Thirteen | Syn
I knew that this dinner was going to be a painful and awkward one. I had asked Terrin if he would have preferred I didn't attend the dinner, because I knew that I preferred not going if he was going with Heidi.
However he had asked me come anyway. "If Heidi and I mate in the future you will still be part of this pack Syn. I'm not going to ask you to leave for Heidi's comfort. You're part of the lycan family, and even if we don't work out like you hoped, I hope we can at least remain on friendly terms. I know asking to be friends would be a lot."
What Terrin didn't seem to understand was he wouldn't have to ask me to leave if he chose Heidi. I would leave not by his request but for my own self preservation. When a lycan was denied by their mate the bond never faded, the heart wrenching pull never dulled. I feared being driven into The Wild if I was forced to stay with Terrin and his mate.
I would have to leave.
I decided to attend the dinner anyway, just to keep on eye on my pack. Even though I had reminded them to not be mean to the female on my behalf, being there would just allow me to make sure they didn't step too far out of line. A lycan pack was loyal and I knew that even if they tried their very hardest, poisonous words and looks would still be directed at my competitor.
Cleo had switched up our customary seating arrangement to accommodate our new guest. She and Hakota sat side by side on the right side of the table, Sitka beside her. Then Frayah her pups and Sani, the mated pair would mostly be focused on their kids to pay Heidi much attention which was probably why they were seated in front of her. On the left side of the table across from Hakota and Cleo was Innoko and Roshan, then me and Terrin with the twins Denahi and Keni between us. Next to Terrin was Heidi at the end of the table. I was in the perfect place that if I didn't want to look at Heidi and Terrin I wouldn't have to.
And I didn't. I kept my eyes on my plate, mumbling answers here and there to questions thrown my way. Introductions had been painful. Heidi had upped her girlish charm and was a chirpy bright ray of sunshine, complementing each of the lycans and even going so far as to enquire about my day and commenting her appreciation for my choice of colored shirt which apparently matched my eyes perfectly.
Throughout dinner almost everyone just ignored Heidi, giving her the cold shoulder. She didn't seem to notice and happily chatted away. The twins, Denahi and Keni couldn't verbally speak so they were lucky enough to use that excuse. Frayah and Sani were too invested in their children to bother with the female werewolf and Innoko simply refused to talk to her, not caring if she was being rude.
Even when Heidi asked her a question she simply wrinkled her nose and scoffed before shoving a forkful of vegetables in her mouth. Roshan attempted to ease the snub of his mate by answering in Innoko's stead, but his politeness dug his grave because Heidi had finally gotten someone to pay attention to her.
Terrin looked as uncomfortable as I felt. I didn't miss the constant glances he cast my way, but I pretended not to notice them. Terrin knew this wasn't going well. As much as it may have been unfair he simply couldn't change the fact that the lycan pack disliked her because she was a mate thief.
I shot Cleo a look, holding her eyes before darting them over to Heidi meaningfully. She had to talk to the girl or else Terrin would be jumping down my throat, accusing me of meddling. Cleo rolled her eyes but with a hard look from me she sighed and set down her utensils.
"So...Heidi, was it?" Cleo drawled and all side conversation fell silent. "Can you tell me where exactly you are from?"
"I'm from the Old Kingdom," Heidi answered without pause. "I wasn't born in this city but in Redoak. I lived close to the castle there actually so being in the heart of the city is nothing new for me."
"Hmm, I see," Cleo replied, "so how did you feel about the other kingdoms before we united them?" Terrin shot Cleo a warning look that the first meeting was not the time to be discussing politics.
"Oh, well," Heidi looked a little surprised by the question but after a moment she responded, "every kingdom kept to itself for the most part, there were too many problems within their own kingdom to worry about its neighbors. Personally I always thought the Lunars to be a little self righteous. They were more progressive with experiments and things and thought they were superior because of their inventions."
"And the Forest Kingdom?" Cleo demanded.
"Cleo–" Terrin tried to stop her but the alpha waved his concern aside.
"Relax Terrin, I just want to know. Redoak is close to the border there. I want to know if she is more closely aligned with the Old Kingdom or Forest Kingdom." The question was baited, I knew it and the rest of the lycans knew it. Cleo was finishing for something, what I didn't know but by the way Roshan's eyes were glowing he knew and awaited her answer as well.
"The Old Kingdom definitely," Heidi replied. "The Forest Kingdom is brutal. Those bigots could never move past the lycan wars. They always thought themselves to have been the most victimized when none of the kingdoms had been spared. As if they have any room to talk of cruelty. The way they believe every problem is solved by bloodshed is disgusting. If you want someone else's mate, just fight to the death and the winner gets the woman," I swore I saw Terrin flinch at that, "it's sexist and revolting. No one blinks an eye if a beta kills the alpha for the position or if a brother kills a brother for inheritance."
