I'd had nearly an entire day to wrap my head around it and yet I still couldn't comprehend why as much as how. Somehow neither of us had sensed her heat approaching, probably something to do with all of the scent perfumes we used and also because I had most likely impregnated her during the first stages of her heat which would dispel the main effects that went along with an extended heat unattended too.
So obviously the how made sense, it didn't take much thought, but the why was something I still couldn't figure out.
Having a child was a beautiful thing, I'd wanted one for so long, fantasized about my family, but the timing couldn't possibly be worse.
It was surprising too, normally lycan females were difficult to impregnante only birthing four children at most despite out long lifespans and youth. That we had succeeded during her first heat together was something of an anomaly.
While part of me was ecstatic a larger part of me was terrified. Obviously we couldn't hide her pregnancy for long which means my time was running out. Urgency was pressing on me and despite the need for me to be in my best mind I was cracking under the pressure. The whole day was wasted by my shock of Winter's news. I should have been searching for a solution but instead I spent the entirety of the day in a daze, trying to come to terms with the fact I was going to be a father and the mother of my child was still mated to another male who could mean war to my pack.
I could tell Winter was more panicked than I about her pregnancy. She was young, and she was scared. She didn't know how to handle everything, didn't even know where to start or what could be done. I didn't blame her, of course I didn't fault her for her minimal assistance in finding a solution. She was scared if she started poking around Jeko would find out. So for now, her job was to be normal and not give away anything about our situation. She was fooling the pack while I searched for a solution.
But for today I didn't look for any answers beyond why Lune was doing this to me. Today was really just not a good day for one of Cleo's pack dinners on top of my newest crisis.
I was already under close watch by Cleo and Hakota, so skipping the dinner was simply not an option which is why I was now sitting at the table, staring at the empty table as the rest of my pack members arrived. Malik was surprisingly one of the first ones in the room and had stolen Kieran's spot next to me. I didn't think much of it, hadn't even noticed the switch until the alpha's son arrived and made a fuss about the teenager stealing his spot.
"It's always been my spot!" The lycan whined, pointing at the name tag that was addressed for him.
Lazily the hybrid waved his hand, "Too bad, first come first served. I want to sit here today and you weren't here to claim your spot."
Kieran picked up the card and flicked it at the boy, "That's what the paper is for!" He crossed his arms and glared down at Malik as if in an effort to intimidate him, "Besides, we never trade places."
The teenager leaned back in the chair, looking at the older male dully, "And how boring is that?" He wrinkled his nose and breezily dismissed the young alpha, "Just as boring as you."
Clenching his fists Kieran opened his mouth to make a come back but Nahta's comment redirected his wrath. "For Lune's sake, you are acting more like a child than Malik. He's just looking for a fight Kieran, so just shut up and sit down will you?" Her tone was not nasty but rather chiding in light of her bluntly worded reprimand.
The male sent a scowl at his redheaded beta and grumbled, "No one asked you."
"Kieran, just sit down," his mother sighed.
The dinner carried on as usual, small talk and light banter, but I couldn't find it in me to participate unless called out by name. I could feel the grim looks directed my way from my alphas and I knew that I should have been making a least a little effort to appear fine but the reality was I wasn't fine.
I was simply not okay in anyway and I was tired of acting.
Malik nudged my arm to grab my attention. My head shot up but the teenager only leaned over to whisper, "You were nodding off which either means you're bored to death, you had another sleepless night, or my drugs are taking effect."
It took my muddled brain a moment to process his last words. By the time my mouth caught up with my thoughts a wave of dizziness hit me and I tipped over into Malik. He grabbed me before I fell out of my chair completely, pulling me close to breath into my ear, "I'm sorry Sitka, but you've failed to do anything so it's my turn now."
Hakota was at my side in an instant, pulling me off of Malik and slowly lowering me to the ground, kneeling at my side and slapping my face lightly, "Sitka? Sitka, can you hear me?" Cleo hovered over me worriedly, Elias clutching at her leg with a scared expression as he hide half behind her, peaking out at me.
My head lolled to the side, a sharp pain shooting through it whenever I tried to focus on the faces above me that were doubled and blurry. I couldn't get my tongue to move and eventually just closed my eyes to stop the spinning.
"What happened?" Hakota's stern voice growled out.
"Can't you see?" Cleo answered her mate, "He's obviously exhausted, look at the bags under his eyes. Haven't you noticed how off he'd been these days? He hardly speaks, he walks around with a brooding expression when he doesn't look absolutely miserable. He's falling apart Hakota. Our beta is hurting beyond our comprehension."
