“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” -Alexander Graham Bell
The sun hadn’t quite risen from its slumber yet, though the moon had left the sky. Crickets still chirped noisily from outside and the birds were just beginning to wake. The pack slept on, catching their last bits of sleep.
Mornings like these were Raven’s favorites.
The quiet noise gave her the chance to think, to remind herself of who she was. Who she used to be, and where she used to belong. Sometimes when she closed her eyes, she could pretend she was still at home, and imagine her father coming in to wake her for their special training.
Sometimes if he knew she was tired, he would simply open her door and whisper to her that he loved her.
She didn’t dare move, she had finally found a comfortable position. She wouldn’t ever tell anyone, but her back still ached and felt as though her skin could rip open at any moment.
Raven was slowly losing touch with the person she used to be. She had to try now to bring back that deep bellied rage. It was Dmitri’s doing.
He was constantly filling her day with things to do around the pack, leaving her no time to reflect or draw back into herself. Training the females, meeting and spending time with the ranks of the pack, and other various things.
She’d found it was easy to smile around that male. Something about him made it hard to hide; he was always able to see through her mask.
The crickets slowly faded off as the sun crested, peeking at her through the trunks of the thick forest.
A door at the end of the hallway opened and closed softly. Ezekiel.
The magic of the morning was quickly lost.
Raven sighed heavily, eliciting a twinge of pain from her back. She sat up, the sheets pooling in her lap, her mouth tasting of static.
Footsteps neared her door. She held her breath until they disappeared, going down the stairs.
Slowly she removed herself from the warmth of her bed and entered her connected bathroom, readying herself for the morning. She expected that Dmitri would have her working with the females again.
By the time she left her room, most pack members were beginning to wake up and make their way into the kitchen for food.
Her stomach rolled with the idea of eating with the pack. She couldn’t fight the images of their faces watching as she was whipped whenever she looked at them. Raven circled her shoulders, reminding herself the wounds were no longer there.
As she descended the stairs, she cast one glance at the kitchen as opted against eating with them. Her stomach rumbled in protest, which was ignored.
“Raven!” She paused at the door, her hand just about to twist the handle. “Where are you going?” Dmitri was suddenly behind her, looming.
“Outside,” she responded without turning. “To train.”
“I’m not hungry.” Raven twisted the handle. Suddenly Dmitri’s hand came into her vision, holding the door shut.
“We’ve talked about this. Eventually you will have to eat with them.” Raven didn’t turn around to face him. His other hand gripped her shoulder, and she had to force herself to not shudder at being touched. Any contact made her want to scream, the rage she’s been suppressing threatening to boil up.
“Not today, Dmitri. Let me go, I don’t want to see them.” She attempted to shake his hand off her shoulder, but his grip remained strong.
“Stop running from your problems. You only make them worse. If you were going to leave, you would have left a month ago. Face them, Raven.” He leaned in and quietly whispered, “Don’t make a scene either.”
Raven knew he meant well, and he was right. Although she had tried, she couldn’t force herself to leave. All the hate she felt for this pack, and yet somehow they glued her here.
Her shoulders slumped in defeat, and Dmitri slowly turned her around, walking her to the kitchen. He kept his hand on her shoulder, helping to keep her grounded. A small attempt of comfort.
A few of the females smiled without teeth at her, respectfully not meeting her eyes. Raven managed a small smile back at them, but didn’t stop to chat.
Dmitri led her back to the kitchen, grabbing a plate made by the maids. He handed it to her without looking at her, not wanting to make anything of the interaction. Raven reluctantly accepted the plate.
They sat on the couch in the living room, next to Dmitri’s friend Rhyland. Rhyland grinned at Raven, his eyes meeting hers. Her fur bristled slightly, but she forced herself to calm down. Dmitri clapped Rhyland on the shoulder, greeting him before taking his seat next to them.
“You finally deemed us worthy enough to eat breakfast with?” Rhyland teased with a mouth full of eggs.
“Hello, Rhyland,” Raven mumbled as she picked up her fork.
Rhyland laughed, shoving another bite of eggs into his mouth. Raven cringed at the sight, Dmitri giving her an apologetic smile.