Terrin was staring at his plate now, his throat bobbing as he swallowed. I had no idea how he was feeling, how it must have felt for him to hear Heidi speak of his own people that way.
"I suppose I shouldn't judge too harshly though, they live like wild animals in the middle of a forest. They have no architectural feats or political brilliance. Their savagery is all they have."
It was a perfectly delivered response, tailored to fit exactly what the lycans would want to hear if looking for proof of loyalty. It was no secret we were not friends of the Forest Kingdom, it said something that we were more worried about them than the Lunar Kingdom whose scars were still fresh. The cuts in the Forest Kingdoms ran deep and hatred had long since festered in those wounds.
But to say those things about Terrin's people, to speak of his home with contempt almost like...
Like she didn't know Terrin was from the Forest Kingdom.
I nearly dropped my knife that had long since frozen when Heidi started bashing the Forest Kingdom and by association...Terrin. How could she not know? How had Terrin not told her? Was she so blind she never saw the signs? Even if I hadn't met Terrin in the Forest Kingdom I still would have known by his behavior that he grew up there.
"Well," Cleo smirked, "I'm relieved to know your thoughts on the Forest Kingdom. I guess you really are more aligned with the principles of the Old Kingdom after all." Her voice was falsely sweet, anyone who knew Cleo could see the malicious gleam in her eye. She had dug that female's grave without her even knowing.
"How well exactly would you say you know Terrin?" Sani surprised me by participating in the conversation.
Since he was directly in front of Heidi, her head snapped to him. "We're still in the early stages of our relationship I've only know him for about two months but I hope we will grow closer." She placed her hand on Terrin's and said, "we will learn a lot about each other in the coming days, I'm sure of that."
I knew if I looked over right now she'd be giving my mate puppy dog eyes with a lovesick expression on her face so I kept my eyes on the wine flute and the way I rolled the stem between my fingers.
"That didn't answer the question," Sitka's voice rumbled through the room. I let my eyes drift to the male, wondering how someone could look so put together and yet falling apart at the same time. His clothes were impeccable, not a hair on his head out of place, his back straight and overall presence powerful and intimidating. Yet his eyes were dull and glassy and his jaw was slack, the discoloration under his eyes revealed how little sleep the male was getting. "We want to know what you already know about Terrin, not what you are going to know."
"And try not to come up with the most generic and romantic line you can think of," Innoko sneered from the other end of the table, tilting the wine glass up to let the red liquid pass through her lips.
"I..." Heidi was lost for words, looking very uncomfortable now that she had been put on the spot.
"Don't tell me you know nothing about him?" Cleo faked a comforting smile, "Well go on."
The female werewolf looked ready to burst into tears and one look at Terrin told me he was seconds from blowing up or puking his guts out on the table. Closing my eyes I sighed, unable to believe I was about to help this female. "Stop," I told them, eyeing them seriously. "You can see she's uncomfortable and no one can think clearly with this much pressure. You're antagonizing her so stop."
"Antagonizing is a harsh way to put it," Cleo pouted, "it's more like teasing."
Surprisingly Hakota stepped in, grabbing Cleo's hand under the table and no doubt giving it a warning squeeze. "Syn is right, and I apologize on behalf of my pack Heidi. Lycans can be overprotective of their own and sometimes it can get out of hand, but please don't think much of it." The way his eyes bored into Heidi when he said the last part very much contradicted his words. He wanted her to understand they had purposely been treating her poorly and would continue to do so.
Terrin stood up from his chair then, the legs screeching loudly. He held out a hand for Heidi, not even looking at any of us. "Let's go," he told Heidi.
The female blinked at his hand before looking up at him with wide blue eyes and placing her delicate, tiny, hand in his flat palm. Terrin marched right out of the room, Heidi giving us a small wave in farewell before Terrin pulled her out of the door with him. I cupped my face in my hands and groaned loudly.
"Well that was fun," Frayah commented, "let's never do that again."
"What a little suck up," Innoko added her own two cents in her usual bitchy attitude, "and she makes that stupid face too, fluttering her eye lashes at every goddamn male in this room. She's just a power hungry whore, it was plain as day."
"If Terrin can't even trust her to tell her anything about himself why is he even still with her?" Sitka stated the obvious. "She didn't know what to tell us about Terrin, that was a genuine response under stress or not. She wouldn't have been able to come up with something that was not generic."
"Yeah and you all made Terrin more uncomfortable and embarrassed than Heidi. How do you think he felt when you tricked Heidi into saying that stuff about the Forest Kingdom? All he heard was his own name on the end of every insult." I snarled at them.
"I didn't trick her!" Cleo exclaimed. "She said it because she thought it would win her favor points."
