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“It’s always hard when you’ve known a person a long time and then you have to recognize that you have nothing left in common but your memories.” -Eva Heller

Raven hesitantly watched the two for a moment before she turned to leave. “Raven,” Blackford said. His voice was deep, demanding her attention. Raven turned back around to face the two. The gamma was still sitting while Blackford stood to address her. “I’d like to talk with you later. For now, Gamma Crossfield is going to show you around the lands and meet our members.”

Even the gamma’s head snapped to Raven in disbelief. Neither of them wanted to be stuck together. Blackford only smiled at the interaction.

“Follow my Beta and drop off your things, my Gamma will meet you outside,” he continued.

Raven opened her mouth to argue with him but quickly closed her mouth. This was a future emperor, she was in no place to argue with him. But she would voice her thoughts to him later. Raven left the room.

Before she was out of earshot she heard, “Alpha, a word?”

Raven scowled as the door shut behind her. That female needed to be taught her place.

She followed where the rest of them had gone; down the stairs and outside to collect their bags. As she was leaving the house, Ezekiel and Colton were coming inside, hauling their travel bags. Thrown over the shoulder of Ezekiel was Raven’s bag. They said nothing to each other as he disappeared back inside. She would have to figure out what room hers was later.

Crossing her arms, she decided to wait on the porch for the gamma. She tucked her hands into her armpits to keep them warm. Though the overhang protected her from the rain, it didn’t protect against the wind.

She had missed this weather. It called out to her, sweeping her back into memories just like this. Standing on a porch and watching the storm roll in.

She only got a few minutes of peace before she was interrupted by a throat being cleared. It was Gamma Crossfield. Her wavy hair had begun to curl from the rain, framing her temples. She was the polar opposite of Raven. Small and fierce, curvy where it mattered. Bright green eyes and blonde hair.

“Are you ready?” Was all the gamma said.

Raven was wary of this female, didn’t trust who she said she was. Crossfield seemed to enjoy Raven’s wariness, encouraging the thought. Raven nodded in response. Crossfield said nothing as she now descended down the steps, leading them into the rain.

Cautious, Raven followed, unsure where the female was leading her.

The rain made its assault on both of them, soaking through their clothes and ruining them. Crossfield remained silent as she led them away from the house, not wanting conversation. Raven was happy for that.

At last in came in to view what she was being led towards. It was the training grounds. Crossfield wanted to boast her warriors before anything else. A group of females huddled underneath a tree next to the grounds, whispering amongst themselves as they watched over the men that trained.

Their heads turned as they passed, their eyes first going to their gamma. Raven could see the respect they held for her in their eyes, in awe of her. Crossfield only gave them a glance, their heads nodding in respect as she passed. Jealousy struck Raven. She wanted that amount of respect in her own pack.

Next their attention was turned to Raven. Curious, they assessed every inch of her. When Raven turned to acknowledge them, their heads did not bow. Raven held no rank here, they did not know her. Still, she felt offended by it.

“Get your ass out of the sand! This isn’t playtime!” A male’s voice bellowed out over the rain. Raven’s head snapped towards the source. An absolutely massive brute of a man stood at the edge of the training grounds, his thick arms crossed over his chest as he watched the men tussle in the sand. He wore no shirt, his back and chest littered with tattoos and scars. The man was bald, his head freshly shaved.

The male spun around, sensing the females. His eyes skimmed over Raven without much interest, before addressing the gamma. “Gamma Crossfield,” he said with a slight nod of his head.

“This is our Zeta Kirch,” Crossfield introduced. Zeta was a fitting rank for this male. Zetas were the commanders of the pack; they trained the warriors.

“And you are?” The zeta was now addressing Raven, snapping her from her thoughts. His presence intimidated her.

“This is Alpha Ezekiel’s mate, Raven,” Crossfield responded for her. The gamma didn’t seem to be affected by the zeta the same way Raven was.

“Greetings, Luna Raven.” The zeta bowed to her in an overdramatic way. It was still respectful, yet Raven bristled at the title of luna. She was not a luna.

“I’m not a Luna, but thank you. Call me Moros,” she gave him her last name, respecting the tradition of the North. Raven sensed the gamma tense up next to her, unhappy with the snub Raven gave her. What she had done was disrespect the introduction Crossfield had given her, discrediting the female.

“My apologies, Moros,” the zeta corrected. He gave Crossfield a puzzled look, but said nothing else about it. “What brings you to me?”

“I’m showing her the lands while the men talk of manly things,” Crossfield responded.

The zeta bellowed out a laugh, throwing his head back with it. Raven couldn’t help but flinch at the noise. Raven was beginning to feel the friendship the zeta and gamma had, now feeling out of place next to them. Without a doubt she knew this was Crossfield’s intention. His laugh died down, though his eyes were still squinted with a smile.

“Are you ready for tomorrow night’s ceremony?” He asked Crossfield, making Raven feel invisible next to them.

“What ceremony?” She butted in, wanting her voice to be heard. She refused to allow Crossfield to make her disappear in the background. She was not a child that was being babysat. Raven directed her question towards the zeta.