Slowly she lifted the fork to her mouth and took a bite. Despite her growling stomach, the food seemed revolting to her. She forced herself to swallow.
“How are you feeling today?” Dmitri quietly asked her.
“I’m fine, thank you.” She responded louder than she meant to. She could instinctively feel the ears that flicked towards her at the sound of her voice. Though they no longer whispered about her, she knew she was still a topic of interest. They would hang on every word they could get out of her.
Dmitri stayed quiet afterwards, but Rhyland started talking, though his words went unheard to Raven. The pack mumbled quietly in the background.
His scent suddenly tingled the inside of her nose. Lavender and sandalwood, tantalizing her. She set down her fork, causing the metal to clank loudly with the contact. Dmitri looked over at her in curiosity, the scent only becoming stronger.
As he neared the living room, the pack shuffled backwards from him, cowering under his dominance. The noise quieted a little, wary of his presence. Without looking at him, she knew he was standing at the entrance, expectantly looking at her.
“This isn’t healthy for you,” Dmitri whispered into her ear. She shut her eyes, turning her head, willing herself to be strong. “He wants to talk to you. Go, Raven. You can’t keep running forever.”
Raven shifted uncomfortably, deciding on what to do. Ezekiel patiently waited. With a sigh she opened her eyes and handed her plate to Rhyland, knowing he would eat it instantly.
As she stood and slowly walked towards Ezekiel, the pack quieted. They watched her every step, the room silent. Ezekiel cleared his throat, causing them to avert their eyes. He offered his arm to her, but she continued walking towards the door. Ezekiel followed a step behind.
They walked in silence, Ezekiel allowing her to lead the way to where she wanted to talk. Leaves crunched under their feet, dew sticking to her ankles. She led them to the same clearing they had met in wolf form, and where she had run in fear from him.
She paused, keeping her back to him. He stopped too, a few feet behind her.
“Raven.” His thick voice caused tremors down her spine, her instinct pleased with her name in his mouth. He said nothing else, looking for the right words to say.
“What?” She spun around, glaring deep into his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” was all he could manage to say. His emotions rolled within him. Though he had practiced this very talk with Raven many times in his mind, nothing could’ve prepared him for truly facing her.
“You’re sorry? That’s it?” She shifted her weight from one foot to another.
Ezekiel could only nod.
“You have a lot to be sorry for. I need something more specific.”
“Then I’m sorry for all of it. And I will work to earn your forgiveness.”
Raven crossed her arms over her chest, dumbfounded by this male, unsure what to say.
“I understand that you hate me, and I’m the last person you would want as a mate. Let me just explain myself.” He took a step towards her, Raven taking two steps away.
“Stay there. Don’t get closer to me.”
“Okay. I’ll stay right here.” He held his hands up, hoping to calm her down. “I know you have a lot of words for me. Lay them on me. I want to hear all of it.”
“I won’t interrupt.” He lowered his hands to his sides and slightly puffed his chest, preparing himself for his mate’s words.
“I think you’re a worthless male, and an even worthless Alpha.” She tested the waters, hoping to see a reaction from him. His face remained impassive, staying true to his word. He would hear what she had to say.
“My wolf sees you as her mate, but I will never see you as that. You have humiliated and ruined me. You chose the bed of an omega as your true mate lay dying with untreated wounds. You have paraded that low female in front of me. Only once have you acted as a mate should, and it was only for your stupid game.
I hate you for wanting you. I hate who you are. You repulse me. You continue to watch me from afar, instead of fixing the issues you have created. I can feel when your eyes on me, and I hate the feeling it gives me. I still lay awake at night, hating myself for opening my eyes. If I hadn’t, I’d be with my family. Instead, I’m here with you."
“Gracie,” he paused and corrected himself. “Grace is a potential mate. I’d never thought I’d find my true mate, and Grace was all that I had. I planned to make her Luna. But Raven, I have never slept with her. Never. And you are right, I have not acted as a mate should. I will hold that with me forever. I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. My brother was.
I understand that you hate me. I hope that some day I can change that, and we can live the lives the Moon intended us to live. I will work to be the mate you deserve. I was wrong for ever settling for Grace, so terribly wrong. Raven, you are everything I dreamed to have in a mate. And I will thank the Moon every single day for the rest of my life that you opened your eyes that day.”
