24 years ago…
Dante, we have trouble. Dante sighed as he sprinted forward. He was doing his final rounds around the territory. Days of nagging from his parents about his refusal to ‘complete’ the mating ceremony had been weighing him down – and though he really didn’t have much reason to, well, not complete it – he felt like it wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair – Diana had met her mate and he hadn’t. And yet-
Where do you want me? Dante asked, distracting himself.
East. It’s really just some kind of brawl – I think they’re just humans but it looks pretty serious.
Okay, I’ll be there soon. Don’t tell father.
Dante took deep breaths as he pressed on. Eventually the sound of what seemed to be a large argument rang louder and louder in his ears.
Dante? Diana’s voice rang in his ear.
Not now. I’ll talk to you later.
But your parents are-
Not now, Diana. He shut her out – it wasn’t that he didn’t care about her. Sure, she was his childhood friend – but he wasn’t exactly sure if he loved her or not. He’d always thought that he would reserve himself for his mate – and now he wasn’t so sure if his duty was more important than what the goddess wanted him to do. And… well… the full moon last night guaranteed certain things that he wasn’t so sure he could commit to either.
Dante slowed down – the smell of unfamiliar people had gotten stronger. They were close now.
“What the hell do you mean we can’t hunt here?!” A man shouted. Someone snorted and Dante crept close behind a set of trees – he was still far away but just close enough to hear them.
“It’s against your oath-“
“Fuck those oaths! We haven’t fed for months! We’re blood-“ A loud thud was followed by an agonized groan.
“Careful of what you say. We’re on territory-“
Territory? How do they know? Dante wondered, his nose sniffing the air as he attempted to walk closer. He continued to sniff the air trying to figure out if he could sense a pack or a general kind of smell among them… They could be witches for all he knew – and witches and werewolves didn’t necessarily mix too well together. Just as Dante was about to take another step, he felt someone grab his arm. He didn’t even have time to gasp – whoever it was had a tight grip on him and had muffled his mouth.
“Well, lookie here- seems we’re in luck,” a man behind him said. Dante tried to scream – but nothing came through and the man simply tightened his grip on him.
“Charles… let the guy go-“ Dante spotted another man speaking, he was tall, calm, and his eyes gleamed a vivid ice-blue color in the dark.
“Oh come on – lone wolves are easy prey- you should know that, or has this wolf-less diet made you soft?” Dante heard something crack from behind him – and he was almost certain the man behind him was shifting.
What the fu- Someone- Dante began but it was cut off.
“No use trying to contact your friends little guy. No offense – I don’t have much against you personally – I just need a little bite of your-“
Dante felt a strong breeze blow behind him – the hands the restrained him had let go – he didn’t even see what had happened. But he immediately fell forward and the tall man in front of him grabbed him, pulling him to his back. It was only then that Dante’s senses were able to catch up with him. A woman with long black hair had appeared now and she exuded power from her body – almost like an Alpha… but for some reason, at that precise moment her power felt almost suffocating to Dante.
“Stand down, Charles,” she said. The man spat at her feet but he could barely get up. She then turned and it was only then that Dante was able to get a clear look at her. In the dim light, he could make out her vivid green eyes that seemed to glow in the dark – and though she wasn’t looking at him, he felt a pull so powerful that he couldn’t have mistaken it for anything else.
His heart pounded against his chest. He barely registered what was being said as the man that stood in front of him moved forward, picking up Charles from the ground before disappearing in the blink of an eye. The woman remained and her eyes marked hesitation – she didn’t want to look at him. But Dante walked forward and when she didn’t move – he pressed on until he stood a mere step away from her.
He reached out his hand and her breath hitched as she recoiled away from his touch. She bit her lip before she spoke.
“Aurelia,” she said simply, stopping Dante’s movements.
“What?” He asked.
“My name, it’s Aurelia.” Dante looked at her and she returned his stare this time. She was commanding, her eyes challenging him, studying him – and if he wasn’t careful he would’ve revealed how intimidated he was. He cleared his throat, glancing away briefly before looking back into her eyes.
“Dante,” he replied briefly before holding out his hand and she looked at it simply – Dante could swear he saw a hint of a smile on her cheek – but she quickly turned on her heel. The longing to touch her immediately intensified and Dante reached out to hold her but she moved before he even had the chance.
“I thought Alphas were supposed to be ‘special’,” she said before turning to glance at him.
“…What?” He asked and she shrugged before walking further into the forest. Dante followed behind her.
“Well, I guess the lore makes you all seem more interesting than you really are,” she commented and Dante rolled his eyes, but before he could retort, she stopped.
“You’ve mated,” she said as she placed her hand on a tree, running her fingers against its coarse surface. Dante swallowed a lump in his throat.
“I…” he trailed off but she immediately turned her head and smiled at him.
“I wouldn’t have waited either,” she said.
“Wouldn’t? So you aren’t-“ he froze – and all that had caused it was a look she gave him. Piercing him with her emerald eyes as if she was staring right through to his core… and for a moment, he felt vulnerable.
“Why?” He asked, finally mustering up the courage to speak. She raised he eyebrows.
“Why did you wait then?” She chuckled, the sound making his heart flutter as she faced him fully now, allowing him to admire her, her pale skin, the long curly hair… she was tall, confident, and completely different from-
“Good night…Dante,” she said simply before she turned again, this time stepping forward. And she was gone. Dante didn’t even see which direction she’d turned. She left barely a trace, save for the leaves that had turned up from the ground and the soft breeze that swept across his face. She smelled of gardenias and her disappearance immediately left Dante feeling empty.
Dante… your father- Diana began, but he interrupted her.
