Lukas and Zena watched the beak of the metal beast they were on slice through waves. Adrian and Eva had moved to another part of the ship once Eva started feeling seasick.
The hum of the ship’s motor and the angry wails of water splashing were the only things that were heard for a while. When Zena’s voice joined the continuous melodies, Lukas faded out of his stupor.
“She was never really a fan of me, my mom. She was a beauty in her youth. But my birth put her beauty in a casket. When Zya was born, our parents were happy. When she was around 5, I joined the family. Their happy fairy tale came to an unbraced halt when mom’s body started sporting stretch marks...” she stopped.
Lukas, surprised by the turnover of mood looked at her.
Zena stared at a meaningless spot. She watched as the water streamed endlessly, never losing its color but rippling with different shapes.
He couldn’t have spoken if he wanted to, fearing that his interruption would cause her to clam up.
“It got uglier over time. Her hair became thinner, her body heavier, her breast saggier... Its strange for a werewolf’s healing and metabolism to slow, but I’m sure she had some genetic mutation that Zya inherited. Although he didn’t say it, father was disgusted. For him, her value depreciated as her beauty dwindled down. Mom, full of grief, went out and sought appreciation from somewhere else. As her teenage girls went through puberty and formed an identity, instead of tucking them in at night she tucked herself into the beds of men. When dad found out, he didn’t bat an eye. He just adopted the same hobby.”
Her lips felt salty. For a second she thought some of the ocean water sprinkled on her face. But when she blinked and wet eyelashes met her skin, she knew she was crying.
“Dad picked up alcohol, women from bars, and debts. When the alcohol caught up to him and finally managed to kill him, mom vanished. She abandoned her girls when one was having a mental breakdown because of her inability to shift and the other was figuring out how to run a pack at 18. I haven’t heard from her to this day. And I never cared to look.”
Lukas couldn’t help but step closer to her. Horrid pitty claimed his features but he refused to interrupt and offer condolences.
“You resembled my father in many ways, Lukas. When you met me, you went after me with the sole intention of discarding me when you managed to squeeze out all I had to offer. I knew that like my father, you would’ve thrown your luna aside when you deemed her worthless. That’s why I was so hellbent on not giving you a second chance after you trashed the first.”
Her jerky voice was bordered with anger. Lukas hung his head slightly, feeling shame join his emotional equation.
“I refuse to continue my mother's legacy. While my generation was partying, I had to grow up. After obtaining so much success in my short life, I’ve realized my value. I know that I exceed the qualifications to be your mate. If you at any point disagree with that, then I won’t waste my time trying to prove otherwise. I’ve been through too much pain already and I refuse to let a man add any more to that pile. Don’t mess this up Lukas, because I won’t offer a third chance and feed on the cycle of disappointment.”
Arms engulfed her.
“Never again.” His voice reverberated deep in his chest. He sounded half angry, but judging by the kiss he laid on the crown of her head, it wasn’t directed at her.
Surges of power electrified their skin. Zena sank into his body and into his promise; staring at the horizon as she tried to decrypt their future.
When the ship reached the harbor, Zena nearly dropped to her knees and kissed the New York soil.
Lukas and Adrian- who carried a sleeping Eva approached their vehicles. The plan was to hang out in his territory for the day and get back to work the next.
Adrian, needing to dig keys of his pocket, beckoned her over.
Zena held Eva as he unlocked the car before tediously transferring her back to his arms. Eva instantly recognized his touch and nuzzled closer. Adrian noticed the subconscious display of affection and smiled so brightly that she could swear the sun dimmed.
The first thing she did when they arrived at Bleak Moon was call home and make sure her pack still existed.
“Calm down. You were gone for 3 days, not 3 months,” Zya sighed.
“Any sightings? How is Gerald?” an unconvinced Zena pried.
“Having the time of his life painting our kitchen. That is the most eventful thing that has happened. So hang up and go enjoy your birthday. As a matter of fact, I’m coming over,” Zya decided.
“For what?” Zena asked, but Zya had already hung up.
“It’s your birthday?”
She turned and found the soon-to-be-mother glaring at her as if she were a child. “Well, yes...” Zena started.
Eva blustered curses as she pulled out her own phone; angry that she had to prepare a party on such short notice.
Zena groaned. She could practically hear the wheels in Eva’s head turning. She wasn’t interested in celebrating her 22nd birthday but was less interested in arguing with an obstinate Eva.
And a party it was.
Zya grabbed Rex and his father and brought them along with her. Rex’s poor father nearly passed out when he discovered his child had befriended an alpha who he confused for a homeless man. Rex wasn’t appalled by Luka’s true identity, he was just happy to know that Lukas had a home after all.
It took a while for Lukas to calm Rex’s father down, insisting that Rex had not been a bother. Lukas then called Mountain Hill and asked for Marcus to be brought over so that he could meet Rex. The two hit it off immediately.
The evening had arrived. Since Evan wouldn’t stop asking for a slice of cake, they decided to cut it.
