Layton in days, and that unsettled me.
So when I ran downstairs, trying to keep myself from stumbling after each step, I was surprised and let down when I was greeted by Jared’s.
“Cassidy,” Jared said in a grave tone.
My parents awkwardly stood around, looking between Jared and me.
“We’ll go talk outside,” I said, and quickly reached out to take Jared’s hand.
I knew if we stuck around, my parents were going to try to sneak around and eavesdrop in our conversation.
“I’ve been trying to call you all week,” Jared told me right after we stepped outside.
We started walking down the trail that led to the woods. It was already dark out, but Jared kept to the trail, and it wasn’t hard to see where we were going.
“Did you have your cell phone?”
I shook my head, which made Jared frown at me. “Why did you run off with him? I mean, did it have to be him?” Jared asked. He sounded like he was disappointed, and that made me feel guilty.
“I ran away and Zev found me. I stayed there to stay away.”
“He killed Hanna,” Jared said, as if I needed the bitter reminder of the event.
“I know that,” I said, defensively.
“You couldn’t take one call from Layton, but you stayed the whole week with Zeverus. Layton is your mate. Did you ever consider how he would feel if you ran off with the guy who has the hots for you?”
That left me quiet.
“If you needed time away from Layton, you could have called me or Tyler or anyone else from the pack. You could have taken some time off on your own. But you ran off with Zeverus.”
“I was mad at Layton, and I was mad at Zev too.”
Jared closed his eyes, and he walked ahead of me. I thought he was going to take off, but he stopped after creating some distance between us.
“I didn’t come here to call you out on it. I’m only here to tell you that Layton’s not okay.”
His words made me feel anxious. I waited for him to tell me more, but Jared simply shook his head.
“Did something happen to him?” I asked.
Something tugged at my chest. I had been worried about Layton, but I assumed he was simply too stubborn to call me. I never thought something might have happened to him.
“He thinks that you and Zeverus are together now,” Jared stated, flatly.
“What?” I asked in a shriek.
“No! I’m not! Why would he think that?” But the look in my face must’ve told Jared that I knew the answer to that myself. “I’m not with Zev.”
“The mate bond,” Jared explained, “is weird. It’s like magic.”
“Okay,” I said, frowning, because he was losing me.
“There is such a thing as rejecting your mate,” he continued.
“What are you talking about?”
“If your mate dies, the bond breaks. That is usually the way bonds are broken. But you can reject your mate after he’s claimed you. You say the words, the bite disappears and you’re free.”
“You can do that?” I asked.
“Did you want to do that?” Jared asked me return.
“I didn’t do anything. Layton and I fought. I took off. That is it,” I said, wondering why I was explaining myself to Jared.
I had spent the last few days trying to convince myself that staying away from Wolves was the best thing I could do, but I was never able to talk myself into believing that. I thought about Layton all day long, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about him.
“He seems to think that you and Zeverus did something the other day. He woke up from his sleep and his Wolf took over. He destroyed some areas in the pack.”
“Is he okay?” I asked, unable to believe what Jared was telling me.
“He’s alive, if that’s what you’re asking. I can smell Layton on you, which means his bite is still on your neck. You didn’t break the bond.”
“I wouldn’t do that to Layton, ever,” I said, seriously.
“Well then tell me why he thinks you broke the bond and rejected him.”
“I only needed time.”
“I guess now you have enough of that,” he said.
When I opened my mouth to speak, Jared shook his head. Jared shifted into his Wolf, and ran away from me.
I hadn’t been going to school. I hadn’t really been doing much of anything while I stayed with Zev. All I did was think, think, and then think some more.
But after Jared’s visit, I got worse.
I spent the next three days locked in my room, drowning in my own thoughts.
A part of me wanted to be angry at Jared for going to my house and blaming me for Layton’s state. I missed Layton, even though I tried every single minute of the day to convince myself that I didn’t. I missed him so much.