I’m coming. Dante replied hastily. He dragged his feet in the direction of the pack house with a weight falling on his shoulders and a deep almost animalistic urge to find her. Aurelia. And had he paid hard attention, he would’ve noticed a pair of emerald green eyes watching him in amusement – before they disappeared into the night again.
I took the envelope, my hands shaking as I tried, as gently as I could, to open it up. Inside it was a series of photographs. One was of dad and a woman I had never seen before. She had black hair and a shy smile- as if she didn’t really want the photo taken. Dad seemed happy though, his arm slung over her. They were both young and had a pair of matching black turtlenecks on. The next photo had them looking much more relaxed. She was laughing now and you could see that my dad had held the camera up and pressed it at a time where she wasn’t really aware of it at all. It was the third photo that captivated me. It was of the woman sleeping, but she had fallen asleep caressing her stomach. She was wearing what looked to be a red shirt that was pulled up to reveal her enlarged stomach and she cradled it with a soft smile on her face. Although she looked peaceful – they were in what looked like a really tiny cabin – maybe even a garden shed of some sort. Hidden…
“That’s Aurelia…” My dad trailed off. “I think you can guess what-“
“Is she my mom?” I turned to him and watched as he avoided my gaze. He nodded grimly before looking at me.
“I was already… I had to be with Diana before I met her. Her dad was a close business partner - it made sense to bring us together. She lost her mate in a car accident – and we grew up together. I hadn’t met my mate and I wasn’t getting any younger… I met – I met Aurelia-“ my dad’s voice had gotten shaky. So I placed a hand over his own and squeezed it in hopes of reassuring him. I moved closer to him and rested my head at the crook of his neck.
“I… I met her a few weeks after we’d finalized the ceremony I guess. I… I couldn’t bring myself to mark her yet – to make her officially ‘mine.’ Something just didn’t feel right. And I guess that was the goddess’ way of saying I’d made a mistake. I… She… we stayed together. She would meet me and we’d talk… she’d never let me touch her,” my dad laughed and I smiled at that. I smiled at how he spoke of her – even if I’d never known her.
“But… mom— I guess, Diana, now… she never treated me any-“
“Diana’s the kindest soul I could ever had as a Luna… She knew… how could she not – and I know it was painful for her. An unmarked Luna despite a ‘mating ceremony’ pregnant with Zaina from a sudden ‘duty.’ But she understood how painful it was to be parted from a mate, she had lost hers and I hadn’t found mine when we were… well… I couldn’t hide Aurelia’s existence from her. She never met her personally, I wouldn’t let that pain happen. I asked her for a year and she gave it to me…
“We left Carmine together – she decided to ‘explore’ the world and Aurelia and I decided to stay at a small cabin far from anyone’s reach. And… well… things just… things got…” My dad had a hard time speaking now so I rubbed his back and snuggled into him. “Aurelia was always too strong… too hardheaded… but we both had duties to fulfill – and she… she chose to keep you with me – she said that it’d be better off if you didn’t know about the past… But she said that if it was unavoidable – she’d let you at least know a part of her…”
“So… she left?” I asked and my dad nodded.
“It wasn’t… it wasn’t easy… she never once marked me, asked for my blood, or anything of that sort. She wasn’t a predator like the rumors say – but she told me that the others weren’t like that. She always disappeared a few times into the night and she’d reappear in the morning, smiling… And then she had you – and for a time, she stopped leaving. We had the most wonderful time together.”
“But…?” My dad gave me a woeful smile.
“We couldn’t hide forever… and it was clear she was someone important to her group as much as I was to Carmine. When you were born – she refused to have anyone else around, she brought you with strength – and I was so scared for her. She only stayed a few days before she told me she couldn’t stay anymore. That our time was up…
“You cried so much that day. Aurelia calmed you down and handed you to me – and then a man showed up to fetch her. It was the same guy I’d met before – the one that tried to protect me when she stepped in. I could still remember the look in his eyes. He looked sad for us – for all of us…”
“And you never heard from her again?”
He shook his head and I looked up at him, only noticing then that my dad had been crying. His cheeks wet with tears as he silently did so.
“Hey…” I murmured, rubbing back and hugging him.
23 years ago…
“You have to do it, Dante… please,” Aurelia said, begging her with his eyes. Dante held the baby in his arms, looked at her and then back at Aurelia.
“I… I can’t- we could- you and I could- we-“ she placed a hand on his cheek and smiled. The baby began to hic, signaling that she was about to cry again. Aurelia hushed the little one and gently caressed the baby’s cheek.
“She’ll grow up strong and you’ll love her… She’ll grow up safe… as long as she’s with you,” she said and Dante shook his head.
“That’s not tru-“
“Then you’ll make it true, Dante… We promised a year and our time is up. You have a family, a real family waiting for you back there. You swore to her – to your pack, your family, that you’d come back.”
“But you’ll never-“ She smiled at him and caressed his cheek this time.
“We can say it together then.”
“But-“ Her eyes stopped him again. Emerald and bright under the full moon he felt himself choke up.
“I… Dante,” She smiled at him and the two of them spoke together.
“Reject you, Dante-”
“Reject you, Aurelia-”
“As my mate.”
“As my mate.”
Dante let out an exasperated breath, a loud sob, as his tears fell from his eyes. He could see it in Aurelia’s eyes as well, as her tears welled up and she gently pulled him in for a kiss. He held onto her desperately with his free hand, making sure that their child was alright. Aurelia closed her eyes and before her tears could fall, she parted from him, gently caressed the cheek of her child, and stepped away, as fast as she could.
She disappeared from him again.
And this time, she would never return.