"You think he's passed out because of exhaustion?" Malik's voice came in next and I forced my eyes open again. The mischievous boy had obviously planned this and I was now just a pawn in his plan. "Look at him," I could see the blurry form lift a hand to gesture at me, "he's still conscious," he stepped past Hakota and Cleo, "and he can obviously hear us."
I tried my best to focus, to try and see what expression was on the hybrid's face so that I could gage what he was about to do next but failed to stop my vision from seeing double.
"Then what wrong with him?" It was Syn this time. His large form stepped up behind his son, placing a hand on his shoulder and pulling Malik back to give the alphas more room without him standing in front of me.
"I don't know," the boy lied smoothly, "but look at his eyes, they are extremely dilated which is a sign of–"
"Enough," Syn shook his son in a warning but everyone knew what he'd been about to say.
I understood his plan then and surrendered, letting my eyelids fall shut and letting all of my weight drop. Malik was going to expose us, he was going to push Winter into telling the truth and make his first move in his war with the Forest Kingdom.
"He's going Wild," Cleo whispered out what no one else was willing too.
"No," Hakota snarled and I could feel his grip tightening on my arms. "He can't be. I won't let him."
"Hakota, he's lost hope and now he's losing his mind," Malik pushed again and my eyes cracked open, cursing the boy mentally for being so wickedly brilliant.
Terrin grabbed Malik from his mate, "Malik, that is enough." I had never heard the male use such a tone before. It held a strong command in it, holding enough force behind it to rival an alpha command. It surprised me but it also told me that Terrin was deeply upset with his son. Not because of of his words, no it couldn't be that, no one could fault Malik for suggesting what they were all starting to believe. No, Terrin was upset because he knew his son was behind this. He knew Malik so well he could tell this was his doing but he didn't know how. Without proof Terrin would not accuse him and he was just as powerless as I to let Malik play out his show using us all as his puppets.
"But he's right, isn't he?" Cleo whispered brokenly, her voice full of so much pain. She knelt down beside her mate who was still hovering over me as if looking for a physical wound he could try and heal me of to make me better, to return me to my original state. The female kissed her mate's neck, "You know it's true Hakota, there is no other explanation. Watching everyone find their mates but him is driving him into the Wild."
"What do we do?" Hakota croaked, closing his eyes in defeat, his mate's words holding too much weight for him to keep denying.
Cleo's first attempt at an answer ended up as nothing more than a chocked sob. She cleared her throat, her hoarse voice forcing out the words that seemed to physically pain her, "We must protect the pack." She threaded her fingers through her mate's and turned his face her way. "Hakota, we have to protect this pack."
My alpha sucked in a breath his eyes flicking back down to me, "No," he protested weakly, "Cleo no. We can help him, we can...we can..."
"He doesn't have a mate, Hakota. There is nothing to pull him out of the Wild." She clung to his arm like her life depended on it, "And even if we," her voice cracked, "even if we could," she managed to continue, "it's not fair." Hakota tried to shrug her off but she held on, "it's not fair to make him live like this Hakota."
Hakota didn't respond at first, couldn't respond, I realized as I felt his tears hit my skin. "I know," he whispered defeatedly, "I know."
A dark silence settled over the room as everyone understood the gravity of the decision the alphas had just made. They would kill me, put me out of my own misery for my sake and theirs.
That was the moment Winter finally snapped. "No!" Her shout of denial had everyone looking to her in surprise. My mate shoved through the crowd of lycans standing around me. She dropped to her knees at my side opposite of her parents and picked up my hand, holding it tightly in her clammy palms. "He isn't going Wild, okay?"
"Winter–" Cleo reached out a hand to soothe her daughter but my mate slapped her hand away. Cleo's eyes widened in surprise and she clutched her hand to her chest in shock at her daughter's strange outburst.
"Just trust me, I know he isn't going Wild."
But no one did, they all looked at her with pity or confusion, wondering why she was so worked up over the talk of my death when she hardly knew me. It simply didn't make any sense why Winter was putting up a fight of all people.
"Look he's—" my mate instinctively choked down the words. She closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath before bringing my knuckles to her lips to place a kiss on my hand. "I'm sorry, Sitka, there's no hiding it anymore," she said gently. Then her blue eyes flashed open, hardened and ready for battle. She met her parent's astounded gazes and disclosed our secret. "I'm pregnant," she started with, the reveal garnering more surprise and confusion, especially on Jeko's part as he looked at her in disbelief. "But Jeko's not the father," her voice did not waver or falter as she landed the last blow, "Sitka is."