I wanted to see him, to touch him. I reached a point where I had forgotten why I was even mad at him in the first place. I just wanted to chase after him and hold him tightly in my arms.
But then an image of Hanna’s dead body seeped in. That made me angry at Zev and at all the Wolves in general.
When thoughts of Liam crept in, I was inconsolable. I hadn’t seen Liam get killed, but I had sure pictured him dead in every which way.
The last day I had seen Liam, he was beaten up, bloodied, and in pain. In my mind, I imagined Layton had left him ten times worse than that, before finally killing him. Those were the thoughts that got to me the most. Those were the ones that tormented me and I couldn’t let go of.
Death was unfair.
Later in the night, I finally left my room.
My parents were worried about me. At first, they blamed Layton. I had been gone for a week, and they had thought I’d spent that time with Layton. They assumed my behavior was due to something that must’ve happened the week that I was away.
But the next three days that I spent locked up in my room convinced them it was something else. They were forming crazy theories, most of which involved being a Legen.
When they saw me leaving my room, they seemed relieved.
“Feeling better, hun?” My dad asked, optimistically.
“I’m going out,” I told them.
“Right now? It’s late,” my dad said.
“I’m going for a walk.”
I was lying in the walking part, since I wanted to take off flying. I hadn’t taken my wings out the entire time I spent at Zev’s house, or the last few days I’d been there.
“Alright,” my mom quickly told me, interrupting my dad before he tried to say anything to stop me.
I walked for almost an hour. I didn’t realize I’d gone far from home, until I smelled the scent of Layton’s pack near. Layton’s pack had a distinct scent, and all the Wolves from Blue Bloods carried it. The same thing went for Zev and New Elite.
I had spent all three days holed up in my room, without talking to anyone, going to school, or moving around. I should have been well rested. Yet that hour long walk had gotten me tired.
I took a seat on the ground, with my back against one of the trees. The night was peaceful. It might have been because I was alone— at least I thought I was.
One moment I was taking in the scenery— not enjoying it as much as I should have— and the next, I saw him coming towards me.
“Hey,” he said.
I looked up at his approaching figure, and started wondering if he always looked that good or if I had really miss him that much.
Layton must’ve thought I wasn’t going to talk to him, because he sighed exhaustedly and slumped himself on the floor in front of me.
There was no screaming, no demanding, his eyes were cast down, and he looked like he’d rolled around in mud.
“I was waiting for you to come out,” he told me.
“I’m here,” I said in a meek voice, surprising even myself.
Something about him telling me that he was waiting for me softened me up. It was probably more due to the fact that I had been hoping he would come. Having him in front of me gave me another one of those moments where I forgot why I was being so stubbornly set in being mad at him.
It was hard to miss the way he was talking to me, like if he’d given up on everything. Layton wasn’t even looking at me. That hit me hard, because it wasn’t what I wanted. In reality, I wasn’t sure what I wanted, or why I’d kept away from Layton. I hadn’t done that with Zev.
It was easier to forgive Zev, but that was maybe because I expected more from Layton. I loved Layton. I loved him so much.
When that through crossed through my mind, Layton’s eyes sharply turned to look at me. His entire features changed, and I was sure that was because I had accidently opened up my mind to him.
“I don’t want to lose you, Cass,” Layton told me.
It was first time he had ever called me ‘Cass’. He was more into using my full name, and for some reason, it made me smile.
“Jared came to see me.”
“I saw him leaving your house. I didn’t know he was going to do that.”
“You don’t look too good,” I told him, my eyes inspecting every aspect of him, trying to take him in.
“I haven’t been home.”
I raised an eyebrow at his admission, but Layton simply shook his head at me.
“You came back,” he said. His hands were in fists, and his eyes were already turning dark. “I thought you were going to stay with Zeverus.”
“Zev gave me a place to stay, but I hardly saw him the week I was there.”
