Fit For Fire

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The Head and The Heart

Adeline

My night passed by surprisingly quickly, but the med-clinic lost its charm the first few hours I was there. The lights were constantly on. Nurses were continually checking up on me, and the low blood pressure alarm sounded every time I tried to get into a comfortable position. I did manage to drift in and out of sleep, and every time I woke up, Zach was there. Often I would wake to find him fast asleep, his head cradled in his arms by my chest, the rest of his body slumped in his chair by the bed.

The first few times I saw him I was comforted. My body was exhausted but my sleep was uneasy. I dreamt that I was stuck swimming in the ravine and I couldn’t get out. I dreamt that I was being chased by a non-stop stream of arrows. Each time I woke up, his presence reminded me that it was over. I was safe.

Then I started to feel bad. He looked so uncomfortable stretched between my bed and his. He looked exhausted, and everytime I woke up he would wake. After the fourth time, I told him he should go home and get some rest, but he insisted that he slept better being closer to me. I was starting to feel like I was handling the emotional aftermath of the incident better than he was. Yes, I was having nightmares, but I wasn’t afraid I was going to wake up in the ravine again, but he was still afraid that if he let me out of his sight, I could be lost, or taken from him.

Near the end of the first day, he had to leave, but before he went he made sure two warriors were stationed outside my door. Another pair was stationed outside the door to the clinic. I told him it was unnecessary. Surely they had more important things to do. He just shook his head, and promised they wouldn’t bother me.

It was awkward having guards right outside my door. They made me nervous, as I was sure they were probably pissed at having to spend their day protecting some rogue. If they were, they didn’t show it. In fact, they didn’t do much of anything. They just flanked my door, muscles bulging, checking everyone who went in and out.

The guards peered in at me every couple of minutes. It was like they were my own personal audience and I instantly hated it. I started imagining that I was a prized fish in an aquarium. One of the guards looked familiar. It took me about an hour to put a name to his face. Home destroyer. The man who had ripped my bedroom door from its hinges and had broken my mother’s picture frame. Hopefully he was as good at protecting things as he was destroying them. One could only hope.

Jeremy came to visit during Zach’s absence. He knocked on my open door frame, and I had to fight the urge to tell him not to tap on the glass. Instead of the goofy smile I had become accustomed to seeing he wore a look of regret. The smile I had for him fell from my lips. Worried, I waved him in. Coming into the room he pulled out a small bouquet of purple hyacinths mixed with light pink daisies and laid them on my bedside table.

I smiled at them and fingered a velvety purple petal. Although the bouquet was small, it was a welcome pop of color in the overwhelmingly white room. “How are you feeling?” He asked softly. “Kind of like a fish in a bowl, but good.” I said tilting my head towards the guards outside the door. “These are beautiful, thank you.” I added, not wanting to forget to thank him.

He nodded and attempted to smile. The corners of his mouth barely pulled up and his eyes didn’t even acknowledge the attempt. He looked worn down with his wrinkled and his hair unkempt. “I’m sorry Ade.” He said after a moment of silence. “I was supposed to protect you and I didn’t.” Looking up from the flowers, I scowled, shocked by his apology. “What happened wasn’t your fault. I just took off. I should have stayed closer instead of running off like that.” Jeremy shook his head. “No. You were scared and haven’t been taught what to do in that situation. I took off trying to take down the hunter when I should have linked the pack and followed you.”

My eyes widened. I had no idea Jeremy felt so responsible for my well-being. “You tried to take down the threat and protect your pack. You acted out of instinct and instead of trying to save yourself you acted to help others. You should be proud.” I responded. My own guilt stirred inside of me. I felt so selfish.

I turned tail and ran, only thinking of survival but Jeremy sought to act regardless of the consequences to himself in the interest of others. It took a lot of loyalty and heart to act for the many. That was one thing I was starting to greatly admire about pack wolves. He smiled for real this time. “You forgive like a true luna.” Bewildered by his statement I turned my head. A luna?

“What does that mean?” I asked before adding in “and there’s nothing to forgive.” Jeremy sighed and rolled his eyes at my statement. “An alphas mate is called a luna. They run the pack beside the alpha. Alphas are brash. Quick to attack and defend when a threat arises. They strictly and justly enforce pack law. Luna’s are the heart though. Luna’s see that to err is human, and considers the feelings that spurred the actions of their pack mates where an alpha sees failure or shortcomings. They are two sides of the coin necessary to run a strong and competent pack. The head and the heart.”

All I could do was stare at him. His explanation inspired questions, birthed fears, and complimented me all at the same time. I had no idea what to feel. I now knew I was Zach’s mate, but I never considered what that implied. Did that mean I would become this pack’s luna? Could I help run a pack? Would they even accept me? Giving my background I felt I would be ill-equipped for the task. “You found the merit in my failure.” Jeremy elaborated. Not knowing what to say I smiled. Then it dawned on me. “Is Zach angry with you?” I suddenly asked. “He’s unhappy with me, but I think he is more mad at himself for not being with you. He was frantic when I linked him.”