“Gamma ceremony. I am already Gamma, but it’s not official until the ceremony. As tradition of NightBlood I will also receive a tattoo of my accomplishment, along with the burial of Lohr.” Crossfield responded instead of him. The zeta only nodded to confirm her words, allowing the gamma to speak. His rank was below hers, her voice would be heard above his.

“Ah, so that’s what the tattoos mean. Intriguing. Females get tattoos as well?” She questioned him again, not wanting an answer from Crossfield.

“No, our women do not get tattoos. Gamma Crossfield is an exception, given her situation.” The brute shifted uncomfortably with how Raven had forced him to speak instead of the gamma. He wasn’t a fool and could see what Raven was trying to do.

“Thank you for your time, Zeta. I’ll see you tomorrow night for the ceremony,” Gamma Crossfield spoke before Raven could ask him another question. The zeta visibly relaxed, relieved to be excused from the growing tension between the females.

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning for training, Gamma,” he gave her a grin. Crossfield didn’t argue with him, as it was his duty to specially train the high rankings of the pack. He turned away to turn his attention back to the training males.

Raven followed his eyesight. The training grounds were large pits of sand, surrounded by a worn dirt track. It was massive, nothing compared to LycanMoon’s.

The men in the pits twisted and grappled with each other, the sand sticking to their bare skin in clumps. They were impressive, looking as though they had trained every single day for their entire lives.

Raising her eyes, Crossfield was impatiently waiting a few paces ahead, watching Raven. Meeting her eyes for only a moment, Raven lowered them as she caught up with the female. Crossfield was similar to Blackford in the way she commanded obedience without even speaking.

“Do you need another jacket?” The gamma asked as she turned her back to Raven. Raven was no fool; she knew what the female wanted from her. She wanted her to accept that she needed help.

“No need. I’m sure Alpha Blackford has plenty,” Raven pushed back. She watched as the female tensed before immediately relaxing. She was a trained spy and knew how to let her emotions go.

They continued walking without another word passing between them, before Raven spoke again. “You don’t need to show me the rest of the lands, Gamma Crossfield. I am very familiar with the North and how it runs.” Her tone was patronizing.

“Yes, as you have made very known.” They continued walking anyways, trudging through the muddy grass. They were crossing an open field, bordered by large pine and oak trees.

“Who are you?” Raven decided to finally voice the questions she had for her.

“Gamma Crossfield of NightBlood.”

“That’s not who you are. Spy of MistFang turned Gamma of NightBlood? I’m not a fool, that’s not what you are.”

“Do you doubt me because I was a spy or because I’m a female Gamma? Or do you doubt me because I come from alpha blood in MistFang?” Crossfield finally stopped their walk, now standing in the middle of the field. The female turned to address Raven, making her dislike for Raven blatant.

“I doubt you because you haven’t shown me who you truly are.” Raven stopped as well, crossing her arms over her chest defensively. Crossfield had struck a cord in Raven. She hated the feeling that Crossfield already knew everything there was about her. Hated she couldn’t hide under those green eyes.

“It’s all of the above, isn’t it?”

“You have a very unlikely story. There’s more to it. I don’t want to be around someone I can’t fully trust.” Raven shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She was beginning to feel it was a mistake to confront a female like this head on.

Crossfield took a deep breath, clenching her hands into fists before relaxing them, spreading out her fingers.

“I am not my uncle. I did not slaughter your pack. I lost my family to him as well. You can drop that one. I earned my rank as Gamma purely because I deserved it and wanted it. I don’t care for being a female Gamma. I am simply a Gamma. As for being a spy, I am no longer a spy. I was who I needed to be when I needed to be that person, but that is in my past.”

Raven was not moved by her words, still distrusting of her. Seeing this, Crossfield threw up her hands and moved to turn away from Raven. She had no patience to play the game Raven wanted to play. “I’m not wasting my time convincing you. Since you already know your way around, do as you wish.”

“I don’t see why Blackford trusts you.” She didn’t use his title, suggesting how comfortable she was with him. Raven wanted a reaction from Crossfield, wanted her to reveal what she felt towards Blackford.

“Because I earned his trust. You haven’t seen him since you were a child. I wouldn’t act so confident in a land you haven’t fully grown up in.” The rain got heavier. A passing group of males from far off paused and gave the females an odd look before moving on. Their new gamma was arguing with a Southern luna-to-be in the rain.

“I didn’t get the chance to grow up here, Gamma. Your uncle killed my parents.”

“He killed mine too, and many others. You aren’t special, Moros. You are not a spokesman for the dead.” Crossfield used her last name like an insult. Raven bristled at her words, her anger building up. She could feel it in her stomach as it boiled, ready to strike the gamma.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you didn’t get to know your parents? You grew up coddled and specially trained. I was cast aside into a random pack because of your family. I am here today because of your family.”

“Are we having a pissing contest? By all means, you piss the farthest,” Crossfield said. Raven shook with her anger, her nails digging into her arms. The gamma remained calm as Raven twitched with her rage. She wanted to claw the smug look from that face.