“Zena stop frowning,” Phoebe, Evan's mate scolded. She was holding up a camera, ready to record the group sing for the irritated birthday girl.
Zya picked up her phone once it went off. “Hey. In New York. Oh yeah, sure. No problem! Take care!”
After hanging up, she turned at Zena who looked seconds away from throwing a tantrum. Eva had insisted she wore a cone party hat one would give a seven-year-old. She looked ridiculous.
“Sylas said happy birthday,” Zya announced.
Everyone turned to look at Lukas once he growled murderously.
“We should've invited him. I'm sure he misses Zena and assaulting Eva,” he snorted.
Eva glared. “Why would you say that in front of this idiot?!” she demanded, pointing a finger in Adrian’s direction.
Now it was time for Adrian to growl. “He did what?!”
Eva cringed but kept her mouth shut. Lukas watched with a lazy grin as the other overprotective man pulled his phone out of his pocket.
“What are you doing?” Eva asked, stepping closer.
Adrian scrolled through his contacts, searching for his lawyer’s number. “I’m suing,” he answered.
Eva rolled her eyes. “You cant sue everyone that upsets you!”
Adrian pulled his phone to his ear. “Watch. Me,” he seethed, mad as hell that he was the last person to hear about the incident.
Ares started barking then, seemingly cursing Adrian out in his own language.
“Watch your tone!” Adrian warned the dog whose barking only got louder. He knew the werewolf was all complaining but no doing so he wasn’t in the least intimidated.
“Shut the hell up. All of you!” Lukas bid in when his ears began to ring from the intrusive noises.
“Look whos talking- the man who is always talking shit,” Zena instigated with a laugh that Zya shared.
“Zena!” Rex scolded his alpha, not pleased with her vocabulary. Marcus shook his head as well, agreeing with his new friend.
“Hang up that phone right now,” Eva stomped.
Adrian growled again with frustration and raised his arm, ready to launch the device at the nearest wall.
Evan's glare had the alpha instantly dropping his arm.
While Ares’ barking, Zena and Zya’s laughter, and Eva and Adrian’s bickering escalated, Lukas marched to Zena and claimed her arm. He pulled her along with a bag that had been stashed under the table.
He directed her in front of the cake. Arguing and chaos still rained around them. He muttered curses as he unzipped the bag and pulled out a shoebox.
“What’s that?” Zena inquired.
When the massive werewolf began descending, Zena’s glands started to sweat.
As Ares and Adrian brawled in the background, as Zya and Phoebe tried to pull a hungry Evan away from the cake, her hearing prioritized Luka’s erratic heartbeat over all other sounds.
He had fallen to both of his knees in front of her. With a nervous hand, he opened the box and revealed two bright red tennis shoes with the card she had found in his wallet tucked in between them.
She knew what he was doing. She just didn’t know how to react.
Lukas stared at her. He felt vulnerable amidst the battleground their wild friends had generated. His position was strange, so he didn’t mind their distraction. The last thing he needed was hearing the men’s amused snorts mixed with the women’s awes.
He didn’t fall to both knees coincidentally. He had done it for a purpose. Because falling to one simply didn’t seem like enough. He was willingly completely at her mercy.
Zena had won in every aspect of the word.
He cleared his throat. His adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed down his fear.
“Will you be my mate? You annoying, I, infuriating, love, crazy, you, pain?”
Zena stood with her silly party hat looking all types of shocked. She was not at all expecting this ceremonial proposal from Lukas. Not to mention his declaration of love.
Where was her confidence when she needed it?
She squared her shoulders. Lukas looked very anxious and she didn’t want to give the poor man a heart attack at 28.
“I, well... I don’t love you... yet. But I’m willing to try and get there.”
Lukas seemed happy with that answer. He dropped the box and rushed to his feet; charged with momentum. Zena didn’t expect his weight and slipped, causing both of their bodies to hit the floor.
The loud thump finally resolved the multiple conflicts in the room. Everyone looked for the sound and found Lukas and Zena on the floor in disarray.
“Why are you two idiots always falling?” someone asked.
“Wait. What happened!” Zya gasped when she spotted the shoes.
“Lukas got all lovey-dovey. I got it on video!” Marcus answered, holding up his cellphone.
Lukas groaned when everyone ran to Marcus’ side with greedy eyes.
Zena laughed at Lukas’ distressed expression. As much as he liked the sound, he couldn’t help but cutting it off with a kiss.
They stood up seconds later. But Zena wasn't standing for long since Lukas didn’t hesitate to haul her over his shoulder.
She was thankfully able to tame her reflexes this time. “See, this is what gets you injured!” she chided.
He rushed to the door.
“Where are you going?” Adrian asked from the living room.
“The boat. I’m marking her,” Lukas answered easily.
Zena punched the back of his thigh, making his leg nearly give out.
“You can’t say embarrassing things like that!” she reprimanded.
The house buzzed with laughter and happiness as the mates left.