There was that word again. ‘Linked.’ I didn’t want to ask what it meant because I felt I should know. I felt that as a wolf I was disappointing as I knew next to nothing of my kind, and only about half of what I was capable of. I was tired of not understanding. So I decided to ask, no matter how pathetic it made me feel.

“Jeremy, what does that mean? Linked?” “Oh, ahhh.” Jeremy scratched his head and looked a little embarrassed. “I’m sorry, I forget that there is still a lot you don’t know. Umm, pack wolves share a connection. We are all connected to each other and our alpha. This lets us communicate telepathically in both human and wolf form. It works at some distance but it does have its limits. If an alpha dies though, no matter where he is the pack can feel that bond breaking.” That explained a lot.

“So . . .you’re telling me that you can send messages to each other and talk to each other telepathically. So I can send you a message with my mind, and you would hear it in yours?” I asked incredulously. Jeremy laughed at my doubtful expression. “Ade, we’re humans who turn into animals, and this is what you have an issue with?” Red- faced I laughed with him. Once we stopped, I gave him a moment to catch his breath.

Knowing that I needed to know, my face grew serious. “How long have you known? That Zach and I are mates?” The word felt foreign on my tongue. Being the first time I had said this out loud to someone other than Zach, I flushed. Jeremy, looking shocked by my question smiled at me. I don’t think he realized that I knew. Drumming his fingers on my bedside table he cleared his throat before answering. “I had my suspicions. They started when we got you from your house. Zach was acting really protective of you, and when he offered to let you stay at his house instead of the cell we had prepared, I knew something was going on. Truthfully, he was strangely fascinated with you from the moment he joined in the hunt for you.” He leaned back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling as if contemplating how much he should actually say. Looking back at me he studied me a bit before sighing.

“That day in the clinic, when you were upset about the registry, it really messed him up. I have never seen him take such a personal interest in this sort of thing before. After seeing the way he looked at you that day, there was no doubt in my mind.” He smiled. “I knew you were mates.” I suddenly understood why he had been hesitant to answer. I had almost forgotten about the registry.

Was that another reason he had decided to register me? Was he afraid I wouldn’t stay unless I had to? Understanding all the motives behind his decision made me less angry. Nevertheless, I was still upset. Understanding his reasons didn’t make his decision right. Didn’t make the things that had happened less painful.

I had promised to give him a chance, and I would, but my heart was still heavy with the complications of our situation. Complications that would disappear if I just decided to let it all go. Here was the thing though. I couldn’t.

I didn’t believe that this bond dictated my life for me, and I didn’t believe in muting my own emotions for a man. I needed to fall for Zach on my own. I needed to see that he would trust me enough to choose. I didn’t want to be forced into being with him. Also, rogues were subject to many injustices. In the future, as Luna, I could do a lot of good for the rogues I came across. I needed to know that Zach was open to that though.

Not ready to fully confront all of this yet, I decided to put it away for today. “Now that I know, things make a lot more sense. I’m kind of glad that everything happened because now I know for sure. At the same time though . . .” I looked out the door at my security detail. “I feel like because of this he is going a bit overboard.” Jeremy turned in his chair looking from me to the guards outside my door. “You should get used to it. Honestly, I think you’re getting off kind of easy.” My eyes bulged “Easy?” I asked.

“We are very protective of our mates. Did you ever wonder why Zach growled at any unmated man that touched you? He wouldn’t even let our male doctor see you. We are very protective, and insanely possessive over what we see as being ours. If he didn’t believe that you would be more comfortable with me as your guard, he would have never allowed me near you. Especially since I am an unmated male.” He explained. “That sounds kind of barbaric.” I said, eyebrows raised.

“It does, but it is instinct. You have no idea how lucky you are. Alphas are incredibly short tempered and possessive. If you belonged to someone else they may have locked you away until you accepted their mark, or marked you without your consent.” “So does that mean that Zach isn’t as strong, or . . .” Jeremy’s face turned serious. “No. Zach’s grandmother was human, so he grew up aware of how hard it is for humans to assimilate to our way of doing things. Also, he has been trained to control his wolf since he was young. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t lose control though. He has been going for multiple runs since he brought you home. I think he does it to help mellow his wolf out.”

I had no idea Zach was struggling so hard to give me space. “I’m surprised he doesn’t have a full patrol stationed outside your door. Although he has doubled the running patrols who manage our borders.” Jeremy finished. I dropped my head in my hands overwhelmed. My body started to hurt again. “I think you’ve learned enough for one day.” Jeremy said looking me over, concerned. “Should I call a nurse?” “No, I’m okay.” I answered not wanting to trouble him. “Knock, knock.” Zach said coming through my open door. He eyed Jeremy sitting next to me, and for the first time I could see it. His eyes gleamed with a predatory fire that made me shiver.

