“I need to see Zev.”
Layton was surprised with my sudden request. I could tell that he wanted to argue with me about it, but he simply nodded. The internal battle he was having with himself was obvious, although he made no mention of it.
“He might be in school,” Layton said.
“I called him this morning. The guys haven’t been going to school either.”
I had lost count of how much school Layton, Zev, the rest of the guys, and I had missed. My parents were worried about, but they tried to hide it.
I had gone back one day, and ended up leaving after third period. Rumors had spread around campus, and they were all different. All of them somehow tied Zev, Layton, their packs, and me into what was going on. They gave me a headache, and it was the last time I’d shown up.
Both Layton and Zev were going to have their Alpha celebrations very soon. Layton and I had mated and gotten back together a few days ago. It almost felt like we were starting over from scratch.
Layton was behaving differently. It was funny, in a way. He was used to having so much power, and never sharing it. I tried not to impose too much, and stay out of his business as much as I could. We were still struggling, but things had gotten better in just days.
I hadn’t seen Zev since I’d left his house.
We had spoken on the phone a few times. He called me, asked me if I was alright, and then we ended the call. He was detached. I understood why, but it still hurt.
“Things are different now, Cassidy,” Layton warned me.
“I don’t think you do,” he pressed.
“I’m not going to change, at least not when it comes to Zev.”
“My father is going to step down, and I’m taking over this weekend. We have to change some things. I want your priorities to be in the right place.”
“They are, Layton. Stop worrying about that.”
“You’re different when you’re with him.”
Layton’s eyes were on me, gazing at every change in expression or every movement I made.
“I’m different with everyone.”
“What did you two do while you were over there?”
“I already told you, we didn’t do anything. We barely talked.”
The day after Layton and I mated, he confessed that the week we were apart, he thought Zev and I had been together. When I told him that nothing had happened, he nodded, and said that he already knew that. Later that same day, he told me he was glad I had only ever been with him.
Since Layton knew that he was my first, and Zev and I had really not done anything the week I spent at his house, he was more curious about what had happened. He thought Zev and I had spent our time plotting some kind of crazy plan to get back at him or something.
While I felt that mating had made Layton think over his views, his possessiveness had grown as well. I had been sleeping over at his house, and he had not left my side the entire time.
John held a meeting for the most important members of the pack the day before. Layton explained that it was the two leaders for each of the Wolves in charge.
The two lead trackers, two lead fighters, two lead members, the third in command, Tyler— who was the future third in command—, Jared because he was the Beta, and Layton, who was the future Alpha. Lunas apparently are never invited to those secret meetings, so they were all surprised when Layton showed up, bringing me along.
The only way I got Layton to agree to leave me at Zev’s house was after I told him to pick me up in an hour. I didn’t need him to be hanging around, eavesdropping in our conversation.
Lately, Layton had been trying to get into my mind, even after I blocked him. I didn’t like it. I liked some privacy. He still didn’t trust me alone with Zev, especially after we mated. Mating, it had somehow made Layton more possessive over me.
He gave me a lot of liberties, because he knew how I was. I felt suffocated whenever he tried to keep me locked inside for long periods of time, and he’d been getting into that the days after we got together.
After we mated, all he wanted to do was be all over me. I was lucky if I caught a break. I liked it, because I loved being around him. I loved how he softened up when it was just him and me. But then his dad or Jared would call him up, and he wanted me to wait in his room the entire time he was out. That was the part I didn’t like. We were still trying to compromise, and so far, he had been keeping his promise of hearing me out.
“You’re here,” Zev said as soon as he opened the door.
He had probably known I was coming as soon as Layton and I crossed into his territory. We passed along several Wolves from New Elite, and they must have told Zev that Layton and I were there.
“I told you I was coming,” I said, giving in to a smile.
Layton took his sweet time leaving. I had to wave at him, before he finally pulled away.
Once I turned back at Zev, I found him staring at me. “I missed you,” I told him, and I could see that he felt the same way.
