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“Because what’s worse than knowing you want something, besides knowing you can never have it?” -James Patterson


Cold wind drafted in through the open doors from his balcony, causing the papers on his desk to flutter gently with it before resting again.

The cold helped to keep him focused.

The mark on his neck pulsed, hot and angry. He could feel it with each beat of his heart, throbbing deep underneath his skin. It was just as painful and angry as the way it was created.

“I’d like to talk about these matters in person, rather than over the phone.” Alpha Blackford’s voice brought him back to the present, snapping Ezekiel’s mind back from Raven.

“The soonest we can leave is tomorrow morning, we can be there within a day’s time.”

“I’ll see you soon, then.” The phone clicked before Ezekiel could either confirm or deny his arrival, the call ended. Ezekiel was strangely intimidated by this male.

With a long sigh Ezekiel set the phone down on the counter, rubbing his face with his hand. His other hand was propped on the side of the desk as he leaned over it. His thoughts were rampant, considering a million things at once.

He stood and stretched his spine, a sudden twinge of pain running through the mark on his neck. It would soon scar and heal, but he doubted it would ever stop hurting.

Ezekiel was about to clean the papers from his desk and go to his room, but his office doors suddenly opened with a fierceness. He was expecting to see Grace, whom probably somehow knew of today’s events.

Instead he was greeted by his brother, a certain hatred coming from him. Dmitri’s face was set in a calm yet angry way. His eyes narrowed on Ezekiel.

“Come on in,” Ezekiel mumbled and resumed stacking his papers, tucking them away into drawers.

“How could you?” Dmitri’s voice was calm, but Ezekiel could tell he was holding back the true things he wanted to say.

“How could I what?”

“How could you do that to her? She was getting better you fucking idiot. It took months to get her to even eat with the pack, and the moment that she does you come skipping in to fuck it up again.” Dmitri’s breathing got heavier.

“Close the door if we’re going to talk about this.”

“We are,” Dmitri curtly responded before giving a simple push to the door behind him, causing it to slam shut with a loud thud. Ezekiel winced at the sound, having never seen Dmitri this angry. They had violent fights as children, but it had been years since had seen Dmitri this emotional about anything.

The brothers were identical in the way they never spoke or revealed their feelings, dealing with them in private.

“I didn’t do anything that I didn’t need to do. It’s been more than half a year since I discovered she was my mate. I didn’t force her to mark me, I didn’t force her to even talk to me. All I wanted was to talk and apologize and things escalated in a way not even you could control. Why should I have to wait for another half a year for her to come around? I’m being punished by her past that isn’t even my fault.” Ezekiel ranted, desperately trying to reason with his fuming brother.

“Maybe not directly your fault, but it is our family’s fault.”

“So she told you as well?”

“Yes, she told me. She told me everything while crying hysterically after throwing up because of everything she’s dealing with.” Dmitri crossed his arms.

“And she told you she planned to kill me before she knew?”

“No, she didn’t tell me about that part. But do you blame her? Do you blame her for seeking revenge on those that took everything from her?”

“No,” was all Ezekiel replied with. He sucked in a breath and rubbed the spot on his neck, hoping to ease the sharp pains now coming from it.

“Does it hurt?” Dmitri asked, referring to the mark.

“Yes, a little,” Ezekiel admitted.

“Good. Marks created in anger will forever hurt unless redone, but I doubt she ever will.” He sounded smug.

“I’m aware.”

“Why today, Ezekiel? She wasn’t ready. She would’ve come to you when she was. I wish you knew the way she hurts, to even feel it for a moment. What you’ve done to her, what our family has done, what the world has done.”

“And you do? You know the way she feels?” Ezekiel questioned.

“I do. I’ve been there for her for every moment that you weren’t. I’ve held her through every panic attack and been there for every rant, while you were off playing games with an omega. Maybe it wasn’t intentional Ezekiel, but you have surely contributed to her pain. Put yourself in her shoes for even a moment and look at yourself for once.

Her family and pack were killed for no fault of hers. She fled here with her sister while her pack burned to the ground and every happy moment she ever had there. And soon after she loses her last family member. Her best friend tells her that it was this pack’s doing and specifically our family and the beta family. She had no choice but to get revenge.

She gets her revenge and is sentenced to death for it. And even then, that is taken away from her by you, her mate. She finally has one thing to be happy for, only to find you running around with another female. You left her to heal on her own, to cope with her life alone. I stepped in for you and you resent me for it. And the moment she’s starting to get better and get on her own feet, you fucking ruin it.” Dmitri was practically shouting his rage at Ezekiel at the end.

A long silence filled the room as Ezekiel fought for the words to say. Dmitri heaved, fighting down his anger.

“I think about her pain every day, Dmitri.”

“But you weren’t there to help her with it!”

“That doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to be there for her. She killed the beta’s wife. Abigale was loved by everyone in this pack. I didn’t fucking know about the rest of it. How could I? I only found out today. At that time I had to think of the pack. I took their revenge away from them.” Ezekiel sounded defeated.

“Fuck the pack, Ezekiel! Fuck them all. You found your mate on the brink of death and you catered to the perfectly fine pack, catered to Grace’s feelings, everyone and everything but her.”

Ezekiel flinched at the words being flung at him. Calmly he began. “There won’t be a single day that I am not grateful for you and what you’ve done in my place. You picked up where I lacked, you took care of her when I wouldn’t. You helped her walk again, metaphorically and literally. But Dmitri, she will never love you in the way you love her. She will never bear your mark or your children. She is not your mate. You chose to do those things, it was not forced on you.

You can’t hide your feelings from me. I know you more than anyone else. I’m begging you, brother, give it up now. She is mine, not yours. She can’t love you in the way you want her to.”