Raven looked down at her feet, uncomfortable with his feelings. She wasn’t used to it. “What about those times I saw her in your room?”
Ezekiel came closer, until he was standing in front of her. She didn’t step back. His fingers brushed her chin, gently lifting it so she would look him in the eyes again. “She wanted to hurt you. She would sneak in my room, throw herself on me, anything to get at you. And it is my fault for never explaining it to you. It’s my fault for not shutting down the rumors. I accept that.”
A tear slipped from her eye, and she tore her chin from his grasp. She still didn’t move away, but her hands clenched into fists. She had to tell him.
“I intended to kill you.”
“What?” He recoiled slightly, his face twisting in shock and confusion.
“After Abigale. It was before I knew what you were to me. I was going to kill you, then your parents. For what they did to me.”
“Your parents killed my family. My entire pack, reduced to ash. Everyone was slaughtered, but me and Bailey.” She choked on her sister’s name. “Abigale knew, her family set it up along with your parents. I thought we were friends. I was wrong. I was going to return the favor to your pack, then head north to that scum pack that helped yours. My family deserves justice.” The tears fell freely from her eyes, and she made no move to wipe them away.
“Oh, Raven.” Ezekiel wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her to his chest, afraid to let go of his female.
“Sometimes I still hear my mom screaming for me to run here.” She sniffled, pressing her face against his shoulder, comforted by her mate’s embrace.
“It’s in the past now, Raven. We can move on together.” He rubbed her back in slow circles as she cried.
“What?” Her tears halted, replaced by a newfound anger. “Move on?”
“You can’t keep dwelling on it. It torments you, I can see that in you.”
“I’m not going to just move on from my family and pack’s murders! You were going to hang me for one death. What about hundreds? What about the innocent lives lost that day? Your parents just get to get away with that? I can have my family murdered, but yours? No!”
“Raven, calm down let’s talk this out-”
“Let go of me!” She struggled in his arms, suddenly feeling claustrophobic. The anger she had been fighting came to the surface, clawing at her skin. She was seeing red. His arms remained tight around her, not allowing her to escape.
“Let go!” She screamed and thrashed, not seeing clearly anymore. Her cries became animalistic, her wolf screaming to be released as she fought against it. The blood in her veins boiled with her anger. Ezekiel continued to hold her as she struggled, knowing she was no longer thinking correctly.
“Don’t do this Raven. Calm down.” Raven started to cry with how strongly her rage had crashed on her, taking over her mind. She’d fought her entire life to keep this anger tame and controlled, but it was controlling her now.
Her jaw unhinged as her wolf clawed to the surface, forcing a shift. Her eyes were wild with fury, rational thoughts no longer present in her mind. In a flash, she lunged towards him, her eyes locked on his neck with the intent to kill.
A small rational thought entered her mind, causing a slight hesitation as she lunged. She missed the spot on his neck, instead marking him. Ezekiel cried out as her jaw locked in that spot, her fangs sinking into the flesh. Blood oozed down her throat.
Ezekiel shoved Raven off of him, stumbling backwards from the female. He fell to his knees and clasped his bleeding neck. Raven seemed to gain control of herself, her eyes wide with bewilderment and shock.
The blood pulsed between his fingers and ran down his hand, the pain slowly turning to pleasure. Raven stood frozen in place, staring at Ezekiel on his knees in front of her.
Everything that he was was now flowing into her soul. Every thought and feeling he had ever experienced, now hers. Her stomach twisted with the pleasure he was feeling from the mark. He was now marked as hers for eternity. His soul belonged to her.
Raven blinked hard a few times and took a step back before leaning over, emptying her stomach onto the forest floor. She couldn’t bear the feeling of him inside of her. The great pain he felt, and the vast love he held for her.
It was too much.
“Raven. . .” Ezekiel’s eyes were wide, lost in the feeling and unseeing.
Her soul compelled her to go to him. Comfort him. Ease him through the feeling.
Her eyes wandered over her mate, truly taking him in. He was a beast in human form, and it looked wrong for him to be on his knees. He was hers.
She couldn’t handle what she had done.
Raven turned and fled, running back to the pack house. Leaving Ezekiel on his knees, his soul claimed.