He was frozen in his spot, so I took the initiative to close the distance between us, and wrap my arms around him. Being with him felt nice, even if things had been tense the last time I’d been there.
Zev’s head was nestled in my neck, and I felt him inhaling my scent. It wasn’t unusual for him to do it, but now it held a different meaning to me. I knew that it meant more to him than I had originally thought.
“How’s the pack doing?” I asked, pulling away from him.
“We’re good. I’m becoming Alpha next week,” Zev said, grinning down at me.
Zev started walking me down the hall, towards the living room. Now that Hanna wasn’t there, the house felt ten times larger than it had already felt before. I still wondered why Zev had chosen to live on his own. I assumed it must’ve been because of Hanna, but I still thought he could have taken her to his parents’ home.
“Yeah, Layton has his celebration this coming week.”
“You should come, to mine, I mean. I’m going to Layton’s thing. My parents and some of the other pack members will be there as well.”
“We’ll probably come to yours too. I think Layton would want to see you that day,” I said.
I wasn’t surprised when Zev took a seat right beside me. We had always done that before, even though now I was questioning everything he did with me.
“What did your parents say about Hanna?”
Zev stayed quiet for a while, thinking over my question. He sighed, letting his head fall back against the couch.
“They weren’t close to her. They didn’t like her, but they thought Hanna was going to stick around until I found my mate. Honestly, I think they’re glad that she’s gone,” he said, shaking his head in disapproval.
“What about you? How are you now?”
Zev sighed tiredly, and shrugged. “I thought I loved Hanna. I didn’t want her to die, if that’s what you mean. I didn’t have too much control that day. When I saw what she was about to do to you, I just reacted. I wanted to hurt her, and I did.”
Zev closed his eyes, and put his arm over them, covering himself from me.
I tugged on his arm, trying to get him to look at me, but he was simply shaking his head. “I’m fine, Cass.”
“Last time I was here, I hardly asked how you felt about Hanna. That wasn’t fair of me. She was with you, and I shouldn’t have made it all about me. I’m sorry I did that.”
My words made Zev sit up. He gazed at me with curious eyes, before he chuckled. I yelped in surprise when Zev wrapped his arms around me tightly. I wasn’t expecting it, especially for him to hold me so close to his body.
“Having you here makes it better,” he sighed.
We both stayed quiet, letting the silence sink in and our thoughts take over.
I was trying to keep my mind cleared up. I went there to talk to Zev, to fix things between us. It didn’t seem like Zev was mad at me, but I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
“I love you,” he suddenly said, his voice low, while his breathing had slightly picked up. “I love so much, I can’t even believe it,” he said, before he burst out laughing.
“God, I love you, Cass. I don’t know how I lasted this long without telling you.”
By then, I had pulled away from him. I stood up from the couch, and created some distance between us. Zev didn’t seem to notice, because he just continued talking.
“The day I met you, I swear I thought you were mine. I would have bet anybody that you were my mate. There you were, alone, and blabbering about Layton and how he’d been rude to you. All I wanted to do was stare at you all day and all night, and never let you out of my sight.”
“No, Cass, let me finish. If I don’t say it now, I don’t think I ever will,” he pleaded, his hazel eyes growing slightly darker.
“I wanted you so badly, but you were his. And I had Hanna. She picked up on it. Damn, she picked up on it the first day I came home, after meeting you. I was happy, and I didn’t shut up about you, even though I kept repeating the same thing over and over again because you and I had barely talked. Hanna asked me if I’d found my mate, and I didn’t tell her anything.”
“You thought I was your mate…?” I mumbled.
“I made her leave. I kicked her out, and she cried, but I didn’t care. I just wanted her out. Layton told me, you know. He told me that first day that you were his mate. He told me to fuck off. At first, I thought he was messing around with me. You hung out with him, sure. But you kept coming back to me.”
I felt guilty for everything he was telling me. I wanted to tell him something, but my mind was blank, trying to process his words.