I wished I hadn’t stayed with Zev. The tension between us grew worse with every passing day. The last two days I spent at his place, Zev and I were hardly even talking. He tried, but I kept pushing him away.
Layton gave me a small smile, and I realized that he still had access to my mind. Having Layton read my thoughts would have been the easy way out. Maybe he could have figured out what was wrong with me, because by then, I didn’t know how to escape the depression I had sunk myself into since Liam’s death.
“I thought I was going to hate you,” I admitted.
“Is that how you feel?”
I shook my head, and let out a humorless laugh. “Far from it. The mate bond is strong, huh?”
“It’s not only the bond,” Layton said, and he risked getting closer to where I was sitting. “We’re past that. The bond helps us find each other, but the rest of our relationship depends on us.”
“We’re not doing a great job,” I told him.
“I didn’t think things would get this far.”
“You didn’t think killing Liam would create a problem between us?” I asked, in a sarcastic, bitter tone.
“I didn’t,” Layton replied, honestly.
“Well you’re great at doing heartless,” I snapped.
“I thought you would accept my decision. Question it, probably, but that you would eventually accept it without a fight.”
“I am accepting it. I’m here,” I said, and that only made me feel sadder.
“Yeah, after I’ve been dragged to hell and back thinking that you and Zeverus had gotten together!” Layton growled.
The way his words sounded so accusing pissed me off, and I couldn’t control when I reached out to him and slapped him— hard.
“You have no right to say that!”
Before Layton could stop me, because he tried, I got up and out of his reach.
“I’m not going to stop you if you do it, not anymore. You can go with him if that’s what you want,” he said, his voice serious.
“Why would I do that? You and Zev are exactly the same,” I said, angrily.
“No we’re not. I want you to stay with me. I want you to be my Luna. I want you to stand by me. I only want to lead the pack if you’re there with me, helping me.”
“Helping you? With what, killing people?”
My comment got to him. Layton cringed at my words. He got up from the ground, and took a few steps towards me.
“I never expected to find my mate so soon. I was one of the lucky ones. But I thought I would get a She-Wolf as a mate,” he started to say.
“Again with that? You’re going to throw it in my face that I’m not a Wolf?”
He shook his head. “She-Wolves understand decisions when it comes to killing other Wolves-”
“Wolves who also happen to be people,” I interrupted.
“Yes,” he sighed. “It bothers you.”
“It should bother everyone! Why do you people take it so easily?” I shouted, and surprisingly, it felt good.
“Because we’re animals?” Layton said, and when he chuckled, I unintentionally joined in.
“I’m serious,” I said after a while, my voice slightly cracking up. “How can you kill them and not feel bad? Do you like doing stuff like that?”
“We have pack rules, Cassidy. I follow them, other Alphas follow them. That is how we run our packs. If we didn’t, Rogues wouldn’t respect us.”
“So this is about respect?”
“This is about protecting the pack, and surviving. There are a lot of Rogues. They don’t mess with us for the most part, and we don’t mess with them. Once in a while a Rogue will attack a pack, and that is dealt with depending on their rules. We kill Rogues.”
“Liam was a Rogue…” I mumbled.
“But Liam had a chance. He screwed up. He took advantage of Marcus’ trust, of my father’s trust too.”
“I didn’t want him dead.” The tears were already building up in my eyes, getting ready to fall. If there was anything more depressing about being depressed, it was all the crying I suddenly felt like doing.
“My word might not count too much to you right now, but I promise that I will never do this again. I won’t do anything that you don’t agree on. Honestly, it’s not worth it. I don’t know if you believe me, but I really don’t want to lose you.”
His words were what got the waterworks started.
Layton wasn’t coming to me, so I took the initiative and hurriedly walked into his arms. He hugged me close to his chest, and I cried my eyes out. While I had my face pressed against his chest, I wondered if he’d been sleeping outside for the past week.
He smelled earthy, but clean. He was covered in dirt, but I couldn’t really explain that one.