Dmitri seemed to deflate, hurt by the truthful words from Ezekiel.

“As I said, I’m incredibly grateful to you. You did everything I should have been doing, and I hate myself every day for not doing them. I have no excuse for Grace and I will face those consequences forever. It’s time to step down before you’re too twisted in it, Dmitri. I don’t want you to get hurt over this.” Ezekiel continued.

“It’s too late for that,” Dmitri spoke quietly.

“Why do this to yourself? Why fight for a female that will never be yours?”

“Because she deserved to be fought for, and you weren’t. She deserved someone to be there for her and I didn’t see anyone else besides myself.”

“I’m going to be there now. I’m not going to let her recede into anger and hatred like she always has. Step away now before it’s too late, truly. You will find the one for you one day. Do you want them to look at Raven the way Raven sees Grace?” Ezekiel stepped closer, trying to speak reason to him.

Dmitri shook his head silently, lowering his eyes. He was ashamed by his love for his brother’s mate, but he couldn’t help the way that he felt. He couldn’t help the way it was now an instinct to immediately want to comfort her and fight off whatever she was dealing with.

“But what will you do, Ezekiel? Will you stop her and force her to let go of her past, force her into moving on? Or will you help her and be by her side?” Dmitri questioned.

“I don’t know yet. The way she seeks her revenge is destructive. It would lead to many hurt people, including us both. I don’t blame her for any of it, not even Abigale. But I don’t think I could simply step aside if she wanted our parents dead. Would you?”

“I would. Blood or not, everyone should face the consequences of their actions. She deserves her revenge more than anyone else.” Dmitri was firm about this, no hesitation in his answer. He was ready to lose his parents if it meant justice for Raven.

“She deserves it, yes. But I’m not going to allow her to get lost in it.”

Dmitri nodded, almost satisfied by Ezekiel’s response. It was time he stepped up the plate and started being a mate to her. Ezekiel could still see the pain in Dmitri’s features, could almost feel it. Silently he stepped closer and embraced his brother.

Dmitri paused for a moment before he returned the embrace. As much as Dmitri wanted to hate his brother or blame him, he couldn’t.

They broke away from the hug, not needing words for it. Ezekiel stepped back, his thoughts returning to the phone call he’d had moments before Dmitri had burst in to the room. “I have something else I’d like to talk about.”

Dmitri’s brow raised, intrigued and grateful for the change in the subject.

“Over the past few months I had been speaking with an Alpha from the North. He’s relatively new in his title. But he’s already doubled his lands and pack members. There’s going to be a war in the North, Dmitri. He’s asking us to join him in his fight.”

“And are we going to?”

“We are, yes. If he loses this war, it will not stop. It will come to the South.”

“What makes you think that even if he wins, it won’t come to the South?”

“Blackford has no interest in the South, Dmitri. He cares only for his lands and those lands alone. The South is not his, and it’s not what he’s fighting for. He’s an honorable man.”

“Ah, Blackford. I’ve heard of that name. NightBlood, is it?” Dmitri pondered. Ezekiel nodded, confirming. “What does LycanMoon get from this war, Ezekiel? Why does he need specifically us and our warriors?”

“Besides keeping the peace in the South? He has offered LycanMoon a Kingdom in the North. He’s going to split the land into fourths. North, East, South, and West. He has offered the South to me. I’m not sure if I’m going to accept that, as it means moving the pack North and accepting him as Emperor. As for needing specifically us, LycanMoon has worked with the North in the past.

As we both learned today, LycanMoon helped to destroy ScorchedEye, Raven’s pack. It wasn’t us alone, however. It was also the doing of MistFang, the silent ruler of the North. ScorchedEye had knowledge of MistFang’s Alpha and his future plans. They fled the North and came to the South, they didn’t want to be caught in the middle of the war they knew was coming.

This was long before MistFang was ready, this was when they were first setting things into motion. They didn’t want this information to go anywhere and struck ScorchedEye down before anything could spread. MistFang clearly has their claws sunk into everywhere they can, even the South.”

Dmitri reeled back at this information. Needing to sit down to think, he sat on the office couch, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, hands clasped.

“I know it’s a lot to think about Dmitri. But LycanMoon has to join in this war.”

“I’m sure Raven will like this,” was all he could say. It was still his instinct to think of her first.

“We’re doing it for her, too. I had just got off the phone with Blackford when you came in, and I gave him my answer. As for moving to the North I haven’t decided. He’s asked to meet in person to talk more of it amongst other things. We’re leaving tomorrow morning.”

“This is too much too fast. How soon is this war, Ezekiel? Do you fully know what you are bringing this pack into?”

“I know enough to join the war, and that’s enough for me. The war is beginning, Dmitri. Very, very soon.”

“And you’re leaving tomorrow. Are you bringing her?”

“Yes. It’s time she starts being seen at my side. And I know she will want to be part of this war, especially for her lost family and pack. She deserves to come.” The pain coming from his neck eased slightly, almost pleased.

“That’s good, you’re right.” Dmitri cracked his knuckles; it was his tell that he was nervous. Dmitri stood and straightened himself, though he was still clearly plagued by this information. “I told her I’d come right back to her. I need to go tell her of this.”

“Dmitri, we talked about this.”

“Just let me do this one last thing for her? She isn’t going to want to see you, not right now. And if you’re leaving tomorrow morning, she needs to know now and prepare herself. It will give her something to look forward to. Let me do this.” Dmitri fought back.

Ezekiel took a deep breath in and relented, silently nodding his head.

“Thank you,” Dmitri murmured.

Ezekiel watched him leave the room, closing the door softly behind him. A major contrast to the way he had entered. He would allow Dmitri this one last moment with Raven, but it was time for him to take his spot back.

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