"And you knew she would have said anything to get on the good side of the lycans!" I yelled back at her, causing my alpha to cross her arms and sink back into her chair. "You baited her and didn't even care how much it would hurt Terrin!" I looked at every face around the table, the faces of my family members who had completely disregarded Terrin's feelings on account of mine. I admit I got a sick sense of satisfaction watching Heidi brutalized by the words of my pack but I was pissed how it affected Terrin and how none of them seemed to care. "Like it or not, Heidi is still a potential mate for him. She inadvertently called him a savage and disgusting, she insulted his culture and his people's wounds from the lycan wars just like you knew she would. He already has low enough self esteem goddamnit!" I shouted at them, "and now you've probably pushed him away from me instead of towards me."
A guilty look passed on each of their faces but I didn't care. I got up and stormed towards the door, heading out to find Terrin and Heidi and apologize to them both. Neither of them had deserved that.
I asked the servants and sentries where they had gone and eventually found my way to a hallway that led to a greenhouse. Before I rounded the corner I was halted by what I heard.
"They hate me!" Heidi's voice wailed.
"They don't hate you, they just need time, Heidi. Give them some time." Terrin replies in a soothing tone, no doubt trying to comfort her.
"Everyone needs time! They need time, Syn needs time, you need time," Heidi's tearful voice turned nasty. "How much more time do you need Terrin? How long does it take to make this decision? You need to get your head on straight or man up! I don't know which one it is, if you're really confused or just too cowardly to pick one of us, either way you need to just make a decision."
Silence stretched. Then Terrin's low and cold voice replied, "I think I should have however much time it takes you to learn about me to make a decision."
"Learn about you?" Heidi scoffed, "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Tell me what you know about me Heidi, go on. Tell me where I grew up, tell me how I met the lycans how I was able to become part of their pack. Tell me what I do for my pack, tell me how my parents died or what my upbringing was like. Tell me what vegetable I hate the most, what I do to relax, anything Heidi, just tell me anything you know about me!" Terrin was yelling now, but I knew he was more upset than angry.
"I—I..." Heidi struggled to answer, "How am I supposed to know when you never tell me about yourself! How is this my fault?"
"Why don't you ever ask Heidi? Why don't you ever just observe me and learn the answer yourself?"
"You know what Terrin? I'm not doing this right now. You're being unreasonable. I just sat through a dinner with your supposed 'family' who just insulted me the whole time. Never once did you defend me or help me out. You threw me to the wolves and they of course tore me apart but now you blame me?" Heidi was more angry than upset. "Goodnight Terrin, I'll find my own way out of here. Come find me when you're ready to apologize."
I held my breath waiting to be discovered only for Terrin to come around the corner instead. We locked eyes and he seemed surprised only for a second before his shoulders slumped and he bowed his head. "What Heidi said about Forest Kingdom werewolves...is that what you all really think of me?"
I sucked in a breath, resisting the urge to swoop him up and cradle him in my arms, "No Terrin, of course not. Cleo was baiting her into saying those things. Heidi didn't really mean them either, she was just trying to get in good with the lycans."
He looked up at me with pitiful hazel eyes, "Where did I grow up, Syn?" He asked brokenly.
"Terrin," I breathed and took and step closer, "don't do this to yourself."
"Please," Terrin begged me with glassy eyes full of unshed tears.
Damnit, I hated when he cried. Sighing softly I answered, "The Forest Kingdom."
"What do I do for the pack?"
"You run the spy networks to gather intel for us."
"Tell me how my parents died and what my upbringing was like."
I ran a hand across the top of my head looking away from the werewolf, "your parents died in an avalanche and your were an outcasted orphan because people didn't know how to treat you afterwards and eventually just forgot about you and kept you as an outsider."
"Tell me what vegetable I hate the most."
"Broccoli," I answered without pause, knowing the answer to that one all too well.
"And what do I do to relax?"
"You lay in the sun, in a quiet spot where you won't be disturbed."
"Damnit," Terrin breathed out the shaky word. I look down at the male who was clenching his fists so tightly veins were popping on his arms. "Why?" He demanded, those tears gathering in the corners of his eyes ready to fall.
I didn't answer and just pressed my lips into a thin flat line. I knew he was asking why I had to be the one to know. Why I had to be the one who knew him best without ever needing to ask.
We stood, me waiting for what he would do next and Terrin taking a moment to compose himself. When he was ready he looked at me with those hard eyes and closed-off expression. "I want my goodbye kiss," he told me.
"Terrin–" this isn't what he needed right now.
"Can someone for once just do what I ask?" He snapped.
I sighed, staring down at the werewolf who glared right back up at me. I bent down and captured his lips, giving him my usual bruising farewell, this time snagging his lower lip between my teeth as I pulled away, letting it go after a little tug.
I kept my gaze on Terrin watching him closely as several emotions flickered across his face before he steeled his features. "Goodnight Syn," he said and walked away without another word, body tense as he moved further and further away.
"Goodnight, Terrin," I whispered after him.