“I was staying by the lake,” he replied my unspoken question, and I realized he was still able to hear my thoughts.
“I wasn’t going to tell you this,” he said, hesitating.
“What?” I managed to choke out.’
“Liam, he’s-” Layton started to say, but I cut him off.
“I don’t want to know,” I quickly told him.
“You do, trust me. I did something and-”
“Whatever you did to him, I would rather not know.”
Layton sighed, and he tried pulling me away from his body so that I could look at him, but I only hugged him tighter and pressed myself closer to him.
“Listen, Cassidy. Liam, he’s not-”
“No!” I cried, tapping my forehead against Layton’s chest. “I don’t need to know. Liam is gone. But giving me details, or last words from him, or telling me what you did to him— it isn’t going to make things better.”
Layton snaked his arms around my waist, and picked me up from the ground. I tightened my hold on his neck, letting the electricity flowing through us calm me down.
He was what I had needed the past week and a half. I had missed him.
“I love you. I was scared. These last few days,” Layton whispered against my neck. I felt him shaking his head. His grip around my waist grew tight, but I didn’t complain. I wanted to feel him, to breathe him, to everything with him.
“I love you so much, Cassidy,” he said, his voice low and husky.
“I love you too,” I replied, running my hand through his hair.
I kissed his jaw, and slowly peppered kisses on his face, until I reached his lips.
Layton didn’t stop me, and he didn’t hurry me.
“We’ll get through this, right?” I asked, my lips brushing against his with every word I spoke.
“If you forgive me, we’ll get through anything. I promise…”
It was all I needed to hear to give in to him.
Being with Layton was a lot like a dream. I had practically been in a self-induced coma for the last two weeks. Kissing Layton was reviving me, giving me strength.
At first our kisses were small, shy, and unsure. But once we got comfortable with each other, things started heating up.
I hadn’t thought much about mating with Layton.
I had been set on not doing it until I was ready. When Layton picked me up in his arms, and softly laid me down on the ground, I felt it.
That moment when you decide you’re not going to stop, you’re going to let go. I did, I let go. I gave in.
His hands were everywhere, trying to rip the clothes off me, while kissing me because he didn’t want pull away. And when he managed to separate himself from me for more than a second, I was the one tugging on the collar of his shirt to get him to kiss me.
I had never felt so close to Layton, and it wasn’t because we were about to mate for the first time. I could feel something in him, it had changed. I wanted to think that what he told me was how he really felt. He was going to let me in, and not disregard my opinion.
I couldn’t handle being away from him, but I couldn’t take some of the decisions he made.
“I will keep my word,” Layton promised, breathlessly.
“Get out of my mind,” I complained, but it sounded too weak, and it only made him smile down at me.
“You look beautiful…” he sighed.
I laughed, and playfully pushed him away. Layton simply smiled down at me, and brought his lips over mine.
When Layton undid the button of my jeans, I hesitated.
He noticed, and I was glad that he stopped. Layton’s eyes looked up at mine, and I could feel his heart pounding fast in his chest.
“We can stop here,” he told me.
I sat up, with difficulty since Layton had been laying down over me. He completely pulled away when he noticed that I was stopping what was happening between us.
It wasn’t what I intended him to do. Layton was surprised when I crawled towards him and straddled his waist, but he wasn’t complaining.
“You love me?” I asked, needing desperately that reassurance from him.
“More than anything,” he said.
A short nod on my part was all Layton waited for, before his lips crashed against mine. For long minutes, we simply kissed each other hungrily. We both needed it. To feel each other in our arms, the contact of our bodies intertwined.
After it was over, and I was laying down over Layton’s chest, with my hand lazily running over his chest, I let out a sigh in content.
My skin felt feverish, and both Layton and I were coated in sweat. But I couldn’t ask for anything more. I had Layton, and I felt the closest I had ever felt to him. Just before drifting off in his arms, I heard Layton whisper ‘I love you’.