Jeremy had jumped up and bowed his head to Zach, a formality I hadn’t seen him use with Zach until recently. He’s showing his respect and submitting to Zach to show he isn’t a threat. I realized. Zach gave him a curt nod and Jeremy left. It wasn’t until he was gone and Zach was seated next to me, did I ask “Are you mad at Jeremy?“. He stiffened his grip on my hand a bit tighter as he looked towards the direction that Jeremy had left in. Was he taking my concern as interest? “He came to apologize to me for not protecting me yesterday, and it made me worry that maybe you were mad.” I tried to explain. “You got lost with a hunter tailing you because he failed to protect you.” Zach stated dryly.

“No! When we were shot at, he went straight for the hunter, and I got scared and ran off. If I wouldn’t have run, none of this would have happened. I wasn’t thinking and I didn’t know what to do. I should have stayed put.” I said hurriedly, my head dropping to my chest in shame. Zach tenderly put his fingers under my chin and raised my face to his. “This isn’t your fault. You had no way of knowing what to do Ade.” He reassured me before leaving a chaste kiss on my lips. I tried not to blush, but he growled appreciatively at the flush that was claiming my cheeks.

“Maybe not, but I don’t want someone to be punished for my stupidity. He could have died, and I was off running around, doing my own thing.” Zach stroked my hair. I hoped I had explained myself enough for him to know that I wasn’t interested in Jeremy. “You look tired.” Zach broke the silence, looking at me concerned. “So do you.” I responded seeing the bags under his eyes. “There has been a lot going on. I need to make sure the borders are safe and that the hunters are dealt with in a way that doesn’t bring attention to the pack.” He said laying his head down on my bed. I suddenly felt the urge to reach out and stroke his hair. I slowly extended my hand to him and ran my fingers through his hair. It was just as soft as I had imagined. Zach lifted his head at my touch and nervous that I had overstepped, I jerked my hand away. “Sorry.” I muttered, embarrassed. “No, I liked it.” He laughed and then buried his head under my hand, reminding me of a puppy who wants a scratch. I smothered my laugh in a pretend cough as I began to caress his head again. We stayed like that for awhile, silently enjoying each other’s company. It was incredible how good it felt just being close to him. He looked up as I yawned. “You should get some rest. Joanne said that you may be able to leave tomorrow if you are healed up enough.” I nodded. “I can’t wait to get out of here.” I meant that. I couldn’t wait to sleep in a bed that didn’t beep. Also, the tape on my IV had started to itch and the thought of that little tube being inside my body was starting to gross me out.

“I can’t wait to take you home with me.” Zach said breaking my train of thought. I was about to agree when I saw the lustful look on his face. I had no idea what to say, and knowing that he laughed. Putting his head back down on my bed he grabbed my hand. Thinking of him thinking of me that way made me insanely aware of myself. I hadn’t had the chance to shower yet. What if I stunk? I also hadn’t seen myself in a mirror yet. I was sure I looked bad enough to have my own season on ‘American Horror Story’. He on the other hand looked absolutely edible.

He was wearing sweatpants and an under armor shirt that enviably clung to his built form the way I should be. I swear it was tight enough to see the definition of his abs under the thin fabric. The thought left me imagining what they would feel like under my palm. I could see myself lifting the fabric with one hand while my other slipped underneath, free to caress his smooth skin. I would trace the lines between his abs with my fingers starting from the top and slowly making my way down to the bottom until- a sudden sound pulled me from my intemperate thoughts.

My heart rate monitors beeping had sped up to match the erratic beating of my heart. Taking a deep breath I willed my heart to slow down before he noticed. Lifting his head from his spot on my bed, he looked at the monitor and then looked at me quizzically. What would I say? “Are you okay?” He asked concern in his eyes. I nodded. Leaning back, his face changed. Looking over at me, he smiled. “Did I say something that excites you?” Shit. “No. I just moved and it hurt my ribs.” I lied looking away from him. It was only half a lie. My body really did hurt. “Okay. It’s your ribs.” He said smiling, making my lie sound ridiculous. “So you need me to call the nurse? ”

Red faced, I nodded. If I had to sacrifice my liver for the sake of my lecherous little heart I would. When the nurse came, I took my medicine gratefully. Zach still looked at me like he had just discovered some dirty little secret. Yawning he patted my head. “You really should rest.” Laying back I closed my eyes. “I’m going to stay again. Okay?” He half asked. I just nodded and smiled before closing my eyes again, secretly liking how safe I felt when he was near me.

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