BONUS CHAPTER: Knox's POV
I wandered the woods, my usually blank mind trying to figure out why I felt the need to spy in on the induction ceremony that was set to take place in a few minutes.
Being part of the pack meant I heard and saw everything. I knew we had a new arrival who was fleeing their old pack, but I didn’t care enough to find out why. I preferred to stay in the comfort of the forest, isolated from everyone else. I haven’t attended a single ceremony since coming to the pack because, quite frankly, I just didn’t fucking care; but there was something different this time and my inability to pinpoint why was going to drive me goddamn crazy.
There was no way I was going to change back to my skin side, go all the way to my cottage to get dressed, walk all the way back to the ceremony grounds, find a seat, and be stared at like a zoo animal the entire time by my fellow “pack members” just to figure out why I was feeling this way. That was not fucking happening. My next best option was to just watch from the shadows and use my wolf’s advanced hearing to listen in.
I wasn’t surprised that the heavy footfalls of my fur side caught the attention of some of the members sitting in the way back as I took my position and waited. I glanced around at a few of them and gave a warning look that said leave me the fuck alone or else before giving a disgruntled huff and focusing my attention on the stage that was a good ways away.
The second I caught sight of the member about to be inducted, my heart stopped. I jumped up from my sitting position and took a few steps forward, my entire body in predator mode as I watched every single fucking move of the gorgeous angel.
“Put your right hand over your heart,” Alpha Aaron instructed. My eyes zoned in on the slight tremor of the girl’s hand as she followed the instruction. “Do you swear to answer the following series of questions with nothing but the truth?” Alpha Aaron continued. My ears perked up, waiting on bated breath to hear her voice for the first time.
“Yes,” she murmured just loud enough for the crowd to hear. My head felt light as the sound of her voice washed over my body. The noise caused every cell in my body to spring to attention as a deep sense of need coiled within my belly.
Mate. It’s mate. Go to mate were the only thoughts running through my head as the ceremony continued.
When Alpha Aaron asked, “Do you swear to do all things with the packs best interest in mind, never acting selfishly for your own personal gain?” I listened intently while watching her body language like a hawk.
“Yes,” she stated with a passionate nod of her head. The conviction in her voice left no doubt in anyone’s mind, mine included, that she was speaking truthfully.
There's nothing sexier than loyalty and honesty.
I watched the rest of the ceremony silently, my eyes never moving from her delicious looking body. I was like a drug addict and she was my fix. I’d never even spoken two words to her and I was already hooked. I was so focused on her that I hadn’t caught her name when Alpha Aaron said it earlier. I shook my head and forced myself to focus on the words Alpha Aaron was saying, my hackles going up and a growl threatening to release from my wolf’s throat as I realized it was time for the blood exchange. Logically, I knew this was necessary and wasn’t meant to hurt her, but my irrational side was on high alert and demanding I step forward before they told her to cut herself.
It took everything in me to hold myself back as I watched her let out a puff of air right before slowly dragging Alpha Aaron’s knife across her palm. She winced at the sensation before handing the weapon off to the man next to her without looking away from the place where she was now bleeding. I couldn’t help the quiet growl that rolled from my chest when Alpha Aaron touched my mate. My growl grew louder as their hands stayed connected for what I felt was an unnecessary length of time. I heard a few gasps from the people closest to me and remembered to reign my wolf and myself in.
“With no oppositions, I am proud to announce the addition of pack member, Poppy Nichole!” Alpha Aaron yelled out to the crowd while lifting their conjoined hands into the air. My body began to tingle everywhere as I allowed her name to run through my mind over and over.
Poppy Nichole, Poppy Nichole, Poppy Nichole. So beautiful, just like the vibrant little flower she shares a name with.
I licked my chops while continuing to examine her as the pack erupted into loud cheers of excitement, rising to their feet in celebration. A happy smile overtook her face and she proceeded to laugh joyously. Seeing her smile caused my heart to thud harder in my chest as my blood flowed through my body faster, providing my necessary muscles more oxygen so I could spring forward and run to her as fast as my body would allow.
But I wouldn’t be doing that just yet.
Her eyes scanned the crowd before stopping right on me, our gazes locking together as my breath caught in my throat. I’m sure all she saw staring back at her were two glowing yellow eyes. She squinted, probably trying to get a better look, but I had to leave. If I didn’t leave right now I was going to do something I couldn’t take back. If I didn’t leave now, I would forcibly mark her in front of everyone and I had a feeling she would hate me for it.
Fighting against every fiber of my being, I backed up and ran from the clearing. My wolf and I both needed to run off the tension that was plaguing my body. With every additional step I took, I could feel my wolf’s anger with me withering away. I’d met almost all of my possible destined mates, the first having been just a month after turning eighteen.
But none of them felt right.
None of them felt like Poppy. And she hadn’t even touched me yet. Hadn’t spoken a word to me yet.
But that was going to change, and soon.
I paced the perimeter of the place where Poppy was living - something I discovered after following her home after the induction party last night. A low growl escaped my chest as I thought about the way Corbin put his hands all over my mate. The only thing that kept me from ripping him limb from limb was the uncomfortable look on Poppy’s face - his feelings weren’t reciprocated and that was enough for me...for now. If I wanted her as soon as possible, I had to make sure the timing was right.
I froze in place as I saw Poppy’s small frame come barreling into the forest. I backed up a few feet to ensure I would remain hidden while watching her every move. My eyes zoned in on the ancient ax in her hand and my wolf and I both shook our head back and forth. There was no way this was going to end well for her, but she looked so determined I couldn’t bring myself to interfere.
She abruptly stopped in front of a tree that was about twenty feet away from where I was hidden, shocking me that she didn’t sense my presence. She pulled the ax up and swung it forward, but the head of the tool came flying off. I couldn’t help but be enamored by the stunned look on her face. Abruptly, she threw her head back and began laughing hysterically, leaning against the tree for support a few seconds later while simultaneously clutching at her stomach. I felt my own smile pull at the edges of my lips, the feeling completely foreign to both my wolf and I.
I couldn’t remember the last time I smiled.
She took a few minutes to gather herself before eventually grabbing the blade and jamming it back onto the handle. I almost snickered when she cautiously gave it a few test swings. She raised her hands once again, a few remanent giggles bubbling out of her lips before swinging the ax forward and finally making contact with the tree.
“I did it! Oh my God! I’m really doing it!” she cheered loudly while doing a quirky little dance. That was the last straw before a real bark of a chuckle passed through my wolf’s lips. She was going to be the woman I spent the rest of my life with, the woman I had pups with; I’ve never been more sure about anything in my entire life. Sitting back on my haunches, I continued watching her as thoughts of our future we’d soon have flitted through my mind.
Patience, Knox. Patience.