“Deep down, I think I knew you were his from the beginning. The guys kept telling me that you were his mate. And then I finally accepted it, I guess. I accepted you were his, and not mine. I kept lying to you, and to Layton. He kept confronting me behind your back, telling me to back off because you were his. He threatened to go to war with me so many times, I lost count of it.”
“But… you never said anything.”
“What was I going to say? Telling you how I felt would only push you away. I didn’t want that. The day you found out that Layton and I were Wolves, I knew I’d lost all of my chances of ever getting you. You were going to learn the system. He was going to tell you about mates. You felt more for him than you did for me. You always felt more for him, and I get it. He’s your mate.”
The tears came back for the first time in days. I hadn’t cried ever since Layton and I had gotten back together. Zev took me in his arms, and he walked me back to the couch, holding me tightly. Instead of me comforting him—how it should have been— he was gently running his hands over my back and telling me that it was okay.
“You never told me any of this. Layton always said that you… But I thought you saw me as a friend. You had Hanna.”
“I did. She took me back. I had you while I was at school, and whenever you called me up. But when I got home, I was alone. She came a few days after I kicked her out of the house. She was going to pick up some of her things. We got back together. I shouldn’t have done that. I didn’t want her. I ended up killing her…”
“Zev, I don’t know what to tell you,” I said, my voice cracking with each word.
Zev smiled at me, a sad smile that only broke my heart more.
“I’m not asking anything more than what you already gave me. I have a mate, somewhere, out there,” Zev said, before chuckling against my hair.
“You should hate me,” I told him.
“Na, I don’t feel like it. I love you too much for that.”
“Stop, don’t say that.”
“I won’t anymore,” he said, laughing, while he squeezed my waist. “You came here for me to tell you what was really going on, and that’s what I did. I don’t need you feeling bad. That’s the last thing I want, Cass, trust me. As long as you’re here, and things go back to how they were before, I’ll be fine.”
“I can’t do that,” I said, softly.
“That’s why I didn’t want to tell you. I don’t want you to treat me differently, or act weird about it. Layton doesn’t know how I really feel about you, and he gives me enough shit about it. I don’t need you to create space between us just because you feel bad about me. I want you here.”
“I don’t want to make things worse for you, Zev,” I said, sadly.
“You will if you stop talking to me,” he said, tangling his hand in my hair, making me look up at him. “As long as you’re here, my Wolf is happy and so am I. It’s better to have some part of you, then to not have you at all.”
I didn’t trust his words, not completely. I didn’t want to betray Layton, but I also didn’t want to lose my friendship with Zev. But I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to be around Zev after everything he’d just told me.
“Please don’t do this,” Zev begged. “Just give me a chance. This is the last time we’ll talk about this, I promise.
“Alright,” I said after a couple of minutes. For such a simple word, it carried so much weight.
“Alright,” Zev said. “But before things go back to normal…”
I didn’t know what he meant, but he was looking deeply into my eyes. Then, he leaned in and kissed me. His lips pressed against mine for seconds, but it was enough to get my heart going. His hands were on my waist, and he squeezed it gently.
When Zev pulled away, there was a teasing smile on his lips. “I always wondered how that would feel.”
“Zev…” I whispered.
“It was worth it,” he said, caressing my cheek tenderly.
“We can’t do that-”
“I know. It was a one-time thing.”
And that was the end of it.
I was at Zev’s house for about twenty minutes more, and he did the talking for the most part. I was still in shock with what he’d done. Zev had a goofy smile on his face the entire time, and he was talking about everything.
We were more than fine, I could tell. The intensity and strangeness that had been there between Zev and me the last time I’d been there was completely gone, even though his confession was still running through my mind.
“How did it go?” Layton asked me right after I slid inside the car.
“It went good,” I replied.
I felt guilty about the kiss I had shared with Zev, but I did not tell Layton about it. Something in the back of my mind told me that he should have known about it, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell him.
In the end, I kept quiet, and listened to Layton tell me more about the plans for Saturday.
*Don’t ask me to explain Cassidy and Zev’s relationship. I can’t.