In the Night

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ONE

The daunting tall walls of the castle leered down at me, as if daring me to have the gall to step within its confines after disappearing for twenty years without a word.

Many times before now had I thought of coming back to this castle before my time limit expired but I had always managed to stay away, knowing that if I even stepped foot into the city I would abandon my last attempt to find my mate.

It was when Terrin and Syn finally mated that I was spurred to this decision. After seeing the unlikely pair come together, I had started planning my last search. It had taken nine years for me to finally work up the courage to ask my alpha for a leave of absence. Perhaps it had been selfish of me to even request such a thing from Hakota even though I had waited until our pack and furture was secure, when there was no looming threat and my alphas were moving forward with their relationship, Kieran, their son, helping them to mend. And when Cleo became pregnant for the second time I had known then that it was safe for me to leave.

Still, twenty years to walk from one end of the earth to the other in hopes of finding my mate was no small thing to ask. As beta I had responsibilities to my pack but I had up and left, never visiting or sending word in these last two decades. I missed three births in my pack, two of which were the children of my alphas, the children of my closest friend that I hadn't even come back before now to meet. I'd also heard that Syn and Terrin had adopted a boy from the Forest Kingdom after my pack crushed the Forest Kingdom's rebellion nearly ten years ago.

As predicted, they were unable to let their grudge go and had been spurred on by the Lunar's defeat. It hadn't taken much for Hakota to squash them as they had been disorganized and driven purely by their anger. They were only united under the simple cause of destroying the lycans but they still fought amongst themselves for who would take charge. In the end they had been defeated quite easily and were now united under a King.

That King had changed things within the Forest Kingdom in these last few years though and with him as their figurehead they were reforming into something stronger and better. He had divided the new packs within the Forest Kingdom, giving them free reign with an alpha of their choosing until he called upon them which he could not do for anything other than war with the Lycans where he would be the one making the choices regarding battle plans.

The Forest King had satisfied the Foresters with this new system, taking a handful of werewolves for himself who didn't belong to a pack in the Forest Kingdom but the capital. Things really weren't different regarding everyday life for them, only for war time.

When I had first heard of the uprising the Foresters were causing I had been tempted to return, cutting my search in half, but I was held back to the sidelines, knowing once I rejoined Hakota I wouldn't leave again and this was something I needed.

Something I had to do for myself.

So I had stayed on the downlow, keeping tabs just in case my alphas needed their beta, but I stayed out of it, relieved that Hakota and Cleo took care of it without me. They were finally healing, acting like a mated pair, and I think that could be attributed to their children.

Children I didn't know.

Hell my pack had doubled in size and I, the beta, didn't even know half of them. The pups I had left were all grown up. The twins, Sasha and Cahatta were over thirty years of age now and one of them mated. And Yana, Innoko and Roshan's first pup, would be over thirty as well and she was also mated. Then there was Kieran, the heir to our pack, the first born son of my alphas, the only child I had met of the three they had.

No matter what corner of the earth I had been in, any and all gossip of the lycan pack reached my ears. Many times I had been so close to returning before my twenty years was over but again that nagging feeling that the moment I returned I would never leave again kept me at bay. I needed these twenty years if nothing more than closure for myself to know that my mate was not living and mated to another. But in return for these twenty years, I had missed out on so much within my own pack, within the family that I did have to search for one that didn't exist.

Luckily I had stayed long enough to witness the birth of Nahta, the second daughter of Roshan and Innoko and Denahi and Keni's child Iris. It hadn't been surprising that the twins ended up having the same mate. Although not common, sometimes twins shared a soul as well so receiving a singular mate between them was necessary to complete their soul. In watching them find their shared mate, Flicka, and leaving me as the last remaining lycan of our original pack unmated, I had finally snapped.

These twenty years had been my last hope but I was empty handed. My spirit was crushed, my faith gone. I simply had to accept that I was never going to get a mate.

Lune had snubbed me for whatever reason and no amount of my longing or disappointment would force her to gift me with one.

I would have to learn to be happy with the family I had, to not be jealous of my pack members' happiness, to not be angry when the children of my pack found their mates and I remained alone.

Alone.

Perhaps it was time for me to move past my mate, to search for a partner elsewhere, fall in love without a bond to strengthen everything.

But my mark wouldn't turn a werewolf into a lycan. It would only work for my mate. So if I did happen to fall in love, I'd have to watch them grow old without me and die leaving me alone again.

That seemed worse than just forgetting about the whole thing entirely.

But now was not the time to think of that. I would leave it in the hands of Fate, because perhaps Fate had something in store for me when Lune did not.

I was beginning to see why werewolves hated Lune and by happenstance, her children the lycans.

She really was a cold-hearted bitch.

And I was bitter. So angry and upset at how unfair it was. I'd done nothing but serve my pack, I'd stood by my alpha's side, had to move on as my brothers and sisters were slaughtered, as my parents were lost in the lycan wars. I'd spent the last century wandering around with Hakota, collecting the last remaining members of our species, having to bear witness to their brutal treatment when we had rescued them.

We deserved to be happy.

But they were happy.

It was only I who was unhappy.

Was this my punishment for suggesting Hakota kill his mate? Had Lune stolen my mate as I had tried to steal my alpha's so that I had to experience what I would have forced Hakota to endure?

I laughed sorrowfully up at the castle walls glaring down at me before turning my eyes to the sky. "Bitch," I called up to the goddess. It was her fault for making a right mess of Hakota and Cleo's bond. I was simply being a good beta trying to protect my pack from the danger Cleo brought with her intentions.

And what about Terrin and Syn? Terrin had been a little prick about having a bond with Syn and had been toying with him, juggling Syn with that female. And then Syn had almost let his mate die after he mauled him.

Yet in the end they still got to be happy.

So why couldn't I?

I glared at the castle walls. Well I would be happy. I would stick it to Lune, prove to her I could be happy without a mate too. As long as my pack was happy that was good enough for me.

"What a joke," I muttered at my absurd attempt of motivating myself.

I let out a deep breath. I would have to move past this at some point and rejoining my pack was probably a good place to start.


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