Crossfield took a step closer to Raven, continuing. “Since the moment you stepped out of that car, I have seen a female dominated by her own emotions. You are controlled by your anger. If you want to make the North your home again, you have to at least learn to hide that. This is not the South where you can throw tantrums and blatantly disrespect high rankings. As someone who knows the customs of this land, I expected better from you.

Make no mistake, this is the only advice I will give to you. Shape up, Moros. You would have been a beta female. Start acting like it, especially if you don’t intend to be a luna. No one is going to hold your hand anymore. Yes, the world has done you wrong. Do something or move on."

The words in Raven’s mouth couldn’t form. Crossfield didn’t wait for her response, turning away from her and leaving her in the rain.

Raven was making her way back inside, the anger she had felt earlier quickly dissipated underneath the heavy rain. Her clothes were soaked. She had missed the North and its storms, but not the way it ruined her clothes.

Turning the handle, she entered the pack house. Leaning against the wall next to the door was Blackford. His eyes were immediately on her, warming her chilled skin. His lips pulled into a smile.

His eyes now moved behind me, looking for someone else. “Where is Gamma Crossfield?” Raven couldn’t help but to bristle up at the mention of her.

“She had other things to do,” was all she replied with. As much as she hated the female, there was no need to start anything with the alpha.

Blackford only hummed in response to this, raising a black brow. “Why don’t you go get changed and meet me back here, I’d like to have our talk.” It wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command.

Raven huffed before making her way up the stairs, in search for her room. She found it at last, due to the overpowering smell of Ezekiel coming from it. He was nowhere to be found in the room, which Raven was thankful for.

She changed into warmer clothes. A simple pullover and jeans. Crossfield was right in her assumption Raven hadn’t brought another jacket. The south had no need for them.

Blackford was still in the same spot, patiently waiting for her. Saying nothing, he led them to a secluded room. The room was cozy, with a blazing fireplace that Raven was quickly drawn to.

“Crow,” he began.

“Worm,” she replied. Blackford gave a small smile at the use of her old nick name for him.

“I appreciate that you didn’t use that earlier.”

“So if you’re Crow, then what am I?” He asked, standing on a branch. The branch wobbled underneath his weight, unprepared for the growing teenage boy that stood on it.

“The Worm that the Crow picks on,” she tossed a pebble at him. It bounced from his chest, and they both laughed at this.

“Worm,” he repeated, testing how it sounded in his mouth.

The memory came back to her. Raven smiled at the fondness of it. She could no longer call this male Worm. He was an alpha, soon to be a ruler. Worm was unbefitting.

“I didn’t want to embarrass you.”

“Thank you,” Blackford smiled. The fire reflected in his eyes as he moved closer to Raven, now standing merely a foot from her. The smiled faded from his face. “Listen, Raven. We really do need to talk. I know you have questions for me.”

“You’re right, I do.” Raven was now reminded of how he had left her shortly before ScorchedEye moved south. Months after he had revealed she was his potential mate.

“Go on, then.”

“Why did you leave me?”

“Because I knew you would have come with me. I was determined to be alone, and the world I was going into wasn’t for you.”

“You think that moving to the South was for me? Losing my entire pack and family was for me? You’re the first and only potential mate I have ever met, I would’ve followed you to the ends of the earth.” She narrowed her eyes on him. He took a deep breath in.

“I didn’t know those things were going to happen, how could I? In my eyes I was leaving you in safety, in the comfort of your home. Where I was going I could have been killed a thousand times over. Why would I bring you into that?”

“Because look where you are now. You were always going on and on about being an alpha someday and how they would all bow to you. I loved you not because of that. I loved you for you. It could’ve been me at your side now, instead I am stuck with Ezekiel.”

Raven watched as she shuffled back a step. “You don’t want to be with him?”

“I’ve been through a lot, Blackford.”

“Tell me.”

With a deep breath, she retold her story, beginning with the departure of ScorchedEye from the north. Blackford remained silent, listening to her words. He seemed particularly interested in the mention of Grace. Finally, she finished, leaving a long silence.

“Raven,” he sighed. “He is your mate, and I’m not. Yes, you have been through a lot but that is on you to solve and move forward with. You can’t simply just move on to the next best opportunity. Do not look at me as an opportunity.”

“Why can’t I?”

“Because I’m not an option.”

“What happened to the Blackford that I grew up with? What happened to the Blackford that declared me as his potential mate, cursing the moon I wasn’t a true mate?”

“Leave what memory you have of me in the past, Raven. I am not the same as you remember. I am still your friend, but you can’t get what you want out of me.”

“Fine,” Raven muttered. The two were silent for a moment.

“What did my Gamma say to you?”

“What do you mean?” She crossed her arms defensively.

“I know everything that happens in this pack. My Gamma arguing in the rain with a visitor from the South does not escape me. I know you pushed her, and I hope you realize this dampens her reputation.”

Raven narrowed her eyes and scowled at the male. Giving up, she decided to repeat everything the gamma had said to her. Maybe Blackford would put her in her place.

Blackford only nodded in thought. “I’ll have a word with her. Thank you.”

He left her alone in the room with her thoughts. She wasn’t sure how to feel.

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